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!!


Saturday: Let It Snow

Good morning everyone! Wonk the Vote here, wishing you a merry and a happy on this Saturday, December the 25th, 2010.

Whatever you celebrate or do not celebrate. I hope your inner child is finding a little peace, a little hope, and a little laughter this holiday season and that as we edge closer to 2011, we are able to keep on keeping on–with a little help from our family and from our friends.

In some ways, blog communities feel like a little of both family and friendship. We have been through a lot side-by-side in the past three years since we gathered together around Hillary 2008.

As a token of gratitude to each and every one of you, I want to share my all-time favorite holiday carol youtube with y’all — Rosemary Clooney’s rendition of “Let It Snow”:

I cannot help but be happy watching that footage! I hope if that doesn’t do the trick for you, you share what makes you happy downthread in the comments.

And, speaking of pure happiness–I am typing this from a brand new MacBook Air! Santa came a little early in the Wonk household, so I got my present on Christmas Eve. My laptop woes are over. Hooray! I can finally get back into the swing of all things news junkie.

Before I get to the news though, let’s take a look back on Christmases past.

On this day, December 25th, in history:

1223 – St. Francis of Assisi assembles the first Nativity scene.

When I went to Italy, I visited a lot of churches. I won’t lie. They all started to blur together for me. Assisi was the one place that really stood out for some reason. Something about St. Francis I guess. Probably also has a lot to do with the first time I ever heard this prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

–St. Francis

Doubt is as important to me as faith. That’s just the way I am. I do, however, like the idea of reframing all the destructive energy in this world–in other words, turning oneself into an instrument for the universe’s creative energy. I also think that reflexive doubt, just like blind faith, is a corrosive force. It blinds us as individuals and as a populace. It makes us deaf to our own inner voices. I feel that in some ways, this is where America is at right now.

At any rate, St. Francis’ prayer always seems to me a sort of prototype for cognitive-behavioral therapy before its time, as portions of religious texts and prayers often do. I would add one more line to it…

Where there is pain, let there be healing.

All this mythos stuff–in all its purest forms, unadulterated by institutionalism and authoritarianism–reads like one big self-help section on how to understand the world around us and how to do life. We human beings love to understand our world through storytelling–different stories pull us in, but we are all trying to understand some pretty universal themes when it comes down to it–human bonding, suffering, loss, and resilience. That’s what ties us all together. And, we want to hear our human story retold over and over again, in as many ways as possible, until it makes some sort of sense. It’s just the way we are.

Alright, enough of my existential ramblings. I want to touch on some actual newsy items in my holiday roundup.

First, a moment of remembrance for Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated on December 27, 2007. CNN has this clip up of an interview with Duane Baughman, director of the recent documentary Bhutto.

Now, for some quick headlines that caught my eye from the top of my news feeds at the moment–keep in mind that between computer chaos and holiday mayhem, I’ve been out of the news junkie loop for about a week, so some of this might be old news to you by now… Karl Rove: Hillary Clinton Will Be A Presidential Candidate In 2016 – Huffington Post December 23, 2010:

“I suspect she will be a candidate. I suspect she is going to think about being a candidate in 2016, and we’ll know by about 2014,”Rove said on Fox News. “If she leaves the administration in 2014 or 2015, in order to give herself a chance to write a book about her experiences and reconnect with the grassroots, then she might entertain it.”

We’ll see about that. I know I’m like a broken record on this one, but it’s all I can think: I can’t blame Hillary if she never runs again.

Former Hillary Clinton political director named executive director at DSCC – The Hill (blog) December 22, 2010:

Longtime Democratic operative Guy Cecil will serve as executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the 2012 cycle, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced Wednesday. Cecil succeeds J.B. Poersch and is tasked with helping Democrats keep their tenuous majority in the Senate given a tough 2012 map for the party. […] Cecil served as national political director for then-Sen. Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Interesting little shift of the Democratic political winds there. Something to keep an eye on, methinks.

Bill and Hillary Clinton surprise Steve Tyrell at Cafe Carlyle on the eve of … – CultureMap December 24, 2010

Christmas came early for song man Steve Tyrell and his glam fiancéKaren Pulaski when former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton popped in at the Cafe Carlyle in New York on Thursday night to catch the holiday show by Tyrell, one of the former president’s favorite singers. The Clintons, including daughter Chelsea, had primo seats, posed for photos with the Tyrell/Pulaski clan and wished the couple all the best with their wedding, which will take place at the Carlyle Hotel on Sunday. Yes, the day after Christmas. When Tyrell dedicated The Way You Look Tonight to the Clintons, Chelsea moved to sit next to her father. They held hands, and according to Tyrell, the former president wiped a tear from his eye. You might remember The Way You Look Tonight as the song that Tyrell sang inFather of the Bride and it was his version of the tune that Bill and Chelsea chose as their first dance at her wedding.

So that’s a little of what the Clintons have been up to for the holidays. Sounds delightful! Check out the links for a few nice photos.

NM Gov Bill Richardson to replace Hillary Clinton at State Dept? – Examiner.com December 24, 2010.

I’m not even going to excerpt on that one. Mostly my reaction is no comment. It’s an Examiner article, so grains of salt and all that.

Fierce Urgency of Inevitably Sometime? Via memeorandum.com:

Biden sees ‘inevitability’ for gay marriage (Russell Berman/The Hill)December 24, 2010

Another story I saw pop up on memeorandum:

Kamala Harris: Democrats’ anti-Palin (Ben Smith/The Politico)December 25, 2010

I really wanted to read the profile on Kamala, but the constant defining of her as “the anti-Palin” or “the female” Obama made me tune out before I could get past the first page. The genius messengers of the Democratic party just don’t quit, do they?

Going to switch from memeorandum to Raw Story for the next few stories…

Manning’s message on Christmas Eve: ‘I greatly appreciate everyone’s support’ December 24, 2010

From the link:

“When told of the Pentagon’s statement that he did indeed receive exercise, Manning’s reply was that he is able to exercise insofar as walking in chains is a form of exercise,” House wrote.

Firedoglake was also featuring an online petition asking supporters to demand an improvement to the conditions of Manning’s detention.

Sigh. What continues to go on in our names is a disgrace to all the hope this season is supposed to bring. I’m not sure a petition is enough to make a dent here, but at least it’s something.

Also from Raw Story:

New rules to allow Blackberries, iPads on House floor December 24, 2010 David Edwards

One more RS link:

Device uses sunlight to make liquid fuel December 24, 2010 Eric W. Dolan

I’m intrigued. I’d love to hear from someone with some expertise.

Like I said, I’m just playing catch up here. Y’all can probably add some fresher links of what’s going on in the world in the comments.

Moving away from the headlines back to a holiday link, here’s a concise history on Thomas Nast’s Christmas illustrations, including “Santa Claus and His Works,featured in Harper’s Weekly on December 1866. (via the Gray Lady):

Nast was instrumental in standardizing and nationalizing the image of a jolly, kind, and portly Santa in a red, fur-trimmed suit delivering toys from his North Pole workshop. This was accomplished through his work in the pages of Harper’s Weekly, his contributions to other publications, and by Christmas-card merchants in the 1870s and 1880s who relied heavily upon his portraiture.

[…]

As Nast’s own children entered and left their teen years, knowing that Santa was really their father, the artist’s illustrations finally showed direct communication and interaction between Santa Claus and the pictured children.  In a postdated January 1879 issue, a girl drops a letter to Santa in a mailbox (the first time the artist depicted a letter from a child to Santa), and in December 1884, Santa and a girl are able to speak with each other by using a relatively new invention, the telephone.  In the January 1879 issue, another Nast cartoon portrays Santa Claus in the midst of a group of gleeful children who he embraces affectionately. Santa is now recognized as part of the family, whose shared love is the greatest gift.  Nast’s Santa makes his last appearance in Harper’s Weeklythe next year when the jolly old (man-size) elf offers himself as a present. Nast’s last two Christmas illustrations in Harper’s Weekly appeared in December 1886, when he resigned from the newspaper, but his impact on the popular image of Santa Claus continued and remains potent to this day.

Well, that’s all I’ve got! I know today is busy for lots of people, so if you made it all the way to the end, thanks for reading and here’s wishing you a day of whatever brings you peace and joy. I’ve got to get going. I’m out of town and have a Christmas breakfast to go to this morning. As always, treat this as an open thread to share your Saturday reads and thoughts.