SPACE: Dream Chaser Space Plane Will Fly in 2016. “The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced that Dream Chaser will blast into orbit in November 2016 atop an Atlas V rocket. Dream Chaser’s first orbital flight will be unmanned and will test the space plane’s autonomous landing system. SNC expects to launch its first manned orbital mission about one year later.” All is proceeding as I have foreseen.
JAMES DELINGPOLE: Shale Gas Is Rearden Metal.
For my summer holidays I have been mostly reading Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand has her faults but, boy, was she prescient.
One of the things she foresaw was the current nonsensical, dishonest, canting campaign against shale gas. In Atlas Shrugged it takes the form of Rearden Metal, the miracle technology which is going to transform the US economy if only the progressives will let it. But of course, Rand’s fictional progressives don’t want Reardon Metal to succeed any more than their modern, real-life equivalents want shale gas to succeed.
Why not? For the same rag-bag of made-up, disingenuous reasons which progressives have used to justify their war on progress since time immemorial: it’s unfair, it uses up scarce resources, it might be dangerous. Rand doesn’t actually use the phrase “the precautionary principle.” But this is exactly what she is describing in the book when various vested interests – the corporatists in bed with big government, the politicised junk-scientists at the Institute of Science (aka, in our world, the National Academy of Sciences or the Royal Society), the unions – try to close down the nascent technology using the flimsiest of excuses.
Read the whole thing.
YOU CAN SEE WHY HUMA WAS SO EAGER TO HITCH HER WAGON TO THIS POLITICAL STAR: Weiner to 69-year-old at AARP event: “What are you going to do about it, grandpa?”
On Twitter, a suggested reply.
AS A READER NOTES, THIS COULD COME STRAIGHT FROM ATLAS SHRUGGED — WHICH WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A WARNING, NOT A HOW-TO MANUAL: Bill Nojay: Lessons From a Front-Row Seat for Detroit’s Dysfunction. “Union and civil-service rules made it virtually impossible to fire anyone. A six-step disciplinary process provided job protection to anyone with a pulse, regardless of poor performance or bad behavior. Even the time-honored management technique of moving someone up or sideways where he would do less harm didn’t work in Detroit: Job descriptions and qualification requirements were so strict it was impossible for management to rearrange the organization chart. I was a manager with virtually no authority over personnel. When the federal government got involved, it only made things worse.”
ATLAS BUGGED: Why the “Secret Law” of the Patriot Act Is Probably About Location Tracking. “All we can do is speculate, of course: only a handful of legislators and people with top-secret clearances know for sure. But a few of us who closely monitor national security and surveillance issues have come to the same conclusion: it probably involves some form of cellular phone geolocation tracking, potentially on a large scale.”
21ST CENTURY RELATIONSHIPS: Ab-solutely Fabulous: Women’s expectations of the opposite sex are at least as unrealistic as men’s. Love the accompanying Charles Atlas photo. He wouldn’t even be considered especially buff today. . . .
But note this important caveat: “Other factors—such as social status, for instance—may, in the real world, override the physical preferences that the researchers were measuring.”
ATLAS THUGGED: Who Is The Real “Big Oil?” “The Big Picture is that over 70% of the world’s reserves are produced by National Oil Companies (NOCs). These are companies with reserves and production that dwarf those of ExxonMobil or Shell, and with names you have probably never heard unless you are in the bidness. These are companies like PDVSA, Aramco, PetroBras, CNOOC, Gazprom, Yukos, and Pemex.”
What’s interesting is that the national companies somehow seem to get a pass on environmental problems and price-gouging. It’s only the private companies that are evil, apparently.
SO FOR ANYONE WHO’S INTERESTED, I’ve got an early version of my Due Process When Everything Is A Crime essay posted now. It’s pretty short, as I plan to submit it to the online law reviews for faster turnaround. Maybe later I’ll write a longer piece on the topic — I’ve already been asked if I’d like to do a book, but I’m not sure. Maybe someone else will pick up the ball and I won’t have to. . . .
UPDATE: Reader William Vine writes:
Thanks for the very insightful article. You explained concisely the legal ramifications of everyone is guilty. However, there are the psychological ramifications: Everyone is guilty. Everyone is immoral. Everyone is corrupt. Everyone is a failure. First explained to me in Atlas Shrugged. Unfortunately, do not remember citation details.
I believe this is the passage you mean:
“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against – then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now, that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”
Things aren’t quite that bad. Yet. (Bumped).
SUBVERTING THE DOMINANT PARADIGM: Photo: Romney’s Name Written In Sand On Point Pleasant Beach During Obama’s New Jersey Flyover.
It’s impressive that Romney supporters found the energy and initiative to pull this off amid the devastation. Must be more of the “crawl over ground glass to vote for Romney” contingent.
VOTES BY PRECINCT: The Stanford Election Atlas.
YOU DIDN’T HEAR STUFF LIKE THIS FROM REPUBLICANS LAST TIME AROUND: “Romney was not my first, second, or third choice, but I will crawl over ground glass to vote for him.”
UPDATE: Maybe this is why.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Aaron Jones emails: “Not only would I crawl over broken glass to vote for Mitt Romney, I’ll show ID if I have to.” Now that’s serious.
INSTAVISION: Is Atlas Shrugging? Job Creators Are Giving Up on the U.S. Economy. I talk with Harmon Kaslow, producer of Atlas Shrugged Part II, about the movie, the book, and why the Obama Administration seems to see it as a how-to manual, rather than a cautionary tale.
WELL, I’LL HAVE TO GO SEE IT: The critics hate Atlas Shrugged II. Meanwhile the audience rates it at 78. Sounds like a winner to me!
WHO’S AFRAID OF AYN RAND? Paul Ryan, apparently. He’s now back-walking some of his 2005 remarks to the Atlas Society about Social Security and Medicare. Who wants to bet all these progressives who shudder at the mention of Rand have never read any of her work? LOL.
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Socialism Kills, Venezuela Edition. “It is clear that the Chávez regime has been squeezing every last penny out of the oil sector, but despite the ‘Bolivarian’ socialist rhetoric promising equal distribution of this wealth, the money hasn’t just been used for social programs, but also to fund Venezuela’s expensive foreign policy, as well as its efforts to cover up the results of poor policy, rampant cronyism, and the general mismanagement of the public sector. When things go wrong, Venezuelan citizens are the ones who pay the price for the state’s poor choices. Three things seem likely at this juncture: first, no one will be able to trust whatever ‘investigation’ the Chavez government undertakes. It will be an obvious whitewash. Second, conditions for oil workers are unlikely to improve. Third, the usual crew of Chavez defenders in the United States, desperate after all these decades of misery and failure to point to some place some where, where authoritarian socialism isn’t a dreary charnel house and economic failure zone, will struggle to convince themselves that things are just fine in Bolivarian Venezuela.”
Venezuela is doing fine.
UPDATE: Reader John Steakley writes: “Based on how things are going, I would estimate that Hugo Chavez is about halfway through reading Atlas Shrugged.”
FAMED AUTHOR STEPS IN to pay Barack Obama’s Brother’s Hospital Bill. “One of Obama’s favorite phrases comes right out of the Bible: ‘We are our brother’s keeper.’ Yet he has not contributed a penny to help his own brother. And evidently George does not believe, even in times of emergency, that he can turn to his brother in the White House for help. So much for spreading the wealth around. Obama’s refusal to help George is especially surprising because George doesn’t just live in American-style poverty but rather in Third World poverty. He lives in a shanty in the Huruma slum in Nairobi. He gets by on a few dollars a month.”
UPDATE: Reader D.J. Schreffler writes:
The first thing that lept out at me was the mis-quote of Genesis 4:9. Depending on translation, it runs: Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?” And Cain replied, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
To be fair, Cain’s trying to dodge trouble for murdering his younger brother at this point, but what do we see?
Mr. D’Souza thinks the phrase ‘We are our brother’s keeper[sic]‘ is in the Bible. If he’s accurate in his assertion, President Obama thinks so as well. Nothing of the sort. There are admonition to be generous with the unfortunate, to take care of family, and to not let justice be changed depending on wealth and power (and insider access, I suppose), so they can be forgiven thinking that the quote comes from the bible, because you can find the sentiment there.
Where I do remember seeing the phrase ‘We are our brothers’ keepers’ (which might be a slight mis-recall, but at least is grammatically correct), is in Atlas Shrugged, with various people using it as a political slogan, or even as the new guiding principle of the Twentieth Century Motor Company after management goes to the next generation.
Which, of course, leads to another interesting possibility: Mr. D’Souza has read Atlas Shrugged, or other works of Rand, if the phrase shows up in them, and has ascribed the sentiment, as Rand uses is, to President Obama. This, I find depressingly accurate.
MORE PROOF THAT FOR BARACK OBAMA, Atlas Shrugged isn’t a cautionary tale, it’s a how-to manual.
“He didn’t invent iron ore and blast furnaces, did he?”
“Rearden. He didn’t invent smelting and chemistry and air compression. He couldn’t have invented his Metal but for thousands and thousands of other people. His Metal! Why does he think it’s his? Why does he think it’s his invention? Everybody uses the work of everybody else. Nobody ever invents anything.”
She said, puzzled, “But the iron ore and all those other things were there all the time. Why didn’t anybody else make that Metal, but Mr. Rearden did?”
Related: U.S. Employers Add 80,000 Jobs As Economy Struggles. “About one-third of the jobs gained in June were in temporary services.”
UPDATE: CNBC: Worst hiring period in 2 years. “There is little hope of an acceleration in the pace of job growth any time soon.” Not until November at the earliest.
Plus: “A measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers ticked higher to 14.9 percent, its highest level since February, while the labor force participation rate stayed near a 30-year low at 63.8 percent.”
Remember back in 2009, when President Obama and his team told us that we needed to squander $800 billion on a so-called stimulus package.
The crowd in Washington was quite confident that Keynesian spending was going to save the day, even though similar efforts had failed for Hoover and Roosevelt in the 1930s, for Japan in the 1990s, and for Bush in 2008.
Nonetheless, we were assured that Obama’s stimulus was needed to keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent.
Well, that claim turned out to be quite hollow. Not that we needed additional evidence, but the new numbers from the Labor Department re-confirm that the White House prediction was wildly inaccurate. The 8.2 percent unemployment rate is 2.5 percentage points above the Administration’s prediction.
Here’s the chart:
Mitchell: “The one thing that is unambiguous is that we’ve never had a jobs recovery as anemic as the one we’re experiencing today.”
Here’s another chart on that, from the Minneapolis Fed:
The red line is the current recession. Click through for a bigger version with more data. This is a predictable result of having an Administration — and for the first two years, a Congress — that views Atlas Shrugged not as a cautionary tale, but as a how-to manual. . . .
A NEW ATTEMPT AT A HUMAN-POWERED HELICOPTER.
READER BOOK PLUG: Charles Heard writes: “Would you please consider plugging my novel, Joe Shrugged? It is a very modest reprise of Atlas Shrugged, written some years ago but still very topical. Many of your readers would enjoy it, I believe.”
A lot of Joes are shrugging these days, I think.
IT’S LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF ATLAS SHRUGGED: Half of Detroit’s Streetlights May Go Out as City Shrinks. Key quote: “You have to identify those neighborhoods where you want to concentrate your population.”
Or maybe this: “Brown said, the city will fix broken streetlights in certain places even as it discontinues such services as street and sidewalk repairs in ‘distressed’ areas — those with a high degree of blight and little or no commercial activity.” Forget Ayn Rand, this sounds like the “Abandoned Areas” in Robert Heinlein’s I Will Fear No Evil.
Atlas ALWAYS shrugs.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN OLD MEDIA: Stacy McCain and Forbes have “Grim News in WaPoVille:”
The Washington Post Co. reported its first-quarter earnings on Friday, and the news coming out of the newspaper division was mostly grim. The unit lost $22.6 million in the quarter, with revenue down 8% and revenue from print advertising specifically falling 17%.
Meanwhile, the Post just reported one of the biggest circulation drops of any major newspaper with the lucrative Sunday edition selling 5.2% fewer copies and the daily edition skidding almost 10%. Oh, and newsroom leaders are so distressed about the way the business decline is affecting them, they held a secret meeting with the paper’s president, Steve Hills — without inviting executive editor Marcus Brauchli.
Click over to Stacy’s blog for details of that “secret meeting,” and some thoughts on the future of journalism (more on the latter in a moment).
There’s equally grim news coming out of the other end of the Northeast Corridor, where New York Times journalists “fight for [their] pensions, paper be damned,” an editorial at the Washington Examiner notes, with an embedded video that’s a series of cris de coeur from veteran Timespeople, a video that Walter Russell Mead quipped watching could cause the rest of us to have “Uncontrollable gales of laughter stemming from excessive levels of schadenfreude [that] may cause spilling and staining.”
Here’s more from the Examiner:
“What am I gonna do? Am I gonna eat cat food? Am I gonna move in with my kids? Am I gonna commit suicide?”
These complaints come not from a laid-off auto worker or a victim of foreclosure, but from longtime New York Times reporter Donald McNeil. His alarming quote expresses his fears that the New York Times Co. will freeze its defined-benefit employee pension plan and make the transition to a defined-contribution system. The Newspaper Guild, the union, which represents McNeil and other Times journalists, released his complaints and others in an Internet video as a protest against the 401(k) plans used by nearly every new worker in America who has retirement benefits.
We’ll leave it to the Times, its employees and its shareholders to settle the dispute. As spectators, we find it mind-boggling that journalists from a leading national newspaper would vigorously resist a trend they have been chronicling for years. What’s good for the rest of us is evidently not good enough for toplofty Timesmen.
In the real world of the private sector, defined-benefit pension plans have been going the way of the dinosaurs for decades. The Social Security Administration reports that between 1980 and 2008, the share of private sector workers in defined-benefit pension plans fell from 38 percent to 20 percent. By some estimates it stands at just 15 percent today. In 1985, 89 of the companies in the Fortune 100 offered traditional defined benefit plans. In 2011, only 13 did so. In the same period, the number of Fortune 100 companies offering only defined-contribution plans increased from just 10 to 70.
When not haggling over retirement plans, Stacy McCain’s post concludes with a reminder to journalists to endeavor to “write for the reader:”
This seems so obvious to non-journalists that it feels stupid saying it so simply, but too many people in the news business completely lose sight of the fact that the reader is their customer, and is under no obligation to consume your product. You must try to write something that people actually want to read, and try to keep the readership in mind. Your boss is ultimately not the editor, but rather the guy who drops 50 cents in the newspaper box.
But that can be awfully hard to remember, let alone take to heart, if you’re like so many in the MSM who “loathes the public,” as the Wall Street Journal’s David Gelernter wrote, in a snapshot that perfectly sums up the insular nature of the MSM vis-à-vis their customers in 1996, just before first Matt Drudge and then the Blogosphere broke open the formerly closed feedback loop that was old media:
Today’s elite loathes the public. Nothing personal, just a fundamental difference in world view, but the hatred is unmistakable. Occasionally it escapes in scorching geysers. Michael Lewis reports in the New Republic on the ’96 Dole presidential campaign: ‘The crowd flips the finger at the busloads of journalists and chant rude things at them as they enter each arena. The journalists, for their part, wear buttons that say ‘yeah, I’m the Media. Screw You.’ The crowd hates the reporters, the reporters hate the crowd– an even matchup, except that the reporters wield power and the crowed (in effect) wields none.
The balance of power has shifted considerably in the years since, but that underlying attitude — “Yeah, I’m the Media. Screw You” — hasn’t changed. At the base of Bill Keller’s rants about Fox News is his anger that millions of viewers enjoy the channel (especially in middle America, which another prominent Timesman publicly referred to last year as “the dance of the low-sloping foreheads”), and have written the Gray Lady off as hopelessly out of touch with their day-to-day lives. (See also, video referenced above.)
Similarly, a recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review, the house organ of what Hugh Hewitt once dubbed “The Media’s Ancien Régime,” spends its time instructing old media journalists on “the right way to cover Joe the Plumber,” a man the MSM itself empowered by spending more time in the fall of 2008 vetting than they did the winner of the presidential race.
Finally, back in 2005, I once wrote that in the wake of RatherGate, Dan Rather had morphed into his bête noire, Richard Nixon. (Whom the Gods Destroy, They First Render Nixonian.) Today, as he makes the rounds promoting his autobiography, Rather is reduced to sounding like a stock Scooby Do villain — I would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for all you meddling bloggers!
UPDATE: Michael Malone emails in a rather prescient Silicon Valley Insider column he wrote in 2005: “Newspapers Nearing Death?”
I can’t precisely place the moment when I stopped reading newspapers, but it was sometime during the dot-com boom. My family went off to Africa for a couple months one summer, cancelled our newspaper subscriptions, and when we got home never really got around to re-subscribing. Eventually, perhaps three months later, we did start again — but by then the bloom was off.
First to go was the Times. That one was easy. I didn’t write for it anymore. The kids kept me too busy on the weekend to read it. My colleagues always pointed out the interesting articles. And, most of all, because I didn’t trust the Gray Lady’s reporting anymore.
Next was the Merc. I found that the only thing I even looked at in the paper was the headlines in the business section — and I could get those stories in other places. That, and the movie listings — and when I needed those I could just drop four bits into a local newspaper rack. A few weeks ago, when the paper reprinted a column of mine in its Sunday Perspective section, I had to depend upon my 85-year-old mother to cut out the article. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even have a hard copy.
Then came the Chron. Of all of them, that was the one I noticed most. I missed the arts section, especially the old Sunday pink section, and the columnists. But after a month or so, I didn’t even notice.
That last paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, had the opportunity to break real news in early 2008, and chose to bury it instead. Try and guess why.
GUESS WHO’S HIRING: Atlas Shrugged, The Movie.
DOG BITES MAN: A double standard at the New York Times.
Twenty years ago, most well-off US citizens owned a camera, a video camera, a CD player, a stereo, a video game console, a cell phone, a watch, an alarm clock, a set of encyclopedias, a world atlas, a Thomas Guide, and a whole bunch of other assets that easily add up to more than $10,000. All of which come standard on today’s amrat phones…that’s how quickly $10,000 worth of expenses can vanish.
From Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler, Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think.
Glenn and Scott Carpenter, the only other survivor of NASA’s original Mercury 7 astronauts, spent nearly an hour being photographed with the retirees, posing in front of a black curtain with a model of a Mercury-Atlas rocket. Glenn is 90; Carpenter is 86.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Mercury brigade traveled by bus to Launch Complex 14. That’s the pad from which Glenn rocketed away on Feb. 20, 1962.
Some retirees were in wheelchairs, while others used walkers or canes. Most walked, some more surely than others. But they all beamed with pride as they took pictures of the abandoned pad and of each other, and went into the blockhouse to see the old Mercury photos on display and to reminisce.
Sad that so many of these people have grown old without seeing lunar colonies and Mars missions. That would have been hard to believe back then, when progress was so swift.
VIRGINIA POSTREL: Can You Pass the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Test?
As someone known for writing defenses of chain stores and explaining Plano, Texas, to puzzled pundits, I agree that way too many smart people, particularly on the coasts, are quick to condemn middle-American culture without understanding why people value one or another aspect of it. But they were even worse in 1963. That’s the second problem with Murray’s fable: The cultural consensus was not just an illusion. It was an unhealthy one. Instead of promoting understanding, it fed contempt. . . .
With five decades’ distance it’s clear that books as seemingly different as “The Organization Man,” “The Lonely Crowd,” “The Feminine Mystique” and “Atlas Shrugged” were really all about the same thing: the alienation and discomfort of gifted, independent-minded individuals in a society in which the “normal” ruled. The “cognitive elite” felt left out of or oppressed by the country’s culture and, as a result, scorned it.
Now these people have one another.
And they’re out for payback.
Related: U.S. Auto Dealerships Turning Away Chevy Volts. “If the customer doesn’t want it, and the federal government insists on it, what are the car companies to do? They may have only one recourse; force dealers to take Volts and other plug in hybrids on their way to market.”
It’s like Atlas Shrugged come to life.
The downside: It’s much harder to have a unified sense of culture now that the mass media of the 1920s through the 1980s is no more, thus leading both to the existence of “present-tense culture,” and the desire to hang onto the beloved older forms of the past. (See also: endless Hollywood sequels and the ubiquity of forty year old rock songs.) The upside: it’s much easier to create your own.
CATHY YOUNG: The Rise Of Ayn Rand On Campus. “The question of Ayn Rand in academe has been made particularly relevant by the recent spike in her popularity. After the financial collapse of 2008, the Wall Street bailout, and the start of the Obama presidency—amidst widespread talk of the failure of markets and the inevitable rise of European-style social welfarism—there has been a marked resurgence of interest in Rand, an unabashed champion of capitalism and foe of big government. Sales of Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s 1955 mega-bestseller depicting a future America in the grip of economic collapse and socialist paralysis, soared in early 2009.”
IN THE MAIL: Atlas Shrugged Part 1.
HOW’S THAT HOPEY-CHANGEY STUFF WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Banks turn to demolition of foreclosed properties to ease housing-market pressures. Wasn’t there something like this in Atlas Shrugged?
GREEN FAIL (CONT’D): A U.S.-Backed Geothermal Plant in Nevada Struggles.
In a remote desert spot in northern Nevada, there is a geothermal plant run by a politically connected clean energy start-up that has relied heavily on an Obama administration loan guarantee and is now facing financial turmoil.
The company is Nevada Geothermal Power, which like Solyndra, the now-famous California solar company, is struggling with debt after encountering problems at its only operating plant. After a series of technical missteps that are draining Nevada Geothermal’s cash reserves, its own auditor concluded in a filing released last week that there was “significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
It’s as if political connections matter more than having a viable business plan.
UPDATE: Reader Jose Hill writes:
Regarding your comment, “It’s as if political connections matter more than having a viable business plan,” I was reminded of the following, particularly incisive dialogue from Atlas Shrugged:
(James Taggart speaking) “We will liberate our culture from the stranglehold of the profit-chasers. We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by -”
“-the aristocracy of pull,” said a voice behind the group.
Yes. Atlas Shrugged was meant to be a cautionary tale, but for this gang it’s a how-to manual.
CHANGE: Atlas Takes Heat For Melting Glacier Claim. Well, less change than the Atlas says. . . .
SOLARGATE UPDATE: Obama Officials Sat In On Solyndra Meetings. “Officials from the Department of Energy have for months been sitting in on board meetings as ‘observers’ at Solyndra, getting an up-close view as the solar energy company careened towards bankruptcy after spending more than $500 million in federal loan money.” Probably felt just like being back at the federal government, which is careening toward bankruptcy after spending more than $15 trillion in loan money . . .
UPDATE: Reader Tracy Cobbs emails:
Once again, real life mirrors Atlas Shrugged. Here’s a paragraph from Part 2, Chapter V, “Account Overdrawn”, describing a meeting of the Taggart Transcontinental Board of Directors:
“A man from Washington sat at the table among them. Nobody knew his exact job or title, but it was not necessary: they knew that he was the man from Washington. His name was Mr. Weatherby, he had graying temples, a long, narrow face and a mouth that looked as if he had to stretch his facial muscles in order to keep it closed; this gave a suggestion of primness to a face that displayed nothing else. The Directors did not know whether he was present as the guest, the adviser or the ruler of the Board; they preferred not to find out.”
Message to the Obama Administration: Atlas Shrugged was meant as a cautionary tale, not a freaking how-to manual.
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Atlas Is Sorta Shrugging.
Every president lets slip a smear now and then. The key is that there should be little consistency or frequency in his targeting. But with Obama there is both monotony and predictability. He clearly does not like private businesses — except the super wealthy who are liberal and share his refined tastes and politics and have enough millions in “unneeded income” that they figure they will either die before or weather through our transition to European democratic socialism.
Of course, one Huey Long — like “fat cat,” an occasional adolescent “millionaires and billionaires,” a once in a while juvenile “corporate jet owners,” a few 1960s-like “spread the wealth” or “redistributive change” slips, a single petulant “unneeded income,” or a sole pop-philosophizing “at some point you’ve made enough money,” or even on occasion the old socialist boilerplate “those who make over $250,000 should pay their fair share” in isolation are tolerable. But string them together and even the tire store owner and pharmaceutical rep are aroused from their 70-hour weeks, and start to conclude, “Hmmm, this guy doesn’t like me or what I do, and I better make the necessary adjustments.” And, believe me, they are making the necessary adjustments.
ATLAS SHRUGGED comes to Detroit. “In a perverse way, I’m glad that there are places such as Greece and Illinois. These profligate jurisdictions are useful examples of the dangers of bloated government and reckless statism. There also are some cities that serve as reverse role models. Detroit is a miserable case study of big government run amok, so I enjoyed a moment or two of guilty pleasure as I read this CNBC story about the ongoing decay of the Motor City.”
BANK OF AMERICA HAS SO MANY FORECLOSED HOMES, it’s resorting to bulldozing. And is it just me, or does this sound vaguely Atlas Shrug-ish?
“There is way too much supply,” said Gus Frangos, president of the Cleveland-based Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., which works with lenders, government officials and homeowners to salvage vacant homes. “The best thing we can do to stabilize the market is to get the garbage off.” . . . The lender will pay as much as $7,500 for demolition or $3,500 in areas eligible to receive funds through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Uses for the land include development, open space and urban farming, according to the statement. Simon declined to say how many foreclosed properties Bank of America holds.
Urban farming. They had that in Rome in 500 A.D., didn’t they?
WAIT, I THOUGHT HE WAS A “RIGHT-WING CHRISTIAN?” Parts of the manifesto written by the suspect in Norway’s terrorist attack were taken almost word for word from the writings of “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. Still, if you’re going to commit terrorism, I guess committing plagiarism is small change.
REPORT INFLATION HIGHER THAN GOVERNMENT ESTIMATES, go to jail? “Consumer prices rose 9.7% in May from a year ago, according to the national statistics agency, Indec. But virtually all economists say annual inflation surpasses 20%—one of the world’s highest rates—angering government officials who dismiss inflation as a problem. The criminal complaint, initiated by the Commerce Secretariat, is the harshest in a series of legal measures against economists. The credibility of Indec’s data has been questioned ever since former President Nestor Kirchner replaced longtime civil servants with political appointees in early 2007.” For some people, Atlas Shrugged is a cautionary tale. For others, it’s a how-to manual.
HEY, IF YOU’RE NOT A CRONY, YOU DON’T GET IN ON THE GOODIES FROM CRONY CAPITALISM: Private emails detail Obama admin involvement in cutting non-union worker pensions post-GM bailout. “New emails obtained by The Daily Caller contradict claims by the Obama administration that the Treasury Department would avoid “intervening in the day-to-day management” of General Motors post-auto bailout. These messages reveal that Treasury officials were involved in decision-making that led to more than 20,000 non-union workers losing their pensions.” (Via NewsAlert). Bonus question: Did somebody lie to Congress about this?
Meanwhile, reader Ed Stephens emails, “It really is like something out of Atlas Shrugged.” For some people, it’s a cautionary tale. For others, it’s a how-to manual . . . .
CAN’T TELL TRUTH FROM FICTION: Dan Mitchell: Corrupt Obamacare Waiver Process Is Like a Scene from Atlas Shrugged. The novel that was meant as a cautionary tale, but that has been adopted as a manual.
TIMOTHY DALRYMPLE: Battle Of The Bulge: Is The Weiner War Worth It? “The comic value alone is priceless.”
I think there’s an important point in the comic value: The people who think they’re smart enough, and morally superior enough, to run everyone else’s lives are risible. They’re not smart enough to run their own lives competently, and they’re actually, overall, morally inferior — I mean, John Edwards, DSK, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barney Frank, Tax Cheat Tim Geithner, just go down the list — and mocking them is inherently valuable. They pursue power, and they exercise power, as much for deference as anything else. Deny them that, and make it painful for them whenever possible. That’s my take.
UPDATE: Reader Walter Oster writes: “You talk about the moral inferiors and incompetents who want to run our lives. I recently re-read Atlas Shrugs and was saddened by the incredible parallels. Geithner and Frank and those guys are James Taggart and Wesley Mouch. I agree that comic value is important but man, is it sad.”
And for more on Rand, here’s PJTV’s Bill Whittle and Andrew Klavan:
I went in with low expectations, partly because of the critics’ savaging (even though I know not to trust them, you can’t help incorporate spin if you hear it enough) but mostly because I read the book, and knew, to make a good movie out of it, you’d have to change a lot. And I feared that they wouldn’t.
That said, I was pretty nicely surprised. It’s good. Not great. But still — good. It’s actually more subtle than I was expecting; maybe too subtle in one key area (more on this later, as it truly is key). Rand’s book had the subtlety of a cast-iron lightning bolt, so any screen treatment might be expected to be much less didactic than her novel; but they seemed to have gone even further in toning down the heavy didacticism. Oh, it pops up here and there, but it’s not really objectionable.
In fact, to tell the truth, I could have endured a little more of the statement of principle stuff. Because with so much of that stripped away– why are the heroes acting as they do?
Two and a half stars good (which is my way of saying “Good enough to see, but not outstanding;” outstanding is three stars and superlative is four).
That’s not too far off the mark from my own take immediately after seeing Atlas: made-for-TV-quality production values and acting damaged a film that’s brimming with big, and timely ideas. It wasn’t as nearly as bad as I expected, but it was far from good enough to get the job done. And given that this sort of film in particular needs quality word of mouth to sustain it at the box office, and move it beyond an audience made up of libertarians and hardcore Objectivists, that B-Movie vibe couldn’t have helped. But if it’s still playing near you, see it for yourself and decide.
CHINA’S TRAIN WRECK: “Is China’s high-speed rail a model for U.S. transportation? Based on his travels in China, Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane thinks not. . . . Liu’s legacy, in short, is a system that could drain China’s economic resources for years. So much for the grand project that Thomas Friedman of the New York Times likened to a ‘moon shot’ and that President Obama held up as a model for the United States.”
If nothing else, I’m hoping that the Atlas Shrugged movie, with its romanticization of trains, will kill lefties’ enthusiasm for high-speed rail.
UPDATE: “Prediction: this won’t make Tom Friedman stop talking nonsense about how awesome China is.” Well, nothing else has.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Box-office power of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ baffles insiders. “Business has been brisk enough for producers Harmon Kaslow and John Aglialoro to expand from 299 theaters to 425 this weekend and to 1,000 by the end of the month. They don’t have enough film prints to fill all the orders.”
VIDEO MASHUP: Atlas Is Shrugging Already. “It occurred to me last night that this film wouldn’t have resonated nearly as well three years ago, or ten years ago, or perhaps not any time in the 54 years since Rand published the novel. The sense of crisis in the movie would have seemed too far from the experience of most Americans; likewise, the sense of aggressive, populist redistributionism would have looked hyperbolic and contrived. If this isn’t the perfect moment for this film, then it’s as close as I’d like to see it in my lifetime.”
PJTV: Amy Holmes, Kristen Soltis, and Katie Pavlich talk about the Atlas Shrugged movie. Is it a work of fiction? Or a documentary?
PJTV: Mr. Galt Goes to Washington: Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged Premiers Among DC’s Capitalist Elite. Amy Holmes with John Fund, Steve Moore, and members of the cast.
DONALD LUSKIN: Remembering The Real Ayn Rand:
Tomorrow’s release of the movie version of “Atlas Shrugged” is focusing attention on Ayn Rand’s 1957 opus and the free-market ideas it espouses. Book sales for “Atlas” have always been brisk—and all the more so in the past few years, as actual events have mirrored Rand’s nightmare vision of economic collapse amid massive government expansion. Conservatives are now hailing Rand as a tea party Nostradamus, hence the timing of the movie’s premiere on tax day.
When Rand created the character of Wesley Mouch, it’s as though she was anticipating Barney Frank (D., Mass). Mouch is the economic czar in “Atlas Shrugged” whose every move weakens the economy, which in turn gives him the excuse to demand broader powers. Mr. Frank steered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to disaster with mandates for more lending to low-income borrowers. After Fannie and Freddie collapsed under the weight of their subprime mortgage books, Mr. Frank proclaimed last year: “The way to cure that is to give us more authority.” Mouch couldn’t have said it better himself.
But it’s a misreading of “Atlas” to claim that it is simply an antigovernment tract or an uncritical celebration of big business. In fact, the real villain of “Atlas” is a big businessman, railroad CEO James Taggart, whose crony capitalism does more to bring down the economy than all of Mouch’s regulations. With Taggart, Rand was anticipating figures like Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide Financial, the subprime lender that proved to be a toxic mortgage factory. Like Taggart, Mr. Mozilo engineered government subsidies for his company in the name of noble-sounding virtues like home ownership for all.
There’s a big difference between favoring free markets, and favoring big business.
A BLOG REVIEW OF the new Atlas Shrugged movie.
RAND SIMBERG ON SpaceX’s new Falcon Heavy rocket. “The Falcon Heavy could have major space business implications. A cheaper launch cost could bring in customers that were priced out before, and the extra payload capacity could entice new customers, too. That could include the Air Force and NASA. While the Falcon Heavy has only half the capacity of Saturn V, it offers twice the payload of its American competitors—United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, and for quite a bit less per launch—at least according to Musk’s plan.” Well, let’s hope things go according to plan.
INSTAVISION: Atlas Shrugged Motors Presents: The Chevy Volt! I talk with Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute about government subsidies, energy, and GM. (Bumped).
CHEVY VOLT: The Car From Atlas Shrugged Motors. “Who is going to buy all these cars?”
THINK PROGRESS? Think ignorance. I had to double-check to be sure that “Lee Fang” wasn’t actually a character from Atlas Shrugged.
ATLAS SHRUGGED: The Making Of A Movie.
PROSECUTORS: Wilders not guilty of group defamation.
DOG BITES MAN. Well, woman, but you know . . . .
ATLAS SHRUGGED, HAYEK WEPT. And the rest of us are kind of snickering. “The reporter covering the tea parties for the New York Times appears to think that ‘the rule of law’ is some sort of exotic term of art invented by right wingers.” Remember, the people who can’t get this stuff right regard the electorate as their intellectual inferiors.
HARD WORK IS THE GLUE THAT HOLDS SOCIETY TOGETHER, but “in the wrong hands ‘the work ethic’ is little more than a con game.”
Related: Atlas Snickers.
THEY’LL BE GOING AFTER “HOARDERS AND WRECKERS” NEXT: Savers Told To Stop Moaning And Start Spending. I predict that this will produce precisely the opposite of the desired effect. What, are they using Atlas Shrugged as a policy manual?
UPDATE: Bob Krumm emails:
The Bank of England (and by logical extension, the US Fed) admits that they have purposely kept rates low to disincentivize saving. This follows a decade of near-record low interest rates and concomitant record low personal savings rates–and look where that got us.
Over-borrowing, under-saving, and over-spending by both individuals and governments is what got us into this mess. And the “elites” tell us that to get out, we have to do even more of the same???
That’s all you need to know to understand why the Tea Party is so popular.
Oh, I noticed that.
PAM GELLER: My position on the Koran burning in Florida by a whacko church aligned with the vile anti-military, anti-semitic Westboro Church that defiles the funerals of our honored fallen soldiers. “The burning of books is wrong in principle: the antidote to bad speech is not censorship or book-burning, but more speech. Open discussion. Give-and-take. And the truth will out. There is no justification for burning books.”
MALINVESTMENT, visualized. “Below right is a photo taken of unused lumber hauling rail cars now parked on a closed railroad spur in Eastern Oregon, part of 20 miles of empty rail cars dedicated to hauling lumber to market. Most of these lumber hauling rail cars have been in mothballs since 2008 ….”
UPDATE: Reader Bruce Webster writes:
When I read your post and then went to the linked post, I immediately thought of these passages:
Empty trains clattered through the four states that were tied, as neighbors, to the throat of Colorado. They carried a few carloads of sheep, some corn, some melons and an occasional farmer with an overdressed family, who had friends in Washington. Jim [Taggart] had obtained a subsidy from Washington for every train that was run, not as a profit-making carrier, but as a service of “public equity.” (p. 351)
Six weeks ago, Train Number 193 had been sent with a load of steel, not to Faulkton, Nebraska, where the Spencer Machine Tool Company, the best machine tool concern still in existence, had been idle for two weeks, waiting for the shipment — but to Sand Creek, Illinois, where Confederated Machines had been wallowing in debt for over a year, producing unreliable goods at unpredictable times. The steel had been allocated by a directive which explained that the Spencer Machine Tool Company was a rich concern, able to wait, while Confederate Machines was bankrupt and could not be allowed to collapse, being the sole source of livelihood of the community of Sand Creek, Illlinois. The Spencer Machine Tool Company had closed a month ago. Confederated Machines had closed two weeks later.
The people of Sand Creek, Illinois, had been placed on national relief, but no food could be found for them in the empty granaries of the nation at the frantic call of the moment — so the seed grain of the farmers of Nebraska had been seized by order of the Unification Board — and Train Number 194 had carried the unplanted harvest and the future of the people of Nebraska to be consume by the people of Illinois. “In this enlightened age,” Eugene Lawson had said in a radio broadcast, “we have come, at last, to realize that each of of us is his brother’s keeper.” (p. 911)
I suspect you can guess what book those came from. ..bruce..
Indeed. An Army Of Eugene Lawsons!
YOUTUBE PULLS “WE CON THE WORLD” VIDEO, but it’s rehosted elsewhere. YouTube’s reputation, on the other hand, takes another hit. Perhaps the perception is inaccurate, but people on the right are beginning to feel that YouTube can’t be trusted. If I were YouTube, I’d be trying to address that somehow.
UPDATE: Ed Driscoll blames Warner.
Warner Brothers of course, are the second half of the business entity Time-Warner, which also owns as part of its conglomeration of businesses CNN. In 2009, CNN tried to claim a copyright violation over the video shot by an individual of the Tea Partiers grilling then CNN “reporter” Susan Roesgen, until the guys at Founding Bloggers fought for their clip to be restored at YouTube.
And that’s what a lot of this is all about: by claiming copyright violations real or imagined, Warners and other entities can get clips pulled from the Internet’s largest host of videos for several weeks or months. These videos frequently wind up on smaller sites of course (such as the aforementioned Eyeblast), and those who initiate claims against them often lose their battles, if the video makers are prepared to fight back. But by then, much of the news value of these sorts of clips has dissipated.
So that’s at least three conservative clips pulled by Time-Warner-related entities. As a certain A. Goldfinger once said, “Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: ‘Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Related: PayPal cutting off Pam Geller? [Later: A couple of readers wonder if this will hurt Meg Whitman's candidacy. Someone should ask her . . . ]
ANOTHER UPDATE: An entertainment-lawyer reader thinks that Google/YouTube may well be innocent in this, and notes that Warner Music hasn’t been part of Time Warner for several years. I’ve also heard, unofficially, from InstaPundit readers who work at YouTube who say they’re caught between a rock and a hard place on these takedown notices. May I suggest that YouTube should reach out to rightbloggers — officially, not just through employees who happen to read blogs — and talk about this?
8000 PROTEST proposed Ground Zero Mosque.
HEH: Doctorow and Stross to Pen Sequel to Atlas Shrugged. What, Ken MacLeod wasn’t available?
THINGS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THIS WEEKEND:
The Insta-Wife on Going John Galt: One Year Later.
Do Washington State Democrats have a death wish?
Ed Morrissey speaks.
Contemporary legal education: Unsustainable?
Obama supports DNA sampling for those suspected of crime.
Disappointment with Domino’s Pizza Tracker.
Are some races more equal than others? I blame
John Ashcroft Eric Holder.
The IRS — its own worst enemy?
Another “Rube” self-identifies: Abe Foxman shocked, disappointed.
Leaked UK record industry memo demonstrates why people hate them.
Grandma Plugs ObamaCare. “Free, complete coverage provide by your grandchildren — and their children!”
DR. HELEN: A YEAR OF GOING GALT, a discussion with Ed Hudgins of The Atlas Society. (Bumped).
MARCH 20 is Obscura Day.
I dunno. It looks like Jimmy Carter to me, but he’s not dead — except politically.
UPDATE: A reader suggests: “I was thinking it is more likely to be Herbert Hoover…”
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader C.J. Burch writes: “Warren G. Harding isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. But I can guarantee you it isn’t Abraham Lincoln.”
MORE: Ghosts In The Machine. Plus an amusing Dick Cheney reminder.
STILL MORE: Chris Fountain writes: “Wesley Mouch.” But of course! It’s the Ghost Of Appointees Yet To Come! Or maybe not . . . .
ALAN BOYLE: Making Space Power Pay. “Solaren’s plan calls for sending power-generating satellites, or powersats, into space on four Atlas 5 heavy-lift rockets. The satellites would convert solar electric power into microwave energy for beaming down to a ground station, based within a mile or so of the existing power grid.”
CHARGES OF FACEBOOK CENSORSHIP.
IN THE MAIL: Zak Maymin’s Publicani. From the jacket copy, it looks like a cross between Atlas Shrugged and Harrison Bergeron.
A GROWING DISCONNECT? Frank Wilson looks at the surging popularity of Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek. “There is a growing disconnect between the country’s political class and its citizens. It was manifestly on display last month when the House approved the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, which in its final form was longer than Atlas Shrugged and which none of the members voting on it had read. That the free citizens of a free country would be served so cavalierly by their elected representatives is the sort of thing any good novelist would hesitate to invent, for fear it would seem too implausible.”
IN THE MAIL: A big PR package with a copy of Atlas Shrugged. The press release is headlined: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years.
UPDATE: A reader emails: “I’m a big Atlas Shrugged fan and WISH that it outsold all books besides the Bible. Unfortunately, the PJTV host misspoke when he said that. What he probably had in mind was a 1991 Book-of-the-Month Club/Library of Congress survey which ranked Atlas Shrugged second only to the Bible as being the most influential book.”
UPDATE: A reader emails: “Am I the first to think Rearden Metal when I read this? Probably not: Reardon Metal can be updated to be carbon nanotubes or something like that rather than a new alloy, but it would still be pretty much the same as a story element.“
BOOKS GETTING A BOOST FROM OBAMA: Obviously, Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny, and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. But also Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, and Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. And Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man. Others?
UPDATE: Reader Michael Nevers writes: “Heinlein’s Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I’ve read suggestions to read it recently in Tea Party comment threads, so I did. Decent book on the whole and wonderful for something written in the 60′s.”
MORE: Reader John Richardson writes: “My vote for a book that is doing well in sales due to Obama would be James Wesley, Rawles’s “Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse.” According to Amazon.com, it is #13 in Contemporary Fiction and #5 in Mystery and Thrillers. Not bad for a book that is coming from a small press with very little publicity other than in forums and blogs.” Yeah, but kinda depressing given what it’s about.
THINGS YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED if you were out, you know, having a life this weekend:
Does cable-news hype promote mass shootings?
Worries about shutting down the Internet.
An Ann Althouse love story.
And the continuing relevance of Atlas Shrugged.
ATLAS SHRUGGED CHICANERY at Wikipedia?
THE JOHN GALT PRESIDENT! Reader Bruce Giese emails:
The rest of the world became inflexible and inefficient socialist/communist states which relied on the US providing a dynamic consumer market. Our allies had weak militaries and big nanny governments. Our enemies had an easy scapegoat.
Obama and Congress are taking us down the same path as our allies, and the dynamic US ‘Atlas’ is shrugging. I wonder if this terrifies our allies and enemies alike?
Mostly the allies, I’d guess. But this raises an interesting thought: If you were a closet Randian and wanted to discredit big government for generations by running it into the ground, in what ways would you act differently from the Obama Administration so far? The combination of grandiose promises and inept execution, and the repeated elevation of tax cheats to high office, certainly argues in favor of that analysis . . . .
UPDATE: Applying Occam’s Razor.