Saturday, May 2, 2009

New blog: Past - Present - Principles

Most of my writing is presently on my new blog, "Past - Present - Principles, History and Philosophy for Today's News." This a trial run for a website I'd like to produce that would offer short essays on major events in American history, with suggested readings from Ayn Rand and Objectivist scholars. If you're interested in using such as site or advertising on it, email .

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The NYC Tea Party, April 15, 2009

For the past 20-odd years, whenever I’ve seen a protest rally in NYC I’ve given it a wide berth. Such rallies usually offer the sort of speeches that require shouting after every sentence and are interspersed with long periods of angry chanting, all amidst pushing and shoving and general misbehavior. The average age of the participants is 20, and the cause being supported is usually a couple light-years to the far side of the extreme left. Why would I go to a protest? I’ve always known that changing someone’s mind depends on reasoned argument, not decibels.

But I decided this week that there’s one exception to that. When attempting to get a politician’s attention, decibels matter more than reasoned arguments, particularly when the decibels are emitted by a large collection of voters. I went to the tea party mostly to provide another visible, vocal voter … and was pleasantly surprised.

First of all, everyone I saw in the crowd was well dressed (as if they’d just come from a paying job), patient, and polite to the surrounding NYPD officers. The average age was probably 40. The crowd eventually stretched for 3 or 4 blocks along Broadway, and from the fence of City Hall Park across a wide sidewalk, a lane or two of the street (barricaded from traffic), and another wide sidewalk. The people toward the back could not possibly see the people on stage, yet they did not push and shove. They read and commented on the protest signs held up by members of the crowd. They listened to the speakers and clapped at appropriate times. The only thing they didn’t do well was shout in unison: whenever the organizers tried to get a chant going, it fizzled. This rather amused me—we were obviously a thinking crowd unwilling to play “follow the demagogue.”

As for the content of the speeches: I doubt that anyone who didn’t already believe government spending was out of control was converted; such conversion happens in the privacy of one’s thoughts, not in the presence of amplifiers on city streets. That said, the speeches were much better than I had expected, with repeated praise for capitalism and calls for a government responsible to the people. One speaker referred obliquely to Atlas Shrugged. I saw several signs that explicitly referred to Atlas, and met a woman who was handing out ARC’s flyer. The attendees seemed to be hard-working and thoughtful people—precisely the sort who might be persuaded by Ayn Rand’s arguments, if they are intrigued enough to read her works.

As we were leaving, the event’s organizer reminded us not to leave trash on the ground, making a joke that this was probably the only time in the history of NYC protest rallies that such a request had been made. I didn’t see so much as a dropped tissue as we left.

The rudest the crowd ever got was in expressing its disapproval of New York’s senior U.S. senator. While it would be more accurate to shout, “If the Senator disapproves of the American Constitution and defending Americans abroad, I do not wish to have him representing me,” I have to admit (purely as a student of rhetoric) that shouting “Schumer sucks” has more punch. I hope the TV crews covered that bit and gave the senator cause for insomnia.

Friday, March 20, 2009

DWJ Books

If you're looking for information on DWJ Books before signing a contract with them, email me at I signed a contract with them in May 2008 and have had many problems, which for legal reasons I won't post in a public forum. If you've been burned by them, I sympathize, but (also for legal reasons) I won't post your comments about them on this blog, either.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Construction at the World Trade Center

I don’t particularly like the winning design for the new buildings on the World Trade Center site, and I detest the winning design for the memorial. Still, I found myself delighted the other day to see the skeleton of a skyscraper rising out of the pit. The building is being raised on a relatively small part of the WTC site (which occupies roughly 12 full city blocks), but the site has been a horrendous hole in the ground for so long that I was beginning to wonder when anything would be built there.

Here’s a photo that shows more of the site, looking due east. The 4-story steel skeleton in the first photo is at the far left. Official photos by the WTC contractors are posted at

 As I was walking past the WTC site, my MP3 player kicked up a song by Nek that perfectly expresses the exasperation I’ve felt with American foreign policy since 9/11 - and quite a while before that. The singer is addressing someone who keeps making the same mistake and then making the same excuses for it.

Volverás a vivir cuando quieras salir planta cara a la realidad No digas que te faltan fuerzas Tú sabes bien que esta es tu guerra No te busques un pretexto, yo apuesto a que ganarás

Unpoetically translated: “You will start living again when you’re ready to look reality in the face. Don’t say you lack the strength – you know this is your war. Don’t look for an excuse. I’m betting on you to win.” (The song is “Volveras a vivir,” from the album La Vida Es.)

The Winter Garden at the World Financial Center is a huge indoor space with a barrel-vaulted roof in glass and steel. At the east end, a grand staircase of polished pink and white marble once led across a pedestrian bridge to the World Trade Center. Now the staircase ends at a wall of windows that is the place to go for an overview of the construction on the site. I took the photos in this post from there. As I turned to go back down the staircase, I saw the palm trees that thrive inside the Winter Garden silhouetted against the sunset and the skyscrapers of New Jersey. And suddenly I was much less tired and much less exasperated. Reminders of human ingenuity and progress always cheer me up. (I love taking photos of the best of New York City. This one will probably make it to the next Upward Glance CD.)