‘Barbarians Are Barbaric’



Is President Obama going wobbly on Syria? No. He’s always been wobbly on Syria—and on pretty much everything else.

Still—despite everything, despite the infuriating incompetence and the irresponsible leaking and the weak-kneed hedging and the endless equivocating; despite the great likelihood that Obama will do much less than he should, much less effectively than he could; despite the ridiculous disavowal of regime change when he has previously called for regime change, and when regime change is the only serious way to deter prospective users of chemical weapons; despite his failure to articulate an easily articulated American national interest in punishing and indeed removing Assad—despite all this and much else besides, it would be disastrous for an American president to back off from the just and necessary use of military force when he has threatened it and prepared for it.

We therefore feel ...


Worse Isn’t Better


"It's a pity they can’t both lose.” So Henry Kissinger famously said about Iran and Iraq during their long and ugly war in the 1980s. Having squandered the many opportunities created by the uprising in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and with the Syrian opposition ...


Creative Destruction

Obamacare versus artists, writers, musicians, actors, et al.


Gary Locke

Nancy Pelosi waxed rhapsodic in 2010 as she imagined the benefits of Obamacare: “Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance.”

Well, that was the economy we used to have. But as Obamacare begins to kick in, artists, photographers, writers, and other members of the “creative class” who have access to health insurance programs through numerous professional organizations will lose that coverage.

Up until now professional organizations have worked with insurance providers to craft reduced-rate plans for their members. But thanks to the fine print in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), on January 1, 2014, many of these plans will fail to pass legal muster.

The College Art Association website posted a notice this month: “The ...


Island of Tranquility

Israel in the eye of a hurricane.


Egypt is an unruly military dictatorship, Syria is at war and will soon be hit by American bombs, the government may fall in Tunisia, Libya has no real government, Lebanon is now seeing growing Sunni-Shia strife, Jordan has a ...

Bobby Jindal

The Holder-Jindal Collision

The federal government attacks Louisiana school choice.


Baton Rouge
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal found out late on Friday, August 23. Attorney General Eric Holder was suing to block the state’s school voucher program, which aims to give low-income kids in terrible schools the opportunity to attend ...

Australian officials with asylum-seekers, August 2013

A Different Immigration Mess

The debate in Australia over who gets in.


A century ago, Australia used a “dictation test” to keep non-whites and selected others from entering the country. It required an immigrant to write 50 words in any language chosen by the customs official who administered the test. The most notorious ...

‘Wedding Party at the Photographer’s Studio’  by Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouv

The ‘Human Rights’ Juggernaut

Does the First Amendment protect wedding ­photographers?


On August 22, the New Mexico supreme court unanimously ruled that a wedding photographer broke the law by refusing to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. While gay rights advocates are celebrating this latest in a string of legal and political victories, the outcome of Elane ...


Who Gets Sent to Federal Prisons?

The attorney general doesn’t know what he’s ­talking about.


Several weeks ago in San Francisco, Attorney General Eric Holder told the American Bar Association that our criminal justice system is too harsh, too costly, and gives convicted African-American males sentences 20 percent longer than others for similar crimes.

Israel Azerbaijan

A Very Quiet Alliance

The burgeoning friendship between Azerbaijan and Israel.


A number of Israel’s former foes share its concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, but this is mostly on the principle that an enemy of one’s enemy is a friend. Israel can claim to have a genuinely close partnership with only one majority-Muslim country. It is said that ...


Signs of the Zodiac

The streets of San Francisco, 1969


Richard Carlson

It was a cold Saturday night on Columbus Day weekend 1969 when Lance Brisson and I pulled up behind a Yellow cab parked at a crazy angle on the corner of Washington and Cherry Streets, an expensive area of San Francisco called Presidio Heights.

Our headlights glanced off the swirling fog. The taxi’s front passenger door was open. The cab driver, whose name turned out to be Paul Stine, was sprawled on the seat on his back, his head on the floor, his left arm sticking out the door, palm up. A watch with a brown leather band was on his wrist, the crystal covered in blood. He had been shot in the head at point blank range. Paul Stine was 29 years old. He was the last known victim of the publicity-obsessed serial killer who called himself the Zodiac.

San Francisco in the 1960s was the place to be for two young guys in reportorial pursuit of colorful news events of the shallow but endlessly ...

The Constitutionalist

The Constitutionalist

Utah’s freshman senator makes his mark


When I asked Mike Lee, the freshman Republican senator from Utah, how he identified himself politically, he said, “A constitutional conservative.” Note the adjective “constitutional.” It’s not surprising that the senator uses it. 

Lee is the ...

Books & Arts

Meet Mr. Bagehot

How ‘the greatest Victorian’ speaks to us.


‘The Lobby of the House of Commons, 1886’ by Liborio Prosperi

Walter Bagehot (1826-1877)—“the greatest Victorian,” as an eminent historian of that period memorialized him, editor of the Economist, author of The English Constitution, and a prolific essayist—is almost unknown today. (Even the pronunciation of his name is unfamiliar; it rhymes with gadget.) The publication of his Memoirs, dated October 1, 1876 (six months before his death), and signed by the author with the request that it not be released until after he died, is surely a great coup, an invaluable addition to the 11 volumes of his Collected Works

Well, not quite. The title page contains a less familiar name, Frank Prochaska, and the foreword (do all readers read forewords?) elicits the fact that the Memoirs are not by Bagehot, not even edited by Prochaska, but by Prochaska himself. 

Fictionalized memoirs—a red flag to a pedant like myself. Prochaska ...

Sewing for European orphans on New York’s East Side, 1918

Mission Accomplished

The Americanization of the Red Cross.


Study the history of the American Red Cross and you’ll find that the most dramatic change in that organization’s history was between 1910 and 1920, when it was transformed from a relatively small organization into the lumbering giant it is today. Until now, this inflection point in ...

Te-Po, a Rarotonga chief, Cook Islands

Keep It Simple

Some ‘much-needed pushback’ to the myth of the noble savage.


Fantasies of the “noble savage” are nothing new, of course. There were Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s state-of-nature imaginings in the 18th century, and something similar appears even in the ancient epic Gilgamesh. In 1580, Montaigne compared holy-warring ...

The Write Stuff

The Write Stuff

How paperwork validates power—and obscures meaning.


When we bemoan some bureaucratic atrocity—and the paperwork in which it so often finds tangible expression—we are likely to do so with world-weary, unreflective resignation. A well-known passage from Edna St. Vincent Millay comes to mind: So it is, and so it will be, ...

Prisoner of Love

Prisoner of Love

An American girl grows up quickly in Afghanistan.


Phyllis Chesler has had a curious career. Back in the 1970s, along with Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Kate Millett, and company, she was a leading “second-wave” feminist, whose 1972 book Women and Madness sold 2.5 million copies. ...

Brie Larson

Lifetime Achievement

Feeling good about feeling bad, ca. 1977.


The horrendously titled Short Term 12, a no-star independent film about a young woman working at a foster-care facility in Los Angeles, is receiving rapturous notices of a kind its young writer-director Destin Cretton could ...


Live Free or .  .  . Ouch!

P.J. O'Rourke referees a political dogfight.


weekly standard photo illustration

Living in rural New England with four dogs teaches important political lessons—to the dogs.

Paraphrasing a thought from Michael Oakeshott (to the extent one ever could tell what Oakeshott was thinking), politics is “the activity of attending to the general arrangements of what-the-heck.” That is, everything’s a political system. Politics exists even in lonely fields and forests where the nearest neighbor is an exercise-of-a-Second-Amendment-right away.

Out here in the woods with the O’Rourke family it’s a democratic political system. Our dogs have the franchise. They get a vote on what’s for dinner. “Not asparagus,” say the kids. “The dogs don’t like leftover asparagus.”

It’s a libertarian political system. The commander in chief herself, my wife, can’t tell our dogs what to do. Not “sit,” not “stay,” and ...


A Partisan Anniversary


The Scrapbook did not attend the 50th anniversary observance of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. But like most Americans, we did tune in on television for a few minutes—and saw a couple of distressing things, and one very mysterious thing.

To begin with, there was a total absence of Republicans among the many activists, politicians, performers, and distinguished relatives who spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Which was odd, and unfortunate, since Martin Luther King made every effort during his lifetime to appear nonpartisan—and, of course, the man for whom the Lincoln Memorial is named was not a Democrat. Indeed, when the civil rights bills of 1957 and 1964 were enacted, along with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, it was Democrats, not Republicans, in Congress who constituted the opposition. For some reason or other, this went unmentioned last ...


We Don’t Believe in Santa Cruz

The state of California may have a lot to recommend it—give us a few days, and we’ll think of something—but Santa Cruz, a beach town of 60,000 some 70 miles south of San Francisco, encapsulates everything wrong with the Golden State. 

Yes, the ...


The Mural Police

It's not often that The Scrapbook finds itself defending “graffiti artists.” But when they find themselves on the barrel end of silly and borderline extortionate government regulations, we can’t help but feel solidarity.

Here’s what happened: A few ...


He Said, She Said

The Scrapbook was a bit taken aback to read a recent AP news report that began “Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning .  .  . ” It was announced two weeks ago that Bradley Manning, recently sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for espionage and theft of classified documents, wanted a sex ...


Snowden in Exile

There are reasons to worry about NSA surveillance. Civil servants have all the usual human frailties, and when they abuse their power, it’s good to know about it—that’s why we have extensive whistleblower protection laws. But whistle-blowing is different from stealing state secrets ...



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