Stop the Train—We Want to Get Off


Jack Davis

On April 17, 2013, Senator Max Baucus committed a classic Washington gaffe: He spoke the truth. Baucus, along with every other Democratic senator, had voted for Obamacare in 2010. Now, at a Senate hearing, he told HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius that when he looks at its implementation, “I just see a huge train wreck coming down.”

The train wreck has gathered momentum in the three months since Baucus spotted it. The Obama administration’s delay of the employer mandate and its abandonment of the enforcement of many of the rules governing the individual mandate have only made more obvious what a mess the exchanges​—​the central mechanism of Obamacare​—​will be.

If the exchanges are permitted to go into effect on January 1, 2014, there will be error, fraud, inefficiency, arbitrariness, and privacy violations aplenty. Isn’t the Obama administration concerned about that? Yes. Wouldn’t it be in their ...


Don’t Save This Court


Edward Snowden has given the country and the world an unprecedented look into the National Security Agency’s post-9/11 efforts to prevent terrorist attacks. Ignoring the success of those efforts, critics from the left and right have rained down opprobrium on the agency. But the ...


More Bankruptcies, Please

Detroit shows the way.



Although Detroit’s bankruptcy is only a few days old, it already has become clear that it could bring answers to two very important questions: whether municipal bankruptcy law is a plausible alternative to either bailouts or decades of fiscal malaise for large cities that are sagging under unsustainable debt, and whether it is time for Congress to enact a bankruptcy law for states too. So far, the answer to both questions looks like yes.

For many years, Chapter 9—the rules that govern the bankruptcy of cities and other municipalities—was viewed as a legal backwater, an option that might make sense for a local sewer or water district, but would never work for cities of any size. Critics of municipal bankruptcy loved to point out that, of the 600 or so municipal bankruptcies since the 1930s, only a handful involved substantial cities or counties. Not any longer. The signs that things have changed have been multiplying ever since ...

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah

Leading from Behind

Mike Lee takes point against Obamacare.


On Wednesday, July 17, Senator Mike Lee strode onto the Senate floor and called for Republicans to defund Obamacare. His case was simple. If the White House is calling for a yearlong delay in the implementation of two key elements of the law—the employer mandate and verification of ...


Privacy Be Damned

The imminent health-exchange scandal.


I have been dismayed, but unsurprised, to see that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is already spinning the launch of its federal health insurance exchange this October. The federal and state “exchanges”​—​HHS recently ...

Election posters in Gao, northern Mali

Hope for Mali

Go ahead and vote, but be sure to have the protection of Western airpower.


The town of Kidal, about 200 miles north of Gao, the big hub on the Niger River in eastern Mali, is hot and dry, and its police and electricity function erratically. The town, whose population is about 25,000, fell under the control of forces hostile to Mali’s central government in ...

Wait, 20 weeks is midterm, right?

A Viable Political Strategy?

Democrats embrace late-term abortion at their peril.


The national limit on late-term abortion passed by the House of Representatives in June is a losing issue for Republicans, according to the conventional wisdom in the press and the Republican donor class. But there are two compelling reasons why the conventional wisdom is ...

I’m supposed to uphold the what?

A Careless Executive

Obama’s failure to do his constitutional duty.


Is Obama lawless? House Republicans certainly think so. The issue involves the Affordable Care Act, under which employers with 50 or more full-time workers must provide health insurance in terms defined by the statute or pay a $2,000 penalty per employee. Known as the “employer ...


The Odds of an Immigration Bill

Not impossible, but not that great.


At a dinner gathering in Washington last week, the members of Congress in attendance were asked if they think immigration reform will pass this year. The two Democrats said yes, the six Republicans no. 

The sample was small, but the vote was ...


Thank You for Not Vaping

The irrational hostility to e-cigarettes.


Smokeless, odorless, and, indeed, tobacco-less, electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigarettes,” in common parlance, are projected to become a $1 billion industry this year. Yes, that’s “electronic” cigarettes: battery-powered gadgets that convert liquid nicotine into vapor, which the ...


The Great Collision

Egypt’s descent into chaos


Soldiers in the suburbs of Cairo, July 8

For most of those who were so hopeful when the Great Arab Revolt downed the dictator Hosni Mubarak two years ago, the travails of Egypt’s fledgling democracy have been depressing. Many in the West expected the country’s hodgepodge of secularists—the young men and women who were the cutting edge of the demonstrations, first against Mubarak, then against his freely elected Muslim Brotherhood successor, Mohamed Morsi—to do better than they did at the ballot box, where Islamists so far have triumphed. Real optimists even hoped that the Brethren in power would be more inclusive, allowing non-Islamists more influence in the cabinet and in drafting a constitution. Now that Morsi in turn has been toppled, the optimistic set—though they would have preferred the military coup with a bit of democratic camouflage—sees hope that secularists can build a more stable, liberal government. 

These aspirations likely won’t be realized, for two big ...


Surprise and Creativity

Notes toward a new economics


Why in the world do we need yet another “new” economics? Jamming the libraries and the bookstores of the world are avatars of what must be every variation on the great themes of market and managerial economics. Scores of Nobel Prizes have been awarded for various nugatory ...

Obamacare creates many grossly unfair situations.

The Dishonor System

A user’s guide to committing fraud on the Obama­care exchanges


Let me stipulate that I do not condone fraud in any form. Moreover, I assume all Weekly Standard readers are law-abiding citizens who would neither commit fraud themselves nor encourage others to do so. My purpose is to inform such readers just how tempting fraud on the Obamacare health ...

Books & Arts

Among the Immortals

Does Schumann belong there?


Katharine Hepburn as Clara Wieck, Paul Henreid as Robert Schumann, ‘Song of Love

What are we to make of Robert Schumann?

Living in a century of unbalanced geniuses—Poe, Nietzsche, Maupassant, van Gogh—Schumann ranks as one of the most complex. Airing his bipolar nature publicly in the form of the fictional figures Florestan, the extroverted idealist, and Eusebius, the introverted dreamer, and writing music heavily coded with people and events, Schumann lived his art to such a degree that his anxious personal life and his mercurial compositions became one and the same. Bravely balancing domestic tranquility with inner torment, he wrote works that have become staples of the Western repertoire. At the same time, he composed pieces that continue to produce universal head-scratching. Schumann fought for the cause of good music, but what was truly at stake, it seems, was his own sanity: He eventually ...

Mere Ecologism

Mere Ecologism

Is modern environmentalism science or faith?


Most critiques of environmentalism have become as dreary and predictable as environmentalism itself. Environmentalists, their critics (myself included) never tire of telling us, grossly exaggerate problems, promote endless bureaucracy, ...

San Cataldo in Palermo (12th century)

Islamic Isle

Tracing the Muslim roots of modern-day Sicily.


A band of Muslim raiders sacked Rome in 846 a.d., plundering the city’s churches and getting clean away with their loot. They had come from Palermo, in Sicily, which had been in Muslim hands for 15 years. Sicily was then on ...

Portnoy’s Children

Portnoy’s Children

A famous/notorious novel yields its progeny.


succès de scandale if ever there was one, Portnoy’s Complaint, Philip Roth’s fourth book of fiction, will soon be 45 years old. At the center of the novel’s scandalousness, which recounts the ...

Parisian Lap Dance

Parisian Lap Dance

Municipal swimming in the Gallic mode.


It wasn’t until I experienced swimming at a Parisian public pool that I understood certain aspects of the French mind. I’ve been visiting France occasionally for 30 years, have dated French men, and I read French well. But a few hours in the water has done more for my ...

Liam James

Time Travelers

A sharp, 1980s-style comedy set in 2013.


The Way Way Back, a little movie about a 14-year-old boy who goes on an extended summer vacation with his divorced mother and her belittling boyfriend, comes close to being a classic. Close. Which poses a dilemma for a critic: I don’t know ...


A Tanner in Summer

Christopher Caldwell's extended-family vacation


Tom Labaff

Just out of college I ran into my acquaintance Mona at a party in Boston. She was leaving the next day for the house on Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, where she had spent her summers growing up. Mahone Bay was remote and beautiful, she explained, and no one had ever heard of it. I told her I had heard of it. My grandmother was from Mahone Bay. 

“What was her maiden name?” Mona asked.

“Tanner,” I said. 

She gasped. “You’re a Tanner?” She was bug-eyed. Her mouth was hanging open.

“Well, you could say that,” I said, with all the modesty I could muster. My grandmother was stylish, eloquent, and well educated. So were my great aunts and uncles. It had not occurred to me that the family might actually have been grand, but it wouldn’t have surprised me, either.


The Sensitivity Apparat, cont.

Siouxland Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Earlier this year, Mark Hemingway reported in these pages on the bureaucratic busybodies at state and local “human rights” commissions trampling all over the First Amendment (“The Sensitivity Apparat,” February 4). In the last few years, they’ve been particularly aggressive at enforcing an absurdly expansive view of gay rights using the threat of civil fines and dragging businesses and religious organizations through years of administrative hearings over petty complaints. 

Examples abound: The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights stripped a Methodist organization of tax-exempt status for declining to let their worship space be used for a lesbian commitment ceremony. The New Mexico Human Rights Commission fined a Christian couple who own a wedding photography business $6,637 for not wanting to photograph a gay commitment ceremony. A Vermont inn paid $30,000 to settle a human rights commission complaint over an employee ...


Fresh Prince

The Scrapbook does not usually take notice of royal births around the world, but you had to have been in serious misanthropic mode to fail to notice the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, third in line of succession to the British throne, last week in London. ...

Zinn's Screed

Mitch vs. Zinn

Eyebrows at campuses around the country furrowed with concern last week over an Associated Press report involving former Indiana governor and current Purdue University president Mitch Daniels. Indeed, “AP Exclusive: Daniels looked to censor opponents,” is one heck of a headline to ...


Dysfunctional Barber

It's been a while since Benjamin R. Barber, the left-wing political scientist and ex-Howard Dean adviser, attracted the attention of The Scrapbook. Barber is one of those anticapitalist types who is careful to disguise his unpalatable ideology in anodyne terms—see Jihad vs. ...

Winds of Change


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