Features Archives


The Young and Restless

Senators in a hurry
Feb 15, 2016

A good-looking young senator, short on experience, is seeking the White House, after what critics say are too few years served in the job he is holding, too few accomplishments in it, and altogether too little of the experience, tempering, grooming, and seasoning they think that a president needs. He is in his early-to-mid-forties, about 10 years less than the age at which most men seek that office, and creates resentment and anger in the generation he is trying to shoulder aside. On the plus side, he is highly articulate and keenly aware of the nature of words and their power.

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Sandernistas on the March

Grab your popcorn and enjoy the show
Feb 15, 2016

So now that the Democratic party is well and truly feeling the Bern, how should those of us who identify not as democratic socialists nor oligarchs nor oligarch-enablers feel about those lighter-shade-of-Mao “Bernie 2016" yard signs reddening up the landscape?

The perhaps counterintuitive answer is .  .  . thrilled. Ecstatic, even. The Sandernistas on the march will be more fun to watch than a crossover season of Girls and The Walking Dead—if, that is, one could still stomach watching Lena Dunham now that she's thrown in her lot with that pantsuited Goldman Sachs subsidiary who portrays Hillary Clinton on various debate stages and social media accounts.

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What Next for the Left?

The progressives go from bad to worse
Feb 08, 2016

A strange period has now passed into history. Captivated by a presidential campaign in 2008, Americans by the millions came to believe that a new leader would be able to produce more than a transformed society and an era of world peace. Politics could be extended beyond its ordinary boundaries and bring about a spiritual renewal. This exhilarating prospect fed on its own spiraling expectations, surprising even its original purveyors.

Faith in this political religion eventually dissipated. Four years into the experience, many ceased to believe. Today most have forgotten. Politics has retreated to its more usual limits, focusing on the harder core of ideology.

Modern progressivism has driven much of American politics for the

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Among the Palefaces

Yet another effort to start a conversation about race in America
Nov 03, 2014

As a lifelong white person​—​or Person Without Color, for the more sensitively inclined​—​I have nothing against white people. I mean, sure, at this late date in their history, I’m all too aware of the dubious and disheartening white-people statistics. Nearly all Prius owners, Vineyard Vines wearers, and girls named “Addison” are white. Almost 8 out of 10 Canadians are white. And the most reliably annoying person in the world, Gwyneth Paltrow? You guessed it: white.

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Death Valley Days

And nights
Feb 01, 2016
The name, you think when you first lay eyes upon the place, says it all. The wide, shimmering flat that is streaked with white that you know without being told is salt. The hard, angular mountains with no sign of vegetation growing on their slopes. The washed out colors—reds, browns, copper. The absence of sound even though it seems there should be some air moving. Read more

Nine Tales of Trump at His Trumpiest

And these just scratch the surface
Feb 01, 2016

It's that magical time in the presidential cycle again, when all the preelection year’s wild conjecture, clueless handicapping, and abject foolishness has ended, so that the election year's wild conjecture, clueless handicapping, and abject foolishness can begin. It's that time when panicked, demoralized citizens, who believe that our country is dying, compose themselves, do their civic duty, and choose the man or woman best suited to finish it off.

To all but the most obstinate poll-science deniers, that man could very easily be Donald J. Trump. In an impossibly large field, Trump has dominated for seven months. He hasn't, in fact, placed second in a national GOP primary poll since early November, when Ben Carson briefly

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Unchecked Power

The regulatory tax problem
Jan 25, 2016

The Washington Post editorialized in November that it was time to regulate how much sugar Americans consume. Sugar causes obesity, which leads to heart disease and diabetes. Government has to pick up much of the tab for treatment, which justifies the feds putting themselves between consumers and the sugar bowl.

But how to actually regulate sugar? Try to fix some limit on serving sizes? Require soda-makers to de-sweeten pop? Such command and control options would no doubt be hamfisted. And so the Post suggested the all-purpose solution: new taxes. (Never mind that Washington already dramatically inflates sugar costs through a tangled program of price supports and import controls.

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The Two Years with Lex Kaplen

The death and life of a great American magazine
Jan 18, 2016

Alexander Kaplen died December 16, 2015, at the age of 56. He was 31 when I last saw him on March 5, 1991, about 5:30 p.m. I know the time because I had rushed to the bank in a taxi with $8,000 in cash. The money was the Wigwag Magazine Company’s share of the auction proceeds of the magazine's hard assets: the phone system, Macs, desks, chairs, fax machine. An ironist would have enjoyed some of our furnishings: filing cabinets from Esquire's former headquarters, their drawers still labeled "Man At His Best" and "Women We Love." The conference table too big for our conference room, but irresistible when the man at the used furniture shop in the basement of Calvary-St. George's Episcopal Church told me it had belonged to Ivan

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Bernie at the Bridge

The red whirlwind comes to New Hampshire
Jan 18, 2016

Manchester, N.H. -- Crossing from Vermont into New Hampshire, you get a feel for what is driving the improbable Bernie Sanders campaign. The two states are separated by the Connecticut River valley, where the American industrial revolution could be said to have begun. The river supplied power for the mills, and the small towns and farms were a source of eager labor. The American system of manufacturing was born here. Even the British, who ordinarily thought they had all the answers, came to study the way things were done in the Connecticut River valley. Downstream, in Massachusetts, the factories turned out guns; far upstream, the Fairchild Company supplied industrial scales to the world.

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Über Alles After All

Europe’s German future.
Feb 13, 2012

Last week Germany reclaimed its status as the leading power in Europe. In the two years since it became apparent that Greece was, essentially, bankrupt, there have been dozens of emergency meetings of the countries that use the common European currency, the euro. Most of the euro-using states believe that Germany—with a booming industrial economy, vast trade surpluses, a reputation for fiscal probity, and a history that makes it reluctant to reject the counsel of France—ought to cover the bill. Germany has long argued that Greece must become competitive again by selling off state assets and cutting government handouts.

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So Sorry

The old story: European politician gets in trouble, helps the Jews.
Feb 13, 2012

Geert Wilders, the big-gesture Dutch politician who has made a career out of outspoken enthusiasms and denunciations in a country which is careful of its speech, has begun to take on water. In the June 2010 election, the Freedom party, which Wilders created five years earlier, was the third-biggest vote-getter. And when the free-market conservative Freedom and Democracy party and Christian Democrats formed a government with Wilders’s support, polls indicated that Wilders’s party was the most popular in the country. Between October and December 2011, its support shriveled by a third.

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Kennedy’s Question

How will the Court decide Hobby Lobby?
Apr 28, 2014

We often think of the Constitution as a two-part document: first the original 1787 text, which primarily establishes the government’s structure; and then the amendments, which primarily set forth our rights. But it’s not nearly that simple: Our government’s structure—its federalism and its separation of powers—was devised not just to promote energetic government, but also to secure individual liberty.

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Growing Old Without Growing Up

Sleepaway camp for adults
Jan 11, 2016

Sanger, Calif.

On this late October day, as I wheel into the Wonder Valley Ranch Resort nestled in the foothills of the spellbinding if drought-scorched Sierras, I'm struck by the notion that it's a bit late in the season to be going to a summer camp for adults. But then, it would seem a bit late to be going to summer camp at all. For at age 45, I am what noted gerontologist Cedric the Entertainer calls "a grown-ass man."

But that hardly matters anymore. For I am also a citizen of Infantilized America, where getting old has gotten old, and youth is no longer just wasted on the young. Maybe it's due to narcissism or nostalgia, or all our institutions atrophying.

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Ethan Allen Lives

The original American populist
Dec 28, 2015

In 1775, Fort Ticonderoga was known as the "Gibraltar of the New World." So when Ethan Allen—who was never one to think small—learned of the unpleasantness at Lexington and Concord, he proposed to muster his troops, the Green Mountain Boys, at the tavern in Bennington that was more or less their headquarters and immediately march upcountry, find some boats for an amphibious assault, and take that fort. He and the "Boys"—who were a blend of militia and vigilante committee—had been fighting their own fight for almost 10 years. It was the fight between the yeomanry and the aristocracy, and it has been going on, in one fashion or another, ever since.

His men were armed, probably, with long rifles and muskets,

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Coming Apart

The decline of the European Union
Dec 28, 2015

The walls are going up all over Europe; we shall not see them lowered in our lifetime. The dream of "ever-closer union," and the eventual merging of nations into a United States of Europe, is over. From the white cliffs of Dover in the west, where David Cameron refused to follow Brussels's orders to grant welfare payments to working migrants, to the east, where Hungary's border with Romania is marked with razor wire; from Athens in the Mediterranean south, where a populist government mocks Germany, the architect of the union's fiscal policy, to Stockholm in the Baltic north, where the government has closed its borders to immigrants: The European Union has not only stalled on the road to union—it is coming apart.

Here is

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Clash of Generations

The cultural contradictions of Islam in America
Dec 28, 2015

In the wake of the San Bernardino attacks, Americans must confront the undeniable reality of homegrown Islamist terrorism. We must also confront how little we have learned since 9/11 about Islam and about the Muslims who are our fellow citizens. In recent days our public officials—at least the serious ones—have not been able to articulate anything more cogent than "If you see something, say something," a tired slogan originally developed by the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2002 and officially adopted by the Department of Homeland Security more than five years ago.

One reason for this sorry state of affairs is that there are so few Muslims in the United States.

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Jingle Hell

The debasement of Christmas songs
Dec 21, 2015

In the city where I live, one of the pop music radio stations shifts to an all-Christmas music format beginning in .  .  . oh, I don't know, late August?

Kidding! No, I think the transition takes place a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, which gives us all plenty of time to get sick of our seasonal favorites long before the season officially begins. The all-Christmas programming used to start Thanksgiving week. And before that, many years ago, it began the weekend after Thanksgiving.

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Playing to Our Strengths

A visit to an Ohio-class submarine redesigned for counterterrorism
Dec 21, 2015

Key West

It's one thing to read debates about Navy budget decisions and the aging of our submarine fleet, and quite another to visit one of our 71 submarines and see what the fuss is about. This November, I spent 24 hours on the USS Georgia—one of four Ohio-class subs redesigned in 2004 for counterterrorism, with Tomahawk cruise missiles replacing nuclear warheads and some missile silos retrofitted as lockout chambers to allow Navy SEALs to exit in combat zones. I came away with a profound respect for the submarine culture.

Many of my expectations were wrong. Happily, I didn't feel claustrophobic for a minute.

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Who’s Afraid of Campbell Brown?

Teachers’ unions, and for good reason
Dec 07, 2015

New York

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It's All About 'Muscle'

Understanding the campus unrest
Dec 14, 2015

The Obama administration—easily the most ideologically progressive in modern American history—has been accompanied by both liberal triumphalism and liberal outrage.

Three major protest movements have marked the Obama era: Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and the as-yet-unnamed campus protests that began at the University of Missouri and Yale and have now spread across the country. The Occupy movement failed utterly. The Black Lives Matter movement has been on a fast track to irrelevance, its only success having been to discipline Democratic presidential candidates to deny that "all" lives matter, while insisting that "black" lives do.

The campus protests are different.

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European Insecurity

The bloody crossroads where migration and terrorism meet
Nov 30, 2015

If Europe doesn’t get serious about protecting its borders, it’s going to head back to the days of barbed wire and concrete walls. That’s what President François Hollande warned when he went before a rare joint sitting of France’s National Assembly and Senate to argue for an extended three-month state of emergency. His warning came in the wake of the half-dozen simultaneous bomb and machine-gun attacks in Paris on November 13, claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS), that left at least 130 dead.

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The Long War Continues

Whatever President Obama may say
Nov 30, 2015

In many ways, the reaction to the horrific attacks in Paris has been familiar.

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Judging Roberts

The Chief Justice of the United States, ten years in
Nov 23, 2015

Is John Roberts a good judge? Ten years ago, President Bush appointed him chief justice of the United States. His anniversary, coinciding with the Supreme Court’s reconvening last month, naturally caused lawyers, scholars, and politicians to reflect upon his legacy on the Supreme Court.

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So You’re Getting a Ph.D.

Welcome to the worst job market in America
Nov 16, 2015

Every few years in the Northeast, biologist John Cooley gets famous—because he’s the man who discovered the mating secrets of one of the insect world’s weirdest and most-publicized species: Magicicada septendecim, the 17-year cicada. True to their name, and unlike the bottle-green “annual” cicadas that emerge in backyards every summer, the black-and-orange 17-years spend more than a decade and a half underground as larvae, and then all emerge as adults at the same time, usually in May.

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Climate Politics

What happens in Paris won’t stay in Paris
Nov 16, 2015

At the end of this month representatives of some 200 nations will gather in Paris for the opening of a United Nations-sponsored conclave to prevent the cataclysm that President Barack Obama, backed by the moral authority of Pope Francis, believes will befall the world if we do not slow the pace of climate change. There will be no treaty to enshrine the deal, for the very good reason that such a treaty would not receive the consent of the U.S. Senate.

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She Botched It

What we’ve learned about Hillary Clinton’s performance at the State Department
Nov 09, 2015

The mainstream media, liberal pundits, and even some conservative analysts gave Hillary Clinton high marks for her performance at the October 22 hearing of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, and they scored congressional Republicans negatively. The day was widely deemed a huge win for Clinton and a crucial moment in turning her campaign around.

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Whatever Happened to High Culture?

An inquest
Nov 09, 2015

I see no reason why the decay of culture should not proceed much further, and why we may not even anticipate a period, of some duration, of which it will be possible to say that it will have no culture.

Notes Toward the Definition of Culture
—T. S. Eliot

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Fix the Filibuster

But don’t destroy it
Nov 02, 2015

We hear endlessly these days from the left and the right that our political system is “broken.” The left’s principal complaint is that it is too hard to pass their desired legislation. Liberals pine for a parliamentary system, where the majority party in the legislature controls public policy. Our Founders, however, devised a novel structure of checks and balances that makes enacting legislation difficult. If that constitutional design is functioning as intended, it can hardly be said to be “broken.” 

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An Assault on Common Sense

The phony campus rape crisis
Nov 02, 2015

In August 2012, two rapes by unknown assailants were reported at Harvard University, sending the school into crisis. Police cruisers idled around the campus; uniformed and plainclothes officers came out in force. Students were advised not to walk alone. A member of the undergraduate council called for the closing of Harvard Yard. “I thought Cambridge wasn’t a dangerous area,” a freshman told the student newspaper. “It was Harvard—it was supposed to be safe, academic.” (In fact, Harvard still was safe.

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The Rising Migrant Tide

What Merkel wrought
Oct 26, 2015

Vienna

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