Pro Patria


The Battle of Fort McHenry

The year 2014 marks a centennial and a bicentennial. The centennial is well known: 1914 saw the beginning of World War I, a calamity perhaps unmatched until then in the history of the West. We will be reminded many times this year in centennial commemorations of the war’s terrible destruction, but also of its devastating political and cultural effects over subsequent decades, and of its continuing deep if often indirect contribution to today’s demoralization of the West.

Writing several years ago in this magazine about its seismic cultural consequences, David Frum quoted the concluding lines of “the most famous poem in our language about World War I”:

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud


Wrong Again


To hear it from the New York Times editorial page, the many issues surrounding the attacks in Benghazi are now settled. 

In a December 30 editorial, published under the headline “The Facts About Benghazi,” the newspaper proclaims an ...


A GOP Year


A White House official once noted that the problem with the national press corps is it can only keep one idea in its mind at a time. And while that’s often true, it’s not at the moment in regard to Republicans.

Today’s media line on the Republican ...


Crime and (Doggie) Punishment

A tale (or tail) of lost freedom.


Dave Clegg

On a beautiful day in late October, Gus and I were enjoying a rare moment when our only companions in the large and hilly park in front of St. Louis’s Concordia Seminary were nut-gathering squirrels and the birds in the trees.

I was sitting on a Coleman camping chair reading a book and Gus, a beautiful black-and-tan Gordon setter, was doing his favorite thing—chasing birds. This is something Gus does at high speed, in narrowly zig-zagging and broadly circling patterns. The chases go on for as long as eight or nine seconds. I have never seen him pluck a bird out of the air, but he is right on their tails the whole time—forcing many a low-flying wren or robin to go into a steep climb.

It is a sight to behold. People stop and stare in disbelief. The birds seem to enjoy the game as much as Gus. Why else would they be so willing to come out of the trees and play catch-me-if-you-can? Sometimes, Gus begs them to do ...

No Such Agency

A Tale of Two Judges

The NSA on trial.


Not that long ago, one could assume that a judge with an activist approach to interpreting the Constitution was probably left-of-center politically and, accordingly, believed that overturning precedents was often necessary in order to make the Constitution relevant to present ...


The Genealogy of Obamacare

Harking back to the worst of the New Deal.


Despite its clunky rollout, Obamacare continues to move forward. Many of the problems with the website have been fixed, at least on the “front end” that the consumer sees. The government, meanwhile, has reported nearly 2 million enrollments between the federal and ...

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Putin’s Pardons

A sign of strength or of weakness?


As the winter holidays approached, the beleaguered Russian opposition had a rare occasion to celebrate: Russia’s three best-known political prisoners were unexpectedly granted their freedom. On December 20, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former oil tycoon whose arrest a decade ago ...


Fichte, Erdogan, Obama

Some gloomy reflections on the presidential ­conscience.


In his ponderously titled book Contributions to the Correction of the Public’s Judgement Concerning the French Revolution (1793), the German philosopher and political leader Johann Gottlieb Fichte took time out from his defense of the Reign of Terror to compose what has been called ...


What Catastrophe?

MIT’s Richard Lindzen, the unalarmed climate scientist


Thomas Fluharty

When you first meet Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology at MIT, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, leading climate “skeptic,” and all-around scourge of James Hansen, Bill McKibben, Al Gore, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and sundry other climate “alarmists,” as Lindzen calls them, you may find yourself a bit surprised. If you know Lindzen only from the way his opponents characterize him—variously, a liar, a lunatic, a charlatan, a denier, a shyster, a crazy person, corrupt—you might expect a spittle-flecked, wild-eyed loon. But in person, Lindzen cuts a rather different figure. With his gray beard, thick glasses, gentle laugh, and disarmingly soft voice, he comes across as nothing short of grandfatherly. 

Granted, Lindzen is no shrinking violet. A pioneering climate scientist with decades at Harvard and MIT, Lindzen sees his ...

A man cradles a dead child among the victims of a gas attack in Syria.

Haunted by Syria?

President Obama is unmoved by the atrocities on his watch


When the history of the Obama administration is written, there will be a long and damaging chapter on its immense humanitarian and strategic failure in Syria. With three years of Obama yet to come, we have not even seen the full humanitarian disaster play out​—​nor have we yet ...

Books & Arts

Sincerely, Lenny

The correspondence of Manhattan’s Maestro.


Leonard Bernstein in rehearsal with the New York Philharmonic (1957)

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was a man of multiple talents: He was a composer of classical music as well as of musical comedies (On the Town, Wonderful Town, Candide, West Side Story) and a number of ballets for choreographer Jerome Robbins. He was composer, too, of the epochal film score for On the Waterfront (1954), and he was a highly gifted musical lecturer on television shows such as Omnibus—lectures of equal interest to professionals and outsiders that were collected in a couple of important books. Some lyrics for show tunes display his skill with verse.

As a master conductor of music both old and new—including his own—he was hailed the world over. This led to correspondence with major composers, conductors, and instrumentalists, as well as important others. There are letters from Jackie Kennedy and Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall and Harpo Marx, Ronald ...

Boys and girls playing sandlot baseball (1946)

Play’s the Thing

Send children outside, and let them be children.


Serial entrepreneur Mike Lanza can’t believe what’s happened to childhood. Growing up in suburban Pittsburgh, Lanza spent hours after school, outside and unsupervised, playing with neighborhood kids of different ages. Today, practically the opposite is the case. ...

Interrobang T-shirt

Period Piece

The theory and meaning of our own hieroglyphics.


If, as Kurt Vonnegut believed, the only reason to use a semicolon is to show that you’ve been to college, what does it say when someone uses a pilcrow? Or, for that matter, an interrobang, a manicule, or an octothorpe? While this book doesn’t make any judgments about the ...

European Union bureaucrats protesting pay/staff cuts, Brussels (2012)

Continental Drift

A quarantine for the Sick Men of Europe.


The year 1946 was vintage for Churchillian rhetoric, with two speeches that significantly affected the history of the West—and, indeed, the world.  

The more famous of the two was the Iron Curtain speech delivered in Fulton, Missouri, in ...

J. T. Rogers


An appreciation of J. T. Rogers.


On the morning of April 16, 2012, at the very minute that the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama was being announced, the playwright J. T. Rogers’s telephone rang. A 43-year-old married father struggling to pay his rent each month, he ...

Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence

Do the Hustle

Sex, drugs, and politics in the Age of Disco.


This propulsive and overstuffed movie tries to do far too much. It has more plot than it knows what to do with, and for a while near the end it becomes almost impossible to follow. American Hustle is a partly fictionalized account of the headshaking Abscam ...


Bag Man

Christopher Caldwell, (fleeting) consumer advocate


Anton Emdin

Back in the 1980s I spent one afternoon working for Ralph Nader and wound up with bite marks all over my bum. The memory returned a couple nights ago when a college kid came to the door, shaking the cup for some charity. He’d memorized a spiel about dioxins and microfluids and picoliters. He must have noticed my look of dead-eyed boredom, because he stopped mid-sentence and said, “We’re responsible for the D.C. bag law.”

“I hate the bag law,” I said. 

He gave me a look of pop-eyed incredulity. The bag law was clearly his trump, the line that’s supposed to get any bleeding-heart to say, “Well, heck, if it’s for the bag law .  .  . let me get my credit card.”

Washington, D.C., makes merchants charge 5 cents for every bag they give out. It has surely benefited clean water, but the benefits to petty tyranny have been more obvious. I know a cheery teenage girl who works as a ...


Journalism’s Elusive Golden Age


Like Diogenes in search of an honest man, The Scrapbook has been on an extended quest to find the Golden Age of American journalism. That was the era, not so long ago, when a literate public was downright serious about the news, and America’s newspapers, magazines, and television networks paid close, detailed attention to current events, foreign affairs, and national politics—which, of course, were civil in tone, bipartisan in nature, and concerned with finding solutions rather than exploiting problems.

There must have been a Golden Age, because journalists refer to it routinely, especially when elderly politicians or old colleagues expire. It sounds like a splendid epoch, and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could recapture its spirit? But its elusive nature is frustrating to The Scrapbook. When was it, exactly? 

We know that it must have been before right-wing zealots captured a once-great Republican party, and ...


A Donkey by Any Other Name .  .  .

"Walmart recalls donkey meat in China,” announced a headline on FoxNews.com last week. The Scrapbook, for one, was incensed: How dastardly to lace edible meat with donkey! We hungered for more information: What were the tainted goods? Were the “100 percent beef” hamburgers at Walmart’s ...


Grade Inflation Revisited

Our item on rampant grade inflation at Harvard (“A Gentleman’s A+,” The Scrapbook, December 16) caught the eye of reader Robert D. King, who also happens to be founding dean of liberal arts and Rapoport chair of Jewish studies emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. ...



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