Magazine | March 25, 2013, Issue

Warner Bros.



The camera PANS across broken heaps of metal, smoking ruins of a once-proud civilization. Buildings in ruins, children in rags with dirty faces, the distant sounds of warlords exchanging gunfire. The camera moves along the twisted and smoking remains of cars, broken asphalt, until it catches up to A YOUNG BOY running . . .

Faster and faster he runs, through the rubble and the decayed city. Clutched against his chest is a small and adorable puppy.

The boy runs –



Gathered around a blazing fire, licking the edges of the trash barrel, is the boy’s family. His father tends the flame. His mother cooks some indistinguishable gruel on an improvised frying pan/trash lid. As the boy races up, he puffs and huffs.

BOY: Pa! Pa! Lookit! Lookit what I found!

(He shows the puppy off. The family oohs and ahhs over it.)

DAD: Well now. What an adorable little thing. Why I haven’t seen such a pup since, since –

MOTHER: Hush now, Ned. Don’t go filling the boy’s head with nonsense and ancient fairy tales.

BOY: Since when, Pa?

DAD: Since before . . . before the Dark Times, boy. Back when this was all . . . well, this town was something to see. We had restaurants that would serve everything on little plates, and people wore shoes with red soles, and everywhere there was wi-fi, and taxicabs would take you wherever you wanted to go. And out there, out on the water, you see that?

(The boy peers out over the murky water. In the moonlight, he sees a large object . . . )

BOY: You mean the old lady?

DAD: She used to be a young lady, boy. She used to be –

MOTHER: Ned! Ned! Hold your tongue! Don’t upset yourself. Or the boy. We have delicious rat porridge tonight, boy. You like that, don’t you? You see? Everything is going to be all right.

DAD: The boy has a right to know, Eleanor. Boy, once, long ago, this city was a paradise. And that lady out there in the harbor? Why, she gleamed like solid gold.

BOY: I’ve heard of such things, Pa.

MOTHER: Who’s telling you this? Boy! Tell me! 

#page#BOY: On my walks, Ma. My walks and my rat-catching trips. This was all before the Quester, right Pa?

DAD: Yes, boy. The Quester — well, back then they called it the Sequester.

BOY: What? They sure talked funny back then, Pa.

DAD: Well, boy, back then we could afford more syllables. Times weren’t so hard. People weren’t so poorly. But then two very bad men –

BOY: You’re talking about the McCondler and the Bainderman, aren’t you, Pa?

DAD: Yes I am, son. Two very bad men brought on the Quester, and then all was darkness. Things just started to go wrong.

BOY: But why, Pa?

DAD: The money well just dried up. The Bad Men made the Good Times go away by taking away the money tree.

BOY: It was a tree? I thought it was a well.

MOTHER: It was a tree and a well. Ned, you’re confusing the boy. Let’s eat.

DAD: The Quester came like a drought. Without any money, the people couldn’t have anything. Work didn’t get done. Planes fell from the sky. Certain cultural institutions were required to delay budgetary increases. It was madness.

BOY: How much money did the Bad Men take, Pa?

DAD: It was –

MOTHER: Don’t talk about it! Ned! Stop it! Stop it!

DAD: The boy needs to know, Eleanor. Boy, they took almost 3 percent.

BOY: Three percent?

DAD: Technically two point six. But rounding up, you get to three.

BOY: That doesn’t seem like very much.

DAD: What do you know about it? You don’t know math! They closed the schools on the third day! And then it got worser. The post office closed. Then the Department of Agriculture –

BOY: The Department of Agriculture? What did they do?

MOTHER: Hush, child.

DAD: Then the Consumer Affairs Bureau. And right after that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau –

BOY: Those seem like the same thing.

DAD: You want a smacking, boy? ’Cause I’ll raise my hand to you.

MOTHER: Ned, please.

BOY: I’m just saying.

DAD: Oh yeah? Well I’m just saying that I’m taking off my belt.

BOY: Okay, okay. I get it. It was bad. It was terrible. They cut 3 percent and now we have to eat rats. (Grumbling to the puppy) Do you understand this? I don’t. But then, I’ve never learned any math. But even so, I know that 3 percent is pretty small.

MOTHER: Come over here, boy, and let’s have some dinner. And bring that adorable puppy, too. We need to fatten him up for Thanksgiving.

As the family gathers around the fire, we:


In This Issue


Politics & Policy

The Obamacare Long Game

To conservatives nationwide, New Jersey governor Chris Christie went from rock star to pariah in just four months. His slide began when he physically embraced President Obama days before the ...
Politics & Policy

Free the Cops

Opponents of New York City’s proactive style of policing struggle mightily to downplay its most obvious benefit: the largest crime drop on record, concentrated overwhelmingly in minority neighborhoods. Now they ...


Politics & Policy

The Next Climate Debate

In his second inaugural address, President Obama promised to “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” ...
Politics & Policy

Sam’s Smear

‘Every contributor to this collection . . . blandly ignores the possibility that there could be any real issue of a rational kind in American politics today which would justify ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Did the Founders Fail?

Chilton Williamson Jr. has written a historically rich, erudite, and serious critique of what he calls contemporary “democracy” (and what others might label “advanced liberalism”). After Tocqueville is an intellectual-history ...


Politics & Policy


The South Side in ’62 Kevin D. Williamson’s recent cover story about Chicago’s South Side (“Gangsterville,” February 25) made me sad and brought back memories. I spent the summer of 1962 working ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ We trust that Hugo Chávez is now at an endless Politburo meeting. ‐ In a press conference on sequestration, President Obama said this about alleged Republican intransigence: “I am not ...

Retail Politics

American dry-goods retailing is a miserable business. Imagine this: You’re the new head of a vast retailing empire — say, J. B. Dimey’s. Sales are soft; competitors nip at every ...
The Long View

Warner Bros.

FADE IN: EXT. URBAN DYSTOPIA — NIGHT The camera PANS across broken heaps of metal, smoking ruins of a once-proud civilization. Buildings in ruins, children in rags with dirty faces, the distant ...
Politics & Policy


POSTSCRIPT TO THE AENEID These are no arms or men the poet sings, But just some very ordinary things: The plastic station-wagon seat, the grass Of May reverberating through the glass; My brother hooting to ...
Happy Warrior

Death to Freedom

For half a decade, ever since the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing, I’ve found myself waging a grim campaign for freedom of speech in my native land. ...

Most Popular


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Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
National Review


Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More

Feminists Have Turned on Pornography

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the feminist movement has sought to condemn traditional sexual ethics as repressive, misogynistic, and intolerant. As the 2010s come to a close, it might be fair to say that mainstream culture has reached the logical endpoint of this philosophy. Whereas older Americans ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration ... Read More

Democrats Think They Can Win without You

A  few days ago, Ericka Anderson, an old friend of National Review, popped up in the pages of the New York Times lamenting that “the Democratic presidential field neglects abundant pools of potential Democrat converts, leaving persuadable audiences — like independents and Trump-averse, anti-abortion ... Read More
PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More