Archive for the ‘Deep Thought’ Category

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Review: Atlas Shrugged II

October 30, 2013

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What if somebody walked up to you and asked you a rhetorical question: I’m tasking you to make an “ultimate” version of a film property – you can take the best bits, defined by you, from two versions of the same movie and mash them together, making one that’s better than either solo version. You could do that with a lot of properties – Dune, Star Trek, and so on. But would you do that with what was, ostensibly, a single story broken up into sections?

I’m not sure it was working for AS2. The script was good, again, making the plot-heavy story digestible for the casual viewer. But I think the casting (which I believe was changed up completely from the first movie – meaning nobody who was in AS1 was in AS2) was hit and miss. It’s fascinating to think about who they’re going to cast in AS3.

Not sure why Taylor Schilling needed to be replaced with Samantha Mathis. I could live with either actress in the role – Schilling as she had the Confident Dagny vibe going on, Mathis, with her looking like she was about to cry throughout the movie maybe showing the side that was genuinely strung out about Galt’s strike. Slight edge to Schilling though.

Another coin toss as to who’s the better Hank Rearden. Jason Beghe has the better voice, but Grant Bowler had the presence of cool confidence I liked. Esai Morales as d’Anconia hands-down wins in that department. Paul McCrane was a way better Wesley Mouch though.

Maybe the raiding of the Jericho cast was a wise move? I’d like to think that a strategy like that wasn’t pandering, and these were the best actors they could afford for the roles, but D…B… Swee…ney as Galt? Really?

Apparently, they were so embarrassed by casting Sweeney as Galt that, in the Blu-Ray release, they darkened up his face so you really couldn’t tell who it was.  Sorry – I was there in the theater when I saw…DB Sweeney…as Galt. Really? DB Sweeney?

The plot point I realize they had to have (but didn’t ring true today) was Lillian’s insistence on not divorcing Rearden to keep her social standing. Like that’s going to happen these days – she’d divorce him and take him for at least half of what he had, and still get to be a socialite

The only part that really made my teeth grate (besides…DB Sweeney) was a bit where Mathis, in a jet chasing Galt through the Rockies, about to pancake into a mountain, says in an exasperated voice, “Who is John Galt?” instead of “AAAAAAAAHHHHH SHHHIIIITTTT!”

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Why Ron Swanson Matters

October 29, 2013

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(All images shamelessly swiped from the Ron Swanson Appreciation Society tumblr.)

Parks and Recreation hadn’t even been on my radar until I saw a post on it at Lew Rockwell’s site. (Unfortunately, I can’t find the original article – probably was a link) It referred glowingly to Ron’s libertarianism, so I decided to take a look.

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Once you see see the episodes that actually reference his political views, you’ll have to agree: this is probably the very first time that libertarianism is not portrayed as we-like-bananas-because-they-have-no-bones crazy. While I’m not really surprised that the fans in general have focused on his diet more than his political views, that his political views are referenced at all is something to be cheered.

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Episodes to watch (easy if you have something like Netflix). There’s probably more, but this is a good intro, and it really helps to get the full context of the character if you watch the whole episode…

Season 3 Ep. 14 “Road Trip”

Season 5 EP. 16 “Bailout”

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Henderson’s Law (Reason Magazine, July 1989)

February 13, 2012

Was looking though an old scrapbook and found this article – yes, a scrapbook. God, I’m old. Posting it here in its entirety since Reason doesn’t seem to have archives from 1989.

HENDERSON’S LAW OF HEROIC MOVIES By David R. Henderson

Copyright July 1989 David R. Henderson and/or Reason Magazine

David, I rented a movie for tonight that looks interesting but I’m not sure you’ll like it. It’s called The Milagro Beanfield War. Robert Redford directed it, and I think it’s left-wing and antibusiness.”

Really?” I asked my wife, Rena. “What is it about?”

It’s about these poor Chicano farmers in New Mexico or somewhere who steal water from a big business to irrigate their beans. The movie treats them as heroes.”

I bet they don’t steal it,” I beamed confidently. “I’ll bet you that they just reclaim it after the big business, with the government’s help, had already grabbed their water.”

Rena looked at me skeptically. Why was I so sure? Because of Henderson’s Law of Heroic Movies. Henderson’s Law states that anitbusiness movies that have heroes are always based on, or consistent with, a libertarian premise.

I formulated this law after seeing and enjoying a lot of movies that liberal friends expected me to dislike on ideological grounds. Sure enough my law was confirmed by The Milagro Beanfield War, which is, incidentally, not only pro-freedom and heroic but also very good.

The movie A Christmas Carol, based on Charles Dickens’s novel, is another example. Because it is an attack on businessmen, liberal friends are sometimes surprised I love it – especially the 1951 version with Alaistair Sim. But A Christmas Carol is profoundly profreedom. It does not question Scrooge’s right to keep his money for himself but rather his wisdom in denying himself the pleasure of giving. In one of the final scenes, Scrooge dances around the room with joy because he realizes it is not too late to change. He is excited, not because he can now go out and vote to have the government spend other people’s money but because he can now personally, voluntarily help those around him.

But why is Henderson’s Law true? Why aren’t movie with heroes based on antilibertarian premises? There are two reasons. Both should give us hope for our cultural and political future.

First, even though many movie scriptwriters and directors are left-wing, they must think that a heroic antilibertarian movie will not make money. The know – implicitly or explicitly – that people who want a heroic movie want to have no qualms about supporting the hero. So they must enlist the hero in a just cause. The only kind of just cause that they can be sure the public will support is one based on an individualistic view of justice. Because the public, although most of them don’t know it, have a profoundly libertarian view of justice.

Skeptical? Then consider. Which plot would stir the juices of American moviegoers: one where the hero stole money from a corporation that succeeded by being honest with people, or one where the hero stole money from a corporation that had been cheating people? To ask the question is to answer it. The second movie is the only possible contender.

Push the analysis further. Normally, when a corporation cheats someone, the person cheated can sue. But sometimes that doesn’t work. When it doesn’t, it is typically because the legal system is not doing its job of protecting people from fraud. So the hero who steals money from the cheating corporation is trying to achieve the profreedom outcome that the legal system was supposed to provide.

The second reason that left-wing screenwriters and directors often adopt libertarian premises is that they themselves are profoundly libertarian. To believe in heroism is almost necessarily (Ayn Rand would probably cut the almost) to believe in freedom. But writers and directors usually don’t understand how the market works, and they think that big corporations, shielded by a corrupt legal system, are always ripping people off. In other words, they are antibusiness because of profreedom values coupled with a mistaken view of how the market works.

Henderson’s Law also holds for books, movies, and TV shows. Take Robin Hood. We hear that he was a hero because he robbed from the rich to give to the poor. Robin Hood would be a clear-cut exemption to Henderson’s Law if the rich he robbed had earned their money. But invariably Robin Hood’s rich victims are those who themselves robbed first. Robin Hood reclaimed from the rich and gave back to the poor.

I have not yet found an exception to Henderson’s Law, and not for lack of trying. When I think I have one, it turns out either to be consistent with libertarianism or to lack a hero.

Take Norma Rae, a movie about a worker at a cotton mill who grows out of her low self-image and who courageously and effectively fights to unionize the mill. The movie qualifies as heroic. It is also consistent with libertarian premises. The turning point for the union’s success comes when Norma Rae’s father – who also works at the mill – dies because his employer refuses to let him sit down during a heart attack. The employer clearly violated an implicit contractual agreement: I know of no advocate of freedom who thinks that when you agree to work for someone, you also agree not to take a break during a heart attack.

Of course, when the union forms, the large minority of workers who voted against it will be represented by the union against their will. Forcing a bargaining agent on these people and forcing them to pay dues as well violates the workers’ right to choose their own representatives, not to mention the employer’s rights. But nowhere does the movie even hint that those who oppose the union will be forced to join. If the movie had covered this issue, then Norma Rae’s heroism would not have been so clear-cut. The only way the director and scriptwriter could keep the movie both heroic and prounion was to mislead moviegoers about the antifreedom aspects of unions under American labor law. American labor law, not Norma Rae, is antifreedom.

Country is another apparent exception that turns out to be consistent with Henderson’s Law. This movie portrays as a hero a woman, played by Jessica Lange, who tries to hold on to her farm and to prevent the government from foreclosing on it. I could nitpick and say that the movie is not antibusiness because the government, not business, is foreclosing. But I won’t, because one can easily imagine a business doing the same thing. The more relevant points are that the government is not portrayed as clearly villainous and that the heroine attempts to hold on to her farm within the law. The neighbors help out, not by breaking laws or by violating property rights, but simply by refusing to buy her assets, a very creative use of their freedom.

Of course, in the late ’60s many antibusiness movies were hostile to freedom. But they were also antiheroic, and therefore not exceptions to Henderson’s Law.

Henderson’s Law gives me hope. That heroic movies are based on or consistent with the principles of freedom means that millions of people can see as heroic only someone whose actions do not violate others’ rights. This shared belief in freedom is a huge common ground. What remains, if believers in freedom wish to persuade people, is to show them this common ground and then to address the factual issues on which we disagree, the main one being whether corporations can easily rip people off without the government’s help. Those who love heroes love freedom.

Contributing Editor David R. Henderson, an economics professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and a former White House economist under President Reagan, loves heroic movies.

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Great minds think alike

January 23, 2012

I’m glad I’m not the only one to see the connection.

The quote –

The energy of rapid growth in the city and on the frontier, people moving faster than laws could bind them, gave birth to the setting and with it the idea that a moral individual is a better force for good, than the system. There is something inherently libertarian about that. And indeed some of the more influential forces in both genres have been libertarian or libertarian-leaning. The comic book heroes looking down from the movie theater marquee at your today were often created or co-created by libertarians.

But there is a dramatic shift that takes place between the two genres. And it is a revealing shift. The cowboy is human. The superhero is increasingly inhuman.

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“Abortion is the issue that the Left counts on, gentlemen, COUNTS ON to keep the freedom movement divided. And here we all are today, proving it.”

January 10, 2012

Truer words were never written.

It all starts with a post by Karl Denninger.  He makes some points that another pair of writers (who I’ll get to) will expand upon in another link.

Arctic Patriot responds with passion on two different occasions here and more recently here.

I’ll reproduce the comment left by Bill St. Clair on that first post as I thought it was the closest to what I believe I’ve found so far…

Abortion discussions never go anywhere. Nobody ever budges an inch. But I’ll state my considered opinion, which also is not likely to change.

There are two classes of living things on the planet, sentient beings and property. A sentient being is aware that it is alive. It fears death. It wants to remain alive. This desire is deeper, much deeper, than simple animal self preservation.

Intentionally killing a sentient being, other than in self defense, is murder. Property may be treated by the property owner in any way (s)he desires.

Human beings from the age of six months or so are usually sentient. There are exceptions, but they are rare. Dolphins and whales and apes may also be sentient. If flies were sentient, intentionally killing them, other than in self defense, would be murder.

A human sperm and egg are obviously not sentient. A three-year-old human child almost always is sentient. At some point between those two points, the developing human becomes sentient, and it becomes murder to intentionally kill it. The point at which killing that developing human becomes murder is a religious issue. Many people who self identify as Christian consider a human fetus to be sentient at conception. I consider it to happen sometime in the first year of life, but I’m willing to agree on birth as the point after which abortion becomes murder.

Personally, I don’t see the difference between a human embryo shortly after conception and a separated egg and sperm. Both are potential sentient human beings, but neither will become sentient without a lot of work and commitment. If it is to be considered murder to abort a 1-week-old embryo, then I think it should be considered murder to NOT inseminate a fertile 20-something beauty. Both deny a potential human life.

Since I do not consider a fetus to be sentient until after birth, it is property. The mother is the obvious property owner, since the fetus is part of her body. Therefore, it is entirely her decision whether to bring the baby to term or to abort. It’s nobody else’s business.

After the baby is born, it becomes a sentient being with rights, it is no longer the mother’s property, and she may not kill it.

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind. Only to point out that this is a religious argument, hence not subject to rational discussion.

The most eloquent discussion on keeping abortion legal was written in L. Neil Smith and Aaron Zelman’s novel Hope. Here’s the link: I cannot put this into words any better than they did…

The heat this political issue creates within us freedom lovers is furious and counterproductive. Sadly, I fear it will never be resolved.

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Yes. Exactly.

December 4, 2011

Via Boing Boing – Chris Sims says it all here.

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10 PRINT “Steve Jobs is dead.” 20 END

October 6, 2011

Though I’m not a fan of Apple’s corporate policies of late (I’m sure Jobs had a hand in them), there’s no denying the man was an innovator of the highest caliber and a champion of the filmmaker through the Mac platform and Final Cut software. RIP.