Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: July 30, 2010


Dale’s Observations For 2010-07-30

Hey! Those aren't just turn signals on that Buell 1190. That looks like a license plate holder! More mystery! http://twitpic.com/2a3h44 #

Eric Buell Racing has leaked a picture of their 1190RR race bike. But the bike appears to have turn signals & radiator fans. Mystery! :-) #

Human Events jumps the shark with their "Obama is a Muslim" article. http://bit.ly/agZbAL #

Center for Public Integrity: Haphazard Firefighting Might Have Sunk BP Oil Rig, caused spill. http://bit.ly/bybiXt #

Youtube will now allow videos to run for 15 minutes, instead of 10. Woot! http://bit.ly/bIMvix #

CHP says it will step up traffic enforcement against motorcyclists for speeding, etc. IOW, they're looking for me. http://bit.ly/9vdUR4 #

The University of Michigan index on consumer sentiment dropped to 67.8 from 76.0 in June. http://bit.ly/bEZdG4 #RecoverySummer #

Economic growth slowed to 2.4% rate in second quarter. And consumer spending was only up 1.6%. http://usat.me?39491588 #RecoverySummer #


Atlas Shrugged movie: sounds like the next Starship Troopers to me

As a Halo player, I sometimes think back to the book that started the “armored super soldier” genre, Starship Troopers. Published in 1959, it was ground-breaking, and won a well-deserved Hugo award for Robert Heinlein. I think Heinlein would recognize elements of his story in the Halo series.

I’m happy, though, that he didn’t live to see Paul Verhoeven make a complete mess of the movie based on Starship Troopers, because the only thing he would recognize in that movie are some character names.

Some consider it a decent action flick in its own right, but Verhoeven had about as much understanding of Heinlein’s underlying story and philosophy as our resident imbecilic political science professor has understanding of economics, i.e., none to speak of. Verhoeven just dusted off the traditional Nazi metaphors, gave his soldiers from 200 years in the future the same basic weapons soldiers use today, and added some space ships and sex.

This year’s candidate for the Starship Troopers treatment is Atlas Shrugged.

To forestall a whole lot of redundant comments, let me first say the following about Atlas Shrugged:

1. It’s an important book. In surveys, it often finishes #2 behind the Bible as the book people say was most influential in their lives.

2. It’s got some valid points. If you don’t see parallels between Rand’s characters and situations and much of what we see around us today, I have to question your astuteness.

3. It’s so-so as literature. The characters are mostly cardboard-cutout quality. The heroes are super-human and the villians are pure evil (except for Dr. Stadler, who symbolizes the mushy middle). This gives the story-line a comic book feel. The long diversions into philosophical preaching can be tedious. One sermon by John Galt comes in at over sixty pages, and might as well be a book in it’s own right, though I’m guessing it wouldn’t sell much.

All that said, I respect the book. I’ve read it twice, and actually got more from it the second time around. I do recommend it as required reading if you want to understand the psychology of leftism, as analyzed by someone who was all too aware of it’s ultimate effects in the Soviet Union.

Now, on to the movie version.

You can see the director discuss the movie in this five minute video.

As you can tell, he doesn’t say much. Almost everything he says is generic “You have to cut stuff out of anything this long to make a movie.” Well, yeah. But what you cut and what you leave is what’s important. Not to mention what gets what gets changed, as Starship Troopers demonstrated.

There was a danger sign when he said “I’m still figuring things out as I shoot this.”

I thought it was interesting that John Galt’s face isn’t going to be seen in the movie. The credits at this point list that same director as playing the part of Galt (presumably just giving him a voice).

He does spend a bit of time about the theme of taking responsibility. So maybe I’m just being overly pessimistic, and he’s being coy about where he’s really going with the movie to forestall catcalls from our politically correct media.

However, what I see in the video doesn’t give me much confidence. The book is about hard edges, and black-and-white morality. These characters look soft-edged. Rearden needs a Harrison Ford type, though Ford is way too old. It was long rumored that Angelina Jolie would be Dagny, and while she may also be up against the age barrier, she was in the ballpark for the right type.

These people are supposed to be tough, independent, and prepared to take on the whole world. Maybe that’s what they’re chatting about, but somehow I doubt it. Based on what the Rearden actor said, they’re exploring their “relationship”. Oh, goody.

It is possible to make good books into good movies. Hopscotch, Catch 22, some of the episodes of Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, and some of the better movies from Jane Austen novels would be examples. What these books do well is capture the spirit of the book. Catch 22, for example, has to leave out a lot of stuff because the book is pretty long, but Buck Henry and crew do a great job of capturing the surrealistic spirit of the book.

Based on what I’m hearing from this director, I’m pessimistic that he can do the same for Atlas Shrugged.

Now you could argue that the hard-edged spirit of Atlas Shrugged just doesn’t work for modern audiences. I think that’s silly; I think that’s what audiences are craving in today’s gooey, politically correct world. I’m in serious doubt that we’ll get it in this movie. Here’s hoping I’m wrong about that.


The liberal left just doesn’t get it

I guess today is "stupidity day", for lack of a better phrase. In an piece at the New Republic, Jonathan Cohn laments "The stupidity of liberal apathy".

Afterall:

This seems totally nuts, purely on the merits. Obama and the Democrats passed a major stimulus that cut taxes for the middle class and invested heavily in public works. They saved the auto industry, created a new regulatory framework for the financial industry, and enacted comprehensive health care reform. Compromises watered down each of these initiatives, to say nothing of the ideas (climate change!) that aren’t going to pass. And still this was the most productive liberal presidency in a generation or maybe two.

He, of course, is focused on the “liberal” agenda and what has been accomplished, such that it is.  And he’s somewhat amazed that liberals in general aren’t incredibly impressed and energized by what has gone on these past 18 months.

But, as he admits, much of it has been watered down through compromise and, of course, it is that he sees as the problem that has deflated liberals around the country.

What he doesn’t seem to understand is only he and the liberal community consider what he lists in that paragraph as “accomplishments”.  It’s a matter of perspective and, if the polls are correct, most don’t see the “stimulus” as an investment, but instead a product of pure pork.  They consider it spending money we don’t have in places the government doesn’t need to be spending money. 

And then there’s the car industry.  A majority doesn’t see what was done as “saving” anything.  Again, they see what was done as government in places it doesn’t belong throwing their good money after bad.  They’re also sophisticated enough to understand why it was done – and the word “union” finds its way into those conversations.

Other majorities see the health care bill as a costly abomination unlikely to deliver on its promise of better health care at a lower cost and they also recognize the “financial regulation bill” as just another in a long line of governmental power grabs.

Most are surely sighing in relief that cap-and-trade, aka climate change legislation, failed to find its way into law.

So perhaps the liberals aren’t just in the dumps about the compromises that watered down what was passed.  Perhaps they realize the lie they’ve been telling themselves for years, decades even, that they knew what America wanted badly.  Here is “the most productive liberal presidency in a generation” and over half the country is up in arms about what has been passed into law during his watch.  And as a result, an energized electorate which isn’t friendly toward liberals or those who represent their ideas is gearing up for a November electoral bloodbath for Democrats.

Heck Mr. Cohn – that would depress even the most rabid of liberals.  To finally understand that your views are a minority view and not popular has to be devastating.  And understanding that what you now have is all you’re going to get is equally as devastating.  The stupidity in all of this is to be found in the pretense that if liberals shook of the apathy it would matter.

It won’t.  November is not going to be a month you like.  Apathetic or energized, the liberal day is setting and there aren’t enough of that type to make a difference in the mid-terms.  Independents, finally scared away from the liberal extremists, will make sure of that.

~McQ

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Stupidity is what stupidity writes

E. J. Dionne Jr has an op-ed out entitled, “In American politics, stupidty is the name of the game.”

After reading the piece, I am pretty convinced it should be re-titled “In American punditry, stupidity is the name of the game.”  Dionne spends his 700 words demonstrating how true that title would be.

His premise is framed in a question: “Can a nation remain a superpower if its internal politics are incorrigibly stupid?”

Probably not – but it isn’t just anyone’s internal politics which he’s questioning – it is an attack on the fiscally conservative.  And, of course he deals with the left’s favorite subject when comes to government, budgets and spending:

Start with taxes. In every other serious democracy, conservative political parties feel at least some obligation to match their tax policies with their spending plans. David Cameron, the new Conservative prime minister in Britain, is a leading example.

He recently offered a rather brutal budget that includes severe cutbacks. I have doubts about some of them, but at least Cameron cared enough about reducing his country’s deficit that alongside the cuts he also proposed an increase in the value-added tax, from 17.5 percent to 20 percent. Imagine: a fiscal conservative who really is a fiscal conservative.

So now, fiscal conservancy is defined as “cutting spending and raising taxes”?  SInce when?  If, for instance, you have a government which is huge, out of control and intruding areas that it shouldn’t be and costing us a bundle while it’s doing so, why is “raising taxes” a remedy?

Why couldn’t a conservative proffer a solution which would cut spending and the size of government alone?  Why isn’t that ever an answer?

Well simply because the left doesn’t believe in smaller or less intrusive government and it has this class hatred thing going on for “the rich”.  

It is their job – through government of course – to take what the rich have and redistribute it.  Ask any of them.  That’s because their basic ideological premise is that the money we all have really doesn’t belong to us – it’s a benefit we accrue for living in this fine land shaped and governed by enlightened leftists who know much better than those who have “earned” their money where and how it should be spent. 

And, of course, that leads us to absolutely stupendous intellectual arguments like this:

The simple truth is that the wealthy in the United States — the people who have made almost all the income gains in recent years — are undertaxed compared with everyone else.

So there you go – the fact that “everyone else” is suffering under heavier taxation than those here doesn’t have the leftist shouting “ain’t freedom great".  Instead he shouts “make ‘em pay more” because  – and mother’s everywhere are wincing – the other guys make ‘em pay more.

Yeah, and the other guys live in countries which most here wouldn’t trade for this place.  The fact that someone accusing a certain political element of “stupidity” has to resort to the “but others pay more” argument in an attempt to sell the premise is just freakin’ laughable. 

The problem, sir, isn’t that the rich don’t pay enough.  The problem is the government here (and elsewhere, if truth be told) spends more than it has – consistently, increasingly and without an end in sight.

What in the hell is wrong with Dionne that he attempts to run this class warfare swill at us?  Does he honestly believe we’re that dumb?  Is the stupidity he’s banking on that of his readers?

His is a preposterous premise followed by an absurdly simplistic ideological argument which seems to be designed to distract the reader from the real problem – runaway government spending.

Take next year’s budget for example as just announced by the Obama Administration – $1.4 trillion dollars, of which 41% is borrowed.

41%!

That’s not the fault of the rich, Mr. Dionne.  And no matter how much you tax them it never will be.

The rich aren’t the freakin’ problem and hopefully even someone as dull witted as Dionne might eventually figure that out.  But I doubt it.

I mean, read his op-ed and you quickly realize there’s little or no hope of that ever happening.

~McQ

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