Born Free


Becky Gerritson testifies, June 4, 2013.

In Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio, the captive English maid, Blonde, scornfully rejects the advances of the powerful Osmin, overseer of Pasha Selim’s harem: “Pasha here, pasha there! Girls are not good to give away! I am an Englishwoman, born free, and I defy anyone who wants to force me to do anything!”

More than two centuries later, Becky Gerritson, speaking to the House Ways and Means Committee about IRS harassment of the Wetumpka, Alabama, Tea Party, picked up the baton: “I am not here as a serf or vassal. I am not begging my lords for mercy. I’m a born free American woman, wife, mother, and citizen. And I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place. It’s not your responsibility to look out for my well-being and to monitor my speech. It’s not your right to assert an agenda. Your post, the post that you occupy, exists to preserve American liberty. You’ve sworn to perform that duty. And you have faltered.”

Assad’s tanks roll through Qusayr, June 5, 2013.

Losing the Middle East


After a three-week siege, the combined forces of Hezbollah and the Assad regime have taken the important crossroads town of Qusayr, which is just south of the even more important city of Homs in east-central Syria. “Whoever controls Qusayr controls the center of the country, and ...

Marco Rubio, the indispensable man

Gang of One


On immigration reform, Senator Marco Rubio is the indispensable man. If he bails, it fails.

Which is why supporters of overhauling our immigration system were alarmed by two statements Rubio made last week. They were uncharacteristic of the leader ...


This Won’t Turn Out Well

The IRS prepares to enforce Obamacare’s contraception mandate.



On August 1, the one-year “safe harbor” for religious charities objecting to provisions of Obamacare will end. Starting then, these nonprofit employers will be forced to violate their religious beliefs or pay large fines. In charge of collecting the fines will be our recently newsworthy friends at the Internal Revenue Service.

To recap how we got here: In 2010 a panel created by the new health care law determined that all health insurance policies provided by employers must cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion drugs free of charge. Employers not complying with this Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate will be fined up to $100 per employee, per day. For some, that could mount to millions of dollars a year.

The administration and its supporters promoted the mandate as necessary for women’s health. They trotted out activist Sandra Fluke, who argued that women are withering under the ...

Bob Dole and Ronald Reagan in 1987

Republicans in the Good Old Days

They were just as conservative.


Former senator and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole had some harsh words for his political party recently. In a Fox News Sunday interview, Chris Wallace asked, “You describe the GOP of your generation as Eisenhower Republicans, moderate Republicans. Could people ...

Ben Sasse

A Virtuoso Pol from Nebraska?

Ben Sasse eyes the open Senate seat.


Fremont, Nebr.
Ask Midland University’s Ben Sasse if he’s going to run for Nebraska’s open Senate seat next year, and he’s quick to insist that he hasn’t committed to anything. But within hours of Representative Jeff Fortenberry’s May 29 ...


Defending the Humanities

Job one is outing scientism.


Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic, gave by far the most thoughtful and combative commencement address this year, at Brandeis. He defended the humanities as our genuine counterculture. His defense of the humanities was intellectual​—​a defense of ...


Reagan, the Environmentalist

His administration was greener than you think.


Mention Ronald Reagan to an avowed environmentalist, and you’ll generally elicit a groan. In the conventional telling, the Gipper appointed right-wing extremists to key environmental positions and proceeded to give timber companies and energy interests a free hand to despoil ...

Scalia, Roberts

Justice Scalia vs. Justice Roberts

A dispute among conservatives over the ­administrative state.


Last month, in City of Arlington, Texas v. Federal Communications Commission, the Supreme Court’s five judicial conservatives divided on a question concerning the relationship between federal courts and federal regulators. Justice Scalia wrote the decision for a ...


The Myth of an American Coup

What really happened in Iran in 1953


Truman with Mossadeq in 1951

This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of Operation Ajax—the notorious CIA plot that is supposed to have ousted Iranian prime minister Muhammad Mossadeq. In the intervening decades, the events of 1953 have been routinely depicted as a nefarious U.S. conspiracy that overthrew a nationalist politician who enjoyed enormous popular support. This narrative, assiduously cultivated by the Islamic Republic, was so readily endorsed by the American intellectual class that presidents and secretaries of state are now expected to commence any discussion of Iran by apologizing for the behavior of their malevolent predecessors. At this stage, the account has even seeped into American popular culture, featuring most recently in Ben Affleck’s Oscar-winning blockbuster Argo. The only problem with this mythologized history is that the CIA’s role in Mossadeq’s demise was largely inconsequential. In the end, the 1953 coup was very much an Iranian affair. 


Rise of a Free School

Toby Young’s astonishing second career as an education reformer


In Britain, education reform is not the safe topic for conversation between liberals and conservatives it is in America. The glossiest people in U.S. media circles support school reform: Hearst and Bertelsmann supplied New York mayor ...

Books & Arts

Truth of the Matter

The writing and editing of ‘fact.’


‘Portrait of Henri Cordier’ by Gustave Caillebotte (1883)

Nonfiction is a baggy-pants term, in whose bulging pockets one finds autobiography, memoir, the essay, literary journalism, and book-length studies of ideas, trends, and much else. The only thing these various forms have in common is that all are written in prose and are based, supposedly, on fact.

Attempts have been made in recent years to elevate serious nonfiction, to pump it up into the realm of high literature. In their day, Norman Mailer and Truman Capote claimed to be writing nonfiction novels, by which they meant little more than that they brought a fiction writer’s sensibility, and a few of the techniques of the novel, to factual material. In some academic circles, nonfiction is referred to as “literary nonfiction,” or—man that pump: huff, puff—as “creative nonfiction,” and a magazine called Creative Nonfiction has been in existence for nearly 20 years now. But is nonfiction ...

Chelsea Pensioner

Britain in Bloom

The Chelsea Flower Show celebrates its centennial.


In his short story “The Occasional Garden,” Saki pinpoints a subject dear to the British heart, but also key to its social anxieties. Elinor Rapsley is about to receive a lunch visit from a woman whom she detests, Gwenda Pottingdon. Gwenda’s garden is the envy of the ...

Vaslav Nijinsky in ‘Siamese Dance’  by Jacques-Émile Blanche (ca. 1910)

Dance of Creation

The Ballets Russes and the dawn of modernity.


“There was a definite puppet-like quality about [Vaslav] Nijinsky’s Petrouchka. He seemed to have limbs of wood and a face made of plaster, in which his eyes resembled nothing so much as two boot buttons. Only now and then did he make you aware that beneath this ...

‘Solomon’s Judgment’ by Franc Caucig (ca. 1817)

Wisdom of the Sage

The idea, and the reality, of King Solomon.


In the best-known court case in the Hebrew Bible, two women come to King Solomon, the wise, wealthy, and powerful king with the following quandary: One of their children died in his sleep, while the other remains alive. There are no witnesses, and each mother claims that the living ...


A Man and His Rhubarb

Terry Eastland, sweet and sour stalker.



My wife says the only thing I’ll plant is what I can eat. Not entirely true, I tell her. I point to certain things I’ve planted: the cluster of yellow iris in the side yard, the bunch of white iris in the backyard, and the large spread of irises of many colors in the front yard, under the crape myrtle.

You could say I like irises, which are beautiful flowers that no one eats, and my irises have stories. The yellow came from a bed beside my parents’ house in Hillsboro, Texas, the white from the grounds of the house in Milledgeville, Ga., where Flannery O’Connor lived (her mother grew them), and the ones under the crape myrtle from local nurseries. Among the last are some reblooming irises, including one that opened for the third time in 2012 exactly a week before Christmas. Ever heard of such a thing? 

But I digress. I do like to grow fruits and vegetables, and for that purpose many years ...


The Rules of Heckling

Michelle Obama

For the record, and strictly speaking, The Scrapbook is opposed to heckling. It’s rude, ill-mannered—and reflects poorly on the heckler, not the object of derision. This attitude may come as a surprise to, say, our friends in Great Britain, where Parliament resembles a bear pit at times, and every politician has a ready repertoire of snappy comebacks and devastating put-downs. But our political culture is different, as any C-SPAN viewer knows: The system of checks and balances demands a high level of civility, and public deference, no matter how insincere.

So we were intrigued last week when Michelle Obama found herself being heckled. It was a rare occasion. To begin with, it is almost invariably presidents, not first ladies, who find themselves being publicly harried. And no doubt to the disappointment of MSNBC, the person who verbally challenged Mrs. Obama was not a Tea Party stalwart or dreaded Republican but a gay rights activist ...


The Greatness of Elephants

One of The Scrapbook’s favorite journals is the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s quarterly, The New Atlantis. TNA, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary, is concerned with unpacking matters of technology and science, and grappling with how such advances ...

German sign

Word to Your Mutter

The Germans are famous for melding nouns and adjectives together to form extremely long words. No hyphens, no spaces, just an assemblage of letters and umlauts as menacing as a mechanized division. For instance, the German word for -xenophobia is Ausländerfeindlichkeit. In ...


Food for Thought

Connecticut last week became the first state to pass a law which requires all genetically modified food to carry a warning label; according to Connecticut senate president Donald E. Williams, “There is mounting scientific evidence showing that genetically modified foods are harmful ...

Mary Jane

Put Down the Bong and Back Away

An email from the National Cannabis Industry Association (yes, even the potheads have lobbyists now) landed in The Scrapbook’s inbox last week. The PR blast announced: “30+ Cannabis Industry Leaders Head to D.C. to Deliver a Message to Congress: ‘Tax Us—Fairly.’ ” (“Legalize it, ...


Sentences We Didn’t Finish

'With budgetary tantrums in the Senate and investigative play-acting in the House, the Republican Party is proving once again that it simply cannot be taken seriously. This is a shame. I don’t share the GOP’s philosophy, but I do believe that . . . ” (“Can the GOP grow up?” Eugene ...

What Difference Does it Make?


The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 20 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers