Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right

Rise of the Private Foundations

In order avoid inheritance, gift, and income taxes while also retaining control over how the money is distributed, many of the ultra-wealthy have formed private foundations. Critics see these foundations as a vehicle for plutocratic influence over the democratic process, effectively weaponizing philanthropy in the war of ideas. In her book Dark Money, Jane Mayer describes the rise of the private foundation:

Unable to gain congressional approval, Rockefeller got the New York state legislature to approve his plan. Legally, however, the Rockefeller Foundation, the granddaddy of all private foundations, was at first limited to promoting only education, science, and religion. Over time, however, the number of private foundations grew along with the kaleidoscope of issues into which they delved. By 1930, there were approximately two hundred private foundations, according to Reich. By 1950, the number had grown to two thousand, and by 1985 there were thirty thousand. In 2013, there were over a hundred thousand private foundations in the United States with assets of over $800 billion.

Excerpt from: Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right


Editorial Calendar Essentials

As I consider some strategic initiatives at Reformed Forum, I’ve been reading a lot on content marketing lately. I came across a great checklist for creating and maintaining an editorial calendar.

Is there anyone in the digital marketing industry these days (or any industry, really) who thinks that they have their jobs completely under control?

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Adam Grant, Originals

Life Lesson: You Should Probably Avoid Working with IE Users

I’ve always enjoyed digging around data. Sometimes you find unusual correlations. I came across such an anecdote reading Adam Grant’s Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World:

Not long ago, economist Michael Housman was leading a project to figure out why some customer service agents stayed in their jobs longer than others. Armed with data from over thirty thousand employees who handled calls for banks, airlines, and cell-phone companies, he suspected that their employment histories would contain telltale signs about their commitment. He thought that people with a history of job-hopping would quit sooner, but they didn’t: Employees who had held five jobs in the past five years weren’t any more likely to leave their positions than those who had stayed in the same job for five years.

Hunting for other hints, he noticed that his team had captured information about which internet browser employees had used when they logged in to apply for their jobs. On a whim, he tested whether that choice might be related to quitting. He didn’t “expect to find any correlation, assuming that browser preference was purely a matter of taste. But when he looked at the results, he was stunned: Employees who used Firefox or Chrome to browse the Web remained in their jobs 15 percent longer than those who used Internet Explorer or Safari.Thinking it was a coincidence, Housman ran the same analysis for absences from work. The pattern was the same: Firefox and Chrome users were 19 percent less likely to miss work than Internet Explorer and Safari fans.

Then he looked at performance. His team had assembled nearly three million data points on sales, customer satisfaction, and average call length. The Firefox and Chrome users had significantly higher sales, and their call times were shorter. Their customers were happier, too: After 90 days on the job, the Firefox and Chrome users had customer satisfaction levels that Internet Explorer and Safari users reached only after 120 days at work.

—Adam Grant, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World

What are you to make of this? One possible explanation would be that the IE users weren’t as technically proficient. Upon further study, that hypothesis didn’t prove true.  Housman eventually concluded the differentiating factor was a user’s willingness to reject the default. The Firefox and Chrome users put in extra effort to do something different,. Their browser use didn’t make them better workers. It merely indicated their drive to make a change for the better.

David Foster Wallace on Argumentative Writing and Nonfiction

In December 2004, Bryan A. Garner, who had already struck up a friendship with David Foster Wallace, started interviewing state and federal judges as well as a few key writers. With over a hundred interviews under his belt by January 2006, he called David to suggest they do an interview.

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Reading with Purpose

Erica and I discuss reading with purpose and the relative merits of reading non-fiction and fiction. We also discuss different types of reading, including reading a book as if you were preparing to interview the author.


Subscribe to the Commonplace podcast.


The God of the Mathematicians

This was a wonderful article on Gödel’s work in mathematics and physics and its intersection with the ontological argument.

Kurt Gödel was a believer—or, at least, a knower—whose engagement with God included a reworking of the ontological proof of God’s existence. Born in 1906, Gödel was arguably the great mathematician of his time.

Read at First Things


Profundity and Clarity

One may actually be led to wonder whether in philosophy there is an inverse proportion between profundity and importance on the one hand, and clarity and excellence of style on the other.

—Walter Kaufmann, “Introduction,” Basic Writings of Nietzsche

Colossians 1:28–29

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.


No Uncertain Sound
Lamentations, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah: A 12-Week Study