On, Wisconsin!


Football players

"This is what democracy looks like.” That was the boast of protesters occupying the Wisconsin state capitol 16 months ago as they blocked Republican lawmakers from entering the legislature and celebrated Democratic state senators who had fled the state to avoid a vote on Governor Scott Walker’s budget reforms. So in some respects it’s fitting that a process launched in the intellectual incoherence of those early days will end with an election to recall an official whose offense is doing as governor the things he promised as a candidate he’d do. This is not, of course, what democracy looks like​—​at least not what it ought to look like.

The Wisconsin recall is a farce​—​a childish, union-sponsored tantrum that will cost the state’s taxpayers an estimated $18 million. Perhaps the greatest irony is that Democrats rarely discuss its ostensible cause: collective bargaining. Tom ...

Iron Brigade Monument

After Wisconsin


Last week, Morning Joe’s eponymous host, Joe Scarborough, called the effort to recall Wisconsin governor Scott Walker “a political Pickett’s Charge” by the Democrats and the unions: “They ran up the hill when they didn’t have to.” If we were to extend ...

General Cartwright and President Obama

American Zero


The Cold War is an increasingly distant memory in American military minds, except in the minds of the arms control community, and in particular those who seek the elimination of nuclear weapons. Alas, our president is a member in good standing of this ...


Small Potatoes

Obama’s overblown tax breaks for business.


Obama hugging small business owners.

In his State of the Union speech in 2011, President Obama referred to “small business” five times and alluded to it seven more. Progress in America is measured, he said, “by the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise.” In this year’s address, the mentions were down to three.

But Obama hasn’t abandoned the subject. He routinely boasts of having gotten 17 small business tax cuts enacted. And last week being National Small Business Week, the president said he has come up with an array of fresh tax cuts for struggling small business owners.

There are three big problems here. The first is that his 17 tax cuts have had little if any impact on small businesses or the economy. Basically, they failed. Second, his new cuts are much like the earlier ones. They’re temporary, narrow, and not what small business owners are ...

JP Morgan Chase & Co

Too Big for Comfort

Why we need to break up the banks.


America needs to break up its biggest banks, but not for reasons likely to give a tingle to Occupy Wall Street’s remnant rabble (or its Great Everywhere Spirit, Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts). This isn’t about some political exercise in ...


A Defense Posture We Can Afford

Strategy should drive procurement.


Strategist Edward Luttwak noted that the United States does not have a strategy, it has a procurement system. It takes so long to develop a new weapon, the strategic rationale has often vanished before it is fielded. Because so much time, money, and ...


Trade Goes Both Ways

The Obama administration needs to learn the meaning of ‘partner.’


Rio de Janeiro 

When it comes to recognizing both the traditional position and strengths of -Brazil and its status as an emerging global player, the Obama administration seems to be tone deaf. Nothing ...

General Nikolai Makarov

Survival Matters

The Cold War is over. Let’s defend the population.


The most visible dispute in U.S.-Russian relations now pits the American desire for protection from prospective Iranian and North Korean nuclear missile threats against the Russian desire for the United States to remain fully vulnerable to Russia’s offensive ...


Indian Spring

Another Massachusetts miracle for Scott Brown?


Gov Scott Brown

Newton, Mass.

The event was called “Hoops for Our Troops,” and it was held on Armed Forces Day (May 19) in a high school gym here in Newton. The mayor, Setti Warren, came up with the idea. He is an Iraq war veteran himself and passionate about helping vets. The event brought veterans together with potential employers as well as representatives from job training programs, health care providers, counseling services, and others. Spice for the event came in the form of two basketball games. In one, the players were disabled veterans in wheelchairs. The other game, which was the draw, was between teams that were a mix of vets and local celebrities, mostly from broadcasting and sports, among them Kevin Faulk of the New England Patriots. Mayor Warren also suited up to play.

This was a made-to-order opportunity, then, for any capable, hustling politician looking to connect with constituents, early ...

Double Rainbow Guy and Tron Guy

The Meme Generation

Hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your husband. The end is nigh.


Cambridge, Mass.

It’s been two decades since I graduated from college, and I’m glad to be back, walking the halls of MIT. Not that I went to MIT—I couldn’t have been admitted on a bribe. But college ...

Books & Arts

Snake in Fur

The lies and loves of Lillian Hellman.


Lillian Hellman

Few American cultural figures have suffered as steep a decline in reputation as Lillian Hellman. 

Lionized in the media, Hollywood, and popular culture during the 1970s as a woman of valor and rare courage who had lived an independent, sexually liberated life long before American taboos on sexual freedom had been broken down, she was also lauded for bravely standing up for intellectual freedom and constitutional rights during the darkest days of McCarthyism. By the end of the decade, however, in the words of her newest biographer, Alice Kessler-Harris, she had been reduced to “the archetype of hypocrisy, the quintessential liar, the embodiment of ugliness.”

Kessler-Harris, a distinguished professor at Columbia and well-known feminist historian, justifies her decision to write yet another biography of Hellman (she identifies two others as offering ...


Genes Don't Fit

Deciphering the code of DNA and identity.


Bryan Sykes, professor of human genetics at Oxford, confesses that when he began this book he was influenced by Easy Rider, which he had seen again for the first time in years, and was drawn to the aimless wandering of its three male characters. Sykes, too, wanders about a huge ...

Albert the Good

Albert the Good

Victoria’s consort was as admirable as she thought.


It is not so much a truism as a cliché that the Victorian era has been the target of popular denigration ever since Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians (1918) demolished a few of its icons of moral excellence: Florence Nightingale and General Gordon of Khartoum, ...

Rye Whiskey

Spirits of ’76

First in war, first in peace, and last to refuse a shot of whiskey.


The George Washington Temperance Society was started in a Baltimore bar in 1840. Its six founders—William K. Mitchell, John F. Hoss, David Anderson, George Steers, Archibald Campbell, and James McCurley—were not raging evangelicals; nor were they dissolute gutter-loungers. They were ...

Mary McCarthy

Quite Contrary

A reintroduction to Mary McCarthy in her centennial year.


The centenary of Mary McCarthy’s birth falls on this year’s summer solstice, and August is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of her most famous novel, The Group, which sold more than five million copies by the time of McCarthy’s death in 1989, and continues to ...

Jack Black in Bernie

Killer Angel

A mesmerizing tale starring the nice people of Carthage, Texas.


It used to be relatively rare to hear a real-life story that proved the adage “truth is stranger than fiction” because there were so many details in scandalous true stories that couldn’t be shared in polite society. Now, of course, all we hear are true stories filled with scandalous ...


An Unmoveable Feast

Ethan Epstein, in a New York System state of mind


New York System

When I learned recently that I’d be moving back to the East Coast for a job after several years out west, my girlfriend asked a question she knew would be on my mind: “How soon will you be able to make it to Providence for New York System?”

Of all the things that Rhode Island, where I grew up, is famous for—endemic corruption, Family Guy, that accent—the state’s signature food is perhaps the most underrated. The New York System wiener is a small, thin frankfurter made of veal and pork, which, when ordered “all the way,” is topped with meat sauce, celery salt and other spices, mustard, and onions. I’ve been known to throw back four at a sitting. There’s an art to its preparation. Like the chef at a blue-collar Benihana, the wiener-master lines a row of buns up one arm, while with his free hand he adds the franks and condiments at lightning speed. This elegant technique is known as “up the ...


And That’s the Way It Was

President Clinton with Tasha Reign (left) and Brooklyn Lee.

The Scrapbook likes to think of itself as sophisticated, although we realize that we’re probably not as sophisticated as we like to think. Having just read a book review by Howard Kurtz in the Daily Beast, however, we’re feeling especially urbane, all-knowing, well-schooled, and, well, sophisticated.

Kurtz, of course, was for many years the media critic for the Washington Post—and a pretty good one, as media critics go—before he jumped ship to Tina Brown’s dubious enterprise. But last week he took up Douglas Brinkley’s new biography of Walter Cronkite (“sweeping and masterful”), and the scales seem to have fallen from his eyes.

“In the early 1970s,” writes Kurtz, “the most trusted man in America did a very untrustworthy thing.” 

It turns out that, while serving as chief news reader for the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite made a private deal with Pan Am to ...


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