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Dear Intelligent American,

The Much Much Better Half, once upon a time, amidst the having of many children (five, for those keeping score), volunteered at La Leche League, for which Your Humble Correspondent employed sophomoric nicknames. Breastfeeding may not be the political hill to die on, but it is a practice that—besides being obviously natural, is the means by which the Almighty engineered His creation to nourish its progeny—deserves championing in this Era of Manufactured Alternatives

The La Leche League is, at its core, women who speak truth to powder! (Explainer: That is an Enfamil joke.)

If you’re keeping abreast of things, no mas. No chiquita either. Leftism, that thing marching through any and all institutions, has come to the League, whose boob-ridden leadership now genuflect to that XX-chromosomal thing replacing women, the chest-feeder.

More on all that below, amidst all the links and excerpts that vie for your weekly attention. You will udderly enjoy them.

Do Not Be Cowed by the Plethora of Treats that Await

1. At The New Statesman, John Gray points to liberals as the biggest threat to the West and its freedoms. From the essay:

The fundamental threat to freedom in the West comes not from Marxism, postmodernism or even the increasing sway of autocratic regimes in boardrooms and universities, but from within liberalism. From being an empirical philosophy, open in principle to learning from experience, it has become a self-referential world-view that screens out forbidden truths. With the closing of the liberal mind, “critical thinking” has become the recitation of a secular catechism, an exercise designed to banish other modes of thought.

 

At bottom, the liberal assault on free speech is a bid for unchecked power. By shifting the locus of decision from democratic deliberation to legal procedures, progressives aim to insulate their cultish programmes from contestation and accountability. The politicisation of law and the hollowing out of politics go hand in hand.

 

2. At The American Mind, fan favorite Daniel J. Mahoney, reflecting on Gray in part, makes the case that the West must recover the moral foundations of democracy, lest a shipwreck. From the piece:

In light of the rise of a new authoritarianism/totalitarianism in the name of the “cultish programs” of the ecological and life-style Left, Gray recommends democracy as the proper response to the “hyper-liberal extremism” that has led to “the politicization of law and the hollowing out of politics” in the Western world. The defeat of a referendum in Ireland promising far-reaching additional assaults on traditional social arrangements is no doubt a promising development of democracy at work, as is the backlash against an absurd “Hate Law” in Scotland. In the United States, many rally to Donald Trump, that most imperfect of vehicles, because he rightly discerns a new and menacing coercive despotism where many establishment figures on the Right see politics as usual.

 

Freedom Conservatism (for all its good intentions) won’t do because it radically understates the need to restore and reinvigorate the crucial moral foundations of a once liberal order. Freedom without self-limitation and deference to the ends and purposes informing human freedom cannot begin to overcome the totalitarian impulse within contemporary hyper-liberalism. Democracy, in contrast, in the form of the revitalization of self-government, provides a very good start, indeed. But democracy will perish if the old common sense is not renewed by right reason, recta ratio as our forebears used to call it. We must become cognizant of the deep and abiding reasons for opposing the modernity without restraint which saps our souls of strength and empties our civic freedom of meaningful content. As Brad Littlejohn has recently written at World magazine, we can no longer rely on a “silent majority” partly (largely?) converted to materialism and a debased individualism. Hyper-liberalism openly wars with the idea of the Good itself, finding even in human nature itself an intolerable obstacle to a freedom that is collapsing into despotism and moral incoherence. That is where we are. To refuse to acknowledge our present circumstances is to bury one’s head in the sand, to abdicate our intellectual, moral, and civic responsibilities.

 

3. At The Free Press, Bethany Mandel tells of the erasure of women from La Leche League. From the piece:

Looking at the site, one wonders precisely who these meetings are now open to: Is it biological men who want to induce chemical lactation in themselves, or is it biological women who now consider themselves to be men? Either way, the entire mission of an organization meant to support women during one of the most important times of their lives is changing to accommodate a few hundred individuals, at most.

 

Recently, I noticed the League’s website also states that its mission is to help parents “breastfeed, chestfeed, and human milk feed their babies.” The information section asks, “Do you have questions about breastfeeding, chestfeeding, pumping, and more?” Donations, the website says, will help sustain “breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and human milk feeding.”

 

Meanwhile, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, a guidebook by La Leche League that’s been around since the 1950s, is being rereleased in October under a new title: The Art of Breastfeeding—erasing the word woman entirely. So here we are, in the run-up to Mother’s Day, watching an organization that once celebrated motherhood cave to political correctness.

 

4. At City Journal, Heather Mac Donald wonders out loud why women are at the forefront of pro-Hamas college protests. From the piece:

The female tilt among anti-Israel student protesters is an underappreciated aspect of the pro-Hamas campus hysteria. True, when activists need muscle (to echo University of Missouri professor Melissa Click’s immortal call during the 2015 Black Lives Matter protests), males are mobilized to smash windows and doors or hurl projectiles at the police, for example. But the faces behind the masks and before the cameras are disproportionately female, as seen in this recent gem from the Princeton demonstrations.

 

Why the apparent gender gap? One possible reason is that women constitute majorities of both student bodies and the metastasizing student-services bureaucracies that cater to them. Another is the sex skew in majors. The hard sciences and economics, whose students are less likely to take days or weeks out from their classes to party (correction: “stand against genocide”) in cool North Face tents, are still majority male. The humanities and soft social sciences, the fields where you might even get extra credit for your intersectional activism, are majority female. (Not surprisingly, males have spearheaded recent efforts to guard the American flag against desecration.) In progressive movements, the default assumption now may be to elevate females ahead of males as leaders and spokesmen. But most important, the victim ideology that drives much of academia today, with its explicit enmity to objectivity and reason as white male constructs, has a female character.

 

5. More CJ: Steven Hayward asks if the convention riots of 1968 will return this summer. From the analysis:

Biden’s Israel pivot is also further evidence of liberals’ willingness to indulge the demands of the radical Left. We saw this in 2020 with the respectable Left’s capitulation to the insane demands of Black Lives Matter (“defund the police”), and we’re seeing it now, as liberal college presidents rush to placate anti-Semitic campus mobs. Remarkably, the presidents persist in acknowledging and negotiating with these mobs despite their being largely made up of extremists who do not even represent their student bodies at large, much less the American people.

 

We know the mobs are unserious, in part, because their demands have swelled far beyond the Gaza conflict to encompass the larger laundry list of “social justice” issues (plus free meals). Here’s another close parallel with 1968: by the time of that year’s Democratic convention in Chicago, the antiwar protesters had expanded their demands to include drug legalization, prison reform, “the total disarmament of all people beginning with the police,” the abolition of money, free birth control, elimination of pollution, and more. At least today’s protesters are into recycling.

 

6. At National Review, Robert George argues that religious freedom and conscience require renewed protection from our courts and legislatures. From the essay:

So clear is our jurisprudential shift toward a pro-religion understanding of the First Amendment that the language of religious liberty has figured prominently anew in conservative and progressive discourse alike. On the one hand, progressives and other traditional opponents of a robust understanding of religious freedom have begun to frame progressive causes in religious-liberty terms. Last year’s wave of post-Dobbs lawsuits filed by advocacy groups claiming that access to elective abortion should be guaranteed as a matter of religious freedom is a telling example. On the other hand, some conservatives on the “post-liberal” right have grown skeptical of America’s tradition of religious freedom. The moral case for protecting religious liberty, they think, begets religious indifferentism or its cousin: relativism.

 

Unfortunately, neither group tends to exhibit a sound understanding of the human good of religion, and their advocacy is usually marred by a misapprehension of the moral foundation of religious freedom. It’s time for a restatement of the case for religious liberty—a fundamental human right. One might, to be sure, defend religious liberty in any number of ways. Some legal scholars, for instance, defend the right to religious freedom on prudential grounds; it’s good, they say, to protect people’s right to believe and worship as they see fit, given humanity’s historical tendency to inflict the most wicked persecution on people simply because of their faith. And that may be right. But a robust defense of religious freedom need not stop at prudential considerations. For religion . . . is a basic—irreducible—aspect of human flourishing, something to be sought and protected for its own sake, and a human good that demands freedom in its pursuit.

 

7. Would Gus Get on the Bus?: Maybe he shouldn’t. At The American Conservative, Harry Scherer—contemplating Sam Forster’s new book on public transit—says the wheels have come off. From the review:

There’s the rub. Marketing materials for public transit rarely feature their patrons, and for good reason. The promoters tend to favor a driver standing with a sense of authority at the step of a bus or a train conductor glancing through his window. The patrons offer something less predictable: a mix of those who are in a hurry and those who are decidedly not in a hurry, a reserved majority and an extroverted minority, a quiet consensus to give peace a chance interrupted by someone who’s still thinking that one over.

 

The experience generally works out as a net positive on the individual level. Though the risk is a small price, some are unwilling to pay it. Sam Forster was willing, and he has compiled his observations in a helpful little book called Americosis. A blend of cultural analysis, data collection, and bright journalistic color, Forster offers a delicate treatment of coarse content.

 

The author, a Canadian, travels south to get a sense of the environment surrounding the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system. The situation he describes is nothing short of disorder. As drug use and mental instability pervade, normal customers are relegated to a position of inferiority. Loud ramblings overcome the otherwise universal hope for quiet, a standard to which most riders have resigned themselves.

 

8. At The European Conservative, Brian Scarffe embarks on a crusade to restore Christian cursing. From the essay:

Finally, in the Book of Revelation we see beneath the great altar of the Lord all of those who had been redeemed, calling out for vengeance and asking how long the Lord would wait before taking vengeance. Among these saints would be many from the post-apostolic period, and as we now turn to the age of the Church we shall see the curses continue as a major aspect of Christian spirituality.

 

Historians have noted a rich tradition of cursing in the British Isles and Ireland in particular. St. Patrick is recorded as cursing on a number of occasions, with one record giving us the detail that he raised his left hand (the right hand is the hand of blessing) whilst saying “May this impious one who blasphemes your name now be lifted away and quickly slain.” St. Berach can be found in a cursing exchange with a local druid, during which the saint says “May the wretched cursing man lose the use of his tongue lest he should try to offer even more blasphemous words to the true and living God.” A number of curses are to be found in the 9th-century law of the innocents written by the Abbot of Iona, St. Adamnan, where we find the key phrase “May the curse of God be on you.”

 

In a practice which mirrors the blessing of objects, monastic scribes would protect the books they were writing with a written curse, with one example reading “May an anathema slay anyone who steals this book away.” There is little evidence that either the cursing saints or their later recorders felt the need to justify any of these actions; curses were simply the other face of blessings.

 

9. So, like, Wilfred McClay, at, like, The Hedgehog Review, likes to write about “Like.” You may, like, like it. From the reflection:

Serious students of language have a hard time knowing what to do with this all-too-familiar use of like. They call it “filler,” and it’s hard not to regard it as something bordering on the sublinguistic, an almost intolerable torturing of the magnificent instrument bequeathed to us by Shakespeare and his successors. For those of us who teach and spend a lot of our time talking to young people, the endless supply of self-interrupting likes that litter their speech and impede the flow of their thoughts can be very hard to take. . . . [T]he pairing of like with a groan or moan or other interjection represents a complete defeat for language, abandoning the possibility of precise expression for the ease of the inarticulate. It is something entirely different from the “uhs” and “ums” that serve as filler to an Oxford don.

 

And it’s not just an American thing. In French, the word genre is used in a remarkably similar, and similarly annoying, way by the young. (See this example from a slightly cranky article in Le Figaro: “Il était comment?—Grand, genre vraiment grand.” In English, “How was he?—Tall. Like, really tall.”) In some Latin American countries, the filler is como, an exact equivalent to like. I’m told the same is true in the patterns of adolescent speech in other European languages. Something significant may be going on here, and as we are about the business of tracking Signifiers in this column, attention needs to be paid.

 

The redoubtable linguist John McWhorter has written entertainingly and well about the ubiquitous like, and he mostly approves of it. One might even be justified in saying that he likes it. Yes, he is willing to admit that its use does betray a certain diffidence or “hesitation,” a fear of “venturing a definite statement.” But in the end, he contends that like as verbal filler is better understood as “a modal marker of the human mind at work in conversation,” of thought in motion.

 

10. Mandel II: At Commentary Magazine, Seth Mandel takes on the anti-Jewish literary blacklist. Yes, there is such a thing in America in 2024, and yes, you are probably not surprised. From the article:

Let me give you an example. Pierce Brown is the bestselling author of the dystopian science-fiction series Red Rising. On the blacklist, he is listed as a Zionist and therefore to be avoided. The explanation is that he posted “pro-Israel” content to an Instagram story. You can follow a link to see the evidence for yourself. His crime: “He lamented the loss of life on October 7 while ignoring the history and reality of Israel’s genocidal, apartheid settler state in Palestine.”

 

So there you have it. Literally, “he lamented the loss of life on October 7” is the entirety of the case against him. You might call him a human being. Anti-Israel activists call him a Zionist. Both sound to me like compliments, but the twitter account ZionistsInBooks disagrees.

 

Some of this work takes real sleuthing by this amateur keffiyeh Stasi. Take Stephanie Garber, author of a couple of popular young-adult fiction series. Under the “Zionist: Yes/No” category, Garber is listed as a firm Yes. The explanation was less firm, positing that Garber “allegedly posted pro-palestine messaging previously, however she favorably posted a book by SJM to her instagram story, and then blocked an instagram user after they called her out for it (sic all).”

 

11. At The New Criterion, James Panero pens a detailed history of a New York City “urban renewal” project that stood out from those community-levelling undertakings that infected many an American metropolis. It gave us Lincoln Center. From the article:

But the cultural height of San Juan Hill came and went soon after the turn of the century. Manhattan’s own Great Migration saw black New Yorkers moving north from Greenwich Village through this West Side neighborhood on the way to Harlem. The “old law” tenements that filled out San Juan Hill’s narrow lots were made illegal after the city’s new code provisions of 1901 mandated greater setbacks for air and light—one explanation for why many black New Yorkers chose to move out of these overcrowded blocks. The advent of single-room-occupancy residences (after city housing law changed in 1939 to allow sros) and the conversion of several tenements into illegal business spaces further diminished the neighborhood’s housing stock. Garages, repair shops, gas stations, and utilities were intermixed into these blocks as extensions of the automobile row that still runs along Eleventh Avenue. Finally, centered among Irish, Italian, Polish, and other ethnic enclaves, the neighborhood became besieged with gang violence. The nickname of San Juan Hill, applied to an area that was officially known as Lincoln Square and Columbus Hill, may have been a reference to the black veterans who settled there after the Spanish–American War. Just as likely, the name came out of the ethnic warfare that famously inspired the musical West Side Story (which was filmed at the northern end of San Juan Hill just before demolition). . . .

 

By the 1950s, thanks to the Federal Housing Act of 1949, cities across the country were using and often abusing eminent domain to tap into federal funds for slum clearance. The Lincoln Square Renewal Project of 1955 is remarkable not for what it cleared—seventeen decrepit blocks between Sixtieth and Seventieth Streets—but for what was created in its place: not another urban highway as was cut through many other municipalities, but rather a Manhattan campus for Fordham University, a new headquarters for the American Red Cross, four thousand units of middle-income housing, and a campus for multiple performing arts organizations of world renown.

 

12. Sweeney Todd holding on Line Two: At Massachusetts’s Community Advocate, Maureen Sullivan reports on some Marlborough High School teachers who succumbed to shaving in order to raise bucks for music. From the story:

For three members of the Marlborough High School faculty, it was time to face the music.

 

After their students raised more than $13,000 from selling popcorn, band and orchestra director Angie Crockwell; marching band James Verdone; and a cappella choir director Caleb Whelden climbed the Little Theater stage on April 22 to receive their rewards. For Crockwell, it was getting a shaving-cream pie in the face from one of her students.

 

“It was messy, but it was for a good cause,” she said.

 

Verdone and Whelden had their facial hair removed by none other than Mayor J. Christian Dumais.

 

Lucky 13. At World, Timothy Lamer dissects how gambling has become intertwined with American sports. If you think it’s not problematic, read how gambling is changing the culture of sports:

Players can become targets of abuse whether they play well or poorly. For example, the mother of former Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud told Sports Illustrated her son received death threats after a close loss to Michigan last year. But winning doesn’t shield players, either. Purdue Boilermakers guard Carson Barrett says his phone blew up after he made a three-point shot late in a 2023 NCAA basketball tournament victory. One message said, “Kill yourself.” (Social media abuse in general is a problem for athletes, including sexualized messages to females. In April, Louisiana State women’s basketball star Angel Reese tearfully told reporters that, because of such abuse, she hasn’t been happy since her team’s 2023 NCAA title victory.)

 

For gamblers, wins and losses aren’t the only concern. They also care deeply about the “spread”—the predicted margin of victory for the favored team. The result is that athletes who simply play to the best of their ability can arouse fan anger if they encroach on the spread. In March 2023, Texas Christian University basketball star Damion Baugh made a 3-point shot at the buzzer against Gonzaga that changed the final score from 84-78 to 84-81. The shot didn’t change the outcome of the game, a Gonzaga victory. But since Gonzaga had been favored by 4 points, Baugh’s shot meant his opponent’s victory didn’t cover the spread. Angry bettors sent Baugh harassing messages.

 

It’s the same in the NBA. “There’s no doubt about it, that it’s crossed the line,” Cavaliers coach Bickerstaff said. “The amount of times where I’m standing up there, and we may have a 10-point lead, and the spread is 11, and people are yelling at me to leave the guys in so that we can cover the spread—it’s ridiculous.”

 

Bonus. At The Spectator, Hannah Moore offers a spoonful of wisdom about cod liver oil. From the piece:

In the ancient world, oil from fish livers was believed to hold a wide range of medicinal properties; the Book of Tobit also credits it with healing Tobit’s blindness. In the Middle East it was used to treat conjunctivitis and other maladies of the eyes. The Vikings believed the liver oil from Atlantic cod prevented symptoms brought by the cold weather—stiff muscles, aching joints and arthritis. In most of Scandinavia, they still do: A study conducted by the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition asked almost 40,000 Norwegian women whether they take cod-liver oil to prevent cancer and other serious conditions: 44.7 percent said they do. Norwegian women make their kids take cod-liver oil too.

 

When my brother-in-law was a child in Norway he was given it to drink every day before school, often instead of breakfast. It was so strong and fishy it made him nearly vomit on his daily commute to school. He no longer lives in Norway and can’t get hold of the really good stuff—Möller’s, straight from the bottle—but he’d still be drinking it if he could.

 

In Iceland they take it in shot glasses with their breakfast—they consider it “the fountain of youth.” I can personally attest to this—on a recent trip to Iceland I came to down for breakfast to find cod-liver oil waiting on the buffet alongside Skyr and muesli. Iceland consistently ranks among the highest in the world for life expectancy, with an average age of eighty-two. They believe this is down to cod-liver oil, and they might be right.

 

For the Good of the Cause

Uno. At Philanthropy Daily, the delightful Emily Marble has cautioned that galas and big fundraising dinners and related events may not be everything they’re cracked up to be. There’s lots of wisdom to be had at her article, which can be read right here.

Due. The Center for Civil Society offers a slew of important “master classes” that are vital for nonprofit worker bees. For example, should you need intensive training on "Major Gifts" (after all, they account for a supermajority of nonprofit support) consider attending the Center’s in-person seminar in Washington, D.C. (September 4 to 6). Find out more about this vital training right here.

Tre. The recent Center for Civil Society webinar on “American Jews, Philanthropic Traditions, and Harsh New Realities” can be watched on the C4CS YouTube channel, right here.

Department of Bad Jokes

Q: Why did the king go to the dentist?

A: He needed to get a crown.

A Dios

The Son of Yours Truly, a young man gifted at the keyboard and passionate about basketball, took to the National Catholic Register to interview UConn’s NCAA Tournament-winning head coach, Dan Hurley, like many who read this epistle a man of faith. Read it here.

When He Passes the Ball, May We Hit a Three,

Jack Fowler, who is warming the bench at jfowler@amphil.com.

P.S. On days like this, one cannot help but remember that ghastly monikered Major Leaguer, Boob Fowler. And no, there is no relation.


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