‘But What Is the Reality of It?’



If you have a taste for Schadenfreude (and who doesn’t, especially in this holiday season?), you’ll enjoy Anemona Hartocollis’s article in the New York Times of December 14. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it.

The article goes on to detail the Obamacare-induced travails of members of New York’s “creative classes” (a phrase the Times fails to put in quotation marks) and concludes:

“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, ...

The Obama Administration

Government Man


President Obama is more perceptive about the shortcomings of government than we thought. “We have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly,” he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. Wow!

And pity the ...


Escape from Obamacare

How to get health insurance while avoiding the exchanges.


Dave Malan

At least they have their health. When it comes to purchasing insurance through the Obamacare exchanges, young adults don’t have much else going for them.

Under Obamacare, young adults can buy a government-approved plan​—​with its mandated coverage of pediatric dental care, sterilization, and maternity care​—​and pay vastly inflated premiums relative to pre-Obamacare rates. Or they can simply go without insurance and pay the fine for violating Obamacare’s individual mandate​—​its unprecedented requirement that American citizens buy a product of the federal government’s choosing. If they pick the latter (more affordable) course, they’ll know they can always sign up for insurance during Obamacare’s next open enrollment period, no matter how sick or injured they might have gotten in the interim. Each of these choices is less appealing than the pre-Obamacare status quo.

But it turns out there’s a third choice. ...

An earful of opposition in Kiev

Putin’s Move on Ukraine

Showdown in Kiev.


For the demonstrators in Kiev’s Independence Square, the protest is no longer about the EU Association agreement that President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign on November 21. The precise benefits to be derived from greater economic ties with Brussels are not what is ...

Ich bin ein irritant.

Unhappy Allies

Obama annoys Europe.


Apparently relations between the United States and Europe are actually maturing. How else to account for the singular absence of transatlantic crisis-mongering over the many, many ways in which the Obama administration has annoyed our allies in Europe?

Opening the first Continental Congress with prayer

A Prayer Before Legislating

Where church meets state.


Dr. Brian Lee is pastor of Christ Reformed Church, a small church in downtown Washington, D.C., which he founded six years ago. Lee knows something about a topic not ordinarily discussed at his church, that of “legislative prayer.” As we’ll see, he has his doubts about it.

Euthanasia backers in Paris: ‘I want the right to choose my death,’ ‘Death of a

The Suicide Juggernaut

Euthanasia activists are on a roll.


Advocates of assisted suicide tell two—no, three—lies that act as the honey to help the hemlock go down. The first is that assisted suicide/euthanasia is a strictly medical act. Second, they falsely assure us that medicalized killing is only for the terminally ill. Finally, they ...

Francis Gurry, director general of WIPO

Technology for Tyrants

Courtesy of the U.N.


It's well over a year since the United Nations intellectual property agency got caught undermining the U.N.’s own sanctions—shipping U.S.-origin computers and related high-tech equipment to North Korea and Iran. In classic U.N. fashion, the World Intellectual Property Organization, ...


Willkommen, Bienvenue

Latvia joins the eurozone



Riga, Latvia
They take austerity seriously in Latvia. After each meeting with a government official he or she would turn off the lights as we walked out of the room. More than five years after the global financial crisis finally burst Latvia’s fragile economic bubble, scrimping is second nature. Given the direction this small, resilient Baltic country took after Lehman fell, that’s no surprise. The usual prescription for cleaning up the mess that overheating leaves behind, particularly in an export-oriented economy (exports amount to some 60 percent of Latvian GDP), centers around a sharp devaluation of the currency to restore international competitiveness. There were quite a few (including within the IMF) who suggested that Latvia should break the peg fixing its currency—the lats—to the euro, leaving the lats to sink to a level that more accurately reflected uncomfortable new market realities.

A destroyed Egyptian warplane, June 1967

A Raid on Iran?

Don’t count out the Israeli military. It has a record of pulling off daring, surprise strikes.


As world powers debate what a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran should look like, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to maintain that Israel is not bound by the interim agreement that the P5+1 and Iran struck in Geneva on November 24. Israel, says Netanyahu, ...

Books & Arts

Cynic’s Progress

The brave life and mysterious death of Ambrose Bierce.


The Huntington Library

One golden autumn morning 100 years ago, a few blocks from where I’m writing these words in northwest Washington, D.C., Ambrose Bierce said goodbye to his secretary, turned the key in the door to his apartment on Logan Circle, and went off to God knows where.

I’m not speaking figuratively: God and nobody else knows where Ambrose Bierce ended up—or when, how, or why. He had taken September and early October to settle his personal affairs, as people used to say. His literary affairs had been settled with the publication of his collected works, more than a million words packed into 12 volumes and assembled over a period of five years, which signaled his official exit from the writing life. His two sons were dead, his estranged wife was dead, and his daughter Helen, though not quite estranged, had built a life for herself a safe distance from him, in the Midwest. 

Bierce sent Helen a ...

morandi bruno / zumapress / newscom

The Gateway City

Why the tip of Morocco is a magnet for writers.


Oh, the writers! They came to Tangier in boatloads, getting—many of them—their first taste of Africa and Islam. Though over time, the great allure of Tangier for writers became other writers. 

Most people are familiar with 20th-century duo ...

David Horowitz (2011)

A Good Fight

The political journey of David Horowitz.


David Horowitz is a political thinker and cultural critic who enjoys challenging leftist shibboleths. His main contribution to contemporary political discourse is a passionate commitment to an outspoken, unabashed, myth-breaking version of conservatism. If ...

Morbid Visionary

Morbid Visionary

Poe’s tortured soul is exposed at the Morgan Library.


Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) defined the genre of the American macabre, and his name has become synonymous with literary horror. He has had many imitators but few genuine literary successors—only Jorge Luis Borges and H. P. Lovecraft have come close. Cities ...

Earl Hines and his former manager, Pfc. Charles Carpenter

Our Fatha

Rediscovering the piano artistry of Earl Hines.


Art Tatum had more outward flash, and Jelly Roll Morton certainly possessed more carny flair. But Earl Hines stood alone as the absolute champion of rhythm in jazz’s triumvirate of most important pianists. Never within the idiom has the instrument sounded quite as percussive as ...

cbs films

Folksinger’s Blues

The Coens find their voice in early 1960s Greenwich Village.


Earlier this year, Cathleen Schine published a novel called Fin & Lady, a deliriously nostalgic look at an orphaned boy who comes to live with his wealthy sister in a half-renovated Greenwich Village townhouse. The time is the 1960s, and the whole cast ...


Omnivorous Christmas

Joseph Bottum embraces Christmas clamor


big stock photo

The trouble with Christmas is that it would consume the whole world if it could—or subsume, maybe, like an amoeba. Left to its own devices, Christmas would wrap itself around the universe and digest it whole.

In other words, Christmas doesn’t want to come pussyfooting around toward the middle of December, in the diffident, slightly apologetic way of modern religion—waving its pseudopods as though to say, “Well, yes, it is rather old-fashioned, but the elderly parishioners like it, and it does have a kind of modern meaning, if one stops to think about it.” Christmas wants to stomp in and take over the calendar, and if everything as far back as Halloween gets shoved into a corner as a result, well, that’s just fine with Christmas. It’s the bigfoot at the party. Any party it can find.

Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July: Most holidays are a kind of reaching back, calling up the past just so ...


Snowing the EPA


Truth to tell, The Scrapbook has gotten as good a laugh as anyone out of the saga of John C. Beale, the retired Environmental Protection Agency official—Princeton grad, onetime deputy assistant administrator in the Office of Air and Radiation, congressionally certified expert on global warming—who has been sentenced to 32 months in prison for stealing nearly a million dollars from the federal government. 

As often happens, Mr. Beale began his life of crime on a modest scale: padding expense accounts, arranging first-class travel for himself (at EPA expense), and taking off one day a week—allegedly on government business—to relax at home. But one day became two, and then Mr. Beale would be gone for weeks and months at a time. Indeed, between 2000 and June 2008, his desk at the EPA (annual salary and benefits: $206,000) seems to have been unoccupied for a total of two-and-a-half years.

The ...


Academic Unfreedom

Members of the American Studies Association voted last week to boycott a country until it “ceases to violate human rights and international law.” Which nation could it be? New York University’s Scholars at Risk Network offers a number of options, citing 10 countries in which ...


Reality Overdose

We’re long past the point in contemporary America at which the concept of tolerance has any traction. Our cultural conversations have devolved into shouting matches with a cabal of white urban liberal enforcers insisting the rest of us be outraged by something no one was much ...


O’Rourke Goes Boom

The novelist Christopher Buckley says that The Baby Boom, the just-published memoir/history by P. J. O’Rourke, is O’Rourke’s best book. The Scrapbook is reluctant to disagree with any judgment from so authoritative a source. Plus, we’ve read The Baby ...



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