Dear Intelligent American,
First, on a lighter note, we should admit that Prissy is in good company, because an increasing number of Americans don't know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies. It’s a good thing Scarlett didn’t question her about surrogate parenting, another topic of interest from this past week’s headlines—more on all such stuff below.
Second, from forty years past, a collegiate choir tune poked its head through the memory—composer Howard Hanson’s 1957 “Song of Democracy,” the kind of patriotically liberal fare one would have seen performed on Sunday public television. What lyrics:
Sail thy best, ship of Democracy
Of value is thy freight
'Tis not the present only
The Past is also stored in thee
Thou holdest not the venture of thyself alone
Not of thy Western continent alone
Earth's resume entire floats on thy keel
O ship is steadied by thy spars
With thee Time voyages in trust
The antecedent nations seek or swim with thee
Oh my, it reeks of privilege, with no room for 1619 hoo-ha, no? No. And we pause to wonder: Would a music school dare to produce such fare today, or would a choral group or college choir perform this or any such tune detailing American exceptionalism and duty?
Again, no. Is there an echo here? Let us move along, because the darling buds of May have been shook—or shaken, or shooketh—and therefore we must head speedily towards summer, and the blooming excerpts that follow.
A Bouquet Awaits
1. At The Wall Street Journal, Janet Adamy delves into the demographic question of why Americans are having fewer babies. From the essay:
The decline has demographers puzzled and economists worried. America’s longstanding geopolitical advantages, they say, are underpinned by a robust pool of young people. Without them, the U.S. economy will be weighed down by a worsening shortage of workers who can fill jobs and pay into programs like Social Security that care for the elderly. At the heart of the falling birthrate is a central question: Do American women simply want fewer children? Or are life circumstances impeding them from having the children that they desire?
New evidence points to the latter explanation. In a study published in January in the journal Population and Development Review, sociologists Karen Benjamin Guzzo and Sarah R. Hayford found that when millennials (born 1981 to 1996) and the oldest members of Generation Z (starting in 1997) were surveyed in their late teens and early 20s, they said, on average, that they wanted to have at least two children—just a fraction less than members of Generation X and the youngest baby boomers when they were surveyed at the same age.
But the gap between women’s intended number of children and their actual family size has widened considerably. The researchers found that by the time women born in the late 1980s were in their early 30s, they had given birth, on average, to about one child less than they planned. That is roughly double the size of the shortfall for women born two decades earlier, and it is likely too large to be erased by a spurt of childbearing in their late 30s.
2. Meanwhile, at The Federalist, Jordan Boyd reports on Khloe Kardashian’s womb-renting motherhood take that surrogacy can present some self-serving conflicts. From the piece:
“I felt really guilty that this woman just had my baby,” the middle Kardashian sister confessed. “I take the baby and I go to another room, and you’re sort of separated. It’s such a transactional experience ’cause it’s not about him.”
Khloe’s second child, Tatum, was born in July 2022 after he was conceived via in vitro fertilization with Khloe’s on-again, off-again baby daddy Tristan Thompson. Despite spending years desiring and trying for a sibling for her daughter, True, whom she birthed in 2018, Khloe admitted she felt less bonded with her surrogate-born son than with her daughter.
“It’s a mind f-ck. It’s really the weirdest thing,” Khloe said. . . .
As Khloe accurately noted in her short reflection, renting a womb violates not just the dignity of biological and birth mothers, it hurts the child whose rights and needs get sidelined by adults’ desires since conception in a lab.
3. At Tablet Magazine, Walter Russell Mead thinks it’s not too far-fetched to dream of a Red California (not the commie-derived crimson). From the essay:
The truth is that we already have everything we need to make California golden once again. The highway to wealth that transformed the horizons of the Okies is still open. The obstacles to growth are mostly in our heads.
On the right, there is a fear, exacerbated by the Biden administration’s inexcusable incompetence and paralytic gridlock when it comes to securing the border, that the latest wave of new Californians is a vast, unassimilable mass who will submerge everything that was good about the old California without adding anything new and valuable to the mix. Republicans in California are going to have to learn the lessons of Texas and Florida, where pro-growth, pro-opportunity, and pro-family policies are attracting growing numbers of new immigrants to the GOP. Like the Okies, these immigrants are people who for the most part loathe dependency and the politics of clientelism. To have a future, California Republicans will have to develop leaders and organizations based among immigrant communities on the basis of policies that address their concerns and embrace their values.
The door is open for California Republicans if they dare to walk through it. For anxious millennials, aspirational zoomers, and above all for millions of immigrants, home ownership remains the key to the American dream. Tight land use and zoning restrictions plus ever-increasing regulatory requirements for new home construction have turned California, once a haven for first-generation homeowners, into the most expensive housing market in the country. As of April 2023, the state’s median home price stood at $765,900; if housing costs are factored in, California has the in the nation.
4. More Hoping: At The American Conservative, Anthony Hennen plots a pedestrian rebirth for Cincinnati, the victim, like many an American city, of slicing highways. From the article:
The future, however, need not ape the past. With economic growth, new transplants, and a low cost of living, city leaders with some initiative could create in Cincinnati a model for mid-sized American cities to rebuild what previous generations of planners had destroyed.
But to change course, leaders must recognize how cars triumphed over Cincinnati’s pedestrians.
“Cincinnati is the typical story, which is that to make the city work better for automobiles, there were basically two generations of rebuilding roads,” David Stradling, professor of urban history at the University of Cincinnati, said. “One begins in the 1920s: That involves building things like thoroughfares, widening some streets, allowing surface roads. That is mildly destructive, but nothing compared to what happened in the 1960s and 1970s after the passage of the Interstate Highway Act in 1956.” . . .
Those interstates fueled the suburban exodus and cut through predominantly black neighborhoods. They also resulted in leaders deprioritizing the city itself and focusing more on the suburbs outside the city.
5. More TAC: Christopher Brunet spent six months living in Mexico, and warns about the “Latin Hammer” and importing it to the U.S. From the piece:
Travel blogger Jake Nomada affectionately refers to the “lack of common sense found in many areas throughout the region” as “.” Some examples he lists include getting stuck in traffic for hours because road workers were on a siesta break, getting scammed by landlords, and bribing narcos.
For me, the Latin Hammer manifested itself in power outages, ant infestations, and a lack of hot water. I lived in three different AirBnBs; at each one I had to wait for several hours to check in because the host forgot about me. My early attempts at ordering Amazon failed, with packages usually failing to arrive at all, so I quickly abandoned e-commerce altogether.
My neighbor ran an unlicensed tattoo parlor from his AirBnB room and advertised it with a flier on his door, facing a street with lots of foot traffic. In a First World country, he could expect the cops to shut him down in under a week, but here he knows the cops don’t care. Every pharmacy sells a wide array of anabolic steroids sans prescription.
I will never forget being serenaded to sleep every night by feral cats brawling outside my window, coupled with blaring Mariachi music. But if the neighbors want to party into the wee hours of every morning, who am I to move in one day and tell them to stop?
6. At The Public Discourse, Emily DeArdo, quite alive, proclaims joy over the gift of organ transplants. From the beginning of the piece:
I recently turned forty-one. There’s a sort of joke that women don’t tell their age, and if you’re over forty, you’re permanently thirty-nine. But I love telling people how old I am because I wasn’t supposed to make it to twenty-four, let alone forty-one.
When I was twenty-three, I received a double lung transplant due to cystic fibrosis (CF), a life-limiting genetic disease that causes the body’s mucus to be thicker than usual, clogging the linings of the lungs, the pancreas, and other parts of the body. When I was diagnosed in 1993 at age eleven, the average life expectancy of a CF patient was thirty-three years old. At eleven, thirty-three is old. At twenty-three, it’s not.
Receiving a transplant has led me to be incredibly grateful for my life, so grateful that some people think it’s an act. When I appeared on Jeopardy! in 2016, a viewer wrote a tweet asking if I was trying to imitate Carol Channing (because no one could be that insanely enthusiastic). I wasn’t. I really am that enthusiastic and extroverted almost all the time. Part of this enthusiasm stems from knowing that my life, miraculously extended as it is, still will not meet the average life expectancy for an American woman.
7. More TPD: Mark Dooley explores the depth of the late Roger Scruton’s love of home, and the great philosopher’s calling-out of its enemies. From the article:
The radical and revolutionary mindset seeks to depersonalize or deface the world. That is why the experience of Communism is that of alienation and despair. When the Lebenswelt is torn away, we “see the world under one aspect alone, as a world of objects.” We are told the subject is a fiction and that “beyond death there is nothing.” We all know, however, that when we gaze at a painting, a landscape, or the community in which we are at home, we cannot help but encounter the subjectivity of the world. That is, we encounter the very same type of thing we experience when beholding another person. It is as though the world smiles back at us from a place beyond time. Kant called this experience of the subject “the transcendental,” a term Scruton also uses synonymously with “the sacred.”
We catch sight of the subject in a painting, or a landscape, in a sonata, a glass of wine, or even in a building that we love. It is as though all these things shine with a personality of their own and smile back at us with a human face. “In the sentiment of beauty,” Scruton says, “we feel the purposiveness and intelligibility of everything that surrounds us.” Human beauty, he tells us in his widely acclaimed book Beauty, “places the transcendental subject before our eyes and within our grasp.”
That is why, as Scruton provocatively put it, the Devil consistently wages war against art and culture. He does so because the culture of a nation—expressed in its literature, music, artworks, political institutions, and religious rites—is the fabric of our common home. Through them, we connect, not only with the living, but with the dead and the unborn. They root us to place, time, history, and to that homeland of the soul that we all crave as a remedy to our existential isolation. They speak of somewhere rather than nowhere, of settlement and belonging rather than estrangement and alienation. They reflect how we see the world, something that is obvious to anyone who observes the character or personality of any nation in old Europe.
8. At The European Conservative, Álvaro Peñas interviews María Werlau, who explains how the mythifying of terrorist Che Guevara may be the most successful marketing operation in history. From the piece:
“Yes, we have shot, we shot and we will continue to shoot,” said Che at the United Nations. Is this the phrase that best portrays Che Guevara?
Yes, because he enjoyed killing. I have spoken to many people who knew him, including the parish priest of La Cabaña, the fortress that was the prison where Che was in charge of revolutionary justice. He liked it and told the priest so, a man who couldn’t stand it any longer and had to leave after six months and after accompanying 55 people to the wall. Che wrote about this and was very clear about it.
He didn’t deceive anyone.
Not about this, but he did deceive when he went on television and said that he was not a communist, although I give him credit for being consistent and for having become a guerrilla for his ideals. The unusual thing is how propaganda has turned him into a myth. It was a deliberate campaign to cleanse the image of the Cuban revolution and turn both it and Che into romantic myths. To carry it out, Cuban intelligence enlisted the help of the KGB and its satellites. This is told by Ion Pacepa, former director of the Romanian Securitate, who recounts how they were asked for their help to turn Che into a martyr. I think it has been the most successful marketing campaign of modern times because there is no country where the image of Che Guevara has not been seen. Even in Poland, a country that has suffered so much from communism, I have seen images of Che. And that was the reason for writing this book, because there is a huge bibliography devoted to Che, but nothing about his victims.
9. Three Men and a Baby: At First Things, Auguste Meyrat introduces us to Somerville, MA, polyamorous capital of these here United States. From the piece:
Somerville is “a very queer city,” brags Willie Burnley Jr., the town’s city councilor-at-large. “We have a population that’s more open to these ideas, and many of these folks are either currently non-monogamous or have tried non-monogamy or at the very least know someone who’s polyamorous.” Naturally, Burnley Jr. practices what he preaches.
While Safronova paints Somerville as a utopian model to which other cities may aspire, her essay raises more than a few questions: (1) Are polyamorous people really so marginalized that they need a whole town catering to them? (2) Do the leaders of Somerville set any limits on what lifestyles are permitted? For example, are polygamy, pedophilia, or bestiality allowed? If not, why not? (3) Is a town of polyamorous households good for children? (4) Doesn’t Somerville’s inclusion of polyamorous people necessarily exclude most people who find it immoral?
Despite what progressives believe, polyamorous people, even those with fluid genders and sexualities, don’t face serious hostility in most American cities. Even in the urban centers of red states there are plenty of “gayborhoods” and “bohemian” enclaves where sexual promiscuity is welcome and Pride flags are ubiquitous. In light of this, it’s difficult to determine what a place like Somerville, a suburb outside of Boston, offers that the actual city of Boston doesn’t.
10. At RealClearBooks & Culture, Charlie Tidmarsh fixes bayonet to wage battle against the “Censorship Industrial Complex.” From the beginning of the piece:
It’s been nearly six months since the first installment of the Twitter Files—the journalistic effort by Matt Taibbi, Michael Shellenberger, Bari Weiss, Lee Fang, and many others to expose the myriad channels by which the U.S government cooperated with Twitter on content moderation and censorship—was first published. Twitter Files One, perhaps the mildest of more than 20 unique reports, details the social media company’s internal deliberations in the days before the New York Post’s story about Hunter Biden’s laptop was removed from the site. Later reports have exposed the tendrils of a governmental apparatus that influenced some of the most significant media distortions in recent American history, from the fraudulent Hamilton 68 misinformation tracking dashboard to the FBI’s intimate involvement with Twitter’s content-moderation practices.
For six months, not much of consequence has happened, either in Washington or the mainstream media, in response. Those who owe us mea culpas have not provided them, tending instead to attack the individual reporters or ignore their findings. Meanwhile, some concerning developments have emerged: Congress formed the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government in order to conduct its own investigation, which would have been encouraging had it not culminated in representative Stacey Plaskett of the U.S. Virgin Islands threatening Taibbi with imprisonment for his testimony; Mark Warner’s RESTRICT Act, which would yield the federal government an enormous media-censorship leeway, was introduced in the Senate in March; Montana banned TikTok statewide; special counsel John Durham’s report on Russian interference was released and received with a profound lack of interest in the FBI’s dubious and error-laden investigation; and the Global Disinformation Index, a British NGO that ranks news outlets on a scale of “risky” to “least risky” (this website is one of the GDI’s ten “riskiest”), was shown to have received funding from the State Department (via the National Endowment for Democracy), which it subsequently lost.
11. At Plough Quarterly, Alice Hutton Sharp visits an American military cemetery in England to pay familial homage to an airman cousin, known as “Half-Pint,” who perished fighting the Nazis. From the reflection:
I was an adult before I knew the depth of my grandfather’s wounds. There was the physical pain for which he tried almost every cure: oxycodone, acupuncture, a cannabis ointment from Mexico. When I was in university, a doctor finally suggested he might have PTSD. It wasn’t until after my grandfather died that my grandmother told me he couldn’t sit through a church service without breaking into a cold sweat; a year before her own death, my grandmother told me he had promised he’d never do himself harm. I’d never dreamt that the quiet grandfather who always slipped me a dollar for ice cream—even when I was a married woman—had thoughts of ending his life. In visiting the cemetery, I wanted to give Half-Pint the care our family owed him, while also honoring the wounds my grandfather had carried but never shared.
As soon as the volunteers identify you as a relative, a liturgy begins. It swept me along like a wind. Perhaps my strange journey—not to visit my grandfather, but in place of my grandfather—was too unusual for standard categories of “survivor” and “tourist.” Was I somehow a survivor of World War II because my grandfather’s cousin died in the war?
My coffee cup empty, the volunteer retrieved a camera and a small clear plastic tub, and we set out for the Tablets of the Missing. The tub, full of grey sand, was an addition for the digital age: the sand would be pressed into the engraved letters to increase their visibility in photographs. “The sand is from Normandy,” she told me, the words weighty with significance. I did not reply that Normandy would have meant nothing to Half-Pint, who did not live to see D-Day. Who, I wondered, are these rituals for—the dead or ourselves?
12. At Front Porch Republic, McKenna Snow explains the importance of farms that are beautiful. From the piece:
What about on a farm? There is rationality and order there, for sure. But do modern farming practices stifle the surprise of nature for the sake of sterility and order? If yes, what becomes of the nature they are working with? Is it properly respected, or merely exploited? To answer, it is necessary to ask what role beauty plays on a farm, if any. Does it make any difference if a farm is “beautiful” or not?
In his classic work, One Straw Revolution, Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka offers radical opinions about how human beings have lost a sense of what nature really is like, and how that affects how we farm. He writes, “Almost everyone thinks that ‘nature’ is a good thing, but few can grasp the difference between natural and unnatural.” What many conceive of as natural on a farm is really, in Fukuoka’s opinion, quite unnatural: pruning, using pesticides, planting in long, straight rows—are these practices really what allow for nature to flourish best according to its forms?
Fukuoka argues that, especially for farms that want to grow fruit trees, allowing them to grow according to their natural form is necessary for long-term success. He writes, “Trees weaken and are attacked by insects to the extent that they deviate from the natural form. If trees are growing along a pattern of unnatural development and are left abandoned in this state, the branches become tangled and insect damage results.” But what about maximum yield of crops? Fukuoka argues that “if you use chemical fertilizer the trees do grow larger, but year by year the soil becomes depleted.” On a practical scale, the use of chemicals for greater yield is certainly harmful to the soil, and to the trees. Allowing them to grow according to their form, and unaffected by chemicals, is an excellent start in caring for them rightly. As a result, they flourish more fully, and become, by necessity, more beautiful.
Lucky 13. At the The Conway Daily Sun, Tom Eastman reports on a delicious New Hampshire fundraiser that helped fund culinary scholarship. From the article:
The White Mountain Chapter of the American Culinary Federation presented its 42nd “Taste of New Hampshire” culinary gala May 19 at the Eagle Mountain House, featuring culinary delights created by participating chefs and culinary students. Musical entertainment was provided by the Kennett High Jazz Band.
Fare included chowder, butternut squash ravioli, Beef Wellington, pizzas, rice and monkfish Newburg; maple vinaigrette salads, pulled pork sliders and egg rolls, cupcakes and gluten free chicken strawberry.
The theme of the night was “New Hampshire Maple Syrup.”
Two $1,000 culinary scholarships were awarded as part of the evening’s festivities, with chefs using the proceeds of the annual gala to fund the scholarships, according to retired Certified Executive Chef Gary Sheldon of Center Conway.
BONUS: At American Institute for Economic Research, Bruce Rottman finds penetrating economic and political insight in, of all places, Dr. Seuss’s Thidwick, the Kind-Hearted Moose. From the piece:
In 1974, the Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick wrote one of the most influential books since WWII: Anarchy, State, and Utopia, in which he argued for a minimal state. He reasoned that when a government’s function expands beyond protecting individuals against force and fraud, it violates individual rights. This is a deep book, a book that won the US National Book Award in the “Philosophy and Religion” category, and when I glanced at a copy, I noticed something unusual in its bibliography.
Right after listings from Murray Rothbard, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and John Rawls—who was then the “go to” champion of income redistribution as justice in academic circles—was good ‘ol Dr. Seuss, whose name normally doesn’t line up on the same bibliography as Immanuel Kant and John Locke.
The book was Seuss’s Thidwick, the Kind-Hearted Moose.
Now there’s a book I can read, I thought.
I put the Nozick back on the shelf, opened up Thidwick, and ten minutes later, I got it.
I’m not sure I “got” all of Nozick’s ideas, but I did get something: an explanation of the politics of niceness, an understanding of how states can collapse, and a prescription for reform, all in a book that scores of parents read to their 6-year-olds.
For the Good of the Order
Uno. Where do you want to be when the heat wave strikes? In Denver, the Coolio Colorado City, where from Monday, July 10th, through Wednesday the 13th AmPhil’s Center for Civil Society will host a Major Gifts Training Seminar for development professionals looking for intensive training and buffed-up knowledge in the critical art of dealing with key prospects and generous givers. This is an opportunity to gain consequential knowledge, so don’t miss it. Get more information, and sign up, right here.
Due. You gotta believe . . . or do you? Could it be that America’s skyrocketing irreligiosity may have something to do with the problems affecting this nation? Great Caesar’s Ghost, this is a really important issue, so important that you must attend the forthcoming C4CS conference—“Rise of the Nones: How Declining Religious Affiliation Is Changing Civil Society.” It takes place on November 7–8 in glorious Scottsdale, AZ. Get complete information, right here.
Tre. On Thursday, June 29th, C4CS will host a one-hour, free webinar on why “The Right to Association Needs Help.” Duquesne University’s Luke C. Sheahan, expert on that subject of the associative right (you know—it’s smack dab in the middle of the First Amendment’s profound “Assembly Clause”), will join Yours Truly to explain why civil society is weakened when empowered entities (such as the federal courts) fail to protect this essential right. An enlightening experience is guaranteed! Sign up, right here.
Point of Personal Privilege
The son of Yours Truly, inflamed by the hostility of the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Catholic Church, had published on National Review an account of how papists helped shape the National Pastime, now a platform for fake nuns. Read it here.
Department of Bad Jokes
Q: Where do mice park their boats?
A: At the Hickory Dickory Dock.
Tip generously—that’s the policy in these here parts. But . . . because someone handed you a doughnut? Once upon a time, 15% was the standard “recommended” amount to tip for good service—but that seems to have disappeared as an option. Meanwhile, the poor boxes in the back of churches beg for mites. Will someone please recalibrate society?!
May the Ancient of Days Have Mercy on Us,
Jack Fowler, who can be found with his sins hiding at firstname.lastname@example.org.