Taking Idiocy Seriously


Photo of signs held by Wall Street protestors

Judging by the incoherence of their agenda and the relatively small number of participants, you could say the Occupy Wall Street protesters aren’t serious. Their spirit is captured in this anecdote from New York’s Zuccotti Park, reported in the New York Times: “One woman gave a pep talk to what looked like a new recruit. ‘It’s about taking down systems, it doesn’t matter what you’re protesting,’ she said. ‘Just protest.’ ”

“Just protest.” As we said: not serious. Even idiotic.

Occupy Wall Street may peter out and have no lasting significance whatsoever. And the respectful coverage by some in the media, the earnest ...

Photo of men ducking down in the middle of a road

A Real Syria Policy, Anyone?


Russia and China’s October 4 veto of a U.N. -Security Council resolution on Syria elicited a strong response from U.S. ambassador to the ...

Photo of Mitt Romney

Win and Replace


The American people want Obamacare to be repealed. Republicans in particular consider the fate of Obamacare to be the most important thing ...


He’s Back

Vladimir Putin, the once and future president of Russia.


Cartoon showing Putin being the real Russian leader

Perhaps the best commentary on the news that Vladimir Putin will return as president of Russia next year, with placeholder-in-chief Dmitry Medvedev stepping aside for his longtime mentor, was offered in a caustic satirical poem in the three-times-a-week independent paper Novaya Gazeta by maverick writer Dmitry Bykov. Bykov recalled that, some two years ago, when interviewing think tank president Igor Yurgens—a leading drumbeater for Medvedev as Russia’s great liberal hope—he bet Yurgens a case of cognac that Putin would retake the presidency in 2012. In retrospect, he wrote, the outcome seems so obvious and the hopes pinned on Medvedev so flimsy that a pack of raisins would have been a fairer bet.

Photo of the Internal Revenue Service office building

Let’s Start All Over Again

A new approach to tax reform.


About halfway through his 1984 State of the Union address, Ronald Reagan laid out the need for major tax reform. “There’s a better way,” he ...

Drawing of a man showing that he has empty pockets

Cash Is the Problem, Not ‘Confidence’

Another poor excuse for the stagnant economy.


At the start of every economic downturn in memory there has been a chorus of voices saying that recovery is just a matter of “confidence.” ...

Photo of the press corps at an Obama news conference

Read His Lips: New Taxes

How will he soak thee? Let us count the ways.


President Obama spent 75 excruciating minutes at a White House press conference last week touting his “jobs” bill and accusing Republicans ...

Photo of a Rick Perry campaign event

The Perils of Donating to Perry

The SEC’s curious role in campaign finance.


Last week, the Rick Perry campaign announced with great fanfare that the Texas governor had raised $17 million for his presidential campaign ...

Photo of Carlos Garcis Rawlins

Hugo Chávez’s Long Shadow

The Venezuelan dictator’s legacy of violence will outlast him.


Recent reports, no less than their accompanying photos, suggest that Hugo Chávez may be dying. But if he hangs on, he is on his way to being ...


Eyewitness to History!

Hanging out with Spooky the anarchist, Amy the gender-bender, Sid the Nazi, and other occupiers of Wall Street.


Photo of angry-looking girl holding Wall Street protest sign

New York 

It is Day 18 when I arrive at the Occupy Wall Street protests. When dealing with antiestablishment types, I like to let them get established. It seems only sporting, since the early moments of any order-changing upheaval can look like utter chaos. But being slow off the mark might have cost me. For by the time I get to lower Manhattan, The Revolution has been going on so long that the revolutionaries have already started selling out. 

When I arrive at ...

Books & Arts

Charles the Great

Dickens and the art of fiction.


Photo of Charles Dickens Writing at a Desk

The Dickens bicentenary is nearly upon us (he was born in February 1812), and he will not lack for biographical attention. Over the past decade there has been much scholarly activity on his behalf: the completion of 12 volumes of letters; a four-volume edition of his journalism; continuing “definitive” editions of the novels. Peter Ackroyd’s massive biography of 1991 is about to be reissued, and two years ago Michael Slater published a substantial one that focused especially on the novels’ relation to Dickens’s letters and other writings. Now Claire Tomalin, as professional in the tradition as they come (biographies of Jane Austen, Samuel Pepys, and Thomas Hardy, among others), has given us, in 500-plus pages, the ideal book for a nonspecialist reader curious about the personal and literary career of this famous man. Dickens “saw the world more vividly than other people,” writes Tomalin in her prologue—and indeed, he called himself at one point ...

Photo of Rick Baker talking to a child

It Takes a Mayor

Is there a conservative formula for city government?


‘Many saw me as an unlikely urban champion,” admits Rick Baker, who served two terms as mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida’s fourth-largest city, and was named Governing magazine’s top mayor in 2008. Baker isn’t just being humble: He’s a social and ...

A Statue of Hannibal looking angry

Hannibal’s Home

What was lost when Carthage was destroyed.


What if Hannibal had won? What if Carthage rather than Rome had become the dominant power in the Mediterranean?

Painting of a Ship Sinking

Over There

The American Civil War from the vantage point of London.


Mark Twain once said that it was more interesting to talk to Civil War veterans about battles than to chat with poets about the moon as the versifiers had not ordinarily been to the moon.

Photo of high heeled shoes lying on smashed glass

Pants on Fire

How Fashion Week dealt with London’s summer riots.



Mug shot of a young Jane Fonda

Jane’s Addiction

It’s not the actress but the ‘activist’ we remember.


The most striking thing about Patricia Bosworth’s new biography of Jane Fonda (Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman, ...


Je ne regrette rien

Philip Terzian, monolinguist


Drawing of Man sitting in Church with a thought bubble over his head

I was surprised the other day at lunch when someone asked me a question that, I suppose, must come with age: Had I any regrets in life? 

The obvious answer, of course, is yes: roads not taken, words not spoken, opportunities ignored or mishandled. I would like to have done this and that, or gone here and there; but on reflection I decided that, all things being equal, life has turned out essentially the way I wanted it to turn out—has been better, in fact—and the only genuine regret I have is never to have mastered a foreign language. 

I may qualify this by saying, in my defense, ...


Joe Biden, Truth-teller

Photo of Vice President Joe Biden

Joe Biden has gotten his share of mockery​—​not least in these precincts​—​for his tendency to yack a little too much. Indeed, it’s such a commonplace observation that the vice president now publicly kids himself about it, in much the same way that Ronald Reagan used his age to humorous advantage (“I’m not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience”).

So The Scrapbook is inclined to rush to Mr. Biden’s defense this week in the aftermath of his observation to NBC’s David Gregory:


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