Books

Scruton to the Rescue

Featured image Roger Scruton has a new book out How To Be a Conservative.  Does Roger publish a book every week?  It sure seems like it sometimes; I’m still working my way through The Soul of the World. Anyway, if you’re running behind on your reading pile, as I always am, you should avail yourself of Richard Reinsch’s interview/podcast with Roger about his new book at the Liberty Fund’s indispensable LibertyLawSite.  (In »

Mark Twain’s question

Featured image I haven’t reread Justin Kaplan’s Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain since I first read it when it came out in paperback in 1968. Rereading it now, I am struck by how quotable Twain is even in his letters and stray comments. He never writes in shopworn phrases. As quoted by Kaplan, who quotes him a lot, Twain always finds a striking way to make his point. I want to fasten »

Butcher’s Crossing

Featured image I can’t explain how I went so long without being aware of John Williams. But happily, one of my partners linked to an article about him as one of our PL Picks, and I was intrigued enough to start reading his books. Williams was a college professor. He earned a Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Missouri, and taught writing at the University of Denver for many years. »

Today’s Chesterton Helping

Featured image So here’s my Chesterton shelf—most of it anyway (I’m missing the biographies, still in a box somewhere)—finally assembled in one place in my office.  I’m pretty sure I’ve shared before the story, perhaps apocryphal, of Chesterton, a stout man, meeting Shaw (thin as a rail) on the street: Chesterton: My God man, from the looks of you, there’s a famine in the land! Shaw: And from the looks of you, »

The Idiot’s Guide to Smart People: Malcom Gladwell Edition

Featured image If I have made any contribution to following Orwell’s advice to banish all clichés from our writing (because clichés usually represent sloppy thinking) it is my occasional use of “a perfect storm of tipping points!”  (Usually in reference to climate hysterics, since they are awash in “tipping points” and “perfect storms.”)  This two-minute video cutting Malcolm Gladwell, whose genius lies in inventing one-word clichés, down to size is so awesome I nearly »

Another Falling Bridge

Featured image While we await some new Rick Perlstein news (coming next week, stay tuned), it is worth noting another highly critical review of the book from the left. Jacob Weisberg takes aim in The Invisible Bridge in the Democracy Journal, a smart liberal journal edited by Michael Tomasky. Here are a couple of samples: [T]he reader finishes Perlstein’s very long book with the unsatisfying feeling that the author has not only »

Down with the administrative state

Featured image You may not be interested in administrative law, but administrative law is interested in you. Administrative law is unrecognized by the Constitution, but, according to Columbia Law School Professor Philip Hamburger, it “has become the government’s primary mode of controlling Americans.” He observes that “administrative law has avoided much rancor because its burdens have been felt mostly by corporations.” This is where you come in: “Increasingly, however, administrative law has »

A day to be proud…

Featured image I first wrote about Rick Rescorla in 2003 after finishing James Stewart’s Heart of a Soldier, the book based on Stewart’s New Yorker article “The real heroes are dead.” (“The real heroes are dead” is what Rescorla would say in response to recognition of his heroism on the battlefield in Vietnam.) The book is good, not great, but it touches on profound themes in a thought-provoking way: life and death, »

Krauthammer’s million

Featured image Last night on the FOX News Special Report, Bret Baier announced that Charles Krauthammer’s collection of columns (mostly) — Things That Matter — has sold a million copies. It is a remarkable achievement for a book of previously published pieces by an author who is a pundit and not a political player in his own right. Aside from the merit of the pieces compiled in the book — a big »

The Decline of the West, From Henry to Hillary

Featured image Henry Adams remarked that the progression of presidents from George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant singlehandedly disproved the theory of evolution. That was grossly unfair to Grant, but it should be adapted to our current and previous secretaries of state (Kerry and Clinton) compared to Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, let alone—oh I don’t know, why am I tempted to say John Quincy Adams? If you want to see the »

Hayward Versus Hayward

Featured image So I’m walking the library stacks in the graduate library last night—because randomly walking library stacks is a practice that should not be abandoned in the internet age—and what should I stumble across by accident but a slim volume that read on the spine: Hayward, Constitutional Environmental Rights. From Oxford University Press. Bargain: only $43.99 on Kindle! This is certainly a curiosity: a book with two of my major interests »

Obama’s (G)Rand Strategy?

Featured image There is a decent case to be made that the United States is overextended in the world, or that the United States should not be, as the simpleminded phrase has it, the “world’s policeman.” Even short of that view, we often overestimate our capacities for intervening and controlling events in chaotic places like Libya. I thought Obama was actually correct to stay out of Syria, though if so he should »

A Bridge to Nowhere?

Featured image My long review of Rick Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge is in the can at the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe now you so can get the whole thing the day it comes out). Perlstein’s latest massive book has been generating more buzz than a turbine with bad ball bearings, with even some conservatives who ought to know better praising this malignant hit piece. I thought it likely that my forthcoming »

World of Payne

Featured image Erica Payne is one sick chick who perfectly represents the unloveliness of the contemporary left. Following up on her very personal message to me soliciting criminal abuse of Paul Ryan’s new book at bookstores near me (would that include Garrison Keillor’s, Erica?), she now writes: Hi Scott, Paul Ryan is the front-runner in Iowa, Christie is slipping, Perry may be out, and the consensus among Republican consultants is that Ryan »

Gary Lawson: The return of the king

Featured image Profesor Gary Lawson is the Philip S. Beck Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law. He is one of the country’s foremost scholars and critics of administrative law. He has written six editions of a textbook on administrative law and cowritten two books on aspects of constitutional history. When it comes to the serious issues that beset administrative law, Professor Lawson knows what he is talking about. Professor »

Don’t double down on clichés!

Featured image In The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White lay down the immortal injunction: “Omit needless words.” The injunction beautifully embodies the principle. It is a model of expressive form. Strunk and White drily observe: “Many expressions in common use violate this principle.” To this rule I would add: Avoid clichés. They deaden writing. They are an enemy of clear thought. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal Barton Swaim »

Perlstein, Plagiarism, and Originality

Featured image I’ve been holding back on commenting on Rick Perlstein’s The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan because I’m hard at work on an epic review for the Claremont Review of Books.  But the controversy over Perlstein’s treatment of Craig Shirley’s material, discussed in this New York Times article and many other places this week, deserves some separate and timely consideration, chiefly because my CRB review will concentrate on »