Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

February 28, 2007

My comments policy

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:51 am

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and thought now might be the time to address it, since, recently for some tech issue (probably on my ibook) comments seem harder to post in some cases, I thought I’d explain some guidelines. In the beginning I had no comments, then tried to post all comments aside from those with egregious obscenity, bigotry or stupidity.

The main new change: no anonymous posts. If you’re proud of your opinion enough to post it, you should be proud enough to have your (real) name attached. Fair? I’ll entertain some comments on comments.

Thanks. Ron


February 27, 2007

Or is it Moral Equivalence?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 4:50 pm

I think there’s probably a distinction I should have made in thinking about Clint’s Eastwood’s comments below about “sacrifice” as “moral relativism”.

Moral relativism implies that there are no ways of judging one culture superior or inferior to another. If for instance beheading of human sacrfiices is acceptable in one culture it is not for another culture to judge it.

Moral equivalence is something different. When Clint praises “sacrifices” that were made “rightly or wrongly” he’s doing more than impying that it’s impossible to make moral distinctions in the conduct of a war, which would be a form of moral relativism.

instead though he’s sayng that we must admire soldiers on both sides of a conflict regardless of what they’re fighting for: moral equivlance. not just that all cultures are equal but that all cutlures are good or both cultures have good in them if they are dfended by “sacrifice”

It was the logic that led Ronald Reagan to lay a wreath at a cememtery in which SS soldiers were buried. They sacrificed for what they beleived in, and who’s to judge: racist extermibationist doctrines were favored by their entire l; it was the default position were just doing it for the “homeland”.

Perhaps it goes back to Eastwood’s Tightrope in which he blurred the distinction between the sadist killer his cop was tracking and the sadistic impulses inside himself. (or some fuzzy concept like that).An attraction to moral equivalence not merely moral relativism.

I’m having some technical issues, probably due to my ineptness, in posting some Comments, but one commentator on the last post brought up the film Downfall, a film that excupates the German nation and blames the Holocaust on a small circle of madmen mesmerized by Hitler. But in fact as the commenter suggests the entire culture was responsible. They all made sacrifices to keep the mass murder going and almost no gestures to stop it. Do we honor sacrifices just because they are sacrifices. That’s moral equivalence, false moral equivalence in addition to moral relativism.

An even stronger statement of what I was suggesting can be found i this essay brought to my attention by one of the commenters. i feel there’s a critique of its harshness, but I’m not sure what it is. Any counterarguments?

February 26, 2007

Clint Eastwood's Moral Relativism

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 5:26 am

“It’s not about winning or losing it’s about what big sacrifices they made; rightly or wrongly they made them.”

Thus sayeth Clint about the Japanese soldiers in Letters From Iwo Jima in an Oscar broadcast segment spotlighting the film’s Best Picture nomination.

“Rightly or wrongly”: so it doesn’t make a difference? Just the fact of sacrifice enobles, no matter what cause? It’s a complex question, I’m not sure I know the answer but I haven’t seen much complex discussion about it by film reviewers eager to embrace the film uncritically.

“Rightly or wrongly” all sacrifice is equal just because it’s sacrifice? Could one say that about the German soliders at Stalingrad who sacrificed themselves for Hitler, whose staunch ally Clint’s Iwo Jima Japanese soldiers were?

And the 9/11 hijackers and other suicide bombers? They made sacrifices in their war against infidels? Is “making sacrifices” no matter what one makes sacrifices for something to be applauded indiscriminately?

It’s remarkable to me that in all the praise lavished upon Letters From Iwo Jima there was little examination of the moral relativism implicit in the film, and made explicit by Clint’s Oscar Night quote.

Doesn’t this encourage unreflectiveness about “sacrifice”? Doesn’t it collapse all the difficult issues involved–and I’m not saying all cases can be reduced to Stalingrad or 9/11–in order to elevate blind fanaticism to a heroic ideal?

Just asking.

February 25, 2007

Liveblogging Barbara Walter's Cringefest

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:59 pm

This has always been the most reliably cringe making hour of the year. On tv anyway. it represents everything moronic in American culture. i say this as someone who loves pop culture.

7:01 Oh my god! She’s covered with leeches!

No wait, it’s the see-through netting she’s wearing which seems to have leech-like clumps of black fabric on it. Are the leeches related to the plastic surgery? I don’t want to seem cruel but she’s really reached Joan Rivers-level of plasticine surgery. Maybe she IS Joan Rivers.

The Ellen Degeneres segment. Ellen predicts to Barbara that when she walks out on stage to introduce the Oscars “there’s gonna be a big, big smile on my face.” Controversial! Inside stuff!

More wisdom from Ellen: “It’s really about living your truth.”

Young aspiring journalists can learn from old pro Barbara what kind of questions get your interview subject to really, really reveal stuff.

Barbara: if you were to call up God today what would you ask him?

Ellen: “Nothing, I’m really grateful for what I have.” An unexpected insight! But hey, what about asking God for world peace? Don’t you care about anyone but yourself?

Jennifer Hudson: exclusive footage of her singing that hideous tear jerker song everyone pays knee jerk obeisance to as “great”. Come on! It’s the most grating Broadway tripe.

Wait a minute, did Barbara suddenly beome a red head for this segment? America wants to know.

Another question of profound searching importance: will your boyfriend ask you to marry him? The poor woman, subjected to this crap. Call God and ask Him to smite this show with a mighty hand.

Helen Mirren section: Barbara’s hair continues to fascinate. Kind of a brassy blond now.

Could you possibly predict this: Barbara says The Queen</em has transformed HM into “Hollywood royalty”. Who writes this brilliant stuff?

But this was genuinely surprizing: Helen Mirren actually refused to answer one of Barbara’s insipid questions! About how her husband courted her. Good for you, Helen!

Why do we put up with Barbara’s insanely insipid show. Tradition? Aren’t some traditions past their sell-by date? It’s not even camp, or kitsch. It’s just crap.Cringe-making. Is there some deephuman need to cringe that Barbara has discerned and tapped into as the lodestone of her post-serious career?

Um, why is Eddie Murphy going on about women’s shoes? Okay he sold shoes as a youth but he seems to bring a lot of urgency to the account.

Don’t get me wrong I like Eddie Murphy. Rolling Stone once assigned me to do a story about him when he was headlining as a comic in Atlantic City. He was REALLY funny, really dirty.

But watching Barbara trying to mime laughter at Murphy through the botox is painful.

At last here it was: the trademark certainty of the Barbara Oscar specials is that somebody is going to cry. Eddie Murphy, hip to the tradition fakes crying. Does Barbara have a clue he’s sending her up?

Actually I think she does. Gotta give her credit for that I guess. And for daring to appear inthe leech-gown again at the end of the special. That’s courage.

February 22, 2007

Anna Nicole Judge Unites America in Loathing

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 11:24 am

Was there ever a single character since that girl in the first season of the Trump reality show (or maybe Richard on the first season of Survivor) who succeeded in uniting America in loathing more than the ringmaster “judge” of the reality show that is the Anna Nicole Smith Florida court hearing.

I can’t believe I’m hooked into watching the live coverage (on Court tv) of this idiot spectacle, but it’s a trainwreck that somehow is the tragic birthright of all Americans. it’s our payoff for the secret hatred of celebrities that lies beneath the preoccupation with celebrity.

As for the judge with his phony out-of-town Ed Koch New Yawk parody act, at the risk of “cyber-disinhibition”; what a lame self aggrandizing clown! What a smug, small-time idea of being a “character” he thinks he is. One of those painfully unfunny people who think they’re a riot. He’s guaranteed a spot on the Loser/Freak Island of Reality Shows,The Surreal life already.

America, please! Don’t take this slobbering jerk pifully flogging his 15 minutes as a typical New Yorker, or even a typical New York cabby he claims to have once been.

What a sad, self-regarding parody of a “down to earth” guy he is, with his stupid pseudo-“philosophical” remarks: “Oh I’m gonna get in trouble with my wife for this” after some pathetic reflections on in vitro fertilization. Or: “This is life. We all come with some broken suitcases.” Or the biggest fraud of them all: “I’m not lookin’ for any compliments.”

He’s not down to earth, but he is dumb as dirt when it comes to self- awareness.

I find this profoundly re assuring in a way. Because I can almost feel my fellow Americans turning against this pitiful celeb-intoxicated doofuss. A living breathing symbol–much like Anna Nicole–of all the deeply deforming effects of celebrity on what might once have been a human being. Now he’s become like Anna Nicole, only ugly.

Whitman said “I hear America singing.” Today, I can feel America sneering.

February 20, 2007

Chris Cooper: Best film performance of the year so far…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:35 pm

well anyway the best I’ve seen. To understand why it’s worth comparing the portraits of counter-intelligence mandarins in The Good Shepherd and the just-released Breach.

I must admit if I’m not prejudiced, I have what the Brits call “an interest to declare” in the matter since I’ve been working furiously on a fictional screenplay (not fictional in that it doesn’t exist, fictional in that it’s not strictly factual) about counter-intelligence matters for Errol Morris, the director of (among other things) The Fog of War.

Let me begin the comparison between Matt Damon in Shepherd and Chris Cooper in Breach by saying I admire reticence in film acting when it’s done well. But there’s reticence and there’s reticence.

The reticence of Matt Damon, an actor I ordinarily admire, in The Good Shepherd> was virtually catatonic. He was supposedly playing a buttoned up WASP based mainly on James Angleton the legendary CIA counter-spy. But if that was the intent he was playing the wrong stereotype. Angleton was no pure WASP silent type. He was half-Mexican and there was a Latin and Latinate flair to his rhetoric. Damon played Angleton as if he were Rainman.

Meanwhile Chris Cooper in Breach: wow, what a treat to see someone at least play at underplaying in a film. The guy is really convincing in conveying the mixed motives, or the incoherency (something slightly different from mixed) of his motives. Someone who doesn’t even fathom his own profound split and masks his incomprehension in reticence as he methodically goes about selling the most super-sensitive U.S. spy secrets to the Soviet Union. Selling out the lives of our agents in the KGB. For cash, not conviction.

It offers us something that we rarely see in films: non transparency. Someone who is not clear even to himself. Someone who is an apparently sincere devout Catholic who becomes a traitor for…merely money? For ego? So that he “matters”. He is essentially a multiple murderer; the information that he passed to the Soviets led to at least three deaths perhaps many more. And yet he goes about his business grimly but methodically. It’s haunting, chilling. In a way he reminds one of the kidnapper/murderer in the original Dutch version ofThe Vanishing We don’t understand him because he doesn’t understand himself, and this is what touches on a nerve and makes the performance great.

So many film roles over-explain their characters. Make everything transparent. That’s why a performance that renders a character fascinating but opaque, a mystery to him and us is so rare and so riveting to watch. The most difficult espionage is our attempt to spy on ourselves. It’s not always successful, but it’s fascinating to watch. Don’t miss it.

The New JFK Footage: Huh?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:08 am

There are several remarkable things about the disclosure that a new 40 second film of JFK’s pre assassination motorcade has just surfaced.

I have to say I didn’t know what to make of the following Reuters dispatch:

By Ed Stoddard

DALLAS (Reuters) – Previously unreleased footage of John F. Kennedy’s fateful motorcade in Dallas moments before he was gunned down was released on Monday, a surprising new detail in a saga that has gripped the United States for four decades.

The silent 8-mm film shows a beaming Jacqueline Kennedy close up in vivid color waving to the crowd.

A group of excited bystanders — women sporting big 1960s hairstyles — waves to the cameraman shortly before the motorcade sweeps past.

The president’s coat is clearly if briefly seen bunched up on his back — a detail that will be scrutinized by conspiracy theorists who see evidence of a plot in, among other things, the fact the bullet wounds on his jacket and body did not appear to match.

The film was donated to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas by amateur photographer George Jefferies and his son-in-law, Wayne Graham. It was released to coincide with the Presidents Day federal holiday.

Museum curator Gary Mack said he was not surprised Jefferies took so long to come forward.

“Everyone who captured the motorcade before the assassination thinks their pictures are unimportant. But to historians, all photos and home movies are important to possibly answer questions that will be asked in the future,” he said.

Located in the former Texas School Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from a sixth-floor window on November 22, 1963, the museum is devoted to Kennedy’s presidency and the events surrounding his assassination.

The footage was taken less than 90 seconds before the fatal shots were fired. The 40-second film also shows the scene of the crime the following day.

The footage is sure to be new fodder for conspiracy buffs who have long maintained Kennedy was the victim of a sinister plot orchestrated by shadowy elements in either the government, the “military-industrial complex,” the Mafia or communist Cuba.

“I’ve already seen the footage on a conspiracy Web site — it’s interesting for the conspiracy researchers to study Kennedy’s coat which appears to be bunched up on his back,” Mack said.

This raises intriguing questions. Why now? The psyche of the whole country had been in a twist for 45 years now and you have film of the motorcade just before the killing and you wait all this time and release it on President’s day like a commemorative stamp? What if there were something ,well, evidentiary, in the background? Or not–important as well, either way.

And that bunched up collar. it sounds like a parody of conspiracy theory evidence, but if my memory serves establishing that the collar was bunched-up is anti-conspiracy evidence.

I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong–but the bunched up collar helps explain an apparent anomaly in the evidence: that the bullet hole in the back of the suit indicated a different trajectory than the one indicated by the position of the bullet hole in the back of JFK’s neck. An evidentiary contradiction that has been used to question whether the bullet could have been fired from Oswald’s alleged “sniper’s nest” in the Texas Book Depository Building.

My thoughts on JFK conspiracies have undergone a long and winding trajectory. Initially I wanted to believe in a conspiracy—so much more interesting. And the initial investigation was a botched rush to judgment. But that doesn’t mean the initial judgment was necessarily wrong.

Then as I began to study the investigation and the re investigation I began to think that there was sketchy evidence for a dozen different conspiracies but nothing dead certain, and it might well be possible Oswald acted alone (if you don’t count the demons in his head) or at least was the “lone gunman”.

But even if he was the lone gunman it didn’t mean there was no conspiracy. Others could have influenced him, helped him plan it, paid him off. Years of investigation have shown him with connections to pro and anti-Castro types, pro and anti-Communist types; there was the defection to the Soviet Union, and the re-defection to the U.S., all of it suspicious. I leaned for a long time toward the Mafia connection, certainly to Ruby, less directly to Oswald.

And even if there were no co-conspirators there was still a mystery. What was going on inside his head, what was his motive, was it ideological, or just psycho? (Spooky the way the resemblance to Tony Perkins in Psycho influenced the way a lot of people came to see Oswald, I believe) .Or was he just cunning enough to make himself seem crazy as a cover up?

The closest anyone’s come to getting inside Oswald”s head was Don DeLillo’s Oswald in Libra, one of the great American novels of the past half century. DeLilllo’s rendition of Oswald’s inner voice is a tour de force. If you haven’t read it, drop everything, it’s pitch-perfect brilliant.

But convincing as DeLillo’s’s ventriloquism is, we can’t really know. We still don’t know. There may not have been a gunman on the “grassy knoll”; the real grassy knoll was inside Oswald’s head.

February 14, 2007

A Dissent on Straw Polls

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 11:29 am

In case anyone wonders why I have not installed a straw-poll “widget” on this website it’s because it presents a real dilemma for me. I don’t question the motives of those who want it, I just disagree with whether straw polls are a useful way of achieving them.

So this dissent (I assume) is not a test of free speech, I have confidence it’s merely an exercise of it. I hope it will provoke more discussion. But I just think “straw polls”–the encouragement of more polls of almost any kind–to be unhelpful if not antithetical to reasoned discourse, reducing discussion of candidates’ merits to discussion of horse race positioning, usually based on an unscientific sample that is easily manipulated (already there have been “cheaters” busted, but “cheaters” often manage to find another way to game the system.)

I’d rather have, if there have to be straw polls, polls about how people feel about specific issues and why. Maybe polls that tell us more than whether someone you wouldn’t vote for (since you can vote in both party polls) should win, or is likely to win, or–if you’re shrewd, you’d like to win in their party because they’re more likely to lose in the actual election.

Yes there is a case to be made for more scientific voter sampling based on population demographics (although these too can be wrong). A case that if one issue (such as the war, or abortion) is most important to you, you should try to choose the candidate with that view who is more “electable”. But the mixed motives of straw poll voters suggest they are not the most reliable guide.

I’m open to persuasion or popular demand if it manifests itself, but I thought I should let people know why no widget so far.

February 13, 2007

Valentine's Day Warning

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:30 pm

Warning: Don’t ever, EVER try to use–or at least depend on–800 number floral delivery services.

My girlfriend happens to live in another city. I love her madly and like to send her flowers when we’re apart for a while. The last time I tried to send her flowers through a famous 800 number floral delivery service, they failed to deliver on the the day I’d asked for and I had to spend an hour on the phone with their useless help-line to get them there at all a day late.

This Valentine’s Day I thought I’d play it smart, I’d order from a different widely advertised florists delivery service, for delivery February 13, just in case florists ran out of long stemmed roses as they sometimes do on V-day itself, just to make sure some reasonable facsimile of my flower order arrived by February 14.

Well I’ve just spent another hour on the phone with two help-line services, the 800 number delivery service and UPS, the carrier that was supposed to make the delivery. When the flowers didn’t arrive at her office today as promised, I discovered that the moronic order-taker at the floral delivery service had given UPS an address label which included only the name of the company she worked for, not her name.

Duh, they’re flowers, for a person, not a company. All of this concatenating incompetence the result of e-communications which I believe will destroy Love in our time. It’s almost as if the flower companies were trying to destroy Love.

At least UPS sounded like they’d make an effort to redeliver to the named person (not the company in general) by tomorrow, Valentine’s Day.

But I think it’s only fair to warn those who depend on their love being expressed in a timely manner not to trust the 800 numbers.

I’ll report on the results of the latest promises. The course of true love ne’er did run smooth.

Meanwhile, To my beautiful, brilliant sweetheart T., if you don’t get the flowers on time, let me at least hope you’ll get the message here: I love you, darling.

February 10, 2007

Ahmadinejad: Accessory

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 11:41 am

It’s no longer a joke. No longer something that can be dismissed as the folly of dimwit clowns. This story–about the beating of Elie Wiesel by a Holocaust denier–is horrifying in itself. A 81 year old Holocaust survivor beaten by a moronic Holocaust denier.

But it’s a metaphor too. For the way Holocaust denial is being used to pave the way to a second Holocaust by delegitimizing the first, and demonizing Jews as liars. A metaphor for the way that the insidious evil of Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial conference, however much ridiculed and condemned by the world, empowered certain vicious morons. This particular one had the only the courage to attack an 81 year old man. But there is an entire nation armed with weapons of genocidal power, indeed more than one where Holocaust denial is regarded as a legitimate position–and a reason to wipe the Jewish state off the map and “leave nothing on the ground”.

The story is from the San Francisco Examiner online. Read it and weep:

Author attacked in S.F. hotel  An unidentified person attacked author and Jewish scholar Elie Wiesel in a San Francisco hotel on Feb. 1. 

Adam Martin, The Examiner, Feb 9, 2007 6:00 AM

SAN FRANCISCO – In a bizarre attack, a well-known author and Holocaust scholar was dragged out of a San Francisco hotel elevator by an apparent Holocaust denier who reportedly had been trailing him for weeks. 

Police escorted Elie Wiesel to San Francisco International Airport on Feb. 1 after a man accosted Wiesel in the elevator at the Argent Hotel, at 50 Third St., after Wiesel participated in a panel discussion at a peace conference and before Wiesel was scheduled to catch a flight back to New York.

Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and author of more than 40 books, including the memoir “Night,” about his experiences at Auschwitz, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Last fall, the Boston University professor was suggested as a possible replacement for Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who faces sexual assault charges.

Police confirmed this week that the attack took place and that officers escorted Wiesel to the airport following the attack. According to police, the suspect accosted Wiesel in the hotel elevator at around 6:30 p.m., saying he wanted to interview him. Wiesel said he would do the interview in the lobby. That’s when the attacker pulled him out of the elevator, police reported.

In a posting Tuesday on the anti-Zionist Web site ZioPedia, a writer using the name Eric Hunt takes credit for the attack: “After ensuring no women would be traumatized by what I had to do (I had been trailing Wiesel for weeks), I stopped the elevator at the sixth floor. I pulled Wiesel out of the elevator. I said I wanted to interview him.”

Wiesel grabbed at his chest and yelled for help, according to the posting. “I told him, ‘Why don’t you want people to know the truth?’ His expression changed, and he began screaming again.’” the posting reads. Police reported that the suspect tried to force Wiesel into one of the rooms, but ran away when Wiesel started yelling.

The online posting states that the writer intended to “bring Wiesel to my hotel room where he would truthfully answer my questions regarding the fact that his non-fiction Holocaust memoir, Night, is almost entirely fictitious.” Later in the posting, the Holocaust is portrayed as a “myth.”

I wonder if this makes the proud brave “anti-Zionists” among us flattered to have such courageous allies. I hope we will soon hear all the “anti-Zionists” in the academy dissociate themselves from this disgusting act and explain why their belief that the erasure of the Jewish state is a good idea is different from the position of “ZioPedia”, and doesn’t enable its thugs.

I don’t believe the the academic anti-Zionists with their plans to put the Jews of Israel in peril of genocide with their bold plans for a “binational state” (NYU Professor Tony Judt’s panglossian euphemism for wiping Israel off the map) should bear responsibility for this particular attack by a self-proclaimed “anti-Zionist”, but I wonder if they will remain silent about it.

Professor Judt–any response to this version of anti-Zionism? Any expression of outrage? Or just silence because Wiesel is one of those Zionist Jews who embarasses you at dinner parties?

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