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!

Fast Food Workers: Reclaiming MLK’s Legacy by Striking

I had realized NYC’s fast food workers were striking today, in what may end up being the biggest fast food worker strike. And I always mark the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, since the tragedy came just a week after I was born.

But I just copped onto the link between the two.

As Sarah Jaffe notes, the strikers not only picked the day for the anniversary, but also met with some of the Memphis Sanitation workers who were striking 45 years ago.

Today is the second citywide day of strikes in New York’s fast food industry. On November 29, 2012, some 200 workers at McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, and Domino’s Pizza locations across multiple boroughs struck in what Jonathan Westin, executive director of NYCC, called “their coming out party.” Before that, Westin explained, the workers had been organizing behind the scenes, keeping their plans quiet. Now, he said, even in the face of intimidation from their bosses, the workers have been able to grow their movement.

“We’ll have double the number of strikers, four or five hundred workers on strike, and double the locations too,” Westin said. “We will have several stores where it will not just be minority strikes like it was last time, we will have the majority of workers at several stores out on strikes, making it hard for them to do business on this day.”

The date, April 4, holds special meaning for the workers and many of their supporters in the community. It is the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee. King was in Memphis to support the strike of the city’s sanitation workers, whose “I Am a Man” signs made clear that their labor struggle was part of the larger civil rights fight. Last week, two of those strikers, Alvin Turner and Baxter Leach, met with some of the fast food workers to share advice and inspiration. [my emphasis]

As Ned Resnikoff writes, the plight of the workers are similar: wages so low that it requires welfare support to survive.

Fast food workers and Memphis sanitation workers have had “similar struggles,” said Chad Tall, a strike leader and Taco Bell employee. “The thing that set [the sanitation workers] apart from everyone else is they made a decision to change it.”

Tall is part of a group of fast food workers who met with two surviving members of the 1968 strike in late March. “That’s what they told us,” he said. “Make the decision, then do it.”

Fast food workers are in a similar position to sanitation workers in 1968, said labor and civil rights historian Michael K. Honey, author of a book about the Memphis sanitation strike.

“In the case of sanitation workers, 40% of them were actually getting welfare benefits while they were working full-time jobs because they were so poorly paid,” he told MSNBC. Today, the fast food industry provides an annual mean wage of $18,600, lower than any other industry in the United States.

Fast food unionization is a nascent movement, fighting a lot of structural challenges. But the recent paid work day legislation in NYC made clear, it’s a fight that is a no-brainer, even for outsiders.

Plus, if the mobbed fast food restaurants I saw on my recent drive through very poor rural areas are any indication, it’s a movement that could grow to encompass all parts of the country.

Bangladeshi Garment Fire: Downstream Effect of a WalMart Economy?

One of the things hot on the nets yesterday was Peter Suderman’s pushback against the anti-WalMart action that has been progressing over the last week, culminating in organized protests at numerous stores across the country on Black Friday. Even Alan Grayson got in on the WalMart Thanksgiving protest mix.

But Suderman, loosing followup thoughts after an appearance regarding the subject on Up With Chris Hayes caused a storm. Here is a Storify with all 17 of Suderman’s Tweet thoughts. Suderman, who is a Libertarian and certainly no progressive, nevertheless makes some pretty cogent arguments, and the real gist can be summed up in just a few of the Tweets:

So the benefits of Walmart’s substantially lower prices to the lowest earning cohort are huge, especially on food.
Obama adviser Jason Furman has estimated the welfare boost of Walmart’s low food prices alone is about $50b a year.
Paying Walmart’s workers more would mean the money has to come from somewhere. But where?
Raise prices to pay for increased wages and you cut into the store’s huge low-price benefits for the poor. It’s regressive.

Suderman goes on to note that WalMart workers are effectively within the norm for their business sector as to pay and benefits.

My purpose here is not to get into a who is right and who is wrong, the protesters or Suderman, I actually think there is relative merit to both sides and will leave resolution of that discussion for others.

My point is that the discussion is bigger than than simply the plight of the WalMart retail workers in the US. WalMart is such a huge buyer and seller that it is the avatar of modern low cost retailing and what it does has reverberations not just in the US life and economy, but that of the world. Ezra Klein came close to going there in a reponse piece to Suderman’s take:

But Wal-Mart’s effect on its own employees pales in comparison to its effect on its supply chain’s workers, and its competitors’ workers. As Barry Lynn argued in his Harper’s essay “Breaking the Chain,” and as Charles Fishman demonstrated in his book “The Wal-Mart Effect,” the often unacknowledged consequence of Wal-Mart is that it has reshaped a huge swath of the American, and perhaps even the global, economy.

Not “perhaps” the global economy Ezra, definitively the global economy. WalMart sets the tone for high volume Read more

Thanks to Michigan’s Farmers for the Bounty

Every year on this day, I thank the great Michigan producers—and for some years, I’ve been cooking Thanksgiving using only Michigan producers, with just a few ingredient exceptions–who bring us our meal.

Our food was brought to use by many of the same farmers and artisans as last year, though I made my pie crust with whole wheat pasty flour from the Jennings Brothers, and we’ll be drinking Bells and Bowers Harbor this year instead of Founders and Brys Estate.

But I want to focus on the eggs that will go into our pumpkin pie.

You see, it’s been a really tough year for eggs in MI. Many chickens died in the heat wave in June. Then, with the drought, pastured chickens had to work harder to eat and weren’t producing much as a result. And naturally raised chickens are going to be laying almost no eggs this time a year: Mother Nature gives her chickens more time off than Wal-Mart gives its workers?

Mind you, I’ve still been able to get eggs. But eggs—along with stone fruit, particularly tart cherries and peaches, which were devastated by our spring heat wave followed by frost—eggs are one of the things that made an urban girl like me realize how devastating the weather was.

If I had to work hard to remember to ask for eggs ahead of time, think how hard the farmers were working to keep their chickens healthy?

So it was mighty humbling the other day when our farmer handed me eggs. Humbling, because I didn’t think there’d be eggs for purchase in any case. Particularly humbling because she just gave them to me. “Here, don’t tell anyone.” (So I’m telling all of you, just “protecting my sources”!)

Something as prosaic as eggs, become a precious gift due to the rhythm of nature but also the very unnatural thing weather has become.

The food we share on this holiday is always precious, whether it comes from a local farmer or a big supermarket. It’s the sharing, after all, that makes it precious. We’re probably going to need a lot more of that sharing in the years to come.

Thanks to all of you for sharing with us here–may that gracious sharing continue through the next year!

Mitt’s Dirty Tomatoes Will Get Cleaned Up

The other day I pointed out that Mitt had chosen to eat lunch at a place that had not yet agreed to pay $.01 a pound more for tomatoes to ensure basic standards for tomato workers.

As of today, Mitt and the rest of us can enjoy Chipotle burritos in good conscience; the chain just signed onto the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food Program.

From the press release (h/t Elliott):

Chipotle Mexican Grill and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a farmworker-based human rights organization, have reached an agreement that brings Chipotle’s commitment to sustainable food to the CIW’s Fair Food Program.  The agreement, which will improve wages and working conditions for farmworkers in Florida who pick tomatoes for Chipotle, comes in advance of the winter tomato-growing season, when most of the nation’s tomatoes come from growers in Florida.

The Fair Food Program provides a bonus for tomato pickers to improve wages and binds growers to protocols and a code of conduct that explicitly include a voice for workers in health and safety issues, worker-to-worker education on the new protections under the code, and a complaint resolution procedure which workers can use without fear of retaliation.  The Program also provides for independent third party audits to ensure compliance.

“With this agreement, we are laying down a foundation upon which we all – workers, growers, and Chipotle – can build a stronger Florida tomato industry for the future,” said Gerardo Reyes of the CIW.  “But more than this, today’s news marks a turning point in the sustainable food movement as a whole, whereby, thanks to Chipotle’s leadership, farmworkers are finally recognized as true partners — every bit as vital as farmers, chefs, and restaurants — in bringing ‘good food’ to our tables.”

“Chipotle has an unmatched track record driving positive change in the nation’s food supply and is continuously working to find better, more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use — sources that produce food in ways that demonstrate respect for the land, farm animals, and the people involved,” said Chris Arnold, communications director at Chipotle. “We believe that this agreement underscores our long-standing commitment to the people who produce the food we serve in our restaurants.”