Happy Thanksgiving: Delayed Cranes and Pigs Edition

As longtime readers know, I like to focus my Thanksgiving gratitude on the Michigan farmers who provide the remarkable diversity of crops Mr. EW and I eat year round. Aside from olive oil and spices, you can source almost your entire Thanksgiving dinner from local Michigan farmers and I try to be intentional about who provides this meal. Among the providers who helped bring us dinner tonight, we thank:

  • Green Wagon Farm: Year-round greens, rutabegas, other veggies
  • Visser Farm: Spuds and carrots grown down the street from where I lived for a year
  • Hilhof Dairy: Truly exceptional dairy products
  • MOO-ville Creamery: Lots and lots of butter
  • Loves Ice Cream: Because my brother, who’s an ice cream addict, has joined us this year
  • Founders Mosaic Promise: Because the Lions game is going to suck especially bad this year
  • 2 Lads Winery: Yes, the wine comes from MI too
  • Pioneer Sugar: Even the commodity crops come from MI
  • The backyard: The Jerusalem artichokes (used in the stuffing) and herbs come from my own garden

Mr. EW and I have a special relationship with our meat farmers, Crane Dance Farm, two women who raise cows, pigs, lamb, chickens, and turkeys using humane principles. We’ve been buying our meat from them for years and gotten to be friends over that time.

Along with our meat, I get a sense of how the changing climate affects those farming the land from Jill and Mary.

This year, the cranes after which Jill named the farm, for example, came late, 20 days after the day they have arrived for decades. During that period Jill raised the missing birds every Saturday with a worried voice. They finally returned to the farm.

Then in the fall, the pork stopped, the delayed result of a significant drop-off in births much earlier in the year. Jill and Mary finally fattened enough pigs to slaughter just weeks before Thanksgiving (thankfully, given that my family tradition is cooking out turkey topped with bacon).

It’s not certain either of these things are due to the changing weather, though that’s a likely explanation. Meanwhile, Philadelphia had to pull the balloons from the Mummers parade on account of the high wind that, just days ago, ravaged the disappearing beaches here in Michigan.

I’m grateful for Michigan’s bounty. Unless we start doing something about the climate emergency, it may not be there very long.

Giving Thanks

Done BountyThis is the 11th Thanksgiving that emptywheel has survived: through the last year of the Bush Administration, the hope and shortcomings and some progress of the Obama Administration, and now two years of Trump, bolstered now by the hope, again, of a Democratic House.

Through it all there have been certain constants. Each year, I realize how lucky I am to live in a state with the diversity to supply our entire Thanksgiving meal, from sugar to turkey to locally raised veggies to wine to sunchokes (Deleuzian artichokes, as we call them in my household) raised in the yard. Over those years, the farmers that supply that bounty have become not just welcome sources, but true friends, down to the bonfires that our meat farmers, Mary and Jill, host, into which we throw sticks named for curses we want to burn away.

There’s always the Lions, who’ve returned to their losing ways. Hopefully that means I’ll be able to start snacking off the bacon on top of the turkey early this year.

In spite of the toxins in social media, there’s an ever expanding network of people, joining on-line and off to try to make this world a better place. I’m especially encouraged by the energy younger people are bringing, whether it be the Parkland kids, younger politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others. They might just salvage the wreckage the Boomers have created! That said, in MI, both young and old contributed to real progress this year, including a slate full of Constitutional officers I’m genuinely excited about and reforms to make democracy work better.

And, amazingly, there are readers who’ve been reading emptywheel even longer than that 11 years, offering so much with their comments, wisdom, and feedback. With each holiday, we at emptywheel remember those who have passed, readers who are still dearly missed. But marking each new year also reminds me how many wonderful new readers have joined our community. Thanks to those who’ve been here for years and those just joining us. The conversations here, as much as the writing, is what makes the site.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Queen Of Soul Thanksgiving Trash Talk

She is NOT dead yet. Aretha is alive and well.

Aretha Franklin has a few choice words for those who think she’s on her deathbed.

“I’m doing well generally, all test have come back good,” the 75-year-old Queen of Soul told Us Weekly. “I’ve lost a lot of weight due to side effects of medicine, it affects your weight… Thanxxxx for your concern.”

On Tuesday, the internet ran wild after a fake Twitter account erroneously announced her death.

I am one of the people briefly snookered by the hoax. So Marcy thought Turkey Trash ought feature the Queen. And so it will!

It is appropriate because Motown Lions always play on Turkey Day. And it is the first game on tap today. The Vikings come on over for the tradition at Ford Field. Has the makings on an uncommonly good Detroit Thanksgiving game. They are not always this, errrr, promising. Not sure the Vikes are all that, but give them their due, Case Keenum and the Norske handed the on a roll LA Rams their ass last weekend. It is a pick em, and I am really looking forward to this game.

Second up is Bolts at ‘Boys on CBS. Jerry Jones is a cartoon character straight out of the Simpsons villain set. Just look at his jawline and picture The Simpsons. Dallas deserves all the bad news they get. What whiny assholes. Interesting that Tony Romo will be on the call. Romo is a little relentless on his color commentary, but has been generally very good so far. Today ought be interesting. This game has nowhere near the actual playoff interest as Lions/Vikes, and no idea where it will go. The Bolts have been extremely uneven this year, but Phil Rivers is still dangerous. Probably gonna regret this, but rooting for the Bolts in an upset.

Last meat on the table is Giants at Skins. Hard to believe this is the grand finale on such a storied NFL day. Yuck. NBC must be dying that this is the dreck they were left with as America goes into an L-Tryptophan snooze. Someone will win. Theoretically anyway. At this point, Kirk Cousins is a far better QB than the Really Bad Eli. So, I’ll take the Skins.

So, today’s Trash is fueled by Queen Aretha. Could have gone with any number of songs, including Respect or, of course, Chain of Fools. But Ain’t No Way is an under appreciated favorite, so that was the choice. Happy Thanksgiving folks.


Sorry I’ve been absent for the last week.

While I was in Brussels my mother had a fall — the first really serious one after 16 years of a Parkinson’s diagnosis. She’s okay, but she and her housing community decided it marked a good time to move her into assisted living.

Mr. EW and I spent all week in southeast Pennsylvania with my brothers working towards moving my mother out of the apartment she has lived in for 6 years. We sorted through the better part of the lifetime of pictures and heirlooms and books and keepsakes she has acquired in her life — mom’s Girl Scout sash, my brother’s first grade assignment, the tablecloth my great-grandmother made, the turkey platter mom made 40 years ago.

It brought a special kind of reflection to this holiday of gratitude. Thanks, most of all, for all my mom has given me over my life — the intangible things, the education, the comfort, the advantages. In the year ahead, in the face of the challenges we face as a country, I aim to redouble my efforts to repay to society the gifts I’ve been given.

Thanks to Rayne and bmaz and Ed and everyone else for keeping the likker cabinet flowing all week. And thanks to our readers for joining in the conversation.

As always on Thanksgiving, I like to remember those (not all in Michigan, this year, on account of the travel) who contributed to our feast. I told a woman at mom’s community that I had brought a turkey from Michigan; she sniffed, “oh, do they make turkeys better out there?” But when we served it, everyone agreed the care that Jill and Mary put in makes for a better tasting bird. The bacon on top of the turkey this year came from a Lancaster-based pork company, Clyde Weavers.

Because I forgot my cookbooks, I made a different pumpkin pie recipe this year. The pumpkin came from an older Michigan farmer who does just a wide variety of squashes and eggplants (he brings his grandson to market most days). I had steamed the pumpkin and ground the spices before I left. For those who followed on Twitter, I did use some leftover Five Spice powder (with added ginger) for one of the pies, and it worked great. The flour came from a farm about an hour from here. They had been selling their own self-ground flour some years ago, but then stopped; this year the daughter and her husband showed up to market one day with the same great organic wheat flour as I had gotten years earlier. I like the way the nuttiness of the wheat compliments the pumpkin. My sister-in-law, who couldn’t make the trip, sent several pies from Picasso pastry in Syracuse, and the pecan pie was quite welcome.

We also brought Verterra wines — a couple of Pinot Noirs — from MI, which was a good things as there was a “glitch” at the state stores in SE PA on Wednesday.

We’ve got a tough haul in front of us. Let’s remember all the gifts and benefits we bring to that challenge.


Giving Thanks and Other Thanksgiving Trash

Happy Thanksgiving denizens of the Wheelhouse. This is, by my groggy count, our tenth together as the Emptywheel Blog. The first five were at Firedoglake, and the last five here as a standalone. All of the contributors here – Marcy, bmaz, Rayne, Jim White, Ed “Masaccio” Walker, and our special assignment Roving Reporter Rosalind – have been around each other for even longer than that, in one status or another, going back to The Next Hurrah. It has been a long and wonderful, if not sometimes strange, trip. And it continues to be so daily. For that, we give thanks to you. Some of you have been around with us since The Next Hurrah, many are newer. You are all valued, and thank you for reading, joining us and sharing your thoughts.

Usually there is a big food post on Thanksgiving, but for extraneous travel reasons, I am not sure there will be this year. In that vein here is some food talk to make sure there is space here in this post to discuss at length what we are all gorging on. Mrs. bmaz HATES cooking traditional Thanksgiving dinners with all the fixins etc. She is Italian by descent, and insists on making giant pots of homemade spaghetti with meatballs and sausage. It is very good, but I very much miss the traditional meal. Daughter of bmaz is cooking a blueberry pie though, so we still have that going for us. What are you all up to as to food and cooking today?

Then there is football. Thanksgiving NFL is a tradition dating back to the mid 1930’s, although the TV tradition of it all really grew in the 1960’s. And grow it has done. There are three full games on the tube today, and, for once, all teams participating have winning records and are in playoff contention. Now THAT is a change for the better!

First up on the docket is Minnesota versus Detroit. Detroit always plays on Thanksgiving, and for so many years that is why Thanksgiving Day games sucked. But Detroit is good this year. Both the Lions and the Vikes are 6-4 and, given how bad the Packers have been this year, this game is for sole possession of first place in the NFC Norske. The Vikings have a clearly better defense, but the Lions are far more prolific on offense, and have been playing as a team much better than Minnesota of late (horrible offensive line play is killing Sam Bradford). I’ll take the Kittehs at home.

Next up is Washington at Dallas. Kirk Cousins is on a roll again, and the Skins are really playing decent football. But the Cowboys at 9-1 have the best record in the NFL and are clicking on all cylinders. Dak Prescott is even opening up downfield a little, which was not the case early in the year. Ezekial Elliott is playing like the second coming of Emmitt Smith and all the receivers, not just Dez Bryant, are getting in on the action. But as decent as they have been, the Dallas defense is neither great nor particularly deep. The question is whether Cousins and the Skins O can outscore the Boys. I don’t think so in Dallas.

Last game is Pittsburgh at Indianapolis. The QB matchup you’ve been waiting for: Big Ben Roethlisberger versus Scott Tolzein. Yeah, Andrew Luck is out with a concussion. That spells disaster to a Colts team that would already be a home underdog even with Luck. Both teams are 5-5, but one of them won’t be after today!

So, there you have it folks. Good times and good eats today. Dessert today is some Savoy Truffle from the Lads from Liverpool.

Thanksgiving Blessings


I’ve already conceded defeat and the Detroit Lions don’t start playing for another hour.

Happy Thanksgiving all! It’s been a busy morning here at Chez Emptywheel, in part because our awesome meat farmers can’t seem to raise turkeys that, after slaughter, weigh under 20 pounds. (The pic from the right is from 2011; I visited our turkey when it was growing this year when our farmers married each other after Love Won this year, but I didn’t take pictures of things like growing turkeys…)

So I conceded to cooking the stuffing outside the bird, something I rarely do. I just wasn’t sure I could get the whole damn thing cooked any other way.

Hopefully the Lions will prove better able to face adversity today than I was.

Please provide your favorite leftover turkey recipe in comments!

As old-timers likely know, my schtick at Thanksgiving is to try, as much as possible, to serve only MI products, which is surprisingly easy to do. Our turkey and bacon (for more on that read this post) comes from Crane Dance. Our sugar comes from MI beet farmers. Our veggies come from the Hams and about 4 other farmers who are regularly at the Farmer’s Market. Our milk comes from Hillhof (though I also already lost out on the weekly scramble for their all-too-rare cream). Our wine comes from 2 Lads and other Northern Michigan wineries (though several years of weird weather is making things really tough up there).

But I was at a bit of a loss loss on flour for my pumpkin pie crust. I might have just used the organic all purpose flour (from MN) I normally use for pies and all else, but I’m overdue a trip to Ann Arbor to get a 50 pound bag and even that’s running low. I kept thinking longingly of the stone ground wheat pastry flour I bought years ago from Nashville, MI, but I had looked months ago and they seemed to be defunct. So boy was I pleased when, a week ago, the Jennings Bros showed back up at the Market out of the blue, with meat, but also with that stone ground organic flour I used years ago. Only it’s no longer the “Jennings Brothers,” but in fact a daughter, taking over the flour business. She told me she and her parents had had a long discussion about how much to charge because they didn’t remember; when asked I wasn’t sure either (but she gave me a deal for being a return customer!) The flour is a bit tough to work with (yes, stone ground pastry flour is almost a contradiction of terms). But it all worked out, and if past pies are any indication, the whole wheat of the crust will add a wonderful nuttiness to the pumpkin.

It’s been an increasingly crazy time in the scary wide world. So today is a great time to relax with family and remember what matters.

Thanks to you all for joining in the emptywheel community. And may you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Thanks Be for Michigan’s Bounty — Better Load Up for Another Tough Winter

Bro's TurkeyYesterday, Michael Whitney linked to a flawed Thanksgiving quiz, as it seemed to be missing the correct answer on most questions. My answers, if given a choice, would read:

1: What time do you start eating dinner? A: Around 2, when you start panicking about the Kitties losing and so stress-eat all the bacon off the top of the turkey.

2: How much do you eat during the day leading up to dinner. A: See answer to #1.

3: Do you believe in eating appetizers before dinner? A: See answer to #1 and #2.

6: To baste or not to baste? A: Bacon.

11: What’s your take on turkey? A: Bacon.

An explanation for those of you who aren’t familiar with my family’s tradition: rather than wrestling with brine or basting with whatever one bastes with, we just load the whole thing up with bacon when we put the bird in the oven and pick it off after a few hours, which leaves the bird nicely seasoned and ready to brown. And it’s not even a new thing: my family has been doing this for generations, apparently. Though that fancy weave look in the picture is a newfangled approach my brother used on his turkey last year.

My own personal Thanksgiving tradition is to attempt to eat all Michigan products for Thanksgiving (generally allowing exceptions for citrus and spice, though this year I forgot to get MI-milled flour), and post thanks to some of the ones either you should know about or to whom I am particularly grateful.

The last several years of my tribute to MI posts have focused on the extent crazy weather is already challenging the farmers who bring us our food. While last fall brought a generous harvest, the year before everyone was struggling with drought. This year, farmers seem to be dreading what is expected to be another really cold winter. One of new favorite MI wineries, 2 Lads, made only two wines this year (the Polar Vortex Vintage), preferring not to overharvest given predictions of another harsh winter.  2 Lads Full Back 2Most of West Michigan’s fruit trees survived, though in E MI, one of two fruit farmers I used to buy from lost everything and decided to retire (the other lost their peach harvest for the season). And our meat farmers spent most of last winter concocting up things to feed their cattle (like molasses) to get their metabolism up high enough to stay warm though last year’s frigid temperatures.

We’ll be having 2 Lads Pinot Noir D. Cuvée and Verterra Unoaked Chardonnay (the latter of which we haven’t tried though we’ve become hooked on their cool weather whites). The 2 lads of the name, by the way, are (as several of Michigan’s winemakers are) South Africans and both ruggers, so they’ve named all their wine vessels after rugby positions. My first year of rugby I was a fullback, just like the vat of Pinot Noir in the picture.

Both the turkey and the bacon come from Crane Dance Farm. We’ve been buying most of our meat and eggs — when the hens aren’t taking the winter off, which they did early this year — from Crane Dance Farm since we got to W MI. When my large animal vet father-in-law visited from Ireland, Jill and Mary showed him around the farm so I could convince him that not all American meat is grown in horrible industrial conditions. He came away thinking they’d find the Irish farms he used to work with industrial scale by comparison.

Jerusalem Artichoke 1We’ve been buying many of our veggies from the Ham Family Farm almost as long. Charlie Ham showed up at the market the other day — a sign of winter, since he sends the local kids during the growing season — and it was like a rock star with everyone greeting him.

Two big changes in the Grand Rapids foodie scene this year. First, so many people have grown addicted to Hilhof dairy products that on every Thursday (delivery day) folks scramble to buy up what cream is available from the 3 stores in the neighborhood that carry it. Also, Downtown Market opened last year. Not only do we finally have a great fishmonger now (the Fish Lads), but we stole one of Zingerman’s bakers, who now runs Field and Fire. My bread stuffing came from stale leftovers from the latter.

The big new addition to my Thanksgiving table are my very own Jerusalem artichokes. I’ve been using them in my stuffing for years (because they’re a damn sight easier to work with than chestnuts and have a similar taste and texture). So this spring I threw a few in the ground. Hooboy, I hope I don’t grow to regret this! After chopping down the 10′ plants I discovered I had grown a sink full of the things. Let’s hope my sand storage technique keeps the rest through the winter.

It’s snowing pretty heavily, the sidewalks are icy, but I’m just going to batten down and watch some football.

Thanks to all of you for sharing our work over the last year.

Happy Fourth!

Cherry PieI’m heading out to Ann Arbor for festivities today, and I may well leave the laptop home…

I was going to wax politic about our Constitution. And oh, what the heck — why not quote from the end of John Roberts’ decision in Riley v. California (even if he doesn’t believe the Fourth Amendment extends to women’s uteri) — for a reminder of how we got here.

Our cases have recognized that the Fourth Amendment was the founding generation’s response to the reviled “general warrants” and “writs of assistance” of the colonial era, which allowed British officers to rummage through homes in an unrestrained search for evidence of criminal activity. Opposition to such searches was in fact one of thedriving forces behind the Revolution itself. In 1761, the patriot James Otis delivered a speech in Boston denouncing the use of writs of assistance. A young John Adams was there, and he would later write that “[e]very man of a crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance.” 10 Works of John Adams 247–248 (C. Adams ed. 1856). According to Adams, Otis’s speech was “the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born.” Id., at 248 (quoted in Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616, 625 (1886)).

May we renew James Otis’ fight as we go forward.

But I wanted instead to express my gratitude to several people, who have already made my Fourth. First, the guy collecting cans for deposits who I often see as I walk McCaffrey the MilleniaLab in the early morning. He was the first to wish me a — shouting across the street, in joyous whoops — a Happy Fourth this morning, which gave me great joy. This day belongs to all Americans — may we remember that common purpose and start serving it for all to benefit.

And I especially want to thank the West Michigan farmers who made it to the Farmer’s Market this morning. Not only does that mean we’ll be having strawberry-rhubarb and (the first of the season) cherry pies at our barbecue this evening. But the farmers who picked their first crop of blueberries last night to have them for today will make the kids at the barbecue very happy.

A safe and joyous Fourth to all emptywheel’s readers!

Were the 58-61,000 Internet Targets Part of NSA’s 73,000 Targets?

As I noted, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft all released transparency reports today.

During the second half of 2012, Microsoft had FISA requests affecting 16,000-16,999 accounts, Google had 12,000 – 12,999.  We don’t have Yahoo’s numbers for that period, but for the following six month period they had requests affecting 30,000 – 30,999 accounts; given that numbers for the other two providers dropped during this six month period, it’s likely Yahoo’s did too, so the 30,000 is conservative for the earlier period. So the range for the big 3 email providers in that period is likely around 58,000 – 60,997. [Update: Adding FaceBook would bring it to 62,000 – 64,996. h/t CNet]

I’d like to compare what they report with what this report on FISA Amendments Act compliance shows. I think pages 23 through 26 of the report show that NSA had an average of 73,103 selectors selected via NSA targeting on any given day during the period from June 1, 2012 to November 30, 2012. That’s because the notification delays from the period (212 — see page 26) should be .29% of the average daily selectors (see amount on 23 less amount without the notification delays on page 34).

But remember: these are not the same measurement. The government report number is based on average daily selectors, so it reflects the total of selectors tasked on any given day. Whereas the providers are (I think the numbers must therefore show) the total number of customer selectors affected across the entire 6-month period, and they almost certainly weren’t all tasked across the entire 6 month period (though some surely were).

There’s one possible (gigantic) flaw in this logic. The discussion of the FBI targeting is largely redacted in the government memo. And there have been hints — pretty significant ones — that the FBI takes the lead with the PRISM providers. if so, these numbers are totally unrelated.

Also remember, there are at least two other kinds of 702 targeting: the upstream collection that makes up about 9% of the volume of 702 collection, and phone collection, which is going up again.

This would sure be a lot easier if the government actually backed its claims to transparency.

Emptywheel’s Pro Football Turkey Day Trash Talk

Well, here it is Turkey Day time and there is a big day of football scheduled to go with the bird and fixins. First off, all of us here, me. Marcy, Jim, Rayne and Roving Reporter Rosalind are thankful for your willingness to join us, help us work through difficult issues and support our work. Thank you. Okay, turkey trash talking time!

First game out of the chute is the Pack ‘O Cheese at the Kitties in Detroit. Marcy wants me to talk about how Matt Flynn isn’t worth squat except for in games like this and that he has gotten rich off of just a couple of them. Nope, not gonna do it; won’t jinx Flynn like that. I WANT to say the Packers have a great chance of winning this game, but I can’t. Lions are better at QB, at least as good at RB with Reggie Bush and have Megatron. Oh, and a killer (sometimes more than figuratively) defensive line. If Aaron rodgers were back, it is a whole different story, but he is not. The one weakness of Detroit is the secondary; if Flynn can get some time, he may make some hay there. Still, unless Matt Flynn pulls another miracle out of his butt, edge to the Lions.

Second game is Raiders at Cowboys. This is just L-tryptophan time filler. Seriously, the Raiders suck. They were almost starting to gel with Terrelle Pryor, he of the Sweatervest criminal Ohio State fame, at QB, but he is down and Matt McGloin is up. McGloin has actually not been horrible so far, but Dallas at home for Thanksgiving day is a tall order. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are starting to click. Heck, there has even been a Demarco Murray siting the last couple of weeks. Dallas needs a win, because the Eagles are also gelling behind Nick Foles and the NFC East is down to those two. How bout them Cowboys!

The night game is on NBC this year, not NFL Network like it was for so long, and features the Steelers at the Defending Champ Ravens. This could be a pretty decent game. Both teams a little spotty this year, but coming together in the second half of the season, especially the Stillers. Both teams are 5-6 and trail the slumping Bengals in the AFC North. The winner of this game has a shot at the playoff; the loser is in trouble. I think Big Ben is just playing better than Flacco right now and that is the difference. But the home field will help the Ravens. A pick em, with a slight edge to the Stillers for an upset in the Ravens home nest.

As you can tell, the tunes this time are supplied by the great John Cash. A superb version of Ghost Riders in the Sky. And here is an absolutely fantastic long form article by Roseanne Cash on her and her father. It is really wonderful, comes with beautiful pictures and is a highly recommended read.

Happy Thanksgiving folks!