Wednesday, December 30, 2009

You Play to Win a Championship

By Joseph Kellard

Should the Indianapolis Colts have pulled quarterback Peyton Manning and their other starters in their game against the New York Jets, which in effect greatly diminished their chances to maintain their perfect, undefeated season? The Colts ended up losing the game they otherwise had a good shot to win. Here's my basic thoughts on the issue:

No regular season game, no matter if the team in question has already clinched a playoff spot or even the top seed in their division, is meaningless. If that were true, then there would be no debate about whether the Colts' coach should have pulled Manning & Co.

While it’s true that you should always play to win the game, this goal is subordinate to the fact that you primarily play for the top prize, the championship, the Super Bowl.

And if a coach deems that that goal requires giving his team less than its best chance to win, as the Colts coach did when he pulled the incomparable Manning for an inexperienced quarterback, then so be it. Even though you’ve greatly diminished your chance to win the game, you still give all your effort to win it.

This is recognition of the fact that not all games are of equal weight, that in certain (winning) circumstances, it’s not necessary to give all your effort in each and every game. You play to win, yes, but not at the price of jeopardizing the ultimate goal: a championship.

Some coaches allow their starters play throughout the season, no matter the circumstance, as the Patriots did two seasons ago when they had an unbeaten record and were chasing perfection. The Colts had that chance, too, this season, but unlike the 2007 Patriots they are opting not to pursue a perfect season. Instead, they are focusing on doing what they believe they need to do, and that is to win a championship. The Patriots had that goal to, and they played all their starters the whole year, and none got hurt—and then they lost in the Super Bowl to the Giants. Some members of that team, such as Rodney Harrison, said that the pressure of going undefeated definitely got to them.

What one sports radio personality here in New York said is that the teams that pursue perfection are pursuing immortality. Everyone who knows the game well knows that only one team has had a perfect season and went on to win the Super Bowl: the 1972 Miami Dolphins. They are an immortal team because of that record. And that is what teams like the 2007 Patriots were pursuing. But, remember, the goal is not to win immortality – that is, recognition in the eyes of others – but the satisfaction and pride of winning a championship, first and foremost. All else, including immortality, should be subordinate to this goal.

Ultimately, the goal is to win a championship, and sometimes within the context of a season that does not necessarily mean that you have to try your best or give your team its best chance to win every game. You should always play to win the game, but that doesn't mean that you have to give yourself the best chance to win every game, if doing so (i.e. keeping your irreplaceable players in the game) may jeopardize the top goal: winning a championship.

The mantra shouldn’t be: you play to win the game—because a single game is just a stepping stone among others toward the ultimate stone, the Super Bowl. You play to win a championship, and everything else must be subordinate to that goal.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Letter on (Christmas) "Consumerism" Printed in USA Today

By Joseph Kellard

USA Today printed my letter about (Christmas) “consumerism” in Tuesday’s paper, entitling it “Buying is a virtue."

I responded to one of those interchangeable Christmastime opinion columns that have some good things to say about consumerism, but ultimately conclude that materialism is a path to being vacuous and the cure lies in religion. Hence the column’s title: "You can't buy the real gifts of Christmas."

I must thank OActivist Paul Hsieh for his suggestions and edit that improved my original draft. Anywhere, here is the printed version:


The perennial rants against Christmas consumerism fail to acknowledge man's highest virtue: production — the virtue that makes consumption possible, sustains his life and uplifts his spirit.

Productive individuals must exercise other virtuous behavior, particularly rationality, honesty, efficiency and love of hard work.When productive individuals buy cars, computers, iPhones and other material goods, they celebrate their highest virtues. And they develop well-earned self-esteem, happiness and pride.

In contrast, the stereotypical insatiable consumer is essentially a social conformist, motivated to keep up with the Joneses and who has never learned to appreciate the inseparable connection between productivity and virtue.

However, when that connection is made, consumerism is something to celebrate.

Joseph Kellard
East Meadow, N.Y.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Announcing Dr. Andrew Bernstein’s New Book “Capitalism Unbound”

By Joseph Kellard


Dr. Andrew Bernstein has published his latest book, “Capitalism Unbound: The Incontestable Moral Case for Individual Rights.”

Here’s a description of the new book on Amazon.com:

“This book is a concise explanation of capitalism's moral and economic superiority to socialism, including America's current mixed-economy welfare state. This volume offers a focused, essentialized, and condensed argument ideal for the layman who admires capitalism but lacking a succinct, accessible explanation of its moral and economic virtues.”

I was on a hike in upstate New York with Dr. Bernstein and other Objectivists a few months ago and he’d mentioned then that this volume was an abridged version of his excellent book “The Capitalism Manifesto” -- only better. On his Facebook page, Dr. Bernstein writes that “Capitalism Unbound” is “the best book I’ve ever written,” and “Any Rand’s works aside, the best book ever on capitalism. Ever.”

While there’s no mention yet of his new book on Dr. Bernstein’s web site, you may want to follow up there to get more information about his new book:

www.andrewbernstein.net

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Conservative Sees the Light on Pragmatism

By Joseph Kellard

Over at the conservative commentary site townhall.com, I was intrigued to read "Principle vs. Pragmatism," a column by Ken Connor, who is unknown to me.

Halfway through reading this column, I thought that perhaps a conservative has come to see the light about the destructiveness of pragmatism. Heck, he even invokes Aristotle:

"The truth of the matter is that when it comes to the most fundamental questions about human society, culture, and government, the middle ground is not a sensible place to occupy. When it comes down to the fundamentals, things are either right or they are wrong; to suggest that they may be right for me and wrong for you is nonsense. Moral relativism comes into conflict with the Law of Non-Contradiction when operating at the level of fundamental values."

But, alas, the light this conservative was seeing came from Heaven.

"There are, as our forefathers recognized, certain universal and self-evident truths. Human beings, for example, have been endowed by their Creator with an unalienable right to life. It is, therefore, wrong to murder an innocent human being, regardless of whether they are in the womb or in a nursing home. The act of murder is wrong regardless of who makes the decision to carry it out (mother, doctor, family) or how it is denominated (abortion, mercy killing, euthanasia). The character of an act is not changed by the rhetoric that accompanies it or the person who performs it. Such an act cannot be both right and wrong--right for you and wrong for me. It is either right or wrong--period.

"There are certain principles that define the world view of Christian conservatives, principles that we are unwilling to budge on …"

Connor goes on to invoke God and "other principles" that he and other Christians will not compromise on, without noting what those alleged principles are exactly.

Since Connor's basis of morality is God's arbitrary commandments and not the one-and-only reality from which principles are rationally derived, Lord only knows what those "other principles" of his may be, but you can safely bet that they are not a proper foundation for freedom.


* - I made some minor revisions to the original post.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Worshiping at The First Church of Global Warming

By Joseph Kellard

USA Today features a front-page story today that offers a portrait of the many religious groups doing their part to help avert the next alleged Apocalypse – i.e., “climate change.” In short, they’re joining hands and their faith with environmentalists who worship at the First Church of Global Warming.

Here are some excerpts from this article (which in the print edition sports this headline “For them, climate change summit is God’s work”):

“If anyone can help move the debate, it's faith-based leaders, says Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

"‘This is a very religious country. God the Creator still does better in polls than any politician,’ says Lieberman, who backs legislation to mandate lower carbon emissions. He says he first began to embrace the environmental cause 20 years ago because of his own spiritual beliefs.

“Lieberman, who is Jewish and has deep ties with evangelicals, says religious leaders and constituents could still help swing some Senate votes, especially among Republicans. ‘This helps put the issue in the broader context ... of exercising our responsibility to protect God's creation ... and that helps us,’ he says.”

* * *

“Byron Johnson, director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, says there is evidence of a generational split on environmental issues among Evangelicals.

“In a recent poll, his institute found that 73% of young Evangelicals agree with the statement that ‘Global climate change will have disastrous effects’ — compared to 59% of older Evangelicals.

“That's no big surprise, [Sen. James] Inhofe says. ‘These young ones, their entire lives, all they've heard is that global warming doctrine,’ he says, shaking his head.

"The schools are just filling their heads with this issue."

Send your letters to: editor@usatoday.com

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Cap Tip to the Times

By Joseph Kellard


So there I was this morning, sitting in a Starbucks with an iced green tea in one hand and a New York Times in the other, wearing my driving cap, when I came across an article in the Styles section on the growing popularity of the driving cap. The article opens with the observation that more men seem to be doffing their baseball caps for the stylish driving cap.

“Many men have taken to the far worthier wool driving cap, and with good reason. It may not suggest that you are an indie-rock guitar rebel who thinks two chords are plenty, but it will keep your head warmer — and more important, your hair neater — in cold weather.”

Last year I decided it was time to find another style of headwear rather than my favorite but aging Yankees baseball cap and my tight-fitting wool skull cap for when the mercury goes way south. Actually, I had started my hunt for a driving cap in 2007, after I saw the every-stylish Tom Brady, the “Golden Boy” quarterback for the New England Patriots, wear one after a post-game press conference. Now, I’d always associated the driving cap with my Uncle Dan, an Italian immigrant and World War I veteran, which he often wore, as well as with old, white New York City cab drivers from decades past. But on Brady made the cap looked stylish, and that’s what a Super Bowl-winning quarterback with model good looks can do: sell cool.

I shopped around, and it took me bit of time to find just the right cap. I originally bought a brown, plaid-patterned cap that turned out to be oversized, flaring out to make me look like a 1930s newsboy selling papers on a city street corner, as alluded to in the Times article, or a hip-hop rapper, definitely a false advertisement. So I hung it up, searched some more, and found a smaller, slate gray cap at Banana Republic, which framed my face just right and that I could tilt to the side to add a bit of flare.

“Many men, drawn to the cap’s misty English gentry connotations, opt for plaids or tweeds of a colorful stripe, for some country-squire pizzazz. But its background is squarely 19th-century working class, when they were such common garb as to be known simply as caps. (The 20th-century desire to upgrade its status can be seen in the name “driving cap,” as well as its aliases: ‘ivy cap’ or ‘golf cap.’) In a humbler-looking fabric, like a gray or brown herringbone, a plain loden or a lightly speckled tweed, the cap looks great with a peacoat, leather jacket or fisherman’s sweater — or anything one might deem more Irish than squirish.”

I’m on the hunt again for another driving cap, like the one pictured in the Times article. If you find one, especially at a cheaper price, let me know. If you do, I’ll tip my cap to you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Barbie in a Burka

By Joseph Kellard

Despite feminist critics who attack her as a cause of anorexia among young women, the Barbie doll has come to symbolize the independent, attractive, fashionable career woman. But now, on her 50th birthday, she has had a burka thrown over her -- by Westerners!

"One of the world's most famous children's toys, Barbie, has been given a makeover - wearing a burkha. Wearing the traditional Islamic dress, the iconic doll is going undercover for a charity auction in connection with Sotheby's for Save The Children. More than 500 Barbies went on show yesterday at the Salone dei Cinquecento, in Florence, Italy."

Both Iran and Saudi Arabia have banned Barbie dolls. According to Wikipedia, Saudi Arabia's Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice stated "Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West. Let us beware of her dangers and be careful."

Now Westerners have obscured Barbie dolls in burkas - in bright-colors apparently to make them seem fashionable (!) -- while others have praised the new doll because she allegedly gives Muslim girls a Barbie that "represents them."

But outside this world of childish make-believe, the burka is a symbol of force, of oppression of women by religious brutes who rule with an iron Islamic fist.

Let's chalk this up as another example of the depraved lengths to which multiculturalism has taken the West.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Letter on Ad Hominem Attack on Ayn Rand

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette online today posted a letter I wrote in response to columnist who scribbled an ad hominem attack on Ayn Rand. My letter is the 11th one listed.

Reg Henry's drive-by criticism

Reg Henry comes off as a coward in his column "Who Spawned All These Nuts? Ayn Rand" (Nov. 11).

He hides behind so-called humor and oversimplifications to attack those he dislikes. For example, he writes that some readers erupted with volcanic name-calling because of his "mild criticism" of Sarah Palin -- but he fails to mention whether that criticism was rational or ... crazy. Often, it's not mere criticism that people are responding to but the nature of the criticism -- and whether it is fair or unjust.

Likewise, he blames Ayn Rand for all the alleged "nutty" ideas out there today. God forbid that people call Barack Obama's efforts to take over the banking and health-care industries for what they are: "socialist" -- that is, government wresting control of the means of production in an industry.

But never once does he give an example of her ideas, other than to summarize them as "greed is good" and leave it as that. In short, his criticism of Ms. Rand amounts to an ad hominem attack.

Based on this smear job, I'll chalk him up as just another of many drive-by critics of Ayn Rand who are too intellectually impotent to stop and provide any rational criticism of her philosophy.

Now who's the name-caller and crazy one?

JOSEPH KELLARD
East Meadow, N.Y

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

With Freedom Comes Responsibility: Part II

By Joseph Kellard

In my post “With Freedom Comes Responsibility,” I wrote that when I read coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall in left-leaning newspapers, such as the New York Times, I found little mention of the actual oppression and suffering people endured under communist regimes. What was mentioned are the people who, after they were freed from communism’s chains, longed for the supposed security of those same regimes. Most importantly, there was no mention of the responsibility that comes along with freedom, particularly the need for individuals to think and live independently -- in short, to cultivate and exercise self-esteem.

On Wednesday, however, the Times addressed these issues in its report on the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Prague in an article called “Celebrating Revolution With Roots in a Rumor”:

Once again, I read about those who favor life under communism:

“In a recent survey by the Czech Academy of Sciences, 81 percent of Czechs said they did not want a return of the old regime, even as a notable 14 percent said that life before 1989 was better.”

Note that what’s “notable” to the Times is that 14 percent. But, to the newspaper’s credit, the reporter found and quoted a freedom-lover who criticizes those 14-percenters:

“But others, like Mirek Kodym, 56, a ponytailed former security guard who published illegal political and literary tracts before 1989 and marched on Tuesday as he had 20years ago, said the Velvet Revolution had been a seminal moment in which a beleaguered nation had finally tasted freedom.

“‘Today you can be what you want to be and do what you want to do, and no one will interfere,’ he said. ‘The nostalgia for the past is a stupid thing.”

Of course, the Times had to mention Vaclav Havel, the leader of the Velvet Revolution that overthrew Communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989, who figured prominently in the article. Here’s the most important passage:

“[Havel] recently argued that nostalgia for the old regime reflected the condition of a people who had been imprisoned for so long that they did not know what to do with their newfound freedom.

“‘I have often compared it to being released from prison,’ he said. ‘In prison everything is laid out for you; you don’t have to decide on anything. They tell you when to get up, what to wear, everything is decided for you by others. If you live in this for years and are then suddenly released, freedom becomes a burden.”

So the Times finally, although indirectly, touched on the issue of freedom and responsibility, those fundamental issues that the 14 percenters and the Times would otherwise rather evade.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Letter on Religion and Terrorism

By Joseph Kellard

Conservative, committed religionist and jihadist apologist Dinesh D’Souza wrote a column “Don’t blame God for terrorism” in Monday’s USA Today.

In large lettering above the start of the column, D’Souza’s basic stand is summarized as follows: “After the Fort Hood massacre and others, some people – often atheist stalwarts – like to point at the corrosive influence of religion. But a closer look suggests that the most notorious killers usually act on secular motives.”

Here’s an excerpt from his column:

”Marx's call to eliminate the next world by establishing a communist utopia on this one was taken up with a vengeance by Lenin and a host of communist leaders who followed him. These despots established atheism as state doctrine in the Soviet Union, and other Marxist regimes around the world followed. In the past hundred years, these regimes, led by people such as Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Nicolae Ceausescu, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong Il and others, have murdered over 100 million people. Even bin Laden, in his wildest dreams, doesn't come close.”

In response, I submitted the following letter:


To the Editor:

Because Dinesh D’Souza and other religionists believe that a God exists and provides men with commandments that constitute an absolutist moral code, so they believe that those who don’t believe in God are fundamentally no different.

But atheism is merely a metaphysical view that rejects God’s alleged existence, and is thus not a comprehensive philosophic system. It leaves wide open what an atheist actually believes in other branches, including ethics and politics. And atheistic communism is merely a secularized version of religion.

While religion commands an unquestioning faith in and sacrifice to God, a being said to be omnipresent and therefore without a particular identity, communism preaches an unquestioning faith in and sacrifice to the state or “society,” an entity that is nobody in particular but everyone in general except you. Both religionists and atheistic communists are mystics, the former of spirit and the latter of muscle, and a man either has faith in what they preach or else!

As the atheistic philosopher Ayn Rand pointed out, faith and force are corollaries. She showed that when men dispense with reality and reason -- their only means to knowledge, persuasion and agreement -- then their only means of dealing with each other is ultimately by force. Disbelievers must be done away with, either by burning at the stake, by overwork in frigid forced labor camps, or by suicidal pilots crashing airliners into their office towers.

Joseph Kellard
East Meadow, NY

With Freedom Comes Responsibility

By Joseph Kellard

From the title essay in Ayn Rand's book "For the New Intellectual":

"From the start of the post-Renaissance period, philosophy — released from its bondage as handmaiden of theology — went seeking a new form of servitude, like a frightened slave, broken in spirit, who recoils from the responsibility of freedom."

This reminds me of my recent readings, particularly in the New York Times, on the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall. Of the few articles and columns on the subject I came across, there was little, if any, mention of the actual oppression and suffering people faced under communist regimes. But, of course, readers read about when communist-states collapsed and people got a taste of freedom, many of them eventually longed for the supposed security blanket of the Soviet Union — you know, that state that took care of everyone from cradle to grave. In reality, the communists really took care of people getting into those (mass) graves. What I didn’t read about, particularly in those opinion columns, was any mention of the responsibility of freedom, which first and foremost demands that you think for yourself and stand on your own two feet.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What About The Reds?

By Joseph Kellard

Earlier this decade, when my nephew attended Oceanside Middle School, his teachers devoted a month to the Holocaust. He and his fellow eight-graders had to read a book, watch a movie and write several reports on this important subject.

As students nationwide are taught the horrors of Nazism, however, I won’t hold my breath waiting for those same educators to teach anything comparable about the grand-scale horrors of an equally evil ideology: communism.

I’m reminded of this as the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall approaches on Nov. 9. While growing up during the Cold War era, I’d seen many movies and documentaries and read books, both in and outside of Oceanside schools, about Hitler’s atrocities. Why then did it take me until my late-20s to finally discover the collective horrors committed by Communist dictators — an estimated 100 million people perished under Marxist regimes, and countless others suffered widespread poverty and deprivations?

I initially discovered communism’s legacy on my own by reading Russian authors Ayn Rand and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who both survived the Soviet slave state. More recently, I completed “The Black Book of Communism,” the most comprehensive tome on Marxist utopias, whose ever-present political imprisonments, tortures and executions continue today, and “Gulag,” by Anne Applebaum, an equally thorough study of the Soviet forced-labor camp system.

I've since learned that in Soviet Russia the mass murders began immediately under Vladimir Lenin and peaked with Joseph Stalin, who from 1932 to 1933 systematically starved an estimated 6 to 10 million peasants in Ukraine after they rebelled against his collectivized farm system. Under the reds, tens of millions of people were deported to gulags, many in frigid Siberia, where most perished.

Mao Tse-tung can unquestionably be called history's worst mass murderer, having orchestrated a massive famine from 1959 to 1961 that killed between 20 and 43 million Chinese, and overall the communist dictator slaughtered some 65 million people.

During Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, a third of that nation's citizens were sacrificed in what is the greatest proportion of a population exterminated under a communist dictatorship.

It is disgraceful that educators never teach, give short shrift to, or rationalize away the horrors in these and other nations that instituted communism or still do, as in North Korea and Cuba. Yet a fundamental and complete understanding of both Nazism and communism requires that they are taught together — they represent two sides of the same ideological coin.

As with the Holocaust, the horrors of communism have their deniers and apologists. The difference is the Nazi sympathizers are properly condemned and shunned, but some gulag deniers still hold high positions in our universities. These professors and their former students in education, the mainstream media and government still preach that communism is noble in theory but failed in practice. In reality, communism, like Nazism, failed miserably in practice because it is anti-life in theory.

At root, both preach that the individual must sacrifice for the group and state, be it “the master race” under an Aryan regime or “the working class” under a dictatorship of the proletariat; that the individual has no right to his life, liberty, property or the pursuit of his own happiness; that he must obey the dictates of the state; and that its use of physical force is a justifiable means to effect these ends.

The most important lesson students can learn about totalitarian regimes is that both ideologies lead to the systematic violation of individual rights, the moral-political principle that is America’s original foundation, and ultimately had to lead to mass deaths.

But how can students learn such lessons when communism and its history are virtually ignored, its ideology is still taught as noble, and some openly celebrate communist killers such as Mao and Che Guevara?

For starters, educators can assign their students novels like Ayn Rand’s “We The Living,” to introduce them to Marxist ideals and the perpetual hopelessness and fear people suffer living under a communist state, and Solzehenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” which revealed the brutality of the Soviet labor camps.

We cannot expect the horrors of history's bloodiest regimes to never happen again if our educators fail to teach students about the corrupt ideas that made them happen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Two Anniversaries Highlight America's Philosophic Failures

By Joseph Kellard

This month marks 30 years since the Iranian hostage crisis began and 20 years since the Berlin Wall fell.

What must Americans understand about these milestones, the rise of Islamic totalitarianism and the collapse of communism, to understand why these forces continue to threaten our lives and freedoms today?

After three decades, the Iranian regime that initiated war against America on Nov.4, 1979, having stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 American hostages for 444days, has since emerged as the world’s premier sponsor of terrorism, murdering and maiming thousands of Americans from Beirut in 1983 to Afghanistan today. This has happened because our appeasing, timid leaders, both Democrats and Republicans alike, have all along refused to put even a scratch on Iran’s ruling ayatollahs and mullahs.

And two decades after communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and, soon after, Soviet Russia, we are witnessing the resurgence of socialism -- at home. This phenomenon is due, in large part, to the so-called defenders of capitalism, the Republicans-conservatives, who have resigned themselves to accept the welfare state that brought us our now bankrupt Medicare and Social Security systems, rather than mount a principled, moral defense of capitalism.

How essentially did we get to this point?

Note that with the rise of socialism in the early 20th century, age-old religion took a back seat as communists promised unprecedented material prosperity wherever they brutally spread their ideology. Yet, in reality, communism was no more than a secularization of religion. Communism adopted religion’s altruist ethics that commanded men to sacrifice their lives to God’s will and substituted him with demands to sacrifice to society and the state instead. The Berlin Wall came to represent the communism’s universal slave state, crushing its citizens’ fundamental rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness, and those who tried to escape to freedom were shot dead, treated like common criminals going over a prison wall.

Long before the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989, communism had demonstrated its anti-life impotence and evil, failing miserably to produces any semblance of a “workers paradise” on earth, with widespread poverty and deprivations and mass death -- an estimated 100 million people slaughtered from Stalin’s Russia to Mao’s China to Castro’s Cuba.

When in 1991 Soviet Russia collapsed, some hailed it as “the end of history,” as if capitalism had triumphed and America faced no other enemies. But there stood religion, both at home and abroad, already filling the void with its promises of paradise in a mystical afterworld. As communism-socialism wasted away, Iran’s Islamic revolution emerged in 1979 as the latest enemy of the West and religion was resurrected in America.

Like the communists, the Islamics watched America become an unprecedented superpower, both economically and militarily, based on fundamental premises antithetical to their own: reason, individualism, individual rights and the selfish pursuit of happiness. Like communism, the religionists preach faith and obedience to something allegedly higher than the individual. While communists extolled sacrifice to an all-powerful proletariat state, the religionists demand submission to an all-powerful god. Thus, to Iran’s ruling clerics -- who properly viewed America as an essentially secularist, this-worldly nation – called her “the Great Satan,” and since the hostage crisis have made “death to America” their mantra.

Meanwhile, at home, Ronald Reagan and his supporters ushered in religious revival, declaring America a nation based on Judeo-Christian values. And although Reagan rightfully identified Soviet Russia as an “evil empire,” he nevertheless held arms negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev, who threatened this nation with nuclear annihilation, and Regan did nothing when Iranian-backed terrorists murdered 241 U.S. Marines at barracks in Beirut in 1983.

When the Soviet Union expired, the terrorists lost their main resource. Suddenly, life-long terrorist Yasir Arafat played peaceful with Israel, and the post-Ayatollah Khomeini regime posed as “moderates.” Al Qaeda, however, who proceeded to build on Iran’s Islamic revolution and bombed American embassies in Africa and the USS Cole in Yemen. Next came September 11, 2001.

The born-again Christian George W. Bush responded by downplaying the terrorists as representing “a fringe form of Islamic extremism” who otherwise pervert “a religion of peace.” Thus Bush was unable to identify our enemy as motivated by religion’s essence of faith and force, and so he failed to properly frame the war as Islam vs. Western Civilization. Instead of destroying the enemy, he turned to nation-building campaigns to bring Iraq and Afghanistan “democracy,” that is, mob rule. All the while, Bush allowed those nations to adopt Islam as a cornerstone of their constitutions, and left the Iranian regime still intact to build nuclear weapons. Today the Obama administration, which is holding America’s first open diplomatic talks with the Iranians since the hostage crisis, is pursuing the same appeasing, timid policies.

America is at this point, in part, because conservatives have only offered religion as an answer to communism-socialism and Islamic totalitarianism. Through its support of faith-based welfare programs, expansion of socialized medical programs and bank bailouts, Bush laid the groundwork for the Obama administration to swiftly push for an explicit socialist agenda in finance and automobiles, and now looks to do the same in the medical and energy industries. Meanwhile, Obama makes nice with Palestinian terrorists and socialist like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, as White House communications director Antia Dunn praises communist mass murder Mao Tse-tung.

This week and next, as we watch images of the freedom-lovers who took sledgehammers to the Berlin Wall 20 years ago and the Iranian thugs who blindfolded their American hostages 30 years ago, we must recognize that the forces of communism-socialism and Islamic totalitarianism continue to threatened our freedoms and lives. And to weaken and finally stamp them out, we must uncompromisingly champion and practice not faith but reason, not collectivism but individualism, not the all-powerful state but individual rights, not force but voluntary trade, not self-sacrifice but rational selfishness.

Nothing less will save this great nation.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ayn Rand, Anti-Communism and Dogma

By Joseph Kellard


I wrote this comment this morning and emailed it to the author of a synopsis-type commentary on the two new biographies about Ayn Rand.


Caroline Baum,

I want to address two passages that appeared in your piece on the two new books on Any Rand that I read at bloomberg.com:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=agnUNf5tVa_U

You wrote:

"Born Alisa Rosenbaum in 1905 in St. [Petersburg], Russia, to Jewish parents, Rand had a privileged upbringing. Her father, Zinovy, was a successful pharmacist; her mother, Anna, a social climber. Rand watched as the Bolsheviks seized her father’s pharmacy in 1918. Zinovy refused to work for the Communists, which was the clear inspiration for 'Atlas.'"

This scenario is often repeated by people, especially those insufficiently familiar with Ayn Rand's life, as the reason for her strong anti-Communism. But Miss Rand began to develop her essentially anti-collectivist, anti-statist ideas while she was a girl growing up in czarist Russia, before the Communist took power.

While the Communist confiscation of her family's property certainly played a part in the development of her mature views that influenced her writings, it is not the event that so many misinformed observers and commentators make into a primary, seminal matter. For Miss Rand, it took more, much more, than just one concrete event to form her most fundamental ideas and inspire such writings as Atlas Shrugged.

Also, you wrote:

"Any question or challenge from acolytes would incite her, leading to expulsion and the severing of the relationship for life."

"Any" question or challenge? This is a complete distortion that lends credence to the unjust portrait that Ayn Rand was dogmatic about Objectivism. I’m sure that many of her admirers who knew her well, including her closest associate Dr. Leonard Peikoff, would give you and the authors of these two new books ample evidence to the contrary.

Joseph Kellard

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rand as Advocate of Whim-Worship?

By Joseph Kellard

This morning, I dashed off a reply to a commentator who concluded in a column that reason, as advocated by Ayn Rand, leads to competing “absolutes” that allows men to rob one another.


Mr. Duncan:

In your column “How we got to where we are,” you wrote about Ayn Rand's summation of her philosophy:

"The problem with this thesis is that it is self-contradictory. Reason cannot be an absolute if you reject the outside source of morality as it is found in biblical morality. If your own happiness is the moral purpose of life, then your own reason becomes the arbiter of that absolute, but one person's reason may (or perhaps necessarily will) conflict with another's, making neither 'absolute.' What if one man's reason tells him that his happiness will only be had by robbing another man of his wallet? Obviously, an impasse is created."

Ayn Rand was not an advocate of the reason-as-subjectivism scenario that you've painted here. Using reason does not lead to competing subjectivist “absolutes,” which is the actual contradiction that you have created.

Miss Rand demonstrated that by using reason – that is, exercising the laws of logic -- an individual can discover objective reality, including his nature as a man and his requirements to live. His nature requires that he use his rational mind to live his life according to his own values and choices, and that he has a right to do so, so long as he does not violate the rights of other men to pursue their own “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” – which was the Founding Fathers' implicit nod to the virtue of selfishness.

Reason demonstrates that no man has any right to initiate force against other men, no right to murder, rape or rob him. When a man steals another man’s wallet, thus violating his right to his life and property, he is an irrationalist – that is, he is not exercising his faculty of reason. And a proper, individual rights-respecting nation punishes him for his crime. In short, reason demonstrates that a man has an absolute right to his life and property (his wallet), and not a right to act on a subjectivist *whim* to take it from him.

Here, and elsewhere in your column (such as on the issue of collectivism) you misrepresent Miss Rand's philosophy because you either don't understand it, or you do but are deliberately trying to distort it.

~ Joseph Kellard

Monday, October 12, 2009

The White House Declares War on Fox News

By Joseph Kellard

The White House is zeroing in on Fox News. According to the New York Times and Associated Press, the Obama administration is going on the offensive against the cable news network, which it regards as an arm of the Republican Party and as intent on tearing down the president.

“Fox’s Volley With Obama Intensifying” (Times)

“Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic but to an unusual degree, the Obama administration has narrowed its sights to one specific organization, the Fox News Channel, calling it, in essence, part of the political opposition.”

“White House targets Fox as it goes after press critics” (AP)

“The White House has gone on the offensive against its critics in the press, singling out Fox News and going so far as to accuse the News Corp.-owned network of waging a ‘war against Barack Obama.’”

Here’s a key passage from this particular article:

“Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said the White House may be lashing out at Fox ‘because the Democratic base is starting to be more critical of Obama.

"‘The world was expected to be transformed in approximately a month and it just didn't quite happen that way,’ Sabato said. ‘So if you're in that position and you need to rally your base, you need to find a common enemy.’”

I remember hearing once that Bill Clinton said that while he was president, he had never heard of Rush Limbaugh. Of course, that’s a typical Clinton lie. But so long as Clinton could pretend Limbaugh didn’t exist, he could not openly attack the conservative talk radio host and threaten his freedom of speech. I’m not aware of anything Clinton may have done behind the scenes to try to silence Limbaugh, but in recent years he has made clear his contempt for certain media types, including Fox News.

On the other hand, Obama from the start of his presidency, and even during his campaign, has often publicly mentioned his critics, particularly Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Limbaugh, so much so that he is obviously disturbed (not just bothered) by them. And now he and his administration are openly targeting them. The question is, what are the next steps Obama will take, openly or behind the scenes, on his road to silence his critics.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Let's Take Back Columbus Day

By Joseph Kellard

This Columbus Day weekend, read Objectivist Tom Bowden's book "Enemies of Christopher Columbus."

Read his latest op-ed “Let’s Take Back Columbus Day."

Mr. Bowden’s also has some upcoming lectures based on this op-ed.

Or watch his lecture “Columbus Day Without Guilt”:

Mr. Bowden has also done some radio interviews about Christopher Columbus and the attack on the day in his name, here:

http://tinyurl.com/yfwfdoc

http://tinyurl.com/ygnl8fs

Happy Columbus Day weekend!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Michael Moore, Catholics and Capitalists

By Joseph Kellard

So Michael Moore turns to the Catholic Church to give his anti-capitalist screed, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” some moral weight. Yeah, I know, that church is a real moral authority, isn't it?

“Many of the talking heads in the film are Catholic clergy, including the bishop of Detroit, who proclaim capitalism to be a ‘sin’ and ‘radically evil.’ ‘Eventually,’ one prophesies, ‘God will come down and eradicate it.’”

Read the New York magazine article in full.

Also, who do you think Moore turned to in order to fund his film? Capitalists, who else! Jonathan Hoenig, a.k.a. Capitalist Pig, highlights this other curious fact in a recent column:

“Ironically, as has been repeatedly pointed out around the blogosphere in recent days, the film itself was funded by (publicly owned and traded) Viacom (VIA.B) and the Weinstein Company, a entertainment company which raised $490 million from investors to pay for, among other projects, Moore’s film. I guess capitalism is immoral and corrupt, except when it’s going to fund your own self-important movie exposing the depravity of capitalism.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Amadinejad a Guest at the Essex House

By Joseph Kellard

I learned from the Harry Binswanger List that Iran’s puppet dictator Mahmoud Amadinejad stayed at the Essex House in New York City on Wednesday, when he took part in denouncing America and Israel during his speech at the United Nations. This morning, I dashed off the following email to Jumeirah, a UAE-based company that owns the Essex House, and sent it to reservations@jumeirah.com. I would suggest that you do the same or something similar.


To Jumeirah,

I just learned that Iranian dictator and avowed Holocaust denier Mahmoud Amadinejad stayed at your New York City hotel, the Essex House, on Wednesday. As a New Yorker, I've never had the need to stay at your hotel, but I plan to suggest to many others that they never patronize the Essex House so long as your company owns it.

As an American, I consider Amadinejad and the theocratic, murderous regime he represents to be grave threat to this great nation where you do business. During its 30-year history, that Islamic regime has terrorized and murdered hundreds of Americans from Teheran to Lebanon to Saudi Arabia to Iraq, and is thereby at war with America. Further, the regime allows congregants at its mosques to regularly chant "Death to America,” and Amadinejad vows to wipe our important ally, Israel, off the map in the Middle East, where it is the only free nation in sea of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.

I can’t think of a worst guest to keep at your hotel, and I plan to let many others know about this injustice on your part, and hope they follow through by boycotting the Essex House and your company.

~ Joseph Kellard

Friday, September 18, 2009

Newsweek's Ralph Nader-John Galt Comparisons

By Joseph Kellard

Newsweek features a review on Ralph Nader’s new book that draws comparisons to Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged.

“During our real-life moment—when center-left health-insurance-reform proposals generate comparison to Nazism—Nader's dramatic imagining of an even bolder progressive revolution doesn't look irrationally exuberant as much as obstinately out to lunch. The irony is that Nader has become a Galt-like figure himself, preferring to go on strike from an imperfect two-party system rather than live in it. Utopianists of all stripes should take a hard look.”

Below is a reply I dashed off early this morning and left in the comments section. It looks like my comment is the first to appear there. So get in while you can.

Comment:

At the end of his book review, Seth Colter compares Ralph Nader to John Galt, the hero of Atlas Shrugged, in that Nader goes on strike from “an imperfect two-party system.” But in reality, Nader is nothing more than a poser, trying to disguise that he’s an outgrowth of the individual rights-destroying, altruism-worshiping political left that has long dominated the Democratic Party (as well as the GOP). So, Nader brands his politics by a different name, but his so-called ideas and solutions are fundamentally not different than the Dems: use state force to make others, esp. the wealth producers, act according to your leftist ideals.

Unlike Nader, John Galt was a productive genius who upheld each individual’s right to be free from force to pursue the right to his own life, liberty and happiness. Unlike Nader, who rose to notoriety as a “consumer advocate,” Galt understood and championed this fundamental fact: before you can consume, you must produce. Galt was, in effect, a “producer advocate.” Nader’s politics consists of forcing the producers to give to those who put consumption before production – that is, the parasites – to, in effect, force the producers to live for the parasites.

I recommend Newsweek readers shrug off any interest in Nader’s tired, unjust philosophy of altruism and statism and bask in Ayn Rand’s innovative philosophy of Objectivism, as projected in her greatest novel, Atlas Shrugged, in which the producers – [the] individuals who hold up the world – are properly glorified and the Nader-like parasite-advocates are exposed as the evil men they really are.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Michael Jordan Scores One For "I"

By Joseph Kellard

Michael Jordan was inducted in the Hall of Fame on Friday night. His speech stood out.

Sports fans know all too well the anti-individualist bromide: "There's no 'I' in 'team.'" Well, Jordan challenged such so-called wisdom. During his speech, he told a story about one of his coaches. "I could never please Tex … I can remember a game … we were down five or 10 points, and I go off for about 25 points and we come back and win the game. And we're walking off the floor and Tex looked at me and said, 'You know, there's no 'I' in 'team.' I said, 'Tex, there's no 'I' in 'team,' but there's 'I' in 'win.'"

(The audience applauded and laughed -- as if to say: how bold.)

"I think he got my message: I'll do anything to win. If that means we play team format, we win, if that means I have to do whatever I have to do, we're going to win."

As Jordan described his love of basketball, he said: "It's provided me with a platform to share my passion with millions in a way that I neither expected nor could have imagined in my career. I hope that it's given the millions of people that I've touched the optimism and desire to achieve their goals through hard work, perseverance and a positive attitude."

The 46-year-old concluded as follows: "One day you might look up and see me playing the game at 50." (The crowd chuckled.) "Oh, don't laugh. Never say 'never.' Because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion."

With this, I was reminded of Andrew Bernstein's 1998 ARI op-ed entitled "What Young People Really Need: Not Volunteerism but Happiness and Heroes":

"What do you think young people find more inspiring: the sight of Jimmy Carter building churches in the jungles of Guatemala, or the vision of Michael Jordan soaring through the air, winning championships and earning millions, then flashing his joyous, brilliant, life-giving smile? The truth is that Michael Jordan's extraordinary success has inspired far more young people, poor, middle-class or rich, black, white or Asian, to strive for their own dreams than an army of social workers could ever think possible. As Ayn Rand puts it in Atlas Shrugged, 'The sight of an achievement is the greatest gift that a human being could offer to others.'"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Excellent New York Times Op-Ed on "Peak Oil"

The New York Times today published an excellent op-ed: "'Peak Oil' Is a Waste of Energy":

"Let's take the rate-of-discovery argument first: it is a statement that reflects ignorance of industry terminology. When a new field is found, it is given a size estimate that indicates how much is thought to be recoverable at that point in time. But as years pass, the estimate is almost always revised upward, either because more pockets of oil are found in the field or because new technology makes it possible to extract oil that was previously unreachable. Yet because petroleum geologists don't report that additional recoverable oil as 'newly discovered,' the peak oil advocates tend to ignore it. In truth, the combination of new discoveries and revisions to size estimates of older fields has been keeping pace with production for many years."

~ Joseph Kellard

Monday, July 20, 2009

Guggenheim's Wright Exhibit Inspires

By Joseph Kellard

I became interested in Frank Lloyd Wright through studying Objectivism and, subsequently, by browsing through or buying pictorial books on his work. Outside of the Guggenheim Museum and a replica of a prairie house interior at the Metropolitan Museum, I've yet to experience his buildings firsthand. In short, my knowledge of his life and work is superficial. And so I left the ongoing Wright exhibit at the Guggenheim, which celebrates the museum's 50th anniversary, with a deeper appreciation for the great American architect.

What intrigued me most were the renderings — some of them broad drawings spread out like battlefield maps — of his commissions that never materialized. The most ambitious of these is the Mile High Office Tower (528 floors!) for Chicago. (I didn't take the audio tour, so I'm unsure how serious Wright actually was about building this massive, soaring project.)

Other impressive but unbuilt projects were the Pittsburgh Point Park Civic Center, the Huntington Hartford Sports Club/Play Resort, and the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective and Planetarium. Wright even made cityscape plans for Baghdad, where he was originally commissioned to design an opera house.
The theme of the exhibit, which is entitled "From Within Outward," is that Wright developed original interiors based largely on their relation to their exterior environments. "As a result, exteriors became pure projections of the space that was shaped on the inside," reads the program. The exhibit also features models and animated video of his buildings.

Of course, walking through this exhibit in one of Wright's masterpieces certainly heightened my experience — especially since the section on the Guggenheim came last, at the apex of the museum's spiraling rotunda.

I left with a greater understanding of the architect's original, innovative mind and marveled at the scope of his work. He designed everything from homes, houses of worship and hotels to office buildings, schools and an aquarium. He drew up more than 1,000 projects and developed about 500 of them. Wright worked into his 90s, dying just months before the Guggenheim opened in 1959. In addition to his productive longevity, his career and life clearly ended on the highest of notes.

The exhibit is open until August 23.

Joseph Kellard is a journalist living in New York.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sag Harbor in Words and Photos

By Joseph Kellard




Herman Melville made mention of it in “Moby Dick,” and, for what it’s worth, John Steinbeck lived there.

I’m talking about Sag Harbor, my favorite spot in the Hamptons, the area on the east end of Long Island. This week I took a trip there, and while killing time tending to some social business, I drove around and took some photos that I’ve posted here.

What I like most about Sag Harbor, a former whaling port, is that it has kept its small town America atmosphere, with a Main Street that curves through the small village. Among its features are a grocer, general store, hotel, liquor store, restaurants, bookstore and Art Deco-style movie theater. Both sides of the street sport rows of head-in parked cars and tree-lined sidewalks with park benches.

At the north end of Main Street is Marine Park, where everything from cruise ship-like yachts are docked alongside sail boats and some small fishing boats the size of a twin bed. At the foot of Sag Harbor’s main thoroughfare are a church and a grave yard bordered by a black wrought-iron fence. They are known as the Old Whaler's Church and Old Burial Ground and have ties to the American Revolution.

Throughout the surrounding neighborhoods are many quaint homes, some of them obviously dating back centuries to the village’s founding. Also outside town are a whaling museum and an old library.

Just north of Sag Harbor is an area known as North Haven, where a friend of mine owns a home. In the back of her neighborhood is a small beach that I always make sure I visit whenever I’m in town. Along this beach are a few modern homes that look out onto the serene Sag Harbor Bay. It’s got a few too many rocks, but I trek there for the view and the absolute peace and quiet.




















To learn more about Sag Harbor,see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sag_Harbor,_NY

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


Photos by Joseph Kellard

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Letter on Socialism-Capitalism in WIRED

By Joseph Kellard

WIRED magazine (August 2009) printed a letter I wrote in response to an article entitled “The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online” (June 2009), by Kevin Kelly.

Here’s a slice from this article of very mixed premises and terms:

“Of course, there's nothing particularly socialistic about collaboration per se. But the tools of online collaboration support a communal style of production that shuns capitalistic investors and keeps ownership in the hands of the workers, and to some extent those of the consuming masses.”

My letter was printed first among four others:

What Kevin Kelly calls new socialism in computing and the like is, in fact, capitalism. Voluntary cooperation and collaboration among individuals are actually forms of free trade. This new “socialism” is made possible under governments that (at least in this realm) respect property rights, the cornerstone of a capitalist system. Let’s dispense with Kelly’s equivocation on socialism and give capitalism its due.

Joseph Kellard
East Meadow, New York

Monday, July 6, 2009

Independence Day Tea Party on Long Island

By Joseph Kellard

“Oh, I love Ayn Rand! I’m a member of an Objectivist Club at my school,” the college-aged woman told me. What a welcoming reaction from the first person I handed a free Ayn Rand sampler to at the tea party I attended on Independence Day.

Inside each sampler, I slipped in copies of ARC flyers “The Significance of Atlas Shrugged” and “What the Tea Party Movement Must Stand For,” along with The Undercurrent’s special tea party edition and my recent newspaper column “A Russian Immigrant’s Lesson in American Patriotism.” That column caught the eye of one party-goer, who told me she too was a Russian immigrant. While ignorant of Rand, she readily accepted my packet of literature.

Both women were among some 115 people who showed up at the morning tea party in the middle of a busy intersection in Huntington, a town on Long Island’s north shore. Party-goers held signs and waved American flags on all four corners. There were no speakers, and one party organizer conducted mostly unimaginative chants (e.g., “Obama must go!” “Throw the bums out!” “No socialism!”), as some passers-by honked their car horns in solidarity.

Meanwhile, I handed out about 75 packets. Virtually everyone I selectively approached was receptive, as I described Rand as “a great American patriot.” About a third of the party-goers told me that they had either already read Ayn Rand or had at least heard of her. One woman started to tell me about the “aristocracy of land” in Old Europe and compared it to today’s political environment. I pointed out that a chapter in Atlas Shrugged is titled “The Aristocracy of Pull,” and she reacted with an agreeable raised eyebrow, smile and nod.

Unfortunately, the party organizers passed out literature that dismissed the principle of church-state separation and lamented “attacks on religion,” as one of them held a sign that read “Faith, family and freedom” — or some similar trio of conservative tripe. Another woman went around promoting Ron Paul’s politics, while others handing out voter registration forms and bumper stickers that read: “Spread my work ethic, not my wealth!”

While certainly not an intellectual crowd, the people I chose to give packets seemed at least receptive to reading the literature. I drove away satisfied and happy that I’d helped spread Ayn Rand’s word and, hopefully, further softened the culture a bit more toward Objectivism.


Joseph Kellard is a journalist living in New York. Visit his journalism website at www.josephkellard.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Russian Immigrant's Lesson in American Patriotism


America is the land of the uncommon man. It is the land where man is free to develop his genius – and to get its just rewards.” ~ Ayn Rand




By Joseph Kellard


As Independence Day nears and debates over immigration rage on, I’m reminded of how an atheist √©migr√© from Soviet Russia taught me what it means to be an American patriot.

Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, once wrote: “The United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.”

Rand’s books all evoke this glorification of America, but when I first read them I was a left-wing ideologue who questioned whether she knew that ours was a racist society that had stolen this land from the Indians, enslaved blacks and exploited the poor. Nonetheless, whenever I heard our national anthem, a prideful lump always swelled in my throat. Looking back, I realize that I grasped, even as I bought into these vicious charges, that there was much more to America. That’s why Rand’s uncompromising praise of this nation struck a chord with me.

Unlike conservatives, who explained America’s greatness by calling it “God’s chosen country,” Rand showed that the United States was the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment, the 18th century intellectual movement that championed reason and challenged and thus broke religion’s dogma and pervasive influence. Our Founding Fathers, Rand noted, were explicitly pro-reason, leading them to form an unprecedented nation based on the philosophical principle that each individual has an inalienable right to his own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Rand recognized that America was distinguished from all nations, past and present, by its moral and political foundation: individual rights. That is, that each individual has a right to think for himself and pursue his independent values as he sees fit, simultaneously respecting that right in others. No authority — no god, tribal chief, king, pope or bureaucrat — may dictate the course of any individual’s life; he may live for himself, “neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself,” Rand wrote.

Based on individual rights and their corresponding economic system, capitalism, America emerged as a nation of free-thinking, productive individuals. A land of scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs and businessmen who made possible an array of labor- and time-saving advances — including the cotton gin, refrigeration, electric lighting, oil-based energy, assembly-line production, the telephone, the airplane and air conditioning — which incalculably raised everyone’s standard of living, prosperity and life expectancy.

Rand’s books also taught me that what’s fundamental about being American is not such irrelevancies as your birthplace or race, but that you understand and choose to live by the fundamental ideas that underpin this great country.

Moreover, I learned that what’s most relevant when evaluating historical figures is not how they were like their predecessors and contemporaries, but how they distinguished themselves. I came to see that our founders represent a unique bridge between the irrationalities and injustices of the old world and the much greater heights still open to this nation.

While some founders owned slaves, for example, it is crucial to note that some form of slavery existed in virtually all pre-American societies. And so what’s most significant about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington is that they were the first in history to uphold individual rights that are universal to all men, and thereby laid the moral and political foundation for slavery’s eventual abolition.

Rand also understood that America could never be a racist society yet still rise to its unprecedented status, and noted that insofar as racism existed it was a force mainly in the almost feudal, agrarian South, which lost the Civil War to the freer, capitalist, industrial North. She knew America was not the backward, tribalist society as others painted it, and showed that this was true of the original Indians, contesting the claim that they had a “right” to this land: “If a ‘country’ does not protect rights, if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief, why should you respect the ‘rights’ that they don’t have or respect?” she once asked rhetorically.

Lastly, her life illustrates what’s great about America. She defected from the Soviet slave state, where millions of innocents were slaughtered based on such communist ideals as self-sacrifice, equality of results and an all-powerful state that dictated how individuals must think and live. Rand knew that in America she would be free to think independently and write books that offered innovative, challenging ideas, exemplified by the provocatively titled The Virtue of Selfishness.

Her books provide the philosophical foundation on which America can properly complete and ground its revolutionary principles and reach infinitely greater, unimagined heights.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Atlas Shrugged On Display Nationwide

By Joseph Kellard

While I was in a Barnes & Noble here on Long Island earlier this week, a cardboard display featuring a colorful image of Atlas caught my eye. The stand-up display was devoted exclusively to copies of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and it was placed next to a display table filled with classic novels.

I wrote to B&N about this store several weeks ago, asking why it didn’t have copies of the hot-selling novel on a prominent display table. Within a week or two after sending my email, the store had ordered several copies of Atlas Shrugged and put them on the regular fiction self, as well as stacked several larger, trade-sized editions on a display table.

I wrote to the Ayn Rand Institute to let them know about this latest display. Kurt Kramer, an office manager from the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, wrote back that this display is part of a nationwide campaign by Penguin Publishing.

I’d like to think that through my efforts, and by inspiring others on the OActivism list to ask their local B&N stores to put Atlas on display, I played a part in influencing that campaign.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

David Brooks: Republicans Need Collectivism

By Joseph Kellard

According to David Brooks, the conservative op-ed columnist at the New York Times, the problem with Republicans is that they are paragons of individualism and freedom-and that's why their losing power to the Left. His solution: turn to collectivism.

In his May 4 column, "The Long Voyage Home," he writes:

"Republicans are so much the party of individualism and freedom that they are no longer the party of community and order."

You can send your letters to the editor here:

letters@nytimes.com

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tax Revolt: This Is Joseph Kellard Speaking

By Joseph Kellard


Rational selfishness got a hearing at a “tax revolt” in Levittown, Long Island, hosted by a Young Republicans Club on Saturday. In other words, I got the opportunity to speak to a crowd of about 100 people.

Throughout, I held a sign that read: “Ayn Rand was right, Read Alas Shrugged, www.aynrand.com.” Two teens waved their “Who Is John Galt?” signs at me. One scheduled speaker told me about mine: “That’s a great sign.” And a 20-something man told me he’s reading Atlas, say it was “amazing” how Rand “predicted everything going on today” in 1957.

The speakers gave standard conservative speeches, railing against onerous taxes, left-wing media and the loss of personal responsibility. The best comment among them was: “I like making money and being sorta selfish.”

This woman, the emcee, later gave the microphone to anyone willing to talk. A few protestors made more standard comments.

I recall that I started my speech by mentioning Atlas Shrugged, and said that our nation’s founding principles – the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – are based on rational selfishness, the morality that Ayn Rand fully, explicitly developed and advocated.

Mentioning a speaker who had questioned how it was possible that socialism was making a comeback, I also noted that our nation grew out of tax revolts and that we’re still holding them today. “It’s because Americans still hold to the morality of self-sacrifice, the belief that we must live our lives for others,” I said. “If we don’t question that ethic and understand that there is nothing morally wrong with living for our own sake, then we can expect more and more taxes.”

I said that self-sacrifice is the basis for such government programs as welfare for the poor “to, yes, even Social Security and Medicare.”

I ended by stressing that the tea parties/tax revolts will ultimately amount to nothing unless people challenge the morality of self-sacrifice and uphold the rationally selfish principles on which America was founded. The crowd gave me a generous, if slightly reserved, hand.

After I handed the microphone back to the emcee and walked to my car, I heard her tell the crowd that what I said was “partly true,” and she tried to qualify my appeal to rational selfishness by saying it was OK to help others!

Ultimately, all that matters is that I was able to broadcast the central issue: rational selfishness = freedom.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tea Time

Local taxpayers join nationwide series of protests

By Joseph Kellard


For Frank McQuade, it was a tough decision to skip his annual trip to the gala dinner at the New York State Republican Convention in Manhattan last week and instead have some tea. The Long Beach attorney joined about 350 protesters who lined the sidewalks of Sunrise Highway at the Massapequa train station in a Tax Day Tea Party, one of hundreds held across the country.

The sign-wielding, American flag-waving Nassau County protesters voiced their discontent with what they called government’s burdensome taxes, ongoing bailouts, massive spending and pending inflation, as rush-hour motorists honked in solidarity.

“Duty really calls to be at the tea party, because the answer at this point is not parties, not the entrenched,” said McQuade. “… Taxation is choking off initiative, watering down the free market system and is going to burden us with debt that is going to change the face of this country not as we anticipated when [President] Obama was elected.”

For the protests, tea became TEA, standing for “taxed enough already,” and the gatherings — on April 15, for obvious reasons —were likened to the Boston Tea Party of 1773. There were some 25 protests on Long Island alone, from Hicksville to East Hampton, and according to one estimate, there were more than a half-million participants nationwide.

In Massapequa, some voiced their concern with what they described as their fellow Americans’ loss of personal responsibility and can-do spirit, while others characterized Obama, former President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain as fundamentally alike on economics, and a few expressed alarm that Obama had pushed out General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner.

Many flashed hand-made signs reading, “No taxation without representation,” “Dump the tea, dump the tax,” “We the people, not we the government,” “Foreclose the White House,” “I am not your ATM” and “No socialized medicine.”

Mike Friechter, a Bellmore attorney who held a sign that said “Obamanomics: Trickle up poverty,” said he believes the president is governing as a socialist.

“Growth is unlimited by imagination, hard work and the American spirit,” Friechter said. “The idea of punishing people for being successful in life is counterproductive. It just makes everyone equally poor, and that’s what we’re protesting against. We want the politicians to know that we won’t be silent about this outrageous spending.”

Tom Walsh, owner of a home-inspecting business, called politicians at all levels “tax crazy,” and said that while he is forced to cut back, they continue to expand government budgets. “We’re committing suicide and they’re spending us into oblivion,” said Walsh, a Syosset resident. “People have no idea what a trillion is, and we’re never going to pay this money back.”

While a few politicians were in attendance, including the Nassau County Legislature’s minority leader, Republican Peter Schmitt, the Massapequa organizers made it a point not to invite government officials. “This is not an affiliation with any political party,” said organizer Laura Gill. “This is really just American taxpayers on Long Island coming together who are just looking to be really vocal about our displeasure with what is going on.”

Gill, who works in insurance, said she organized the event mostly through word of mouth and a Web site, and got involved because Obama’s stimulus bill “will take a heavy toll on hardworking American taxpayers,” she said. “They feel that their American dream and the future of their children is going to be gone.”

Another party-goer, Charles Hapaey, said he is most concerned about the impact increased government spending will have on future generations. “We have to stop it now,” said Hapaey, noting that his property taxes have risen $9,000 since he bought his West Islip home in 2002. “Otherwise they’re going to have a problem that they’re not going to be able to deal with in the years to come.”

Hapaey, who was holding a “Don’t punish success” sign, said his wife works as many as 70 hours a week on her own local newspaper, and he fears that Obama will reverse President Clinton’s “workfare” programs, which took people off the welfare rolls. “If she’s going to put in that time and be successful, why should I be paying for someone who wants to put in 30 hours a week, not put in the time and do just enough to get by, and then I have to supplement their income?” Hapaey said. “I’m not happy with that.”

A nationwide protest is planned for July Fourth. Gill said she plans to keep in touch with other participants, and discuss ways to effect change, from becoming watchdogs of Washington to voting together. “I think what the tea parties will do is make people realize that this is not what the American people want, and nobody is behind it except for the very small few who are going to benefit from it,” she said. “Let’s get back to the American dream. You reap the benefits of working hard, and no more handouts.”

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Celebrate Individualism, Not Ethnicity

By Joseph Kellard


On St. Patrick's Day I won’t be wearing a button that reads “Proud to be Irish.” While I’m of Celtic stock, I’m neither proud nor ashamed to be Irish, but indifferent to this fact, as I would be if I were of any other ethnicity or race. Instead, I’m proud to be an individualist and an American, and believe our nation would be much better off if each of us rediscovered this outlook.

Individuals, of course, can properly enjoy ethnic-oriented celebrations such as St. Patrick's Day, with their particular music, dance, food, drink and (green) outfits. But I won’t proclaim any pride in my ethnicity or race.

That’s because pride is the emotional reward an individual earns after he achieves personally chosen rational values, such as honesty, a productive career, sticking to a healthy diet and earning a doctoral degree. Conversely, a man’s racial makeup is inborn and therefore outside his realm of choice. He can’t take pride in this non-achievement. And while he can be proud that his role models are individuals who did great things, he can’t take any pride for their achievements, especially because he shares their race.

For example, I can’t take pride for being a white man because Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were great achievers. To do so would be to adopt a false pride. Only through my own choices, actions and achievements can I, like any individual, foster pride.

I’m proud that I’ve overcome some learning obstacles in my youth to achieve certain goals I set, such as becoming a writer. I’m also proud to be an American, but not because I was born here, or because I belong to a nation that produced the great Americans previously mentioned, or because I subscribe to the faith “my country, right or wrong,” a nationalist attitude typical in Europe.

Instead, I’m a proud American because I chose to remain here and live by and fight for the original ideals that built this great nation: a love of the liberty that allows me to pursue my own life, values and happiness. In this land, I’m still free to choose my own creed, career, productive activities and friends, and be a self-made individual, just like the Edisons and Fords of America.

Being Irish is part of who I am, part of my heritage, but it plays no role in my basic identity. I define myself by the values and goals I chose to pursue and achieved, not by unquestioning conformity to the traditions of my ethnic-racial ancestry, nor by its achievers.

Yet America, the land of individualism, even in the aftermath of electing its first black president, remains Balkanized by race. This problem originates when children are taught to identify themselves primarily with their ethnic-racial heritage. Unchecked by individualism — by the idea that each person is autonomous and has the free will and reasoning mind to think for himself — these teachings lead, ultimately, to such abominations as calls for slave reparations, in which the individuals who would receive these handouts were never enslaved, nor have the individuals punished to pay them ever enslaved anyone. In reality, no individual is responsible, guilty or innocent, not as victimizer nor as victim, by virtue of their racial ancestors.

It’s high time for Americans to shed their false racial “pride” — and should stop championing essentially race-based pseudo-ideals such as multiculturalism — to pursue universal values beneficial to all men, no matter their biology or background. Identifying primarily with one’s physical genetics or racial heritage, and the eventual irrational divisions, wars and mass killings this tribalism has ultimately caused throughout history, is nothing to be proud of.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stimulus is Freedom

By Joseph Kellard


A New York Times reporter asked Barack Obama if he is a socialist. The president dismissed the question, but later called the reporter back to elaborate on his position. Here is part of what he told the reporter:

"I did think it might be useful to point out that it wasn’t under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks. It wasn’t on my watch. And it wasn’t on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement -- the prescription drug plan -- without a source of funding. And so I think it’s important just to note when you start hearing folks throw these words around that *we’ve actually been operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles* and that some of the same folks who are throwing the word 'socialist' around can’t say the same." (Emphasis mine.)

So Obama promotes his administration as operating “entriely consistent with free-market principles.” Yeah, right, and slavery is freedom.

Yet, even for a leftist, Obama is treading no new deceptive ground here. I remember when Howard Dean was making a run for the presidency, he called himself a capitalist, or a believer in the free-market system, or something to that dishonest effect. Perhaps more leftists do it than I have witnessed.

What’s interesting, thought, is that Obama is on the defensive, trying to paint himself as a capitalist (although I don’t think he would use that particular dirty word -- not yet). So to put it more accurately, he’s trying to downplay his heavy socialist leanings. The president understands the negatives associated with the socialist label. Sadly, while many American voters do understand it (why else would he be so defensive about it?), still not enough grasp it deeply enough. If they did, they wouldn’t allow him to get away with the wrecking ball that is his economic policies.

Meanwhile, he’s doing his darndest to keep that ball swining under cover of capitalism.

Monday, March 9, 2009

New York Times on Climate Change Conference

By Joseph Kellard


The New York Times is reporting on the International Conference on Climate Change. The reporting is, of course, slanted. Just to give one example: The Times, reflexively, must mention how the Heartland Institute, the pro-freer market organizer of the conference, is funded by “Big Oil” -- which is one of the environmentalists pat non-arguments against global warming “skeptics.”

The article does not mention Yaron Brook or Keith Lockitch of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, who were expected to attend this three-day conference. I'll keep my eyes out for any mentions in the Times over the next few days, assuming they dare write anything further about this conference. I’ll check the editorial pages, too.

I had an LTE published in the Times in recent weeks, so I can’t submit another until late March (I think there is a 30-day rule for submissions). But other OActivists who are particularly interested in this issue may want to send in their own LTEs.

http://tinyurl.com/ctyg7h

“From 1998 to 2006, Exxon Mobil, for example, contributed more than $600,000 to Heartland, according to annual reports of charitable contributions from the company and company foundations.

“Alan T. Jeffers, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, said by e-mail that the company had ended support ‘to several public policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.’
“Joseph L. Bast, the president of the Heartland Institute, said Exxon and other companies were just shifting their stance to improve their image. The Heartland meeting, he said, was the last bastion of intellectual honesty on the climate issue."

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Four Outstanding Opinion Pieces

By Joseph Kellard


I want to pass along four outstanding opinion pieces that I read this week. I’ve provided a brief description of each piece, along with their links and an excerpt from each one.

Keith Lockitch of the Ayn Rand Institute tackles and challenges the growing push for “environmentally-friendly” energies in his op-ed “The Green Energy Fantasy.”

“There is a reason why less than 2 percent of the world’s energy currently comes from ‘renewable’ sources such as wind and solar--the very sources that are supposedly going to power the new green economy: despite billions of dollars in government subsidies, funding decades of research, they have not proven themselves to be practical sources of energy. Indeed, without government mandates forcing their adoption in most Western countries, their high cost would make them even less prevalent.”

Gina Gorlin challenges those who laud Obama as an intellectual to take a second look at this belief in her piece “Obama the Intellectual?,” published in the latest edition of the Objectivist student newspaper The Undercurrent.

“In action, Obama is clearly not an intellectual. He, like Bush and other politicians, is a pragmatist—the exact opposite of an intellectual. Issue after issue, including taxes, the Iraq war, and the environment, reveals that Obama has made decisions, not with reference to firm principles derived from a careful and scholarly investigation of the facts, but by trying to find some middle ground in a landscape of competing opinions.”

Over at Real Clear Politics, Robert Tracinski takes on the task of deciding whether President Obama will turn out to be more like FDR or Jimmy Carter in his column “The ‘Can-Do’ Economy Killer.”

“I have been wondering whether Barack Obama will turn out to be another Jimmy Carter or another Franklin Roosevelt. The least bad option is Carter: a leader whose policies are disastrous for the economy and for US foreign policy, but who ends up being rejected by the American people and voted out of office after only one term -- as opposed to a leader like FDR, whose policies are also disastrous, but who ends up being loved by the American people nonetheless and voted back into office.”

Elsewhere, Tracinski writes about the influence Ayn Rand’ ideas are having on some in the media who are challenging and speaking out against Obama’s “stimulus” plan, and others calling for greater government intervention in the economy, in his column “The Ayn Rand Factor in the Santelli Revolt.”

“It is no coincidence that the strongest resistance to a government takeover of the economy is coming from people influenced by Ayn Rand. She has long functioned as a stiffener of resolve and as the fountainhead of pro-free-market ideas.”

Sunday, February 22, 2009

New York Times Prints Letter on Stimulus-Stagflation

By Joseph Kellard

The New York Times today revised and printed a letter I submitted to the newspaper in reply to an op-ed by Paul D. Ryan, which I posted about here on Feb. 17 ("Not a 'Stimulus' But a Return to Stagflation"). Recall that Ryan's editorial, entitled "Thirty Yeas Later, a Return to Stagflation," concluded that the "stimulus" plan will only ultimately lead to higher inflation and higher unemployment.


Below is my letter as printed.


To the Editor:

Paul D. Ryan properly points to the lesson of the government-induced stagflation of the 1970s as the result of the same spending and borrowing policies of the "stimulus" plan. He also recognizes that the Federal Reserve's policies of manipulating interest rates and expanding the money supply were an essential cause of today's financial crisis.

But instead of calling for reforms and cost controls for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Mr. Ryan should propose drastic cuts in spending on these entitlements.

Government interference in the economy fundamentally caused today's crisis, and only more freedom -- more separation between state and economics -- will get us out of it.

Joseph Kellard
East Meadow, N.Y., Feb. 14, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Not a "Stimulus," But a Return to Stagflation

By Joseph Kellard


The New York Times today (Sat., Feb. 14) has a good op-ed by Paul D. Ryan entitled “Thirty Years Later, a Return to Stagflation.” In it, Ryan, who is described as a Republican representative from Wisconsin, concludes that the “stimulus” plan will only ultimately lead to higher inflation and higher unemployment.

Here’s the beef of Ryan’s op-ed:

“Combine high inflation and high unemployment and you have stagflation. Hindsight shows how the pain of the late 1970s and early 1980s could have been avoided, yet we’re now again planning to borrow and spend — and raise taxes — as President Jimmy Carter did. Soon we may again find ourselves watching a rising ‘misery index’ of inflation and unemployment together. If that happens, individual earning power will evaporate, and our standard of living will decline.

“To prevent stagflation, we should enact fiscal policy reforms that apply the lessons we learned from the 1970s. Keynesian stimuli based on borrowing and spending have not worked and will not work. One-time rebate checks do not increase the incentive to expand business operations and create jobs. But marginal cuts in tax rates do. We also must lower our job-killing corporate income tax rate, the highest in the industrialized world after Japan, and ease business worries by making it clear that there will be no tax increases in 2010.

“We should also re-establish the sound dollar. For the past decade, the Federal Reserve has manipulated interest rates and vastly over-expanded the money supply — and in so doing fueled the housing bubble that precipitated our current crisis …”

Unfortunately, Ryan doesn’t call for drastic cuts in spending to accompany his proposed tax cuts, and he calls for “reform” for those socialist behemoths otherwise known as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Nevertheless, this is a good op-ed that should be given support with positive letters to the editor: letters@nytimes.com.

Here’s my letter:

To the Editor:

Paul Ryan is correct, the “stimulus” plan will only ultimately lead to higher inflation and higher unemployment “Thirty Years Later, a Return to Stagflation” (Sat., Feb. 14).

Ryan properly points to the lesson of the government-induced stagflation of the 1970s as the logical result of the same state spending and borrowing policies at the core of the current plan. He also recognizes that the Federal Reserves policies of manipulating interest rates and expanding the money supply were an essential cause of today’s financial crisis. However, instead of calling for reform of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Ryan should be targeting these bureaucratic behemoths for drastic spending cuts to accompany his proposed tax cuts.

Government interference in the economy fundamentally caused today’s crisis, and only more freedom -- more separation between state and economics -- will get us out of it.

Joseph Kellard
East Meadow, NY


Joseph Kellard is a journalist and commentator living in New York. Contact him at Theainet1@optonline.net.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Art and The Inconsequentialness of Nature

By Joseph Kellard


On Saturday I was enticed to the Nassau County Museum of Art for the exhibit: “Poetic Journey: Hudson River Paintings from the Grey Collection.” (The next day, the New York Times gave it a well-deserved positive review: "For Serene Transport, Hudson River School Paintings.")

I enjoy some paintings from this school, particularly those of Albert Bierstadt, for their panoramic landscapes of valleys and mountains and their stylized recreation of nature, especially their brilliant colors and sharp contrasts between light and dark (e.g. http://tinyurl.com/dy3y5t). When men appear in these paintings, I view them mainly as a means for the artist to accentuate the vast landscapes and to lend them some perspective.

Unfortunately, my positive experience at the exhibit was undercut, slightly, by some of the descriptions of the paintings (which, I was told, are usually written by the curator):

“Trout Stream” by T. Worthington Whittredge, 1870s

“… The man fishing in the background is symbolic of the smallness of humanity compared to the grandeur of nature. The fisherman seems so inconsequential next to the enormous trees and beautiful, glittering steam that he almost vanishes into the wilderness.”

“View of Yosemite” by Thomas Hill, 1887
(No URL available)

“ … On the left-hand side, there is a man riding a horse, but he almost blends into the earth, which conveys the smallness of humanity against the rising cliffs and the great, never ending expanse of nature.”

Here I was reminded of the passage from “The Fountainhead” when Dominique asks Wynand if he’d never felt how small he was when looking at the ocean:

"Never. Nor looking at the planets. Nor at mountain peaks. Nor at the Grand Canyon. Why should I? When I look at the ocean, I feel the greatness of man. I think of man's magnificent capacity that created this ship to conquer all that senseless space. When I look at mountain peaks, I think of tunnels and dynamite. When I look at the planets, I think of airplanes."

At the exhibit, the curator described another landscape, “Sunset” by George Inness, 1878-79, as follows:

“ … There are no people in this image, though in the background there is a building with smoke of the increasing human presence and the negative impact industrialization has on the Earth’s natural resources.”

Perhaps, the curator recognizes that the smoke stack represents man’s “magnificent capacity” to conquer nature, thus demonstrating how inconsequential nature is next to man’s rational mind.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

School Boards and Objectivist Activism

By Joseph Kellard


Over at the Harry Binswanger List, a subscriber from South Carolina recently raised the issue of Objectivists possibly getting involved in intellectual activism by joining local school boards. I don't think this is a good way for Objectivists to fundamentally fight the good fight.

For years now I’ve covered school boards for the newspaper company I work for here on Long Island. The great majority of items in school budgets are mandated by the state, from high school courses and tests to handicapped-accessible construction such as ramps and bathrooms. I believe that, on average, state mandates comprise as much as 90 percent of school budgets. At least that’s the case in some of the towns I’ve covered.

The school district administrators and board trustees spend their time trying to find ways to reduced school taxes, which here on Long Island are heavily tied to property taxes, by keeping the status quo in terms of course offerings, or cutting services and teacher aides, or by purchasing materials, from toilet paper to bricks for construction of schools, from the lowest bidders. You get what you pay for, right?

If Objectivists want to get involved in activism in public education, I think they would be better off trying to influence the powers at the state level, where they devise and hand down their mandates, rather than run for seats on school boards, where ideological influence is minimal and concrete issues rule the day.