Category Archive 'Atlas Shrugged'
03 Apr 2009

John Galt’s Time May Have Come

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Recent political developments have made Ayn Rand’s masterpiece timely and topical and reports that financing may be in the works to begin production of the film version.

Charleze Theron seems to have replaced Angelina Jolie as the front runner to play Dagny Taggart.

Ryan Kavanaugh is said to be circling the eternally stuck-in-development-hell big-screen adaptation of Ayn Rand’s self-styled ‘magnum opus,’ Atlas Shrugged.

Kavanaugh’s Relativity Media, according to the Risky Biz blog, could come aboard to finance the Baldwin Entertainment project with Lionsgate.

While Angelina Jolie was the most recent name attached to play protagonist Dagny Taggart, the blog says that other stars now interested include Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway.

Given the book’s themes of individualism that resonate in the era of Obama, government bailouts and stimulus packages, this could be the perfect time to finally get the book to the screen.

“This couldn’t be more timely,” Karen Baldwin, who along with husband Howard is producing, told BIZ. “It’s uncanny what Rand was able to predict — about the only things she didn’t anticipate are cell phones and the Internet.”

With the recession, the book has experienced a resurgence. As of today, it is listed as top seller on Amazon in the Literature & Fiction Literary and Classics categories.

The story first appeared at Hollywood Reporter’s Risky Biz blog.

25 Mar 2009

Jake DeSantis Shrugged

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The New York Times published yesterday’s resignation letter from Jake DeSantis, executive vice president of the American International Group’s financial products unit, to Edward M. Liddy, the chief executive of A.I.G.

Dear Mr. Liddy,

It is with deep regret that I submit my notice of resignation from A.I.G. Financial Products. I hope you take the time to read this entire letter. Before describing the details of my decision, I want to offer some context:

I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down. …

The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation. I never received any pay resulting from the credit default swaps that are now losing so much money. I did, however, like many others here, lose a significant portion of my life savings in the form of deferred compensation invested in the capital of A.I.G.-F.P. because of those losses. In this way I have personally suffered from this controversial activity — directly as well as indirectly with the rest of the taxpayers. …

But you also are aware that most of the employees of your financial products unit had nothing to do with the large losses. And I am disappointed and frustrated over your lack of support for us. I and many others in the unit feel betrayed that you failed to stand up for us in the face of untrue and unfair accusations from certain members of Congress last Wednesday and from the press over our retention payments, and that you didn’t defend us against the baseless and reckless comments made by the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut. …

I have decided to donate 100 percent of the effective after-tax proceeds of my retention payment directly to organizations that are helping people who are suffering from the global downturn. This is not a tax-deduction gimmick; I simply believe that I at least deserve to dictate how my earnings are spent, and do not want to see them disappear back into the obscurity of A.I.G.’s or the federal government’s budget. Our earnings have caused such a distraction for so many from the more pressing issues our country faces, and I would like to see my share of it benefit those truly in need.

On March 16 I received a payment from A.I.G. amounting to $742,006.40, after taxes. In light of the uncertainty over the ultimate taxation and legal status of this payment, the actual amount I donate may be less — in fact, it may end up being far less if the recent House bill raising the tax on the retention payments to 90 percent stands. Once all the money is donated, you will immediately receive a list of all recipients. …

This choice is right for me. I wish others at A.I.G.-F.P. luck finding peace with their difficult decision, and only hope their judgment is not clouded by fear. …


Jake DeSantis

20 Mar 2009

Carol Baum: Maybe Atlas Should Shrug

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Carol Baum, at Bloomberg, reads today’s news and finds herself living in a Rand novel.

Somewhere John Galt is smiling.

The hero of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” is smiling because he’s seen it all before: the government’s intervention in the private sector; the constraints placed on business in the name of the people; the desperation on the part of government bureaucrats when they realize their leverage is limited; and — this part is still fiction — the decision on the part of business leaders to walk away from the enterprises they built.

That’s all I could think about when I read that American International Group Inc., recipient of $173 billion in taxpayer funds, was paying out $165 million in bonuses to employees of its financial-products group, the poster boy for risk and greed.

The Obama administration, Congress and the public are outraged taxpayer dollars are going to enrich the folks who got us into this mess. So am I.

Members of Congress want to blame Edward Liddy, the former chief executive officer of Allstate Corp., who was recruited by former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in September to steer AIG away from the shoals.

Liddy is paid $1 a year for his efforts. “My only stake is my reputation,” Liddy said in a March 16 open letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

His only crime, as far as I can tell, is inheriting compensation contracts providing for retention bonuses for certain AIG derivative traders, some of whom have left the company, and listening to lawyers on his options. …

I’m not alone in noting the parallels in the government’s evolving response to the financial crisis. For a year I’ve been waiting for Paulson or Geithner to announce “the John Galt Plan to save the economy,” which is right out of Rand’s novel.

It wasn’t until the AIG bonus brouhaha broke last weekend and I watched government officials flailing to contain the fallout that I realized the government is losing its leverage. Or maybe it never had any leverage to begin with.

Let me explain. The government has been propping up teetering financial institutions, including AIG, Citigroup and Bank of America, creating the illusion that the banks need the government.

The government doesn’t care about these institutions. It cares about the stability of the financial system: the totality, not the parts.

Congress can refuse to allocate more money to institutions in which it already owns a share (80 percent in the case of AIG). It can levy a tax on the AIG bonus payments or withhold them from the next $30 billion cash infusion, although who would notice? And it can install new management.

Why hasn’t the government put in its own people already? Maybe no one wants the job.

The government needs Liddy and Citigroup’s Vikram Pandit and Bank of America’s Ken Lewis to continue working to restore their firms to prosperity in the same way the looters in Rand’s novel need Hank Reardon and Francisco d’Anconia and Dagny Taggart, respectively, to run their steel mills, copper mines and railroad.

From their perches as chairmen of the House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee, respectively, Democrats Barney Frank and Chris Dodd fulminate about the lack of regulation and about inflated CEO compensation. For Dodd, it’s a good opportunity to deflect attention from his sweetheart mortgages from former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo and his questionable real estate deal in Ireland.

All that’s left for life to imitate art completely is for these CEOs to quit. Let Barney Frank and Chris Dodd run AIG. Let’s see how they fare.

The government needs these companies to survive — and buy back the government’s ownership stake — more than they need the government. Most of these CEOs are already wealthy. They don’t need a job working for the government, which is what running a bank amounts to today.

What’s in it for them? One dollar of compensation? Their reputations? The house on the lake looks more appealing by the day.

Is anyone surprised sales of “Atlas Shrugged” have spiked in recent months as reality comes to resemble Rand’s fiction?

15 Mar 2009

A Spectre is Haunting Socialism

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Everett Raymond Kinstler, Ayn Rand

Edward Cline observes that the left’s dishonest and temporary triumph is being marred by a stubborn dissent on the part of ordinary Americans armed with very different ideas, ideas having a great deal to do with a very thick novel published just over half a century ago.

The world seems to be emerging from a moral and intellectual coma, perhaps temporarily, perhaps permanently. It is discovering that other ideas have other consequences, as well, ideas that promote life, promote prosperity, promote ambition and personal success, and that they are possible only in political freedom, and that this freedom has been violated, abridged, and nullified by the first set of ideas. True, politics is the last thing to be affected by a philosophical revolution. But one cannot help but be pleased with how startled the collectivists and altruists are now by the knowledge that they have not successfully pulled a fast one on Americans. These Americans have come knocking on the doors of elitists or leaning over the café railings or invading their legislated smoke-free bars and restaurants to ask: What in hell do you think you are doing?

The Americans who recently protested the spendthrift policies of the Obama administration and Congress with “tea parties,” and who plan to protest them on an even larger scale in the near future, one can wager are not regular readers of The New York Times. They cannot have much in common with its columnists and editors, nor with the news media.

So the collectivist and altruist elite become very touchy when the people for whom they are “doing good” for their own sake, even to the point of enacting coercive and felonious legislation, exhibit signs of intelligence, resistance and anger. How dare these yokels!

And nothing raises their hackles higher than any mention of Ayn Rand.

06 Mar 2009

Tigerhawk’s Speech

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Tigerhawk, the Princetonian blogger from Iowa, has been pulling a few all-nighters recently, but found time (at 3:00 AM on Sunday) to deliver on video a John Galt-style speech defending the hard work and personal sacrifices of the high achieving people like himself, currently being stigmatized and targeted for special tax treatment by Barack Obama.

I’ve heard more fully developed analyses and better eloquence, but not often by people speaking from the heart from notes written at three o’clock in the morning after a lengthy session of work.

9:50 video

Leftie blogs are full of Rand villains sneering in response. Dagny would shoot the lot of ’em.

26 Mar 2008

CEO’s Gift to College Has String Attached

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Charlotte Observer (3/23):

As a college student in Chapel Hill, John Allison stumbled across a collection of essays by Ayn Rand and was hooked by her philosophy of self-interest and limited government. As he rose over the decades to chief executive of BB&T, one of the country’s leading regional banks, Rand remained his muse.

He’s trying to replicate that encounter through the charitable arm of his Winston-Salem-based company, which since 1999 has awarded more than $28 million to 27 colleges to support the study of capitalism from a moral perspective. But on at least 17 of those campuses, including UNC Charlotte, N.C. State and Johnson C. Smith University, the gifts come with an unusual stipulation: Rand’s novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” is included in a course as required reading.

The schools’ agreements have drawn criticism from some faculty, who say it compromises academic integrity. In higher education, the power to decide course content is supposed to rest with professors, not donors. Debate about the gifts, which arose at UNCC this month, illustrates tensions that exist over corporate influence on college campuses.

UNCC received its $1 million gift pledge in 2005, but details about the “Atlas Shrugged” requirement came to light as the school dedicated an Ayn Rand reading room March 12.

“It’s going to make us look like a rinky-dink university,” UNCC religious studies professor Richard Cohen said Thursday after UNCC Chancellor Phil Dubois told the faculty council about the gift. “It’s like teaching the Bible as a requirement.”

Dubois, who learned of the book requirement this month, says it was ill-advised. He may ask Allison to reconsider it, he told faculty.

Allison has been surprised that the gifts can generate controversy. He says he simply wants students exposed to the late author’s ideas, which he believes the academic community has largely ignored. He welcomes opposing ideas.

He also points out that the schools approached the foundation, not the other way around.

Yale bent over backwards (as it were) to negotiate a deal allowing the administration to save face while accepting an alumni gift to endow a program of Gay Studies amounting to virtual advocacy. Ayn Rand’s philosophic views are hardly a less legitimate subject for academic study.

15 Sep 2007

50th Anniversary of Atlas Shrugged

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Even today as we approach the 50th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged on October 12, 1957, the New York Times acknowledges, Ayn Rand’s libertarian masterpiece is selling strongly.

14 Jan 2007

Atlas Shrugged Film: Disaster Looms

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Dagny Taggart?

The New York Times reports that Randall Wallace, screenwriter of Braveheart (1996) and We Were Soldiers (2002) is inching toward completion of a script for the filming of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

The challenge, Mr. Wallace said, was immediately tempting. As for how he is distilling Rand’s novel and its Castro-length monologues to a two-hour screenplay, Mr. Wallace insisted he had the material under control and was on course to deliver a finished draft this month.

“I can pretty much guarantee you that there won’t be a 30-page speech at the end of the movie,” he said. “I have two hours to try to express what Rand believed to an audience, and my responsibility is not only to Ayn Rand, but to the audience, that this be a compelling movie. More people will see the movie than will read ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ And the movie has to work.”

Of course, Randall, that has to mean that you outrank Rand.

A film production of Atlas Shrugged lacking John Galt’s speech would be like a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony omitting the Ode to Joy. If you don’t think John Galt’s speech is a key part of the novel, if you don’t like John Galt’s speech or find it intrinsically boring, you don’t really connect with Ayn Rand, and have no business trying to do a screenplay version of her work.

No, I wouldn’t advocate a word-for-word performance, but Atlas Shrugged without the Speech would be like the New Testament without the Resurrection.

Not even Angelina Jolie as Dagny is going to save this turkey.

And can you imagine? The Times reports that they were able to buy full creative control from that worm Peikoff. Rand must be spinning at 78 rpms.

Earlier Story – 27 April 2006.

27 Apr 2006

Atlas Shrugged To Be Filmed

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Pamela McClintock reports in Variety

Ayn Rand’s most ambitious novel may finally be brought to the bigscreen after years of false starts.

Lionsgate has picked up worldwide distribution rights to “Atlas Shrugged” from Howard and Karen Baldwin (Ray), who will produce with John Aglialoro.

As for stars, book provides an ideal role for an actress in lead character Dagny Taggart, so it’s not a stretch to assume Rand enthusiast Angelina Jolie’s name has been brought up. Brad Pitt, also a fan, is rumored to be among the names suggested for lead male character John Galt.

“Atlas Shrugged,” which runs more than 1,100 pages, has faced a lengthy and circuitous journey to a film adaptation.

The Russian-born author’s seminal tome, published in 1957, revolves around the economic collapse of the U.S. sometime in the future and espouses her individualistic philosophy of objectivism. The violent, apocalyptic ending has always posed a challenge but could prove especially so in the post-9/11 climate.

Howard Baldwin said some people have pigeonholed “Atlas” as better suited for a miniseries. That’s why he sometimes pondered turning “Atlas” into two movies. In fact, a two-part script penned by James V. Hart (Contact) for the Baldwins envisions “Atlas” as two pics, although it’s likely to be reworked.

For years, producer Al Ruddy tried to make Rand’s definitive book into a movie, attracting the interest of Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway at one point.

But while Rand was still alive, she had script approval, complicating the process. After the author’s death in 1982, Ruddy continued his efforts and, in 1999, he inked a pactpact to produce “Atlas” as a miniseries for TNT. Ultimately, the deal faltered.

In 2003, the Baldwins acquired the film rights to the novel from Aglialoro, a New York businessman, after launching Crusader Entertainment with Philip Anschutz. Hart was hired at that time to adapt.

Anschutz, however, ultimately decided not to make the movie.

The Baldwins then took the project with them when they left Crusader and formed the Baldwin Entertainment Group.

“What we’ve always needed was a studio that had the same passion for this project that we and John have,” said Baldwin,

Generally speaking, Lionsgate keeps production budgets below $25 million. “Atlas” is likely to cost north of $30 million, but the studio will reduce its exposure through international pre-sales and co-financing partners. Actors would likely take less money upfrontupfront — a common practice for the indie.

Rand’s individualistic and character-driven stories have captured the imagination of Hollywood before. Warner Bros. made “The Fountainhead,” starring Gary Cooper as the maverick architect Howard Roark, in 1949.

Oliver Stone was attached to direct a remake of “Fountainhead” for Warner Bros. and Paramount, but the project has languished in development. Along the way, Pitt expressed interest in playing Roark.

Angelina Jolie as Dagny Taggart? We can all look forward to the love scene with Francisco on the railroad tracks.

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