15 min read

Dear Intelligent American,


Israel having been attacked by Hamas, This Writer is reminded of the 1955 movie, Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer, about the newborn brave country’s 1948 fight for independence. It stars Edward Mulhare and Haya Harareet. You can watch the film here.

Now, let us get on to the weekly business at hand.


Lights. Camera. Excerpt!


1. At RealClearPolitics, Suzan Johnson Cook and Katrina Lantos Swett see Asian democracies putting religious freedom at risk. From the piece:

India, the world’s largest democracy, faces what some experts term a “religious freedom crisis.” As the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recently noted, for the past several years the Indian government has supported national and state-level policies that discriminate against and hinder the freedom of religious minorities, such as Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindu Dalit communities. These discriminatory policies have emboldened or even inspired citizens to carry out violent mob attacks against religious minority groups in places like Manipur, and USCIRF has urged the State Department to designate India a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) with regards to religious freedom.


Next door in Pakistan – a country that also holds democratic elections – charges of blasphemy can carry sentences of 10 years up to the death sentence. The most recent State Department report on religious freedom notes that police have at times “killed, physically abused, or failed to protect religious minorities.” For minority faith communities like the Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, this utter disregard for freedom of religion or belief has led to a climate of terror and fear. Dozens of mosques have been desecrated. In 2023, alone, Ahmadi lawyers have been banned from practicing in some parts of the country, and the community faces systemic exclusion from basic civil rights, such as voting or obtaining an identification card. This state-supported persecution, again, often results in mob violence and even brutal killings.


2. At Quillette, Geoffrey Kabat clears out his father’s office, prompting reflections on the once-great scientist’s slow march toward obscurity. From the piece:

By the time my father’s symptoms became apparent, a number of the colleagues and friends he’d had for over 50 years had made changes in their lives as they reached their 70s. They gave up their labs, took up other intellectual pursuits, refurbished their summer houses to spend more time by the shore, or made other changes. Unlike these people, whose professional and social lives paralleled his, to all appearances, my father never made any plan for slowing down, shifting gears, and bringing the long active phase of his career to a close. . . .


Unlike his colleagues, toward whom I could tell that he felt a degree of superiority, he seemed to believe deep down, viscerally, that the laws of aging that applied to others didn’t apply to him. His iron will had enabled him to overcome other obstacles, and he wasn’t about to change at this point in his life. He seemed to have an unconscious fantasy that either he wouldn’t die or that the world would end with him. So this man, who was such a planner in other realms of his life, never planned for a time when he would have to stop. This was ingrained in his personality and predated the dementia. But once the disease started to affect his thinking, it took away the very thing that he was trying to persist in doing—his work.


It came as a tremendous shock to him that the world continued to turn without him. It must be said that, for all his membership in prestigious societies and contacts with the luminaries in his field, virtually no one worried about how he was doing now that he could no longer do the work that meant everything to him. In the main, it was only his Chinese postdocs and his technicians, or in one case, a Chinese collaborator in Chicago, who bothered to telephone or visit him.


3. At the New York Post, Naomi Schaefer Riley finds that a new federal policy threatens religious foster-care parents. From the article:

But these policy proposals are part of a long campaign to make religious foster families adhere to progressive ideology. For years, much of this effort was directed at religious foster agencies, some of which would not place foster youth with same-sex couples.


This conflict came to a head in 2021 when the Supreme Court unanimously found in favor of Catholic Social Services in its lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia. Local officials had ended their contract with faith-based organizations because of their policy, but the court found that since all foster agencies can make exceptions to the city’s “nondiscrimination” policies, “the City offers no compelling reason why it has a particular interest in denying an exception to CSS while making them available to others.” . . .


In the time since numerous lawsuits have been litigated against states for continuing to accommodate the religious tenets of faith-based agencies. Just last week, A federal court upheld South Carolina’s decision to continue partnering with Miracle Hill, a faith-based foster care ministry. The ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State had sued to stop the state from working with religious foster agencies.


4. At National Review, Armond White finds Airplane! a cultural counterpoint to many a more recent film. From the commentary:

It’s hard to get past these affronts. Our need to bear them would benefit from a stabilizing perspective—a recognition of absurdity that the media are not providing. Recent box-office hits—The Super Mario Brothers Movie, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, Barbie, Oppenheimer, PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie, The Little Mermaidare not artistic successes. All of them appeal to juvenile sensibility. And Barbie and Oppenheimerthe most grotesque of the bunch—fail as examples of escapism because they especially lack a sense of humor about social concerns that literally drive the public to distraction.


The ultimate insult of the Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild strikes is that Hollywood professionals have the audacity to seek extra compensation for having already coarsened, infantilized, and misrepresented our contemporary experience through patronizing, dishonest, mediocre fare. (And be sure, Barbie’s and Oppenheimer’s shrill depictions of humanity are decidedly mediocre.) There’s need for a comedy that’s not just about the failure of political parties but about the spectacle of failed manhood. Adam McKay’s atrocious Don’t Look Up was humorless about its climate-change heroes (except when Meryl Streep got her just deserts). McKay lacked the humanity of Abel Gance’s End of the World and worse yet doesn’t have the go-for-broke jokiness of Airplane! or the visual wit of William Richert’s political satire Winter Kills. Its masculine Oedipal comedy is in another class.


5. At Brownstone Institute, Sinead Murphy tackles three words at the center of doublespeak. From the beginning of the commentary:

‘Safe,’ ‘Smart,’ ‘Special:’ the three pillars of our doublespeak. ‘Safe’ endangers your life; ‘Smart’ degrades your faculties; ‘Special’ makes you normal.


‘Safe’ would seem to mean the avoidance of harm. What it means now is the avoidance of possibility. To be safe is to be removed from the world so that only a scripted range of options remains, too narrow to realise the most modest potential and therefore indicative of the spiritual malaise that comes of a life with little involvement and that is the bedrock of so many of today’s real and imagined illnesses.


Moreover, as the long association of ‘Health and Safety’ has grown ever closer, health is now the dominant field in which we stay safe. ‘Safe’ thus implies not only an over-solicitous negotiation of the world we move about in but a mode of relation to posited biochemical threats that have little to do with our own carefulness, relying almost wholly upon the intervention of designated technical expertise.


The effect of this conflation of safety and health, and of the attendant mass submission to technical solutions to identified health threats, is that our well-being is nurtured at the level of cohorts and not of individuals. When any one of us stays safe we increasingly acquiesce in the sacrifice of our individual welfare at the altar of one or other computer-modelled universal benefit, of which we can at best merely partake but which is fundamentally indifferent to our flourishing.


6. At Tablet Magazine, Michael Lind thinks, despite the perception of renewed strength, that American Labor is at the point of last-gasping. From the analysis:

Multiple factors, then, block a revival of private sector unionism. The legal framework of enterprise bargaining under the Wagner Act means that companies must be unionized one worksite at a time—something that is difficult or impossible in the case of firms with many small and scattered facilities. In traded sector industries like manufacturing, companies can replace unionized workplaces with nonunion work sites in the anti-union American South or in low-wage foreign countries, in the absence of protectionist measures like tariffs or local content regulations.


Firms in domestic service sector industries like fast-food restaurants and construction firms, to be sure, must perform their work locally and are more vulnerable to strikes and threats of strikes. But the advantage this could give unionized workers can be stymied by employers’ ability to hire from the growing pool of legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and legal guest workers—including the expanding pool of cheap labor the Biden administration has created by passing out work permits to an ever-increasing number of migrants, many of them really economic migrants who have been taught that ritually asking for asylum is the magic password for entry to the U.S. labor market.


As we have seen in the case of some recently unionized Amazon warehouses, there can still be local and limited victories for organized labor under the Wagner Act. And New York and California have revived the idea of wage boards with representatives from labor, business, and government who set minimum wages and benefits and standards for low-wage workers in occupations like fast food. But now that organized labor in the private sector has fallen from a third of the workforce in the 1950s to around 6% today, much more radical structural reforms are needed to restore the collective power of working-class Americans.


7. At Front Porch Republic, David Larson wants conservatives to consider the option of “cohousing.” From the piece:

Basically, American cohousing inhabitants are wealthy, white progressives. But it doesn’t need to be. There’s no reason why a cohousing community couldn’t have a conservative, rather than progressive, statement of values, or just be a collection of right-leaning family and friends who have some basic goals they want to share in common.


Angela Sanguinetti, director of the Cohousing Research Network at UC Davis, and Kathleen Hibbert, a social ecologist at California State University, did a study to find what was causing conservatives to avoid these housing arrangements. They tried to present cohousing as “pocket neighborhoods,” but that didn’t sway conservatives. What they did find was that “the most cited perceived benefits of cohousing were social interaction, relationships, and support, while lack of privacy and personal space topped the list of drawbacks.”


Even if describing them as “pocket neighborhoods” doesn’t solve the issue, I do think part of it is the name. Cohousing sounds a little bit like we’re going to all live in one house and be roommates. In fact, for this reason it’s often confused with “coliving,” where people do share a house and try to build a small community.


8. At Commentary, Christine Rosen scores the apologists of America’s criminals. From the essay:

It’s not just California. In May, Cook County prosecutor Jason Poje wrote an outraged letter of resignation from his position as assistant state’s attorney in Illinois. “The simple fact is that this State and County have set themselves on a course to disaster,” the letter said. Poje noted that communities have been endangered by policies such as “bond reform designed to make sure no one stays in jail while their cases are pending with no safety net to handle more criminals on the streets, shorter parole periods, lower sentences for repeat offenders . . . overuse of diversion programs, intentionally not pursuing prosecutions for crimes lawfully on the books.” These and other such notions have upended the foundations of the adversarial justice system. “Once we decide that it’s worth risking citizens’ lives to have a little social experiment,” Poje wrote, “that balance is lost.”


The recent effort to sideline the needs of victims in favor of emphasizing the plight of criminals is part of a broader change that began decades ago. I’m speaking of the flourishing of a victimology culture that confers moral and social status on anyone claiming victimhood. As Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning have argued in their 2018 book, The Rise of Victimhood Culture, a victimhood arms race has broken out in which individual behavior is subsumed beneath claims that one has been wronged—all to achieve higher moral status and escape personal responsibility.


This culture has warped our understanding of what a victim really is. As victimhood expands to incorporate new groups and classes of protected people, not all of whom deserve the status of victim, the moral weight of victimhood has been diluted—and with it, society’s obligations to seek justice for real victims.


9. At The American Conservative, Peter Hitchens shows that he has a thing for the Book of Common Prayer. From the reflection:

Not that many of the Church of England’s clergy much like to say it these days. They do not like the Prayer Book very much, and have spent a large part of the last 40 years squeezing it out of use, except at special old people’s services early in the morning or in the evening. Many of them are not even familiar with it. Some, to my direct personal knowledge, actively hate it because of its emphasis on old-fashioned penitence.


Was there ever such a changeable book, with its half-Catholic version of 1549, its far more Protestant revision of 1552, and its more or less final fudge of 1662? And yet, was there ever such a beautiful and profound one? Much like the Church of England itself, the volume is disreputably worldly according to the time and place, and it is a cloudy compromise between Calvinism and Catholicism that nobody to this day has really been able to disentangle. And long may it remain so. I personally like the first Queen Elizabeth’s view that we should make of the Lord’s Supper what we will, and not hack windows into the souls of those kneeling next to us at the rail.


Yet it is also so perpetually lovely and full of the Holy Ghost that sin wilts in its presence and Godly persons of any denomination can and do sink gratefully into its poetry, given the chance. It provides the Constitution of Private Life, from font to graveside. I have attended funerals conducted according to its austere instructions and come away astonished at just how seriously it takes death in a world which prefers to hide it: “In the midst of life we are in death…suffer us not, in our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee.”


10. At The Spectator, Bill Kauffman shows again that he is a roque-ribbed fan of quirky towns and villages. From the piece:

Goose-pulling is dead and gone, and lawn darts are on life support, but roque is alive and well and avoiding the roster of extinct sports thanks to the good folks of Angelica, an attractive village of fewer than 1,000 souls in the southwestern corner of New York State.


What’s that: you’ve never heard of roque? Affix a “c” to its left and a “t” to its right and you have its sporting parent. Roque is a nineteenth-century American variation on the erstwhile European pastime of the leisure class. A hybrid of croquet and billiards, it is played on an oval-octagonal court of sand and clay with fixed wickets and hardwood boundaries off which a player can ricochet shots. Its mallets, shorter than those used in croquet, are now either homemade or handed down from roquers past.


Roque enjoyed a brief vogue. It was a medal sport at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, where Americans swept the gold, silver and bronze. (The only non-medalist was also American.) Public courts appeared here and there in the 1930s, courtesy of the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration, but it just never caught on—except in Angelica, where Angelican exceptionalism has preserved an old court and transmitted a love, or at least liking, of the game to generations.


11. At City Journal, Chris Rufo argues for a counterrevolution. From the essay:

Today’s counterrevolution is not one of class against class but takes place along a new axis between the citizen and an ideologically driven state. Its ultimate ambition is not to replace the new “universal class”—the heirs of the 1960s cultural revolution, who have worked to professionalize it and install it in elite institutions—or to capture the bureaucratic apparatus that the universal class currently controls; instead, it seeks to restore the nation’s founding principle of citizen rule over the state.


The current moment can be symbolized as a conflict between the Revolution of 1968 and the Revolution of 1776. And despite the seemingly overwhelming power of their opponents, the partisans of 1776 have some significant advantages. The 1968ers promise liberation through the destruction of old forms of order; they appeal to the romantic spirit of the revolutionary. But their campaigns inevitably collapse into nihilism. They tear away the supposed masks, denounce the great ideals, humiliate the old heroes—and leave nothing but an immense void in their place.


The counterrevolution must take its bearings from the common citizen and offer to restore his dignity and mastery over his own life. It must reverse the process of institutional capture, break up centralized ideological powers, and return influence to local communities. The strategy has been described as “right-wing Leninism,” but this misunderstands a key point: while the revolution seeks to demolish America’s founding principles, the counterrevolution seeks to restore them; while the revolution proceeds by a long march through the institutions, the counterrevolution works to remove power from institutions that have lost or betrayed the public trust.


12. More NR: Robert Bryce explains that small towns are under attack from Big Wind. From the article: 

In mid February, NextEra, which operates 110 wind projects in 20 states, filed lawsuits in both state and federal court against the town of Hinton, population: 3,200. Why is the wind giant suing the Caddo County town? Simple: Hinton stands between NextEra and nearly $18 million per year in federal tax subsidies.


NextEra isn’t suing only Hinton. Since last October, the wind giant has filed lawsuits against five rural governments from Oklahoma to Michigan, all of which have imposed limits on wind-turbine development. The company has also filed a libel suit against Esther Wrightman, a Canadian activist who opposed a project NextEra wanted to build in Kerwood, Ontario. Wrightman’s offense? She called the company “NexTerror” and “NextError” on her website, ontario-wind-resistance.org. That libel suit, filed four years ago, is still pending.


To be certain, the oil and gas industry has filed lawsuits against local governments that have sought limits on hydraulic fracturing. The difference is that NextEra is using taxpayers’ money to fund its courthouse mugging of small-town America. Between 2008 and 2015, according to a recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, NextEra accumulated profits of $21.5 billion but didn’t pay a dime in federal income taxes. Over that time frame, only ten other American companies received more in tax subsidies than NextEra. Nor does it appear that NextEra will be paying federal taxes any time soon. In its 10-K filing for 2016 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company reported $3 billion in tax-credit carryforwards that it can use to directly offset tax liabilities in future years. Remember, tax credits are more valuable than a deduction from revenue or accelerated depreciation. As my accounting consultant (and brother) Wally Bryce, a CPA, reminds me: “You’d much rather get a tax credit because it applies dollar for dollar against what you owe the government.”


Lucky 13. At UnHerd, Margaret Drabble explains why a woman can be both an author and a mother. From the beginning of the essay:

Books or babies? It’s a choice that has presented itself to women writers for centuries. And it was a favourite theme of Ursula K. Le Guin who struggled, successfully, to balance the two. In her lecture, “The Fisherwoman’s Daughter”, published in 1988, she takes an optimistic view. “The Victorian script calls for a clear choice—either books or babies for a woman, but not both.” She chose both. She had had, in her own words, “three kids and written about 20 books, and thank God it wasn’t the other way round”.


This was a joke I often used to make in my own ever-evolving lecture about women and writing. I used to say, “I wrote my first three novels while expecting my first three babies,” and would then outline the challenge I had writing my fourth novel without being pregnant. Eventually, I got tired of this attempted witticism and dropped it, but it did no more than record a fact. Men might have thought it an impertinent fact, but it meant a lot to me, as pregnancy and childbirth seemed so intimately connected with my career and writing life.


In her lecture, Le Guin discusses an episode in my third novel, The Millstone, in which the narrator, Rosamund, describes how her baby has chewed up quite a lot of her flatmate’s novel-in-progress. Le Guin makes the point that the tone of this scene is comic and accepting rather than bitter or tragic. Both women survive it without acrimony: babies do eat books, and, as she says, and it is terrible, “but not very terrible”, because a book can be Sellotaped together again. And the babies “are only babies for a couple of years, while writers lived for decades”. I loved that description; she keenly understood the minor hazards of the writing mother’s life, the interweaving of books and babies.


Bonus. At National Affairs, Seth Kaplan believes we should reorient ourselves and consider causes instead of symptoms, realize the importance of place, and prioritize the forest over the tree. From the essay:

A multitude of public and private initiatives over the past half-century have targeted the individuals and places most in need. But most efforts have fallen short of their goals. At best, they make an impact in one small area or on the lives of some residents without transforming the neighborhood itself. Why? Because we treat the symptoms instead of the causes.


Part of the problem lies in the way government bodies, philanthropists, and non-profits operate. They typically extend help to individual "trees," or even just branches, trying to improve education, housing, health, security, food, and work. They define problems within the confines of their mandates and rarely work with others or seek to address the forest's overall health. They may not even ask whether their objectives are achievable in context.


As such, these organizations are unable to think strategically about specific places. They emphasize metrics for individuals' progress and equate well-being with material outcomes. They have a limited ability to tackle problems related to social context, address some of the core challenges constraining a locale (such as the role of social norms), or engage with potentially useful partners (such as houses of worship). Moreover, Elisabeth Clemens explains in Civic Gifts how government has encouraged the development of "large hierarchical organizations (whether federal agencies or voluntary associations)" geared to meeting top-down goals and satisfying complex rules and contractual requirements.


This practice has distorted civil society, disconnecting community organizations from their immediate surroundings (from which they used to get funding) and residents from the institutions that once played a crucial role in nurturing the strength of their community.


For the Good of the Cause


Uno. At Philanthropy Daily, wise man “Big” Ben Domingue speaks truth to the power of nonprofit doctrine that abhors spending on marketing, and makes the case that fundraising needs to be seen “as a profit center, rather than a cost center.” Read the article here.


Due. You’ll have digested the turkey by then—the afternoon of Tuesday, November 28th, is the “then”—so you’ll have no excuse for not attending (via Zoom) the important Center for Civil Society “Givers, Doers, & Thinkers” webinar on “The Future of Christian Higher Education.” Jon Hannah, boss of C4CS, will be joined by Pepperdine University’s Pete Peterson and Malone University’s David Beer for a frank and illuminating discussion. Make sure you register—do that right here.


Tre. Last Call! Register for C4CS’s quickly upcoming conference on “Rise of the Nones: How Declining Religious Affiliation Is Changing Civil Society.” It takes place on November 7–8 in glorious Scottsdale, AZ. The lineup is super: Speakers include Shelby Steele and Mary Eberstadt. Get complete information right here.


Department of Bad Jokes


Q: Why did the airplane get sent to his room?


A: He had a bad altitude.


A Dios


Has this madness inflicted on Israel been bankrolled in part with American tax dollars bizarrely sent to a nasty nation? Politically, despite the encroachment of politics into so many things, there are still huge swaths of peoples here who—whether because of uninterest or disgust or some other excuse—are disengaged from the affairs of state, and their obligation as “the governed” to give their consent. This is a responsibility, not a luxury—let us pray more people take the former to heart. There are terrible consequences when enough don’t.


May He Who Takes Away the Sins of the World Grant Us Peace,


Jack Fowler, who can be found at jfowler@amphil.com.

Leave a Reply

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