Posts Tagged jim taggart

3:9 The Generator, “The Mindless Consumer”

PREVIOUSLY: John Galt was forced to participate in a fascist propaganda rally, but managed to expose his duress to the world during the broadcast.

Meanwhile, the cowardly Doc Stadler listens to said propaganda rally on his dashboard radio as he flees New York City. Since meeting with Galt, his existential terror has become all-encompassing. This wasn’t helped when President Thompson threatened him with incarceration and potentially torture if Galt didn’t start cooperating. Thompson’s theory was that they needed some leverage over the man, and as his former teacher and the only person he had requested to see during his captivity, Stadler was as good a place as any to start.

So driven by panic and adrenaline, Stadler has bolted for Iowa, where he has some vague idea to take control of Project X and rule the Midwest as his own personal feifdom.

Meanwhile on the radio, when Galt exposes his participation in the rally as a fraud perpetrated at gunpoint, the signal turns into a jumble of screams and shouts and then suddenly cuts out. Stadler goes leadfoot on the accelerator.

Soon enough he arrives at the military installation, called Harmony City, that surrounds the Project X generator. The gate is abandoned, parts of the barbed wire torn down. Trucks and armed men are running around further inward. Stadler ignores the odd circumstances and barrels onward.

When he reaches the control building, the guard is smoking and looking insubordinate and has accessorized his uniform like some kind of guerrilla or militia man. Stadler demands to be let inside and made commander. The guy couldn’t give less of a shit but takes him inside to meet The Boss.

Down in the control room itself, The Boss is instructing his underlings to spread the word from Chicago to Kansas City that he now rules America’s breadbasket and demands exorbitant tithes from all the remaining residents. The Boss, by the way, is Jabba the Hutt, the former G-man who took over Taggart Transcon while Dagny was in Galt’s Gulch. He and his ragtag private army have beaten Stadler to his plan.

Stadler insults and harangues Jabba. He doesn’t know what he’s doing! He’s drunk! He’s completely unqualified to handle this dangerously powerful scientific weapon! Jabba tells Stadler to go screw and starts fucking around with all the control panels just to be a dick. Stadler is like “NOOOO!!!” and then:

The Project X harmony of death whines to life. A shock wave of destructive energy ripples out for hundreds of miles around, felling every structure, killing every innocent, and destroying the Taggart Bridge, last road across the Mississippi. And the eye of the storm is not immune — the Project X control base rises and up and shreds itself to pieces too, collapsing to the ground with the mutilated remains of Jabba and his soldiers and the former Doctor Stadler inside.

Meanwhile, back in New York City:

After Galt raised hell at the rally, all the plutocrats rushed out of the room while Thompson had Galt wrestled to the ground and sent back to his cell/suite. Dagny, inspired by John, snuck back up the hotel and into the room where the Fascists hold their emergency meetings.

Therein she finds everyone freaking out. Goebbels tears his hair out and quits. Doc Ferris is hissing that he TOLD them this would happen. Thompson relinquishes all responsibility, and Ferris takes this opportunity to convince them that with the government completely discredited, their only option left is to let him torture the shit out of ol’ Johnny. Why this would get them anywhere nobody really asks.

A chill runs down Dagny’s spine as she finally realizes the full depravity of these supposedly civilized people. Just as Ferris explains to the rest that his specially designed Persuader, a.k.a. Project F, is located in a soundproof room at the State Science Institute, he remembers that Dagny is there. She returns his gaze dully, shrugs, and lets herself out. Ferris seems to think nothing of it.

I think I forgot to mention that in the last chapter Dagny received a secret letter from Francisco giving her a phone number to call in case of emergency, which is relevant now because call she does. As soon as she’s out on the street she gets on her cell phone.

When Francisco picks up he already knows about the rally and tells her to go to her apartment and office, collect all her valuables and some clothes and other supplies. She does exactly that and we get a roundelay of callbacks to earlier in the book: from her apartment, the Rearden Metal bracelet and the gold coin she was paid in Galt’s Gulch. From her office, the map of the Transcon lines at their long-gone apex and the portrait of her great-grandfather Nat.

But just as she prepares to leave her office, one of her few remaining employees comes in crying. The horror, the horror! He has just learned of the humanitarian atrocity in the Midwest, and the destruction of the bridge. Dagny is momentarily spurred to do her job, but stops herself. She turns to the engineer and tells him there’s nothing she can do for them now, and leaves. She has officially gone Galt; on her way out of the train station she marks the statue of Nat with a big dollar sign graffiti in lipstick.

Outside, Francisco arrives. Dagny joins him and tells him about how the Fascists are flying to State Science with Galt in tow. They head out.

At State Science, Project F is actually up and running already. Quick flight! I guess it was just New York to New Hampshire. Anyway, Galt is strapped to a board and wired up with electrodes. Ferris is supervising the interrogation while Mouch and Jim watch. They run high voltage through various parts of Galt’s body while demanding that he become their ruler. HA! That’s pretty great. For once in this godforsaken novel, the hilarious perversity of the situation comes across as intended instead of ironically doubling back on the author.

After an hour or two of electroshocks, Galt’s heart monitor is spasming wildly, but he remains silent and focuses on meditative breathing. It’s Wesley Mouch who freaks out first. He asks Ferris to stop, for surely Galt will obey them now. But Ferris scoffs. The point isn’t to make him obedient, the point is to break him completely, until he believes in their philosophy and works with them voluntarily.

But when Ferris puts the question to Galt he just stares at them unblinkingly, and they all start screaming angrily at him.

“We want you to take over! We want you to rule! We order you to give orders! We demand that you dictate! We order you to save us! We order you to think!”

It’s all to no avail — they’ve shorted the circuit on their device and the power generator fades out. They crowd around the box and Ferris commands some lackey to fix it! Fix it! But nobody knows how. It’s actually John Galt himself who, smiling wryly, tells them how to get it back up and running. The lackey sees the pointed mocking look in Galt’s eyes and, suddenly realizing the disturbing situation he’s agreed to be in, he runs away, leaving the triumvirate of villainy alone with Sexy Capitalist Jesus.

SIDEBAR: Ferris personally designed this device. And yet he doesn’t know how to fix it, and Galt, who has not looked at its internals, does. It’s a nifty little scene, but I have to call bullshit on this one.

Jim explodes in urgent fury and starts tinkering with the Project F generator himself. He declares that they must destroy Galt’s mind, that it’s a moral imperative they eradicate his ideas from existence. 

But now even Ferris and Mouch are starting to have their doubts. They remind Jim that they cannot afford to kill the only man who can protect them from the anarchy they have unleashed on the world.

At this, Jim has a moment of clarity and screams madly, like a rabid animal. He has suddenly seen the truth of himself, the truth he has fought so hard to obscure. This is his nadir, the mental breakdown he has spent the last five chapters sliding toward, the triumph of his nihilism over his willful refusal to admit it:

He was suddenly seeing the motive that had directed all the actions of his life. … It was the urge to defy reality by the destruction of every living value, for the sake of proving to himself that he could exist in defiance of reality and would never have to be bound by any solid, immutable facts.

A moment ago, he had been able to feel that he hated Galt above all men, that the hatred was proof of Galt’s evil, which he need define no further, that he wanted Galt to be destroyed for the sake of his own survival. Now he knew that he had wanted Galt’s destruction at the price of his own destruction to follow, he knew that he had never wanted to survive, he knew that it was Galt’s greatness he had wanted to torture and destroy.

As all his knowledge had consisted of emotions, so now he was held by an emotion and a vision that he had no power to dispel. He was no longer able to summon the fog to conceal his hatred of existence—he was seeing the face of Cherryl Taggart with her joyous eagerness to live—he was seeing his face as the face of a killer who killed in order not to discover his own irredeemable evil.

Taggart collapses into a catatonic state on the floor. Ferris and Mouch are completely unnerved. They call his name but get no response. Shouting to the guard that they will come back, they swear they’ll come back, they pick up Taggart’s limp body and drag him out of the room, more to escape Galt’s unblinking stare than to actually help their friend. They know that he’s a vegetable now.

Jim Taggart, gone forever — never really there at all.

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2:8 By Our Love, “Consumed”

PREVIOUSLY: The American government has finally, fully converted to centralized economic control. Dagny resigned in protest and retired to a remote cabin in the woods. In her absence, willful negligence at the railroad company caused a terrible humanitarian disaster.

Our heroine is living off the land, practicing strict self-discipline, trying not to think about the dying world. She’s almost gone hippie on us, contemplating how nature operates in circles while mankind operates in lines. It sounds like stoned dorm room talk.

As she chops wood or whatever, Dagny’s mind wanders to her longing for Hank, and the payment she owes to Q (the physicist reverse-engineering the ion drive for her). Oh yeah, the ion drive! What the hell is she going to do with it now? But nevermind, because all of a sudden Francisco shows up.

She watches his car approach her hill, and watches as he climbs the hill, and all the while he’s whistling Halley’s 5th Concerto (callback!). It’s like something out of a dream. How did he find her? When he reaches her, they stop pussy-footing around and totally make out. Sweeet.

Frankie is super-psyched that Dagny has finally quit and gone off-the-grid, and he came as soon as he knew where she was — though he won’t say how he found out. Dagny laments the hurt and withdrawal she feels for abandoning her former life (read as, “her job”) and yet acknowledges that she couldn’t continue working there with incompetent moral vampires as her bosses. Francisco is like “Damn straight.”

He reminds her of the last night they spent together as lovers, twelve years ago, when she cradled him in her arms while he had a nervous breakdown. Turns out, that was the night he committed to his secret plan to take down industrial civilization from the inside.

“Don’t go back to the real world, Dagny, or I will recast your role with a better actress.”

You see, Francisco explains, D’Anconia Copper is so old, so wealthy, that if he were to quit, all the no-good “vulture capitalists” could still live off his company’s largesse for generations. So, slowly, over the past decade, he has carefully sabotaged himself, hobbling the world economy as a last desperate measure to halt the planet’s mindless overconsumption.

Dagny understands, realizes why Frankie could never have told her while she still demonstrated any loyalty to society and “the system” in general. Still, she admits, it’s a shockingly ballsy move.

Francisco knows. When he made the choice to sacrifice his true love and his personal passion to become Batman fight the power, it was before the climate and energy crisis was obvious, before communism had taken over most of the globe… she would have thought him a crazy person. It was the hardest decision of his life.

Dagny still feels shitty about leaving the world to the vampires and the consumer zombies, though. Francisco reassures her that there’s nothing she can do to stem the tide. At least, not by herself…

But before Francisco can explain his conspiracy further, a news bulletin comes twittering from the radio in Francisco’s car, announcing the Taggart Transcon tunnel disaster. Hundreds dead, the national rail system in complete disarray. In a fit of gross incompetence, an Army munitions train was sent into the tunnel after the poisoned flagship one, and they collided, destroying the tunnel completely.

And before Frankie can stop her, Dagny sprints down the hill and towards her car, compelled to return to society and save her life’s work.

Oooh, ominous skyline.

Cut to NYC, Taggart Terminal.  That rat bastard Jim is sealed up in his office, an unsigned resignation letter on his desk like a loaded gun. He is trying very hard not to think about the situation around him, block out the reality of this failure and his inevitable public shaming. He hates everything. Literally.

But most specifically he hates Dagny, and suddenly races to the VP office, assaulting Eddie Willers and demanding to know where she went when she quit. This is all her fault, for quitting!

Eddie keeps his cool, admits that he knows and that he will not tell Jim under any circumstances, because Jim is an asshole. Eddie’s glad Dagny left and he hopes she doesn’t come back. Yesss, Eddie’s testicles are finally descending!

Except this is Dagny’s cue to storm back into the office, totally undermining Eddie’s stand. She immediately ropes Eddie into her corner suite where they can take charge and get the nation’s core infrastructure back online.

Jim, still in the midst of a nervous breakdown of his own, and clearly getting no attention from the useful people, flees back to his office to destroy the resignation letter and ponder the impotent void of his personality.

Then Dagny and Eddie’s cram session is interrupted by a phone call from Wesley Mouch, who has already heard of her return from “vacation,” and lugubriously promises her any legal waivers she may need, despite all the laws she broke by quitting. She tells him to fuck off forever and send any further messages through his secretary.

While she’s at the phone, she calls Hank and they commiserate about how they’re gluttons for punishment, making sure the world keeps spinning when the world has gotten as crappy as all this. They agree to meet later that night for a therapeutic dose of kinky fuckery.

And now take everything that just happened in this chapter and make all the philosophical points sound about ten times douchier, and that’ll be roughly like how Ayn wrote it.

NEXT — 2:9 The Face Without Pain or Fear or Guilt, “Twihard With a Vengeance”

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2:6 Miracle Metal, “The Communist Polemical”

PREVIOUSLY: With the global economy trapped in a death spiral of exhausted resources, governments everywhere have taken the opportunity to expand their power and radically restrict individual freedom in the name of preserving society from collapse. It’s going poorly.

In the shadow of the Washington Monument, everyone’s favorite evil cabal of corporatists and politicians have met to conspire some more. Besides the usual triumvirate of Taggart Boyle and Mouch, there are three notable attendees: Dr. Ferris, shameless sociopath of the State Science Institute; Fred Kinnan, head of America’s largest labor union; and POTUS himself, a man named Thompson, a complete political chameleon whose greatest electoral asset is his Generic Anglo-Saxon Face*cough*Romney*cough*.

Anyway the current item on the agenda is a drastic measure they have clearly all been anticipating with some trepidation. It is a proposal to stop the economic contraction by freezing growth at 0%. Prices and wages will be fixed at their current levels indefinitely; strict quotas will be placed on all production and consumption to match prior year amounts; any and all hiring and firing decisions must be approved by the state.

POTUS Not-Romney authorizes Mouch to write the executive order, then ducks out before the horse-trading can commence, presumably for plausible deniability reasons.

The order will be carried out by a new, all-powerful Unification Board. Kinnan the Labor Guy forces Mouch stack it with his men. He also proposes a jobs bill where the government just forces companies to increase the number of people on their payroll to 133% of current employment. Orren Boyle is like “That makes no sense.” Kinnon is like “None of this makes sense, so shut up and deal with it.” Fuck this is so stupid. I’ll give Kinnan this though, he’s not a bullshitter. He’s a cynic who knows these guys are poking more holes in a sinking ship, and he intends to hoard as many lifeboats for his people as he can, but he has no illusions about this being in the public good.

Taggart Boyle & Mouch, on the other hand, the three who set this whole chain of dominoes in motion, are panicky wrecks by contrast. They drank their own Kool-Aid and now they seem kind of appalled that it’s come to this. They shriek about how it isn’t their fault and they have no choice, and Kinnan finds it darkly amusing and the comfortably amoral Ferris is just smug.

Mouch reviews the list of policies they’re about to enact. On top of the economic controls mentioned above, all new inventions will be outlawed; R&D will be conducted by State Science only. No new writing shall be published, and all patents and copyrights will be signed over to the government by the holders through ‘voluntary Gift Certificates.’ This last bullet point strikes them as the most unrealistic and legally dicey of all the things on this list, even though patents and copyrights are government-issued to begin with and literally every other thing they mentioned is utterly insane.

The conspirators nonetheless believe they can get all the remaining patent-holders to relinquish their rights without much of a fight, as long as they can get Rearden to surrender rMetal to them. Jim mentions that he has some dirt on Rearden that should make this objective achievable. In exchange he extracts from Mouch a legal rate hike for Transcon trains. Thank god the real halls of power don’t run on shady quid pro quos, right?

The power players all feel the weight of the moment in solitary shame, and Jim lowers the blinds so they don’t have to look at the Washington Monument taunting them from the window as they sign away all of America’s founding freedoms.

One morning some weeks later, Dagny wakes up on the couch in her office and orders her secretary to get her a newspaper while she gets back to her paperwork. Everybody is walking on eggshells and she doesn’t know why, until Average Eddie Willers brings her the Times and she sees the news about America’s shiny new communist government, which was announced today, don’tcha know.

Her body drains of feeling and without conscious thought she marches to Jim’s office, throws the paper in his face and calls it her resignation letter. She tells Eddie she intends to get her Ron Swanson on and will shortly leave for a remote cabin in the Berkshires that’s been in the family for some generations. Nobody should be allowed to contact her, she tells Eddie, except for Hank Rearden.

Speaking of whom, she calls Hank and lets him know what’s what. Hank has adopted a pretty Zen, resigned attitude to this whole situation by now, and with two weeks letft until the patent-surrender certificates are due, he intends to see things through to the end. Go down with the ship, as it were, like a true captain (of industry).

To that end, one morning, two weeks later, Hank awaits the arrival of the feds at his office to coerce a signature from him. But it is Dr. Ferris, all by his lonesome, who shows up relishing the opportunity to corner Hank after his last failed attempt. They establish once again that Ferris is a self-aware villain who takes pride in his venal, relativistic philosophy, thinks it’s the way of the future.

Ferris bluntly explains that he is blackmailing Rearden with lots of photos and hotel room records proving his now two-year long affair with Dagny. He got them from Jim, who got them from Lillian. Hank realizes that his godforsaken wife has taken advantage of even the slightest pity he showed for her, that she and these totalitarian thugs share a standard operating procedure of exploiting the virtuous to sustain the vicious. And though Hank long ago gave up feeling guilty about his sham marriage and satisfyingly adulterous sex life, he realizes it would be unjust of him to make a self-righteous stand here if all the cost will be borne by Dagny, whose reputation will be ruined.

So he reflects on the very first time he met Dagny, and how they both sensed their chemistry, and how guilty and repressed he was about it at the time, and how clearly he can see the moral landscape now, and without a moment’s hesitation or regret he signs all his rights to rMetal away. It is henceforth to be called OurMetal and its production will be managed by Big Brother the Unification Board.

Welcome, Ferris’ smile seems to say, to the Fascistic States of America.

NEXT — 2:7 The Moratorium on Brains, “Flirting with Sociopathy”

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