Spineless on Syria


Civil war scene: the al-Qrabis neighborhood of Homs after fighting in July

Last week in Lebanon, two Shiite clerics challenged the region’s growing sectarian divide by taking a stand against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and siding with the Sunni-majority uprising next door. The two Shiite religious figures, risking reprisals from their co-religionists in Syria’s Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, released a statement explaining that the future of the Middle East required a Syria “stable, free, and ruled by a democratic, pluralist, and modern state.”

With the country embroiled in a civil war, that ideal Syria is likely some ways off. But momentum seems to be decisively turning against Assad and his allies in the axis of resistance. Iran, for instance, is finally getting a taste of its own medicine. The Free Syrian Army is holding 48 Iranian Revolutionary Guard members and several Hezbollah officials hostage. Having waged a proxy war against American forces in Iraq, Iran now is ...

Rep. Paul Ryan

More Mediscare


The oddly convenient academic study has long been a weapon in the Democratic party’s arsenal of election-season demagoguery. Do you need to say that conservative policies would sink the republic? Here’s a paper by scholars from a respected university, ...


Southern Exposure

Dixie goes all Republican.


One beat Donkey.

In 2010, the Alabama legislature went Republican for the first time in 136 years. In 2011, Republicans won the Mississippi statehouse and Louisiana’s legislature—for both, a first since Reconstruction. That leaves Arkansas as the Holdout State.

But Arkansas is wobbling. If its legislature falls to Republicans this year—the odds are 50-50 or better—all 11 states of the old Confederacy will be in GOP hands. And the political current that is transforming the South from a Democratic bastion into the bedrock of Republican strength nationally will be nearly complete.

In Arkansas, the ever-so-slow Republican trend accelerated in 2010. Republicans not only increased their state legislative seats by 50 percent, they also won two open U.S. House seats previously held by Democrats. This November, the one Democratic seat left (of the state’s four) is all but ...

Schweikert, left, with Quayle

Desert Warfare

Two Republican congressmen fight it out near Phoenix.


In separate interviews, Arizona congressmen David Schweikert and Ben Quayle shake their heads and shrug their shoulders at their political predicament. The freshmen members are running against each other in a Republican primary for the House in what local ...

Veronica Capobianco, left, trick-or-treating in October 2011

Mistreating Native American Children

Liberal social policy at work.


In 1978, a little-known law called the Indian Child Welfare Act was signed with the intention of keeping families together. Today, it’s being used to tear them apart.

Take the case of the Capobianco family of James Island, ...

Barack Hussein McGovern

Barack Hussein McGovern

The specter of 1972 is haunting the Obama ­campaign.


Forty years ago this summer, in July 1972, social liberals made their political debut at the Democratic National Convention. Gloria Steinem- and Gore Vidal-style activists were not shy about their goals. The women’s rights movement had secured two major victories that ...


High Anxiety

Israel’s somber summer—as Syria crumbles, Iran goes nuclear, and the Muslim Brotherhood rides high in Egypt


The Egyptian armored personnel carrier stolen by jihadists on August 5, still sm

August is supposed to be the time for vacations, but Israelis can’t relax this summer. Their Mediterranean beaches may be as inviting as ever, but when they look north, south, and east their world appears increasingly dangerous.

Up north, Bashar al-Assad is going down. High officials defect successfully, sneaking their whole families out of the country—as sure a sign that the regime’s counterintelligence is failing as the bomb that was sneaked into a -conference room in July and blew up several top security officials. Israeli officials now applaud Assad’s demise, though for years they sought to negotiate deals with him (and his father before him). At least since Bashar jumped into Iran’s lap over the Iraq war (guiding jihadists into Iraq to help kill Americans) and tried with North Korean help to build a nuclear reactor, more and more Israeli officials have understood that he is no pillar of regional stability. He is ...

 Ali Khamenei

The Most Dangerous Man in the World

The Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ali Khamenei


One of the startling cultural disconnects in studying Iran is how unimpressive the officials of the Islamic Republic usually are. Reading Persian history inclines one to expect Iranians to be highly cultured and nuanced, ...

Books & Arts

Becket Today

Not turbulent but consistent and coherent.


A 13th-century view of the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170

John Guy’s biography of Thomas Becket is a very good book—it is the work of a scholar (hitherto best known as a Tudor historian) at the zenith of his skill and completely on top of his sources. And how voluminous those are: 12 contemporary or near-contemporary biographies, including one in Icelandic, several accounts of Becket’s reported miracles, contemporary chronicles, hundreds of letters—not to mention a massive amount of secondary literature. Thomas Becket must have good claim to being the most written-about Englishman.

The celebrated medievalist David Knowles, himself no mean authority on Becket, declared that he found the martyr-archbishop of Canterbury ultimately a mystery, unfathomable, and explained that when we finally try to take hold of him he eludes us “like a wraith.” Some of Becket’s contemporaries, even some admirers, seemingly were of the same opinion. So was T. S. Eliot. All agreed that Becket was ...

John Scalzi

To Boldly Go

A novel whose characters are re-creating ‘Star Trek.’


Science fiction is idea fiction, you often hear—and it’s true. In a way. But trying to describe how it’s true proves surprisingly difficult, for the ideas in science fiction are much more often about the fiction than about the science. The rootstock isn’t the ...

Monica Crowley

(Bleep) of Faith

An election-year manual for true believers.


Neither our presidents nor our pundits should try to be hip. I still have not recovered from the chief executive’s slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon. Now comes Monica Crowley’s critique of the Obama administration, which is so hip it hurts. 

Frederick Faber, 1860

Address Formal

How the rhythm of poetry made sense to the Victorians.


The story goes something like this: From Chaucer to Wordsworth, English poetry was marked by formal innovation. Shakespeare’s sonnets, Donne’s epigrams, Milton’s line, and Wordsworth’s lyrics were indebted to classical Greek and Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Italian forms, ...

Sir Edmund Halley

Venus Observed

The global race to measure Earth’s distance from the sun.


In 1677, the British astronomer-royal Edmond Halley used a very large telescope to watch Mercury eclipse a small disc of the sun. Mercury “transiting” the sun is an unusual event, and very hard to see. Halley only spotted the little planet ...

Boris Johnson on a zip wire, August 1, 2012

Britain’s Mayor

This portrait of London gives a picture of its author.


At the start of the Summer Olympics last month, the eyes of the world were upon London, and millions caught their first glimpse of the unruly blond thatch that is the trademark of Boris Johnson, the city’s recently reelected mayor. A portly, rumpled ...

Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell

Satire It Isn’t

‘The Campaign’ is a near-total loss.


The new comedy called The Campaign is supposed to be an up-to-the-minute satire of contemporary politics—a story about a mudslinging race for Congress in North Carolina between a blow-dried Democratic incumbent caught in a sex scandal and a ...


Music Man

Kelly Jane Torrance praises the Lord.


Jon Lord

Jon Lord began life—his public life, that is—as a rock god. He ended it as a composer of classical concertos. The time I met him, both strands of his work entwined with memories of mine.

It was his first career that dominated the obituaries when Lord died last month at 71. He was a founder of Deep Purple, once designated the world’s loudest rock band by The Guinness Book of Records, and the songs he wrote in the 1960s and ’70s inspired the genre of heavy metal. But even as he was writing those songs, he was also composing grander works for orchestra. A decade ago he finally left the band to concentrate on his classical career. He released albums on important classical labels; the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed his work.

It didn’t matter: Almost every newspaper obituary identified Lord—usually in the headline or first ...


The Sudden Impact of Dirty Harry

Harry Reid with a black eye

The Scrapbook, as any reader can attest, stands foursquare behind civility. We like to think that we practice civility, and we value it in others. And while it’s a myth that the nation’s capital was a hotbed of civility until those terrible [Republicans/conservatives/Reaganites/right-wingers/Tea Partiers/etc.] came along, The Scrapbook certainly endorses civility in principle. 

Which goes part of the way toward explaining our dilemma about Harry Reid. On the one hand, The Scrapbook would like to treat the 72-year-old Senate majority leader with the deference due his august position, and there is plentiful cause for complaint about him without descending to incivility. But Senator Reid makes it awfully difficult.

Last week, he took to the floor of the Senate—conveniently so, thereby insulating himself from charges of slander—to claim that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid ...


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