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small red square Both Slate and Salon review a new book called Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origin of His Evil by Ron Rosenbaum. Alex Ross at Slate says that

... it's difficult at this stage of the game to take a bold moral stance against Der Führer. Rosenbaum, in Explaining Hitler, writes a mix of amused detachment and mildly off-kilter enthusiasm. It's the same desktop-detective approach that Rosenbaum brings to his triumphantly idiosyncratic weekly column for the "New York Observer", as he burrows through such issues as the meaning of Bob Dylan's latest lyrics or the inexplicable popularity of "Seinfeld". He asks--as Seinfeld might--what was the deal with Hitler? What was he thinking?
Somber Salon asks the existential questions.
For if Hitler really believed he was doing the right thing, then in some sense he would be less guilty -- and this is something that Rosenbaum cannot tolerate. He offers the example of the grotesque first Menendez murder trial, in which the brothers were initially acquitted because they supposedly "believed" that their parents were going to kill them. "By that logic, if Hitler had survived to be put on trial for murder in California, say, he might theoretically have been able to argue that he was 'honestly convinced' the Jews were trying to destroy him," Rosenbaum writes.

...Hitler, by this logic, might have been aware that the world didn't think slaughtering the Jews was a good thing, even though in his heart he knew it was -- a variant of the "the masses are not yet ready to understand our (Cultural Revolution, Armenian genocide, Rwandan butchery, American slavery, Bosnian atrocities, etc.)" line -- and therefore concealed it.

Salon quotes philosopher Berel Lang: "the role of the imagination in the elaboration of their acts," the "sense of irony" manifest in things like the sign "Arbeit macht Frei" ("Work Will Make You Free") over the gate to Auschwitz -- "it's like a joke, it is a joke" -- that indicate "an artistic consciousness" in evil. Which is to say that Hitler and his cronies did what they did not in spite of the fact that they knew it was wrong, but because they knew it was wrong.

Meanwhile back at Slate their "Chatterbox" column discusses an entirely different issue:
The bizarre tale of how Jason Turner, New York City's new welfare commissioner, ended up accused of anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi sentiments. Turner's crime: Uttering six common English words in a TV interview, none of which was derogatory.

As welfare-reform groupies know, Turner was the architect of Wisconsin's acclaimed welfare-to-work program, who was named to his current post by Mayor Rudy Guiliani in January... a municipal labor leader likened the city's workfare program to slavery. Even in the provinces, Turner had some first-hand experience with the incendiary rhetoric that surrounds the welfare debate. So Thursday night when a TV interviewer asked about the slavery comment, Turner had a ready riposte. "It's work that sets you free," he replied.

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small yellow square Unwillingly took my new Grundig radio back to Circuit City at lunchtime. (I liked the design and it worked fine the first day, then not at all one night, then again OK the next day - trouble!) Unlike Fry's, no hassle at all getting the refund. As I expected, mine was the only unit in stock - an exchange was my first choice. But now I understand Circuit City is to be avoided - something shady involving DVD players has certain agitated voices raised in Usenet. I've never liked them for the service contract hard-sell (although we've gotten used to it). On the way back I ate at the Happi House, for a plate of their distinctively fast-food teriyaki.

small violet square Frittered away the afternoon reading a great web-page, all about old TV shows. Do you remember the Church of What's Happnin' Now?

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