Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

June 28, 2007

Anderson Cooper: "The Real Paris Hilton"

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:49 am

If you ask me the real loser in last night’s Larry King Paris Hilton interview was Anderson Cooper who demonstrated a breath-taking degree of hypocrisy, smarminess, condescension and vacuousness while trying to condemn Paris Hilton for exactly those qualities himself.

Cooper’s show followed the inane P.H. interview on Larry King and he tried to have it both ways: he tried to communicate he was so above it all by adopting a barely concealed contempt for the whole thing. And yet he did an entire hour analyzing the interview, attempting to plumb the depths of the profound question: “Who is the real Paris Hilton?”–complete with “expert” panel!.

Who did he think he was fooling? If you thought it was so beneath you, then refuse to do it, show some spine, tell your CNN bosses you won’t stoop so low to pump up your ratings.

But nooo…Instead he resorted to taking cheap shots at Paris Hilton as if this would prove what a deep heavy-hitting intellectual he was.

For instance, in addressing P.H.’s claim that she was going to become a more serious person, Anderson Cooper demanded of his panel: “Why hasn’t she been substantial up to now!”

SO hard-hitting!

Then he actually had the nerve to ask, “should she have been doing an hour interview?”

How about this question for you, Anderson: why are you doing an hour show about the interview? Who’s the media whore here?

Then he has the nerve to diss Paris Hilton’s letter to her fans from jail by saying, “It’s not like [Martin Luther King Jr.’s] ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail'”.

Duh! Pathetic exploitation of Martin Luther King to add to your own self imagined gravitas, Anderson. Your hour long “analysis” of the interview that’s so beneath you isn’t like Edward R. Murrow either, is it?

How insecure, self righteous and self aggrandizing. if CNN is to be condemned for doing the interview in the first place, then Anderson Cooper should be doubly condemned by trying to leech off it while pretending he’s somehow better than it all.

But in fact his agenda is so obvious someone should take him aside and tell him what a fool he makes of himself as he lectures Paris Hilton about how–after being born into wealth and privilege–she’s lived such an insubstantial life.

Because you Anderson Cooper were also born into wealth and privilege and look what you’ve made of your life: you’re doing an hour long show about someone else’s hour long show about Paris Hilton. Who’s wasting his talent? Who’s “the real Paris Hilton”?


June 22, 2007

Overlooked CIA Scandal in New Disclosures

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 9:24 am

My fellow espionage obsessive Gil Roth sent me a link to the National Security Archive’s release onthe CIA “family Jewels” document dump which contained what has got to be the Greatest Euphemism ever coined.

The National Security Archives is the non government organization that attempts to get classifed documents that contain or cover-up the secret history of our time declassifed. Here’s the link Gil sent me which, when studied, revealed the amazing euphemism.

The “family jewels” were the dirty secrets about dirty tricks and illicit practices the agency had been engaged in–illegal surveillance, wiretapping, warantless break ins, mail intercepts and the like that had begun to leak out under pressure of Congressional investigations in the mid-70s. All of which caused then-president Ford in 1975 to order up a summary of the worst of the worst he could expect eventually to surface.

What I found interesting and unremarked in the coverage of the memos was a remarkable passage in memo (#2 in the National Security Archive link) is that it’s very specific about many instances of illicit surveillance and telephone tapping, naming a handful of specific individuals as targets. And then there is one final paragraph that suddenly drops all pretense to transparency. Becomes astonishingly vague and opaque. Hence the potentially explosive euphemism.

According to this paragraph “the CIA occasionally tests experimental equipment on American telephone circuits. The CIA apparently has established guidelines for these tests which provide, among other things that no records may be kept, not tape and so forth.”

And so forth. How eyes must have rolled when they came across that:

“Tests experimental equipment on American telephone circuits”.

Tests experimental eavesdropping devices on American telephone equipment? And just how widespread are these tests” and how long to they go on. Do they test whether they can listen into to every conversation a given subject has. Wording like that would give them latitude. Wording like that seems designed to cover up more than it reveals.

There is a scandal here, I suspect, one that may turn out to have foreshadowed the NSA warrantless wireptapping scandal.

It’s up to the new “open” CIA to show us their good faith by tellingl us just what lies beneath that egregious euphemism. Don’t hold your breath.

June 20, 2007

Did Misery Kill Danny Pearl?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:37 pm

Last week I saw a screening of A Mighty Heart the film about the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl and the efforts of his wife Mariane Pearl to cope with the investigation. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. There is much to admire in the movie, not least the performance of Angelina Jolie, however much I’ve criticized her publicity hype. There is much that is missed, including Danny Pearl himself who becomes a fleeting barely glimpsed presence.

What’s most impressive is the film’s portrait of the enormity of Karachi a city so large and so filled with those off the grid its magnitude can’t be counted. (I just read a figure of 14 million).

My problem with the film is that the film-maker and the screenwriter seem to have taken the “we are the world ” tone of Mariane Pearl’s book A Mighty Heart. Most troubling is the brief exchange in which they frame the implicit cause of Daniel Pearl’s death.

Toward the end of the film the Mariane Pearl character is heard saying that if we can overcome misery bad things like the killing of Daniel Pearl won’t happen again.

There are two assumptions here: that misery was the motive of the people who killed Daniel Pearl. And that ending misery–however noble a goal–is going to end religious fanaticism, which is really what killed Daniel Pearl.

In fact the man who organized the kidnap and murder of Pearl was a well educated, relatively well-off British Muslim of Pakistani origin. He had escaped the misery of his native land but he hadn’t escaped the murderousness in the strain of his religion he embraced. So too with many of the 9/11 perpetrators and other of the most fanatic and murderous terrorists. It was not misery but religious hatred that motivated them.

By devoting the movie to the search for Danny Pearl the film gives us mainly good people in a bad situation. The camera avoids like the plague the room in which Daniel Pearl was confined before he was beheaded and cut into ten pieces for that hideous snuff video.

I don’t believe one has an obligation to present the video to a movie audience, or to watch it oneself. But to avoid looking closely at the butchers who made it is a kind of denial of the ugly truth of Danny Pearl’s death.

June 13, 2007

Tentative, Temporary Starbucks Victory?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:09 am

Well it seems JUST possible that we may be able to roll back the 2% tide at Starbucks. After my conversation with a surprisingly understanding Starbucks p.r. person the new “2% default” experiment may be defunct. At least the version of the “default” policy that would make “default” de facto.

As you might recall I discovered that some addled nutrition nut at Starbucks, one of those tunnel-vision ignoramuses who believe all food must be robbed of flavor, had convinced their New Agey management to replace steamed whole milk in their lattes, cappucinos and mistos with the watery diminished taste of 2% milk, which is not only less flavorful but steamed up with a nasty, stingy edge.

And they were in effect doing it secretly! There was blackboard announcing that 2% milk was the “default ‘” choice which meant that if you wanted the richness of whole milk, you had to specifically call for it. If you wandered in groggy in the morning and didn’t notice the blackboard annoucement and asked for a steamed milk beverage you would be served the burnt-milk tasting 2% version.

And even if you were sharp enough to notice the switch and asked for whole milk they were likely to be out of it because as 3 baristas confirmed to me, they were told by the manager to order only a single gallon of whole milk, which meant they’d run out early and the “default” choice would be the only choice. Cheap trick. Starbucks, you’ve been busted.

Well the Starbucks p.r. guy seemed to recognize the inequity of skewing things toward the “default” choice and suggested that the manager may have misunderstood things.

And lo and behold the next time I visited the branch, a barista told me that they “had a whole bunch” of gallons of whole milk just come in, because the 2% default solution “wasn’t working out”.

I won’t claim credit entirely for this tentative, temporary victory (which I’ll bet they’ll find some way of getting around I’m sure). In fact I have a feeling that there was a customer rebellion against the food puritans and their war against natural richness.

My only concern is that our intervention and rebellion may have saved Starbucks from financial suicide. By 2%ing the flavor of their core drink (meanwhile serving profoundly crappy sugary pastries, far more nutritionally lethal) they would have made the “Starbucks experience” even less appealing. Millions would be less willing to put up with kitschy-cute cultish New Agey Starbucks culture to get this 2% experience.

But don’t let up. Don’t let them off the hook. don’t settle for anything less than whole and make it clear to the managers of your branch that you won’t settle for less.

June 10, 2007

The Final Scene of The Sopranos: Prediction

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 7:02 pm

Okay what’s the point of having a blog if you don’t occasionally do things that every other blog does. In this case predict the ending of “The Sopranos”.

It’s now less than two hours before the final episode and here’s my vision of how the “The Sopranos” should end. Maybe it won’t end this way, but I don’t necessarily think that writers always make the best choices. Mine is the best choice, even if it’s wrong. (how’s that for win-win).

First of all I see Tony surviving. (like they’re really gonna give up the chance to do a feature film by knocking him off). He’s sitting in chair by the empty pool He’s lost just about everything (either A.J., Meadow or both have been whacked). He’s smoking a cigar contemplating the emptiness of his future–and his past. I almost see him visited by a parade of the ghosts of past hits (Hi Ade!) a la the ending of Richard III‘s night-before-the-battle scene. .

And then the ducks return. Like the chickens come home to roost, get it.

Go ducks.

p.s. Apologies to recent commenters. Some tech issues have developed in the past couple days that I hope will be corrected by Tuesday. So keep them coming, I’ll try to find a way to post those that have been sent but haven’t shown up. Thanks for your patience.

June 7, 2007

At Last! A Fresh Reason to Diss Starbucks

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:08 pm

For a while I thought the fun was gone. I’d made an accommodation with Starbucks. As one of the only writers to be thrown out of (and then re instated in) his local Starbucks, I’d gotten over what had become a cliched loathing of their corporate sensibility because I really needed the jolt their coffee gave me.

I even feel I can claim some credit for improving their corporate culture after having written several scathing columns in The New York Observer about my run-ins with insufferably arrogant Starbucks manager-types (I’d always gotten along well with the individual baristas who have to suffer under them).

One of those run-ins had actually gotten me banned from my local Starbucks. I had sought to return a pound bag of really stale tasting beans and instead of complying with their slogan of the moment “Just say yes!”, the manager said he’d have to check the expiration date “codes” in his “back office”.

I said I didn’t care what the “codes” said, it wouldn’t change the stale taste. But when he insisted that if the “codes” showed the coffee had not passed its expiration date then i would have to be satisfied. I wasn’t satisfied as I m made clear somewhat emphatically, and the preening manager, drunk with his pathetic little corporate power literally told me I was “banned” from his store.

After I spent some time on the phone with Starbucks p.r. i succeeded in getting the “ban” reversed and the regional manager made a special trip to the branch to formally “re-instate” me. A triumphal moment I compared (jokingly) to the final scene of the first Star Wars. Subsequently Starbucks abandoned their use of expiration date “codes” and began printing clear month day and year expiration dates on their bags of beans.

Anyway one rarely gets such satisfaction from retail rage, so I chilled and just drank my coffee.

But just the other day yes the very day they chose to play the new Paul McCartney album non stop all day long, I noticed an off taste in my favorite drink, the variation on cafe au lait they call a “misto”. (It’s not on the menu but it’s regular coffee topped with steamed milk). Same thing next day, only this time when I asked as usual for “whole milk, no foam”‘ in my misto they told me whole milk would no longer be an option at all times because Starbucks was experimenting with changing over to 2% lowfat milk as their “default” milk choice.

In fact one of the baristas said they now only ordered a single gallon of whole milk a day and that when it ran out (as it would fairly early at a busy 18 hour venue) it was tough luck, 2% or nothing.

Now I have nothing against 2% milk; I often drink it at home. But when 2% milk is steamed and added to coffee it gives it a flat, burned-milk taste. If I want to be put on a low-fat diet I’ll go to a professional nutritionist. I don’t need Starbucks adjusting my diet for alleged “health” reasons. I mean if it’s health they’re trying to show concern for why do they serve all those hideous-tasting sugary pastries? Why not nothing but raw vegetables?

The Starbucks p.r. person I reached told me it was just something they were testing in certain areas, although clearly they hoped they could make it work nationwide. He also said that it was a mistake on the part of my local Starbucks manager to fail to order enough whole milk (i.e. more than one gallon) to make it an option all day long and that he would inquire about correcting this. (I’ll keep tabs on whether in fact they do). But I suspect that more and more often there will only be the “default” option available as pressure grows to adopt the 2% solution. It’s de-fault, so to speak, of the moronic nutrition-nazi spirit abroad in the land playing into a fear of pleasure, a fear of food, a fear of the richness of life.

I am calling on all Starbucks customers who are used to whole milk to resist this insidious creeping nannyism, rise up, rebel, and tell their store managers how much you resent them trying to impoverish your life and deprive your coffee of its richness with their 2% “default option”.

If they want to live a 2% life go ahead, just don’t impose it on me and my cup of coffee.

June 6, 2007

Berman on Buruma on Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:49 am

For those of you who have yet to make your way to the end of Paul Berman’s 28,000 word essay in the June 4 issue of The New Republic (sub. req.), I want to make sure you don’t miss the gravamen of the last 8,000 or so words, the ones that deal with journalist Ian Buruma’s repeated attacks on Hirsi Ali one of the most courageous champions of woman’s rights, and outspoken voices against vicious religious intolerance.

it was she–the author of Infidel who was the subject of murdered Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh’s film, who was stabbed to death by a Muslim fanatic for “blasphemy”–that is exercising his creative right to question religious dogma. A murder that liberals in the West were shamefully silent about. A murder that forced Hirsi Ali to flee to America when fearful Dutch authorities turned against her.

In focusing on Hirsi Ali I am largely ignoring the titlular subject of Berman’s essay “Who’s Afraid of Tariq Ramadam?” his microscopic examination of the pretensions to interfaith tolerance by the increasingly influential European Muslim thinker, Ramadan. It is worthy of careful consideration and I am not suggesting you skip it, but I choose to speak here on what might be called the sub titular subject–the third term in Berman’s subtitle: “The Islamist, the Journalist and the Defense of Liberalism.”

It is the “defense of liberalism” from the fearful sophistry of those who attack Hirsi Ali that makes this essay most important to me.

Asa liberal, I feel it’s about time someone took on the shocking, smarmy pseudo-sophistication of the timid self-styled liberal intellectuals who can’t see that the values of the Enlightenment are at stake in the Ali affair and that their puny vicious nitpicking of the likes of this brave woman represents an astonishing display of intellectual intimidiation if not cowardice on their part.

I’ve referred elsewhere to the degraded thinking that finds moral equivalence between those who favor genital mutilation, “honor killings” and punitive gang rape of women, with those who defend tolerance, equal rights, self-determination and dearly won, always threatened Enlightentment values as indistinguishable “fundamentalists”. That’s right, their fearful sophistry has led them to argue that belief and tolerance and intolerance are both “fundamentalisms”. How pathetic.

But Berman painstakingly, at great length, nails this sensibility and attributes it–in a stunning conclusion–at least in part to fear: intellectual cowardice on the part of those who have abandoned the defense of liberalism because they have internalized the dread inspired by terrorism.

I’m surprised that there has yet to be more discussion of the Berman essay; perhaps the length is too intimidating. But get the magazine and make sure you read pages 59-63, the ones on Hirsi Ali. Otherwise I may feel compelled to return to the subject and just quote one salient passage after another from Berman’s demolition of Buruma’s condescending attack on this exemplary woman whose life is in danger because she is unafraid to speak out on behalf of liberal values. Those who don’t speak up to defend her join those who carped at Salman Rushdie, those who were silent when Theo van Gogh was murdered (for blasphemy!) and have forfeited the right to call themselves liberals.

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