A Tortured Report


Senator Feinstein

For most of last week, the report on enhanced interrogations produced by Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence dominated headlines. To the extent that there was a debate at all, it was one-sided. News coverage routinely described the findings as the “Senate torture report,” often failing even to note that it was written exclusively by Democratic staff or account for the differences between techniques used as part of the CIA program and abuses committed outside of that program. 

We have no doubts that there were abuses. And some of those abuses, if they happened as the report describes, are horrifying and inexcusable. There is no justification, ever, for pureeing the meal of a detainee and inserting the liquefied results in his anus. This isn’t interrogation, it’s torture. 

But approved techniques, including some that test the limits of what ought to be morally permissible, were ...


The Flight from Reason on Campus

And the madness of crowds.


A protester at a Board of Visitors meeting  at the University of Virginia, Novem

The university is often said to be the first place in our society to look for the truth. Unfortunately, it is now one of the last places to find it.

Events surrounding a recent Rolling Stone article that chronicles an account of a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity make clear how little the critical spirit operates today on our nation’s campuses. The story, which Rolling Stone no longer supports, begged to be treated with skepticism. Appearing in a magazine that trades in sensationalism—last year it put a glamour photo of the Boston marathon bomber on its cover—the narrative is so pat and faithful to a formula that common sense dictated caution. And most readers, one suspects, did feel at least a tinge of suspicion. Yet opinion leaders and campus activists across the nation quickly embraced the story as gospel truth, with some looking to convert it into a national movement to stem sexual violence.

Courtesy RS

A Credulous Press Feeds the PC Mob

Where was journalistic skepticism at Rolling Stone?


With nearly every passing day, yet another detail in last month’s sensational Rolling Stone article alleging gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity house collapses under the weight of scrutiny. Its author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, has retreated into strategic ...

Thomas Fluharty

Novorossiya Is Still a Dream

And the ruble is in free-fall.


A year ago, Ukraine’s “Euro-maidan” protests, spurred by then-president Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject a promised trade agreement with the European Union and rush into the well-paid embrace of Vladimir Putin, began to escalate in Kiev, turning to violent clashes with ...

Manhattan, July 29: Protester sign or executive order?

Immigration and Representation

When do aliens count?


Anger among conservatives over President Obama’s decision to grant amnesty to four or five million illegal immigrants has focused not only on the substance of the decision but also on the constitutionality of his exercise of executive power. And while that debate is important, the ...

Gruber before Congress

The Architect of Obamacare Speaks

The government’s defense in King v. Burwell is not open and shut.


Jonathan Gruber’s testimony before Congress last week was a series of apologies, evasions, denials, and outright lies. The MIT professor widely acknowledged to be the “architect of Obama-care” before it was known that he attributed passage of the law to legislative deception and ...

A Stockholm rally against the right-wing Sweden Democrats, September 15

As the Swedes Go, So Goes Europe

The populist backlash against immigration and the EU superstate continues.


"The winner,” ABBA advised in 1980, “takes it all. The loser has to fall.” But not in Swedish politics, where proportional representation has created a smorgasbord of parties and has now contributed to a crisis of ...

Gary Locke

The Democrats Double Down

Will Republicans seize the opportunity?


Right after Democrats got routed in the midterm election, the left-wing group MoveOn.org blasted their activists with a message not to panic. Party leaders should, in fact, “double down on progressive policies.”

This is the kind of advice you would ...


Iran’s Supreme Censor

The evolution of Ali Khamenei from sensitive lover of Western literature to enforcer of Islamic revolutionary orthodoxy


david polumbo

The Blind Man’s friend:  Don’t suffer because of the past. You censored books for the sake of God. .  .  . What is
it you are taking? 

The Blind Man:  Valium. I’m taking it to forget everything, even God.

Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s 2003 movie script Faramoushi (Dementia) never passed the censors at Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the clerical regime’s gateway for all films, books, magazines, and newspapers. Makhmalbaf’s sarcasm and searing allusions often got him into trouble before he went into exile in 2005. His mordancy in Faramoushi, aimed at the rampant, crude, and at times comical censorship within the Islamic Republic, must have caused the censors particular unease: The intellectual journey of the central character, the blind censor, bears a definite resemblance to the evolution of ...

Books & Arts

Philosophy in a Clown Suit

An unexpected key to understanding culture


‘Pierrot’ by Antoine Watteau (ca. 1718)

Is there any subject more esoteric than esoteric writing? Turn to the groundbreaking book on the subject, Leo Strauss’s Persecution and the Art of Writing (1952), and you’ll find such chapter headings as “The Law of Reason in the Kuzari” and “How to Study Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise”—topics seemingly of interest only to the most scholarly of scholars. Yet in Philosophy Between the Lines, Arthur Melzer shows that understanding esoteric writing is vital to understanding Western culture and, indeed, culture in general. People interested in a wide variety of subjects—from literary interpretation to philosophy to politics to the history of religious beliefs—need to know something about esoteric, or secret, writing. By producing this ...

Santa in Nanjing (2012)

The China Effect

Please understand you’ll be misunderstood


Spend a few days in China, and you are bound to witness a stranger exposing his bare bottom on the subway or defecating on the sidewalk. While dismayed, you will find it easy to forgive these lewd acts: ...

Mark Strand

Poet of Understatement

Mark Strand, 1934-2014


Before his death late last month at the age of 80, Mark Strand could claim one of the most varied careers of Americans active in the arts. Born on Prince Edward Island in 1934 and raised everywhere from Montreal to Brazil to pre-Castro Cuba, Strand ...

‘The Repentant Saint Peter’ (ca. 1600)

God and the Artist

The vision of El Greco as seen in Washington


The nickname “El Greco” reveals two things about Doménikos Theotokópoulos, the weird and sublime painter of the Counter-Reformation: He was Greek, and he was a stranger. When everybody around you is ...

Everything old—even the ‘morbidness’—is new again

The Children’s Hour

Everything old—even the ‘morbidness’—is new again


Admit to being puzzled as to how to place this novel. Not how to evaluate its merits, for there are many. Lisa O’Donnell’s first novel, The Death of Bees, was the recipient of the 2013 Commonwealth Book ...

John Cho, Karen Gillan

Accustomed to Interface

‘Pygmalion’ finds its way to social media


Scan the television listings and you’ll find quite a few shows based on older source material. There’s Gotham, which imagines the lives of Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and the villains before the comic ...


Plato’s Diner

Mark Hemingway, Urban Diner


katherine messenger

Urban strivers like to insist suburbia is a soul-deadening place to warehouse failed ambition. I, however, feel no need to defend my choice of safer streets, lower taxes, better schools, and local officials who are misguided rather than criminal. In fact, when my wife and I finally abandoned Washington, D.C., for Northern Virginia four years ago, we really had only one regret: We could no longer walk to Jimmy T’s. 

My wife and I are not the only ones with an unnatural affection for the place. I casually mentioned it recently, and a former colleague immediately responded, “Jimmy T’s is the world’s most perfect diner. The form of diner.” 

Maybe this has the ring of hyperbole, but, honestly, I can’t disagree. In some respects, it’s a unique place. Just five blocks down East Capitol Street, it has a majestic view of the U.S. Capitol. It’s the only commercial enterprise on a ...


Smith’s ‘Racist’ President

Smith College

When last we wrote about the womyn at Smith College, they were protesting the invitation of Christine Lagarde, a French leftist in good standing and the first woman to head the International Monetary Fund, to be the commencement speaker at the school’s 2014 graduation. The Smithies—both students and faculty—believed that Lagarde was insufficiently radical because she ran an organization that exists as a mere tool for neocolonial oppression. Lagarde withdrew.

This came after a year in which tensions flared between students and the administration over the issue of “transgendered” applicants. The school’s liberal, feminist administrators maintained that high school boys who claimed to be women should not be allowed into the women’s college, because this would be transgressing upon sacred space. The school’s liberal feminist students believed that this position amounts to sexist bigotry.

All of ...


The Crony Cromnibus

There are many signs that our politics are broken; one of them is the constant need to create new words to more exactly describe the terrible state of affairs. Most recently, we’ve been saddled with “cromnibus,” which is a portmanteau of “continuing resolution or ...


Fire at Will, Commander!

The Scrapbook was thrilled to learn that the U.S. Navy finally has a fully operational laser—and, no, not the kind we’ve been using for years with guidance systems, but rather an actual laser weapon.

According to USNI News, “The U.S. Navy has ...


Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"In the last several years, allegations that college administrators mishandled complaints, or even discouraged victims from filing complaints, have cropped up at Columbia, Yale, Amherst and Vanderbilt, among dozens of other universities. The exact scope of the problem, though, ...



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