Thanksgiving Day Reads

Good Morning!!

I hope everyone will have a wonderful Thanksgiving, wherever you are and whomever you’re with. Enjoy being with family and friends; but whatever you do, I’m sure you know not to bring up politics. It never ends well. If you happen to take a minute today to stop by Sky Dancing blog, please leave a comment or two–and it’s always okay to discuss politics here.

Let’s see if I can find a little news out there . . . .

A couple of pundits have offered advice for those who just can’t resist talking about politics at the holiday dinner table. First up, my second least favorite libertarian writer of all time (after Glenn Greenwald), Conor Friedersdorf offers “ten unsatisfying rules for disagreeing with friends and family over the holidays,” based on a post by Kevin Drum:

But if you must talk politics, how should it be done? A lefty writer I follow is giving the subject some thought. “Every year there’s a spate of blog/magazine pieces about how to discuss the political hot potato du jour with your crazy right-wing relatives at Thanksgiving,” Kevin Drum writes at Mother Jones. “And every year they’re fake. Mostly they provide stock liberal responses to imaginary conservative talking points.” (For conservatives, the worry is how to talk with left-wing relatives.)

Really? So glad you explained that, Conor. Anyway, here are his rules:

1. Be open to the possibility that you’re wrong. Seriously.

2. Approach the conversation with the purpose of better understanding one another’s views, not proving to your relative that you are right and they are wrong.

3. Before you focus on any point of disagreement, ask questions of your interlocutor to figure out why they think the way they do about the subject at hand.

4. Emphasize points of agreement, if there are any.

5. Give them room to agree with your arguments without having to concede that their arguments are stupid, or feeling as if they’ve lost the exchange and you’ve won.

6. Rather than harping on a particular flaw in their preferred policy, ask questions that force them to confront it. “I agree, killing all the sharks would make it safer for surfers. But what about the creatures that sharks eat? How would you make sure their populations don’t explode? Seriously, how would you handle that?”

7. Don’t bother trying to score debating points, especially when you both know that’s all they are.

8. Remember that they know stuff that you don’t, just as you know stuff that they don’t.

9. Remember that lots of intelligent, good-hearted people share their position, and lots of dense jerks share your position, because that’s true of almost every position.

10. Listen more than you talk.

While reading that, I had a flashback to the time when my Mom and Dad and I had a screaming argument with two of my uncles over the war in Vietnam (my husband was serving over there at the time) and one of my aunts tried unsuccessfully to get everyone to calm down. And then there was the time I when to my in-laws’ for Thanksgiving and my husband’s (second husband) grandparents sat in front of the TV discussing how there were so many “coloreds” playing football these days….

Here’s some advice from John Fugelsang: Tell conservative relatives Thanksgiving ‘invented socialism for undocumented immigrants’

Comedian John Fugelsang had some advice for progressives dealing with conservative relatives at the Thanksgiving table this year, telling MSNBC host Ed Schultz that it takes a hearty helping of facts to minimize political squabbles.

“I think you might just want to blow their minds, Ed, and say that back at the first Thanksgiving, when the Wampanoag fed the Pilgrims, they didn’t know it, but they had just invented socialism for undocumented immigrants,” Fugelsang said. “Then they’ll spend the rest of the night trying to process that.”

While admitting that keeping the peace can be difficult in a family setting (“You’ve got your Obamacare-hating uncle, you’ve got your NRA uncle, you’ve got your gay for Reagan uncle, you’ve got your uncle who uses ‘Benghazi’ as a verb”), Fugelsang said one way to defuse arguments over the Affordable Care Act is to advocate for a single-payer alternative, while reminding the family that President Barack Obama implemented a plan originally used by a Republican governor in Mitt Romney and upheld by a conservative-heavy Supreme Court.

“When you get to Obamacare, the main thing to remember when that particular uncle or brother-in-law tries to goad you into some kind of fight, the only way you win is if you leave Thanksgiving and everyone loves each other,” Fugelsang told Schultz. “You’ve gotta be the liberal, you’ve gotta be the good guy, you’ve gotta be the peacemaker, you’ve gotta go full-on Jimmy Carter.”

Or you could be a scrooge like me and have a nice, peaceful, solitary day at home reading any old book you choose or even watching old horror DVDs and eating something other than turkey and stuffing.

Humorist and food writer Calvin Trillin for years campaigned to make spaghetti carbonara the official Thanksgiving dish. I found his recommendations on-line “shamelessly excerpted” from his book Third Helpings.

I have been campaigning to have the national Thanksgiving dish changed from turkey to spaghetti carbonara.

It does not take much historical research to uncover the fact that nobody knows if the Pilgrims really ate turkey at the first Thanksgiving dinner.  The only thing we know for sure about what the Pilgrims ate is that it couldn’t have tasted very good.  Even today, well brought-up English girls are taught by their mothers to boil all veggies for at least a month and a half, just in case one of the dinner guests turns up without  his teeth… (It is certainly unfair to say that the English lack both  a cuisine and a sense of humor:  their cooking is a joke in itself.) Find out what is missing in your kitchen and you are going to love your food after you finish reading.

It would also not require much digging to discover that Christopher Columbus, the man who may have brought linguine with clam sauce to this continent, was from Genoa, and obviously would have sooner acknowledged that the world was shaped like an isosceles triangle than to have eaten the sort of things that the English Puritans ate.  Righting an ancient wrong against Columbus, a great man who certainly did not come all this way only to have a city in Ohio named after him, would be a serious historical contribution.  Also, I happen to love spaghetti carbonara.

Read the rest at the link. Or if you eat Kosher, try this: A Thanksgiving Pasta Inspired by Roman Jews: Calvin Trillin’s Thanksgiving Spaghetti alla Carbonara gets a kosher makeover.

It’s been 32 years since Calvin Trillin’s famous proposal, in the New Yorker, that Spaghetti alla Carbonara replace turkey as our national Thanksgiving dish. After all, Trillin argued, the Indians could have brought it to that first Thanksgiving dinner (their ancestors having learned how to make it from Christopher Columbus).

In the intervening years, the Carbonaristas have not abandoned the cause. Last Thanksgiving, the New York Timespublished Ian Fisher’s account of attempting to master this seemingly simple Roman dish, which, at its most basic—and therefore, its best—involves a sauce of eggs enhanced with some form of bacon (usually guanciale or pancetta), and, on top of that, Pecorino Romano cheese.

Which means it’s off-limits even to the most devout Trillin followers if they also follow Jewish dietary laws. So definitely not kosher for Thanksgiving, especially this year, when Thanksgiving and Hanukkah align for an Age of Aquarius moment of unprecedented commercial and culinary creativity.

In the spirit of Thanksgivukkuh, therefore, I propose Spaghetti alla Carbonara alla Giudea (Jewish-style), an actual dish now offered in some of the kosher and ‘kosher-style’ restaurants that have popped up in Rome’s Jewish ghetto neighborhood in recent years—the first new development in ages in the long and fruitful culinary relationship between Roman Jews and their neighbors.

More at the link.

I’ll leave you with a few news links in case you want a break from eating, arguing with relatives and watching football:

Think Progress: Five People Obama Could Pardon In Addition To The Turkey

Raw Story: Mike Huckabee labels Lara Logan a ‘hero journalist’ for discredited Benghazi report

Christian Science Monitor: New ‘little tiger cat’ species found in Brazil

NBC News: Pizza Hut reinstates manager fired after refusing to open Thanksgiving

Cleveland.com: Why covering Black Friday isn’t as much fun as it used to be

BBC News: Iran nuclear crisis: UN experts invited to Arak plant

Calvin Trillin at The New Yorker: MOZZARELLA STORY

Take care everyone, and have a terrific holiday!!


Tuesday Reads: Liberals, Libertarians, and Concern Trolls

Matisse-Woman-Reading-with-Tea1

Good Morning!!

Between the Red Sox being in the World Series and having to have a root canal on Saturday, I’ve been a little bit disconnected from politics. The Sox won again last night in St. Louis, and they’ll be coming back home to Fenway Park leading the series 3 games to 2; so they could end it tomorrow night. If this post is a little late, my aching jaw and baseball are the reasons why.

We’ve been talking a lot about libertarians lately, because so-called progressives have been aligning with those Ayn Rand fans since libertarian Edward Snowden began leaking top secret documents about the NSA and libertarian Glenn Greenwald began lecturing the world about what a great hero Snowden is for defecting to Russia and revealing the most secret counterintelligence methods of the U.S. and U.K.

The latest shameful episode was Saturday’s “Stop Watching Us” rally in Washington, at which supposedly “progressive” groups joined with anti-woman right-wingers like Justin Amash and neo-confederates like Ron and Rand Paul to protest the NSA doing its job of collecting foreign intelligence.

Before the rally took place, Tom Watson wrote a heartfelt column warning “progressives” that libertarians don’t make good bedfellows. Watson wrote that while he dislikes mass surveillance,

I cannot support this coalition or the rally. It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.

The Libertarian Party itself — inaccurately described by Stop Watching Us as a “public advocacy organization” — is a right-wing political party that opposes all gun control lawsand public healthcaresupported the government shutdowndismisses public education,opposes organized labor, favors the end of Social Security as we know it, and argues in its formal political manifesto that “we should eliminate the entire social welfare system” while supporting “unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.”

Yet my progressive friends would take the stage with the representatives of this political movement? Why? The loss is much greater than the gain. Organizers trade their own good names and reputations to stand alongside — and convey legitimacy to — a party that opposes communitarian participation in liberal society, and rejects the very role of government itself. And their own argument for privacy is weakened by the pollution of an ideology that uses its few positive civil liberties positions as a predator uses candy with a child.

This is an abandonment of core principles, in my view, out of anger over Edward Snowden’s still-recent revelations about the National Security Agency and its spying activity, particularly domestic access to telephone and online networks and metadata. It represents trading long-held beliefs in social and economic justice for a current hot-button issue that — while clearly of concern to all Americans — doesn’t come close to trumping a host of other issues areas that require “the long game” of electoral politics and organizing. Going “all in” with the libertarian purists is a fatal and unnecessary compromise; reform is clearly needed, but the presence of anti-government laissez-faire wingers at the beating heart of the privacy movement will surely sour the very political actors that movement desperately needs to make actual — and not symbolic, link bait — progress in its fight.

But it was to no avail. Watson was attacked for his argument that the anti-surveillance fever is distracting from other important issues. People like Greenwald and Snowden couldn’t possibly care less about alleviating poverty, protecting women’s rights or the right to vote. They’d have no problem with Social Security and Medicare being eliminated, and as for voting, they’re anti-government anyway. Glenn Greenwald–whom some uninformed people believe is a “progressive,” saves his worst attacks for Democrats and in the past has supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson for president. To Greenwald, sacrificing the entire legacy of FDR and the civil rights and women’s movements is no big deal. Here’s how he characterized the values of liberals who reject Ron Paul in 2011:

Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.

Of course, Greenwald is admitting that he’d sacrifice the social safety net and the rights of millions of Americans in a hopeless effort to defeat the military-industrial complex and its technologies. If you can stand to read the whole piece, you’ll also learn that Greenwald thinks Matt Stoller is a “brilliant” writer. Greenwald is a libertarian purist, with no understanding of how politics actually works. This is the pied piper that many “progressives” are following these days.

I guess I’m getting a little carried away here, so I’ll stop ranting and offer some pertinent links.

Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads: Animal Psychology, Republican Race-Baiting, Obama’s Drone War, and More

Good Morning!!

Before I get to political news, here’s an interesting story that has nothing to do with the upcoming 2012 elections: Suicidal dogs and bipolar wolves. It’s an interview with Laurel Braitman, a PhD candidate at MIT and the author of an upcoming book, Animal Madness. As someone who strongly believes that animals have personalities and strong emotions, I’m looking forward to check out her book. Here’s just a bit of the interview, conducted by Malcolm Harris of New Inquiry Magazine.

MH: How did you get involved in writing about mental illness in other animals in particular?

LB: I was doing something completely different but I had gone to graduate school for history of science at MIT. I had originally gone there to do research on the aquarium fishery in the Amazon basin. But I had a dog at the time, my partner and I had adopted a Burnese Mountain Dog. And he was fine for the first six months and then he went spectacularly crazy. He developed a debilitating case of separation anxiety. If we left him alone he would destroy himself, the house, anything in the way. He nearly killed himself at least once. So I had to take him to the vet hospital after he jumped out of our 4th floor apartment, and they said I had to take him to a veterinary behaviorist who would give him a prescription for Prozac and Valium. I was stopped in my tracks. I had heard there were some animals taking these drugs, but I never thought of myself as the kind of person who would put an animal on Prozac. But I found myself in a desperate situation with a 120 pound dog and I tried all these things and they didn’t work, so I became that person that puts her dog on antidepressants. Prozac didn’t work for him really, but the Valium did, at least in the short term. And I began to get curious about how these drugs got into vet clinics in the first place and if there was something to this. Was my dog responding to these drugs in the some of the same ways that people do?

I ended up switching what I was studying because I couldn’t find anything written about the history of this. My PhD research is now the story of what the last 150 years have to tell us about mental illness in other animals. Can they be crazy? Who says they’re crazy? How did the industry around animal mental health come to be? And how do we make other animals feel better? That’s the question that interests me most. Once you notice that another animal is disturbed or anxious– what do we do then? I’ve spent the last few years traveling all over the world to talk to people who are making it their life’s work to help these animals – whether they are elephants or dogs or birds.

What a brilliant idea!

And now, once again we move from the sublime to the ridiculous–and offensive. The Romney campaign is up to it’s old dirty tricks, sending their meanest surrogates out to race bait again. First up, Newt Gingrich says Obama is “not a real president.”

“[Obama] really is like the substitute [National Football League] referees in the sense that he’s not a real president,” Gingrich told Greta Van Susteren on Fox News Tuesday night. “He doesn’t do anything that presidents do, he doesn’t worry about any of the things the presidents do, but he has the White House, he has enormous power, and he’ll go down in history as the president, and I suspect that he’s pretty contemptuous of the rest of us.”

Unbelievable! And there’s more:



“This is a man who in an age of false celebrity-hood is sort of the perfect president, because he’s a false president,” he said. “He’s a guy that doesn’t do the president’s job.”

 ….

“You have to wonder what he’s doing,” Gingrich continued. “I’m assuming that there’s some rhythm to Barack Obama that the rest of us don’t understand. Whether he needs large amounts of rest, whether he needs to go play basketball for a while or watch ESPN, I mean, I don’t quite know what his rhythm is, but this is a guy that is a brilliant performer as an orator, who may very well get reelected at the present date, and who, frankly, he happens to be a partial, part-time president.”

It kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it? Next up, John Sununu: Obama Is “Absolutely Lazy And Detached From His Job”

“Look, let me tell you what the big problem with this president is in my opinion. He is absolutely lazy and detached from his job. When he doesn’t go and attended 60% of the detailed presidential daily briefings that come from the CIA and thinks he can just skim it, skim the summary paper on his iPad instead of sitting down and engaging in what — I was in the White House with George Herbert Walker Bush. He took that brief everyday. George W. Bush took it everyday and I believe that Bill Clinton took it everyday. This president thinks he’s smarter than those guys and he doesn’t have to engage in the discussion. That’s the most important half-hour of the day for a president who has to protect the security of the United States,” Romney surrogate John Sununu said on Hannity.

Watch the video at the link, if you can stand it. Read the rest of this entry »