False Narratives of an Atlas Shrugged Variety

“I manage a mid-size company here in Dallas. We have weathered this recession pretty well. And actually, we’re looking to expand now. We have the capital to invest in a new manufacturing center to employ about 65 people and we’re looking at hiring at an average of about $43,000.00 a year. Now, we’re holding on making this expansion because of the Obamacare. The regulations, the costs on insurance for our employees is making us hold back. Otherwise we’d be putting these people back to work.”*

That’s a story you hear a lot if you have any interest in politics. Sometimes this pitch goes so far as a business manager threatening to shutter his shop if President Obama wins reelection.  We can disregard those as just as solipsistic and childish as the quadrennial oaths to flee to Canada or France by some self-righteous liberal Hollywood type.

The narrative, however, of a business too timid to expand sounds like a lie, even when it can avoid the accusation of base politicking. A business is selfish. Period.

If a businessman sees the opportunity to make an investment that will make him more money, he will make it. No capitalist will skip expanding their business and increasing their profit. No more than they would seriously entertain the idea of shuttering their business to spite the American people for allowing Barack Obama’s reelection.

Various callers to public radio shows and talking heads filling time on television make the seemingly more reasonable argument. They do not see it as profitable to expand, given the regulations by Obamacare. That is where it stops. There are too many regulations in Obamacare to expand manufacturing or hire more than 50 workers. No more specific than that. Just the vague governmental threat of having to pay for healthcare for your lower-middle class salaried workers causes these titans of industry to shrivel with repulsion. Where’s the true capitalist response to this? It seems obvious.

These people are not capitalists. There’s nothing capitalist about avoiding a profitable move.

Guess what, if paying a pittance for your workers to have basic healthcare coverage ruins your business plans, then you really didn’t have serious plans, did you? This is bluster and we have seen it before.

Recall Joe the Plummer – the unlicensed contractor who would have owned his own company if it weren’t for vague regulations and that same 3% increase in taxes that he wasn’t even in the tax bracket to have to suffer. The lie of Joe the Plumber unfurled too late after it broke. We now know that he was not a licensed plumber. He did not have enough money to buy the business he was swearing then-candidate Obama would prevent him from buying. He was not even really middle class. He was a working-class dreamer with a common case of Lotto Brain.

My suspicion is that all these would-be tycoons are suffering the same disorder, telling themselves that the one thing keeping them back are the machinations of the proposed (key word) center-left policies of one individual. They overlook their lack of capital, or lack of qualifications to even have that type of business in the first place.

I call bullshit on these news makers. Put up or shut up, let’s see these business plans. Let’s see your actuarial tables and how the President’s proposals make it impossible for you to make investments. This is opportunistic bluster at its worst. It’s happened before with Joe the Plumber, and until we call these people to account, they’ll continue to get away with making the claim that vague regulations are preventing a monumental recovery spear-headed by America’s famed business community. A community who apparently are in an Atlas Shrugged-like hibernation to punish the Looter -in-Chief and his cadre of parasitic supporters.

Bollocks.

*A paraphrase of a caller to the Diane Rehm show at the 10 a.m. hour on Sept. 10, 2012.

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Ayn Rand’s Subversion of the GOP

The discussion about the face of modern conservatism during this week’s Republican National Convention will inevitably avoid the looming problem of Ayn Rand. The vice presidential nominee, up until his consideration for that position, praised Ayn Rand. He credited her ideology with spurring him into politics and required his staff to read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

Curiously, it seems Rand’s masterpiece has a habit of drawing in younger conservatives, as it did for Paul Ryan. Like communism for college liberals, Rand’s trumpeting prose comes off as revelatory. This message often appeals to misguided anarchists and conservatives trying to find real answers that America’s two parties fail to provide. Yet, in drawing in such audiences, Rand devotees often put themselves in danger of obvious conflicts of interest.

When Randist-Republicans like Paul Ryan abandon Rand’s atheism and her contempt for America’s two parties, they make a mockery of what Rand’s brand of conservatism really embodied. Rand summed it up like this: “There is no party, are no voice that offer a pro-capitalism, laissez-faire, economic freedom and individualism [sic].”

One philosophy Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand considered evil to her system of politics and economics was altruism. The one redeeming value of Christianity is its message of love, charity, forgiveness and its inescapable message of caring for the poor. Rand was crystal clear in Atlas Shrugged that Christian ethics had no place in her society. Modern Republican interpretations opportunistically shift this outright rejection of altruism towards an argument against legislating altruism: food stamps, subsidized healthcare, and so on. But in her words, Rand hates even the private act of giving where the motive is not self-interest, or to be less circuitous, one’s own personal monetary gain.

The RNC is missing the opportunity to have a debate about whether we as a people will continue to care for our poor. Does the Republican Party want to stand with altruism? It seems problematic for Ryan, a Christian, to advocate abandoning state-sponsored altruism. Imagine a Catholic trying to make that argument to the American people. This might not be a problem if Ryan was not a member of the flock of Christians who have ignored the American tradition of keeping religion and politics separate – which his views on the female body indicate.

It seems like a fatal case of cognitive dissonance. Christ was nothing if not an altruist. Yet Ryan’s budget relies on heavy reductions in altruism. I assume Ryan has America’s Christianity in mind based on his record. Yet, he’s either lost himself in his mutually contradictory views or is utterly insincere about either his Randian conservatism or his Catholicism. But, his proposed budget gives him an alibi for his sincere attachment to Ayn Rand and his social views do the same for his Catholicism.

Attempts for Randists like Ryan to hold on to their Christianity have already led to embarrassing exposes of this fatal cognitive dissonance. During an early Republican debate, fellow Randist and Christian Ron Paul, when asked what the role of the state was for an uninsured man dying in a hospital, was essentially to let the man die.

Ayn Rand was and will continue to be an albatross in the Republican Party. She had no place in either party and she knew it. Yet, in their desperation, the Republican candidates are setting themselves up for more embarrassing examples of their utter insincerity, or worse, their blatant idiocy.

Ryan’s Budget: It’s Evil And Actually Kinda Dangerous

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

Paul Krugman* labeled the plan a “fraud” on the Sunday talkabouts:

The plan is a big bunch of tax cuts, some specified spending cuts, basically for poor people, and then a huge magic asterisk which is supposed to turn into a deficit reduction plan, but, in fact, if you look what’s actually in it, it’s a deficit-increasing plan.

That covers dangerous (e.g. painting a deficit cutting plan as a deficit increasing plan).

Where it gets evil comes from Ryan’s backtrack on his inspiration for his fiscal ideals, which I think I neglected to mention in this forum.

Paul Ryan is quoted saying, and audio exists at the above link:

“It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.”

Follow that with a quote in National Review saying

“I reject her philosophy.”

In the first instance, Ryan is referring to the book Atlas Shrugged and in the second instance Ryan means Ayn Rand‘s philosophy. The above link also has several quoted instances of Ryan getting elbow deep in embarrassingly effusive praise for the meth-addicted comic book reader**, Madam Rand.

The point of all this is just to paint Ryan as a fraud and it seems the only reason he’s made this pivot was to  appear more likeable as a potential vice president.

To wit, Ryan is clearly too inconsistent to be leading much of anything besides a fitness class for pillow-shaped Congressman. The man is deeply religious, but an avowed objectivist, despite Rand’s persistent insistence that magical belief is counter-intuitive to her entire philosophy. Ryan also jams out to the band Rage Against the Machine, apparently completely unaware of the lyrics, which paint people like him as worthy of murder.

What a fucking leader for America. Inconsistent and totally not bothered one bit.

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*I realize a lot of you don’t even listen to anything the Nobel Prize-winning economist says because of his liberal nebbish-ness. That’s fine. Just move along.

**Her close followers essentially have confirmed the only books Rand read after publishing Atlas Shrugged were comic books and the equivalent of grocery store paperback mystery books. I make this stab because of the amount of praise this intellectually uncurious person receives.

Remembering Mike Wallace

 

When I wrote my thesis on Ayn Rand, the above interview provided a seminal punctuation to my portrait of Rand. Its safe to credit those seminal points to Mike Wallace’s excellent interview skills.

Namaste John Galt

Cynical marketing ploy or deeply held belief among (maybe just) one yogi?

NPR did a story on this yoga accessories retailer who apparently thinks Atlas Shrugged and yoga culture mesh perfectly. Just listen to it. I can’t figure out if its just sheer incompetence or cynicism.

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Want to read more? Here’s my review of the Atlas Shrugged movie that came out earlier this year. Didn’t know that was a thing? Don’t worry, in an odd cosmological sense, I don’t think the director did either.

If the Atlas Shrugged trailer was honest…

Click and find out. On Cracked!

Damnit Science, Fine. I’ll Get Political For You

President George W. Bush’s longtime hometown was Midland, TX. Praised as the foundation of so much good sense and morality in his book “Decision Points”, Midland also is the seat of W’s oil business, and it’s in Texas. Oh, for those of you that haven’t been to Texas.  The water by-and-large is undrinkable.  And now they’re running out of it in the moral center of G.W.Bush’s universe.  That’s not unfair, is it?  Let’s investigate.

Two of the three reservoirs that Midland and other Permian Basin cities rely on for most of their water are getting close to empty. The third is below 30 percent of capacity.

Which is causing Texas’ Governor, Rick Perry, to call for prayers for rain. 

All of Texas is extremely dry, and the parched vegetation is fueling huge wildfires across the state — prompting Gov. Rick Perry to urge prayers for rain this weekend.

OK, that wasn’t my serious play.  That was for funsies.

The region’s groundwater, in fact, has its own problems. Some of it contains high amounts of fluorides, arsenic or chlorides. Using more groundwater could require a desalination plant, which would cost tens of millions of dollars. Already, many Permian Basin residents fill up bottles at filtered-water kiosks on the street rather than drinking the tap water directly, because even the lake water has a high, although harmless, chloride content and tastes odd.

They’re running out of water. And what water they do have, and have had, sucks.

Why does it suck? Because rampant environmental deregulation has allowed oil and natural gas mining to dump toxins (how else do you think aresenic and chrlorides got in to natural aquifers?) into what was supposed to be potable drinking water.

And the article deals mostly with water usage restrictions, which the residents don’t like ’cause this is Texas. Capital T, Texas and we don’t like the government tellin’ us what to do. Nor telling oil and gas miners not to take what little water we have for hydraulic fracturing. 

Why, New York Times, was this not the focus of your article:

oil companies use water on the same lands, and their water-intensive drilling technique, hydraulic fracturing, could capture a significant part of the reserves. In isolated places around the region, leaks from old oil wells also affect the groundwater, water officials say.

Until we get serious with people, this won’t change. People won’t comprehend that regulation sometimes is necessary. Citizens will move out of dehydrated areas. Your home will be worthless. Of course, your lawn and your football fields are long dead. Life isn’t enjoyable in Midland, the article mentions, when nothing’s green and all this water is disappearing.  But if we don’t connect the dots for citizens, and Texans aren’t stupid I actually like Texas, what can we expect. 

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Who is John Galt? A Movie Review

Or

The Second Most Popular Book of All Time1 Is the Worst Movie Ever Made2 Starring a No-Name Cast and Made By Self-Important Business Moguls on Their Own Randian Quest

I can’t be Objective about this.  Here’s why.

There, all done reading my thesis? Yeah, right.

A Note on my Notes: Some of the supra-imposed numbering is out of order. I had to do some last minute editing.  So, chronologically, it might not go 1,2,3… but the numbers still match their notes.

* * *

I didn’t really want to do this. No one wants to spend their Monday night undergoing philosophical brainwashing via Ayn Rand. So, popcorn, something I never purchase, was a total necessity. Food lets me put distance between a personal sense of morality and basic biological functions, e.g. chewing.  This is also the first movie I’ve seen alone.  That seems somehow insane.  But you be the judge of that. Another mistake: taking these notes for my review with my phone, it seemed really out of place here. I felt intensely judged by this overwhelmingly geriatric audience.  Its weird to think I’m surrounded by people who somehow, for some reason, think Rand had it all right.

So, I sit immediately behind and rest my feet above three obscenely ugly adults.  Imagine three squat, impish people – very small hands and feet4 – horn-rimmed glasses and thin, flat, permanently flop-sweat wet hair parted to the right. Just like grumpy old Rand herself. Three identical Randroids (Ha! Get it?), a female sandwiched between the two males.  For an absolutely horrifying second I think of Rand’s own three-way sexual escapades and am overwhelmed with a psycho-sexual terror that Black Swan could only have prayed vainly to achieve.

Still, during the previews, my judging radar is spread to full array.  A male voice above my right shoulder makes a comment that indicates this is probably the first movie he’s seen since The Fountainhead.  He said, during the previews, “I haven’t seen anything that’ll make me want to come back”.  As one says about a restaurant when you first try it out, nothing about the food made you want to go back again.  But, I do this, we all do this – shit talk Hollywood and it was terrible Hollywood movies to be sure, the previews were.

As soon as things got rolling, an inescapable realization emerges: how did this movie get made? Jian Ghomeshi, of Q on CBC, interviewed (look for the April 15 show) John Aglialoro, the films main backer and a producer, about the film.  Basically, Aglialoro claimed his movie had sold out in many theatres at non-peak hours, several days ahead of its release.  Aglialoro also funded the movie out of his own pocket and secured backing independently after being rejected wholesale by all those who make movies.  There’s a Randian parallel there.  But not so much for the tax breaks he took to make the film.

Aglialoro also fumbled with the question of morality in Rand’s work. He basically argued that market forces will encourage Rand’s Nietzschean3 supermen to behave morally, which really is just rational self-interest, according to Rand.  Morality, again according to Rand, could be dumping millions of tons of nuclear waste into a town’s water supply.  So long as it doesn’t negatively affect you or your business, it’s A-OK!

The thought of this movie achieving the level of popularity claimed by Aglialoro is unbearable.  Thankfully, there were only about a dozen of us when I went to see Atlas.  A dozen old, unattractive, and sloppily maintained Randians.  My M.O. when I walked in was to judge the auditorium.  No one under 18.  No one under 30, save myself.  Probably, everyone was over 50.  A few couples had showed up, clearly, the perfect date movie.  Heavy philosophical bludgeoning by an author (in)famous for just that style of writing.

And all throughout the film, I catch grunting noises of agreement.  Like white people during Church – which if you don’t know is exactly 180 degrees opposite of how black people are during Church, at least as the TV box portrays black people during Church. Hint: shouting “preach” at the pastor does not happen during White Church.

These noises come during particularly high points of heavy philosophical bludgeoning.  As if the audience were indicating their excitement towards poorly argued uber-capitalist posturing. Perhaps these grunting ascenters also spend a whole lot of their free time reading up on economic minutia, reading technical manuals.  But, whatever, so they’re excited to see their beliefs on the big screen.  Catholics blindly loved the whole Mel Gibson movie – something else mentioned in the Q interview – and the Catholics totally overlooked the whole one-sided and overly gory fiasco of The Passion. Let’s allow the Randists their moment of triumph.

And I notice that no less than three old people walked out.  Like, not to pee.  They never came back.  I doubt the movie broke Rand’s spell and instead just was so awful they could not stand to see their deepest held beliefs presented so poorly.  Like you could present them any better, the movie is basically like reading the book out-loud to yourself. So maybe the walk-outs could have saved eight bucks and just read the book aloud and got disenchanted by themselves.

And I finally exit, at the end, with everyone else, the crowd sufficiently culled. I notice two key things about my compatriots in the brighter lights. One very old couple, clearly attending members of some local Objectivist Group, had dressed in true theatre best for this. E.g. they showed up at Muvico at 8:05 p.m. on a Monday like they were going to a real theatre (the kind where spelling it -re isn’t optional or British).

The other thing I realized, that the tri-couple in front of me was actually a nuclear family unit. Unfortunately (for him) that the under-18 boy in attendance with his ugly parents was so unbelievably ugly* that he seemed very, very old.

Maybe, I just don’t understand Rand’s people. I’m told Ron Paul is a Randist. His youthful fans are legion: also something I’m told. And yet no one under 50 at this show, admittedly at 8:05 on a Monday.  But, my roommate claimed the same experience when he saw the Sunday matinée, a better chance to catch young intellectual secularists5 I’d say.

Though, is it too much to hope that this misguided logic will die out? That there won’t be any young attendants to carry the torch into tomorrow.  Social welfare has really stuck its roots deep into the fabric of America.  Will my generation and my fictional children’s generation reject taking care of the elderly and the sick and poor? Basically, do you think the New Testament’s all-of-the-sudden going to become unpopular with Americans?  So maybe, then, there’s hope.  That this ship will sink so hard that Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 will become an ironic statement like Mel Brooks’ The History of the World: Part 1.

____________________________
1. See below quote:

Pascoe, oblivious to the anxiety of the producers behind him, offers this stat that is oft-cited by Randians: “There’s a very high bar here. Back in ’90, ’91, the Library of Congress did a survey of 5,000 readers to determine the most influential books of all time. [Atlas Shrugged] came in at No. 2, behind something called The Bible.” (Source)

2. Commercially. This movie isn’t for you. Wait, well… Are you asking yourself: will I enjoy this movie? The answer is no.  It’s for Randists.  If you have to question yourself (a) you aren’t a Randist and (b) don’t bother with this movie or the book its based on and (c) run like all hell from anyone who likes it enough to want to see it with you for a second time to, like, gauge your reaction and pull you into The Fold or whatever they call that cult of an economic belief structure.

3. Did I mention Rand hates Nietzsche’s philosophy? I did in my thesis you didn’t read. Still, everyone always notices the stark resemblance of Nietzsche’s own views with Rand’s entrepreneurial supermen. Just… just fucking read my thesis, it’s too much to have to re-explain here.

4. To be fair, nothing freaks me out like adults with tiny hands and feet.

5. Heads up. Rand was nothing if not irreligious, anti-racist and pro-gay. So, let’s not play out some stereotyped notion of modern-day conservatism. Which, you know, is the opposite of all those things I just said. Racist. Fundamentalist. Gay-bashing.

* On the use of the word ugly. It’s cheap I know, to castigate an individual on their physical appearance. Take note, however, that I mean this in the broadest sense. That these people chose to be ugly. Their clothes were loose and never even close to respectable ‘going out’ clothes – the boy was wearing a Free T-Shirt for X-sake.  Horn-rimmed glasses and persistent flop-sweat is never a good look.  Poor dental care hasn’t been acceptable in this country for a few decades.  I’d say with a change of clothes, a shower, some hair spray and a few visits to the dentists and an optometrist we would have three normal-looking clones of Patton Oswalt. Admittedly, still kind of resembling a weird parody of Rand’s own sexual morals.

Bahahahahah!

The movie about Atlas Shrugged is out.  Check this shit.  Holy Lord.

This will only make those who’ve read Rand laugh, but, one of the producers of the film, used tax breaks to fund part of the project:

And yes, he got tax breaks for making the picture — the standard business deduction.

A Torrent of Deregulation Insanity

Another important spotlight from Howard Troxler.  House Bill 5005 will deregulate a number of seemingly understandable areas.  Others, not so much.

Auto repair shops would not have to give customers a written estimate, nor to call for permission to exceed it.

As for ice or water vending machines — why should they be regulated in any way?

And there’s a whole lot more, so give it a read.

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