“I had another bad dream,” she told her fiancé. “It was about you again. You and your ex-girlfriend were kissing. I yelled at you to stop it. You looked right at me, and then you laughed at me! She laughed, too. Then you both went back to kissing. I tried not to watch, but when I covered my eyes, something pulled my hands away. I tried to leave, but my feet were glued to the ground. Finally, I woke up. Of course, it was very difficult to get back to sleep. “I had to drive home from Las Vegas this morning. It’s a wonder I didn’t crash 50 times. Instead of seeing traffic in front of me, all I saw was you and her. I can’t take any more dreams like this. We’re going to have to break up. We can be friends, but just friends. That way, I won’t be jealous anymore, and I won’t have these bad dreams anymore.” “Why didn’t you call me up and tell me about your dream?” he asked. “They say that the more you talk about bad dreams, the sooner you’ll stop having them.” She disagreed. She thought that the only solution was to break up and be just friends. She loved him, but these dreams had become so frequent that she was actually afraid to go to sleep. She was losing weight and having stomachaches from the stress. He didn’t know what to do. He wanted her to have pleasant dreams. He wanted her to have a life without stress. He wanted her to be his wife. This was it, she repeated; if she had just one more bad dream, they were through. He squeezed her hand, but said nothing.
“My period started today,” Ruth said. Brody could hear her sadness over the phone. “Oh, I’m sorry, honey. That’s too bad,” Brody said. Until now, they both had assumed that she was pregnant, because her period was supposed to start three weeks ago. Brody had mixed feelings about the news. On the one hand, he knew that Ruth wanted a baby more than anything else in the world. So, he naturally wanted her to be pregnant and happy. In fact, he wanted a kid as much as she did. He would love to have a son, so he could teach him how to avoid all the stupid mistakes Brody had made in his own life. On the other hand, he had just read about a new study that said the cost of raising a child was now $225,000. And that was just through high school. College was an additional expense. Right now, the average cost of attending a public university was $6,000 a year--if the student lived at home. Eighteen years from now, how much would it be? Brody and Ruth had only $50,000 in savings, not even enough for a down payment on a nice house. Plus, neither of them had health insurance. Premiums for insuring themselves and the baby would cost at least $400 a month, not to mention the deductibles and co-pays. “You worry about money too much,” Ruth had once told him. “Look at you—your parents raised you and five more kids, and they were making much less than we are making now.” “That’s true,” Brody agreed. “But things were a lot different then.”
What’s that smell, Nadine wondered. She had bought a big piece of pork from the market four hours ago. As always, she smelled the pork after the butcher handed it to her. It had smelled fine. But now, it didn't. She cut into the other side of the pork and took another sniff. Annoyed, she wrapped up the pork, grabbed her receipt, and drove back to the market. She went up to the same butcher who had handed her the pork that morning. She asked him to smell the pork. He said that it smelled okay and gave it back to her. She told him to call the manager of the meat department. The manager came out a minute later. Nadine told him about the pork. She also told him that he needed to hire butchers who had better noses. He smelled the pork. “Phew,” he said. He apologized to Nadine. Then he spoke to the butcher, who said he couldn’t smell anything because he had a cold. “You have a cold and you’re handling meat and fish? Go home!” The manager turned back to Nadine, apologized again, and told her she could have a full refund. She gave him the pork and thanked him. She inspected a couple of fresh trout and had them wrapped up. She went to the cashier at the front of the market, got her refund for the pork, paid for the fish, and walked out. While she was getting into her car, the manager told another butcher to grind up the pork with a little lime juice and sell it at a 20-percent discount.
The day after Thanksgiving has become America’s wildest shopping day. Closed all day on Thursday, chain stores all across the nation open early on Friday. Some stores open at 12:01 Friday morning, while others open at 4 a.m. Some “sleepyhead” stores, like Target this year, don’t open their doors on Friday until 6 a.m. From Friday to the day before Christmas, this is the season when businesses make as much as 25 percent of their annual revenue. This season puts many businesses “in the black”—that is, into profitability—for the year. Reporters from local TV stations interview people who camp out in front of stores a day or two before the doors open on Friday. These people patiently wait in line to get products that are discounted 50 percent or more. “Oh, we have fun,” said one camper. “We bring games to play, we watch TV and order lots of pizza, and we meet interesting people. And, most important of all, we big bucks!” The catch, of course, is that only a very small number of products are available at the largest discounts. Regardless, each store has plenty of other items that are reduced from 10 to 50 percent—saving shoppers from $10 to $400 per item—to entice Americans to shop. Not all Americans appreciate this frenzy of shopping. Reverend William Graham, pastor of the Church of the Risen Jesus, wants to rename Black Friday. “We want to call it Remember Jesus Friday. People should start the season with the right attitude. Christmastime has become a Season of Shopping. We want to make it a Season of Giving. And we don’t mean giving IPods, DVDs, flat screen TVs, and other crap. We mean giving your back, your mind, and your hands. Help an old lady clean up her house. Teach a kid how to read. Visit sick people in the hospital or in nursing homes. Pick up the trash in your neighborhood. Give blood to the Red Cross. Do volunteer work for charities. Celebrate Christmas by remembering Jesus and forgetting Santa Claus.”
“America was founded on Judea-Christian values.” These are the words of Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for President of the United States. And most people in the West believe this to be a fundamental truth - not to be questioned. They believe their right to their life, their freedom, their right to their property are part and parcel of their Christian faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. The beginning of the end of the Christian Dark Ages was the Renaissance – a rebirth. Man rediscovered Ancient Greek philosophy. It was the rebirth of reason. In the generations that followed, men like Galileo and Newton brought science to the Western World. Man discovered that reality could be understood. There was an expression – the God factor. I’m not sure I’ve got the exact quote, but it pertained to the yet-to-be understood. It meant that if there was some aspect of reality that man had not been able to explain yet, well, we’ll let God have that one for now, with the clear implication that God’s domain was an ever shrinking one. With man’s new-found focus on discovering the facts of reality, he entered an age of reason and enlightenment. And for the first time in history he would establish a country based on the facts of reality, not Christian mysticism. He would found a country based on man’s freedom to think and act, where he would obey reality and not dogmatic Christian superstition. He would found a country based on reason – on man’s right to his life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Western civilization was not founded on Judea-Christian values – but in spite of them. But man brought a prehistoric cancer into the modern world. That cancer was his moral code, altruism – the idea that man is his brother’s keeper – and that cancer has been allowed to grow. It is important to understand that reality, reason, morality and politics are all interdependent. If reality exists, then reason is possible. If reason is possible, then a rational moral code is possible. And a rational moral code leads to political freedom. If man understands that reality is an absolute, that it exists, exists inde- pendent of the mind; that reason is his means of identifying the facts of reality, his means of survival; that each man is responsible for his own life, and that no man can live the life of another, then man will establish a political system that leaves each man free to live his own life – Capitalism. And, since reality, reason, morality and politics are all interdependent, if man gets any one of them wrong, it will have consequences for the other three – for example: if a culture accepts altruism as its dominant moral code, that society will establish a welfare state. And altruism will have consequences on the first two, reality and reason. There is nothing in reality or reason to justify altruism – why should a thinking, productive man be forced to support the man who is neither? So, the radical altruist, consciously or unconsciously, must undermine reality and reason in order to preserve his precious moral code. They are attracted to and will support any idea that attacks reality and reason – and that attack is lead by two ideologies: religion and environmentalism. The former focuses on man’s ability to think and the moral, and the latter focuses on man’s ability to act and the practical. Each is engaged in an assault on the fundamental nature of man. The attack on man’s ability to think, on his mind, on morality is lead by religion. Christianity is obviously an attack on reality and reason. It rests on faith – a belief that has no facts of reality to support it. If there is a conflict between reality or reason and their faith, it is reality and reason that is discarded. Witness their rejection of the theory of evolution. Like the theory of gravity, the theory of evolution is not a theory; it’s a scientific fact – the fossil record proves it. Christians believe what they believe simply because they want to believe it. And their faith is an attack on rational virtues. As long as Christians have faith, do a couple of “good” deeds once in awhile and ask for forgiveness for their sins, they believe that come judgment day they will be allowed into heaven and rewarded with eternal life. A rational moral code demands that man always practice his virtues and that he not sin – everyday is judgment day – everyday he lives up to the rational judgment of his own mind. At first glance, the Christian Right may appear to be a friend of capitalism, but this is an illusion. Religion is dogmatic, follows doctrines handed down from a “higher authority”, and is very slow to change. It took centuries for man to rise from the Dark Ages, and the Catholic Church fought it all the way. But the Age of Reason and the 18 th century Enlightenment had an enormous influence even on Christianity. Christians came to accept the separation of church and state, and freedom as being ordained by God. Today, Senator John McCain and his fellow Christians believe they are the guardians of freedom, but that belief is simply an old, dogmatic doctrine. It has become part of their faith. It is not based on reality or reason. And there is another reason Christians don’t mind a little capitalism: they are not very interested in the practical; as long as they get their cut, they are happy to allow man to produce; they’re interested in saving men’s souls. The attack on man’s ability to act, on the practical is lead by environmentalism. Christians preach that man should sacrifice his life on earth for life after death. Environmentalists go a step further. They preach that man should not exist at all, that he should walk this earth without leaving any environmental footprint. This is their goal: man should somehow exist without the means to exist. They ignore the very nature, the essence, the struggle of all life on earth: All life forms, plant or animal, must make use of their environment or die. Like Christians, environmentalists ignore the facts of reality. It is the sun that drives climate change on earth. The relative size of the earth to the sun is as follows: if the earth were the size of a golf ball, the sun would be a ball fifteen feet(4.5 metres) in diameter – the sun is over a million times bigger than the earth. One does not need to be an astrophysicist to know that a small change in the sun’s climate will have a large effect on the earth’s climate. It is the sun’s variable brightness and sunspot activity that is responsible for climate change on earth – the earth’s mean temperature has been going up and down for billions of years - before man was even on the planet. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, it would appear that man’s productive capacity was limited, that there was only so much stuff to go around. And rather than fight over what wealth there was, we should share – everything would be wonderful if only man would learn to share. Today, environmentalists have returned to the pre-industrial age. They claim that our capacity to produce wealth is limited because our resources are limited, and we must conserve them, that we shouldn’t be greedy, that we should something for those that come after – after we’re dead. Environmentalists, concerned with the practical, ignore man’s mind – his ability to think, his ingenuity, his creativity. The mass of the earth is 6 sextillion (one followed by 21 zeros) metric tons, and as a result of incoming space debris is increasing by millions of metric tons every day. I think this is enough to work with, but if it’s not, we’ll terraform Mars and maybe Venus just for fun – then we’ll see real climate change. To say that limited resources puts a limit on man’s creativity is to say that there is a limit to man’s ability to think. Environmentalism’s only morality is altruism – sacrifice, do with less, leave something for your brother whom you will never meet. And it goes without saying that environmentalism is no friend of capitalism. Environmentalism has become a religion. And because it is a religion, you will hear more and more proposals like this one from Mayor Miller, the mayor of Toronto: a by-law to force grocery stores to pay their customers ten cents for every plastic bag they do not use. Christianity and environmentalism are two religions. The former focuses their attack on man’s ability to think and the latter focuses their attack on man’s ability to act. Both are anti-reality, anti-reason, anti-capitalism. And both, with their moral code of altruism, are anti-morality – because altruism does not stand to reason. It’s important to keep in mind that only the Christian fundamentalists and the radical environmentalists whole heartily buy into their respective ideologies. They are delusional and will believe whatever they want to believe in spite of any facts to the contrary. Most people pay little attention to religion or environmentalism in their day-to-day lives. They may attend church once or twice a year or turn off the tap while brushing their teeth, but their main focus is on earning a living, family and friends, and generally trying to enjoy life. It is mainly reason, being productive and the pursuit of happiness that is central to their lives. The problem is they are not taught that these are virtues – and that brings us to “The Bill Cosby Show.” To change the culture of a planet is a formidable task. And, like it or not, change is inevitable – it is only a matter of direction. Like a garden, a culture must be cultivated, seeds must be planted, weeds pulled, or the garden and the culture will return to the jungle where the only relationships are predator-prey. The mother of all weeds is altruism in its various forms: Christianity, environmentalism, nationalism – “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” It is altruism that chokes out the flower of reason. The seed to be planted is reason. But, how? The answer to that question can be found in the black man’s struggle in America. Just two generations ago there was no way a black man could be elected President of The United States. (I do not agree with Obama’s policies. He is an altruist – he believes every man should, “hitch his wagon to a cause higher than himself”) What made Obama’s election possible? In short, blacks got fed up with riding in the back of the bus; they were not going to take this anymore, and refused to ride on any bus that adhered to this policy. While not always on the right path, they fought. They fought anyway they could think of, fought to be treated as a human being. They demanded more representation in the movie and television industry, and to be portrayed as something other than a white man’s servant. Movies like “In the Heat of the Night” portrayed the black man as a hero. Heroes can provide inspiration, but it is the situation comedy that can deal with everyday life. Sitcoms like “The Bill Cosby Show” commanded a huge audience. It is the sitcom, black and white, that attacked the evils of racism, and made the colour of a man’s skin irrelevant – as it should be. In my opinion, the sitcom played a crucial role in the election of President Obama. The situation comedy can have an incalculable influence on the direction of a culture. It can deal with themes as varied as life itself, and it can reach tens of millions, and reach them every week. One or two sitcoms devoted to reason as man’s means to happiness could change the course of the world in less than a generation. All of us are now in the back of the bus – the bus with altruism in the driver’s seat. If we are to replace altruism with reason, we must fight – "all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." Watching television will not do it – we must critique what we watch. Objectivists, admirers of Ayn Rand and men of reason everywhere should dedicate some part of their time to changing their culture. (I write one Saturday per month whether I feel like it or not – and I almost always finish that day with a feeling of accomplishment) Write, send an email – keep it short and to the point. Write to be understood. Better yet, write so that one can not be misunderstood. Write to producers, writers, actors, and to those who pay the bills, their sponsors. Whatever the genre you’re watching, even a news broadcast, tell them what you think, what you like and don’t like – and give special attention to the sitcom. And if you want to visualize what we are fighting for, the Industrial Revolution is the place to look. Just as the Industrial Revolution brought great material wealth to men of little, average and great talent alike, so will a moral revolution bring self respect, respect for others, pride and love to men of little, average and great strength alike. If on occasion this seems like a hopeless struggle, I would remind you that it is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere. Or if you think you’re just too busy to dedicate time to changing the culture of your country, I will repeat what my father would have said to me: “If you’ve got a job that has to be done, give it to a busy man.”
A fifteen-year-old boy was injured in a car accident when the minivan he was traveling in was hit by a pickup truck at an intersection. The boy was taken to a nearby hospital. The paramedics said that it appeared that the boy had nothing more serious than a broken left leg, but that internal injuries were always a possibility. The boy was conscious and alert. His mother, who was driving, was uninjured. She said that the truck appeared out of nowhere, and she thought she was going to die. She turned the steering wheel sharply to the left, and the truck hit her minivan on the passenger side. The driver of the truck was a 50-year-old man who was unemployed and apparently had been drinking—police found 18 empty beer cans inside the truck. The man denied drinking, but he failed the police test for sobriety. When asked to touch his nose with his arms outstretched and eyes closed, he was unable to touch any part of his head. The handcuffed man asked the police if they knew where “Mabel” was as he was put into the back seat of the police vehicle. The police asked him if Mabel was his wife. He said, “She’s my dog, my dog! Where’s my baby?” A dog with a collar, but no identification, was found minutes later, half a block away. The man was taken to the city jail and booked on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and on causing an accident.
Pete had lived in Florida for 20 years. A boring 20 years, he often thought. His house was only a 10-minute walk from the Gulf. He walked to the sandy white beach almost every day. Bob’s Liquors was at the corner, halfway to the beach. It was the only store within a mile. It sold cold beer and cigarettes, which were the only two things that interested Pete today. The owner of Bob’s was Bill. Bill had bought the store from Bob, but never renamed the store. “'Bob’s' has a nice ring to it,” he told curious customers. Also, of course, keeping the old name d him money, time, and trouble. When the water was unsafe, the lifeguards would put red flags all up and down the beach to warn swimmers to stay out of the water. Today was a red flag day. Fierce riptides and lots of jellyfish were predicted for the next 48 hours. Although windy and completely overcast, it was a warm September day. Pete stopped at Bob’s. Bill said hello and told Pete to be careful because of the riptide reports. He asked, “What’ll it be today, Pete?” Pete ordered the usual—a pack of cigarettes and beer. Bill put the six-pack into a double paper bag because that helped keep the beer cold longer. Pete paid him and said goodbye. He walked out the door and crossed the two-lane street, not bothering to look in either direction. The flags were flapping loudly. Small waves were splashing onto the beach. Sea gulls were walking at water’s edge. Low thunder rumbled occasionally in the distance. An irregular line showed where wet sand met dry sand. Pete sat down on the dry sand. He opened a can of beer and lit a cigarette. There was no one else at the beach, except a woman walking away from him, stopping frequently to examine seashells. Pete watched a pelican dive into the water. Far away on the horizon, a stationary ship floated. Pete was a strong swimmer. He had learned to swim when he was four years old. In grade school and high school, he won numerous swimming and diving tournaments. His parents had high hopes that he would compete in the Olympics. Pete opened the fifth beer and lit yet another cigarette. The woman collecting seashells had disappeared from sight. He got up and walked into the water. When the water was almost thigh-high, he felt the current tugging at him. A jellyfish stung him behind his right knee. He took a final drag on his cigarette and flicked it into the water. He finished the beer, filled the empty can with sea water, and threw it back onto the beach. He looked at the ship. Then he dove in and started swimming.
“Eminent domain” is the power of the government to take private property and use it for the public good. Government officials simply notify a property owner that they want his property and offer him a fair price. The owner can accept or reject that offer. If he thinks the offer is too low, he can go to court. In court, a jury will decide the fair price, which the government must pay. Usually, the owner cannot prevent the government from taking his land for public use, which includes roads, schools, government buildings, and economic development. However, the US Supreme Court recently expanded the meaning of “economic development” to include the construction of shopping centers, amusement parks, and even car washes. Property owners nationwide are now at greater risk of losing their property for the “private” good instead of the “public” good. They will see their land converted to Burger Kings and Chevy dealerships instead of post offices and parks. Just last week, the Ozark city council demanded that Johnny Miller sell all his land to the city. “It isn’t right,” said Miller. “My family has owned this property for four generations. We grow crops and raise cattle. We’re active in Ozark’s social clubs and civic groups. Now the council wants to kick us out so that Walt Disney can build a new theme park here. I’m not selling. I’m going to fight this--since when is a mouse more important than an American family?”
Johnny asked Dotty how her first day in her Duarte ESL class was. It was terrible, she told him. She understood little of what the Level 4 teacher said. He spoke too fast for her. She had struggled through a Level 3 class at a Monrovia school. When the teacher asked if there were any questions, she told him that she didn’t understand most of what he had said. He told her not to worry; she could take the class again if she failed it the first time. She didn’t want to fail it the first time, however, or any time. He gave them homework the first day, of course. They were supposed to write a 300-word essay supporting gun control. Of course, Dotty said, she could write that essay in her native language. But there was no way she could write it in English. She showed Johnny the textbook. The print was so tiny that trying to read just a few pages gave her a headache. On top of that was all the new vocabulary on each page. “I'm going to drop the class,” she said. She wanted to cry. When was she ever going to learn this language?
“Good evening, everybody!” said the teacher, na. “Where is everybody?” That was sort of a daily joke by na. Usually the class started with only two or three students present, and then filled up as the minutes went by. It was summertime. Summer school was only eight weeks long. Class attendance was always smaller than during fall and spring semesters. “I don’t know, teacher. Maybe they late or no come,” said one student. “Maybe watching TV football tonight.” “Is there a soccer game tonight? It seems like there’s a soccer game every night. Oh, well. Let’s get started, okay? We’re on page 36 in the workbook. Tonight we’re studying participles as adjectives. Students are always confused when they learn about the present and past participles, so we will practice this a lot. Tonight, we’re just going to practice the present participle. “The present participle tells us what emotion or feeling the subject is causing. For example, ‘Grammar is boring’ means that the subject—grammar—causes an emotion of boredom. If we say, ‘The movie is interesting,’ we are saying that the movie causes a feeling of interest. If we say, ‘The roller coaster is exciting,’ we are saying that the roller coaster causes a feeling of excitement. Any questions so far? Am I confusing you? Is everyone confused?” The classroom was quiet. na looked at blank faces. They were confused. She knew this would take a while. But eventually, the faster students would grasp it, and then they would help the slower students. By the end of the evening, most of the class would feel comfortable using the present participle. na erased the board and put some new examples on it. She loved guiding her students through difficult topics like this one. She always felt a little bit thrilled when the look of understanding came to their faces.