February 28, 2005

Rock Bottom


CNN reports: Oscar ratings sink with Rock.

Hollywood is now 0-3 in the world of major league awards shows. Following in the footsteps of both The Golden Globes and Grammy Awards, ratings for Sunday night’s 77th Annual Academy Awards were down this year. ...

Oscar producers had high hopes that the comedian Chris Rock would, as the Oscar host, have a broad enough appeal to boost ratings. Based on the results, “I don’t think (veteran Oscar hosts) Billy Crystal and Steve Martin have anything to fear,” said Brad Adgate, the senior vice president of corporate research at Horizon Media, a New York marketing firm. Still, Adgate noted that Rock didn’t exactly flop.

Charles Johnson made a good observation: Theo Van Gogh Forgotten on Oscar Night.

Posted by Forkum at 08:43 PM

February 27, 2005

Oh, Canada


From the Seattle Post Intelligencer: Canada opts out of US defense shield, insists on missile consultation.

A day after opting out of the U.S. ballistic missile defense shield, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin reiterated Friday that Washington must get permission from Ottawa before firing on any incoming missiles over Canada. ...

Martin made his comments to reporters as the fallout from Canada’s decision to not take part in the development and operation of President Bush’s nascent anti-ballistic missile shield continued to roil relations between with Canada.

Stockwell Day, the Conservative Party’s foreign affairs critic, laughed off Martin’s demand that Washington would have to alert Ottawa before taking out an incoming missile.

"These missiles are coming in at 4 kilometers ( 2.5 miles) a second, and if the president calls the 1-800 line and gets: 'Press 1 if you want English, press 2 if you want French, press 0 if nobody’s there ...' I mean, it's crazy."

UPDATE I -- March 1: This cartoon appears in today's (Tuesday's) Investor's Business Daily.

UPDATE II -- March 2: This cartoon appears in today's (Wednesday's) National Post.

Posted by Forkum at 07:59 PM

February 26, 2005

The Nightmare


This cartoon was created primarily for the readers of Little Green Footballs, so a general audience may not get the full meaning. If you want the backstory, read below.

For the fullest account of the controversy involving Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), read the links in this search of LGF posts. The short version: LGF broke the story when Hinchey made public, unsubstantiated claims that the fake memos from the Dan Rather scandal were planted by Karl Rove, chief strategist for President Bush. (Why would Rove plant fake documents that supposedly contained "accurate" information damning Bush? Obviously logic is not a hallmark of conspiracy theorists.) Standing firm on his remarks, Hinchey's office apparently received a "storm" of protest phone calls, prompting a supporter to declare that Hinchey was being "slammed" by "hoards of flying monkeys from the Dark Side." LGF host Charles Johnson sent us the latter post, which was just begging for a cartoon. We based the cartoon on the famous 1781 painting by Henry Fuseli called The Nightmare. And it's not everyday that John gets an excuse to draw flying monkeys.

Posted by Forkum at 11:53 AM

February 24, 2005

Cedar Revolution


Robert Tracinski at TIA Daily has been closely following the Lebanese protests against Syrian occupation and the implications for America. Today he noted a Washington Times article (Tent city rises to pressure Syria) and wrote:

When I saw references in reports from the past few days to anti-Syria protesters modeling themselves on Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution,” I thought at first that might just be the opinion of the reporters. Now it is becoming clear that Ukraine is the explicit model for Lebanon, with the Lebanese calling their movement the “Cedar Revolt” to evoke the “Rose” and “Orange” Revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine.

The political leaders of the Lebanese protests are not necessary our friends (Walid Jumblatt, for example, has a history of anti-American statements) -- but they are far less hostile to our interests and far less likely to support terrorism against the US or our ally, Israel, than the Syrians and their Iranian backers. That’s why the new Cedar Revolt -- which is gaining momentum -- is such a positive development for US interests.

What interests would the U.S. have in putting pressure on Syria? Tracinski noted another Times/AP article: Terrorist claims Syrian training. From the article:

Iraqi state television aired a video yesterday showing what the U.S.-funded channel said was the confession of a captured Syrian officer, who said he trained Iraqi terrorists to behead people and build car bombs to attack American and Iraqi troops. He also said the terrorists practiced beheading animals to train for decapitating hostages.

UPDATE I -- February 28: From CNN: Lebanon protesters defy ban.

With Lebanon’s pro-Damascus government facing a possible vote of no confidence, tens of thousands of demonstrators defied a ban and poured into Beirut’s city center Monday to protest against Syria’s military presence in Lebanon. Opposition leaders want the pro-Syrian government to resign -- and for Syrian forces to go home.

Perhaps pressure on Syria is beginning to work; CNN reports: Syria hands over Saddam half-brother.

Iraqi officials said Sunday that Syria captured and handed over Saddam Hussein’s half brother, one of the blood-soaked insurgency’s most wanted leaders, ending months of Syrian denials that it was harboring fugitives from the ousted Saddam regime. Iraqi authorities said Damascus acted in a gesture of goodwill.

UPDATE II: Blogging about Lebanon: Across the Bay. (Via InstaPundit)

UPDATE III: The CNN link in Update I has been changed by CNN to reflect this breaking news: Lebanon's pro-Syrian PM resigns.

The Lebanese government abruptly resigned Monday during a stormy parliamentary debate, prompting a tremendous roar from tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in central Beirut.

The demonstrators, awash in a sea of red, white and green Lebanese flags, had demanded the pro-Syrian government's resignation -- and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon -- since this month's assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Posted by Forkum at 10:26 PM

C&F cartoons in Germany

Cox & Forkum editorial cartoons were used in yesterday’s March for German-American Friendship in Mainz, Germany. David Kasper and Ray D (Davids Medienkritik) have posted pictures here: Bush’s Visit to Mainz: A Demonstration of Success. Apparently their march received good media coverage. Our thanks and congratulations to them for demonstrating for freedom. (The cartoons seen in the photo are Death Dealers and Mullah Justice.)

UPDATE I: No Pasaran has more pictures (including a protest sign featuring this cartoon): German Masses Protesting Bush's Mainz Visit Are In for a Surprize.

UPDATE II -- February 25: Paul Hoffmeister -- the person responsible for making the placards with our cartoons for the Mainz demonstration -- wrote us an e-mail about the event. Following is an excerpt:

As you probably have heard already, the rally was a big success. Though we were only around 30 [people], we got big media coverage. ... Your cartoons were really upgrading the effect of our rally. Even the bad guys were sometimes impressed. Some went around and took photos of them. It seemed occasionally they even made them think a bit. Maybe you'll get famous now here in good old Germany. :-)

Our thanks to Paul. Good to know that the cartoons didn't start a riot!

UPDATE III --March 7: Even more photos of the march. (Via Davids Medienkritik)

Posted by Forkum at 11:18 AM

February 22, 2005



From FoxNews: Bush Dines With Chirac, Scolds Russia.

President Bush scolded Russia for backsliding on democracy Monday and dined on lobster risotto and filet of beef with French President Jacques Chirac.

Three days before seeing Vladimir Putin in Slovakia, Bush admonished the Russian leader to "renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law." Putin has raised alarms in the West by consolidating power, rolling back democratic reforms and curbing press and political freedoms.

Bush said the United States and all European countries "should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia." The president suggested that Moscow's entry in the World Trade Organization could hinge on whether it changes course.

Posted by Forkum at 10:58 PM

February 21, 2005

Limited Partnership


From FoxNews: Bush Calls for U.S., European Unity.

President Bush on Monday appealed to the people of Europe to bury their differences over the war in Iraq because he said there is work to do that requires close cooperation between the United States and Europe.

Even as protesters in Brussels prepared to take to the streets, Bush called the U.S.-European divide over Iraq a "passing disagreement" that must be put behind because the world can't afford to let democracy fail in Iraq, he said. ...

He ... planned to dine privately here with French President Jacques Chirac, one of his most outspoken critics on the Iraq war. After a closed-door meeting, Chirac and Bush told reporters they were committed to patching up differences and restoring good relations despite their disagreement over the war in Iraq.

"I'm looking for a good cowboy," Bush joked when a French reporter asked him whether relations had improved to the point where the U.S. president would be inviting Chirac to the U.S. president's ranch in Texas.

Chirac said that U.S.-French relations have been "excellent for over 200 years now." Chirac added, "That doesn't necessarily mean we agree on everything at every time." The two leaders made the comments before they sat down to dinner.

UPDATE -- March 1: This cartoon appears in today's (Tuesday's) The Detroit News.

Posted by Forkum at 04:03 PM

February 20, 2005

USS Ironic


From AP: USS Jimmy Carter is ready for underseas endeavors.

The USS Jimmy Carter entered the Navy’s fleet Saturday as the most heavily armed submarine ever built, and as the last of the Seawolf class of attack subs that the Pentagon ordered during the Cold War’s final years.

The $3.2 billion Jimmy Carter was commissioned Saturday, the first submarine named after a living ex-president. Carter, a submariner during his time in the Navy, was on hand for the ceremony signaling the end of an era in submarining.

Posted by Forkum at 03:36 PM

February 17, 2005

Black Wedding


FoxNews reports: Iran, Syria Partnership Raises Eyebrows.

Iran and Syria on Wednesday said they would unite against any challenges or threats to their nations' livelihoods, a move that could raise the stakes in the ongoing international dramas involving both countries. ...

Observers said an alliance of any kind between the two nations wouldn't be good.

"They feel the ground shifting under them" as democracy begins to take root in neighboring Iraq, Robert McFarlane (search), who served as national security adviser to President Reagan, told FOX News.

"It's a very misguided effort, this idea of cooperation between Iran and Syria," McFarlane continued. "They've wreaked years and years of devastation to Lebanon and the sponsorship of terrorism."

Syria was invited into Lebanon in 1976 to quell that country's nascent civil war. The war did not end until 1990, and Syria has loosely controlled Lebanon ever since.

Iran has been the main provider of funding and weapons to Lebanese Hezbollah, the fundamentalist Shiite militia, terrorist group and political party that forced U.S. and French troops out of Beirut in 1983 and the Israeli army out of southern Lebanon during the 1990s.

"[Iran and Syria] have been joined for a long time in creating terrorism in the region," Air Force Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Tom McInerney told FOX News. "That shouldn't be any surprise to any of us, they've just now announced it publicly."

Posted by Forkum at 08:11 PM

February 15, 2005

Pajamas at the Gate


Posted by Forkum at 08:51 PM

February 14, 2005

Bash Brother


Here's one from left field, so to speak. John is a big sports fan, and occasionally we venture into the arena with our cartoons. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday: Canseco on 60 Minutes: Steroids made career possible.

Jose Canseco says he and fellow slugger Mark McGwire were never "buddy buddies" as teammates on the Oakland Athletics, but had at least one thing in common that they talked about regularly: using steroids.

Canseco also admits in an interview with 60 Minutes that he would never have been a major league-caliber player without using the drugs. ...

Canseco said he and McGwire weren't close, but often injected together and treated the subject of steroids as casual shop-talk.

"Mark and I weren't really in a sense of buddy buddies," Canseco said. "But there are certain subjects that we could talk about like obviously steroids and so forth."

McGwire, who has repeatedly denied steroid use, said in a statement to the television news magazine: "Once and for all I did not use steroids nor any illegal substance. The relationship that these allegations portray couldn't be further from the truth."

UPDATE -- February 22: This cartoon appears in today's (Tuesday's) The Detroit News.

Posted by Forkum at 08:47 PM

February 13, 2005

Isn't It Romantic


From Reuters: Saudi Morality Police See Red Over Valentine Roses. (Via Little Green Footballs)

Saudi Arabia's morality police are on the scent of illicit red roses as part of a clampdown on would-be St Valentine's lovers in the strict Muslim kingdom.

The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Saudi Arabia's powerful religious vigilantes, have banned shops from selling any red flowers in the run-up to February 14.

Florists say the move is part of an annual campaign by the committee -- whose members are known as "mutawwaeen" or volunteers -- to prevent Saudis marking a festival they believe flouts their austere doctrine of "Wahhabi" Islam. ...

Valentine's Day, or the "Feast of Love" in Arabic, is beyond the pale in a country where women must cover themselves from head to toe in public and be accompanied by a male guardian. ...

The government-funded mutawwaeen patrol the streets of Saudi Arabia, particularly Riyadh in the Wahhabi heartland, ensuring women are covered and five daily Muslim prayers are observed.

Shopkeepers who fail to shut down for half an hour during each prayer risk a night in jail if they are discovered.

Despite government calls for them to show greater leniency, and some recent efforts to improve their own image, the bearded volunteers are not universally popular.

"The mutawwaeen are just backward," Ahmed complained. "It's the Saudi women who want these roses anyway."

Posted by Forkum at 10:31 PM

February 11, 2005

Two-Faced Redux


This cartoon is from Sept. 2003 and is one of 450 cartoons in our latest book Black & White World II. CNN reports on the latest regarding North Korean negoiations: U.S. rejects North Korean demand for direct talks.

The United States reaffirmed its opposition to two-way talks with North Korea on its nuclear weapons program after the communist state on Friday again demanded bilateral discussions. ... North Korea stunned the world Thursday when it publicly admitted to having nuclear weapons and announced it was withdrawing from the multilateral negotiations.

North Korea is switching masks again. Here is what was reported in Sept. 2003:

North Korea's hostile weekend reaction to last week's six-way talks on its nuclear program was an initial response and probably a negotiating ploy, South Korea said on Monday. [...]

It is not yet clear whether Pyongyang has officially reneged on that agreement or is using past tactics that mix bluster and brinkmanship with gradual steps forward.

"The North Koreans' post-conference verbal offensive was nothing but a stupid repeat of their habitual negotiating strategy," the Korea Herald said in an editorial. [Emphasis added]

Sound familiar?

Posted by Forkum at 02:59 PM

February 10, 2005

Cease Process


Well, we weren't able to finish this cartoon fast enough. From CNN: Abbas ousts 3 security officers after Gaza attack.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas fired three key security officers Thursday after Palestinian militants fired mortars at Israeli communities in Gaza, a Palestinian official said. ...

The move comes after Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced a cease-fire agreement at a summit Tuesday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt -- the first upper-level meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in more than four years.

Abbas took action Thursday after a volley of mortar fire by Palestinian militants in Gaza at Israeli communities. Earlier, Palestinian gunmen stormed a Gaza jail, shooting and killing three inmates over a family dispute. ...

The Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas issued a statement saying it is not a party to the cease-fire. The agreement is the position of the Palestinian Authority only, the statement said. Israel and the U.S. State Department consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

UPDATE -- February 13: This cartoon appears in the Monday Edition of Investor's Business Daily.

UPDATE -- February 15: This cartoon appeared in today's (Tuesday's) The Detroit News.

Posted by Forkum at 02:16 PM

February 08, 2005

House of Hate


From the Chicago Sun-Times: Saudi government foments religious hatred in U.S.. (Via Hobbs Online)

What is happening in some American mosques, including a few in the Chicago area, is deeply disturbing. In certain Islamic schools, textbooks spit vitriol against Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims: "Be disassociated from the infidels, hate them for their religion." In mosque publications, America is the "Abode of the Infidel." The idea of human and civil rights is heresy. Working women are immoral.

These views are extreme, they promote violence and they are being espoused right under our noses. We knew this was happening in France, Germany and England but we didn't know the extent of the problem here. It is not happening in all mosques or Islamic schools, by any means, but in those select ones funded by the Saudi government to disseminate the fanatic Wahhabi-style Islam that has its demagogic roots in Saudi Arabia.

The Center for Religious Freedom just issued a discomfiting report looking at the spread of hate propaganda in America by Saudi Arabia. The center collected 200 books and other publications from mosques across the country and spent the past two years analyzing them.

"The Saudi textbooks and documents spread throughout American mosques preach a Nazi-like hatred for Jews, treat the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion as historical fact, and avow that the Muslim's duty is to eliminate the state of Israel," writes Nina Shea, the Center's director. In addition, they "instill contempt for America because the United States is ruled by legislated civil law rather than by totalitarian Wahhabi-style Islamic law." Woe to Christians who should be actively hated because they stir up images of crusaders and colonists and because they are "enemies to Allah, his Prophet and believers." Woe to Muslims who advance tolerance and human rights -- they, too, are infidels. Woe to homosexuals or heterosexuals who have sex outside marriage -- it is considered "lawful" to kill them.

A number of blogs reported this story last week. I first saw it on Little Green Footballs where Charles has noted that few in big media are picking it up (exceptions include Dallas Morning News and Investor's Business Daily). Perhaps the Sun-Times editorial will garner still more attention.

Posted by Forkum at 09:14 PM

February 07, 2005

New Direction


From CNN: Dean now sole candidate for DNC chair:

Tim Roemer, the only remaining opponent of Howard Dean in the race to be chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Monday he's bowing out of the race -- but he offered a warning to Democrats. ...

Posted by Forkum at 09:17 PM

February 06, 2005



From a Feb. 4 Washington Times editorial: CNN's line of fire:

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, during a discussion on media and democracy, [CNN chief news executive Eason] Jordan apparently told the audience that "he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by U.S. troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted," according to a report on the forum's Web site. The account was corroborated by the Wall Street Journal and National Review Online, although no transcript of the discussion has surfaced. ...

In any event, it's an assertion Mr. Jordan has made before. In November, as reported in the London Guardian, Mr. Jordan said, "The reality is that at least 10 journalists have been killed by the U.S. military, and according to reports I believe to be true journalists have been arrested and tortured by U.S. forces." This is very serious stuff, if true. Yet aside from Mr. Jordan's occasional comments, there's no evidence to support it. Mr. Jordan's almost immediate backpedaling seems to confirm this. In a statement to blogger Carol Platt Liebau, Mr. Jordan said, "To be clear, I do not believe the U.S. military is trying to kill journalists in Iraq. I said so during the forum panel discussion. But, nonetheless, the U.S. military has killed several journalists in Iraq in cases of mistaken identity." He added, "three of my CNN colleagues and many other journalists have been killed on purpose in Iraq." He didn't elaborate by whom.

This is a grossly inadequate explanation; to say someone is "targeted" means they are being aimed at intentionally, not mistakenly -- especially in the context of war. A chief news executive of a worldwide news network would know that. Furthermore, when considering Jordan's past statements on this subject, the explanation becomes even less believable (if that's possible).

Many bloggers have been following this story in depth. For more information see (among others): Captain's Quarters, Hugh Hewitt, a new blog dedicated to the controversy, Easongate, and of course Little Green Footballs and InstaPundit.

The cartoon below was created in April 2003, the last time Jordan was making news instead of reporting it (original post here.) This cartoon is in our latest book Black & White World II.

UPDATE I -- February 8: Roger L. Simon has more on the latest: Kurtz Speaks on Mr. Jordan. (Via InstaPundit)

UPDATE II -- February 10: From The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens: 'Easongate': What did CNN's chief really say at Davos? I was there.

UPDATE III -- February 13: From CNN on Feb. 11: CNN News Executive Eason Jordan Quits.


Posted by Forkum at 07:28 PM

February 03, 2005

St. George and the Dragon


From President Bush's State of the Union address:

The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure. Tomorrow morning, Secretary of State Rice departs on a trip that will take her to Israel and the West Bank for meetings with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas. She will discuss with them how we and our friends can help the Palestinian people end terror and build the institutions of a peaceful, independent democratic state. To promote this democracy, I will ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms. The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace is within reach -- and America will help them achieve that goal. ...

To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder. Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. You have passed, and we are applying, the Syrian Accountability Act -- and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom.

Today, Iran remains the world's primary state sponsor of terror -- pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium re-processing, and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.

As for the new Palestinian President Abbas, see the articles in this post.

UPDATE -- February 5: This cartoon appears in the Monday Edition of Investor's Business Daily.

Posted by Forkum at 06:11 PM

February 02, 2005

Analyze This


UPDATE -- February 9: This cartoon appeared in yesterday's (Tuesday's) The Detroit News.

Posted by Forkum at 04:25 PM

February 01, 2005

Ayn Rand Centenary


From the novel Atlas Shrugged:

"If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater the effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders--what would you tell him to do?"

"I . . . don't know. What . . . could he do? What would you tell him?"

"To shrug."

February 2, 2005, marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand. John and I created the graphic above to commemorate the occasion. If you haven't already, you owe it to yourself to read some of Ayn Rand's writing, both fiction and non-fiction. Her ideas are needed now more than ever.

Today it's often taken for granted that "freedom" is an obvious good. But not everyone longs for and values freedom. Some consider it a moral duty to subjugate others for the sake of some "higher" good, whether for the sake of Allah in the Middle East or for the sake of the "common good" in the West. Freedom cannot be spread abroad nor protected here at home without a moral defense of individualism and capitalism. Ayn Rand provided that defense and many other ideas in her philosophy of Objectivism.

In this post you'll find links with information about Ayn Rand and what she called "a philosophy for living on earth." I for one will be forever grateful for her achievements.

On the occasion of her centenary, the Ayn Rand Institute has released two excellent editorials. One by Onkar Ghate examines The Appeal of Ayn Rand.

The conviction that ideas matter represents a profound dedication to self. It requires that one regard one's own reasoning mind as competent to judge good and evil. And it requires that one pursue knowledge because one sees that correct ideas are indispensable to achieving the irreplaceable value of one's own life and happiness. "To take ideas seriously," Rand states, "means that you intend to live by, to practice, any idea you accept as true," that you recognize "that truth and knowledge are of crucial, personal, selfish importance to you and to your own life."

Her approach here is the opposite of the view that ideals transcend this world, one's interests and human comprehension -- that idealism is, in the words of the religious exhortation to America's youth in Bush's inaugural address, "to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself."

Another editorial by Michael S. Berliner summarizes Ayn Rand's Legacy of Reason and Freedom. The entire article follows:

Born 100 years ago in Holy Mother Russia and educated under the Soviets, Ayn Rand became the quintessential American writer and philosopher, upholding the supreme value of the individual’s life on earth. She herself led a "rags to riches" life, wrote best-selling novels that championed individualism, and developed a philosophy of reason that validates the American spirit of achievement and independence.

The story of Ayn Rand's life is, in the words of the Oscar-nominated documentary Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life: "a life more compelling than fiction." Born February 2, 1905, she wrote her first fiction at age 8, when she also showed signs of being an intellectual crusader, vowing to refute a newspaper article claiming that school was the sole source of a child's ideals. A year later she decided to become a writer: inspired by the hero of a children's story, who embodied "intelligence directed to a practical purpose," she had a "blinding picture" of people -- not as they are but as they could be.

In high school and college, she discovered two figures whom she never ceased to admire: Victor Hugo, for "the grandeur, the heroic scale, the plot inventiveness" of his stories, and Aristotle, as "the arch-realist and the advocate of the validity of man's mind."

Escaping the tyranny and poverty of the U.S.S.R., she came to America in 1926, officially for a brief visit with relatives. A chance meeting with her favorite American director, Cecil B. DeMille, resulted in jobs as a movie extra and then a junior screenwriter. After periods of near-starvation, she sold her first play to Broadway and her first novel, We the Living, set in the Soviet tyranny she had escaped. With her first best-seller, The Fountainhead in 1943, she presented her ideal man, individualist architect Howard Roark. But it was, she said, "only an overture" to her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged in 1957, a mystery story about the role of the mind in man's existence. With Atlas Shrugged her career as a fiction writer ended, but her career as a philosopher had just begun.

Her philosophy -- Objectivism -- upholds objective reality (as opposed to supernaturalism), reason as man's only means of knowledge (as opposed to faith or skepticism), free will (as opposed to determinism -- by biology or environment), and an ethics of rational self-interest (as opposed to the sacrifice of oneself to others or others to self). The only moral political system, she maintained, is laissez-faire capitalism (as opposed to the collectivism of socialism, fascism, or the welfare state), because it recognizes the inalienable right of an individual to act on the judgment of his own mind. Your life, she held, belongs to you and not to your country, God or your neighbors. ...

... Ayn Rand understood that to defend the individual she must penetrate to the root: his need to use reason to survive. "I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism," she wrote in 1971, "but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows." This radical view put her at odds with conservatives, whom she vilified for their attempts to base capitalism on faith and altruism. Advocating a government to protect the individual's right to his property, she was not a liberal (or an anarchist). Advocating the indispensability of philosophy, she was not a libertarian.

Despite being outside the cultural mainstream, her novels became best-sellers and her books sell more today than ever before -- half a million copies per year. There is a reason that Atlas Shrugged placed second in a Library of Congress survey about most influential books. There is a reason that her works are considered life-altering by so many readers. She had an exalted view of man and created inspiring fictional heroes.

A sui generis philosopher, who looked at the world anew, Ayn Rand has long puzzled the intellectual establishment. Academia has usually met her views with antagonism or avoidance, unable to fathom that she was an individualist but not a subjectivist, an absolutist but not a dogmatist. And they have thus ignored her original solutions to such seemingly intractable problems as how to ground values in facts. But even in academia her ideas are finding more acceptance, e.g., university fellowships and a subgroup within the American Philosophical Association to study Objectivism.

Ayn Rand left a legacy in defense of reason and freedom that serves as a guidepost for the American spirit -- especially pertinent today when America and what it stands for are under assault.

Posted by Forkum at 12:01 AM