No Reply from America?


Obama Speech

On Tuesday, August 19, an American citizen, James Foley, was savagely killed. The group of jihadists known as ISIL had previously killed and brutalized tens of thousands of non-Americans. But they killed Foley because he was an American. They titled the grotesque video of this particular act of barbarism “A message to America.”

On Wednesday, the president of the United States of America spoke. It would have been fitting if he had delivered a reply from America. It would have been proper if his reply to the savages who killed James Foley had been that they would be hearing from all of us soon. 

Instead, the president began, “Today, the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group ISIL.” He went on to say that this act of violence “shocked the conscience of the entire world.”

The president thinks of himself as a “citizen of ...


Hamas’s Media Strategy


During the six weeks of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, Hamas has used human shields—women and children—to protect its infrastructure in Gaza. This tactic is meant either to deter Israel from striking at the rockets, attack tunnels, and terrorists that ...


A Not So Grand Jury


On August 15, a grand jury in Travis County, Texas, shocked the Lone Star State when it handed up an indictment of Governor Rick Perry, a likely candidate for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. According to the grand jury, Perry abused his power in 2013 when he attempted to ...


Bureaucrats Bearing Arms


The riots in Ferguson, Missouri, have spawned a heated and, one hopes, productive debate about the “militarization” of the police. While one can argue about the tactics and weaponry used by police, however, there’s little debate about the necessity of cops ...


Going for the Gold

Jeff Bell’s unorthodox Senate campaign.


Gary Locke

Teaneck, N.J.
"Welcome to our campaign headquarters,” Jeff Bell said to an out-of-town reporter the other evening, standing in the lobby of a convention hotel here, hard off the Interstate. He wasn’t kidding: This is indeed the headquarters of the Jeff Bell for U.S. Senate campaign, for the moment anyway. He could do worse. The lobby is airy and spacious, the bathrooms are clean and commodious, and the location can’t be beat. 

A half-dozen fresh-faced young volunteers were perched on sofas and overstuffed chairs, laptops open, plugged into the WiFi the hotel provides free of charge. 

Bell looked them over good-naturedly. “Our campaign staff,” he said. Three of them are his children.

If there’s a single phrase that summarizes the Bell campaign on the cusp of Labor Day, it’s one he repeats often: “We’re broke.” ...

James Risen

A Privileged Press?

Why James Risen may be headed for jail.


After nearly four years of procedural delay, the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling is set to open shortly. Sterling was indicted at the end of 2010 for leaking information about a top-secret CIA operation to James Risen of the New York Times in violation of the ...

Rob Astorino speaking to reporters outside the state capitol

No Mo’ Cuomo?

Rob Astorino tries for an upset.


Queens, N.Y.
Peter Tu is thrilled about meeting with Rob Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor of New York. Tu is the executive director of the Flushing Chinese Business Association and a leader in the large Chinese-American community ...

James Foley in the field before his November 2012 capture

James Foley, 1973-2014

A courageous journalist killed by terrorists.


In the end, Jim Foley died just as he wanted to live, pursuing a story that mattered on the front line of hard news journalism. In Afghanistan, Libya, and finally Syria he recorded the horror, chaos, and occasional compassion that define the war on terror. But it was his gruesome ...

Bartleby, the President

Bartleby, the President

When it comes to dealing with Congress, he would prefer not to.


President Obama insists Republican opposition to his policies has forced him to boycott Congress and resort to governing by executive order. This is only partially true. Yes, Republicans strongly oppose his initiatives. But refusing to deal with Congress was Obama’s decision, his ...


Democracy in Russia

Under Putin, there’s less and less of it.


At this writing, it seems that the hundreds of trucks sent by Moscow with supplies for the residents of Eastern Ukraine will be delivered without further incident. For over a week, the long convoy wended its way toward the Ukrainian border, carrying with it the prospect for a spike ...


Scotland the Brave

Scots debate independence



If at first you don’t secede, try, try again. This might be the motto of Alex Salmond’s Scottish National party, which since 1934 has been advocating the proposition that Scotland should be an independent country, governed not from London but from Edinburgh and able to make its own policy decisions about defense, immigration, taxation, and spending. On September 18, Scots will finally face a referendum about their future. Do they wish to continue to be part of the United Kingdom or to go it alone under their own flag—the blue and white saltire—into a new Caledonian era? The timing of the vote is itself highly political. This year is the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn (1314), a battle at which the Scots famously won a victory over the English. It serves as a reminder of history, and that throughout the period when Scotland and England have had a united government—1707 to the present—there have been those who felt nostalgic for ...

Dang. Those Republicans made me muff it again.

Nobody’s Fault

Liberals make excuses for Obama


All of a sudden, people have noticed that we are in trouble, and many are saying it isn’t the president’s fault. All the bad news, from Iraq to Ukraine, from Libya and Syria to the Mexican border, just seems to have happened: Obama was standing there, golfing or shaking hands with ...

AP Jeff Roberson

No Law, No Order

Making a federal case out of Ferguson


Ferguson, Mo.
"I JUST SAW SOMEONE DIE OMFG,” wrote Emanuel Freeman, a teenage rap aficionado who lives in the Canfield Green housing project in Ferguson, Missouri. It was about noon on Saturday, August 9, when Michael Brown, a hulking 18-year-old ...

Books & Arts

Giant Tennis Shoes

The overestimation of the John Birch Society


The World of the John Birch Society

Populism, that ever-lurking and always problematic phenomenon in American politics, is especially galling to liberals when it breaks from the right, as it has done during the last few years in the form of the Tea Party. Conservative populism disorients and frightens liberals (almost as much as the Republican establishment does), such that liberals find it necessary to make out conservative populism to be “extremist” and to magnify its potential threat to democracy.

Fifty years ago, the liberal bugbear was the John Birch Society, which D. J. Mulloy, who teaches history at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, thinks is the trailblazer and blueprint for today’s Tea Party. His book doesn’t really bear the weight of this argument, which was probably added for the purpose of lending it some kind of contemporary relevance. Despite some superficial parallels (Eisenhower is a Communist! Obama is a ...

Grammar Lesson in New York (1961)

Take Your Medicine

This ‘prescriptive’ is a hard pill to swallow


In 2007, I went to work as a speechwriter in a political office. Although my boss didn’t care much for my writing, the rest of the staff considered me an authority on grammar and usage. I was the writer, they seemed to reason, so I must understand the ...

'...but let us never fear to negotiate' (John F. Kennedy)

Why Do We Read?

‘Wisdom and insight’ as the purpose of literature


Gary Saul Morson is a rarity in American academia. The holder of an endowed chair at Northwestern University and winner of prestigious literary awards such as the René Wellek Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association ...

Arvo Pärt at the Met (2014)

Mystic Chords

The gospel according to the Arvo Pärt Project


The influence of Eastern Orthodox Christianity on composer Arvo Pärt’s music is undisputed: His minimalistic music draws from obvious religious inspiration. The ...

The Hunger Artists - A short-term investment in high-yield talent

The Hunger Artists

A short-term investment in high-yield talent


When writers become famous, it is easy to forget that they were once obscure, and sometimes very poor. Yet with few exceptions—Homer, Tacitus, Omar

Cook shed, Means & Evans Camp

Shall We Gather?

The history of Texas in the Bloys Camp Meeting


In 1884, John Zach Means and his wife Exa acquired a ranch just outside the tiny town of Valentine, Texas. The spread was called the Y6, after a cattle brand he had designed, and the couple’s move there was the happy culmination of several years of ...

Boyhood (2014)

Real Time Passing

Not so mad about the boy, but the premise is promising


If you know that Boyhood has been rapturously received as a revolutionary work in the annals of American filmmaking, it is almost sure to disappoint you. I know this, because I saw it two weeks after it ...


Barbering Back Then

Irwin M. Stelzer books the barber


A New York barbershop, 1946

On a recent trip to Washington I had the rare experience of some free time between meetings. Best used to get a much-needed haircut, I thought. A few blocks from my hotel I found myself in a barber shop of the sort that caters to people more modern than I, a gray-haired economist, and generally above my station in Washington society.

It was only after signing in that I noticed how different the place was from the old-fashioned shop I still patronize in New York. First, the owners, undoubtedly having consulted their dog-eared copies of The Wealth of Nations, had divided the chores of washing and cutting hair. No longer need the cutter—or stylist, as the term seemed to be—wet his hands. Second, this was not actually a barber shop but a salon, catering to both—oops, all—sexes. On my right was a woman whose hair was wrapped in aluminum foil. On my left, another woman was being attended to by a female stylist. My ...


Due Process

Due Process

The execution of Australian commando Leonard Siffleet  by Yasuno Chikao, a Japan

Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword

A foolish optimism about human nature can’t withstand even a nodding acquaintance with history. If you’re of a certain age you may well remember seeing this photo. It was published years ago in Life magazine, among other places. And once seen, it is not easily forgotten. ...


A Headline That Raises Concerns

Sometimes it’s the little things that draw your attention. The other morning (August 20), for example, The Scrapbook noticed a subordinate headline for the main story on the front page of the Washington Post, about the racial confrontations in Ferguson, Missouri: “County ...

Great Thinkers

Great Thinkers Online

The Internet may yet become a high-minded place, if our good friends at the Foundation for Constitutional Government have any say in the matter. To complement their websites devoted to important contemporary thinkers (Walter Berns, Irving Kristol, Harvey Mansfield, James Q. ...


Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"I taught the first course on rock music for credit in an American university (1970, Ball State University). I taught a course in Phil Spector at a junior college in 1974. It was therefore with great interest, indeed delight, that I .  .  . ” (letter from John Mood of San Diego, ...


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