‘I Can Do Whatever I Want’



On February 11, writing for the Washington Post, Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers ably summarized the latest “bad week for Obamacare.” The Congressional Budget Office concluded that Obamacare will cause “a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024.” The CBO also found that Obamacare would—after all the spending and disruption and coercion—still leave about 31 million Americans uninsured a decade after implementation. Then the White House disregarded the plain text of the law to carve out another delay in one of the law’s mandates, this time for businesses with between 50 and 99 employees. 

What’s more, as Rogers explained, the Obama administration decided that employers who fall below 100 employees “must certify to the IRS—under the threat of perjury—that the reasons for your employee head count have nothing to do with your opposition to or ...


Iran’s the Problem


Two weeks ago the Treasury Department sanctioned a senior al Qaeda official, Olimzhon Adkhamovich Sadikov, also known as Jafar al-Uzbeki, for facilitating the flow of foreign fighters into Syria. The Levant appears to be ground zero in a struggle between al Qaeda and an Iranian-led ...


The War on Truth


News from academia! “President Salovey and I,” writes Yale’s provost, “have invited a distinguished group of academic leaders to a diversity summit at Yale on February 11-12, 2014. Their visit will include a series of discussions with faculty and administrators about the challenges ...


Meet the New Farm Bill

Same as the old farm bill.



The president just signed into law the Agricultural Act of 2014, a multiyear, comprehensive agricultural, rural, and nutrition policy measure. As legislation goes, it was rather unremarkable. What was remarkable was the path it followed to approval. Unlike most farm bill debates, which tend to be festivals of bipartisanship and comity, this one split lawmakers—rural from urban, House from Senate, Republican from Democrat—along every political fault including between the Tea Party caucus and the rest of the GOP.

A farm bill is typically passed every five years, and besides payments to farmers includes international food aid, rural development projects, food safety inspection, and, in recent decades, renewable energy incentive programs. There are enough programs to attract votes from all sorts of off-farm political interests. As President Obama said, it’s the legislative equivalent of “a Swiss Army knife.”

Hey, more time to spend with the kids!

Dependence Day

The corrupting effects of Obamacare.


On February 4 the Congressional Budget Office dropped a bombshell. Analysts there found that Obamacare’s structure will create an enormous implicit tax on work, such that people on the lower end of the economic scale will have an incentive to quit their jobs or scale back to part ...

Hoping to avoid the fate of his predecessors

Paranoia in Kabul

Hamid Karzai and his enemies.


With a presidential election less than two months away, all eyes in Afghanistan should be on the coming vote. It could be Afghanistan’s first-ever peaceful transfer of power, and 11 candidates are running. Instead, Kabul is buzzing over the actions of term-limited outgoing ...

Auto show, 1968: so wrong on so many levels

Detroit, Mon Amour

Remember the liberal war on the automobile?


Seems like this is the season for showing the American automobile some love. Also, the town that the automobile built—Detroit, aka the Motor City, where packs of feral dogs now roam the streets and den up in vacant lots between the abandoned buildings. Detroit, these days, seems ...


Of Mullahs and Lawyers

Iranian success in European courtrooms.


In a recently leaked private phone call, an EU foreign policy official, Helga Schmid, grumbled to the EU’s ambassador to Kiev that it was “very annoying” that the United States had criticized the EU for being “too soft” to impose sanctions on Ukraine. Criticism may be annoying, but ...


After the Filibuster

The coming war over presidential appointments



President Obama and Senate Democrats have gone to great lengths to secure the appointment of executive-branch officers and judges and thus help advance his policies and programs. Obama has made recess appointments in a way no president before him did, an action now being challenged in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, which offers the Supreme Court the first occasion in its long history to opine on the until-now obscure recess appointments clause. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have pushed through a new voting requirement for the upper chamber that effectively eliminates filibusters of the president’s nominees and hastens their appointment.

How those actions will affect the appointments terrain, and our politics more generally, is an unfolding story. Obama’s recess appointments are almost certainly unconstitutional, and he risks a decision by the Court that could weaken the office of the presidency. Even ...


Angst over Spying

Germany, Russia, and Snowden


Edward Snowden’s revelations about the foreign and domestic surveillance practices of the National Security Agency have inspired a great deal of anger around the world, but nowhere has the fury been stronger than in Germany. “Goodbye, Friends!” read the front page of Die Zeit ...

Thomas Fluharty

The Guinea Pig State

Oregon’s quarter-century of failed liberal health care experiments


On December 20, Cover Oregon—one of 14 state-based Obamacare insurance exchanges—began robocalling all Oregonians who had attempted to get health coverage through the state’s new marketplace. “If you haven’t heard from us by December 23, it is unlikely your application will be ...

Books & Arts

To Manners Born

The English version of civility.


A New York production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ (2011)

Two truths tend to strike people around middle age: Money buys less than it once did, and manners are in decline. 

Everyone has a personal bugbear. What is yours? For many, it is the inconsiderate leaching of private noise into public space: the tinny beat of rock music on someone’s else’s iPod, the marital row conducted via cellphone, the muffled “bling” of a neighbor’s text message interrupting a crucial moment of dramatic tension in the movie theater. For others, it is the offhand, even offensive, treatment by those who should show more respect: waiters, salespersons, teenagers. When manners fail to smooth the path of social intercourse, the result can stink. I recently walked along an alley in London where a furious resident had chalked a circle on the pavement and a message to a repeat offender: “Stop your dog shitting here!”

As Henry Hitchings’s Sorry! demonstrates, the complaint that ...

Carrie Nation (1910)

Thou Shalt Not

The vice squads keep changing their minds.


Oh, what fun smokers won’t be having in 2014. As of New Year’s Day, Boston joined six other large cities banning smoking in its 251 city parks. The fine for violation is $250 and includes anyone caught “vaping” a smokeless electronic cigarette. In Oregon, there is ...

Garden Suburbs

Visions of Green

When suburban sprawl is a Good Thing.


Paradise is generally something that seems very far away, especially in mid-winter. Paradise Planned is a compendious reminder that paradise, or a decent shot at its earthly manifestation, is rarely far off at all. 

Whatever feelings ...

Alan Ladd, MacDonald Carey in the 1949 version

Lost in Translation

‘The Great Gatsby’ on film is doomed to failure.


It was not, one assumes, the kind of review F. Scott Fitzgerald had hoped for.

Writing in the Baltimore Evening Sun in May 1925, H. L. Mencken dismissed The Great Gatsby as “a glorified anecdote” plagued by trivial plot devices and poorly drawn ...

Jersey Boys


Sometimes it pays to be excluded from the fun.


Recently, a close friend told me that he had to cut our conversation short because he had tickets to see Steve Martin and Edie Brickell in concert. He clearly expected me to covet his immense good fortune, though my immediate reaction to this statement was, “Better you than I.” ...

warner bros.

Business Is Good

Product placement in the form of ‘satire.’


Never before in history have liberal clichés about the evils and the rapacity of capitalism been combined so ironically as they are in The Lego Movie, a gargantuan triumph at the box office in its first weekend. This fast, flashy, colorful, and ...


They Laughed

Philip Terzian, jazz pianist


michael sloan

In an essay on Winston Churchill, the late British psychoanalyst Anthony Storr mentions that Churchill, at age 11, expressed a desire to play the cello, but that the interest “was not encouraged, and soon died out.” What might have been, in Churchill’s case, is intriguing to Storr: “It is possible that music might have become important to him,” he writes, “for, as many musicians know, the world of sound can be a never-ending source of solace, and the ability to play an instrument is both a means of self-expression and a source of self-esteem.”

I remember nodding in agreement with that passage when I read it, 40-odd years ago; nodding vigorously, in fact, because I knew it to be true in my own case, but had never heard the idea expressed before. I make no claims as a musician—piano, tenor saxophone—but as a means of self-expression and source of solace in my life, the ability to play an instrument has, shall we say, played its part. ...


George Obama

Cherry Tree


And the Awards Just Keep on Coming!

Last week, South by Southwest—the hugely influential technology and music festival held in Austin every spring—announced its keynote speaker for 2014. The keynote speaker last year was Elon Musk, of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors fame. Other South by Southwest keynotes in recent ...

Cleveland, Ohio

Another Tax to Dislike

The Scrapbook hesitates to kick a football town when it’s in the dumps, but we are baffled by the crazy news coming out of Cleveland. And no, we’re not talking about the Cleveland Browns coaching drama.

The city of Cleveland is engaged in a legal ...

Bottum Book

Bottum on Anxious America

Hazel Motes, the hyperanxious protagonist of Flannery O’Connor’s great novella Wise Blood, finds himself so bedeviled by the demands of religious belief that he rebels by founding a religion of his own: The Holy Church of Christ Without Christ. The mainline Protestant ...

AP Photo / Antonin Novy

Shirley Temple Black, 1928-2014

A number of things seem to have “gotten us through” the Great Depression—Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, FDR’s presidential oratory, the movie musicals of Busby Berkeley—but the fact that one of them was a 6-year-old child who sang and danced and acted like a veteran is nothing ...


Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"So Barbie is posing for the 50th anniversary Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, histrionically titled SI Swim Legends. I get it, I do. She is 55 years old; I’m sure it’s extremely flattering to be asked. And although I’m a feminist, and I’m trying to raise a daughter to ...


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