Dear Intelligent American,
Happy Mother’s Day this Sunday to all to whom the well-wishing applies, biological, adoptive, or spiritual.
As is its custom, on the day Turner Classic Movies will show that most wonderful film, I Remember Mama—Irene Dunne is vidunderlig—to kick off the momfesting morning. On the East Coast, come noon, it will broadcast Mildred Pierce, with Joan Crawford’s electric performance and one of the greatest daughter-mother fights (holy mackerel, what a face slap!) in cinematic history, marked by the Oscar-nominated Ann Blyth’s nasty putdown: “You’ll never be anything but a common frump whose father lived over a grocery store and whose mother took in washing!” Daaahmn!
We’re each of us entitled to favorite Silver Screen moms. One revered in these parts is Teresa Piletti, mother of that famous Bronx butcher, Marty. Her broken-English nagging of her unmarried, mid-30s, chubby son to go to the Stardust Ballroom—because it’s “loaded with tomatoes”—guarantees a big night of heartache awaits her oft-humiliated boy. Still, the love between mother (played by Esther Minciotti) and son (Ernest Borgnine, who won an Oscar for his performance) here is beautiful . . . and a much less troubling example of maternal influence than the kind Jimmy Cagney’s Cody Jarrett displays at the conclusion of White Heat.
Well, we’d have given anything to conclude this rambling with the sweetest mother-son scene—it’s the conclusion of Going My Way—but the clip is the one thing not to be found on the interwebs. Alas, we’ll sign off with another great moment in that movie, when Bing and the kids croon “Swinging on a Star.”
Mamma Mia! There Are More than a Dozen Links and Excerpts Ahead!!
1. At The College Fix, Maggie Kelly reports on a Harvard feminist panel that argues women are misunderstood when sex differences are ignored. From the piece:
The third panelist and author of “Feminism Against Progress,” Mary Harrington, drew inspiration from the history of much of the Western world before the industrial revolution, when both husband and wife worked in the household or on their own estates. Many pre-industrial women could integrate work such as weaving with care for small children.
Once work moved outside the home [into factories and then offices], women often had to choose between the workplace and caring for their families full-time, Harrington said.
Liberal feminism encouraged women to enter the workforce, but often at the cost of denigrating the care of children and, sometimes, motherhood itself, she said.
Even more, once women had the birth control pill and the feminist ideology that “I can do what I want with my body,” Harrington said, that opened the door to normalized pornography and prostitution.
2. At The American Mind, fan favorite Daniel J. Mahoney finds a Maoist stratagem in leftist political philosophy, where the new norm is to be permanently offended. From the article:
And bad theory abounds today. We daily witness displays of political rage informed by what David Martin Jones and M.L.R. Smith call in their indispensable 2022 book, The Strategy of Maoism in the West, “permanent offence taking.” Righteous indignation and the search for new and newer victims (and oppressors) are on constant display. DEI offices in colleges, universities, and corporations (and the news media, too) look to penalize, marginalize, and humiliate “oppressors” and “exploiters” as much as to “privilege” the oppressed, who must remain victims in perpetuity for the new system of ideological control to sustain itself. Merit, progress, opportunity, and civic reconciliation are all passé notions, deemed at once racist, offensive, and intolerable. What used to be called “Americanism,” equality under God and the law, must be castigated in a pathological display of collective self-loathing.
The constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley, an impressive liberal of the old school, has recently highlighted a macabre and deeply disturbing incident at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. At this self-described Christian institution, the student government association voted 9-4 to bar Xi Van Fleet, a survivor of the brutal and surreal Chinese Cultural Revolution of 1966 to 1976 to speak on campus. Van Fleet had the temerity to suggest in a series of speeches, writings, and tweets that “woke” culture in the United States had more than a passing similarity to the rage, illiberality, and insane self-confidence of the Red Guards unleashed by the murderous tyrant Mao Zedong. Her criticism of “woke” culture—including the DEI regime, the neo-Maoist Black Lives Matter movement, and the ever more fanatical LGBTQ “community”—was deemed hateful and “too harmful for any student to hear.” That is how Maoism comes to America, full of censorious rage but fueled with self-pity, therapeutic claptrap, and a narcissism that makes a mockery of civic debate and liberal education grounded in genuine discussion and disputation. But like the Maoists of old, Turley points out, these students at an ostensibly Christian institution of higher learning war with “false thoughts” with a sanctimony that is as pathetic as it is loathsome. As Turley shows, “conservative, religious, and libertarian views” are now what Mao and the Cultural Revolutionaries called “poisonous weeds” to be “removed from the garden of ‘fragrant flowers’ of approved viewpoints in higher education.”
3. At The Wall Street Journal, Gary Saul Morson reflects upon the importance of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago on the 50th anniversary of its publication. From the piece:
Dedicated to “all those who did not live” to tell their story, “The Gulag Archipelago” demonstrates a nadir of humanity with nearly unfathomable cruelty. In one memorable passage, Solzhenitsyn muses that if the intellectuals of Chekhov’s plays who wondered what things would be like in a few decades had learned “that prisoners would have their skulls squeezed within iron rings; that a human being would be lowered into an acid bath . . . that a ramrod heated over a primus stove would be thrust up their anal canal (the ‘secret brand’); that a man’s genitals would be slowly crushed beneath the toe of a jackboot . . . not one of Chekhov’s plays would have gotten to its end because all the heroes would have gone off to insane asylums.”
Those who had admitted some of the horrors often blamed them entirely on Stalin, as if Lenin would not have done such things, but, Solzhenitsyn demonstrates, Lenin set up the system of terror and the Gulag while making clear that both were to be permanent features of the new regime. To those Westerners who imagine that this bizarre system of punishment could not happen in their country, Solzhenitsyn cautions: “Alas, all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth.”
How was such evil possible? Shakespeare and Schiller clearly did not grasp evil, Solzhenitsyn instructs, because their villains “recognize themselves as evildoers, and they know their souls are black,” but those who commit the greatest harm think of themselves as good. Before interrogators could torture prisoners they knew were innocent, they had to discover a justification for their actions. Shakespeare’s villains stopped at a few corpses “because they had no ideology,” nothing to compare with Marxism-Leninism’s “scientific” and infallible explanations of life and ethics. “Ideology—that is what . . . gives the evil-doer the necessary steadfastness and determination . . . the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good . . . in his own and others’ eyes.”
4. At The National Interest, Carlos Roa asks if America’s sociopolitical and economic systems have reached a “perestroika moment.” From the essay:
[I]t is worth noting the significance of U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan’s recent speech on “Renewing American Economic Leadership” at the Brookings Institution. His remarks mark a profound shift in American strategic and economic thinking; a confession that much of what the United States has been doing and saying for decades has been wrong, and a recognition that painful and urgent reform is necessary.
As Gorbachev learned, recognizing the need for change and successfully enacting such change are two wildly different things. Is the Biden administration on the path to learning the same painful lesson?
Sullivan’s speech does not just reflect his individual views—the whole event was billed in the days leading up to it as an “outline” of “the Biden administration’s international economic doctrine.” It also builds upon views that Sullivan and others in the administration have been developing for quite a while.
In brief, the speech was a strong repudiation of the United States’ strong free-market economic policies for the past forty-odd years. Sullivan challenged the idea that markets always allocate capital effectively and in socially optimal ways, that “in the name of oversimplified market efficiency, entire supply chains of strategic goods—along with the industries and jobs that made them—moved overseas. And the postulate that deep trade liberalization would help America export goods, not jobs and capacity, was a promise made but not kept.” He also acknowledged the mistake of favoring the financial sector over the “real economy” (involving material goods): “our industrial capacity—which is crucial to any country’s ability to continue to innovate—took a real hit.”
5. At Front Porch Republic, Matt Miller tells of the jollies gotten from reading seed catalogs. From the piece:
Moral risk notwithstanding, anyone who hopes to grow the occasional vegetable ought to order a healthy selection of seed catalogs. My own annual list runs to a dozen or more. Large, conventional purveyors and specialty companies focused on heirloom and open pollinated varieties both have their place. Though many suppliers have gone online-only, alas, a sizeable number still print catalogs, which I prefer for comfortable and convenient reading.
Reading seed catalogs is not just a consumerist pleasure—window-shopping for the dirty-booted. Seed catalogs also serve as invaluable educational resources for the studious gardener, repositories of folk knowledge not readily accessible even to the All-Seeing Eye of the Internet. Though many seed catalogs retain a rather 19th-century style of inflated, substance-free marketing copy, where every vegetable is the largest and most delicious, others can be excellent sources of botanical, ecological, and local knowledge. It is to such informative catalogs that we now turn.
Gardeners who carefully peruse seed catalogs can garner information of a variety of types. First, and most straightforward, is simply knowledge of the breadth of varieties available. Such insight doesn’t merely empty the gardener’s wallet (through the purchase of ever-more varieties of, say, beans) but allows for creative ecological problem solving. The gardener can select a type particularly suited to a given environmental niche, such as a cold, wet area or a patch with increased pest pressure.
6. At National Review, Brian Allen keeps track of eco-vandals and their nasty museum stunts. From the article:
I wrote that publicity attacks on art would come to the U.S. before too long. They have, and museums need to be better prepared.
The Little Dancer is famous. Degas’s many bronze versions are in museums here and in Europe. I know it well since the Clark Art Institute—where I was a curator years ago, before leaving to become a museum director—owns one. The object vandalized at the National Gallery is Degas’s original wax sculpture from 1880, from which all the bronzes were cast. It’s unique and, made of wax, delicate. Paul Mellon gave it to the National Gallery about 20 years ago. The Clark tried to borrow it in the ’90s for a scholarly exhibition on The Little Dancer. Mellon wouldn’t lend it because of its fragility.
Where were the guards? This wasn’t a split-second event. They had time to be creative. They didn’t simply smear paint. They created a bad Miro imitation, red and black, you know, the blood-for-oil trick. And then they posed for a photo op. Guards shouldn’t put their lives at risk under any circumstances, but how did this happen? One day something’s going to get damaged beyond repair.
I hope the D.C. prosecutor and criminal court treat this with an eye toward discouraging others. A month in the slammer, with no air-conditioning, in Washington, in August, might send a message.
7. At The American Conservative, Alexander Zubatov laments the decline in reading and its consequences for democracy. From the essay:
For most non-live audio-visual experiences, we can pause and rewind, but while we may put favorite Spotify tracks on repeat, we do not often replay moments in audio and video recordings, or at least not regularly and not at a fine, granular level. This means our absorption of such material is frequently more superficial than if we were reading a comparable book, lecture, or essay. Nor, when we are watching or listening, do we make a habit of stopping to follow a reference or investigate a factual assertion, such as by following a link to supporting evidence. Add in, as well, that much of the audio-visual material we consume is rapid-fire by design, aiming to stake out its claim on our shrinking attention spans. It is intended not for steeping and contemplation in solitude but for sharing, virality, mass consumption.
One of the most important consequences of this monumental phase transition from literary to audiovisual cultural is the loss of the kind of deep immersion and critical reflection required to build up a personal vantage point, an individual perspective. If, enabled by Johannes Gutenberg’s technological breakthrough, Martin Luther’s ideological innovation brought the self-possessed, truth-professing individual to the world’s stage, then the confluence of ideologies, such as Marxism and postmodernism, that deny the individual’s agency and those, such as postmodernism and deconstruction, that cast doubt on the very possibility of truth, have—compounded by the technologies of the mass-market Culture Industry—unceremoniously ushered the individual back behind the curtain.
8. At Brownstone Institute, Thomas Buckley asks the pertinent question: Has gain-of-function research ever worked? From the piece:
The general definition offered to the public by officials during the pandemic was essentially this: GOF takes a virus and enhances its lethality to, or transmissibility amongst, humans in order to be able to study the resulting bug to speed the search for a potential treatment if and when the virus evolves in nature to the same danger point.
In other words, if scientists can work with the possible superbugs, now they can get a “head start” and be better prepared to fight them in the future if they should appear naturally (zoonotically) and threaten humans.
By that definition—a common, descriptive, and precise definition—gain-of-function has never worked.
Admittedly, it may have “worked” if a different goal was in mind. First, if a more plausible reason for engaging in the practice—the creation of bioweapons—has resulted in a “success” it will obviously never be made known to the public.
9. At Quillette, Nigel Biggar castigates the left for its mantra that the British Empire can be exclusively defined as a thing of evil. From the essay:
Set in this global historical context, the emergence of European empires from the 15th century onwards is hardly remarkable. The Portuguese were first off the mark, followed by the Spanish, and then, in the 16th century, by the Dutch, the French, and the English. The Scots attempted (in vain) to join their ranks in the 1690s, and Russians did so in the 1700s. What is remarkable, however, is that the contemporary controversy about empire shows no interest at all in any of the non-European empires, past or present. European empires are its sole concern, and of these, above all others, that of the English (or, as they became after the Anglo-Scottish Union of 1707, the British).
The reason for this focus is that the real target of today’s anti-imperialists or anti-colonialists is the West—more precisely, the Anglo-American liberal world order that has prevailed since 1945. This order is supposed to be responsible for the economic and political woes of what used to be called the “Developing World” and now answers to the name “Global South.” Allegedly, it continues to express the characteristic white supremacism and racism of the old European empires, displaying arrogant, ignorant disdain for non-Western cultures, thereby humiliating non-white peoples. And it presumes to impose alien values and to justify military interference.
10. At The Human Life Review’s examination of “Where do we go from Dobbs?” Helen Alvaré recommends a national soul-searching. From the symposium:
How to approach abortion then, considering this national predilection, in a post-Dobbs era? I think there might be two human-rights themes that could assist. First, propose that Americans soul-search their responsibility for children beginning when they make them. For example, the vast majority of aborted children are conceived in a nonmarital relationship in which the couple often know—outright or sub rosa—that they are not in a solid position to welcome a child. They just met, or they have no plans for any stable future together let alone marriage, and/or they feel it would be financially impossible to care for another person. Sex is procreative. It points to tomorrow whether we keep that in mind or not. Children’s life situations begin with the situation of their parents at the moment of their conception. Prolifers thus should be asking them whether it’s fair for adults to proceed to make children when they have no earthly intention of taking care of them, and might even be tempted to kill them.
It will undoubtedly be a challenge to promote this theme at a time when abortion advocates are (if this is even possible) declaring more full-throatedly than ever that abortion is nothing more than one in a set of women’s rights to freedom from restraints on their economic and social desires. The Dobbs dissenting justices sounded this theme from beginning to end, to the exclusion of any mention of or empathy with the humanity of the unborn child. It is also the battle cry of abortion advocates coast to coast, as if there is no life to consider on the business end of the abortion instruments. We need to flip the script. Women and men are capable of thinking in advance about their actions. They are capable of taking responsibility for them. Why shouldn’t those on whom vulnerable unborn children completely depend think first about what is due those children? Like every human being, women and men are first “chosen” to care for the vulnerable, not first choosers with the power of life or death over another.
11. At The Kokomo Tribune, James Bennett III reports on a successful fundraiser inspired by the Kentucky Derby. From the beginning of the article:
Addressing a crowd in the Kokomo Country Club, 23-year-old Hannah Crow shared her story of a difficult childhood.
Growing up, Crow said, it took her a while to realize most families had two parents taking care of their kids, instead of one grandmother looking after two grandchildren. She was exposed to drugs and violence. Her chances for success were bleak.
Then, when she was 11, she got involved with Narrow Gate Horse Ranch, a nonprofit organization that pairs struggling youth with mentors and therapeutic horses. The organization showed her she could do something with her life.
Now married and living in Arkansas, Crow drove roughly 10 hours to speak at Narrow Gate’s second annual Derby Ball fundraiser on Saturday.
Early on in the evening, as visitors shuffled in and found their seats, organizers explained how to participate in the various fundraising events and what the money would be used for.
12. At The Daily Yonder, Kristi Eaton reports on a new study that shows that rural community residents are game for small-town newspapers to stay alive by seeking non-traditional sources of revenue. From the piece:
There’s a conflict between what weekly newspaper publishers think are the most likely ways their businesses will generate money in the future and what their readers are most willing to pay for, according to a study conducted in four states in the northern Great Plains.
The research—which focused on weekly papers in Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota—found that publishers were more likely to bank on traditional sources of revenue like advertising and subscriptions. Readers, on the other hand, were more likely than publishers to say they were willing to pay for less traditional products and services such as events, memberships, and newsletters.
The study concludes that there is “a clear disconnect between what revenue streams publishers are willing to implement and what revenue streams readers are potentially willing to endorse.”
The research, written by scholars at public universities in Kansas, Colorado, and Missouri, has implications for small-town and rural media that are negotiating major changes in the news-industry economy.
Lucky 13. At City Journal, Jeffrey H. Anderson explains how pandemic masking had serious health consequences. From the analysis:
Evidence continues to mount that mask mandates were perhaps the worst public-health intervention in modern American history. While concluding that wearing masks “probably makes little or no difference” in preventing the spread of viruses, a recent Cochrane review also emphasized that “more attention should be paid to describing and quantifying the harms” that may come from wearing masks. A new study from Germany does just that, and it suggests that the excess carbon dioxide breathed in by mask-wearers may have substantial ill-effects on their health—and, in the case of pregnant women, their unborn children’s.
Mask-wearers breathe in greater amounts of air that should have been expelled from their bodies and released out into the open. “[A] significant rise in carbon dioxide occurring while wearing a mask is scientifically proven in many studies,” write the German authors. “Fresh air has around 0.04% CO2,” they observe, while chronic exposure at CO2 levels of 0.3 percent is “toxic.” How much CO2 do mask-wearers breathe in? The authors write that “masks bear a possible chronic exposure to low level carbon dioxide of 1.41–3.2% CO2 of the inhaled air in reliable human experiments.”
In other words, while eight times the normal level of carbon dioxide is toxic, research suggests that mask-wearers (specifically those who wear masks for more than 5 minutes at a time) are breathing in 35 to 80 times normal levels.
BONUS: At Law & Liberty, Richard Reinsch II interviews the great novelist Mark Helprin. From the essay:
Things can still get worse. One response to Helprin’s resignation is that this is what democracies do; they refuse the hard course, doing what is easy because it is easy. The hope is that the counter-response inside the country will emerge as certain leaders recognize the problems it faces and change course. Winston Churchill’s rallying of Great Britain to face Germany at the beginning of World War II, despite his country’s ignoring the warnings he had issued about Germany during the 1930s, is one example. But that’s the question: Does America still retain that strength and wisdom? There might be further reasons for answering in the negative.
On Critical Race Theory and gender ideology, Helprin describes both “as part of our regime now.” It has become “revolutionary to think otherwise.” He notes, “What do you expect? Our country marginalizes religion, and religion teaches us what to aspire to and who we are. Religion teaches us virtue, and how you know what your purpose is. Without religion and virtue, you become vulnerable, passive.”
The other route to our passivity is how “the image has conquered the word,” he states. Technology, Helprin thinks, in the form of TV, computer screens, smartphones, and now social media has changed in many respects the nature of people. “You stare at screens; you just receive imagery for five to seven hours per day. Evil people like Mark Zuckerberg and other talented people are now able to amplify this passivity.”
Helprin says his father helped him to realize this nearly fifty years ago in a conversation about his future as a writer, “my dad relayed to me that I had about 20-30 years of time before people will give up on the word. That is the hold that the compression of imagery will have on people.”
For the Good of the Order
Uno. July is coming fast. That’s the when. The where is Denver. As for the why, you need to find yourself—from Monday, July 10th, through Wednesday the 12th—at the Center for Civil Society’s “Major Gifts Training Seminar.” This must for development professionals seeking intensive training and buffed-up knowledge in the critical art of dealing with key prospects and generous givers is a unique—yeah, unique—opportunity to gain consequential knowledge. So get with the program, and get with the program! You’ll find more information, and the beautiful locus for signing up, right here.
Due. What makes the difference between a good and a great fundraiser (the person, not the event)? Find out on Tuesday, May 23rd, when C4CS director Jonathan Hannan will be joined by The NorthStar Consulting Group’s Brian Green and Henry Scroope in a free, via-Zoom webinar (from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., Eastern) to share information and advice that will . . . inspire. You will definitely want to attend. To get more information, and to register, go here.
Tre. Are you a believer . . . in the premise that America’s skyrocketing irreligiosity may have something to do with the problems affecting this nation? You are? Then do come to the important C4CS conference—“Rise of the Nones: How Declining Religious Affiliation Is Changing Civil Society”—taking place on November 7–8 in glorious Scottsdale, AZ. Get complete information right here.
Department of Bad Jokes
Q: Why were the astronauts disappointed with their dinner on the Moon?
A: Because, while the food was fine, the restaurant lacked atmosphere.
Remember, A Boy's Best Friend Is His Mother!
May the Father of All Bless the Mother of Each,
Jack Fowler, who receives complaints and brickbats via email@example.com.