Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

January 31, 2007

Superbowl Pick (plus Geico Caveman Follow-up)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 7:00 am

Wow! I never expected that my comments on the Geico cavemen ads (in the post below) would stir up so much controversy. I feel like I’ve spent the last few days doing nothing but reading and posting the nearly 90 comments on it. Which demonstrates two things: the best ads are like Rorshachs in which people read into and project upon a popular ad their own visions of themselves and the world. I think you could construct a portrait of America from reading the Geico post Comment thread, and maybe, at some point I will.

One thing I find interesting is the few people (in the comments) who just don’t get that things like tv ads can be culturally significant indicators. Obviously too occupied with their serious cultural endeavors (reading Homer in the original Greek I’m sure) they’re don’t seem to understand that tv ads not only are more interesting than most of the shows that surround them, but they often are more revealing and illuminating about the culture we live in than any number of academic sociological studies.

I also love the people who disdain analysis of popular culture because evidently they’re too busy making invaluable contributions to the betterment of humanity when not reading Dante and Milton. But not too busy to read a blog post on tv ads and the comments and to tell us how much more significant their lives are than the other commenters. I’m honored that such deeply serious people read this blog.

Meanwhile on to truly, deeply serious matters: the Superbowl. Here I find myself torn on two level: the football level and the friendship level.

Those who have been following my peerless picks know that in the playoff games I am now 5-5 against The Spread which means that everything (well, not that much) is riding on my choice for Sunday which sees Indianapolis favored by 7 points.

I’m torn because I just don’t understand Peyton Manning. What’s up with this dude in big games? I can see the Miami contest becoming a nightmare of interceptions and sacks and Chicago at the very least beating the spread, probably taking it all. And I’d like to bet on Chicago because I’m heading out there in late March for a ten week writer-in-residence stint at the University of Chicago (don’t hesitate to use the comments to invite me to your parties, Chicagoans!) and don’t want to incur bad karma.

On the other hand I have a penchant for rooting for troubled heroes rising to the occasion and Manning certainly qualifies. It would be a feel-good story, wouldn’t it? The Superbowl like the Geico ad is a Rorschach. The deciding factor for me I guess will be a tip of the hat to my best friend from high school Rich Molyneux who lived a good part of his life in Indianapolis and suffered many years for/with the Colts and who I’d like to see get a smile out of the occasion.

So here’s my pick: take the Colts giving 7 points or whatever the Almighty Line decrees.

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January 26, 2007

The Geico Caveman Finally Jumps the Shark…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 11:02 am


And just when he hit his peak. The caveman in the Geico ads is perhaps the most enigmatic character on tv now.

For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of the series: Geico supposedly had run an ad saying, about their on-line auto insurance, “So easy even a caveman can do it.”

Then these two “real” cave men, who seem to live in a contemporary apartment and watch tv dressed like the rest of us– see it and protest. In the next ad–and this is the iconic one–a Geico exec takes them to a fancy nouvelle style restaurant to apologize. The iconic moment is when the two cavemen order. One tells the waiter with barely suppressed fury, “I’ll have the roast duck with mango salsa”. (as in “AS IF you can buy me off with this dated 90s era cuisine”). The other closes his menu and says, with a LOT of sarcastic attitude, “I’m sorry I don’t have much of an appetite.”

While the latter is the more in-your-face defiant and barely suppressed angry response, it is the former–“I’ll have the roast duck with mango salsa” that has somehow become iconic.

I’m not sure why? Maybe it’s just one of those great line-readings that somehow seem to say a lot without coming out and saying it Maybe because it embodies all the surreal contradictions the realistically filmed ad plays with. Cavemen don’t exist, really, but somehow they’re au courant enough to be unimpressed by now antiquated nouvelle cuisine. What’s up with that? Mango salsa indeed!.

It offered something that was both funny and puzzling in a provocative way. Where are they going with this, are they making a mistake by making the ad’s novelty more prominent than the ad’s product, always a danger with “creative” advertising?

Roast duck with mango salsa, What gives? Whatever it was, it certainly stayed with me. Our sympathies usually are with the offended group in offensive ads, but somehow the sniffy attitude of the cavemen, something about their a-little-too-neat J. Crew type gear, their self aggrandizing sense of grievance, went against the grain of that impulse.

And what does it say about contemporary civilization? Is it suggesting that there’s an all too easily offended cavemen within each of us? Just how civilized were the cavemen? Just how much more advanced than them are we?

I’m not sure why, but it was one of the few gimmick commercials that didn’t exhaust itself on the gimmick. It was the gimmick that kept on giving.

Roast duck with mango salsa. I never got tired of the delivery of that line.

But then they topped it with the Fox cable parody, where the faux-tough announcer who filled half the screen said “Face it you guys have had some trouble evolving”. And the caveman in the upper right quadrant delivers another iconic rejoinder with exasperated fashion-intern snark: “You know I’m not a hundred per cent in love with your tone.” In a tone that’s a hundred per cent in love with its own sarcasm. Followed by, “Yeah, walking upright, discovering fire, inventing the wheel creating the foundation of civilization–sorry we couldn’t get that to you sooner.”

Genius!

Following which, in the lower quadrant, we get the Liz Cheny type tartly observing, “Sounds like somebody got up on the wrong side of the rock.”

Love that too.

I’m sure I’m not the first to celebrate the virtuosity of that ad not mention the whole campaign. But I may be the first I’ve seen to say that–with the new “therapist” ad–the Caveman campaign has “jumped the shark” (I know saying something has “jumped the shark”–made a telling failed leap for innovation that betrays its lost freshness– has itself jumped the shark).

But here’s my theory about why the “therapist” ad jumped the shark:I think we like the mystique of the cavemen, the ridiculous premise carried to absurdly realistic lengths. That’s why the banality of the squash racket carrying airport ad was important. It’s triviality highlighted the exquisite silliness of the whole thing.

But the therapist ad suddenly reduces the provocative absurdity, the mystery of it all to tired Woody Allen schtick. The caveman is whining to his therapist about why the Geico caveman slogan bothers him so much.

Then his cell phone rings. “It’s my mother, I’ll put her on speaker”, he says. Sorry, it just doesn’t cut it. It’s more Seinfeld than Kafka.

It’s not too late to save the caveman series, but I think it’s time for a strategy session at the ad agency.
abcaveman.jpg
“First of all, I’m not a hundred per cent in love with the tone of this article. Maybe next time you should do a little research.”

January 25, 2007

Two Cheers for the Iranian Exile Anti-Holocaust Deniers Conference Letter

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 12:14 pm

First let me applaud the courage and initiative of the hundred or so iranian expatriate intellectuals, artist and dissidents who signed the letter now on the website of The New York Review of Books which speaks up against pernicious idiot Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial Parliament of Fools.

In no uncertain terms it “Strongly condemns the Holocaust Conference sponsored by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its attempt to falsify history”.

This was the final sentence of a dozen points including one extremely significant charge: that the Islamic Government of Iran, now trying to deny the reality of Hitler’s mass murder had committed mass murder itself: had murdered thousands of political dissidents without trial in the eighties.

It’s important that they say it and that the world listens and does not believe that the current government of apocalyptic genocidally minded fanatics represents all Iranian people.

On the other hand–the troubling proviso in the manifesto–is the first one. Before addressing the Holocaust denier issue, the signers felt compelled as their very first point to assert that they are making this statement “nonwithstanding their diverse views other Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Why should this statement be necessary, why should it be, in fact, the first and foremost statement in their letter of protest?

I find it sad to have to day, but in doing so they are, in effect accepting the pseudo-sophisticated political rationale of the Iranian Holocaust deniers’ conference: that Holocaust denial has some relevance to the Israeli/Palestinian issue.

That’s the agenda behind Ahmadinjehad’s promotion of Holocaust denial: that the Jews faked the Holocaust to gain sympathy that allowed them to help them steal the land of the Palestinians.

He’s succeeded to the extent that those who assert the most obvious historical truth–the Holocaust happened–feel fear that in doing so such a statement could be misconstrued to imply they support the right to the state of Israel’s existence. It would be like stating the world is round not flat, but our assertion of this truth does not necessarily mean we believe the Jewish state has a right to exist.

It buys into the notion the only justification for the state of Israel’s existence is some kind of reparation for the Holocaust, ignores the fact that Jews have lived there for thousands of years, that the right of eventual statehood had been granted by the Balfour declaration two decades before the Holocaust began, that the existence of the Holocaust has not mattered a jot in inhibiting the Jewish state’s neighbors from trying to exterminate it ever since it was created by the UN after the Holocaust.

In this respect the otherwise admirable statement is a victory for Ahmadinejad. From now on if one want to assert the fact that the Holocaust actually occurred one must register in equal or stronger terms one’s distance from any implication that signing such a statement implies the Jewish state deserves to survive. Sad.

January 20, 2007

Football Picks: Round 3, Overconfident Edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 4:08 pm

I wish I could say I find myself troubled or conflicted this week. My record, I’m sure you know, is perfect in picking game-winners (that would be 8-0) and I’m 5-3 against the point spread, thus I suppose my assurance about this week’s picks must be overconfidence and the Almighty Line will punish me. So take these with a grain of salt:

I like the Patriots plus 3 over the Colts. I just don’t get what’s happened to Peyton Manning. The similar, even more short-lived, rise and fall of brother Eli suggests there may be a Manning family sell-by date. I keep thinking Peyton’s due for a great game, but when The Line gives you Brady and Belichick as underdogs in a playoff game it’s crazy not to take them.

And I like New Orleans plus 2and 1/2** over Chicago. Despite what Philip Roth says, I can’t see picking Chicago QB Rex Grossman as a favorite. And by the way there’s nothing more annoying to me than careless misreading of my own words however trivial. Case in point the unusally-named guest over at the blog of my rival in playoff picking, Gil Roth, who is under the impression that I think Rex Grossman is Jewish.

No, as anyone reading my Round 2 post can see, all I say is that Rex Grossman could be the name of a Philip Roth character, not that the actual inept Chicago QB is a Member of the Tribe. We have enough trouble without be saddled with that. I should also point out that the line being used at Gil Roth’s blog, Chicago minus 2 1/2 is outdated, and as of Saturday morning it was 2. Could make a big difference. I wonder how he’ll deal with it if it does.

**Update Since the Sunday morning line has gone back to Saints plus 2 and 1/2 and because Gil Roth rightly pointed out we’d informally agreed to use the Friday morning line (2 and 1/2) as our guide, I’ve upodated the line on my pick (it’s still 6 hours before game time) to be consistent with my match-up with Gil. It could make a big difference and the fact that it’s slightly more advantageous to me has nothing to do with this decision. You’ll just have to trust me on that.

I Like Hillary Because She's Mean

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:52 pm

One commenter to a recent post (on Cambodia) “accused” me of being a Democrat. While I think one of the problems of poltical discourse is the reduction of any postiion to the product of one or the other “Team”–whether it’s Left/Right, liberal /conservative, Democrat/GOP–that one roots for blindly, and the consequent condemnation of ideas not on the basis of their content but on Team Loyalty (so childish), nonetheless I plead guilty: all my life I’ve considered myself a Democrat.

I grew up in a home of FDR/JFK Democrats, I’ve never voted for a Republican in my life, my domestic politics are liberal, pro-welfare state, anti-corporate, even Naderite. In foreign affairs, internationalist, anti-fascist. As such I wish I could feel great about the line up of Democratic candidates for ’08.

On the surface there’s a plethora of smart, talented people: Obama, Edwards, Clinton, Richardson, Biden (okay, not Biden). A veritable rainbow coalition of people I agree with on most progressive issues.

I especially like Edwards for the one reason many cite against him: his origins as a medical malpractice attorney. The discourse on this issue has been shamefully skewed in the media toward the side of doctors who bungle away peoples’ lives and health and then arrogantly demand immunity from the consequences of their mistakes and whine about their malpractice premiums. So it’s great to have a candidate who sees through the self-serving phoniness of “tort reform” rhetoric for the phony dodge it is. Conservatives who believe in “individual responsiblity” shouldn’t prop up the protection racket inept doctors and irresponsible insurance companies have going for them.

But alas, none of the Democratic candidates has demonstrated the vision or the courage to offer a foreign policy that recognizes and responds intelligently and coherently to the spread of theocratic terror. That’s why.of all the candidates so far, I’ve favored Hillary Clinton. Because she’s a woman and because she’s mean. Even if she doesn’t have a 16 point foreign policy plan, I feel her heart is going to be in the right place when she looks at the aggressive worldwide spread of a vicious and murderous medieval theocratic movement (jihad) that promotes the “honor killing” of rape victims, denies all the hard-won rights of women (not to mention gays, and liberals, and dissidents of all religious and political stripes). A culture that essentially wants to lock women up in the home, deprive them of the right to vote, to an education, to a full life as human beings.

I agree with something Roger L. Simon said to me recently in L.A.: that the real division in politics internationally is not liberal/conservative, but between societies that are pro and anti-woman. It’s as good a way of judging a society as any other. Sure, the other Democratic candidates,are, nominally, pro-woman. But it’s about time we did more than give women the right to be president. It’s about time we had a woman president. Yes, Hillary has flaws and some mistakes and misdeeds in her past (the cattle futures deal; enabling Bill’s lying). But all the reasons the Hillary-haters can’t abide her (the ruthlessness, the aggressive ambition etc) will make her the president we need: she will strike fear into the hearts of our enemies.

January 17, 2007

NSA Eavesdropping Townhall Meeting

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 1:45 pm

I began writing this post the day after the Townhall meeting described below, and a few hours before the Bush Administration announced it was abandoning its policy of ignoring the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) provisions for obtaining warrants for electronic eavesdropping on American citizens. As some of the observations below indicate there is still some ambiguity about the FISA procedures, even when the law is not ignored, even among experts on the law, especially regarding the emergency provisions of FISA that allow 72 hours of warantless eavesdropping to proceed before a warrant is applied for.

Nonetheless, I’ve opposed in print, from the very beginning (that is from the moment, last year when the Times revealed it) any policy that has as its basis some notion of utterly unlimited Presidential power to ignore the Constitution. Power that allows the executive branch to ignore even a law that allows it, in an emergency situation, to bypass the Fourth Amendment for a limited period of time, after which some minimal justification to a secret court for this temporary suspension of constitutional guarantees is deemed necessary. If the Administration needed even more power to suspend the Fourth Amendment it could have, should have, at a minimum, gone to Congress to get it.

Meanwhile here are some observations on a New York Civil Liberties “Townhall meeting” (held at NYU Law School on Dec. 16) about the evasion of the FISA law, before the following day’s ambiguous renunciation of that evasion:

Attended a packed house “Townhall meeting” on the NSA eavesdropping controversy last night and here are some take away points:

–credit is due to The New York Civil Liberties Union for assembling a balanced panel–three opposed, three in favor of the Bush Administration warantless electronic surveillance that dispensed with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court/warrant procedures and just went ahead and let the NSA “data mine” any American citizen they felt the need to, without even justifying it, retroactively, to a FISA’s secret court.

Favoring the secret surveillance revealed by the Times last January were Timothy Bakken a West Point Professor of Law, Andrew C. McCarthy former Federal prosecutor who convicted Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman for the 1993 WTC bombing, columnist for The National Review and fellow of The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, and Timothy Connors Director of the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Policing Terrorism.

Opposing the Bush Administration policy were Ann Beeson the ACLU’s lead attorney in their suit against the warrantless eavesdropping, Tara McKelvey, a senior editor at The American Prospect, author of the forthcoming book Monstering on Abu Ghraib and torture policy and a plaintiff in the ACLU suit, and Patrick Radden Keefe, fellow of the Century Foundation, and author of a book on the new world of electronic eavesdropping Chatter.

–despite all this expertise the panel couldn’t agree on one key factual point about the FISA Act’s provision for a limited period of warantless surveillance on American citizens. In the so called “ticking clock” or “ticking bomb” scenario when, say, Osama Bin Laden makes a call to someone in America and asks him (or her) to make a call to another individual to instigate another 9/11 (or worse) in two minutes, how does the 72 hour provision that, under FISA, supposedly permits NSA to conduct surveillance of that second individual before applying for a warrant (and thus, purportedly, find and stop the ticking bomb) play out? Does the NSA have to notify the Attorney General it is about to conduct one of those 72 hour warantless eavesdropping missions, in which case bypassing FISA might have more of a rationale–since it might take more than two minutes to reach the Attorney General. Or can the warantless eavesdropping proceed immediately even if the A.G. is not reached?

–the dimension of politics. Andrew McCarthy made the point that the missing dimension of the protest against the Bush Administrations actions was political and Congressional: Congress, he argued, had the power at any moment to end warrantless surveillance by cutting off the NSA’s funding for such practices. But even the new Democratic Congress hasn’t shown the political will to do so. On the other hand, in its defense, Congress hasn’t been able to find out exactly what is being done in enough detail to defund it. And the Administration could argue that disclosing what is being done will give those plotting another 9/11 knowledge of how to avoid being detected.

–There is damage from warantless searches not just to the Fourth Amendment but to the First Amendment. Tara McKelvey told of interviewing an Iraqi woman who described abuse at Abu Ghraib before the warantless surveillance program was revealed last year. The woman feared that disclosure of their phone conversation could result in reprisals. Ms. McKelvey said she had tried to assure the woman at the time of their talk that she would keep her identifying details confidential as is often necessary in press exposure of government scandals. Now she realizes that this was an assurance that the warantless surveillance program made invalid then and impossible in the future and would have a chilling effect on all investigative reporting involving scandals such as Abu Ghraib.

–There was much useful, sometimes educational, sometimes repetitive argument about FISA, eavesdropping, presidential powers, constitutional limits and the question of whether global jihad represents a military or policing matter. But the intelligent discussion about intelligence was often interrupted by loud unintelligent-seeming 9/11 conspiracy theorists who thought it more important to attempt to hijack the meeting by shouting abusively at everyone there so they could substitute their fantasies for the serious questions being discussed. Sad.

–only one questioner had the courage to challenge them. I don’t know his name but my salutations to him for speaking out. I’m interested in FISA and surveillance questions but spare me your 9/11 conspiracy theory comments. I’ve read the arguments and the refutations and there are plenty of chat boards you can go to into vent on the subject if you want to.

–questions have already been raised about the Administrations’ “turnabout”. is it a “turnabout or is it just an announcement that they’ve gotten the FISA court to approve what they’ve been doing without the FISA court’s approval all along in order to make moot the ACLU lawsuit.

I believe there’s no easy answer to balancing issues of liberty and safety and that every necesary tool to prevent another 9/11 should be explored. But I don’t think that means the Constitution, and especially the Fourth Amendment should become irrelevant. It’s time for Congress to earn its pay.

January 15, 2007

Football picks, Round 2 Review: Minimal Gloating Edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 12:50 pm

Well all I can say is I wish I were Tom Brady. Not even for his skills but for his luck. The ability to win a playoff game against a top-rated team by throwing an interception–karma like that means he must have been Gandhi in a previous lifetime.

Still he insured I beat the spread by doing it–by throwing a fourth down pass that got intercepted, when, had it just gone incomplete, would have ended the Patriots’ season. But as those of you who have seen the game highlight reel know, the interception, by the Chargers’ Marlon McKee, resulted in McKee fumbling the ball, a Patriots recovery and a chance to keep the ball and win the game. Which they did.

That meant I had picked the winners of all four games (once again) and beat the spread on 3 out of 4 this time Giving me a a 5-3 record agsint the spread so far in the playoffs. (My rival Gil Roth was 1-3 for this past weekend making him 2-6 over all. Only minimal gloating however, because it sets up treacherous picks for next weekend’s matches.

I think Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady in the AFC is going to be one of the great matchups of all time. I’m eager to see what the final line will be. As for the NFC I just can’t figure out Chicago. They made the Seadogs who looked so bad last week, look good. They’ve got to be an underdog to New Orleans but by how much.

I wish I could quit now at 5-3.

January 12, 2007

Footballl picks: Round 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 12:14 pm

You’ll recall last weekend I picked all four winners but only went 2-2 against the spread. A commenter pointed out that with the “vig”, the amount the bookie charges for taking your bet, people betting money with my picks would have lost a smallish amount even though I was right half the time.

So let me issue this disclaimer: Don’t bet on my picks. Save your money, this is an intellectual exercise, designed to demonstrate (I hope) that I have a profound, intuitive understanding of The Game, or at least a better understanding than my blog friend and rival Gil Roth at Virtual Memories.(who, by the way–did I mention this?–went 1-3 last week).

So here goes for this weekend (point spread based on Friday morning’s line):

SATURDAY:

Baltimore Ravens (formerly Cleveland Browns) vs. Indianapolis (formerly Baltimore) Colts. I’m still confused about how they’ve decided to keep the record books. Like, do stats for best QB continue from Baltimore’s Johnny Unitas to the Indy Colts’ Peyton Manning or to Baltimore’s current QB Steve McNair. I’ve always been a McNair admirer, and yeah, yeah, Ravens D rules, but I think that when you get Peyton Manning as an underdog and he’s got something to prove (i.e. that he can win in the post-season) you’ve got to go with the dog.

Take Indy plus the 4 points.

New Orleans Saints vs Philly Eagles. I know the Saints have the stars, but as one commenter pointed out last week the Eagles have heart. Usually in this fallen world, stars beat heart, and the Saints are favored. But I like the Eagles despite this.

Take Philly plus the 5 points.

SUNDAY:

The Bears are 8 1/2 point faves over the Seahawks. I’ve noticed people are down on Seattle. I’ve heard them called “the Seachickens” on sports radio, and “the Seahags” in the press. And I have to agree, based on last week’s performance I wouldn’t bet on them no matter what the line. I don’t have a lot of confidence Chicago QB Grossman can run up the score, but a touchdown and a field goal margin doesn’t seem out of line.

Take the Bears giving 8 1/2 points.

The Chargers are 5 point faves over the Patriots. Again the line makes sense about who will win, but when do you ever get Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as an underdogs with 5 points?

Take the Patriots plus 5.

I feel good about these picks. I’m going for 4 and 0. But I felt that way last week too.

p.s. I rashly promised in my last football post to predict what Philip Roth’s picks would be (long story, see post). Okay here’s one that’s obvious: Chicago! With a quarterback whose name–Rex Grossman–could make him a Roth charactrer.

Phil’s down for five large on the Bears. I just know it.

Haunted by Cambodia

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 1:07 am

If Iraq is to be compared to Vietnam, how relevant is Cambodia?

Ever since the news of the genocidal scale of mass murder in Cambodia reached the West, I’ve been trying to figure out how to relate it to my previous opposition to the Vietnam War.

At first it was self-exculpatory: No Vietnam War, no Nixon illicit secret bombing/destabilization of Cambodia, thus no Khmer Rouge take-over, thus no genocide. That was my story and I tried sticking to it for a long time.

But it’s more complicated than that isn’t it? Especially if you’re familiar with what’s come to light in the past decades from former Soviet archives about Vietnam. (You have read the Soviet archival documents haven’t you? Otherwise spare me your comments). When 2 or 3 million are murdered, it’s worth examining the causes further, especially in light of current potential parallels.

My opposition to the Vietnam war, developed during my college days was based on the oversimplified premise–which turns out, by most serious accounts, now bolstered by the former Soviet archives–to be false or seriously flawed.

My belief and that of most of the anti-war movement–that the North Vietnamese regime represented an indigenous, nationalist movement expressing the Vietnamese peoples centuries-long struggle for independence from foreign control–was only half-true at best.

There was a germ of truth in it, but more than a germ of foreign control in Hanoi, whose government was in fact a Stalinist puppet state of the Soviet Union (here’s where the diplomatic cables in the former Soviet archives are so important and dispositive). A Stalinist regime in Hanoi, which, as soon as it took over the South, established a gulag system of re-education and punishment camps for all who didn’t toe the line. Hundreds of thousands died in the camps, and hundreds of thousands, maybe more died as “boat people” escaping the unreconstructed Stalinist regime.

Put that in the context of another set of numbers–the 50 million or more murdered, starved, or Gulaged to death by Stalinist police states in the 20th century, and opposition to the war in Vietnam isn’t the moral slam-dunk it once seemed to be.

The Vietnam war, like the current one, was horribly mismanaged, yes. The war was, like this one, productive of horrific number of casualties among innocent civilians, but Vietnam wasn’t all as simple as I thought of it in college. One could still call it the wrong war at the wrong time fought by the wrong tactics, but one can’t portray the “foe” as somehow virtuous.

And Cambodia: the genocide there was as unimaginably horrific as any genocide in that genocidal century. Would that genocide have happened if the U.S. hadn’t so precipitously scurried out (under the aegis of a funding cut), leaving behind one half a nation hosting Stalinist gulags, and a good portion of a neighboring nation, Cambodia, rotting away in mass graves. Was the Cambodian genocide an inevitable consequence of the Vietnam war? Would it have happened however we managed to leave Vietnam? I don’t know, but it’s a question worth thinking about.

The “world community” did nothing to prevent genocide in Cambodia, in Rwanda, nothing to stop Saddam’s mass murder and the ethnic cleansing that bordered on genocide (did you hear his tape recorded cold blooded dismissal of the murder of thousands in the “Chemical Ali” trial?) in Iraq. And of course it’s doing nothing to stop it in Darfur. Whose responsibility will the aftermath of the (I think inevitable) U.S. pullout from Iraq be?

On the eve of the current war when it wasn’t clear to me whether we would actually go to war or not, I wrote, with habitual historical pessimism “war or no war, things are likely to get worse”. And I endorsed John Kerry in 2004 because I thought he would be smarter about the whole deteriorating situation. But things have gotten worse. Perhaps they haven’t for the Kurds, but for most of the rest of Iraq yes, and it’s our responsibility for the “mistakes” however you define them.

But does the fact–that it’s our responsibility for getting into this position (my view of the “surge” plan is the same as my view at the opening of the war: things are likely to get worse)–does that exempt or exculpate us from the responsibility to prevent the possible genocidal–certainly ethnic cleansing–consequences that will follow our withdrawal? Is there any way we can prevent those consequences?

And if not us, then who? The world community? I don’t have the answers, but someone has to ask the question. How do we prevent another Cambodia?

January 8, 2007

Hyman Roth, Gil Roth, Phil Roth

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:29 pm

A commenter was kind enough to credit me for picking all four winners this weekend. Yet much as I would like to claim a perfect day, I must concede that I was only 2-2 against the Almighty Line. The Seahawks beat Dallas by just 1 point (the line was 3) and the Eagles only beat the Giants by three (the line was 7 points.)

But I was right about the Colts and the Pats–and the line.

In Godfather Two it is said of Hyman Roth, the Meyer Lansky figure, “He always made money for his partners.”

Of me, so far you can say “He hasn’t yet lost money for his partners.” Not true, I believe of a certain Gil Roth (!) who, as of yet, has not posted his excuses. Nor for that matter has Philip Roth been heard from.

Back with more take-it-to-the-bank picks before gametime next Saturday. Also my conjectures on what Philip Roth’s picks would be.

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