November 22, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 PM

INDEED, THE ENTIRE STIMULUS SHOULD HAVE BEEN USED TO PAY DOWN MORTGAGES:

Economists, Obama administration at odds over role of mortgage debt in slow recovery (Zachary A. Goldfarb, November 22, 2012, Washington Post)

One year and one month before President Obama won reelection, he invited seven of the world's top economists into a private meeting in the Oval Office for their advice on what do to fix an ailing economy. "I'm not asking you to consider the political feasibility of things," he told them in the previously unreported meeting.

There was a former Federal Reserve vice chairman, a Nobel laureate, one of the world's foremost experts on financial crises and the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund , among others. Nearly to a tee, they said Obama should introduce a much bigger plan to forgive part of the mortgage debt owed by millions of homeowners underwater on their properties. [...]

The meeting highlighted what today is the biggest disagreement between some of the world's top economists and the Obama administration. The economists say the president could have significantly accelerated the slow economic recovery if he had better addressed the overhang of mortgage debt left burdening Americans when housing prices collapsed. Obama's advisers say that they did all they could on the housing front and that other factors better explain why the recovery has been slow.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM

SPIRIT OF BROTHERHOOD:

Egyptian President and Obama Forge Link in Gaza Deal (PETER BAKER and DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK, 11/22/12, NY Times)

President Obama skipped dessert at a long summit meeting dinner in Cambodia on Monday to rush back to his hotel suite. It was after 11:30 p.m., and his mind was on rockets in Gaza rather than Asian diplomacy. He picked up the telephone to call the Egyptian leader who is the new wild card in his Middle East calculations.

Over the course of the next 25 minutes, he and President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt hashed through ways to end the latest eruption of violence, a conversation that would lead Mr. Obama to send Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the region. As he and Mr. Morsi talked, Mr. Obama felt they were making a connection. Three hours later, at 2:30 in the morning, they talked again.

The cease-fire brokered between Israel and Hamas on Wednesday was the official unveiling of this unlikely new geopolitical partnership, one with bracing potential if not a fair measure of risk for both men. After a rocky start to their relationship, Mr. Obama has decided to invest heavily in the leader whose election caused concern because of his ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, seeing in him an intermediary who might help make progress in the Middle East beyond the current crisis in Gaza.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

GAZA DEAL SEALS MAJOR ROLE FOR EGYPT'S PRESIDENT (HAMZA HENDAWI, 11/22/12, AP) 

The Gaza cease-fire deal reached Wednesday marks a startling trajectory for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi: an Islamist leader who refuses to talk to Israelis or even say the country's name mediated for it and finally turned himself into Israel's de facto protector.

The accord inserts Egypt to an unprecedented degree into the conflict between Israel and Hamas, establishing it as the arbiter ensuring that militant rocket fire into Israel stops and that Israel allows the opening of the long-blockaded Gaza Strip and stops its own attacks against Hamas.

In return, Morsi emerged as a major regional player. He won the trust of the United States and Israel, which once worried over the rise of an Islamist leader in Egypt but throughout the week-long Gaza crisis saw him as the figure most able to deliver a deal with Gaza's Hamas rulers.

The Egyptians also reportedly told Netanyahu to knock it off or lose the peace deals with Egypt and Jordan, which he couldn't afford headed into an election.
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Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM

FROM THE GROUND UP:

Abortion rate falls during Obama's first year in office: was it because of Obama? (SUSAN MICHELLE TYRRELL, Nov 22, 2012, LifeSiteNews)

Last month news reports told us this:

Just this year, 17 states set new limits on abortion; 24 did last year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion rights nonprofit whose numbers are widely respected. In several states with the most restrictive laws, the number of abortions has fallen slightly, pleasing abortion opponents who say the laws are working.

Of 50 states in our nation, 41 of them have passed over 90 new laws supporting LIFE--and now the national CDC statistics prove that we can fight abortion even with a president who doesn't. The report last month continued to note states where abortion rates had fallen (including Texas where pro-life Governor Rick Perry and the Texas legislature have fought to de-fund Planned Parenthood and push through pro-life laws):

States within the nation's most restrictive region, the midsection, include North and South Dakota, which each have only one abortion clinic and have seen the number of abortions drop slightly since 2008.

And they include Texas, which has the most prescriptive counseling laws -- requiring, among other things, that doctors tell women abortion is linked with breast cancer. A group of scientists convened by the National Cancer Institute in 2003 concluded abortion did not raise the risk of breast cancer.

A Texas law passed last year requires women to get an ultrasound and their doctors to describe the fetus. Texas abortions also have dropped every year since 2008.

The Associated Press story notes:

The decline, detailed on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, came in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Both the number of abortions and the abortion rate dropped by the same percentage.

[T]he truth is simple: if the new laws didn't effect the abortion rate, Planned Parenthood wouldn't have spent oodles of money fighting these laws since federal law supersedes state law, and federal law hasn't changed. The numbers speak for themselves, and the Associated Press reports says, "Abortions have been dropping slightly over much of the past decade. But before this latest report, they seemed to have pretty much leveled off."

Notable facts include the state of Mississippi, with only one abortion facility, which hovers on the verge of being closed. The report says:

Mississippi had the lowest abortion rate, at 4 per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. The state also had only a couple of abortion providers and has the nation's highest teen birth rate. New York, second to California in number of abortion providers, had the highest abortion rate, roughly eight times Mississippi's.

New York, it should be noted, has fewer abortion restrictions and many abortion facilities.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM

NOT GOOD, GIVEN THAT IT WAS EXCLUSIVELY POLITICAL:

Only 1 in 5 think Israel 'won' the eight-day battle against Hamas (TIMES OF ISRAEL, November 22, 2012)

Only a fifth of Israelis think Israel "won" the eight day conflict with Hamas that ended on Wednesday, and fewer than two fifths feel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handled the conflict well, according to an opinion poll taken Thursday. [...]

In the survey, for Channel 2 news, 29% of those polled felt Hamas had been the winner in the conflict, 20% said Israel, 46% chose neither, and 5% had no answer.

Meanwhile, Hamas 'victory' gives West Bank a fighting spirit (ELHANAN MILLER, November 22, 2012, Times of Israel)

In the Muslim Quarter, Gaza was the talk of the day. Inside a falafel shop, three men watched Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh deliver a victory speech on a TV latched to the ceiling.

"We want a final resolution of the Palestinian issue," said one of the men, as he glanced away from the screen. "These temporary solutions that drag on for years while the West Bank is swallowed up by settlements are unacceptable."

The man was referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his continued advocacy of peace negotiations with Israel. Twenty years of talks have left West Bank Palestinians with little, Jerusalem residents say today, and Hamas's steadfastness during operation Pillar of Defense has provided them with a new source of inspiration. [...]

The Palestinian street is quickly slipping into combat mode, inspired by the fighting words emanating from Gaza. Jibril Rajoub, a former Palestinian security chief who speaks fluent Hebrew, appealed to Israel on Channel 2 News Thursday to stop that process by re-engaging the PA, which has favored negotiations over violence.

"For eight years, we've not thrown a stone at you from the West Bank," he said. "What have we gotten from you? We want our state on the 1967 borders ... that will live in peace alongside the state of Israel."

Posted by orrinj at 10:53 AM

PERSONALLY, IT'S THE ADP APP:

The 50 Free Apps We're Most Thankful For (Whitson Gordon, 11/22/12, Lifehacker)

It's the time of year where we all give thanks, and among many other things, we here at Lifehacker are thankful for all the free apps out there that improve our lives (and the developers that make them!). Here are 50 of our favorites.

We asked you which free apps you're most thankful for, you offered hundreds of suggestions both classic and new. Here, we've taken your votes (and added a few of our own) and ranked our 50 apps using those votes as a guide. So without further ado, here are 50 free apps for your downloading feast.

ADP has a fantastic app--if you use their payroll system--that allows you to punch your timecard, check benefits, etc.



Posted by orrinj at 9:32 AM

DEALING FROM STRENGTH:

Hamas declares 'victory' after cease-fire (KHALED ABU TOAMEH, 11/21/2012, Jerusalem Post)

Sources in the Gaza Strip said that the Hamas leadership instructed its members to abide by the cease-fire and to stop firing at Israel.

"History will mention that Gaza once hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with rockets," boasted a Hamas activist in Gaza City.

"Today we triumphed. This is a victory from Allah."

Ahmed Bahr, a senior Hamas official, welcomed the cease-fire agreement.

"The resistance groups have achieved a historic victory and paved the way for the battle of liberating Palestine," he said.


Mashaal: I accept a Palestinian state on '67 borders (Jerusalem Post.11/22/2012)

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared a position on Palestinian statehood that is nearly identical to that of his Fatah rival, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in an interview with CNN aired Wednesday.

"I accept a Palestinian state according [to] the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital, with the right to return," the Hamas leader told Christine Amanpour in Cairo.

Pushed about his party's refusal to recognize Israel, Mashaal said such a declaration could only be made once a Palestinian state has been created.

Bibi Netanyahu would not have behaved any differently this month if he were pro-Hamas.
Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!:

This year, as every year, we're thankful for all the usual stuff, not least that so many of you still stop by the blog to read and comment.  

But what about all the more trivial things we have to be thankful for?  Here are 5:

Sirius/XM Radio in the car--how did we spend so much time waiting for kids to finish after-school activities before we had satellite radio?

The Camera on your phone--I've done almost an entire year of daily cloudspotting photos with just the phone in my pocket.

Spotify--especially useful for the dabbler, allowing you to check artists out before you buy and to summon up almost any tune from your murky past.

College Hockey--Dartmouth home games aren't just massively entertaining as sport, they're also a singularly kid-friendly social event.

Double Bubble Gum--$7 for a 380 count bucket at BJs



Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM

CHANNEL 375 ON DirecTV:

'Borgen,' 'The Thick of It,' Bond: What to Watch During the Thanksgiving Weekend (Jace Lacob,  Nov 21, 2012, Daily Beast)

Borgen (LinkTV and online at LinkTV.org)

If you haven't yet fallen under the spell of Danish political thriller Borgen, here is the perfect opportunity to watch a marathon of Seasons 1 and 2 as LinkTV will air all 20 episodes of this penetrating and intelligent series over the holiday weekend, from Thursday to Sunday.  Revolving around the political, moral, and ideological struggles of Denmark's first female prime minister, Borgen is hands down the best television show of 2012, and the women at the show's center--Sidse Babett Knudsen's sympathetic statsminister Birgitte Nyborg and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen's ambitious journalist Katrine Fønsmark--deliver two of television's strongest and most nuanced performances in a show that holds up a microscope to the political and media spheres in Denmark. The result is an unforgettable and insightful drama that will have you forgetting that you're reading subtitles. 

Bonus tip: Don't worry if you don't have DirecTV or Dish or if you're away from your television this weekend: you can watch the episodes online at LinkTV.org for two weeks after the on-air marathon.


Stream On: The Danish West Wing (June Thomas, June 1, 2012, Slate)

[A]nd for the first time ever, I got so stuck on a show that I absolutely, positively had to know how it all worked out. As soon as I got home, I ordered up the Region 2 DVD from Amazon.co.uk, and I didn't leave the couch for an entire weekend.

That show was Borgen, a Danish drama about that nation's first female prime minister--a sort of Scandinavian West Wing meets Commander in Chief meets ... well, there is no U.S. analog for a show that allows a beloved character to have an abortion and regret it but apparently recover just fine, thank you very much.

I had a fabulous weekend on the sofa, but it was a solitary pleasure--since most of my friends couldn't watch the DVDs even if I had gone door-to-door proselytizing for the show, there was no chance for the kind of spirited back-and-forth conversations among friends that are such a fun part of the TV-watching experience.

And then I learned that Link TV is airing the show in the United States right now. Link TV, which bills itself as "the first nationwide television channel and website dedicated to providing global perspectives on news, events and culture," is available on satellite via the Dish Network and DirectTV, and a few cable providers around the country run some of its programming. Unfortunately, my cable system is Link-less, but for a limited time, Link is streaming the first season of Borgen on its website, and it will start airing and streaming Season 2 on Sunday, June 3. (Get the full scoop on the Link TV website.)

Borgen--the title is translated as Government, though borgen means castle, which is the nickname for Denmark's parliamentary building--is a rumination on power, ambition, integrity, love, and the art of making a deal. (Hero Birgitte Nyborg's first task is to form a coalition and thereafter to keep it together.)  It's a grown-up story about a strong, smart, funny woman who is responsible for the fate of her country and its people but is still hot for her husband and worried about her kids.

The show is beautifully plotted. The many intrigues in the worlds of politics, journalism, business, and PR are given just enough twists and turns to be surprising, but never so many that they become tiresome. It also provides a deliciously sneaky peek at Danish life. Did you know that Danish vicars wear Hamlet-like neck ruffles, that Scandinavians really do eat those hard old crisp breads (sometimes even in bed), or that Danes often hold meetings standing around tall tables? I've been to Denmark twice, and I didn't.


Borgen: The Best TV Show You've Never Seen (Andrew Romano, Jul 30, 2012, Daily Beast)

Think of Borgen as The Anti-Newsroom. Aaron Sorkin's gourmet drama about a cable-news anchor on a "mission to civilize" the masses was supposed to inherit The West Wing's mantle--until it turned out to be a preachy mess. The good news is that everything Sorkin gets wrong, Borgen gets right. (In the States, the Season 2 finale airs Aug. 5 on LinkTV; the show is already a hit in Europe, and a U.S. remake is in the works.) While The Newsroom is stuck in the past, bathing its grouchy male hero, Will McAvoy, in beatific lightbeams every time he grumbles about the good old days--you know, when "real newsmen" bestrode the earth--Borgen dramatizes the cutting-edge struggles of a woman who wouldn't even exist in the world Sorkin wants to revive: Birgitte Nyborg, the first female prime minister of Denmark.

She is a riveting protagonist. McAvoy is only powerful because Sorkin says so; Nyborg must take power from a bunch of bulbous male politicians who refer to her as "Mommy" whenever she leaves the room. McAvoy is brilliant because everyone keeps calling him brilliant; Nyborg, in contrast, actually does a lot of brilliant things (thwarting an ambitious rival, outwitting a dangerous dictator). For McAvoy, every problem has an easy, righteous answer, but Nyborg has to learn the hard way: one day, she and her rangy husband, who has put his career on hold for her, are boffing and bantering like a Nordic Bogart and Bacall; the next day, his sense of self has eroded and their perfect post-feminist "deal"--he runs the household, she runs the country--begins to collapse. The difference between the two shows is the difference between reading an overwrought op-ed about the sorry state of politics and actually living out those complexities in real time. Guess which is more compelling.

Borgen isn't the first show about a female politician; Commander in Chief, Parks and Recreation, Veep, and Political Animals all put women in positions of power. But by obsessing over the delicate, seesawing balance between what its characters do at the office and what they do at home, Borgen digs deeper. How should Nyborg respond when the company that has just hired her spouse, a sought-after CEO, also stands to profit from one of her policy decisions? Does she risk her marriage and force him to resign, even though he's going stir-crazy at home? Or does she put her husband ahead of her government?

The supporting storylines are equally nuanced. What happens when the spin doctor in charge of Nyborg's message and the star reporter covering her ascent are exes? Does the former deny the latter access? Does the reporter flirt to get the story? And how do their colleagues react? On Borgen, every public decision has private consequences, and vice versa, which is something that Hollywood usually ignores and that actual politicians, operatives, and journalists have to hide. Finally getting to see these secret repercussions spool out and spill over is spellbinding; they raise the stakes on everything that happens, suffusing even the most quotidian moments with suspense.

As a result, Borgen tends to keep its characters in a constant state of flux--a cinematic trick that's especially rewarding because it's so rarely attempted on TV.
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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 AM

FROM THE THANKSGIVING ARCHIVES: THE ASSIMILATIVE POWER OF RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE:

Turkey Is Basic, but Immigrants Add Their Homeland Touches (KIM SEVERSON, 11/25/04, NY Times)

For all those struggling to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table, consider the plight of Yaser Baker, a restaurateur in this city's Arabic shopping district.

First Mr. Baker had to find a turkey that was slaughtered according to Islamic dietary law, a challenge because some local halal butchers decided not to sell turkeys this year. Then he had to adapt the traditional American recipe to Arabic tastes, which meant bathing it in lemon and olive oil and stuffing it with rice, beef and pine nuts.

Finally he had to brace for reaction from his Muslim neighbors, some of whom are either too devout or too upset about the war in Iraq even to acknowledge Thanksgiving.

But for Mr. Baker, Thanksgiving is all about the bird.

"Believe me, I don't look at it as an American holiday or a holiday that is not for Muslims," said Mr. Baker, a Palestinian and naturalized American who has been in the United States for 24 years. "I live in America. You tell me to eat turkey, I'm going to eat turkey."

The desire to celebrate Thanksgiving was so strong for Leticia Maravilla, a Mexican immigrant, that she roasted her first turkey before she had her green card, struggling through a newspaper recipe in English.

"I wanted to do it the same way Americans did it," she said, speaking from Los Angeles though an interpreter.


Suffice it to say, there is no "Dutch way."





(originally posted: November 25, 2004)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM

FROM THE THANKSGIVING ARCHIVES: WHAT DOES LOGIC HAVE TO DO WITH A DECENT SOCIETY?:

Got the Puritan blues (Jeff Jacoby, November 23, 2005, Boston Globe)

Ah, yes, the blue laws -- those rules and regulations imposed by New England's 17th-century Puritan theocrats to govern moral conduct and ensure proper observance of the Sabbath. The product of an era when ''witches" were hanged, blue laws dictated what people could wear, forbade travel on Sunday, and made it an offense to miss church. The Puritans ''carried their efforts to control private activities in the Massachusetts Bay Colony to extremes unknown elsewhere," notes the Family Encyclopedia of American History. For example, church doors were bolted during Sunday services to prevent restless congregants from leaving early.

It is hard to imagine how these laws could have survived the ratification of the Bill of Rights. But survive they did, some of them for centuries. In Massachusetts, Chapter 136 long barred most commercial activity on Sundays and legal holidays. Not even Cotton Mather would have been able to make sense of the anachronistic crazy quilt of definitions and loopholes that the law turned into over time. The same statute that barred shops and businesses from operating on ''common days of rest" also listed dozens of exceptions to the rule, including the sale of nitrogen, the operation of garden centers and public bathhouses, and the transportation of ice, bees, or Irish moss. Supermarkets weren't allowed to sell groceries, but convenience stores were. Buying a painting at an art gallery was OK. Buying paint at Home Depot was forbidden.

In 1994 Massachusetts voters finally made it lawful for all stores to open on Sunday and the summer holidays -- Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the Fourth of July. But the old restrictions, as illogical as ever, still apply on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

''Thanksgiving is not like any other day," Reilly insists. ''It's been the one day when people didn't have to work. People should be allowed to be off that one day, to have a day to spend with their family. This is one of those issues where tradition wins over for me."

Tradition is a fine thing, and Thanksgiving is suffused with it. But what Reilly is defending is not tradition but coercion. Americans are able to decide for themselves how to spend Thanksgiving. Given a choice, some will opt for family and turkey. Others will grab the chance to go to work for double pay. It isn't for the attorney general of Massachusetts, or any other state official, to make that choice for them.

The blue laws are and always have been obnoxious deprivations of liberty.


Not only is this the most anti-consrvative thing ever written by a putative conservative, but it betrays a moronic understanding of liberty. MA should return to stricter Blue Laws, not relax what little good is left.


(originally posted: 11/23/05)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 AM

FROM THE ARCHIVES: PRINT THE MYTH:

Despite historians' efforts, Thanksgiving misconceptions endure (Lisa Anderson, 11/23/06, Chicago Tribune)

For starters, there is no conclusive evidence that turkey was on a menu that more likely starred venison, ducks, geese and shellfish. There might have been stewed pumpkin, but certainly no pumpkin pie in the then almost certainly ovenless Plymouth Colony. Cranberry sauce was as yet unknown to the colonists and the Indians, and neither yams nor white potatoes were grown yet in the New World. There is nothing to suggest the Native Americans popped corn and bestowed it on their colonizers. And there likely was no groaning board around which diners gathered.

"Did they even have a table? Maybe," said Elizabeth Pleck, a historian at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who has written extensively on the history of Thanksgiving.

The modern Thanksgiving tradition is rooted in a 165-year-old historical misunderstanding that goes far beyond the question of whether turkey was served. There was no connection made between Pilgrims and Thanksgiving until 1841, when Alexander Young published a book in Boston containing a letter written by Edward Winslow, one of the Plymouth Colony leaders, on Dec. 11, 1621.


(originally posted: 11/23/07)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

FROM THE ARCHIVES: PARENTAL GUIDANCE:

Give thanks -- it's good for you (Bruce Chapman, 11/22/07, The Seattle Times)

When a family member learned not long ago that he was dying of cancer, he visited a church he hadn't much seen and, while leaving, he picked up a tract on the topic of facing death. The very first suggestion was to give thanks. Initially, it seemed perverse to him; after all, he was counting his impending losses, not his blessings.

But, he followed the advice and it literally transformed him, and, among other things, gave him new courage and hope.

Gratitude has been called the gateway to the virtues. As Cicero put it, "Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues, but the parent of all others," opening the heart to deeper appreciation, compassion, repentance, forgiveness, generosity and wisdom. Giving thanks should be cultivated as a habit. It is a kind of therapy for the spirit.

[originally posted: 11/22/07]


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

FROM THE THANKSGIVING ARCHIVES: FRANKLIN WAS RIGHT:

Turkey dinner crosses cultures (MARICEL E. PRESILLA, 11/18/04, Miami Herald)

I recall with startling clarity my first Thanksgiving dinner in the United States. It was 1970, and my family had been in Miami for only four months, staying with relatives. This was to be the first important family gathering in our own new home, a graceless, sparsely furnished old house in the city's southwest section.

I was heartbroken, in no mood to celebrate. The pain of leaving behind my beloved aunts, grandmother and boyfriend was compounded by the unfriendliness of our new neighborhood, an odd, sad place with few sidewalks where nobody seemed to walk.

Still, the golden turkeys of television commercials and magazine ads beckoned, reminding me of our traditional New Year's feasts back in Cuba. More poignantly, the story of the Mayflower Pilgrims began to resonate in my mind as a symbol of hope in the face of our own tribulations.

Like most newcomers to this country, we turned Thanksgiving into our own hybrid feast. Used to our own homegrown turkeys, we succumbed to the easy charm of a plump-breasted Butterball bird, which we dutifully defrosted and marinated Cuban-style with plenty of garlic and bitter orange (naranja agria) juice.

Instead of braising the turkey in a large cauldron as we had done back home, we roasted it in the oven. We served it with congr�, the rice and red kidney bean dish traditional to my hometown of Santiago de Cuba, plus canned yams and cranberry sauce -- concessions to what we considered true Thanksgiving fare that also satisfied our Cuban penchant for mixing sweet and sour flavors.

Teary-eyed, we toasted our good fortune and those we had left behind. I felt a surge of gratitude for the roof over my head, and, for the first time since our arrival, my mood lightened with a real sense of optimism. That same night, as we cleared the table, we got news that the man who is now my husband had managed to swim across Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. Naval base and freedom.

Since that day, Thanksgiving has symbolized crossover and arrival for my husband and me. Wherever we happen to be, we gather with family or friends for a heartfelt feast. The canned stuff of old has been replaced by fresh sweet potatoes and cranberries, but our menu continues to be a paean to the best of two worlds, with foods rooted in history and tradition.

My feast is always anchored by turkey, the only important domestic animal of pre-Columbian Mexico and Central America and the sine qua non of the American Thanksgiving table since the 19th century.





(originally posted: November 25, 2004)

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

FROM THE ARCHIVES: WHO CARES WHERE IT CAME FROM....:

On the origin of the species: Where did today's bird come from? The answer may surprise you. (John Bemelmans Marciano, November 25, 2010, LA Times)

The first Europeans to lay eyes on the bird we today call a turkey were likely Christopher Columbus and the crew of his fourth American voyage. They called the animal gallina de la tierra, or land chicken. In Mexico, Spanish conquistadors came across a domesticated version of the bird that they sent back home, to wide culinary success. By 1530, the bird was common on Spanish poultry farms, and not long after in British barnyards as well. It was there that this New World creature became confused with another, somewhat similar-looking species of bird.

This avian doppelganger was an African species known to Europeans as far back as Aristotle and the great naturalist Pliny, who called the bird meleagris. The English had two names for this animal, both having to do with where the bird was thought to come from. The first was guinea fowl, after the Guinea region of Africa, from which Portuguese traders imported the birds. The other was Turkey cock, for reasons that are today mysterious. Was there some Turkish merchant who brought the animals to England? Or were the English just atrocious with geography? The confusion got sorted out in utterly arbitrary fashion, with the Old World species taking the name guinea fowl and the newcomers winning sole English-language possession of the word turkey.

About 100 years after the New World turkey arrived in Europe, the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. There, they found an animal that bore a strong resemblance to the turkey they knew back home, although this wild variety did not take kindly to attempts at being domesticated. None of this deterred the natives, for whom the animal was a chief food source and their favorite bird to hunt. It is by no means certain that these wild northern turkeys were served at the first Thanksgiving in 1621, but it is quite possible.


...provided it ends up in your belly?

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[originally posted: 11/25/11]


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

FROM THE ARCHIVES: WE ARE WHO WE THINK THEY ARE:

Feasting on Thanksgiving History (ROGER MILLER, November 22, 2006, NY Sun)

When you sit down to your sumptuous feast this Thanksgiving, if you spare a thought or a prayer for those who brought you the holiday, make sure you're remembering the right people. It was the Pilgrims, not those sour Johnnies-come-lately, the Puritans, who celebrated the first American Thanksgiving.

We confuse them all the time. I was reminded of this in rereading a classic of American historical writing, "Saints and Strangers," by George F. Willison. This splendid amalgam of research and writing, first published in 1945 by Reynal & Hitchcock, reveals a lot of truths and puts straight a lot of errors concerning these ancestors of ours. [...]

All right, then, we do know that they sailed straight from Plymouth in England to Plymouth in the New World and that they were all good, solid, middle-class burghers who set up democracy straightaway. Correct? No, they sailed from the Netherlands, where they had spent several years in rancorous religious infighting. Saint or Stranger, they were all from the lower classes, some desperately poor.

The past is ironic prologue: The Dutch tolerance that allowed the Separatists to worship as they pleased also upset them because it tended to "corrupt" their children into non-Separatist ways. If the Saints sound similar to the Muslim "separatists" in the Netherlands today, then bear in mind that the Saints, when they got to Plymouth, formed a government only a little less exclusionary than the one they had fled in their native England.


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[originally posted: 11/23/06]


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM

FROM THE ARCHIVES: EVERYTHING YOU EVER NEEDED TO KNOW YOUR GRANDMA TOLD YOU:

Thank You. No, Thank You: Grateful People Are Happier, Healthier Long After the Leftovers Are Gobbled Up (Melinda Beck, 11/23/10, WSJ)

It turns out, giving thanks is good for your health.

A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.

Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.

Now, researchers are finding that gratitude brings similar benefits in children and adolescents. Kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches and feel more satisfied with their friends, families and schools than those who don't, studies show.

"A lot of these findings are things we learned in kindergarten or our grandmothers told us, but we now have scientific evidence to prove them," says Jeffrey J. Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., who has conducted much of the research with children.


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[originally posted: 11/23/10]