13 min read
August 3, 2023
Dear Intelligent American,
One hundred years ago this Wednesday past, Warren Harding passed away, and John Calvin Coolidge Jr. succeeded him as president of these United States, per the dictates of the Constitution. Below, in this missive’s “Bonus,” you will find an excerpt, from the Man of Few Word’s short but delightful autobiography, detailing what unfolded in the early morning hours in his father’s Vermont home in 1923.
Below too you will find an excerpt from a reflection (by the terrific Amity Shlaes) on the importance of the Coolidge presidency and its relevance to our times—we are not the first Americans who have had to grapple with progressivism.
You can (and should!) learn more about this great man: Do so at the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Foundation. Who knows, you too may become a convert to Calvinism.
The Business of Civil Thoughts Is Business (Truth Be Told, It’s Providing Excerpts and Links)
1. At Catholic World Report, James Jeffrey explains why he believes there has been a revival of religious pilgrimages. From the article:
“Pilgrimage seems to be a deeply ingrained part of human nature, with its roots in the seasonal migrations of hunter-gatherers, and, more remotely, in many millions of years of animal migrations,” Rupert Sheldrake, a preeminent biologist and author who, like Aldous Huxley before him, isn’t shy of exploring how science and religion can relate, writes in his book Science and Spiritual Practices. “For all of us today who live in villages, town and cities, this immemorial pattern of continual movement has come to an end.”
Pilgrimage is a natural buttress against the enervating effects of consumerist existence, providing an antidote to the dystopian trends benighting the modern world. Those trends increasingly seek to corral humans into ever tighter, narrower spaces of existence—to reduce us to simple automatons of gender, race, sexual identity and economic production. Pilgrimage facilitates the sort of rubbing of shoulders, chance encounters and walking and talking together, that so many decry as not existing in their isolated, atomized lives that are increasingly shaped by technocratic elites who proclaim to have our best interests at heart. For many of our policy makers, this appears to be having us safely tucked away, living out the pod-like existence presented in E.M. Forster’s science fiction short story The Machine Stops, in which humankind dwells underground isolated in pods, in which all their needs are administered to by the Machine.
2. At The Spectator, Amber Athey reports from the front lines of the war on appliances. From the article:
Take the new ban on incandescent light bulbs that went into effect in July. Incandescent light bulbs are the old-school ones you’re used to, with the wire in the center. They emit a warmer light that is relaxing and aesthetically pleasing. LEDs run cooler, which gives a sterile hospital effect. A French study found that the bright, blue-leaning white light emitted by LEDs is unnatural to humans and can actually cause health issues. LEDs are said to trigger migraines, eye strain, insomnia and dizziness and to increase stress. No wonder blue light-blocking glasses are perennial bestsellers on Amazon.
The left won’t stop with your gas cars or appliances. An article published in Scientific American last month tried to convince people to cut back on ice in their cocktails. Seriously.
“Energy wasted from ice is largely because of in-house ice machines, which many—if not most—bars and restaurants use to maintain their steady ice supply. Ice machines run continually until they are full, potentially for several hours at a time,” the article said.
3. At The Pipeline, Steven Hayward sweats out the ideological cries over summer heat waves. From the piece:
In fact the most recent (2021) report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does not support the common claims about drought, floods, hurricanes and other severe weather events. Not only does the last IPCC report find no clear trends, it offers “low confidence” in predictions of future trends.
The one exception is longer heat waves, which the IPCC says with “high confidence” have already begun. And yet the current heat waves both in the United States and in Europe, while lasting longer than average in some places like Arizona, is setting few new record highs. In the U.S., the EPA’s own “Heat Wave Index” for the continental states shows that the 1930s was by far the hottest decade of the last century.
The exploitation of this summer’s heat waves is yet another example of the situational “truth” of the climate campaign. Whenever an unusual cold weather anomaly occurs that cause some people to say “what global warming?,” the climate campaigners stamp their feet and assert, “Weather is not climate!” Which is correct, except for when extreme heat waves offer convenient scare headlines apparently.
4. At The Harvard Crimson, Rahem D. Hamid reports on the retirement of the great political philosopher Harvey Mansfield after 60 years of teaching (as a rare campus conservative) in Cambridge. From the article:
Despite his on-campus label as a vocal conservative, though, Mansfield said he thinks it’s “more interesting” to examine “the fundamental principles of philosophy and political philosophy than simply to be conservative politically.”
In Mansfield’s view, his conservatism has not greatly impacted his relationships with his fellow faculty members, who generally skew liberal: In one notable case, Mansfield’s friendship with West, the AAAS professor, contributed to tension with then-University president Lawrence H. Summers. West, in a 2021 interview, called Mansfield “a brother of mine,” while Mansfield said in his interview that West was “a very good-hearted fellow” with “not an iota of intolerance in him.”
With his departure, Mansfield said that Harvard needs “more conservatives to produce the diversity we say we want.” . . .
“If nobody questions that general left liberalism at Harvard, and it will gradually become either more fanatic or more boring than it is,” Mansfield said.
5. At Philanthropy Daily, Lawson Bader urges attention be paid to the profound legislative battles occurring that threaten philanthropic freedom. From the analysis:
Progressive ideologues, still reeling from the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision and goaded by ivory-towered professors, continue their efforts to control and punish donors with differing views.
Proposed legislation like the “Accelerating Charitable Efforts Act,” a bill that would have mandated heavy-handed payout requirements for private individual giving accounts, represents the efforts of progressive legislators to punish those with differing views. The legislation would have hamstrung a popular giving tool, donor-advised funds, imposing burdensome requirements on individual giving accounts and restricting donor privacy.
During a Punchbowl News event, Laura Arnold—wife of billionaire John Arnold and co-chair of Arnold Ventures—appeared to reiterate calls for more regulation around individual giving accounts.
Conservative populist voices are joining this dangerous refrain, driven by envy of others’ wealth. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio)—like Mr. Jefferson and Mrs. Arnold—suggested during his Senate campaign that it might be appropriate to seize the funds of private foundations or other nonprofits with which he has political disagreements.
6. At Law & Liberty, Elizabeth Grace Matthew takes on “gentle parenting,” and isn’t gentle about it. From the essay:
According to the Cleveland Clinic, instead of saying “Stop acting childish and put on your shoes,” parents trying to get a kid out the door in the morning could say, “When you don’t get ready on time, it hurts my feelings and makes me anxious. Why are you having a hard time?” Ostensibly, this approach shows “empathy and respect for how your child is feeling” and “center[s] how their actions directly impact how you feel.”
According to psychologist Becky Kennedy, who is quoted in Moscatello’s piece, today’s generation of parents understands that “feelings” are “the core of who you are” and therefore “feels like, I have one life. I want to feel good.”
Pardon my inability to find any gentle way to say this: so-called gentle parenting as defined above is antithetical to the very essence of parenting; it is also an affront to the barest notion of common sense.
Loving parents need to communicate two basic facts to children. First, you are the center of my world. Second, you are not the center of the world.
7. At Brownstone Institute, Jeffrey Tucker calls out the “Great Cloud of Disrepute.” From the essay:
The only possible redemption that could follow such a disastrous period in human history would be abject apologies on a mass scale, followed by ironclad promises never to do this again. That should have included dramatic reforms in power, accountability, and personnel. There needed to be a reckoning.
But here we are forty months later and we hear only silence from all official sources. The way in which this topic – the proverbial elephant in the room – has become taboo is most striking. Major media dares not bring it up. Candidates are not questioned about it. Public health officials are mostly in hiding. Scientific establishments are chugging along as if nothing happened.
Tech companies are quietly rolling back their most egregious actions but admitting nothing. Mainstream publishers stay away from the issue and major media is trying to manufacture a kind of collective amnesia. Both parties are happy to drop the subject because they were both involved: the pandemic response stretched over two administrations under different control.
We’ve never lived through such times when there is a near shutdown of discussion of the biggest and most globalized trauma to our lives and civilization in living memory. In fact, prior to having seen this unfold over forty months, no one would believe it was even possible. And yet here we are. So many people and institutions are implicated in the great mania that it has become the crisis that dares not speak its name.
8. At National Review, Amity Shlaes takes the centennial of his presidency to praise the virtues of Calvin Coolidge. From the article:
This is where Calvin Coolidge, the centennial of whose presidency we mark this year, comes in. Presidential polls rank Coolidge in two places: middling low, and lower. Conservatives pigeonhole Coolidge as a kind of pre-Reagan, a Morning in America leader who demonstrated that slashing tax rates promotes both strong revenues and prosperity.
While accurate, this portrait fails to capture the scope of Coolidge’s achievement. In 1921, when Coolidge arrived in Washington as Warren Harding’s vice president, the progressive tide seemed unstoppable, as it does today. Yet Coolidge managed to halt that tide, even as he demonstrated that some of his own era’s tech novelties—airplanes, autos, and telephones—represented not threats but upgrades in the lives of consumers. And he managed all these glories through the deliberate application of conservative constitutionalism.
There was nothing inevitable about this feat. Coolidge was born in 1872 into an American village. So were many Americans who wanted nothing to do with the past. Yet Coolidge, the thoughtful boy from Plymouth Notch, Vt., did take an interest. His later descriptions of the town meetings in Plymouth, held above the general store, emphasize the glories of local democracy.
As Coolidge recalled of his fellow villagers: “They drew no class distinctions except toward those who assumed superior airs. Those they held in contempt. They held strongly to the doctrine of equality.
9. More NR: Jack Butler explores the many ways politics has infected medicine. From the essay:
And things are not much better in the various societies that inhabit the firmament of professional medicine. Leading the way is the American Medical Association. In 2021, it produced an “Organizational Strategic Plan to Embed Racial Justice and Advance Health Equity” that begins by “acknowledg[ing] that we are all living off the taken ancestral lands of Indigenous peoples for thousands of years” and commits to “accountability towards the goal of eliminating inequities—systematic, preventable and unjust differences—in health for patients, families, providers and communities, as well as tackling the root causes for these differences and preventing new and further harm.” It has also released, as part of its continuing-medical-education programs, a video titled “Racism in Medicine Historical Foundations and Strategies for Advancing Health Equity,” which urges viewers to identify “opportunities to center community and historically marginalized voices as you design interventions” and to “consider how your own decisions, whether at work or in the community, and at home, may be supporting false racial ideologies or beliefs.”
Other organizations act similarly. In their public-facing capacities, they now weigh in on a host of issues not explicitly pertaining to medicine—and always do so in a predictable way. “All of the medical societies, . . . they’re in unison on immigration, they’re in unison on affirmative action, they’re in unison on climate change, they’re in unison on gun violence,” Goldfarb tells me. “They just represent a left view of the world.” Their internal proceedings mirror this. In June 2021, the American College of Surgeons held a profession-wide leadership retreat at which the keynote speaker was Ibram X. Kendi, the fêted anti-racist who favors discrimination. (“The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity. If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.”)
10. At The Wall Street Journal, Tunku Varadarajan homes in on a Vermont battle over a cancelled governor, eugenics, scapegoating, and Middlebury College. From the piece:
The Mead Memorial Chapel—as it’s no longer called—was built with a benefaction from John Mead, Vermont governor from 1910-12. Mead, class of 1864, was a medical doctor and businessman whose policy positions would be regarded as progressive today: He took a dim view of the use of child labor and supported women’s suffrage. He interrupted his studies to enlist in the Civil War, fighting at Gettysburg. His ancestors were among the first Europeans in Vermont. By the terms of his gift, the Mead name on the chapel was intended to honor the family in perpetuity. It wasn’t, as Middlebury now asserts, intended as a memorial solely to John Mead.
Yet, on Sept. 27, 2021, the college took down the Mead name from the chapel, “with no forewarning, no public debate.” This, says Mr. Douglas, was a “furtive” action “in breach of contract.”
Mr. Douglas alleges the college used the Vermont Legislature’s formal apology for the state’s record of eugenics “as a pretext to defame Mead.” In a retirement speech in 1912, Mead had supported the denial of marriage licenses to syphilitics, rapists and “habitual” alcoholics. He also advocated vasectomies for those with hereditary diseases. His language was conventional for the time, mild in comparison with the eugenic norm. Vermont didn’t pass its sterilization law until 19 years later, when Mead was dead. The state archivist’s testimony in 2021—which laid the foundation for Vermont’s apology—doesn’t mention Mead.
11. At UnHerd, Hassoum Ceesay and Toby Green report on the continuing effect of Western-imposed Covid lockdowns on the African continent. From the analysis:
The Covid vaccine rollout made this dynamic even clearer. When, by late 2021, vaccination numbers remained low, the UK High Commission warned Gambian counterparts that tourists would not return until all those in the tourist industry were vaccinated. Indeed, the UK only removed The Gambia from the red-list of countries once the vaccine rollout had “decreased risk to British nationals”. In the end, public officials were virtually forced into a vaccination programme which many did not want. Most of these vaccines were not gifted to the country, but paid for through World Bank loans which increased structural indebtedness.
The consequences for the Gambian young were particularly severe. The closure of schools in the pandemic made schoolgirls vulnerable to being sent away for marriage by parents desperate to earn some dowry money to assuage the pain of the pandemic restrictions. One analyst described how early marriage had become common in The Gambia during the pandemic, while the Deputy Secretary-General of the Gambian Teachers’ Union claimed that 25% of girls had dropped out of school owing to the closures.
There has also been a huge increase in Gambian youths seeking to migrate to Europe illegally. The restrictions shattered the Gambian economy. Hotels, which employ more than 50,000 Gambians, were closed. The youths lost their jobs and many of them were forced into the dangerous “backway” journey to Europe. Indeed, the fledgling democratic government’s noticeable achievements in youth job creation were all but wiped out by the pandemic, and the 2022-23 season tourism was still only at 30% of pre-pandemic levels.
12. Ho-Ho-Ho(t): At KWTX in sun-baked Waco, Julie Hays tells how Christmas has come early for families in need thanks to the nonprofit elves at GoodFellas. From the beginning of the report:
An annual “Christmas in July” fundraiser by a local nonprofit that helps families in need during the holiday season and beyond was the most successful one to date with hundreds of thousands of dollars raised and nearly 2,000 people in attendance.
The Waco GoodFellas group says it is still counting the money raised this year but it’s expected to surpass last year’s record-setting event of $200,000.
Randy Crook is a founding member of the Waco GoodFellas and said he couldn’t be more moved by the generosity of Central Texans.
“I just wanted to give the people in Waco a shoutout and tell them thanks for coming out and supporting the GoodFellas this past Saturday night,” Crook said.
Lucky 13. At her “Outspoken” column on Substack, Naomi Wolf finds virtue and community and humanity through . . . soup. From the piece:
But as we all sat on the back deck, and the house inhabitants drank their soup, and then slowly began chatting more openly with me, I realized—eventually—that they were just human beings; indeed, damaged human beings. These two were just a fairly young man and woman, who had been sent by our leaders, men far above their heads, to oversee horrible things, or to accomplish horrible things. They would carry the tasks they had completed, as burdens, for their entire lives.
Brian’s world may have shifted that weekend, because soon after that, we were going steady.
My world shifted too, though, that weekend. People whom I was trained to hate and fear, I was able to look at a second time, and, through the steam of that magical soup, to see them with compassion.
BONUS: As promised, in Calvin Coolidge’s own words, what occurred at his father’s home long ago:
On the night of August 2, 1923, I was awakened by my father coming up the stairs calling my name. I noticed that his voice trembled. As the only times I had ever observed that before were when death had visited our family, I knew that something of the gravest nature had occurred.
His emotion was partly due to the knowledge that a man whom he had met and liked was gone, partly to the feeling that must possess all of our citizens when the life of their President is taken from them.
But he must have been moved also by the thought of the many sacrifices he had made to place me where I was, the twenty-five-mile drives in storms and in zero weather over our mountain roads to carry me to the academy and all the tenderness and care he had lavished upon me in the thirty-eight years since the death of my mother in the hope that I might sometime rise to a position of importance, which he now saw realized.
He had been the first to address me as President of the United States. It was the culmination of the lifelong desire of a father for the success of his son. . . .
My first thought was to express my sympathy for those who had been bereaved and after that was done to attempt to reassure the country with the knowledge that I proposed no sweeping displacement of the men then in office and that there were to be no violent changes in the administration of affairs. As soon as I had dispatched a telegram to Mrs. Harding, I therefore issued a short public statement declaratory of that purpose.
Meantime, I had been examining the Constitution to determine what might be necessary for qualifying by taking the oath of office. It is not clear that any additional oath is required beyond what is taken by the Vice-President when he is sworn into office. It is the same form as that taken by the President.
Having found this form in the Constitution I had it set up on the typewriter and the oath was administered by my father in his capacity as a notary public, an office he had held for a great many years.
For the Good of the Order
Uno. We restate our concern about America’s skyrocketing irreligiosity: It’s obvious this has much to do with the problems affecting this nation. Do consider attending the forthcoming Center for Civil Society 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. 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
Q. What did the mime kidnapper do to his victim?
A. Unspeakable things.
Yours Truly headed west for a week, much of it spent at the annual Napa Institute conference (a gathering of traditional Catholic supporters, nonprofits, scholars: “Givers, Doers, and Thinkers,” in AmPhilese). When all seems lost, whether papist or not, those who love Western Civilization should take heart, because there are many good people out there fighting to save it, in their small-yet-determined ways, and to strengthen civil society. As conferences go, it proved a tonic—reviving drooping spirits and refreshing the soul. And what could be more delightful than spending time with the likes of Father Joseph Fessio, founder of Ignatius Press? The answer is, nothing.
May We Be like Solomon, and Seek Wisdom,
Jack Fowler, who receives correspondences wise, and not so wise, at firstname.lastname@example.org.