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This was no ordinary lame duck Congress

Most lame duck sessions of Congress are dismal affairs. This is particularly true if there are a large number of turnovers, or if there is a change in the control of either House. When this happens the members usually don’t have much energy left over for any new legislation.
But that’s not what happened this year.

Read more: This was no ordinary lame duck Congress

Ship’s log: December 7, 1941

“Ship’s Log, Stardate, 381067.5…”  For many of us, the Captain’s log, the dramatic tool used in just about every Star Trek episode is the image that comes to mind when we think of a ship’s log.  Captain Kirk always had plenty to say.  But, alas, with apologies to the good Star Fleet Captain that’s not how a ship’s log is kept.  At least, that’s not the way they’re kept in our time.  In the Navy a ship’s log is a precise record of a ship’s activity.  It includes weather conditions, ship’s course and speed, how fast the engines are running, the names of arriving and departing personnel, and as appropriate, specific observations on the current tactical situation.  There is little, if anything, that can be considered personal in a ship’s log.  
However, while often dry, a ship’s log can also be a remarkable record of events.  This precise and detailed record, made first hand by the people that were there, makes great reading.  The attack on Pearl Harbor, 69 years ago, this week, offers just this kind of insiders view of what happened on December 7, 1941.

Read more: Ship’s log: December 7, 1941

GOP nomination a hot prize in 2012

Two years ago, following President Obama’s historic win, the Republican Party was in serious trouble.  Some claimed it was gradually becoming a regional party and that before long wouldn’t have any appreciable power outside the south.  
That was an unnecessarily dismal projection, but that was the mood of many in the GOP after the 2008 election. But, my, how quickly things change.  According to a recent poll, taken shortly after the Republican sweep this November, a “generic” Republican in a head-to-head contest with the President in 2012 would win two-to-one.  While that’s probably an inflated finding, there is no doubt, at least in the eyes of the GOP, that President Obama is vulnerable.  The mid-terms, his approval ratings, and the overall appearance of weakness, have taken their toll. This makes the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination an incredibly valuable prize.

Read more: GOP nomination a hot prize in 2012

Scrap the mashed potatoes: Thanksgiving dinner Pilgrim style

It’s a tried and true combination for most of us: Turkey served with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and pumpkin pie. Add to that some cranberry sauce and perhaps some oyster dressing, and that’s Thanksgiving. Make no mistake, the very thought of that combination is making me hungry. But the reality is that if I were a Pilgrim, one of those remarkable early settlers on the New England coast, celebrating my first Thanksgiving, my meal would have looked a bit different.
The first Pilgrim feast, the one we recall each year at Thanksgiving was a true expression of thanks. The settlers had survived their first year in the New World. It had been a tough season. Many in their numbers had died. And even then, in 1621, their suffering was by no means done. It would be several years before the colony could be considered a going concern. But, they had reaped a decent harvest, they were at peace with their Native American neighbors, and they wanted to give thanks for their good fortune. It was as simple as that. And while a pious people, they also knew how to throw a good party. This first Thanksgiving was a three-day affair. However, while it was a tasty, it wasn’t what we 21st century Americans would have considered a traditional Thanksgiving Day Dinner.
For one thing, and I don’t know how my grandmother would have coped with this, there wouldn’t have been any mashed potatoes. I love mashed potatoes, but in 1620, the potato, while having made it to the New World, thanks to Sir Walter Raleigh, hadn’t found its way to New England. This staple food wouldn’t be introduced into the New England diet until the early 1700s.
But that didn’t deter the Pilgrims. There was still plenty to eat. Though it isn’t specifically mentioned in many of the accounts of this early meal they probably, like us, had turkey. However, it might not have been all that popular. While abundant, the Pilgrims didn’t have the plump and tender farm raised turkey we’re used to. What they bagged, while tasty was wild, lean, and heavy on the dark meat. While that would have suited me fine - I like dark meat - it’s not altogether clear that the Pilgrims were that enamored with turkey.

 

Read more: Scrap the mashed potatoes: Thanksgiving dinner Pilgrim style

Is there a middle ground between the GOP and Obama?

The Democratic Party, after four years in the ascendancy, got handed one of its most severe electoral defeats since World War II.  When the new Congress convenes in January 2011 there will be more Republicans than at any other time since 1946.  It’s been compared to the 1994 Republican Revolution, but this “shellacking,” as the President called it, was more than just an electoral setback.  

Read more: Is there a middle ground between the GOP and Obama?

America’s last World War I veteran

My great-uncle was a proud veteran of the First World War and used to be a member of an organization called the Veterans of World War I Association. I know that because when I was visiting with his family sometime in the late 1960’s I saw one of their publications and asked about it. Even then, the “Great War” as he occasionally still called it, seemed a long time ago. That was over forty years ago and back then many of these doughboys were still healthy and many, like my Uncle Harley, were still working.

Read more: America’s last World War I veteran

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