14 min read

Dear Intelligent American,

These weekly missives try to resist the pull into politics—you will notice, for example, the lack of recommended articles about wandering presidents, dramatic debates, geriatric campaigning, and the spirit-channeling of Woodrow Wilson’s wife. There are plentiful other places for such.

Here, regular readers should get the idea that we have a prejudicial care about civil society—which is not bad for a missive published by the Center for Civil Society. That, along with charity, philanthropy, Tocqueville, and the Good Samaritan, are the things which motivate. So too does good journalism.

“Journalism” implies journals, which in turn implies print and eyeballs. But things that tickle the eardrums matter too to Intelligent Americans.

Hence: Allow us to draw your attention to “Givers, Doers, & Thinkers,” the remarkable C4CS podcast, hosted by the talented Jeremy Beer, that you can find at Philanthropy Daily. Test drive the latest episode, where Jeremy discusses innovation with Jeff Sandefer, as smart and as aces a dude you will ever meet.

Or will listen to.


Maybe, After Listening, Power Up Your Peepers and Direct Them to These Suggestions


1. At Newsweek, John Berry has ideas for helping families on the brink of homelessness. From the analysis:

But reducing homelessness to addiction and mental illness fundamentally misunderstands the problem. Yes, many of the most visibly homeless—those camped out in public—are in the throes of mental illness or substance abuse. But they aren't representative of most people struggling to avoid homelessness today.


The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the charitable organization I lead, works alongside the poor and marginalized in over 1,000 cities across America. Many of the people we work with are facing eviction or have nowhere to stay. And do you know the demographic profile typical of those on the brink of homelessness?


Single-parent families. Or, more precisely, "a single custodial adult raising minor aged children." Not a drug-crazed criminal or a shiftless welfare bum. It's men and women trying desperately to juggle child care with keeping a roof overhead.


2. At The Imaginative Conservative, Joseph Pearce writes of saints, martyrs, and the Tudor Terror. From the article:

Bishop John Fisher, aging and ailing, was so weak on the morning of the execution that he had to be carried from his cell. As to the execution itself, we have an eyewitness account of his final words, spoken from the scaffold. “Christian people,” Fisher declared to the crowd gathered on Tower Hill, “I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ’s Catholic Church.”


Although Fisher’s last moments epitomized the dignified courage which had characterized his life, there was nothing dignified in the manner that his body was treated following his death. Presumably on Henry’s orders, the decapitated corpse was stripped naked and left on the scaffold for the rest of the day. In the evening, it was removed unceremoniously to a nearby churchyard, where it was dumped, still naked, into a rough grave. There was no funeral prayer. Fisher’s head was stuck upon a pole on London Bridge where it remained for two weeks, its ruddy and apparently incorrupt appearance exciting much attention.


It was now Thomas More’s turn to face the executioner’s axe.


Three days after the martyrdom of John Fisher, Henry ordered preachers to denounce the treasons of Sir Thomas More from their pulpits. Since More’s trial for treason wasn’t due to start until a week later, on July 1, the king’s orders signified, if such signification were necessary, that the trial was already a foregone conclusion and that only one verdict would be tolerated. The parallels with the justice system in other secularist tyrannies, such as the show trials in the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin, are clear enough.


3. At The Daily Signal, Miles Pollard and Richard Stern explain that energy innovation is central to prosperity. From the piece:


Unfortunately, government bureaucrats have taken for granted the practical realities that energy abundance has on reducing poverty for its citizens. Subsequently, these policymakers are taking a dangerous path of forced energy scarcity that is deindustrializing countries like Germany.


America cannot turn its back on the energy abundance that made it the most advanced and greatest nation on Earth.


The universal currency of energy provides us with reliable rules-of-thumb for gauging human advancement. In nations with an energy use of only 500 kWh of energy per capita, there is often only subsistence-level agricultural production, and incomes hover around $1,000 per year.


When energy consumption per capita eclipses 10,000 kWh per capita, there is a drastic decline in poverty. At this point, societies tend to have one doctor per 1,000 residents and see a drastic reduction in child mortality. At 20,000 kWh per capita, the people have enough accumulated wealth to begin serious investments towards mitigating air and water pollution.


4. At The American Spectator, F. Andrew Wolf Jr. explains the many differences between the American and French revolutions. From the essay:


After independence was secure, Americans looked to experience and what history teaches to guide them in securing their freedoms by establishing government on a secure and concrete basis. Forrest McDonald notes in his work Novus Ordo Seclorum: The Intellectual Origins of the Constitution that it was John Dickinson who cautioned those gathered at the Philadelphia Convention, “Reason may mislead us.” Thus he added, “Experience must be our only guide.” The only safe path forward was to look to history and allow experience to guide their reason.


And Dickinson was not alone in his faith in experience and concern for unbridled reason.


Experience was “the best oracle of wisdom” and “the least fallible guide of human opinions,” wrote Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers. James Madison, his collaborator in the Federalist, was just as resolute. He wrote that experience was “the oracle of truth” and “the guide that ought always to be followed whenever it can be found.” Experience, they believed, would help temper reason from leading them astray into extremes.


The French, on the other hand, exalted Reason above not only experience, but also above religion and the divine. Indeed, they transformed Notre Dame Cathedral into a “Temple of Reason” and held pseudo-religious festivals in honor of this new “deity.” Unfortunately, reason unrestrained and untempered by history and experience proved unable to establish a stable government or to secure liberty in France. It led instead to the Reign of Terror, the Empire of Napoleon, and, ultimately, to the restoration of the monarchy that so many died attempting to defend and destroy. To date, there have been 17 separate governments in France since 1789. The Fifth Republic is the most recent.


5. At Law & Liberty, Jerry Hendrix spotlights the return of “Great Power Competition.” From the essay:

The United States returns to great power competition with a generation of leaders who lack personal experience, or even an intellectual grounding, to deal with the emerging challenges. While the United States, as a historic entity, has existed in previous periods of vibrant global competition, its current generation of leaders has matured during a unipolar moment in which the United States was the only major player on the world’s stage, when it could write the rules and fully expect that they would be followed. Furthermore, this generation’s education and exposure to theories of international relations were heavily influenced by the first Cold War’s competition between the United States and the communist Soviet Union. While not unprecedented, such bipolar competitions are relatively rare across the span of human history. Today the nation faces an emerging multipolar environment with centers of power rising to challenge American hegemony on the Russian steppes and China’s “Middle Kingdom,” and perhaps in other locales as well. Additionally, Europe, which has been long aligned in support of the United States in a closely allied Western bloc of nations, has begun to diverge from American interests in terms of its defined “eternal and perpetual” political, economic, diplomatic, and military interests. So, suffice it to say, the challenges of the new great power competition have rocked the United States back to a position very much on an unaccustomed back foot.


However, there are lessons from previous generations, as well as factors within the international environment that rebound to America’s favor. Prior to World War II, international relations were based upon a multi-polar great power architecture. . . . Even the American Revolution and subsequent westward expansion were very much an extension of Europe’s ongoing great power competition with Britain, France, Spain, and even Portugal all having equities in the western hemisphere.


6. At the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, John Mac Ghlionn explains the demise of, and need for, college philosophy departments. From the article:

Philosophy, far from being an antiquated discipline, is more crucial now than ever. As artificial intelligence, ethical dilemmas, and existential questions pervade our daily lives, the timeless discipline of philosophy offers a crucial lens through which to navigate the complexities of our modern world. In a landscape characterized by uncertainty and rapid transformation, philosophy serves as a beacon of intellectual clarity and moral guidance, inviting us to engage with fundamental questions about ethics, knowledge, meaning, and the human experience.


Philosophy teaches us to consider, reflect, and reason effectively. It challenges us to question our assumptions, understand different perspectives, and articulate our ideas with precision. These are skills that are not just beneficial but essential in an era in which information is abundant but wisdom scarce.


Sadly, though, in recent times philosophy has entered the realm of academic absurdity, with departments finding more and more inventive ways to squander taxpayers’ money—such as, for example, by publishing papers on the metaphysics of puns. Yes, you read that right. While dizzying technological advances threaten to upend whole economies and cultures, ivory-tower intellectuals are busy dissecting the ontological status of wordplay.


7. At National Review, Armond White, he of the spirited keyboard, lambasts weird inclusions on a “Best Westerns” movie list. From the piece

The shame of IndieWires list is consistent with the site’s petty mission: It’s designed to promote the independent film movement’s assumed difference from institutional Hollywood, although IndieWire itself is seldom distinguishable from such film-industry publications as Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, the Wrap, or the Los Angeles Times. By granting real estate to already established, well-connected filmmakers, IndieWire’s promotional-hype journalism proves that most indie filmmakers and film journalists are just envious poor cousins to those who have made the big time.


A more honest, suitable list would confine IndieWire to indies that are actual Westerns (Ride the Whirlwind, The Shooting, Straight to Hell, Lonesome Cowboys, Bone Tomahawk). These pollsters don’t understand why the Western is great. (Desperate poll entries such as Brokeback Mountain, Nope and The Rider miss the point.) Critic John Demetry has cited the Western as America’s “ur-narrative,” and Gregory Solman has noted how “malleable” its facts and legends have been over the decades. But IndieWire couldn’t figure out any of this.


Demoralized times inspire a demoralized mission. And so the site, putatively dedicated to film art, contradicts itself. IndieWire’sGreatest Westerns” poll is an act of misandry and a failed attempt at denying the masculine psychology at the heart of America and the creation of the Western genre.


8. At First Things, Sam Buntz laments the spread of euthanasia. From the article:

Assisted suicide in the Netherlands was originally supposed to be available only for the terminally ill. Now, the criterion has broadened to “unbearable suffering with no prospect of improvement,” . . . Other countries that have embraced assisted suicide are also flirting with the bottom of the slippery slope. The Canadian government’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) program has seen frequent instances of medical authorities urging assisted suicide on patients whose care is deemed too expensive. In 2022, over 13,000 people were killed by the MAiD program, making it Canada’s sixth leading cause of death.


The reinterpretation of “care” to include the state-sanctioned killing of those who burden the system naturally calls to mind Aktion T4, the Nazis’ program of euthanizing the mentally and physically disabled. Hitler issued the memorandum authorizing involuntary euthanasia in 1939, just after the war commenced. It stated, “persons who are suffering from diseases which may be deemed incurable according to standards of human judgment based on a careful examination of their condition shall be guaranteed a mercy death.” Although the program was secret, its scale ensured the public would learn of it. At mental hospitals and asylums, all the patients were killed. Regular hospitals throughout Germany were roped into the scheme. Children with Down Syndrome, hydrocephalus, and a wide range of physical and mental disabilities were secretly euthanized after their parents brought them in for routine medical care. In some cases, the Nazis would test children, requiring them to create a full sentence using the words “dog,” “fox,” and “field.” They euthanized those who failed. The program also pioneered the use of gas for mass murder, prior to its use in the death camps, in the form of mobile gas chamber vans. In the end, Aktion T4 murdered between 275,000 to 300,000 people in Germany, Austria, Poland, and what is now the Czech Republic.


The Nazis’ appeal to compassion and mercy in describing their euthanasia program is eerily similar to that of contemporary advocates of assisted suicide.


9. At The Lamp, Jude Russo reveals he is a bad traveler, or, at least, planner of sojourns. From the article:

Like most middle-aged men, I think I was quite the traveler in my youth, pounding up the pavements in bazaars and suks the world over with nothing but a toothbrush and a dog-eared copy of A Shropshire Lad. We cheerfully direct tableaux of the past from a long distance, looking through the well-polished, rosy lenses of the present: the rememberer, in memory a jot or two better dressed than he was in reality, high in the Western Ghats under a gentle rain, looking up through the forest toward an ancient temple of Shiva; the rememberer bushwhacking across the Anatolian highlands, conversing with shepherds and farmers; the rememberer reciting Pindar at the monument of Philopappos.


These fond fictions deserve to be exploded. I never much liked Pindar, and my Turkish peregrinations were mostly conducted on highly civilized coach buses. I looked down on the temple from a parking lot, and it was pouring, and my feet were soaked because the soles of my boots were broken, and the damned pile had been built only in the sixteenth century, anyhow. Afterward, already delayed by the storms and a local elephant running amok, our chartered bus’s gearbox failed, and we had to push that vessel of wrath at speed for it to clutch into first. We did not make it back to the city until after midnight, by which time all the restaurants, groceries, and liquor stores were closed. That was a damp, hungry, thirsty homecoming.


This is not to say that traveling is all buncombe; I wouldn’t trade for almost anything my memory of meeting a German backpacker on the Areopagus, drinking yerba maté next to the small marble block marking where the Apostle to the Gentiles delivered the great classical oration of the early Church.


10. At City Journal, Tim Rosenberger reacts to the destruction of a Youngstown landmark, a gut-punch to revitalization. From the article:

The city declined, however, in the latter half of the twentieth century. Global competition, shifts in consumer preferences, and technological changes ravaged local industries. Youngstown’s steel mills shuttered, its jobs vanished, and its population dwindled. By the early twenty-first century, Realty Tower had been repurposed for residential use.


Youngstown had recently made some strides at shoring up its downtown. The city brought a major hotel in the area, hosts large-scale outdoor events, and attracts residents looking for a faster pace of life than that offered in Northeast Ohio’s sprawling suburbs. The ground floor of Realty Tower even secured a blue-chip tenant, Chase Bank.


But on May 28, that progress came crashing down. Workers in the Realty Tower’s basement cut through a disused gas line. For reasons that remain under investigation, the gas line was still pressurized. Minutes later, a massive explosion ripped through the building, killing a Chase employee and injuring several others. The incident raised several questions. Were the workers undertrained? Did the utility company neglect a live line? Those answers are pending, but in the meantime, the city has decided that the damaged tower should be razed.


Now, Downtown’s biggest summer event, the Italian Fest, is cancelled. The new hotel is closed indefinitely. Residents don’t know when, if ever, they can return home.


11. At The Free Press, Eli Steele, who was born deaf, explains why he feels lucky about that. From the piece:


After that, I improved so rapidly that by first grade I was “mainstreamed” into my local elementary school. Hearing-aid technology had improved, so I could wear a smaller, behind-the-ear set. Even so, elementary school was tough. I couldn’t keep up with the lessons, and often had to stay after school for two to three hours every day to catch up. On top of that, I had four or more hours of speech therapy every week.


And I was often left out. I couldn’t casually call up friends outside school because there was no way for me to use a telephone. I also couldn’t watch movies, because I wasn’t able to lip-read two-dimensional faces. When other kids threw around quotes like “E.T. phone home,” my sister had to explain them to me.


I was also relentlessly bullied. Some of my classmates called me a “deaf retard,” mocked my accent, and flicked my hearing aids.


Knowing this, my parents often wondered if they’d made a mistake. They once asked me if I wanted to go to a deaf school, to be with “my kind”—and I said yes. But when I woke up the next morning, I had changed my mind. I could not have articulated it at that time, but I understood that to separate from mainstream society was to sell myself short.


12. At Tablet Magazine, Rebecca Cypess tells why she left her faculty position at Rutgers University. From the piece:

As universities nationwide continue to reel from anti-Israel protests and accusations of antisemitism on their campuses, I have left my position as a professor and administrator at Rutgers to join the leadership of Yeshiva University, an institution built on and guided by Jewish tradition. Some news outlets have sensationalized my move, claiming that I was driven out by antisemitism. This is untrue. I am not running away from antisemitism, but rather running to embrace the Jewish educational principles that Yeshiva University embodies. Perhaps ironically, those principles—most important, free inquiry and respect for diverse opinions within constructive bounds—are more closely aligned with the ideals of higher education espoused by the Founders of the United States than the ones currently exhibited by public universities like Rutgers.


Many of the Founders—George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush, and James Madison, among others—argued passionately for the establishment of a national university that would educate students to appreciate and act in accordance with their duty to the country and to one another. In a 1796 letter, Washington celebrated the role of education in “enlightening and giving just ways of thinking to our Citizens.” While he had previously wondered whether such an education could be provided by the “seminaries of learning already established” in the United States (of which Rutgers, then a religious institution called Queens College, was one), he soon became convinced that a national university without a religious affiliation would be better suited to the task: There, “the Youth ... from different parts of the United States would be assembled together, & would by degrees discover that there was not that cause for those jealousies & prejudices which one part of the union had imbibed against another part.”


Lucky 13. At the Newark, NJ, Patch, Eric Kiefer reports on a successful fundraiser that will put many a meal on many a table. From the beginning of the article:

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey recently raised more than $1.36 million at its Blue Jean Ball 2024.


The annual fundraising event was held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. The funds raised at the gala—which equals roughly four million meals—will be used to tackle the “root causes” of hunger in the Garden State, organizers said.


This year’s event was symbolic, as Newark is where the nonprofit’s founder, Kathleen DiChiara, first began giving out food from the back of her station wagon in 1975. It’s also where the food bank was first headquartered after its incorporation in 1982.


Bonus. At The Spectator World, Chilton Williamson Jr. recommends seeing the world . . . on horseback. From the beginning of the piece:

In his introduction to Desert Solitaire Edward Abbey wrote: “you can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you’ll see something, maybe. Probably not.” While what he says about driving, walking and crawling is true enough, my late friend Ed neglected to mention the alternative—and best—way to see and experience the Mountain West. That is on horseback, the optimal mode from the point of view of observational perspective as well as speed of travel. True, it leaves you exposed to the weather (the blasting heat and wind, the heart-numbing cold, lightning and hailstones) and the temper and footing of your mount (getting thrown, brushed off going under a tree branch or rolled on). But then, as the saying goes, “in the midst of life we are in death.” The Bedouin have a saying that no man can call himself a rider until he has gone off a horse at least a dozen times. I first bestrode one at the age of ten or twelve and have been thrown or fallen on dozens of occasions; more than the average, I imagine, as I enjoy the work of breaking the damn beasts, my own and other people’s. It is springtime—finally—in Wyoming as I write, and time to take to the mountain trails again after the runoff is over.


Point of Personal Privilege

At Philanthropy Daily, Your Humble Correspondent celebrated Independence Day by recalling the amazing and shocking events that took place on the Declaration’s Golden Anniversary, with some respect-paying to John Quincy Adams. Read it here.


For the Good of the Cause

Uno. Attention all Givers, Doers, and Thinkers: The Center For Civil Society is holding a consequential conference on K to Campus: How the Education Reform Movement Can Reshape Higher Ed. It takes place at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA, from October 23-24, and just about every bit of info you want/need to know can be found here. Fun fact: The kick-off event will be Yours Truly interviewing the great Victor Davis Hanson. The agenda is super, with plenty of inspiration on tap. Be there.


Due. At Philanthropy Daily, Andrew Fowler, former tax deduction, recalls the many charitable doings of Father Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. Read it here.


Tre. “We need to do a capital campaign. By the way, what is a capital campaign?” Good question, one among many that will be answered at the Center for Civil Society’s “In the Trenches” Master Class scheduled for Thursday, August 8th, via Zoom, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. (Eastern). If you’re a nonprofit worker bee, or even trustee, that is noodling the idea of a capital campaign, you’ll regret not attending. So sign up. Do that, and learn more, right here.


Department of Bad Jokes

Q: What was left after the explosion of the cheese factory?

A: De brie. 


A Dios

Betsy took Your Humble Correspondent to task once for his flippant comments on Facebook about his life as an NYC commuter, and the people he’d deal with on trains, including plus-sized seatmates. It was a social-media stand-up act . . . except Betsy—a follower (and friend and neighbor too)—saw a hint of cruelty in it, and said so in the comments. If you are a believer, doesn’t everything come down to WWJD? Post something about the squeezy ride home? Her scolding humbled, which was a good thing. Anyway . . . Betsy, who has battled a disease for many years, is about to meet Our Maker. Please pray for her.

May Our Souls' Luggage Not Be Oversized,

Jack Fowler, who could use more humbling at jfowler@amphil.com.


Leave a Reply

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