Thanksgiving: Is “mutant turkey” on the menu?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Thanksgiving
Turkeys in a turkey farm

A TYPICAL TURKEY FARM—This photo from Wikimedia Commons shows a flock of “Broad Breasted Whites,” the variety of modified turkeys that comprise the majority of Thanksgiving turkeys sold these days.

At the Thanksgiving table, what’s your choice: White or dark?

How about: Mutant?

Many Americans prefer white meat, and the nation’s poultry producers have learned how to breed large, fast-growing turkeys with lots of breast meat. In fact, today’s turkey is a giant compared to turkeys of yesteryear, reports Mother Jones.

In the 1930s, the average turkey weighed 13.1 pounds. This year, the average turkey weighs 29.8 pounds—and some male turkeys can weigh as much as 50 pounds.

That’s a lot of white meat!

Before the 1950s, the turkeys that found their way to the Thanksgiving dinner table were pretty much the same as wild turkeys. Since then, poultry farmers have breed turkeys to favor genetic traits for large size and fast growth. This results in more white meat, which consumers desire, but also produces birds that are so heavy they can’t support their own weight. Today’s giant turkeys are bowlegged and stooped. They are so big that natural reproduction isn’t possible and artificial insemination must be used.

What’s your opinion of factory farming?

To what extent do farming methods influence your consumption?

What choices do you make regarding Thanksgiving dinner?

Care to read more?

Each year, journalists report on the fate of turkeys nationwide. From an environmental perspective, you might want to read Mother Jones magazine’s first report this autumn, headlined “Butterball Goes ‘Humane for Thanksgiving. Really?“as well as the magazine’s more recent story, “Look How Much Bigger Thanksgiving Turkeys Are Today.” For an even deeper look into the farming and marketing of turkeys—with a stronger environmental slant—check out this story in the environmental magazine, The Grist, headlined “Calling Fowl: How to pick the most humane turkey for Thanksgiving.”

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Do It Yourself Videos: Want to whistle with your fingers? Fillet a pike?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Do It Yourself Videos

You Tube video how to whistle with your fingersA Note from Dr. Wayne Baker: This week, please welcome back the popular OurValues columnist Terry Gallagher. Thanks, Terry!

After I was able to get my ancient lawnmower running again, thanks to some free advice I picked up watching how-to videos on the web, I could hardly contain myself, bragging to anybody who would listen.

The next day, I was boasting to a mechanic at my local service station; after working on my cars for years, he would be especially surprised to hear that I got a stalled motor running again.

He gave me a funny look, and said the thing happened to him. No, not a clogged carburetor, but a snapping turtle he had caught inadvertently while fishing.

Just as I did, he turned to YouTube, where he found a video of a couple of “good old boys” showing how to clean and cook a turtle. The next day, he was eating turtle soup.

Since then, everyone I’ve run into tells me about learning to tackle a new skill after watching how-to videos on YouTube.

Two different people told me they learned to fillet a Northern pike.

Another friend says he learned how to do the fingers-in-the-mouth whistle.

Last winter, I replaced burned-out bulbs in a 1970s-vintage stereo receiver, and reattached a wheel on my snow-thrower.

All of this user-generated instructional material on the web must have some economic value. At some level, people are saving money, mastering new skills, fixing old things and putting them back into service.

But what’s in it for the people who create this stuff? Is it an ego trip? Or simple generosity?

Have you ever made a video like this? If so, please tell us about it.



SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS: You can read more than 100 of Terry Gallagher’s past columns by clicking on this link. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

Prayer in School: What happens in a ‘Moment of Silence’?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Prayer in School
A MOMENT OF SILENCE often is used among men and women in public service as a way to honor the fallen. This photo from the USS Kearsarge, serving in the Persian Gulf, shows the ship’s personnel pausing in an annual moment of silence to remember victims of the “9/11” attacks. (Photo by U.S. Navy’s Ash Severe, released for public use.)

A MOMENT OF SILENCE often is used by men and women in public service as a way to honor the fallen. This photo from the USS Kearsarge, serving in the Persian Gulf, shows the ship’s personnel pausing in an annual moment of silence to remember victims of the “9/11” attacks. (Photo by U.S. Navy’s Ash Severe, released for public use.)

Have you participated in a Moment of Silence? Often, Moments of Silence are expressions of remembrance and respect for those who have died or used to commemorate a tragedy. These are common occurrences in schools.

If a student cares to pray during a Moment of Silence, is it permissible?

This week, we’ve considered various angles on what is still a contentious issue in America: prayers in school. As a new Pew survey reports, a majority of Americans still support prayers in school. We’ve considered prayers at graduation ceremonies, writing about prayers or other religious themes in a term paper, and “See You at the Pole” prayer events.

Today, we consider the Moment of Silence. The theme this week is neutrality. School officials cannot officially encourage or discourage religious expression at schools. If students—on their own—choose to pray, they can do so as an expression of religious freedom.

The Moment of Silence is one of many issues covered the Department of Education’s guidelines. These guidelines state:

“If a school has a ‘minute of silence’ or other quiet periods during the school day, students are free to pray silently, or not to pray, during these periods of time. Teachers and other school employees may neither encourage nor discourage students from praying during such time periods.”

Back in the 1990s, Colin Powell, who was thinking about running for the White House, famously said that he didn’t favor prayer in public schools but he did favor a Moment of Silence.

Critics of the Moment of Silence contend that it is just a sneaky way to slip prayers into the school day.

So, what do you think happens in a Moment of Silence?
Have you participated in one?
If so, did you pray?

Banned Books: Should we burn ‘demonic’ books? Or, ‘obscene’ books?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Banned Books
Book burning fact and fiction Fahrenheit 451 and 1949 American comic book burning

BOOK BURNING FACT AND FICTION: Rad Bradbury’s novel and a later film called “Fahrenheit 451” envisioned a draconian government burning all books. But, in the lower photograph, church members in 1949 staged a mass burning of comic books in the American heartland.

Schools nationwide are starting a new academic year. Already choices have been made about what students can and cannot read. Today, I’m inviting you, our readers, to express yourself. Leave a comment below or share this column on social media (for example, use the blue-“f” Facebook button) and share your comments with friends. Either way, you’ve got an opportunity to be heard on this issue.

What would you do with books like the Twilight and the House of Night series that some are calling “demonic”? Should teens have access to these books in public libraries or schools?

If a Texas pastor has his way, they would be removed from the shelves of the local public library. Phillip Missick, pastor of King of Saints Tabernacle, argued in front of the Cleveland (TX) City Council that the public library offers too many books with demonic and occult themes, like Twilight and House of Night. Other religious leaders have joined in support, according to media accounts. These books are “dark,” Missick said. “There’s a sexual element. You have creatures that are not human. I think it’s dangerous for our kids.”

Some other local pastors agree with Missick: Reading these books will mess up the lives of teens.

The head librarian defended the library’s holdings, saying that books “should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”

In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury described a world in which book censorship ran its full course. It began with selective book banning at the disapproval of special-interest groups, and ended with mass book burnings and the prohibition of reading at all. The book’s title refers to the temperature at which book paper catches fire.

How about banning—or even burning—what some argue is the greatest novel of the 20th Century? That book is James Joyce’s Ulysses. It “was banned as obscene, officially or unofficially, throughout most of the English-speaking world for over a decade,” writes Kevin Birmingham in a new analysis of the book and its history, The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses.

And, this “obscene” book was burned by government authorities—over 1,000 copies, says Birmingham.

Book banning and burning are microcosms of bigger issues. For Joyce’s Ulysses, says, Birmingham, “it was a dimension of the larger struggle between state power and individual freedom that intensified in the early 20th Century, when more people began to challenge governmental control over whatever speech the state considered harmful.”

Are today’s struggles over book censorship also the struggle between state (or religious) power and individual freedom?

Should we ban—or burn—books with demonic or occult themes?
Or, should all books be available?

Get Out the Vote: A minority of voters charts our future

This entry is part 4 of 10 in the series Get Out the Vote
An Onion story blaming low voter turnout on Zombie attacks

HUMOR MAGAZINE ‘THE ONION’ produced this classic zombies-cause-low-turnout story some years ago. It seemed funny at the time. Kidding aside, though, voter turnout continues to shrink.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: Contributing columnist Terry Gallagher is exploring the values Americans place on voting. This is his fourth column …

The people have spoken.

At least some of them have.

This week, while primary elections were held across the country, we’ve been looking at how Americans vote and what it says about the value we place on our freedom to participate in the political process.

From the numbers, you might conclude that most Americans don’t think voting is all that important.

In Michigan, where I vote, more than 80 percent of the eligible voters didn’t cast a ballot this week. That’s not an all-time low, but still pretty dismal, especially when it’s likely that the primary winners will be shoo-ins in the November general election.

Political scientists have a number of theories about low turnout, and the possible reasons are all over the map: some people don’t vote because they believe that all politics is evil, while others don’t vote because they’re happy with the government we have now.

But one major reason that people don’t vote is because they believe it doesn’t matter, that their vote won’t change anything.

In fact, I thought that back when I was a teenage smart-aleck know-it-all. I thought that until I tried it out on the principal of my high school.

I told him that it didn’t really matter how I voted, that elections are rarely decided by a single vote anyhow.

“It matters to you,” he pointed out.

And now I think of that every time I walk into the polling place.

Why vote? Because it matters to you.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: Terry Gallagher has written about a wide range of topics. You can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. Email us at [email protected] with suggestions for Terry. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).

Why wait? When did waiting become such a political sin?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Why wait?
President Obama addresses Congress on health care

FACE to FACE POLITICS: In 2013, President Obama addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress to talk about health care. Photograph by Lawrence Jackson, released for public use.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome back our popular contributing columnist Terry Gallagher.

What’s the penalty on waiting?

Our idiom is loaded with proverbs calling on us to make decisions, to get off the pot, to strike while the iron is hot. And one of the worst things a politician can be accused of is “kicking the can down the road.” The phrase is usually taken as a synonym for procrastination, for adopting stopgap measures to avoid making the big decisions necessary to solve a problem once and for all.

Democrats accuse Republicans of doing it when they pass short-term budget fixes to avoid a government shutdown. Just last week, President Obama was lambasted by conservatives who say he’s kicking the can down the road by not dealing with the immigration crisis in a comprehensive way.

In a new interview this week, psychologist Dr. Robert J. Wicks recalls recently speaking to a gathering of U.S. representatives and senators when one senator admitted that he thinks the greatest problem facing congress is: “We don’t have enough time to think.”

We all face complex problems in public life, and in smaller settings, too, where comprehensive solutions are hard to come by, and stopgap measures work perfectly fine.

Social Security, for example. Alarmists have been saying for generations that the program will go bankrupt by some date, usually decades away, unless we cut benefits this very moment.

It turns out that we’ve been able to make modest adjustments every couple of years to keep the system solvent. Then a couple years later, we make another few modest adjustments. And government goes on.

So maybe we should kick more cans down the road, and give future generations the chance to tackle the complex problems facing our society. Or, when their time comes, to kick a few more cans a little further down the road.

What do you think? (Do you have enough time—to think?)

Try this discipline today: Consciously take a moment and either add a comment below—or use the blue-“f” Facebook buttons to share this column with friends.

What’s up with men? What would you put in your man cave?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series What's up with men?
Man Caves Prehistoric Mark Twain Frank Lloyd Wright Ernest Hemingway

MAN CAVES (from top): Prehistoric man cave in the mountains of Crimea now in dispute between Russia and Ukraine; Mark Twain’s third floor man cave, which he called his billiard room; Frank Lloyd Wright’s private room in his home near Chicago; Ernest Hemingway’s man cave in Key West as currently displayed for visitors. (Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: This week, we welcome back our popular contributing columnist Terry Gallagher.

In this week’s posts, we’ve been looking at how men are adapting to new economic realities, and finding that many of them are becoming more detached and less engaged in their communities.

The male unemployment rate has been climbing for decades, and now men are more likely to be unemployed than women. A smaller fraction of men are going to college these days, and they’re not filling the extra time by volunteering in their communities.

The percentage of male voters decreased in every national election from 1964 to 2008.

And while men are spending more time on housework than they used to, reflecting the growth in paid employment for women, they’re definitely not doing their fair share: women still do about two-thirds of the housework.

So where the men? I have a theory. A lot of them are just hanging out.

And more of them are hanging out in their stylish “man caves.”

Google’s Ngram Viewer—a fascinating online tool that searches more than 5 million books for the frequency of a phrase across periods of time—shows that use of that phrase has more than tripled since 2002, and the shelter magazines are full of advice on how to decorate and outfit your “man cave.”

“Man caves . . . . are a place to be alone, to be away from women and from female sensibilities,” according to Wikipedia. Some mental health professionals believe it’s important for men to have an area to which to retreat, a refuge from stressful surroundings, the entry noted.

So if you have a man cave, does that make you a cave man?

And, tell us: What is essential to transform a room into your man cave?

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS THIS SUMMER: Terry Gallagher will write three more OurValues series in the summer of 2014. You can read more than 100 of his past columns by clicking on this link. Email [email protected] with suggestions for Terry. And Please, we always invite you to comment (below) or to share this column on Facebook (use the blue-“f” icons).