Thursday, November 23, 2017

Guest Post: Turkey doesn't make you sleepy – but it may incite more trust

Kevin Bennett, Pennsylvania State University

‘Tis the season for giblets, wattles and snoods – oh my. On Thanksgiving and Christmas, Americans consume about 68 million turkeys – one for about every five of us. In fact, 29 percent of all turkeys gobbled down in the U.S. are consumed during the holidays.

And where turkey is being eaten, there is inevitably talk of tryptophan – a naturally occurring chemical found in turkey and other foods. This building block of protein often takes the blame for eaters feeling sleepy soon after the Thanksgiving meal.

Science has cleared tryptophan, though – it’s not the culprit when it comes to drowsiness after the feast. There are far more important factors leading to those post-turkey comas, not least of which is my Uncle Clarence’s story about parking at the airport. Add that to free-flowing booze combined with a load of carbohydrates followed by plenty more booze and you have a foolproof recipe for dozing off on the couch. Turkey, chicken, lamb and beef all contain roughly the same amount of tryptophan – ranging from 0.13-0.39 grams per 100 grams of food – yet the sleepiness myth has never surrounded those other foods.

turkey dinner Thanksgiving tryptophan

Overeating and drinking are more likely at the root of your post-feast nap.
Brent Hofacker/

So tryptophan is off the snooze-inducing hook. But researchers in the Netherlands suggest it does have a different psychological effect: They’ve discovered that doses of tryptophan (chemically known as L-tryptophan and abbreviated TRP) can promote interpersonal trust – that feeling you get when you look somebody in the eye, shake her hand and think, “I can cooperate with this person and she would reciprocate.”

In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, pairs of volunteers were each given an oral dose of 0.8g of TRP or a placebo. For comparison, a 100g standard serving of turkey about the thickness of a deck of playing cards contains about 0.31g of tryptophan.

Each duo then sat in separate cubicles and played a game where one person (the truster) was given US$7 and had to decide how much to transfer to the other person. The transferred money was then multiplied by three and the trustee could give back part of the tripled money.

The more money you’re willing to give away in the first place, the greater your return in the end – but you have to trust the other person to cooperate. A very simple and profitable game if played right.

The researchers found that the TRP group gave $4.81 on average and the placebo group offered only $3.38. This is a sizable 42 percent increase in transferred money between the two groups.

So what’s going on? Here’s the brain science behind how the tryptophan-trust connection works.

TRP is an essential amino acid found in many foods including eggs, soybeans, chocolate, cheeses, fish, nuts and, of course, turkey. The brain region associated with interpersonal trust – known as the medial prefrontal cortex – is powered by the neurotransmitter serotonin. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers found throughout the body that transmit signals from one nerve cell to another.

Our bodies synthesize many neurotransmitters from simple amino acids which are readily available in our food and can be quickly converted in a small number of biosynthetic steps. The neurotransmitter serotonin is controlled in part by the release of TRP. This means that as you increase levels of TRP you’re able to release serotonin in the brain region specially designed to process trust. Think of a flashing neon sign that reads “trust this person, trust this person.”

turkey dinner Thanksgiving tryptophan

A plate of turkey won’t convince you to buy into Cousin Gerald’s pyramid scheme.

Keep in mind, however, that our decisions to trust or not to trust do not rely solely on ingesting TRP. In the real world we take into account personality factors, how well we know someone, previous cooperation with that person, tone of voice, eye contact, body language and so on. These all have a hand in shaping the conscious and unconscious rules that govern our pro-social behavior and trust preferences.

The ConversationSo this holiday season, eat your turkey (or salmon or cashews or cottage cheese or chocolate) and remember that few things are more pleasurable than the joy that comes from sharing a holiday meal with loved ones. Science shows us that tryptophan can promote social bonding, but there still is no substitute for giving thanks. Trust me.

Kevin Bennett, Assistant Teaching Professor of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Guest Post: 5 Ways To Avoid Thanksgiving Dinner Fights

As we take our attention off disagreements with others, we can watch the quality of conversation change.

by Barry Brownstein

Political divisions are ugly, and those divisions have spilled over onto the Thanksgiving table. One study found that “partisan differences cost American families 62 million person-hours of Thanksgiving time.” Presumably, those same differences are impacting the quality of family time throughout the year.

Time to count our blessings has become another opportunity to count our grievances.

Here are five suggestions to help bring harmony to your Thanksgiving table.

Thankgiving conversation games Mad-Libs1. Begin with Your Purpose in Mind
Our mind selectively interprets our experience, in part, based upon where our attention is focused.

When our purpose at the dinner table is clouded by wishes to feel superior to a relative who “just doesn’t get it” we are setting ourselves up for an unhappy Thanksgiving. Since our attention is directed by our purpose, our mind will jump on every shred of evidence to confirm that our relative is a “problem.”

By allowing our mind to gnaw on irritations and grievances, we have made harmony dependent upon others behaving as we think they should. Notice, as details of our complaints fill our mind, we suffer more.

We can lead by going first; we can find our higher purpose for this year’s Thanksgiving gathering. As we take our attention off disagreements with others, we can watch the quality of conversation change.

2. Ask Yourself: Would I Rather Be Right or Happy?
Is it important to have an opinion about everything?  How often do we look for a pause in the conversation so we can tell others why they are wrong?

When we express an opinion that doesn’t need to be expressed, we are saying to the other person: My function is to correct you, and your function is to accept my correction. Should we be surprised if others resist us?

Ryan Holiday, author of several books on Stoicism, writes of the price we pay for our opinions:

“If you were to think of the worst punishment you could inflict on a person it would be to cast a spell on them that says, ‘You will now have a strong opinion on everything you see and hear.’ Why? Because inevitably they find that much of what happens to them is disagreeable to that opinion, and worse, they will find themselves in many pointless disagreements with other people about those opinions.”
Here is the good news. We can be grateful for our opinionated relatives; they provide us an opportunity to practice not having to always be right. We can choose, instead, to be curious about the opinions of others.

3. Practice Ben Franklin’s Humility Rule
In his autobiography, Ben Franklin writes of learning of a flaw in his own character revealed to him by a friend: “I was generally thought proud, that my pride showed itself frequently in conversation, that I was not content with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing and rather insolent.”

Franklin realized he was lacking in humility and, despite practice, he could not “boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue.” So, Franklin added a rule to his life:
“I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others, and all positive assertion of my own. I even forbid myself, the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a fixed opinion, such as certainly, undoubtedly, etc., and I adopted, instead of them, I conceive, I apprehend, or I imagine a thing to be so or so, or it so appears to me at present.”
Franklin noticed how contradicting others gave him pleasure: “When another asserted something that I thought an error, I denied myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition.”

This Thanksgiving, we can practice denying ourselves the “pleasure” of contradicting others.

4. Understand the Nature of Feelings
We believe that the intensity of our feelings is a signal that we are right and others are wrong. Upset feelings are a guide to the quality of our thinking and not the correctness of our position. When we experience intense emotions, we commonly attribute our emotions to what is external. We are certain that “obnoxious” Uncle Joe has caused our discomfort by expressing his flawed opinions.

Full stop! Being irritated, being annoyed, being angry are pre-existing qualities in us and are not caused by Uncle Joe. Our reaction to Uncle Joe reveals to us a flaw in our own character.

Instead of irritation, we can cultivate gratitude by remembering how the sacrifices of the family members sitting at our table have improved our lives.

5. Reflect on Our Shared Human Experience
Politics is divisive, but all human experiences have common elements.

Viktor Frankl, the famed psychiatrist and author of Man’s Search for Meaning also wrote The Will to Meaning. In it, he describes a “tragic triad” of human experiences. He observed, “There is no human being who may say that he has not failed, that he does not suffer, and that he will not die.”

Before a cosmic moment has gone by, everyone at our Thanksgiving tables will experience Frankl’s “tragic triad.”

We can look at the faces around the table and let our hearts melt with the truth of our common journey.

When we focus on what we share, and not what divides us, Love comes to the forefront of our experience.

Reprinted from Intellectual Takeout.

Barry Brownstein Thanksgiving conversation

Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. He delivers leadership workshops to organizations and blogs at, and Giving up Control.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

From the Archives: Witness to 1963 Kennedy assassination speaks at Virginia Film Festival

Witness to 1963 Kennedy assassination speaks at Virginia Film Festival
November 10, 2013 12:19 PM MST

Tina Towner Pender JFK assassination Virginia Film Festival
Tina Towner was the youngest person who photographed events at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, as President John F. Kennedy's motorcade drove by. Seconds before the assassin's shots rang out, the 13-year-old's home movie camera ran out of film, but she captured the President and First Lady's car just as it turned the corner from Houston Street to Elm Street.

Now Tina Towner Pender, she spoke to the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner at the Virginia Film Festival after a November 9 screening of a new documentary, The Kennedy Half-Century, co-produced by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. She had participated in a panel discussion along with UVA political scientist Larry Sabato and another witness to the Kennedy assassination, Wesley Buell Frazier, a co-worker of Lee Harvey Oswald at the Texas Book Depository.

The author of a 2012 book called Tina Towner: My Story as the Youngest Photographer at the Kennedy Assassination, Pender described what happened to the short piece of film she took that day in Dallas.

Was the film altered?

The raw footage, she explained during the panel discussion, was processed by local law enforcement authorities, who had put out a call for any movies or still photographs that may have been taken by onlookers but had not been developed yet. Her family did not receive the reel back for several weeks.

Asked whether they thought it might have been tampered with, Pender said, “Not at the time.”

They did notice something anomalous right away, however.

The assassination footage “was on the end of a reel of home movies so we knew we were going to have to watch the whole reel,” which included, she said, her “sister going off to college,” before they got to the newsworthy section.

“When we got there, it ran out and there was no assassination film,” she explained, “and for a few seconds we thought we didn't have it, that they didn't send it back to us.” It turned out that “it had been cut from the rest of the film and it was there” on the reel but “it was just not spliced on to the end.”

Mysterious splice

About a decade later, Pender and her father took the film to a lab to be examined at the request of some investigators.

“My dad didn't let it out of our hands, so I went with him” to Jack White's lab in Fort Worth, Texas, she said.

“There were about three or four people there looking at it while I was there and they turned to me and they said, 'Did you know that there's a splice in your film?'”

Startled by the question, Pender asked them what they meant.

A technician replied that “'there's a jump in the film and there's a splice,'” and showed it to her. Just at the point where the limousine is turning the corner, “you see a jump in the film.”

That was not a surprise to her in itself, because “we knew that was there but we just figured it was some sort of a blip in the processing” but it was actually “spliced together. You could see where it was spliced and it was not using materials my dad would have [used]. It was more professionally done and it was hard to see this splice when you looked at it.”

Pender conceded that she did not know “who did that and I don't know when it was done, either,” because the film had been in the possession of law enforcement in 1963, and Life magazine had borrowed it, along with 35mm slides her father had shot, for a feature in 1967.

Congressional inquiry

Later in the 1970s, Pender was questioned by investigators for the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations, which concluded that Kennedy's assassination was the result of a conspiracy and not the sole responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald. She said her encounter with them seemed peremptory.

The meeting was “brief,” she explained.

“They called and said they wanted me to bring them the original film and the slides that my dad took,” but in the event the investigators came to her office, where she was working.

They questioned her “for about 15 or 20 minutes – maybe 30 -- but it didn't seem like that long. The questions were not very deep or probing. It almost was like they just wanted to get it done with and take the film and leave.”

Neither Pender nor any member of her family who witnessed the assassination was called to testify before the Warren Commission, which was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the killing of John F. Kennedy.

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on November 10, 2013. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

From the Archives: Lee Harvey Oswald colleague recalls aftermath of Kennedy assassination

Lee Harvey Oswald colleague recalls aftermath of Kennedy assassination
November 9, 2013 9:34 PM MST

Wesley Buell Frazier drove Lee Harvey Oswald to work at the Texas Book Depository on the morning of November 22, 1963. That was a day that changed his life, he said in an interview at the 2013 Virginia Film Festival on November 9. “That young boy who went to work that day, he has never come home.”

Frazier spoke to the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner after a screening of a new documentary, The Kennedy Half-Century, co-produced by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. He had participated in a panel discussion along with UVA political scientist Larry Sabato and another witness to the Kennedy assassination, Tina Towner Pender.

Just 19 years old in November 1963, Frazier had to endure a brutal interrogation by the Dallas police, who accused him of being part of the assassination plot.

'Innocent until proven guilty'

The police interrogator, he said, “wanted me to admit to being part of the assassination and I told the guy, 'I'm not doing that.' I said, 'That's ridiculous.'”

JFK assassination Wesley Buell Frazier Lee Harvey Oswald
He added: “In this country, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty but a lot of times you're guilty until proven innocent and our forefathers didn't intend for our country to be like that.”

During the panel discussion, Frazier explained that he had often driven Oswald from suburban Dallas to the book depository. Oswald's Russian-born wife, Marina, lived near Frazier's sister, while Oswald rented a room in the city. Normally, they carpooled only on Friday evenings and Monday mornings, and Frazier had pointed out to Oswald how it was odd he would need a ride on Friday morning.

That Friday turned out to be “a day like I've never seen before. I hope I never see one [like it] again,” Frazier said.

“It's a day that changed my life. I've never been the same. That young boy who went to work that day, he has never come home. For many years I wouldn't talk to anybody about any of it because I was so scared about what they might do to my family. There's some evil people in this country and when it comes to power and money they will do anything.”

The police interrogator handed Frazier a pre-typed confession and told him to sign it.

“I started reading it,” he explained. “It said I knew about and was part of the assassination, and I said, 'That's totally false. I'm not going to sign that.'”

Police brutality

That response made the police officer angry, Frazier recalled.

“When I wouldn't sign he drew back his hand to hit me. Matter of fact, he was standing just like you're standing there, and I put my arm up like this” – he raised his hand above his head – “to block, to keep him from striking me.”

The officer “got so mad when I told him, 'I'm not signing that,' and I told him, 'There's [another] policeman outside this door but before they get in here, you and I are going to have a hell of a fight. I'm going to get some good licks on you.'”

Reflecting on that moment, Frazier said, “For one time in my life, I think I scared the hell out of a man because I turned the tables on him – because that's what he did” as a matter of routine.

That policeman, he said, “badgered and beat on people to make them sign confessions and he found a kid who wasn't scared of him. I think it scared the hell out of him.”

Even though Frazier was “a young 19” at the time, that interrogating officer “didn't know what I had been through before I got there,” which heightened the tension in the room.

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on November 9, 2013. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

From the Archives: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell issues annual Thanksgiving proclamation

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell issues annual Thanksgiving proclamation
November 21, 2011 11:41 PM MST

On Wednesday morning in Richmond, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will preside over the annual ceremony at which the Commonwealth’s Indian tribes pay tribute to the colonial overlords who arrived beginning in 1607. In return for the taking of their land by the English settlers, the Native Americans pay the Virginia governor duty in the form of wild game, animal skins, and weapons. Bob McDonnell Powhatan Indians Thanksgiving 2011
Richmond History Examiner Karen Graham writes that the “tribes are paying their yearly tribute to the government of the Commonwealth” in a ceremony that goes back nearly 400 years.

Graham explains that the “first time a tribute was paid was due to a treaty signed in 1646. This treaty ended the Anglo-Indian War.The words of the treaty required the Powhatan Indians to pay a tribute of 20 beaver pelts to the colonial government yearly. In return, they would be protected from their enemies.”

In advance of the ceremony and the nation’s annual celebration of Thanksgiving Day, Governor McDonnell on Monday issued his official Thanksgiving proclamation, which says in part:

“… to show their appreciation for the colony’s success and to take stock and give thanks for their own gifts and blessings, and in spite of tremendous adversity, the settlers in Virginia found time to celebrate the first Thanksgiving in America at Berkeley Plantation on December 4, 1619…

“… while reflecting upon the actions taken by the colonists at the first Thanksgiving, we also honor the Indian peoples, for without their presence, the survival of the colonists would have been ever more difficult; and…

“… it is a Virginia tradition for our citizens to come together in unity on Thanksgiving Day and give thanks for the great level of serenity, harmony and abundance with which we, as citizens of a free nation, have been blessed; the rule of law by which we peaceably govern ourselves and by which our civil and religious liberties are guaranteed; and the brave servicemen and women of our armed forces who risk their lives to defend the freedoms and blessings we cherish; …

“… I encourage all Virginians to give thanks to our Creator for our plentiful blessings, including the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as well as the unwavering strength of our families and communities.”

According to Governor McDonnell’s official schedule, he and First Lady Maureen McDonnell will participate in the annual tax tribute ceremony on the grounds of the State Capitol and the Executive Mansion at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 23.

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on November 21, 2011. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

From the Archives - Author Earl Dudley: from child prisoner of the Japanese to UVA law professor

Author Earl Dudley: from child prisoner of the Japanese to UVA law professor
November 21, 2010 3:51 PM MST

Earl Dudley memoir law professor World War II UVA
Having had a childhood that virtually parallels the story of Steven Spielberg’s 1987 movie, Empire of the Sun, retired UVA law professor Earl C. Dudley, Jr., begins his memoir, An Interested Life, with the Japanese bombing of the Philippines that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“My mother and I were injured in the first Japanese bombing of the Philippine Islands on December 8, 1941,” he told the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner in an interview. “With my parents, I was interned in the Japanese internment camps for a little over three years in the Philippines, and we were rescued by a very dramatic operation of the 11th Airborne Division on February 23, 1945.”

Dudley was one of more than 30 local and regional writers at a “Meet the Author” book signing at the Holiday Inn in Charlottesville on November 19.

‘My parents were starving themselves’

“I was only 4 when the war was over,” Dudley explained, “so I have little independent memory of my own, but I have no memory of having had an unhappy childhood. My life was sheltered. My parents were starving themselves to feed me.”

He recalled that his father, “who was about 6 feet tall and normally weighed about 175 or 180 pounds, weighed about 120 pounds when the war was over. It was an experience for the adults that involved a tremendous amount of deprivation and unpleasantness.”

Yet, he remembers that, “as a child, I had the full attention of my parents. They were prisoners and so they focused their attention on me and they starved themselves to feed me. So I don’t think I had an unhappy childhood.”

After spending one’s earliest years in a prisoner of war camp, anything after that must pale in comparison. Yet Dudley’s life was peppered with poignant moments.

John F. Kennedy Assassination

In the early 1960s, he was working as a journalist for UPI in New York. As it happens, he was on the editor's desk when President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

He writes in his memoir about that day:

“The news of the assassination hit me, as it did almost everyone, like a punch to the solar plexus. But I had no time to grieve. I was running an international news wire with the biggest story in many years. Given the magnitude and pace of events, there was no time for a transition to a new editor, so I remained in the [editor’s] slot for most of the next shift as well…. I simply operated on instinct and somehow made it through the crisis without panicking.”

End of segregation

Earl Dudley An Interested Life
Earl Dudley
Dudley grew up in the South during the last years of enforced segregation. He was in the ninth grade in Northern Virginia, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” schools were inherently unequal and, consequently, unconstitutional in the case of Brown v. Board of Education.

“I was the only kid that I ever found at my Herndon High School in 1954 whose parents told him the Supreme Court got it right,” he said.

Working for civil rights, he continued, “was always a priority of mine. I organized a demonstration at the White House in the spring of 1960 in support of the sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, and then in later years, I did a fair amount of pro bono work for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in Washington.”

Studying at the University of Virginia Law School drew Dudley to Charlottesville and, after graduating, he clerked for Chief Justice Earl Warren during the Supreme Court’s 1967-68 term.

Police pat-downs

Dudley clerked during the year the Court decided Terry v. Ohio, a case that may have relevance in the current controversy about Transportation Security Administration searches at U.S. airports.

Dudley said that case was probably the best-known of that Supreme Court term, adding that he worked on it, explaining that it “dealt with the question of police pat-downs on the street, with less than probable cause to arrest. It was very controversial case at the time and has spawned a huge, whole jurisprudence of its own.”

After two decades working for various Washington law firms, Dudley returned to Charlottesville to teach.

His classes included “mostly litigation-related courses, because that’s what I had done in practice. I taught evidence, civil procedure, criminal procedure, criminal law, constitutional law, and trial advocacy.”

Dudley retired from teaching in 2008, and now enjoys quietude and travel with his wife of more than 50 years, Louise, and his family, seven decades after a tumultuous beginning to what he calls “an interested life.”

Monday, November 20, 2017

Guest Post: What the first Thanksgiving dinner actually looked like

Julie Lesnik, Wayne State University

Most Americans probably don’t realize that we have a very limited understanding of the first Thanksgiving, which took place in 1621 in Massachusetts.

Indeed, few of our present-day traditions resemble what happened almost 400 years ago, and there’s only one original account of the feast.

As an anthropologist who specializes in reconstructing past diets, I can say that even though we don’t have a definitive account of the menu at the first Thanksgiving, letters and recorded oral histories give us a pretty good idea of what they probably ate. And we know for a fact that it didn’t include mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

waterfowl Winslow Homer Thanksgiving

Waterfowl – not turkey – would have been the main course.
Winslow Homer, 'Right and Left' (1909), National Gallery of Art

A main course of waterfowl and venison

The main course is the one scholars can speak about with certainty.

The only eyewitness account of the first Thanksgiving comes from a letter written by Edward Winslow on Dec. 11, 1621. In it, he describes how the Puritans, after utilizing fertilization methods imparted by Tisquantum (also known as “Squanto”), had their first successful harvest. To celebrate, Governor William Bradford “sent four men on fowling” and they returned later that day with enough food to feed the colony for almost a week. Since waterfowl was plentiful in the Massachusetts Bay area, it’s widely accepted that they were eating goose and duck rather than turkey.

The letter also recounts that the Wampanoag leader Massasoit Ousamequin was present, along with “some ninety men,” and that they gifted five deer to the governor. Therefore, venison likely had a prominent place alongside waterfowl on the first Thanksgiving table.

Not cranberry sauce, but sobaheg stew

The natural bogs of the the region contained wild cranberries that could be dried and used all winter to bring variety and vitamin C into the diets of the Wampanoags. They even have their own holiday, Cranberry Day, that resembles our Thanksgiving.

However, there’s no account of cranberries at the first Thanksgiving, nor is there any mention of cranberries in other records of foods introduced to people who arrived on the Mayflower.

This may be due, in part, to the location of Plymouth Plantation relative to the boggy regions of Massachusetts, which are several miles away.

If bogs were not in the immediate area, then the fruit may not have been as readily used by the Wampanoags of this region as they were in other places with Wampanoag settlements, like Martha’s Vineyard.

Instead, for a side dish to the main course, a stew called sobaheg was most likely served. An easy way to make use of seasonal ingredients, the stew often included a mixture of beans, corn, poultry, squash, nuts and clam juice. All are used in the traditional dish today, and all would have been available in 1621. In fact, clams, fish and other seafood were abundant in the area, so they were probably present in some form, whether in sobaheg or another dish.

For carbs, look to cornbread, not potatoes

Historians attribute the first New England crop of potatoes to Derry, New Hampshire in 1722, so there’s no way mashed potatoes could have made an appearance during the first Thanksgiving.

Corn, on the other hand, was the staple starch of the time, and in the published notes of William J. Miller on the Wampanoag tribe, he indicates that among the foods introduced to them, the corn bread, called maizium, was “kind.” European settlers didn’t often speak favorably of indigenous food, so mazium stands out as a recipe that likely made it onto the table at this first feast.

Thanksgiving cornbread

Potatoes weren’t around in 17th-century New England, but corn was plentiful.
Natalija Sahraj

A ‘green sauce’ gravy

Although the settlers may have made a gravy out of the drippings from the meats procured for the feast, a common staple for these early colonizers was a dish known simply as “green sauce.”

Although the best accounts of this sauce come from later records when households had their own gardens of European crops, recipes also utilized crops introduced to them by the Wampanoag. In addition to the corn (and barley) mentioned in Winslow’s letter, the harvest of 1621 likely included beans, squash, onions, turnips and greens such as spinach and chard. All could have been cooked at length to create a pulpy sauce that later became a staple in early New England homes.

What about dessert?

A regular supply of sugar or maple syrup wasn’t available in the area until much later. Sugar, which was the major export of Caribbean plantations, didn’t become popular in New England until the 18th century.

As for maple syrup, Native Americans of the Northeast are credited as the first to procure it; however, it’s believed that European settlers didn’t begin harvesting it until 1680.

The ConversationAlthough it is tough to think of Thanksgiving without decadent sweets, at least the first attendees were spared the awkwardness of having to refuse dessert after such a large feast.

Julie Lesnik, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Wayne State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Guest Post: Why does the price of turkeys fall just before Thanksgiving?

Jay L. Zagorsky, The Ohio State University

Thanksgiving is a great U.S. holiday during which people consume huge quantities of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pie.

One of the stranger things about this holiday, however, is that a few days before everyone starts cooking, whole turkeys are suddenly discounted by supermarkets and grocery stores.

And this happens every holiday season: The price falls just before Thanksgiving and stays low until Christmas. For example, in the average year, November’s price per pound for turkey is about 10 percent lower than the price in September.

Why does the price come down at the one time of the year when demand for the product spikes the most – before a holiday that’s literally dubbed “Turkey Day”?

The turkey demand curve

Most people expect turkey prices to rise because many more people are buying the birds. My family is an example of this buying phenomenon, since we almost never eat turkey except at Thanksgiving.

In general, when there is a fixed quantity of something to sell and demand for the product spikes, prices rise. This is why a dozen long-stem red roses typically cost a lot more on Valentine’s Day than at other times of the year.

In more formal economic language, the demand curve for turkeys shifts outward at Thanksgiving, which means people at this time of year are interested in buying more of these birds regardless of the price. Even the most casual shopper in food stores this week can observe this increase or shift in demand as more people are buying turkeys to cook.

turkey economics demand supply price

This graph shows what economic theory on supply and demand says is supposed to happen, and what actually does when it comes to turkeys.
Jay Zagorsky, Author provided

However, each Thanksgiving the price of turkeys doesn’t rise. Instead, it falls during the holiday period as many stores advertise special low turkey prices, and over time turkey prices have generally fallen.

Not only do supermarkets that sell turkeys year-round make the bird a featured item, but some food stores and warehouse stores that don’t typically sell whole turkeys offer them for a limited period of time to customers. This means not only does demand for turkeys increase, but the supply of turkey increases too. This boost in supply drives prices downward.

Food stores are not upset that the price of turkey falls at this time of the year because they are interested in maximizing profits – not in maximizing the revenue they get from selling each bird.

Turkeys are not very profitable items, even at full price. The wholesale price of a whole frozen turkey in 2016 was US$1.17 per pound, while the average retail price was $1.55. This means at full price stores made less than 40 cents per pound. To give you a comparison, the USDA reports the difference between the wholesale and retail price in 2016 was $2.79 per pound for beef and $2.25 per pound for pork.

Stores, however, know that people coming in to buy turkeys are likely to purchase other items, too, such as seasonings, disposable roasting pans and soda. The other items are where stores make their money, since the profit margins on these items are much higher than on frozen turkeys.

Why does the turkey supply skyrocket?

Because of the desire to attract people to stores, the supply of turkeys needs to skyrocket just before the holiday so that freezer cases overflow with the birds.

How does this dramatic increase in supply happen? It occurs because turkeys are slaughtered continuously throughout the year and then put into cold storage.

The Department of Agriculture has tracked the amount of turkey in wholesale freezers for the past century. The past few years of data show turkey stocks slowly build up each year until they reach a peak in September, when the U.S. has over half a billion pounds on reserve. Between September and December, turkey stocks plummet as stores purchase over 300 million pounds’ worth and put them on sale. Then farmers, processors and wholesalers slowly rebuild their stocks for the next year’s holiday season.

The 500 to 600 million pounds of turkey in cold storage by the end of each summer means there are almost two pounds of turkey for every man, woman and child in the U.S. waiting to be released each holiday season. That figure doesn’t include live turkeys, which some people prefer, and also doesn’t take into account vegetarians (about 3 percent of the population), newborns who are not eating solid food (about 1 percent) and people like my brother-in-law and me who don’t like eating turkey at any time of the year.

Thanksgiving dinner turkey trimmings

This good-looking bird won’t be on the author’s end of the table.

What does this mean for the typical consumer?

The National Turkey Federation, the organization whose goal is to get the country to eat more turkey, estimates that 88 percent of Americans will eat turkey on Thanksgiving. If buying turkey is on your holiday or regular shopping list, then from now to Christmas it is the time to stock up, when prices are cheap. Otherwise, eating turkey at other times of the year means your wallet will get plucked for more money.

The ConversationFor those of you eating turkey during this holiday, enjoy. My brother-in-law and I will be happily ensconced at the end of the table feasting on lamb and, while not eating turkey, appreciating and giving thanks for a day to be with friends and family.

Jay L. Zagorsky, Economist and Research Scientist, The Ohio State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

'Charlottesville: Our Streets' Premieres as Work-in-Progress at Va. Film Festival

Virginia Film Festival 2017 Charlottesville Our Streets
Having its world premiere at the Virginia Film Festival exactly three months after the events of August 12 that it portrays, the Rashomon-like "Charlottesville: Our Streets" appears while psychic and physical wounds are still raw and the political repercussions -- especially for local government -- have not yet been fully played out.

The program notes provided by the Virginia Film Festival are deceptively understated:
A stark look at the devastating events that transpired in Charlottesville in August of this year, there will be much to discuss after this screening. A team of local filmmakers, photographers, and journalists has compiled footage and stills from over 30 cameras, with 20 interviews from first-person witnesses from the fateful Unite The Right rally of August 12th. The country watched as white supremacists’ demonstrations violently escalated, resulting in multiple injuries and the death of Heather Heyer. This feature documentary is an objective observation how the events unfolded, delivering a stark and sometimes brutal telling of individual truths from the perspectives of the people who were there.
Washington Post reporter Joe Heim listed the questions posed by "Charlottesville: Our Streets" in a front-page Metro section story in Sunday morning's editions. that August weekend in Charlottesville will be most remembered is now in the hands of many different storytellers who will shape a shared history. Will it be seen primarily as the place where an ascendant white power movement came out of online nooks and crannies and showed its face to the world? Will it be remembered for those who took to the streets to stand up to the marchers and keep their rally from taking place? Or will it be recalled as a failure of leaders and police to keep the two sides apart and prevent a deadly outcome?
On Sunday afternoon in front of a packed house at the Paramount Theater, the producers of "Charlottesville: Our Streets," Jackson Landers (who also wrote the script) and Brian Wimer (who also directed), participated in a post-screening panel discussion moderated by radio host Coy Barefoot, along with journalist colleague Natalie Jacobsen -- who helped collect and sort the hundred of hours of video clips so they could be reviewed and chosen through a systematic process -- and two interview subjects from the film.

The movie drew both applause and jeers as it featured comments from both the neo-Nazis and Confederate nostalgists who invaded Charlottesville for the so-called "Unite the Right" rally over the weekend of August 11-12, and various counterprotesters from the clergy, antifa, and regular folks opposed to racism and anti-Semitism.

Landers and Wimer endeavored to be as objective as possible, letting the interviews and images tell the story and putting the burden of drawing conclusions on the audience, whose members are intelligent enough to interpret what they see.

Using a combination of talking-head interviews and "found footage" from among hundreds of hours of video taken by dozens of amateur and professional photographers on the scene that day, "Charlottesville: Our Streets" shows the chaos and the violence in a nearly unfiltered manner. Much of the video has not been previously seen by anyone other than those who took it, and one takeaway is that what did make its way to television news programs pulled its punches.

Writing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Monday, Tony Farrell described the film as
an astounding feat of bootstrapping journalism: a near-definitive visual chronicle of a day that spun slowly but wildly out of control, told through the mostly dispassionate points of view of countless cameras that captured all sides of the action.
He added:
Landers and Wimer also conducted 32 interviews with people who took part in or witnessed the violence that day — pastors, peace activists, Charlottesville residents and even members of the white supremacist groups that descended on the city for the long-planned Unite the Right rally to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in the center of town.

Landers and Wimer, longtime area residents unacquainted before Aug. 12 but both witnesses to the day’s brawling and mayhem, connected in the weeks after the violence and saw the value in documenting events they felt had been incorrectly reported or misrepresented through rumor-mongering and conspiracy theories.
In a report for public radio station WCVE, veteran Charlottesville journalist Hawes Spencer sampled the opinions of audience members at Sunday's screening. He found three widely different reactions:
Militia member Daniel Bollinger appears in “Our Streets” and attended its premiere. “It’s almost undescribable because it brings back so many memories from that day.”

Filmgoer Jim Hingeley says the picture succeeds. “It pulled it all together in a coherent way.”

However, transgender activist Emily Gorcenski finds the film unfair. “This drive towards objectivity is just enabling the side that wants to kill all Jewish people.”
Speaking of local journalists, a few of them are interviewed on screen.  Chris Suarez of the Daily Progress and Lisa Provence of C-VILLE Weekly both describe what they saw that Saturday morning.  (WCHV radio host Joe Thomas is seen arguing with a protester in a video clip.)

Charlottesville Our Streets Jackson Landers Brian Wimer
One thing I learned from the film was that the violence on August 12 was much worse than I had thought, based on the TV news reports I had seen; "Our Streets" shows clearly how the local and state police failed to intervene when the street fights began, standing at a distance and observing without taking action. As former Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris says in an interview in the film, anyone who asserts there was no "stand-down" order is being "deceitful."

I earlier referred to "Charlottesville: Our Streets" as Rashomon-like, and this is borne out by its multiple points of view. One of the things that struck me was how, in almost every shot, there were several other cameras making their own recordings of the same scene from different angles. What those photographers captured could well compose another movie from which entirely different conclusions could be drawn.

"Charlottesville: Our Streets" does not yet have a distributor, but the producers hope to take it to other film festivals and to college campuses around Virginia and beyond. A "pay-what-you-can" screening is tentatively planned for next month. The filmmakers' aim is to return Charlottesville's name to what it was before it became a hashtag.

Full disclosure: Jackson Landers and I, along with Shaun Kenney, are weekly guests on Coy Barefoot's radio program on 94.7 WPVC-FM in Charlottesville, where we discuss local, state, and national politics for an hour beginning at 5:00 o'clock each Monday afternoon. The events of August 12 have been a frequent topic of our conversation since even before they occurred.  On November 13, with Jeff Lenert substituting for Shaun Kenney, we spent more than an hour in a panel discussion about the panel discussion.  Listen to the podcast.


Note: This post is adapted and expanded from a previous article on Bearing Drift by the same author.

Guest Post: Anti-Racists Should Think Twice about Allying with Socialism

Modern racial justice movements like Black Lives Matter are embracing the historically false assumption that socialism is anti-racist.

by Marian L. Tupy

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times last August, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors, stated that BLM would not sit at the table with President Trump because he “is literally the epitome of evil, all the evils of this country – be it racism, capitalism, sexism, homophobia”.

Swastika hammer and sickle
Trump’s views and actions aside, calling capitalism evil and conflating it with racism is noteworthy. The same goes for the increasing tendency among racial justice advocates to embrace the left-wing economic agenda.

So much so that Ryan Cooper, a columnist for The Week, wrote a column titled, Is Black Lives Matter turning socialist? As Cooper approvingly noted, BLM has adopted a “hugely aggressive – and firmly leftist – economic program”.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Natalie Jeffers, who cofounded BLM in the United Kingdom, urged her followers to: “Fight racism with solidarity. Fight capitalism with socialism. We must organize – dedicate ourselves to revolutionary politic power.”

The Black Lives Matter Movement, a separate British organization, was founded by Gary McFarlane, a representative of the Socialist Workers Party, who writes for the Socialist Review and the Socialist Worker, and claims that, “Capitalism is racist from the top to the bottom”. His cofounders, including Kate Hurford, Harold Wilson, and Naima Omar, have also written for those two publications.

There is, in other words, a growing assumption among racial justice advocates that more socialism would result in less racism and, even, that socialism is, in itself, anti-racist. There is, in fact, no such necessary connection between socialism and anti-racism, as a closer look at early socialist writings amply shows.

Socialists Had a Lot to Say About Race
Marlborough Churchill familyTo start with, it is important to note that the meaning of the word “race” changed over time. Today, most people think of races in terms of color, as in “black” and “white.” Historically, however, race was also a synonym for a nation or, even, a family. In his 1933 book, Marlborough: His Life and Times, Winston Churchill noted: “Deep in the heart of the Prussian state and race lay the antagonism to France.” The English artist Mary Granville, in turn, referred to Churchill’s family as the “Marlborough race” in her 1861 book, Autobiography and Correspondence.

Race was always a part of socialist thought.

But race, whether narrowly (black and white) or broadly (skin color, nation, and family) understood, was always a part of socialist thought. In 1894, for example, Friedrich Engels wrote a letter to the German economist Walther Borgius. In it, Engels noted, “We regard economic conditions as that which ultimately determines historical development, but race is in itself an economic factor.”

In his 1877 Notes to Anti-Dühring, Engels elaborated on the subject of race, observing “that the inheritance of acquired characteristics extended … from the individual to the species.” He went on, “If, for instance, among us mathematical axioms seem self-evident to every eight-year-old child and in no need of proof from evidence that is solely the result of ‘accumulated inheritance.’ It would be difficult to teach them by proof to a bushman or to an Australian Negro.”

It is noteworthy that Engels wrote those words 16 years before Francis Galton, writing in Macmillan’s Magazine, urged humanity to take control of its own evolution by means of “good breeding” or eugenics. Speaking of which, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who were both socialists and eugenicists, bemoaned the falling birthrates among so-called higher races in the New Statesman in 1913. They warned that “a new social order [would be] developed by one or other of the colored races, the Negro, the Kaffir or the Chinese”.

Che Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary and friend of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, offered his views on race in his 1952 memoir The Motorcycle Diaries, writing, “The Negro is indolent and lazy and spends his money on frivolities, whereas the European is forward-looking, organized and intelligent.”

Karl Marx came close to advocating genocide.

Socialists Are Historically Pro-Genocide
In addition to racism, early socialist writings contained explicit calls for genocide of backward peoples. The toxic mix of those two illiberal ideas would result in at least 80 million deaths during the course of the 20th century.

In the New York Tribune in 1853, Karl Marx came close to advocating genocide, writing, “The classes and the races, too weak to master the new conditions of life, must give way.” His friend and collaborator, Engels, was more explicit.

In 1849, Engels published an article in Marx’s newspaper, Neue Rheinische Zeitung. In it, Engels condemned the rural populations of the Austrian Empire for failing enthusiastically to partake in the revolution of 1848. This was a seminal moment, the importance of which cannot be overstated.

“From Engels' article in 1849 down to the death of Hitler,” George Watson wrote in his 1998 book The Lost Literature of Socialism, “everyone who advocated genocide called himself a socialist.”
So, what did Engels write?
Among all the large and small nations of Austria, only three standard-bearers of progress took an active part in history, and still retain their vitality – the Germans, the Poles and the Magyars. Hence they are now revolutionary. All the other large and small nationalities and peoples are destined to perish before long in the revolutionary world storm. For that reason they are now counter-revolutionary.
“The Austrian Germans and Magyars will be set free and wreak a bloody revenge on the Slav barbarians,” he continued. “The next world war will result in the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples. And that, too, is a step forward.”

Here Engels clearly foreshadows the genocides of the 20th-century totalitarianism in general and the Soviet regime in particular. In fact, Joseph Stalin loved Engels’ article and commended it to his followers in The Foundations of Leninism in 1924. He then proceeded to suppress Soviet ethnic minorities, including the Jews, Crimean Tatars, and Ukrainians.

It is unsurprising that Nazi Germany, with its concentration camps and omnipresent secret police, came so close to resembling the Soviet Union.

Adolf Hitler, who admired Stalin for his ruthlessness and called him a “genius,” was also heavily influenced by Marx. “I have learned a great deal from Marxism,” Hitler said, “as I do not hesitate to admit.” Throughout his youth, Hitler “never shunned the company of Marxists” and believed that while the “petit bourgeois Social Democrat … will never make a National Socialist … the Communist always will.”

Hitler’s “differences with the communists”, argued Watson, “were less ideological than tactical”. Hitler embraced German nationalism so as not to “compete with Marxism on its own ground,” but explicitly acknowledged that “‘the whole of national socialism’ was based on Marx.” It is, therefore, unsurprising that Nazi Germany, with its concentration camps and omnipresent secret police, came so close to resembling the Soviet Union.

How much did the Nazis learn from the Soviets?

Rudolf Hess Commandant of AuschwitzIn his 1947 memoir Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess, Hoess recalled that the Germans knew of the Soviet program of extermination of the enemies of the state through forced labor as early as 1939. “If, for example, in building a canal, the inmates of a [Soviet] camp were used up, thousands of fresh kulaks or other unreliable elements were called in who, in their turn, would be used up.” The Nazis would use the same tactic on the Jewish slave laborers in, for example, munition factories.

Following their invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, wrote Watson, the Germans collected information on the immense scale of the Soviet camp system and were impressed by the “Soviet readiness to destroy whole categories of people through forced labor.”

Communist terror continues to be shrouded in ontological fog.

After the war ended, Stalin was deeply worried about what the Germans knew with regard to the Soviet camp system and the crimes that the Soviets committed in the territories they conquered following the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. He sent Andrey Vyshinsky, the mastermind of Stalin’s Great Purge (1936-1938), to Nuremberg to steer the war crimes tribunal away from inconvenient lines of inquiry.

Today we are familiar with the aggregate numbers of people who died as a result of the socialist experiment, but communist terror continues to be shrouded in ontological fog. As such, the Nazi extermination of the Jews is generally condemned as an example of race hatred. The Soviet extermination of specific groups of people, in contrast, is generally seen as part of a much less toxic “class struggle.”

The Strange Separation of "Race Hate" and "Class Struggle"
The Marxist theory of history focused on class struggle and posited that feudalism was destined to be superseded by capitalism. Capitalism, in turn, was destined to give way to communism. Marx saw himself chiefly as a scientist and thought that he had discovered an immutable law of evolution of human institutions, from barbarism at the one end to communism at the other end. (Hence the idea of “scientific socialism” that Engels promoted after Marx’s death.)

Peoples stuck in feudalism, like the Slavs, “as well as Basques, Bretons and Scottish Highlanders”, could not progress straight from feudalism to communism. They would have to be exterminated – so as not to keep everyone else back! Watson noted, “They were racial trash, as Engels called them, and fit only for the dung-heap of history.”

How, then, are we to think of socialism and race, and does the answer to that question have any bearing on the distinction that has been drawn between the Nazi and communist atrocities?

The best that can be said of the socialists is that their victims were more varied than those of Hitler. 

H.G. WellsIn his 1902 Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human life and Thought, H.G. Wells wrote, “There is a disposition in the world, which the French share, to grossly undervalue the prospects of all things French, derived, so far as I can gather, from the facts that the French were beaten by the Germans in 1870, and that they do not breed with the abandon of rabbits or negroes.”

“I must confess,” he continued, that “I do not see the Negro and the poor Irishman and all the emigrant sweepings of Europe, which constitute the bulk of the American Abyss, uniting to form that great Socialist party.”

Note the ease with which the socialist author of such best-sellers as The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds(1898), conflates backward whites and backward blacks.

To Wells, both were primitive and, consequently, unsuited to be the torchbearers of socialism. That’s perfectly consonant with Marx’s theory of history, which was, by definition, universal in applicability. Creation of a socialist utopia, therefore, depended on the extermination of all races, broadly understood, who stood in the way of socialist revolution. As such, it included black “Bushmen” and white Bretons.

In contrast to Marx, Hitler’s utopia was not universal. Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), wanted to create socialism in only one country, Germany. Hitler’s hatred of the Jews, for example, was partly rooted in his belief that capitalism and international Jewry were two sides of the same coin. As he once famously asked, “How, as a socialist, can you not be an anti-Semite?”

The old distinction between the crimes of National Socialism and socialism proper seems to be untenable.

To achieve their socialist goals, wrote Götz Aly in his 2008 book Hitler’s Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State, the Germans confiscated gold, food, clothing, and machinery throughout the territories they conquered. They also put the conquered peoples to work in German slave labor and extermination camps, and factories.

In conclusion, the old distinction between the crimes of National Socialism (as purely racist) and socialism proper (as lacking a racial component) seems to be untenable. Both the perpetrators of Nazi atrocities (ie, the Germans) and their victims, including the Jews and the Slavs, were white. As such, Nazi atrocities make little sense on the narrow definition of racism (i.e., black versus white). They do make sense in the broader context – the perceived necessity to exterminate all peoples who stood in the way of achieving Hitler’s utopian ideal.

But, the same can be said of communist atrocities. The early socialists certainly toyed with the idea of racial inferiority of the darker races (i.e., narrow definition of racism), but ultimately embraced a program of genocide that was more encompassing. The best that can be said of the socialists, therefore, is that their victims were, in accordance with the universal aspirations of Marxism, more varied than those of Hitler. Let us hope that’s not the sort of inclusivity that Black Lives Matter on both sides of the Atlantic strives for.

Reprinted from CapX

Marian L. Tupy

Marian L. Tupy is the editor of and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.