Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

September 30, 2007

The Best Thing Written About the Ahmadinejad Visit…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:27 am

…was a column by Caroline Glick of The Jerusalem Post. She puts the visit and the inanely naive treatment of it–that it was about free speech or “fear” of Ahmadinejad, or fear of talking to our enemies–in its true context.

To me the visit was about the necessity to bear some kind of moral witness against the evil represented by Ahmadinejad, whatever pseudo-sophisticated arguments are used deny responsibility to him for his regimes crimes or to treat him as open to Reason.

The new meme tries to frame it as being about “fear” of Ahmadinejad. No it’s not about fear, it’s about moral disgust, revulsion. The fear can be seen, rather, in the posturing of those super brave boyz who accuse those who have the clarity to express moral disgust and rejection as “fearful”. When in fact it’s their fear–that their super-sophisitcated white boy, think tank subsidized, wonk mentality with all its nuances that is laughably impotent in the face of fundamentalist, theocratic fascist evil. [UPDATE: Not just boyz–the liberal propogators of the “fear of dialogue” meme are now on the same page as Peggy Noonan! And what’s equally laughable is their belief that their arguments, their rhetoric their desire above all for dialogue will make a differnce in a kumbaya way, to the victims of a theocratic Stasi-like state.

Are they aware of how student dissidents are beaten and tortured in Terhan? Only in the abstract, I imagine. I suggest they read this harrowing account of an Iranian student hunted down, beaten and tortured, that was just published in London’s Observer.

Read it? Now tell me the best response: protest or “dialogue”? I wonder if that Iranian student was grateful for the super, super brave bloggers who boasted of their courageous lack of “fear” of dialogue with the representative of a theocratic fascist regime.

I read one laughable atttempt at a historical argument on a conservative-oriented blog, a pro-“dialogue” post which seemed to imply that Richard Nixon’s “dialogue” with Khrushchev in that silly “kitchen debate” (America’s true superiority lies in our material goods; we’re better because we’re have better refrigerators!) changed Khrushchev’s mind. And that the Berlin Wall fell because Reagan changed Gorbachev’s mind about its presence. Through dialogue of course.

“Hmmm,” you can hear Gorbachev saying, “Reagan says, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down the wall!’ Maybe I should! Why didn’t I think of it?”. But the point is he didn’t tear down the wall. No, the wall fell because the courage of Solidarity in bearing moral witness against the Soviet-style police state regime in Poland was contagious, and spread to East Germany. To deny that, to rob those brave Eastern Europeans who really did tear down the wall–truly fearless people–in order to use this denial as an argument for think-tanky dialogue, is a sad disservice to those those brave souls.

I just don’t get the desperate need for so many commentators left and right to twist themselves into knots of such clueless sophistry to trivialize a fascist regime, to prove somehow that by failing to speak out against Iran’s Stasi like regime that tortures and murders dissidents and heretics, they are somehow being braver and more sophisticated than the “fearful” who actually did speak out.

I have to admit I’m still shocked by the failure of so many of the commentariat in the MSM and the blogosphere to have the moral clarity to express outrage, shocked by their impulse instead to find ways to deny or trivialize Hitlerism and the need to confront it–especially by those in the moral witness line of work. The self-congratulatory (I’m so fearless!) way they strained to find eight different ways to excuse and diminish what Ahmadinejad said is something they will have to explain to the Iranian student in the Observer story.

In any case I believe the best thing written about the visit was by Caroline Glick, to my mind a brilliant Cassandra-like truth teller, who listened carefully to what Ahmadinejad said and found even deeper reasons to be disturbed. Her clarity and anger–yes anger, don’t faint, oh brave fearless ones. Yes, anger can be a legitmate emotion in a world seething with evil. You can find Caroline Glick’s analysis here. (The link, annoyingly goes to page two; scroll down and click back to the beginning–it’s worth it.).

But read the Observer piece. If your first reaction to these homicidal thugs is dialogue, not protest, I feel sorry for you.

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September 29, 2007

At Last Someone Does Justice to the Tania Head Story and…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:58 am

..it’s no surprise it’s the great New York columnist Jim Dwyer.

If you read my post below you’ll understand how resonant and important I think this story is. On its own and as a way of understanding post-9/11 culture. How cannily Tania Head, the 9/11 “survivor” fabulist diagnosed what a sentimentalizing culture wanted to hear and served it up on a big phony platter.

Buit Dwyer comes up with the kind of brilliant parallel–Lillian Hellman and “Julia”–that makes me incredibly envious as a writer. Don’t miss it.

September 27, 2007

OMG, This is the Most Amazing….

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:55 am

…story I’ve seen in the New York Times, indeed maybe in any media in a long, long time. It’s the story on the front page of today’s (9/27’s) hard copy Times. There its headline is “above the fold” (one of four such stories) while the paper very, very, curiously, does not have it up on its online frontpage although it’s already #2 onthe “most E-mailed” list).

It’s a story about the dubious credentials of a prominent 9/11 “survivor”. You have to read the whole thing–“In a 9/11 Survival tale , the Pieces Just Don’t Fit”– yourself. (I give you permission to depart and do your homework–and make up your own mind.)

Back now? Amazing, right? But the story about a potentially, monumentally clever 9/11 fake victim is OMG-worthy because it is one of those rare stories which conflates our wonder at a masterfully artistic con artist, a morality tale, and a philosophical question.

On one level you have to give her credit as an artist although the poignant details of her story–of being on the 78th floor of the South Tower, the very floor the plane hit and taking a dying man’s wedding ring to his wife, and then learning that her husband, or “fiance” or no-relation-person, died in the North Tower– turns 9/11 from a tragedy to a personal fairy tale

I certainly don’t condone what she did on these grounds. But what if she was fake but she nonetheless did a lot of “good” as a fake? Comforted people, created a sense of community and solidarity among the families of victims and “fellow” survivors. .

Does it matter she wasn’t really a victim herself? I think in those senses it may not matter–matter gravely anyway; it certainly matters if one believes in truthful history–but it may well matter when she starts pronouncing in a sappy way about the “lessons” of “her” tragedy. (one begins to wear out quote marks in a story like this) lessons which in a repellant way manage to cast aspersions on the emotional reactions of real survivors like myself (Kidding! I know I shouldn’t but a story like this does undercut ones sense of piety. Forgive me or the terrorists win!!)

Seriously the thing that struck me, the thing that you see on the hardcopy page but not on the online story is this pullquote from this 9/11 “survivor” who calls herself “Tania Head”:

“I feel this need to rise above these attacks these attacks, these acts of hate.”

Well, as the SNL church lady used to say “Isn’t that special?”

But there’s a dark side to this muddled pablum by a faker (okay I said it; the fact that she has been unable to corroborate a SINGLE one of her assertions about her Twin Towers fairy tale makes me believe she’s a major major fake, someone who will go down in the history of U.S. con artistry).

What she’s actually saying is that she’s a superior sort of person who can “rise above”acts of hate. Setting aside the fact that she probably never experienced them, and thus understandably would want to “rise above” them, what she’s implicitly saying is that in her oh-so-special reaction she’s morally and spiritually superior to other survivors and families of victims who can’t rise above hate.

Maybe some have “risen above” but I can’t criticize those who haven’t. Lose a wife or child to terrorists and still hate them for it? That’s okay by me, even if our churchlady faker wags her phony-pious survivor finger at it.

September 24, 2007

My immediate After-Reaction to Ahmadinejad at Columbia

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:10 pm

I just finished watching the question and answer session. I had been conflicted about the Columbia invitation to the Iranian Holocaust denier and wannabe genocidaire. Is it better to experience evil–and its forked tongue spokesman first hand–even if it means legitimating him to a certain extent?

But the shock to me was not the evasive quality of his talk, but the applause afterward.

Major enthuaistic applause. That is something that I will never forget, alas.

Ahmadinejad was just being his lying, deceiving self. The applause of the Columbia audience showed them (the ones who clapped) to be useful idiots, moral idiots, complacent about Hitlerism’s contemporary embodiment. Unequipped by a history to understand how Hitler lied and deceived the West about his benign intentions until the very first shots were fired and the first Poles and Jews murdered. Not only the audience, but Columbia’s history department should be deeply ashamed.

September 20, 2007

Two Controversial Essays on…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 7:22 am

…Jewish questions as addressed by a movie and a book:

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/6313

http://www.slate.com/id/2173908/

The O.J. Book: Preliminary Thoughts

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:37 am

Okay let’s get the disclaimer out of the way: it’s a hateful document by a lying murderer.

But on the other hand there’s something fascinating about it and I am kind of stunned that I’d want to write about it, and in fact, this may be the last or the first of several posts on the book, on our fascination with O.J., on tabloid sensationalism and what we can and can’t learn from it.

And since none of the money goes to the killer but rather to the relatives of his victims, including the children, I have to say I didn’t feel guilty buying it. I did feel somewhat guilty reading it, because it is the amazing mesmeric power of narrative to tempt you into sympathy with the devil, if the devil is the narrator.

In this case I felt no sympathy but I did find far more to think about than I imagined. It’s almost like a poorly written Crime and Punishment for our time. Of course O.J.’s ghost writer is no Dostoevsky but something about the voice in which “O.J.” purportedly tells the story sounds like a real, if despicable, person.

To me the difficult question it raises is this: how one goes from being an ordinary jerk to an evil killer. I don’t think anyone would argue that O.J.’s life up to the point of the murder (and his lying defense of his “innocence”) indicated he was at heart an evil person. Just a slacker ex jock exploiting the perks of his long ago championship seasons.

So what’s puzzled me, what I’ll (maybe if I can stand it) try to puzzle out in subsequent posts, what makes the book worthy of study is this question: how does an ordinary jock-jerk become evil.? Is evil there within us all waiting to seize upon the moment? Can it be explained as an evolutionary process, the result of a poisonous human interaction like a bad marriage and worse divorce, the result, the evil,, in other words of love gone wrong.

It makes me so grateful I have a friendly relationship with my ex-wife. I’ve seen how divorce can transform men, in particular, into hideous shits inexcusably and callously cruel to their ex spouses and children. So that’s a possibility. Or does O.J.’s focus on his post-divorce relationship have nothing to do with it at all? Does this verge on blaming the victim, poor Nicole, who O.J.– in what is perhaps the ugliest aspect of this book–tries to paint in the worst light. But if it’s not that which made him do it–if that’s not sufficient to explain murder—does the book, spurious document though it is, offer any clues.

More thoughts later.

Worst. Cereal. Ad. Ever

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:20 am

Please Madison Avenue: don’t ruin my morning this way. I’m talking about the new (I think) All Bran tv ad which goes on about their amazingly fabulous ten- day plan for super-duper regularity. I stumbled awake this morning turned on the tv just as the All Bran ad had begun and began regretting getting out of bed.

It’s spokesperson is a garbage-man and he’s standing at the back of his garbage truck as he delivers his pitch. And then…and then… Well at the tail end of the ad, so to speak, the rear loading door of the garbage truck opens and a hideous torrential mass of sludgy garbage slides out.

Subtle, no? You know I’m not that queasy, but I’m curious: can anyone top that as the most repellant tv spot in memory?

September 18, 2007

O.J. Tab Heds Go Head to Head

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:25 am

One of the perks of living in New York City is that every once in a while you get to see the masters of the daily tabloid headline science go hed-to-hed. (I probably don’t need to say this but “hed” is ink-stained newspaper and magazine shorthand for headline).

I know it’s not a matter of world-shaking significance, but I did have a feeling of anticipation picking up the papers at my local bodega yesterday morning to see how the New York Daily News and the New York Post would handle the late breaking mystifying O.J. arrest.

What I discovered was a true challenge for the connoisseur of the headline art. The News gave us:

O.J.

IN THE CAN

While the Post went with:

O.J.

IN A

CAN

Who won? How to judge? The News went with the more literal version. “in the can” meaning obviously in jail. Although it must be pointed out there’s a troubling additional connotation to “IN THE CAN” which unfortunately calls up associations with the Larry Craig story.

The News probably wanted to get the punning conflation of canned orange juice and “the Juice” in jail. But it’s slightly off: in addition to the Larry Craig connotation creeping in, the fact is orange juice rarely comes in a can, so the equation doesn’t exactly work. It doesn’t really call up an instantly familiar punning joke since OJ usually comes in a carton unless it’s the increasingly rare frozen o.j.

. (Hey, what about:

O.J.

ON ICE

wouldn’t that be an improvement? Hire me!)

On the other hand consider the Post‘s choice. Their hed “O.J. IN A CAN” reads more mellifluously, but it’s slightly a cheat because while you get the orange juice container connotation immediately, you lose just the slightest instant recognition of CAN as jail. A small but noticeable sacrifice. Each paper found the canned O.J. trope irresistible yet fell slightly short of the potential for tab hed perfection.

The gold, no, platinum standard was set a quarter-century ago by the Post‘s infamous

HEADLESS BODY

IN TOPLESS BAR

I know: you probably don’t think close exegesis of tabloid headlines is a worthy occupation. But I would point out the subtle insinuation of the ancient philosophical question known as “the mind/body problem” in the HEADLESS/TOPLESS hed. I don’t think tabloid sensations should be disdained the way many look down their noses at them, but rather, studied for what they reveal about the nature of human nature, both the perps and their readers.

And as author of %%AMAZON=037550339 The Shakespeare Wars%%, I believe in the close reading of all language including popular demotic headline- speak attunes us to the evolution of the way we use and think about the ambiguities of words.

I’m going to go out now and get today’s papers–and some OJ–and I’ll let you know if they’ve topped themselves.

September 14, 2007

Okay, It's Not Just the DITECH Guy's Hidden Agenda–It's His Phony Crackerbarrel Voice

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:01 am

In a previous blog post I’ve written about what seems to me to be the hidden agenda behind the glut of DITECH mortgage ads. Now new ones that blare “Fix your ARM!” (get it?) are plaguing the cable airwaves. Although they all work in that “People are smart” slogan–i.e. you’re not a dumb rube lured into financial ruin by “illusionists”, but a smart dude who walked right into the financial quicksand with eyes wide open–you’re smart! So it’s not our fault. You knew what you were doing when you bought our pitch. Sue yourself.

But I realized what really got on my nerves was the voice in the ads. I don’t know if it’s the same guy, but there used to be a REALLY irritating tv ad voice I thought of as “Cracker Barrel Guy”. He wasn’t a spokesman for Crackerbarrel Cheese, but head same cheesy, faux-folksy, salty-old codger-voice. Jes sittin’ around the ol’ cracker barrel and talkin’ national brands Chester.” It was supposed, I guess, to signifiy flinty Vermont honesty.

Well now he’s back! Well if it’s not him it’s his deliberate doppelganger doing an imitation of His Folkiness. Crackerbarrel Junior! God does that phony voice grate. Particularly as a device for vouching for the old fashioned pristine honesty of the mortage broker business that now threatens to destroy the world economy. Grates like a poorly oiled porch door. . Hey Chester, get your windy friend off his butt and tell him to fix the creaky old thing. Oh that’s him talking.

Please someone, get Crackerbarrell Junior’s fraudluent creaky-crack off the tube.

September 6, 2007

More on Nukes…

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 4:23 pm

My old friend and colleague from the Village Voice, the late Jack Newfield used to say that you don’t just do a story, you follow up and follow up and follow up. He did that throughout his entire career with the lead poisoning issue for instance. Alas I’m a somewhat differnt kind of reporter, and have tended once I’ve done a story to leave it behind for others to follow up on if they care.

But since the question of acccidental nuclear war could mean life or death for the entire human species and I never really followed up on it when I first wrote about it, I’ll make an effort to keep up with the scandalous state of control–or rather lack of control–over the still-vast planet-destroying potential of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals that I wrote about here

With some help of course. For instance here’s an extremely informative email I got from my extremely well-informed colleague at Slate Fred Kaplan, who writes on national security affairs and has spent considerable time in the past studying the nuclear war questions:

Ron – Fascinating, and I think important, piece. I’d somehow missed
all this business about Perimetr. (This is what happens when I stop
paying attention to nukes for too long.) You’re right, Blair, whom
I’ve known a bit for a long time, is a thoroughly sober-minded guy,
not given to rantings or spurious extrapolations… For the past week
or so, I haven’t been quite sure whether to regard Putin’s “strategic
mobilization” of his bombers as dangerous or a joke. The Russkies
have never had very many bombers; even in their heyday, they were
pretty bad; remarkably, even at the height of the Cold War, they were
never kept on fully loaded runway alert (precisely because of the
difficulty of control – some renegade lunatic can get in a bomber and
drop a bomb; there’s no key involved). This was discovered during the
Berlin Crisis of 1961, when some of JFK’s advisers worked up a plan
for a nuclear first-strike (in case the Russians tried to occupy all
of Berlin and we couldn’t resist them with conventional forces
alone). Their bombers were just sitting on runways, far away from the
weapons that had to be loaded. And this was in the days when they had
only a handful of ICBMs. Once they started building ICBMs, they
pretty much ignored their bomber fleet. The much-vaunted Backfire
bomber of the early ’80s (remember that one?) was mainly to protect
the Northern Fleet, not to attack America. So what the hell is Putin
doing, putting bombers on airborne alert – something the US stopped
doing in the mid-’60s, shortly after “Dr. Strangelove.” Funny story
about Strangelove. I don’t know if you remember, or read it at the
time, but I wrote a story in the NY Times’ Arts & Leisure section
about the degree of truth in that movie. Kubrick did a lot of
research into this (at one point, he was going to call the movie “The
Delicate Balance of Terror,” after Wohlstetter’s 1958 Foreign Affairs
article); he was also very friendly with Herman Kahn (so Kahn told
me). Much of Strangelove (the character)’s monologues are taken
straight out of Kahn’s “On Thermonuclear War,” esp the discussion of
fallout shelters. (I asked Kahn what he thought of Strangelove. I
meant the movie, but he thought I meant the character. He replied,
“He wouldn’t have lasted six months in the Pentagon. He was too
creative.”) Anyway, here’s what I’m getting to: At the time Kubrick
(and Terry Southern) wrote the script, the command-control system
described in the movie WAS the command-control system. (Ditto for the
similar system in “Fail Safe.”) By the time the movie came out,
McNamara had made some changes; for instance, a bomber pilot had to
get another positive GO command; and airborne alerts were wound down
considerably. (I think they weren’t eliminated until the late ’60s,
when a bomb accidentally fell on Greenland? There was a big race
between US and Soviet special forces on who would recover it first.
I’m pretty sure we did.) Dan Ellsberg was a special assistant to
McNamara when “Strangelove” was released. He remembers that he and
one of his colleagues played hookey one afternoon to go see it. They
came out white as ghosts. “That was a documentary!” McNamara
remembers telling his chum.
Anyway, I’m not sure if the US ever worked out protocols on command-
control with the Russians. There were, of course, the hot line (which
wasn’t really a telephone) and all the rest. But beyond that, I’m not
sure. Blair might know something about that. So might Ellsberg.

Somewhat re assuring about Russian bombers–at least inthe past. not reassuring at all about the huge gaps inour knowledge and assurance about the pssiblityu of accidental nuclear war. Sweet dreams.
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