WALKING A HEINLEIN
Re: Colby Cosh’s Starship Bloopers:
Actually, most of the great science fiction writers of the Golden Age started off as raging lefties: read Fred Pohl’s The Way the Future Was for the adolescent Marxist feuds that rampaged through fandom and the early years of the field.
And Mr. Cosh oversimplifies Heinlein’s form of democracy: it was not merely a democracy “in which only military veterans and certain similar public servants had the franchise.” Anyone who wanted the franchise was entitled to it, but they had to perform a period of public service, military or civilian, to demonstrate that they were capable of putting the social good above personal benefit, and thus would at least be more likely than not to use their vote responsibly.
— Richard McEnroe
Intriguing essay. I’ve always been fascinated by that mind that could create The Puppet Masters with its defense of democracy and the Constitution, then evolve to the espousing of a benevolent despotism in, was it Glory Road?
That has always struck me as an embrace of a luminous and vibrant despair.
— Bill Lannon
In support of Heinlein’s libertarian tendencies, I remember in one of his novels people would use the phrase “Tanstaafl,” an abbreviation for “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” And say, where did you get the sexy artwork?
— David C. Hamilton
It is an axiom of the science fiction genre: “Nothing is older than yesterday’s futurism.” And yesterday’s progress was the pneumatic tube. Alas, it lives on only at my bank’s drive-through.
My favorite images of our pneumatic former future are found in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) and the Coen Brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). Yes, I know: the latter has the vilifyable Tim Robbins in it, but it’s damned funny.
— Stephen Foulard
NOT SO FAST
Re: Eric Peters’ Slowdown Artists:
Eric Peters cautions us against considering numbers in isolation, while himself failing to consider that there may be factors which slant death figures in favor of his argument. What about safety improvements in cars themselves? Have there in fact been more crashes because of increased speed, but without a proportionate increase in fatalities?
Before you eagerly answer “Yes, that’s why we should all be allowed to drive real fast!,” let’s consider issues other than crashes and death. There are the intangibles, the unquantifiables that might fit under the rubric “quality of drive.” For example, is “road rage” a mere concoction of the highway sociologists? If not, does its apparent increase in recent years have anything to do with the general increase in speed (coupled with increasing highway congestion)?
Allow me an analogy — that of the computer. Now that the processors in our home and office computers are so ridiculously fast compared to what they could do even five years ago, do we get at all aggravated when something occurs to slow a process down to, say, 1993 speed? Do we even get more irate at a slowdown than we would have ten years ago, when we were less spoiled by speed? Or are we so happy with the overall increase in CPU speed that we don’t mind the occasional slowdown?
You know the answer. The faster we can go, whether in a car or at the keyboard, the more demanding we are that our speed not be limited. I’ve seen it in myself, and I’ve seen it in my fellow highway jackasses.
In the early 70s I drove a fully packed old station wagon from New York City to Indianapolis. Posted speed limit — 55 mph. Actual speed driven, due to overloading and age of car — 50 mph. I think it took me about sixteen hours, with a brief pit-stop here and there, and an Indiana blizzard. Arrived refreshed like I’ve never been before or since.
I’m not saying “back to 55 mph.” I am saying that a “what — me worry?” attitude about the plague of 80-mph driving, simply because one has death statistics on one’s side, is a limited, possibly dangerous view. If you’re a blithe spirit who relaxes and thrives at high speeds, well lucky for you. Just stay away from the other 90% of us.
— Jeffrey S. Erickson
Davidson, North Carolina
Funny I did not even know that there was a move afoot to revive “Drive 55.”
A much more effective deterrent to reducing fatalities would be more police presence on the road. Nothing moderates bad driving habits than seeing a police cruiser in the rear-view mirror.
Yet in discussions with friends and coworkers in many metro areas (I live in Dallas/Fort Worth), we all notice a very interesting fact: Between 7-9am and 4-6pm you hardly ever see a trooper or police car on the commuting byways. Why is that? Having a cruiser in the traffic pattern will slow things down better than any traffic sign will, whether they are writing tickets or not.
But the same officials will not do this as it costs money to implement and maintain. Putting up speed limit signs is cheap in comparison. But you get what you pay for.
— John McGinnis
Carter was a horrible enough president, but it was Nixon who’s to blame for 55 MPH.
— E. Palmeri
Re: Paul M. Weyrich’s Advantage Kerry:
Paul M. Weyrich’s piece lays out some of the advantages he feels John Forbes Kerry (who wants to use “A new century, a new JFK” as his slogan, I’ve heard) has over George Bush.
Let me say that the image of a clumsy Kerry in ice-hockey garb would be the equivalent of the helmet on Dukakis’ head peering above the rim of the turret. Kerry doesn’t look tough, only sounds tough, and as a line in a movie recalls, “A big mouth doesn’t make a big man.” Moreover, I see a Kerry full of disadvantages he’s trying to downplay rigorously. Among the more blatant and painful disadvantages are his association and leadership of the VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against the War) and his statements to Congress in 1971 accusing fellow soldiers of atrocities. At his infamous Valley Forge rally with Jane Fonda those same charges were repeated by “veterans” that later were discovered to be impostors. Secondly his voting record, the mere mention of which Democrats of course will call an “attack,” stands as a giant gong sounding every hour on why a person should not vote for him. Third, his multiple positions on the same issue, such as his votes in 1998, 2000 and 2002 on Iraq, would lead any clear-thinking person to wonder what he objects to now, other than he’s attempting to get into the Oval Office?
I see John Kerry, as he portrays himself, a deeply “scarred” war veteran who “hates” war so much and his country that he’s consistently voted in the Senate against the very tools and implements our military needs to protect this country. He votes continually against the policies that would defend our nation against hostilities based on his partisan political mentoring by Edward M. Kennedy. I see Kerry’s “mental state” as more “Disadvantage Kerry” than advantage and a clear and present danger for any American contemplating voting for this man simply because they want to “get rid of Bush.” This isn’t about anything more than “Florida 2000” and the disgruntled, bitter and tired Democrats and liberals circling their wagons around Kerry in the hope he wins. If Democrats want this man, let them have him. He doesn’t need to make mistakes during the campaign. He’s made them throughout his political career starting in 1970. Bring it on. Kerry is a big fish in Democrat circles — a flounder, I think!
— Harry Pike
Your article left the real question unasked. Will our soldiers be better served having a commander-in chief who has shown historically a disdain for our military leadership and greater sympathy for the principles of our enemy than those for which our forefathers fought and died for? I wasn’t old enough to fight in the Vietnam War but that didn’t keep me from trying to enlist because it is the greatest privilege to serve and defend the principles of our great nation. The problem with many discontented people is they never had anything that they value so much that they are willing to die for it. The men who went to Vietnam from my home town didn’t come home protesting the war nor bad mouthing the leaders of our nation. Everyone is so concerned about leaving the coming generation a debt free America, but what about an America that they would be willing to lay down their lives for. Mr. Kerry will not do that, God forbid that our children inherit a nation whose policies and principles are dictated by third world nations.
— E. Henderson
Paul Weyrich states that “the Bush people” can’t just paint Kerry as a liberal like Kennedy and have millions of voters flock to Bush’s side. In fact, Kerry is not only a Massachusetts liberal, he is more of a liberal than Kennedy (as hard as that is to imagine!). It only takes a review of his voting record and his anti-war activism to demonstrate the truth. This should be well within the capabilities of the American Spectator or even Mr. Weyrich. Kerry may be smarter than Dukakis (hardly a high bar to clear), but he will only skate on his record if the media allows it to happen.
By the way, in his Senate career what has Kerry ever contributed to advance the life of any American citizens not from Massachusetts? What are some of the great pieces of Kerry-sponsored legislation?
— Todd Christian
What the Bush team has to do is make certain Kerry is forced to run on his voting record in the Senate, not his performance in Vietnam. Once people take a look at the guy’s votes on issues affecting the military or national security it’s unlikely they would want him as commander in chief.
— Dick Melville
Ozone Park, New York
Paul is the same guy a few years ago that said all is lost for the culture war. He was wrong then and he is wrong now. I use to watch him on TV a few years back, he has always been a chicken little screaming the sky is falling. He is one of the most gloomy guys out there. These polls he sites are a joke; they are polling adults, not even registered voters or better yet likely voters. Give me a break. Yet Paul is already in panic mode. I wonder when it was the last time he won a national election. Kerry is a liberal, who has a lousy record on defense issues. He is really liberal on social issues, that will never go over with the people in the South. The electoral college is what counts and I see Bush in pretty good shape. I don’t think the sky is falling Paul, even though I think some of it might have got in your eye causing blurriness!
— Mary Coneff
So what do YOU suggest to combat Kerry—in your words it sounds like he has it locked up–time to throw in the towel?
DOWN THE ROAD
Re: Libby Spencer’s letter in Reader Mail’s Meet the Depressed:
Libby Spencer decries the: “… arrogant dismissal of the need for international consensus in making foreign policy.”
Clairvoyantly, Ms. Spencer opens the postmortem analysis of what went wrong with the Kerry campaign.
— Mark Hessey
Belmar, New Jersey