16 min read

Dear Intelligent American,


Let’s leave it thus: The headlines and stories about current, geriatric politicians can speak for themselves. This missive avoids direct commentary on what might be construed as partisan affairs.


As for the nexus of age and the leadership of this Republic, it is Benjamin Franklin—near-fossil at 70 when he signed the Declaration of Independence—who remains a poster boy for undiminished wisdom at a moment of relative dotage.


What is age, in so that it means elderly . . . and even overripe? Past the recommended sale date? After all, the patriarch Methuselah, son of Enoch and grandfather of Noah, was 969 years old when he kicked the bucket. In more modern times, John Glenn was 77, and a United States Senator, when he re-astronauted aboard the Discovery. (When he did that his colleague, Strom Thurmond, was approaching nonagenarian status—the South Carolina solon and coot would be a centenarian before he hung up his Senatorial spikes.)


Shall we have youth, then? Maybe. Maybe not. Mao Zedong, history’s great murderer, was in his 50s when he turned China red, Stalin in his mid-40s when he started to hold the late Lenin’s bloody reins, and the (as General Patton so eloquently called him) “paper-hanging sonofab*tch Hitler” was too a relative tyke (just 44) when he became Germany’s Führer.


(Forgive the aside, provided to note Churchill’s lovely description, from The Gathering Storm, of the “maniac of ferocious genius, the repository and expression of the most virulent hatreds that have ever corroded the human breast—Corporal Hitler.”)


The polls seem to decry America’s political gerontocracy, but at the ballot box, the people elect, time and again, those long in the tooth, maybe those even on their second set of dentures.


Speaking of which: We celebrate Old Woodentooth’s birthday next week. It’s George Washington’s 292nd—a youth by Methuselah’s standards. Would that those who dare to represent the people, no matter their age, model themselves after this great man.


Fasting Applies Only to Food, So Dine Plentifully on the Forthcoming Courses


1. At The American Mind, fan favorite Daniel J. Mahoney makes mincemeat of the ideology of “postcolonialism.” From the piece:


Let me add some examples of my own to show that the ritualistic identification of empire with slavery and racism is far more ideological sloganeering than measured political and historical analysis. The counter examples are abundant and instructive. Edmund Burke, the great Anglo-Irish parliamentarian and political philosopher, despised slavery and wrote “A Sketch of the Negro Code” in 1780 in order to lay out a workable plan for gradual emancipation. He loathed Warren Hastings’s heavy-handed direction of the East India Company, accusing the governor general of corruption and cruel disdain for long-established Indian customs. Hastings, Burke suggested, ruled India like a rapacious, conquering army. Burke spent 12 years fiercely pursuing an ultimately failed impeachment of Hastings.


Burke also took pointed aim at the anti-Catholic penal laws in Ireland and argued that the majority Catholic population needed to be brought into the political community, their rights respected, and their interests represented (at least partially), in the Irish parliament. It is true that Burke never condemned empire per se. But he worked for an empire whose spirit was humane and magnanimous, rather than heavy-handed and dominated by self-aggrandizement and a petty concern for lucre. As such, he was a partisan of civilized and civilizing empire, however contradictory that might seem to our contemporary postcolonialists. For them, condemnation and self-loathing are the alpha and omega of postcolonial discourse and ideology. They desperately need to expand their moral imaginations.


2. At The Wall Street Journal, Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey urge conservatives to reform higher education by following the Left’s example. From the article:


When the academic left seeks to innovate, they do what scholars have always done: They create new disciplines. Academics who thought women’s lives and perspectives were neglected created women’s studies. Those who saw that scholars overlooked the literature, history, and art of black Americans created African-American studies.


This is a legitimate tactic. It’s how universities work. Academics perceive that some phenomenon is overlooked by existing modes of inquiry. They write studies about it; they describe ways of examining it. They attract scholars in related subjects, who become the initial faculty of the new programs. They develop ways of thinking that cohere as a discipline, in which students can be trained. They create associations; journals spring up; grants get funded; students get degrees. One generation of faculty acts as mentors to the next.


To make enduring change in the academy, conservatives must identify important areas that aren’t getting attention and create programs to study them.


The most promising academic innovations today are Republican-led efforts at public universities to remedy the deficit in university-level civic education. Arizona State University’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, or SCETL, is the model. The Arizona Legislature launched it in 2016, and political scientist Paul Carrese developed the program. SCETL now employs 20 faculty, teaches more than 1,000 students annually, and has bipartisan support. Its success has encouraged similar efforts in Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Utah, North Carolina and Ohio.


3. At The European Conservative, Vytautus Sinica hears from Jordan Peterson about strengthening Judeo-Christian civilization against the attack from “cultural Marxism.” From the interview:


Marxism always divides people up into groups. As soon as you’re dealing with someone who proclaims that the core of identity is some group affiliation, [it] doesn’t matter what it is—ethnicity, gender, sex, race, socio-economic class—the ideas they possess have essentially been derived from Marxist presuppositions.


The classic liberals tend to concentrate more on the individual, the atomized and isolated individual. They tend to see the individual as constrained by the state, [and] by all social relationships. It’s the individual striving to be free to pursue their own rational self-interest, which is a stupid idea because our self-interest isn’t exactly rational. The liberals concentrate on the individual, and I prefer that to Marxism hands down, but the problem with the liberal viewpoint taken to the extreme is that you end up with this deracinated, atomized individuality as the core of identity, and it just doesn’t work because identity can’t be found within the individual. You exist in relationships. So, if you only stress the individual and strip away the relationships, you leave the individual virtually with nothing, maybe with their hedonism. And that is why there is an alliance between liberalism and hedonists. Because liberalism will collapse into hedonism and that’s just not helpful; it’s not sustainable; everyone knows that. You can’t just gratify your whims. And the classical liberals would say, “Well, you have your set of whims, and I have mine, and we can find a balance between them, and your right to your whims ends where my right begins.” And that’s pretty much their whole definition of the state. . . .


Part of the reason young people are so desperate to insist that they define their own identity is because everything else has been stripped away from them. Well, “the family is just a patriarchal institution; you shouldn’t have children, and business is nothing but the predations of capitalism.” And it’s just one thing after another; it’s demolishing; it leaves them with nothing.


4. At The Daily Signal, Allen Mendenhall explains that campus diversity can be had sans “DEI”—and down in Alabama, he has the proof. From the article:


How much did Troy University, where I teach, spend on DEI? Zero dollars.


Yet Troy enrolled 4,421 blacks in 2022—almost 32% of its student population.


Instead of feeding bloated DEI bureaucrats on Troy’s campus, the school actively recruits international students from across the world to our small town in southeast Alabama—hence our nickname “Alabama’s international university.”


Troy University has achieved diversity in part by rejecting DEI, which negatively affects organizational culture, fostering fear and resentment rather than friendship, openness, and dialogue.


5. At The Diplomat, Mercy Kuo questions logistics expert Christopher O’Dea about Red China’s efforts to create a maritime empire. From the piece:


In a tragic irony, China has used the shipping container, an American invention, to reverse-engineer the historical logic of international power and conquest, just as it has done with housewares, electronics, pharmaceuticals, solar energy, and now electric vehicles. Rather than attack Western ports and then seek to impose Chinese political control on hostile, conquered populations while rebuilding destroyed infrastructure, China has opted to use its state-owned shipping and port companies to gain effective control of critical infrastructure and then use the physical presence of those companies on the territory of dozens of developed countries to exert political influence.


China recognized that the shipping container would require construction of new infrastructure to move containers between ships and shore. Starting with its own shipping lines and ports in the late 1970s, China began to develop the ability to build ships, ports, containers, cranes, and eventually software for logistics management. By enabling the offshoring of Western manufacturing to China, the American shipping container helped China generate export earnings to pay for building what is now the world’s dominant maritime imperial network.


China has also recognized that ports embody power – ports are the sites where the physical, digital, and governance networks of the world converge. There are different channels of power projection. First, control of terminals enables Chinese SOEs to maximize the impact of Chinese manufacturing power. Second, less widely recognized but noted by some U.S. admirals, the presence of Chinese SOEs as port or terminal operators creates a cybersecurity threat to U.S. naval vessels, making most off-limits. For China, this achieves what is known as “anti-access/area denial” effects, reducing the forward power projection capability of the U.S. Navy and blunting a key element of U.S. deterrence policy.


6. At Law & Liberty, Andrew Carico wonders, with a twist of Alexis de Tocqueville, as goes the Super Bowl, goes too America? From the essay:


When Americans assemble to watch the Super Bowl, they are exercising a very American activity. In the early 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville identified the very act of associating as a unique characteristic within the American democratic experience. He commented on the proclivity of free and equal citizens to combat individualism and despotism by forming free associations to address a variety of issues. While many associations can address political concerns, that is not the case for all of them. As Tocqueville wrote, “Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small” (II.ii.5 [489]). Thus, for Tocqueville, the art of associating with others represents a true distinctive in the American democratic experience. Through these experiences, Americans learn how to exercise their liberty and engage in cooperative relations with others. As a result of these associations, claims Tocqueville, “the heart is enlarged, and the human mind is developed” (II.ii.5 [491]). . . .


Can Americans still claim such high levels of association? Political scientist Robert D. Putnam’s 2000 book Bowling Alone suggests that Tocqueville’s assessment may no longer apply. Whereas Americans once associated to address all sorts of issues, Putnam documents how such associations wilted in the modern era, using the decline of organized bowling leagues as an example of this decay.


7. More L&L: Jonathan Jacobs delves into that persistent, nefarious, and—to some—alluring question, “What should be done with the Jews?From the essay:


The Jewish Question became a malignant obsession of Adolph Hitler (and plenty of others) and perhaps the most terrible period for the Jews of Europe was very recent, the mid-twentieth century. But the notion that murderous anti-Semitism is something distinctively Nazi and that the Nazis were alone in perpetrating the Holocaust, is false. In Poland, Belarus, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia, and other countries there was extensive participation in the program of extermination, and other countries did little to protect Jews from being sent to their deaths. Far too many people seem to think along the lines, “The Nazis; now they were anti-Semites. But we’re not Nazis, so, how can anyone say we are anti-Semitic.” Both the logic and the moral claim are fallacious.


Christianity has largely separated itself from condemnation and condescension toward Judaism and Jews but a fifteen-century cultural transmission of ignorance and loathing doesn’t just evaporate. The post-war Soviet Union and East Bloc continued state-sponsored Jew-hatred and there were pogroms in Poland as recently as the 1960s. In the Soviet Union, Jew-hatred wasn’t motivated by Christianity but the disposition had deep roots and could be secularized in its expression. There is a long history of anti-Semitism both on the Right and the Left.


Some among the secular Left have cultivated a form of anti-Semitism also based on a notion of supersession. For many on the Left, the central idea is not that Jewish religion has been theologically and morally superseded and is now over, but that the legitimacy of the State of Israel is in doubt. Many so-called “progressives” (as well as Muslim militants) have embraced anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing with an almost giddy enthusiasm. For secular Leftists, this is a non-theological matter, but it has the same result for Jews. Namely, Israel has been a state for seventy-five years, and that is long enough; its legitimacy is over because getting rid of it will help bring about peace and justice in the Middle East. Whether focusing on theology and morality, or on politics, the question of the legitimacy of Judaism is still being asked by self-appointed authorities on the matter.


8. At The American Conservative, a century after Woodrow Wilson’s death, Sean Durns declares that we continue to deal with the consequences of his presidency. From the article:


Wilson hasn’t lost the ability to divide. In 2020, for example, Princeton University announced that it would be removing Wilson’s name from its vaunted school of public affairs, citing the late president’s “racist thinking and policies.” Much of the controversy around Wilson centers on his retrograde views on race—as president he resegregated the federal workforce—or his dramatic expansion of the administrative state. In Woodrow Wilson, there is a little bit of something for both conservatives and liberals to hate. . . .


Many of his supporters, both then and now, have argued that Wilson’s strident support for liberal internationalism was ahead of his time. In this telling, Wilson was a prophet, arguing for post-war measures that, had they been adopted, could have prevented another World War. “Isolationists” in the U.S. Senate, such as Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts who headed the Foreign Relations Committee, were short-sighted men who thwarted Wilson’s ambitions, notably his cherished League of Nations. Wilson “looked over the heads of other men, above the confusion of contemporary events, to distant horizons,” his son-in-law and Treasury Secretary William McAdoo claimed.


But history isn’t always a Greek tragedy. Wilson’s opponents weren’t “isolationists.” Rather, they had “reservations” about Wilson subverting American sovereignty—and they were right to have them. Wilson’s failures were consequential. In the final analysis, blame rests with the 28th president himself. The man was not up to the moment.


9. At Comment Magazine, Jack Bell becomes an object of curiosity for a bird, and begins to wonder about the language of Creation. From the essay:


We’ve experienced kingfishers to be a wary species. Every time we see or hear one (and they are nearly always alone), we try to move in for a closer look. When we do, the bird will usually scold us with its odd, rattling call before disappearing through the trees. But on the day that the kingfisher visited us, the boundary between the hidden life of the pond and the family of humans who live close by suddenly became porous. We were used to watching wild animals, not having them interrogate us. And yet there the bird sat on a branch, like a totem, examining my family and chittering away, as two parents prepared to leave home and consider a move someplace else.


For example, humpback whales have been observed not only to make very elaborate forms of communication over long distances but to “mark the passage of time by changing their songs from year to year.” Researchers have long argued that another marine mammal, the bottlenose dolphin, can have beliefs, feelings, and reasons for performing certain actions. And they have astonishingly sharp memories: in a pod of dolphins, a dolphin’s whistle can function like a name, and one study suggests that dolphins can recognize the whistle of other dolphins from whom they have been separated for twenty years.


Animals don’t need to have large brains to perform complex forms of communication, perception, and deliberation. Some researchers have argued that the decision-making of bees resembles a central nervous system whose parts have been scattered among individual members of a whole group. When bees decide to swarm and make a new colony, they will send out scouts to find new locations. When the scouts return, they perform dances before the rest of the hive. The more complex the dance, the more favorable the location. If enough bees return and perform the same dance—if, that is, they share enough consensus about the promise of the new location of a hive—the hive will split and form a new colony.


10. Philanthropy Watch: At The Hill, Robert Stilson raises concerns about the involvement of nonprofits spending millions to bankroll “climate change lawfare.” From the piece:


Over the last several years, dozens of dubious climate change lawsuits have been brought by state and local governments against the oil and gas industry. They are bringing these cases with help from white-shoe law firms, funded by non-profit money from Big Philanthropy.


Such attempts at “legislation through litigation” represent yet another example of the deeply regrettable tendency toward the ends-justify-the-means rationalizations common in contemporary political activism. The millions in tax-exempt philanthropic dollars apparently underwriting this lawsuit campaign also raise serious questions about the proper relationship between charity, politics and the judicial system.


Citing recently released tax filings, Fox News reported that the New Venture Fund, a registered 501(c)(3) charity and the largest constituent member of the giant left-of-center political nonprofit network managed by Arabella Advisors, had granted $2.5 million to the for-profit law firm Sher Edling in 2022. This was after it had funneled $3 million to the firm last year.


Sher Edling is best known for representing state and local governments in a slew of lawsuits against oil and gas companies, accusing them of downplaying or otherwise misrepresenting the impact that their products have on the global climate. The governmental plaintiffs (which include the states of Rhode Island and Delaware, the cities of Charleston, South Carolina and Baltimore, the county of Anne Arundel, Maryland, and others) are suing to force “Big Oil” to pay them compensation for the vast costs that these governments claim they are incurring due to climate change.


11. More Philanthropy: At the New York Post, Naomi Schaefer Riley and James Piereson tag team to explain why Big Apple philanthropists—what’s left of them—are passing on the mayor’s plea for funds to plug budget shortfalls exacerbated by the influx of illegal immigrants. From the op-ed:


A century ago, philanthropists did a great deal to help settle newcomers in the city.


They assumed, in offering that assistance, that it would help recent arrivals find legal work, housing, and educational opportunities for their children, and assimilate them into the culture of their new land. In time they would turn themselves into patriotic American citizens.


Today such a path no longer seems workable, given the magnitude of the crisis and the fact that most migrants have entered the country illegally and without documentation—not to mention a school system that has little interest in creating a “melting pot.”


There are some problems that donors need the government to solve—crime and homelessness, among them.


No one can expect philanthropists to move the mentally ill off the streets, prevent violence in schools, or maintain effective police and fire departments.


12. At the Arlington Catholic Herald, Anna Harvey reports on a diocesan program to help kids with special needs getting big boosts from generous souls. From the article:


Several donations to the Cathedral School of St. Thomas More in Arlington left administrators in delighted astonishment. The school recently received two pledges amounting to nearly $150,000 that will bolster the school’s inclusive instruction program, Bridges to More, for students with special needs.


“These generous contributions allow us to fulfill our mission because we believe that learning begins in a faith-filled, inclusive environment where the promise of every child is nurtured and developed according to our Gospel values,” said Principal Ann LaBarge.


The first pledge from Jennifer McIntyre was compiled from multiple gifts that were matched by her employer, the Boeing Company. The pledge amounted to more than $50,000. McIntyre has made gifts to the school since her oldest daughter entered kindergarten at the cathedral school in 2015. McIntyre’s youngest daughter, Annie, began attending the cathedral school in 2019 and became the first enrolled student with Down syndrome.


“I naturally envisioned her going to school with her older siblings and receiving the same faith formation and all of the other benefits of a Catholic education that her sister and brother were receiving,” McIntyre said.


The cathedral school embraced Annie as a member of the school community, McIntyre said. “They committed themselves to finding a way to meet her educational needs and make the necessary accommodations to include her fully in the life of the school. It has been a wonderful experience for Annie and for our family, and it is my hope that other similarly situated students and their families will have the same opportunity that we have had,” she said.


Lucky 13. At National Review, Andy Puzder declares Britain’s “Net Zero” fiasco should be a warning to the U.S. From the article:


British politicians boast of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions faster than any other major economy but ignore the unfortunate fact that Britain’s economy has been performing poorly since 2008.


In 2020, even before the recent surge in energy costs, everyday Britons were paying about 75 percent more for electricity than Americans, the result of a double whammy—cap-and-trade policies on the one hand and renewable subsidies on the other. And then came the Ukraine shock. During the 2022 energy crisis, electricity rates for British businesses were more than double the average paid by U.S. businesses.


In Britain, the impact of cap-and-trade on the cost of fuel to generate electricity is massive. In 2022, government-imposed carbon costs averaged $128 per megawatt hour (MWh) for coal-generated electricity and $51 per MWh for natural gas. Those costs are on top of actual fuel costs, which averaged $150 per MWh for electricity generated from coal and $160 per MWh for natural gas. These mean that it cost $278 to generate 1 MWh of electricity from coal and $211 from natural gas.


Bonus. At The Washington Free Beacon, Rob Long details the chore of watching television. From the piece:


Watching TV has never been so baffling. You don’t just walk in the house and flop down in front of the TV and start flipping around anymore. Watching television in 2024 requires what psychologists and self-help gurus call intentionality. You have to know what you’re looking for and exactly where to find it, which means the entire process usually starts with a Google search. We’re all familiar with today’s Television Catechism. It goes: What was that show we wanted to see, again? Followed by: Which one of the thingy’s is it on? And ends in an exasperated: Do we even get that one?


If you’re at my house, the Anglo-Saxon vulgarism for sexual intercourse is inserted before the words “show,” ‘see,” “on,” “get,” and “one” in the above.


It’s also possible you will find yourself re-inputting a forgotten password, which will inspire more profanity.


And then there’s the quiet anxiety all of this programming evokes. “I’m way behind on my TV stuff,” a friend of mine told me recently. “I need to catch up on The Crown and I’m working my way through The Gilded Age. I tried to add Better Call Saul to my list because I haven’t seen any of it and I feel bad about it, but I don’t want to keep adding shows to watch and then failing at keeping up with them.”


Working my way through. Way behind. Feel bad. Need to catch up. Failing. These are the phrases people use now for watching TV, an activity that used to require basically zero mental or physical effort. Watching television shows is now showing up on “To Do” lists, like tax returns and colonoscopies.


For the Good of the Order


Uno. At Philanthropy Daily, Jonathan Hannah suggests ways for early retirees to plan for philanthropy in their Golden Years. Read it here.


Due. Celebrate the Leap Year by attending a February 29th Center for Civil Society webinar on philanthropy capacity-building with leaders from the (very!) important Stanley M. Herzog Foundation and the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. It’s free, via Zoom, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., and requires your attendance. Register here.


Department of Bad Jokes


Q: How is the Moon like dentures?


A: Both come out at night.


A Dios


Testaments Old and New speak of 40—days, years—of penance, wandering, purifying, preparing, fasting. As Lent is now upon Christendom, these matters are at the mind’s forefront. Why? Because, as in all recent years, the anti-tradition types—you know, the ones who abandon ornate churches for cinderblock Bauhauses of worship, who have replaced sacred music with nails-on-chalkboard “hymns,” who are keen to constantly rewrite liturgy and the Bible itself (The child was born in a . . . feeding box)—are on their annual quest to cast these weeks as some Up with People concert.


Amongst we of the Roman persuasion (and not only we), the conscious call to deprive oneself of a favorite thing (for Lent I am going to give up TCM) is annually under assault by the modernist flacks lobbying for us to instead do something positive (Such as what . . . take a walk?).


Before we turn this missive into a locus of sectarian alleyway fights, Your Humble Correspondent takes this moment to defend the proposal: Less is more. Doing without, intentionally depriving, is, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, essential for purifying the soul, for conversion, and for rightly preparing (this just in: Moses fasted for 40 days before receiving the Commandments) for something of utter consequence.


You want to volunteer at the local pound? Go ahead! Walk that dog! Hey, we all appreciate the Pied Pipers crooning “Accentuate the Positive.” But when it comes to Lent, we need the professional theologian types to back off. Leave us to our fish sticks and all the giving up—snacks, ice cream, watching TV, and the like—so we can have a scintilla of greater relate.


But: Must sambuca be on that list?!


May The Creator’s Unfathomable Kindness Imbue Us,


Jack Fowler, who is eating fish at jfowler@amphil.com.

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