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Klavan On The Culture

Must We Talk Nonsense?

October 5th, 2014 - 11:53 am
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The New York Times editorial board — a motley collection of knuckleheads — is wrestling mightily with the fact that everything they believe just happens to be untrue. Most especially, all that end-the-war-in-Iraq stuff hasn’t turned out as well as they hoped and their militant-Islam-is-no-worse-than-any-other-religion meme is beginning to seem a bit shaky and, oh yeah, even though there’s no such thing as evil, these ISIS guys look suspiciously like what evil would look like if it were, you know, evil.

What’s a Times knucklehead to do?

In an editorial last week titled “The Fundamental Horror of Isis the Timesmen set out to correct their formerly errant course and try to become wrong in a whole new way. Speaking of the misbehaviors of those naughty ISIS folks, the editorial board declared:

To claim that this savagery is rooted in a certain people or a certain religion is to forget that the great atrocities of our age have been perpetrated on different continents by people professing different ideologies and different religions. Before the Islamic State there was Rwanda, and the Lord’s Resistance Army and the killing fields of Cambodia, and before that, in Europe, the Holocaust.

Comparisons are meaningless at this level of evil, as are attempts to explain the horror by delving into the psychology or rationale of the perpetrators.

Really? Must we talk such crap?

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What Is A Reasonable Tax?

October 3rd, 2014 - 9:28 am

Only two shadowy figures have the answer!  No clue who they are.

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Republicans Are People Too?

October 1st, 2014 - 6:05 am

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A bad idea whose time, unfortunately, seems to have come:  GOP adman Vinny Manchillo has produced a commercial called “Republicans are People Too!” You will not be surprised to learn Manchillo is a former Mitt Romney media advisor. There’s something to put on your resume! It’s like saying you taught at the charm school that produced Alec Baldwin.

Anyway, watch the ad, then read this excellent Daily Caller response from my friend Michael Knowles: “Republicans Do NOT Drive Priuses!”

Poor strategy aside, the most nauseating characteristic of the commercial is its transparent disingenuousness.

“Republicans drive Priuses.”

“Republicans read the New York Times.”

“Republicans have feelings.”

For the record, Republicans do not drive Priuses. No self-respecting Republican would be caught dead in that wimpy monument to secular eschatology. In fact, the only arguably Republican hybrid automobile is the Lamborghini Countach — a hybrid in that it burns both gasoline and motor oil. Conservative satirist P.J. O’Rourke’s essay, “How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink,” gives better insight into Republican driving habits than senseless cant about the Prius.

That’s not even the best part. Read the whole thing here. It’s definitely worth it.

The President’s Make-Believe World

September 28th, 2014 - 5:22 pm

For my money, PJ Media’s own Andrew C. McCarthy is one of the very best writers on the Islamist threat as seen from the west. Relentlessly honest and deeply informed, he avoids sweeping generalizations and any hint of bigotry but never turns his eyes from the truth of the situation. If you haven’t read his recent NRO article, “The Khorosan Group Does Not Exist,” you really should. It vivisects the presidential narrative of what’s happening in the Middle East. By listing and sometimes inventing names for small Islamist splinter groups, the president, McCarthy says, is trying to rewrite reality to show that he has “dealt decisively with the terrorist threat, rendering it a disparate series of ragtag jayvees.”

There is a purpose behind this dizzying proliferation of names assigned to what, in reality, is a global network with multiple tentacles and occasional internecine rivalries… Obama has not quelled our enemies; he has miniaturized them. The jihad and the sharia supremacism that fuels it form the glue that unites the parts into a whole — a worldwide, ideologically connected movement rooted in Islamic scripture that can project power on the scale of a nation-state and that seeks to conquer the West. The president does not want us to see the threat this way.

“For a product of the radical Left like Obama,” McCarthy added, “terrorism is a regrettable but understandable consequence of American arrogance. That it happens to involve Muslims is just the coincidental fallout of Western imperialism in the Middle East, not the doctrinal command of a belief system that perceives itself as engaged in an inter-civilizational conflict.”

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It Takes Feminist Crazies to Make Rape a Joke…

September 26th, 2014 - 8:46 am

…but by gum, they did it! And The Blogfather Glenn Reynolds was there to grab the ring. The Instapundit delivers this very funny parody of feminist campus rape hysteria — which is brilliant because the joke derives not from rape itself (which, let’s face it, is kind of a laugh killer) but from the left wing dishonesty about the risk (which I blogged about last week). Great stuff.

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Go Get Em, Dinesh!

September 24th, 2014 - 11:06 am

It is not true to say the government of the United States charged Dinesh D’Souza with criticizing the president. It charged him with campaign finance fraud BECAUSE he criticized the president. Dinesh admits he committed the error — a $20,000 mistake deserving of a slap on the wrist and a fine. But this exceedingly creepy administration leapt on the indiscretion and attempted to get D’Souza thrown in the slammer for up to a year a half — all because D’Souza’s hit film, 2016: Obama’s America, insightfully dissected the president’s psychology to find what D’Souza calls The Roots of Obama’s Rage.

Rage is right. A year and a half in prison would have kept D’Souza from making a new film for the next election cycle. Fortunately, however, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman rejected the government’s case and instead gave the filmmaker something like what he deserved: a stern talking to, a fine, eight months in a community confinement center and five years probation. All of which means the man can go on doing what he does: writing intelligent books and making entertaining films about our current politics.

Go get em, Dinesh! And shame on the “mainstream” press who cheered the government on in this vendetta. And shame too on those conservatives who didn’t stand up for the guy in his hour of need, saying, “Well, he did break the law, after all.” That’s crap. D’Souza did wrong, I don’t deny that and neither does he, but the feds came after him like they were crossing the Rhine for what was essentially a moral misdemeanor. If it had happened under a Republican administration to someone like Paul Krugman, whose every word is a moral misdemeanor not to mention a logical felony, the mass media mind would have exploded with indignation. And they’d have been right.

This was disgusting stuff, made right by an honest judge. Good for his honor. And good for D’Souza. And good for us.

Cowls in the Hood: How to Help the Poor

September 21st, 2014 - 10:43 am

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Beginning this Thursday, your local PBS station will be airing a powerful documentary called The Rule, from Bongiorno Productions. It follows the monks of a Benedictine abbey called Newark Monastery. That’s Newark, as in New Jersey. The monastery runs St. Benedict’s Prep there, a school for young men from the inner city — from the slums, not to put too fine a point on it. Whereas two thirds of poor kids never get any higher education, the boys who attend the monks’ school go on to college at a rate of about one hundred percent. Which, for those of you who weren’t educated in a Benedictine monastery, means all of them.

I urge you to watch this show. It’s incredibly involving and moving and uplifting. And, if you care about the heartbreaking and intractable problems facing America’s poor and oftentimes minority youth, it’s instructive.

It’s hard for those of us who didn’t grow up in these neighborhoods to quite understand what happens there. Obama-style leftism strikes me as such a sinful religion in regard to the poor because it conveys to its believers a sense of virtue while its philosophies and programs — learned resentment and victimhood coupled with subsidized bad behavior — devastate the actual lives of the people they are theoretically intended to help. Those of us on the right can be forgiven for suspecting leftism’s much-vaunted concern for the underclass is really just a means of consolidating and increasing the power of the powerful.

But the attitudes of many on the right, while generally far less harmful, can also be purblind. It’s all well and good to point out that education and faithful marriage will likely keep a man from a life of poverty. They will. But if at ten years old you’re watching your mom turn tricks for a hit of crack, you’re probably not going to grow up thinking straight enough to follow the good path. Black churches that have abandoned Jesus Christ in order to preach the Democrat Party don’t help a whole lot either.

The point is, poverty recreates itself by generating the behaviors that cause it. Democrat pols may be vampires who drink the blood of the poor for power, but pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps Republicans who never campaign in the slums have nothing to be proud of either.

What the monks of Newark Abbey are doing is not conceptually revolutionary. Faith, discipline, belonging, fatherly support — we all know these are the things that make the difference in a young man’s life.  Why then is it so difficult to replicate the abbey’s results? Because someone’s got to go in there and do the work, that’s why. The monks deliver the goods. They’re there day after day. They’re not making speeches about it. They’re not blogging about it. They’re doing it. And the effects are glorious to see.

Watch The Rule. It’ll make you laugh and cry and think differently. It’s well worth your time.

 

Breaking Ball

September 19th, 2014 - 8:55 am

Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston welcomes the baseball post season with this very funny promo for his new one man show.  ”Any actor who tells you that he’s not inspired by Bugs Bunny is a liar, frankly, or just a hack.” Amen.

Watch. Very enjoyable:

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He should do an NFL version of this where he punches himself in the face, then dresses up in a skirt and drops to the floor unconscious.

 

Great Writing About Scary Writing

September 17th, 2014 - 6:35 am

There is precious little intelligent writing about ghost stories and horror but you know who’s doing some? My pal John J. Miller. I don’t just say this because he’s a friend, but because the last two pieces he did on the subject were absolutely terrific. The piece he wrote recently for the wonderful Claremont Review on H.P. Lovecraft — The Horror, The Horror — was so good I actually had to write the guy a fan letter. Sure, I knew he’d use it against me some day but what could I do? Reading his essay was like eating some kind of confection. Try this bit:

The biggest barrier to Lovecraft’s mainstream acceptance had been his status as a writer of horror fiction—a field of literature that suffers from the suspicion that its readers take a perverse delight in graphic descriptions of torture and murder. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding, brought on in part by the sad fact that some horror books and movies really are no better than this. In its practical application, however, the classification horror encompasses a wide range of creative expression, from lowbrow penny dreadfuls and shilling shockers to Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. Much of the confusion is semantic. Strictly defined, horror is a blend of fear and disgust, the revulsion we feel in the face of cruelty and decay. Although Lovecraft certainly exploited this emotion—read the final paragraph of “The Rats in the Walls,” for instance—most of the time he aimed higher. The finest horror fiction is really about terror, which combines fear and awe in a powerful sensation that haunts rather than startles. Lovecraft sometimes used the term supernatural horror, but as a thoroughgoing materialist, he didn’t really believe in the supernatural. If a phenomenon appeared to violate the laws of nature, he argued, it was only because we didn’t understand the science of the laws. Much of Lovecraft’s work originally ran in a pulp magazine called Weird Tales, with weird meaning eerie or uncanny. Yet that promising word never really caught on as a label. So we’re stuck with calling it all horror, and cramming slasher flicks like Friday the 13th and its interminable sequels into the same broad category as the most refined ghost stories, such as Vladimir Nabokov’s “The Vane Sisters” and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

Dude! That’s what good writing about genre fiction looks like when it’s at home. The rest is here.

John did another great one on the ghost story writer Robert Aickman — one of my favorites — for the WSJ, but it’s behind a paywall. But there’s more good stuff on his website.

 

Feminists: Idiots or Shrikes?

September 14th, 2014 - 8:58 am
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It is no doubt some mysterious function of divine justice that feminism turns its adherents into caricatures of helpless and irrational females. I know so many homemaker moms who possess incredible dignity and self-possession — the respect and power that such womanly women acquire without even trying is kind of startling and wonderful. And of course, I also know plenty of more careerist women who show up and do their jobs well without a lot of fuss and bother about their gender. But feminists?

So help me, every dame I know who is an avowed feminist comes across as Betty Boop with PMS and a hatchet. They tremble in fear before the objectifying power of the Male Gaze. They eschew rational argument and revel in shrieking nonsense. And their attempts to imitate the boorish sexuality of the worst of men inevitably morph into faux Victorian prudery.

And what in the world is this weird, crazy obsession with campus rape? Inflating the statistics. Going into hysterics whenever someone points out the numbers are wrong. And rejecting any suggestion that women ought to take care at night or learn self-defense or stay sober around strangers as “blaming the victim.”

Perhaps the campus rape hysteria is a sign of misplaced revulsion at the college booze-and-hook-up culture which does, in fact, degrade women and which is part of the “sexual liberation” that feminists stupidly supported. That is, maybe it’s a way feminists can get girls out of a situation they helped create without taking any responsibility for having helped to create it.

I hope so. Because if it’s not that, then the whole foofaraw comes across as some sort of Freudian kookiness wherein feminists are so fearful of their secret rape fantasies they project them onto the world. Can’t they just read Fifty Shades of Grey like everyone else and let it go?

Then again, there’s also the possibility that there’s some kind of shrewish method to the girly madness.

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