What do Ayn Rand’s Night of January 16th and Recent Christopher Nolan Films Have in Common?

This semester I assigned Ayn Rand’s Night of January 16th to my Law and Literature class. While the play’s setting is a courtroom, and the plot centers on the trial of Karen Andre for the murder of Bjorn Faulkner, the central issue was not one of law, but rather of what Ayn Rand called “sense of life.” Wrote Rand, in the introduction to the play:

A sense of life is a preconceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man’s relationship to existence. I emphasize this last because it is a man’s attitude toward life that constitutes the core and motor of his subconscious philosophy. Every work of fiction (and wider: every work of art) is the product and expression of its author’s sense of life. But it may express that sense of life translated into conceptual, i.e., philosophical, terms, or it may express only an abstract emotional sum. Night of January 16th is a pure, untranslated abstraction. (p. 1)

If you’ve read Night of January 16th, you will recall the idea that sparked it: “a courtroom drama, a murder trial, in which the jury would be drawn from the audience and would vote on the verdict.” But, in order to make the verdict significant, Rand made it depend on more than just “disagreement about inconclusive facts.” Instead, it depended on the jury’s judgement about the witnesses’ credibility, which in turn depended on the jurors’ sense of life:

The two sides in the play are represented, on the one hand, by Bjorn Faulkner and Karen Andre, his secretary-mistress who is on trial for his murder–and, on the other, by John Graham Whitfield and his daughter. The factual evidence for and against the accused is (approximately) balanced. The issue rests on the credibility of the witnesses. The jury has to choose which side to believe, and this depends on every juror’s own sense of life. (p. 5)

I recently saw Interstellar, a movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan. I noticed that the ending was similar to The Dark Knight Rises (directed by and screenplay written by Nolan) in the sense that it is possible to dispute what actually happened—i.e., whether what we saw on the screen during the last few minutes was part of the real universe of the movie, or rather something in a character’s imagination.

SPOILERS FOLLOW below the embedded trailer:

So, for example, some have thought that the entire last sequence of Interstellar was merely a “death dream” experienced by the protagonist, Cooper. This article presents evidence for that interpretation. If you have seen the movie, I think you could join me in marshalling an equivalent body of evidence that Cooper does in fact live to see his daughter, Murph, and eventually goes on to live happily ever after with Ann Hathaway’s character, Brand, in another galaxy beyond the wormhole. I’ll leave it as an exercise; feel free to discuss in the comments :)

Similarly, in The Dark Knight Rises, we go from believing Bruce has died saving Gotham, to believing that he’s finally found a way to shrug off the responsibility of being Batman and live happily ever after in France with Selina Kyle (Catwoman—again, played by the fortunate Ann Hathaway :) ). But some believed that the last sequence, in which we see Bruce and Selina enjoying themselves at a table in a French cafe, is merely the dream of Alfred, who always wished such a happy ending for Bruce. And, as with Interstellar, it seems possible to marshall a significant amount of evidence for either interpretation.

I think Nolan, at least in these two movies, has been intentionally planting enough evidence for either interpretation so that the viewer’s judgement as to what happened in the end of each depends on the viewer’s own sense of life. (And this is why I am glad to hear that Christian Bale also believes that Bruce lives at the end of The Dark Knight Rises.) What do you think? Let me know in the comments, below.


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Section 309 of HR 4681 (a.k.a. the “Obama Gets to Keep His Toys” section of the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2015)

Last week Congress passed HR 4681, the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2105

I’ve pasted the complete text of section 309, which is the section Justin Amash was concerned enough about to require a roll call vote be taken. (Only 59 representatives voted against it. Click here to see what your representative did.)

The section permits acquisition, retention and dissemination of “covered communications” subject to certain “limitations.” The limitations are weak, and seem to apply only to retention. Also, while the default retention period is five years, that can be extended for a variety of vaguely worded reasons (including that the communication is merely encrypted), and accountability is only to legislative intelligence committees. Moreover, these weak limitations don’t even have to go into effect for two more years. That means Obama gets to retain all his toys–unfettered access to our private communications–for the remainder of his term in office. How convenient.

Remember, it’s the third-party doctrine that has put protection of all these communications at the mercy of legislation (if not simply the “pen and phone” of our Chief Executive). The only way to fix this mess is to eliminate the third-party doctrine. Read how here.

(a) Definitions.–In this section:
(1) Covered communication.–The term “covered communication”
means any nonpublic telephone or electronic communication acquired
without the consent of a person who is a party to the
communication, including communications in electronic storage.
(2) Head of an element of the intelligence community.–The term
“head of an element of the intelligence community” means, as
(A) the head of an element of the intelligence community;
(B) the head of the department or agency containing such
(3) United states person.–The term “United States person”
has the meaning given that term in section 101 of the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1801).
(b) Procedures for Covered Communications.–
(1) Requirement to adopt.–Not later than 2 years after the
date of the enactment of this Act each head of an element of the
intelligence community shall adopt procedures approved by the
Attorney General for such element that ensure compliance with the
requirements of paragraph (3).
(2) Coordination and approval.–The procedures required by
paragraph (1) shall be–
(A) prepared in coordination with the Director of National
Intelligence; and
(B) approved by the Attorney General prior to issuance.
(3) Procedures.–
(A) Application.–The procedures required by paragraph (1)
shall apply to any intelligence collection activity not
otherwise authorized by court order (including an order or
certification issued by a court established under subsection
(a) or (b) of section 103 of the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1803)), subpoena, or
similar legal process that is reasonably anticipated to result
in the acquisition of a covered communication to or from a
United States person and shall permit the acquisition,
retention, and dissemination of covered communications subject
to the limitation in subparagraph (B).
(B) Limitation on retention.–A covered communication shall
not be retained in excess of 5 years, unless–
(i) the communication has been affirmatively
determined, in whole or in part, to constitute foreign
intelligence or counterintelligence or is necessary to
understand or assess foreign intelligence or
(ii) the communication is reasonably believed to
constitute evidence of a crime and is retained by a law
enforcement agency;
(iii) the communication is enciphered or reasonably
believed to have a secret meaning;
(iv) all parties to the communication are reasonably
believed to be non-United States persons;
(v) retention is necessary to protect against an
imminent threat to human life, in which case both the
nature of the threat and the information to be retained
shall be reported to the congressional intelligence
committees not later than 30 days after the date such
retention is extended under this clause;
(vi) retention is necessary for technical assurance or
compliance purposes, including a court order or discovery
obligation, in which case access to information retained
for technical assurance or compliance purposes shall be
reported to the congressional intelligence committees on an
annual basis; or
(vii) retention for a period in excess of 5 years is
approved by the head of the element of the intelligence
community responsible for such retention, based on a
determination that retention is necessary to protect the
national security of the United States, in which case the
head of such element shall provide to the congressional
intelligence committees a written certification

(I) the reasons extended retention is necessary to
protect the national security of the United States;
(II) the duration for which the head of the element
is authorizing retention;
(III) the particular information to be retained;
(IV) the measures the element of the intelligence
community is taking to protect the privacy interests of
United States persons or persons located inside the
United States.


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Our Founders Can’t Spin In Their Graves Fast Enough, tonight at 8 p.m. PT (11 p.m. ET)


Between the new Intelligence Authorization Act, Cromnibus, the new NLRB rules issued yesterday, and a few other gems, it seems our Founders can’t spin in their graves fast enough to keep up with the pace of the march toward statism. Join us during tonight’s show to discuss and vent a bit. See Program Notes, below, for all the stories, etc., we plan to discuss.

Join in live, either by phone or in the chatroom, and tell us what you think!

The show can be accessed here.

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Program Notes

Check out Bosch’s Christmas Sale!

Congress ‘Endorses’ Warrantless Collection, Storage of U.S. Communications

Breaking: Congress Passes Bill Giving Police Unlimited Access to Citizens’ Private Communications

Don’t Tread On My Metadata

Senate Leaders Press for Quick Passage of Spending Bill

Big Labor Gets Early Christmas Present from NLRB

Trey Gowdy GRILLS Jonathan Gruber. Did You Apologize Because You Said It Or Meant It?

300 Former Obama Staffers Urge Elizabeth Warren to Run for President

J.L. Granatstein: Low oil prices are part of a Saudi long game HT Brian Tinker

Greenpeace apologises to people of Peru over Nazca lines stunt HT Rob Abiera

A Flawed Report’s Important Lesson

Atheists Face Persecution Worldwide, Report Says

Shimer College: the worst school in America? HT Brian Yoder

Nation’s Largest Eminent Domain Land Grab Defeated

Preet’s overreach: Insider-trading-case slapdown HT Yaron Brook


Filed under Don't Let It Go...Unheard