Citizen of the Galaxy

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Another entry in my "Reread Heinlein" project. (15 to go!) And this one totally took me by surprise. The last time I read it was (probably) over fifty years ago (yes, I'm old). I remember liking it. But this time through… well, I really liked it. It came out in 1957, and the other novels Heinlein novels around that time (The Door into Summer, Have Space Suit—Will Travel, Time for the Stars, Starship Troopers) all seem (to me) to be Heinlein at his peak.

It's set in the far-flung future, where mankind is smart enough to have mastered interstellar travel, but is also dumb enough to have revived one of mankind's worst ideas: slavery. It's accepted practice on the planet Jubbul, where filthy, snarling human child Thorby is up for sale, after incorrigible behavior with past masters. After some dickering, he's purchased by a one-eyed, one-legged beggar, Baslim. Who brings him home to his hovel… which is surprisingly liveable, for a beggar.

But there's more to Baslim than meets the eye (heh). There's also more to Thorby than one might suspect from his near-feral behavior. No further spoilers!

Heinlein does a fine job of explicating the weird cultures humans can develop in response to environment and economics. Not just on Jubbul, but also… whoa, I said no further spoilers!

I feel like giving a copy of this book to every 13-year-old boy I know.

URLs du Jour

2022-01-08

Hey, here it is, January 8. And I'm finally getting around to making a themed post about January 6. There are some sane people out there.

  • Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies. Jacob Sullum asks: Was the Capitol Riot Really the Opening Battle of a Civil War? And answers:

    As outrageous and embarrassing as it was, the Capitol riot that happened a year ago today did not come close to stopping Joe Biden from taking office. The assault on the Capitol was haphazard and hapless, a temper tantrum rather than an incipient coup. It was a humiliating spectacle for the United States, indisputable evidence of Donald Trump's reckless self-absorption, and a fitting end to a ridiculous presidency. But in the end, the vandalism and violence merely delayed the ratification of the election results until that night.

    Former President Jimmy Carter nevertheless claims that "a violent mob, guided by unscrupulous politicians, stormed the Capitol and almost succeeded in preventing the democratic transfer of power." In a New York Times essay titled "I Fear for Our Democracy," Carter says the threat represented by that "insurrection" continues to endanger our system of government. "Our great nation now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss," he writes. "Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy." The Times editorial board likewise warns that "the Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends."

    This alarming portrait of a nation on the verge of civil war supposedly is verified by polling data showing that Americans are not only more bitterly divided than ever but also increasingly inclined to resolve political disputes with violence. Carter, for example, cites a January 2021 survey in which "36 percent of Americans—almost 100 million adults across the political spectrum—agree[d] that 'the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.'"

    I remain bitterly divided against the people who claim that we're bitterly divided.


  • Oh, I thought he said porpoises. Never mind. Glenn Greenwald points out The Histrionics and Melodrama Around 1/6 Are Laughable, but They Serve Several Key Purposes.

    The number of people killed by pro-Trump supporters at the January 6 Capitol riot is equal to the number of pro-Trump supporters who brandished guns or knives inside the Capitol. That is the same number as the total of Americans who — after a full year of a Democrat-led DOJ conducting what is heralded as “the most expansive federal law enforcement investigation in US history” — have been charged with inciting insurrection, sedition, treason or conspiracy to overthrow the government as a result of that riot one year ago. Coincidentally, it is the same number as Americans who ended up being criminally charged by the Mueller probe of conspiring with Russia over the 2016 election, and the number of wounds — grave or light — which AOC, who finally emerged at night to assure an on-edge nation that she was “okay" while waiting in an office building away from the riot at the rotunda, sustained on that solemn day.

    That number is zero. But just as these rather crucial facts do not prevent the dominant wing of the U.S. corporate media and Democratic Party leaders from continuing to insist that Donald Trump's 2016 election victory was illegitimate due to his collusion with the Kremlin, it also does not prevent January 6 from being widely described in those same circles as an Insurrection, an attempted coup, an event as traumatizing as Pearl Harbor (2,403 dead) or the 9/11 attack (2,977 dead), and as the gravest attack on American democracy since the mid-19th Century Civil War (750,000 dead). The Huffington Post's White House reporter S.V. Date said that it was wrong to compare 1/6 to 9/11, because the former — the three-hour riot at the Capitol — was “1,000 percent worse.”

    Unfortunately, it's a paid-subscriber post. So we don't get to hear Glenn's explication of the "key purposes" that the "histrionics and melodrama" serve. But I bet you can guess accurately.


  • It's a tale told by a non-idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying …something. Specificially, it's A Tale of Two Authoritarians, as told by Matt Taibbi:

    I don’t mean to understate the seriousness of January 6th, even though it’s been absurdly misreported for over a year now. No one from a country where these things actually happen could mistake 1/6 for “a coup .” In the real version, the mob doesn’t take selfies and blaze doobies after seizing the palace, and the would-be dictator doesn’t spend 187 minutes snacking and watching Fox before tweeting “go home.” Instead, he works the phones nonstop to rally precinct chiefs, generals, and airport officials to the cause, because a coup is a real attempt to seize power. Britannica says the “chief prerequisite for a coup is control of all or part of the armed forces, the police, and other military elements.” We saw none of that on January 6th, but it’s become journalistic requirement to use either “coup” or “insurrection” in describing it:

    […]

    It was no heroic storming of the Bastille. January 6th was a massive LARP that got out of hand. Trump has been around long enough for us to know his pattern as a serial line-crosser. Like a comedian, he’s always trying out new material, and if he gets the right reaction, he comes back with a bigger delivery next time. January 6th was Trump dipping a toe in the lake of strongman politics. The reason it wasn’t worse is because Trump has also been constantly mislabeled as a Hitler, Stalin, or Pinochet. The man has no attention span, no interest in planning or strategy, and most importantly, no ability to maintain relationships with the type of people who do have those qualities (like Steve Bannon). Even if he wanted to overturn “democracy itself” — I don’t believe he does, but let’s say — Trump has proven over and over he lacks the qualities a politician would need to make that happen.

    The headline promised two authoritarians, and guess what? One of 'em is Dick Cheney, who showed up for the 1/6 festivities to support daughter Liz. Man, Taibbi really hates Dick Cheney.


  • Wouldn't Evita have been a better choice? James Freeman mocks Nancy Pelosi's all-singing, all-dancing 1/6 spectacular: Capitol Riot: The Musical!

    Readers probably don’t recall a 2002 congressional effort to mark the first anniversary of 9/11 with a catchy musical number from a Broadway smash hit. And perhaps that says it all about the Democrats’ Thursday production to mark one year since the Capitol riot of 2021. Two decades ago, no one had to sell the idea that America had suffered a devastating attack. Today the political appetites of incumbent Democrats require pretending that last year’s riot was an insurrection. On Thursday the show had to go on.

    Take it away, Chloe Rabinowitz of Broadway World:

    As part of the congressional events marking the first anniversary of the January 6th attack on the Capitol, cast members from Hamilton came together virtually to perform ‘Dear Theodosia’... The groundbreaking musical sensation, Hamilton springs from the mind of Emmy, Tony, and Grammy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda and tells the unlikely story of the ten-dollar founding father, Alexander Hamilton who was young, scrappy, and hungry and ready to mark his mark on this new nation.

    Freeman goes on to observe: "Sometimes politicians make you wonder whether you should take them seriously. Other times they remove all doubt,[…]

    We are long past wondering about that here at Pun Salad Manor.


  • What kind of name is 'Theodosia' anyway? Josh Blackman points out The Bigger Problem With The Hamilton Performance At the Capitol On January 6.

    This song, which is one of the most beautiful in the show, is performed by Aaron Burr. Of course, the Jefferson Administration charged Burr with treason. According to some accounts, Burr actually hatched a plan to conquer North America, and overthrow the American government. The history is muddy. In Trump v. Vance, Chief Roberts offered a sanitized version of this background. In any event, celebrating an accused insurrectionist is not the right symbolism for January 6.

    Yeah, we really can't take 'em seriously.


  • In our "Also Sane" Department… we have commentary from Jim Treacher.

    Biden and his nurse gave speeches about Jan. 6 on Jan. 6, which was the first Jan. 6 since the Jan. 6 that the Democrats are trying to turn into an annual thing. They really want you to believe the Capitol riot was as bad as Pearl Harbor or 9/11. They’re overplaying their hand, and it’s not going to work in November.

    Now, that’s not coming from a MAGA-head. I don’t make any excuses for what those people did. Riots are wrong, no matter who’s doing it or what reason they give. Hundreds of people have been arrested for their part in the riot, and I say throw the book at ‘em.

    But it was not an “insurrection.” It was not a “terror attack.” It was a bunch of idiots who got whipped up by a demagogue. It was bad, but it wasn’t “the end of the republic” bad. Democracy was not in peril. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying to you, and you should never vote for them or their comrades.

    There, I’ve now thoroughly alienated everybody. Good job, me.

    Treacher is one of the few folks I actually pay money to read.


Last Modified 2022-01-09 5:05 AM EST