No Defense


Hagel, Howard

After U.S. goalie Tim Howard had a record-setting 16 saves in the American team’s 2-1 World Cup knockout loss to Belgium, a wag edited Chuck Hagel’s Wikipedia entry to show Tim Howard as the true U.S. secretary of defense. The meme took off on the Internet, and by Wednesday afternoon Hagel was placing a phone call to Howard to get in on the joke. Hagel, as the Pentagon explained in a statement, called “to thank him for defending the United States of America at the World Cup.” Hagel also told Howard “that with some training, he could someday become the real secretary of defense.”

Actually, given the duties and mission of the real secretary of defense in the Obama administration, Tim Howard could take over the SecDef’s office in the Pentagon’s E-Ring tomorrow, and who would notice?

Consider: As Iraq collapses, “a ranking Pentagon official with knowledge of the situation” told the Daily Caller last week that ...


Fight, Don’t Sue


On a wide range of matters, including health care, energy, immigration, foreign policy, and education, says House speaker John Boehner, President Obama has ignored some statutes completely, selectively enforced others, and at times created laws of his own, thus failing to “take ...

religious freedom

Hobby Lobby Hysteria


When the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the government could not force a business owned by evangelical Christians to pay for contraceptives that might act as abortifacients, progressives responded ...


An Exceptional American

Fouad Ajami, 1945-2014.



Hardly a day passes that I don’t think it’s a good time to go back and reread Fouad Ajami. As events unfold in the Middle East, he always offers some insight or information, or better yet one perfect and memorable sentence or phrase, that points at an answer to the whole puzzle. And now I want to read it all again—the books, the countless essays and newspaper columns, transcripts from interviews and TV appearances—all at once, as if to fill the hole left by his death in late June.

Ajami is best known as a historian of the modern Middle East, but he was primarily a writer who became one of the great stylists of English prose, to be read not simply for instruction but for pleasure, too. He was essentially a memoirist, though the man himself appears rarely in the books. He makes an appearance, briefly, in the introduction to The Vanished Imam, his second book, touching lightly on his adolescence in the Lebanese capital, as a ...

Gary Locke

From the Bottom Up

The California GOP rebuilding project.


Palo Alto
Here’s a rundown on the sad state of the Republican party in California. Republicans haven’t won a Senate contest since 1990. George H. W. Bush was the last Republican presidential candidate to win here. That was in 1988. Barack Obama ...


An Unfolding Fiscal Disaster

The calamitous finances of Obamacare.


Imagine that it is 1937 and time for the first Social Security payroll taxes to be assessed on workers and their employers. Two years earlier, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s new program was successfully sold to the American public as an ambitious yet fiscally responsible, ...


A Vindication of Religious Pluralism

There are many reasons to cheer the Hobby Lobby decision.


On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government cannot force Americans to abandon their most deeply held convictions as the price of doing business in the United States. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby counts as a landmark win for religious liberty. But it ...


Trolling for Dollars

At times, our intellectual property laws produce results that are patently absurd


...where plaintiffs prosper

One February day in 2012, the U.S. government granted its 8,112,504th patent to a corporation called Personal Audio. The company’s invention was described as a “system for disseminating media content representing episodes in a serialized sequence,” which sounds complicated and impressive. The invention looked even more complicated, and more impressive, if you read through the 31,000-word text describing it. The supporting images looked more complicated still, but less impressive. Accompanying the patent were eight pages of confused flow charts with dozens of boxes and circles and arrows pointing hither, thither, and yon.

The flow charts combine technical-sounding terms, such as “raw program database,” with high levels of abstraction. For instance, one squiggly line connecting two boxes is simply labeled “Internet.” The overall effect is that of a bright middle-school student trying to fake his way through an assignment. Which is more ...


The Man and the Myth

The many faces of Hassan Rouhani


Urbi et Orbi, the city and the world, Tehran and the globe. In his turban and clerical robe, softly speaking of peace, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, resembles a spiritual guide more than a modern politician. Western statesmen, scholars, and journalists have been ...

Books & Arts

Of the World of Life

The sacred as a basic element of humanity.


‘Moonrise Over the Sea’ (1822) by Caspar David Friedrich

In Tim’s Vermeer, a 2013 documentary film about Tim Jenison, an inventor of digital software, Jenison cracks the technical code of Vermeer’s art. Inspired by the theories of David Hockney and physicist Charles Falco, he builds a replica of Vermeer’s Delft studio in Las Vegas and, with a camera lucida and a concave lens, produces an accurate copy of The Music Lesson (ca. 1662-65). 

“My friend painted a Vermeer,” marvels Penn Jillette, the magician whose performing partner Teller directed the film. But Jenison has done no such thing: He has painted half of a Vermeer, the half that anyone can produce if given enough time, money, and equipment. His experiment confirms the intimacy of science and art and that the magical effects of art depend on technical sleights of hand. But it also confirms the insufficiency of its approach and the limits of a purely scientific account of human ...

Hank Williams

Ramblin’ Man

Hank Williams is back on the air.


Of all of the giants of American popular music, there is perhaps no artist who had as brief a recording presence as Hank Williams, a prime mover in several genres who did all of his prime moving between 1946 and 1952. 

Country music tends to be lam


Go Down Swinging

The unlikely career of England’s poet-pugilist.


In 1949, Vernon Scannell (1922-2007) was working at an English fairground boxing booth, taking a fall in one fight and avenging himself on a hapless challenger in the next. Behind him were convictions for bigamy and desertion, an abusive childhood, short stints as a professional ...


Pick Yourself Up

America as the land of the second chance.


"If at first you don’t succeed,” W. C. Fields supposedly said, “try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”

Unlikely success after spectacular failure represents a core theme of American ...

paul de man

The Fake’s Progress

Reconstructing the deconstructionist’s inventions.


This is a biography of a man who disliked, even hated, biographies. Pointing this out is ironic in the contemporary sense of the word, though not cheaply or glibly so. Paul de Man, the Belgian Nazi collaborator, embezzler, bigamist, fraud, and all-around academic snake-oil ...

Got religion?

Their Daily Bread

The millennial challenge to organized religion.


The life of a young college graduate isn’t what it used to be, as viewers of Girls and other recent hits well know. In 1970, the median age of marriage was 21 for women and 23 for men, not much different than in 1950. By 2000, the averages were 25 and 27, and they have ...

‘Speeding Train’ by Ivo Pannaggi (1922)

Vision of Tomorrow

An Italian landscape called the Future.


Italian Futurism may be one of the less-acclaimed early-20th-century artistic movements, but its striking aesthetic interpretations of the human being and radical ideological manifesto have left a legacy that must still be reckoned with. All of these aspects of Futurism are on full ...


Stranger on a Train

Christopher Caldwell's near-miss with destiny



A few weeks ago the Times Literary Supplement ran a photograph of the grisliest act of violence in Italy since World War II—Italy’s equivalent of our own September 11 attacks. In 1980 a shadowy group of homegrown terrorists planted a time bomb in the waiting room of the Bologna Central station. When it went off at 10:25 a.m., the roof collapsed on bystanders. The blast cut through people standing on the platform and blew apart much of a nearby train. Eighty-five dead, hundreds wounded. The TLS photo was, I assume, taken from inside that train after the dead and wounded were carried out. It shows one seat ripped from a wall by the force of the blast and a mush of gore and glass everywhere else. The caption reads: “Bologna Central station, August 2, 1980.” For me, the date conjures up a teenage summer, and not in any vague way. I know exactly where I was and what I was doing that Saturday morning when the bomb went off: I was on a train approaching ...


About that Soccer Tournament


Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, every four years America witnesses the reemergence of a rare and annoying creature, the soccer scold. With the onset of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, there have been numerous sightings of soccer scolds in their native habitat—that is, in the media.

The soccer scolds love soccer—love it deeply and passionately—but they only really show their plumage quadrennially. And when they’re not preening, they’re on the attack: against the hordes of Neanderthals, xenophobes, and troglodytes who do not particularly enjoy watching professional soccer. Which is to say, most of America.

The soccer scolds are alternately infuriated and thrilled by Americans’ resistance to embracing “futbol” as a spectator sport. Infuriated, because they believe that this resistance is a synecdoche for everything foul in the nation’s soul. But thrilled because this allows them to ...


Summer Reading I

Our affable colleague, senior editor Victorino Matus, is famous for his big head, big heart, big appetite—and encyclopedic knowledge of food, drink, the consumption of same, contemporary German politics, and the sociology of his native New Jersey. Vic’s attention to detail, and ...


Summer Reading II

We know the first book on your summer reading list: Vic Matus’s


Kurdish Independence?

With Iraq collapsing into another Sunni-Shiite civil war, the Kurds are holding their own in the north of the country. -According to the Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, “The time is here for the Kurdistan people to determine their future.” Israeli prime minister Benjamin ...

conversations with bill kristol

The Kristol Chats

The Scrapbook has previously lauded the work of the Foundation for Constitutional Government. To support the serious study of politics and political philosophy, it’s developed a series of websites devoted to important, contemporary thinkers (Walter Berns, Irving Kristol, Harvey ...



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