15 min read

Dear Intelligent American,


This missive comes on Good Friday and brings with it the usual allotment of suggestions, but, given the day’s special heaviness, forgoes the standard foolishness found in the front matter. Christian believers make time today to struggle with their culpability, their membership in the “us” and “we” surrounding the public rejection and murder of a man, as foretold by Isaiah:


There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, no appearance that would attract us to him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men turn away, and we held him in no esteem.


If Your Humble Correspondent may be personal: A reflection on this day, written for National Review in 2021, has been reprinted at Philanthropy Daily. You may find it of interest, here.


No Fasting Here: Plentiful Suggestions for Those of Curious Intellect


1. Dust Thou Art: At Plough Quarterly, Mary Grace Mangano explains why spring cleaning has a spiritual genesis. From the piece:


For millennia, people heated their homes by burning wood or coal; floating smoke particles left household surfaces quite dirty. The end of the winter season meant it was finally time to wash away all the soot and dirt. In addition, the heavy curtains used for insulation, smelling of smoke and closed-up spaces, would be removed and aired out. The windows would be scrubbed, walls whitewashed, carpets beaten. When warm weather had truly set in, the chimneys would be swept. Today, many do all this and more. They clear the gutters and put away heavier linens, but they’ve also updated—they donate old clothing, sort paper and digital files, and recycle out-of-date technology.


But if many of the modern reasons for spring cleaning are rooted in Victorian pragmatism, the true beginnings of a spring cleaning tradition go back even further than that and stem from religious and cultural rituals.


While some people wait until the vernal equinox or even the first warm-weather day to start spring cleaning, most Jewish families’ cleaning coincides with preparations for Passover, particularly in the kitchen. As a memorial for the Jews who fled Egypt without time for their bread to rise, preparing for Passover involves removing anything leavened, or chametz, from the house and refraining from eating anything leavened for eight days. Some families include other measures to ensure the kitchen is devoid of anything that has touched chametz, such as pouring boiling water on a stainless-steel sink and cleaning ovens to kosher them. Many families have pots, flatware, and table settings stored for use only during the holiday to ensure that they remain kosher for Passover.


2. At McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, James Klein makes light of nonprofits’ addiction to obfuscating their missions. From the piece:


If you want to know what our nonprofit does, start with a deep dive on our website. Visit our About, History, Mission, Programs, Milestones, and News pages. They won’t tell you anything specific, but they will prolong your visit, boosting user traffic that justifies the money we spent on our website.


Still think you can find out what we do? Give it your best shot. Read our Mission Statement, Goals Statement, Vision Statement, Issues Statement, and Statement of Values Statement. Download our reports. Subscribe to our newsletters. Study our executive director’s old blogs. After conducting this exhaustive research, you will know exactly what we do: produce indecipherable accounts of what we do.


You would think we could convey our purpose in plain human language, but that isn’t the case. Our initiatives exist in a realm beyond comprehension. Our activities can be understood only by using a particle accelerator, an AI supercomputer, and a fifth-century Benedictine codex. Even the description you’re reading now should only be viewed with special glasses, like an eclipse.


3. At National Review, the editors call for an end to “EV” rules. From the editorial:


These rules are an admission of failure. The internal-combustion engine prevailed without governments banning steam-powered cars, earlier electric vehicles, and, yes, the horse. And however much the administration is claiming that the final version of the rules offers more flexibility than the original proposals (some of which may be illusory, especially as hybrids are concerned), it is still an attempt to bribe and bully manufacturers into making cars they don’t want to make, and consumers into buying cars that they do not want to buy—in sufficient numbers anyway.


One day, EVs may be ready for the American mass market, but that time is not now, and nor is it likely to be by 2032. Given how much needs to be done (and spent, much of it with money we don’t have) to build out an adequate charging network and to ensure that (at a time when we are degrading the reliability of our electricity grid in the name of the climate) the power is there when it is needed, that date looks forbiddingly close.


And then, to pick a couple of examples, there are problems such as decreased EV range when the weather is too cold—or too hot. And there’s the way that the sluggishness of “fast” chargers will add considerably to journey times. All of these, incidentally, are problems that will prove particularly excruciating for urban drivers who cannot easily charge their cars at home.


4. More NR: Jeanne Mancini celebrated World Down Syndrome Day. From the piece:


A Down syndrome diagnosis is misunderstood by many as a tragic disability, but those who know someone with the condition can attest to the joy and value these individuals bring to the world. And people living with Down syndrome themselves say life is one big celebration!


Research confirms that those with Down syndrome experience life to the fullest. Brian Skotko, a Harvard-trained physician, notes that people with Down syndrome report extraordinarily high levels of personal satisfaction: Virtually all report being happy with their lives (99 percent), like who they are (97 percent), and how they look (96 percent). They also bring a great deal of joy to those around them. Eighty-eight percent of older siblings of people with Down syndrome say they are generally better people because they have a family member with Down syndrome, while 94 percent of brothers and sisters report feeling great affection and pride for their sibling with Down syndrome.


When empowered by those around them, people with Down syndrome can also realize their dreams.


5. At TomKlingenstein.com, Frank DeVito wonders if “originalism” is sufficient in understanding the constitutional foundations of our Republic. From the piece:


Original public meaning is, at the very least, a crucial interpretive tool for understanding the law. After all, in a system of government where the representatives of the people enact written laws, it is important that judges apply those laws in a way that is consistent with what the lawmakers actually wrote. Otherwise, judges can simply replace the meaning of the law passed by the legislature with whatever policy preference has become fashionable. Does “cruel and unusual punishment” mean what it meant when the Bill of Rights was ratified? Or does it mean whatever 21st century sensibilities feel is cruel and unusual today?


But originalism as currently practiced is not so straightforward. First, the originalist movement has suffered practical blows, particularly in the form of Justice Gorsuch’s majority opinion in the Bostock case in 2020. This opinion, written by a bona fide originalist nominated by President Trump, held that the words “on the basis of sex” in the Civil Rights Act protect employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. How could the conservative legal movement, which spent so much time, money, and energy cultivating good conservative judges, accept that one of their own wrote an opinion enshrining the contemporary LGBT movement into the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Bostock shook the belief of many conservative lawyers and thinkers that originalism was a sufficient check on liberal jurisprudence.


Second, there are legitimate questions of legal principle that originalism may not be able to answer. Were the Founders who wrote the Constitution originalists? Did they limit their interpretation of law to the original public meaning of the words of enacted laws? Or did they accept that the natural law and the classical sources of legal tradition were part of the nation’s inherited body of law? Do lawyers and judges accept principles of natural law, such as the precept to do good and avoid evil, or the basic assumption that one cannot be blamed or punished for conduct over which one had no control? What about legal traditions that fall outside the text, such as the canons of statutory interpretation? Do we use those to interpret statutes? If so, does that go beyond seeking the original public meaning of the law?


6. At The Public Discourse, Yoram Hazony argues that the time has come for universities to rein in absolute free speech—now the defense position of choice for campus antisemites—and prioritize decency. From the piece:


Speakers like Chomsky and Kahane were radical in many ways. But neither of them was so brazen as to use their platform at Princeton to call for the extermination of entire national, religious, or racial groups. No one defended such things at the weekly Whig–Clio debates or in student publications or anywhere else in the university’s public forums. There was no “free speech” available if you wanted to justify the Holocaust, or Stalin’s liquidation of the kulaks, or the Khmer Rouge murder of two million Cambodians. No one tried to defend the ideologically induced murder of millions, just as no one tried to justify raping women, or engaging in torture for pleasure, or purposely killing children. On the contrary, these examples were invoked as a matter of course, by both professors and students, as things no reasonable person could defend. That is, they were used to frame the sphere of legitimate political debate within which our exercise of free speech and inquiry took place.


There were other, more stringent limitations on free speech and inquiry at the university, too. By the time I was an undergraduate, openly conservative professors had been just about eliminated from the Princeton faculty. This should have been of great concern to anyone who believed truth could only emerge from the free exchange of divergent opinions. After all, the most important political figures leading the Western world in its confrontation with Soviet Communism at the time—President Ronald Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II—were all nationalists and conservatives of one kind or another. How, then, could the Princeton faculty be engaged in a “free exchange of ideas” when conservative views were almost nonexistent among them?


7. More TPD: Robert P. George responds to Hazony, and says his speech proscriptions will only further diminish dissent on campus. From the rebuttal:


The truth-seeking enterprise precludes the university from punishing the expression of a view on the ground that the ideas expressed are false or harmful. That is because such viewpoint restrictions, as I will call them, tend to hamper both the discovery and the appropriation of the truth.


We human beings are fallible: we all believe some things that are false, though we believe them precisely because we (mistakenly) hold them to be true. We have no guarantee that our erroneous beliefs are restricted to minor issues. They may touch on matters of profound importance. Indeed, we have no guarantee that even our deepest, most cherished, identity-forming beliefs are true. Fidelity to the ideal of truth requires acknowledgment of our own fallibility. If we are to pursue the truth honestly, we should never ignore questions or arguments because they make us uncomfortable or threaten to cause us to abandon beliefs that we cherish and even regard as central to our identity. To ignore them on that basis is to be a dogmatist. Nor can we simply take arguments or viewpoints for granted. Fidelity to the ideal of truth requires nothing less than a willingness to have even our deepest convictions and those of which we are most certain questioned, criticized, challenged, denied.


When university administrators, professors, or students forbid the expression of certain points of view precisely because they consider them false, wrongheaded, or even spectacularly offensive, they are undermining the epistemological norms that must be heeded in order for the truth to be pursued authentically and well. Pursuing truth is often a difficult and uncomfortable process. It can even be terrifying—since it could be the case that certain things we desperately want to be true are in fact false, and things that we desperately want to be false are in fact true. And, of course, our wanting things to be true (or false) doesn’t make them so. The temptation is to abandon truth; to favor comfort over it; to allow our emotional investment in our beliefs to cause us to prefer persisting in them to discovering that they are in fact not true (or in some way deficient or defective).


8. At City Journal, Nicole Stelle Garnett and Tim Rosenberger report on efforts in New Hampshire to rid its statutes of anti-Catholic laws. From the piece:


A recent series of Supreme Court rulings have deemed Blaine Amendments, and states’ efforts to penalize faith-based organizations, unconstitutional. Yet many of these historic anti-Catholic laws remain on the books. Too few states have taken appropriate action to ensure that their laws and public programs eliminate the vestiges of our nation’s history of anti-Catholicism and conform to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause.


One state, however, has proved an exception: New Hampshire. The Granite State’s legislature recently enacted legislation that removed the words “sectarian” and “nonsectarian” from its lawbooks and, in so doing, largely eliminated laws that unconstitutionally discriminate against religious organizations. By removing the requirement that services provided in public programs be “nonsectarian,” New Hampshire has broadened the opportunities for the state to cooperate with faith-based organizations and brought its law in line with current First Amendment doctrine. These efforts signal the state’s desire to honor the Free Exercise Clause and ensure that its laws conform to constitutional principles.


New Hampshire’s efforts are both politically prudent and morally justified. First, the reforms lessen the state’s exposure to expensive lawsuits. In recent years, the Supreme Court has often sided with faith-based organizations that challenge discriminatory state laws. Proactively rectifying unconstitutional aspects of New Hampshire law saves state resources that might otherwise be deployed to defending or settling doomed lawsuits.


9. Holy Moley: At The Free Press, Suzy Weiss gets the heebie-jeebies about the latest hoity-toity practice of being a flimflamming lazy-a**, and all the social-media phony-baloneying that contends that a tuity-fruity something called “hurkle-durkle” is virtuous. From the piece:


File all of these online trends under the large umbrella of self-care, which has become shorthand for just doing whatever you want to. Taking care of your skin? Self-care. Cooking while sad? Self-care. Protesting? Self-care. Taking a dance fitness class? Self-care. Lying in bed all day? Also self-care.


Self-care is like self-help, but with no goals or striving. The $11 billion industry is mostly geared toward women, and while hurkle-durkle might not be associated with a particular product, it smuggles in the same insidious message: anything you do for yourself is inherently good and you should never feel guilty about it.


That’s how being idle has become synonymous with being well. It’s how being chronically ill has become a sacred identity. It’s how, if you signal your beliefs zealously enough, sleep can even be activism, and your bed can be ground zero for a revolution.


Except not.


10. At Commentary, Christine Rosen considers how to defeat the elites who have waged war on the American middle class. From the article:


As Max Weber said, “A class itself is not a community.” The middle class in the U.S. has always been as much an idea as it is a definable socioeconomic category. It has also served as an ideal, a goal to achieve for the working class, which sees in the rung above them on the social ladder wonderful and achievable things like home ownership, a safe neighborhood, and retirement comfortable enough to soothe an aching back garnered from decades of physical labor.


But both the idea and the ideal are under significant threat today, and not only from economic challenges such as inflation, stagnant wages, and higher housing costs. The common understanding of the middle class as the key moderating force in our culture and politics is also disappearing. We know this from the evolution of American mass entertainment. Popular culture has moved away from the values and interests of the middle as well. In Status and Culture, the critic W. David Marx describes how, in the mid-20th century, the middle class “enjoyed its own respectable taste world of Reader’s Digest, bowling clubs, and Lawrence Welk.” Those middle-class tastes and choices were mocked by the elitists of the time; the middle class was said to be living soulless conformist existences in “little boxes made of ticky-tacky,” as the folksinger Malvina Reynolds sang contemptuously in 1962. Efforts to shock the middle class out of its complacency came in the form of supposedly scandalous works like Peyton Place that presumed to show the dark truth behind the manicured lawns of Main Street USA.


Then came the 1960s and the elevation of transgressive behavior and mores. By now, there is almost no middle-class culture to mock. Today, Marx writes, “the twenty-first century economy has skewed media and consumption so decisively toward coastal elites as to be perceived among the lower middle class as a demeaning erasure.”


11. At The American Conservative, Sean Durns advises—especially foreign-policy intervention-philes—on how best to think about, and be influenced by, the legacy of Dwight David Eisenhower. From the reflection:


Sustainability, he knew, was key to crafting an enduring strategy. Ike believed that Truman’s foreign policy had been too haphazard, lurching from one crisis to the next. Stolid and dependable, Eisenhower sought to bring order and definition to American foreign policy at a time of great uncertainty. As he remarked: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. If you haven’t been planning, you can’t start to work, intelligently at least.”


As President, Ike empowered the moribund National Security Council, attending 90 percent of its meetings. The modern conception of a White House chief of staff dates to Eisenhower, who largely created the title, his military experience having taught him the importance of delegating. Project Solarium, a national-level exercise convened at the beginning of his presidency, was designed to impose order and consensus among policymakers during an early period of the Cold War that was fraught with uncertainty.


Eisenhower recognized reality, bringing troops home from the stalemated war in Korea and even employing threats of a potential nuclear war to cajole friend and foe alike to that end. But the centerpiece of Ike’s national strategy—dubbed the “New Look”—was predicated on America’s financial, and spiritual, health.


12. More Ike: At Front Porch Republic, David Bannon reflects upon the little-told story of future President Eisenhower’s permanent and deeply held grief—over the death of his young son—and contends Ike’s stoicism might have been more correct than the prescriptives urged by modern pshrinks. From the piece:


Their first son, Doud Dwight, took ill just before Christmas in 1920. A new maid had recently recovered from scarlet fever and still carried the bacteria. The three-year-old boy, known as “little Ike,” a nickname ultimately shortened to Ikey then Ikky and Icky, contracted the disease and was quarantined. It turned to meningitis.


“I haunted the halls of the hospital,” Eisenhower recalled. “The doctors did not allow me into the room. But there was a porch on which I was allowed to sit and I could look into the room and wave to him. Occasionally, they would let me come to the door just to speak to Ikey. . . . Hour after hour, Mamie and I could only hope and pray.”


Ikey lasted ten days. He died in his father’s arms on January 2, 1921. That particular moment was to remain taboo in conversation for the rest of Eisenhower’s life. “We never talked about it,” Mamie told her granddaughter. “I never asked him because it was something that hurt so badly.”


In this Mamie displayed prescient wisdom. Since the 1990s, top therapists across the globe have confirmed that our popular perception of grief work may be unhelpful and inaccurate. “Does ‘grief work’ work?,” asked three of the world’s leading grief researchers, Wolfgang Stroebe, Margaret Stroebe, and Henk Schut. Their answers were surprising and changed the course of 21st-century therapy.


Lucky 13. At the Laredo Morning Times, Malena Charur reports on an Olympic-sized fundraising effort. From the article:


A press conference was held Monday at the Laredo Chamber of Commerce to financially assist Jennifer Lozano—Laredo’s first-ever athlete to qualify for the Olympics—to cover Team Jenny’s travel expenses.


Lozano is an amateur boxer who will be competing in the 50 Kg (110 pound) weight division representing the United States of America in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France.


Adrian Zapata, Business Executive for PAD Specialists and Chairman of the Board of Laredo Chamber of Commerce, thanked those for their support of the city’s trailblazing female athlete.


“We’re excited to celebrate Jenny and her road to Paris. And we’re excited because we have you guys here supporting us,” he said. “I want just to say that going to the Olympics is no easy feat. It’s very difficult.”


Bonus. At Modern Age, Robert Dean Lurie reflects on the great science-fiction novelist, Ray Bradbury, who, at heart, proved to be a conservative. From the essay:


Bradbury was not the first “literary” science fiction writer. Indeed, Bradbury’s mentor Henry Kuttner matched his protégé for depth, linguistic facility, and inventiveness. But there was an X factor that set Bradbury’s work apart—a quality that enabled him to break into the rarefied pages of Collier’s, Harper’s, the Saturday Evening Post, Playboy, and the New Yorker. Russell Kirk, who was arguably Bradbury’s most vociferous literary booster, identified this as a longing for, and defense of, the permanent things. So many of Bradbury’s lyrical tales of far-flung space expeditions, fantastical carnivals, time-traveling safaris, and the more prosaic environs of small-town Illinois circa 1928 are suffused with a palpable wistfulness. There is the sense that, in throwing ourselves headlong toward the future, we continually risk abandoning what was most precious in our past. In Fahrenheit 451, the Great Books themselves are at risk, along with the accumulated cultural history of Western civilization. . . .


Championing the time-tested values of the past is not an aim one normally associates with science fiction authors. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Bradbury, formerly a committed liberal and Democrat, moved toward an inchoate conservatism as he aged (although he ultimately eschewed the labels “liberal” and “conservative”). After all, the impulse to reclaim what has been lost, or reaffirm what may be in danger of being lost, is surely a conservative one.


“Bradbury’s stories are not an escape from reality,” Kirk wrote in his 1969 survey of culture and politics, Enemies of the Permanent Things. “They are windows looking upon enduring reality.” Remembrance contains several samples from these two writers’ longstanding correspondence (born of a warm and abiding friendship) that expand on this theme. Responding to Kirk’s conscription of him as one of the “chief architects of true normality, along with T.S. Eliot and Max Picard,” Bradbury responds that this idea fills him “with secret amusement and delight.”


For the Good of the Cause


Uno. The Center For Civil Society hosts an important webinar on Thursday, April 25, on “American Jews, Philanthropic Traditions, and Harsh New Realities.” Your Humble Correspondent will interview a trio of experts—Alexandra Rosenberg, senior director of development at Tikvah, Rebecca Sugar, author and longtime leader in Jewish philanthropic management, and Rabbi Rob Thomas, cybersecurity expert and philanthropist—about an ancient faith and its unique practices—and philosophy—of charity, conducted in and contributing to the tapestry of a country supposedly intolerant of intolerance, but now stained by repeated examples of elite antisemitism. You’ll want to register (the webinar is free, takes place, via Zoom, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., Eastern)—easily done right here.


Due. Mark your calendar! A new AmPhil “Scotch Talk” will be coming at you (via Zoom) on Tuesday, April 16, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. (Eastern), with the quartet of Jeremy Beer, John LaBarbara, Jason Lloyd, and Boaz Witbeck on hand to share buckets of wisdom about finding and fostering Major Gifts. Get the ice, the tumbler, and the libation ready—but make sure you sign up, which you can do right here.


Tre. Save those dates! October 23-24. And mark the location! Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. Why? Because that’s when and where the Center for Civil Society will be hosting its 2024 Givers, Doers, & Thinkers conference, this one on “K to Campus: How the Education Reform Movement Can Reshape Higher Ed.” Agenda and speakers will be announced soon, but registering, getting info, and all such stuff can be done and found right here.


Point of Personal Privilege


At Philanthropy Daily, Your Opinionated Analyst considers an important study produced by the good people at Philanthropy Roundtable, which makes mincemeat of ideologues who detest donor anonymity. Read it here.


Department of Bad Jokes


Q: How do you get 20 Canadians to leave a swimming pool?


A: Ask them.


A Dios


The late D. Keith Mano, who for years penned National Review’s “Gimlet Eye” column, was a talented writer whose interests were eclectic and vast. A few years back, delving into his author archives, one 1987 piece was . . . resurrected. It’s titled “A Meditation after Easter.” Even for the non-spiritual, there should be admiration for the unique, makes-you-think prose of this wonderful craftsman. You will find the article here.


May the Triumphant Holy Day Include You Amongst Those Claiming Victory,


Jack Fowler, who is contemplating his poor penitential performance at jfowler@amphil.com.