Category Archives: Culture

JARS: Our Twentieth Anniversary Celebration Concludes

I am delighted and deeply honored to announce the publication of the second of two issues celebrating the twentieth anniversary of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. The December 2020 issue will be making its debut shortly on JSTOR; print subscribers should expect the second of these two historic issues in the weeks thereafter.

Issue #40 (Volume 20, Number 2) – December 2020

As I mentioned back on June 5, 2020, we decided to devote two issues to reviewing those works in the general area of Rand studies, which have never been critically appraised in our pages. The list of works reviewed in this second issue of volume 20 are:

The Vision of Ayn Rand: The Basic Principles of Objectivism, by Nathaniel Branden

Think as If Your Life Depends on It: Principles of Efficient Thinking and Other Lectures, by Barbara Branden

The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, edited by Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Edward W. Younkins

Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government, by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins

Foundations of a Free Society: Reflections on Ayn Rand’s Political Philosophy, edited by Gregory Salmieri and Robert Mayhew

Culture and Liberty: Writings of Isabel Paterson, by Isabel Paterson (edited by Stephen Cox)

Myth, Meaning, and Antifragile Individualism: On the Ideas of Jordan Peterson, by Marc Champagne

Ayn Rand: An Introduction, by Eamonn Butler

Atlas Rising: Ayn Rand and Silicon Valley by The Atlas Rising Institute

Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed, by Lisa Duggan

Bucking the Artworld Tide: Reflections on Art, Pseudo Art, Art Education & Theory, by Michelle Marder Kamhi

The Soul of Atlas: Ayn Rand, Christianity, a Quest for Common Ground, by Mark David Henderson

The Perfectionist Turn: From Metanorms to Metaethics, by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen

***

As is the case with every issue, we have introduced at least one new contributor to the JARS family. This issue brings debut pieces from four new contributors: Onar Am, Alec Mouhibian, Molly Sechrest, and Amos Wollen.

Here is our Table of Contents for Volume 20, Number 2 (the abstracts can be found here; contributor biographies can be found here):

The Man Who Would Be Galt – Dennis C. Hardin

Something That Used to Be Objectivism: Barbara Branden’s Psycho-Epistemology – Robert L. Campbell

The Dialectics of Liberty – Allen Mendenhall

Free Market Revolution: Partial or Complete? – Chris Matthew Sciabarra

From Defiant Egoist to Submissive Citizen: Is There a Bridge? Why the Hell Is There a Bridge? – Roderick T. Long

Goddess of the Republic – Alec Mouhibian

Peterson, Rand, and Antifragile Individualism – Onar Am

Introducing Ayn Rand – Edward W. Younkins

Silicon Rand – Troy Camplin

Ayn Rand: Mean Girl? – Mimi Reisel Gladstein

Bucking the Artworld Tide – Molly Sechrest

Ayn Rand and Christianity: The Virtuous Parallels – Amos Wollen

The Perfectionist Turn – David Gordon

Eudaimon in the Rough: Perfecting Rand’s Egoism – Roger E. Bissell

Index to Volume 20

Those seeking to subscribe to the journal should visit the sites linked here. And—as we march into the third decade of this remarkable journal—those wishing to submit manuscripts for consideration should follow the instructions here.

Once again, I wish to express my deepest appreciation to my co-editors, our board of advisors, our contributors, and most of all, our readers, without whom we would never have been able to publish this grand finale—the longest single issue in the history of our journal—to our twentieth anniversary volume.

As I said in the Introduction to Volume 20, Number 1: “Here’s to another two decades and beyond of JARS triumphs . . . two decades, or until such time as Rand studies have so penetrated the literary and philosophic canon that specialized journals of this nature are no longer required.”

Whitey Ford, RIP

I just learned that legendary New York Yankees pitcher, Whitey Ford, died last night at the age of 91.

A native New Yorker, the Hall of Fame left-hander pitched with the Yankees through eleven pennants and six World Series championships (earning the World Series MVP in 1961). He was a Cy Young Award winner and ten-time All-Star, a true baseball great whose #16 was retired to Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.

The Yankees could use a little Whitey Ford magic tonight as they face off against the Tampa Bay Rays in the fifth and deciding game of the Division Series, which catapults the winner into a best-of-seven series against the Houston Astros (grrrr…). This Yankee fan will settle for a great game from pitcher Gerrit Cole and some fireworks from the Yankee line-up.

In mourning the passing of the Chairman of the Board (not to be confused with that other Chairman of the Board), I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that it was just last Friday, that the baseball world lost another pitching giant: Bob Gibson (who died at the age of 84). This, after the loss, in September, of the great Tom Seaver.

I know this has been a screwed-up baseball season—a mirror image of a screwed-up year. All the more reason to celebrate the stars of baseball’s yesteryear, as we cherish whatever the great American pastime has to offer us today, tomorrow, or in future seasons!

RIP, Whitey; RIP, Bob.

Postscript (10 October 2020): Alas, the Yanks coulda used a couple of more hitters last night… no American League Pennant or World Series this year. Good luck to the Tampa Bay Rays—here’s hoping they beat those Cheatin’, Lyin’ Astros, and go all the way, to bring to their city a World Series Championship to match the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup Win.

Postscript (15 October 2020): Sadly, I failed to note the passing of three other Hall of Famers this year: Lou Brock (September 6, 2020) and Joe Morgan (October 11, 2020). And way back on April 6th: Al Kaline. RIP.

Eddie Van Halen, RIP

There are so many articles and posts that have been written in memory of the legendary rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who died yesterday at the age of 65. I couldn’t begin to do justice to the legacy he left behind as one of the most influential rock guitarists of his generation.

But one story did give me a chuckle—as well as insights into Van Halen’s creative contributions, even to other artist’s work. Several writers, including Denise Quan, Damian Jones, and Hillel Italie, recount the story of how the great Quincy Jones contacted the guitarist to provide what would become a sizzling, memorable star-turn solo for Michael Jackson‘s groundbreaking “Beat It” from his 1982 album, “Thriller“—transforming that song into a bona fide Grammy-winning Record of the Year. As Italie writes:

Before Eddie Van Halen agreed to add a guitar break to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” one of the most famous cameos in rock history, he had to be sure the phone call from producer Quincy Jones wasn’t a practical joke.

“I went off on him. I went, ‘What do you want, you f-ing so-and-so!,’ ” Van Halen told CNN in 2012, 30 years after he worked on the song. “And he goes, ‘Is this Eddie?’ I said, ‘Yeah, what the hell do you want?’ ‘This is Quincy.’ I’m thinking to myself, ‘I don’t know anyone named Quincy.’ He goes, ‘Quincy Jones, man.’ I went, ‘Ohhh, sorry!’ ”

Van Halen, who died Tuesday at age 65, needed less than an hour in the studio and 20 scorching seconds on record to join white heavy metal to Black pop at a time when they seemed in entirely different worlds, when the young MTV channel rarely aired videos by Black artists. “Beat It” became one of the signature tracks on Jackson’s mega-selling “Thriller” album, won Grammys in 1984 for record of the year and male rock vocal performance and helped open up MTV’s programming.

When Van Halen arrived at the studio in Los Angeles, Jones told him he could improvise. Van Halen listened to “Beat It,” asked if he could rearrange the song and added a pair of solos during which, engineers would long swear, a speaker caught on fire.

As he was finishing, Jackson walked in. “I didn’t know how he would react to what I was doing. So I warned him before he listened. I said, ‘Look, I changed the middle section of your song,’ ” Van Halen told CNN. “Now in my mind, he’s either going to have his bodyguards kick me out for butchering his song, or he’s going to like it. And so he gave it a listen, and he turned to me and went, ‘Wow, thank you so much for having the passion to not just come in and blaze a solo, but to actually care about the song, and make it better.’ ” …

After the record’s release, Van Halen would remember shopping in a Tower Records while “Beat It” was playing on the sound system. “The solo comes on, and I hear these kids in front of me going, ‘Listen to this guy trying to sound like Eddie Van Halen,’” he said. “I tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘That IS me!’ That was hilarious.”

Another amazingly talented musician has left us. And for those who forgot how good he sounded on “Beat It”—check out the Bob Girardi-directed video again:

RIP, Eddie.

Postscript (8 October 2020): Courtesy of my cousin Michael Turzilli, I learned that there was footage from the Victory Tour—the only time Eddie Van Halen appeared on-stage with Michael Jackson (and the Jacksons) to perform “Beat It” live in concert in Texas. Apparently, once word got out that Eddie had done this, his record label pretty much said: “There will be no more of that.” Check it out below!

Coronavirus (29): Medical Procedures in the Age of COVID … And I’m Still Alive!

When you walk into my urologist’s office, there’s this sign at the appointment desk. It reads:

This too shall pass.
It might pass like a kidney stone.
But it will pass.


I can’t think of a more fitting description of this past year. Or of my medical experiences throughout 2020—a number that has become an adjective unto itself. As in: “Oh no! Please don’t tell me this is gonna be another 2020 moment!” Though let me hasten to add—for those of you who have said to me, “I can’t wait for 2020 to end! Bring on 2021!”—please don’t rush your precious lives away. After all, 2021 might be better; then again, it might make 2020 look like a picnic by comparison. So count your blessings!

Back on March 28, 2020, in the seventh of what is now 29 installments in my Coronavirus series—29, in keeping with my friend, Thomas L. Knapp‘s “Prime Number Obsession” (that “all sets should consist of a prime number of items”)—I wrote:

As many of you know, I have had a lifelong bout with a serious congenital intestinal disorder, which required life-saving intestinal by-pass surgery in 1974, when I was 14 years old, and which has necessitated 60+ surgical procedures since, to deal with increasingly difficult and complex side-effects from the condition. Have no fear! I intend to be here for a long time to come.

But the Coronavirus outbreak has affected me and my family on a very personal level. I was due to undergo a procedure to pulverize a rather stubborn and large kidney stone on March 13th, but it had to be postponed to March 30th, due to technical difficulties with the lithotripsy machine at the hospital. But by that point, since the procedure was considered “elective” surgery, it was canceled indefinitely. My only hope is that the stone, floating around and growing in size within my left kidney since the summer of 2018, will continue to defy the rules of gravity and stay put—because there is nothing… NOTHING… on earth that I have ever experienced to rival the pain of a lodged kidney stone. And I am a person who has a pretty high threshold for pain tolerance. Nevertheless, on a scale from 1 to 10, the pain level of a lodged kidney stone is about a 13. It’s like giving birth to the Planet Jupiter through a pinhole. Way back in 1995, I suffered agonizing, excruciating pain from a single stone fragment that got lodged in my ureter after a lithotripsy procedure. I was hospitalized for a full week, with routine morphine shots that might as well have been infusions of simple tap water. I had to endure the placement of a stent in me, which stayed there for about a month, before it was removed with the help of nothing but a local anesthetic. I cannot imagine that anything conjured up by medieval torturers could have been worse than that experience; my screams must have cleared out the urologist’s office.

But that was 1995. And this is 2020. And if I can help it, I’m going to will that kidney stone to stay put, so that what is currently considered “elective” surgery doesn’t necessitate an emergency procedure that would require me to go anywhere near a hospital—at a time when the hospitals in NYC are being overloaded by Coronavirus cases. I had two endoscopic surgical procedures scheduled in April, and they too are being postponed, regardless of my wishes, inclinations, or the dictates of my passion.

Since that time, I’ve received countless emails, Facebook messages, texts, and phone calls—from relatives, friends, and colleagues wondering how I’m doing! I’ve kept in touch with many people as often as I can, but decided to write this post so that I can point to it as a way detailing my most recent medical adventures. I do this not merely as a “public service” to describe medical procedures in the age of COVID, but also as a cathartic exercise for myself, and, most importantly, as a way of updating and thanking every person who has expressed their concern and support over these many months.

Though my hometown’s grief has been palpable, the fact is that the hospitalization, infection, and death rates have been crushed throughout New York state (despite a very recent uptick in case numbers in areas of New York City). Fortunately, elective surgeries began again in late June. 

Given this reality, I consulted with each of my doctors and it was determined that I undergo my pre-op testing in July so that I’d complete all three of my (planned) procedures within the first three weeks of August—before the possibility of any substantial uptick in novel coronavirus cases.

But the medical protocols have changed substantially since March and April when I was initially scheduled for these procedures. Three of the most important changes emerged directly from the new realities in which we live:

First, no significant medical procedure goes forth without a COVID screening within 72 hours of the appointment followed by a self-quarantine. You must wear a mask to any facility right up to the point that you are wheeled into the operating room. Since mid-March, I have been used to wearing a mask and social distancing where necessary—though distancing is not possible when doctors are getting intimate with you, so-to-speak.

Second, every procedure is scheduled in such a way as to create an environment in which waiting rooms consist of only one, two, maybe three people awaiting their appointments. And appointments are scheduled so far apart such that every operating room is thoroughly disinfected—they typically are, of course … but not like this. One would be hard pressed to find a visible speck of dust let alone any misbehaving microbe under microscopic analysis.

And finally: Nobody is allowed to accompany you into the waiting room. My sister—who has driven me to virtually every medical procedure throughout my entire life, who has sat with me right up to the point I was taken into the operating room only to greet me in recovery—had to find a place to park her car outside the facility (good luck with that!), and be on call once I emerged from the recovery room to be released from the medical facility. Aware of the emotional strain this might create in patients, medical staff rose to the occasion with the utmost care, compassion, and empathy they could possibly offer, despite—or perhaps because of—the many months they dealt with some of the most horrific conditions any of them had ever witnessed in their entire professional lives. I can’t thank them enough.

So here’s how it all went down over the past 2+ months by way of a mini-diary of events:

July 25: Pre-operative tests: EKG, chest X-rays, bloodwork. Even a consultation with both my neurologist and my cardiologist. I receive a SARS CoV 2 (COVID-19) antibody test. Results: Negative. I am approved for all upcoming procedures.

July 31: SARS CoV 2 (COVID-19) nasal swab test. Negative. Scheduled for first procedure on August 4, 2020. Onward!

August 3: Tropical Storm Warning issued for Tuesday, August 4, 2020. Isaias will be roaring up the East Coast, with high sustained winds that eventually knock down or split thousands of trees throughout the New York City metropolitan area. Power outages are widespread; one person is killed in Queens. Leaving my Brooklyn apartment on the morning of August 4, torrential rain coming down, trees swirling to the right and left of us on the parkway, I turn to my sister while she’s driving into Manhattan and say: “You gotta be kidding me! Just getting to a hospital provides us with yet another 2020 Moment!”

August 4: Colonoscopy, with a double polypectomy, while under Propofol. Clip, clip here, clip, clip there, and a couple of Tra La Las [YouTube link]. Done!

August 5: Esaphago-gastro-duodenoscopy, while under Propofol. Buzz, buzz, buzz, chirp, chirp, chirp, and a couple of La Di Das [YouTube link].  Done!

August 10: ENT appointment. Don’t ask! Done!

August 12: KUB (Kidney-Ureters-Bladder) X-rays. My, my, how things have changed since March! X-ray reveals a Death Star-sized stone inside my left kidney, and a Junior Death Star-sized stone right next to it! And the news is reporting an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn… exactly where I will be going for my pre-op COVID test and lithotripsy. WTF!

August 13: Lower- and upper-endoscopic biopsy results: All negative. I speak to the administrator at my urologist’s office and ask her: “Are you sure that nothing will interfere with my lithotripsy on the 17th?” “Well… maybe a locust invasion? I mean, who knows what can happen in four days,” she says, reassuringly.

August 14: SARS CoV 2 (COVID-19) nasal swab test. Negative. Onward!

August 17: My surgeon tells me that he doesn’t know if he can destroy both stones, so he’ll aim for Death Star, Sr., because it is, well, Mucho Senior. Sonic blasts proceed, while under Propofol +++ —Boom, Boom, Clap! Boom, Boom, Clap! Boom, Boom, Clap! [YouTube link]. Miraculously, post-op tests indicate that the lithotripsy was so dialectically powerful that it transcends “either-or” and embraces “both-and”: The surgeon succeeds in pulverizing both Senior and Junior due to their close proximity. Fragments remain. But all are passable! Done!

Or not.

“You thought you had three procedures and you’d be finished. Oops!” Purgative preps for each of the three previous procedures result in internal bleeding. I see my colorectal surgeon on September 1 and schedule an infrared radiation coagulation procedure to seal three wounds: two on the right, one on the left. Nothing political implied here, though the surgeon jokes that anytime he has a political disagreement with somebody, he extends to them an invitation to meet him in his examination room, where they are usually put in a position that makes them very agreeable.

September 8: I become very agreeable. The light saber battle begins [YouTube link]. Without Propofol or any other (even local) anesthesia. Don’t ask, don’t tell! Given my intestinal preconditions, recovery is—and continues to be—agonizing. But to paraphrase Master Yoda: “More doctors, see I must.”

September 10: I visit my new dentist (because my old dentist has retired post-COVID), and she finds me in otherwise good dental health, except for a partially impacted wisdom tooth that “bears watching.” I’ll see her for a follow-up in six months! I schedule a dental cleaning on September 26. Done! And Done!

September 24: Flu shot. Done!

September 29: Follow-up with colorectal surgeon; the two wounds on the right have healed; the one on the left requires additional recovery time. Two out of three ain’t bad [YouTube link]. Given my chronic intestinal condition, this, like all things related to it, “bears watching.” Will return for a check-up in six months. On the way home, I stop at my optometrist’s office and get my glasses adjusted. Done! And done!

October 6 (today): Routine visit to my cardiologist. Done!

All I can say is: There has indeed been a noticeable uptick in six hotspots in New York City (primarily in Queens and Brooklyn—including my own neighborhood). I am very happy that all these medical procedures and appointments are now in the rearview mirror. I remain COVID free—and intend to stay that way.

Back on May 6, 2020, I posted a pic of myself to reassure folks that I was alive (self-administered haircut and all). Today, I post another pic documenting that I’m Still Alive (albeit with a haircut provided by my own barber!).

Throughout this period, I refused to allow anything to interfere with my projects. And that includes rooting for my New York Yankees, who, miraculously, took a game from the Tampa Bay Rays last night in the opening game of the American League Division Series, 9-3!

And in terms of my work: I have reviewed, corrected, and submitted to Penn State Press the first set of page proofs for the December 2020 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, the finale to our twentieth anniversary volume, which will be the largest single issue in the history of the journal, for which I have also contributed a 30+ page essay that should raise some eyebrows. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am expecting to sign off on the second set of corrected proofs later this week.

As I said back in March: This “Kid from Brooklyn” intends “to be here for a long time to come.”

Advertisers Keeping Us Laughing …

2020 has been some year, but at least advertisers haven’t lost their sense of humor … whether it’s that “Aunt Infestation” Geiko commercial or the Coors beer commercial reminding us of our Zoom-iverse … I can’t help but chuckle. 🙂

“Layers”: A Nathaniel Branden Novel

For those who are not yet aware, a new, posthumously published novel, Layers, written by Nathaniel Branden, has been released in both a Kindle and paperback edition.

The book was the subject of a fascinating article by Stephen Cox, which was published in a trailblazing 2016 double issue symposium of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies: “Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy” (also available as a Kindle edition). Cox’s contribution to that symposium, “Nathaniel Branden: In the Writer’s Workshop,” explores how “Nathaniel Branden was both inspired by imaginative literature and ambitious to create it himself. The history of [Cox’s] literary relationship with [Branden] provides important insights into his intellectual character, his aesthetic interests, and his literary ability.” At the heart of that article was Cox’s discussion of the various drafts of the novel that Branden shared with him—which eventually became Layers.

Nathaniel had sent me various drafts of that novel many years ago, and I was astonished by both the depth of its psychological insights and literary quality. As the book finally neared publication, six years after Branden passed away, I was asked to provide a back-cover blurb, which appears below. I encourage readers to check out this important work.


Layers – By Nathaniel Branden

Here are those back-cover blurbs:

Layers is a remarkable work by a remarkable human being. Nathaniel Branden was a leading psychotherapist who inspired thousands by his work with individual patients and his influential books about the psychology of self-esteem and personal growth. At his death he left a work of fiction—Layers—that reveals what patients seldom see: the agonizing conflicts within the therapist’s own mind. Layers is a work of compelling psychological insight, a story of one man’s intrepid search for the truth about himself. Branden tells this story with the drama and suspense and sudden beauty that readers expect and deserve from an important work of fiction.”
– Stephen Cox, University of California, San Diego

“This thought-provoking novel reveals yet another ‘layer’ to the complex, interwoven fabric that constitutes Nathaniel Branden’s life and legacy. A must for fans of his famous associate, Ayn Rand, and for those who may be encountering Branden’s insightful work for the first time.”
– Chris Matthew Sciabarra, author of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical

“This story vividly illustrates, as none other I’ve ever read, how centrally important it is to do what you most deeply love and want to do in life, and how badly your life can go awry if you don’t.”
– Roger E. Bissell, Research Associate, Molinari Institute

Looking at Cleveland Tonight!

Tonight, it starts! In Cleveland!

Does a die-hard Yankee fan watch the Yankees-Indians first postseason game in this off-the-wall 2020 baseball year?

Or do I switch the channel and watch that other sporting event taking place in Cleveland: The First Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden?

I mean, I’m so passionate about both baseball and politics. I can switch between one and the other, I guess. Still, I’d rather watch a baseball game live. If I absolutely must watch that other match, out of civic duty or a streak of masochism, I can always take a look at it on DVR after the game.

What a dilemma! 🙂

Postscript (30 September 2020): On the Facebook thread, one of my pals stated “Support the Mets – then you will never face this kind of dilemma,” and I admitted, that “in truth, as horrible as this might sound to my fellow Yankee fanatics, if the Mets get into the postseason, I root, root, root for the home team. Unless they’re up against the Yanks in a ‘subway series’ (as in 2000).” But this morning I made this observation:

“What a mess in Cleveland last night, eh? Yeah, those Indians lost 12-3 to the Yankees. Now y’all know why I thought it better to watch the game, given that OTHER mess on the stage at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in the same city. SMH”

I do have to say here on this blog that what I watched last night in that first presidential debate was one of the biggest shit-shows I’ve ever seen in all my years of watching political debates. The cringe-worthy moments were coming from both sides of the stage. But I have to admit that this one from The Don probably took the cake:

Asked by Wallace and Biden to condemn white supremacy, Trump said “Sure” but then declined to do so. Biden named the Proud Boys, a far-right group, and Trump replied: “Proud Boys? Stand back and stand by … Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left. This is not a right-wing problem!” The group celebrated his response online and began using the phrase, “Stand back and stand by.”

As a friend of mine said: “If that doesn’t unsettle you, I don’t know what will.”

Can’t Spell “Anarchy” Without N-Y-C !

I’ve made it a point of not stepping into the raging political debates that are going on as we near Apocalypse Day, uh, I mean “Election Day.” Folks on either side of the divide are warning of Armageddon if either of the two major-party candidates gets elected to the Oval Office. Sorry, I’m not getting dragged into this brawl. Have fun!

In the meanwhile, I just wanted to address one thing, not about the country or the world but specifically about my hometown: New York City. I was born in Brooklyn, I have lived here all my life. And I’ll be buried here, hopefully not for many, many years.

The Big Apple has gone through quite a bit in 2020 (Who hasn’t!?). Laura Nahmias tells us about “The City’s Grief, By the Numbers“:

Each year, New York City releases data in a Mayor’s Management Report, intended to detail how well city agencies are performing. This year, more than any in recent memory, that report helps make sense of what’s happened and still happening to New York. The statistics form a snapshot of our collective anguish — a sense of the extraordinary breadth and scope of what we’ve lost to coronavirus.

“The report shows that 65,712 New Yorkers died between July of 2019 and June 30, 2020 — 34,748 more deaths than the previous year. The death rate in New York City increased 112%. In a single year. The virus is the “largest mass fatality incident in modern NYC history,” the office of the chief medical examiner officially declared.

Cremation requests increased 62%. The medical examiner received 16,115 such requests between March and June this spring — a number nearly equal [to] the total number of cremation asks received in the prior year.

Only (only!) 23,767 of our fellow New Yorkers were officially killed by confirmed and presumed coronavirus cases, which leaves 10,981 additional deaths unaccounted for.

What killed nearly 11,000 extra New York City residents between July 2019 and June 2020?

The MMR shows the number of 911 calls for cardiac arrest or choking increased 25% in fiscal year 2020 — 32,831 calls. New Yorkers’ hearts were breaking.

And in the midst of this very human tragedy, the city, like many cities across America, saw an uptick in protests and riots in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. For a variety of reasons, over this past summer, there has also been an uptick in shootings and murders — nothing remotely like the 2000+ murders a year that were once an annual benchmark around these parts, but very troubling nonetheless.

Though my family personally suffered many tragedies over these many months living in this great city — the loss of loved ones, neighbors, colleagues, and even a beloved neighborhood proprietor — and though the future remains uncertain, I’d like to tell the naysayers: DON’T COUNT THIS CITY OUT! As Stefanos Chen writes in the New York Times: “Five months after Covid-19 crippled the city’s real estate market, sales across the city are down, but the boroughs beyond Manhattan are faring better, in some rare cases even exceeding pre-pandemic expectations.” And there are other hopeful signs that the city has turned a corner. The hospitalization, infection, and death rates from the pandemic have been crushed. Indeed, the infection rate remains below 1% at this stage (I’ll have more to say about that in the coming weeks), and only one New York state resident died from COVID-related causes yesterday. That’s quite a difference from the horrendous numbers we saw back during March, April, and May.

Still, put in perspective, despite some enormous uncertainty — and a mayor so universally disliked, he couldn’t win a campaign for dog-catcher — I’d just like to say to the U.S. Justice Department, which has recently declared my hometown an “anarchist city“: WTF?

This is so obviously tied to feuds over federal funding, so I think we can chalk up much of this debate to pure politics.

But puh-lease. I have lived in this city my whole life; even during these crazy times, I remain in a working-class / middle class neighborhood and can walk outside my home at any hour of the day or night without concern for getting hit by a stray bullet. I’ve been fortunate to have never been a victim of a single crime in my 60 years living here: not a mugging, not a robbery (unless you want to count getting tickets for that age-old insane practice of “alternate-side-of-the-street parking“, a crime if ever there was one!). Yes, key neighborhoods have been affected by this tragic uptick in violence, but “anarchy” (which is being used here as a synonym for “disorder”)? Not quite.

In truth, however, this city became the greatest city in the world — yeah, my arrogant, unreconstructed, unequivocal New York values are clearly on display here — precisely because it has always embraced a touch of “anarchy” as part of its tapestry. By that, I mean, it has drawn strength from the spontaneous, innovative, unplanned, entrepreneurial, and creative powers unleashed by all those individuals who have come here seeking a better life. It is a city of remarkably diverse neighborhoods, each of which brings authenticity to the fabric of its culture.

This city is not dead. It will survive. It survived the Great Depression. It survived the antiwar and civil rights unrest of the 1960s and the urban blight of the 1970s and 1980s. It survived 9/11. It survived Superstorm Sandy. And it will survive this pandemic, the lockdowns, and the systemic instability unleashed by the most recent series of tragedies.

One thing is for sure: New Yorkers have not lost their sense of humor. Reacting to this designation of the city as a haven of anarchy, residents responded with a Bronx cheer. Here’s a sampling of some of the sarcastic comments from folks across the city:

“I was able to document the ‘anarchy’ in NYC yesterday after my 5 mile bike ride with my son and wife yesterday. … Truly terrifying.”

“If NYC has anarchy, is alternate side parking still enforced?”

“NYC’s anarchy on full display,” another person tweeted, along with a picture of eight well-behaved dogs out for a walk. “Won’t somebody put an end to this violence? Law and order is desperately needed.”

But my favorite came from a New York native, who accompanied their tweet with a picture of a sun-dappled city park: “Can’t spell anarchy without NYC!”


Independent Institute Publications

I received a message from my friend, David J. Theroux, the Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Institute. I have always found their publications to be thought-provoking, whether one agrees or disagrees with any opinion expressed. Folks should check out some of the following links:

The Crisis in Civil Rights: Best Books and Articles on Race, Police, and the Welfare State, compiled by their Senior Fellow Dr. Williamson M. Evers (someone I’ve known since my undergraduate days as a member of Students for a Libertarian Society):

These are among the most exhaustive, annotated reading lists ever assembled on the issues of civil rights, police reform, race relations, and the welfare state, created for educators and students, business and civic leaders, policymakers, journalists, and the general public. Check them out!



WTC Remembrance: Firefighter Gerard Gorman – Ultimate Survivor

Today marks the nineteenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 2001, which, nearly two decades later, continue to affect our lives as New Yorkers, as well as the lives of those whose loved ones were killed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania and in Washington, D.C. My annual series returns this year with a remarkable story of resilience in the face of unimaginable horror: Firefighter Gerard Gorman: Ultimate Survivor [link to the article]. Gerard was an FDNY first responder on that day. I can’t thank him enough for sharing his memories—salty language and all—as a testament to the indomitable spirit of a true native New Yorker, something as relevant to 2020 as it is to the spirit of September 11, 2001.

Those who read this year’s installment might recognize the name of John Perry, mentioned by Gerard; I had met John at a regular discussion group run by Victor Niederhoffer in Manhattan.

For those who have not read previous entries in the series, here is a convenient index:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial

2015: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes: A Pictorial

2016: Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine

2017: Sue Mayham: Not Business as Usual

2018: Anthony Schirripa, Architect

2019: Zack Fletcher: Twin Towers, Twin Memories

2020: Firefighter Gerard Gorman: Ultimate Survivor

Never forget. ❤