Monthly Archives: March 2009

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Last night, 60 Minutes ran a fascinating piece about a man who spent 11 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit, the woman who (incorrectly, it later turned out) identified him as her attacker, and the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.

Here’s Part I:


Watch CBS Videos Online

And, Part II:


Watch CBS Videos Online

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Irony of the Day

I was about to crash for the night until I ran into this one at Hot Air: “Fullerton Tea Party gets 15,000 protestors.”

Sort of like Alabama when Republican Governor Riley tried to shove my state’s largest tax increase proposal up our collective wallets, most of the protesters in California were protesting their Republican Governor.  I’ll blockquote their blockquote:

Police estimated that some 8,000 people came to the Slidebar Café in downtown Fullerton to listen to a three-hour live broadcast of The John & Ken Show.

Some wore buttons. One man brought a bloody effigy head of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and waved it from the end of a pike, while the crowd joined their hosts in a chant of “Repeal, recall, revolt.”

Others directed their outrage at less personal synechdoche: “Total Recall” laser discs, action hero lunchboxes and other memorabilia from the governor’s Hollywood career, which they piled up and smashed with a sledgehammer.

When will the nitwits on the right understand that they are just as nitwitty as the nitwits on the left?

Weekend Link Roundup (Closing Down the Open Tabs Version)

It’s midnight in Alabamastan and I’m crashing. Here’s some stuff I wanted to write about over the weekend.

  • Jason Pye brings our attention to the best and worst places to live in the country.  If you like fiscal freedom, by all means don’t move to New York.  If you like having fun, Maryland is even worse than Alabama and Mississippi.
  • On a related note, Kip Esquire lets us know that Utah is apparently the best place for online porn addicts to live.
  • Republicans are gloating over this gem which suggests that Bush was more popular early in his first term than Obama is today.  One wonders who will have the lowest approval rating at the end of Obama’s final term.
  • Daniel Gross writes about “The bogus GOP claim that Obama is trying to bleed wealthy Americans.”  The reality is that Obama is preemptively bleeding the next generation.
  • Glenn Reynolds informs us that “if you don’t support Obama’s economic plan, you’re a traitor.”
  • Megan McArdle says she doesn’t know what will happen if CitiGroup fails.  Senator Shelby says “If they’re dead, they ought to be buried.”  I guess CitiGroup hasn’t thrown enough money into Shelby’s campaign coffers.  What I do know is that CitiGroup stock (currently 1.05) costs less than Citibank’s ATM transaction fees.
  • dday@DailyKos finds nothing wrong with socialism and wants Obama to become even more radical.  He also finds the recent “cult of Galtism” absurd.
  • In a probable act of futility, I’m trying to convince Republicans over at The Next Right that decreasing the cost of government should be a litmus test for their presidential candidates.
  • Finally, Robert Stacy McCain brings us this funny-as-hell-but-not-safe-for-work-or-around-some-younger-children-there-is-a-potential-for-cardiac-risk-consult-your-doctor-accountant-and-attorney-before-viewing video about a nationalized Citibank: […]

UPDATE: Brad Warbiany was embedding the same video at the same time I was.  The Citibank video is now one blog posting below this one.

Joke of the Day

From RepublicansForObama.org, here’s one reason people were supposed to vote for Obama:

National Debt

The federal debt matters. We cannot saddle future taxpayers with having to service the debt we create with our irresponsible fiscal policies. Cutting the deficit will additionally decrease interest rates and increase private investment.

Suckers!!!!!!!!! — (not that McCain would have been much better).

Is Obama a Socialist?

communist-manifestoWriting that “Calling Barack Obama’s plan socialistic lacks any class,” Albor Ruiz argues that “fear mongering over a ‘class war’ and an Obama conspiracy to turn the U.S. into a ‘socialist’ country is reaching a fever pitch.”

He then cites “Tax Hike Mike” Huckabee as an example:

Huckabee, no doubt, takes the cake. “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff,” he has said with quasi-religious fervor. “The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead, but a Union of American Socialist Republics is being born.”

First of all, citing Huckabee was a mistake, as he’s part of the problem and clearly not part of the solution.

My favored definition of socialism comes from Merriam-Webster: “ any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

This seems to describe the current administration, but there are other definitions which may or may not apply, as well.

If we are to pick an accurate word to describe Obama’s (to be fair, Bush laid the foundations which hadn’t already been established by previous administrations) designs on our children’s and even their children’s money, what should it be? If we are to better describe Obama’s move towards what Karl Marx called “a heavy progressive or graduated income tax,” how would we do it?

“Abolition of all right of inheritance?”  There is already talk of Obama toying with the Death Tax.

We may have moved from the Agrarian Age to the Information Age, but an “extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State” seems to apply to AIG fairly well. If seventeen percent of our gross domestic spending is on health care, additional government control of this industry would certainly apply.  Control of the automobile industry clearly involves factories and instruments of production. While Obama has backed off his call for a Car Czar, the fact remains that he certainly made the attempt and likely will again if he gets the opportunity.

“Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.”  Bush got a good start on transporation with the implementation of various TSA schemes and implementation of the Fairness Doctrine would move us closer to Marxism on the communications front.

While “a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly,” may not precisely describe the Federal Reserve, for many intents and purposes it does.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac seem a major starting point for “centralisation of credit in the hands of the State.”  Purchasing shares and attaching federal strings to bank bailouts is certainly a big move in this direction.

Perhaps Mr. Ruiz is correct.  Should we be calling Obama’s attempted takeover of major portions of our economy while further redistributing the wealth socialist or Marxist?  Not that one necessarily excludes the other.

In reality, it all boils down to one simple question: Does it really matter if we call current policy socialism or a crap sandwich? It tastes the same either way.

Rasmussen: 75% of Americans Believe Second Amendment Guarantees Individual Right to Firearms

564px-bill_of_rights_pg1of1_acAccording to Rasmussen Reports, “seventy-five percent (75%) of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of an average citizen to own a gun, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Just 14% say gun ownership is not a constitutional right. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.”

Of interest are these findings:

Although the plurality of Americans (47%) do not see a need for stricter gun control laws in this country, 43% believe the Obama Administration will try to implement such laws.

Seventy-nine percent (79%) of married American support the right to gun ownership, as do 68% of non-marrieds. Despite the oft-cited concern about the danger of loaded weapons to children in the home, those with children in the house are a bit more likely to acknowledge gun ownership rights than those without children living with them.

Of concern is this:

Gun sales have reportedly risen in recent months because of concerns about the worsening economy and fears that President Obama will push for limits on gun ownership. Attorney General Eric Holder already has said the administration wants to restore the ban on so-called assault weapons that lapsed in 2004.

Perhaps we can  “hope” that Obama and the Congress won’t try to “change” hundreds and hundreds of years of American tradition, as well as one of the most basic of natural rights.

While we’re on the general topic of the Constitution, Doug Mataconis provides a possible constitutional solution for D.C. residents to have both their representation and their taxation, too.

Quote Of The Day: Going Galt Edition

“Going Galt” is not some meager protest movement covered by media to declare your intention to marginally reduce your labor output so as to fall under a different marginal tax rate, it is a full blown strike against the State for the sole purpose of fascilitating it’s collapse(it is a call for separatism; in this case, by the members of the Productive Class). In case anyone is not clear on the matter, the State will hunt you down and charge you with with terrorism for such things. Malkin–who was an appalling apologist for the Bush National Security State/Unitary Executive/Torture Regime, going as far as to actually encourage a Stasi Snitch Police State to root out the “terrorists,” the “islamofascists,” the “illegal immigrants” and other enemies of the State–now advocating some media driven,pseudo-labor strike against the very State she championed just because it’s now under of a different political party is the apogee of conservative brain death. Michelle, what happened to “God Bless America?” Or is God just a Republican?

Freedom Democrats

Quis custodiet ipso custodes

Nos vigilo custodes.

Indeed we do.

I’ve been struggling with how to review this movie since I walked out of the theater last night.

A few weeks ago someone asked me to explain “Watchmen” to them, and my response was “there is no way I can possibly give you an adequate explanation without telling you the entire story”; and that’s the problem I face here.

This could easily either be a 20 page mass of spoilers, shoutouts, pleasures and gripes, with some substance to it; or it can be a single paragraph or two, with some meaningless superlatives and diminutives.

I’m going to try and split the difference, and explain what I think is good and not so good about the movie; while keeping it relatively simple, and relatively spoiler free.

Why am I reviewing it for this site? Because Watchmen is very much a libertarian movie.

At a high level, it is a denunciation of popular fascism and oligarchy. At a deeper level, one of the central dilemmas of the movie is the conflict between objectivism, absolutism, pragmatism, and utilitarianism.

First things first, “Watchmen” is the best adaptation of a comic book into a film ever released.

This does not mean it is the “best comic book movie ever”; because I think that “Dark Knight”, “Iron Man”, and possibly “Spiderman 2″ were better as straight films. Watchmen is a better adaptation, and there is a big difference there.

Is it a good movie? Oh very much yes. However, it is a confusing, thickly layered, EXTREMELY violent, and disturbing film; with so much detail you need to see it multiple times to get it all.

On one level, it works as a straightforward action film. The fights and other action sequences are great; and the pacing and plotting work to keep everything moving and flowing.

Just as a “comic book film” it also works. The cinematography, production design, and costuming are amazing. For those of that persuasion, Malin Ackerman is unbelievably hot. For the other side, Billy Crudup is very, very naked for the entire film (and surprisingly good, in a VERY difficult roles). Jacky Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Patrick Wilson all gave spectacular performances as Rorschach, the Comedian, and Night owl respectively.

As a morality play and social satire it works as well. Importantly, it is not just a nearly 3 hour gigantic anti-American anti-conservative rant, as some web sites are claiming (the GN was somewhat more so, but not so much as most people seem to think. As I said above, it is essentially libertarian in nature).

It is an indictment of many things in modern western culture without a doubt (though more subtle in this than the graphic novel), but I don’t think you could call it anti-American.

It is however, very much, anti-superhero… or more specifically anti-superman (in the neitzcheian ubermensch sense) in particular. Who watches the watchmen indeed.

The whole story and concept behind Watchmen is a very strong indictment of the “perfect man” concept in political and social philosophy (which isn’t what it sounds like. If you aren’t familiar, there’s a lot of research you need to do to bring yourself up to speed).

At core, the political and philosophical underpinning of Watchmen, is an exhortation to individual integrity, morality, and sovereignty.

Which of course is why so many people don’t understand it; because for many, the entire notions of true individualism and liberty are alien.

So what didn’t work?

Nixon… in fact all of the politicians, captains of industry etc… portrayed in the film were nothing more than thinly drawn caricatures, used almost for comic relief. They should have had a creepy menace to them, but the makeup and performance choices Snyder made reduces them to parody.

I thought Matthew Goode was horrible as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias. His characterization was ridiculous, and wooden at the same time.

Malin Ackerman, though amazingly beautiful with great screen presence, has the emotive range of a turnip. I’ve noted this in her other roles, so you can’t blame the writing.

Also, given that same writing, Jacky Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Patrick Wilson gave great performances; so again, you can’t blame the writing.

Other than that, my criticisms are structural.

The fact is, there is only so much material you can pack into a movie. Even at a 2:45 runtime (yes, it really is that long. No, you don’t notice) this movie is busting at the seams, and still has to cut about 1/3 of the content of the graphic novel (1/2 if you count the “black freighter” material, which was made available as web videos, and will be released on DVD in two weeks).

I think they made the best choices possible given the constraints they were under. They chose to focus primarily on the main storyline, with reasonably well done fill-ins and exposition of the back story.

The thing that makes this just a good movie and not a great movie (and what in fact might have positioned it as an oscar contender, and I mean that quite seriously) is the missing or abbreviated backstory.

Without it, the characters of Sally and Laurie Juspeczyk/Jupiter i.e. the Silk Specter I and II; and that of Hollis Mason and Dan Dreiberg i.e. Nightowl I and II; are all somewhat thinly drawn.

Some things in the film appear to have very little or very thin motivation behind them. This is especially true of the actions of Ozymandias.

Silouhette, and the other watchmen, are essentially left out entirely; barely mentioned in passing. They were still minor characters in the GN, or more specifically subsidiary characters only slightly linked to the main plotline; but there was much more to them than in the film, and I think the film suffers a bit for it.

Also, the motivations of Dr. Manhattan, and the impact of the personal choices he makes are somewhat muddied or lost without that fuller backstory (and especially without a more fully fleshed Silk Specter).

I have to balance that criticism against the sheer effort of trying to fit it all in. To fully flesh out that background would take at least 5 hours.

As I understand it, the script as shot came in at over three and a half hours, and even with what they left in the script, they had to cut 45 minutes to make time (and to be sure of an R and not an NC-17). I do hope that with the Blu-Ray release, we get a full unrated extended cut.

Some fans of the GN are disappointed that the movie isn’t even darker, more violent, and more disturbing etc… Personally, I think they did an excellent job of capturing the atmosphere (excepting the characterization of Nixon… they missed the boat completely there); and they pulled no punches on the violence or sex.

Yes, there was even more violence, and more sex (and more sexual violence for that matter) in the GN; but it wasn’t necessary for that to be in the movie. Believe me, we got the point.

There is one VERY different twist to things from the GN that has hardcore purists pissed off; but in the end makes much more sense from a story, and dramatic perspective.

Overall, I’m going to give Watchmen a very strong recommendation. I think they made the most faithful possible adaptation of one of the greatest graphical novels of all time; and the result was a very good movie. My only reservation is that it could have been a great movie, but it would have required another hour of screen time.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

The RNC’s New RFP to Fix Their “Series of Tubes”

Here’s a copy of the RFP the Republican National Committee just released for a redesign of their website. It’s obvious to this political web developer that GOP leadership still has absolutely no clue about this newfangled thang called the Internets.

Dale Franks writes:

Surely this is all some sort of elaborate joke. Perhaps on Monday the RNC will tell us that they were just having us on. Then, once we’ve all had a good laugh, they’ll release the real RFP.

Because whatever this document is, it’s not an RFP. At best, this is some sort of marketing-related statement of intent. It’s nothing more than a series of barely-related bullet points that say:

  • We want a cool web site.
  • We want neat external applications to run on it.
  • Flash is fun.
  • We want it to be easy to use, ’cause we ain’t got us much of that compooter learnin’.
  • Make it pretty.
  • We have data. We’d like to use it.

This the new, high-tech-savvy GOP? This is the kind of in-depth attention to leveraging technology that the refurbished, Michel Steele RNC has planned?

Erik Erickson didn’t hold back words, either.

Friends, either the RNC has no freakin’ clue what the hell it is doing or else all the rumors about certain consultants having an inside track at RNC contracts is true.

Why? Because there is no way any competent person would put together an RFP like this. It’s crap. It is not legitimate. It is unprofessional. It is illusory.

Either they don’t know what they are doing, or they’ve already picked their consultant and are going through the motions. If it is the former, well, the RNC is screwed. If it is the latter, Michael Steele’s claims about bidding out work was B.S.

Whether the RNC hasn’t a clue about technical issues (as Franks suggests) or their motivations are indeed more sinister (as Erickson suggests), I’m sure the Democrats aren’t quaking in their boots at the moment.  Quaking with laughter, perhaps.

UPDATE: On a somewhat related note, ThinkProgress is reporting that RNC chairman Michael Steele has taken down his blog because he’s “been ‘getting ripped apart‘ by conservative commenters on his blog.”

“Never Waste A Good Crisis” – The Obama Administration’s Motto

In Europe yesterday Hillary Clinton made this rather interesting comment:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an audience Friday “never waste a good crisis,” and highlighted the opportunity of rebuilding economies in a greener, less energy-intensive way.

Highlighting Europe’s unease the day after Russia warned that gas flows via Ukraine might be halted, she also condemned the use of energy as a political lever.

Clinton told young Europeans at the European Parliament that global economic turmoil provided a fresh opening. “Never waste a good crisis … Don’t waste it when it can have a very positive impact on climate change and energy security,” she said.

And Clinton isn’t the only member of the Administration to use this phrase, Rahm Emanuel said much the same thing a few weeks after the 2008 Election:

Hearing Emanuel and Clinton use the same exact phrase like this leads one to wonder if this isn’t some kind of internal talking-point inside the Administration.

After all, when you take a look at the stimulus bill, Obama’s proposed budget, and the mortgage bailout plan it certainly looks like they’re putting it into practice. All three of them are chock-full of things that have very little to do with their supposed objective, and everything to do with every Democratic pet project that’s been on the table for a decade or more. To put it bluntly, it seems as if the Administration is using the current crisis as an excuse to expand the size, scope, and power of the state in ways that they would not be able to do if the economic crisis didn’t exist.

Not that I’d question their real motives, of course

Update: Now, President Obama himself has said he seeks “opportunity” in the current crisis.

H/T: Althouse

Cross-posted at Below The Beltway

Where Was the Republican Outrage Before Obama Was Elected?

First of all, I’d like to welcome all of the new Michelle Malkin and Instapundit readers to the site.  Now that you are here, I’d like to ask five quick questions (in all seriousness) of you.

  • Where was the Republican outrage about the burdensome spending created with the No Child Left Behind Act?
  • Why weren’t y’all as upset about the cost of Medicare Part D as you are about Obama’s socialistic health care schemes?
  • Please don’t respond that “at least Bush gave us tax cuts.” Is there any reason that no one seemed pissed off that Bush was the biggest taxer in the world?
  • On spending, as early as early 2004, even the GOP-friendly Heritage Foundation was upset about Bush/Republican domestic spending.  Where were Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the mouthpieces of the right at this time?
  • Since Republican politicians try to jockey for the position of who can sound the most like Ronald Reagan, why didn’t y’all listen to the person who wrote most of Reagan’s words?

To be clear, I think it is cool that it appears that libertarians have some newfound friends on the small-government team.  However, it’s fair to color us a bit skeptical, as we are still licking our Republican-inflicted wounds.  It may take a bit of time for us to recover from the political PTSD we are suffering after fighting Republicans for the last eight years over government spending issues.

A few honest answers may help the healing process, though.

Will Atlas Shrug? A Compilation of Blogosphere Commentary about “Going Galt”

dcprotestThere’s a new craze hitting the conservative tubes on the Internets these days: “Going Galt!” While it’s difficult to identify an exact date of reference or to provide any unique person with credit for the general meme, Michelle Malkin and Helen Smith certainly deserve honorable mention for recently popularizing the phrase.

This movement seems to have manifested itself in two distinct, but related, forms: those who say, more-or-less, that “I ain’t gonna produce more that 249,999 dollars and 99 cents of taxable income” as well as those more accustomed to singing “Amazing Grace”  than Twisted Sister taking to the streets across America chanting “we’re not gonna take it anymore.”

Here are some relevant (and hopefully balanced) quotes I’ve found on all sides of the aisle regarding this recent phenomenon.  Enjoy!

The Setting:

Stephen Moore laid it out fairly well at the Wall Street Journal: “The current economic strategy is right out of ‘Atlas Shrugged': The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That’s the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies — while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to “calm the markets,” another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as ‘Atlas’ grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate ‘windfalls.’

Every Knee Shall Bow provides a reasonable explanation of the phenomenon: “I’ve mentioned more than once that Atlas is shrugging. What this essentially means is that the producers in society are scaling back on their production purposely. People are scaling back their income in order to avoid paying higher taxes. They are at the same time avoiding spending to offset the difference. This is how producers nearly always respond to looters that come in and make productivity less worthwhile, either due to increased regulation or lower economic incentive. It’s a very predictable phenomena. Usually it’s not an organized response, just a natural response to circumstances.”

Who Is John Galt answers his own question: “Like many of Ayn Rand’s heroes, John Galt is a creative genius.  He is a man of uncommon reason, but he is also completely free of guilt.  John Galt is a free man who serves others only as it suits his own needs — he holds no misgivings about his ‘debt to society.’  Brilliant and uncompromising, he knows that it is society which in fact depends on him, and he proves it by stopping the creative flow that powers man’s very world.”

Jason Pye: “Atlas Shrugged is prophecy, no doubt about it. With the rise of economic populism and collectivism, the Individual will be castigated and harassed. As our incoming president tells us, ‘Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy.’ Private investment and pro-growth policies will be discouraged and any who who promotes capitalism will be demonized.”

Reason: “Forget a run on the banks, we might in danger of a run on Rand.”

Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights: “Sales of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ have almost tripled over the first seven weeks of this year compared with sales for the same period in 2008. This continues a strong trend after bookstore sales reached an all-time annual high in 2008 of about 200,000 copies sold.”

The Players:

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.): “People are starting to feel like we’re living through the scenario that happened in ‘Atlas Shrugged,’” said Campbell. “The achievers, the people who create all the things that benefit the rest of us, are going on strike. I’m seeing, at a small level, a kind of protest from the people who create jobs, the people who create wealth, who are pulling back from their ambitions because they see how they’ll be punished for them.”

Michelle Malkin at Real Clear Politics: “Enough. In a word, that is the message of disgusted taxpayers fed up with the confiscatory policies of both parties in Washington. George Bush pre-socialized the economy with billion-dollar bailouts of the financial and auto industries. Barack Obama is pouring billions more down those sinkholes. It isn’t just the camel’s back that’s broken. His neck and four legs have all snapped, too.”

Malkin on her own turf: “Tax hikes have consequences. Incentives matter. Only self-deluded wealth redistributors living in la-la-land believe otherwise.”

Reverse Vampyr: “I’ve never been one for protests. But I can’t just stand by and allow my country to be ‘rebuilt’ into a replica of Cuba or the Soviet Union.”

One half of Robert Stacy McCain’s brain: “Wolverines!”

Additional McCain on “Wolverines!”: “Friends don’t let friends peddle defeatist bullshit. You cannot organize opposition unless you first believe that opposition can be effective and meaningful. Telling conservatives that there is no point deploying an ambush on the road to serfdom? That’s defeatist bullshit. If Ho Chi Minh had thought that way, the French would still rule Indochina. Conservatives are now a guerrilla resistance. Harassing the enemy — staging raids and ambushes that prevent him from enjoying his conquest at leisure — is basic to guerrilla resistance. If we are doomed to destruction, as least let it be said that we died fighting. But those who never fight, never win.”

Cassy@Wizbang: “Last week, thousands of first-time protestors gathered in a grassroots effort to make a statement. And it’s time to go Galt. Are we working to make money for ourselves and our families, or are we working to fund the socialist dreams of an out-of-control, radical government?”

Some Have Hats: “But it’s making me nuts to watch the demonization of the people who have spent their lives working hard and following the rules, and since I only have first-hand knowledge of my own life, I am forced to use my own examples if I want to talk about it. But I can tell you that from what I know of the stories of other people in my former tax bracket, I am not different or special. Charities have existed since the country became a country, and they have always been funded by (apparently this needs to be said loudly) THE EVIL RICH PEOPLE.”

Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds: “Can you say ‘going John Galt?’ Upper-Income Taxpayers Look for Ways to Sidestep Obama Tax-Hike Plan. ‘A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told ABCNews.com that she plans to cut back on her business to get her annual income under the quarter million mark should the Obama tax plan be passed by Congress and become law. So far, Obama’s tax plan is being looked at skeptically by both Democrats and Republicans and therefore may not pass at all.'”

Reboot Congress: “…my theological reasons for going John Galt are a little different. First, I feel that socialism violates the ten commandments. And, second, I believe socialism damages charity.”

Helen AKA “Dr. Helen” Smith: “Are you ‘going John Galt’ and reducing your productivity by choice, or removing yourself from the economy all together, because of the Obama Administration’s economic and tax plans? If so, PJTV may want to interview you. Watch this video for details. If you are interested in being interviewed, send an Email to johngalt@pjtv.com.”

Donald Luskin via Dave Weigel:  “Luskin, who named his daughter Roark after the hero of Rand’s novel ‘The Fountainhead,’ sees basic economic concepts explained through the novelist’s work. ‘One of the reasons that the Laffer Curve works is because of the John Galt effect of creative people finding ways to cut back on their output if they know they’re going to be taxed, and demonized, for their success,’ he said. ‘We have these sort of villains, like John Thain at Merrill Lynch, who tried to pay himself a large bonus. But then in response to that we have [Sen.] Chris Dodd slipping into the stimulus a new rule that in punishing Thain punishes everybody, even the good guys.'”

Pursuing Holiness via Glenn Reynolds: “By going John Galt – reducing my income to the point that I no longer subsidize anyone else via government imposed wealth transfers – I hope to hasten the inevitable collapse.”

From ABC News: “A 63-year-old attorney based in Lafayette, La., who asked not to be named, told ABCNews.com that she plans to cut back on her business to get her annual income under the quarter million mark should the Obama tax plan be passed by Congress and become law. ‘We are going to try to figure out how to make our income $249,999.00,’ she said.”

The Skeptics:

Will Wilkinson may be too selfish to be selfish: “I can’t help but feel that threatening to withdraw from economic production, ala Atlas Shrugged’s John Galt, is a certain kind of libertarian-conservative’s version of progressives threatening to move to Canada. For my part, I can’t imagine what would make me want to stop working, and each new president makes me want to move to Canada.”

Doug Mataconis provides some healthy libertarian cynicism: “By the way, Atlas buffs, the point of Atlas Shrugged is not that you are John Galt. The point is that you are not John Galt. The point is that you are, at your best, Eddie Willers. You’re smart, hardworking, productive, and true. But you’re no creative genius and you take innovation — John Galt — for granted. You don’t even know who he is! And this eventually leaves you weeping on abandoned train tracks.”

The other half of Robert Stacy McCain’s brain: “Rand’s philosophical radicalism ultimately goes beyond a point I am willing to follow, but in her basic idea — the irreplaceable creative value of the entrepreneur, and the unworthiness of capitalism’s enemies — she hammers it home.”

My personal libertarian cynicism: “I fear that if the Republicans were to suddenly regain political power, all of the cries of ‘socialism’ would be buried under the rug as Republican defenders of big government race to outdo the Democrats with additional deficit spending.”

Megan AKA “Jane Galt” McArdle scribes: “I don’t think that we will see a mass exodus of productive people to secret hideouts.  I look to Atlas Shrugged more for conveniently totable beach reading than an economic blueprint.  What’s interesting to me, though, is how many details Rand did get right–like the markets in ‘unfreezing’ Ukrainian bank deposits, so similar to the frozen railroad bonds of Atlas Shrugged.  Or the cascading and unanticipated failures, with government officials racing to slap another fix on to fix the last failing solution.  If only the people in her novels had acted remotely like actual people, rather than comic book characters, I, too, would be rereading the thing now.”

Not PC: “Now pay attention: these people who are appropriated the symbol of John Galt are not, for the most part, Objectivists.  They simply understand the power of the John Galt character as symbol of their resistance.  As Robert Tracinscki explains excitedly, we’re seeing cultural change before our eyes in the visceral reaction to the tipping point of Barack’s Big Government, and the reaching for symbols in that struggle.”

Additional personal skepticism: “Why should voters believe Republicans are currently standing up for fiscal principles after taking an eight year vacation from them?”

QAndO: “I’d be more impressed if they fired a shot across the bow and coordinated a national day for cranking up their withholding allowances, just as high as they can.  They’re planning their next party on Tax Day, right?  One might think they’d be interested in ceasing to lend their earnings interest-free to the government.  They might take some satisfaction in doing something that actually shows up on the government’s ledger. I’d be convinced of their sincerity if they subsequently considered actually not paying their taxes next year if the government didn’t change its policies.  That would be civil disobedience, as opposed to loud-but-obedient.  But still, hold the tea. The ‘going Galt’ thing has been a bit better — at least it involves refusing to produce — but ‘John Galt’ is a rather radical standard, ladies and gentlemen.  Reducing your income so that you don’t pay the higher marginal taxes in the next bracket; partially shutting down businesses and taking more leisure time; retiring early.  These are nice, but it’s like ‘going Martin Luther King, Jr.’ without risking jail or invoking the Alamo without risking death.”

Michael Powell@UnitedLiberty: “There are far better advocates in literary history for government transparency and efficiency, sound money and freedom than Ayn Rand. Like other absolutist ideologies, Rand’s Objectivism preaches contempt for non-believers and an arrogance that comes with a lack of humility and a surplus of righteousness.”

Jerome Tucille via Dave Weigel: “This view of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ has its detractors. ‘Ayn Rand romanticized capitalists,’ said Jerome Tuccille, author of the libertarian history ‘It Usually Starts With Ayn Rand,’ in a Thursday interview. ‘She saw them as great heroes. She doesn’t deal with these corporatists like Thain who were pushing paper around and using regulations to feather their nests. Some of these bastards like Thain should be in jail. I mean, I want them carted out of their houses, doing the perp walk at 3 a.m.'”

The Observers:

Keith Burgess-Jackson: “Who knew that Ayn Rand was a revolutionary? But seriously, one great thing about being a college professor is that I am paid (largely) in leisure rather than money, and leisure isn’t taxed. I can’t imagine working hard to build a business, only to have a huge chunk of my earnings taken from me by the government and given to the lazy, the stupid, the improvident, and the irresponsible.”

Joseph Lawler at The American Spectator: “Then again, it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict that eventually government will go awry. In fact the ultimate riff on government came out roughly 1,957 years (give or take about 33 years) before Atlas Shrugged, when someone, probably a clever proto-Objectivist, quipped, ‘Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,’ as if to warn us that eventually the government is going to do what it wants to do, and the rest of us are better off worrying about more important things. No, if you are looking for the most complete forecast of today’s economic and political turmoil in 20th century literature you will have to look beyond Rand’s one-dimensional economic vignettes to a work of scope and sophistication: Douglas Adams’s all-encompassing masterpiece, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Doug Bandow@Cato@Liberty: “The president wants to increase taxes only on those earning above $250,000. Since most of us aren’t there — I keep waiting, but for some reason no one yet has offered me what I think I’m worth to express my opinions on current policy and events — who cares, right?”

TheRightRant: “How bad does it have to get before we throw up our hands and say, enough? We’ll see in 2010 if enough is enough. Oh, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read Atlas Shrugged. Or you can just look around, because you’re living it.”

Jeffrey Lord at The American Spectator: “The recent spontaneous eruption of impromptu ‘tea parties’ — demonstrations modeled after the Boston Tea Party of 1773 to protest against the Obama plan to socialize America — is the first sign that Gandhi-style rebellion against the government is in the American air.”

The Humorous:

Whiskey Fire: “The nationalization of Atlas Shrugged may strike Americans as foreign, even Swedish or something. However, the nation is already subsidizing the book’s dissemination. A banking company, BB&T Corp. of North Carolina, has given $30 million in grants in the last decade for various universities to teach the book. Most recently, in March, 2008, BB&T gave UT-Austin $2 million for a Chair in the Study of Objectivism. Then in October, BB&T took (wait for it) $3.1 billion in bailout money. It only seems fair for the nation to recoup some of its investment in future generations’ Rand-inspired economic havoc by nationalizing Atlas Shrugged now.”

Michelle Malkin: “Some tinfoil-hatted kooks are still pimping their conspiracy theories about the movement. The latest: Aha! Malkin once gave a speech to Americans for Prosperity and AFP organized the Denver anti-pork protest two weeks ago before Santelli went on his Tea Party rant last week, ergo it’s all a vast plot!!!!!!”

Wonkette: “Today at High Noon, the disciples of CNBC teevee ranter Rick Santelli held teabagging parties around the country. Apparently they did not pick up on the nonchalance in Santelli’s voice when he said, ‘we’re going to hold a… like a tea party or something because of this Obama, ha ha, weird.’ Well, the biggest of these parties was in Washington, by the White House, and like 20 people took cabs from CPAC to stand around in poop hats and complain about fiat currency for a few minutes while Michelle Malkin filmed them in various pornographic poses. Major thank yous to poop operatives ‘Jamie’ and ‘Ethan’ for sending most of the photos below, as well as to intrepid D.C. blog reporter Dave Weigel, some of whose photos we have stolen.”

The Opposition:

Steve Benen plays the race card: “Right, the character John Galt, the hero of the novel, is the wealthy, white, blond-haired guy who convinces corporate leaders to give up their jobs in order to spite society. As the story goes, these captains of industry were repressed by heavy-handed government, so they walked away and, when society crumbled, taught everyone a valuable lesson about making sure wealthy, white, blond-haired guys don’t feel unduly put upon.”

Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns and Money : “I’m sort of tempted to ask Professor Reynolds if this seems plausible to him. Does it seem plausible to him — a law professor who is probably paid around 200K a year by the great state of Tennessee to do whatever it is he does while performing what is technically his actual job — that he is ‘working’ five times “harder” (using Wingnuttia’s definition of ‘hard work’) than a guy roofing houses in San Antonio in July who makes 40K a year?  If you think about it for five seconds it’s actually totally implausible that the correlation between ‘hard work’ in this sense and increasing income is even mildly positive. To believe it is, you have to believe that highly paid high status professionals hate their work far more than working class people who are doing dangerous, physically taxing, and/or extremely boring work for low pay.”

Nancy Nall: This is why I chuckle at the current craze among our friends on the right, which they call ‘going John Galt,’ a shout-out to one of the worst-written novels in the English language. The idea is to protest the current legislative proposals by voluntarily reducing their work output. Withdrawing from the workforce. Some call it ‘depriving the world of my talents,’ which is particularly amusing, as it’s usually the most untalented who are calling it that. I encourage them to do so, even in this dicey labor market, nay, especially in this dicey labor market. A lot of talented people are on the park bench, and would be happy to take your place. Your bluff is called. Go John Galt.”

The title is the story in this Brad Delong posting: “Memo to Conservative Wingnuts: John Galt Is Not a Christian”

Eschaton: “Righteous Bubba informs us that there are ‘SEVENTEEN videos dramatizing the Galt speech’ from Atlas Shrugs on You Tube. ‘It’s a long speech, so who the fuck knows how many videos are yet to be realized.’ Indeed.  The punchline: ‘Views for part one? 72140 as of this writing. 361 for part 17.’ Perhaps there is a lesson here.”

TBogg: “Approximately 2% of the American households make more than $250,000 a year and (you may find this hard to believe) a very high percentage of these high-earning go-getting producers spend their days commenting over at Michelle Malkin’s place… when they’re not busy flying their Lear jets up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.”

Additional TBogg: “Atlas will be dragging ass…”

James Pearce: “Why work for the government? Because they’re hiring…”

Photo credit: Dave Weigel

UPDATE: Via memorandum.com, here are some new lefty quotes:

Hunter@DailyKos: “Go live your Randian fantasies, go create that wonderful utopia in which only the most wealthy are permitted entry, and you are not burdened with the outrageous insult of having to contribute back a proportionate share of your income in order to help maintain the very fabric of the nation around you. I can see now that the thought that you might have to pay the same share of your income in taxes that your housekeeper does has drained your already blanched faces, and the thought of having to pay as much in taxes as your wretched mothers and fathers did, a few decades before you, is nothing less than an armed assault on your beachheads.”

Matthew Yglesias
(who is cool to drink with and has an open mind): “Just think what kind of nightmare scenario we might be inflicted with if the titans of finance who’ve made up such a large proportion of high earners in recent years were to pull back on their efforts! I shudder. Meanwhile, I haven’t actually read the book but my understanding is that in Atlas Shrugged they’re actually building a high-speed rail link from Las Vegas to Disneyland.”

UPDATE II: For those of you coming in from the right, I’ve got five very earnest questions for you. Also, you might wish to check out the Instacomment from Instapundit.

UPDATE III (by Brad Warbiany): This post suggests quite a bit about what we all think of “Going Galt”. But I’ve got a potential solution. Taking the suggestion from Bryan @ QandO, I say it’s time to cut your withholding as much as you can. Do it by April 15th. Show the bastards that you’re not going to let them have that money until the last possible moment.

The Hubris of the National Tactical Officers Association

In my report following the live chat @ The Agitator with Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo last week, I made mention of some very modest reforms he was pushing in Maryland. The bill would require all police departments with SWAT teams to provide monthly reports to the state’s Attorney General, local officials and the general public.

Who would have a problem with just a little public oversight over law enforcement? Apparently, the National Tactical Officers Association’s executive director John Gnagey does:

[John Gnagey] says reporting requirements for SWAT teams should emanate from the law enforcement community, not legislators.

“Our data shows that when SWAT teams are deployed, the violence goes down,” said John Gnagey, who was a SWAT team member for 26 years in the Champaign, Ill., police department.

One question for Mr. Gnagey: That slogan that you have on your squad car that says “to serve and protect,” who exactly are you trying to serve and protect? Based on the tone from the article, it appears that you are only interested in serving and protecting law enforcement. Silly me, I was under the impression that the purpose of law enforcement was to serve and protect the general public! If you have some data that shows SWAT deployments bring the level of violence down, why are you so afraid of putting this data to the test?

The hubris of Mr. Gnagey illustrates exactly why more oversight of law enforcement is necessary. The article also points out that nationally the number of SWAT deployments rose from 2,500 annually in the 1980’s to between 50,000 and 60,000 in 2005; the War on (Some) Drugs is largely responsible for this dramatic increase. Not everyone agrees that these SWAT deployments have reduced violence.

Mayor Cheye Calvo was also interviewed in the article:

“It’s pretty clear to me that police are using SWAT teams for duties that used to be performed by ordinary police officers,” says Calvo, whose Berwyn Heights house was raided July 29 when police mistakenly thought his wife was involved in drug trafficking. “No question, there are times when SWAT teams are appropriate. What strikes me about this is that police are using SWAT teams as an initial response rather than a last resort.”

What we need is more transparency and it’s never going to happen if we depend on those who have something to hide to change the reporting requirements.

Quote Of The Day

John Allison, Chairman of the Board of BB&T on Bill Bennet’s radio show yesterday:

“Very little focus I think has been put on the fact that this whole problem has really been caused by government policy. Mistakes made by the Federal Reserve which by the way owns the financial system. You can’t have a problem with the financial system without it being the Fed’s fault. It’s a definitional issue. And government housing policy and particularly Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. They would never have existed in a free market. When they went down, they had 5 trillion dollars. They were the primary cause of the problem we have in the housing market that led to the problems in the economy.”

Stimulate Economy By Rethinking Kid Toy Law

Oh, the unintended consequences keep coming in:

Larry Neill has $118,000 worth of small motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles sitting on his lot in Missouri’s capital city. He’ll be fined if he sells any of them.

Neill, who owns Larry’s Motor Sports in Jefferson City, cannot sell or repair the bikes because of a new federal law that bans lead from all toys intended for children younger than 12, including small motorcycles and ATVs.

“These little products are the gateway to our business,” Neill said. “When some bureaucrat in Washington decides we can’t even sell these products, it’s just pretty unfair.”

Neill isn’t alone. A national motorcycle trade group says dealers across the country cannot sell roughly $100 million worth of the child-sized bikes. Including parts, service, accessories and personnel, the market could lose nearly $1 billion annually, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council.

But… But — it’s for the children!

This was covered prior to the law taking effect, with dire warnings by toymakers and others that it would dramatically impact business. It was claimed that the law was too broad, and that it would have impacts far in excess of reasonable safety restrictions. The detractors were ignored, and now we see their claims come true.

I’m stuck reminding people, again, that laws have consequences. Not consequences in the macro sense, but real consequences to real lives. It doesn’t matter whether those consequences are intended; they still occur.

PS – This marks The Liberty Papers’ 3,000th post!

Going John Galt?

All of a sudden, Republicans are “going Galt.”  To some degree, this is a good thing and about damned time.  My friend Robert Stacy McCain (who went Galt some time ago and never looked back) describes the phenomon like this:

Michelle Malkin has begun hammering the “Going Galt” theme, and it’s the subject of a long post by Melissa Clouthier today, and Donald Douglas also weighs in. I believe Dr. Helen may have been the first to raise the issue, so I’ll link her to be on the safe side.

I’ve heard talk radio host after talk radio host lambasting Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama for the recent stimulus packages.  I don’t recall them lambasting former president Bush for his spending increases with such fervor (if any fervor at all), nor was there more than token resistance to McCain’s proposals to increase the cost of government.  Hell, McCain and Sarah Palin took ink to paper over at the Wall Street Journal to promote the bailout of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Republicans (Ron Paul supporters notwithstanding) have an enormous credibility problem, not just with libertarians, but with more typical voters as well. Before the election, I wrote that the “only remaining claim for McCain defenders is that ‘John McCain may be a socialist, but at least he’s our socialist.'”

In my own state, Senator Shelby speaks out against bailouts while he’s got pork grease dripping down his chin.  To be sure, he’s the second best pork king in the Senate.

I fear that if the Republicans were to suddenly regain political power, all of the cries of “socialism” would be buried under the rug as Republican defenders of big government race to outdo the Democrats with additional deficit spending.

Health Care Rationing Isn’t Fun, But It’s Unavoidable

Sad stories abound in the world of health care, because health care has a few peculiar features. First, when you get it wrong, people die. Heck, sometimes if you get it right, people die. Second, it’s terribly expensive. This is actually a good thing, in a way. The cost of advanced western health care is a function of its capability. Each level of “hard new problem” usually requires a lot of time, energy, and research to solve, and that cost must be recouped in some manner. But the expense is such that for difficult problems, it’s extremely unlikely that any normal person could afford his or her own care out of pocket.

When you take a highly emotionally charged issue, which happens to be so expensive that it is unaffordable on a self-financed basis, you’re going to get problems. When you can’t afford to pay for calamity, you try to find a way to risk-pool with others to distribute the cost. But when the calamity is too expensive even for the group you’re risk-pooling with, the sad answer is rationing. And when it’s your insurance company telling you that they’re not going to pay for your care — and you’re going to die — you feel betrayed.

That’s what people are faced with, relayed by Karen Tumulty for Time:

Every story is different, but the contours of the problem tend to be depressingly similar: the 10-year-old leukemia patient in Ohio who, after three rounds of chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant, had almost exhausted the maximum $1.5 million lifetime benefit allowed under her father’s employer-provided plan; the Connecticut grocery-store worker who put off the radiation treatments for her Stage 2 breast cancer because she had used up her company plan’s $20,000 annual maximum and was $18,000 in debt; the New Hampshire accountant who, unable to work during his treatment for Stage 3B stomach cancer, had to stop paying his mortgage to afford a $1,120 monthly premium for coverage with the state’s high-risk insurance pool.

What makes these cases terrifying, in addition to heartbreaking, is that they reveal the hard truth about this country’s health-care system: just about anyone could be one bad diagnosis away from financial ruin.

That’s a soft way to put it. In fact, you’re one bad diagnosis away from death. Of course, you’re one wrong step off a curb away from death, too, but I’m not here to trivialize this. These are life-or-death issues, and when your insurance company stops paying for something, it’s common to blame the insurance company for your death instead of the disease which is killing you.

Ezra Klein, writing in response to the same piece, talks about the fact that this is the emotional wedge that will push through the vaunted “health reform” he desires:

But the final outcome of health reform will be less about Beltway moments like today’s event and more about the pressure applied by stories like the one Karen Tumulty tells on this week’s cover of Time magazine.

Karen — a bone fide health care wonk — writes of the trouble she’s had navigating the insurance market with her brother, who was recently diagnosed with kidney failure. And the trouble is not because he didn’t have health coverage and it’s not because Karen doesn’t know how to speak to an insurance representative or read the policy details. The trouble, in other words, is not for the 15 percent of Americans who are uninsured. It’s for the 85 percent who have health care coverage.

The promise, of course, will be that you won’t have those cold-hearted insurance men with their uncaring actuarial tables and desire for profit making your rationing decisions. What is left unsaid is that the rationing decisions will still occur. (H/T QandO)

The Government’s rationing body said two drugs for advanced breast cancer and a rare form of stomach cancer were too expensive for the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is expected to confirm guidance in the next few weeks that will effectively ban their use.

The move comes despite a pledge by Nice to be more flexible in giving life-extending drugs to terminally-ill cancer patients after a public outcry last year over ‘death sentence’ decisions. Leading campaigners last night said Nice had failed the ‘acid test’ of whether it really intended to give new priority to people with just a few months to live.

One drug, Lapatinib, can halve the speed of growth of breast cancer in one in five women with an aggressive form of the disease.

Dr Gillian Leng, Nice deputy chief executive, said ‘The committee concluded that Lapatinib is not a cost-effective use of NHS resources when compared with current treatment.’

Rationing is painful. Rationing sucks. When you buy insurance, or it’s given to everyone by the government, the assumption is that everything possible will be done to save your life — but it just isn’t true. You may believe that a few more months of your life is worth $100,000, or $500,000, or $500,000,000. But you’re not paying for it. The question isn’t “what is a few months of life worth?” The question is: “Who decides?”

I sincerely hope that nobody reading this is ever in the situation where a life-or-death medical decision is being made by someone thousands of miles away. But if it has to occur, do you really trust the government to make that decision? At least with private insurance, you have a choice between competing insurers based on who you think will make the decision in your best interest, and you can balance the cost of the insurance with the maximum payouts they’ll support. If we get single-payer, you get one-size-fits-all, even if it doesn’t fit you.

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