SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, Hugo and Emmy Awards; Tony Soprano’s Fate; Next Season on Arrow and Fargo; Finales of Falling Skies, True Blood, Defiance, and The Last Ship; Karen Gillan’s Hair; Rebooting Fox Genre Shows; Libby Masters vs. Betty Draper; American Gods; Jennifer Lawrence, and much more


Peter Capaldi’s second episode of Doctor Who was much better than the first. Into the Dalek was literally about going into a Dalek, Fantastic Voyage style. Once the reference was made, and we saw antibodies within the Dalek (for an unclear reason), I was surprised that Steven Moffat didn’t take the opportunity to recreate the attack of antibodies on Rachel Welch’s body with Jenna Coleman. Despite the Doctor’s strange criticism of Clara’s body at one  point in the episode, Clara did serve an important role as the Doctor’s moral compass, which was disrupted by the shock of seeing a good Dalek. The episode also served as the introduction of the next companion, and romantic interest for Clara, Danny Pink. There is no doubt that Clara and Danny will overcome the Doctor’s newfound objection to having a soldier join him, which certainly contradicts all the time he spent with UNIT.

While I knew the phrase was coming from advanced review, I was surprised by the context in which Resistance is Futile was used by the Dalek. There are certainly many comparisons to be made to the Borg, and I think Doctor Who did a better job than Star Trek The Next Generation with an episode about a good Dalek or Borg. Into the Dalek was a strong stand-alone episode, and now there is no doubt that Missy and “Heaven” will be a recurring storyline for the season. This time, instead of the person who the Doctor was fighting (and possibly pushed to his death), it was someone fighting with the Doctor who was seen in “Heaven.” My suspicion is that this will turn out to be something such as Missy saving people just before imminent death who are in the vicinity of the Doctor as opposed to actual “Heaven,” but even if I am right on this a lot of questions remain.

Doctor Who Extra (video above) gives behind the scenes information on the filming of Into The Dalek.

There have been two major sets of awards in the past couple of weeks, the Hugo Awards and the Emmy Awards. Doctor Who had five nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) but an episode of Game of Thrones won the award:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form

  • Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Doctor Who: “The Day of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Nick Hurran (BBC Television)
  • Orphan Black: “Variations under Domestication” written by Will Pascoe, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions; Space/BBC America)
  • An Adventure in Space and Time, written by Mark Gatiss, directed by Terry McDonough (BBC Television)
  • The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, written & directed by Peter Davison (BBC Television)
  • Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor”, written by Steven Moffat, directed by Saul Metzstein (BBC Televison)

Gravity won for long form among these nominees:

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

  • Gravity, written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films; Warner Bros.)
  • Frozen,screenplay by Jennifer Lee, directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee (Walt Disney Studios)
  • Pacific Rim, screenplay by Travis Beacham & Guillermo del Toro, directed by Guillermo del Toro (Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros., Disney Double Dare You)
  • Iron Man 3, screenplay by Drew Pearce & Shane Black, directed by Shane Black (Marvel Studios; DMG Entertainment; Paramount Pictures)
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Michael Arndt, directed by Francis Lawrence (Color Force; Lionsgate)

The full list of nominees can be found here, with the winners listed here.

While the Emmy Awards generally goes with the safe bet, such as repeatedly giving the award for best comedy to Modern Family, there is at least some realization that genre is ignored. While Tatiana Maslany was snubbed for a second year for her work on Orphan Black, the snub was at least acknowledged in a skit. They finally discovered Sherlock, even if it meant awarding Emmys for the weakest of its three seasons. It was a pleasant surprise to see Steven Moffat up on stage, and he also provided some vague hints about season four in post-award interviews:

Sherlock was a big winner at the 66th Primetime Emmys, taking home three awards (to go with the four the show earned at last week’s Creative Arts ceremony), including trophies for stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

In celebrating his win for writing for a miniseries/movie or dramatic special, executive producer Steven Moffat dropped some hints backstage about the British drama’s anticipated fourth season, which begins production in January 2015 — the same time Doctor Who will also start filming.

Moffat was confident that the new season would be even more gasp-inducing than the previous year, which ended with an unexpected resurrection of a character presumed dead.

“We have a plan to top it — and actually I do think our plan is devastating,” he teased. “We practically reduced our cast to tears by telling them the plan. Honestly, Mark [Gatiss] and myself are so excited with what we’ve got coming up, probably more excited than we’ve ever been about Sherlock. … Honestly I think we can [top the last season].”

Moffat spoke of the surge of Emmy recognition the show has received in its third year.

“We’ve won outside of America, which is a place,” Moffat deadpanned. “We were just starting to think that that phase of our lives was dying down because as shows get older they don’t win as often — just like people. We’re delighted that we’ve made it here and hopefully this gets more people watching. That’d be great.”

He remained mum on when the new episodes would be premiering. “When they go out is up to the BBC,” he said. “And I am their loyal servant. I simply do what they ask me.”

Moffat reassured that the creative team behind the show will continue returning to Sherlock, no matter how busy they may be with other projects. “What’s happening with Sherlock is unusual,” he admitted. “We will keep coming back to it.”


I am thankful to Vox for finally settling in my mind how The Sopranos ended, even if they totally botched the story. When the finale first aired, after I realized that my cable hadn’t gone out, I interpreted it as an intentionally ambiguous ending. Sure, going to black could be what happens to Tony if shot, but I didn’t accept this interpretation as the scene was not from Tony’s perspective. The scene concentrated on many things Tony did not see, from the actions of others in in the coffee shop to Meadow attempting to park the car outside. If I wanted to think that they finished the meal and then Tony showed Meadow how to parallel park, this interpretation was as valid as any other. I saw the real meaning as that Tony would always face threats to his life. One of the people in the coffee shop might have shot him, or he could have been suddenly killed at some other time in the future. There was even a chance he could remain alive despite all the threats.

I was satisfied with this interpretation until I heard a report that David Chase had said that there was a definitive meaning to the finale. Perhaps, as happened again this week, the person reporting put too much meaning into what he said during an interview. However, if there was an answer to the question as to whether Tony Soprano lived in the ending, then I could only see this as meaning I was wrong. If limited to Tony living or dying, I thought it would be easier to making an argument that the ending meant that Tony had died.

Then Vox had an interview with David Chase last week in which it reported that Chase said that Tony had lived. I actually found this to be very unsatisfying as it lacked any further explanation. Soon afterwards, David Chase issued a statement that what he said in the interview was misconstrued:

A statement issued by Mr. Chase’s publicist, Leslee Dart, said that the writer “misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview.”

“To simply quote David as saying, ‘Tony Soprano is not dead,’ is inaccurate,” the statement continued. “There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true.”

The statement added that Mr. Chase had said “numerous times on the record” that answering the question of whether “Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.”

“To continue to search for this answer is fruitless,” the statement said. “The final scene of ‘The Sopranos’ raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.”

This leaves me comfortable in returning to my original interpretation, more confident than in the past that I’m just not in denial over a scene intended to show Tony Soprano as getting killed.

The new promo for season three of Arrow above will make Oliver/Felicity fans happy. A digital comic will fill the gap between the second and third seasons.

Fargo season two will concentrate on strong women characters.

Falling Skies showrunner David Eick answered questions on the season four finale.

The series finale of True Blood really isn’t worth talking about. It is a shame that they couldn’t put together something more meaningful to end the series with.

The writers on Defiance did try harder. They used a formula which often works in combining elements of a season-long story in each individual stand-alone stories. Unfortunately it didn’t work very well. It just didn’t work for me to have an alien girl being used by a supercomputer intelligence to destroy New York City and the rest of the planet, and then end the crisis by having her kiss a boy who was a minor character during the season. When the show runners previously talked about expanding the show to New York and space I expected something more sensible, and more than a quick scene at the end of the season.

I was more impressed with The Last Ship. While not an A-list, must-see show, they did a good job of keeping the show entertaining. When I heard that they had renewed the show for a second season, my immediate impression was that this would mean they would not find a cure no matter how many episodes gave them a lead. I am glad I was wrong on that. If the first few episodes reminded me of Battlestar Galactica at sea, the return home to a country destroyed by plague now makes me see the show more like Revolution or Jericho (hopefully doing a better job than Revolution). So far there is nothing ground breaking. Who didn’t see the remnants of the Unites States government as being the enemy and realize they were walking into a trap? Still the show does provide solid entertainment.

Last week’s episode made my happy I stuck with The Leftovers. The episode was a flashback which explained key points, such as why a family which did not appear to have lost anyone was affected so much by the rapture-like event.

Karen Gillan filmed the shaving of her hair for Guardians of the Galaxy (video above)

Joe and Anthony Russo will be directing the sixth season premiere of Community. The Russo brothers are also working on Captain America and say the third movie will be more like Winter Soldier than the first installment (which is a good thing).

What Culture gives five reasons Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For was a huge flop.

The video above provides a synopsis of last season of Person of Interest.

I’m not sure why, but Fox plans to reboot The Greatest American Hero. Amazon plans to return Patrick Warburton as The Tick. Fox provides plenty of material for anyone who desires to bring back a genre show canceled on the network. How about Firefly? I also wouldn’t mind seeing what happened after the cliff hanger on the final episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Scribbler includes several genre actresses including Katie Cassidy of Arrow. Trailer above (NSFW–contains nudity)

…it’s a comic book adaptation that stars Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Eliza Dushku, Gina Gershon, Sasha Grey, Garret Dillahunt, Michael Imperioli and Billy Campbell, which is to say director John Suits has compiled an ensemble filled of “been there, done that” names, but they are recognizable names at least.

The film follows Suki (Cassidy), a young woman confronting her destructive mental illness using “The Siamese Burn,” an experimental machine designed to eliminate multiple personalities. The closer Suki comes to being “cured,” she’s haunted by a thought… what if the last unwanted identity turns out to be her?

Speaking of nudity by genre actresses, there has been more interest this week in the nude picture I posted of Jennifer Lawrence last year. That was a picture of her in her role as Mystique which was used as a publicity photo, and distribution of that is far different from hacking her phone or iCloud account, among with pictures of several other actresses, to obtain nude pictures which were privately stored with expectations that they remain private. As Jennifer Lawrence’s spokesperson said, “This is a flagrant violation of privacy.”

Bryan Fuller has ambitious plans for his adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Syfy has not renewed the Wil Wheaton Project. No big loss.

Assignment X has an interview with Caitlin FitzGerald, who plays Libby Masters on Masters of Sex. I’ve always been impressed with FitzGerald, who has done a lot of work in indy films. In her role as a late 50’s housewife she faces many of the same problems as Betty Draper on Mad Men. I wonder how much better Betty Draper’s role could have been if cast with someone with FitzGerald’s talent as opposed to January Jones. On the other hand, perhaps a less talented but more beautiful model is exactly who Don Draper would have married.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand provides a model for how the world should be for many libertarians. Wendy McElroy, who has strong libertarian credentials, found that the real world attempt at making Galt’s Gulch hasn’t worked out very well.

Paul Ryan’s Unexplainable Tax Math

Republican economic plans are primarily about cutting taxes for the ultra-wealthy and coming up with arguments to con the gullible into believing that this is good for the economy. This does not mean that they are willing to cut spending for their pet projects. While they might claim that the tax cuts will bring in more revenue, this does not work when taxes are relatively low as they are now, leaving the middle class to pay for Republican fiscal irresponsibility. Paul Ryan was asked how his tax plan would add up, buts said he didn’t have the time to answer:

… it would take me too long to go through all of the math, but let me say it this way. You can lower tax rates by 20 percent across the board by closing loopholes and still have preferences for the middle class for things like charitable deductions, for home purchases, for health care.

Catherine Rampell explained why there was not enough time, beginning with:

There’s a reason why it would take too long — infinitely long, you could say — to go through the math that holds this policy proposal together: because math will never hold this particular policy proposal together.

Perhaps Ryan thinks he needs time as long as John Galt’s speech to explain this. Like this portion of Atlas Shrugged, his explanation would be fiction.

Today Bloomberg News asked Ryan about his tax plan, offering him all the time he needed to explain it. Ryan still couldn’t explain it. The math just does not add up.

SciFi Weekend: Fringe & Other TV Shows; Scientology; Lisbeth Salander As Libertarian & Leftist Heroine; The Ultimate “Leftist” Novel

This week’s episode of Fringe appeared to be a stand-alone story until late in the episode. I was surprised to find that it tied into the ongoing mythology of the show by having the results of Alan Ruck’s experiments, which never should have worked, become successful in making people lighter than air due to the laws of physics breaking down as a result of the rift between the universes.

The story also featured Walter obsessing about bringing William Bell back to live, along with getting high with Jorge Garcia of Lost, at Massive Dynamic. There was a lot of Peter and Olivia. Somehow seeing our Olivia smiling this much just didn’t look right. It looked more natural in Fauxlivia. The episode ended with another surprise as Anna Torv now has a  third charter to play–William Bell possessing the poor Olivia’s body. One can just imagine what that would do should Peter get Olivia into bed again. There’s no doubt that this will lead to the return of William Bell’s physical body with Leonard Nimoy confirming on Twitter that he has already come out of retirement.

BBC America has announced that the upcoming season of Doctor Who will premier April 23 at 9:00 p.m. There’s no official date from the BBC, but there are rumors that they are also airing the first episode on April 23 and the second of the two-parter on April 24. If true, hopefully BBC America will also air both parts the first week and not fall a week behind.

Among last week’s television shows, V appears to be ending the season with more enjoyable shows, despite the numerous plot holes which persist. The Event returned, but it remains questionable as to how long they can drag out this storyline. The Cape’s final unaired episode has been  posted on line. Terra Nova, a Steven Spielberg produced show about people escaping to the prehistoric past, has been moved back from May until next fall.

Michael Crowley has an article at Slate noting L. Ron Hubbard’s 100th birthday, noting “how truly strange Scientology is.” If we were going to have a science fiction writer devise a religion which has as many followers as Scientology, why couldn’t it be one more along the lines of the freer religions devised in novels by Robert A. Heinlein?

Benjamin Kerstein at Pajamas Media questions how a leftist such as Stieg Larsson managed “to create a libertarian parable for the ages” with Lisbeth Salander in his Millennium Trilogy:

Lisbeth Salander explodes like a grenade tossed into an ammunition dump. Ferociously individualist, incorruptible, disdainful, and suspicious of all forms of social organization, and dedicated to her own personal moral code, Salander often seems to have stepped into Larsson’s world from out of an Ayn Rand novel. She despises all institutions, whether they are business corporations, government agencies, or the Stockholm police. Rejecting all forms of ideology, she is dedicated only to her own individual sense of justice. Relentlessly cerebral, she trusts only what she can ascertain with her own mind and her own formidable talents. She considers Blomquist a naïve fool because of his belief that social conditions cause people to commit the horrible crimes he investigates. At one point, as Blomquist ponders the motivations of a brutal serial killer, Salander erupts, “He’s just a pig who hates women!” Salander believes there are no excuses, everyone is responsible for their own actions, including herself, and must answer for them accordingly.

In short, Salander is as close to an avenging angel libertarianism is ever likely to get, and her presence in the novels throws the books’ politics into a bizarre contradiction. Far from the left-wing bromide in favor of democratic socialism it appears to be, the Millennium trilogy, as Ian MacDougall has pointed out in the leftist journal n+1, often appears on second glance like a calculated and relentless evisceration of the Swedish welfare state. Indeed, not only is Salander a walking rebuke to the myths of Scandinavian socialism, but she  is usually portrayed by Larsson as being absolutely correct in her attitude toward it. “In this Sweden,” MacDougall writes:

The country’s well-polished façade belies a broken apparatus of government whose rusty flywheels are little more than the playthings of crooks. The doctors are crooked. The bureaucrats are crooked. The newspapermen are crooked. The industrialists and businessmen, laid bare by merciless transparency laws, are nevertheless crooked. The police and the prosecutors are crooked.

In Larsson’s world, it is only the individual — usually Salander — with their own personal sense of right and wrong and the courage to act on it, who can save the day.

It is, perhaps, telling that millions of readers around the world, whatever their political orientation, have become fans of the Millennium series and especially of Lisbeth Salander. Indeed, it appears that Steig Larsson, though he himself might have been horrified at the prospect, gave birth to one of the great literary ironies of our time: for reasons that will likely forever remain unknown, a Scandinavian leftist managed to create a libertarian parable for the ages.

I find this far less ironic than Kerstein, who sees far too much of the right wing stereotype of the left as opposed to the actual views of those on the left. The left actually contains people of a variety of view points, and many do not support the big-government stereotype which the right commonly uses. Many on us on the left are far closer to individualist anarchists at heart, opposing the right wing as the actual supporters of big government and authoritarianism.

While I don’t know terribly much about Stieg Larsson, from what I have read about him, Larsson’s “leftism” appeared to have concentrated on opposing the authoritarian threat from the far right. As sometimes happens, Larsson also appears to have bee to quick to see his enemy’s enemies as his friends, which has led to far too many people on the left to become overly sympathetic to aspects to the left which are better off avoided.

To see Lisbeth Salander as supporting libertarianism is overly simplistic (analogous to how libertarianism itself is an overly simplistic view of the world). Salander appeals to both libertarians and to those on the left who I referred to above as are far closer to individualist anarchists at heart. Such people on the left are attracted to such anarchism and disrespect for authority but also see the limitations to such a philosophy in the real world which libertarians do not.

Larrson both made Salander an appealing character on one level while also showing as the trilogy progressed how her attitudes were shaped by her troubled youth. Salander’s world view is appealing to part of us, but most people have grown up to understand the limitations in such a world view. Libertarians, along with Lisbeth Salander, have ideas and attitudes we can respect, but ultimately both libertarians and Salander are flawed people who have not grown up to understand the real world.

At Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen was asked to name the ultimate left wing novel. His answer is quite different from mine, showing the differences in views and emphasis on the left which I noted above. Cowen’s answer:

What jumps to mind is Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, but if you read the request carefully it does not qualify.  Here is a list of thirty famous left-wing novels, heavy on the mid- to late nineteenth century.  There is Bronte, Dickens, Hugo, Sinclair, Zola, Gorky, Jack London, and Edward Bellamy.  None of these books is as analytically or philosophically comprehensive as the novels of Ayn Rand.

I would say that the story per se is usually left-wing, in both good and bad ways.  It elevates the seen over the unseen, can easily portray a struggle for justice, focuses on the anecdote, and encourages us to judge social institutions by the intentions of the people who work in them, rather than looking at their deeper and longer-term outcomes.  Precisely because the story is itself so left-wing, there won’t be a definitive example of the left-wing novel.  Story-telling encourages context-dependent thinking, although not necessarily in an accurate manner.  One notable feature of Atlas Shrugged is how frequently the story-telling stops for a long speech or an extended dialogue, in order to explain some first principles to the reader.

Grapes of Wrath was an excellent work, and is one which I might expect from the branch of the left more concerned with economics. With my concerns more centered around opposing right wing encroachments on civil liberties, my answer would be quite different. Three books immediately came to mind, with only one book making the list in the link above–It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.

The other two which I immediately thought of were both by George Orwell: 1984 and Animal Farm. I’d pick 1984 as the answer to the question of picking the one ultimate book. Besides the messages of the book it remains even better known than Atlas Shrugged, and also stopped the story-telling for extended periods to make political points.

1984, while always an excellent choice for its opposition to totalitarianism, is even more significant today in light of the Orwellian distortions commonly used by the right wing. “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” One might almost think that Orwell was aware of the current American right wing in writing this.

To the  right wing freedom often means the “freedom” to impose their views upon others. Their support for the perpetual warfare state has clear parallels to Orwell’s work. Most disturbing of all is the manner in which the right wing supports Sarah Palin/Tea Party style ignorance as it opposes science, reason, and factual sources of information which do not follow the distortions they spread.

Books for Teens (of all ages)

From Kung Fu Monkey:

There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

This makes a good point which is pertinent considering all the recent nonsense on the blogosphere about going Galt because the top tax rate might go up three points.

It often does seem that Atlas Shrugged is either followed religiously by fanatics or attacked as not having any value. Neither is correct. Atlas Shrugged is well worth reading, although I would recommend starting with Rand’s earlier books and work up to Atlas Shrugged (and be prepared for extensive discussions of political philosophy accompanying coitus).

Rand’s work must be read with understanding of her life, and seen as a reaction to the horrors she saw in the Soviet Union. While often extreme, Rand’s work was of value in providing a moral argument for the free market system in an era when there actually were many claiming a moral superiority of socialism.

Rand’s work provides both positive and negative lessons. Her personal life provides an explanation for her extreme devotion to capitalism over collectivism, as well as her devotion to individualism. Her later years show a bizarre contradiction between her support for freedom and opposition to religion while established what was essentially an authoritarian cult of personality around herself. Her most extreme followers similarly show the contradictory situation of people who claim to be individualists surrendering their ability to think independently.

Conservatives Should Think Again Before Following John Galt

Conservatives and libertarians who think that a few point increase in the marginal tax rate is reason to drop out of society as in Atlas Shrugged seem to be out of touch with reality. Many of them also have little understanding of Ayn Rand’s views and fail to realize how low an opinion Rand would have of them. Democratic Strategist presents some quotations from Rand which conservatives might not want to read:

Capitalism is what the “conservatives” dare not advocate or defend. They are paralyzed by the profound conflict between capitalism and the moral code which dominates our culture: the morality of altruism . . . Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society.

–Conservatism: An Obituary” from Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

I consider National Review the worst and most dangerous magazine in America…[b]ecause it ties capitalism to religion. The ideological position of National Review amounts, in effect, to the following: In order to accept freedom and capitalism, one has to believe in God or in some form of religion, some form of supernatural mysticism.”

–1964 Playboy Interview

Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason.

–1964 Playboy interview.

If they [people] place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral. Friendship, family life and human relationships are not primary in a man’s life. A man who places others first, above his own creative work, is an emotional parasite.”

–1964 Playboy interview

Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered.

—-“Of Living Death,” The Objectivist, 1968

I cannot project the degree of hatred required to make those women run around in crusades against abortion. Hatred is what they certainly project, not love for the embryos, which is a piece of nonsense no one could experience, but hatred, a virulent hatred for an unnamed object…Their hatred is directed against human beings as such, against the mind, against reason, against ambition, against success, against love, against any value that brings happiness to human life.

–“The Age of Mediocrity,” The Objectivist Forum, 1981

I am profoundly opposed to Ronald Reagan. Since he denies the right to abortion, he cannot be a defender of any rights. Since he has no program or ideology to offer, his likeliest motive for entering a Presidential race is power-lust.

–Letter to the Editor, The New York Times, August 11, 1976 (subscription only)

Rand did not think much of either conservatives or libertarians:

Above all, do not join the wrong ideological groups or movements, in order to ‘do something.’ By ‘ideological’ (in this context), I mean groups or movements proclaiming some vaguely generalized, undefined (and, usually, contradictory) political goals. (E.g., the Conservative Party, which subordinates reason to faith, and substitutes theocracy for capitalism; or the ‘libertarian’ hippies, who subordinate reason to whims, and substitute anarchism for capitalism.) To join such groups means to reverse the philosophical hierarchy and to sell out fundamental principles for the sake of some superficial political action which is bound to fail. It means that you help the defeat of your ideas and the victory of your enemies.”

–“What Can One Do?” from Philosophy: Who Needs It, an address to the graduating class at West Point, 1974

Neither I nor “Atlas Shrugged” nor my philosophy has any connection with the so-called “Libertarian” movement. I hold that politics without a consistent philosophical base leads to disaster. The “Libertarian” movement is a random movement of emotional hippies-of-the-right who play at politics without philosophy or consistency.

–Letter to the Editor, The New York Times, August 11, 1976 (subscription only)

Libertarians Consider Government Action While Dagny Taggart’s Mind Gives Hank Rearden The Biggest Boner

There is a wide variety of people who fall under the libertarian label. Those who concentrate on economic issues and consider any intervention by government in the economy to be an immoral example of initiation of unjust force are having a tough time during this economic crisis. Many libertarians claim the problem was too much government regulation and the government should do nothing, but they are having a tough time selling this message. David Weigel, an editor at Reason, writes in The Guardian that some libertarians are no longer as dogmatic as in the days when Albert Jay Nock opposed the New Deal, writing that Roosevelt, Hitler, and Stalin were practicing “only local variants of the common doctrine.”

But modern libertarian thinkers and economists are not so dogmatic, or so reflexively anti-intervention, as Nock was. Amity Shales, an economic writer and historian who last year published a blockbuster, anti-New Deal history of the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man, has endorsed the idea of bail-out money for Wall Street, as long as it does not require management from Washington. (The current bail-out plan is a bit of a hash of both ideas.)

Megan McArdle, a libertarian editor at the Atlantic Monthly, was more conflicted. The dogmatic libertarian position on the bail-out – the one that, as it happened, Republicans in the House of Representatives held, as they shot down the first attempt at a bail-out in late September – was to oppose it. But McArdle chastised them for doing so. “I find it hard to believe that they’re voting their conscience; they’re voting their electoral interest in November. I hope their constituencies enjoy the bank panic

If some libertarians are now willing to consider government intervention in the economy it might be time to rewrite some libertarian classics. Jeremiah Tucker has rewritten Atlas Shrugged to account for the changing economic times (along with making it much shorter than the original). This satiric revision begins with Dagney Taggert and Hank Rearden talking, as Rearden gives a clue as to where the economy has gone wrong compared to an idealized Ayn Rand capitalistic society. The revision does maintain some aspects of Rand’s ideas on sex, but fortunately they actually get to it with much shorter speeches than in the original:

“I heard the thugs in Washington were trying to take your Rearden metal at the point of a gun,” she said. “Don’t let them, Hank. With your advanced alloy and my high-tech railroad, we’ll revitalize our country’s failing infrastructure and make big, virtuous profits.”

“Oh, no, I got out of that suckers’ game. I now run my own hedge-fund firm, Rearden Capital Management.”


He stood and adjusted his suit jacket so that his body didn’t betray his shameful weakness. He walked toward her and sat informally on the edge of her desk. “Why make a product when you can make dollars? Right this second, I’m earning millions in interest off money I don’t even have.”

He gestured to his floor-to-ceiling windows, a symbol of his productive ability and goodness.

“There’s a whole world out there of byzantine financial products just waiting to be invented, Dagny. Let the leeches run my factories into the ground! I hope they do! I’ve taken out more insurance on a single Rearden Steel bond than the entire company is even worth! When my old company finally tanks, I’ll make a cool $877 million.”

Their eyes locked with an intensity she was only beginning to understand. Yes, Hank … claim me … If we’re to win the battle against the leeches, we must get it on … right now … Don’t let them torture us for our happiness … or our billions.

He tore his eyes away.

“I can’t. Sex is base and vile!”

“No, it’s an expression of our highest values and our admiration for each other’s minds.”

“Your mind gives me the biggest boner, Dagny Taggart.”

He fell upon her like a savage, wielding his mouth like a machete, and in the pleasure she took from him her body became an extension of her quarterly earnings report—proof of her worthiness as a lover. His hard-on was sanction enough.

“Scream your secret passions, Hank Rearden!”



“Credit-default swaps!”

“Oh, yes! Yes!”

“Collateralized debt obligation.”


Blimp Asks: Who Is Ron Paul? Campaign Finance Experts Ask If Plan is Legal

The Trail reports that the Ron Paul blimp is off the ground. Libertarians have often contemplated unorthodox methods of finance including the fictional Delos D. Harriman’s attempt to raise money to go to the moon in Robert A. Heinlein’s novella The Man Who Sold the Moon. Among the methods used by Harriman was to bluff businessmen with claims of offers of money from competitors to turn the moon into a giant billboard. Supporters of Ron Paul also use a profit model but use a blimp instead of the moon as billboard. The blimp features a message similar to the catch phrase of another libertarian classic, Atlas Shrugged as it asks, “Who is Ron Paul.” The unconventional financing is described:

The blimp is being run by Liberty Political Advertising, a for-profit company formed just for this purpose. The company is offering Paul supporters the chance to sponsor portions of the blimp’s journey, ranging from $10 for one minute of “air time” to $1 million for 10 weeks. On the Ron Paul blimp’s Web site, the organizers describe this arrangement “the best of both worlds, no limits and virtually no regulations.”

“The ad is on a blimp, but you can also think of it as a floating billboard,” the group’s website says. “It will fly for six hours per day generating advertising and publicity while on the ground as well as in the air. Blimp sponsors, the local media and nearby residents will be able to gather at landing sites to tour the blimp. Those with tickets will board for rides. Informal blimp parties will be organized at scheduled stops around the country as the blimp makes its way to key destinations for maximum public exposure.”

Bradley Smith, a former FEC chairman, is representing the group and says the for-profit arrangement is no different than if a company formed to sell t-shirts or coffee mugs with a candidate’s name on it. Each contributor to the effort would be making his or her own independent expenditure. If that contribution is greater than $250, the donor will have to report it to the FEC. But there are no limits under this plan.

The FEC might not agree that there are no limits:

That is not sitting well with some campaign finance experts. Fred Wertheimer, who runs the campaign finance advocacy group Democracy 21, said if the point of the enterprise is to influence the presidential race, it should be set up as a political action committee. That would not only mean disclosing the names of the donors, but limiting individuals to no more than $5,000 in contributions in one year.

“Is this a legitimate advertising company operating in the normal course of business. or is it a sham operation created to evade the campaign finance laws by posing as an advertising company?” Wertheimer asked. “That’s the issue here.”

Campaign finance expert Rick Hasen, who teaches at Loyola Law School in California. said he agrees, and expects the Federal Election Commission will look into just that question. But probably not before the blimp gets aloft.

Paul supporters also plan to go to Boston to reenact the Boston Tea Party and hold a rally at Faneuil Hall.

Libertarians Questioning Paul’s Connection To Extremist Right

While Paul supporters see him as a threat to the status quo, I’ve seen his campaign as more of a threat to libertarian ideas. Confusing Paul’s social conservativism with libertarianism reinforces the view that libertarians are just Republicans who have tried marijuana. Unfortunately, while I would hope that libertarians might have some influence on the authoritarian trends in the Republican Party, the reverse has occurred. The association between libertarians and the Repubican Party has influenced libertarian thought to the point that libertarianism to be closer to traditional conservative views. The one difference is that in the past conservatives like Barry Goldwater opposed the religious right while Paul embraces many of their views in his rejection of secularism and separation of church and state.

Paul’s campaign presents additional problems to the reputation of libertarians by the association with far right extremist groups. While Paul’s supporters naively cry that this is “guilt by association” this association is far too often fueled by Paul’s own actions. Simply returning the contribution from Don Black would have gone a long way towards restoring Paul’s credibility. Any serious candidate would have done so, and Paul’s failure to return the donation at very least shows that his campaign is not ready for prime time. At worst it suggests some affinity for the views expressed by such groups.

Sometimes when diverse groups support a candidate it is a sign of broad appeal, however when both libertarians and neo-Nazis claim Paul as their preferred candidate at least one of these groups must be badly mistaken. The tactics used by many Paul supporters who habitually spam blogs which say anything negative about him further compounds the problem. The comments by Paul’s supporters far too often are characterized by total lack of respect for opposing viewpoints, racism, and belief in conspiracy theories. Any disagreement with Paul, and anything short of one hundred percent approval of his actions, is treated as a sign of either idiocy or evil motives by his supporters.

I’ve recently half-jokingly suggested that it might be in the best interests of libertarians if a publication such as Reason were to distance themselves from Paul. I’m finding an increasing number of libertarians who have expressed similar views, or least frustrations with aspects of Paul’s campaign. Liberty Papers has frequently noted such concerns and and summarizes them in a post today. Freedom Democrats expresses concern with Paul’s “association with the cultural right.” Other blogs are also discussing this subject.

Publius Endures writes:

The fact is, if Paul and his core supporters continue to refuse to distance themselves from the Stormfront, neo-Nazi, and conspiracy theorists, the Paul campaign will have a net negative effect on the libertarian movement in this country. If, however, he and his core supporters DO make a bona fide effort to distance themselves from this crowd, the Paul campaign has tremendous potential to advance the libertarian movement more than any other event since Atlas Shrugged. But in order for this to happen, Paul and his core supporters must acknowledge that the prominence of the nutcases poses a legitimate problem that must be dealt with.

Ron Bernstein writes:

Ron Paul is a tempting protest vote, and I did support him in 1988 when he ran as a Libertarian, but he strikes me as running less of a “libertarian” campaign than a pacifist, populist campaign that does have some appeal to young and idealistic libertarians, but has too much appeal to the old, paranoid, and racist pseudo-conservatives. There seems to be a right-wing version of the Popular Front mentality among many Paul supporters: just like it was okay for Social Democrats to ally with Stalinists for “Progressive” ends in the old days, it’s okay to ally with 9/11 and various other conspiracy theorists, southern secessionists, Nazis and fascists, anti-Semites and racists, against the common enemy of the modern “welfare-warfare” state. Count me out!

It is encouraging to see that more people are recognizing this problem.

The 50th Anniversary of Atlas Shrugged

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged. There’s no doubt that both Rand and her more fanatic followers have many faults, but there is also value to her work which should not be forgotten. As I recently wrote, Rand fled the Soviet Union and her ideas were shaped “when the Bolsheviks broke into her father’s pharmacy and declared his livelihood the property of the state.” During a period when Marxism was often seen as the dominant philosophy reshaping the world, Rand helped provide a much-needed moral argument for capitalism. While the viewpoint can be taken too far, Rand also displays a bold message on the power of the individual and value of excellence.

Among the tributes to Atlas Shrugged being posted on its anniversary, Michelle Malkin points out an article from Robert Trancinski which states:

No one could have conceived of the achievements of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution before they happened–and these new events required a radical re-evaluation of conventional ideas. Yet the intellectuals failed to perform such a re-evaluation.

For example, in 1816, at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, a group of Britain’s best young literary minds–including Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (who later became Mary Shelley)–gathered together to explore their new school of literature, which they called “Gothic” because it took its inspiration from the mysticism of the Middle Ages. In that spirit, they challenged each other to write the best ghost story, and Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein–a story which portrays the quest for scientific and technological knowledge as a kind of dangerous madness.

Just as capitalism was propelling us forward into a technological future that would, among other advantages, double the average human lifespan, the intellectuals were looking backward to the Middle Ages and predicting that all of this new science and technology would bring disaster. (They’re still doing it, except that now they conjure up the bogeyman of global warming in the place of Frankenstein’s monster.)

A few decades later, a German intellectual named Karl Marx gave one of the most influential accounts of the new capitalist system–and he got everything wrong. An Industrial Revolution driven by scientific and technological advances springing from the minds of a few extraordinary individuals, he would describe as the anonymous, collective product of brute physical labor; an economic system of liberty, he would describe as a system of oppression; a system built on the right to property he would describe as a system based of expropriation–and then he would propose actual oppression and expropriation as the solution.

This has been the pattern of the artists and intellectuals in dealing with the most significant phenomenon of our age. While the world was transformed around them, they refused to grasp the real meaning of these events, choosing to ignore or denigrate the forces that were rapidly improving human life.

In this context, we can see the widest significance of Ayn Rand’s literary and philosophical achievement. She was the first thinker and artist to fully grasp the meaning of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution and to give them expression both in literature and in philosophy.

The most radical aspect of Atlas Shrugged is that Ayn Rand found suspense, heroism, and profound philosophical meaning in the achievements of the entrepreneurs and industrialists who were reshaping the world.

Atlas Shrugged was written in an age of creeping global socialism. Extrapolating from the trends of the day, Ayn Rand projected a future in which most of the world’s nations are collapsing into the poverty and oppression of socialist “people’s states,” while America itself is collapsing under the weight of an increasing government takeover of the economy.

She saw the dramatic potential in asking a single question: what would happen if the innovative entrepreneurs and businessmen–after decades of being vilified and regulated–started to disappear? The disappearance of the world’s productive geniuses provides the novel’s central mystery, both factually and intellectually.

The right is often in error when it sees every government action as “creeping global socialism” and argues that action by private business is always superior to that done by government and blindly ignores any evidence to the contrary. Similarly, many on the left are just as much in error when they fail to acknowledge the benefits of the free market or always see businessmen as villains, as David Kelley wrote about in The Wall Street Journal today.

Alan Greenspan Accuses Republicans of Waging War For Oil

Liberals who accused the Bush administration of waging war for oil have often been criticized by conservatives with attacks such as this one from In The National Interest:

Nothing demonstrates the political and moral bankruptcy of the American liberal left more clearly than the current attempt to portray military action against Iraq as “for the oil”.

They are going to have to add Alan Greenspan’s name to the politically and morally bankrupt in light of his accusations in his current book, as reported by The Times of London:

AMERICA’s elder statesman of finance, Alan Greenspan, has shaken the White House by declaring that the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil…

… it is his view on the motive for the 2003 Iraq invasion that is likely to provoke the most controversy. “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil,” he says.

Greenspan’s book has already gained publicity for his criticism of Republican economic policies including the abandonment of their small-government philosophy.

Mr. Greenspan, who calls himself a “lifelong libertarian Republican,” writes that he advised the White House to veto some bills to curb “out-of-control” spending while the Republicans controlled Congress. He says President Bush’s failure to do so “was a major mistake.” Republicans in Congress, he writes, “swapped principle for power. They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose.”

Before his long career in government, Greenspan was a disciple of Ayn Rand, the topic of this recent post regarding the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Atlas Shrugged.