Standing Alone



In the midst of media coverage of the government shutdown (it’s the Republicans’ fault!) and the glitch-filled rollout of Obamacare (it’s not Obama’s fault!), Americans may not have noticed the October 1 speech by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United Nations General Assembly. But Netanyahu’s declaration that Israel was prepared to act alone to prevent the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons may well prove of more lasting significance than the developments in Washington that overshadowed it.

Netanyahu tried to puncture the wishful thinking that has made the Obama administration so eager to succumb to the charm offensive of Hassan Rouhani, the new Iranian president. Netanyahu pointed out that Rouhani has done nothing, and almost certainly will do nothing, that warrants trusting that the Iranian regime will yield in its pursuit of nuclear weapons (a pursuit Rouhani still denies in the face of mountains of ...


Duties of the President


Who's really to blame for the federal government’s shutdown? According to President Obama, it’s those ideologically obstinate congressional Republicans who will do anything to undermine the Affordable Care Act, the signature achievement of his presidency. For those same ...


Pay No Attention to the Bad Data

Behind the curtain at the IPCC.


dave malan

Thought experiment: Imagine you are a national security reporter, covering the release of a massive, 2,000-page report on domestic intelligence gathering activities and future threat assessment from the National Security Agency. But instead of issuing the full report, the NSA issues a 30-page “Summary for Policymakers” (SPM) written by political appointees at the Justice Department, promising that the full 2,000-page report will be released a few days later. Would you print a front-page story based only on the 30-page summary, or would you demand to see the full report?

If you’d go with the politically massaged summary, then congratulations​—​you too can be an environmental reporter. Because that’s exactly what the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did on Friday, September 27, in Stockholm, releasing only the SPM while withholding the full report. And the media played along, generating predictable headlines over ...

Gage Skidmore

Boehner in Charge

How the House speaker rallied his restive troops.


After the reelection of President Obama, House speaker John Boehner was disappointed, dispirited, and wary of a new round of clashes with the president. House Republicans had planned a fresh effort to repeal Obamacare, but, he told NBC News, “the election changes that.” He negotiated with ...

Mark Dayton

Not So Nice for the GOP

Declining Republican fortunes in Minnesota.


While most states outside the liberal bastions of the Northeast and the West Coast are, or have been, moving to the center-right, there’s one notable exception: Minnesota is shifting decidedly to the left.

Cory Booker

Is Cory Booker Overrated?



A five-minute tirade recently unleashed by a Newark resident against Mayor Cory Booker may not have surprised anyone had it remained a local TV news clip. “We are hurting here, this crime is killing us, blood runs on our streets,” the woman moaned to a reporter, responding to a ...


Europe Leads the Way?

In reducing the role of government in the ­economy, the U.S. is a laggard.


For much of the last century the United States was the world’s beacon for capitalism, but these days we’re far from such a lofty perch. Since the end of the Cold War, countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain have moved to reduce the role of government in the economy by changing ...

Tom Clancy

The Decline of the Military He Loved

Tom Clancy, 1947-2013.


Tom Clancy’s premature death is rich in unfortunate symbolism, because the U.S. armed forces, whose renaissance he celebrated in the 1980s and beyond, may be heading back to the “hollow,” pre-Clancy days of the 1970s. Although he kept writing up until the end, and ...


HUD’s Power Grab

The Obama administration plots a wholesale federal intrusion into local housing policy


Shaun Donovan

President Obama may have been distracted by Syria, but his domestic presidency proceeds apace, seeking what he heralds as “the transformation of the United States.” Especially is this true at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which aims to remake neighborhoods all across America, starting, as we’ll see, in Westchester County, N.Y.

Established in 1965 at the height of the last unambiguously progressive presidency, HUD enforces, among other laws, the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which forbids discrimination in housing on the basis of race and ethnicity. That act, together with other statutes, says HUD, also directs “program participants”​—​local governments and states that receive federal housing grants, and also public housing agencies​—​to go beyond simply combating discrimination. They are to take “proactive steps” to “address significant disparities in access to community assets, .  .  . overcome segregated living ...

Books & Arts

Master of the Games

The shrewd eye, and elegant prose, of Red Smith.


Red Smith at ringside, Ali-Liston fight, Lewiston, Maine, 1965

The best writing in newspapers, it used to be said, was in the sports pages. Variously known as the toy department or the playpen or the peanut stand, its interest restricted to matters of supreme inconsequence, the sports pages allowed the people who filled them more latitude for the prose equivalent of fancy footwork. In sports, after all, not that much was at stake: men in funny costumes batting a ball around—or, as in football and boxing, batting one another around—or running round tracks, on foot or in machines or atop horses. Sportswriters, not lashed to journalism’s deadly troika of when, where, and why, had the latitude to be jokey, dramatic, stylish, even gaudy. 

Sportswriting was lent a certain literary imprimatur by some of its former practitioners. Ernest Hemingway began his newspaper career on the sports pages, and Ring Lardner went from writing about sports for newspapers to writing ...

Kim Jong-un (second from left) takes a salute, September 9, 2013.

Leader Dearest

How the Kim dynasty preserves its power.


Steam venting from the complex that houses the Soviet-era reactor in Yongbyon, spotted in satellite imagery taken at the end of August and released last month, tells us that the rogue regime of Kim Jong-un is about to go back into the business of producing ...

George Green

Vein of Irony

The world as the poet sees it, through a glass lightly.


"The savoring of unintended ironies” could well be the tagline for this clever and enjoyable collection of poems. The phrase, appropriated by George Green from the New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl, cogently sums up the underlying theme of the verse compiled here: ...

Albert Gallatin at the Treasury Department

The Money Men

How immigrants invented an American economy.


The past few years have brought a steady stream of awful news about America’s finances. 

The federal deficit topped a trillion dollars in 2009—a first. The nation’s debt is approaching $17 trillion. Tax revenue is less than it was five years ...

Tony Danza, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Jersey? Sure .  .  .

A California vision of love in the Garden State.


Don Jon is a movie about Italian people living in New Jersey made by a person who has apparently never met an Italian person in real life, or ever been to New Jersey except perhaps on the way to and from the airfield in Teterboro, where private planes fly him and other ...


The Other End of the Line

Ethan Epstein, cold caller.



A purportedly funny photo ricocheting around the Internet popped into my inbox last week, apparently courtesy of the right-wing blog RedState. The Photoshopped image is a play on the famous Dos Equis beer campaign built around the bearded, debonair “Most Interesting Man in the World,” who says, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” The “joke” version features a picture of said interesting man, only this time he says, “I don’t always talk to Obama voters, but when I do, I ask for large fries.”

This bothered me for a couple of reasons. For one, it equates Obama voters with fast-food workers, whereas professors, investment bankers, Hollywood grandees, and Silicon Valley cool guys are also Democrats. For another, conservatives are supposed to believe in the inherent dignity of work, no matter how humble. Why act as if there’s something embarrassing about food service work? That’s mean-spirited, elitist, ...


New War Memorial

New War


The Battle for the War Memorial

All politics is local, the late Tip O’Neill is alleged to have said. The Scrapbook isn’t quite sure if that’s true. But it has certainly been true during the “shutdown” of the federal government, in which President Obama has used metropolitan Washington, D.C., as a stage on which ...

Honor Flight

Honor Flights

While it was inevitable that a government shutdown would involve vindictive theatrics designed to make life irksome for ordinary Americans, the directive from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to close off the World War II Memorial on the National Mall was ...


In iPads We Trust

It was almost sad last June when the Los Angeles Unified School District announced its intention to buy an iPad for every one of its more than 600,000 students in a deal valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The scheme carried more than a whiff of desperation​—​education ...

man sleeping

Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"What is at stake in this government shutdown forced by a radical Tea Party minority is nothing less than the principle upon which our democracy is based: majority rule. President Obama must not give in to this hostage taking .  .  . ” (Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, Oct. 1).


More Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"I've watched politicians for decades and have seen any number of backstabbings, scandals, vituperations, and Machiavellian machinations. But I can’t think of the last time a major political party undertook a serious campaign to damage the American economy .  .  . ” (Nicholas D. Kristof, ...


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