Dear Barack


AP IMAGES / Charlie Neibergall

Seduced and then disappointed by a hipster who turned out just to be another solipsistic boomer, now chastened yet still hopeful for change (if no longer swept away by the promise of Hope and Change), young Americans are ready to ditch Barack Obama. Things had been getting rocky for a while, but seeing the dawning of the Age of Obamacare in its full glory seems to have been the final indignity. The young will of course never acknowledge that maybe their old-fogey parents were right all along, but they do understand that what they thought was going to be a meaningful, long-term relationship has turned out to be just a youthful fling. And so they’re getting ready to say, Dear Barack, thanks for the memories, but we’ll be returning the next email to sender, addressee unknown.

In 2008, 66 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 voted ...


Happy Birthday, Tea Party

Remember, remember the sixteenth of December.



Two hundred and forty years ago this month, a gang of Bostonians dressed as Indians boarded the Dartmouth, the Eleanor, and the Beaver and dumped 90,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor. That fateful action on December 16, 1773, and Parliament’s inflammatory response—closing the Port of Boston, altering the colony’s charter, radically limiting popular government in Massachusetts, allowing the quartering of troops in private houses, among other arbitrary measures—precipitated the American Revolution. The Boston Tea Party, like the revolution more generally, seems to be a relic of a bygone age, despite the modern namesake it’s inspired. Is it just the appellation that reverberates today?

Some scholars, most notably Harvard’s Jill Lepore, reject any comparison between 1773 and the present, accusing the modern Tea Party of “historical fundamentalism” for, in part, making “political arguments grounded in appeals ...


Poll Position

Obama’s collapsing numbers.


President Obama is 5-for-5, but not in the way he’d prefer. In baseball, 5-for-5 signifies perfection. In Obama’s case, it means the opposite. On the five most important polling questions that measure a president’s success, he’s not only dropped significantly, but he’s now regarded ...


In a Plain Brown Package

Australia’s doomed effort to kill tobacco sales.


I'm sitting at my desk, looking at a photograph of a gangrenous foot. It is a bloated thing in hues of phlegmatic gray rot, sanguine inflammation, melancholic black bile, and choleric open sores​—​exhibiting all the humors of a meeting of the United Nations Human ...


King of the Contractors

Erik Prince defends his warriors.


With all due respect to General David Petraeus, the most influential strategist of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may turn out to be Erik Prince. The fact that Prince has had a huge impact on how the U.S. military operates isn’t necessarily a compliment. The former Navy SEAL is ...


Habeas Chimpanzee

The nonhuman rights campaign.


"Tommy” and other chimpanzees are the subjects of several lawsuits in New York seeking writs of habeas corpus and “immediate release from illegal detention.” These lawsuits, the doing of the Nonhuman Rights Project, are not a surprise. As already noted in these pages (“Animal ...


Doing the Wrong Thing

Congress prepares to undo one of its few worthy reforms.


After a decade-long run of bad weather that included Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Ike, and a host of other river valley and storm-surge floods, the 45-year-old National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) owes taxpayers about $25 billion that no analyst believes it will ever pay back. ...

AP / Tony Gutierrez

Equality for Convicts?

Another case of federal overreach.


A question: Are Texas and all its agencies and local governments breaking the law? The answer is that they probably are, according to the Obama administration and its Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But the Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, isn’t waiting for the EEOC to ...


Back to Work

Long-term unemployment is a serious problem. Liberals don’t have an answer. Conservatives can do better.



Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee wrote a letter on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican and Ways and Means chairman, urging him to devote some committee time to extending federal unemployment benefits. At issue is the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, enacted in 2008 to offer qualifying unemployed workers benefits above and beyond what are available during normal economic times. Typically, the federal-state Unemployment Insurance (UI) system offers 26 weeks of benefits to qualifying unemployed workers. Given the severity of the Great Recession, Congress and the president correctly decided to extend the maximum duration for which workers could receive unemployment compensation. Partly because of EUC, some unemployed workers could receive benefits for up to 99 weeks. Even in the depths of the recession, “99 weeks” became notorious in certain conservative circles.

Hal Mayforth

The Battle of 2014

With the midterm elections less than a year away, the terrain looks surprisingly favorable for Republicans


Regularly scheduled elections are a hallmark of the American political system. In 18th-century Britain, the monarch could call new elections on a whim, and our Founders saw in that arrangement a seed of tyranny. The Constitution they designed requires elections for Congress every ...

Books & Arts

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

The first of three (!) volumes on the Fab Four.


John Lennon, George Harrison, Sir Paul McCartney, and Pete Best

Every Christmas season a new load of books about the Beatles appears, capitalizing on a baby-boom market that has yet to flicker out and the enduring love many middle-aged people feel for the Liverpudlians’ joyous noise from the 1960s. But the fanatics among us have been waiting with mounting impatience for something special, a work we knew would be both authoritative and groundbreaking: the first of three volumes of a history of the band by one Mark Lewisohn.

Lewisohn, for the uninitiated, may be the most respected Beatles authority in the world: He was a consultant and researcher for the band’s own Anthology project and is the author of the essential reference books Complete Beatles Recording Sessions and Complete Beatles Chronicles. His publisher recognized his standing by reportedly shelling out huge bucks for this undertaking, even though such accounts as ...

‘The Death of General Warren’ by John Trumbull (1786)

In Dubious Battle

Why Bunker Hill was a pyrrhic victory for the British.


I’ve previously read two fine accounts of Bunker Hill written by two masterful American historians independent from the cloister of academia: Decisive Day by the late, great Richard Ketchum and Now We Are Enemies by Thomas Fleming. Nathaniel ...

Balliol College chapel

Agony of Spirit

The revolutionary poet revealed in his letters.


England produced some superb letter-writers in the 19th century: Lord Byron, Emily Eden, John Keats, Charlotte Brontë, and Sydney Smith gave an altogether new charm and expressiveness to the epistolary art. Smith’s letter to his young friend ...

‘The Upcoming Schönberg Concert’ (1913)

On the Brink

A world in transition before the Great War.


"The first second of 1913. A gunshot rings out through the dark night. There’s a brief click, fingers tense on the trigger, then comes a second, dull report. The alarm is raised, the police dash to the scene and arrest the gunman straight away. His name is ...

Ronald Reagan campaigning for governor of California (1966)

Stardust Memories

Not so long ago, Hollywood was a two-party town.


Hollywood’s hostility to conservatives is so unrelenting that at times it reaches comic levels. In the recent remake of The Three Stooges, the film’s producers tried to communicate the depth of scurrility of Sofía Vergara’s villainess by showing her reading this estimable ...

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Man in Chains

Hard to watch, important to see, the reality of slavery.


The problem with 12 Years a Slave is that it is very, very good—and because it is very, very good, it is extraordinarily difficult to watch. So much so, in fact, that I assumed the movie was a more graphic version of the 1853 memoir ...


It’s How You Play the Game

David Skinner, cheering section.


Michael Sloan

I was on the sidelines at my daughter’s 11-and-under travel soccer game. It had been a successful season, but today they were being outmuscled by a very physical team from Warrenton. With a strong wind blowing against them and only one substitute on the bench, the Alexandria Heat were on the wrong side of a 5-0 rout. 

Late in the second half an errant ball went in their goal off a defender’s foot, which is always disheartening. A particularly stout fan, I continued clapping and cheering, though now a lonely voice on a quiet sideline. I was confident that our girls could score a goal or two before the final whistle. They’re better than this, I kept thinking.

Then it happened again, a few minutes later, in a classic bungle of a high ball that, untouched, would have skidded safely out of bounds. Instead, it caught the raised leg of a well-meaning defender and was redirected into her ...


A Democratic ‘Civil War’?


The Scrapbook has always observed that while Newton’s Third Law of Motion—“to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction”—is true of the physical world, it does not always apply to the political universe.

Consider, for example, these stirrings among the faithful of the Democratic party. In a story headlined “Democratic Party feeling heat from the political left” (Dec. 1), the Washington Post reports that “as Obama struggles to achieve his second-term domestic agenda, a more liberal and populist voice is emerging within a Democratic Party already looking ahead to the next presidential election.” 

Such as? Well, Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future complains about “real things in the economy that Democrats have been too timid to address,” and John Podesta of the Center for American Progress laments that “all the gains .  .  . to fight poverty and reduce the poverty ...


Savvy Joe Biden

In its breathless December 1 exegesis of the White House’s response to the Obamacare website crisis, the insiders who dared speak to the New York Times told the paper how angry the president was that he was deceived about the status of the website and how great he was at ...


The Imaginary Future

Michio Kaku is a sort of pop physicist who makes a specialty of glibly forecasting future technology. He had a piece in the New York Times recently making 10 “predictions for the future,” and they’re about as facile as one would expect from a stalwart of the TED Talk ...


A Gentleman’s A+

Last week, a headline in the Harvard Crimson confirmed that Harvard is continuing its depressing slide from an elite educational institution to a really expensive way to boost the self-esteem of America’s overachieving youth: “Substantiating Fears of Grade Inflation, Dean ...

Fortune Cookie


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