Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

May 31, 2009

Wall Street Journal Kicking Butt This Weekend

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:56 am

The “weekend” (Saturday) edition of the Journal is no weak sister, the way some Saturday papers are. If I were a Times exec, it would make me worry, make me realize the Journal had a shrewd anti-Times strategy: pick its weakest day, Saturday, and just crush it.

This Saturday’s Journal was a remarkable newspaper. Yes, it’s behind a subscription wall, most of it (I can’t quite figure out what you can get for free and what you pay for–something they need to clarify) but it’s a product– content–that is worth paying for, and gives a little credibility to the paid-content argument.

First there was the big Page One investigative story on the U.S. version of the British parliamentarians’ expenses scandal, revealing little that’s overtly illegal, but–as Michael Kinsley used to say–the scandal is what’s allowed, not disallowed. What’s clear is that someone at the Journal (Rupert himself?) figured out, the day the British scandal broke, that there was low hanging fruit to be had in a story on our Congressional practices. If someone at the Times didn’t have the same idea in the same instant, someone’s lost a step, and if they did have the idea early on, then they were not fast enough to beat the Journal. Not a good sign.

Then there was an amazing story about Pakistan’s nukes, a full-pager by the Brookings’ Institute Bruce Riedel. What was amazing about it was it broke the taboo on stories about Pakistan’s nukes which in the past all tended to accept virtually without question the reassurances of unnamed officials here, and in Pakistan that everything was under control, that the rock solid “loyalist” (to whom?) Pakistani military had them all under lock and key in undisclosed locations. Except many of the locations have been disclosed and can be found on Google maps according to one of my sources. The subhead on Riedel’s piece, a reported essay, flatly states “The security of the country’s nuclear arsenal is shaky.”

Meanwhile the weekend culture section which (full disclosure) I have a lingering fondness for from their rave review of my Shakespeare book, has a contrarian front page essay by P. .J. O’Rourke (“The fate of Detroit,” goes the subhead “isn’t a matter of economics. It’s a tragic romance whose magic was killed by bureaucrats, bad taste and busybodies.”). Plus there are a number of smart book reviews and essays (in addition to the Pakistan full-pager which promises to tell us “What the U.S. needs to avert a crisis”, and delivers a slim wisp of hope based on realism not wishful thinking.)

And then there is my favorite line from Peggy Noonan’s column entitled “Republicans, Let’s Play Grown-Up” on the tenor of the opposition to Obama’s Supreme Court pick.

For those who say use enhanced derogation tactics against Judge Sotomayor to “excite the base”, she says “The base is plenty excited already, as you know if you’ve ever read a comment thread on a conservative blog. Comment-thread conservatives, like their mirror-image warriors on the left…are perpetually agitated, permanently enraged…”

Hmmm. Who’s been saying things like that recently? “Perpetually agitated, permanently enraged” commenters: that rings a bell. (And I’m sure you comment- thread conservatives, at least the cowardly anonymity abusers, will prove us right again). I like the phrase “comment thread conservatives”, it gives new meaning to “base”. And for those who haven’t gotten it, after I’ve repeated it three times, I mean the same goes for comment-thread liberals too–it’s the cowardly anonymity that engenders the “cyber disinhibition”– lowers the IQ (and humanity) on both sides.

Meanwhile you’ve got to think the Weekend Journal has the Times worried. This was an issue which showed the likes of Jeff Jarvis how newspapers “add value”, not that he’d know it when he saw it.


May 28, 2009

Jarvis Watch (8): "Is Google Skynet"

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 4:46 pm

Via my favorite new smart and funny blog, The Awl, a link to “Is Google Skynet?”.

I defy Jeff Jarvis to refute it. Or is it possible he doesnt know what Skynet is? Or why there’s an insidious grain of truth to the comparison?

May 27, 2009

Here's Another Conservative I Like! Chris Buckley

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 6:05 am

I’ll never forget when Chris was an editor at Esquire and I was a writer doing the first investigative piece on the super secret society that Chris (and his father and his father’s father) were members of. You know: Skull and Bones. We’d both been at Yale, but it was a dicey situation and he handled it with customary diplomacy and tact while I brooded in customary paranoid suspicion. Was he some kind of mole? (no)

First of all why can’t all Republicans be like Chris or P.J. O’ Rourke or mark Steyn (all of whom I’m a fan of however much I might disagree on some issues)? You know, tolerant, most of all funny. Take a look at Chris’ Class Day address at this year’s Yale graduation from his Daily Beastblog.

It’s hilarious and knowing, but not know-it-all z(the ideologue commenter’s disease–along with cyber-disnhibition of course)) There’s only one point I’d take issue with in Chris’s speech: the origin of the all purpose word “Whatever”.

Chris perhaps deliberately misattributes it to the millennial generation, as a brilliant verbal, philosohical invention, but take my word for it, it’s a boomer/slacker phrase. I remember when I was still a reporter for The Village Voice back in the 70’s, hearing my high school friend Rich Molyneux do a whole riff on why “whatever” was…whatever it was.

Chris, it’s ours, not theirs. It may be our greatest most lasting contribution. Don’ take it away from us.

May 26, 2009

Medical Diagnosis of Anonymity Abusers: Cyber Disinhibition

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 12:55 pm

It feels good to push back against a tidal wave of idiocy, or, as I’ve called a different form of idiocy “A Tsunami of Stupidity”. As someone said, “one man in the right is a majority.” And I think that this is an important web and blog issue, that the future of blogging will be decided for better or worse (I suspect for worse) if the cowardly anonymous commenters are allowed to prevail with their abusive bullying.

It’s satisfying to see how many of you abusive anonymous commenters I’ve put on the defensive. Surprising how many have come to the defense of the poster of anti-semitic epithets. I think, when I’m being charitable, that a lot of you have never stopped to consider how crude and offensive you sound when you’re sputtering with rage at the suggestion that you should examine your behavior and consider that it looks cowardly, sociopathic and subliterate to civilized people. But my intention was to draw out the dregs of the commentariat; I’m fully aware that most PJM commenters aren’t abusive cowards, but now we know which ones are.

I think deep down inside the ones who are, are not pure sociopaths or learning disabled because in their own inarticulate way they evince shame at their own conduct. (Again I’m talking about the anonymous abusive ones among you, we all know who you are now). Shame that they’re too timid to put their name behind their vicious posts, but rather hide like little cowards behind screen names. And I love the idea that it’s because you’re making brave political arguments that the State would otherwise persecute you for. Yes, the state really has reason to fear the likes of you. And it’s laughable when you consider the really high level of penetrating political discourse you’ve shown. LOL.

But I think the rage is derived from the shame they must feel, because many of these specimens, must have had respectable parents who they know would be ashamed of their childlike behavior. I can’t imagine anyone admitting to their mother, “Mom I’m a grown-up now, at least in age, and I’ve become the kind of loser who hurls subliterate obscene abuse at people I disagree with online, using a fake name in order to escape responsibility. Are you proud of me, Mom? Wanna here my latest insult?” Yes, I bet she’d be proud of how you turned out. Maybe one reason for anonymity among at least the more crude and vicious among you is that you’re afraid your parents might discover how you’ve turned out.

Well, sad losers, I have a diagnosis for your disability. It’s a phrase I’ve used before but slipped my mind in writing my last two posts on this subject: cyber disinhibition. It’s the devolution of civility (if there was any there before) that comes when conversations are not held face to face and one doesn’t have to take into account the presence, reactions, sensibilitities–being–of another human being. It ususally refers to e-mail, but it certainly applies to anonymous abusive commenters and the way they’re turning the web into a sewer. They’re dis-inhibited, their mouths are like pre-toilet trained children, they lose the inhibitions and self control that make civilized discourse possible, become verbally, socially incontinent, They haven’t merely lost their humanity, metaphorically they’ve devolved to a pre-civilized species of human. Gibbering like the cavemen over the obelisk in 2001. And of course what’s great is the transparent way they can dish it out but can’t take a critique. And yes, I’ve said some harsh things, but I use my name, andwhile thee are some defenses for anonymity for various reasons, but when it comes to abusive comenting it only exacerbates the hatefulness of the hater.

Anyway I’d hate to think the dregs of the anonymous abusers among the commenters here represent the norm of the human species. No I don’t think so. I think we’ve diagnosed the problem: cyber disinhibition is a kind of mental disease, that turns them from putative grown-ups into playground bullies and cowards.

I don’t think know of any cure for the disease of cyber disinhibition. It must be intoxicating hurling those half baked insults and then running away to hide your heads. But to judge from the comments it turns some people into depraved caricatures of their better selves.

What still stuns me is that some of them either can’t read or are reading- challenged or comprehension blind. Although I’ve repeated it in both posts, it’s not about politics it’s a dynamic, cyber-disinhibition, you see on both liberal and conservative blogs. It’s the race-to-the-bottom dynamic of commenter culture. Once again, for the extremely slow; it’s not the politics, its the anonymity that is key to the problem; the lack of responsibility, accountability, the mob psychology. You’ve demonstrated it admirably in this little experiment I conducted on you, (Keep it up and I’ll just have more examples to cite) and I’m grateful, but I still get commenters trying to make it a liberal and conservative thing, I know enough intelligent conservatives to know that the sampling here is unrepresenative and embarrassing to them. But to deny the majority of spittle flecked frothers here identify themselves as conservative is insane. What planet do you live on?

And to repeat I have no obligation to approve abusive anonymous posts, or abusive, bigoted, obscene posts of any kind. And I’ll delete any anonymous posts I consider to be so. Why don’t you run your next brilliant gob of spittle past your parents first, like the 13 year old boys you sound like should?

But the good new is your cyber disinhibition disease is not totally incurable. There’s a cure: just try posting something with your real name. You’ll discover something–well some of you are too far gone–but many of you will discover something you haven’t experienced for a while; self respect. it will feel good. You’ll be on your way to recovery. i wish you well.

May 23, 2009

Just Walked Out of Terminator: Salvation

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:59 pm

I was a major admirer of the way the first two Terminator movies kept alive the memory of the horror of the nuclear Balance of Terror and the omnipresence of nuclear war for the half century of the Cold War. And I consider myself a student of the genre I once called “nuke-porn” a term I coined in a Harper’s article at the height of the Cold War, and a subject I’ve revisited recently to see how the new nuclear age has affected it. It’s not necessarily a disparaging term, nuke porn–books and films that focus on the depiction of the trembling world on the brink of a devastating nuclear climax–may have actually played a role in the creation of what the scholar Nina Tannenwald calls the “nuclear taboo” which may have had a hand in inhibiting any further use of nuclear weapons after Japan.

But this, the fourth in the series, is a sad cacophonous, brainless waste of time that doesn’t even rise to the level of nuke-porn. At least the first hour which was all I could take. It’s too bad they showed a trailer for Transformers 2 before the main feature because you could not tell the difference between the two idiot epics. Instead of evoking nuclear dread (with a lot of fight scenes featuring Arnold, who I thought was actually great in the fake-human Terminator role) the new Terminator film is just an incessant screech of garbagy looking machines ripping each other to shreds. Who cares.

If you sat through the whole thing and want to tell me I missed something profound Iet me know.

May 22, 2009

Thank you, Thank you!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 5:34 pm

Thank you, cowardly anonymous commenters for so perfectly proving my point about your thuggish and abusive and yet oh-so-timid nature. More than anything it’s clear you can dish it out, but you can’t take it. So many of you act like little playground crybabies when you’re the target of criticism, SO upset that your self-evident cowardice is being exposed. It made me laugh over and over again.

By the way some of you seem to have reading comprehension difficulties as well and missed the point that it is the hostile abusive commenters whose anonymity I was calling cowardly –  not the ordinary commenter who disagrees. Talk back all you want but don’t be so infantile and timid that you won’t use your own name when you’re sounding so bold and brave and bullying.

And in addition many seemed to have trouble grasping the concept that I already put my name behind my opinions, I already “practice what I preach”. All I’m asking you cowardly bullies to do is to have the courage to put your name behind your opinions. Of course, since so many of you are so fearful of the very idea, it’s more than likely you’d falsify your names, and so I threw out the idea that one way of verifying your identity would be including a phone number, not to be published, but so that the idea of random checks would inhibit you from smuggling in your frothings under someone else’s real name. Believe me I have no desire to talk to you on the phone. As it is I see little characterological difference between anonymous commenter abusers and the anonymous phone call perverts.

And speaking of character, I have to admit I didn’t think my already low opinion of the anonymous commenter coward could sink any lower until I realized there were actual pro-Nazi anti-Semites among you. Here’s an example. Tell me are you proud to be associated with this commenter:

Submitted on 2009/05/19 at 5:27am

“I know your name. Callate la boca.

Ihr name ist Jud Süss, ein mitglied der Ewige Jude.

Sie sind ein Troll, schweinehunde. Ihre vorfahren leider entkam Eichmann”.

How many of you are going to write in to dissociate yourselves from this Eichmann-lover (and he–or she–isn’t the only one). How any of your are going to wonder how it feels being in such close communion with a sicko like that. Why is he on your side? Why are you on his side?

I haven’t gotten through all the comments,so this is my first reaction to a sampling. I’m enjoying the dish it out/can’t take it responses so much it will take me a while and I reserve, as I’ve repeatedly said on this blog, the right not to post abusive, bigoted comments especially when they are (as they almost always are) cowardly anonymous spittle flecked effusions. But be patient, I could feature yours in my next post on the subject.

Thanks also for demonstrating what profiles in courage you are, those of you who are afraid of attaching your name to your insults because someone in your business or your neighborhood might identify you. I wonder what would happen if you all stood up for yourself and showed you were proud of your views rather than crouched in dark corners throwing spitballs and then ducking behind the cupboard. You know the famous saying of Patrick Henry*: I guess for you it’s “Give me liberty or give me a witless screen name I can hide behind.” Anyway, anyone who doesn’t have the self-respect to put his name behind his abusive insults, is, and always will be, a coward in my book.

May 18, 2009

Come Out Anonymous Cowards! This is Your Chance

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 3:10 pm

Your chance to explain what’s so scary to you that you have to hide your identities behind a mask while hurling oh-so-brave insults. (possible enshrinement of your cerebrally challenged remarks in google for all time?)

The New York Times super-smart web culture columnist Virginia Heffernan’s recent ruminations about the low standards, (e.g. the low I.Q.) of typical web commenters and their frequent self-congratulatory ignorance and stupidity, while capturing some truths about them, left out one aspect of the problem — the source, the cause of the domination by dimwits: anonymity.

I just can’t believe that the average human being is as creepily vicious as the average commenter. And the reason can be found in something a close reading of Virginia’s column discloses: all her examples of idiot commenters were anonymous and used screen names. Anonymity allows the the inner thug and thick-head to emerge with no fear of being shamed or embarrassed by their ugly deficiencies. They can be low brow creeps and not get caught. It’s why bank robbers wear masks. Of course not all the most moronic are anonymous; some are too stupid to know how stupid they appear and so proudly affix their real names to their lame remarks. But in general I think if you administered an IQ test the anonymous would score significantly lower. They’re the special ed class of blogging. Like monkeys in a cage they seem to be unaware that there are other ways of expressing their views than throwing feces.

And by the way, as I’ve said before, this goes for both liberal and conservative commenters who seem to try to outdo each other in their embarrassing display of intellectual impotence. They are what H.L*. Mencken called “the booboisie”.

Recently an editor at a well-known publishing house said he was putting together an anthology of what he described as new threats to liberty and asked if there was something I’d like to contribute.

May 12, 2009

Since I've Already Admitted to Being a Liberal Who Likes Mark Steyn….

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:44 am

…I have to say I haven’t seen anyone capture the state of things regarding the world and the Jews better than this. But then, I’m a pessimist. Anyone out there find reason for optimism?

May 8, 2009

Dijon? Please. The Great Junk Food Challenge

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 5:06 pm

As a conflicted–populist inclined, yet over educated liberal–I’m fascinated by the similar if mirror image conflict I see in conservatives on the deeply important Dijon mustard issue. I’m puzzled by the faux-populist pose of conservatives getting their knickers in a twist of Obama Derangement Syndrome because he mentioned “Dijon mustard.” One of things I respected about conservatives was that they believed that value, taste was not relative and that there were distinctions to be made, hierarchies of taste worth preserving.

All of this seemed to be thrown away in the over hasty embrace of the supposed instinctive wisdom of a certain plumber. This is the kind of thing liberals used to–still–do: endow purportedly ignored and oppressed minorities (here blue collar Americans) with magical powers of instinctual wisdom.

But I’m beginning to believe–and the Dijon “scandal” seems to prove–that that sad spectacle has not resulted in a backlash against ignorance as a prima facie qualification for wisdom.

All of which leads me to a discussion of the relative merits of various junk foods and my discovery, yesterday at Dunkin Donuts, of what may be the single worst piece of junk food it’s ever been my misfortune to consume — indeed the single worst piece of junk food ever crafted. The pastry from hell. Dunkin Donuts’ so-called “Cinnamon stick”.

Basically I’m a devotee of anything cinnamony. I sometimes think the best part of air travel is the chance that at any given airport you’d run into a Cinnabon franchise.

I also think there is something magic that the the combination of cinnamon and coffee does for brain chemistry–an effect heightened into the neurochemical stratosphere by hot milk– and for years have made my healthy breakfast from a Dunkin Donuts cinnamon sugar donut and a Starbucks “misto” (both stores are fortunately–or tragically–located just across the street from me). Except from that dark period–“the lost years” I think of them–when I was able to consume a Dunkin D. pastry that now makes my stomach turn–the sickeningly over sweetened “coffee roll” complete with ledges of mucus colored melted sugar “frosting”. I understand in some stores it comes equipped with an insulin syringe.

But I must admit I couldn’t resist the “special” DD was offering the other morning, heralded by a poster that announced a “warmed up” cinnamon stick accompanied by a picture of what looked like a gaudy guided missile of sugary destruction: a hot dog shaped twist with dark cinnamon seams criss-crossed with drippings of congealed white sugar icing.

I knew it was going to be awful, but it was cinnamon, so I tried it.

First thing I noticed was the acrid smell. It couldn’t have been meant to smell bad,; it was just a by product of being gently “warmed up” in some greasy, poorly cleaned microwave oven I think, one that was used to nuke to charcoal various “bagel”-like products that DD peddles.

But, trying to ignore the burnt aroma, I dipped it in my Starbucks and well, what do you expect? Even Dijon mustard couldn’t have made it worse: the “pastry” like cardboard, the cinnamon icky-sticky, the icing made my teeth hurt in anticipation of the punishment they were in for.

It made me wonder if it was the worst piece of junk food I’ve ever eaten (and I’m not that picky: I like Mickey D’s fried apple pies at times for instance).

It made me think of asking readers what their worst junk food experience was.

(Note to Obama Derangeent Syndrome sufferers: this is not a column about Obama, although you seem to have shrunk your world to your obsession with his Satanic Evil, so that everything‘s about him. It’s almost as if you’re, in a perverse way, in love with him. Try to stay on topic or I’ll just delete).

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