Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

October 31, 2008

Blogging Greene(3) for Halloween

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 4:55 pm

That’s right, I’m taking my time blogging The Hnorary Consul. I;m in favo of eading a lot of different books simultaneously and slowly. Well not precisely simultaneously. I’m very excited because Seven Stories ress has sent me the galleys of a new translation of one of my favorite Russian novels Oblomov the classic praise of luxuriant laziness. I’d do a study of slacker lit, excet (fill in lazy joke here, I’m too lazy to do it myself].

Anyway I want to go backwards from the the last discussion of love and obsesssion, in articular the quote “Is it possible he wondered, if a man is too rational to fall in love , that he more be reserved for a worse fate, to fall into an obsession.”

I can see when the latter might not be the former, but can the former not help but be the latter? Yet they are presented as antinomies.

On the other hand if we back up to the epigraph we’re led another direction. It’s frpm Thomas Hardy and it goes:

” All things merge in one another–good into evil, generosity into justice, relgion into politics.” And love into obsession? And what is that about generosity and justice?

Dr. Plarr has now impregnated the wife of his friend Charlie Fortnum the Honorary consul who’s been kidnapped by mistake (he has no real political importance) by allies of Dr. Plarr who may want to trade their hostage for Charlie’s father who may or may not be alive. Has Greene overloaded the moral dilemmas here? Some of his statements (with Plarr as his mouthpiece one thinks) about prostitutes and the psychology of men who fall in love with them seem dubious.

Does good merge into evil? At the moment I’m bewildered, which I think is good (though will it merge with evil? and I’ll leave it there and report back when I’ve gone further, slowly.

After Obama/Mccain Could We Take Up Einstein/Bohr

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 1:05 pm

Important as the election is–and I’m proud of supporting and defending Obama here for a year in on what might not be the most Obama-friendly site in the world, but one that hasn’t objected to my dissent. And I consider the insults from the racists-in-denial among some of the anti-Obama commenters a badge of honor. Same with those from the midget minded on the Left who are so used to preaching to the choir they don’t understand that not every site needs to have a stalinoid “line”. But I’m getting ready to leave the election behind.

There are more important unresolved questions, you know. the kind Graham Greene asks about the nature of the human heart, the heart of the matter. And the ones the physicists ask about the nature of matter. I’ve been pleased to learn that the cutting edge cosmological physicist Frank Tipler reads my blog at least occasionally.

Just an example of what I’d regard as an even more profound and deeper questions, the question that need to be resolved are not political but the kinds of questions Tipler asks, about the nature of Being, of Reality, the very existence of cause-and-effect “all the way to the bottom” as the philosophers say.

If there is a statistical and experimentally verifiable probability that 50 per cent of a group of atoms of Uranium will decay in a given period of time (half life), then which atoms will spontaneously decay? Is there any way of knowing? Are there “Hidden variables” as Einstein believed to the day of his death? Or is there no way to predict the fate of a given atom. No cause, no cause, just a statitstical probability of 50 per cent, as Neils Bohr and the quantum physicists of the Copenhagen school believe.

Einstein’s belief in hidden variables implied faster than light communication or “entanglement” of quanta, “spooky action at a distance” whose implications nobody wants to really face. Becasue when a particle splits and the two halves ae separated in time and space, observing the spin direction of one will affect the nature of the spin direction of the other, which until then–quantum physics insists–is not determined. Which would require faster than light communication in some cases so the iundetermined article knows what identity to “choose”even though not in contact, not “engtangled” with the other. Or is in some faster than light way since the identity determination must be made instanteously with the measurement of the other particle. Unless you believe in “pre arranged hidden variables”.

But Bohr’s insistence there is “no cause, no cause”–to quote Cordelia to King Lear–means the only alternative to Einstein’s determinism is fundamental indeterminism, everything built on sand, a maze of statistical probabilities nothing real at all.

Recently I read a summary of the argument by Michelle Jenkins that gives the history of the argument with both clarity and detail: the only thing you need to know is that “EPR” stands for “the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen” thought exeriment which suggested the necessity of “spooky action at a distance” or the hidden “entanglement” of particles implicit in the hidden variables theory:

“After the 19th century brought an incomplete understanding of the sub-atomic and electromagnetic as well as Hertz’s alternating current, Max Planck, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr made contributions that would elevate and revolutionize Newtonian physics. When Niels Bohr and Arnold Sommerfeld observed quantum jumps in atoms, the Keplerian modeled atom had been adjusted but not disproved. This planetary motion of orbit predicted that atoms should collapse; new theories explained why they do not seem to. In 1925, George Uhlenbeck and Sam Goudsmit proposed individual electromagnetic fields and spins explaining angular momentum in motion of orbit. Thereafter electron orbit could no longer be defined as a point in space-time – they moved in orbitals, “patterns of regions in which the wave function is concentrated.” 2 Erwin Schrödinger created an electromagnetic wave equation for this in 1925 where amplitude of the wave determined by its probability of state and quanta (“small particle-like packets of energy”) existed in superpositions of states.4 Werner Heisenberg in 1927, calculated that wave-particle duality and wave-mechanics made any measurement of location and momentum both impossible to measure. Niels Bohr argued that the conventionally named Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle was an Indeterminacy principle (this is also akin to noncontextuality), where the inability to measure a wave-like particle (or quanta) does not preclude its, albeit unknown, existence.12 Einstein disagreed with quantum mechanic in a 1935 paper called EPR stating it was incomplete; else, it necessitated faster-than-light travel. Schrödinger responded with his dead-and-alive ‘cat’ thought experiment (a metaphor not applicable to cats) and by naming the EPR concepts, entanglement. In entanglement, two or more quanta (particles) posses related states and both will be affected at the same time if one is measured. In quantum mechanics, an interruption of state (as in measurement) results in a wavefunction collapse, and classical physics takes over. Entanglement occurs with specific polarizations or spins in ‘Cat states’ or ‘Bell states’ (after Schrödinger’s cat and John Bell, who in 1964 experimentally disproved a purely classical probability for entangled states, in part proving quantum mechanics).”

So what do you think? I personally believe that the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum physics preserves a reality beyond statistics, even classical determinism. We just happpen to live in the universe where uranium atom X distintegrated, but there’s another world in which it didn’t and Y did. Both are real.

Too bad. I bet the Y world is much better than ours. The grass is always greener in the other universe.

October 30, 2008

L.A. Times Weasel-Worded Defense Continues Appearance of Cover-up

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:23 am

So here’s the L.A. Times’ weasel-worded defense of withholding the video.

They promised the source they wouldn’t “release” the video. Okay, why not release a transcript? Or do they no longer have the video, and failed to make a transcript at the time? Would that be a kind of malfeasance, or another result of stupid budget-cutting on the news side of newspapers that undermines the value of the product? Or was the reporter too lazy to make a detailed record of his own? Or was he only given a brief look at the video with no opportunity to make detailed notes?

Did anyone say “transparency”. Why can’t they answer these questions? They can’t allow us into the deep mysteries of how news is made. Did their source say they’re not just not allowed to “release” it (the red herring weasel word here) or demand they couldn’t talk about it any further than what was published.

What kind of agreement is that and if it were made shouldn’t it be disclosed and if it wasn’t why the silence which now sounds as likely to be about the cover up of their own incometence as about what Obama said or didn’t say? Did the dog eat their homework?

It would at least explain things better than this alleged exlanation from today’s statement:

“In reporting on Obama’s presence at the dinner for Khalidi, the article noted that some speakers exressed anger at Israel and at U.S. foreign policy, but Obama in his comments called for finding common ground.”

Did the reporter not take more detailed notes than that? It’s quite possible that an objective viewer might agree with this summary: there was “anger at Israel and at U.S. foreign policy” and Obama spoke out for moderation, “common ground”.

But why can’t the reader be allowed to decide if this extremely mild characterization of the “anger” is accurate and whether Obama’s reaction and remarks were limited to a plea for common ground.

Now that this version of the story has been challenged, why not allow the reporter to defend himself, answer questions about what he heard, if he can’t produce it, or didn’t bother to take detailed notes. Tell us whether you do or don’t have the video, who else saw it. Did the dingbat new management fire so many editors that no one else did? Again, if so, penny-wise, pound- foolish.

This LATimes response, worthy of a Rumsfeld press conference, is exactly the thing that causes people to distrust traditional journalism: even when it may well be accurate, it’s too arrogant to allow itself to be held accountable.

October 29, 2008

L.A. Times "coverup": This time it's real

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:42 pm

I remember how indignant several L.A. Times reporters were over a year ago when I did an item for this blog that reported (accurately) that DC media insiders were buzzing about a sex scandal involving a presidential candidate that was being held back by the LAT. I came to believe the LAT never was ready to publish a story, but speculated about the ethics involved and the DC insider media culture which arrogated to itself what it thought the public should know about what they knew.

But the shocked indignation of the LATimers “we’d never sit on a story” pose had a touch of the lady doth protest too much. And now we see, with the refusal to release the so called Khalidi tape demonstrates two things: they are quite capable of sitting on a story. And that sitting on story generates more paranoia and hysteria than releasing it.

Oh and finally one more thing, when the refusal to release the story becomes the story, it’s time to release the story. Maybe it shouldn’t have become the story, maybe those who want it to be a story have an agenda, but that agenda is easily exposed if there’s nothing to the story. I say this as an Obama suporter who doesn’ t think he has a strand of anti-semitic DNA in him.

Yes I believe in keeping promises to sources, but then why were they made? Why can’t more be written about it, most articuarly whether there are incendiary quotes on it. And if a story was written about the tape some time ago and the paper failed to mention some incendiary quotes is the LAT covering up their own agenda, or just their own ineptitude?

October 27, 2008

Obama and the Jews

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:55 pm

Excuse me for caring about what might seem a parochial issue, but you don’t have to be Jewish to believe that the survival of the most democratic state in the Middle East is important. And as editor of an anthology about anti-semitism Those Who Forget the Past:The Question of Anti-semitism (Random House, 2004), I feel some responsibility to address the question, since a number of my co-religionists have raised it. (I don’t believe in God, I’m an Isaac Bashevis Singer Jew–I believe against God) but I just love the Jewish people He’s constantly abandoning, and the beautiful culture they’ve created, and I think the people of Israel are in danger of suffering a second Holocaust, because soon those who believe they don’t
have a right to exist will have the means to put them out of existence).

I wonder how many anti-semites claiming only to be “anti-zionists, will join the racists commenters claiming they’re bilious hostiity has nothing to do with skin color?

Anyway I came across what I think is the best answer to the question about Obama and the Jews in this essay by Rep. Howard Berman the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee in The Jeruselem Post.

I especially like the throwaway line about tough Chicago Jews knowing Obama. And I’ve always thought he had what my grandmother called a yiddische kopf (translation: savvy, nobody’s fool) to accompany what I earlier identified as the characteristic, most persuasive thing about him, his self-possession, the ability to think for himself regardless of who’s around him.

I wonder how many anti-semites claiming only to be “anti-zionist”, will join the racists commenters claiming they’re bilious hostiity has nothing to do with skin color?

The alQaeda "Endorsement": Double Game or Triple Game?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:22 pm

Yes, I know it wasn’t an “endorsement” in any official sense. Just a report that alQaeda- supporter websites were reflecting pro-McCain views.

As an Obama supporter my initial thought was that this would actually be bad for Obama, because if alQaeda really wanted to influence the electorate to vote for McCain the thing they’d do is make it seem as if an Obama victory would put a smile on Osama’s face.

So I wondered if this might be a kind of double think game going on: that they thought if those foolish Americans think we love McCain they’ll vote for our real choice Obama.

But then I thought, no, that’s too crude. People will see through this double think. It must be triple-think . They’re trying to make people think they’re secretly for Obama (by going public for McCain) in order to conceal the fact they’re really for McCain. (On the other hand “triple think” could also give the same result as “single-think”, aka “sincerity”.). Triple think is where super-sophsitication meets simplemindedness

Could they have broken through to a new realm of complexity–qaudruple think!?

But let’s look at the question in itself without attemting to psyche out some alQaeda websites.

Who would they actually favor? Well, “neither” is the easy answer. There are downsides to both candidates from an alQaeda point of view

Short term McCain might, with his outspoken hawkishness seem more threatneing. But now that there’s not much difference between the two of them on a withdrawal time table and Obama has issued enough vague pronouncements on the end game in Iraq to cover just about anything necessary to preserve the stability Petraeus hath wrought, and indeed, might be the catalyst for Iraqis to solve their internal political problems before we leave, the short term advantage might not be a mjor one.

Obama on the other hand could be a long term disadvantage to alQ. We have yet to wtiness (and, who knows, we still may never will) what I think would be the transformative effect on world opinion of having a non white with African and Asian chapters in his biography as president of the U.S.

For alQ to strike the U.S. right after it’s elected such a President might once again make them the pariah they were in much of the world after 9/11 and before Abu Ghraib turned the world against us. (The impact of the A.G. photographs has grown in retrospect to become an almost ineradicable stain on our image. However disproportionate it might seem to some, it’s a geopolitical reality.)

I’d venture to say that an alQ attack on a U.S. ruled by Obama is far less likely than on an America ruled by McCain however unfair to McCain this might sound. (Life is unfair). I think the global anti-Americanism on which alQ has fed, and survived like the sea that suported Mao’s guerilla fish, would tend to dry up considerably.

Of course it’s lamentable that people make judgements based on skin color, but the thinly disguised but oh-so-obvious racism of so many of those who leave anti-Obama comments on this blog prove it’s a fact of life.

So while it’s really a futile exercise trying to read the mind of mass murderers, that doesn’t mean those minds are incapable of calculating the public opinion effect of who they decide to kill. Zarqawi had to to scold alQaeda in Iraq (when it was too late) because they’d made so many enemies killing Muslims they were hurting the cause locally and world wide. They think it’s a long war too and the election of Obama will mean they may no longer have the atuomatic support of the Third World people who tolerate if they dont cheer for them. It might make all the difference, even if only that a tipster in Karachi, in on an alQ 9/11 scale terrorist plot, might be more likely to want to save the lives of those who live under an Obama presidency than otherwise.

So if the website “endorsements” mean anything at all I’ll go for the triple game: make it seem like they’re playing a crude trick (endorsing McCain to boost Obama) when they’re really engaged in a more sophisticated (but still not very) strategy: endorse McCain to make us think they really like Obama, so we’ll favor McCain, who is the one they’d really prefer.

It’s as simple as that.

October 25, 2008

Blogging Graham Greene (2): Love and Obsession

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 5:55 am

Okay I’m going to skip much set up on the love triangle: Charlie Fortnum, the sad, slightly ridiculous, foolishly romantic character always destined for heartbreak in Greene’s novels, the Honorary Consul of the title, has bought the freedom of a twenty year old girl from the brothel where she worked and seems to have married her for love. Clara of course has survived the brothel with a radiant, spiritual, if not carnal, innnocence and an instinctual wisdom as well. The usual Greene heroine. He once wrote, I forget in which novel, that the ultimate seductiveness in a woman was goodness. Goodness is hot!

Anyway, the narrator Dr. Plarr is called in to treat her at Fortnum’s mate estate (yay, mate!), remembers Clara from having seen her at the brothel and…what? Falls in love? Not exactly. Here’s how Greene puts it: “..he wondered, if a man is too rational to fall in love, that he may have been reserved for a worse fate, to fall into an obsession.”

Is this a distinction without a difference? Is there any romantic love that is not obsessive and can still call itself love? I guess that’s why I still like Greene because he makes you think about such questions.

October 24, 2008

Blogging Graham Greene

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 1:11 pm

I’m going to try an experiment. Blogging a book as I read it. I’ve chosen a novel. Dealing with racists-in-denial is deeply depressing and makes one long for a fictional world where such sad, self deluding cases are far away. Although eventually I’m going to compile the best and most clueless examples to try to see if we can learn anything about their psychology. (I think it’s their bitterness that they were not born as intelligent as Obama which makes them aware of the possibillity that there is something “inferior” about them. As they illustrate with their often astonihsingly un self-aware comments).

So let us turn to the novel, Graham Greene’s 1973 The Honorary Consul, I’ve re read some of Greene’s novels, particulary The Human Factor, The Quiet American and The Heart of the Matter so often that I picked this one up thinking I’d be re-reading it, but in fact it was the first time.

It was incredibly exciting since there’s something about Greene that alway gets to me. Some literati consider him, what, too emotional, too obviously “thematic”, too direct, old-fashioned in exploring the struggles of sin, guilt and redemption. Greene’s Unholy Trinity. But I like him for that. Especially the guilt.

This one takes place in Green’s Latin America in a nation bordering on Paraguay where the narrator’s father has been “disapeared” for revolutionary activities.

Greene is so great with brilliantly subtle downbeat minor charcters, and quickly Dr. Plarr’s three friends the dissoute Dr. Humphries, the verbose eogtistical notelist Saveeda, and finally-well he’s not minor–the Honorary consul Charlie Fortnum. I could hang out listening to the exquisitely wrought tragicomedy of their lives forever, it’s a novelists’ gift he’s not always given credit for.

But–a little too fast for me–Greene introduces a plot–a revolutioalry kidnaping and the taking of Charlie Fotnum hostage by mistake, and then–oh no!–one of the revoutionaries turns out to be one of Greene’s tormented priests, and it’s getting a ltitle too obviously Greenish.

But then comes the love interest and I’m totally into it again.

Before going further let me raise one question: I can’t quite figure out:Greene’s attitude toward Borges.

it’s almost odd to think of htem as contemorarieies, they’re so different, Borges so deliciously meta about everything. And yet here is how Greene’s Dr. Plarr describes why he likes Borges:

“Borges shared the tastes he had inherited from his father–Conan Doyle, Stevenson, Chesterton…After a time he grew thirsty…To appreciate Borges properly he had to be taken, like a cheese biscuit, with an aperiftif”

So here’s the question: you wouldn’t recognize Borges fro this description o a Conan Doyle lover would you. Sure, he liked detective stories, but metahysical detetective stories. Is he saying this is a way to appreciate that Borges is not forbiddingly arcane? Or is it a suble marginalization of Borges. Cheese biscuit? A litle finicky.

Or is it neither but Greene’s way of portraying his main characater: as someone who doesn’t get the meta component of Borges. And perhaps giving Borges generous hat tip recongition before he became an international literary celebrity like Greene, and perhaps a more cerebral celebrity.

Just asking. Back next time with the love triangle.

October 23, 2008

Dylan's "Mississippi" (Revisited)

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:50 am

Thanks to Fred Mecklenburg, for his iluminating comment in the previous Dylan post about the origin of the line “Stayed In Mississippi”.

Thanks also to Charlie Finch who sent this eloquent emotional response to the song, and the mood of official Bootleg #8:

Ron, Jeff Rosen has assembled the perfect documant of Dylan’s middle age in “Tell Tale Signs”: however ridiculous, romantic longing remains, doomed to failure. Edmund Wilson wondered, in his sixties, about the absurdity of the sex act, its fundamental futility, yet he made a successful play for his dental hygienist…The minimal riffs and diction which Dylan uses to convey the universality of desire, humbling especially one of his stature, are, when combined with his age and he apparent diminishing of his powers, his greatest work. For truly nothing is diminished and hope abides: that is the greatest illusion and a muse whose complexity send the boy Dylan of the Sixties scurrying into the shadows to meet Dylan the man.

October 20, 2008

"Barry": One Clue an Obama Foe is Racist

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 2:40 pm

I know that there are honorable ideological foes of Obama, or skeptics about his qualifications who have their reasons. I think they fail to see the Big Picture, but I still respect their intellects. Not so the sandbox namecallers.

Like the ones who practically froth and drool when they write “Barry Obama” or some variation on it. From studying anti-Obama commenters here and on other blogs, even onl ostensibly liberal pro-Hillary blogs (like the one by the guy who cliamed he was going to produce the “whitey tape”) I’ve noticed that there is a certain tone that certain Obama foes take when they sneeringly call him “Barry” as if it were somehow a wounding, belittling insult.

Almost like calling him “boy”, but because they know that’s a dead giveaway, they find some other way to sublimate their biogtry, and are too dumb to know their attitude is flagrantly obvious to everyone with a brain.

No I don’t think everyone who’s ever used “Barry” for Obama is a racist, but I think you can tell when something more than health-care policy differnces, say, are at issue.

I’m not sure why they feel calling him “Barry” makes them feel somehow superior or one-up on Obama but that’s what comes across as. It’s particularly ludicrous coming from people who don’t sound as intelligent as he does (saying this drives them crazy).

It’s different from those who use “Hussein” as if it were an insult; there we’re talking Islamophobia right out front.

But “Barry” is more insidious. “Barry” suggests some ugly bile to it. Read the comments for yourself, not just here, see if you see what I mean.

These people don’t know how revealing they are.

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