The Spirit of ’76



"For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

So wrote Thomas Jefferson, in what turned out to be the last words he set to paper, in a June 24, 1826, letter to Washington, D.C., mayor Roger Weightman. Jefferson was regretfully declining an invitation to travel to the nation’s capital to celebrate the 50th anniversary of American independence with the District’s citizens as well as with “the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword.” Jefferson explained he couldn’t travel because of “circumstances not placed among those we are permitted to control.” He died at home a few days later—on July 4.

Jefferson had been 33 when he served as the principal author of the ...

Supreme Court

Stop Discriminating


 In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled against using race to determine public school assignments. Chief Justice Roberts concluded his plurality opinion with this eloquent statement: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of ...


Let the People Decide

From the dissenting opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia in U.S. v. Windsor


This case is about power in several respects. It is about the power of our people to govern themselves, and the power of this Court to pronounce the law. Today’s opinion aggrandizes the latter, with the predictable consequence of diminishing the former. .  .  .


Libertarians of La Mancha

Objections to NSA surveillance are too often ­fanciful.


Gary Locke

The political tables have turned almost 180 degrees. President Obama uneasily defends surveillance programs of the National Security Agency, while his liberal and libertarian opponents accuse him of lawlessly abusing his powers. The spectacle might even be entertaining, were it not for its worrisome implications. Republicans, the most reliable constituency for the surveillance policies that have protected the nation since September 11, are starting to walk away from them.

Senator Rand Paul recently crowed that Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker now on the lam, will go down as “an advocate of privacy.” His father, former GOP congressman Ron Paul, declared that “we should be thankful” for the “great service” Snowden did in “exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret.” Rank-and-file Republicans in the House have filed a bill to further stifle NSA surveillance, and Tea Party favorite Mike Lee is leading a similar effort ...


Second Term as Farce

Obama from bad to worse.


In his second term, President Obama won’t lead or compromise. But he still manages to find ways to keep the country divided.

Obama’s presidency, Politico said last week, “is in a dead zone.” But it’s worse than that. In Congress, most Republicans and ...

Don’t hold your breath.

The Wrong Fix for the Wrong Problem

The immigration bill will only make things worse for the middle class—and the GOP.


In the wake of the 2012 election, Republicans have been treated to seemingly endless prophecies of doom. Many have come from liberal Democrats, who would happily see the demise of the GOP. But more than a few Republicans have also made the case that the party must either change or ...

She’s safer here than on your typical campus.

Harassing the Military

There is no sexual assault crisis.


By now, almost everyone knows the lurid truth about the military—or they think they do. Last month, after a 2012 survey showed that sexual assault against servicewomen had risen dramatically in the last few years, the media went into overdrive. The Washington Post ...

How many of them started out studying the humanities?

Does Harvard Hate Humanities?

No, but it doesn’t understand them.


Study of the humanities has never been more important to the welfare of the nation. Information whizzes by at breakneck speed. The contest between conservative and progressive visions of government’s scope and aim in a free society implicates rival understandings of human nature. ...


The New Prohibitionists

The taxpayer-funded Obamacare temperance league.


When Prohibition ended in 1933, Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot promised to make purchasing alcohol “as inconvenient and expensive as possible.” To this day, Pennsylvania has some of the most stringent—and absurd—liquor laws in the ...

If at first you don’t succeed: anti-Obamacare protest in Washington, 2012

Lipstick on the Obamacare Pig

The limits of P.R.


It’s been one year since the Supreme Court decision that allowed Obama administration officials to begin implementing the Affordable Care Act, and the frequency and volume of reports about the challenges facing those reforms—and the difficulties they are visiting on those who were ...

Polar Bear

Climate Change for the GOP

It’s time for a conservative alternative to liberal alarmism.


President Barack Obama’s climate agenda announced last week represents the latest of many Democratic party efforts to address climate change. Although it includes no new legislation, the president’s plan makes unprecedented use of executive branch powers and offers a great many ...


The Death of Economics

A fatal case of hubris.


Recently a Japanese economist visited Washington to explain his government’s “five year economic outlook.” A five month outlook might have been more credible. Yet with surprising hubris, the economist forecast inflation and GDP five years out.


Grant at Vicksburg

A masterpiece of military art


The siege of Vicksburg, 1863

While Robert E. Lee was whipping Joe Hooker at Chancellorsville in May 1863, there were ominous developments for the Confederacy in Mississippi. During that month, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River south of Vicksburg and then executed a lightning campaign of maneuver that sealed the doom of that important Confederate stronghold, which surrendered on July 4. 

In examining the Vicksburg campaign, it is useful to go back to the beginning of the war in the West. The primary Union goal in this theater was to penetrate deep into the Confederate heartland, opening the way to Chattanooga and Atlanta on the one hand and gaining control of the Mississippi River on the other. The overall Union commander in the West was Henry Halleck, who recognized that the Tennessee River constituted the main “line of operation” for Union forces.

In keeping with ...

Robert E. Lee, George Meade

A Great Battlefield

Gettysburg: an epic tale of not quite enough and just in time


A century and a half later, the battle of Gettysburg’s place in the national consciousness is so secure that you think of it as inevitable: the great contest of arms toward which all the previous battles of the Civil War had been leading. Thus, all that came before the breaking of ...

Books & Arts

Iron Ladies

The wonderful, wretched lives of the Italian aristocracy.


aisa / everett collection

That little American girls still yearn to be princesses only shows how little history they read. So it is too bad that The Deadly Sisterhood, which is about Italian Renaissance princesses, is not written for them. It verifies the reality of all those Disney lures: the sumptuous weddings to princes, the gorgeous dresses shot with gold and silver and embroidered with pearls, the fabulous jewels dotting their robes and entwined in their hair, and the imposing palaces laden with luxuries and lackeys.

However, those weddings of teenaged brides were reached by long, tedious, miserable, dangerous journeys. The princes were older strangers who might turn out to be debauched, ugly, mean, or crazy, and were pretty sure to have established mistresses whose illegitimate children enjoyed advantages that would rival and threaten the brides’ future offspring. The jewels had to be pawned in times of trouble—which were often—and the ...

Al Capp, William F. Buckley Jr., 1970

Laureate of Dogpatch

How a bad man became a great cartoonist.


Despite their striking resemblance, Li’l Abner, the midcentury comic strip hero, was everything his creator Al Capp was not: an unlettered, unambitious, all-American hillbilly who was strapping (rather than one-legged) and repelled by sex with women (rather than ...

Juliette Binoche, Nicolas Bouchaud in ‘Miss Julie,’ 2011

Unhappy the Man

The life and work of August Strindberg.


The earth is a place of woe and wailing: This is an understanding as old as human consciousness. However, most men and women have always seen that such an understanding is hardly adequate. Small contentments and ...

Tippi Hedren

Feathered Fiends

That which does not scare us can make us laugh.


At the height of his career, in 1963, Alfred Hitchcock spoke of playing the audience like an organ: “I’m using their natural instincts to help them enjoy fear,” he said to an interviewer, adding, “I know exactly when to stop, to relieve them at the right moment, otherwise they’ll ...

Zombies scaling the wall .  .  .

Zombies in the Mineshaft

There’s a message here, but what is it?


So I saw World War Z, the new Brad Pitt movie about a worldwide zombie outbreak, and here’s the surprising thing: I can’t decide whether it’s the most anti-Semitic movie ever made, or the most Zionist movie ever made. 

I know what you’re ...


Going Dental

Matt Labash, king of the crown


anton emdin

Like most civilized people of goodwill and sound reason, I’ve always held that violence isn’t the answer. It is, however, an answer. Which is why if I ever see Larry Randolph again, I intend to knock his teeth out. 

 While I’m a forgiving New Testament sort of guy in theory, I’m also partial to Exodus’s tooth-for-a-tooth clause, for reasons that will become apparent. During senior year, I played behind Larry on our high school basketball team, as I did everyone who was faster, taller, and could drive to their left. (The only way I’d see serious minutes was if the team bus crashed, maiming the rest of my teammates.) Acutely aware that white men can’t jump, I tended to stay earthbound during rebound drills, since exertion would be just for show. One day, Larry crashed the boards in front of me and landed with his elbow in my grillwork. I felt no pain, except on the inside, when I heard a loud crack and saw two pearly yellows ...


Will Thomas Perez Make Another Deal?


As the Supreme Court finished its term, we looked ahead to see which big cases the justices have taken for review starting in the fall. And lo, Township of Mount Holly, New Jersey, et al. v. Mount Holly Gardens Citizens in Action, et al. caught our eye.

Some years ago the township adopted a plan to redevelop Mount Holly Gardens, a 30-acre neighborhood of bad housing and high crime with a disproportionately minority population. The plan called for demolishing roughly 330 houses and replacing most of them with market-rate housing costing between $200,000 and $275,000, the purchase of which the township would subsidize.

As it happened, some Gardens residents complained that they wouldn’t be able to afford to buy a new home in the redeveloped area or to live elsewhere in the township. Joining with former residents and a residents’ association, they sued the township, arguing that ...


Hyperventilating over Voting Rights

The Scrapbook has said it before and will say it again: Not only has the 24-hour news cycle revolutionized the business of journalism, it has taken a certain amount of the fun out of reading all that 24-hour-cycle journalism.

For instance, last ...



Senegal is an impoverished West African country where some 26 percent of the population subsists on less than $1 a day. Nearly one in five children there are malnourished. In the country’s rural areas, fewer than half the children regularly attend school.


Coming to Their Census

Last month The Scrapbook reported on a slightly arcane, but important, change being proposed for the American Community Survey. The ACS is an annual survey conducted by the Census Bureau; it goes out to 3 million households and is one of the most robust tools we have for gathering ...


Sweet Relief

The Scrapbook takes some pleasure in noting one happy ending in the annals of industrial disputes. 

As readers will remember, Hostess Brands, the company that manufactured Twinkies, “cream-filled” CupCakes (“you get a big delight in every ...



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