Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Business Elves Work Overtime

For some stores, hours and sales double or more

By Joseph Kellard

It’s lunchtime on the Wednesday thirteen days before Christmas, and Joe Dee has several undecorated wreaths spread out on a workstation table at Dee’s Nursery in Oceanside. They are among the thousands of wreaths and garlands, hundreds of them custom ordered, that Dee estimates he and his staff are making before the big holiday.

The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are the nursery’s second busiest time of year, rivaled only by the May planting season, but this is more hectic because Dee and his family’s business face a definite deadline: Dec. 25.

“I would say it’s definitely crazier," said Dee, who opens the store every day at 8 a.m. and closes it by 10 p.m. during the Christmas and holiday season. "The Christmas business is compacted more into the shorter time period. We do most of our Christmas business in three weeks, as opposed to six to eight weeks in springtime."

During the Christmas and holiday season, Dee’s, a family-owned, decades-old nursery that is a virtual Oceanside institution on Atlantic Avenue, is nevertheless relatively no busier than many other businesses, particularly those that create and customize everything from decorations to presents, during this time of year.

Sami Saatchi, owner of SVS Fine Jewelry on Long Beach Road in Oceanside, gets an influx of orders during late November and December, particularly for custom rings, since many couples typically get engaged around the holidays.

During these months, Saatchi can be found cutting his diamonds into the night, often a few hours past his usual 6 p.m. closing time. Normally, a custom job can take about four to six weeks. During this time, Saatchi can manage to make a custom ring in a week and a half. "It gets crazy," Saatchi said, laughing and echoing Dee’s sentiments.

On the Wednesday after Black Friday, Saatchi said that in the next three weeks, due to time constraints, he will probably create some 20 custom pieces before Christmas. He starts by putting the customer’s specific drawing to a computer program that allows him to create a virtual rendition on the flat screen on his shop’s wall. SVS is among more than a dozen jewelry stores in and around Oceanside, including his father’s shop in Island Park, but Saatchi believes that providing such technology gives him an edge over them. And a smaller, family store like his has a different advantage over the likes of Zales or Kay Jewelers.

"Jewelry, after all, is used to celebrate all the special moments in our lives," Saatchi said, "and you want to know who it’s coming from and you want to make it that personal … We get to know our customers and it becomes a lot more personal experience. It really [boils] down to, ‘Who has done the right thing by someone I know.’"

Arlene Toback, owner of Chapter One Books in the T.J. Maxx shopping center on Long Beach Road, said that while regular customers still come to her store during the holidays, she gets many unfamiliar faces that can effectively triple her business. "Along with summer, it’s my best time," Toback said.

Not a business that creates merchandise like a nursery or jewelry store, Chapter One must otherwise emphasize customer service. And even though Toback has few competitors in the area, she nevertheless must compete with the distant chain stores such as Barnes & Noble and Border’s near Roosevelt Field Mall — not to mention customers who come to her store, find a book they want, but order a cheaper copy on Amazon.com.

"It’s a tough thing and I can’t compete with that," Toback admits.
She looks, instead, to create a staff that knows the books her customers typically read. "I want to be able to talk to my customers about the books we’re selling," said Toback, who reads everything from mysteries to book club materials to children’s books.

Toback keeps abreast of the book world by reading the New York Times Sunday Book Review and Publishers Weekly, as well as taking suggestions from her kids, ages 10, 14 and 17. During the Christmas season, Toback said she likes to educate herself on the books that people tend to buy more during this time.

Chapter One also has a one-day book-delivery service to compete with. "If a person comes in for a book, and if my distributor in New Jersey or New York has it in stock, I can pretty much have it for them the next day," Toback said.

While her store is busy during the Black Friday weekend after Thanksgiving, when business typically doubles, sales can triple as Christmas nears. "Those last two and a half weeks before Christmas is when I really have many shoppers," Toback said.

At Dee’s, the weekend after Thanksgiving, most customers come in for indoor and outdoor decorations, to get started on creating some Christmas spirit around their homes.

As Dee was creating his wreaths last week, a sales representative dropped by, opening his large binder filled with holiday products to keep Dee’s shelves stocked.

"Tom, do you have those white swags left?" Dee said to the sales representative. "I have a woman who started decorating her house, didn’t have enough, and when she came back I was all out."

On the third weekend and the week leading up to Dec. 25, the live merchandise, from poinsettias to evergreen trees, moves the most.

The Dee’s own tree farm in Maine keeps the nursery self-sufficient with live Christmas trees. But that’s not always the case with the fresh cut flowers in the nursery’s floral department. Dee’s hires about 10 percent more staff during December, mostly to sell trees and to make the floral arrangements, table centerpieces and fruit and gourmet baskets that comprise the shop’s most popular items.

"Because they are perishable, these items are usually one of the last thoughts people have," said Steve Dee, Joe’s older brother, who sits at a computer in the floral department Googling information on fir trees. "So five or six days before the holidays is the busiest time back here."

While Dee’s tries to give customers a choice of up to a dozen different centerpieces or bouquets to distinguish the nursery from the chain florists, some customers desire unique flowers – whether specific to a particular region, such as Holland, or that have exotic colors. But days before Christmas, these are not always easy to get from a local wholesaler, Steve said.

"It does get pretty frantic," he said, "and sometimes people who want something special, they do it the day before. So," he said with a grin, as if talking to his customers, "remember to order early."

Joseph Kellard is a journalist and columnist living in New York.

Please post comments about this article. For inquiries about Joseph Kellard’s writing services, email him at
: Theainet1@optonline.net.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Art Gallery Opens Where Few Exist

Long Island artists find place to display works

By Joseph Kellard

A print of Renoir’s "Child in White" on her bedroom wall served as the sister she never had while growing up in Indiana.

"Throughout my life, art has inspired me," said Sueanne Shirzay, who hosted the grand opening reception of her new gallery in Island Park on Sunday. "I grew up with a beautiful Renoir of a little girl on my wall. I didn’t have any sisters, so ..."

Shirzay’s thought trails off, but it’s clear she understands the emotionally powerful part that an artwork can play in a person’s life. And in opening her Sueanne Shirzay Gallery, at 4410 Austin Blvd., she hopes that patrons will find their own personal "Child in White" to inspire them among the works of more than 12 local artists adorning the studio’s walls. The reception featured paintings, drawings, PhotoShop collages, reliefs, fiber art and jewelry, with paintings ranging in price from prints that go for $45 to originals that climb into the $4,000 range.

"My goal is to hit every price point," Shirzay said. "I want everyone to afford beautiful art."

The show at her 3,000 square-foot gallery, located on the second floor of Carpet Craft (her husband Bashir’s store), will run until Jan. 5, and regular hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. Among the works at the reception were Ron Rundo’s mix of fiery red, orange and yellow southwestern landscapes. Rundo, an Island Park resident who spent the last 15 months shopping his paintings in galleries owned by Galerie Zuger in Santa Fe, wanted to participate in a gallery in his hometown.

"I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to help out," said Rundo, who has made a living designing postage stamps and painting mostly portraits for the past 17 years.

The PhotoShop collages on display came from the lens of Denise Bory. The Long Beach woman takes detailed digital shots of her subjects, including insects, flower buds and sunsets, and merges these components, usually around a portrait of a child or animal, to evoke a particular theme, such as tropical or seasonal motifs. At Shirzay’s showing, Bory displayed "Chloe’s Garden," a collage that features a young boy peeking through leaves and a cat encircled by spiders, praying mantises and similar crawly creatures.

"I often change around colors," Bory said about the artistic side of her medium, which she dubs "digistration." "I may start out with something green, like a leaf, and change it to purple."

Sharing wall space with Bory’s collages were painter Mary Blair’s pastels of beach and surf scenes of her native Long Beach, Italian villages and the Hollywood hills. Blair typically takes her paintings to fairs and art shows from Kennedy Plaza outside Long Beach City Hall to Manhattan to West Hampton. She used to display them at The Workshop on the West End, a now defunct studio gallery of fine arts and hand-made crafts."It was a nice meeting ground for artists," Blair said.

Asked about the lack of galleries along Nassau County’s south shore, Blair gave a knowing laugh and searched carefully for an answer. "Probably, it’s the proximity to Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island City," she said. "They have many different studios, shows and other outlets there. And it could be that there’s not enough affordable space around here."Rundo once rented studio space at Shirzay’s building, and speculates that when most Long Islanders seek to buy original art, they reflexively think of established studios in New York.

"I think people associate galleries with the city," Rundo speculated, "and I think it’s one of those things that is difficult to get off the ground, like ‘will the community support that,’ and ‘are there enough people who have the kind of money to purchase original art?’"

Bory, Blair and many other artists in the immediate area often go to the Long Beach Library to display their creations. "The local artists tend to go with art groups," Bory explained, "and they tend to display in libraries. It’s hard to find places around here, but I’m sure if we were in the city, they would have more opportunities for us."

Bory is a founding member of the Artist Mothers Group, a Long Beach-based organization that originally met about five years ago to draw and paint together downstairs at a member’s home while a babysitter watched their kids upstairs."We were frustrated that we had babies and couldn’t do our work, and this idea made it easier for us to do our art work," Bory said.

Shirzay said that, beside that it was difficult for her to find time to draw and paint when her children, now ages 6, 11 and 13, were younger, she was concerned about having them around paint fumes and other materials. So she moved her studio to above her husband’s carpet store.

Long before having her children, when she was a 16-year-old kid, Shirzay first arrived in New York to study for a summer at Parsons. After attending Purdue, she graduated from Pratt Institute, but admits that art was not her first love. "I never wanted to be a fine artist, really," she said in her gallery office, where a few of her paintings-in-progress sit on easels. "I liked to write ad copy."

She became an advertising and publishing art director and established Shirzay Communications, a firm that she owned for 10 years. Today, Shirzay offers in-home and business art consulting by appointment.

In addition to providing a new home for local artists, she aims for her gallery to be simple and inviting for art lovers looking to keep some cash in their wallets. "This is how I look," Shirzay said, gesturing at her blue jeans while describing the non-elitist environment she looks to create at her studio. "You’re not going to see me wearing high heels."

And Shirzay said she’ll employ her husband’s business approach, a lesson she considers the most important in sales. "To listen," she said. "I always strive to treat people exactly how I would want to be treated."

Contact the Sueanne Shirzay Gallery at (516) 241-5836, by email at shirzaygallery@aol.com, or visit the Web site at sueanneshirzaygallery.com.

Joseph Kellard is a journalist and columnist living in New York.

Please post a comment about this article. For inquiries about Joseph Kellard's writing services, email him at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I (Heart) the Mercury Girl

Sure, there’s Keira Knightly. And I can’t forget Petra Nemcova. Of course, I’d be remise if I didn’t mention Queen Rania of Jordan.

These lovely high-profiled ladies still sit at the top of my list of favorite beauties. But right now my biggest “crush” is on the Mercury girl, Jill Wagner. Get a gander at her on the right. And if you haven’t seen her many car commercials, watch one of them at the link below (no, I’ve not yet mastered the ability to upload YouTube videos here; and, yes, I’m about as technically proficient at Woody Allen):


Oh, I almost forgot: here's a slideshow of Miss Wagner that you might enjoy as much as I do:


Happy viewing!

~ Joseph Kellard

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Getting the Essence of Religion Wrong

By Joseph Kellard

The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby is an insightful columnist who usually goes awry once his Christian conservatism obstructs his thinking. An example is his Oct. 31 column about a group of self-described "Primitive Baptists," who openly call for various ills and catastrophes to befall homosexuals and Americans in general for their alleged unredeemably sinful behaviors.


Jacoby's response to these religious fanatics is to appear objective in interpreting God and religion, and so he ends up appealing to non-essentials. His point is that these Baptists focus only on the Bible's negatives - God's punishments for (supposedly) wicked behavior. But, at root, objectivity demands, not necessarily a "balancing" between two sides of a subject, but an identification of its essence. Jacoby writes "that God's foremost demand is that human beings act with kindness and decency" toward one another.

Yet, as demonstrated by the foremost Ten Commandments, the foundation of Christianity's ethics is God's demand for man's blind obedience toward Him.
Whatever good moral lessons may be in the Bible are thus trumped by God's overriding command for unthinking faith in his word. But then what, in essence, is "the good" in Christianity? Well, as the foremost Commandments again demonstrate, it is self-sacrifice, a renunciation of the self, of one's reasoning, questioning mind.

Doing "good" in Christianity is, foremost, to be your brother's keeper. And even if the person you are, say, sacrificing your money for is wholly unworthy of it, so be it: the Bible demands it and you have no right to question or defy God's word - or else He'll punish such "wicked" behavior. How does an eternity in Hell sound?

Moreover, the Bible has enough instances in which God invokes his followers to initiate violence against violators of his word - including those who renounce Him to live, instead, by an actual rational moral code. As Ayn Rand's novels and non-fiction demonstrate, faith and force are corollaries - that is, the faithful of all stripes must ultimately twist the arms of such unbelievers. When faith is your primary means to "knowing," then rational persuasion is out; it's God's word and blind obedience toward it - or else!

In essence, the more consistent Christians are the very "Primitive Baptists" Jacoby condemns, just as the more consistent Muslims are those who crashed planes into the Twin Towers. And, remember, the widely respected Jerry Falwell believed these atrocities were God's punishment for America's alleged sins.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Biology: The Cause-All

By Joseph Kellard

The Dec. 3 issue of Time Magazine has a cover story on what supposedly makes man good/evil. I've not read it yet, but the subheads surrounding the print edition clearly state Time's view: man's morality is writ deep in his DNA. With the cover featuring photos of Ghandi (the good) and Hitler (the evil), with dotted lines leading each photo to a different section (left and right) of an oversized human brain, you can bet Time's take on good and evil is that it's all about biology. Ideas, fundamental premises, philosophy-what's that have to do with anything?


There's also a moral quiz you can take, which includes the typical "life boat" scenario.


In my regular reading of newspapers and magazines, I come across articles like this all the time, each explaining all types of behaviors mainly or exclusively on biology grounds, with never a mention that man has not just a brain, but a mind with ideas and free will. It's gotten to the point now that a biological explanation is attributed to almost every human action or emotion. (I recall an article in USA Today, right around when we turned our clocks back for daylight savings, about how people get more "depressed" when it gets darker earlier each day, and some biological chemical explains it all.)

This Time article provides a good opportunity for my readers to write letters to the editor. Let's start injecting an Objectivist view into this issue. At least let's try to get a debate going on an issue where it's noticeably absent.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Anatomy of a Story

By Joseph Kellard

My front-page story on Roger Folz originated in September, after Elliot Leibner invited me to the Oceanside Rotary Club’s bimonthly meeting at Alias Smith & Jones. I was there to meet a Honduran mother who had brought her 7-year-old son to Long Island to undergo heart surgery through the club’s “Gift of Life” program.

Always searching for potential stories, I agreed to attend a meeting this month whose guest speaker would be the new 4th Precinct commander, with the hope that I’d get a story out of it. But when I attended that meeting, I ended up starting another, much different story.

I called Leibner the day before the meeting, and he mentioned in passing that his father-in-law, Roger Folz, owner of the Folz Vending Co., was closing his building in December. “Really,” I said, knowing that Folz is a nationwide distributor of gumball and novelty machines — an Oceanside institution for many decades. Certainly that could be an interesting story, I thought.

When Folz, 79, showed up at the Rotary meeting the following day, he agreed to an interview. We sat in an empty dinning room, where my questions ranged from “How and when did you start the business?” to “What’s it like for you to see it close for good?” Leibner, who once worked for Folz, joined in, offering some information about his father-in-law and his vending company.

After I talked to them and some fellow Rotarians, I knew there was more to develop in this classic American tale of a man of modest beginnings who built a successful company and made a fortune doing it. I asked Folz for a second interview at his office, where he’d likely be more comfortable and I could observe him in his environment, and mine a richer story. The next day I trekked over to his office and warehouse on Lawson Boulevard. As expected, the visit provided me with some greater insights and information.

When I arrived, Leibner gave me a tour of the warehouse, where I talked with some workers, who each told me that Folz was a fair man who treated them well. Then Folz arrived, and at one point as we walked around, he mysteriously turned quiet. At first I though he was angry — perhaps I was asking to see too much? But then I noticed that tears had welled up in his eyes. As he led the way to his office upstairs, Leibner tapped me and motioned with his hands, as if breaking a stick in half, to indicate Folz was heartbroken that his company, once the world’s largest bulk operator, which he started with a few hundred dollars, would be moving to Colorado next month.

In his office, Folz showed me the many photos on the walls, each revealing bits of his company’s history — shots of his family, politicians and celebrities — as well as the plaques he’d received recognizing his success. Our conversation ranged from his lobbying efforts to letters customers had written him to his business mentors and his company’s expansive years, when he earned accounts with major retailers including Toys R Us and Wal-Mart. The pictures may not have generated a thousand words each, but they gave him a lot to talk about as I scribbled away.

I’d made an appointment for the Herald photo editor to take photos of Folz and his employees the next day, and Leibner copied for me a photo of Folz with one of the more prominent people he’s met, President George H.W. Bush. While transcribing my notes back at the office, I decided that it would be better not to rush such an rich story. So I put off writing it for a week. This gave me time to call other people who knew Folz well. I tried former Senator Al D’Amato, since he appeared in a few of Folz’s photos, hoping to get a better understanding of their political relationship, but we were unable to hook up. But Sal Aragona of Harbor Isle, Folz’s first employee and, later, his shop steward for decades, was available, and gave me lots of raw material.

My first draft came to 2,600 words, so I had to make considerable revisions. Meanwhile, I did some Internet research on Folz and the bulk vending industry, and double-checked some facts with Leibner. At that point, I decided it was an interesting enough story to go over in detail with my copy editor, Jim Harmon. So last Friday, we sat down together for nearly two hours and, as always, he gave me some good suggestions that improved my story. Mostly, I cut some details that were bogging it down a bit.

Now it’s Monday, my paper’s press day, and as I write this, while hunting down names for photo captions and putting the final touches on the story, I’m doing the same for the others I wrote for this week’s issue. But I wanted to let readers in on how a Herald story can originate and develop before the final version goes to print. I hope you find our cover story as interesting and enjoyable to read it as I did reporting and writing it.

Folz is Folding

Oceanside-based vending co. closing doors in December

By Joseph Kellard

"They have a cure for old age now," 79-year-old Roger Folz quipped as he slowly, carefully climbed the stairs in his office. "Die young."

On a pole suspended in the stairwell were 1-cent gumball machines that he once installed in stores nationwide, having founded Folz Vending Co. in 1949. Folz is now preparing to close the factory/ warehouse at his office, which he built 30 years later on Lawson Boulevard in Oceanside, for good. The corporation that now owns his company, Coinstar, will move its operations to Colorado in December.

Blame age for Folz’s heavy footsteps, but disappointment is also a factor. "I was expecting to die with my boots on," he said, "but with all the things that happened competitively, and big money going into different phases of vending, it’s been difficult. It was better to sell too soon than too late."

Folz started with $600 and 15 machines, and built his company into the world’s largest bulk vending operation. At its height, Folz had 170,000 machines in 48 states and Canada, and offices dotting both countries. Children — and adults — got their fill of gumballs, pistachio nuts, sour suckers, small toys in plastic capsules, glow-in-the-dark stickers and a variety of other novelties from Folz’s machines in mom-and-pop stores as well as major retailers from F.W. Woolworth to Wal-Mart. In 2002, the year before it merged with American Coin, a vending corporation three times its size, Folz rang up $55 million in sales.

Looking at the many photographs and plaques that crowd the walls of the main office, chronicling Folz’s rich history, you can understand his discouragement at the prospect of the vestiges of his modest business empire being shipped away next month. In his spacious personal office, Folz’s golf awards compete for space with oversized photos of his family: his wife, Adele, who, during the early years, stored the vending merchandise in their Plymouth, and their two children — his late son, Elliot, standing in a hard hat next to the skeletal structure of what would become the company’s 40,000-square-foot headquarters at 3401 Lawson in 1979.

Other photos show Folz shaking hands with the powerful friends he has made through the years, ranging from then U.S. Sens. Alfonse D’Amato and Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Rep. Norman Lent to David Rockefeller and George H. W. Bush. There are shots of Jerry Lewis and his March Of Dimes kids, whom Folz helped raise millions. Plaques recognize Folz as Toys "R" Us’s Vendor of the Year, and a framed letter from President Bill Clinton thank Folz for sending a vending machine to the White House.

When ask about letters from his customers, Folz instantly recalled a boy who wrote to him about the miniature NFL football helmets the boy collected from Folz’s machines. "He said that he spent $5 in coins trying to get a Jets helmet," Folz said, chuckling. "So I sent him a whole bag of them."

Folz said that he got his best advice from a friend in the vending business: Children are among the smartest buyers, so give them more value for their money. "The kids were very astute," Folz said. "If my machines gave them 13 pistachios and my competitor gave them 11, they knew right away to go to my machines."

He has always had a simple motto: beat the competition. "To come up with ways to do a better job with our service," he said.

At 21, after graduating from Woodmere High School in 1946 and while working as an errand boy at Merrill Lynch on Wall Street, he got the idea to do bulk vending part-time. He hooked up with Sal Aragona, a friend who was already in the industry, and the two installed their first gumball machine at a luncheonette in Valley Stream.

"Roger was a good guy, a very fair person who really had a head on his shoulders," said Aragona, who became Folz’s shop foreman in 1953. He retired in 1994 and now lives in Harbor Isle. "As far as business, he was very aggressive."

Folz recognized that most vending companies were regional — so he became the first bulk operator to sell his machines nationwide. After he and Aragona put machines in stores in New York, they headed to Florida, Texas and Massachusetts, and into Canada. Folz’s first big account was with Grand Union supermarkets in the early 1950s. By mid-decade, he had 4,000 machines in A&P stores. Folz Vending peaked in the early 1990s, when he scored accounts with K-Mart, Toys "R" Us, Wal-Mart and Safeway, which generated tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue.

Folz’s son-in-law, Elliot Leibner, who became one of his salesmen in 1984, said Folz was nothing if not a motivator. "I’ve watched Roger time and again go for a goal, and he gets results," said Leibner, who now owns Elyse Vending in Oceanside. "When people come up with excuses, he gets pissed. … He doesn’t like people who look around passively to solve problems, when most of the time you find that to achieve your goals, you have to do it the hard way."

Another element of Folz’s success was his lobbying efforts. He learned early in his career that it was crucial for a businessman to have good friends in the political world —and the friendships he has made have saved his company hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. "His lobbying was definitely his passion," Leibner said.

Take, for example, a single year, 1965, in which Folz successfully lobbied for a 10-cent sales tax exemption and won a case against the Food & Drug Administration, after it charged that children were swallowing his toys and dying as a result. "We showed [the FDA] stats from Australia that proved that our toys were safe," Folz said, noting Congressman Lent’s help in that case.

Backed by the National Bulk Vendors Association, Folz lobbied against excise taxes, and won property tax exemptions in many locations where he operated, from New York to Illinois to Texas.

On the philanthropic front, beyond his work with Jerry Lewis in the mid-1980s, Folz has donated a great deal of money to hometown causes. Through the Oceanside Rotary Club, which he joined in 1967 and served as president twice, he donated $1,000 a year for 10 years to South Nassau Communities Hospital. For nearly two decades, the club used his warehouse to store pallets of groceries for its annual food drive.

Stu Gubenko, who spearheaded many of those drives, echoed other Rotarians when he described Folz as instrumental to the club’s longevity. "Without Roger, this Rotary could not exist," Gubenko said. "He is its backbone. He looks at life, and everything in it, as a business proposition, and he has a keen mind for that — he knows how people work and how to motivate them."

In 1998, Folz was the first major donor to the Barry and Florence Friedberg Jewish Community Center at Neil Court, writing a check for $250,000. Each year he gives $17,000 to the Oceanside High School’s Scholarship Fund. Most recently, he commissioned a Davison Avenue memorial to the Oceanside civilians killed in the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

Folz’s factory workers, too, have benefited from his goodwill. "He always took care of his employees," said John Tatino, who has worked in the shipping department for 21 years. "He always thinks of us and helps us."

"Roger Folz was one of the best bosses I ever had," said Isabelino Morales, a shop steward and a 19-year employee. "He treated the people very decently."

While Tatino has a new job lined up at St. Francis Hospital, Morales has yet to find work, and like many other employees soon to be laid off, he is still searching. And Folz, too, is uncertain about his future. The beginning of his company’s end came, ironically, during its peak years, the early ’90s. A recession cost him some 5,000 accounts from stores forced to close, a blow he never recovered from. "Plus, more vending companies were popping up and copying what we were doing," he said.

Coinstar, the leader in coin counting, DVD and crank vending machines, bought American Coin, and with it, Folz, in 2004. When Coinstar moves to Colorado on Dec. 21, Folz and eight of his front-office personnel will stay in Oceanside, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, Leibner is trying to convince his father-in-law to join him in his vending business across town. "One thing is for sure," Leibner said. "Roger can leave knowing that for anyone who came to the United States wanting to achieve the American dream, they would want to have achieved what he accomplished."

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Dark Ages at 30 Rock

By Jospeh Kellard

Last Sunday night, after watching the games all day, I turned on Football Night in America, a show hosted by Bob Costas and other NFL commentators from the NBC studios at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. I tuned in for the highlights, but what I saw was very dim.

One of the show's attractions is the studio's stately backdrop, a window that looks out onto the GE skyscraper and its plaza, featuring a sculpture of a bronze gilded Prometheus. During the Christmas season, this scene turns into an ice skating rink, above which stands a 75 to 90-foot colorfully-lit Norway spruce. Come December, Rockefeller Center bathes in a magnificent display of decorative lights.

While it is not so lit up just yet, imagine my dismay nevertheless when Costas announced last Sunday that, as part of NBC's efforts to raise awareness about "climate change" and man's alleged contributory "carbon footprint" to this effect, Football Night in America would conduct the second half of its show with the lights turned off. As if taking such a measure wasn’t disgraceful enough, to do this in Manhattan's most brilliantly illuminated area is doubly disgraceful.

During this segment, Costas and his cohorts talked with Matt Lauer of NBC's Today Show, who was bundled up in heavy clothes in Greenland near the North Pole. This was a preview to the morning news show's week-long reports on global warming. Lauer said something about ice sheets melting up there at a record pace …blah, blah, blah. Then we were shown Al Roker in a lush jungle somewhere (no doubt a "rainforest"), and Ann Curry was in Antarctica, both of them ready to report on its supposed effects in those regions.

Some of the guys in the studio with Costas, Keith Olbermann and Cris Collinsworth, were giggling at Laur standing next to an igloo in some desolate corner of the world. Then they all made light of doing the rest of the show in the dark, with flashlights.

Of course, what's sad is that displays like this, which are becoming evermore frequent in our post-Inconvenient Truth world, are no laughing matter. The actual truth is that fear-mongering environmentalists are so successfully scaring more and more Americans, in an attempt to induce guilt about their supposed overuse of such "conveniences" as light bulbs, that many are willfully following the greens back toward the Dark Ages.

Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Corporate Environmentalism Questioned—But That’s All

By Joseph Kellard

Last week, BusinessWeek featured a good cover story on an executive of an Aspen ski resort, Auden Schendler, who has long championed corporate environmentalism, but has since become disillusioned—at least to the extent that it is cost effective for his company.


The article is encouraging only in that it features, amidst a time when American businesses are frantically scrambling to bill themselves as "environmentally friendly," a businessman openly challenging the faith that environmentalism and capitalism are compatible, particularly as a means to combat so-called "climate change."

Here are some excerpts:

"'Who are we kidding?' [Schendler] says, finally. Despite all his exertions, the resort's greenhouse-gas emissions continue to creep up year after year. More vacationers mean larger lodgings burning more power. Warmer winters require tons of additional artificial snow, another energy drain. 'I've succeeded in doing a lot of sexy projects yet utterly failed in what I set out to do,' Schendler says. 'How do you really green your company? It's almost f------ impossible.'"

"For all his hard work, however, Schendler began to feel a creeping disappointment. Combined, the hydro and solar projects eventually will generate less than 1% of the company's power needs."

"Schendler explains his confessional mood as the result of cumulative frustration: with foot-dragging colleagues, with himself for compromising, and with the entire green movement frothily sweeping through corporations in America and Europe."

As Objectivists have unfortunately come to expect in today's polluted philosophical environment, the problem is that even businessmen such as Schendler fail to see that the problem is with environmentalism as such, and so he never questions the green movement's roots, nor discovers how its is fundamentally opposed to capitalism. That, apparently, is asking too much of an executive who studied environmental science in college and considers himself a "nature-lover," which to many equates to being an environmentalist.

As a solution, predictably and tragically, Schendler is calling for his company to "favor more meaningful green projects," and more governmental regulation of carbon emissions.

Of course, what Schendler needs is a good lecturing. Perhaps he can begin with Richard Salsman's "Corporate Environmentalism and Other Suicidal Tendencies":


Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

How Atheism Can Lead to Religiosity

By Joseph Kellard

A Boston Globe feature article on the growing number of "non-believers" in the United States-well, at least among our youth-actually gives a glimpse into why many Americans are instead finding God.


Both the non-believers highlighted in this article and its author, as illustrated by his reporting, show why assorted non-believers (atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, etc.) cannot unite around their *non*-belief and "free thought."

Atheism, of course, is not a philosophical system. Philosophically, it is simply a rejection of God on metaphysical grounds (although, I realize, some atheists are such on emotionalist grounds), which leaves wide open what non-believers believe in otherwise-thus, atheists run the gamut from Objectivists to nihilistic-anarchists (the emotionalist type).

What's noteworthy is that the article describes today's humanists as having roots in such non-believers as Hume, Marx, Nietzche and even Ayn Rand-but "align themselves with more recent proponents of ridding society of God," including Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan and Kurt Vonnegut. Of course, the problem here lies in lumping Ayn Rand in with the likes of Marx, implying she is a passé atheistic forbearer rather than the still under-recognized philosophical innovator that she is.

Also note that among the young non-believers that the author quotes, most make appeals to "science" while saying nothing about moral values and where they derive them rather than from God.

"I oppose any ideology that motivates people to ignore or deny scientific evidence, especially when that evidence is crucial for improving people's lives," says the president of the Tufts Freethought Society.

The author does explore the moral values of one non-believer, Greg Epstein, the focus of his piece, who wants his ilk to go beyond denouncing religion, and denying the existence of God, so that they can focus on what unites them. So what unites them? Well, when Epstein defines humanism, he calls it a "philosophy of life without supernaturalism that affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment aspiring to the greater good of humanity."

Further, Esptein finds this maxim inspiring: "Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness."

After reading the article, I concluded that within a decade or less, Epstein will likely be preaching socialism somewhere, perhaps at a religious congregation. I can hear it now: "Workers of the world unite…"

Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ayn Rand Lexicon Online

By Joseph Kellard

The Ayn Rand Institute received permission to post the entire "Ayn Rand Lexicon" on its web site:


I'm anticipating that the lexicon's editor, Harry Binswanger, will be writing about this development on his Harry Binswanger List.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gus is Staying; I Get a Little Personal

By Joseph Kellard

Gus Van Horn, my favorite Objectivist blogger, writes a post celebrating the third anniversary of this blog. In this post, he reflects on the pros and cons of writing for his blog, and, at first, it appears as if he’s considering calling it quits. Thankfully, that’s not the case. To my delight, Gus has decided to continue blogging, and below you’ll find my response to Gus’s post. I thought it would make for interesting reading for you, my readers.


I'm happy that you've decided to continue blogging. For various reasons, I've stopped subscribing to TIA Daily, and so I've turned to reading various Objectivist blogs instead. Your blog is one of a handful that I try to read every day.

As a writer by profession, I can certainly sympathize with your pausing to weigh the pros and cons of blogging, and whether it’s worth it to continue. I’ve been writing opinion pieces for more than a decade now. In the early days, after starting and writing a quarterly newsletter for about a year and a half, I tried to write a weekly opinion column or essay for what became a weekly email newsletter. For the most part, I succeeded.

But once I changed professions and became a full-time journalist, however, things really changed. I found that, after sitting at a computer writing all day, coming home and starring at a computer to write even more eventually took a heavy toll on me. For a few years, I tried writing a periodic column for the newspaper where I work, but, as you wrote in your post, most people at work, namely my publishers and boss, did not necessarily want to hear what I had to say. My left-wing publishers, and my pragmatic, conservative boss, put the clamps on my column writing, particularly after I wrote one reluctantly calling on readers to support Bush over Kerry in 2004.

On top of all this, I’ve never been able to successfully reconcile my writing with two other important values: a social life and romance. At 41, I’m still single, and now more than ever I’m looking for my true love. For many years I loved reading, studying and writing so much, that I just put these values aside, or, to be more accurate, I pursued them much less aggressively that I should have. Both writing and finding friends and a girlfriend have never come easy to me. I’m basically introverted, and so talking to the ladies has not been my forte. But if, as a man, you want to meet a woman, then you’d better lean how to get over your insecurities and find the courage to open your mouth. So I constantly had (and have) this tug-of-war going on between my love of writing/reading and my love of women. I’ve found that, because it’s largely in my control, a writing career has come relatively easy; but finding the right woman has proven much more difficult.

Anyway, until I meet the love of my life, and assuming she and I are compatible and we marry, and until I get that well-paying journalistic job (almost an oxymoron) that will make me much more financially secure than I am, I don’t see myself putting in the time, effort and energy that I once did to produce ever-improved opinion columns and essays—my true love.

In the meantime, I do what I can, here and there, to pump out an occasional HBL post, opinion piece, letter to the editor, and blog post, and maybe I’ll read David Allen’s book and find it as fruitful as you have. Also, I’m happy to see that you, too, are trying to work through your own individual “issues” with your writing, and that you will continue to blog.

Keep up the great work.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Strand Poll: Atlas & Fountainhead Make The Cut

By Joseph Kellard

Back in August I informed my readers about a poll that Strand Bookstore in New York City was conducting to celebrate its 80th anniversary. The poll asked Strand customers to cast their votes for their all-time favorite five books. Well, the results of the poll’s top 80 vote-getters were announced earlier this month, and two of the books I voted for, both by Ayn Rand, landed in the top 10: “Atlas Shrugged” at 5 and “The Fountainhead” at 6.

For the complete list of 80 books, follow this link:


I learned about this poll from a fellow member of the Harry Binswanger List. This particular HBLer attended the event at which the owner of the famous Greenwich Village bookstore announced the poll’s results. He writes that when Miss Rand’s novel’s were read off the list, he heard “some minor murmurs of pain” for the people in attendance, and that the owner apologize for these titles, benevolently explaining that he thought that Ayn Rand’s fans stacked the vote for her two most important novels.

Meanwhile, at number 42 is her novella, “Anthem,” another book I cast a vote for, and among the top ten books, I’ve read the top four:

1) ToKill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
2) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
4) Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salingerr

I read these novels many years ago, before I read “The Fountainhead,” my all-time favorite novel, and “Atlas Shrugged,” my second favorite. I don’t remember much at all about either “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Catcher in the Rye,” other than that the youthful narrator in the latter novel was quite cynical. “The Great Gatsby" is a sad book about a not-so-great wealthy man who eventually kills himself because he cannot be with the love of his life. “Pride and Prejudice” is the best of the quartet—a novel that highlights as independent, bold and intelligent a woman as you’re find in a story set in 18th century England.

After reading many similar and somewhat better novels for many years, I eventually picked up “The Fountainhead” and was thus taken into another universe of literature. After coming across the intransigently independent Howard Roark, my life would eventually change forever. For more on this, see my post “How I Got Bit By The Objectivism Bug.”

Hopefully news of Strand’s book poll will spread and others will be inspired to read “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” and possibly, hopefully, they will discover the same grandeur and life-enhancing ideas that I found in these great novels.

Please post a comment about this column. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Anne of Green Gables

By Joseph Kellard

On the high praise from Lisa VanDamme, I read, enjoyed and recommend L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables.” This is VanDamme’s favorite children’s novel, about which she writes (in her essay “The Hierarchy of Knowledge” from the inaugural issue of The Objective Standard): “Anne, the main character, has a passionate, independent spirit that makes a lasting impression on children and adults alike. Her adventures are delightful to every child, and the theme of the novel, which concerns the importance of pursuing your values with passion, is one that children can understand.”

I concur and recommend this novel to anyone for them to simply contemplate a child with an exuberant enthusiasm, that is, the benevolent spirit Ayn Rand encourages her readers to cherish and foster throughout their lives.

Siblings and farmers Matthew and Marillia Cuthbert adopt Anne Shirley, a romantically imaginative, ambitious, talkative young orphan. From there the novel takes us through Anne’s various interactions and relationships with her parents, peers and fellow townspeople as she learns various lessons of life. Yet Anne provides the best lesson of all, being an exemplar of how to love life, to be endlessly curious about all it has to offer, and to have and passionately pursue values and goals.

(Plot spoilers ahead.)

From early on Anne states her goals, the highest being to wear nice clothes (esp. dresses with puffy sleeves), since the orphanage dressed her in plain, dull threads, and as she grows her goals become evermore ambitious. Near novel’s end Anne pursues a scholarship she must earn with the highest marks in English and English literature. “I’ll win that scholarship if hard work can do it,” Anne says. “Wouldn’t Matthew be proud if I got to be a B.A.? Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them -- that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

(More plot spoilers ahead.)

“Anne of Green Gables” also has some unexpected gems, such as a proper appeal to self-interest over self-sacrifice. After Matthew dies and as Marillia fears she may go blind, Anne decides to study at home instead of going off to college on the scholarship she’s won. Marilla says: “Oh, Anne, I could get on real well if you were here, I know. But I can’t let you sacrifice yourself so for me. It would be terrible.” Anne tells the woman who adopted her and thus made possible her many opportunities for a better life: “Nonsense! There is no sacrifice. Nothing could be worse than giving up Green Gables -- nothing could hurt me more…” Here, Anne identifies a sacrifice for what it is, giving up a value for a lesser or non value, and Marillia does what a parent should do by not expecting one’s child to sacrifice for her, identifying that prospect as “terrible.”

But, again, the novel should be read for Anne’s unabashed benevolent spirit. While the book is filled with action scenes and dialogue that capture this spirit, here’s an exemplary descriptive passage as Anne contemplates the world ahead: “…Anne….looked out unheedingly across city roofs and spire to that glorious dome of sunset sky and wove her dreams of a possible future from the golden tissue of youth’s own optimism. All the Beyond was hers with its possibilities lurking rosily in the oncoming years -- each year a rose of promise to be woven into an immortal chaplet.”

I’m reminded here of “Ninety Three,” my favorite column from “The Ayn Rand Column,” in which Miss Rand writes: “When people look back at their childhood or youth, their wistfulness comes from the memory, not of what their lives had been in those years, but of what life had then promised to be. The expectation of some undefinable splendor, of the unusual, the exciting, the great, is an attribute of youth -- and the process of aging is the process of that expectation's gradual extinction.“One does not have to let it happen. But that fire dies for lack of fuel, under the gray weight of disappointments, when one discovers that the adults do not know what they are doing, nor care -- that a person one respected is an abject coward -- that a public figure one admired is a posturing mediocrity -- that a literary classic one had looked forward to reading is a minute analysis of people one would not want to look at twice, like a study in depth of a mud puddle.

“But there are exceptions.”

Yes, there are, and “Anne of Green Gables” is one of them.

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Hicthens, Honesty & Objectivism

By Joseph Kellard

Over on the Harry Binswanger List, there’s been discussion of Christopher Hitchens, the former socialist who after September 11, 2001 abandoned the Left’s appeasing, anti-American foreign policy to question and critique the radical Islamics and their supporters who are bent on forcing us westerners to adopt their brand of mysticism—if at first they don’t annihilate us.

An atheist, Hitchens has written a book “God Is Not Great,” for which he has won high praise, even among Objectivists. But some Objectivists have highlighted the limits to which Hitchens and other atheists, such as Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion,” are true allies. To put it simply, their argument goes something like this: It’s great that non-Objectivist atheists are challenging religion and other forms of mysticism and supernaturalism on rational grounds, but their arguments are undercut by the irrationalism that they either inject into their arguments, or offer as an alternative or solution to the religionists-mystics-super naturalists; be wary of them as potential ideological allies.

Here’s a good example that pertains, specifically, to Ayn Rand. One Objectivist scholar and HBL member, Robert Mayhew, searched and found this quote from an interview with Hitchens (and noted that he is a literature professor who has written intros to numerous novels):

"Yeah, I'm invited to be unpleasant at the expense of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. Well, that's easy. Well, the novels, first, asI keep trying to say that, you know, in my view, there's more morality in a novel by George Elliot than there is in any of the four Gospels, or of the four of them put together. I care very much about literature as the place where real dilemmas, ethical dilemmas, are met and dealt with. So to have novels as transcendently awful as Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, sort of undermines my project. And then, though I have some respect for the ‘Virtue ofSelfishness,’ a collection of essays, … I don't think there's any need to have essays advocating selfishness among human beings; I don't know what your impression has been, but some things require no further reinforcement."

So, essentially, what Hitchens is saying here is that Ayn Rand’s morality of rational self-interest is indistinguishable from the ethical code pontificated in the Gospels, i.e., religion.

Commenting on this quote, another HBL member said that he found it disturbing that men as intellectual and literate at Hitchens can read Ayn Rand but evade the substance of her writings on a massive scale. He went on to write that men like Hitchens confirm beyond doubt that even highly intelligent men can read Ayn Rand and yet “walk away from it.” By this, I gather he means that they can read “The Virtue of Selfishness,” in which Miss Rand elaborates on her original, radical moral code based on rational self-interest—in which an individual neither sacrifice others to himself, nor himself to others—but still argue that her brand of selfishness preaches “do whatever one want without concern for others.” In short, he brands Hitchens as dishonest.

To me, intelligent, philosophic men such as Hitchens—who dismissObjectivism in a way that is no different than your average un-philosophic Joe—further concretize a fundamental point abouthow Miss Rand conceived her philosophy. In his essay "My Thirty YearsWith Ayn Rand," Leonard Peikoff quotes her as once telling him: "My distinctive attribute is not genius, but intellectual honesty … My perspective as a creator has to be not 'How great I am' but 'Howtrue this idea is and how clear, if only men were honest enough toface the truth.'"

Ayn Rand's fans come in all shapes and sizes, that is, at variouslevels of intelligence and accomplishment—from the high schoolstudent, the waiter and career housewife, to the grade-schoolteacher, the businessman and the physicist. This proves that anindividual does not have to be highly intelligent or especially philosophical to understand and practice her nevertheless original, innovative ideas, which can take some people decades to fullyunderstand. This phenomenon I attribute mainly to Miss Rand'sability to effectively and powerfully concretize, i.e., ground andsimplify, those abstract ideas and do so with extraordinary clarity, particularly through the medium of fiction.

So while Objectivists are intelligent at various levels, what is morefundamentally important about them is that they share the same or asimilar level of honesty. Once they grasp her ideas, their distinctiveattribute is that they have the honesty and integrity to stand by andpractice them. Ultimately, honesty and courage are whatfundamentally make an Objectivist. Hitchens, however, is anintelligent but dishonest coward.

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Integrated Eye for the Confident Guy

I was such a big fan of Bravo’s show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy when it started in 2003 that I wrote a commentary about it, and Dr. Michael Hurd reprinted my piece in his Living Resources Newsletter. Beginning in early October, Bravo will air the show's 10 final new episodes, and som I'm reposing my original commentary here.

By Joseph Kellard
January 16, 2004

Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” features five homosexual men who makeover heterosexual guys. The show is popular, however, not primarily because of its gay-straight dynamic, but because it promotes an important value rarely practiced today.

In each episode the “Fab Five” visit their subject at his home and upgrade his choices in clothing, grooming, interior design, dining and culture. Before arriving, they go over his bio and discuss his reasons for seeking a makeover. Past subjects have included pack rats, longhaired throwbacks from decades past, inept dancers, the overweight, and an overalls-wearer. Their goals have been to become more independent, to ask a girlfriend to move in, to rekindle a 20-year-plus marriage, and to rejoin the dating scene.

The Fab Five approach each makeover with serious, calculated thought, always mindful of each guy’s individual goals, personality, and manner of living. They share with us their thought processes and methods as they assist their subject in picking the appropriate threads, skin products, furniture, food and wine, or music.

For example, we watch Carson rummage through each guy’s closet and determine he must update his wardrobe and add brighter hues (“colors show confidence,” the fashion expert often states). Carson tailors the new clothesline accordingly, whether his subject is a Marine or a rocker he fits with rugged yet stylish looks, or an already model-like guy who he suggests wears “always elegant” black-and-white attire to propose to his girlfriend.

Thom, the interior designer, learns about how each guy uses his living quarters, and with modern furniture, rugs and paints he creates for him the appropriate space and ambiance. Thom often employs the standard decorating principle that uses colors from a single object, such as a lamp or bedspread, to play off the same tones he paints the walls.

Stylist extraordinaire, Kyan explains the various skin and hair products he expects his subject to use to achieve a cleaner, healthy appearance. He meticulously demonstrates to each guy the manner in which he should groom, explaining, for instance, such shaving principles as stroking slowly and with the grain.

While these experts take serious life’s finer but nonetheless important details, they are incredibly humorous (though sometimes sophomoric), witty and upbeat as they go about their business. They thereby send the message that, far from being a burden, remaking oneself and maintaining the new look can and should be enjoyable, uplifting and self-fulfilling.

The Fab Five often note the confidence that the makeovers give their subjects. But this confidence reflects a deeper self-esteem that originally sparked each guy’s desire for self-improvement. And such factors tie into what makes QE a hit.

QE’s makeovers focus, not merely on an individual’s immediate appearance, such as his clothes and hair, but on broader, important details, from the furniture he surrounds himself with to the brand of wine he picks for a special dinner. Thus, while the show evokes style, sophistication, elegance, and manners, it above all promotes the idea that it is important to have each aspect of your life reflect your goals, personality and lifestyle. The primary value QE promotes is that this all-encompassing integration leads to a better, improved person who assumes a positive, confident approach toward his life.

As Carson says in a tip he offers at the end of one episode, “Travel with luggage that represents your lifestyle. That way, everything that says ‘you’ from head to toe, travels in something that says you.”

Unfortunately, both critics and fans of QE emphasize instead its gay-straight dynamic. Some critics crow that it promotes “stereotypes” of homosexuals --that all that gays think about is mousse and Gucci wears. The Fab Five, however, are intelligent sophisticates who project no such superficiality. This fact, in part, prompts some QE fans to see the show mainly as a vehicle to make Americans more “tolerant” of gays.

While the gay-straight dynamic does lend an interesting, sometimes thought-provoking social element to the show, QE is essentially about aesthetically-minded men with an eye for transforming an individual into a more complete, integrated person for his betterment.

Encouragingly, an appreciation for these high-minded values, too rare in America today, is the silent motor driving this show’s success. QE embodies a manner of broader, integrated thinking about one’s life that many individuals -- gays and straights, women and men alike -- fail to adopt, yet know it would benefit them greatly.

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Social Security Can Wait: Seniors Opt To Work

By Joseph Kellard

When he was 11 and living in Pelham Bay Park, Mel Febesh would watch laborers build an extension of the Hutchinson Parkway to the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge. Febesh found himself so enthralled with this construction, that he cites it as the origin of his lifelong love of engineering, a profession the now 80-year-old Merrick man continues to pursue with no definite retirement date marked on his office calendar.

“I went there every day and watched what they did,” he recalled. “I was fascinated by the road work.”

Febesh, a licensed civil engineer in four states and co-owner of a Queens construction company, is among many seniors who opt to forgo retirement, not because they must do so to stay afloat financially, but because they’re still passionate about their professions -- and because extenuating circumstances allow them to continue on.

For 35 years Febesh has co-owned Urban Foundation/Engineering LLC in East Elmhurst. He still drives to the office by 6 a.m. and typically works to 5 or 6 p.m. each weekday, doing everything from paper work at his desk, to contract negotiations, to checking out project sites. His firm is responsible for the foundational construction at the new stadium for the New York Mets and the preparatory work at a Brooklyn LIRR railroad yard where the New Jersey Nets will build an arena.

“I just love it,” Febesh said when asked why he continues to work. “I find it challenging … You have to use your brains, and half my friends who are retired don’t have to use their brains at all.”

Teddi, Febesh’s wife of 51 years, confirmed her husband’s reasoning. “He just loves what he’s doing,” she said.

Like Febesh, Maria Frangella, a 60-something director of the Oceanside-Island Park Senior Center, and Bob Phillips, 74, a plumbing contractor for 50-plus years, trace their interests in their professions to their childhoods.

Frangella’s 30-year career assisting seniors in many areas of their lives stems from her teenage years when she used to help out her Italian immigrant parents -- her father was a chef and contractor and her mother a housewife -- with anything from going to the water or tax departments to work out their finances, or dealing with problems with tenants who rented from them in their Park Slope brownstone.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people out,” said the Island Park woman, who conducts a variety of programs, including arts and crafts, dance exercises, Bingo and Tai Chi, for the some 75 to 100 seniors attending the center at St. Anthony’s Church in Oceanside each weekday.

When Phillips was about 13, he worked with his father in his plumbing business each day after school in East New York. He found he liked working with his hands and, instead of inheriting his father’s business, he started and built his own, one that is still going strong after five decades. “The bottom line is, I enjoy what I’m doing, it keeps me mentally young and healthy, and I’m not the type of fella who likes to sit and watch TV all day and just veg away,” Phillips said.

The Merrick man and his assistant do mostly minor plumbing repairs at an average of 50 to 75 homes along the South Shore each week. While normal hours are between 8 to 5, Phillips is on call 24 hours, and about twice a week he’ll go out on emergency calls in the wee hours of the morning.

According to a 2005 survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 90,991 seniors in Nassau County who are 65 to 74, 26.5 percent are employed, and of the 97,518 of seniors 75 and over, 9.2 percent still work.

While Febesh, Frangella and Phillips all attribute their professional longevity to their love of their professions, other circumstances, such as being in general good health and the assistance of others, have contributed to their decisions to remain gainfully employed.

“I’m very fortunate that I’m in good shape,” Febesh said. “That’s part of the reason I’m able to do it.”

Saying he feels like he’s 34, Phillips also points to his wife of 52-years, Adele, who runs the financial side of his contracting business, as a fundamental factor to why he keeps plumbing. “My wife and I get along fine in the business together, and she’ll encourage me to do things,” he said. “She’s been my backbone.”

Frangella said that while she has never made much money as a social worker, and does it because she loves the work, she also notes that her financial crutch was her husband Alan, to whom she was married for 47 years before he died three years ago. For decades he’d made a comfortable living as a communications consultant with New York Telephone Company.

He was able and willing to retire at age 56. And Frangella found that he loved retirement, in large part because he kept himself busy with many hobbies: gardening, cooking, entertaining guests and computing. Except for cooking, reading and painting, Frangella said her hobbies are limited; plus she still feels challenged in her job.

Frangella flirted with retirement almost three years ago, when financial circumstances forced Catholic Charities to close down the senior center at the American Legion in Island Park, which she ran for 25 years, and merged it with the senior center at St. Anthony’s Church in Oceanside. “I thought about retiring then,” she said. “But I said, ‘Let me take up this challenge, and as soon as I can see I can succeed there, then maybe I’ll retire.’”

Phillips said the thought of retirement does occasionally cross his mind -- but only occasionally. “I like to travel, and to do more of it would be one of the main reasons to retire,” he said. While he has no particular hobbies, Phillips likes working with his hands and is tempted to tap his artistic side and take up sculpture, one of his wife’s favorite pastimes.

Febesh, too, said he has few pastimes. Unlike his friends, he doesn’t golf, play tennis, paint or gamble. He and his wife own a home in Florida, and he likes to travel and read good mysteries and political non-fiction, but that’s about it. He’d still rather work.

“That’s my problem,” Febesh said. “I’d be afraid to retire.”

“Every year, he always says maybe he’ll retire in two years,” his wife, Teddi, said, “but he’s been saying that for 10 years now.”

When will he know it’s time to call it a career? “When I get in a physical condition where I can’t do it anymore, or I unfortunately get sick,” Febesh said.

He said one of his friends’ main complaints is that many of them are sorry they retired, because they are still healthy and have to keep doing something, and sometimes their hobbies just aren’t enough to stay busy.

As one who works and gets to know intimately many seniors firsthand, Frangella says that some of them regret that they retired too early, while others were happy to retire when they did. She knows some seniors who did work into their 70s, one of whom was employed at a computer engineering company and wanted to continue to work, but was compelled to leave at 72 when her husband grew ill.

Today, when people ask Frangella why she doesn’t retire, to travel more or spend more time with her grandchildren, she says she does consider this a lot. “But you know what,” she concluded, “you want to live your life the way you are happiest. I mean, if you’re happy working, why can’t you work until the very end, as long as you can do a good job?”

Bessie Horton of Roosevelt, the kitchen supervisor at the senior center and a colleague of Frangella for 30 years, said about her director’s devotion to her work: “She’s very loyal to the seniors she works with and she loves her work. If she didn’t, I think she would have retired a long time ago.”

In the end, it all comes back to a love of what they do. Febesh said he hears every day from people asking him why he hasn’t retired yet. “But I just believe,” he said, “that people should do what they feel comfortable with.”

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New York Times on 'Atlas Shrugged' and Businessmen

By Joseph Kellard

The New York Times today published a generally positive article on how “Atlas Shrugged” is an inspiration for businessmen, particularly as a moral tract that justifies their self-interested pursuits.


I could tell right from its first few sentences, which are devoid of any snide adjectives, that the article would be generally positive: “One of the most influential business books ever written is a 1,200-page novel published 50 years ago, on Oct. 12, 1957. It is still drawing readers; it ranks 388th on Amazon.com’s best-seller list … The book is ‘Atlas Shrugged,’ Ayn Rand’s glorification of the right of individuals to live entirely for their own interest.”

Among those quoted in the article are Objectivist businessman John Allison, the chief executive of BB&T bank, and Jeff Britting, the archivist at the Ayn Rand Institute. The article also mentions Mark Cuban, owner of professional basketball’s Dallas Mavericks, and John P. Mackey, the chief executive of Whole Foods, and how “they consider Rand crucial to their success.”

One business executive, John P. Stack, is quoted as saying: “It’s the best business book I ever read. I didn’t do well in school because I was a big dreamer. To get something that tells you to take your dreams seriously, that’s an eye opener.”

Drawing on its opening sentences, the article later mentions how hundreds of thousands of copies of Miss Rand’s novels are sold annually in book stores and are provided free by ARI to high schools.

There’s no reason for me to repeat here some of the article’s low points, except to say they are few, minor and brief.

Overall, this is a positive piece by a newspaper that has mostly been unfriendly to Miss Rand and her philosophy. It certainly appears that the Times can no longer ignore the sustained and growing influence of her books. While publications such as Commentary magazine sense this and smear Ayn Rand at every chance, the Times, at least this time out, showed some respect for her books and devotees.

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Friday, September 14, 2007

Commentary Smears Ayn Rand—Again

By Joseph Kellard

After publishing an essay on Ayn Rand two Septembers ago, Commentary magazine is again employing its smear tactics against her, this time in a highly muddled essay on libertarianism:


The author does correctly point out that libertarianism basically adheres to the subjectivist morality of "do whatever you want." But then, as a typical conservative is wont to do, her essay boils down to essentially criticizing libertarians for not recognizing that capitalism is based on "tradition" and "family values."

Here's one of many examples:

"Children do not come into the world respecting private property. They do not emerge from the womb ready to navigate the economic and moral complexities of an 'age of abundance.' The only way they learn such things is through a long process of intensive socialization-a process that we now know, thanks to the failed experiments begun by the Aquarians and implicitly supported by libertarians, usually requires intact families and decent schools."
Virtually the only morals and qualities as a basis for capitalism that the author offers throughout her essay are "self-discipline," "respectability" and "self-responsibility." That she further has no understanding of this basis is evident in promoting "socialization," i.e. social conformity, as "the only" means of learning a "respect" for property rights. Also, what makes schools "decent"? I guess that they primarily aim to "socialize" children.

Oh, brother! And this is presented as an alternative to libertarianism, an intellectual and political movement that the author does not, and likely cannot, identify as essentially amoral and thus anarchist.

During her attempts to tie Ayn Rand to libertarianism, calling her a "guru" of the movement because libertarians cite her as a political influence, the authors takes this shot at her (and note, again, her stress on "the family"):

"Libertarianism was complicit, too, in the vociferous attack during the 1960's on the bourgeois family. After all, blood relationships are involuntary, and parents with anyinterest in rearing and educating their children are unlikely to look for guidance in Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand was predictably wary of kinship ties and, like radical feminists, saw the family as a soul-killing prison ..."

The paragraph continues, but that's all the author has to say here about Miss Rand. No explanations are given for her conclusions.

Anyway, I hope you will join me in writing a letter to the editor at Commentary.


Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Economist Promotes Nuclear Power

By Joseph Kellard

While I’ve yet to read any of these articles, I find it encouraging that The Economist is reporting on nuclear power in a seemingly positive light.

“… Now nuclear power has a second chance. Its revival is most visible in America (see article), where power companies are preparing to flood the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with applications to build new plants.”


“OVER the next few months America's Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) expects to receive 12 applications to build new nuclear-power reactors at seven different sites. It is preparing to see plans for another 15 at 11 more locations next year. These will be the first full applications to build new nuclear plants in America for 30 years. If they are all successful, the number of reactors in the country will increase by roughly a third. The output of nuclear electricity would grow even more sharply—the new reactors would be more powerful than older ones. The new enthusiasm for building reactors means America's long-awaited “nuclear renaissance” is about to become reality.”


“OVER the next few decades global electricity consumption is expected to double. At the same time, many power plants in rich countries, built back in the 1960s and 1970s, are nearing the end of their projected lifespans. Meanwhile, concern is swelling both about global warming, and about the Western world's increasing dependence on a shrinking number of hostile or unstable countries for imports of oil and gas. The solution to this conundrum, in the eyes of many governments, is nuclear power.”


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 First Responders Honored in Pin Ceremony

By Joseph Kellard

If John Feal says he'll give you one of his body parts, take him at hisword.

Last September, Paul Grossman, a 20-year FDNY volunteer EMT-firefighter, e-mailed Feal seeking a link to the Web site of his organization, Fealgood Foundation, which assists 9/11 first responders who suffer medical problems related to their search-and-rescue efforts at ground zero.

Grossman told Feal that he would have been at ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001, if he hadn’t been on dialysis and on a kidney recipient list. Feal replied that if Grossman needed a kidney, he’d give him one of

“He thought I was kidding,” Feal recalled about their e-mail exchange, a printed version of which now hangs on his refrigerator. “After three or four days of convincing the man that this wasn’t a cruel joke, we went to New York Presbyterian Hospital to see if we were a match, and we were compatible.”

Feal told this tale on Sept. 5 at another hospital, South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, following a pin ceremony that honored him and several other fellow 9/11 first responders -- firefighters, police officers, EMTs and even a demolition supervisor like himself -- who riskedtheir lives after the terrorist attacks that left the World Trade Center in smoldering ruins six Septembers ago.

Feal was recovering from an operation less than a week earlier in which his kidney had been removed. After having his name called and walking through the hospital’s lobby atrium to accept his pin, Feal steppedgingerly, due to what he described as perhaps the worst pain he had ever experienced. This from a man who walks with a limp after a multi-ton steel beam crushed his left foot at ground zero and left him in a hospital bed for 11 weeks, suffering with gangrene before half of his foot was amputated.

“Why wouldn’t I?” Feal, 40, said matter-of-factly about donating his kidney, as if he were parting with, say, a favorite dress shirt. “I’m giving the gift of life. I’ve never won Lotto; I don’t know that feeling. But thisfeeling is pretty good.

“I’d do it again,” Feal continued. “If my body was like a Pez machine for kidneys, I’d be popping them out.”

Feal was one of a few pin recipients who addressed the crowd at the ceremony, which drew mostly fellow first responders and their families. Among the speakers -- including state Sen. Charles Fuschillo, SNCH President Joseph Quagliata and Freeport firefighter Ray Maguire -- who thanked them allfor their search-and-rescue efforts was a survivor of the attacks. Mark Goldberg was working on the south tower’s 22nd floor for First Montauk Securities that morning. Last Wednesday, Goldberg stood in SNCH’s atrium -- whose walls are adorned with memorabilia such as a 9/11 construction worker’s jacket and paintings of nature scenes by children whose parents were killed that day -- and recounted how he and other WTC employees filed down a stairwell in terror.

“People were depending on each other to make it down,” Goldberg said. “And on the left side, coming up the stairs, were people like you, emergencypersonnel.

“Saying thank you doesn’t come close to the words that need to be expressed from the bottom of my heart,” Goldberg said.

One first responder, Scott Belten of Franklin Square, has always declined invitations to ceremonies that honor 9/11 workers -- except those hosted by Home Ground, a free counseling and outreach program for 9/11 first responders and their families, which hosted the ceremony at SNCH. “I don’t do ceremonies because it’s sort of something I want to put behind me, and also I felt that people were honoring me for doing my job,” Belten said.

But he attends the Home Ground ceremonies because without the program, he said, he would be unable to function as well as he does today. Established with a federal grant in 2002 and sustained through the American Red Cross, South Nassau and private donations, Home Ground has worked with nearly 4,000 WTC rescue and recovery workers and their families.

“Going to Home Ground was the first step on this long road to healing,” Belten said.A paramedic with Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, Belten and other EMTs used the neighboring Marriott as a shortcut to the south tower on Sept. 11 to avoid its raining debris. Seconds after a piece of debris hit Belten’s hand, the tower came down on top of the hotel. Belten escaped, and helped assist others who were injured, but the injury he sustained proved serious.

Since 9/11, Belten has had multiple operations and has lost most of his fine motor skills, making it nearly impossible for him to tie his shoes, write or type, and he also has trouble breathing. “Some days I can’tfunction at all,” he said about his degenerative condition. When he walked up with his wife and children to accept his pin, he said later, he had to hold back tears. “It was a great experience,” he said. “It’s very moving, and I’ humbled by it and that people still thank me after all this time.”

Alan Beach of Lynbrook, a retired FDNY lieutenant who spent 20 years fighting fires, awarded the ceremonial pins to each of the dozens of hisfellow 9/11 first responders. Beach recalled the “total chaos” at the WTC, to which he tried to bring some order by commanding a staging area.

Unlike Belten, however, Beach attends 9/11-related ceremonies whenever he can, he said. “The situation is that, I feel, this country is starting to forget,” he said. “It’s like everything else after a while, and time mostlyheals wounds. But this is a wound that shouldn¹t be healed because of a lot of the things that happened that day.”

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Cheating Death Three Times

By Joseph Kellard

Some might call it the loss of her innocence, but she sees it merely as the loss of her comfort zone.

Andree Marshall survived the terrorist bombing while working at the World Trade Center in 1993, and she never imagined anything like it would happen again.

“I didn’t feel the least bit fearful working there after that bombing,” she said last week from her Harbor Isle living room. “No way. This is the United States. We’re safe.”

Then came the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an atrocity that proved an even closer call for the change management manager with a large brokerage firm that had offices in the World Trade Center and New Jersey.

During the 1993 bombing, Marshall recalled seeing people fleeing the towers in terror and covered in soot, but nothing could compare to the horrors she witnessed up close on 9/11 -- none more stunning than the people who plunged from the top floors of the burning towers.

Marshall, like many other workers at the WTC, survived both attacks, but she finds it hard to wipe away the unforgettable images in her mind of human suffering. “With 9/11, I saw the bodies, I saw the people killing themselves, I saw that people had no choice,” she said.

On top of all that she experienced at the WTC, Marshall survived another brush with death two months after 9/11, when an airliner crashed near her home in Bell Harbor, Queens, the second deadliest aviation accident in U.S.history.

That day, Marshall heard an enormous explosion, and all the decorations and knickknacks on her walls tumbled to the floor. About two blocks away, American Airlines Flight 587 crash-landed not long after taking off from Kennedy Airport, and all 260 people on board, as well as five on the ground,were killed.

For Marshall, the close call in her Queens neighborhood was the last straw. “My mother said I walked into the living room screaming that ‘They’re coming after me,’ and that ‘I have to get out of here,’” Marshall recalled, noting that at the time she was clutching her 6-week-old daughter so tightly that her mother had to pull the girl from her arms. “My thoughts were, I did something to someone,” Marshall continued. “I didn’t know who it was, I didn’t know what I had done. After the ‘93 bombing, the World Trade Center [attacks], and six weeks later, I felt I had to have done something to someone.”

Six months after the crash of Flight 587, Marshall sought a new place to live, and found peace and quiet in Harbor Isle -- or so she thought. Unbeknown to her when she purchased her new home, Marshall had to contend with the noise of planes flying overhead to and from Kennedy Airport. When hearing any one of them, to some extent, she cannot help but be reminded of her horrific experiences six years ago.

“That feeling is always, always, always there,” she said about hearing the planes overhead.

In recent weeks, as the sixth anniversary of 9/11 approached, Marshall found herself more anxious than in previous years, since this Sept. 11 would fall on a Tuesday, the same day of the week as 9/11. She also started re-experiencing the nightmares she had for up to two years after the attacks on the WTC.

What haunts her most is the people she watched jump from the towers. “Not being able to help them, knowing that they were going to die, they had no choice, and that their only choice was jump and die or burn to death,” she said.

On 9/11 Marshall was pregnant with her twins, Andree and Aiden, who turn six on Sept. 20, preparing to take maternity leave that Friday. When the first plane struck, she was shopping in a Duane Reade on the ground floor of the WTC, and the air conditioner blasted on much more forcefully than usual.

While she chatted with Barbara Jo Sciequan, a travel supervisor for 17 years for their firm, they noticed people scrambling around, lights flickering and a hunk of metal crash outside the front doors. A man had told them that a bomb had gone off.

Marshall simply wanted to go down to the subway below to take a Path train to her firm’s office building in New Jersey, but Sciequan stopped her.

”She sternly said, ‘You’re not going down there,” Marshall recalled. “I said, ‘I’m going.’ And this petite woman literally pulled me back up the stairs. I was pregnant and weighed over 200 pounds, but she pulled me out of that building.”

“I told her, ‘Let’s get out of the building,” said Sciequan from her Williamsburg residence last week. “I told her, ‘You’re not going down there.’ I was thinking of her with the babies.”

Eventually, Marshall and Sciequan walked over to a building their firm owned a block away on Broadway. From the fifth floor, Marshall gazed upon the horrific scene, at the bodies, body parts, the lone shoes and pocketbooks, the people screaming and crying in terror, and others jumping from high above, all of which are part of her nightmares now.

Then, suddenly, the heavy vibrations from the low-flying second airliner pierced her chest just before it crashed into the second tower. Later, when the towers crumbled, she could feel her unborn twins react to the enormously loud, massive rumbling. The pains in her stomach were sharp.

Several hours later, firefighters got Marshall and others out of that building, onto a truck and over the Brooklyn Bridge, from where she walked to a fire hydrant that was open. Marshall cupped some flowing water to clean the gray soot covering her body, and while she lifted her shirt to wipe herself, exposing her pregnant stomach, a uniformed officer walked over, held her hand and insisted that she sit down. He sat with her on a bench for hours as Marshall waited for her then-husband Craig to find her.

Ernesto Robinson, a court officer with Brooklyn Family Court, was on Jay Street helping stunned, dazed and bewildered people over the Brooklyn Bridge, when he spotted the pregnant Marshall. Noticing also that her feet were swollen, he felt a duty and compassion to help her, he said.

“Well, 3,000 people died that day,” Robinson said, “and in the midst of all that chaos, here’s this woman who looks like she’s about to give birth.

”I believe when one life goes out, a life comes in, and you can’t save the dead. So I felt I had to save her and her unborn children.”

The next day, Marshall checked into a hospital, and eight days later she gave birth to her twins six weeks premature.

Last week, as the anniversary of 9/11 approached, Marshall was determined to stay home from work rather than commute two hours into New Jersey via the Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan. While in recent years she finally was able to watch the televised ground zero ceremonies on Sept. 11, she planned to keep the TV off this year and focus on her children. Several pictures of them fill two walls in her living room.

“I’m just going to stay home and appreciate what I have,” Marshall said last Thursday.

She noted that whenever she travels on a plane now, she always takes her children with her. “They are my life,” she said.

Despite the unending anxieties she must still struggle with, Marshall still focuses on the good that nevertheless grew out of these horrific experiences. For one, she said, she appreciates life so much more now.

“I think back then, of the fur coat, the diamonds and wearing expensive clothes, and none of those things were important,” she said. “Sept. 11 affected my understanding of life, my patients and how fast life can be lost,” Marshall continued. “When I’m driving behind people who honk at me to go faster now, I pull over and let them go. Or if my boss is yelling at me, I’ve learned that if you just take that deep breath, it soothes so much of the anger.”

Also, Marshall has two new friends, Robinson and Sciequan. She’ll never forget how Robinson helped her, and two years after 9/11, she returned to his courthouse with her twins.

“They came back, and that meant a lot to me,” Robinson said, “because I never ever thought I’d see them again.”

“I kind of cried when I met him,” Marshall recalled. “I explained to him, that it was important for me to have my children meet him. It was very emotional for me.”

And Sciequan visits her Harbor Isle home for the twins’ birthday each September. At last year’s party, Marshall’s son, Aiden, thanked Sciequan. “The boy came up to me and said, ‘Aunt B.J., thank you for saving my mom from the World Trade Center,” Sciequan said. “I wanted to cry.”

Please post a comment about this article. For private comments, email Joseph Kellard at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Copyright © 2007 Joseph Kellard

Monday, September 3, 2007

Gambling: 'Err on the side of freedom'

Here is an opinion piece that illustrates why Jeff Jacoby, a conservative columnist for the Boston Globe, remains one of my favorite commentators.



“So it goes, year after year, in state after state: Entrepreneurs and investors who ought to have the same freedom to operate a casino as they would to open a shoe store or start a newspaper are forced instead to run an exhausting and expensive political gauntlet, often with no guarantee that casino gambling will even be permitted, let alone that they'll win a license to build one. How many other peaceful businesses offering a popular form of entertainment face such formidable legal and political barriers to entry?

“Why do state governments treat casinos and their would-be owners this way? It can't be from any inherent objections to gambling -- 42 states have government-run lotteries, with annual revenues of more than $50 billion. It can't be because gambling is intrinsically immoral. Countless churches and religious organizations raise funds through bingo, lotteries, and Las Vegas nights. And it certainly can't be said that gambling flouts our national tradition. The Continental Congress established a national lottery to help finance the Revolutionary War. Riverboat gambling thrived on Mark Twain's Mississippi. Saloon gambling was a mainstay of the California Gold Rush. Gambling is as American as bourbon and Betsy Ross.”