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Dear Intelligent American,


Yes, it was one of those crazy flings—a trip to the Moon . . . but they forgot the gossamer wings. Those might have helped.


For this first time in half a century, an American craft—named Odysseus—was flown to the Moon, and landed there. Moonstruck, if you will (momma mia, wasn’t Cher gorgeous?!) on its south pole, and promptly . . . tipped over.


Excuses: Came in too hot, tripped over a rock, the Sun got in its eyes, the dog ate my calculations. There’s no word yet if the vehicle messaged the command center, Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.


Of course, just like the 1969 Moon “Landing,” this latest not-so-bon voyage could be fake, right?


Back on Earth, where such conspiracies are hatched, there has been talk of a “Moon Race” between China and the U.S.—with fears that the Commies might claim La Luna as territory, and then, per one article spied by These Peepers, speculation that Peking might nuke the heavenly tide maker.


Proof that the Chinese are not fond of cheese? Who knows.


There was once a popular Broadway musical, Stop the World – I Want to Get Off. On second thought, it might be safer here.


Fly Me to the Moon, and Let Me Play Among the Excerpts


1. At Law & Liberty, Jonathan Leaf proposes an interesting way to push back against the madness at our universities: “De-accreditation.” From the essay:


However, there is an answer to this wholesale problem: de-accreditation. America has been permitting academics to win one another’s favor by giving them the exclusive right to determine what programs are and aren’t meeting standards. This is akin to asking reality show contestants to define modesty.


It doesn’t have to be like this. There are serious groups, like the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), that offer regular reports on what’s happening in academia. If a rich donor is willing to supply the funding, they should do more than just assess college and university departments for their intellectual diversity, academic standards, and rates of employment for graduates. Those that don’t measure up should be given failing marks. ISI and groups like it could simply say that the departments are not, by their measure, accredited.


Initially, some schools or departments that are de-accredited will likely bask pridefully in their censure. But I doubt this will last long. Academics are easily embarrassed. They won’t like those annual press reports saying that they have failed to provide their students with proper instruction or work opportunities. The enormous negative press coverage given to Penn, Harvard, and MIT over their college presidents’ congressional testimony on campus antisemitism has affected donations and admissions, and it’s apparent that much of the faculty at these schools would rather not be associated with the damning commentary. A list of such failing schools would be bound to act in the same way and give undergraduate and graduate applicants pause.


2. It’s Not Your Father’s Poland: At The American Mind, fan favorite Daniel J. Mahoney reports on the reaction to the new regime, and the elitist determination that Krakow follow Dublin leftwards. From the piece:


Since European elites despised the Catholic conservatives who governed Poland from 2015 onward for their firm support for Poland’s sovereignty and their fierce resistance to the moral and cultural progressivism that goes by the name of “European values,” European establishment opinion has welcomed this transfer of power as “the victory of democracy” and liberalism over discredited authoritarianism. In truth, however, the victory of the opposition, and the peaceful transfer of power to them, should have led commentators and observers to doubt the ritualistic misrepresentations of a Polish conservative government supported by at least half the Polish people. . . .


For the bien-pensants, Poland must go the way of post-Christian Ireland if it is to be considered a truly European nation. For them, democracy means supine acceptance of governance by post-national technocratic elites and a willingness to say goodbye to the Christian inheritance of the West. As Pierre Manent has very ably put it, “the old nations” and “the old religion” must be sacrificed on the altar of “the religion of humanity.” Pope John Paul II, the pride of the Polish nation and hardly a reactionary, could not be considered a truly European figure under these revisionist criteria. Nor could any conservative-minded democrat or liberal. Something is deeply wrong with democracy so redefined.


The new Polish government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk (who served as the President of the European Council from 2014 to 2019) is hardly liberal in any recognizable sense of the term. It treats members of the Law and Justice Party and its supporters as enemies of democracy in an occupied country that needs to be purged of authoritarian elements and retrograde thinking. It thus represents the authoritarian face of the new “anti-authoritarianism.” It was not always thus.


3. At National Review, Andrew Walker puts “Freedom Conservatism” under the microscope, only to find out an important thing is missing. From the essay:


Consider the release in 2023 of the essay “Freedom Conservativism: A Statement of Principles.” Billed as an heir to the 1960 Sharon Statement (an effort spearheaded by William F. Buckley Jr.) and as an alternative to the rise of “national conservatism,” the statement adumbrates an approach that sounds more libertarian than historically conservative. It is worth stressing that the statement is, in many ways, laudable. But what it says is not as problematic as what it omits. Whereas the Sharon Statement grounded its political convictions in “eternal truths,” the Freedom Conservatism Statement makes no mention of any divine foundation for the truths that it posits. It asserts many moral truths and moral oughts apart from any theistic foundation that would make them obligatory.


The problem is that without God, blunt assertions of obligation are just propositions. God is ultimately necessary to give those assertions the sort of directing authority that makes them truly intelligible, binding, and good. Of course, human beings are free to reject God. For this reason, the Freedom Conservatism Statement must be seen, at best, as a step-heir to the Sharon Statement. To borrow Heinrich Rommen’s description, the statement appears intentionally “metaphysicophobic”—it avoids matters of ultimate reality. Admirations aside, an allergy to transcendence in the name of conservative coalition-building is not sustainable in the late hour of modern American decadence. Nothing short of civilization’s acknowledgment of God will cure us of our vapidity and debauchery. Eventually, a nontheistic conservatism that exists in midair and by its own lights will yield to every moral demand that progressivism makes. This is already under way.


4. More National Review: Rabbi Meir Soloveichik explains why, in our exceptional Republic, Jews matter. Profoundly. From the essay:


Yet in the face of this terrible trend, other events remind us of a striking feature of American life: Some people do like Jews, and in fact some like them a great deal. If one had told a Jew from several centuries ago that, in the year 2023, an antisemitic pogrom would take place and the attack would be celebrated by mobs around the world, this Jew would not have been at all surprised. Yet this Jew would have been astounded to learn that, in response to the celebration of this pogrom, one prominent political party of the most powerful country on earth summoned the presidents of some of the most important universities in the land to publicly admonish them for their failings as academic leaders. Such stories of stalwart, public defenses of Jews against a country’s elites are not abundant in the annals of Jewish history.


Thus the past terrible months have reminded us not only of the endurance of antisemitism, but also of the remarkable way in which both the state of the Jews and the Jewish state are a prominent preoccupation in American public life. As the (non-Jewish) Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russell Mead has commented, the Jewish past and future maintain “a distinctive place in American historical consciousness and political thought.” Israel, Mead remarks, may be “a speck on the map of the world,” but it “occupies a continent in the American mind.” After two millennia of persecution experienced by Jews at the hands of others, it remains a wonder that a multitude of Americans—almost certainly many millions—ardently embrace their own version of Disraeli’s dictum, that God will treat America as it treats the Jews.


What this means is that the debates suffusing the halls of academia and Congress regarding Israel, and the place of Jews in American society, tell us even more about Gentiles than about Jews. It bespeaks two different trends within the West, and two very different possibilities for its future. Understanding why this is so requires us to study the story of the Jews in the West, and to grasp why the current moment offers a clarion call for those who care about the Western future—and the place of America within it.


5. At The New Criterion, Victor Davis Hanson compares October 7th to the Yom Kippur War, and explores Israel’s “eternal dilemma.” From the essay:


In sum, the more things have changed in the twenty-first century, the more they remain the same as the status quo of the twentieth. What, then, are we to make of this long, depressing cycle of warring that predates even the Yom Kippur War and will likely continue well beyond the current war in Gaza?


Israel in its current strategy seeks to reaffirm that whenever it is attacked, it will achieve an unconditional victory over the aggressor—at least to such a degree as to deter any other enemy from joining the anti-Israeli coalition, and ideally to ensure that no enemy will ever consider such a surprise attack again. Achieving such deterrence, however, would require the United States to forewarn state enemies of Israel that any preemptive attack on the Jewish state will earn a response from it whose magnitude and duration will be left entirely up to Jerusalem—while the United States would deter any great or regional power from opportunistically entering the conflict.


Yet Israel cannot count on such unconditional U.S. support, even after brutal surprise Arab attacks. The reasons for such caution are not just the radical ideological and demographic changes within the United States, brought about by open borders and massive immigration; the fundamental transformation of a once-liberal Democratic Party into a neo-socialist, anti-Semitic force; and the replacement of classical liberalism on American campuses by woke loathing, stoked by DEI functionaries, of Western civilization in general and Israel in particular.


6. At Acton Institute’s Religion & Liberty, Caleb Franz discusses America’s abolition movement, and the letters that inspired it. From the beginning of the piece:


One hundred and ninety-nine years ago today, a local paper out of Ripley, Ohio, published the final installment of a series of letters written by the Reverend John Rankin. They were addressed to his brother, Thomas, on the subject of American slavery.


“This day’s paper contains the last of a series of letters, on slavery, published in [The Castigator],” wrote editor David Ammen. “Such are the ways of the world that we have been censured by some, and applauded by others, for publishing them.”


Rankin didn’t know it then, but in writing those letters he was laying the foundation for the anti-slavery movement. And while the mention of the abolition movement today will conjure images of Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, these American heroes were, directly or indirectly, influenced by Rankin and his work. Far from a household name, Rankin is overlooked in most history books, but his influence on abolition cannot be overstated. His life and legacy deserve to be remembered.


7. At World, Hunter Baker catches the return of Jon Stewart and the anger over his deviation from the “party line,” and surmises how the rise of intolerant ideology foretells the end of comedy. From the piece:


Stewart’s reinstallation as host is less interesting than the reaction of some of his formerly adoring fans to it. A recent Rolling Stone article questions whether Stewart is the right person to take up the mantle of The Daily Show. The reason the author gives is amusing on its face. Alan Sepinwall argues that Jon Stewart’s “both sides are terrible” approach no longer works in 2024. I’m not sure what show Sepinwall and the editors of Rolling Stone were watching for a couple of decades, but it did not feature an even-handed critique of the two parties and their dominant personalities. Instead, there was virtually always a joke at the expense of conservatives accompanied by knowing winks and nods.


Nevertheless, it is true that Stewart seems to have taken a few risks in his years away from Comedy Central. As an example, in 2021 he ridiculed those who resist the idea that the COVID virus did, indeed, originate in Wuhan, China, where there was a lab dedicated to virological research. When he faced a backlash over his comments, Stewart observed how problematic it can be to try to reach the truth when political allegiances dictate what can and can’t be discussed.


The simple fact is that political correctness is deadly to the pursuit of truth and to comedy—and comedy is one of the ways we try to expose emperors without clothes by unsettling rigid, self-important, and sometimes self-flattering bromides. With one or two deviations from the accepted political or cultural line, even an ultra-highly regarded member of the cultural elite like Jon Stewart can fall from grace and become an object of suspicion.


8. At The American Spectator, Itxu Díaz writes about the effect—empty pews—of years of building ugly churches. From the piece:


Those who defended the building of new churches in industrial-style architecture—we should really call it “Soviet architecture”—used the same failed reasoning as those enlightened adepts of liberation theology. Fin-de-siècle relativism, which also wreaked havoc within the Church, was used as an argument for not rejecting the new religious ugliness: They figured that a church built like a concrete sports hall, diaphanous, with the tabernacle hidden behind some stone off to the side, was as equally a valid artistic manifestation as the imposing Gothic, Baroque, or Renaissance church, accepting the same relativist theory that also destroyed secular art giving way to the intricate jungle of horrors that is today contemporary art. And forgetting almost by accident all the valuable Thomistic philosophy of beauty, which orbits around a central idea: Beauty is the splendor of truth.


Otherwise, whatever is born ugly dies much uglier and loses all its attractiveness (if it every managed to muster any) as soon as the novelty wears off. Thus, the churches built at the end of the 20th century to the new canons of urban ugliness are today remnants from a time when the current crisis of the Church was only just beginning. Today almost no one doubts that it is necessary to create a beautiful environment that moves hearts to worship God: with inspiring architecture, deeply religious art, and even respect for the liturgy, which is generally under ever less abuse from the revolutionary priests from the ’70s and ’80s.


9. At Verily Magazine, Madison Ayers explains Gen Z and the troubling excuse for less demographic sex—more porn. And then there is the yearning for friendship. From the article:


This all sounds very promising, but anyone who is paying attention to the social culture of Gen Z can see that issues are bubbling up beneath the surface. Today’s teens are spending less time with friends and most of their free time alone on screens. They’re struggling with depression, anxiety, and body image issues. They’re finding it difficult to make and keep friends, which is why the majority of them are clamoring for more models of friendship on screen.


Now, pair all that with the abundance of readily accessible pornography, which is wreaking havoc on an entire generation. Over 70 percent of teens have consumed pornography, with many of them reporting that they accessed porn either at school or with a school-issued device. With the average age of exposure now being only twelve, it’s not uncommon for even middle school students to be consuming pornography and showing it to their classmates, making it nearly unavoidable for this generation.


From a young and impressionable age, children and teenagers are being exposed to what experts call a drug for the mind, creating feedback loops of cravings and desire that over time will desensitize an individual to the images they are seeing. This can actually change the brain by creating neural pathways that normalize the sexual objectification of others. Ample research has shown that frequent porn users are more likely to dehumanize others, support aggressive acts against women, blame the victims of sexual assault, and even commit more sexually violent acts themselves.


10. At First Things, Carl Trueman gets to the larger issues exposed by the recent funeral desecration of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. From the commentary:


One obvious question is why an atheist man convinced that he is a woman and committed to a life of prostitution would wish to have a funeral in a church. One answer is that the struggle for the heart of a culture always takes place in two areas: time and space. As the Christian transformation of the Roman Empire was marked by the emergence of the liturgical calendar and the turning of pagan temples into churches, so we can expect the reverse to take place when a culture paganizes. The pagans will respond in kind. And so we have a month dedicated to Pride and church buildings used for the mockery of Christianity. Time and space are reimagined in ways that directly confront and annihilate that once deemed sacred. A funeral in a Catholic cathedral for an atheist culture warrior is a first-class way of doing this.


This goes to a point I have made before: Our age is not marked so much by disenchantment as by desecration. The culture’s officer class is committed not merely to marginalizing that which previous generations considered sacred. It is committed to its destruction. Disenchantment has passive connotations, a dull, impersonal, somewhat tedious but inevitable process. But desecration speaks to the exultation that active destruction of the holy involves. When Gentili is celebrated as a “great whore” in Spanish by trans rights advocate Liaam Winslet in a eulogy greeted with wild applause, then “desecration” seems the only word that captures both the blasphemy and the exhilaration of the moment.


11. At The Public Discourse, Mark Bauerlein argues for maintaining education of America’s literature tradition, which is disappearing from many a high-school classroom. From the piece:


What we took as normal and necessary, as the English equivalent of basic geometry and the periodic table, Gen Zers see as exotic and burdensome. The public school system pretty much agrees. English isn’t classic American literature anymore. Our average sixteen-year-olds have no conception of an American literary heritage, or any cultural heritage, for that matter, and public school teachers have largely given up on remedying that lack—either because of the diversity demand (which casts most traditions from before 1960 as fatally Dead White Male) or because of their despair over getting kids to put in the time to finish a 200-page novel when those kids can’t leave their phones alone for ten minutes.


It is easy to underestimate the impact of this disappearance. Ideologues of multiculturalism don’t make that mistake, as we can see by their attacks on Western Civilization starting in the 1960s. They understand the conservative effect of tradition, and it has to go. In my experience in secondary education, however, the ideological thrust of downplaying the traditional canon has usually come in second. Coming in first has been an apolitical attitude. If you’re not a reader of short stories, if lines from Whitman’s “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” don’t touch you (“From under that yellow half-moon late-risen and swollen as if with tears”), if the despair of Quentin Compson bores you, why worry? You don’t care. You haven’t enough of a personal relationship with classic literature to stand firm. If when you were young you did identify with renowned heroes and heroines, you don’t ask the kids to repeat the act any longer. It’s too old-fashioned, not enough critical thinking. And with “rote memorization” a dirty word in ed school theory, you don’t require students to stand in front of the class and recite Shakespeare. It sounds too mechanical, a blank regurgitation of another’s words, not one’s own. Apart from that, upper administrators don’t back you on old-school literary matters. They think about STEM and workforce readiness. Poems and stories are fluff in their eyes, not the real stuff students need, that is, aptitude with numbers and skill with words (which a kid can learn by reading any “complex texts,” no literary tradition needed). Studying Modernist poetry won’t supply competent workers for large employers in the region.


12. At The Spectator, Jonathan Miller cuts the bad news about facing-extinction French cheeses. From the piece:


France claims to be exceptional and so does its cheese, a quintessential emblem of national identity. Now though, in the latest blow to the $37 billion French cheese sector, a biological crisis is threatening two protected cheeses. Camembert from Normandy and the practically indistinguishable Brie from Meaux in the Marne are both said to be potentially vulnerable to extinction. Moreover the crisis facing these iconic cheeses seems to be entirely self-inflicted.


The comic element of this tragedy is that white supremacy is to blame for this crisis and the solution is more diversity, at least in the fungus department. Camembert and Brie are snowy white, the color of powdered sugar, apparently because consumers like it this way. But how does it become so white? The bleached finish of these supermarket cheeses is due to the use of the fungus penicillium camemberti, a living composition of tiny bacterial creatures. Injected into the milk curd produced by fat cows, this produces the uniform, chalky whiteness.


Camemberti is remarkable but it has been abused. The fungus is weakening and is menaced with exhaustion and inefficacy, and with it Camembert and Brie, says the CNRS, the country’s leading scientific research center. The problem is that mass production has led to a drastic reduction in the variety of cultivated fungal strains. The most common has now lost its ability to reproduce, meaning factory workers are struggling to extract large enough volumes of spores for inoculation and ripening.


Lucky 13. At Farm & Ranch Guide, Sue Roesler rounds up the news about a North Dakota fundraiser that rounded up the bucks for buckaroos. From the beginning of the story:


At Wicks Cattle, Zane and Mary Jo Wicks opened the WIX Barn and Lodge for the “Hootenanny and Fleischkuekle Feed” fundraiser for the Richardton Junior High and High School Rodeo Association teams on Saturday, Feb. 10.


Young rodeo competitors manned the buffet at the fundraiser as more than 140 people came to donate to the rodeo teams, eat a meal at the gathering, and enjoy live music at the barn on the Wicks Cattle ranch south of Richardton. A quilt of rodeo riders decorated the walls, as folks sat down at the tables and conversed.


“The crowd was about the same as last year. They served around 140 plates. Everyone had fun at the Hootenanny—the music was good and it was a good fundraiser for the rodeo teams,” Zane said.


Bonus. At Front Porch Republic, David Bannon explores the depths of sorrow of former President Teddy Roosevelt, grieving the death of son Quentin, killed in action in France. From the piece:


No eulogies could be more eloquent than Roosevelt’s cries of grief: sitting for hours in his son’s room, whispering, “Quen-tee;” rocking in the chair on which he had held his children, repeating in liturgy, “Poor Quinikins;” or when he was heard sobbing into the mane of his son’s pony, “Poor Quentyquee!”


Quentin’s sister, Alice, quoted the Book of Job to express their family’s heartbreak: “The stout lion’s whelps are scattered abroad.” When General Peyton C. March asked about moving Quentin’s remains, Roosevelt also relied on scripture, this time Ecclesiastes. “Where the tree falls,” he wrote March, “there let it be.”


Roosevelt blamed himself for his son’s death. A careful reading of Roosevelt’s papers and letters clearly demonstrate a father’s burden of grief and guilt. He felt that his aggressive martial convictions had led all four of his sons to volunteer for military service. “It is rather awful to know that he paid with his life,” Roosevelt wrote of Quentin on September 20, “and that my other sons may pay with their lives, to try to put in practice what I preached.”


For the Good of the Cause


Uno. Save those dates! October 23-24. And mark the location! Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. Why? Because that’s when 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.


Due. What’s a nonprofit to do if it needs to firm up its grant-writing chops? The answer: Take AmPhil’s “Elements of Grant Writing” Master Class, the one coming up fast and furious on Thursday, March 7th, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. (Eastern). You’ve been granted a wonderful opportunity! Take advantage of it: Get complete information right here.


Point of Personal Privilege


Your Humble Correspondent pens a piece for Philanthropy Daily concerning the effect of rising antisemitism, not only for American Jews, but for the very soul of the nation. Read it here.


Department of Bad Jokes


Q: Why are basketball players messy eaters?


A: Because they are always dribbling.


A Dios


An interesting new essay in The Atlantic is titled “How First Contact with Whale Civilization Could Unfold.” It’s about talking to whales. Got it. Because we already have figured out talking through them: “'In my distress'”—sayeth one Jonah, three days and nights spent in the belly of the whale—“'I called to the Lord, and he answered me'. . . . And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land." Nice—a curbside drop-off!


May We, like the Embellied Prophet, Never Despair,


Jack Fowler, who is feeling fishy at jfowler@amphil.com.

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