16 min read
Dear Intelligent American,
Happy “Perpetual Stew Summer”: At the Fermi Playground in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood, civil society has been burgeoning (or, fermenting) for the past five weeks (and counting), as reports the New York Post, via a crockpot, first home to potato and leek soup, that soon gave way to a cauldron and a slew of neighbor-replenished foodstuffs and spices coalescing into an ever-evolving mush—the offbeat project, a collision of abbondanza and de gustibus initiated by one Annie Rauwerda, a social-media “influencer” aficionada of Wikipedia oddities who stumbled upon its perpetual stew entry and decided to make it a local reality and even give it an online diary.
(For those counting, the preceding run-on sentence consisted of 106 words.)
These are the meals of yore and lore, big pots hanging over glowing embers at open hearths in roadside inns where Errol Flynn is bound to show up for a secretive meeting, complete with eavesdropping by men of treachery. In the French town (What?! Is CT yammering about France again?!) of Perpignan, a 15th-century pot of stew is said to have lasted uninterrupted until the Nazis showed up in 1940.
Well, at least in one place, Summer 2023 is not about gunfire and riots. Good for you, Annie! And let us now leave and proceed to other inspiring matters by suggesting if you’re nearby Fermi Playground (Question: Would Enrico have used uranium to heat the pot?) then surely do visit. Maybe bring a cup to sample the cauldron’s tasty mess—and toss in an onion or a carrot as your contribution.
Stew over This
1. At Law & Liberty, Titus Techera reflects on a return to heroism, Tom Cruise, and the latest installment of Mission: Impossible. From the piece:
Cruise reveals the strange character of American manliness in an era of prosperity, a combination of Romantic heroism and common sense. Cruise is the last movie star, the only actor of his generation to still have great success, perhaps because he understands simple but fundamental things—you cannot be a movie star without the movies. But he’s also the only one to have avoided the lure of the ugly and sordid that’s typical of our elites nowadays, the desire to “demystify” or “debunk” or “bust the myths,” which is nothing but an oligarchic attack on the American people’s love of freedom, which was once beautified in the movie stars.
Cruise has been a star for about 40 years now—if you like, he’s our last boost of Reagan-era confidence—but only Mission: Impossible really shows that and why he’s a star. His character, Ethan Hunt, offers a beautiful image of the qualities that make Cruise so successful, yet so moralizing. At his most earnest, Ethan tells his friends: I will put your life above mine. That, in a sense, is true of his career—he has dedicated himself to serving the American public, inspiring hope and confidence when he might have spent it enjoying himself or doing something more personal and less official. If you ever see Cruise in an interview sound not just friendly, but strangely like an ambassador, it’s because he’s something of an ambassador of America to the American people, self-appointed, admittedly, but gratefully accepted by the country as a whole. A new Jimmy Stewart for a more democratic era.
Related: At National Review, Jack Butler catches the flick and offers Cruise kudos. Read it here.
2. At Slate, Henry Grabar looks into the fate of abandoned churches. From the piece:
It is a story replaying over and over in cities across the United States, where older churches have been hammered by neighborhood change and maintenance costs, coinciding with a national trend of plummeting religious attendance across faiths. Over the past decade, the share of Americans who attend weekly services at a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple has fallen to 30 percent, after hovering for half a century at 40 percent. Overall membership has fallen even more precipitously, and less than half of Americans now say they “belong” to a religious organization. A pair of studies has suggested that thousands of U.S. churches close each year (though a smaller, significant number are founded).
And all of this was happening before COVID, which normalized virtual participation and decoupled people from their neighborhood institutions.
“Churches have been on the edge of a cliff, and COVID was a blast of air blowing them off,” said Rick Reinhard, a consultant who has worked with the United Methodist Church on the question of what to do with aging structures. He rattled off a list of towns with half a dozen, a dozen, or more churches heading for obsolescence, from Rome, Georgia, to Orange, New Jersey, whose 291-year-old First Presbyterian was among the oldest institutions to close. “There is a great mismatch between small, aging congregations and large, aging properties,” he told me. “What empty department stores were 30 years ago, empty churches are today, but much more difficult to resolve.”
3. At The Blade of Perseus, Victor Davis Hanson lists 10 reasons why affirmative action was destined to die at the High Court. Amongst the reasons cited:
Fourth, affirmative action supporters could never square the circle of proving that racial prejudices didn’t violate the spirt of the Declaration of Independence and the text of the Constitution. What they were left with was the lame argument that because long ago the 90% white majority had violated their own foundational documents, then such past bad unconstitutional bias could legitimately be rectified by present-day “good” unconstitutional bias.
Fifth, supporters never adequately explained why the sins of prior generations fell on their descendants who grew up in the post-Civil Rights era. Nor could they account for why those who had never experienced institutionalized racism, much less Jim Crow apartheid or slavery, were to be compensated collectively for the suffering of long-dead individuals. No wonder 70% of the American people in many polls favored ending affirmative action including a half of African-Americans.
4. At Capital Research Center, Robert Stilson explains the roots (and enormity) of “ESG” activism. From the analysis:
Sometimes ESG investing and activism overlap, such as when activists also happen to be investors in the targeted company. This classically manifests itself through shareholder resolutions—what author Stephen Soukup has called “the primary tool of the corporate activist.” These are nonbinding proposals submitted by shareholders to corporate leadership, which may ultimately be voted on by other shareholders at the company’s annual meeting. Management will frequently seek to negotiate with the resolution’s proponent before that happens, and the goal of ESG shareholder activists is as much to put pressure on the C-suite and secure favorable concessions as it is to actually win a majority vote at the annual meeting.
Accordingly, shareholder resolutions are an excellent benchmark for understanding the current priorities of ESG activists and how those priorities have shifted over time. Firms like Georgeson provide interesting data and analysis of trends that are evident from each annual proxy season.
ESG activists themselves are also a good source for analyzing resolutions. Most notably this includes the yearly Proxy Preview report, which catalogs hundreds of proposals filed primarily by left-of-center interests. Described by the Chicago Tribune as the “Bible for socially progressive foundations, religious groups, pension funds, and tax-exempt organizations,” the Proxy Preview devotes its pages to listing, categorizing, describing, and analyzing these resolutions from a sympathetic pro-ESG perspective. It is itself one of the best “proxies” for understanding what is currently driving ESG activism on the left.
5. At Minding the Campus, Eric Clifford Graf offers a “micro canon” of three essential books. From the piece, here is one:
Decades after graduating from the University of Virginia, having taught Renaissance literature at several institutions, and even other subjects in Spanish for which I felt roundly unprepared—economics, Euclid, the Vietnam War—only now can I honestly say that Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quijote de la Mancha (1605/15) is one of the best ways to understand humanity.
Why do I say this? Self-interest in both senses. I’m an expert on this text due to the variety and severity of the institutions where I’ve taught it. Buy my book to learn what you need to know about Don Quijote. Beyond that, I have three young nephews. I believe Cervantes’s novel improves our odds of approaching rational public discourse. The wealth of human topics in Don Quijote is astounding: humor, heartache, fear, sorrow, politics, memory, parenting, race, class, economics, foreign policy, dreams, love, accounting, religion, education, freedom, beauty, sex, the law, and more. Did you know the hidalgo plays music and sings like Elvis? Did you know Sierra Morena is to Barcelona what Florida is to San Francisco? Did you know Sancho Panza’s first task as governor is to deal with the effects of inflationary monetary policy?
Howard Mancing once said that Don Quijote is about everything. I might have scoffed at that a decade ago, but not now. It’s over 1,000 pages, but its compounding insights are worth it. It’s funny, it appeals to different levels of reader, its meanings adjust to us as we age. Moreover, its early modern status means that neither linguistic-cultural group straddling the Rio Bravo has an advantage deciphering it. In his youth, Borges preferred the English translation because the original Spanish inhibited his comprehension. For today’s Spanish speakers, Andrés Trapiello’s modern transcription performs this trick. Thus, reciprocal linguistic and intellectual attitudes can share the same textual playing field. That’s also what the novel is about. As Harold Bloom observed, Cervantes’s legacy is two characters in dialogue. High and low, old and new, cerebral and physical learn to coexist.
6. More MTC: Responding, David Randall offers what he calls a “micro canon of joy.” Ready. Aim. Fire!:
I’d start with Rolfe Humphries’ translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Most Great Books introductions to the ancient world start with Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles—but that’s the syllabus of ci-devant German scholars in American exile, those heirs of the German allergy to a Rome that reminded them too much of France. When these syllabi do bring in a Roman author, it’s usually Cicero, so students can think deep thoughts about the fall of the Roman Republic and get a more complicated version than the one provided in George Lucas’ Cliff-Notes-in-Space.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses, now—that lengthy poem’s just an endless series of entertaining yarns, the West’s own One Thousand and One Nights, a vast selection of Greek and Roman myth and mythic history, story succeeding story in fluid variety. Some are tales of terror, for sometimes the gods transform us mortals against our will. The book nonetheless may inculcate a protean point of view, a predecessor of the corrupting and dissolving fluidity of modern times—but it corrupts so well! Humphries’ elegant prose allures the reader, in fair competition to Ovid’s Latin, and makes of us the civilized Augustan aristocrats listening in pleasure to a chain of tales well told. Aristocrats who had failed to resist the end of the republic; but life went on.
The Metamorphoses are too long to assign easily in a class, and extracts don’t give the full sense of Ovid’s facile variety. Imagine if students were introduced to the ancient world by Ovid! Imagine if they learned first not the reason of Athens, nor the revelation of Jerusalem, but the refinement of Rome that used words to play, and not just to ponder or preach.
7. At Comment Magazine, Fr. Francis Bethel goes back a half century to find the roots of a then-new and consequential means of humanities education. From the piece:
The professors decided to teach a class together for freshmen and sophomores. More than a class, a program. Given their communion of ideas, they quickly drew up its essential structure and direction. It would be integrated—that is, it would group together the disparate strands of the freshman-sophomore liberal arts core curriculum into one two-year program so that the different subjects could be seen as organic parts of a whole. It would be a humanities class—that is, the goal would not be to transmit techniques or information but to humanize. And the professors judged that the most effective means to help students in the art of being human was, as Senior explained in a paper defining the program, “to read what the greatest minds of all generations have thought about what must be done if each man’s life is to be lived with intelligence and refinement.”
Thus was born the University of Kansas’s Pearson Integrated Humanities Program, or IHP, as it was called by those involved. In the short time of its existence in the 1970s, at a secular university, during a time characterized by drugs, rebellion, and rock and roll, hundreds of young adults were turned instead to tradition, to the great books, and to Western civilization. Many, in the end, turned to God and to Christ. The three professors jokingly called the program an “experiment in tradition”—as if traditional education were an unsure, untried novelty!
But IHP was a sort of novelty. It was certainly new for the students. And the professors found ways to renew tradition that had wide and sweeping effects beyond the classroom and the university campus.
8. At Quillette, Julian Adorney and Angel Eduardo make the strength case for civility. From the reflection:
When we attack our political opponents’ characters and impugn their motives—even when we’re simply copying the tactics our adversaries are using against us—we alienate the Exhausted Majority. They conclude that we don't share their values: we’re not interested in listening or making compromises. The shriller our vituperation, the more we push away the unconverted. And the Exhausted Majority is right to distance themselves from us because such behavior communicates that gaining a cheap victory over the enemy is more important to us than improving society. And why should they favor us over our opponents if our rhetoric and tactics mirror the opposition’s so closely that it’s nearly impossible to tell the two sides apart?
The polarized intensity of social media can dupe us into thinking that politics is a battleground on which two highly partisan teams duke it out for the soul of our nation. But in fact, extremists of all stripes make up only a small proportion of the US population. Social justice warriors comprise a mere 8 percent of the electorate. Members of the far right make up just 6 percent. Politics is less like a battlefield than an open-air mall with two competing ice cream vendors. Some already know which ice cream they prefer, but two thirds of potential customers are still undecided. In this environment, whoever markets their products to the quiet majority—not with rage and insults, but with reason and compassion—is going to win more customers. That is how you build a coalition, and coalition building is how you enact change in a democratic system.
9. At Front Porch Republic, Elizabeth Stice assesses football (American), alive and well in small-town Germany, and the larger lessons to be discerned. From the article:
Unicorn Town is a good sports documentary, but it also contains some good life lessons. Being happy isn’t always about being in the highest ranked place possible. It’s not all about income. Unicorn Town emphasizes the importance of community and belonging and picking a place. The Unicorns as an organization reflect that philosophy. They have fewer resources than most teams, but they are successful, as one player emphasizes, “because they put a ton of resources into their youth program.” Most of their players are locals. The Unicorns are an integrated part of the life of Schwäbisch Hall. As another player says, “it’s not just about the game, it’s about all the surrounding things here.” . . .
Some teams really belong to their towns. The Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns are never going to leave for a better stadium. Many of their players wouldn’t play anywhere else.
High school and college teams fill the place of these smaller leagues in the United States in many ways, but we could handle more. Here in Florida, we could probably manage to support some semi-professional leagues for adults in a variety of sports and have plenty of towns to put them in. Like the people in Schwäbisch Hall, many Americans would love a team to walk on with. And since minor league baseball rosters are constantly changing and the G-League is miniature and there is no minor league football, why not? Sports can be something more of us do, not just watch. There’s some beauty in sports that are still a little bit amateur and not always lucrative and adults could enjoy participating. Once upon a time, different businesses and professions in a town would have their own baseball teams and play each other. At a minimum, we could do more to bring back church softball leagues.
10. More FPR: Anthony Esolen yearns for a place (and creates a mythical one) where it’s OK—and even good—for kids not to have every moment scheduled and planned. From the piece:
For the people of Stepford have also lost the capacity for doing nothing together on their own. To be sure, they do plenty of nothing, after a manner of speaking, in their living rooms, as they take in entertainment fed to them by their providers, or rather they permit plenty of nothing to be done to them. When they are not thus being fed, they grow irritable. They must be at work. Not that they typically value their work according to the beauty and goodness of what they produce. Work is valued for its own sake, or rather as a sign of your superiority to those who do not work. In Stepford, everyone has forgotten how to do nothing, as children used to do: the blessed nothing that is full of receptivity and calm, and that is at the heart of the merry activity of play.
I do not mean that there are no sports in Stepford. There is no play, but there are sports, for the lucky or unlucky few who are good enough to make the Stepford teams. Stepford adults have commandeered the old childhood games and turned them into Stepford resume-building, Stepford scholarship-pursuing, Stepford body-building, and Stepford busy-making. Girls were once happily free of this sort of pressure, but Stepford egalitarianism and Stepford feminism have done away with that freedom. I have before my eyes a photograph from the old Soviet Union, of thousands of teenage boys marching in one of the big cities. They all have boxing gloves on, and they are stripped to the waist. There’s not as much fat on them as would be padding for a lizard. The difference between Stepford and that unknown Russian city of unfreedom is that the Russian boys are physically fit, and most of the Stepford boys—because spots on any one team in a monstrously large school district are necessarily few—are not.
11. Meanwhile, in Poland: At The American Conservative, Bradley Devlin explains why Krakow’s architecture is unique, and meaningful. From the article:
A city’s architecture is its story set in stone. It reveals the anthropological and ontological beliefs of its citizens. In Krakow, God has been at the center of both political and communal life since the beginning of the city. He brings order out of the chaos. He crowns kings, and His mother looks out for His people.
The timeless beauty of the churches, the culmination of constant care and patronage over the centuries, proclaims God’s glory. The immensity of the churches intimates the mystery of an omnipotent and omniscient yet personal God. We feast under the shade of the church, and she pulls our eyes upwards, causing us to ponder the eternal banquet to come.
Krakow is unlike many of the cities in this part of the world, not because this structure is unique but because it has survived. In the wake of World War II, Europe lay in ruins from Volgograd to London. In Poland, estimates suggest that 85 percent of Warsaw laid in ruin. Behind the iron curtain that would later fall upon Eastern Europe, the communists built the brutality upwards.
But Krakow was spared this fate. When the Nazis invaded from the west, they needed a place to put their headquarters. Even the Nazis saw the beauty in Krakow’s old city, which is why the General Government led by Hans Frank chose Krakow as its capital. And when the Nazi occupation became the Soviet occupation, the Soviets did not raze and rebuild nearly to the degree that they did in other cities such as Budapest.
12. At Millstone News down Almonte, MS, way, comes news of a fundraiser that just, well, blossomed. From the beginning of the report:


The Almonte House and Garden Tour, held Saturday, June 24, raised over $24,000. More than 500 people enjoyed getting a peek into seven of Almonte’s most interesting homes and three outstanding gardens. The fundraiser was a resounding success for the Almonte General Hospital Fairview Manor Foundation (AGH FVM) and the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum (MVTM), who partnered to put on the event with the help of dozens of volunteers.
“What a well-curated event showcasing local history through stellar architecture, artistic interior and exterior design, combining old and new, as well as innovative new green architecture”, said Michael Rikley-Lancaster, Executive Director/Curator of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum. “These funds will help MVTM operations as we recover from the lengthy closures due to COVID-19.”
“What a spectacular way to showcase some of the gems in this beautiful town,” said Al Roberts, Managing Director of the AGH FVM Foundation. “The funds raised will help us put new clinical equipment in the hands of our talented doctors and staff, many of whom enjoyed the tour.”
Lucky 13. At National Review, Braden H. Boucek and Justin Owen report on the jurisprudential threat to a widespread, nasty municipal shakedown of taxpayers. From the beginning of the piece:
Cities have grand dreams of remaking themselves, but their vision of a gleaming urban future keeps evaporating because they are broke. Instead of getting their fiscal houses in order, America’s cities think they have found an easy way out: Make someone else pay. Specifically, you, and not through the regular-but-politically-toxic order of taxation.
For decades cities have used their permitting offices as a mint, withholding valuable permits until citizens agree to extortionate demands to address public problems that officials refuse to solve. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly compared it to extortion, but the lower courts have done little to stop it.
A landmark legal victory signals that this scam may be coming to an end. In 2019, Nashville’s finances were so upside down that the state comptroller warned of a possible state takeover. Yet Nashville was determined to install 71 miles of sidewalks costing an estimated $460 million. But how to pay for it? The city decided it had an easy solution: Make individual Nashvillians pay for sidewalks that belong to the city as a condition of receiving home-construction permits. In a recent ruling sure to reverberate with broke municipalities everywhere, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit determined that this practice was unconstitutional.
BONUS: At The Wall Street Journal, Aatish Taseer sings of the glory of air conditioning. From the piece:
India loves to assert the demands of belonging through pacts of mutual suffering, and to be in AC was almost to be a little less Indian, as if you had decamped for the West. Even now that the country is the world’s fastest growing market for air-conditioners—projected by the International Energy Agency to be the biggest by 2050—the first line of attack from your average troll is: “What do you know of the realities of India, sitting in AC?”
It’s nothing lovers of air-conditioning haven’t had to endure before. Since 1906, when Willis Haviland Carrier of the Buffalo Forge Company won a patent for the first Apparatus for Treating Air, AC has faced charges of elitism and frippery. “When it came to a contraption that could cool the air,” writes Salvatore Basil in “Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything,” “not only did many people not understand why it was necessary, but plenty of them scoffed at the notion that such a thing could exist.” . . .
In the 1990s, India and the global south experienced the same rising hope and optimism thanks to the arrival of Japanese and Korean split-unit air-conditioners, their white noiseless vents hypnotically circulating cool air into our cramped rooms. There is something magical about the effect of air conditioning in a hot country, letting those who can afford it enjoy the dignity of going about their day without being made wretched by the heat. As the late Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, observed, air-conditioning “changed the nature of civilization by making development possible in the tropics.”
For the Good of the Cause
Uno. Re: the Slate item above and America’s skyrocketing irreligiosity: It’s obvious this has something (big!) to do with the problems affecting this nation. This critical issue demands your attention: Show it at the forthcoming C4CS conference—“Rise of the Nones: How Declining Religious Affiliation Is Changing Civil Society.” It takes place on November 7–8 in glorious Scottsdale, AZ. Get complete information, right here.
Due. Pussyfooters beware: At Philanthropy Daily, Iain Bernhoft demands you take the direct approach. Read it here.
Tre. What is amazing about nonprofit fundraising is that all the effort that goes into acquiring a donor is often—for many an organization—tossed away when the donor isn’t retained. This is a relational milieu, after all. If you or yours are flabby when it comes to the follow-up, or even the getting, well then you need to attend the forthcoming (Thursday, August 17, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., Eastern) AmPhil Major Gifts via-Zoom webinar on “Acquiring, Retaining, and Upgrading Your Most Valuable Donors.” You really ought to check this out. Get complete information here.
Department of Bad Jokes
Waitress: “Here’s your rabbit stew.”
Customer: “Excuse me, but there’s a hare in it!”
A Dios
Late-breaking linkage, but Your Humble Correspondent is known to be an admirer of the esteemed public intellectual, Daniel J. Mahoney, oft-referenced in these environs. As this Number is submitted to the editorial charms and talents of the Great L.B., news comes of a new The American Mind piece from this writer, thinker, and fan favorite. You will find Professor Mahoney’s essay on “The End of Ordered Liberty,” right here. Read, and do so without anxiety: There will not be a quiz.
May We Ever Honor He Who Provided Manna in the Desert,
Jack Fowler, who will consider recipes for burning toast sent to jfowler@amphil.com.
P.S. The prior CT made reference to the French Republic when, at the time referenced, France was still a Kingdom. Some readers were quick to correct. Sentence was passed. No, not the guillotine, but exile to Corsica. From whence there has already been an escape (eventual destination: St. Helena).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *