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Weekend Movies – 5 Easy Pieces

20 Jun

Love and Mercy.  This is the best movie I’ve seen this year, in part because it has the advantage of having Brian Wilson‘s music as its soundtrack.  (Some of us are just young enough to have only faint memories of the better Wilson songs, until they were brought back to everyone’s attention as the score to HBO’s BigLove).  It’s also the most libertarian, combining themes from Ayn Rand and Thomas Szasz.  Also a feminist movie, with a working class divorcee the White Knight who saves the day.

It’s the biography of Brian Wilson, the singer/songwriter/composer responsible for the Beach Boys.  Seeking treatment for mental illness, which may or may not have been aggravated by a physically and emotionally abusive father (and a 60s drug use problem), Wilson was literally enslaved by his psychiatrist, who over medicated him, took his money and property, and tried to force him to produce more hits while drugged into submission.  Only the love and concern of car saleswoman, Melinda Ledbetter, he chances to meet (capitalism!), saves him from death.  After his recovery, he marries his princess charming rescuer, and they have 5 children and he composes two more award winning albums.  Wilson is played young and old by Paul Dano and John Cusak, but the scenery is really eaten up by Paul Giammati as the evil psychiatrist slaver and the ubiquitous Elizabeth Banks as Melinda.  Wilson is a Hank Rearden character, who believes he deserves punishment and is essentially evil, something his father had beaten into him and something his own sins as a husband and father in a first marriage (never fully explained or revealed) have for him confirmed; and Dr. Landy (Paul Giammati) is the Lillian Rearden ready to tap that guilt for sadistic fun and envious profit.  With Banks it’s as if Atlas’s Cheryl Taggart had met Rearden and they save each other together.  All against a yummy background of California scenery, from Malibu to the Hollywood Hills and retro shots of 60s Los Angeles pool parties and recording studios.

This movie reminded me of The Man Who Fell to Earth, the 1976 film where David Bowie played a Martian who falls to earth and is exploited by a cabal of government bureaucrats and crony corporations for his advanced scientific knowledge.  Association of Libertarian Feminists co-founder Sharon Presley penned a great review of Fell back when she was a hipster NYU grad student, pointing out how much it shared with Atlas Shrugged.  (Presley’s review is pre-internet and not online, so frustratingly I cannot link!  If someone finds a physical copy of it I’d love to post it here at Insomniac.)

(Side Note:  Paul Dano is the new male Catherine Keener.  A touchstone like Keener, if he is in a movie, often a quirky indie film you know nothing about, you can assume, 99% of the time, it’s pretty darn good.  These people either know how to read a script and assess a project in advance, or they have the freedom to turn down garbage.)

Film:  A+      Libertarian Quotient:  7

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Pitch Perfect 2.  Busy Ms. Elisabeth Banks, who is in The Hunger Games, and Magic Mike II, and Love and Mercy (above) is also the director…and producer…and an actor… reprising her role as an acapella contest judge from Pitch Perfect.  You’d think being spread so thin this she couldn’t make this be good, but it is.  It’s kind of a more cerebral Porky’s, but with a female sensibility.  Lots of almost sophomoric jokes about sex, nudity, and bodily functions.  The plot involves the all female acapella singing team, the Bellas (from the first Pitch Perfect) being disgraced when they accidentally moon President Obama (who is made fun of, briefly). and then have to win back their title against a German team who think they are the master race.  The always appealing jolie laide Ana Kendrick leads her team to…you have to watch to find out.  The girls also learn about entrepreneurship as interns at a recording studio.

Film:  B+          Libertarian Quotient:  5

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Jurassic World.  A perfectly serviceable entry into the franchise.  This return to the woebegotten Costa Rican island has more libertarian content than some of the previous Jurrasic films, as the danger is increased by genetic engineering by Defense contractors seeking to make bigger and better weaponized reptiles.

The movie has been the occasion for some internet fun, as a scene in which the studly Chris Pratt’s character “calms” three velociraptors has generated parody memes.  But the joke hits on a truth, which is that Chris Pratt’s pulchritude is palpable; seeing him makes you want to put your lips all over his body (if you are so inclined anyway) in a reaction very similar to looking at stock photos of Marilyn Monroe (who also produces that reaction in me – maybe I’m just hungry?).  (There is also a new computer game Lego Jurassic World.)

That’s actually one minor problem of the movie.  I generally like gingers, including ginger women, but Chris Pratt, who is basically the new Gerard Butler, is totally hotter, at least in this movie, than cold and papery Bryce Dallas Howard.  I don’t believe he’d be chasing her instead of her him.

The movie is speedy enough to keep you from being bothered by the fact that you may have known how it would end.  Early on we are shown the herpetological equivalent of a loaded gun, and then it reappears in the middle of the film, so we know it is going to be used, about 125 minutes later.

Film: A     Libertarian Quotient: 6

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Boulevard.  Robin William’s final film, posthumously produced.  A depressing, mediocre movie that did not need to be made.  The official release date is July 10, but it’s being previewed now at gay film festivals (which is where I saw it).  Williams plays Nolan Mack, a closeted married gay loan officer, a very down market version of Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman, with a catatonic and ailing father in a nursing home, a childless, passionless, marriage, a boring but spacious house covered in doilies and thick curtains, and an obnoxious friend (Bob Odenkirk).  Then he meets a gay rent boy, Leo, who is hot, but his character is not exactly the same as that of Julia Roberts and this isn’t a remake of Pygmalian.  The gay press reviewers (as opposed to the libertarian reviewers who happen to be gay) think it is a untold story of what it was like to be a gay man before you could be out, who marries because you must, and quotes 60 and 70 year old gay men on how this is finally a film that speaks to them.  That’s nice.  What the fuck does that have to do with the rest of us?  I guess you could claim it is an eye opening window into gay history for the youth.  Other gay reviewers think the movie has great acting.  But it is boring so what does that matter?

William’s Mack has always been gay and never really acted on it, instead marrying a female literary academic (actress Kathy Baker), a substitute for his childhood/lifelong friend, an aspiring novelist (Odenkirk).  (I often find Odenkirk annoying so this was a good use for him.)  The hooker (Robert Aguirre) has a violent pimp and other problems, and trying to save him blows up Nolan Mack’s life.  In the final scene we jump to his going away meeting with Odenkirk; William’s is suddenly in better fitting jeans and a snazzier jacket, with hair that is no longer gray, and Odenkirk is finally headed to Manhattan to try to write the Great American Novel, young girlfriend in tow.  What happened in between with Kathy Baker and everyone else we never know.

I used to be a major donor/sponsor of DC’s Reel Affirmations Film Festival.  We’d sit through many bad movies about serial killers taking out gays just to see a handful of short gay romantic comedies.  Cable TV (i.e., capitalism) allowed more channels to serve niche markets (gays and also indie film lovers) so that more and better gay fare is available, and even made the other channels compete by including gay characters; and gay film festivals shrank from two week long event parties to weekend long affairs.  We just stay home now and watch better stuff on TV.  We don’t need to like mediocre gay fare anymore and include it in our programming.

If you watch the official trailer for Boulevard (below) you’ve seen the whole movie unless you enjoy watching Kathy Baker’s (et al) facial motor fine motor skills for 88 minutes.

Film:  C-         Libertarian Quotient:  1

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Entourage.  Jeremy Piven, last seen on British TV in Mr. Selfridge, and Adrian Grenier, last seen in 2006 in The Devil Wears Prada, finally get some work.  Most people who loved the HBO series Entourage will be satisified but not overwhelmed by this conclusion to the story started on TV of whether Grenier”s Vincent Chase will ever have a hit movie.  One continuity problem is that in the four years since HBO stopped airing the series, most of the entourage have developed thick necks and the beginning of jowls (except Jerry Ferrara, “Turtle,” who has dramatically lost weight).  It’s clear at least four years have passed, though I think we are supposed to believe the film begins right after the series ended. If you didn’t see the series I don’t know if the film will make a lot of sense.  The movie within a movie Vincent Chase stars in and produces seems to be a libertarianish dystopian story in which a DJ is kind of Edward Snowden.

Film:  B-          Libertarian Quotient: 3

Libertarian women’s history month: Isabel Patterson

18 Mar

Isabel Paterson (January 22, 1886 – January 10, 1961) was a Canadian-American journalist, novelist, political philosopher, and a leading literary critic of her day.    She was slight, just over five feet tall, with a delicate taste in food and drink, a deep love of nature, and a nationally famous sense of humor. Stubborn and sharp-witted, she was also one of the New Deal’s fiercest foes.

Along with Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand, who both acknowledged an intellectual debt to Paterson, she is one of the three founding mothers of American libertarianism. Paterson’s best-known work, her 1943 book The God of the Machine, a treatise on political philosophyeconomics, and history, reached conclusions and espoused beliefs that manylibertarians credit as a foundation of their philosophy. Her biographer Stephen D. Cox (2004) believes Paterson is the “earliest progenitor of libertarianism as we know it today.” Ayn Rand wrote in a letter in the 1940s that The God of the Machine “does for capitalism what Das Kapital does for the Reds and what the Bible did for Christianity.”


Born Isabel Mary Bowler in rural Manitoulin IslandOntario, she moved with her family to the west when she was very young. She grew up on a cattle ranch in Alberta. Paterson’s family was quite poor and she had eight siblings. A voracious reader who was largely self-educated, she had brief and informal public schooling during these years: about three years in a country school, from the ages of 11 to 14. In her late teen years, Bowler left the ranch for the city of Calgary, where she took a clerical job with the Canadian Pacific Railway. As a teenager, she worked as a waitress, stenographer, and bookkeeper, working at one point as an assistant to future Canadian Prime Minister R. B. Bennett.

This hardscrabble youth probably led Paterson to attach great importance to productive “self-starters”. Although she was articulate, well-read, and erudite, Paterson had extremely limited formal education, an experience she shared with Rose Wilder Lane, who was also Paterson’s friend and correspondent for many years.

The Bowler (Isabel’s maiden name) family traveled throughout the West and times were hard. She left home at 18 and began a series of jobs — so many she lost count. In 1910 she married Canadian  Kenneth Paterson, but left him within weeks. As to why she married him, no one knows.  Fans of Patterson (and of Ayn Rand) won’t all appreciate this speculation, but looking at Patterson’s photos, hearing about her derring-do adventures (like flying), her short, early, and singular marriage, and her tempestuous relationship with the young Ayn Rand, it’s hard not to see some lesbian potential.

These experiences provided fodder for her novels. During these years, in a foray south of the border, Paterson landed a job with a newspaper, the Inland Herald in Spokane, Washington. Initially she worked in the business department of the paper, but later transferred to the editorial department. There her journalistic career began. Her next position was with a newspaper in Vancouver,British Columbia, where for two years she wrote drama reviews.

In 1914, Paterson started submitting her first two novels, The Magpie’s Nest and The Shadow Riders, to publishers, without much success. It was not until 1916 that her second novel The Shadow Riders was accepted and published by John Lane Company, which also published The Magpie’s Nest the following year in 1917.

After World War I, she moved to New York City, where she worked for the sculptor Gutzon Borglum. He was creating statues for the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine and would later carve the memorial at Mount Rushmore. Paterson also wrote for the World and the American in New York.  Paterson was not just adventurous with her words — calling Eleanor Roosevelt “a pathetic fool” for instance — but the first time she flew, November 5, 1912, she set a record for reaching an altitude of 5,000 feet, flying higher than any woman had to that point. The 26-year old Canadian frontier girl sat beside pilot Harry Bingham Brown in the tiny Wright biplane, constructed of cloth and wood and said afterward, “It was the greatest experience of my life.”
In 1921, Paterson became an assistant to Burton Rascoe, the new literary editor of the New York Tribune, later the New York Herald Tribune. For 25 years, from 1924 to 1949, she wrote a column (signed “I.M.P.”) for the Herald Tribune’s “Books” section. Paterson became one of the most influential literary critics of her time. She covered a time of great expansion in the United States literary world, with new work by the rising generation of Ernest HemingwayF. Scott Fitzgerald and many others, African Americans of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the first American generation of the great waves of European immigrants.  Her friends during this period included the famous humorist Will Cuppy.  In 1928 she became an American citizen, at the age of 42.

Her favorite Depression book was Garrett’s The Bubble that Broke the World, and she understood the Austrian view that the Depression was a curing of the boom created by the government’s cheap money, and that the hard times continued because of government price supports and programs that hampered the liquidation of what Austrians would call malinvestments.
She railed against FDR’s gold seizure from a female point of view:
Never shall we forget the line of women we saw turning in their savings, under threat of ten years in jail and ten thousand dollars fine, while the multimillionaire Senator Couzens stood up bravely on the floor of the Senate and promised to “hunt them down” if they tried to hold out a few dollars


She was notorious for demonstrating her sharp wit and goring of sacred cows in her column, where she also first articulated many of the political ideas that reached their final form in The God of the Machine. Her thinking, especially on free trade, was also foreshadowed in her historical novels of the 1920s and 1930s. Paterson opposed most of the economic program known as the New Deal, which American president Franklin D. Roosevelt put into effect during the Great Depression. She advocated less government involvement in both social and fiscal issues.

By the late 1930s, Paterson led a group of younger writers, many of them other Herald Tribune employees, who shared her views. One was future Time magazine correspondent and editor Sam Welles.

Another was the young Ayn Rand. From their many discussions, Paterson is credited with adding to Rand’s knowledge of American history and government, and Rand with contributing ideas to The God of the Machine. Paterson believed Rand’s ethics to be a unique contribution, writing to Rand in the 1940s, “You still don’t seem to know yourself that your idea is new. It is not Nietzsche or Max Stirner… Their supposed Ego was composed of whirling words – your concept of the Ego is an entity, a person, a living creature functioning in concrete reality.”   Rand had studied history and philosophy in Soviet Russia, but she didn’t read widely. Just who provided Rand the education in the glories of free markets that most people identify her with?

“They’d sit up until four or five in the morning — and Ayn would be sitting at the master’s feet,” Rand’s niece remembers.
One night, when they were talking, I went to bed, but I could hear the conversation, and it was if Pat were the guru and teacher — and Ayn didn’t do that. Ayn would be asking questions, and Pat would be answering. It was very strange.
Isabel Paterson is the “Pat” Mimi Sutton was referring to — a “radical individualist in both theory and practice,” explains Stephen Cox in his The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America.
For all the fervor that Ayn Rand inspires, little notice is paid to the woman who most inspired her.
Both Roosevelt and his predecessor, Herbert Hoover, tried to inspire confidence by keeping unsuccessful firms afloat at the expense of successful ones. Strangely, investors declined to be stimulated, no matter how fervently they were exhorted to trust government programs. For Paterson, that result was tediously predictable. She told readers she was “tired of being told that ‘credit depends on confidence.’ Fudge. Credit depends on real assets, sound money and a clean record. … When any one asks us to have confidence we are glad to inform him that the request of itself would shatter any remaining confidence in our mind.”
To Paterson, the notion that federal experts can plan to ensure the people’s welfare was a ridiculous projection of childish fantasies—“a mother’s boy economic program with a kind maternal government taking care of everybody out of an inexhaustible income drawn from mysterious sources.” Perfect planning requires perfect foresight—and who possesses that?
Paterson’s Golden Vanity, one of the few good novels about the Depression, focuses on reputed experts’ outrageous failures of foresight. Its climactic scene is a confrontation between an investor and the financier she entrusted with her money—a man who worked, with the government’s assistance, to create a baffling maze of bad investments. When she hears him admit, “We could not foresee…,” she has finally had enough. “Why couldn’t you foresee?” she demands. “If you can’t foresee, what are you paid for?” She is wrathful, and there is dignity in her wrath.  I haven’t read it but is sounds like a scene from Atlas.
The fundamental problem, Paterson proposed, is confusion of the economy with politics. In 1932, when Hoover was still in office, she said that “our ‘best minds’ … have already got the political machinery dangerously entangled with the economic system, disrupting both; and they are now demanding that the government should save them from what they’ve done to it.” As others stood for separation of church and state, Paterson stood for separation of state and economy. She wanted no new programs to save an economy that government programs had already disrupted. Readers wrote to her, asking her to identify her own plan for the government to solve the nation’s problems. She replied, “What these correspondents really demand is dope. If we don’t believe in their dope, what dope can we suggest in place of it? None whatever. We do not even know a remedy for gullibility.”
Her idea was simply to leave people alone to make their own investments, to earn profits and keep them, and to liquidate unprofitable enterprises.  She remembered the nation’s relatively quick recovery from the economic crisis of her girlhood, the depression of the 1890s: “This country experienced bankruptcy in the nineties. Part of the loss was borne by foreign bondholders. That part of the situation is now reversed. It is a much worse bankruptcy. But that is all it is.” She knew that once the incompetent were permitted to go bankrupt, the competent could “pick up the pieces.”
Such notions were contemptuously disregarded by the public intellectuals of the 1930s, men who considered Paterson a reactionary lady novelist, lacking the ability to comprehend big, hairy-chested Keynesian or Marxist theories. Edmund Wilson, America’s leading literary critic, informed Paterson that she was “the last surviving person to believe in [the] quaint old notions on which the republic was founded.”
She maintained, however, that “the principle of the lever remains the same.”  Among the rising generation of conservative and libertarian intellectuals whom she influenced was a young escapee from the Soviet Union, Ayn Rand. At that time, Rand was an author without an audience. An avid reader of Paterson’s weekly newspaper columns, she sought the older writer’s acquaintance during the dark days following the election of 1940, when the Republicans ignominiously lost to Roosevelt for a third time. During the next few years, Rand sat at Paterson’s feet, learning about economics, politics, and American history. When Rand published her breakthrough novel, The Fountainhead, in 1943, she inscribed her gift copy to Paterson, “You have been the one encounter in my life that can never be repeated.”
Soon afterward, Rand started the long process of writing the 1,168-page Atlas Shrugged, a work of original genius that was nevertheless distinctively influenced by Paterson’s ideas. Both women were rigorous individualists, but when it came to images of the capitalist system as a whole, Rand yielded to Paterson.
In Rand’s opinion, The God of the Machine, Paterson’s great work of economic and historical theory, “does for capitalism what Das Kapital did for the Reds” and “what the Bible did for Christianity.” In her book, Paterson conceptualized capitalism as an enormous circuit connecting producers and consumers throughout the world, using real money and real profits to generate new efficiencies and larger amounts of energy. She stipulated that government’s proper role was to safeguard the infrastructure of this system, keeping it free from force and fraud. If government went beyond that and tried to manage the economy, it could only divert its energy and, eventually, short-circuit and destroy it.
This is exactly the way in which Rand depicts the world in Atlas Shrugged. The novel’s central story concerns a railroad and the people who try to keep it running, despite the government’s best efforts to connect it to projects that sap its energy. With every new government plan to stimulate a lagging economy, the railroad’s profits dwindle, its lines shorten, industrialists who rely on it go bankrupt, and consumers have less access to the means of life. Eventually, there is a massive breakdown. The circuit of production and consumption can be reconnected only by individuals who plan their own economic behavior. The greatest of these is the man who best understands how energy is generated.
It is a compelling picture of the world —one that demonstrates the importance of the literary imagination as a generator of intellectual energy. Indeed, if modern libertarian ideas had been forced to wait until professional economists and politicians conveyed them to the public, they would never have been conveyed. The task required people of imagination who were willing to offer America an alternative vision of itself. To put it bluntly, the task required people who could really write.  Paterson’s The God of the Machine was one of four magisterial libertarian works to be published in the dark days of 1943. Although her book was more well-known than Albert Jay Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, which was released that year, Rose Wilder Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom, and especially Rand’s The Fountainhead were much more popular.
In the first third of The Fountainhead, economic ideas do not dominate. It was only in the remainder of Rand’s first great success that, “after many months of intense discussions with Paterson about political philosophy and American history and institutions, does she develop the political meaning of Roark’s experience,” Cox explains.
Lane, like Rand, had the benefit of picking Paterson’s brain, and Cox writes, “It is possible that Lane derived many of her key concepts from her all-night conversations with Paterson.”
However, Discovery and God of the Machine are very different books, as Cox points out: “Libertarian readers have generally turned to Lane for emotional satisfaction and to Paterson for intellectual challenge.”
“Just who was it that provided Rand the education in the glories of free markets?”
Paterson made her living as a novelist and columnist. However, while her column in the New York Herald Tribune was “Turns With a Bookworm,” she was given the latitude to write about most anything she wanted, which often turned out to be economics and politics.

Paterson and Rand promoted each other’s books and conducted an extensive correspondence over the years, in which they often touched on religion and philosophy. An atheist, Rand was critical of the deist Paterson’s attempts to link capitalism with religion. Rand believed the two to be incompatible, and the two argued at length. Their correspondence ended after they quarreled in 1948. During a visit to Rand at her home in California, Paterson’s remarks about writer Morrie Ryskind and abrasive behavior toward businessman William C. Mullendore, other guests of Rand, resulted in Rand’s disillusionment with “Pat.”  In 1948, an argument ended their friendship. As Paterson had written, “one genius is about all a house will hold,” and each of these geniuses had a very considerable temper. But there was an even more important reason for the break-up: Paterson’s belief in God.  Similarly, Paterson had broken with another friend and political ally, Rose Wilder Lane, in 1946.

Writer Albert Jay Nock wrote that Lane’s and Paterson’s nonfiction books were “the only intelligible books on the philosophy of individualism that have been written in America this century.” The two women had “shown the male world of this period how to think fundamentally… They don’t fumble and fiddle around – every shot goes straight to the center.” Journalist John Chamberlain credits Paterson, Lane and Rand with his final “conversion” from socialism to what he called “an older American philosophy.”
Paterson further influenced the post-WWII rise of lettered American anti-statism through her correspondence with the young Russell Kirk in the 1940s, and with the young William F. Buckley in the 1950s. Buckley and Kirk went on to found the National Review, to which Paterson contributed for a brief time. However, she sometimes sharply differed from Buckley, for example by disagreeing with the magazine’s review of Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged.  Buckley Jr., laying the foundation for the modern conservative movement with the creation of National Review in 1955, identified Paterson as one of the people he most wanted to write for him. He got her, too—for a while. She left NR because—an individualist in every respect—she preferred not to be edited.

As her own fame supplanted Paterson’s, Ayn Rand allowed the older woman’s influence on her to fall into the shadows, though she did mention her book to her fans, to the students of her philosophy at the Nathaniel Branden Institute, and in the bibliography of her book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.  Nor did she ever completely disavow her link to the “one encounter” that had decisively influenced her career.
Russell Kirk, the philosopher of American conservatism, had his own quarrelsome relationship with Paterson. Yet, he said, she “stood out courageously, in defiance of the Lonely Crowd. I thought that everyone must be reading her … and could never forget her.”
Biographer Stephen Cox sums up her life:  Probably no one who encountered Isabel Paterson easily forgot her. Now a new generation needs an introduction. In this moment when, under stress, basic ideas are being recovered, Atlas is surging in popularity, and the historic failures of the New Deal are being re-examined, it is time to revisit her wit and learning. “The principle of the lever remains the same.”  
In her retirement, Paterson declined to enroll in Social Security and kept her Social Security card in an envelope with words “‘Social Security’ Swindle” written on it.
Paterson died on January 10, 1960, and was interred in the Welles family plot at Saint Mary’s Episcopal Churchyard in Burlington, New Jersey.


  • “Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends… when millions are slaughtered, when torture is practiced, starvation enforced, oppression made a policy, as at present over a large part of the world, and as it has often been in the past, it must be at the behest of very many good people, and even by their direct action, for what they consider a worthy object.” (The God of the Machine)


Libertarian historian David Beito notes that Patterson opposed the use of nuclear weapons in WWII:  Novelists Zora Neale Hurston and Isabel Paterson had much in common including opposition to the New Deal and a shared belief individualism. Both also opposed the dropping of the atomic bomb. In 1946, Hurston, who later supported the presidential campaign of Robert A. Taft, wrote that she was “amazed at the complacency of Negro press and public” towards Truman’s foreign policy actions. According to Hurston, Truman “is a monster. I can think of him as nothing else but the BUTCHER of ASIA. Of his grin of triumph on giving the order to drop the Atom bombs on Japan. Of his maintaining troops in China who are shooting the starving Chinese for stealing a handful of food…. Is it that we are so devoted to a ‘good Massa’ that we feel that we ought not to even protest such crimes? Have we no men among us? If we cannot stop it, we can at least let it be known that we are not deceived. We can make any party who condones it, let alone orders it, tremble for election time. Carla Kaplan, ed., Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters (New York: Doubleday, 2002), 546.
At about the same time, Paterson cited the atomic bomb as an example of Truman’s use of science “to fry Japanese babies in atomic radiation.” Their deaths did not even have practical value to Paterson, who had predicted an almost immediate surrender of the Japanese upon the landing of a U.S. invasion force. The only bright spot for her was that Truman compromised his demand of unconditional surrender by letting the Japanese to keep the emperor. Stephen Cox, The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2004).

Is Atlas Shrugging on DC Metro buses?

6 Jan

Remember how during the economic collapse in Atlas Shrugged people start doing “Who is John Galt?” graffiti?

In the last pages of  the novel (which reason magazine editor Matt Welch has never read), as the economy collapses and the government becomes a dictatorship and cities lose power, Americans who don’t know exactly how and why the collectivist policies they tacitly supported caused the collapse, do, from their native surviving common sense, begin slapping bureaucrats so hard they break some jaws, and begin scribbling graffiti on walls reading “Who is John Galt?”

Today DC is immobilized, hysterically, by a few inches of snow, following a week where a whole zip code (Logan and Shaw) could not drink the government water, which smelled like kerosene (still no explanation).  Most of Dupont Circle, including one of my offices, has no power today, even though all the power cables there are under ground.  This is in a city where power goes out to many neighborhoods every year when a tree limb falls, and where Metro elevators and escalators are perpetually breaking down.

And today on one of the buses I took so as not to drive in the snow I saw this Obamacare poster, humorously defaced.  My first reaction:  Methinks the natives are getting restless!  I chuckled aloud.  But it turns out the ad is part of a series of very, very, neatly defaced ads.  The insurance companies are putting out ads targeting people who are frustrated with or hate Obamacare!  For the many people whose eyes would normally glaze over if presented with an ACA related ad, this ad gets them to read about the policy offered, by seeming to be rebellious anti-ACA graffiti.

Taylor Swift, Capitalist, "Shrugs It Off"

21 Dec

A libertarian activist I know, someone who has “stopped driving stick” after a recent diremption, is fascinated by Miss Taylor Swift, in part because of the persistent rumors that Swift’s immersion into the world of high fashion models has an amorous purpose.

If being tall, blond, gorgeous, self-made rich, talented, AND dating the cream of the runway were not enough, Miss Swift now seems to be dumping Kennedy boys before they drown her (as is their wont) and making hundreds of thousands off flipping real estate she buys in the Kennedy compound (pictured) while dating them.

If you have BBC America you saw a charmingly young and awkward Swift try to keep up verbally with John Cleese and others on The Graham Norton Show (arguably a better show than any American late night talk shows).

I think in a decade if someone makes a really good version of Atlas Shrugged, when Miss Swift will be in her mid-30s, they could do much worse in casting Dagny Taggart than to offer the part to Taylor Swift.

Libertarian calendar for September

30 Sep



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September 30
Washington DC

Book Forum

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 12:00PM

Featuring the author Todd Zywicki, Professor, George Mason University School of Law; with comments by Anthony Yezer, Professor, Department of Economics, George Washington University. Moderated by Mark Calabria, Director, Financial Regulation Studies, Cato Institute.

Why do people borrow? An attempt to live beyond their means or income smoothing that accompanies growing prosperity? Consumer Credit and the American Economy examines the economics, behavioral science, sociology, history, law, and regulation of consumer credit in the United States. The authors look at why Americans use credit and the implications for both the American economy and government regulation. With the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by the Dodd-Frank Act, spreading its wings, there is perhaps no better time to have an in-depth discussion about the past and future of consumer credit. This panel features some of the leading experts in consumer financial regulation, who have served as both regulators and scholars.

This event is being co-sponsored by the Federalist Society.
 

REGISTER  or Watch online Sep 30

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September 30
Arlington VA

Liberty on the Rocks

Do you feel it? Fall is in the air! We have almost a year until dealing with bathing suits and interns again so let’s get together to toast with some (big) beers at Hunan.

Scottish (lack of) independence, ISIS, checking Bitcoin value on your iphone 6 – there’s a lot to catch up on! I hope to see you there and keep the conversation about liberty alive.

Details:

* $5.50 32 oz beers (ALL BEERS – IPAs, Blue Moon, Shocktop, etc. not just the miller/bud tier, but not Guinness)
* 2/$6 shots
* Dinner entree and sushi specials

Happy hour lasts until 9:00PM!
18+ to enter
21+ to drink

Hunan Number One is located at 3033 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201, right off the Clarendon Metro on the Orange and Silver Line.

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September 30
Arlington VA

Nova Libertarian Party fundraising letter stuffing

Libertarians, let’s get together and assemble the fundraising letters that will be going out to Libertarians throughout Northern Virginia. Come on out for specials on draft beer, and help LPNOVA spread the word. 

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    • September 30
      Libertarian Alliance
      We meet on the third Tuesday of the month 
      at 7pm at the Shephall Community Centre,
       Shephall Green, off Hydean Way, 
      off Valley Way, Stevenage, SG2 9XR.
      On Tuesday, 30 September, David McDonagh will talk on  “The life of Gladstone; featuring the part he played in rise and the fall of classical or pristine liberalism”.
    • Stevenage, United Kingdom

Ten Things About the New "Atlas Shrugged" movie – in lieu of an actual review

16 Sep

1.  It may or may not be better than part 2.  It’s definitely better than part 1.  Libertarians are basically panning it everywhere, not for its (in)fidelity to Rand’s book, but for the talents of the directors and producers.





2.  The production values are somewhere around the level of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation or a B grade made for TV movie.  (Maybe that’s why so many trek actors, like Armin Shimmerman, have been sprinkled throughout this trilogy — they know how to act beside nothing but papier mache and glitter.)



(Shimmerman – are Ferengi interstellar Randians?)





3.  Rob Morrow (as Hank Reardon) and a number of well known TV character actors have bit parts or mid-level parts for which they are either bad casting or oddly brief cameos.


And who knew Hank Rearden was a hot Jewish boy?






(Morrow – I’d eat him with some horseradish!)


4.  Actor Kristoffer Polaha does a very respectable job as John Galt, as well as being both a moderately delicious hunk (though truth be told, aside from some pretty mountains, there isn’t a lot else for the gaze to settle on).  As long time Objectivisty libertarian Republican activist Ann Stone just emailed me “I was not crazy about this one at all…seemed stilted…the only positive was the hunk playing John Galt.”  So far all the gals and gay guys I have spoken to agree.

5.  The torture scene, where the worst of the fascist kakistocracy strip and electrocute Galt to try to force him to become the nation’s economic czar, features only a shirtless, not nude, Galt, unlike the book.  The special effects are also not good even for an old episode of TNG in this scene.  And though Polaha, married and the father of three, is 6’3″ and in better shape than me or most of the people reading this, by Hollywood standards he needs to lift some weights to have shirtless scene quality pecs.  Rearden is also not there to help rescue Galt, as he is in the novel.


6.  Funnily, Polaha does actually resemble a number of good looking libertarian boys, our better looking nerds, although he’s taller.  I think he and Gary Johnson’s son could be cousins.


7. Amazingly a number of people attending the group event screening I attended in Arlington, Virginia were libertarians who have never read Atlas Shrugged.  More amazingly they claimed to understand this movie without having read the book or in some cases having seen the first two installments.  I don’t think it is well written enough to stand alone, but if these other viewers can be trusted, I am wrong.


8.  Ron Paul, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Grover Norquist, among others, all appear, in some cases playing themselves and in some cases as extras.  It’s cute, but when someone does a real version of this someday, starring Anne Hathaway and Joe Mangeniello they should take these “product” placement gimmicks out.  (How come they didn’t get Kennedy to play Cheryl Taggart? I bet she would have been good at it for real.)


9.  It’s actually very touching and almost misty eyed making, mainly the scenes where Dagny and Galt navigate the fact that they want to be together but are on different sides of a war.


10.  The one thing the writers and directors did do well is condense The Speech and figure out how to film it.  Among all the overly long and loving panoramas of redwoods and mountains and the cheesy sets, this they did surprisingly well.

DC’s new libertarian bar

27 Sep

Steve Davis is a rocket scientist (he has a PhD in Rocket Science) and Austrian economist (and opponent of a government money supply) who started a unique yogurt store, Mr. Yogato, in DC, because it had no frozen yogurt like his previous California hometown had.  Steve was an extra in the Atlas Shrugged II, where he sat beside Dagny Taggart in the Rearden trial scene.

Now he’s opened a new bar in DuPont Circle:

This DC bar has the craziest, craziest rules

At the ’80s-themed game bar Thomas Foolery, you’ll never hear, “Stop acting like a child!”, “Grow up!”, or “Why can’t you be more like your successful, though very anti-social half-brother?” because, 1) your unapologetic stepmother won’t be around, and 2) the place is filled w/ Mario Kart, old-school candy, and ridiculous party rules — yes, one does involve doing “The Carlton” — for discounts. Here are the seven rules you need to know before heading in:

Thomas Foolery

2029 P St NW
WashingtonDC 20036