A Mangled Movie Adaption: Scott Holleran on the Atlas Shrugged Movie

Scott Holleran on the Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 movie adaption:

The mystery of the movie is why the mind is going on strike (if and when it is), and what lies at the root of what destroys, and moves, the world. And, in depicting a novel which brilliantly deconstructs and dramatizes altruism, the idea that one has a moral obligation to help others, Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 reduces her radical rejection of this idea to a line about “stupid altruistic urges” which doesn’t come close to Ayn Rand’s philosophy, let alone express her bold, exalted alternative: the virtue of selfishness.

So, the first movie adaptation of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is lacking; the script appears to have many fingerprints and some serious problems, the production apparently faced enormous challenges of rights, budget, and schedule and libertarians appear to have held more sway over the movie than Objectivists, leaving the world’s foremost authority on Ayn Rand’s ideas and work, Leonard Peikoff, out of the loop. But A is A and the fact that this movie was made, is, in today’s tragically disintegrating culture, an achievement. Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 ultimately does not have reverence for the 1957 novel, but it’s as though it doesn’t know how, or why, and it tries. If we lived in a society in which Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged was understood, accepted, and applied to everyday lives, we wouldn’t be stuck in the sludge that surrounds us, and a mangled movie adaptation would not feel like an accomplishment. But we are and it does, and that’s that, so see the independent, low-budget film version known as Atlas Shrugged, Part 1 for what it is, and know that you are catching a mere glimpse of something deeper, more mysterious and meaningful, which portrays man at his best. See the movie, but only if you read the book.

Read the full review at his blog.

No Nathaniel Taggart: Amtrak CEO Takes Car After Getting Stuck on the Train

From the Daily Caller:

Today’s the big day for Amtrak’s Wilmington train station. It is being renamed in honor of Vice President and former Delaware Senator Joe Biden following major renovations made possible with stimulus funds. One problem: the CEO of Amtrak got stuck on the train.

Reports ABC News Deputy Political Director & Political Reporter Michael Falcone :

[…] A subsequent tweet from Falcone noted, “BAD sign: Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman just got OFF the train to take a car to Wilmington.”

“Amtrak CEO abandoned his own train to make ribbon cutting ceremony for Joe Biden station in Wilmington,” Falcone reported. “When I told Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman it was a bad sign he was ditching the stranded Acela, he chuckled.” [Amtrak CEO Ditches broken train to travel by car to ribbon cutting of Wilmington’s Joe Biden station | The Daily Caller]

No this isn’t a scene from Ayn Rand’s best selling novel Atlas Shrugged, but it could be.

Why Attack Libya and Not Iran?

Elan Journo makes the case against the United State’s double standard in it’s foreign policy in the Middle East:

Consider the situation in Libya and the one in Iran. When massive protests took place in Iran during 2009/10, Washington was mute then grudging in its wishy-washy response; ultimately, it failed to lend the protesters even a shred of moral support against the militant, Islamist regime in Tehran, a regime that poses a demonstrable, existential threat to our interests. Contrast that with the response to the Libyan uprising (tribal civil war?). Yes, Gaddafi can be classified as a menace, but a trifling one, far less of a problem than the threat from Iran. Yet it is in Libya that America decides to take military action to back rebels against Gaddafi’s regime.

Let’s unpack that for a moment: we do move against a minor, tinpot dictatorship where we have little at stake, while leaving the fire-breathing Tehran regime in place — tacitly endorsing its rule by failing to help the protesters. We do launch bombing raids in Libya — if the UN and Arab League approve it — for the sake of rebels whose goals we don’t know if we share, against a regime that’s of minor significance to our security. But against a threat to us, from Iran, we adopt statue-like passivity. [Libya vs. U.S. self-interest — VOICES for REASON]

The Freedom to Contract has been Replaced with the “Freedom” to Beg For Permission from a Bureaucrat

Tom Bowden aptly describes the so-called AT&T/T-Mobile merger plan as “a very complicated, very expensive petition for Uncle Sam’s permission to do a deal”:

[…] AT&T and T-Mobile don’t have freedom of contract. They don’t have the right to make the final decision on whether to merge. It’s not just big companies that lack freedom of contract. Think about it: how many contracts in your own business or profession require prior permission from a bureaucrat? How many deals require the parties to be licensed? How many projects require a special permit, or certificate of need? How many exports must satisfy a quota? How many deals have to be crafted so as not to draw government attention? And perhaps most important of all: How many deals don’t make it past the back-of-a-napkin stage because permission would be too hard to get? 

What is really crazy about all this is how business people simply accept the amount of time wasted (not to mention the money wasted) on dealing with bureaucracy. The reason is that they have no conception of how life in a free society would operate based on property rights and the freedom to contract. Under capitalism, the decision to merge two businesses into one, much like the decision of two people to get married, would be essentially a private one. Government’s sole role would be one of a referee as opposed to that of a dictator. The fact that the two companies are merging violates the actual rights of no one.

Thinking Tactics Workshops in Washington DC (5/7), New York (5/14), and Ft. Lauderdale (7/9)

 Jean Moroney has announced she will give her workshops on Thinking Tactics in several cities in the upcoming months:

  • Washington DC Area, Saturday, May 7, 2011 ($100 early-bird discount ends March 25)
  • New York City, Saturday, May 14, 2011 ($100 early-bird discount ends March 25)
  • Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Saturday, July 7, 2011 ($100 early-bird discount ends May 1)

Thinking Tactics offers attendees a mental toolkit for tapping their own knowledge banks to solve problems faster, make better decisions, and communicate more effectively. During class, everyone test drives the tactics on their own issues.

The course is targeted to a general professional audience of “knowledge workers”–people who think for a living, such as managers, entrepreneurs, writers, and engineers. Objectivists interested in psycho-epistemology find the class particularly interesting, as all the teachings derive from the Objectivist view of the relationship of the conscious mind to the automatic functions of the subconscious.

Ms. Moroney is a graduate of the Objectivist Graduate Center’s full-time, 2-year program (1996). Details on the course and registration information are at: http://www.thinkingtactics.com

8-page brochure: http://thinkingdirections.com/TTBrochureSpring2011.pdf

Obama the Neocon

Writes Richard Salsman in “Libya Exposes Obama As Our Latest Neocon President” over at Forbes:

In violation of the U.S. Constitution, President Obama has launched a semi-war against Libya, a nation that did not attack the U.S. and was not a threat to its self-interest or national security. But Obama and the neoconservative warmongers who inspire his unjust actions don’t even pretend to put America first. They presume foreign policy is morally “noble” if it sacrifices America’s self-interest, her wealth, her soldiers and even her national security. And the more such values are sacrificed, the more “success” they presume.

Although the U.S. Constitution properly designates the president as the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military, it also specifically states (in Article I, Section Eight) that the power “to declare war” resides solely in the legislature – in the U.S. Congress — the body that also has the “power of the purse,” to provide funding for legitimately-declared wars. In the same section Congress is given the power to “suppress insurrections and repel invasions,” which implies that foreign nations properly may do likewise.

Yet Obama has invaded Libya without securing a declaration of war from Congress, and is intervening in what amounts to a civil war between equally-illiberal Arabs, one side of which seeks only to “suppress insurrection.” Does this mean an insurrection in the U.S. against an illiberal Obama can be legitimately supported by foreign powers (say Canada) in a bombing campaign to degrade U.S. defenses and establish a no-fly zone on the East Coast?

It’s simply ludicrous for Obama to rationalize his actions on the grounds that he obtained permission from the U.N., NATO or the Arab League. The U.S. Constitution neither requires nor allows any of that; though it does require that Obama get permission – an explicit war declaration – from the U.S. Congress. He hasn’t done this, which is an impeachable defense, regardless of whether his predecessors committed the same wrong.

These entities are either innocuous or dangerous, for they either do not hold America’s interests as their primary aim (NATO) or actually stand opposed to America’s interests, security and the Constitution (U.N., Arab League). That’s why Obama took this route – as did Truman, Bush I, Bush II and Clinton. They all put America second or last, the supposedly “moral” stance. We’ve seen such evil before, as when Democratic presidents pushed America into disastrous wars — see Woodrow Wilson (WWI), FDR (WWII), Truman (Korea), JFK and LBJ (Viet Nam) — not solely out of U.S. self-interest, but to “make the world safe for democracy,” which means: safe for a political system America’s Founders did not want and actively opposed… [Mar. 23
2011]

Read the rest…

What all the fuss in Wisconsin was about…

From Restrictions on Public-Employee Unions in Wisconsin Become Law (WSJ):

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law Friday eliminating most collective-bargaining rights for the state’s public employees, while boosting how much they will pay for their benefits and making it tougher for public unions to retain members.

[..] Under the law, unions said it will be more difficult for them to retain members. The new law requires that 51% of all eligible workers—including those who don’t vote—approve a union, which means unions can win a majority of votes cast, but still be barred from representing workers. Previously unions had to win a majority of votes cast. The state also will stop collecting dues automatically as soon as contracts end. Peter Davis, general counsel of the Wisconsin Employee Relations Committee, the state agency that oversees union elections, said he didn’t believe any other state requires unions to win a majority of eligible voters.

[…] Many union members object to the tougher election requirements. “Annual certification is just a complete tactic to bust the unions,” said Chris Fons, a 45-year-old high school teacher from Milwaukee. Mr. Walker defended the changes in union elections. “It really puts the onus on saying if the union wants to provide value they have to prove it,” he said. “If people believe it then they’ll come out and vote.”

Under the previous system state workers were forced to pay money to unions that they did not approve of. In fact, in the 28 non-right-to-work states, unions had negotiated provisions that forced government employees to pay union dues — or get fired.

Atlas Shrugged Adaption “Competent” and “Credible” according to TOS Review

The Objective Standard (TOS) reviews Part 1 of the Atlas Shrugged Movie Adaption.

The review praises the acting of  Taylor Schilling (Dagny) and Grant Bowler (Rearden) for executing their parts near perfectly, while pointing out that:

…Each plot point is there, as is much of Rand’s dialogue sans most of the overt expressions of her philosophic viewpoint, which first-time director Paul Johansson does his best to illustrate instead through the actions of the characters and the events of the plot. For the most part, the script stays true to the novel while updating it in ways that do not blunt the power of Rand’s theme—no small feat.

The review summarizes that “Atlas Shrugged: Part I is not the novel and it does not pretend to be,” but that:

…It is a fairly competently made, credible adaptation of one of the most complex novels ever written. Even with its flaws, the film is enjoyable and has wonderful moments, including some in which it captures the power of the novel—such as the party during which Dagny gets the Rearden Metal bracelet, the scene during which Hank hands over his ore mine to Paul Larkin, and the already mentioned scene during which Dagny and Hank discover the motor. Fans of Ayn Rand’s masterpiece likely will enjoy these scenes in particular and appreciate the movie generally. Those unfamiliar with the story will probably enjoy the movie as well and may find their curiosity sufficiently piqued to read the book. If so, they will be even more richly rewarded. All in all, Atlas Shrugged: Part I will be a satisfactory journey for many viewers and could help increase awareness of Rand’s work.

Read the full review here.

Freedom of Association is a Right; Collective Bargaining Is Not A Right

From Collective Bargaining Is Not A Right (Heritage):

[…] the freedom of association is a right shared by all Americans and protected by the First Amendment. In contrast, collective bargaining is a special power occasionally granted to some unions. In upholding North Carolina’s ban on government union collective bargaining, a federal court wrote in Atkins vs. City of Charlotte: “All citizens have the right to associate in groups to advocate their special interests to the government. It is something entirely different to grant any one interest group special status and access to the decision making process.”

Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) budget bill in Wisconsin in no way infringes on any Americans’ right to associate and lobby government. What it does do is allow Wisconsin employees to choose not to join a union and keep their job at the same time. It also forces the government unions in Wisconsin to collect their own union dues instead of using the power of the state to withhold them directly from employee paychecks.

Now there is a question you’ll never see in a New York Times poll: “Do you favor forcing all state employees to join a union and empowering government unions to take union dues directly from employee paychecks?”