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Space Taxi
Space Taxi
NASA-Certified Space Taxi

It sure seems like that’s what NASA is doing. NASA has to do something in order to maintain its relevance as the space age dawns in the era of commercial space flight. NASA is still running scientific-exploratory missions to Mars and elsewhere in the solar system, but even this role will be soon be overtaken by private enterprises like Planetary Resources.

From Space.com comes news that NASA has launched a private space taxi certification program. The program will consist of a two-stage “process aimed at ensuring commercial passenger spaceships currently under development will meet the agency’s safety standards, schedule and mission requirements.” Yay, NASA’s record of safety, timeliness, and priorities with minimal bureaucratic waste leaves me reassured.

Budget cuts no doubt have something to do with the certification program as well. “NASA expects to award multiple firms a Certification Products Contract (CPC), each of which will run for 15 months and be worth up to $10 million.” Restrict competition, rake in the dough, ensure the continuation of your own jobs, and retain control of the space industry — all in the name of safety, science, human progress, and protecting taxpayer “investments.”

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Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

Alongside Night by J. Neil Schulman

On September 10th at 8 PM EST, Laissez Faire Books will be hosting what I assume is going to be a Q&A-type event on their blog. Wendy McElroy posted the announcement and will be moderating the event. J. Neil Shulman, Prometheus Award–winning author of Alongside Night, and graphic novelist Scott Bieser, will be participating.

The event is meant to celebrate and publicize commencement of the shooting of a movie adaptation of Schulman’s novel. Kevin Sorbo (Hercules, Andromeda, Kull the Conqueror) will star in the movie as Dr. Vreeland. Alongside Night is billed as “a prophetic movie about the economic and social collapse of society. At its core, however, Alongside Night is an optimistic vision of rebellion and the triumph of freedom.”

Head over to the LFB blog for more information and McElroy’s review of the novel. [Update: And her new interview with Schulman.] Come back to read our interview with Schulman.

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Worldcon banned by UStream for copyright infringement

If you tried to watch the livestream of the Hugo Awards event at Chicon 7 (Worldcon) last night, you were in for a rude surprise. The feed cut off, never to be restored, just as Neil Gaiman was giving his acceptance speech.  Why? i09 has the scoop, but fingers the wrong culprit.

Worldcon banned by UStream for copyright infringement

What happened was that the Hugo Awards showed clips from some Doctor Who episodes and a Community episode prior to Gaiman’s speech. UStream’s copyright enforcement robots detected this and shut down the feed, as they had been programmed to do. io9’s editor-in-chief, Annalee Newitz, lays the blame on UStream. Its copyright enforcement robots are too dumb to realize that not only did the Hugo Awards have permission to show those clips but that, even if they had not, showing them would have been fair use anyway.

Is it UStream’s fault that its copyright enforcement robots are unable to distinguish between illicit copyrighted content and copyrighted content the user has permission or a fair-use defense for airing? Should UStream spend more money on smarter robots? if it’s even possible to code smart enough robots to do this? I don’t think so.

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David Brin

Can I look any more smug. Can I.

David Brin
David Brin

Oops, he did it again.

David Brin, whom some think of as a libertarian science fiction author, and who styles himself as such, but who really isn’t even close to being libertarian, and who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time these days attacking real libertarians like a jilted lover, was recently interviewed on Wired.com via the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Brin has a controversial take on Star Wars. For example, he calls Yoda one of the most evil characters ever. Well, okay, Brin does have something of a point when it comes to Yoda. The Jedi as a whole are pretty much useless, meddling busybodies who are directly or indirectly responsible for the fundamental political problems in the Star Wars universe.

But Brin’s main criticism of Star Wars and George Lucas is premised largely on his fetish for state-democracy (my term for democratic institutions and processes ossified as formal mechanisms in the state apparatus). Lucas comes under fire for always protraying the republic as corrupt and nonfunctioning, which he does because he despises democracy and favors benign dictatorship.

But, of course, Brin has staked his entire nonfiction career on his Platonic ideal of radical transparency allowing perfect knowledge in a state-democracy. Only when this ideal is realized will freedom be protected and capitalism work properly, says Brin.

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Atlas Shrugged: The Movie, Part II Teaser Poster

Atlas Shrugged: The Movie, Part II Teaser Poster

Reason.com has had some interesting posts recently.

One is on the subject of fan fiction vs. copyright. Does fan fiction count as a copyright violation? What should authors think or do about it? My response to the first question is: Who cares? Copyright is an illegitimate government grant of monopoly privilege that gives people legal ownership over that which cannot really be property, ideas, and which cannot be enforced without infringing on the prior real property rights (in one’s body and physical objects) of others. My response to the second question is: Authors should embrace fan fiction as community-building and free advertising. Fighting fan fiction only makes you a dick, a criminal (in my view) dick if you sue.

Anyway, now that I’ve worked that rant out of my system, check out the post Fan Fiction vs. Copyright – Q&A with Rebecca Tushnet and watch the interview below. Tushnet is “a member of the Organization for Transformative Works, Tushnet works to defend fan fiction creators caught in the legal debate between protected intellectual property and fair use.” I’ve previously discussed how Angry Robot Books is embracing fan fiction, if not as much as we libertarians and fiction fans would like.

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Higher Cause by John Hunt

Higher Cause by John Hunt

In case you missed the announcement, Laissez Faire Books is serializing a novel on its blog. The first installment (of 22) was published yesterday, and subsequent installments will be published weekly on Wednesdays. The novel, Higher Cause, appears to be a present-day to near-future thriller. The description mentions new forms of energy as well, so it may be a techno-political thriller or a bit science-fictional.

The author, John Hunt, is an Austro-libertarian and a medical doctor, “a pediatric pulmonologist and allergist, former navy officer, tenured associate professor at the University of Virginia, cofounder of several companies, as well as Trusted Angels Foundation.” His bio also mentions that he’s written another novel titled Assume the Physician, “a spicy, eye-opening, tear-jerking, belly-laughing romp, and is chicken soup for anyone who struggles in the medical system of America.”

Hunt describes his novel as having “timely sweeping themes, active free-thinking characters, conflicts affecting the world, spies, guns, explosions, new forms of energy, sinister conspiracies, government plots, nationalization, destruction, and hope.”

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Serenity
Joss Whedon at Comic-Con 2012
Joss Whedon at Comic-Con 2012

So disappointing:1

“We are watching capitalism destroy itself right now,” [Whedon] told the audience.

He added that America is “turning into Tsarist Russia” and that “we’re creating a country of serfs.”

Whedon was raised on the Upper Westside neighborhood of Manhattan in the 1970s, an area associated with left-leaning intellectuals. He said he was raised by people who thought socialism was a ”beautiful concept.”

Socialism remains a taboo word in American politics, as Republicans congressmen raise the specter of the Cold War. They refer to many Obama administration initatives as socialist, and the same goes for most laws that advocate increasing spending on social welfare programs. They also refer to the President as a socialist, though this and many of their other claims misuse the term.

This evidently frustrates Whedon, who traces this development to Ronald Reagan[.]

We have people trying to create structures and preserve the structures that will help the middle and working class, and people calling them socialists,” Whedon said. “It’s not Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal […] it’s some people with some sense of dignity and people who have gone off the reservation.”

Whedon obviously can’t tell the difference between laissez-faire capitalism (i.e., free markets) and the state-regulated capitalism we have today. Or the difference between democratic corporatism and tyrannical absolute monarchy. As with most on the left, he directs his criticisms almost exclusively at the market and big corporations.

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  1. I’m a huge fan of Firefly and Serenity and enjoyed Dr. Horrible, Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, and the Avengers. 

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