The Menace from Earth

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Another book down on my reread-Heinlein project. Seven to go! This one is a collection of short stories from the 1940s and 50s. Many of them feature death and decrepitude, so be warned.

My copy: a falling-apart 50¢ Signet paperback missing the back cover. Can't remember where or when I got it.

I enjoyed the title story the most. Narrated by Holly, a plucky teenage inhabitant of the moon (think "Podkayne of Luna"), the "menace" is in the form of Ariel, a beautiful tourist from Earth who wants to see the sights. Holly acts as her guide for a while, but her friend Jeff gets kind of starry-eyed and quickly takes over. (Holly vehemently denies that she's jealous, but c'mon.) Holly finds herself back on duty when Ariel wants to don strap-on wings and try flying in the huge lava cave that acts as an air reservoir for the lunar city. Holly's an expert flier herself. The details of this popular recreational activity are meticulously described and (for all I know) might actually be practical someday. (There are lava tubes, so couldn't a lava cavern be possible?)

The remaining stories are less fun. Perhaps some spoilers ahead:

"The Year of the Jackpot" — an offbeat statistician collects disparate bits of data that seem to predict imminent societal breakdown and chaos. Fortunately he finds a girlfriend. They "meet cute": she's a victim of one of those mass-insanity trends, compelled (somehow) to disrobe in public. Unfortunately, he remains unaware of a Very Important Trend until the very last few pages.

"By His Bootstraps" — Graduate student Bob is trying to finish his thesis about the impossibility of time travel, when… he's abducted by a mysterious-but-somehow-familiar stranger, gets fed into a time portal, transported into the far future, where he meets a different mysterious stranger, and … well, I liked "—All You Zombies—' better.

"Columbus Was a Dope" — two barflies argue about the merits of an upcoming attempt to send a spaceship to Proxima Centauri. The setting of their argument is only revealed at the end!

"Sky Lift" — an emergency trip delivering medical supplies to Pluto is only possible by a "torch ship", and it can only arrive in time if it accelerates at 3.5 Gs. Which is harmful to one's health, specifically the ship's two-man crew.

"Goldfish Bowl" — Mysterious waterspouts and fireballs near Hawaii are investigated. Not successfully.

"Project Nightmare" — A team of psychics has amazing powers. Which comes in handy when it turns out the Commies have planted nuclear bombs in dozens of American cities. Things work out well, except for… well, sorry Cleveland.

"Water Is for Washing" — A tale of disaster survival, when a businessman traveling in California's Imperial Valley (below sea level) experiences an earthquake which causes a biblical flood. Fun fact: Heinlein was pissed that his magazine editors (Argosy) trimmed the final two paragraphs from the published story. Wish I could read them!

Last Modified 2024-01-10 6:27 AM EDT

Somewhat Disrespectful to Clowns

[Clowning Around]

I know some people are afraid of clowns, but, really, aren't those folks in D. C. much more likely to screw up your life?

Also of note:

  • Charlie Cooke was much too kind. Specifically, when he asserted, back in July, Joe Biden Is an Asshole. According to this Judicial Watch story, about the alleged misbehavior of First Dog, Commander:

    The dog reportedly has been removed from the White House after its most recent attack on a Secret Service agent and other White House staff. According to a Judicial Watch source, President Biden has mistreated his dogs. Judicial Watch has learned he has punched and kicked his dogs.

    That's textbook lede-burying right there, Judicial Watch.

    Their source is anonymous, so use as many grains of salt as you like.

    Matt Boi of the unfailingly obsequious Washington Post bends over backward to absolve Commander's owner, asserting: "I’ve always found President Biden to be a deeply compassionate person (the polar opposite of his predecessor), and I’m sure this extends to his pets." But:

    All that said, if Commander were your dog or mine, and he had a habit of clamping down on police officers or mail carriers, how many attacks do you suppose it would have taken before the dog was removed from our custody? Two, maybe three? The answer is definitely not 11.

    And what do you think would happen to our dog then? Would he be sent to one of our various other homes to live out his days chasing defenseless squirrels? No. In most places, after multiple “biting incidents,” he’d probably be euthanized. You’d have to make up some story for the kids about a farm where all the dogs frolic and Taylor Swift comes to visit.

    Sure. At least there have been no assertions that Biden eats dogs, unlike a previous White House occupant.

  • It's a recyclable box, too. Satya Marar and Rishab Sardana take to Discourse to comment on the FTC's latest caper: Putting Amazon in a Box. After recounting the facts of the lawsuit against the company:

    The problem with the lawsuit isn’t just that it’s likely to waste taxpayer resources on claims and theories of consumer harm that will be difficult to prove in court, as has been the case with a string of recent losses for the FTC. It’s that many of the practices the FTC is singling out as anti-competitive are the very ones that benefit consumers and retailers by enabling the features they seek in a digital marketplace. These include the one-stop aggregation of competitively priced products from a range of sellers, a reputable and efficient logistics division that relies on large product volumes to keep costs down, and a huge pool of users whose feedback and shopping patterns help refine seller offerings.

    The bottom line is that Amazon is a highly efficient, vertically integrated entity whose foray into overlapping business lines—offering a digital marketplace for retailers, its own competing retail products for customers, and a homegrown logistics division for both customers and retailers—creates synergies that have generated immense value for consumers.

    It would be nice if other big retailers pursued similar strategies to generate "immense value" for their customers. But—guess what?—the FTC is saying, essentially, "don't you dare."

  • That which we call a ban by any other name would smell just as bad. Sorry, couldn't resist making the Shakespearian reference, inspired by Dan McLaughlin's headline: What's a Ban? What's Not a Ban?.

    Progressive and liberal media narratives have no consistent definition.

    Consider book bans. The “conservative states are banning books” panic conveniently forgets the endless progressive efforts to get books unpublished, banned from marketplaces, rewritten, or removed from curricula. But set that aside: a major source for claims about books being banned is PEN America’s reporting and statistics on book bans. The problem, as Abigail Anthony explains, is that many of the so-called “banned” books are only banned in the sense that “access to a book is restricted or diminished,” including situations in which “a book that was previously available to all now requires parental permission, or is restricted to a higher grade level than educators initially determined.”

    In other words: It’s a “ban” to decide that a book is not appropriate for all ages, even if the book is universally available for age-appropriate readers, and even if this amounts to little more than moving a book to a different shelf within the same school library. Even more incoherently, it’s a “ban” to take a book that was already age- or grade-restricted and change the range to a higher age or grade. If you take the uber-libertarian view that even sexually explicit books and books with nudity and graphic violence should be available to all ages, then these books were already “banned” under PEN America’s definition — how can changing that restriction be a new ban?

    Dan (I call him Dan) notes that the b-word is linguistically powerful, which speaks well of the libertarian instincts of Americans. But note: "We’re endlessly told that nobody wants to ban guns, even when Democrats propose taking the best-selling guns in the country off the market."

    By the way, on my recent trip to Portsmouth Public Library I noticed their "Banned Books" display. And featured up front and center was Gender Queer, that and the other books on display kinda self-contradicting about "banned".

    Can you find When Harry Became Sally at Portsmouth Public Library? Nope. By which I mean, "Of course not." And it's still banned from Amazon. And you won't see it on anyone's "banned books" list.

  • Because it gives the state more power, always assumed to be a good idea. That is, I think, the most accurate answer to Daniel Lyons' question: Why Resurrect Net Neutrality?.

    Like some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried…”

    Justice Scalia’s memorable lament about resurrecting bad policies came to mind last week as the specter of net neutrality returned to haunt the tech policy community. After three years of quietly effective telecom regulation, the Federal Communications Commission has roared back to life with a new Democratic majority and an obsession to reimpose 2015’s Title II order on broadband providers. Back then, the AEI Tech Policy blog argued that these rules were, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, harmful to consumers and innovation. America’s experience since then has vindicated the decision to repeal net neutrality, leading one to wonder why this has become the Commission’s most pressing concern.

    In some ways, the net neutrality movement has strayed from its roots. When Professor Tim Wu first coined the phrase, he was concerned in part that without a neutrality principle, broadband providers would block disfavored speech online. But this commitment to an open exchange of ideas seems to be memory-holed now that the same administration pushing net neutrality is accused of coercing platforms to remove disfavored content from their sites.

    Lyons says: "Net neutrality was always a solution in search of a problem." But I'm pretty sure Washington sees the "problem" as "government having too little control over the Internet." In which case, net neutrality is a very good solution.

  • But it was lost on a lonely highway. Veronique de Rugy points out: 'Good Government' Is a Two-Way Street.

    You've undoubtedly noticed how up-in-arms everyone becomes when the government is on the verge of shutting down. I've also noticed that the people who most loudly express their horror at the notion of a partial government closure seem totally comfortable with the fiscal wall we are barreling into. That wall is being built, brick by brick, by two political parties that are unwilling to end Washington's spending debauchery.

    This isn't to deny that some people would have been hurt by the recently averted shutdown (which, by the way, would not have made our debt smaller). It's a call for consistency from anyone putting their good-government sensibilities on display.

    Those sounding the loudest alarms last week are largely silent on the countless occasions when Congress ignores its own budgetary rules. They are rarely outraged when the government is financed with legislation that only expands the balance sheet regardless of whether the money is well spent. All that seems to matter is that government is metaphorically funded, since it usually means growing deficits and explosive debt.

    Headline reference explained here. No, don't ask, I don't know what it means. Vero actually does a better job than the song does in maintaining the metaphor, saying: "the real 'crisis' is apparently that someone is trying to slam on the brakes — not that there's a fiscal wall looming ahead."

Last Modified 2024-01-28 3:38 AM EDT