Gordon Gekko: Stop telling lies about me and I'll stop telling the truth about you. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) Scams and rackets, hoaxes and frauds … are as old as humanity itself. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that over 25 million Americans lose in excess of $2.5 billion to fraud each year. Science, the exemplar of the taming of Nature by Reason, is not exempt from swindles. Indeed, the cloak of respectability facilitates longer-running rackets that ensnare the good, the bad, and the ugly (of character). The Piltdown fossils were claimed to be half ape, half man. If only. The famous Beringer fossils were all pre-planted to fool Beringer. The remains of the ten-foot-tall Cardiff Giant, an exhibition that attracted enthusiasts from afar, were carved out of stone. Then there was “Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” a prank (known as Sokal’s Hoax) by a physicist—a willfully nonsensical paper that a then-respected journal published. Sokal was only having an inside laugh at his own profession. But some fields are so open to a corruption of the mind, that the con artists...
This Women’s History Month, we turn to words of female empowerment from an unlikely source: Gene Simmons. In the age of #MeToo, the mere suggestion that the long-tongued KISS co-founder and frontman might have something valuable to say should make heads spin. Once heads stop spinning, some women’s heads may actually explode upon hearing what Simmons actually has to say. The rock mega-rockstar acknowledges as much in his recent best seller, On Power. “If you are a woman, I must say something...that will make me sound like a misogynistic blowhard.  But please get past that knee-jerk reaction because it is not your friend in the real world.” In the real world Simmons writes about, men and women are different.  He argues that women -- particularly beautiful women -- have a power that that they may choose to ignore, or to exploit: The power of sexual attractiveness. His peroration on the power of female sexual attractiveness goes on for pages, employing more italics than any other section in the book.  It’s worth quoting at length: “So let me say this clearly: Ladies, if you are interested in harnessing this type of power, first be honest with yourself about how you look.  That is to say, be honest about how you are perceived.  And if you find that you have this power that is unique to your sex, you should not feel ashamed to use it.”   “People may look down on you or try to shame you for it.  Do not listen to them. Your...
Ayn Rand polarizes.  There are those who declare that everything about Ayn Rand has already been decided. Whether Andrei is better than Leo, what Dominique really wanted, whether John Galt is one dimensional, what Rand meant by the train wreck, whether anarchy is politically viable, whether you can mention the names “Nathaniel Branden” and “Barbara Branden,” and what is up with Eddie Willers—for over 70 years, in journals, newsletters, internet forums, and books, it has all been discussed to death. There are others who claim that where Ayn Rand is concerned, there is nothing to discuss. She is a bad writer with dangerous, reactionary views. Period. Then there are those who love her, but who have put her away, as they would put away childish things, for the sake of respectability. Finally, there are those, of whom I am one, who practice a form of Open Objectivism, using Ayn Rand’s ideas as a point of departure for their own journey through life. But that isn’t really what I want to write about, except to say that I know. My perspective on Ayn Rand is a little different. I did not read her work seriously until I was an adult and facing some very adult problems, which she helped me to solve. This essay is not about how everything worked out for the best, however. It is about the tools used and the hard work done during midlife to right my course and to make the life I want with the time I have left. It is about how I found Ayn Rand’s ideas indispensable to creating that life, even...
Venus was the most beautiful baby born, but she was cursed in two ways: First, no one knew who her father was, her mother deftly convincing the village that the father was Zeus. The second curse was that she was indeed beautiful. She drew looks of appraisal and sometimes envy from everyone she passed. But she felt tremendous shame because she thought they were staring at her because of her illegitimacy. When she reached puberty the type of attention from most men and some women changed, uncomfortably so. Now the looks had something of an erotic hunger. One hot August afternoon, when everyone was taking their naps, she snuck out to bathe by the cool stream. From his bedroom window a young farmer neighbor saw her heading towards the stream and stealthily followed her. After watching her bathe naked, the farmer felt compelled to approach her and forced her to make love with him. The signs of violation were unmistakable to her mother, so the next day she took the unwilling Venus to be a servant in their island’s temple. The priestess protected and mentored Venus teaching her music, dance, reading, writing, aesthetics, political discourse, and philosophy. More importantly, her mentor treated Venus with respect and taught her how to honor the goddess within. It was difficult to cast aside her shame but over time Venus grew in empathy for herself and for humanity. In her authenticity, she inspired women to embrace their sensual power and inner beauty, and to stand naked and proud. In...
Leonard and Peggy Robinson There are dozens of Black History Month “reading lists” which include many books you might expect, ranging from biographies of civil rights leaders to novels by Toni Morrison and poetry by Maya Angelou.  A book you would never expect to appear on any of these lists is The Virtue of Selfishness, by Ayn Rand.  And yet that’s the book that helped shape how Peggy (85) and Leonard Robinson (88) would think about their identity -- as teachers, parents, citizens, and above all, individuals, who also happen to be African-American. I spoke to the couple, who will soon celebrate their 64th wedding anniversary, from their home in Crowley, Louisiana -- about an hour east of my mother’s hometown of St. Martinville.  Their 18-year-old grandson, Leonard Robinson III, an avid Ayn Rand fan, had told me about how on his 13th birthday, his grandfather gave him a copy of The Fountainhead -- which became his favorite book, and shaped his political development.   Ayn Rand?  Her literature, even her name, was unknown to my Louisiana relatives.  And the deep south of my childhood summers remains relatively racially segregated to this day -- not by law but by economic and social inertia. So how did an African-American couple who grew up in an era of segregated schools, separate water fountains, and overt racism come to be inspired enough by Ayn Rand that they would hand her books down to their grandson, in the...

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