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Klavan On The Culture

Monthly Archives: November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 28th, 2013 - 9:17 am

We have a tradition in my house that Christmas music is not allowed until the Macy’s Santa (who is, after all, Santa) arrives at Times Square. Actually, my wife created this tradition. Myself, I’m like one of those cheesy Christmas all-year stores and would gladly start decking the halls somewhere in June. But in any case, the time has arrived and so here’s an amazing piece by a wonderful new a cappella group called the Pentatonix. All, incredibly, accomplished with nothing but the human voice. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Blessings on you and your house.

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A Death Panel Toldja So

November 27th, 2013 - 10:15 am
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My pal Steve Malzberg, now hosting a show on Newsmax TV, scored big this week with an interview with leftist journalist Mark Halperin — co-author of Game Change, and the former ABC News political director who once sent a memo directing reporters to be biased in their coverage of the Bush-Kerry election. Halperin admitted that Obamacare includes death panels — committees of bureaucrats who will decide when your life is no longer of value to the state. Here’s a transcript via Media Research Center:

MALZBERG, HOST: A lot of people said you weren’t going to be able to keep your health care, but also they focused on the death panels, which will be coming, call them what you will, rationing, is part of it…

HALPERIN: No, I agree, and that’s going to be a huge issue, and that’s something else on which the president was not fully forthcoming and straightforward.

MALZBERG: So, you believe there will be rationing, a.k.a. death panels?

HALPERIN: It’s built into the plan. It’s not like a guess or like a judgment. That’s going to be part of how costs are controlled.

Later, Halperin backtracked, but he was clearly just being mealy-mouthed. He was right the first time. The panels are in the act.

Now, I wrote about the inevitability of this in 2009 in the Wall Street Journal. In an op-ed entitled “The Panel,” I imagined a future victim of the ObamaCare State:

It begins to occur to you that this is how you are going to die: by the fiat of fatuous ideologues—that is to say, by the considered judgment of a government committee. They are going to snuff you out and never lose a minute’s sleep over it, because it’s only fair, after all.

That logic is implacable too. Free people can treat each other justly, but they can’t make life fair. To get rid of the unfairness among individuals, you have to exercise power over them. The more fairness you want, the more power you need. Thus, all dreams of fairness become dreams of tyranny in the end.

I only remind the reader of this because of the reaction I got at the time. You can get the gist of it by reading some of the comments on the WSJ site in which I’m accused of writing “fiction,” “science fiction,” and of being a paranoid schizophrenic, among other things.

So I would now like all those who made such comments — online and in my email — to imagine my response. And, ala Obama, let me suggest you spend Thanksgiving dinner breaking it to Grandma that the Hopey-Changey One thinks it’s time she stop being such a burden…



A Christmas Gift for Patriots

November 25th, 2013 - 11:09 am

My friend and City Journal colleague Myron Magnet has delivered an absolutely terrific new book for history buffs and lovers of America. It’s called The Founders at Home and it’s a wonderfully retold tale of the intellectual underpinnings of the nation’s founding, with a special eye toward what the founders’ houses had to say about their ideals.

I’ve been reading portions of this book as they were published in City Journal, but the book includes lots of new material. And, as I expect from Myron, the writing is graceful and the scholarship and thinking are profound:

A key reason the Revolution succeeded was its strictly limited scope. The Founders sought only liberty, not equality or fraternity. They aimed to make a political revolution, not a social or economic one, and they didn’t seethe with an Old-World intensity of social rancor or class rage…  Because democratic self-government requires a special kind of culture — one that fosters self-reliant selves — the Protestantism of the Founding Fathers also helped the Revolution succeed. Their Protestant worldview placed an intense value on the individual — his conscience, the state of his soul, his understanding of Scripture, his personal relation to God, his salvation. It was an easy step for them to assume that, as each man was endowed by his Creator with an immortal soul immediately related to God, so he was similarly endowed with rights that are “not the Donation of Law,” as Constitution signer William Livingston put it, but “prior to all political Institution,” and “resulting from the Nature of Man.”

You don’t need me to tell you that the work of these past giants is under threat from the intellectual pygmies who command the political heights today. A book like this isn’t just a delight, it’s also a bulwark against the ignorance and misinformation that leaders like Barack Obama encourage and on which they depend.

Great Christmas gift, truly. A 35 dollar list price, but only around 22 bucks from Amazon. It’s about 17 dollars on Kindle but, in my opinion, the beautifully produced hardcover is well worth the extra fin. This one you’ll want to keep on your shelf.

Myron Receives the National Humanities Medal


Cross-posted at PJ Lifestyle

Messages From Three Conservatives. 3. Lee Habeeb

November 20th, 2013 - 6:39 pm

You probably don’t know the name Lee Habeeb — which, according to Lee Habeeb, is the way he likes it. Habeeb is in the business of making other people famous, conservative radio talk show hosts in particular. He was the co-creator of the Laura Ingraham Show and is now a high-level executive at Salem Radio Network, where he oversees the work of radio greats like Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved and a host of other hosts. Habeeb also writes excellent columns for NRO, as well as other venues.

I’ve spoken with Habeeb on the phone many times. For a while, he even had me as a regular culture commentator on the Mike Gallagher Show, which was a lot of fun. But I met him face to face for the first time at this year’s Restoration Weekend of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. Habeeb was on the pop culture panel with me and while, of course, I was far more charming and attractive, he actually had something more startling and original to say.

The way these culture panels usually work, I and other creatives plead desperately for support for the arts with conservatives who generally wandered in by mistake while looking for the panel on the Apocalyptic Muslim Menace or whatever. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but only just. My usual spiel: there’s a gray list in effect against conservatives in both the movie and publishing businesses and it allows leftists to use the arts to lie about us and themselves. We need to counter this with think tanks, grants, awards and review venues that support artists like me who frequently get nailed by left-wing censors — those who have been self-appointed to protect a helpless public from ideas and stories that counter the party line.

When I’ve finished this thankless and generally useless tirade (complete with pictures of my wife and children trudging homeless through the snow), I try to end on an upbeat note by pointing out that YouTube, e-books and independent movie funding are giving conservatives fresh voices in a newly democratized field.

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Among my more annoying personal traits is my habit of remembering people’s predictions. A prediction doesn’t have to be accurate to be wise or informed, but when people repeatedly get certain things wrong, it often reveals a flaw in their world view. Charles Krauthammer, for instance, is brilliant, especially in his analysis of foreign policy, but he’s routinely mistaken about what the American electorate will do next. I suspect he has too high-minded a view of the public. A good man’s failing, but still…

One of the most accurate political predictors I know is former Democrat pollster Pat Caddell. The lovably irascible Caddell has such disdain for the low intelligence of politicians, voters, strategists and the human race in general that he usually knows exactly which way they’re going to break. Which is why his message at the Restoration Weekend hosted by the David Horowitz Freedom Center struck me as important.

Caddell is warning conservatives that a change is coming, a big change. Voter dissatisfaction with our broken government is reaching critical mass and his recent polling suggests that the people are sending a warning to politicians of both parties:  ”We’re coming — and we’re coming for you.” Caddell feels that a center right politician who bids fair to fix not so much this or that specific problem, but the mechanism of government itself, has a real chance of establishing a new and lasting majority. It could even be time for a third party to arise and take down Democrats and Republicans alike. Again this will require a center right, not far right, candidate, according to Caddell.

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Messages from Three Conservatives: 1. Ann Coulter

November 18th, 2013 - 11:00 am

I spent much of this past weekend in Florida at the Restoration Weekend hosted by David Horowitz’s Freedom Center. I had a chance to listen and talk to many of the bright lights of conservatism, young and old and in-between. Three of them in particular had messages I think worth passing on beyond the confines of the event:  Ann Coulter, Pat Caddell and Lee Habeeb. I’ll give each a brief post.

First, Ann.

A story by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol called The Overcoat was so influential that Dostoevsky remarked that all Russian writers who followed “come out of Gogol’s overcoat.” Similarly I always feel that all hot conservative commentator-babes come out of Ann’s mini-skirt (though perhaps that’s not the most elegant way to put it). For my money, she’s still one of the smartest and the best of our warrior women. In fact, much of what she says is so sensible and down-to-earth that her flash style — the savage wit, the uncompromising rhetoric, the glamourous looks — sometimes obscures the simple clarity of her thinking. No one is right a hundred percent of the time, but she’s always incisive, practical and incredibly well-informed. I’m looking forward to reading her new book Never Trust A Liberal Over 3 — Especially a Republican.

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My schoolteacher daughter recently sent me the above video which her third grade students can’t stop watching and talking about. Given that it’s had over — get this — 200-million hits, I must’ve been among the last people to know it existed. If you’re wondering, it’s made by a Norwegian comedy duo named Ylvis, who apparently set out to make the worst music video ever. I find it very witty.

Watch it — and then read the paragraph beneath — which (and I swear this is true) is a description of a talk given this month at the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center of the University of California at Santa Barbara by Patricia MacCormack. The talk, entitled “Ethics, Animality and Ahuman Theory,” seeks, as far as I can make out, to get us to stop, as they say, privileging our human condition and start thinking of animals as equal to ourselves. Really, read the whole thing:

This talk seeks to radically alter trajectories by which the term ‘animal’ is understood, both in nonhuman and human incarnations. It is founded on the urgent ethical imperative to think animality differently and beyond humanism in order to project ecosophical futures. It is premised on two key themes: an absolute critique and repudiation of speciesist discourse, and a desire to liberate subjectivity from human discourse and subjectification. The paper asks: what can the human be as its own animal, at once no longer fetishising non-human animals, and also giving up the majoritarian species category human toward ahuman theory — an ethics of absolute alterity? What takes us from human systems of thought, acknowledging ourselves as lives without the intervention of excluding and oppressive human discourse? The catalysts for this are limitless. Some examples could be found in certain forms of art encounters, libidinal events, abstraction, literary and filmic experiences, political activism, transgressive practices, ecosophical and chaosmotic becomings, any examples which take us to the outside. Ultimately the question of care toward material alterity, ethics and care is: “what makes possible our thinking beyond thought within a human episteme?” This question is one which must be addressed in order to truly liberate all organic bodies from oppression toward freedom of expressivity and becomings.

Now I discussed this with my dog Dash over a bowl of dead cow and she said, “That would be the stupidest thing I ever heard if I could understand what it said. But I can’t — I’m only a Golden.” I appreciated her humility, but I assured her her species was not the problem.


Blessed Are the Peacemakers

November 11th, 2013 - 7:24 am
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[If you have a moment, please watch the wonderful three minute movie scene above through to the end.]

It always annoys me when a church waxes mealy-mouthed in celebration of the military. They do this, I know, because the church leaders think such celebrations detract from their aura of Christly peace. “We pray for those serving in the armed forces around the world,” goes one Episcopalian formulation — which is twice mealy-mouthed because it not only fails to pray for the right people, it’s fashioned to make you think that you ARE praying for the right people.  You can tell yourself you’re praying for those serving in OUR armed forces around the world, but you’re not. You’re praying for the soldiers of North Korea too — and, Lord, if you’re listening, as far as I’m concerned, you can feel free to smite those sons of bitches at any time. Don’t hold back any smiting on my account.

Jesus blessed the peacemakers. In this fallen world, that sometimes means good guys with guns. Just as neighborhoods are safer where homeowners go armed, so the world is more peaceful where free nations maintain a strong military. I am aware every day — every day — that I read, write, love, pray and simply walk down the street — because there are those who risk their lives to protect me from the armies of the bad guys. If you think that detracts from my aura of Christly peace, so be it. Personally, I think it gives the aura a fresh layer of realism and honesty.

Love is not love that will not stand and fight.

God bless our veterans and those serving today. Just like the Man said.


Cross-posted at PJ Lifestyle

The Unbearable Blindness of David Simon

November 10th, 2013 - 1:17 pm

What Leftists Do.

I have been traveling and so this comes a little late, but it’s still worth saying. Lawrence Meyers at the wonderful Breitbart site Big Hollywood had an excellent takedown of David Simon last week. Simon, author of the brilliant book Homicide and creator of the excellent television show The Wire, is also, according to the book Difficult Men, a self-obsessed and bullying leftist. Recently, he attacked conservatives and, indeed, the U.S. Constitution they are trying to defend. Simon says:

If original intent included the sadism and degradation of human slavery, then original intent is a legal and moral standard that can be consigned to the ash heap of human history. Hardcore conservatives and libertarians who continue to parse the origins of the Constitutions under the guise of returning to a more perfect American union are on a fool’s journey to decay and dishonor.

I leave it to Meyers’s strong piece to take down this nonsense, as indeed he does.

But here’s what bugs me. The Wire (which is, to some extent, based on the year Simon spent with the Baltimore Homicide Squad while researching Homicide) takes place in a city without conservatives, even without Republicans. There has not been a Republican mayor of Baltimore since 1967. And much of the show’s genius lies in its depiction of the brutalized life of black people in the city’s ghetto.

So we have a writer who has seen for himself, and who has shown us, the effects of Democrat governance on a city, the dehumanization of the poor that is the direct result of leftism and the corruption that inevitably springs from it. And yet Simon blames conservatives!

I understand why too, as I’ll explain on the next page.

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I have a new young adult thriller  novel out — an adventure story and ghost story combined — Nightmare City. I seriously hope you’ll consider getting a copy or two to read  secretly before giving them to the young adults in your life.

Meanwhile, here are some brief thoughts on writing stories for the youth market.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short story called The Imp of the Perverse. The imp was that demon inside all of us that pushes us to do the wrong thing, the thing that is certain to harm ourselves and others. You feel the imp inside you when you stand on a precipice and have the urge to throw yourself off. Maybe it’s just another name for the devil, or maybe it’s a personification of that sinful nature that, to paraphrase St. Paul, makes us do what we would not while being unable to do what we would.

Nowhere is the Imp of the Perverse more active today than in the stories and images we give to our young people. The imp is in the beckoning toward self-degradation and self-destruction that underlies so many songs and movies and books, in the blithe romanticization of promiscuity, drugs and foul language, in the strutting pride in transgression not of outdated social mores but of one’s own inner conviction of what is noble and good. There are plenty of wonderful songs and stories out there, but there really does seem an aggressive movement in parts of the entertainment industry to sell behavior to young people that, simply put, will make their lives not better but worse. I don’t have to name the garbage. You know what it is.

Criticize the selling of self-destructive behavior to the young and you’re “puritanical,” or “slut-shaming,” or being “unrealistic about the modern world.” But in fact, this effort to normalize the degraded is itself perverse in the extreme. It’s the incarnation of that imp within who urges us to do ill to what we love the best: ourselves and our children. The people who peddle this trash curse those who dare to criticize them so loudly precisely because they know they are doing wrong and can’t stop themselves. Believe me: the person who accuses you of “slut-shaming,” is herself deeply ashamed.

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