The Empty Stadium


Baltimore Orioles vs. Chicago White Sox, Camden Yards, April 29

Two decades ago, Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam lamented that we “bowl alone.” This week, two teams played baseball alone.

Baltimore’s empty stadium as a metaphor for our national travails is almost too obvious: It suggests a city huddling in fear. Civic institutions without civic participation. Families hollowed out. A society emptied of conviction. A political order separated from its citizens. A civilization lacking defenders.

It’s obvious. But as George Orwell pointed out, “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

Have we perhaps sunk further since Orwell wrote those words in 1939? At the depth we now occupy, perhaps we must restate not just the obvious but what appears to be the naïve and simple. Such as:

No law, no liberty.

No order, no justice.

No fathers, no families.

No ...

The scene of the “crime”

Bake Me a Cake—or Else


In January 2013, Rachel Cryer and her mother walked into Sweet Cakes By Melissa, a bakery in Gresham, Oregon, and tried to order a wedding cake. Aaron Klein, the co-owner (and Melissa’s husband), was informed Cryer would be marrying another woman. He apologized and told them that ...


Deciding Who Gets to Vote


Senator Rand Paul has entered the presidential sweepstakes as a Tea Party favorite and limited-government constitutionalist—i.e., one who believes Congress should not pass legislation unless it has the constitutional authority to do so.

Paul’s ...



Bad at almost everything—and winning.


Gary Locke

As Clinton scandals continue to mount and her credibility plummets, gleeful Republicans are quietly discussing what once seemed impossible: Hillary Clinton might not survive primary season, let alone make it all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue.

That may well turn out to be the case. But it’s not because of the allegations about “Clinton cash” or deleted emails. Those are major political scandals, to be sure, but of a kind that a shameless Bill Clinton skated through easily during his own administration.

The deeper problem is personal. As the veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum put it to me, rather forlornly, in an interview for my book, Clinton, Inc., Hillary Clinton simply isn’t a very good candidate. “I’ve seen her and him in rooms, and she doesn’t have the whirr,” said Shrum, who worked on the failed Al Gore and John Kerry ...

Is that you, Josh Earnest?

A Reset Button for Israel?

How the next president can restore friendly ­relations.


In the coming weeks, President Obama may announce his support for—or at least his non-objection to—a U.N. Security Council resolution defining the terms of a Palestinian state. This would represent an unprecedented break with Israel and mark the culmination of the Obama ...

Hey, so you got check, yes?  Thanks again—was so nice seeing you.

Beware of Russians Bearing Gifts

And presidential candidates who would accept them.


When Hillary Clinton first ran for president eight years ago, it was not hard to anticipate problems inherent in the Clintons’ wielding political power while also accepting foreign contributions to the Clinton Foundation. “If Hillary became president,” one ...

Anti-government protesters in Tehran, December 27, 2009

Iran’s Greatest Vulnerability

The Iranian people hate the regime.


Iran is on the march all over the world, from Syria and Iraq to Venezuela and Cuba (where they have a Hezbollah base). Except when they unceremoniously retreat, as in recent days when their flotilla to Yemen turned around when they saw the U.S. Navy. 

Ehrlich in New Hampshire, April 18

A Candidacy Below the Radar

Former governor Bob Ehrlich of Maryland is going to New Hampshire a lot.


There’s a small group of potential Republican presidential candidates you don’t hear much about, though they speak at events along with better-known candidates. They don’t have exploratory committees or campaign staffs. They’re one-man bands. But what they do have are impressive ...

From left: Tarek Alashtar, Idris al Magreibi, and Essa al Arabi

Libyans Plead for American Help

Midwifing democracy is not an Obama priority.


‘Why does the United States fight terror in Syria, Iraq, and Africa but not in Libya?” Idris al Magreibi, 40, a tall, lightly bearded member of Libya’s House of Representatives in Tobruk, was pacing the floor in the offices of the ...

Statement at Bethany Christian Services open house, May 29, 2012

Foster Care and Religious Freedom

A looming problem for Christian family service agencies.


As federal, state, and local governments continue to expand their laws and regulations regarding gender identity, conflicts over religious objections are sure to grow. Judging by an item on the website of the Department of Health and Human Services, one ...


The Late Great Market

Capitalism unmoored from the codes of behavior assumed by Adam Smith cannot survive


New York City protester, April 29, 2010

The American system of market-based capitalism is in trouble. And the reasons are not the ones commonly cited. The trouble is not that the financial system came close to collapse in the fall of 2008: We have experienced panics before, and the ability of the political and regulatory authorities to cope proves that the financial system is resilient and capable of being coaxed back from the brink of disaster.

Nor is it the long, deep recession that proved resistant to a variety of stimulative policies: We have experienced recessions before and recovered, as we seem to be doing from this most recent cyclical decline.

Nor is it the increasingly unequal distribution of incomes (a trend that might be on the verge of reversing). Again, we have survived periods of wild spending by the increasingly wealthy and simultaneous pressure on the living standard of others, with faith in our capitalist system ...


The Forbidden Weapon

One hundred years of gas warfare


French soldiers near the Belgian village of Langemark, in what was to become known as the “Ypres Salient,” did not know what to make of the green, earth-hugging cloud that came rolling toward them from the German trench line. Earlier, the enemy artillery had ceased, and things had ...

Books & Arts

Einstein in Theory

The scientist as public intellectual.


Albert Einstein in Berlin (1929)

This year is the centenary of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, and the occasion for revisiting that momentous discovery by paying tribute to one of the most famous scientists of modern times. Steven Gimbel’s brief book is a welcome contribution to that event, placing Einstein in his “space and times,” as his subtitle has it. “It was relativity,” he declares, “that made Einstein Einstein”—that gave the scientist the authority (the standing, a jurist might say) to pronounce on public affairs. Sixty years after his death, Einstein still enjoys that authority. The current issue of an English journal, in a discussion of the war against ISIS, quotes at length (and critically) a 1947 article by Einstein on the Cold War. And as I write, a Washington Post article on the Middle East peace process cites Einstein on the futility of repeated experiments, concluding, “This applies to Gaza.” 

Sen. Arthur Vandenberg (1939)

The Bellwether

Arthur Vandenberg and the end of GOP isolationism.


It may be counterintuitive to imagine cheers for a conservative midwestern Republican senator from Democratic partisans, but during the early years of the Cold War, Arthur H. Vandenberg routinely received such ...

Martin Walser

Survivor’s Soul

A memoir of Martin Walser’s coming-of-age.


Since 1945, the top echelon of German literature has been dominated by a cadre of writers and critics who were children when Hitler came to power and on the brink of adulthood when the war was over. After two years in limbo, it fell to them, as members of the fabled literary Group 47, to ...

View of Mt. Everest from Kala Patthar

To Everest and Back

Short of the summit but beyond expectations.


The short plane ride from Kathmandu to Lukla, through the front range of the Himalayas, is famous not just for scenery but for thrills. The tricky part is landing, at which the pilot gets one shot: Skim over a pass, bank, and drop sharply ...

Ronit Elkabetz

Immovable Force

The camera as chronicler of marital deadlock.


There are several key shots in movies—the visual strategies directors and cinematographers and editors use to establish scene, mood, movement, and dramatic tension, guiding the viewer’s eye to important information. 


The Grass Is Not Greener

Jonathan V. Last, amateur lawnmower


Jori Bolton

Moving to the suburbs is usually discussed either in the quiet tones of moral caution or with gallows humor. For me, the experience was a glorious fulfillment. Twelve years of apartment living had convinced me that you ain’t no kind of man unless you have stairs. But I wanted more than just the stairs. I wanted land.

When I moved to the ’burbs, I got a little patch of paradise with a three-story house, a picket fence, a swing set the size of a small frontier outpost, and two separate attics (one for storing Christmas decorations and baby paraphernalia, the other for hiding several thousand comic books that my wife graciously pretends not to know about). More important, I got 9,000 square feet, give or take, of land. This land is my land. I love this land. And it is slowly killing me.

When we first moved in, the grass around the house, a tall fescue, was a lush carpet. The prior owners were ...


In Hillary We Trust


Charlie Hebdo

Sorry, Charlie

A few weeks ago, The Scrapbook took note of cartoonist Garry Trudeau’s excoriation of the eight Charlie Hebdo journalists shot and killed in Paris last January by Islamist fanatics. The satirist Trudeau, of Doonesbury fame, had just been handed the George Polk ...

Charlie Hebdo


A bit more on the PEN/Charlie Hebdo backlash before we call it a day. Whenever a handful of writers are unhappy, a manifesto can’t be far behind. And sure enough, the withdrawal of a few worthies as hosts of the PEN dinner honoring Charlie Hebdo quickly led to a ...


Cleveland Loses Again

In high courts across America, judges are rendering their spring-term decisions. And in Ohio, the City of Cleveland has tacked another loss onto its growing pile of collective losses.

As The Scrapbook reported


Signs of the Hipster Apocalypse

Don’t laugh. The news we are about to report is real, and it’s a tragedy: “Tattooed wrists can prevent the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor from functioning properly, according to some customers. Since the Apple Watch uses your heart rate to determine whether you’re wearing it, you ...


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