Atlas Shrugged: Intellectual Property

Atlas Shrugged, p.25-32After solving her little railroad problem, Dagny returns to New York to report to her brother, Jim, on the state of the decaying Rio Norte Line. She proposes rebuilding it - actually, that's not right. She's already placed the orders to start rebuilding it, without consulting anyone. More, she's canceled their contract with Jim's preferred supplier, Orren Boyle's Associated Steel, since he never delivers what he promises, and is placing the order with a competitor, … [Read more...]

Atlas Shrugged: A Novel for the 1%

Way back in 2011, I read Ayn Rand's magnum opus Atlas Shrugged - all 1,074 pages of it - with a promise that I'd eventually get around to doing a chapter-by-chapter review, like my review of Lee Strobel's The Case for a Creator. I got sidetracked by other projects for a while, but now it's about time to fulfill that promise.If you haven't read Atlas cover-to-cover yourself (and who could blame you?), here's the plot in a nutshell: In a twenty-minutes-into-the-future United States of America, … [Read more...]

The Box Office Shrugs at Atlas Shrugged

Way back in 2011, I wrote about the hilarious box-office trainwreck (see what I did there?) that was Atlas Shrugged: Part I. Inexplicably, Ayn Rand's dense, multi-hour soliloquies in defense of capitalism failed to translate well into the medium of film. The last news I heard after the movie's belly-flop was that its producer, heroic rich guy John Aglialoro, was threatening, John Galt-like, to turn his back on our society of ungrateful looters and parasites and not make a sequel.But it … [Read more...]

Why I Should Pay Higher Taxes

If you're an American, you probably know that this week is income-tax time. (If you didn't already know that, sorry to tell you, but you missed the deadline.) Most people anticipate tax season with dread, but for me, this isn't an especially painful time. In fact, I almost look forward to it, because my withholding schedule is set up such that instead of having to pay more in April, I usually get a big refund. As pleasurable as it is to get that refund, I'm aware this makes no rational sense. I … [Read more...]

Why We Should Tax the Churches

This essay was previously published on AlterNet. Last November, I attended a debate in the NYU Intelligence Squared series on the topic, "Would the World Be Better Off Without Religion?" One of the audience questions concerned the enormous wealth hoarded by churches, which Christian apologist Dinesh D'Souza defended as follows:I think in the case of the Vatican, the wealth of the Vatican is in priceless treasures, tapestries, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, art. Now, let's remember... it … [Read more...]

Why We Should Tax the Churches

My latest article has been posted on AlterNet, How We All Pay For the Huge Tax Privileges Granted to Religion -- It's Time to Tax the Church. In it, I discuss the enormous wealth owned by churches, financed in part through generous tax exemptions not available to any other organization; the shameless greed of "prosperity gospel" theology; and the bizarre rhetoric of resentment spreading among the American religious right which insists it's a sin to call for higher taxes on the rich or greater … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: November 12

Here's some miscellany to accompany your morning coffee: • 70 major U.S. corporations and civic organizations call for DOMA to be struck down in a friend-of-the-court brief supporting a federal legal challenge. • Help defend the First Amendment! The U.S. Forest Service is considering a request from FFRF to terminate a Catholic group's no-cost lease for a shrine to Jesus on federal parkland. The public comment period is open until December 8, and we need to make our voices heard. The … [Read more...]

Penn Jillette: Is Libertarianism Compatible with Atheism?

Penn Jillette is a larger-than-life figure in every way, including but hardly limited to his imposing physical stature. He's of course best known as one of the world's most famous living magicians, and on stage with his partner Teller, he has the cheerful swagger of a carnival barker, revealing how some tricks are done and daring you to guess at the others. That winking insouciance and delight in breaking taboos carries over into his TV show, Bullshit!, which was one of the increasingly few … [Read more...]

Book Review: God, No!

(Author's Note: The following review was solicited and is written in accordance with this site's policy for such reviews.)Summary: Just what you'd expect from its author: outspoken, boisterous, crude, frequently vulgar, often hilarious. Unapologetically atheist, but more about Penn Jillette the person than about atheism per se.God, No! is written by Penn Jillette, the louder half of Penn & Teller who's well-known for his skeptical and libertarian views. He's also known for being … [Read more...]

Weekly Link Roundup

The storm may rage and the winds may howl, but I'm still here! (So far.) Here's a couple of interesting stories I didn't have time to write more about this week:• Following Rick Perry's urgent prayers for rain in his drought-stricken state, Tropical Storm Don formed in the Gulf, headed toward Texas, and then dissipated before dropping any significant rain. The drought continues. How long will it be before Perry's Christian supporters start to seriously consider if God is punishing him for … [Read more...]