‘Folly, Fatuity, and Futility’


Chamberlain: newscom

The interim agreement that the United States and its partners cut with Iran last week stands as a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. The Obama administration has walked away from a core objective of U.S. policy for two decades—preventing a nuclear Iran—thereby threatening fundamental regional and global interests. In accepting a partial pause in aspects of Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, and in giving up on the insistence that Iran ultimately abandon its nuclear program, the Obama administration invites dire strategic consequences—an existential threat to Israel and our Arab allies, nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, a strengthening of the forces of radicalism and terrorism in the region, and a fundamental weakening of the U.S. position in the region and the world.

Congress and U.S. allies in the Middle East must make their own judgments of this deal and retain ...


Bullies in Beijing


While Washington and the world have been focused on the nuclear agreement reached with Iran last week in Geneva, on the other side of the globe, one of the parties to that deal, China, was at the very same time making the peaceful resolution of its dispute with Japan over a group ...


Obama’s Stubbornness

A mind is a terrible thing to change.


weekly standard photo illustration

"There are some things I really believe in,” President Obama said last week. He was putting it mildly. Actually there are some things he really, really, really believes in—whether they work or not. Either way, he’s sticking with them. And Obama is one stubborn dude.

This wouldn’t be a problem if only a few of his lesser policies were at stake. But it’s his economic, domestic, and foreign policies that he’s glued to, no matter what. Obama insists he’s “pretty pragmatic” about how he achieves his goals. Nothing could be further from the truth. A pragmatist would change failing policies or at least tweak them. Obama wants to double down.

That his policies have produced an extraordinarily weak recovery from the 2007-09 recession is indisputable. Economic growth is stagnant, unemployment is in a holding pattern above 7 percent, the number of Americans with jobs is fewer than in 2007, and millions ...

Celebrating the deal in Tehran

The Use and Abuse of Sanctions

The Iranian bomb is all that matters.


Last week’s interim agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear weapons program offers the regime sanctions relief even as U.S. lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, are demanding more and stricter sanctions. The White House counters that more sanctions will only ...

...and refuse to enroll, while you’re at it.

Wise Beyond Their Years

The young won’t show up for Obamacare.


Former president Bill Clinton said recently that Obamacare “only works .  .  . if young people show up.” But it won’t work—because young people won’t show up. Obamacare gives them too many reasons not to do so.

One reason is that Obamacare makes ...

A Connecticut Tea Partier making the point in Hartford, 2009

The Government Isn’t Us

It works for us.


Over the spring and summer of 2013, perhaps still sunning in his November 2012 victory and ideologically extrapolating from this win, President Obama attempted to press the case that skeptics about federal power were outré paranoiacs. At the Ohio State University ...

Can the payout at least go well?

The Oil Spill Windfall

A test for Republicans.


A federal court in Louisiana will decide in the next few months how much oil company BP must pay in Clean Water Act penalties as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The fine could total as much as $18 billion and, whatever the court determines, will rank among the ...


Faith-Based Negotiations

When liberals meet mullahs



O believers, when you encounter the unbelievers marching to battle, turn not your backs to them. Whoso turns his back that day to them, unless withdrawing to fight again or removing to join another host, he is laden with the burden of God’s anger, and his refuge is Hell—an evil homecoming!

Koran, Surah VIII, Anfal (‘The Spoils of War’),
quoted by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in his speech
to the Basij and Revolutionary Guards at the Grand Mosque
of Ruhollah Khomeini, November 20, 2013

It’s impossible to find a Western parallel to the rahbar, the “supreme leader” of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or to that regime’s particular fusion of church and state. The caesaropapism of a Byzantine emperor, even one as religiously determined as Justinian, or a pope as imperial as Gregory VII, who ...

Gary Locke

Hard Sell

Going door-to-door for Obamacare


Hollywood, Fla.
Standing here on the streets of Hollywood with two comely Obamacare cheerleaders by my side, I’m feeling fired up and ready to go. I’m feeling like the change I’ve been waiting for. I’m feeling like whatever Obama cliché you can ...

Books & Arts

The French Connection

How the Revolution, and two thinkers, bequeathed us ‘right’ and ‘left.’


Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine

Hard cases, it is said, make bad law. So, too, extreme situations make bad policy and worse philosophy. The French Revolution was just such a situation; compared with the French, the English and American revolutions are almost unworthy of the title of revolution. No one took the measure of the extremity of that revolution better than its contemporaries Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. And nobody drew the most far-reaching, antithetical, and enduring political and philosophical lessons from that revolution.

“The Great Debate” between Burke and Paine, Yuval Levin demonstrates, has persisted to this day in the form of the great divide between right and left. Levin is uniquely qualified to deal with both the political and philosophical aspects of that debate, then and now. As a writer, editor, and former policy staffer in the White House (where he dealt with such “wonkish” issues, he explains, ...

Israeli troops at the Lion’s Gate, Jerusalem (1967)

‘The Israeli Epic’

A story of seven paratroopers in the Six-Day War.


Usually one disregards the puffs on dust jackets written by the author’s friends, who have often neglected to read the book in question. In the case of Like Dreamers, however, one of the blurb writers, former Israeli ambassador (and very fine historian) Michael ...

The Lady Elizabeth, ca. 1546

Henry’s Legacies

One family, two generations, and modern England.


It was brave to embark on this book: so vast is the literature on the period and familiar its highlights. But Peter Ackroyd is energetic and gifted enough to have mastered his sources and produced a sparklingly fresh ...

Albert Camus

Algerian Dilemma

Reflections from Camus in his centennial year.


World War II posed no moral or existential problems for Albert Camus. As it began, he was 26 years old and had already made his mark as a crusading journalist; within a couple of years he would be famous for a shocking novel, The Stranger. With his family ...

Lucian Freud in his studio (1954)

Freudian Brush

A modern master’s indelible style and disordered life.


Lucian Freud (1922-2011) did not tolerate lateness, as Mick Jagger’s onetime wife Jerry Hall found out the hard way back in 1997. For four months, she had been sitting for her portrait, in which she was breast-feeding her and Jagger’s son. But being punctual was not among Ms. ...

Bruce Dern, Will Forte

Plains Speaking

The desolation of lives, and landscapes to match.


How do you make a movie about depressing people that is not, in itself, depressing? That is the challenge that writer-director Alexander Payne sets for himself: He is the Houdini of depression, shackling himself in a narrative straitjacket of hopeless despair and then somehow ...


A Man’s Word

Irwin M. Stelzer pines for Wally’s world


jori bolton

I am no Miniver Cheevy, pining for days gone by. Not usually. But having just signed piles of paper before a gaggle of lawyers to get a relatively simple transaction done, I am thinking of Wally, if that was his real name. 

Wally was a New York City entrepreneur who brought competition to off-track betting and markets to the distribution of theater tickets. In short, he was a bookmaker and ticket scalper. Wally always wanted to own a restaurant, partly to have something he could claim as a “visible means of support,” partly because the legend of Jilly’s, Frank Sinatra’s hangout, Toots Shor’s Restaurant, and other night joints drove him on. So eventually he opened one, in the heart of the theater district.

No sauces or anything fancy: huge steaks served on sizzling platters, five-pound lobsters, martinis, and anything else that you might want before or after a Knicks game or Broadway musical. And a proprietor who would sit down ...


The Blindness of Bill Gates

Bill Gates

Americans have a few national quirks, the patriotic Scrapbook is willing to concede, and one of them is the assumption that people who have made great piles of money in life—Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, H. Ross Perot, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett—have something worthwhile to say on other subjects. The latest example of this common misapprehension comes from the lips of billionaire industrialist Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft.

In a recent interview with the Financial Times, Mr. Gates expressed an interesting philosophy of philanthropy: 

Quoting from an argument advanced by moral philosopher Peter Singer, for instance, he questions why anyone would donate money to build a new wing for a museum rather than spending it on preventing illnesses that can lead to blindness. “The moral equivalent is, we’re going to take one percent of the people who visit this [museum] and blind them,” he ...


The FDA vs. Information

It’s difficult to think of a company doing anything as gee-whiz neat as 23andMe. The Mountain View, Calif., firm, which opened its doors to the public in 2007, provides comprehensive genetic tests to anybody with $99 to spend. Customers send in a saliva sample and about six weeks ...


Keeping Up with Joe

What would Miss Manners say about Russian president Vladimir Putin? No, not about his habit of going shirtless in public. It seems that Putin has developed the habit of showing up late for important meetings, and keeping foreign dignitaries waiting. On a recent visit to South ...


We Can Dream, Can’t We?

A new study from the Cato Institute asks the question many travelers have pondered after a pat-down gone awry: Can’t we replace the TSA? The agency’s embarrassing record of waste and mismanagement makes a compelling case.

In more than one instance, ...


Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"If today’s extremist rhetoric sounds familiar, that’s because it is eerily, poignantly similar to the vitriol aimed squarely at John F. Kennedy during his presidency. And just like today, Texans were leading what some of them saw as a moral crusade. To find the very roots of ...

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