Dear Thankful Jolter,
We’re putting this baby to bed a tad early because Your Humble Correspondent is losing the war against those powerful, somniating turkey vapors. Before the eyelids shut tight, we take note that on Thanksgiving Eve Donald Trump pardoned General Michael Flynn, Joe Biden revealed he was an Old Testament aficionado, Sidney Powell went to court to release Georgia kraken, and Michigan kraken too, and the Twitter Censors moved immediately to block link-sharing of such.
The questions remains: Will Donald Trump snatch the election that seemed to be secure in the psalm of Joe’s hand?
Down to business: Short links as appetizers, then onto the same, but all attended by an excerpt heapin’ helpin’. If your taste runs conservative, then what lies ahead is gut-busting de gustibust. Enjoy!
Short and Neat
Ryan Mills and Tobias Hoonhout argue Lin Wood might make Chuck Schumer the boss: The Lawyer Who Would Hand Joe Biden Control of the Senate.
Kevin Hassett is prepared: Here Comes the Biden Blame Game.
Fred Fleitz is concerns about Joe and Tehran: Stubborn Facts Facing Biden on Iran.
Rich Lowry unmasks the reality: The Coming Anti-COVID Restriction Backlash.
Victor Davis Hanson explains the city-mouse dependence on its country cousin: The Rural Way.
John Yoo assesses: Implications of the Flynn Pardon.
Jimmy Quinn has good news from the Secretary of State: Pompeo Predicts ‘Many’ More Mideast Peace Deals: ‘We Broke Glass”
Helen Raleigh demands a stop to Bejing know-towing: An Urgent Appeal to WHO: Let Taiwan Speak.
Tobias Hoonhout reports on the Golden State GOP’s success: Why California Republicans Stopped Complaining about Ballot-Harvesting and Embraced the Process.
Zachary Evans profiles scholarly fellow-traveling: America’s Elite Universities Hide Contributions from World’s Worst Human-Rights Abusers.
Joseph Sullivan tracks the upswing: U.S. Middle Class’s Exceptionally Long Decline – and Recent Recovery.
Zac Morgan explains why the First Amendment is at risk: Stunning Findings on Campaign-Finance Law.
Daniel Buck says the class is in session: A Teacher’s Defense of Betsy DeVos.
Itxu Díaz knows loco bureaucrats when he sees them: Spain’s Government Declares War on the Spanish Language.
Davis Harsanyi registers a no: Mandatory Voting Is Authoritarian.
Nicholas Pompella reflects on a lefty patriot: Harold Bloom: The Essential American Literary Critic.
Fred Bauer is mighty impressed by the Plymouth folk: The Pilgrims at 400: Granite Principles, Marble Men.
So is Cameron Hilditch: The 1620 Project.
And so is Rich Lowry: Our National Festival.
Kyle Smith sees plenty of clichés: Hillbilly Elegy: Ron Howard’s Inverted Mayberry.
More, Kyle, who also sees something ingenious: The Crazy Comedy of John Brown.
Brian Allen looks through the window: Tiffany Fireworks in Manhattan Stained Glass.
Here They Are, Hot and Tasty, with All the Trimmings
1. Ryan Mills and Tobias Hoonhout argue lawyer Lin Wood’s antics in Georgia might lose the GOP the special elections: From the piece.
The threats of boycott are putting the state’s top Republican leaders in a bit of a pickle, as they face a turnout-oriented race that will require the support of Trump’s populist and sometimes conspiratorial base, as well as traditional, moderate Republicans who are skeptical of the more outlandish claims by the president and some of his supporters.
They’re also wary of getting dragged into intra-party mudwrestling matches with folks like Wood, who have large followings among Trump’s most fervent backers.
Attempts to reach Wood on the phone, and via email and Twitter were not successful.
“I understand the concerns of the president’s most passionate supporters and we share them,” David Shafer, the chair of the Georgia GOP, wrote in a text message. “We are fighting to make sure that every lawful vote is counted and every unlawful vote rejected. In the end, the stakes are too high for us not to come together.”
Georgia Republicans who spoke to National Review said there is little room for error in the two races, which are both expected to be close. If even a small percentage of Trump’s followers boycott the races, they could swing blue, handing a one-seat Senate majority to Democrat Chuck Schumer.
2. Joe Biden will blame a double-dip recession on Donald Trump, but Kevin Hassett is here to say that he’d be quite wrong. From the article:
Before they storm the castle, perhaps the Biden team should make a list of their assets. The first asset is a strong economy. The COVID-19 pandemic recession likely ended in the third quarter of this year, when real GDP advanced a whopping 33.1 percent. The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow estimate for the fourth quarter suggests it will post growth around six percentage points. Combining the two, that means that the economy will about return to the level of GDP it posted right before the pandemic began, back when we had the strongest economy in generations. So the “back” part of the Biden slogan is superfluous, as the economy will likely be back before he takes office. As has been discussed at length in this space, that agenda doesn’t build at all, but rather subtracts from economic activity. So it doesn’t build, we are already back, and it’s worse than the status quo.
The second asset is a vaccine. We are very close to the widespread availability of two enormously successful vaccines. More could well be on the way. Most Americans should be able to receive them by the spring. This means that the acceleration in the economy that is currently underway should, if we leave it alone, pick up steam as things head back to a post-pandemic normal.
The third asset is a likely Republican-controlled Senate that has already shown that it is able to pass significant stimulus legislation. But it is not going to hand out cash to blue states willy nilly as the House Democrats have proposed.
Which completes the setting. The economy is carrying enormous positive momentum into next year. Since the case load is spiking now, there is some chance that lockdowns will get worse before they get better. Firms around the country need to tread water for a few more months, after which they can return to normal. The risk is that there is a wave of bankruptcies between now and the late spring, that is set off by a return to widespread shutdowns. To face this risk, the administration needs to show it is serious about finding a compromise stimulus package, and cognizant that a promise of massive tax hikes next year is a negative for business sentiment. Businesses that are just hanging on with hope of a brighter future could well give up if that future includes a government that taxes away all their profits.
3. If there is to be a President Biden, when it comes to Iran, he’ll have to deal with critical and stubborn facts, contends Fred Fleitz. From the piece:
So make no mistake: For many Democrats, quickly rejoining the JCPOA will be payback.
The problem is, over the past two years, the nuclear deal’s enormous flaws have become indisputable. There also are new concerns about how the United States’ rejoining the JCPOA would destabilize the Middle East.
The Obama administration acknowledged when the JCPOA was announced in 2015 that it was imperfect and excluded safeguards against many threats posed by Iran, such as its missile program and sponsorship of terrorism. Obama officials claimed the deal had a narrow purpose: to keep Iran one year away from a nuclear bomb for ten to 15 years. They said this was the best agreement that could be reached with Iran, touted broad international support for it, and claimed the deal prevented a war with Iran.
For years, JCPOA defenders successfully refuted or discredited evidence of Iranian cheating on the nuclear deal. This became impossible, however, in 2018 after Israeli intelligence stole a huge cache of documents on Iran’s secret nuclear-weapons program. Indeed, the newly discovered Iran Nuclear Archive provided clarity on Iran’s nuclear program and its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The archive documents indicated that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program was far more advanced than it had admitted to the IAEA, that Iran had misled and lied to the IAEA and the international community about its nuclear program in disclosures required by the JCPOA, and that the Iranian government had taken steps to deceive IAEA inspectors after the JCPOA was implemented. The documents also suggested that some covert Iranian nuclear-weapons activities were still underway and revealed covert nuclear sites that Iran quickly moved to destroy before they could be inspected by the IAEA.
4. There’s going to be a doozie of a backlash by fed-up Americans to more COVID-restrictions, says Rich Lowry. From the piece:
The Right’s populism and limited-government impulse, which separated in the Trump years, will presumably be reunited in the push against lockdowns in a way that they haven’t been since the Tea Party.
“Lockdowns. Mask police. Curfews. What about freedom?” asked conservative Representative Jim Jordan in a recent tweet, forecasting things to come.
It’d be much better if we could find a prudent middle path through the next several months, as the pandemic enters its worst phase and as new vaccines arrive that will soon start changing everything. But a significant segment of the American public has lost its patience with a new normal that has, at times, been arbitrary and poorly thought through.
When the new virus first hit our shores and we knew much less about it, the case for lockdowns was strong to keep the health-care system from getting overwhelmed and to play for time (and better treatments). In retrospect, though, the nationwide lockdowns of the spring closed down some states before they experienced their initial waves of the disease, imposing economic, mental-health, and medical costs without much upside.
5. The city dweller dominates the culture, and laughs at the rural folk, but as Victor Davis Hanson explains, the balance of the two is vital to America’s success. From the essay:
The cities since antiquity been considered cosmopolitan and progressive; the countryside, traditional and conservative. In the positive appraisal, Western literature always thematically emphasized the sophistication and energy of cities, balanced by the purity and autonomy of the country.
More darkly, in the pejorative sense, the former of the cities were all too prone to Petronian decadence and excess; the latter outside the walls, to Aristophanic parochialism and rusticity. Aristotle adjudicated the divide in his Politics by arguing that the “best” type of democracy was in a sense the least — and thus the most rural (farmers by necessity would have less time to walk into town, loiter about, and as “agora-lounger” busybodies cram the assembly).
Much of these eternal radical differences transcend time and space. Even in the age of a mobile and transient population — and our omnipresent Internet, social media, cellphones, and telecommuting — the material landscapes, population densities, and need for physical work still explain radical differences in outlook and mindset. That eternal divide guided our gentry Framers. In classical terms, they took for granted that their farms and urban lives balanced each other and remedied the limitations of each.
That fact of the rural/urban dichotomy is underappreciated, but it remains at the heart of the Constitution — to the continuing chagrin of our globalist coastal elite who wish to wipe it out. The Electoral College and the quite antithetical makeup of the Senate and the House keep a Montana, Utah, or Wyoming from being politically neutered by California and New York. The idea, deemed outrageously “unfair” by academics and the media, is that a Wyoming rancher might have as much of a say in the direction of the country as thousands of more redundant city dwellers. Yet the classical idea of federal republicanism was to save democracy by not allowing 51 percent (of an increasingly urban population) to create laws on any given day at any given hour.
6. Just what are the implications of President Trump’s pardon of General Michael Fynn? John Yoo figures them out. From the analysis:
Although Flynn had pled guilty, the circumstances of the case had raised serious concerns about whether the government had proceeded properly. The FBI, for example, questioned Flynn even though it did not appear he had violated any law. In May, Attorney General William Barr ordered the case dropped. Under the Constitution, only the president has the responsibility and duty to see that “the Laws be faithfully executed.” From this clause flows the executive branch’s prosecutorial discretion — the sole right to decide what cases to prosecute or not. As I explain in my book, Defender in Chief: Donald Trump’s Fight for Presidential Power, in normal times, a president’s decision to drop a prosecution is final and unreviewable by any other branch.
But these are not normal times. In yet another example of yet another institution willing to twist yet more rules out of resistance to Trump, the federal courts would not accept the president’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Instead, federal judge Emmet Sullivan refused to allow the Justice Department to drop the case, and the full federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. upheld his decision. These judicial antics intrude into the president’s sole authority to enforce the law, and also pull the courts beyond their limited constitutional role to only decide cases or controversies between parties.
President Trump’s pardon not only ends any injustice to Flynn, but it restores the proper balance to the separation of powers. Courts will no longer claim the right to direct a prosecution that even prosecutors no longer wish to bring. Under the Constitution, courts are to decide cases or controversies, not to create them. The pardon restores the right of future presidents to direct prosecutions, including choosing the cases that represent the best outcomes for the use of limited federal resources.
7. Jimmy Quinn interviews Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who predicts more Middle-East successes are to come. From the article:
Already, the wheels of the administration’s Mideast project are turning again. Later on Sunday, Pompeo traveled to the Saudi Arabian city of Neom, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A State Department readout did not indicate that they discussed the recent normalization agreements, but according to the Wall Street Journal, citing Hebrew-language media reports and original reporting, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined them.
“I’m confident there’ll be more nations that will follow,” Pompeo told NR hours earlier, during the sit-down interview in the Emirati capital. “The reason I’m confident, by the way, is because it’s the right thing for those countries to do.”
Pompeo’s ten-day trip unfolded to the backdrop of domestic political turmoil and effectively served as a Trump administration farewell tour and foreign-policy victory lap. Visits to Middle Eastern countries highlighted what officials regard as one of the crowning diplomatic achievements of the past four years.
In his NR interview, Pompeo spoke to the strategic sea change that the administration contends made all this possible.
According to the secretary of state, it took the widespread acknowledgement of three factors to reach the Abraham Accords. In addition to acknowledgement of the central threat posed by Iran and Israel’s established place in the region, he said, it also required recognizing that while resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is important, “we can’t stand by as we have for 40 years and allow that conflict to be the precondition for further enhancement of peace and stability.”
8. Helen Raleigh argues WHO needs to break out of the Red China armlock and let Taiwan formally relate how it has fended off COVID. From the piece:
How did Taiwan do it? First and foremost, Taiwan took decisive action early. While Beijing and WHO were still busy downplaying the coronavirus’s human-to-human transmission risks, Taiwan took swift action as soon as it heard about the mysterious pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan. On December 31, 2019, Taiwanese health officials began to board planes and check passengers for fever and pneumonia symptoms before passengers could deplane. Taiwan also issued a travel ban on Wuhan residents as early as January 23.
Second, Taiwan used technology effectively to differentiate people’s treatments based on their risk level. For example, Taiwan launched an Entry Quarantine System on February 14, so that travelers can complete the health-declaration form by scanning a QR code that leads to an online form, either before departure from or upon arrival at a Taiwan airport. Those with low risk receive a health-declaration border pass via SMS (short message service) to their phones so they can get immigration clearance faster and get on with their lives, while those have higher risk are “quarantined at home and tracked through their mobile phone to ensure that they remained at home during the incubation period.” This targeted approach — rather than indiscriminate lockdowns — is what many Western scientists and health officials are now advocating through the Great Barrington Declaration, a public petition calling for an end to the lockdowns and returning life to its pre-pandemic norms, except for the most vulnerable groups of our population.
9. Tobias Hoonhout and Ryan Mills tell the story of the California GOP successfully turning the tables in the recent elections. From the article:
“The issue of ballot harvesting is we don’t like it. We don’t agree with it. However, it’d be political malpractice not to do it where the other side is doing it, and the other side has done it effectively,” California RNC committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon told National Review.
“This isn’t the debating club. This is about winning the election,” she continued.
Republicans pointed to how the law enabled the Democrat ballot harvesting machine to work in 2018, with tens of thousands in funding for operatives to hit the streets and collect ballots door-to-door and from favorable union halls.
“Some of those narrow margins they won by 2018 were simply from this staff-intensive massive ballot harvesting,” Whitaker claimed, adding that Democrat big-money fixations on Midwestern swing states helped mitigate the impact this time around.
Officials said that the GOP’s ballot-harvesting strategy of placing drop boxes in local churches, gun stores, and other friendly locations emphasized security, with one person assigned to each box to collect votes and hand them over to officials at least three times a week, in accordance with the state’s 72-hour window.
10. Zachary Evans has the incriminating photos of elite colleges in bed with global rogues. From the report:
Following a series of investigations by the U.S. Department of Education, various universities reported receiving $6.6 billion in recent years from countries including Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The Education Department said it “believes this amount is a fraction of the true total,” and that these funds could be considered a “national security risk.”
Universities that receive donations from foreign governments are among the most elite U.S. educational institutions, and include Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern, Texas A&M, Cornell, and MIT, among others. According to Education Department records reviewed by the Clarion Project, between 2012 and 2019 Harvard has disclosed donations of $79,272,834 from China, $7,077,754 from Qatar, and $30,637,202 from Saudi Arabia. MIT has disclosed $83,358,344 in donations from Russia, $31,472,548 from China, and $83,100,000 from Saudi Arabia.
But these amounts represent only the tip of the iceberg of actual contributions because universities have tried to conceal a substantial amount of those donations, as Ryan Mauro, director of the Clarion Intelligence Network, said in an interview with National Review. For example, Cornell University disclosed the donations only after the Education Department began an investigation into the issues, and the university said it did not know why the funds were not reported in the first place.
“In many of these cases, especially when it comes to China, they simply don’t want the information out there. They want to get the Communist Chinese money, set up a program that then increases their tuition, get students to sign up for it, and then they make bank,” Mauro said. “It’s basically loads of free money, and it’s hard for a business to turn down a deal like that.”
11. Joseph Sullivan argues that special attention needs to be paid to America’s battered middle-class and median-household income. From the analysis:
The need for the government to borrow money to fund the transfer payments that plug the hole in household market incomes leaves America today unambiguously poorer, and more debt-saddled, than it would be if market-income growth had produced an equivalent increase. Issuing government debt to fund transfer payments redistributes purchasing power from tomorrow’s America to today’s. Transfer payments also have indirect economic and social costs, such as disincentives to work. A society where the median household’s income relies on government transfers to grow is, in ways large and small, unlikely to resemble one where the growth is coming from earned income. However significant these concerns ought to be to society as a whole, they are obscured by a focus on trends in the net-of-transfer figure rather than on the evolution of market incomes of households. Given this article’s focus on trends in society over time rather than household finances at a given moment, the chart’s focus on market rather than net-of-transfer income seems appropriate.
No matter what, the era of middle-class prosperity that feels like it could be end-dated to October 10, 2000, is never coming back. No policy can fully replicate the economic environment that prevailed at home and abroad before then. The question now is whether the incipient recovery of the median household income that lines up with the era that began on November 8, 2016, will continue. On this, the recovery of America’s median household incomes, regardless of political persuasion, we should all hope for continuity between the outgoing and incoming administrations.
12. The First Amendment is not as above politics as Our Founders had intended. Zac Morgan looks at the consequences of popular opinion and campaign-finance laws. From the piece:
You may think the Bill of Rights safeguards our liberties from the whims of public opinion. After all, as Justice Robert Jackson observed in the 1943 case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, “[t]he very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials, and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts.”
Well, you’d be wrong, as we’re reminded by David M. Primo and Jeffrey D. Milyo’s latest work, Campaign Finance and American Democracy: What the Public Really Thinks and Why It Matters. In this welcome addition to the discourse on the country’s campaign-finance system, the authors’ research illustrates the ways in which public opinion, often misinformed, has served as a basis for courts to bless the restriction of First Amendment liberties.
The Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” Yet the Supreme Court carved out an exception, allowing such a law if it deters the “appearance of corruption spawned by the real or imagined coercive influence of large financial contributions.” That exception comes from Buckley v. Valeo, the landmark 1976 case in which the Supreme Court struck down key provisions in the Federal Election Campaign Act while upholding others, including contribution limits.
Thus, the extent to which the First Amendment protects Americans’ ability to speak out about politics — whether publicly or privately; whether singly, in groups, or through the corporate form — is limited by the Court’s deference to people’s views about campaign finance and American democracy.
13. Daniel Buck has plenty good to say about the tenure of Betsy DeVos. From the article:
Consider my own school. Because of Obama’s guidance, it adopted a popular alternative system of discipline called restorative justice, which recommends a softer response to student behavior — a “conversation” in place of a detention. Unsurprisingly, studies of restorative justice find that, while suspension rates do decrease and disparities do shrink under restorative structures, the system brings with it an uptick in bullying and classroom misbehavior. In my own school, this system meant that a fight might result in a conversation instead of a suspension.
Our data improved; our classroom culture didn’t. Students crawled around under desks, letting expletives fly with impunity. While typical punishments rarely improve their recipient’s behavior, they do signal to other students that learning is important and that disruptive behavior is unacceptable. To allow such behavior benefits the offender while harming everyone else. Many schools had to do just that in an effort to adhere to the administrative mandates.
Obama’s guidelines were an executive-level virtue signal. Betsy DeVos reversed these superficial declarations and sought to actually address structural issues. Her first priority was school choice. To those unfamiliar, DeVos often analogizes this policy to a kid’s backpack filled with per-pupil funding. Wherever that kid goes, that school gets the money. In our current system, school funding comes largely from property taxes, meaning districts in affluent neighborhoods stay affluent and schools in poor neighborhoods stay poor. School choice is a reasonable answer to the progressive call for school-funding equity.
14. In Catalonia, Spanish is verboten. Itxu Díaz tells the story of the war on the language: From the piece:
Thanks to this new law, the only lingua franca in Catalonia will be Catalan.
As a Spaniard, it is difficult for me to explain to people outside my country what is happening here without sounding dire. But in many cities in Spain, children will not be able to study primarily in Spanish. In Catalonia, mathematics, science, and philosophy will continue to be taught in Catalan, as they have been for years, hindering the education of those children who don’t speak it. But this time, parents won’t be able to demand, via the justice system, that their Spanish-speaking child be educated in Spanish, which is a direct violation of the right to freedom of education as set forth in the Spanish Constitution.
The same will happen in the Basque Country and in Galicia, two other regions with their own minority languages, where in fact this discrimination of Spanish was already taking place — with the consent of the PNV nationalists, in the case of Basque, and the center-right PP, in the case of Galician. What has changed now is that the war on the Spanish language will be made official, sponsored by the Spanish state itself. The policy is about as intelligent as repeatedly hitting one’s big toe with a hammer to cure osteoarthritis.
15. David Harsanyi takes on E.J. Dionne and the authoritarians calling for mandatory voting. From the commentary:
“The hope is not that the United States of America tomorrow morning is going to adopt this,” E. J. Dionne, who is a Georgetown University professor of government, a Washington Post columnist, and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told BuzzFeed, “but we do hope that cities, counties, states would take a look at this and perhaps adopt it experimentally, the way, say, Maine has adopted instant runoffs.”
Some of us do not share the hopes of Dionne, a long-time proponent of forcing Americans to do all sorts things. The Constitution makes no stipulation that citizens must vote. It doesn’t even mention voting as an individual right. We have no civic duty to vote. I haven’t voted for president since 2000. I haven’t voted at all since 2004.
For me, this is a proactive political choice. But maybe some Americans don’t vote because they are anarchists, or monarchists, or nihilists. Some Americans might not be satisfied with any of their choices. Some might rather be watching cartoons. It’s none of Dionne’s business. The last thing we should do is make those who aren’t interested, motivated, or feel unprepared to make sound decisions act against their will.
16. Nicholas Pompella argues that the late Harold Bloom is uncancellable. From the article.
Bloom sees imprints of this gnostic spirituality in America’s literature. However strange it sounds, this is the basis of Bloom’s patriotism, which is of a peculiar left-wing variety that’s almost unheard of now. These atypical patriotic attachments make Bloom a liberal in a pure sense. He finds a tradition of radical individualism in American culture, with a through-line in every great American author’s work. This elides the history of early American Christianity. Bloom hardly addresses the contradiction. But it is true that many of America’s great authors were either skeptical of religion or outright disestablishmentarian.
So, why bother with Bloom? For one, his odd New Age leftist patriotism made him un-cancellable. He was that rare intellectual who defended America from the left. He wrote in 1994 that critical theorists and the identitarian Left were destroying the West’s artistic legacy. He even lumped “neoconservatives” into his list of offenders and named the collective hodgepodge the “School of Resentment,” which he believed flourished in nearly every college English department.
Bloom was impressive for never being cowed by his critics. He simply didn’t care. His artistic obsessions gave him the unblinking courage to assert that authors will always cease to create literature when they waste time scrambling to meet the ever-shifting goalposts of political correctness. As he notes in The American Canon, “social information . . . seems to me a peripheral gain of reading, and political awareness an even more tenuous dividend.”
17. Fred Bauer reflects on granite-captured Pilgrims, on the 400th anniversary of their arrival at Plymouth. From the beginning of the reflection:
An 81-foot-tall granite colossus, the National Monument to the Forefathers, sits on an ordinary side street in Plymouth, Mass. If not for a few faded signs, you wouldn’t even be aware you were approaching it. Then, suddenly, it springs into view: A giant statue of a woman, “Faith,” standing atop a pedestal made of four smaller statues with marble reliefs at their feet. The monument looks toward England and the Plymouth affordable-housing offices. Built in the 19th century to commemorate the arrival of the Pilgrims to America, it is a disorienting paradox: It has the trappings of an almost-ostentatious grandeur, from its name to its colossal size, yet obscurity rings it. Plymouth Rock, on the waterfront, gets the crowds and the commemorations; the National Monument to the Forefathers gets the occasional tourist group or lonely visitor. But, then, the colossus among the ordinary is a persistent theme within the American story.
The monument lists the names of Mayflower passengers and includes a quotation from Plymouth governor William Bradford, but the granite figures overshadow the text. Faith stands atop the monument pointing to the sky. The four figures at its base represent other virtues of the Pilgrim enterprise — Liberty, Morality, Law, and Education — and each bears allegorical emblems. Liberty carries a sword in one hand and a broken chain in the other, while on Morality’s lap sits a tablet inscribed with “God.” The marble reliefs underneath the figures highlight four pivotal scenes from the Pilgrims’ voyage. The two under Morality and Liberty portray the departure from Europe and the arrival in the New World, respectively. Beneath Law, Pilgrims and Native Americans sign a treaty. Beneath Education, the signing of the Mayflower Compact is represented. All four are images of transition — from one continent to the next, from one political and legal condition to another.
18. From abroad, Cameron Hilditch reflects on the 1620 Project. From the piece:
There’s good reason for the Mayflower’s staying power in the American psyche, but it may not be immediately obvious. It wasn’t the first ship to alight in the New World (we have Columbus Day to remind us of that). Nor was it the first ship to carry English passengers to America: Virginia had been granted a royal charter and settled decades earlier. The Mayflower pilgrims have no claim to uncharted waters or undiscovered countries. Their pathbreaking endeavor wasn’t geographic at all. It was political and, more specifically, constitutional.
The ship had set out for Virginia but ended up landing on Cape Cod instead, which was beyond the legal domain of the Virginia Company. To head off lawlessness and anarchy, the passengers and crew of the ship quickly came together to draft and undersign the Mayflower Compact, which functioned as a governing document for the community. Its purpose was to establish “a civil body politic,” in order to make “just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices” for the new colony.
This compact, more than anything else, is what cemented the place of the Mayflower pilgrims in the annals of American folklore. Other settlers had been governed by written charters before, but those had always been granted by a king or a queen across the water. The Mayflower Compact, by way of contrast, was a written constitution framed by the people and for the people. The temptation to view the document as an historical overture, sounding notes and themes that would be played again in the old courthouse in Philadelphia, was irresistible for latter-day Americans looking back on it from a post-Revolutionary perspective.
19. Rich Lowry praises the Nation’s special day. From the article:
The holiday is associated in the American imagination — and in fact — with the ingathering of family and with warmth and plenty. The widely reproduced George Durrie painting from 1863, Home to Thanksgiving, depicts a couple returning to a snow-covered farm for the holiday and getting greeted by an older couple at the door of the house, welcoming them back to hearth and home. The even more famous Norman Rockwell painting from 80 years later, Freedom from Want, might as well be the continuation of the Durrie scene, now indoors. An elderly couple serves a big, juicy bird to a beaming family. (Rockwell painted the turkey from a real model, soon consumed, on Thanksgiving Day.)
For most Americans, the day functions as the great 19th-century promoter of the holiday, Sarah Josepha Hale, hoped it would. “Such social rejoicings,” she wrote in 1857, “tend greatly to expand the generous feelings of our nature, and strengthen the bond of union that finds us brothers and sisters in that true sympathy of American patriotism.”
As long as there’s been America, there’s been Thanksgiving, calling us home and eliciting our fellow-feeling, at least for a day.
20. Kyle Smith finds Hillbilly Elegy is another example of Hollywood’s ignorance of America’s white working class. From the beginning of the review:
Hollywood knows two registers when it comes to the white working class (WWC): sentimentalizing and condescending. WWCs are either cute, neighborly, and folksy, or they constitute a tawdry, alien life form. There are 130 million WWCs in our country, and yet nobody in Hollywood has the slightest grasp of them. With the plucky rural folk, it’s always about hearts overflowing with kindness or sinks overflowing with dirty dishes. Their veins surge with either the American dream or opioids.
Ron Howard’s career got rolling in one WWC cliché — Mayberry, on The Andy Griffith Show — and now he’s traveled a great distance to indulge another, the Middletown, Ohio, recalled so memorably and with such wounded pride by J. D. Vance in his 2016 memoir Hillbilly Elegy.
Howard’s movie adaptation for Netflix recounts the events of Vance’s book but lacks the feel, the personality. So much of its power was in its authorial voice, as was the case with Frank McCourt’s 1996 memoir Angela’s Ashes, which was poorly adapted by Alan Parker in a 1999 film. Hillbilly Elegy the movie has much in common with Parker’s film: It’s an Appalachian Angela’s Ashes. If Vance’s book was a page-turner with a message, Howard’s film is just one damn thing after another: fights, screaming matches, drug sprees, shoplifting episodes, police interactions. It gets to be unintentionally comic at times.
21. More Kyle, who finds The Good Lord Bird to be rather ingenious in its casting of Ethan Hawke as John Brown. From the review:
The Good Lord Bird, the just-concluded seven-part Showtime series adapted from James McBride’s novel, proceeds from a bizarre, crazy premise that turns out to be absolutely ingenious. My colleague Dan McLaughlin has suggested that Mel Gibson — a man with a chip on his shoulder the size of Kansas, a religious zealot, the owner of a pair of blue eyes that pierce like the tip of an arrow, all drawn together by Brownian grooming habits that tend toward the feral — would have been an ideal choice to play Brown, and I heartily agreed. Instead, now comes Ethan Hawke to fill Brown’s holy boots. Ethan Hawke? Hawke was a boy in Dead Poets Society and boyish in many films for many years thereafter. He developed some grit as an actor, but always suffered from a certain lack of intensity. Ethan Hawke as the living embodiment of righteous fury, stalking the landscape searching for sinners to smite? Ethan . . . Hawke?
Yes, Ethan Hawke. Hawke (who created the series with Mark Richard) is a superb choice to play the Old Man. Hawke is 50; Brown lived only to be 59. Close enough. Wearing a lunatic’s beard and crusty makeup, Hawke does look the part. As for conveying the internal furnace that drove Brown, who was born in Connecticut, all the way out to Bleeding Kansas in the 1850s on a self-assigned mission to hunt down and kill Missouri border ruffians — the redshirts who sought to import slavery into the new territory — Hawke has a clever approach. He asks us to consider Brown, a man so locked in his own era that his actions are scarcely comparable to us today, in 21st-century terms. Hawke’s Brown is a forerunner of a woke campus vice president for diversity. Today’s administrative class of progressive white allies leave us in no doubt that, had they been adults in the 1850s, they would have put their lives on the line to combat slavery. What if one of these guys were telling the truth? What if their stern insistence that racism is the chief problem facing America in the 21st century were not a pose, and what if you put arms in their hands and placed them in an era when racism was many times worse than it is today?
22. The beautiful Tiffany stained glass and other artwork at a Manhattan church get the full attention of Brian Allen. From the piece:
Looking at the altar, one sees that the main affair is St. Michael’s Victory in Heaven, and both artist and archangel certainly knew how to throw a party, but it’s a party where one of the guests doesn’t make it out alive. In the Book of Revelation, St. Michael’s leads God’s army in the final battle against Satan, kills him, and tosses him to Earth, where he tempts and torments us as the Devil. That’s the Methodist take, and since I’m a Methodist, that’s the horse I’ll pick. I know Jews see Michael through the Book of Daniel.
So, we have action. We have angels, and lots of them, from big angels with movie-star faces to little angel heads. We’ve got not just four archangels, which is what we Methodists allow, but seven. I’ve visited this church many times over the years, since the windows are splendid and the white rusticated stone of the church exterior is very appealing. It’s unusual in that, for a Romanesque Revival church, it’s not dark stone. The church was part of the development boom that created the Upper West Side in a short space of time from a quiet, nearly rural neighborhood. The aesthetic is brownstone, so St. Michael’s is a distinctive, inviting presence.
The windows are cinematic and have the sweep of a Cecil B. DeMille movie but not points of concentration, which allow reflection. Their message is in the abundance, not the particular. The viewer isn’t engaged with any deity or story but in conversation with an overall effect, which never becomes babble since the scenes are beautifully organized. That’s Tiffany. He made mass-produced goods, very high quality but with far more sparkle. He was pushing a medium that was new in terms of technology and capacity, and he took the best of both and went with it.
Elsewhere in the Conservative Solar System
1. At The Wall Street Journal, Shelby Steele exposes the man behind the Black Lives Matters curtain. From the essay:
Yet there is an elephant in the room. It is simply that we blacks aren’t much victimized any more. Today we are free to build a life that won’t be stunted by racial persecution. Today we are far more likely to encounter racial preferences than racial discrimination. Moreover, we live in a society that generally shows us goodwill — a society that has isolated racism as its most unforgivable sin.
This lack of victimization amounts to an “absence of malice” that profoundly threatens the victim-focused black identity. Who are we without the malice of racism? Can we be black without being victims? The great diminishment (not eradication) of racism since the ‘60s means that our victim-focused identity has become an anachronism. Well suited for the past, it strains for relevance in the present.
Thus, for many blacks today — especially the young — there is a feeling of inauthenticity, that one is only thinly black because one isn’t racially persecuted. “Systemic racism” is a term that tries to recover authenticity for a less and less convincing black identity. This racism is really more compensatory than systemic. It was invented to make up for the increasing absence of the real thing.
2. At Real Clear Books, Daniel J. Mahoney explains people should be reading Joshua Mitchell’s American Awakening. From the review:
Identity politics claims to be egalitarian, but in truth it radically separates human beings in a manner only previously seen in the totalitarian ideologies and regimes of the twentieth century. Identity politics sees no struggle between good and evil in every human heart, as in the classical and Christian understanding of free will, conscience, and moral responsibility. It has no place for the drama of human existence. Like the totalitarians of old, in numerous institutions in civil society, especially our universities, the new ideologues pronounce who is absolutely guilty, and who is innocent and pure, with a monstrous self-assurance based on the visible signs of evil and injustice (e.g., whiteness and “heteronormativity”). Such a world — at once racialist and ideological — becomes a perverse spiritual despotism dominated by tyrannical ideological clichés that allow the Woke to dispense with “the guilty” with remarkable impunity and cruelty. The old Christian anthropology cohered naturally with the requirements of liberal competence and civic responsibility since in a “mixed world of purity and stain,” imperfect human beings had to strive to “build a world together,” doing their best to respect one another as persons made in God’s image. Identity politics inexorably leads to soft or not-so-soft despotism, as the ontologically guilty are swept away, and those who “cover themselves with the fig leaf of innocence” become the beneficiaries of an omnicompetent (and arbitrary) state that “allocate(s) resources to the innocents and to their causes.”
Civic responsibility and moral accountability thus have no place in the ideological schemes put forward by the denizens of identity politics. Such a regime — and we are indeed in the process of creating a radically new political order — is at once anti-Christian (or anti-biblical) and profoundly anti-liberal. And it wars with every aspect of our moral and civic inheritance. Mitchell thus intimates that religious believers, partisans of liberal competence, and conservative defenders of our moral and cultural inheritance put aside their differences and come together to defend the conception of liberty and responsibility, under God, that properly undergirds a free society. This is the old American synthesis, and it remains eminently worth defending. It is open to men and women of all races since it alone affirms “common humanity.” There is in truth no viable alternative that can sustain liberty and human dignity in a free republic.
3. At Commentary, Nicholas Eberstadt sees two paths ahead for a post-COVID America. He recommends the one of revitalization and hope. From the essay:
Washington has responded to the pandemic with an unprecedented peacetime mobilization of national resources. Congress has authorized trillions of dollars in spending to support distressed businesses and households, and the Federal Reserve System has committed trillions more — with no end yet in sight.
In relation to national income, today’s state outlays for the COVID crisis are comparable to our peak defense effort in World War II. Just as in the Second World War, we are now embarked on an enormous expansion of government reach and public debt.
Eventually we will achieve our national objective in the struggle against COVID-19. Victory in World War II was followed by rapid military demobilization and wholesale dismantling of wartime economic controls. But what of the post-pandemic era? How will we “demobilize” the super-welfare state hastily thrown together to prop up shaky businesses and cover shortfalls in personal income? How will we renew economic growth so we might, among other things, cope with our vastly increased public debt?
If we simply muddle through, we are likely to muddle into a nightmare — into an American future defined by a new socio-corporate welfare state; a stagnant, politicized economy; and deep financial dependence on officialdom, both elected and otherwise.
In such a future, democracy would be degraded, freedoms lost, divisions enflamed, tomorrow’s promise squandered. Were we to settle for such a future, we would be the Americans who chose against exceptionalism — who decided that being just another sluggish, demoralized “social democracy” was good enough for us and for posterity. To steer away from this grave danger, we need a very different vision of the future.
4. For Joe Biden, writes Rich Noyes at NewsBusters, no news proved to be great news. From the beginning of the report:
The left-wing news media didn’t just poison the information environment with their incessantly negative coverage of President Trump going into the 2020 election. They also refused to give airtime to important arguments of the Republican campaign — both pro-Trump and anti-Biden — which meant millions of voters cast their ballots knowing only what the media permitted them to know about the candidates.
To measure the true effect of the media’s censorship on the election, the Media Research Center asked The Polling Company to survey 1,750 Biden voters in seven swing states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), six of which (all but North Carolina) were called for Biden (survey details below). We tested these voters’ knowledge of eight news stories — all important topics that our ongoing analysis had shown the liberal news media had failed to cover properly. We found that a huge majority (82%) of Biden voters were unaware of at least one of these key items, with five percent saying they were unaware of all eight of the issues we tested.
This lack of information proved crucial: One of every six Biden voters we surveyed (17%) said they would have abandoned the Democratic candidate had they known the facts about one or more of these news stories. A shift of this magnitude would have changed the outcome in all six of the swing states won by Joe Biden, and Donald Trump would have comfortably won a second term as president.
5. At Law & Liberty, our old pal Richard Samuelson reflects on America’s first official declaration of this important day, as stated by the first POTUS. From the article:
In this holiday we see how the peculiar character of the Presidency compliments our exceptional nationality. Constitutionally speaking, the President is merely the American CEO. His job is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” and in his oath, he swears to “execute the office of the President” and pledges to “preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.” The oath says nothing about the American “nation.” Indeed the word “nation” does not appear in the Constitution, except in Article I, Section 8 when discussing relations with “foreign nations” and the “law of nations.” Strictly speaking, the President’s job is to put into effect the laws that Congress passes and to defend the “supreme law of the land.” Even so, the President is, in fact, head of state, and the leader of the American people. It is no surprise that the American president has, in time, acquired the trappings of a monarch — think of the entourage he travels with, the way he’s treated at the State of the Union address, the language with which we discuss the “White House’ and its parts, such as the “West Wing.” And a monarch is more than a CEO. He is the leader of the nation, in the classical sense of the nation.
George Washington set the tone for the office in many ways, none more so than in his Thanksgiving Proclamation, given in October, 1789, seven months after he took the oath of office. Why have such a proclamation at all? Where in Article I, Section 8 (the section that lists the powers the people gave the federal government) is the power to proclaim a federal holiday? In 1791 James Madison would criticize Alexander Hamilton’s assertion that the U.S. government has the authority to create a national bank, for nowhere in the Constitution did the people give the federal government the right to create a bank or to create a corporation (an entity that had traditionally been regarded as a “person” in the eyes of the law). And fourteen years later, the Louisiana Purchase would tie President Jefferson in knots, for nowhere did the people give the U.S. government the right to acquire territory. Yet Madison lost the national bank argument in 1791 and by 1816 he had changed his mind about its constitutionality. Meanwhile, Jefferson didn’t stop the Senate from ratifying the Louisiana Purchase. In other words, he and Madison implicitly accepted that there are some powers that belong to government due to the nature of the thing, and when the people created the U.S. government they, of necessity, allowed it those powers without which no government can function.
The authority to proclaim a Thanksgiving might seem trivial to us — mere words, and an idle declaration. But it is, in fact, fraught with meaning, for the assumption of such authority highlights the degree to which a President is, by nature, much like a monarch — albeit an elected one. Similarly, it points us to the limits of secular nationalism.
6. At Gatestone Institute, Giulio Meotti finds an American media cool with terrorist attacks in France. From the piece:
On Friday, October 16, an extremist Muslim beheaded a teacher, Samuel Paty, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. The New York Times headlined its article on the attack: “French Police shoot and Kill Man after a fatal Knife Attack on the Street”. It seems that the Anglophone media live in a world deaf to reality and based on imaginary victimization; they see racism where there is none, and they do not even know what to name it when it appears in the French streets to behead a teacher.
Associated Press immediately succumbed to an avalanche of criticism. The news agency again cancelled a tweet, one accusing France of “inciting“ hatred against Muslims after the wave of Islamic terror attacks the country just suffered.
“This is not only disgraceful but dangerous,” the journalist Agnès Poirier replied. “The Associated Press is inciting hatred against France and its people.” She too charged the American media with “malicious distortion of facts, ignorance and bad faith”.
In 2015, Associated Press had been quick to censor the Islamic cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. The reason? “Deliberately provocative“. They evidently have no idea what free speech is and appear uninterested in defending it.
7. At The College Fix, Sarah Imgrund reports that professorial malarky is alive and well at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where one lefty academic finds so much that’s triggering about Thanksgiving. From the article:
An assistant professor of anthropology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania recently talked to students about how to “decolonize” their Thanksgiving, arguing that the traditional pilgrims and Indians story is a false narrative that perpetuates harm and racism.
Professor Abigail Adams argued that “unlearning some of the myths that we’ve learned about Thanksgiving” is important because “they continue to perpetuate harm and misinformation about native people and continue to keep native people of the past… [so that they’re] not seen as real, contemporary people.”
She told students attending the online workshop that while the “Thanksgiving myth” has elements of truth, “we have to be honest about how America has treated indigenous people and we have to acknowledge that indigenous people continue to suffer in internal colonies or reservation systems as we call them in the United States.”
“And,” she added, “we have to acknowledge during Thanksgiving that we have inherited a land that is not rightfully ours because it was never ceded. It was essentially stolen from indigenous people.”
“This isn’t just a conversation about us getting the Thanksgiving story right,” she said. “This is a story about us acknowledging contemporary Native American people and to acknowledge that they also continue to suffer ongoing colonialism.”
Thoughts of Turkeys, and Turks, abound this weekend.
Of the latter: Righthanders Turk Farrell (his mom named him Richard Joseph) and Turk Lown (Omar Joseph to the folks) had decent MLB careers, with some distinction. Lown, who pitched for the Cubs, Reds, and White Sox over 11 seasons (1951-1962), racked up a 55-61 record in 504 appearances, mostly as a reliever. He led the NL in games in 1957 (67), and two years later topped the AL with 15 saves, that along with a 9-2 record. Lown has been credited, along with fellow ace reliever Gerry Staley, of being central to the White Sox securing the team’s first pennant in 40 years.
Farrell pitched for 14 seasons, from 1956-1969, for the Phillies, Dodgers, and Astros — for whom he took on a starting-pitcher role over five seasons (the ace of the staff, he represented the Astros, and the original “Colt 45s,” in three All Star games) — and had a career record of 106-111, with 83 saves.
By all accounts the Turks appeared in the same box score twice, the most interesting episode coming in a wild and wooly game — the second of a twin bill between the Phillies and the Reds — that commenced on Sunday, June 1, 1958 at Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia . . . and concluded there on August 11th. Brought in to protect a 10-8 lead in the bottom of the 7th inning, Lown dropped a popup and gave up a single, allowing two Phillies to score and knot the contest. In the top of the 8th, Farrell came in to relieve for the Phillies, but gave up a run, which the Reds got back in the bottom of the frame.
So into the top of the 9th the 11-11 game went, but so too did the clock. The curfew law in the City of Brotherly Love kicked in: With one on, one out, and the count 2-1 on Don Hoak, the umps ruled the game suspended. It was completed on August 11th, upon Cincinnati’s next trip to Philly. When play resumed, Farrell was back on the mound, and he stayed there through the 13th inning, when his throwing error on a Johnny Temple sacrifice attempt brought home the Reds’ go-ahead and winning run.
Before moving from Turks to Turkeys, we note that Turk Lown fought in the Battle of the Bulge and won the Purple Heart when some Nazi shrapnel tore up his thigh. A great man he was.
A few months before that happened, one of MLB’s two career Turkeys enjoyed a cup of coffee: On Sunday, April 23, 1944, in Boston at Braves Field, Cecil Washington “Turkey” Tyson, who also had the additional nickname of “Slim,” called up by the Phillies (temporarily monikered as the Blue Jays), pinch hit in the 9th for pitcher Chet Covington. Turkey popped up to third. And so ended his brief MLB career.
The other Turkey’s career lasted not much longer: Ewell “Turkey” Gross (which some may consider a culinary assessment) brought his anemic bat to Fenway Park in 1925, when he played in nine games for the Red Sox — including as starting shortstop on Opening Day in Philadelphia. It was an impressive debut: Gross smacked a triple and scored two runs. But his throwing error in the bottom of the 9th was the entrée for a two-run game-tying Athletics’ rally. The home team won in extra innings.
It was Turkey trots from then on: In nine games and 34 plate appearances, Gross managed three hits and two walks. He and his .097 batting average were released before April ended. A few years of minor league ball ensued. But let us note: In those nearly three dozen appearances at the plate, Turkey faced Hall of Famers Herb Pennock, Walter Johnson, and Lefty Grove.
Who among us would not give their eye teeth, beak, or pope’s nose, to have struck out against such Colossi?
A day late, but is there ever a bad day on which to thank the Creator for the very special mercies he has granted to us, and to our founding? And to be thankful for something so small, but so monumental, so consequential, as the meeting between the Pilgrims and little displaced and buffeted man called Squanto? And for our own founder, who this week would have been 95? Let us give thanks aplenty!
May The Creator’s Salvific Graces Find Your Welcoming Heart,
Jack Fowler, who, post-nap, will accept tryptophan-mythbusting lectures at firstname.lastname@example.org.