Monday, October 11, 2010

Book on Columbus Has Lessons on Historical Evaluation

I learned so much about how to interpret history just from reading Thomas Bowden’s book on Columbus and his multiculturalists critiques, those haters of all things Western Civilization, which I first picked up during my early years in Objectivism.

I learned how to evaluate an historical figure according to the context of his time, and by means of what is most historically essential and significant about such figures, to name just a couple of the most important lessons I culled from “The Enemies of Christopher Columbus.” I learned that just as there is an objective method of evaluating science, so, too, is there one for evaluating history — and, really, everything else.

Sure, buy this book if you’re interested in learning more about how to objectively evaluation the many unjust attacks against Columbus and his successors in the Americas — e.g. he didn’t really “discover” America, Europeans “stole” the land from the natives, Columbus and the Europeans were unprecedentedly brutal to the Indians — and why calling them “Native Americans” is a misnomer. But I recommended it even more as a great book to learn the method of thinking needed to objectively evaluate historical figures in general. In other words, it provides the opposite of what most people are taught from kindergarten to college.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why Communists Have Largely Escaped Justice

By Joseph Kellard

While it's good to see that some mass murdering communists are finally being brought to (some) justice, the fact is that communism and its practitioners will continue to fade into history relatively unscathed. The author of this City Journal article makes a few good points, but he falls short on others.

He is right, for example, to point out that the Western media writes as if the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia was just some murderous gang that happened to be in power at the time, and not what they in fact were: a group ideologically driven by communism. (I recently pointed to a New York Times article and five-minute video on these Cambodian tribunals, both of which never used the words "communist" or “communism” to describe the Khmer Rouge.)

I think the author falls short, however, when describing why Communists have never been brought to justice until now. He writes that there are two reasons:

“First, Communism enjoys a kind of ideological immunity because it claims to be on the side of progress. Second, Communists remain in power in Beijing, Pyongyang, Hanoi, and Havana. And in areas where they've lost power--as in the former Soviet Union--the Communists arranged their own immunity by converting themselves into social democrats, businessmen, or nationalist leaders.”

His points are valid but not fundamental. He’s right that communism enjoys ideological immunity, but it’s not primarily because communists claimed to be on the side of progress. It’s because of the morality communist champion -- which is essentially a secularization of Christianity.

While Christians through the ages told men to sacrifice themselves to God and his self-appointed representatives on earth, the Communists told men to drop God and sacrifice for your fellow men, particularly the mother country and the state (their self-appointed representatives). Now, Nazism preached the same ideology, and that’s why the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes rose to power at the same time. But Nazism (which stands for National *Socialism,* with Germany as the homeland of socialism/communism) put an explicitly racial bent on their ideology, while the communists mainly championed the proletariat or social classes (although that’s not to say that communists were not tribalists-racists, too, they were).

Nazism is considered the greater evil, or unfortunately to many people the only evil, because it was explicitly racists, whereas, the believe, communism was merely trying to make society more “equal” between “the rich” and the poor. Nothing wrong with that, even if tens of millions had to be slaughtered in the process, right? Communism is noble in theory; it was just that the wrong people got in power and corrupted it.

That’s the standard line that you’ll hear from communism’s apologists. But the reality is communism was evil in practice because it is evil in theory — especially it’s altruistic morality that preaches self-sacrifice as the moral good.

This is what people like the author of this article must come to understand, otherwise communism will always be looked at as a non- or lesser evil in comparison to Nazism. In reality, they are ideological twins and their practice in reality led to the same results: mass murder (although communists slaughtered many, many more innocents).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Let Them Know

One form of activism is to take the initiative to contact prominent people or publications to make them aware of Objectivism and Objectivists, particularly if the Ayn Rand devotee has accomplished something of note. I read a review of two new books on Norman Podhoretz and the neoconservative movement in the New York Times book review last Sunday. When I’d read a certain sentence, I immediately decided to write to the Times to let them know about another new book about the neocons. No matter if the Times reviews the book that I suggests, I know I’ll have achieved my other purpose in writing to the nation’s most prominent newspaper: letting its editors know that Objectivists are writing serious books on important topics.

To the New York Times:

This is not a letter for publication, but rather it is a suggestion for your Sunday book review. In his review of two books on Norman Podhoretz and the neoconservatives “Turning Right,” (Aug. 1, 2010), Damon Linker writes about the book “Running Commentary,” “The result is the best book to date about neoconservatism …”

I beg to differ. The new book “Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea,” by C. Bradley Thompson, a political science professor at Clemson University, and Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, deserves this praise instead.

What makes their book original and the most insightful on this subject, and thus worthy of a review, is that Mr. Thompson and Mr. Brook evaluate this intellectual and political movement from a thoroughly new perspective, one gaining more ground and support as sales of “Atlas Shrugged” soar during these economically and politically distressing times: Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. If nothing else, their book draws clear and important distinctions between Objectivism and conservatism, two “-isms” that some people mistakenly or purposely lump together.

What other authors on this subject could demonstrate and come to the convincing conclusion that neoconservatism is actually a form of anti-Americanism – a rejection of the founding principles of this nation? That alone should intrigue you’re reviewers enough to read this serious, well-reasoned book. Otherwise, they should discover why Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic has already called this book a must-read.

I call it a must-review.

Joseph Kellard
East Meadow, NY

Monday, August 2, 2010

Identifying Our Enemies

By Joseph Kellard

While the Obama administration tries to eliminate any mention of Islam in connection to that religion’s faithful who, through words and force, are working to destroy the United States, Israel and other Western nations, there are individuals who are doing the opposite by clarifying certain crucial terms and issues.

That is what Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of “Infidel” and “Nomad,” accomplishes in this 2007 interview in which she rejects the term “war on terrorism” as inaccurate.

“It’s not a war on terror, it’s a war on Islam,” she says. “… The United States was attacked on the 11th of September in the name of Islam.”

This is true, and to name it otherwise is to deflect the blame for this war where it properly belongs, on its Islamic initiators and aggressors. “Terrorism” is merely an action, in particular a tactic, and actions are derived from people who initiate them. You wage a war against particular people, not their actions or tactics. So who are committing the terrorist acts? What motivates them?

In this war, it is the people most faithful to Islam. Ms. Ali is right to say that the Muslims who flew planes into the Twin Towers did so based on a conviction, that their attacks were ideologically motivated, no different than the communists and Nazis. In short, she identifies what the Obama administration wants to whitewash: that the terrorists act on particular ideology: Islam.

Yet this identification is not as precise as it should be, and thankfully Ms. Ali understands this issue and takes it an important step further. She appears uneasy with the term “war on Islam,” but not necessarily because it is still imprecise to say one is waging a war on a religion. Rather, she understands that this is an imprecise perspective from which to name the war.

Wars are started by aggressors, those who initiate force. The aggressors in this war are those faithful to Islam, who initiated this war, decades prior to 9/11, specifically on the West – particularly the people who most represent the core Western values that they adamantly oppose: reason, individualism and freedom. Properly described, this war is the Islamic radicals’ war on the West. And Ms. Ali shows that she understands this fact when she says: “It isn’t a war that was declared on Islam, but it is a declaration of war in the name of Islam on civil society and all the freedoms that we believe in.”

The Obama administration – just like the Bush administration before it but on a greater scale – evades these important facts. Meanwhile, certain defeatists still spout perhaps the weakest charges against the so-called war on terrorism, that is, that we can’t know who our are enemies are because they don’t wear uniforms, like the Nazis did during World War II. But think how much worse it is when our leaders fear even to name the ideology that motivates these non-uniformed Islamic aggressors? If we ever expect to destroy our Islamic enemies enough to have their followers permanently cease their aggression against us – and we’ve known for decades that our main enemy is the mullahs ruling in Iran --then we must, as a first crucial step, precisely name our enemy and the ideology that defines them.

Thankfully, we have individuals like Ms. Ali who are brave enough to identify our ideological enemies.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Letter on Environmentalism's Doomsday Predictions

I wrote this letter in response to this column in today’s New York Times. Thanks to OEditors Paul Hsieh and Amit Ghate for their edits that improved my letter. Here's hoping it gets published!

To the Editor:

(Re: “The Right and the Climate,” by Ross Douthat, July 25, 2010)

Overpopulation and worldwide famine weren't the only 1970's-era doomsday predictions that never came true. Environmentalists also falsely predicted catastrophic man-made “global cooling.” The so-called consensus among them then was that industrial man was driving the planet toward another cataclysmic Ice Age.

However, as that cooling cycle naturally gave way to a warming one, the greens switched the alarm to “global warming.” Now, as that cycle has started to trend back toward a cooling earth, they’ve again cooked up yet another scenario, this time the ambiguous, all-purpose “climate change.”

Those who are merely skeptical of the environmentalists’ doomsday scenarios should call their methodology for what it truly is: pseudo-science.

Joseph Kellard

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Communism's Nuremberg Trials?

By Joseph Kellard

Finally, after 1.7 million Cambodians were slaughtered under Khmer Rouge more than 30 years ago, some members of that communist regime are being brought to justice. Communism has never had its Nuremberg Trials – instead some communists went on to become major political players in new governments after their regimes collapsed. Putin is the poster boy.

Perhaps these Cambodian tribunals we lead to others like them, but I doubt it – and that’s primarily because people still hold to the faith that communism was noble in theory (that is, that sacrifice to the group, especially the wealthy to the poor, is good) but failed in practice (but only because those who practiced it didn’t do it right).

In a small way, this New York Time’s article only exacerbates all these evasions. You’d never know from this article or the nearly eight-minute video that accompanies it that Khmer Rouge was communist — the word is nowhere to be found or heard.

* This post was edited from its original.

Monday, July 19, 2010

And Now The Payoff

By Joseph Kellard

I got a check in the mail today. It came just a few days after I got my hands on the summer issue of The Objective Standard, a quarterly publication for an intellectually curious general audience that analyzes political and cultural issues from Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. The check was for a book review I wrote that was printed in that same issue.

My review of John Eisenberg’s “That First Season,” a book about Vince Lombardi’s rookie year coaching the Green Bay Packers, was my first publication in an established, respected outlet — one that I know has high standards. On top of this, later this year, my letter to another football great, Dan Marino, will be printed in a high school textbook published by Pearson Education. I expect a check for this notch on my resume sometime in November.

While it’s certainly gratifying getting money for my work, what’s most important in these two instances is that my writing will reach a wider audience. Why is this important? Well, it means my ideas are reaching and potentially influencing more people. And outside of the absolute selfish joy I get from writing alone, this is the most important goal of my writing. It means I’m introducing more people to the ideas that I think are true, have shaped my life for the better and hopefully more of the world that I live in.

I’m immensely grateful, mainly to myself and those who have recognized my value, that my countless hours, days and years of writing have paid off enough to allow me to make my living at what I love to do. I’ve earned my keep as a journalist now for the past decade, and I’ve greatly enjoyed this line of work. But while I’ve come across and written stories about people that have helped to convey my sense of life and broader philosophy through these subjects, since in some of their qualities they have reflected both, more often journalism is far from the best vehicle to promote your worldview.

If I had my way, I would make my living as an Objectivist commentator, writing my opinions, and thus conveying my idea, on many important issues of the day. I’d also like to go on to write a few non-fiction books. Until then, I’ll stick with journalism to keep earning my keep, while on the side I will continue to write in other mediums as a way to promote my worldview, whether through essays in Objectivist publications, opinion pieces in non-Objectivists newspapers and website, and books.

I recently completed a 6,000 word essay on the fundamental ideas of Christianity and Catholicism, and how I believe these have played a fundamental role in the Catholic Church’s ongoing sex scandals. Again, what’s most important is the great pleasure and satisfaction I get from writing such a thought-provoking piece, and those emotions will turn to joy if my essay is published and thus read more widely than it otherwise would be on this blog or similar, limited outlets. I believe that wider, general audience desperately needs to know my ideas on this issue, and I expect that my ideas would then have an impact in shaping my world for the better, even if only on a small scale. Ultimately, it would mean a better world for me and the people I value to live in. And, who knows, this issue may become the subject of one of the books I would like to write one day, thereby gaining a potentially larger audience and impact. Lord knows the world needs such a book.

For now, though, I want the momentum of my publishing success to continue. So even as I prepare for a new journalism job that’s taking up a lot of time and effort, I’m making the time and finding the effort to work on revising a poem about romantic love and sex that I believe has the potential for print in a reputable poetry publication. And this foray into poetry just might lead me back to writing short stories, a genre that, in part, is where my writing began as a teenager.

Here’s the bottom line: I set out at a young age to become a professional and published writer, and those goals have become, slowly but surely, a reality.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Boss Is Dead: Long Live the Yankees!

By Joseph Kellard

“Breathing is first, winning is second,” New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner once said.

That comment captures the essence of Steinbrenner, who died of a heart attack today at 80. If you want to know why the Yankees have become the most successful sports franchise in the world, it is that worship of winning, above all else, that explains it. It is what I and many others will and should remember most about the legendary and controversial owner.

“George never accepted second best,” said Mike Francesa, a sports radio host in New York. “And he always made it very clear he was going to demand performance. And when you have ownership that demands performance, you win. When you have ownership that’s complacent, you lose.”

That is the bottom line in professional sports, although many Yankees and Steinbrenner critics say that their success is due to another bottom line, the one that makes the Bombers the team that spend the most money on payroll each year. But Steinbrenner became the greatest owner in sports, not because of his bank account, but because of his will and efforts to win.

“He never stopped trying,” Steinbrenner once said his tombstone should read.

I became a Yankee fan when I was a young boy, a few years after Steinbrenner bought the team for $8 million in 1973. Within the span of a few years, he made the once proud and highly-successful franchise relevant again. New York won the American League pennant in 1976, followed by two World Series titles in 1977 and 1978.

Steinbrenner developed a reputation as a volatile owner, one who would stooped to sometimes petty, nasty behavior toward his players and managers. He fired and hired Billy Martin five times, and overall he changed managers more than 20 times. During the 1980s, his team went into a doldrums, and Steinbrenner was known as a meddling owner, which kept managers and players from wanting to wear the pinstripes. The lowest point came in 1990, when Steinbrenner was banned from baseball after he had paid a gambler to dig up controversial information about one of his players, Dave Winfield, in an effort to smear the slugger.

Nicknamed “The Boss,” Steinbrenner evolved into a larger-than-life figure whose fame went beyond sports, a persona that would come to be parodied on the hit comedy sitcom “Seinfeld.”

After his return to baseball in 1993, Steinbrenner mellowed, at least enough to take a more hands-off approach and allow his baseball personnel to make their own, independent decisions. The newer, more patient Steinbrenner was a reflection of another side to the man, one who is described as enormously caring and generous by players and others who knew him best. The result was four more World Series championships from 1996 to 2000.

While the Yankees had already been the most successful franchise in sports long before Steinbrenner bought the team, with 20 championship banners waving in their famed stadium, he took the team to a new level of success in the modern era. Steinbrenner is capitalist who made the Yankees into a worldwide brand with an estimated worth today of $3 billion. The YES Network that he created in 2002 has played a large part in that success, and today the team draws 4 million fans to Yankees Stadium.

“Later on, he understood the new economics of baseball better than anybody else,” said Franseca, whose radio show is aired on Yes, “and he’s made it work with the network, with the branding of the team, with every move he’s made.”

The critics relish any opportunity to say that the Yankees’ success is due to all the money they spend. The Yankees did just that in 2009 and won another World Series. But they also spent the most money of any team for eight years prior but never won a championship. True, they made it to the playoffs all but one year, including two World Series, and there is no doubt that spending the most money puts a team in the position to win. But there are other significant factors involved that make up a championship team, one of which includes having the right players come together to play as a winning team, superstars or not. But, above all else, the will to win has to undergird it all. This is what the Yankees, through good times and bad, have always had under Steinbrenner.

“George was not in it for the money,” Franseca said. “I know that sounds crazy … George was in this because he loved the game, he loved the competitiveness, and he loved the brand and he wanted to win, first and foremost he wanted to win.”

Other baseball owners are as wealthy as or wealthier than Steinbrenner, but he knew that in order to get results and to make even more money, you must spend and invest money – and to do so wisely. And along with that came Steinbrenner’s famous will to win.

In remembering The Boss today, Derek Jeter, who has won five World Series with the Yankees since he started playing shortstop for the team in 1996, said: “Everyone knows how tough he was … But you understood where it came from. He wanted to win, and he expected perfection.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

Letter on Spending

This is an email I dashed off and sent this morning to a columnist at the New York Observer, for his column “Show Us the Money,” in the July 12, 2010 issue.

To Joe Conason:

Government spending as a means to economic recovery is horrible, rights-violating economics.

The myth that Franklin Roosevelt’s spending during the Great Depression lifted this nation out of that economic catastrophe is well documented in books such as “New Deal or Raw Deal” by Burton Fulsom Jr. Moreover, Obama’s so-called “stimulus” plan has done nothing of substance, and the canard that it saved this nation from sinking into a depression evades the fact that all that money must be paid for one day -- which will further depress the economy and prevent it from growing as it otherwise would under a free, capitalist economy.

That some poll finds a substantial majority of people favor more spending than less just means that most favor bureaucrats and politicians violating their individual rights to their property. Far from being as inevitable as death, taxation is theft and thus a massive violation of every individual’s right to keep his own money and spend it as he sees fit.

Politicians and their constituents who claim some need or some “right” to something -- such as medical care, housing, education -- have no right to these values on anyone’s dime. Those who produce, both rich and poor, have a moral and thus a political right to keep what they have earned, what is in fact theirs, and no ohter individual has any moral claim on it. One individual’s need is not a claim on any other individual’s life and property.

Those who want the government to loot other people’s earnings to spend it on their alleged “rights” to housing, medical care, education and other values had better look to voluntary charity to fulfill their needs, or, better yet, their own productive abilities, if they so chose to employ them.

Joseph Kellard
East Meadow NY

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Four New Books I'm Reading

I mistakenly posted my latest blog post "Four New Books I'm Reading" to my journalism blog. Go read it at:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Letter to Dan Marino to be Published in Textbook

Pearson Education, which I’m told is one of the largest textbook publishers in the United States, bought this letter that I wrote five years ago, “An Open Letter to Dan Marino,” and plans to publish it in an upcoming textbook for high school freshmen. As I understand it, the letter will be included in a chapter with the theme “choices writers make.”

~ Joseph Kellard

Dan Marino, who retired as the most productive quarterback in National Football League history, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 2005. I wrote the following letter to the football legend prior to the August 2 induction ceremony.

“[T]the sight of an achievement [is] the greatest gift a human being could offer to others.” ~ Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Dear Dan Marino,

Congratulations on your induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I thought this momentous occasion was the best time to tell you that you are among a select few people who have had a particularly positive influence on me. These few include my mother, who sparked in me a love for knowledge, Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance man devoted to an impassioned pursuit to know the world, and novelist Ayn Rand, a philosopher who discovered the knowledge necessary to achieve success and happiness in life.

Unlike most professions, professional sports put a spotlight on their participants for everyone to see, and athletics (particularly football, my favorite sport) illustrate, in a condensed, intensely exciting fashion, the virtues and values necessary for success in any field. Further, sport is one of the few fields left in our society in which achievement, excellence and even perfection are widely pursued and celebrated. Sports fans can routinely observe all of these qualities displayed in concrete action and be inspired to apply them to their own lives and work.

So I dismiss the detractors who deride sport as “just a game,” and who say “it contributes nothing to society.” Instead, I liken the careers of some athletes to works of art, such as novels or movies that project what men should and can be. At a certain level, an elite athlete stands as a real-life fictional hero, like a Roy Hobbes in The Natural. This is what your Hall of Fame career means to me. By faithfully following your play with the Miami Dolphins (my favorite team), I was offered the sight of a man who projected, game in and game out for 17 years, a host of exemplary virtues and values.

Your top value was to win every game and, ultimately, a championship. That this singleness of purpose was never subordinated to any other goal was made clear by your disappointed demeanor after you had tied or broken NFL career quarterback records in games the Dolphins nevertheless lost. Your brash confidence was an outgrowth of your ability to throw a football with unprecedented laser speed and pinpoint accuracy. This competence fueled your unshakable belief that at any point in a game you could put your team on your shoulders and singlehandedly command a victory. Some of the most memorable games in which these qualities shinned were your defeat of the undefeated Bears in 1985, your five touchdown passes against the Patriots on your return from a season-ending Achilles injury in 1994, and the come-from-behind victory on your fake-spike play against the Jets later that year.

And it was the hope that you gave to your fans — the hope that even with mere seconds left on the clock you could still stage a comeback (something you did in a near record number of games) — that was the most inspirational part of your career. Even in games the Dolphins were almost certain to lose, you still continued to play your heart out. You knew no other way to play. And you would undoubtedly have won many such games if your teammates had suddenly exhibited just half of your exemplary confidence, competence and will to win.

That is why it is myopic and unjust that some people highlight that you never won a Super Bowl. In actually, it was primarily the Dolphins teams around you that never won. When the greatest pure passer, the most productive quarterback, and one of the fiercest competitors in NFL history is the leader of a team, the fault for never having won a championship must lie elsewhere.

Add to all the above your study of the game, particularly of the opposing defenses that you famously picked apart, and the thought with which you approached your craft. Your intelligence — along with your considerable mental and physical toughness that allowed you to play in an outstanding 145 consecutive games for 17 seasons — are the keys to why you are the quarterback with the second most victories ever.

Considering all that you had to endure around you, it’s no wonder you became a fiery leader. Your leadership was captured best by that trademark piercing stare you darted at your teammates who failed to give their all as you always did. That stare said everything about your approach to football: take your work intensely seriously and expect the same in others.

And I learned form an interview with your son, Dan Jr., on Inside the NFL, that your leadership on the field carried over into your everyday life. He stressed that instead of telling him what the right things to do are, you mainly taught by example. And Dan Jr., an aspiring actor, also said something that reveals that you taught him a crucial lesson. “I don’t play a lot of sports,” he said. “But my father doesn’t really care about that. What he cares about is that you work really hard at what you love to do. And I really learned that from him.”

This reminds me of a scene from Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead, when Howard Roark, a heroic, innovative architect, sits on a boulder overlooking a valley dotted with summer resort homes that he created. A boy on a bike comes across this view and is awed by Roark’s achievement. The scene ends with this inspiring passage: “Roark looked after [the young man who headed down a path toward the houses below]. He had never seen that boy before and he would never see him again. He did not know that he had given someone the courage to face a lifetime.”

I’m writing this letter because I want you to know that by offering me the sight of an outstanding athlete over his long career, you have played an important part in giving me the inspiration to pursue a lifetime of values. A poor student in school who in early adulthood had one foot on a road to self-destruction, I was able to turn my life around to the point where I have both feet firmly planted on a path to self-fulfillment. Today, I’m pursuing my passion, a writing career, with the seriousness, singleness of purpose and love of work that, in part, your career illustrated is desirable and possible and can bring success and happiness to a person’s life.

In closing, Dan Marino, I simply want to say to you what the boy on the bike told Roark before he headed toward his valley of homes: “Thank you.”

Joseph Kellard

* This letter was edited moderately from its original version.

Joseph Kellard is a journalist and freelance writer. To read more of Mr. Kellard’s work, visit his commentary blog The American Individualist at, and his journalism blog at

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Sculptor: Sam Axton

By Joseph Kellard

When you first encounter Sam Axton's bronze maquette sculpture "Joy," you are struck immediately by this beautiful woman’s lively mobility. Joy’s swinging arm and kicked-back leg evoke this animation, but it is the rousing sweep of her hair that lends it a distinct spice. Straight, layered and flowing, Joy's hair mirrors a bird’s wing in flight, streaming parallel along with her rearward-moving limbs to create the suggestion that she is poised to soar.

But if Joy’s hair were depicted differently, how might it alter this significant sensation? What if Mr. Axton opted instead to give Joy corkscrew hair, put her locks in a ponytail or allowed them to hang straight down or, worst of all, gave her with a short, pageboy cut? Clearly, this would have deflated her hint at flight.

Similarly, if he had left more mass on her otherwise accentuated slim figure, he would have destroyed her airy elegance. Her smooth skin, perky breasts and taught thighs and buttocks already emphasize her womanly youth, each complimenting her signature weightlessness. If Mr. Axton made Joy fat or bulky or even gave her just some athletic musculature, each frame would have robbed her of the lightness of being that is integral to the theme of this work.

To formulate that theme, we'll have to figure out what Joy is doing — what is her purpose?

First, we see that she's in the midst of sprinting, with her right leg striding forward. But where is she headed? Perhaps she's running from someone? If so, then why does she stretch her arm backward and hold her hand out as if reaching for something to grab? Is Joy in an athletic race, waiting for an imagined runner to pass her a baton?

If either scenario were plausible, though, Mr. Axton would have likely made Joy’s right foot or heel appear as if it were digging firmly into the ground. Instead, only the tips of her toes touch down, heightening her walking-on-clouds aura. Joy is not engaged in an intense relay race.

This is evidence further when we contemplate her relaxed, fearless face. Her eyes are wide and eager, her smile broad and effervescent, as if she's found something or, more likely, someone trailing her whom she admires or adores. This tells us that she’s reaching for someone’s hand, summoning this person to join her on her journey ahead.

Note also that Joy's right arm and hand are parallel to the ground, telling us that she seeks the hand of peer, an adult, not a child for whom she would otherwise have to reach down. More importantly, she rests her left hand on her chest. What do these details reveal and how do they integrate with what we've already come to discern about this sculpture? They are Joy's subtlest yet most telling features.

At first glance, her left hand seems to suggestively exclaim: "Do you mean me!," as if someone has made a claim about her. But observe that rather than point an accusatory finger at herself, her fingers are spread wide and evenly, touching ever so slightly but specifically on her left breast, as if her heart is aflutter — as if Joy is in love.

With this, we can come to our theme, which is that with her sweeping hair and a sprint about to go airborne, while she beams radiantly and sashays forward, Joy embodies the ideal that romantic love can energize and inspire us to travel more happily, spiritedly and lightly through life.

* Dianne Durante, author of Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan, offered me some valuable suggestions for this analysis.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea Party – A Year Later

By Joseph Kellard

I dropped by the tea party at the Massapequa train station today, Tax Day, April 15, the same event that I reported on last year. This time, however, I took off my reporter’s hat and went with the sole purpose of passing out some Ayn Rand Samplers – a small book of excerpts from her novels and non-fiction – several of which I’d left in the trunk of my car after handing them out at an Independence Day tea part in Huntington last July 4. The crowd appeared to be less than half of what is was last April, but people were generally eager to accept my free book. In many of the Samplers, I inserted photocopies of a column I’d written about Ayn Rand and American patriotism, which I’d printed in my newspaper, along with some other Objectivist literature.

Anyway, there wasn’t much to this event other than concerned Americans brandishing sings along Sunrise Highway, soliciting supportive motorists to honk their horns. A few men were walking around amplifying their dissatisfaction with the Obama administration and Congress. Unfortunately, one man talked about the “illegal” immigrants that Obama wants to give amnesty to, and here I join with some other Objectivists who think that not only should he grant amnesty but he and all Americans should also apologize to them. Our immigration policies are disgraceful.

During the approximately 40 minutes I was there, I stopped and talked briefly to a few people. Most of those who I’d handed the Samplers to seemed to have at least heard of Ayn Rand, while others clearly knew her and seemed eager to finally get their hands on something she had written. These are all good signs.

I crossed paths with my childhood friend, Laura, who is now one of my Facebook friends, who told me that I had inspired her to read Atlas Shrugged, which she called “amazing.” That’s always satisfying to hear, since that’s my main purpose for attending these tea parties, one of which I spoke at last year.

At one point, a group of young people in a car, waiting at a red light, started to antagonize some of the peaceful people lining the sidewalk with sings and American and “Don’t tread on me” flags, as one young man held a photo of Obama out the window and started to yell them. And right before I left, as I was talking to my friend Laura, a young man wearing a red t-shirt bearing a Soviet hammer and sickle on it walked through the crowd, obviously looking to provoke a response. I left for home.

All in all, I was happy to take a few minutes on Tax Day to help spread the Objectivist word. The tea partiers, and particularly Americans in generally, desperately need to read and hear those words.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Did Students Heed My Career Advice?

By Joseph Kellard

When I was editor of the Oceanside-Island Park Herald, I gave talks to students from fourth grade up to the high school level on Career Day. I eagerly agreed to talk to students about my career and to offer them advice that would have served me well when I was their age.

While I spoke briefly about my work as a journalist, I spent most of my talk emphasizing to students that they should choose a profession that they can enjoy and love. I believe a long-range, productive career is the cornerstone of self-confidence, pride and happiness, and that an individual can't fully achieve these values stuck in a job they don't like.

To get them to understand this fact, I asked them to imagine being stuck each day, every week, in a class they disliked, whether it's math or English or science. With my analogy, some students gave a knowing groan.

I told each class my own story to give them an example of someone finding a career they loved. When I was in grade school, I was a poor student with a mild form of dyslexia, so my biggest problems were with reading, writing and spelling. Knowing I loved sports, however, my parents bought me a subscription to Sports Illustrated, believing, correctly, that this would motivate me to read. Immersing myself in stories of my sports heroes, my reading proficiency soared.

Through my teen years, I expanded my reading to include encyclopedias and works by writers ranging from Shakespeare, Dickens and Tolstoy to Hemingway, Capote and Joyce Carol Oates. I made lists of unfamiliar words and historical and mythological figures that had me reaching for my dictionaries and Britannica. During those years, I had become so fascinated with the many ways to use the English language that I began to write short stories and poems. I had decided I wanted to be a fiction writer.

My deeper purpose in telling students all of this was to get them to take my experiences as a guide for how to start thinking about their own potential careers and career choices. Specifically, I wanted them to consider some activities they enjoy, and to think about applying these to the seemingly countless career choices they have in this land of opportunity.

"Maybe you love animals and have always been intrigued by doctors," I explained to them, "so why not think of becoming a vet? Perhaps you like to talk a lot and enjoy athletics, so being a sports announcer might be your bag. Are you a numbers person? If so, maybe your calling is to teach math, be an accountant or work with statistics."

I made sure to tell them that I had left college to work at a well-paying, full-time "job" with a medical company. But within a few years I realized that this was not my field. I was bored and felt stuck, as if I were in a dreaded algebra class each day. But I noted that I never gave up on my writing and self-education, reading writers on subjects ranging from philosophy, history and art to politics, American culture and sports. I began to write some opinion columns that were published in a few semi-prominent newspapers, and this led me to try my hand at freelance reporting and, eventually, a career in journalism.

I also stressed to students that it's not enough to just dream about a particular career, but that they must take the necessary steps to attain their ideal. It's one thing to for someone to say "I want to write a novel," and another to have the motivation and commitment to invest the countless hours and enormous effort — researching information, striving to find the precise words and write perfect sentences, re-editing one draft after another — to become a published fiction writer.

When one fourth-grader told me that he would like to be the next Derek Jeter, I asked him if he played Little League and practiced baseball even during the winter. One girl told me she wanted to be a lawyer. I told her that, in part, she'll have to learn how to speak well to present her cases, and that she should take some public speaking classes when she gets to high school.

The last time I talked on Career Day, at Hegarty Elementary School in Island Park, when I left the classroom that day to head back to my office, I had hoped that at least a few students had learned a lesson that I didn't fully understand in my youth: Making a career choice is one of the most important decisions an individual will ever make — and is crucial to his or her happiness. If the students followed this advice, then they likely won't have to struggle unnecessarily for several years and through a string of dead-end jobs before finally finding a profession to be passionate about.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Are You Certain You’re an Atheist?

By Joseph Kellard

When conversation about God comes up in good (or even bad) company, I, of course, tell people that I’m an atheist. Because religionists mistakenly believe that God created the universe and is the absolute moral authority, they tend to lump atheists together, recognizing no fundamental distinction between them. To them, atheism is a philosophy, a comprehensive way of viewing life and the word, if, that is, they think on that level at all. They’re blind to what atheism fundamentally is, a minor aspect of one branch of philosophy: metaphysics.

To take the conversation to the epistemological level, I make sure to tell people that an atheist is not merely someone who denies the existence of God, but is certain that he does not exist — that his believers have never presented any rational evidence for his existence.

Uttering that word, certain (or certainty), tends to jolt people, both religionists and atheists alike. Some of the faithful have told me that I can’t be certain of this. Who am I to be so brazen as to say that God certainly doesn’t exist? No non-believer can hold so absolute a position, when all absolutes derive from the word of God.

On the other side of the philosophical aisle are the subjectivist “atheists.” If there is something they don’t believe in at all, it’s not necessarily God, but rather absolutes and certainty. However, anything less than certainty on their part, in my philosophical view, is agnosticism, an epistemological position that leaves the door open for God’s possible existence. Not surprisingly, and with even a little probing, you’ll find that many self-professed atheists are just agnostics at heart — because with that organ they just feel that possibility. Anything’s possible, right?

So while I certainly don’t fundamentally define myself as an atheist – there’s much, much more to life and philosophy than God – when I do mention that I am a non-believer, I try to bring up this issue of certainty, which distinguishes my position. This gives religionists the sense that others can and do uphold absolutes — outside of God’s commandments. And the atheists wannabes sense that maybe they’re just mere skeptics, doubters of all things a truly confident person can claim to know for certain, including that God absolutely does not exist.

* I made a minor spelling correction to the original post.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Virtue of … Objectivist “Proselytizing”

By Joseph Kellard

All the recent talk on the Harry Binswanger List about the sales and recommendations of “The Virtue of Selfishness” reminds me of the only time I recall giving that book to a perfect stranger.

Several years ago, a Jehovah's Witness family in their Sunday best was making the rounds proselytizing door-to-door on my block. They, or some other indistinguishable family, would come around occasionally, maybe once a year, and on this particular day they sent a young girl, say 10-years-old, to knock on my door.

When I opened it and said hello, she handed me a small, thin black book of excerpted Scripture. When I accepted it, the proverbial light bulb went off in my head.

I told her to wait a minute, as I climbed the stairs to my room and grabbed a copy of "The Virtue of Selfishness." I returned to the door and handed it to her, while her parents remained standing on the sidewalk at the front gate. The girl took it, thanked me and walked away. I watched out my window as she looked at the cover and showed it to her parents as they strolled to my neighbor’s house.

I never saw that girl again, and for all I know the book went in the garbage when she got home, or in the gutter on the drive there. On the other hand, perhaps she kept the book and, when old enough to understand its brilliant content, read it and went on to read Ayn Rand’s other books. Dare I speculate that she’s an Objectivist today? Who knows.

But what I do know is that I was satisfied giving that young girl something she’d never get at her church: the opportunity to face a lifetime with self-esteem and happiness.

* I made minor grammatical and spelling changes to the original post.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Selfish Figure Skater

By Joseph Kellard

Joannie Rochette is the Canadian figure skater who (I’m told) performed outstandingly in the Olympics last Tuesday, considering that two days before her mother, Therese -- whom she describes as her biggest fan, best friend and “the most critical person you could ever meet” -- died of a massive heart attack.

Occasionally, sports fans like me will hear a proud assertion of selfishness that is notable, and Rochette provided this when asked why she simply didn’t pack her bags and head home after he mother’s death. Rochette, who went on to skate in the women’s final and earned a bronze medal, said about her decision:

“‘I just went out there and did what my mother would have wanted me to do,’ a teary-eyed Rochette said after the woman’s final on Thursday, the first time she had spoken publicly since her mother died here [Vancouver] on Sunday. ‘I did this first of all for myself because my mother taught me to think of myself first. She always wanted me to be a strong person.’”

She thought of herself first!? How refreshingly selfish! Granted, an athlete in individualist sports such as figure skating, tennis or golf, as opposed to team sports like football, baseball or hockey, is more apt to get away with selfish statements -- especially when grieving. In team sports, however, athletes are routinely told “there’s no ‘I’ in team,” they’re praised for being a “selfless” teammates, and if they show signs of individualist behavior -- sometimes even if their actions help their team toward their common goal of winning -- they’re criticized for being “selfish.”

But winning is or should be any athlete’s primary goal, whether in individual or team sports, and his fans, whether they realize it or not, root for him to be as selfish as he can be in the pursuit of that goal. In sports, there’s no redistribution of points from the “haves” to the “have not.” As Michael Jordan replied when one of his coaches essentially accused him of selfishness because he singlehandedly took over and won a game: “There’s ‘I’ in win.”

I’m happy to hear that Rochette was strong enough to overcome her grief just enough to think of herself first, skate and win bronze. Three cheers for selfishness!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Letters on Tea Party and Founders & Religion

By Joseph Kellard

Below are two letters I wrote last night and revised and emailed this morning to the editors at The New York Times. One is a response to an article about the Tea Party movement, the other a reply to an article on the role religion played in the founding of America. I must thank OActivist editors Paul Hsieh and Amit Ghate, who made some valuable suggestions and edits that improved my letters. Here's hoping they both get published. Happy reading ...!

To the Editor:

(Re: “Tea Party Lights Fuse for Rebellion on Right,” 2/16) The Tea Party movement is not about militia, libertarian or Timothy McVeigh-type anarchists. True, Tea Partiers are a hodgepodge, the best of whom rally loosely around the concept of liberty. Thus, their problem is something most Americans share: they lack a fundamental understanding of freedom.

Above all, they need intellectual leadership. Given the alarming growth of statism under the Bush-Obama administrations, both Republicans and Democrats are finally awaking to a long-developing threat. Disappointingly, the Tea Partiers' reaction has largely been on an emotional level, a sense that their individual sovereignty and rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are in danger. Unfortunately, they can’t translate that sense into a much-needed coherent philosophical or political stance.

Americans must form a more intellectual platform that champions individual rights. Until then, the Tea Party will be impotent to effect any substantive or lasting change toward liberty. In short, it needs a philosophical revolution.

Joseph Kellard
East Meadow NY

To the Editor:
(Re: “How Christian Were The Founders?,” Sunday Magazine 2/14) Those who insist that America’s Founders established a nation based on Christianity drop historical context.

True, some Founders were Christians who made appeals to religion. But this was no different than their European predecessors throughout the religion-saturated Medieval and Middle ages who ruled over unfree Christian nations. What makes the Founders historically distinguishable is that they were products of the Enlightenment and Age of Reason, when religion and faith were seriously challenged, as encapsulated by Galileo’s life.

Many Founders, including Jefferson and Adams, were steeped in and heavily influenced by the works of Greek and Roman thinkers. The deists among them bravely questioned God and religion as the basis of a nation. Brooke Allen objectively lays out this intellectual revolution in her book “Moral Minority.”

The Founders knew enough to establish a nation that gave no religion any political authority, and aimed to keep it separate from the state.

Joseph Kellard
East Meadow NY

* I made some grammatical changes to the original post.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Channeling Ted Kaczynski

By Joseph Kellard

If you’re motivated to read, firsthand, what passes for intellectual leadership in America today, then I have a telling essay for you.

Before I first discovered Ayn Rand in the early 1990s, I used to read regularly “The Best American Essays,” an annual anthology of magazine essays. Once I started to read Miss Rand heavily, I lost interest in this publication — and now I know why. Recently I decided to buy the 2009 anthology, curious to see what it was that I once enjoyed about this series several years ago. Well, I’m six essays in (out of 22) and while none are enlightening, some are downright dreadful. The topper, so far, is an essay titled “Faustian Economics,” by Wendell Berry, a novelist, poet and essayist, which was originally published in Harper’s.

The essay perfectly exemplifies the “ideas” motivating the environmental movement. It centers on man’s alleged blindness to “limits,” both his and Earth’s. Rather than provide excerpts from this essay, I’d rather share some of the notes I took while reading it, which I’ve fleshed out here for clarity:

* The author makes no attempt to ground many of his claims. A rationalist?

* He primarily uses “limits” as a packaged deal to decry all that he hates about Technological/Industrial Man.

* He pushes environmentalism’s limited-resources orthodoxy: we’re all just rapacious consumers who, when we do produce, are just using up more and more of Earth’s resources that will inevitably run out…someday.

* He appeals to religion to give his environmentalist claims moral weight — primarily to condemn selfishness and greed.

* He essentially takes the position that too much knowledge is bad — we should know that there are limits and mistakenly believe we can be omniscient.

* Capitalism is a zerosum economic system, consequently money is a fixed (limited) pie and so the haves leave nothing for the have-nots.

* Those who don’t want to accept limits are those who don’t want to sacrifice to “anything whatever.”

* Men aren’t worth anything and don’t amount to anything — even if each man had two lives.

You may reach different, more insightful conclusions than I did. But, nevertheless, this is as near a naked hatred of selfishness, capitalism and (industrial-technology) man as you’ll find in a mainstream (supposed) intellectual publication.

* I made some minor grammatical changes to the original post. ~ JK

Friday, February 12, 2010

Environmentalists’ Claims Continue to Melt

By Joseph Kellard

I learned from an Objectivist blogger that the Utah House of Representatives just passed a resolution that: "implies climate change science is a conspiracy, and urges the EPA to stop all carbon dioxide reduction policies and programs. Among other things, the resolution claims there is ‘a well organized and ongoing effort to manipulate global temperature data in order to produce a global warming outcome.’"

The Heartland Institute posted a brief report about the bill here, which leads to a link to a fuller report here.

You can also read the bill in full.

As the blogger pointed out, the government should have no involvement in scientific matters, including catastrophic global warming. But it's nevertheless a telling sign that a legislative body is actually coming out and voting against this scam that has become orthodoxy to many Americans and others. It's telling us that environmentalists' claims on this issue are continuing to melt.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Shooing Away Potential Fountainhead Fans

By Joseph Kellard

I wrote and sent the following reply to a so-called book reviewer of "The Fountainhead" -- whose denigrating comments about the novel were posted on the website of Tehelka, described as India's Independent weekly news magazine.

To Samrat Chakrabarti:

In an effort to get your readers not to read certain books, among them my favorite novel “The Fountainhead," you write:

“Ayn Rand Memo to the young Indian — Ayn Rand is not a philosopher and The Fountainhead is not the philosophical El-dorado, in fact we are not sure there is one. People are not made of cardboard, a good argument needs rigour and philosophy begins with an acknowledgement both of the complex world we live in and the paradoxes of the human condition. Rape is not the same as passion, ambition is not the measure of man and an aggressive, no-holds-barred individualism as a personal philosophy is particularly attractive during years of heightened hormonal confusion.”

First, Objectivism offers inquiring minds a comprehensive philosophy, from metaphysics to ethics to esthetics. Your readers should read "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand," by Leonard Peikoff, to fully understand the absurdity of your claim. The discerning reader will understand why, when they come across life’s complexities and contradictions, that there can be and are answers and that there is, as Ayn Rand called Objectivism, "a philosophy for living on earth."

Moreover, the characters in her novels are anything but cardboard – Miss Rand sheds the deadening, mind-numbing details that naturalist writers employ in their novels to supposedly make them more "realistic," and instead focuses on the essentials aspects of the particular type of human being that she wanted to portrait -- and in the process her novels made some very perceptive and even innovative observations, such as the second-handedness of Peter Keating.

As to the alleged "rape" scene in The Fountainhead, you should point your readers to an excellent essay, "Understanding the 'rape' Scene in The Fountainhead," by Andrew Bernstein, in "Essays on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead,” which explains why Roark’s first sexual encounter with Dominique was anything but rape.

Lastly, I’ll address just the most important of your parting slights. It’s a slight that is best encapsulated by the person who read Miss Rand’s books in their youth and says: "I used to like Ayn Rand, but then I grew up." No, you gave up!

"The Fountainhead" was the first book that I ever read by Ayn Rand, back in my mid-20s, when I used to read a slew of novels by naturalist writers. By the end of the novel I was totally captivated by Roark -- and Ayn Rand and, later, her philosophy of Objectivism. I went on to read all of her books.

I can confidently say that reading the “The Fountainhead” started the long, roller-coaster ride process of changing around my troubled life for the better when I was still young. That’s primarily due to the fact that Miss Rand wasn’t a journalistic, naturalistic-type writer, but rather a romantic realist who created heroic characters as they could be and ought to be. If reading “The Fountainhead” had that profound impact on me, then it can do the same for the very readers you’re trying to shoo away from this great, philosophic, life-changing novel.

~ Joseph Kellard
East Meadow NY

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Vacation from Global Warming

By Joseph Kellard

So here’s the Global Warmists’ latest evasion that they’re working feverishly to concoct: Those among them who acknowledge what is, in reality, the current, cyclical cooling trend are trying to paint it as a mere blip on the way to an Earth that will someday still fry. The Daily Mail reports:

“Could we be in for 30 years of global COOLING?”

Here's the key passage from this report:

”'The extreme retreats that we have seen in glaciers and sea ice will come to a halt. For the time being, global warming has paused, and there may well be some cooling.'”

“Many meteorologists have blamed the current freeze on 'Arctic oscillation' - a weather pattern in which areas of high pressure have pushed the warming jetstream away from Britain. They have insisted this temporary change will have no effect on long-term warming patterns.”

So to the Warmists the cooling trend is a "pause" or a "temporary" change (i.e., “climate change”) that will have no long-term impact on our Earth’s destiny … global warming. The mysticism from those who worship at the First Church of Global Warming just never ceases.