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Atlas Shrugged Movie Preview

Last night, the CPAC Bloggers Bash attendees were “treated” to an excruciatingly long preview of the forthcoming “Atlas Shrugged” movie, which will hit a theater near you on April 15. Actually, it’ll just be Part I.  Like the Lord of the Rings, this will be a trilogy.

Judging by the preview, I can fully understand why it took more than two decades to find a studio to produce the flick. This is quite possibly the most boring film ever made — and I include documentaries that are shown in grammar school so that children can request to view them backwards.

Put it this way: I simply do not know enough expletives to adequately express how truly horrible this film was. And I was in the Army. I would rather be subjected to the “Clockwork Orange” treatment than sit through one part of this. I might well prefer death to enduring the trilogy.

Update (Alex Knapp): You can view the trailer below. If this is any indicator, then the film is full of wooden dialogue, unrealistic character interaction, and a complete lack of understanding of how business and politics works. In other words, a surprisingly faithful adaptation.

 

Update (James Joyner): What we saw, rather than the above trailer, was four extended scenes from the movie. And, yes, the wooden dialogue was a major problem. I gather that they strove to be absolutely faithful to the book, which is simply a rookie mistake. Not only was Rand a really lousy writer of dialogue but even well written books don’t directly translate to the screen. Great filmmakers capture the essence of the story and characters, keep some of the most snappy bits of dialogue, and then write a screenplay around it. The fact that they’re trying to turn a single book into three movies is an indication of how far wrong they’ve gone.

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Herb says:

    Who’s in it?

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  2. tom p says:

    considering the book, considering the author, is it any wonder that any sane human being would rather slit their wrists than be subjected to 1 1/2 hours of her tripe???? (much less 4 1/2 hrs)

    It is pretty simple: Ann Rand ws a hack totally divorced from reality. The fact that she now has a following says worlds about the state of libertarianism..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Chad S says:

    Industrial/trade policy the movie starring…no one.

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  4. Tony says:

    I’ve just tracked down the trailer. It already makes mewant to poke my eyes out with a spork. And yet I might have to see it, just to soak in the dreadful.

    Interestingly (in the broadest possible sense…), I notice it features Armin Shimerman, who played Andrew Ryan in Bioshock.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTnZu0mOSko

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  5. Brummagem Joe says:

    Since it’s an unbelievably bad novel why should you be surprised James? I know there’s a theory that second rate novels make the best movies but this is a fifth rate novel. It is excruciatingly bad, it make portrait of the artist as a young man seem coherent by comparison.

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  6. mattb says:

    Sadly, the economic here are largely in its favor. My guess is that the producers will follow the Christian cinema (Left behind, Fireproof) model – sell tickets a head of time via Tea Party groups and organize via right wing radio. It wil get it a limited release (in part based on presales) and then be transformed into a social event and “protest” movie (probably also picking up money from college groups that will pay to bring it to campus).

    Plus I can’t imagine a world in which this cost more than 5 mil Max to make.

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  7. sam says:

    “I notice it features Armin Shimerman, who played Andrew Ryan in Bioshock”

    He also played the totally avaricious, profit-before-anything, Ferenghi Quark in Deep Space Nine. Who does he play in the Dreadful?

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  8. michael reynolds says:

    The budget was 5 million. It was rushed — well, after years of delay — into production days before the rights would have been lost.

    5 million is the movie equivalent of “Lift up the couch cushions and see if there’s any coins.”

    The director, Paul Johansson — who also stars — is an actor with not a lot of directing creds outside of the TV series he acted in.

    In other words, they knew it was crap, nobody wanted any part of it, they burned it off with no-name talent and pocket change budget, hoping for what Matt says above: that Tea Partiers sufficiently brain-damaged to sit through Glen Beck would pay to see the movie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Tony says:

    I believe the lack of budget is represented in this clip from the film’s dramatic climax.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgcY3bY6uxk

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  10. byafi says:

    I have to say how interesting it is to read comments by writers scrambling for adjectives to describe a movie they haven’t seen from a book they haven’t read about ideas they don’t understand.

    Thank you for the entertainment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  11. michael reynolds says:

    byafi:

    Actually James saw an extended trailer.

    Sorry, but if you can’t generate a decent trailer, the movie’s crap.

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  12. An Interested Party says:

    “…about ideas they don’t understand.”

    Oh, do tell…now the real entertainment begins…

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  13. Herb says:

    I’d watch it. Anything with Jon Polito can’t be all that bad.

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  14. anjin-san says:

    Wonder if they dumbed it down to where bithead can understand it…

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  15. Alex Knapp says:

    I have to say how interesting it is to read comments by writers scrambling for adjectives to describe a movie they haven’t seen from a book they haven’t read about ideas they don’t understand.

    Read the book and understood the ideas just fine, thanks.

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  16. Hello World! says:

    My favorite book is the Fountainhead, but the movie was awful. Atlas Shrugged is a great book as well, tough I’ve never made it through the whole thing. Ayn Rand dialect cannot be taken in 15 second clips. Its the overall conversation that makes you think, so I wouldn’t be too hard on the trailer.

    Politically I do not agree with Rand at all, egoism already failed a few thousand years ago for obvious reasons – but its important to remember thT she hated the conservsatives more than the liberals. The only reason so many conservative have grasped on to her is because Ronald Reagan said the Fountainhead was his favorite book, and Alan Greenspan spent a decade using her writings as an analogy to the economy (to which he ended up appologizing before congress stating that he was wrong after the crash), and both Paul Wolfawitz and Donald Rumsfield have stated she was the greatest influence on their lives.

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  17. michael reynolds says:

    Reagan, Greenspan, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. That’s pretty damning.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. anjin-san says:

    byaft,

    Can you tell me who the hero of Atlas Shrugged was? As of yet, I have not run across a single tea party type that could.

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  19. EddieInCA says:

    I work in the film business. This movie is an industry joke.

    The producers couldn’t get any name directors to do the project. They claimed to have major actresses attached, yet the actresses had never even been contacted. They were on the verge of losing the rights to the material if they didn’t start production by a certain date, so they gave the directing duties to an actor that had minimal directing experience, and cast the film with actors who, while talented, are not in demand for either features or television series.

    Even with a five million dollar budget, it’s doubtful this film will ever make a profit. In fact, it probably will not gross even half of it’s budget.

    And let’s not remember, that a film needs to make at least three times it’s shooting, marketing and distribution costs to just break even.

    It’s dreck, pure and simple. Go see it at your own peril, but it’s money wasted, and time you’ll never get back.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. anjin-san says:

    They really set it in the modern era? Wow. Bad idea. If you did Atlas Shrugged as Film Noir, say something informed by “Out of the Past”, you might end up with a pretty good movie. The mystery aspect of the story is much more compelling than Rand’s ham handed political and socialogical message. And I am afraid the pivotal role of trains is something that does not translate into a current setting. Far too much suspension of disbelief would be necessary.

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  21. Alex Knapp says:

    @anjin-san,

    I can see trains working in a post-peak oil world. But that would mean acknowledging peak oil, which I doubt a version of Atlas Shrugged would do.

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  22. john personna says:

    The should have gotten whoever directed Sin City(*) and given him creative licence.

    * – I found that movie well made but just wrong

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  23. michael reynolds says:

    JP:

    Loved SIN CITY. Told my wife she should watch it. Her reaction afterward? “What is the matter with you?” And by extension she included the entire male half of the human race.

    It is hard to justify. I think I’ll go run it again.

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  24. anjin-san says:

    > But that would mean acknowledging peak oil,

    We have enough oil to last forever. Forever, I say! If only Obama would let us drill, baby, drill.

    I love to travel by train, but it ain’t gonna happen here in the United States of Exxon/Chevron.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. john personna says:

    Re. PO, Did you hear that wikileaks supposedly confirms that the US believes the claim that Saudi reserves are 40% overstated?

    Never mind, there’s that VW that gets 230 mpg

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  26. Pug says:

    Her reaction afterward? “What is the matter with you?”

    She’s right about Sin City. I watched it so I could look at Jessica Alba, but even that wasn’t worth it.

    Kung Fu Monkey has a good bit about Atlas Shrugged:

    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.

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  27. Rick Almeida says:

    I would rather be subjected to the “Clockwork Orange” treatment than sit through one part of this.

    Good trivia: the treatment is called “the Ludovico Technique”

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  28. Rick Almeida says:

    WTB edit comment feature. And brain. Need coffee.

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  29. Hello World! says:

    What would you all say if I said it was technologically possible to build a train that went from New York City to LA in 1 hour? Well guess what, it is. The only thing preventing it is our own political and civilized will. Rand fails to recognize the organized vision that government can provide. The private sector cannot do that, though there is a place for the private sector. Rand ignores an entire dark side of human nature in her”independent” characters, and fails to recognize that sometimes collective decisions move society forward. Our country really had it right post WWII when the government provided the incubator and spawned new invetions from there, I hope I can live in a country that can do that again.

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  30. jwest says:

    Although I tend to lean slightly right of center, some logic just can’t be argued with.

    Conservatives have never been able to understand Hollywood or grasp the business model of moviemaking. When they should invest hundreds of millions in films with big name stars showing the duplicity of right wing administrations and their ties with oil companies trying to oppress peaceful Middle Eastern countries – a theme with wide popular appeal – they throw away 5 million on this.

    Who would possibly go to watch this anyway? Could the few thousand astroturfed “Tea Party” people be the target audience? If they were able to find the theater, could such hicks afford a ticket? Did the writers use big words that most conservatives wouldn’t understand?

    There seems to be universal agreement among the OTB authors and commentators that this film will be a total financial disaster. Who could possibly disagree with their wisdom?

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  31. jwest says:

    Wait a second…… I just had another thought.

    What happens if people don’t immediately recognize the “wooden dialogue, unrealistic character interaction, and complete lack of understanding of how business and politics works” that is so evident in the trailer? God knows how unsophisticated your average conservative is and how easily manipulated they are into listening and viewing things that are not good for them.

    What will happen if people turn out in droves to watch this boring film without realizing that it doesn’t have any of the redeeming social value so necessary to win critical acclaim? If a 5 million dollar movie packs the theaters, the returns could be astronomical. As Navin Johnson said in “The Jerk”, “Ah, it’s a profit deal!”

    Something like this could have far-reaching implications. If this movie turns out to be a winner, there is a chance some of the more ideologically impure people in Hollywood may attempt to actually make money on their films too. This might drive more wooden dialogue in boring movies about right wing topics. And if conservative movies start making money, what’s next? Could there be a market for conservative books or even conservative television news? Perish the thought.

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  32. wr says:

    Yes, jwest, conservatives will flock to a badly written, poorly acted film in which steel and railroads are the dominant forces in American economy simply because the ideological message will ring true. Just like they all went to see the insanely unfunny An American Carol because it was politically pure… Because that’s how audiences roll.

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  33. wr says:

    It actually amazes me that this is getting a release. Years ago, when Constantin Films was going to lose the rights to The Fantastic Four if they didn’t make a movie, they turned to Roger Corman to churn out a quickie version of it. But then they were smart enough to make sure no one ever saw it. (I did — a friend of mine directed it. Budget aside, it probably was no worse than the later version… and at least it didn’t ask the audience to buy Jessica Alba as a scientist.)

    I’m sure this was made so they rights owners could hold on until they found a way to make the real movie. Why let anyone see it?

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  34. James Joyner says:

    What would you all say if I said it was technologically possible to build a train that went from New York City to LA in 1 hour? Well guess what, it is. The only thing preventing it is our own political and civilized will.

    Dude, we don’t have planes that travel that fast. We’re really going to build and operate a 3000mph train? Even if the technology existed, it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

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  35. jwest says:

    James,

    You must have misread Hello World’s comment.

    Of course it’s impossible for private industry to travel at 3000mph, but apparently you fail to recognize what can be accomplished with the organized vision of government.

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  36. jwest says:

    WR,

    Of course, you’re right.

    The problem with this movie seems to be the faithful adaptation of the book, as opposed to allowing experienced screenwriters the artistic license to make the necessary changes. Perhaps they could have made the lead characters racist neo-nazis, like they did in Clancy’s “The Sum of All Fears”.

    One thing that is certain, the premise that steel and rail travel would ever be considered national priorities in this day and age is totally unbelievable.

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  37. Hello World! says:

    James,

    Plains will never be able to travel that fast because of wind resistence. A train provides the benefit of running in a tunnel or underground, where decompression can reduce or eliminate wind resistence. It is technically possible and many engineers have tried to get it built. In fact, its even possible to build one underwater and get from NY to London in 1.5 hours. The only complexity of this option is how shifting tides would effect the tunnel.

    Also, they are deemed safer than air travel where any number of factors can disturb a flight.

    You do believe man walked on the moon, right? Because denying whats possible is what bothers me so much about Americas current state of mind. America needs to dream again, and build, and move the world forward.

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  38. Franklin says:

    CPAC Bloggers Bash attendees were “treated” to an excruciatingly long preview

    Excruciatingly long? You mean like the speeches in the book? They should love that shit!

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  39. TG Chicago says:

    The Tea Party gets their very own “Battlefield Earth”! I can smell the Razzies already.

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  40. Plains will never be able to travel that fast because of wind resistence. A train provides the benefit of running in a tunnel or underground, where decompression can reduce or eliminate wind resistence.

    The air pressure at crusing altitude for passenger jets is already less than 20% of normal atmospheric pressure. How decompressed is this tube going to be? You seriously think we can build a 3,000 mile long evacuated tunnel from New York to Los Angeles at any sort of cost that would allow for routine travel?

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  41. JKB says:

    I like the idea that people think there are enough paying passengers who wish to travel from NYC to LA with no chance of stopping in between and underground. As for the complexity, I suggest reading on the enormous negotiations and compromises required to build a pipeline through various private lands and political jurisdictions who will want a cut but apparently will not be able to have their citizens partake of this marvel. But then that is the problem, all this freedom with people having a right to control their private property and a say in their local affairs.

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  42. Hello World! says:

    “But then that is the problem, all this freedom with people having a right to control their private property and a say in their local affairs” – thus in a society such as ours there is eminent domain, but a tunnel wouldn’t even require that. The greenline metro train runs right under my house (I would never know it was there). No one has to give up freedom, but sometimes we are all called to sacrafic – that is if you really care about what kind of country will be here for your children as China becomes the worlds leader.

    I am sure we will let China build the Vactrain first, because this country has grown stale in its vision for the future, and its ability to work together as citizens. China, Norway, Swedin are some of the counties currently investigating it for regional travel. It won’t happen here – the tea party types want to keep america in the dark ages. We can’t even get a simple bullet train going here without fierce opposition from republicans, let alone try to build a vactrain that uses little power and moves at extremely high speeds, up to 5000 mph.

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  43. James Joyner says:

    @Hello World

    The notion that China is going to overtake the US in anything other than gross economy anytime soon is simply absurd. They’re massive in terms of size but they’re still horrendously poor. And the government isn’t willing to give up enough power to make the economy truly function.

    And what use would Norway and Sweden have for a 3000mph train? It’d take a nanosecond to cross those countries at that speed.

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  44. PJ says:

    @JKB:

    “I suggest reading on the enormous negotiations and compromises required to build a pipeline through various private lands and political jurisdictions who will want a cut but apparently will not be able to have their citizens partake of this marvel.”

    This reminded me of a part from Lawrence Lessing’s Free Culture (free and downloadable), it’s actually the first part of the introduction. About how a landowner used to own not just the surface, but also all the way down to the center of the Earth and all space to an indefinite extent upwards.

    But then airplanes got invented. And in 1945 someone sued for trespassing, and lost in the Supreme Court.

    Now that decision was only about what’s above us and not below us. Now, IANAL, but if, in the future, a super sonic train network is being built than we most likely will have a Supreme Court decision much like that one.

    That part will not be the problem, it will actually be easy.

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  45. matt says:

    James : Hopefully your blog will still be around to eat crow over China :P Your ideology is blinding you…

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  46. Hello World! says:

    James -

    Have you been to China? I can tell you their middle class is now 250 million people and growing. They have the energy there that we do not have here, very motivated and proud of their country. In November I took the bullet train from Shanghai to Bejing and it was amazing. I doubt Norway and Sweden are developing a vactrain to go top speeds, and I am sure there are various types or maybe they are working with other countries to connect it across Europe – I don’t know. My point is only that it is possible and other countries will do it, and America is losing what made it great unless something changes fast.

    While I enjoy Ayn Rand as a read, her ideals – if embrassed – will (are) destroy this country

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  47. john personna says:

    I think Hello World! is pulling peoples’ leg with the evacuated train thing. Should I say “trane?”

    But I think it’s wrong to suggest that China will uniformly lag the US. There will certainly be pockets of excellence, and they will beat us. Not at everything, but at some things. That’s what you get when you educate a umpty-ump million PhDs. You get some hits among the misses.

    To claim they won’t make it at anything is to breathe that old American Exceptionalism, one more gasp.

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  48. john personna says:

    BTW, there is a dangerous (for us, good for them) after effect of outsourcing. We’ve seen it play through in Taiwan, and now it is happening in China. You see, first you do engineering here, and offshore production. Then they get better at solving production problems. Then they start designing the next generation. Pretty soon you’ve got both development and production offshore, with management in the US …. until that gets dropped.

    You know ASUS? I’m pretty sure that’s how they got their start. Or heck, who owns Lenovo now?

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  49. Hello World! says:

    personna, you can read about the vactrain by doing a simple search. Should I say “evacuated?”…arrogant.

    http://www.china.org.cn/china/2010-08/02/content_20624621.htm
    http://www.thefourthbranch.com/introducing-vactrain/

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  50. john personna says:

    Priceless, Hello!

    While the traditional railroad costs 150 million yuan (about US$22 million) each kilometer to build, the vactrain will be less expensive because it has smaller tunnel section. But ticket prices for the vactrain will be more expensive than that of the high-speed trains, though they will become cheaper as technology improves, Zhang said.

    This isn’t an online gullibility test, is it?

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  51. michael reynolds says:

    FYI, the Hollywood community reacts:

    http://www.deadline.com/2011/02/confusing-trailer-atlas-shrugged/#comments

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  52. Gerry W. says:

    Listened to Amy Kremer, Tea Party Express, Chairman on C-span and keeps repeating the same republican line of cutting taxes, cut spending, and free markets. Why are those on the right keep refusing the reality? The reality is that we have some 2 billion cheap laborers in the free market in which we will lose jobs or have wages reduced. China is in position to do so much. True, they will have their problems, but they have the numbers in every category.

    As far as a train. I saw something on PBS or some other channel and it is all possible. The problem with an underground is the logistics and local bureaucracies that I see. But the part I saw is that some sort of tunnel could be made that would run through the Atlantic (tethered) and it would take less than three hours to reach Europe. The tunnels would be concrete, I suppose, and it would take 100 years to build. You would use a combination of magnets, or anything of less resistance, and forced air.

    Back in my flying days as a private pilot, at this point there may be limits on aircraft speed, but anything can happen in the future. From what I recall, it is thrust, lift, and drag. Although, I can understand the resistance wind. Flew west onetime for an hour and on the return it took me 15 minutes. Wind can be very powerful.

    I’ve been on the ICE trains in Germany and they are very nice. If it works, it is the best way to travel. Our problem is that we are so far behind in so many things and we have adapted to old ways and to failed ideologies, while other countries can start with cheap labor and then build a powerhouse.

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  53. James Joyner says:

    @JP: Oh, I think the Chinese will beat us at some things. And they’re growing and becoming a full-fledged developed nation. And hooray for them — there are 1.4 billion of them and I’m glad to see them getting out of poverty. But they’re still a long way behind in so many important arenas.

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  54. anjin-san says:

    @ James,

    Here is a little light reading on the recent Chinese breakthrough in quantum entanglement. Maybe the gang at CPAC can do a few chants of U.S.A., U.S.A. and that will help us catch up.

    Scotty won’t beam anybody anywhere anytime soon, but a new report by Chinese scientists shows that it is possible to transmit information over long distances using quantum entanglement. The research, published in the current issue of the journal Nature Photonics, could lead to faster and smaller quantum-based computers and unbreakable, encrypted communication across the world.

    The team reported they were able to “teleport” information 16 kilometers, or 9.9 miles.

    http://news.discovery.com/tech/teleportation-quantum-mechanics.html

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  55. john personna says:

    I’m a bit confused by the meaning of “they’re still behind.”

    That seems an emotional (Exceptionalist?) contest. They don’t have to be ahead to make an impact, or for that impact to grow.

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  56. john personna says:

    (Do they have to be ahead for this to be a Chinese century? Probably not.)

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  57. James Joyner says:

    @anjin-san: Impressive. But, again, there are 1.3 billion Chinese and they’ve emerged as a developed nation. It’s hardly shocking that they’re doing some cutting edge science.

    @JP: I’m merely pushing back on the emotional ‘Oh my God, the RussiansJapaneseChinese are overtaking us arguments were seem to obsess with.

    I don’t mind, for example, that the Chinese have taken over simple manufacturing and we’re having to scramble to find replacement middle class salaries. That’s creative destruction. And I’m not too awfully worried that, since they got a very late start in laying down modern infrastructure, that they’re ahead of us on bullet trains or modern airports, which would be very hard for us to retrofit.

    I don’t see this being the “Chinese century” in the sense that we’ve been in “the American century” since WWI. They’ve just got to many institutional obstacles. But they may wind up being the story of the century. Although I’d actually bet on India rather than China in that race.

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  58. john personna says:

    Well, when we (at least I) learned “creative destruction” I did so in the context of a national economy. It was good that CompuServe failed, and the Internet won.

    And while I understand the claim of “comparative advantage,” I the claim that it is always good is being steadily eroded.

    I don’t have solid answers on the evolution of “Chimerica” but I think that most people have thought about it even less than I have.

    Let me share a comment from Marginal Revolution, on the topic of The Great Stagnation. Stigand wrote:

    Julie: it’s a British vs US English thing. “Middle class” in the UK means educated, affluent people, as opposed to the “working class”. Silly, I know.

    Well, that’s it, isn’t it? The US enjoyed a special situation in which working class and middle class could become synonymous.

    That has changed, period.

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  59. john personna says:

    (If you are a humanist, or globalist, and think it’s an equivalent good that many Chinese live better while fewer (though still in the millions) of Americans live poorer, then the Comparative Advantage and Creative Destruction are still good, yes.)

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  60. Hello World! says:

    I have a 24 year old graduating from Georetown law in a few months. Like me, he is an EE and has experience working in Norway. Just last year he interned for a patient law firm in Beijing for a month. His degree from RPI, and Georgetown law don’t offer him any opportunity here in the US, where govt has turned its back on Science and innovation. Instead, he is headed to China where he has been wooed by the clean cities, incredible infrastructure, and motivation and pride of the people. China is the new “NYC”. I explain to him that they are a communist country, ya know. A majority of the population – including the middle class – are members of the communist party (which you join by choice). I use my kid as an example, but I see it with friends kids and even hear people chatting about their jobs in China at the elevator in the building I work in. China is this century now.

    Regardless of the political or social reality in China you HAVE to agree we need to compete and cultivate our own society? There is something to compete with, right? I hope every American understands that we need to attract and keep good people and provide opportunity in our own country?

    We have been told for 20 years now that as capitalism moves into these oppressive countries they will start to align with our standards – but that is not happening and our corporate owned congress does not wants to talk about that. Try to get on facebook or google in China. Heck, try to have a conversation on the phone and start talking about the Chinese govt with someone in China. All the Rand followers are fools if they don’t think we are not empowering immoral countries and selling our own short by relying on the private sector to be the driving force for innovation. That’s not how it was done in 1920 – 1980, and that is not how it’s being done in the rest of the world.

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  61. James Joyner says:

    @JP: I don’t think they’re equivalent goods, since I am indeed an American nationalist. But it’s a helluva good thing that the roughly 2.5 billion people living in China and India are coming out of gross poverty, even if it means that they become more powerful than the USA by some metrics.

    I’ve long lamented the decline of the American middle class. But the notion that semi-educated people should live more affluently than 99% of the world’s population by doing work on assembly lines and the like was always artificial. Now, larger numbers of people are able to feed themselves — but not live in affluence — by taking over those low skilled jobs.

    What replaces that in America, though, I haven’t the foggiest. Presumably, higher skill jobs that are hard to export. But damned if I know what they are.

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  62. Gerry W. says:

    My God James, you are dealing with people. And people who want to be middle class. Throwing automation, lean principles, abusing monopolies laws, consolidation, and some 2 billion cheap laborers into the free market system means many people in the U.S. and other westernized countries will become more poor. At least if we keep ignoring the situation with “trickle down” economics. Trickle down is not good enough. I watch C-span every day. And always people call in about jobs and always a republicans will answer that we need to cut spending and have tax cuts. While these are good instruments, it is total ignorance of what is going on in the world. People want better answers.

    No one has offered what is going to replace the 40,000 factories that are closed. What industry or service will those 6 million jobs? What will happen to small towns that lost the factories and cannot diversify? What small business can be built in a small town when factories are closed and when big box stores in another town takes away business? You look at a four block area and you have the same businesses competing with each other. Someone will fail, and there is no other place to go to, as there is no other business. We are falling all over competition, but where are the other industries? What will be the upward movement for all people? We have urban sprawl and it is stretching cities to the limit and creates desolated areas. We have an infrastructure to take care. It is interesting to see that republicans are going to cut money for clean water and inspections of food, where Japan inspects all their food. And yet we will keep giving tax cuts to the rich and keep ignoring globalization.

    And this is why I supported a Donald Trump or a turn around specialist. We want answers and not political ideologies.

    ***I don’t mind, for example, that the Chinese have taken over simple manufacturing and we’re having to scramble to find replacement middle class salaries. ***

    We should have been thinking about this 30 years ago. We should have strived for energy independence. We should have prepared for a globalized world. But we see the ignorance our of Washington and it is not a surprise that the elite runs the world. The people on the low end are constantly put into a confused state and have no where to go.

    Again, I will repeat this. The democrats spend on programs that are mostly worthless. The republicans say more tax cuts and we already had tax cuts since 2001 and 2003, the fed says lower interest rates at the risk of the dollar and inflation, and the states say more casinos. And Obama and others say we are going to rely on exports. Well, the factories are closed in my town. It makes no sense. This is all hilarious.

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  63. James Joyner says:

    Gerry:

    The trend has been obvious my entire politically aware lifetime. Outdated union contracts forestalled the inevitable for a while, but actually exacerbated the problem in the longer haul (making, for example, American car companies uncompetitive).

    But we are where we are: People aren’t going to live affluent lifestyles doing unskilled labor anymore. That’s just reality.

    And the Chinese and Indians are people, too. It’s a tremendous boon for humanity that they’re less poor than they were, especially given their sheer numbers. That their governments — especially the poor — aren’t playing by the rules is lamentable and something we should strive to address. But the results are not totally negative.

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  64. Gerry W. says:

    James,

    I agree that unions are outdated, but then again, they gave us a middle class with contracts. I am happy for the rest of the world to become middle class. I think what we have learned is that the world is always against the little guy and no one, not democrats or republicans have figured out on how to preserve a middle class. As in so many areas, you have areas of great growth and other areas of not so great growth. And we need to find a way to balance it out. I believe that our government is incapable of doing much of anything except to support the rich. We keep going down the same road of cutting what is good for America. Neglect the infrastructure, neglect clean water, neglect inspecting of food, and under Bush-have no science in embryonic stem cells or other areas, while other countries were willing to take the science. While there could be white elephants, the biggest white elephant was the 800 billion dollar or more “trickle down” theory. It was wasted money and a waste of time as the world moved on.

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  65. Hello World! says:

    I have to add that is important to look at they type of middle class that is being created in these counties. They don’t value freedom, they value collectivism which is another extreme that kills the American spirit. Peter Keating come to mind.

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  66. Matt B says:

    Just one more point about China, in part to back up what James says. It’s important that,as a nation, we don’t think of them as a “western nation” – i.e. generally united and with equivalent production/wealth capacities distributed throughout the country.

    The fact is that China is in, many ways, far closer to the USSR (or even current Russia) — no Emperor or Chairman has ever ruled over a “unified” China. As one colleague who studies (from the outside and in) China recently reminded me, China is still colonizing itself. Beyond the rapidly growing city/country poverty divide, there are countless competing and conflicting ethnic and religious groups. And most of the coherence of Western China is primarily through the exercise of force.

    The discussions about the Chinese future, or that flatten the country into lots of people who are just looking to get ahead, take what going on in primarily coastal and Eastern China (the most affluent areas) to represent the whole country. That’s like assuming that they were in the same country life in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, was the same as in Moscow because they both were in the Soviet Union.

    This shouldn’t be read to say that China isn’t going to be, continue to be a major force in the years to come. But beyond the thinking about the poverty divide, one should also understand that the “united effort” of China to overcome the “West” (aka US) is not “United” in any sort of way. In fact, this is at least one area (national Unity) where India is further ahead (though again, it can’t be thought of as a United nation in a Western way either).

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  67. Hello World! says:

    “It’s important that,as a nation, we don’t think of them as a “western nation””

    Then can we really say 2.5 billion people are coming out of poverty? Your comparing apples with candy bars as if they have the same nutritional value. Just because we define a farmer who doesn’t participate in the world market as poor doesn’t mean he does not have food for his family, cloths on his back, or a home to live in.

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  68. Gerry W. says:

    To me, it makes no difference in the structure of a country. The fact remains, that after communism, we have some 2 billion cheap laborers in the world and that can only make us lose jobs or seek jobs with lower wages. China has been united in preventing companies from doing business without acquiring intellectual property and manipulating its currency.

    A lot of Chinese have left the middle of China and went to the coastal areas for jobs. And those jobs represent the jobs we had in America. I would hope that China sees the future with their high speed rail and maybe many Chinese will go back home and creates jobs there.

    My difficulty in seeing this picture, is where are our politicians?

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  69. Gerry W. says:

    Also, China has state capitalism and it seems to be working. Not in the sense that they have a constitution and human rights, but they know how to invest in their country (although there are white elephants) but they have managed to have economic growth while we waste away with failed ideologies.

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  70. Hello World! says:

    Gerry – you make some really great points (more articulately than I can). I think our politicians are letting China get ahead on everything – which just makes it more attractive to do business there. They are letting our countries infrastructure go to heck, which makes it even less attractive for business here (education too). They do it because the US Chaimber of Commerce has all their lobbiest telling them to do it. There is no voice for the people, imo.

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  71. Matt B says:

    HW: the point that I’m trying to make was that dividing China up into Rural and Urban, Poor and Rich, or anything else vastly simplifies the conditions of lived experience in anywhere except Eastern/Coastal China. The far you move west in China the more supposedly “Chinese” people are less likely to think of themselves as “Chinese.”

    What you’ve been arguing for is a largely united country that’s going through a period of economic transition — i.e. the typical Western model of transition from Agriculture to Industrialization to so-called Modernity.

    The idea that “China is getting ahead on everything” is problematic for a few reasons. First it imagines that there is a United China — which really was the point of my previous post. This was like imagining that there was a United USSR for example. Secondly, it’s imagining that all of “China” is advancing at the same pace. As a rule of thumb, the further you go west in China, the more you will find significant disparities at all levels. Finally it’s imagining that all of China, a. Wants to be in China and b. Wants the future that you seem to think China wants.

    The US, for example, was largely a “United Nation” by the beginning of the 20th century, when we can argue it began it’s emergence onto the world stage. And still there were huge racial issues that had to be addressed. That said, the racial divide in the US, as terrible and dividing as it was, was nothing compared to what China is facing in the next century.

    The hope that technology or “Chinese Capitalism” is capable of uniting China is, to be frank, a pretty naive point of view.

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  72. Matt B says:

    Building off of that last sentence… Their infrastructure investments are significant and that may provide some mechanisms for an eventual reflow of wealth/resources back into the country. But even in those cases, the country/rural areas are, especially as you move west, is a mix of setting that in many ways are literally centuries (not decades) behind the urbanized areas.

    Infrastructure alone isn’t going to solve those problems. And the disparity in wealth created by the unique applications of capitalism could really create a rich/poor divide of Marxian proportions. That divide could, in turn, easily be magnified by the deep racial/ethnic divides that go back centuries in China.

    That’s why I mentioned that arguments about the Advancement of China are so problematic. I’m not arguing for American exceptionalism. Rather, that what’s circulating here seems to embrace the PR/Chinese Government View of China — albeit with a nod to restriction on Human Rights. What it doesn’t address is the complexity of life on the ground in China – especially taking into account what’s happening in the areas of China most Americans know less about (such as the Desert Regions and areas near India).

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  73. jwest says:

    In order to maintain and grow a middle class, the nation needs manufacturing. For manufacturing to flourish, the country needs a competitive advantage.

    We all know that America’s competitive advantage can’t be low wages, technology is becoming more equal around the world and raw materials are traded globally, so there is no advantage available in those areas. What the U.S. could do is make electrical energy an infrastructure item, just like interstate highways. Not the ridiculous wind and solar route, but 500 identical reactors, built within 5 years.

    Along with energy, we need to adopt the Fair Tax Plan. Having this tax plan in place would make basing a company in any other country a ludicrous proposition. The U.S. would become the tax haven of the world, flooded with capital in search of projects.

    Too cheap to meter energy and business friendly tax policy. It’s just that easy.

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  74. sam says:

    “What the U.S. could do is make electrical energy an infrastructure item, just like interstate highways. Not the ridiculous wind and solar route, but 500 identical reactors, built within 5 years.”

    On that point, see, Administration to Push for Small ‘Modular’ Reactors:

    In promoting the reactor, the administration’s immediate goal is to help the Energy Department meet a federal target for reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by relying more on clean energy and less on gas and coal. Like other federal agencies, the department is required by an executive order to reduce its carbon footprint by 28 percent by 2020.

    Yet the longer-term goal is to foster assembly-line production of the small reactors at a far lower cost than construction of conventional reactors. The reactors could even replace old coal-fired power plants that are threatened by new federal emissions rules and sit on sites that already have grid connections and cooling water.

    The costs of construction would range from a few hundred million dollars to $2 billion, as opposed to the current price tag of up to $10 billion for a twin-unit nuclear complex, which has an output 20 times larger than that expected for a modular reactor.

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  75. john personna says:

    jwest, an aside first: on a practical basis nukes are more expensive than wind, and way more expensive than efficiency. You know those incandescent light bulbs that conservatives love to love? If we do outlaw them, it will have some billions of dollars worth of nukes to power them.

    On the bigger picture, James seems to accepted the American oligarch’s choice. That is, if they can make money with richer Chinese and poorer Americans, so be it. That means more authentically poor people in the US. Given the current landscape I don’t see an alternative (tariffs being toxic). So, we are probably better off doing the things do to make life for the poor more civilized. We need cheap rents, not mortgage loans. We need public transport, not 6 year car loans (and toll roads).

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  76. EJ says:

    “What would you all say if I said it was technologically possible to build a train that went from New York City to LA in 1 hour? ”

    You know what, its also possible to spend billions of dollars a year to have people dig ditches in my back yard. Just because something is technilogically feasbale doesnt mean it stacks up to a cost benifit analysis.

    Passanger rail is not self sustainable in any country in the world, and where it comes close you need high densitity population areas. I dont get this obsession with trains by so many people on the left. Its brutally expensive and isnt even that cost effective as a means of reducing carbon emissions.

    Is it that east coats gentry liberals would just like to have a tax subsidized travel for their NY weekend trips? Cause if a train cant survive off of ticket sales alone and requires a subsidy, then it costs more than the benifit and all it ends up being is a wealth transfer from society at large to a bunch of wealthy urbanites.

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  77. B-Rad says:

    From the comments here, it is obvious what sort of dreck a blog like this normally attracts. As a tremendous fan of the concept of the book (more so than the book itself) I am giddy at it’s coming release, even if the movie turns out to be relatively poorly done.

    As one who finds the concept of living off my savings for a year to deny the federal government the $110,000 I send them every single year, in sync with everyone else, as the best fantasy I can ever conjure up, I am glad that this release is simply creating conversation about the book – critical or otherwise.

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  78. rodney dill says:

    Plains will never be able to travel that fast because of wind resistence.

    …and because they are just basically flat surfaces of ground.

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  79. Rob in CT says:

    Lefties tend to like trains mostly b/c they are better from a carbon emissions standpoint, I think. Cars & trucks are bad, trains are better (from that standpoint).

    Trains make lots of sense for freight, and how about that – freight rail is alive and well. Passanger rail… not so much. Cars beat the hell out of them for convenience and planes beat them for speed (for sufficiently long flights, anyway).

    You can certainly look at the various subsidies/tax breaks provided to other modes of transport and argue that rail is disadvantaged, but I doubt that even with a totally level playing field passenger rail would be competitive in the USA except for the NE corridor & parts of CA. And I love trains (looking at them, anyway).

    Obviously, I don’t speak for “the Left.” The above is just my educated guess.

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  80. Gerry W. says:

    Consider me in the center. I have mentioned in the past that since both democrats and republicans don’t know what they are doing that we need to invest in our country, in our people, and in the future. If we are going to send 30% of our manufacturing overseas, or as they say the private sector, and that if we have 2 billion cheap laborers in world who wants our jobs, then we have to find innovative ways to create jobs as I don’t think exports are the only answer and is not the answer when you have factories that are closed.

    I have said the following and it is a short version of 3 out of 17 points.

    Invest in our country: Possible high speed rail within reason, high speed internet, a new air traffic control system, we are behind some 2 trillion dollars on our infrastructure. As we have seen, in the past days and months that gas lines explode. Also energy independence.

    Invest in our people: Massive retraining and vocational programs for a globalized society. However, I am aware there are already 19 programs on the books.

    Invest in our future: That is federal research grants to universities for future sciences that will create jobs.

    This is not perfect by any means, but we never encountered globalization in our lifetimes. And if the private sector is free with their “free markets” to send jobs overseas for cheap labor, then the government or someone has to do something. Democrats are spending money on defensive and useless projects and the republicans go on with just tax cuts for the rich and we still lose jobs.

    Someday, I should go back and learn how the interstate was conceived (actually Eisenhower was impressed with the autobahn), and who was in charge. How they devised a plan to include the largest cities of our country and bring them all together. Also on how they came up with the numbering system. Someone had it together and knew what they were doing.

    What I am trying to convey is that we need something on the scale, like our interstate system, that will bring our country back together and also preserve our middle class. As far as high speed rail. I would not have started on a massive scale like Ray LaHood has it. I would have started in the Northeast corridor and only areas that made sense. I personally thought that some airports could have been connected that would have complimented the way we travel in the future and lessen the air travel on short term flights.

    I don’t know if we could ever have a public transportation system as they have in Europe. Again, what we get from democrats is some sort of patchwork and from the republicans some sort of sporadic ideology that does not work.

    Another example is that many towns have empty building in their city center. Instead of tax cuts which is spent money and we have nothing to show for them. Collectively, that money could have revitalized many cities across the country and would have helped small business. But like I say, nearly 800 billion in Bush tax and we have nothing to show for it. The tax cuts did not create jobs and did not create prosperity. It was spent money for the here and now. Bush left town when things were falling apart.

    We need someone to look at our country with a renewed outlook and say this is how we are going to rebuild our country and this is how we are going to create jobs. Granted, lower taxes and spending is part of the picture, but it is not enough. We cannot continue to neglect our infrastructure.

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  81. john personna says:

    British rail has the highest energy efficiency and cost effectiveness … because they pack ‘em in. Ridership is high enough to leverage train efficiency.

    Remember, a railroad can move a ton of goods more cheaply and with less energy than any other land transport. They’re beat only by barge or container traffic.

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  82. Alex Knapp says:

    Is it that east coats gentry liberals would just like to have a tax subsidized travel for their NY weekend trips? Cause if a train cant survive off of ticket sales alone and requires a subsidy, then it costs more than the benifit and all it ends up being is a wealth transfer from society at large to a bunch of wealthy urbanites.

    Oh, I’m sorry — have I walked into a parallel universe where roads and parking aren’t operated, subsidized, or mandated by the government, and where significant aspects of air travel, including security; air traffic control; and airport construction, maintenance, and operations, are under private, rather than government, control?

    Stupid parallel universes….

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  83. matt says:

    I’ve ridden a great deal of the subway in London and I’ll say that generally it’s no worse then the NYC subway or even Chicago’s L train in comfort.

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  84. john personna says:

    FWIW, I was speaking of traditional passenger rail in Britain.

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  85. john personna says:

    Alex, many people are told (in school?) that gasoline taxes support the road system. The reality, as you know, is that they fall far short, and that the general fund (your income tax) is a major contributor.

    In that situation, it certainly makes sense to fund transport that is net-net cost effective for us all, and our taxes.

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  86. Boston Patriot says:

    I, for one, can’t wait to see this movie. Even if the movie isn’t that good, it will be fun to see the characters come to life on the screen. For those who believe that this will be a total flop, don’t be so sure. Seeing as the book sells hundreds of thousands of copies a year, over fifty years after its publication, it’s highly probable that many people will go see it. Also, I think many will be surprised that people will respond to what is being referred to here as “wooden” dialogue. I would consider it intelligent as opposed to “wooden.” I also don’t underestimate the intelligence of the American people or their thirst for uplifting, thought-provoking movies in a sea of trash flowing out of Hollywood.

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  87. Scott P says:

    I doubt the average Tea Partier knows who Ayn Rand is. Most of them would dismiss her, the book, and the movie just over the account that she was an atheist; they’re just as fickle as their opponents who hate on Rand’s writings because of her personal lifestyle. I do hope they water Atlas Shrugged down and “Hollywood it up” so that it’s not just preaching to the choir. It’s a great book, but if the movie stays super true to the book and dialogue, it would be like a really long episode of “Mad Men” with some philosophical circlejerking, aka boring to 90% of our American Idol and Football watching nation.

    I do think the trailer looks pretty decent though – better production quality than I expected, actually. The actress playing Dagny, while not what I imagined (Audrey Tautou) while reading, looks well in the part from what I’ve seen, and she can play a strong woman. The guy playing Eddie is an experienced actor with good presence, and I know he’ll prop up the movie quite a bit. I for one look forward to seeing Ragnar, arrrrr! :-) Everything will be alright; it’s just a movie. Heisenberg says “relax”.

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  88. [...] Atlas Shrugged Movie Preview (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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  89. [...] Atlas Shrugged Movie Preview (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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  90. Joe R. says:

    What would you all say if I said it was technologically possible to build a train that went from New York City to LA in 1 hour? Well guess what, it is. The only thing preventing it is our own political and civilized will.

    That, and the realization that teleconferencing makes spending that much money to save a few hours a bad idea.

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  91. Joe R. says:

    “But then that is the problem, all this freedom with people having a right to control their private property and a say in their local affairs” – thus in a society such as ours there is eminent domain

    Eminent domain is not a tool of freedom; it is a way to get around freedom.

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  92. Joe R. says:

    Have you been to China? I can tell you their middle class is now 250 million people and growing. They have the energy there that we do not have here, very motivated and proud of their country.

    I lived there for 5 years, and I think James is far closer to the truth than you are.

    The former head of the rail project over there was just removed from his post for corruption, by the way. Also, the safety standards weren’t up to snuff. This should not be a huge surprise for anyone with any China experience.

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  93. DasV says:

    This topic and posts certainly proves the fact that ignorance and arrogance go hand in hand.

    The mostly illiterate comments here, which will be echoed among the peasantry worldwide, will serve to promote the film … I mean like ‘DUH’! Rand’s consistent draw has been that she [her work] is far outside the mainstream, and such whether philosophy, politics, or religion has that cult draw that enables one to find ‘something’ therein which only the few know. Such is the mistake of equating art with philosophy, politics, or religion; made by Rand and idiots studying hard to be morons.

    For those with an extremely limited understanding of technology, look up in the sky tonight and pick out a man-made satellite; Dallas to Paris in 17 minutes … now common as dirt.

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