Doug Mataconis

Recent Posts From Doug Mataconis

“Atlas Shrugged” Movie To Go Into Production?

Another rumor about another Atlas Shrugged movie production:

For almost two decades, Hollywood has tried unsuccessfully to turn Ayn Rand’s 1100 page classic Atlas Shrugged into a feature film with actresses ranging from Angelina Jolie to Charlize Theron to Faye Dunaway. John Aglialoro, the entrepreneur who  17 years ago paid $1 million to option the book rights, is tired of the futility and is taking matters into his own hands. He’s announced that he is financing a June 11 production start in Los Angeles for the first of what he said will be four films made from the book.

Aglialoro, who had a hand in writing the script by Brian O’Tool, is taking on this ambitious plan with an unproven director, and is weeks away from production without stars to play Dagny Taggart, Hank Rearden, John Galt and the other roles. He’s moving forward despite the conventional wisdom that without stars, it could ultimately be the audience that shrugged.

(…)

The Rise Of The Surveillance State

From Reason TV a look at how America has drifted, slowly and quietly, into the land of Big Brother:

Rand Paul Defends Idealism

Rand Paul had an interesting column in a local Kentucky newspaper over the weekend addressing his post-primary comments about the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

I am unlike many folks who run for office. I am an idealist. When I read history I side with abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglas who fought for 30 years to end slavery and to integrate public transportation in the free North in the 1840s. I see our failure to end slavery for decade after decade as a failure of weak-kneed politicians.

I cheer the abolitionist Lysander Spooner, who argued that slavery was unconstitutional 20 years before the Civil War. I cheer Lerone Bennet when he argues that the right of habeas corpus guaranteed in the Constitution should have derailed slavery long before the Civil War.

Only when the brave idealists, the abolitionists, finally provoked the weak-kneed politicians into action, did the emancipation proclamation come about. Our body politic has enough pragmatists, we need a few idealists.

Segregation ended only after a great and momentous uprising by idealists like Martin Luther King Jr., who provoked weak-kneed politicians to action.

In 2010, there are battles that need to be fought, and they have nothing to do with race or discrimination, but rather the rights of people to be free from a nanny state.

For example, I am opposed to the government telling restaurant owners that they cannot allow smoking in their establishments. I believe we as consumers can choose whether to patronize a smoke-filled restaurant or do business with a smoke-free option.

Think about it – this overreach is now extending to mandates about fat and calorie counts in menus. Do we really need the government managing all of these decisions for us?

Ron Paul Gets It Wrong On The Homebuyer Tax Credit

Congressman Ron Paul is usually on the right side of issues that involve government intervention in the marketplace, but when it comes to the Homebuyer Tax Credit he gets it completely wrong:

Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., who is usually opposed to government intervention in the economy, has introduced legislation to permanently extend the first-time homebuyer tax credit and to make the credit available to people whose homes have been destroyed by a natural disaster, such as a hurricane.

“It is hard to think of a more beneficial or compassionate expansion of the first-time homebuyer tax credit than to make the credit available to those whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by natural disasters,” Paul says.

“In addition, the changes to the casualty loss provision will help more taxpayers affected by natural disasters,” he says. “Providing tax relief to first-time homebuyers and to those affected by natural disasters should be one of Congress’ top priorities.”

The legislation also makes a number of changes to existing tax credits in order to enhance their usefulness to victims of natural disasters, according to a news release from Paul’s office.

Specifically, this bill makes casualty loss deductions available to taxpayers who don’t itemize, and makes it available to them for five years after the disaster.

If passed, the proposed legislation would also help people who have lost their jobs because of a natural disaster by making unemployment payments provided under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act tax-free.

Obama’s Potemkin Recovery

Today, we learned that the economy had added 431,000 jobs in May but that most of them were temporary Census positions:

Employers added 431,000 nonfarm jobs nationwide in May, the biggest increase in a single month since the recession, the Labor Department said Friday. But the bulk of the growth was in government jobs, driven by hiring for the Census, and private-sector job growth was weak.

The unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent nationwide, from 9.9 percent in April, the department said.

The figures for May represented the fifth consecutive month that payrolls have risen, but fell below analysts’ expectations that 540,000 jobs would be added to the economy.

The shortfall was immediately reflected in futures trading in the Wall Street stock indexes, with the Dow Jones industrial average expected to open almost 2 percent lower.

Altogether, 411,000 of the jobs added were for Census workers whose positions will disappear after the summer.

The net gain in government jobs was 390,000, while the private sector added only 41,000.

In other words, 95% of the jobs created in may were government jobs that will no longer exist as of mid-July. But for that census hiring, the unemployment rate would not have gone down at all and we would have had an anemic jobs report.

This is six months after we were told that the worst is behind us.

President Obama, however, thinks this report was good news:

President Barack Obama said on Friday the gain of 431,000 jobs in May is a sign the U.S. economy is getting stronger, although there will still be ups and downs going forward.

Sarah Palin Was For Deepwater Offshore Drilling Before She Was Against It

Last night Sarah Palin, former temporary Governor of Alaska and official wacky pundit of Twitter and Facebook, had this to say:

PalinDrill21

The obvious implication, of course, is that if we’d just listened to the “Drill Baby Drill” crowd, we wouldn’t have to worry about dealing with an oil rig disaster far out at sea under a mile or more of water (instead we’d be dealing with one close to the shore, but I digress).

The problem is that the Queen of the “Drill Baby Drill” chant never made a distinction between deepwater and other forms of drilling:

Here, for example, is Sarah Palin at an October 21, 2008, campaign event in Reno, with emphasis added:

PALIN: John [McCain] and I have to adopt an all-of-the-above approach to meet America’s great energy challenge for you. That means harnessing alternative sources, like wind, and solar, and biomass, and geothermal.

(APPLAUSE)

And we will develop clean-coal technology. And we will safely drill for the billions of barrels of oil that we have underground, including off-shore.

(APPLAUSE)

We will drill here, we’ll drill now, and that’s when you start the chant. Yes.

Ken Cuccinelli Stands Up For Freedom Of Speech

Virginia is one of only a handful of states that is not filing a friend of the court brief on behalf of the Plaintiff in the Snyder v. Phelps, the lawsuit by a father of a dead soldier seeking damages from the Westboro Baptist Church for their offensive funeral protests. Yesterday, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli explained why:

If protesters — whether political, civil rights, pro-life, or environmental — said something that offended the object of the protest to the point where that person felt damaged, the protesters could be sued. It then becomes a very subjective and difficult determination as to when the line is crossed from severely offensive speech to that which inflicts emotional distress. Several First Amendment scholars agree.

Debunked: No, Census Workers May Not Enter Your Apartment

Last week former Congressman Bob Barr made a rather provocative claim about the ability of Census workers to violate your privacy:

What many Americans don’t realize, is that census workers — from the head of the Bureau and the Secretary of Commerce (its parent agency) down to the lowliest and newest Census employee — are empowered under federal law to actually demand access to any apartment or any other type of home or room that is rented out, in order to count persons in the abode and for “the collection of statistics.” If the landlord of such apartment or other leased premises refuses to grant the government worker access to your living quarters, whether you are present or not, the landlord can be fined $500.00.

That’s right — not only can citizens be fined if they fail to answer the increasingly intrusive questions asked of them by the federal government under the guise of simply counting the number of people in the country; but a landlord must give them access to your apartment whether you’re there or not, in order to gather whatever “statistics” the law permits.

Barr’s conclusion is apparently based on his reading of this law:

Memorial Day

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Republicans v. The First Amendment

Dan Kennedy at The Guardian takes a look at the extent to which the current front runners for the 2012 Republican nomination have adopted a view of America that is radically at odds with the First Amendment:

If you’re part of secular America – that is, if you’re an atheist, an agnostic, a religious liberal or even a mainstream believer who thinks religion should be kept out of politics and vice-versa – then you should be very afraid of what the Republican party has in store for you in 2012.

(…)

f you don’t believe me, let’s start with Tim Pawlenty, unassuming governor of Minnesota in his day job, fire-breathing Christian warrior and aspiring presidential candidate in his spare time.

“I want to share with you four ideas that I think should carry us forward,” Pawlenty said on Friday at the annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Committee, or CPAC. After invoking “basic constitutional principle and basic common sense,” he continued:

“The first one is this: God’s in charge. God is in charge … In the Declaration of Independence it says we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. It doesn’t say we’re endowed by Washington, DC, or endowed by the bureaucrats or endowed by state government. It’s by our creator that we are given these rights.”

Never mind Pawlenty’s fundamental and no doubt deliberate misreading of the founders’ intent. (Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, is well-known for having cut up a Bible to remove all supernatural references to Jesus.) How, in practice, does Pawlenty envision “God’s in charge” as a governing principle?

Excellent question, but Pawlenty’s not alone, there’s also Mitt Romney:

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