Revolt in 2100

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Continuing my trek through previously-read-but-dimly-remembered Robert Heinlein books. This one was eminently skippable, were it not for my borderline OCD about "doing it right".

It is a collection of three stories from Heinlein's "Future History" universe.

Have you ever wondered what Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale would have been like in Heinlein's hands? Wonder no longer, partner: "If This Goes On—" describes the USA in the grip of an oppressive, evil theocracy. The protagonist, John Lyle, is a minor soldier assigned to guard duty at the palace of the head dude, the Prophet. One night, he encounters Sister Judith, a Virgin designated to "service" the Prophet. It's love at first sight, of course. But Judith is shocked and aggrieved when she discovers what that "service" entails. And John, for his part, resolves to make sure Judith is rescued from her servitude. Which, essentially, means he has to shake off his loyalty to the theocracy, as well as his own puritanical beliefs, and sign up with the underground revolutionary movement looking to restore freedom. And (spoiler) he winds up playing a key role in the decisive battle.

"Coventry" is set post-Revolution, and the USA has been turned into a libertarian sorta-paradise. The only crime is physically harming someone—in which case you must either submit to psychological "readjustment", or go to Coventry, a walled-off area for people who'd rather not submit. David MacKinnon, in trouble for punching a guy in the nose, chooses the latter. MacKinnon is (initially) agressively stupid and petulant, totally unprepared for Coventry. Which, as will surprise no reader of political theory, isn't Anarchtopia, but has developed its own semi-thuggish governments, in conflict with themselves, but also looking to break out and wage war against the outside world.

And finally, there's "Misfit", a relatively short yarn about the early career of Andrew Jackson Libby. He's signed up with the "Cosmic Construction Corps", an outfit that performs dangerous feats of building space infrastructure. As it turns out, Libby is a math prodigy, able to perform detailed calculations quickly in his head. Heinlein, like the other SF writers of the era, totally missed the point that computers would make this sort of ability near-worthless. But in this story, it saves everybody's bacon a couple of times. Yay, Libby!

URLs du Jour


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  • The Proverbialist is just coasting, I'm afraid, in Proverbs 13:18:

    18 Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame,
        but whoever heeds correction is honored.

    Sound familiar? Given our backwards pace through Proverbs, we've seen nearly exact versions of this before, in Chapter 15. See verses 5, 10, and 32. My mad Bible search skills tell me that we still have a few to go.

    Well, (sigh) I suppose it's a good point.

  • David Harsanyi speaks truth to the out-of-power: The Obama Legacy Deserves To Be Destroyed.

    It’s strange that a president who had such a transformative effect on our national discourse will leave such a negligible policy legacy. But Barack Obama, whose imperial term changed the way Americans interact and in some ways paved the way for the Trump presidency, is now watching his much-celebrated and mythologized two-term legacy be systematically demolished. This, in many ways, tells us that American governance still works.

    When Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran deal, he could do so without much difficulty because the agreement hinged on presidential fiat rather than national consensus. But Obama’s appeasement of Iran was only one in a string of unilateral norm-busting projects that deserve to be dismantled.

    David rattles off a number of other examples of Obama's fragile "legacy" that fully deserve to be undone.

  • At Reason/Volokh Conspiracy, Jennifer Rothman muses on the The Market in Dead People.

    Michael Jackson earned $75 million dollars last year. He beat out Arnold Palmer, and Elvis Presley for the top spot on the annual list of high-earning dead celebrities. Many of these "delebs" earn more than living performers. This lucrative market in the dead is made possible by a state law called the "right of publicity" that some states have extended after death.

    Most people haven't spent much time pondering whether extending rights over a person's identity after death is a good idea, yet New York and Minnesota have both recently considered adding such rights. Although advocates for such rights often use the language of honoring the dead, and giving the living survivors tools to protect the memory of their deceased loved ones, the reality is quite different. Those who profit from the dead are not always the close, loved ones of the deceased that one might imagine.

    CGI will eventually span the "uncanny valley" and be able to, essentially, resurrect vast armies of dead actors. For example, Casablanca: A Beautiful Friendship starring, as near as anyone can tell, Bogie and Claude Rains. The legal (and, I admit, artistic) issues are more daunting than the technical ones.

  • Two of my favorite things, LFOD and wine, come together in Wine-Searcher article: New Hampshire Lowers the Boom on Wine Shipping. Boom!

    When is free trade not free trade? When it's between states in the Union, it seems.

    As interstate shipping becomes a more contentious issue in more states, many are stepping up to try to better regulate it. New Hampshire, as a somewhat progressive control state, has long allowed wine entities with the right permits to ship directly to consumers. This option was intended to give the state’s residents access to additional wine brands and vintages.

    So this has caused "abuse", when out-of-state companies ship wine to NH citizens that—gasp!—they could have purcased at a State Liquor Store. So the NH Liquor Commission is pissed. So they run to the Legislature to ban such shipments, so far unsuccessfully.

    "I find it ironic that the 'live free or die' state regulates the sale of alcohol," says Mark Osborne, a partner in the Nashua, New Hampshire-based law firm of Shepherd & Osborne, a reference the to state motto.

    "I have always had a problem with the state government having a monopoly on selling booze," he continues. "In Missouri if you want a bottle of Jack you go to the grocery store." He calls letting the state liquor board regulate the sale of wine a capricious standard and adds that "depriving the government of revenue shouldn't be a deciding factor" in how wine is sold. "As long as an entity can satisfy licensing and permit standards in the state they should be able to ship into the state," he adds.

    Osborne suggests "that it is time to change the state laws on interstate wine shipping or the state's license plate."

  • Home Health Care news presents the kind of article I love: Best and Worst States for Retirement. Especially since I'm retired. And we are in the top quintile:

    9. New Hampshire—The “live free or die” state lives up to its motto with regard to not taxing Social Security and other retirement income, while also not levying a sales tax. In addition, the state ranks fifth for senior health. The cost of living is 18% above the national average and average health care costs were $424,052.

    The five worst states for retirees: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York.

    When I moved from Maryland to New Hampshire back in 1981, I was planning way ahead, I guess.