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Category Archives: Ayn Rand

Author says some ‘Wild Things’ about children’s literature – Seattle Times

Posted: August 20, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Bruce Handy, author of Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Childrens Literature as an Adult, takes an opinionated, biography-with-zingers approach to the Kid Lit pantheon: from Beverly Cleary to Maurice Sendak. And dont get him going on The Giving Tree.

Special to The Seattle Times

Bruce Handy doesnt waste time staking out a critical position. On the fifth page of his new book, Wild Things: The Joys of Reading Childrens Literature as an Adult, Handy says Beverly Clearys grade-school novel Ramona the Pest is like Henry James with much shorter sentences. One paragraph later, he complains that the Curious George series carries a stale, colonial aroma and Madeleine LEngles A Wrinkle in Time is a now dated Cold War fable about collectivism Ayn Rand for kids.

Dont get him going on The Giving Tree, Shel Silversteins inexplicably popular retelling of Stella Dallas and Mildred Pierce for nursery schoolers. Handy interrupts a disquisition on the similarities between The Runaway Bunny and Portnoys Complaint for a two-page takedown of The Giving Tree. One minute hes wondering whether Philip Roth was familiar with The Runaway Bunny (probably not), the next hes calling the main characters in The Giving Tree a boy and a tree two deluded losers engaged in a folie deux: the Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo of childrens literature.

Tell us what you really think, Bruce.

Wild Things is presented as a smart look at childrens literature by a lifelong reader who loved books as a child and rediscovered them as a parent. It is that, and it does make some serious points about fantasy and death and how children use reading to learn critical thinking and find a place in the world. But what its really about is a series of opinionated profiles of the Kid Lit pantheon: Cleary, Margaret Wise Brown, Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, Maurice Sendak, E.B. White, Laura Ingalls Wilder, L. Frank Baum, C.S. Lewis. Handy draws a wide line between those he writes about and those he doesnt; the latter includes Roald Dahl, J.R.R. Tolkien, Chris Van Allsburg and J.K. Rowling, whose Harry Potter series, though spectacular, goes on forever.

The opinionated, biography-with-zingers approach plays to Handys strengths as an editor for Vanity Fair and a former writer for Saturday Night Live and is great fun for those interested in colorful facts about their favorite childrens book authors. Did you know Brown, the author of Goodnight Moon and an Auntie Mame character of some renown, died when she did a cancan kick and a blood clot dislodged and went to her brain? Her last word was Grand! and her epitaph was Writer of Songs and Nonsense. Handy, who cant give anyone the last word, suggests Goodnight Nobody.

Im the ideal audience for Wild Things. I love Clearys novels about Ramona and Beezus, Henry and Ribsy, and believe that her memoirs, A Girl from Yamhill and My Own Two Feet, are neglected Northwest classics. Like Handy, Ive teared up when reading Winnie the Pooh to my kids and, like him, I didnt get Where the Wild Things Are when I read it as a child. Ill even go him one better and say that Charlottes Web is the Great American Novel, Huck Finn or no Huck Finn. Gatsby? Great, but not as great as Charlottes Web.

Handy gives his favorite childrens books a close reading and uncovers one shiny nugget after another about the men and women who wrote them. His book doesnt hang together, but to hear him tell it, Treasure Island and its unfollowable plot dont either. Neither does The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. There he goes again.

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Arthur Finkelstein, Innovative, Influential Conservative Strategist, Dies at 72 – New York Times

Posted: at 6:42 pm

The numbers spoke to him, Kieran Mahoney, his frequent campaign collaborator and one of his many protgs, said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Finkelsteins combative campaigns helped elect or re-elect the Republican Senators James L. Buckley and Alfonse M. DAmato of New York, Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jesse Helms of North Carolina, Connie Mack III of Florida, Don Nickles of Oklahoma and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

Arthur was responsible for electing more people to the United States Senate than any other political consultant, Mr. DAmato said in an interview.

In the process, Mr. Finkelstein transformed liberal into a dirty word.

His conservative political action committee was instrumental in the surprise unseatings of liberal Democratic stalwarts in 1980, including Senators Birch Bayh of Indiana, Frank Church of Idaho and George S. McGovern of South Dakota. He also collaborated with fellow Republicans in establishing another fund-raising behemoth, the National Congressional Club

In 1994, Mr. DAmato and Mr. Finkelstein engineered the defeat of Mario M. Cuomo, New Yorks three-term governor, by George E. Pataki, an obscure state senator. Mr. Patakis resonant rationale was that Mr. Cuomo was too liberal for too long.

A canny Brooklyn-born brawler who made his political debut on a Greenwich Village soapbox, Mr. Finkelstein was adept at aggressively wooing disaffected Democrats to his Republican clients camps in statewide campaigns. His strategy was largely to ignore party labels and focus on the basic beliefs that moved these Democrats.

I have been criticized for 20 years for running ideologically arched campaigns, he told the National Conservative Political Action Conference in 1991. I plead guilty. I will continue to run ideologically arched campaigns as long as there are more conservatives than there are liberals, rather than more Democrats than there are Republicans.

He refused to acknowledge, though, that he engaged in negative campaigning. That phrase connotes false accusations, he said, when it just means that you speak about the failings of your opponent as opposed to the virtues of your candidate.

Rather, he called his strategy rejectionist voting a formula built on slogans that disparaged adversaries. (He would often count on a third contender to siphon votes from the rival who posed the most serious threat to a client).

Prime examples of that strategy were Mr. DAmatos upset win over Senator Jacob K. Javits, the venerable liberal Republican incumbent, in the 1980 primary, and Mr. DAmatos re-election squeaker against the Democratic state attorney general, Robert Abrams (hopelessly liberal, Mr. DAmato said), in 1992, when Bill Clinton swept the state with a 1.2-million-vote margin on his way to winning the presidency.

I never once put him on television to talk, Mr. Finkelstein said of Mr. DAmato. He was completely irrelevant to the campaigns.

Those campaigns were vicious and mean, he told a college audience in Prague in 2011. Negative, negative, negative cause you cant possibly win otherwise.

The negatives used in the primary portraying Mr. Javits, at 76, as sick and aging were tempered in the 1980 general election campaign by an ad that famously featured Mr. DAmatos mother, armed with bags of groceries, lamenting the struggles of the middle class and urging, Vote for my son, Al.

That humanized me, Mr. DAmato recalled.

Mr. Finkelstein said, We had to prove Alfonse had a mother.

Mr. DAmato narrowly defeated his Democratic rival, Representative Elizabeth Holtzman, in the general election, in which Mr. Javits ran on the Liberal line.

As a gay, Jewish libertarian, Mr. Finkelstein helped elect homophobic candidates, once polled South Carolinians on whether they would support a rival candidate identified as a Jewish immigrant, and supported gay rights and abortion rights as what the political consultant Roger Stone, another of his protgs, called, in a phone interview, a situational conservative.

Still, Mr. Finkelstein suggested, he was not a hired gun who would provide his services to just anyone.

It would be very hard for me to work with somebody with whom I have fundamental disagreements, against someone with whom I agree, he said.

Mr. Finkelstein insisted that he never lied I do not slander somebody without proof, was how he put it but he acknowledged a generation ago that truth was fungible.

The most overwhelming fact of politics is what people do not know, he told the college students in Prague. In politics, its what you perceive to be true thats true, not truth. If I tell you one thing is true, you will believe the second thing is true. A good politician will tell you a few things that are true before he will tell you a few things that are untrue, because you will then believe all the things he has said, true and untrue.

Arthur Jay Finkelstein was born on May 18, 1945, in the East New York section of Brooklyn, the son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. His father, Morris, was a cabby. His mother was the former Zella Ordanksi. The family moved to Levittown, on Long Island, when he was 11, then to Queens, where he graduated from Forest Hills High School.

In 1967, Mr. Finkelstein earned a bachelors degree in economics and political science from Queens College. As a student, he sometimes shared a college radio program with Ayn Rand, the author and philosopher whose laissez-faire capitalism he would fiercely defend in street-corner debates in Greenwich Village.

After he volunteered in Barry Goldwaters 1964 presidential campaign, F. Clifton White, the architect of the Draft Goldwater movement, became his patron and recruited him to James Buckleys Senate race in 1970 as the candidate of the fledgling Conservative Party.

Invoking Richard M. Nixons silent majority, Mr. Finkelstein encapsulated Mr. Buckleys message in the catchphrase Isnt it time we had a senator?

Mr. Buckley went on to defeat the Republican incumbent, Charles E. Goodell, and the Democratic challenger, Representative Richard L. Ottinger.

In 1972, Mr. Finkelstein founded the Westchester County-based Arthur J. Finkelstein & Associates with his brother Ronald. In the 1976 presidential campaign, he was credited with helping Reagan, in an unsuccessful bid to deny President Gerald R. Ford the nomination, win crucial Republican primaries in North Carolina and Texas.

He later choreographed campaigns by his friend Ronald S. Lauder, the cosmetics heir, against Rudolph W. Giuliani in the 1989 Republican mayoral primary; a referendum to impose term limits on New York City elected officials; and races in Eastern Europe and in Israel, where he was recruited by supporters of Mr. Netanyahu and other conservative candidates of the Likud Party.

In his work for Mr. Netanyahu, the incumbent prime minister, in 1999, Mr. Finkelstein took on the Labor Party challenger, Ehud Barak (who was being advised by the Democratic consultants James Carville, Bob Shrum and Stanley Greenberg), with the campaign slogan Ehud Barak: Too Many Ambitions, Too Few Principles.

Mr. Netanyahu was defeated in that campaign, but Mr. Finkelstein returned to Israel to help Ariel Sharon oust Mr. Barak and later re-elect Mr. Netanyahu, taking back power for the Likud Party.

I would always say, Arthur, do you realizes how much were changing history? his colleague George Birnbaum recalled. He would say, I dont know how much were changing history; were touching history.

Philip Friedman, another political consultant, told The New York Times in 1994: Finkelstein is the ultimate sort of Dr. Strangelove, who believes you can largely disregard what the politicians are going to say and do, what the newspapers are going to do, and create a simple and clear and often negative message, which, repeated often enough, can bring you to victory.

Thanks largely to his brothers financial discipline, the messengers firm prospered, too.

Early in our friendship, Craig Shirley recalled last January on, I asked him whether it was Finkelsteen or Finkelstine (with a long i), and Arthur characteristically replied, If I was a poor Jew, it would be Finkelsteen, but since I am a rich Jew, its Finkelstine.

Mr. Finkelstein was openly gay, although his sexual orientation was not common knowledge until it became the subject of an article in Boston Magazine in 1996. He married Donald Curiale, his partner of more than 50 years, in a civil ceremony in 2004.

His survivors include Mr. Curiale; their daughters, Jennifer Elizabeth Delgado and Molly Julia Baird-Kelly; a granddaughter; and his brothers, Ronald and Barry.

Mr. Finkelstein smoked heavily, loved to gamble and was habitually rumpled.

Hed walk through the door carrying a poll tucked under his arm and take off his shoes and unfasten his tie, leaving the ends dangling, and start pacing up and down in his stocking feet, Richard Morgan wrote in The Fourth Witch (2008), describing a strategy session of the National Congressional Club. Then Tom Ellis would growl, O.K., youve told me about the poll. Now tell me the ad, and without blinking Arthur would go into a kind of trance and just dictate a 30-second ad.

Rarely photographed or interviewed, Mr. Finkelstein was unusually reflective during his 2011 public appearance in Prague, in which he discussed his accomplishments, the goals of negative campaigning and how television and the internet have altered politics since the eras of Goldwater, who remained one of his heroes, and Reagan.

I went into this as a kid to change the world, because I was an absolute ideologue, he said. I would stand outside on soapboxes in Greenwich Village at 3 in the morning and argue with people about the nature of freedom.

I said I wanted to change the world, I said I did, I made it worse, he added, without amplifying and, perhaps, with a dollop of self-deprecation. It wasnt what I wanted to do.

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the middle initial of George Pataki, the former governor of New York. It is E., not L.

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Arthur Finkelstein, Innovative, Influential Conservative Strategist, Dies at 72 – New York Times

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Why Stephen K. Bannon was such a failure – The Washington Post – Washington Post

Posted: at 6:42 pm

Stephen K. Bannon, the recently deposed architect ofPresident Trumps nonexistent populist agenda, wishes it was the 1930s.

That, of course, is what he promised to do: to make things as exciting now as they were back then. Now, he might not have been talking about the war or the depression or the fascists in other countries, but what he did mean was a politics where racial resentment and economic populism could once again exist side-by-side. Where Republicans could targetMuslims for special restrictionsand raise the top marginal tax rate to 44 percent; could cut legal immigration in half and undo free trade deals; could stick up for white supremacistsand spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. In other words, where the ideological heirs of the Dixiecrats were the ones calling the shots.

They havent been for a long time now.

Why not? Well, because our parties have sorted themselves based on race first and economics second. The political history of the past 100 years, you see, has really been the story of the rise and fall of the New Deal coalition. Franklin D. Roosevelts response to the Great Depression brought blacks, liberals, Northern ethnics and Southern whites all together until the civil rights movement drove them apart. Its true that the Dixiecrats the Jim Crow-supporting Southerners who left the Democratic Party to form their own, before eventually migrating over to the Republican one werent all in favor of big government, but a lot of them were. Forced to choose between that and racial backlash, however, they chose racial backlash, whether that wascalls for law and order or denunciations of welfare queens or, in the past few years, chants of build the wall.

Bannon didnt want them to choose anymore. He understood that a lot of Republicans dont care about Ayn Rand-inspired odes to heroic entrepreneurs, or paeans to the Schumpeterian beauty of creative destruction, or how much capital gains are taxed. They want their Social Security and their Medicare. Theyre called Trump voters, and they arent really represented in Washington. Thats because the money men and interest groups that members of Congress rely on ensure complete ideological conformity on the issue nearest and dearest to the hearts or rather the wallets of the donor class: how much theyre taxed. Bannon wanted to change that so people could get Democratic economic policies together with a Republican brand of racial pandering.

The only problem is you cant. Just look at Bannons proposal to increase the top tax rate to 44 percent. Who was ever going to vote for that? Republicans never would when their partys entire raison detre for the past 40 years has been keeping taxes as low as possible on the rich. And neither would Democrats when Bannon had alienated them about as much as possible with his barely disguised attempt to ban Muslims. The same was true of infrastructure. Republicans didnt really want to do it, and Democrats didnt want to with Trump. It reduced Bannon to being able to do little more than alternately insist that he wanted to build a rainbow coalition of populists we’ll get 60 percent of the white vote and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote, and well govern for 50 years, he rather modestly claimed and cheer, for example, when Trump said last Fridays neo-Nazi rally was full of very fine people. Bannon never understood that one made the other impossible.

Bannon thought he was a revolutionary, but he was just whistling Dixie.


Why Stephen K. Bannon was such a failure – The Washington Post – Washington Post

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HARTMAN: The Quiet Man Who Changed the World – The Hayride

Posted: at 6:42 pm

My friend and mentor Arthur J. Finkelstein died last night. If youve never heard of him, thats how he wanted it.

The son of Belarusian immigrants, Arthur was born in the 1940s and grew up in Brooklyn. He was a mathematical savant, and went to Columbia University. He crossed paths with Ayn Rand, and at one point in his young life was a collaborator on her radio show in New York City.

In his early 20s, Arthur was hired as a data analyst for the Nixon Administration. By 1972, he was producing commercials for Nixons reelection campaign. He went on to consult for the likes of Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms, Alphonse DAmato, George Pataki and Ronald Reagan, merging his ability to gather and analyze data at an astonishing pace with his sharply creative mind. At one point in the mid-1990s, a significant plurality of United States senators were Arthurs clients. He only worked for Republicans. Overseas, he worked for Ariel Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu. He consulted for prime ministers and presidents all over Europe.

Because Arthur couldnt be everywhere, he made a practice of discovering and cultivating young talent. He sent me to the Czech Republic for months to work in a national race, and to Nigeria for a week during that countrys tumultuous 2015 presidential campaign. He sent one of my friends to Kosovo before Kosovo was even a country and my friend stayed for four years, advising the fledgling government with Arthurs remote guidance.

CNN once called Arthur the Kaiser Soze of American politics, referencing the shadowy, never-seen crime boss in The Usual Suspects. Some people, it was reported, didnt think Arthur even existed, but that his name was a bogeyman invoked to scare liberal opponents. I laughed when I read that, having had dinner with Arthur in New Orleans only a week earlier. He existed. He definitely existed, larger than life to those who knew him, and nobody at all to the public at large. Ill admit to a sort of sardonic pleasure when I was with Arthur in public, thinking to myself, Nobody knows who this man is, but he has done so much to impact their lives.

Arthur was kind, brilliant, sly, unassuming and hilarious. He didnt just employ me on occasion, but he was my friend. He rarely called, but often emailed often random messages like, Happy Friday! or Good morning! Hope youre well. He began every conversation with, good morning!, regardless of the actual time of day; I attributed it to the fact that he was constantly changing time zones in his travels and work.

He alternated between horrible eating habits and hardcore dieting. I sat in lunch meetings with him where he ate nothing but slices of swiss cheese, and once had dinner with him at an outdoor caf in Prague, watching him eat a raw onion dipped in fondue.

He rarely (if ever) dressed formally. He traveled the world with a carryon bag, and I dont think I ever saw him in anything but khakis, a blue button-down shirt and, occasionally, a navy blazer. He wore only loafers, which he took off unabashedly as he paced a room giving lectures on poll data, dictating a press release, or laying out a strategy. He once told me that after an extended meeting with President Reagan and James Baker in the Oval Office, he received a letter from Baker: Dear Mr. Finkelstein: Thank you for meeting with me and the President last week, and thank you for keeping your shoes on most of the time.

Arthur didnt like technology. He didnt have a laptop, but only a Blackberry. He kept his campaign plans scrawled in pencil on pages torn from a legal pad, which he carried in his breast pocket. He and I once had a somewhat furtive meeting with a world leader at a restaurant in a remote village near the Czech-Austrian border. When he asked me for the poll data, I pulled out my laptop and opened it. He looked at me like I was an idiot and asked where the actual BINDER of poll information was. It was hidden in a safe place in my hotel, but he would have preferred paper.

Arthur rarely worked for candidates in races that were smaller than statewide or national, but he made exceptions for friends, including California Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack and Florida Congressman Connie Mack. (He sent one of my associates to work on Marys campaign for a full 14 months; he asked me to go work full-time for Connie in 2010, leading up to Connies Senate run, and I declined; although I rarely said no to a request from Arthur, it turns out that was a good call on my part.)

When the Washington Post first reported that he was gay in the 1990s, Arthur was irked not because he was ashamed, but because it was nobodys business. He wasnt a celebrity or public figure, and he didnt want to be. Hillary Clinton made some snarky comments about him when that story broke, and he never forgave her. When she was first gearing up to run for president, Arthur launched a website called, dedicated just to her.

One of my former associates once emailed me that while taking a graduate course he was assigned a chapter to present to the class. It was called, The Most Evil Man in America, and it was about Arthur. I asked Clifton if he told the professor he actually knew the Evil Man in question; he replied that he hadnt, and wasnt going to until the semester was over. Arthur was not evil, although Mrs. Clinton and a bevy of other Democrats would disagree with me.

Arthur was intensely private. He didnt grant interviews. He didnt like to be photographed. He didnt like being in the news. When then-GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia sent an angry tweet that referred to presidential candidate Rick Perrys pollster as a faggot, it became news and some media linked the pollster in question to Arthur because they had worked on the same campaign once, more than 20 years earlier. Arthur was livid. He called me to vent, in part because I had arranged for he and LaSalvia to meet in Boston only a few months earlier.

Arthur and his husband Donald were together for 50 years, and had children and grandchildren. Donald, a teacher, held down the family front while Arthur traveled, changing the world.

That is what he did, you see: He changed the world. Without fanfare, without drawing attention to himself, without a spotlight, Arthur worked hard to elect good people to high office. Excluding some candidates and office-holders, its impossible to think of a single person who has had as much impact on American politics and, indeed, global politics as did my friend Arthur. Excluding very few, its hard to think of a single person who has had such an impact on me, on my life and career.

The Kaiser Soze of American politics, the Most Evil Man in America, arguably the most impactful man in modern politics, has gone on to the next life. I will miss him. I already do. Many in the world will feel the loss, without noticing or even knowing about it. Arthurs legacy is vast and important, and invisible to most.

Thats how he wanted it.

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Contested law presents clear and present threat to America’s democracy – St. Paul Asian American Press

Posted: at 6:42 pm

By Clarence Hightower, Ph.D.The Anti-Poverty Soldier

Clarence Hightower, Ph.D.

Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).Ayn Rand

For this nation to remain true to its principles, we cannot allow any Americans vote to be denied, diluted, or defiled. The right to vote is the crown jewel of American liberties, and we will not see its luster diminished. President Ronald Reagan

The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men. President Lyndon B. Johnson

The true way and the easiest way is to make our government entirely consistent with itself and give every loyal citizen the elective franchise. Frederick Douglass

Voting is the right on which all other rights depend. Thomas Paine

Before I proceed, please forgive the seemingly excessive number of quotes I have cited. I sincerely believe, however, that they are all particularly germane to the topic of this column.

What I find particularly interesting about them, is that they represent extreme ends of the political spectrum across three centuries, and include two statements from abolitionists one of which has been called The father of the American Revolution. And in spite of the ideological differences shared by these individuals, their sentiments in this particular arena are the same.

Although this rhetoric highlights some of our nations most lofty principles, it goes without saying that America has not always lived up to these principles regardless of when they were spoken or written. Consider the extermination and forced relocation of Americas indigenous population, the institution of chattel slavery, the eras of Reconstruction and Jim Crow, Exclusion and Internment Camps, and the Civil Rights and Womens Suffrage movements. For the better part of our history, American citizens have been denied basic human rights including the right to vote.

Some point out, quite convincingly, that even after the passage of landmark decisions such as Brown v. The Board of Education or The Civil Rights Act of 1964, American democracy has left millions upon millions behind. Far too many Americans are still subject to poverty, housing and employment discrimination, substandard schools, inadequate healthcare, segregated neighborhoods, and environmental racism and classism. Still, we must remember that people fought, bled, and died for the right to be free, the right to education, the right to work, and the right to vote.

In 2013, almost 50 years after the first Selma to Montgomery march, which became known as Bloody Sunday (and the subsequent passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional. Writing for Newsweek, Jamal Hagler of the Center for American Progress contends that this 5 to 4 decision struck a devastating blow to voting rights, reducing federal oversight of elections and giving rise to a new era of voter suppression.

Moreover, as several others reveal, the movement to impede voting rights has been ongoing for the last several years. According to the NYU Brennan Center for Justice more than 40 states have proposed restrictive voting laws since the 2010 election. And, 24 of these states, which include Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio, have passed new voting restrictions such as photo ID laws, proof of citizenship requirements, and limited registration and early voting periods.

While some have taken to the notion, without any evidence mind you, that there was rampant voter fraud during the 2016 elections, journalist Ari Berman presents an alternate view noting that this was the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.

If that is not depressing enough, a plan by the state of Ohio to permanently remove tens of thousands of registered voters from its electoral rolls, which was previously cited as unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals, all of a sudden has the support of the U.S. Justice Department. This attempt to purge voters from its rolls is based solely on whether or not the individual has cast a ballot in the last two years.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the State of Ohios appeal, which critics say is specifically designed to target people of color and the poor. A statement from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund argues that The DOJs interpretation of federal law would leave Americans vulnerable to getting purged from the voter rolls, dispossessing millions of a fundamental right simply because they did not exercise it. President of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Kristen Clarke, soberly adds that The Justice Departments latest action opens the door for wide-scale and unlawful purging of the voter registration rolls across our country.

Sure, our American democracy isnt nor has ever been perfect. But these latest trends bare the scent of something far worse.

Clarence Hightower is the Executive Director of Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties. Dr. Hightower holds a Ph.D. in urban higher education from Jackson State University. He welcomes reader responses to 450 Syndicate Street North, St. Paul, MN 55104

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Review: An Ayn Rand Affair and God’s Squash Game, at Summer Shorts – New York Times

Posted: August 4, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Photo From left, Orlagh Cassidy, Sam Lilja and Bront England-Nelson in Acolyte, part of the Summer Shorts mini-festival at 59E59 Theaters. Credit Carol Rosegg

Ayn Rands life was so extraordinary it was made to be fictionalized. Graham Moore did just that in his one-act play Acolyte, which revolves around Rands affair with her much younger disciple Nathan Branden (Sam Lilja). In Mr. Moores telling, set in 1954, Rands husband, Frank (Ted Koch), appears too drunk to care, while Brandens wife, Barbara (Bront England-Nelson), reacts with shock and indignation.

Acolyte, which concludes Series A of 59E59 Theaters annual Summer Shorts mini-festival, is so tantalizing that you want to know more about what happened, yet it also works perfectly in 30 tight minutes. (Dramatizing history is a specialty for Mr. Moore, who won an Oscar for his screenplay for The Imitation Game, about the British codebreaker Alan Turing, and whose novel The Last Days of Night pits Thomas Edison against George Westinghouse.)

As written by Mr. Moore and portrayed by Orlagh Cassidy, Rand is a coiled snake, an aloof, superior smile on her lips as she watches the others, before unleashing silver-tongued, self-serving sophistry. Here, she applies to her marital and extramarital business the self-interest she extolled in her writings. Mr. Moore sometimes becomes bogged down in philosophical jargon, but Acolyte is a chilling depiction of the mechanics of a gurus hold on others.

Opening the evening is Melissa Rosss Jack, a seemingly lighthearted piece that lands quite the emotional punch. Ms. Ross confirms the ear for dialogue and attention to revealing details she displayed a couple of years ago in Nice Girl directed, like Jack, by Mimi ODonnell. Here, Ms. Ross economically describes people figuring out how to relate to each other following their divorce. Six months after splitting, George and Maggie (Quincy Dunn-Baker and Claire Karpen, both pitch-perfect) meet to sort out some unfinished business connected to the (unseen) title character. Ms. Ross sometimes flirts with cutesiness but always stops short, and she neatly captures the ebb and flow of a conversation the passive-aggressive jabs, the bad-faith questioning, the illogical leaps, but also the underlying affection and trust earned over during a long relationship.

Alan Zweibel supplies the sugary filling in the Series A sandwich with Playing God, a comic interlude in which the Supreme Being (Bill Buell) punishes a callow doctor (Dana Watkins) by taunting him into a game of squash. It may feel like an extended skit, but Mr. Zweibel a member of the original Saturday Night Live writing team and the co-creator of Its Garry Shandlings Show has a way with old-school one-liners. He also has a perfect accomplice in Mr. Buell: The actors face does not appear to move, his inflection does not really vary, and yet he somehow kills with every single line. Perhaps that is what God-given talent means.

Category Off Broadway, Play

Credits “Playing God” by Alan Zweibel, directed by Maria Mileaf ; “Jack” by Melissa Ross, directed by Mimi O’Donnell; “Acolyte” by Graham Moore, directed by Alexander Dinelaris

Cast Bill Buell, Flora Diaz, Dana Watkins, Welker White, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Claire Karpen, Orlagh Cassidy, Ted Koch, Sam Lilja, and Bront England-Nelson

Preview July 21, 2017

Opened July 30, 2017

Closing Date September 1, 2017

This information was last updated: Aug. 4, 2017

Summer Shorts Series A Through Sept. 1 at 59E59 Theaters, Manhattan, 212-279-4200, Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

A version of this review appears in print on August 3, 2017, on Page C6 of the New York edition with the headline: On the Bill? God and Ayn Rand.

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Review: An Ayn Rand Affair and God’s Squash Game, at Summer Shorts – New York Times

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Letter: Message to planet Ayn Rand – Arizona Daily Star

Posted: July 29, 2017 at 7:38 pm

Re: the July 28 column “What do we really have a ‘right’ to? Think principles, not entitlements.”

Well, that is certainly a load of laughable pie in the sky. Message to planet Ayn Rand: Human beings live in complex societies. Human beings historically don’t do too well on their own. There is a concept of civitas worth considering. Does the writer live in self-sustaining bubble out in the desert? Does he drive on the roads, does he have a library card, does he drink clean water out of a tap, does he take Social Security, does he avail himself of public services and Tucson Parks and Recreation?

There is give and take. Services are taken and payment is given. This applies morally as well. Principles are nice. But instead of citing Patrick Henry, the writer should adopt a roadway and pick up some trash. Be a citizen.

Disclaimer: As submitted to the Arizona Daily Star.

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Letter: Message to planet Ayn Rand – Arizona Daily Star

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‘The Government Is Not Structured To Do Health Care,’ Says President Of Ayn Rand Institute – The Daily Caller

Posted: at 7:38 pm

The Republican plan to replace Obamacare did not go nearly far enough in repealing government intervention in the health care market, the president of the nonprofit Ayn Rand Institute, Yaron Brook, told The Daily Caller.

Brook argues that Republicansshould push to roll back the government restrictions that existed in the health care system even before the Affordable Care Act, so that we can really see how a free market health care system can work.

The replace would be very different from what I think the Republicans are proposing. Im against just repealing Obamacare because before Obamacare health care in the U.S. was heading in a bad direction. The cost was too high, too many people did not have insurance. But the solution to it is not more government, the solution is less government, he told TheDC.

Brook is the author of Equal is Unfair: Americas Misguided Fight Against Income Inequality, and a staunch advocate for the free market and capitalism. The Ayn Rand Institute pushes an objectivist political philosophy.

He is calling on Republicans to completely deregulate the insurance industry so that theres none of these requirements to cover pre-existing conditions or requirements to cover I dont know acupuncture and alternative health and all the nonsense that has to be covered in every single policy which makes it so expensive. Let there be a true, free market in insurance policies, let there be a true free market in doctors, in hospitals, let there be transparent pricing, real competition. I mean, so the replace should be more free market. I dont know why the assumption is that by replace, you have to replace it with more government programs. No, the replace should be to take all the pre-Obamacare government programs, eliminate them completely and establish a completely free market in health care, he told TheDC.

Brook went on to say that, I would prefer that we ban states from regulating the health insurance industries but I guess the Federalists among the Republicans would object to that. The state has no business regulating health Insurance. I, as the consumer, am in a far better position than any government bureaucrat to determine what kind of health insurance I should buy for myself. All of this is premised in the assumption that we are too stupid to know whats good for us and that a government bureaucrat is in a better position to know.

The government has been involved in the health care industry in the United States since World War II. Ever sincethen, the government has been largely unsuccessful in creating policies that drive prices down and improve the quality of health care. When asked why he thinks the government is unable to do health care well, he said, I ask audiences all the time, what do they think the iPhone would look like if the government designed it? Everybody always laughs because everybody knows its an absurd question because the iPhone wouldnt exist and if it existed it would be this monster, ugly, inefficient, unproductive instrument that nobody would want to use. And then I ask them OK, well if you dont trust the iPhone to government why are you willing to trust health care to government? The government is not structured to do health care, and it cannot be structured to do it because the essence of government is force.

The essence of government is a gun, its coercion, its compulsion. Coercion, compulsion and force have no place in health care. Health care, like all other goods and services, should be a product of voluntary trade between individuals. Theres no place for compulsion, theres not place for force, theres no place for the mindlessness, that is the essential characteristic of almost all government programs.

Last Friday Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) said that the Senate bill is still unacceptable and the Medicaid cuts are too deep. In the past, Kasich has asserted that it is his Evangelical duty to keep and expand Medicaid and to do otherwise would be immoral. Brook says that, I mean I agree with him from an Evangelical perspective that its immoral to cut medicaid. I think that until we get rid of the morality and moral code of Evangelicals, we will not get rid of Obamacare, we will not cut medicaid, we will not transition to free market health care. Free market health care requires a completely different, moral, ethical approach. It requires the morality of individualism. It is my moral responsibility to my family and self and then, if I choose to help other people, it has to be my voluntary choice and it has to be consistent with my values.

Free market capitalism in America requires an Ayn Rand moral code. It requires a moral code of rational self interest and thats the real challenge. That is the real barrier that prevents Republicans from truly repealing Obamacare.

In the event that Obamacare is completely repealed, Dr. Brook sympathizes with those who will lose their health insurance. Once you stop subsidizing as much as Obamacare does and take the mandate away, a lot of people will not buy health insurance. But part of the reason for that is that all the regulations that preexist in Obamacare make health insurance too expensive. So I sympathize with people who say I cant afford my health insurance, thats sad, its not a good thing. The solution to that is not more government intervention, the solution to that is less government intervention. More competitive insurance markets and more options in terms of types of insurance insurance companies should be able to sell. And if you do that, then there will be insurance policies cheap enough so that those 22 million people can get and will get coverage.

Even with the Senate, the House and the White House, Republicans are struggling to put forward a viable alternative to Obamacare. With #RepealObamacare trending on Twitter recently, many members of Trumps base are urgingthe GOP to repeal Obamacare completely. This week, President Trump reminded the Republicans that they must keep their promise to America and repeal Obamacare.

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Ayn Rand or Jesus Christfor Health Care Reform? What would Ayn Rand Paul Ryan do? – The Good Men Project (blog)

Posted: July 20, 2017 at 3:41 am

What would Ayn Rand Paul Ryan do?

The Religious Right has driven the GOPs party platform since it hijacked the party in the 80s.

And now that the Republicans are dancing with the devil who brought them to the 2016 Election dance, regular Americans should wonderwhy are the loudest voices against affordable health care, Medicare, and Medicaid, also the ones who talk about their faith the loudest?

And how do theyfrom the libertarian wing of the GOP to the Tea Party faithful, from Rand Paul to Paul Ryan and a large swath of leading politiciansreconcile their love for Ayn Rands anti-collectivist, pro-capitalism, anti-altruistic, and anti-religion beliefs with the patriotic Christianity that they layer in every public policy iteration and rhetorical soundbite?

Seriously. How do they do it?

Either this is high-level genius thinking, contradiction beyond reproach, an understanding of the Christian Gospels that differs from generations of those who have interpreted religious text as altruistic and compassionate, or a new form of logic that is fit only for politicians.

Or something elselike malignant narcissism, magical thinking, confirmation bias, and/or the need for power.

The powerful have always done what they want because they can, whether its writing religion, grandstanding on religious principles, or lying to the public enough so that the faithful wont think twice.

But were all supposed to be smarter than that at this point, yes?

Lets talk about it.

Respond below!

Photo: Getty Images

Jeremy McKeen is a high school English teacher, coach, musician, and father of three. He has been featured on Salon, The Huffington Post, Yahoo! Parenting, Scary Mommy, YourTango, and Medium, among other magazines and blogs. In addition to his column on The Good Men Project, he is also a Lead Editor. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Ayn Rand or Jesus Christfor Health Care Reform? What would Ayn Rand Paul Ryan do? – The Good Men Project (blog)

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Steve Bannon’s Devastating Paul Ryan Burn Will Make You Want to Crawl Into a Hole and Die – GQ Magazine

Posted: July 19, 2017 at 4:39 am

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Make it stop.

Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist composed of two parts vile racism and one part Jabba the Hutt, doesn’t do many public appearances these days. But the nuggets that do trickle out about what he says in private indicate that he is equipped with an unsurprisingly sharp (and occasionally anti-Semitic) tongue. A new book profiling Bannon’s meteoric rise from xenophobic blogger to West Wing confidante has already yielded some batshit details about his private life, but this onean insult he used to describe Paul Ryan, whom Bannon feared would try to steal the nomination from Donald Trump at the GOP conventionis so devastatingly cruel that it made me want to lay down on the floor and quietly wait for death’s sweet release.


News & Culture

Paul Ryan Still Hasn’t Recovered from This Hero Teen’s Devastating Dab

Here it is, courtesy of TPM:

According to Green, Bannon also waged his assault-by-epithet aloud in Breitbarts Washington, D.C. headquarters: He described the House speaker as a limp-dick motherfucker who was born in a petri dish at the Heritage Foundation.”

A memorial service for what little remained of Paul Ryan’s soul will be held on Thursday afternoon at 2 P.M. outside of the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, California. Attire is country club casual and/or grungy YMCA chic. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Planned Parenthood of America.


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Steve Bannon’s Devastating Paul Ryan Burn Will Make You Want to Crawl Into a Hole and Die – GQ Magazine

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