Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor and the Ghost of Harriet Miers

In a 2007 speech to Planned Parenthood, candidate Obama told us exactly what President Obama would do about Supreme Court nominations: “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.” (My emphasis.)

Now he’s actually done it, with his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.

While many of us knew that while she sat first on the federal district court, and for the last decade on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, she lacked appropriate judicial temperament (to use a phrase from the Bork confirmation hearing), was no intellectual, viewed the role of judges as akin to legislators, believed that race and gender trumped precedent and sound judicial decision-making, had indefensible political relationships, and otherwise had no business being a federal judge (let alone a Supreme Court justice), now anyone who can read (and expends the effort to do so) knows Sonia Sotomayor’s manifest deficiencies.

Simply put, Obama’s nominee is an affirmative action lightweight with a racist-separatist agenda (think La Raza), lacking even the faintest idea of the difference between legislators (who are politically accountable) and judges (who are not).

This said, however, the question remains whether she will be confirmed.

The answer, sadly, is yes. Unless . . . .

There has been much talk lately about the lost soul of the Republican Party: The hopeless and helpless candidacy of John McCain, the ascendancy of Michael Steele to the party chairmanship, the Colin Powell apostasy, the absence of a national leader with brains and style, the inability to field sufficient credible candidates. . .

. . . even tepid recent public statements by some leading Republican Senators that they have open minds about Sotomayor’s nomination, and that there will be no filibuster.

Do not these Republicans (among them some who are conservatives, at least on judicial issues) understand that Obama’s Sotomayor nomination can be turned into his Harriet Miers moment?

They should not have to be reminded that when George W. Bush engaged in some good-ole-Texas cronyism by nominating the utterly unqualified White House, counsel the roof fell in on both of them. Republicans, Conservatives, Libertarians and even a few Democrats rose in revolt, loudly protesting that the President of the United States (driven perhaps by his shallow Chief of Staff) could have made such a stupid mistake.

Miers, of course, was either yanked by her sponsors or had the good sense to cut and run.

Sotomayor’s nomination can similarly fare, and in the bargain Obama can be made to look as stupid as Bush.

There is so much to nail her with, beyond a Miers-like incompetence, that her opponents would have an easy time, and in the process could galvanize the public. She worships at the altar of the Living Constitution, she believes judges make policy, she thinks Latinas and Women can do better than white males, she is intolerant, she is associated with an anti-Semitic organization which seeks to reclaim American soil for Mexico, three of five court of appeals decisions in which she participated have been reversed by the very Court Obama is trying to appoint her to.

If Republican Senators act determined, in concert, and go for the jugular, they can shipwreck Sotomayor’s candidacy on the shoals of Obama’s cynicism and his own racism.

But to do so, and it doesn’t look like they will, they’ll have to act out of character. They’ll have to have what most of them lack: cohones. (If I spelled it correctly, Google would probably yank this blog; they may anyhow. If they do, please go to http://www.henrymarkholzer.com/ for information of where I will relocate.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Blog By Erika Holzer: "Ayn Rand and America Today"

Because many readers of this blog are interested in the ideas of Ayn Rand, I’m pleased to announce that Erika Holzer has started a blog of her own on that subject. To be published periodically, Erika’s “Ayn Rand and America Today” will explore the aspects of contemporary culture affected by the ideas propounded in Rand’s fiction and nonfiction.

To read Erika Holzer’s first essay—“Boost in Sales of Atlas Shrugged . . . but why Atlas?”—please open this link: http://www.erikaholzer.blogspot.com/. It will enable you also to sign up to receive future essays directly into your email.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fingers Needed For Crumbling Dike

The “fingers” are those of American patriots and the “crumbling dike” is the judiciary, which is actively eroding our nation’s ability to defend against our terrorist enemies.

I explain below, in this lengthy essay. Please stay with me; this is important.

About a half-century ago, the left realized that its liberal-progressive agenda was unacceptable to Congress and most state legislatures. So they shifted their battle into the courts, where with minimum effort and resources they could obtain maximum results in realizing their anti-American agenda, which scoffs at individual rights, limited government, free markets and national defense.

Putting aside the liberal-progressive’s assault on American values in the domestic context, examples abound of their attempt to influence foreign policy for the benefit of our enemies.

For example, during the Vietnam War a group of Congressmen sued over the legality of providing military aid to El Salvador (Crockett v. Reagan). English ladies, joined by American Congressmen Ron Dellums and Ted Weiss, sued to enjoin the deployment of cruise missiles in the women’s town (Greenham Women v. Reagan). Another group of legislators sued to declare the invasion of Grenada unconstitutional. (Conyers v. Reagan). Still other Congressmen sued to force President Reagan to file status reports under the War Powers Resolution. (Lowry v. Reagan). An “ordinary citizen” sued to block military action in Gulf War I. (Pietsch v. Bush). Traitors like Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, who gave aid and comfort to the North Vietnamese Communists (http://www.henrymarkholzer.citymax.com/books.html), were counseled by the Legal Left about how they could travel to Hanoi while avoiding prosecution.

Immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Legal Left morphed into a pro-terrorist, anti-American Fifth Column, aiming their considerable firepower at our government’s attempts to defend America. (The Encarta Dictionary defines “Fifth Column” as meaning “any group of people who give aid and support to the enemy from within their own country.”)

In a close contest with the ACLU for the most pro-terrorist, anti-American organization on the Legal Left is the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). When the September 11 attacks occurred, it was manna from heaven for the CCR.

It attacked the government’s detention of alien detainees, described by the CCR as the “real” victims of September 11.

It attacked President Bush’s order creating military commissions.

It attacked the Patriot Act, which armed America with the weapons we desperately need to fight this unconventional war.

It attacked American cooperation with friendly intelligence services.

It represented a terrorist named Rasul and squeezed a 5-4 decision out of the Supreme Court of the United States that enemy combatants are entitled to due process of law.

The Left and its platoons of lawyers had its fingerprints all over the Supreme Court case asserting that enemy combatants are entitled to Geneva Convention protection, and that President Bush had no right to create military commissions to try Guantanamo prisoners. The Legal Left led the case giving even battlefield-captured terrorists the American constitutional right to challenge their detention by seeking a writ of habeas corpus from a federal court.

The Department of Justice and Solicitor General’s office represented the government in the terrorist cases, but they could have used help, of which they received precious little.

For example, in one Supreme Court terrorism case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the government was supported by only two “friend of the court” briefs.

The terrorist, however, was supported by briefs from scores of American law professors, hundreds of British and European legislators, and such organizations as Human Rights First, People for the American Way, World Organization for Human Rights USA, and the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.

Laypersons can understandably wonder why government lawyers sometimes need help. Here’s one current example. I’ve just finished writing an amicus curiae brief supporting the government in a case involving a federal statute declared unconstitutional by a federal court of appeals. Because the United States attorney representing the government in the court of appeals did not raise a certain issue in that court, the Department of Justice, as a party, cannot now raise it in the Supreme Court.

But I can. And I have.

Another example of the government needing help is cases in which neither party in the lower courts have identified, nor addressed, important issues that should be considered by the Supreme Court.

Then there are cases where the actual parties can’t risk antagonizing certain judges. For example, once I represented a group of homeowners who opposed a federal judge’s order that low-cost public housing be built in a middle-class neighborhood of a New York suburb. One important issue in the case went to the Supreme Court. My analysis of the case and the justices told me that of the nine, four would vote for our position and four would reject it. That left one justice who would, effectively, decide the case.

Although my client was not a party to the case, it qualified to file an amicus curiae brief.

After reading scores of opinions by Justice X, I wrote our amicus curiae brief’s arguments targeted specifically at him, based on his position on similar issues.

We won, 5-4.

My point is that intervention in Supreme Court cases (and, for that matter, in important court of appeals cases) dealing with national security and other patriot-type issues can sometimes make a difference in outcome.

It has been clear ever since last year’s presidential campaign, let alone now that Obama has taken office, that he views America’s national security through a different lens from those of us who love our country, understand the threat to it from Islamic terrorists, and realize that, for better or worse, much of our war against those persons and the states which support them is no longer decided exclusively by the President and Congress but instead by the courts, especially the Supreme Court of the United States.

Regrettably, it is not clear to me (which is why I am publishing this essay) whether there are enough like-minded private individuals and organizations in America to fight our foreign and domestic enemies, and the Obama Administration, in the courts of this land—up to and including the Supreme Court of the United States.

There are many national security issues which will inevitably be decided by the courts: Guantanamo closure, torture limits, domestic surveillance, terrorist “rights,” intelligence sharing, foreign rendition, habeas corpus, military commissions, Geneva Convention, relinquishing sovereignty, CIA files, “truth commissions.”

In cases like these, and others, the government is going to need help—especially given the soft-on-terrorism attitudes of our president, attorney general, and others in Obama’s defense and intelligence apparatus.

Understandably, you ask, what can be done?

Here is the answer (in courier font below) I gave to that question a few days ago to a retired Army colonel, active in patriot affairs.

I’m glad we had this morning’s conversation.

To summarize my comments:

1. The Bergs, Donofrios, Taitz [Obama citizenship] cases are, as I have said many times before, self-aggrandizing shameless self-promotion, and thus not to be taken seriously. Worse, like bad money driving out good, they taint serious cases that could (and should) have been brought. And they sully the reputations of everyone who does take them seriously.

2. There is much positive work that can be done in the courts where, using Roe v. Wade as a horrible example, there is enormous leverage. Six men on the Supreme Court of the United States wiped out the laws of fifty states and allowed, and thus sanctioned, the murder of millions of the unborn.

3. One easy-entry method into the judicial wars is to file amicus-curiae (friend-of-the-court) briefs in others’ cases, thereby avoiding the necessity of bringing one’s own cases—especially in the Supreme Court of the United States.

4. Using myself as an example of what qualified lawyers would charge, depending on the court, issues, and timetable, the relatively modest cost would be between $10,000 and $20,000, plus printing costs, per brief.

5. Consider that the Supreme Court’s recent terrorism decisions were decided by close votes, as were other important cases involving patriotism and national security issues. Under an Obama judicial regime, the judges will get worse, the fighting harder, and the decisions closer.

6. There are two ways to get into this fight in the judicial system.
a. Have a qualified lawyer look for cases in which an amicus curiae brief should be submitted, and when finding one you and your associates then use your and others’ email lists to find persons and/or organizations who have a plausible reason to file a brief (as for example the humane society in the brief I’m now writing for the Supreme Court) and who are willing to make modest financial contributions to fund the brief.

b. Form a simple not-for-profit corporation (forget about tax exemptions, etc.) dedicated to patriotic causes, and use it to do what I suggest in paragraph (a) above.

7. Here’s an example, either way. I learn of a case going to the Supreme Court (or a federal appeals court) testing the constitutionality of the Patriot Act. It’s the ACLU versus the United States government. You and your associates either individually under (a) or through the corporation under (b) get out the word, solicit plaintiffs, hire a lawyer, and sit back. It is as easy as that.

8. Should there arise, as well there might under an Obama judicial regime, too many cases for one lawyer to handle, he or she could supervise other like-minded lawyers who could probably be recruited on a pro bono basis. For example, you could send out a questionnaire, with the appropriate context explained, asking the following questions: 1. Name. 2. Firm name. 3. Office address. 4. Telephone and fax number(s). 5. Email address. 6. Year(s) admitted to practice, and jurisdiction(s). 7. Specialization(s), if any. 8. Post-law school judicial clerkship(s), if any. 9. Judicial experience, if any. 10. Experience with national security-related cases, if any. 11. Amount of time available annually. 12. Whether your firm has a formal pro bono program
.

When Erika Holzer and I wrote “Aid and Comfort”: Jane Fonda in North Vietnam, in order to promote our book we had a search conducted of Internet sites devoted to military, patriotic, intelligence, national security, and similar subjects. After a few weeks, our researcher gave up because there were so many. We found—and who knows what we didn’t find?—literally hundreds upon hundreds of such sites, probably reaching millions of like-minded American patriots—people who can contribute modest sums that might make a difference in how our courts decide cases affecting the safety of the United States.

Here, besides writing and publishing this essay, is my contribution to this idea:

On my blog—at the right side of this essay— there is a box directing anyone who wants to receive my blogs to “enter your email address” and then click on “subscribe.” It’s that easy.

Those who subscribe will promptly receive an email asking them to confirm by typing in a few letters and “sending.” Even though one may have clicked on “subscribe,” unless he or she confirms, they will not receive my blog.

The inducement for people to subscribe to my blog is his: As I routinely monitor the judicial landscape in the United States and see a pending case in which a patriot-driven amicus curiae brief can be submitted, I will provide all necessary information: the parties, the case, the issue(s), the importance, the timeline—everything necessary for individuals and/or organizations to decide if they wish to get involved.

When I provide this information, perhaps some individuals and/or groups will put their shoulders to the wheel and let the courts know that there are Americans throughout the length and breadth of this land who will no longer allow the Legal Left to be the only team on the judicial playing field. (For reasonable questions, I can be reached through www.henrymarkholzer.com.)

I earnestly ask those of you who understand the importance of what I’m proposing to please forward this essay to as many others as you can, with the request that each recipient do the same—in the hope that of the hundreds of thousands who will read it, some will pick up the amicus curiae ball and score some points for our side.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Ugly Truth About Campaign Finance

“Of the many objectives that could be achieved by a well-designed [federal] campaign finance system, the current system achieves none. It enhances the advantages of incumbents; favors the choice of wealthy candidates; creates at least the appearance of corruption or undue influence; allocates campaign funds inefficiently; encourages expensive campaigns run by outside consultants; burdens lawmakers with fundraising chores that distract them from their legislative duties; discourages qualified people from running for office; reduces the information on national policy options available to voters; allows special interests to speak more loudly on public issues than the political parties that represent more general interests; and does nothing to develop or refine the political or programmatic choices for American voters.”

This quotation is from the new book Better Parties, Better Government, by Peter J. Wallison, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Joel M. Gora, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School (a former colleague, and good friend, of mine).

But I’m not writing this essay to do my friend Professor Gora a favor. On the contrary, I’m writing it to thank the authors for the prodigious effort they’ve put into Better Parties, Better Government and the two major accomplishments of their book.

First, as the quotation above forcibly demonstrates, Wallison and Gora prove beyond all doubt that the laws, regulations, and rulings which purport to govern federal election campaign financing, indeed the entire system, is a shambles and disgrace—a veritable monument to cynicism, self-dealing, and contempt for democracy.

Indeed, the authors conclusively prove in their remarkably detailed expose’ every one of the deficiencies which are catalogued above The reader is left with the inescapable conclusion that the oligarchs (my word) who have constructed the campaign finance system to make members of the House and Senate a perpetual ruling class are guilty of corrupting the democratic process to serve their own venal, political and psychological ends.

Second, not content merely to expose the sordid story of democracy at its worst in the context of those who rule us, Wallison and Gora take great pains to offer an antidote for federal campaign finance reform.

Their comprehensive suggestions would rectify much of the wrong that has been done to the body politic thanks to Republicans such as John McCain and liberals such as Russ Feingold—men of no stature who put political self-preservation ahead of the needs and mandates of democracy.

The authors’ suggestions need to be studied seriously and acted upon promptly if we are to restore even a semblance of what the Founders established as a truly representative government served by citizen legislators.

Wallison and Gora have performed a great public service with Better Parties, Better Government. Taking their book seriously will result in not only better parties and better government, but in a better democracy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ayn Rand and Erika Holzer

I know from comments I receive that many of you who read this blog are fans of Ayn Rand. So you'll probably be interested in the interview which appears below, just published in a Swedish mystery magazine, on the Internet, and elsewhere. (Full disclosure: Erika Holzer, as many of you know, is my wife.)

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR ERIKA HOLZER

by Iwan Morelius

INTRODUCTION


After college (B.S. from Cornell University) and law school (J.D. from New York University), Erika Holzer practiced law with her husband Henry Mark Holzer, and wrote numerous articles, syndicated columns and reviews for various publications, as well as a couple of short stories.

She co-authored with her husband two nonfiction books:“Aid and Comfort”: JANE FONDA IN NORTH VIETNAM (McFarland, hard- and soft-cover), and FAKE WARRIORS: Identifying, Exposing, and Punishing Those Who Falsify Their Military Service. (See http://www.erikaholzer.com) or http://www.henrymarkholzer.com)

The theme of her first novel, DOUBLE CROSSING, is human rights. It has an espionage background and takes place in the Soviet Union and East Germany. EYE FOR AN EYE, her second novel, is a morality tale with all the trappings of a psychological thriller. Its theme is how a criminal justice system that coddles the criminal—especially juveniles—can drive the victim of violent crime to vigilantism. In 1996 Paramount Pictures produced a feature film of EYE FOR AN EYE, directed by award-winning John Schlesinger, starring Kiefer Sutherland and Sally Field.

Holzer’s most recent book, part memoir, part literary journey, part fiction-writing guide, is AYN RAND: MY FICTION-WRITING TEACHER: A novelist’s mentor-protégé relationship with the author of ATLAS SHRUGGED. (See www.erikaholzer.com)

In the mid-60s when Erika Holzer and her husband represented Ayn Rand, they learned about an Italian film based on Rand’s first novel, WE THE LIVING. This film, unauthorized by Rand, had opened in fascist Italy in 1941 in two segments, had won awards, and, for complex reasons, had been withdrawn from theaters by fascist authorities Years later Rand was shown a copy by one of its stars, Rossano Brazzi. When she told the Holzers about the film—how she thought it was better than the movie version of THE FOUNTAINHEAD but that it was lost—the Holzers vowed to track it down, which they did. When they returned from Italy and first ran the two segments for Ayn Rand, she gave them and film editor Duncan Scott significant input on how the movie should be edited. The Holzers and Duncan Scott went on to co-produce the movie, and Erika Holzer and Duncan Scott, after persuading Rand not to dub the film, went through a lengthy, laborious process of writing a script—roughly 4,000 subtitles. The Italian two-parter NOI VIVI and ADIO KIRA became the internationally-acclaimed art film WE THE LIVING. (For a complete history of the movie, including cast and credits, see www.wethelivingmovie.com, -- and check this site for when a DVD of the film, now being finalized, with added features by people associated with the film, will be available.

INTERVIEW

1. I had the pleasure of meeting you in New York City many years ago at an “Edgar” weekend sponsored by MWA—the Mystery Writers of America. Are you still a member?

A. Not since I left Manhattan and moved to the West Coast.

2. It was at that MWA event that you and I started to talk and found we had an interest in one special author—Ayn Rand. Didn’t you tell me it was she who triggered your first novel?

A. Iwan, I remember when we met as if it were yesterday! It was a delight to discover at that literary gathering a kindred soul, philosophically speaking. And yes, it was indeed Ayn Rand who eventually triggered my life-altering career change from lawyer to novelist. I say “eventually” because it didn’t happen right away. After my husband-to-be, Hank Holzer, and I met at NYU Law School, he gave me a copy of Rand’s magnum opus ATLAS SHRUGGED and told me—these were his exact words, “This book will change your life.” He was right on the money. I have never—before or since—been so profoundly affected in every important aspect of my life by any book, fiction or non-fiction, as I was by ATLAS.

Roughly half a dozen years later when Hank and I began to represent Ayn Rand, I had no intention of abandoning the law for a fiction-writing career. I remember being captivated by Ayn’s intelligence and charismatic personality. And because I loved her novels and agreed with her philosophy, naturally I was eager to get to know her better. But it never occurred to me to drop out of the legal profession. Apart from practicing law, my writing at that time consisted solely of nonfiction articles—some with my husband, some not—as well as a lot of columns, reviews, editorials, that sort of thing.

3. This was in the 1960s, as I recall.

A: The mid-60s, yes.

4. So at what point did you start to study the art of fiction writing with Ms. Rand?

A. It was a very gradual process. Looking back I think the intimate atmosphere—doing our legal business in Ayn’s apartment instead of at our midtown law office—was very conducive—a contributing factor, you might say. Let me explain. Because Hank and I held Ayn Rand in such high regard, we afforded her the convenience of not having to travel to our office. Instead we’d meet at her place once or twice weekly in the evening for a few hours—which, by the way, was no hardship for us since we happened to live only a few blocks away. But as soon as the legal sessions were concluded, it was as if all of us needed what I thought of then as a “pleasure break.” The legal business, you see, was more often than not rather tense and unpleasant.

So when it was done, we three would sit on Ayn’s couch having coffee and cake and talk about writing—mostly about her novels. Because the conversation was so fascinating and because Hank and I knew we were literally five minutes away from our own apartment, we’d lose all track of time and invariably stay until three or four in the morning. Nor was I shy about bombarding Ayn with questions about my favorite scenes or characters in THE FOUNTAINHEAD and ATLAS SHRUGGED. What an exhilarating experience it was! And Ayn, far from growing tired at the lateness of the hour, was always animated by my endlessly probing questions—all of which she would answer with infinite patience. But more than that, it was clear to me from the start that Ayn was enjoying herself.

So while I didn’t start out studying the art of fiction writing from Ayn Rand in any formal sense, the learning process gradually evolved over time during this unforgettable late-night give-and-take. And just as gradually, I might add, as Hank’s and my professional relationship with Ayn evolved into friendship, so my discussions with her about fiction writing segued into mentoring.

5. What form did this mentoring take?

A. At first we’d have a sort of informal discussion that revolved around Ayn’s answers to my specific questions—which of course in turn led to more discussion. But Ayn also lent me some invaluable tapes of a fiction-writing course she’d given about ten years before—thirteen lectures in all—which incorporated not only fiction writing principles she’d used in her own novels, but a critical analysis of other novels as well. Ayn encouraged me to make detailed notes from the tapes, after which she spent a lot of time going over these notes with me. It was my good fortune to receive a thorough indoctrination in the four elements crucial to the well-constructed novel: theme, plot, characterization, and style. Ayn had such a great gift for imparting her knowledge and her skills! Time and again, she would guide me from error to enlightenment with unstinting patience—whether it was explaining a single point or an entire methodology.

So yes, Ayn was singularly responsible for my career change from lawyer to novelist For roughly five years, she taught me how to master the craft of fiction-writing—principles and insights that I went on to apply to my own novels. And to my knowledge, I am the only person with the unprecedented experience of learning to write fiction one-on-one from Ayn Rand.

6. And once Ayn Rand started mentoring you in earnest, you left the law for fiction?

A. Actually, I didn’t. One doesn’t lightly walk away from a Juris Doctor degree
and a professional career, especially if, as in my case, you come from a long line of lawyers—aunts, uncles, siblings. I continued to practice with my husband for many years and I continued to write non-fiction, even as I immersed myself in the principles I’d learned from Ayn. My goal was to hone my fiction-writing skills before making the big plunge. And as with any beginning fiction-writer, I had a number of false starts. But why spoil the fun for those of your audience who might want to read all about it in AYN RAND: MY FICTION-WRITING TEACHER? I spell out some pretty amusing anecdotes about the pitfalls and problems a neophyte can run into, and how Ayn patiently guided me through them in that memorable mentoring process. There’s a phrase that applies to beginners in any field of endeavor: developing your “sea legs.” It entails acquiring a certain calming familiarity with the rules of the game before you walk onto the playing field.

7. EYE FOR AN EYE deals with the vigilante problem. Why did you choose that subject? Was it a personal experience or just that the subject interested you?

A. The latter. What drew me to the subject, in a word, was empathy. But indirectly, I credit Ayn Rand for pointing me in the direction of choosing vigilantism as my subject, and our flawed criminal justice system as my theme. Early on, Ayn had advised me that when searching for a theme, a novelist should make sure it’s something about which he or she feels truly passionate. I took her advice when I chose the subject and theme of my first novel. Even though I was tempted to put my legal background to work in, say, a courtroom drama, I realized that while this would have been a practical choice, it was not necessarily a wise one. At the time, I was learning more and more—mostly from Ayn herself—about the outrageous spectacle of people locked behind an Iron Curtain. About the barbed-wire totalitarian regimes of the Soviet Union and East Germany. That’s where my passions lay. The end result was my human rights novel DOUBLE CROSSING.

8. Was DOUBLE CROSSING a movie? It would have been a good one, I think.

A. To my great disappointment, it didn’t make it to the big screen—and you’re right, it would have been a good movie, given the inherent drama of its storyline. But my timing was bad, politically speaking. DOUBLE CROSSING’s blistering anti-communist theme clashed with the policy of détente—a thaw in Soviet-American relations, courtesy of Nixon’s National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger. As you know, EYE FOR AN EYE, the novel that followed DOUBLE CROSSING, had no such obstacle in its path. Paramount Pictures released the feature film, also called EYE FOR AN EYE, in 1996, and it’s been replayed endlessly on cable television ever since.

But getting back to why I chose to follow DOUBLE CROSSING, with EYE FOR AN EYE, for a number of reasons I was interested in the phenomenon of vigilantism and the implications of a justice system that coddled criminals at the expense of crime victims. Why do I say that Ayn Rand indirectly helped me to make that choice? Because once again, as with my first novel, I was tempted by a practical consideration to follow DOUBLE CROSSING with another espionage-style thriller, even though my preliminary research into the criminal justice system was already making my ingrained sense of injustice kick in. My publisher, understandably buoyed by the success of DOUBLE CROSSING, its multiple printings, and its long list of impressive accolades from some pretty heavy hitters in the thriller genre, wanted me, not unreasonably, to continue writing novels in the same vein. Adding to my conflict was the counsel of a few of my endorsers—world-famous novelists with whom I’d become friends—who urged me to write a string of espionage-style thrillers because, in this way, I could cash in on reader expectations, continue to build a following, and enhance future sales. I couldn’t argue with the logic, the well-meaning advice—but in the end, Ayn Rand’s advice trumped theirs: Write about what you feel, Erika. Choose something you’re impassioned about. Which is what I did..

So while it’s true that I had no personal experience with vigilantism and was never a victim of violent crime, I had, on the one hand, great empathy for crime victims and, on the other, outrage that ultimately reached the boiling point over a justice system that continued to fail these victims—especially when it came to juvenile crime. The more I learned, the more I saw the need to structure my novel not as a paean to vigilantism or a psychologically satisfying revenge thriller (which is what more than one editor wanted from me), but rather a thriller with a cautionary tale as its theme—a warning that the current system of “justice” could drive otherwise responsible citizens to take desperate measures. To take the law into their own hands. Unfortunately, even though my message rang out loud and clear—not just in novel form but as a movie that opened across the country and worldwide—incidents of vigilantism have continued to bubble to the surface, some of the more notorious blown up in the press but a lot more, I suspect, not.

9. When you wrote EYE FOR AN EYE, were you influenced by novels such as DEATH WISH
or A CLOCKWORK ORANGE?

A. No to both. And in the case of DEATH WISH, I actually knew and was on
friendly terms with the author, Brian Garfield, so I’d read not just that novel
but most of his others.

What did influence me was something that was splashed all over the news
long before I embarked on EYE FOR AN EYE but was so upsetting that, years later when I started to look into vigilantism, this incident—so graphic that I had visualized it in detail—rose to the surface again like a bloated corpse . . . Kitty Genovese, lying in her own blood, her desperate screams as she was being stabbed to death ignored by neighbors who didn’t want to get “involved”—not even to dial 911. In a sense, it was this horrific tragedy that helped push me in the direction of writing a novel that lays bare an often indifferent public and a flawed criminal justice system.

As for A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, while I never read the novel, I did see the film—a
chilling drama. Can’t say I “enjoyed” it but it was very well done. So when best-selling
novelist Nelson DeMille gave me a long and ringing endorsement for EYE FOR AN EYE, I
was very pleased—not to mention stunned—when he wrote in part:

“Erika Holzer’s EYE FOR AN EYE is a serious and disturbing look at street gangs, urban violence, and the criminal justice system….Holzer, an attorney, understands the system, and more importantly, she understands the society she and the rest of us live in. She has created a plot from what could be, and often is, any newspaper headline, and carried it a step further, a step many of us would not take but think about in our darkest moments. Holzer’s characters are vividly created, impassioned, and interestingly flawed so that we relate to them and believe they exist. The writing is sharp and terse, moves at a fast pace, and the dialogue is snappy and to the point. Highly recommended, a sort of American CLOCKWORK ORANGE.”

10. Who are your favorite authors in the mystery-thriller genre?

A. The gentleman I just mentioned—Nelson DeMille, Robert Tanenbaum. Lee Child. Nora Roberts’s J.D. Robb series. I’m also about to launch into two more novelists who come highly recommended by my husband: David Baldacci and Stephen Coonts.

11. Are you working on another novel?

A. I am. After all the time-outs from fiction, and for the writing and promotion of my non-fiction books and articles, not to mention promotion on behalf of the movie version of EYE FOR AN EYE and a couple of time-consuming cross-country moves, I’m gearing up to write a courtroom drama that I can feel passionate about.

And I am so intrigued by my protagonist-hero and what makes him tick that I’m playing around with the idea of building an entire series around him. So stay tuned to my website for further developments!.

12. I certainly will. Erika, I recently reread all of Ayn Rand’s books published in Sweden and found them well worth reading again. Written so many years ago, early 40s and 50s, they are all still so relevant. Can you talk about why that is?

A Let me put it this way. Ayn Rand, thanks to the philosophy she brilliantly dramatized
in ATLAS SHRUGGED, is so relevant to the times we live in that not a day goes by when Hank and I don’t reflect, as we check out the headlines or turn on the news, just how prescient she was about how—due to the recent political machinations of, first the Bush administration, and now Obama and his henchmen—our Constitution and the Founding principles it is based upon are in grave danger. Capitalism is embattled as never before, and Ayn spelled out the how and the why as long ago as the 40s and 50s Iwan, it’s a case of life imitating art! And because more and more people, here and abroad, are seeing the parallels between events Rand depicted in ATLAS and the fascist-collectivist edicts being imposed by a Democrat president, both houses of Congress, and in fairly short order the U.S. Supreme Court, the sales of ATLAS SHRUGGED are off the charts. According to TitleZ, an online firm that tracks bestseller rankings on Amazon, ATLAS’s 30-day average rank was 127 in late February (well above its average over the past two years of 542), in mid-January it was 33, and in March ATLAS surged into the top 20, climbing as high as 16. According to The Economist, the novel’s sales coincide with the news. News such as the Bank of England’s bailout of a troubled mortgage lender. Such as the Bush administration’s decision to “coax” banks to assist subprime borrowers. Such as the well-publicized debate over the Obama administration’s stimulus plan.

There are a couple of excellent blogs that reliably track, comment on, or, in the case of Rule of Reason, publish commentary about how Ayn Rand’s philosophy ties in with what’s going on in this country and in the world at large.

See Ed Cline’s regular and archived commentary on Rule of Reason at http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com.

Subscribe to Robert Tracinski’s TIA Daily by contacting editor@TIADaily.com.

Sign on with www.henrymarkholzer.blogspot.com (and then be sure to confirm with Yahoo)

And look for the new blog: "Ayn Rand and America Today" by Erika Holzer at www.erikaholzer.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mothers' Day Essay, by Erika Holzer

A GIFT COMES FULL CIRCLE: A Mother’s Day Tribute

By Erika Holzer

As I smiled at the on­screen image of the captivating and feisty Renee Zellweger as she breathed life into a delightful biopic of Beatrix Potter. I recall thinking how countless children had been entranced by Ms. Potter's short stories. Suddenly I was blinking back tears, and the next thing I knew I was whispering some all too familiar lines from The Tale of Peter Rabbit!

It felt as if I had stepped into a time machine . . . a child of five or so, sitting on her mother's lap, paying rapt attention to Mom’s breathless account of Peter Rabbit's adventures.

That same evening, caught up in nostalgia as I leafed through my mother's books—mostly turn-of-the-­century novels—I came upon a well-thumbed book with a peeling spine: Poems Every Child Should Know. More tears as I re-read one poem in particular, The Owl and the Pussycat. It made me realize how fortunate we were, those of us whose mothers had filled our heads with stories! How fortunate I was for having had over two decades in which to return the favor.
If you no longer live in the same town as your mother, if you've moved to another state or clear across the country, if the only realistic instrument of communication between you and your aging but mentally competent mother is the telephone (and you've resolved the hearing problem—thank heaven for amplifiers!), you will, I think, appreciate my predicament.

My mother's waning attention span. The listlessness that signals boredom. That increasing tendency, once she passed the mid-eighties mark, to drift in and out of conversation.
My solution was to tell my mom stories. Hundreds and hundreds of them. At first I spun simple straight-line tales: taut adventure and soapy "true romance" with the inevitable happy ending all wrapped up in a ten- to fifteen-minute phone call. But after awhile, I found myself boxed in by the narrow time frame dictated by a telephone conversation. Ironically, the fact that I tell stories for a living proved a hindrance. Anyone who concocts twisty, densely plotted novels has, by nature, a devious mind not given to the sort of storytelling likely to appeal to an increasingly impatient lady in her eighties.

What came to my rescue were fond memories of those old Saturday afternoon movie serials, like the fair maiden in the Perils of Pauline who is tied by a sneering mustachioed villain to a railroad track—until next Saturday rolls around and the hero cuts her loose, Applying this approach, I began to break off each new "telephone story" at a suspenseful to-be-continued moment. The technique worked just fine for about two years until I sensed that Mom wasn’t always silent simply because she was caught up in the story. I began to wonder if I was talking to myself. That's when I began to interrupt my narrative with a "Mom, are you there?" Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Undaunted, I turned my mom into a story consultant, "Choose the name of the heroine, okay?" I said tentatively one morning, figuring I'd have to coax her. She didn't even hesitate. Encouraged, I asked her for a choice of locale. The first time, and every time thereafter, she invariably chose Brooklyn, where she’d grown up. As each of “our” stories progressed in serial fashion, so did Mom’s involvement—her input in, say, a boy-meets-girl romantic suspense tale ranging from height and hair color of hero and heroine, the place where they first meet, the predictable lovers' spat (she implicitly recognized that any "drama" worthy of the name called for conflict), and the resolution of that conflict—which was usually, but not always, a happy one.
It was a momentous occasion when I realized why I'd became as hooked on our shared story-telling sessions as my mother. In the course of giving her pleasure and keeping her mind active, Mom and I had come full circle. The quid pro quo delighted me. The stories she had read or made up so many years ago had enriched my life. The stories I was reading or making up were now enriching hers.

There was a hidden bonus I hadn't anticipated. As she and I worked out our plots, I found myself slipping naturally, inevitably, into a process of discovery. I learned things about my mother that I had never known: the longings of her youth, the disappointments, the family dramas—some small, some large, a few bordering on the tragic—and everything I was privy to was so poignantly expressed that I knew I was bearing witness to the opening of a lock. The spilling of secrets.

The unburdening of a soul.

Some holidays are more meaningful than others. Mother's Day certainly is for me.
If it is for you, what better way to celebrate than by remembering the sound of your mother's voice lulling you to sleep in the midst of some bedtime storytelling?
If it is for you, then, like me, you might want to return the favor for as long as you can.

_________________
Lawyer-turned-novelist Erika Holzer's novel Double Crossing" is a human rights espionage drama. Her psychological thriller Eye for an Eye is a Paramount feature starring Kiefer Sutherland and Sally Field, To learn more about Erika Holzer's latest book, her memoir Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher, see www.erikaholzer.com,

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Great News About Government Motors


Chrysler, once a noble name in the American auto industry, is headed down the green brick road. What kind of a company, if any, will emerge from bankruptcy court remains to be seen.

But we don't have to wonder about the fate of General Motors--and in its recast form there will be a golden opportunity for the tens of millions of us who voted for John McCain as the lesser evil to strike a powerful blow against Barack Obama, his fascist/socialist policies, and the handmaidens who serve them--and for capitalism and the free market.

For decades, General Motors suffered from three major plagues: uninspired management, voracious unions, and statist government. It was the latter two--unions and government-- which destroyed GM.

Beginning with the 1935 Wagner Act, which saddled unwilling companies with unwanted unions, and having suffered Washington's insane insistence on utopian standards for vehicle manufacture and performace, the once-dominant independent American automobile industry is about to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Labor and Big Government.

A few days ago the Associated Press reported about a "restructuring" plan offered by GM in an effort to keep the company out of bankruptcy court. In return for billions of government loan forgiveness, more than 50 percent of GM stock would go to this lender-of-last-resort. And 39 percent of GM stock would go to the United Auto Workers Union in return for wage and benefit concessions.

If this happens, the United States Government and a major union will own General Motors.

Which will present a major non-buying opportunity.

Last November, tens of millions of Americans voted against Barack Obama and, indirectly, against those who supported him--including Big Labor.


As we watch Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill rush our beloved country down the road to a fascist- and socialist-like political and economic system, there is, in truth, little each individual can do. Yes, we can blog, hold Tea Parties, publish articles and books, write letters-to-the-editor, and run candidates who stand for individual rights, limited government, free markets, and national security.

But our individual ability to make much of an impact in opposing what's happening to our country is limited.

With Big Government and Big Labor's takeover of General Motors--and other companies about to be sucked into the maw of the New Fascism/Socialism--we can, however, vote with our money.

Imagine if the millions of us who are tying to fight for America steadfastly refuse to buy any GM automobile, new or used. Talk about leverage!

Think of it.

Tens of millions of Americans boycotting--that is the word and the deed, boycotting!--every General Motors product. Imagine the economic effect on Government Motors.

We have it in our power--collectively--to make ourselves heard in the best place possible: the marketplace.

Some may ask: What about other non-government, non-union GM stockholders? What about bondholders, lenders, and suppliers? The fact is that all them bought into a company that was plagued with uninspired management, a voracious union and, even years ago, a company that was substantially controlled by our statist government.

Seeking rewards--dividends, interest, sales--everyone who got into bed with General Motors assumed the risk of where uninspired management, voracious unions, and statist government would eventually lead. As unprofitable as the automobile manufacturing industry has been for years, GM's bedmates lay down and pulled the covers over their heads.

They will now have to suffer the consequences of a national boycott of General Motors.