Friday, December 19, 2008


Just in case you're still not convinced regarding torture, here is a quote (via Andrew Sullivan's blog) from an American soldier, Matthew Alexander, who interrogated al Qaeda suspects in Iraq.

"The number-one reason foreign fighters gave for coming to Iraq to fight is the torture
and abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. The majority of suicide bombings are
carried out by foreign fighters who volunteered and came to Iraq with this motivation.
Consequently it is clear that at least hundreds but more likely thousands of American
lives (not to count Iraqi civilian deaths) are linked directly to the policy decision to
introduce the torture and abuse of prisoners as accepted tactics.

Americans have died from terrorist attacks since 9/11; those Americans just happen to be
American soldiers. This is not simply my view – it is widely held among senior officers in
the U.S. military today. Alberto Mora, who served as General Counsel of the Navy under
Donald Rumsfeld, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee in June 2008 that “U.S.
flag-rank officers maintain that the first and second identifiable causes of U.S. combat
deaths in Iraq–as judged by their effectiveness in recruiting insurgent fighters into
combat–are, respectively the symbols of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.” We owe it to our
troops to protect them from terrorist attacks by not conducting torture and we owe it to
our forefathers to uphold the American principles that they passed down to us"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Good News

Abby had her orthopedic appointment yesterday.  She's got a classic clavicle break, and in a little kid like her there is nothing to be worried about.  She'll only need her arm sling for another week (Merry Christmas), and should be able to have full motion of the shoulder around then as well.

Over the next week, she'll develop a bump/bruise on her shoulder as the blood clot forms around the break to close it up.  As she grows, the bone will smooth itself out and become straight again (right now it looks like a really shallow inverted V).  But in another 3 weeks she should be clear to do swimming, ballet, etc.. without a problem. 

As a side note, we realized that Madeline is the only one to make it through (almost all) of 2008 without a serious injury (Kirstin - twisted tube, Me - ribs, Abby - shoulder).  There are two possible conclusions:
1) She's due
2) She's responsible

Vegas has #2 as a 5-1 favorite.

Enough, I know

Just in case you were still thinking there was something honorable in our tactics of torture, consider this Washington Post article from 2003.

"Col. David Hogg, commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, said tougher methods are being used to gather the intelligence. On Wednesday night, he said, his troops picked up the wife and daughter of an Iraqi lieutenant general. They left a note: 'If you want your family released, turn yourself in.' Such tactics are justified, he said, because, 'It's an intelligence operation with detainees, and these people have info.' They would have been released in due course, he added later. The tactic worked. On Friday, Hogg said, the lieutenant general appeared at the front gate of the U.S. base and surrendered."

So at least by 2003, we were kidnapping innocent wives and children and holding them hostage.

Stay classy, America.

Stupid Examples

When one tries to defend torture as a legitimate tactic, it typically takes the form of the "ticking time bomb" example (see every season of '24').  That is, there is a major (often nuclear) device hidden in a city, and you have in custody someone who knows it whereabouts.  They refuse to talk.  In this case, with potentially millions of lives at stake, aren't we justified in torturing this individual to get the information on where the bomb is located?

The problem with this example is that is pre-supposes three very critical things, none of which are applicable to any real life situation.
1) The individual in custody knows the location   We have police procedures and ultimately we have trials specifically to review the available evidence and make determinations of guilt and innocence. We get this wrong sometimes. It is impossible for us to be 100% sure we have the proper individual in custody, no matter how much evidence we pile up.  Particularly when we do not require (as the Bush administration insisted) on any semblance of due process for the person in custody.  In the real world, we might end up torturing the wrong person.
2) Torture is an effective means of eliciting the truth.  All the evidence shows that tortured individuals will make up any story you'd like in order to make the pain stop. All the literature on torture suggests that it actually *reduces* the veracity of the victims statements.  So even assuming we are torturing the right person, the possibility of actually getting the location of the bomb is far less than 100%.  Think about this, if on September 10th, 2001, we had Khalid Sheik-Mohammed in custody, what would you expect by torturing him? This man helped plan a suicide attack. Do you think he wouldn't lie? Do you think he wouldn't give false information?  Do you honestly think that beating him in the face will convince him to tell the truth?  Wouldn't the torture just convince him of the injustice of the U.S. and give him incentive to lie even more?  Torture is useless in extracting gainful information.
3) The potential damage is big enough to warrant torture.  That is, we suppose that "millions" of people would die, so torturing one person is worthwhile.  What if it was 100,000?  10,000? 1,000? 100?  At what point do we allow torture?  To save one other person?  Two other people?  Are we authorized to torture some more painfully the more people are at risk?  Can I slap someone around to save 5 people, but I can electrocute their testicles to save 1000?  The assumption is that we can make firm determinations of what torture is, when it is authorized, and when to apply it.  We cannot.

There is no situation in which torture is legally warranted.  None. Zero.  If you want to pick one thing that defines "civilization", it is not language, or forks, or art.  Cavemen had language, tools, and cave paintings.  What sets us apart is having set aside physical intimidation and abuse as methods of presuasion.  Torture violates the very nature of civilization.  It is barbaric, in the most perjorative sense of the word.

BUT, you say, wouldn't you torture someone to save Abigail and Madeline?  Let's leave aside the issues in 1) and 2) above, and assume that I have exactly the right person tied to a chair, and I'm garuanteed that if I snip off his fingertips with a metal shears I will get the information to save my little girls.  Would I cut off his fingers?  Would I torture this man to save my girls?

Absolutely.  But that does not make what I did legal, moral, ethical, or right.  After torturing this man and saving my family, I should go to jail.  And I'd go happily.

The *right* question to ask regarding torture is this: do you feel that the chance of obtaining useful information to save an unspecified number of people is worth spending time in jail?   Are you willing to pay the price of torturing people?

Let me amend my post from a couple of days ago to this.  I think that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, John Yoo, and all the other officials that knew about and authorized torture should be put on trial.  They should be required to - publically and openly - explain what they did and why they did it.  They should be forced to acknowledge and take ownership of their actions.  At that point, a jury of their peers might decide that what they did was justified and warranted, in the sense that it saved lives.

But they must be forced to admit they are torturers.  And if they really believe in what they did, they should be *proud* to admit that they tortured people.

You'll notice, though, that at no point did anyone in the administration have the guts to get up and speak directly to the country.  All the torture authorization happened in memos and meetings that they could pretend didn't happen.  They're cowards, flailing out at people that look different in an attempt to protect themselves. They are nothing more than cavemen, using their physical advantage to beat, rape, and kill weaker individuals.

If they want to be proud of that, let them stand up and confront the pictures and accounts of what they did.  But they won't. They'll hide behind executive privledge and let a few poor Marines go to jail.

I repeat, cowards. All of them.


Abby and Madeline have Hannah Montana toothbrushes.  They play music. 

I shall now insert a fork into my eye socket.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Zero Interest Rates

So far this recession has been a boon to those of us who teach intermediate macroeconomics.  We're covering all the theoretical possibilities we were only able to speculate about in the past.

For instance, yesterday the Fed lowered their target interest rate to essentially zero.  The idea of this is to lower the cost of borrowing so that banks can borrow cheaply and then lend that money out to firms and people to buy stuff. But the Fed has been lowering the interest rate for months and the economy continues to worsen. And now the Fed has no place left to go - you can't lower the interest rate to less than zero.

So why isn't the lower Fed interest rate working?  And if it isn't working, what is the Fed's next step?  To answer this, let's review something really important, the Fisher equation (thanks Irv!).

Nominal interest rates (the rate you pay on your mortgage is a nominal interest rate) is made up of two parts:
i = r + p
where i is the nominal rate, r is the real interest rate, and p is a measure of inflation.  To understand this definition, think about lending me some money.  If you are going to loan me $1000, you need to be compensated for two things.  First, you need a 'real' return - this refers to the fact that for a year (or however long it takes me to pay you back) you will *not* have $1000.  The real interest rate is the 'charge' for this inconvenience to you.  Let's say that is equivalent to 3%.  That is, the cost of not having your $1000 for a year is $30. 

In addition to paying you the real return, I need to compensate you for the fact that a year from now prices will likely be higher.  So when I pay back the $1000, you can buy less stuff than you could have today.  Thus I have to pay you something in addition to the real return.  That something is the inflation rate.  If inflation were 2%, then the nominal rate would be 3% + 2% = 5%.

The Fed targets the nominal interest rate.  By saying that they have an interest rate target of 0%, they are saying that:
r + p = 0

Now, why might this not stimulate the economy?  Well, if we have that inflation is negative (deflation), then p<0 and it has to be that r>0.  If we expect prices to fall by 3% over the coming year, then the real rate of interest is equal to +3%.  The *real* interest rate is what matters for investment in the economy. So even though nominal rates of interest are zero, because of deflation this might mean that real interest rates are quite large.

Given the recent CPI information, it seems that prices are falling or stagnant, and more importantly, it seems that people are expecting prices to fall in the future.  Therefore the real interest rate is positive and large, and firms don't want to borrow.

So now what does the Fed do, if they can't lower the nominal rate below zero?  Well, they can try and adjust the expected inflation rate. How do they do that?  Fire up the presses.  We are at the point where the Fed will likely need to start printing money, and use this money to buy up financial assets.  The flood of new dollars into the banking system will drive up inflation.  More importantly, the Fed will have to convince everyone that they intend to keep inflation up (say at around 3%) for the foreseeable future.

If inflation is +3%, and the nominal rate of interest is 0%, then the real rate of interest is -3%.  Now we're cooking (we hope).  Negative real interest rates mean that you actually make real money by borrowing. Firms will be better off borrowing to buy new machines and expand production *now*, rather than in the future.

Ultimately, yesterdays setting of the nominal interest rate to zero signals that we are done with interest rate policy for the next year or so.  The Fed will have to move on to adjusting inflation directly to achieve any stimulus at all. 

This is not the end of the world, but it is like the guys at the Alamo running out of ammuntion and chucking rocks and dead cats at the Mexicans.  The Fed is down to dead cat throwing.  Well placed dead cats can still kill a man (I would presume that you need to get the claws to stay out, maybe if rigor sets in you can make this work), so it is not like they are powerless.  But much of the emphasis will likely now shift to the fiscal stimulus plan.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Get Mad

Okay, we're going to bring down the mood a little.  There have been few news reports on the Senate Armed Services Committee report just issued regarding torture.  Before the details, let me make it clear that this report was jointly issued by Carl Levin and John McCain, and that there were zero dissents on the committee made up of 13 Democrats and 12 Republicans.  This is not some Democratic hatchet job.

Remember Abu Gharib? The pictures of the soldiers posing with naked and hooded prisoners who were in torture positions?  That occurred in late 2003 and early 2004, with top brass "officially" reviewing the evidence on May 12th of 2004 before proceeding to court martial several soldiers for their actions.

As noted at that time, the actions that the soldiers took violated the Geneva Conventions, of which the U.S. was an original signatory.  In addition, the War Crimes Act of 1996 made violations of the Geneva Convention a felony under U.S. law.

So read the following outtakes from the Levin/McCain report and ask yourself why Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, and Rumsfeld should not be prosecuted.

- "On February 7, 2002 President Bush signed a memorandum stating that the Third Geneva Convention did not apply to the conflict with al Qaeda and concluding that Taliban detainees were not entitle to prisoner of war status or the legal protections afforded by the Third Geneva Convention."

- "In December 2001...the Dept of Defense General Counsel's Office had already solicited information on detainee 'exploitation' from the JPRA, an agency whose expertise was in training American personnel to withstand interrogation techniques considered illegal under the Geneva Convention."

- "On August 1, 2002,....the Dept. of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel issued two legal opinions. The opinions were issued after consultation with senior Admin. attorneys, including then White-House counsel Alberto Gonzales... The memo's conclusions were that 'torture law doesn't apply if you act under the color of presidential authority.'

- "On August 1, 2002....the second memo..responded to a request from the CIA, addressing the legality of specific interrogation tactics. ...a publicly relaeased CIA document indicates that waterboarding was among those analyzed and approved."

- "On December 2, 2002, Secratary Rumsfeld signed Mr. Haynes recommendation [approving 15 different torture techniques], adding a handwritten note that referred to limits proposed in the memo on the use of stress positions: 'I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?'

- "On September 14, 2003 the Commander of CJTF-7, Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez issued the first interrogation SOP that authorized interrogators in Iraq to use stress positions, environmental manipulation, sleep management, and military working dogs..."

The reports conclusions can be summarized as:
1. Before Abu Ghraib, The President made a written determination that the U.S. would not abide by the Geneva Conventions
2. Before Abu Ghraib, Members of the Cabinet and other senior officials were in meetings where specific torture techniques were discussed.
3. Rumsfelds authorization of torture led directly to abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay as well as contibuting to the use of the abusive techniques at Abu Ghraib.

Here's the quote to mull over - "The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own."

Congratulations, you live in a country where the most senior officials in the government authorized your country to violate the standards of civilization.  They stripped down human beings, urinated on them, let dogs urinate on them, hung them from their arms, forced them to go without sleep for days, made them stand for hours on end, put bags on their heads and beat them, and deliberately kicked detainees to break their arms.

Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, etc.. made a deliberate decision to torture human beings. For what? Ask any experienced law enforcement official, and they will tell you that no useful information is ever gathered from tortured individuals. They will say anything (i.e. they will make up stories) to make the pain stop.  The information, if any is actually obtained, is useless. 

These are small-minded, disgusting individuals who shredded their own morality in order to satisfy their desire to seem "tough" and to extract some kind of revenge of 9/11. 

I for one don't want revenge.  If there is anything I want, it would be to actually exert some effort to capture the man responsible for 9/11.  That has nothing to do with Iraq, and it is absolutely unnecessary to sacrifice fundamental human rights to achieve this.  After we finally get bin Laden, I want him to go on trial and spend the rest of his life in jail, next door to some crack-dealer from Compton.

If you think this torture was justified to "defend the homeland" or "to keep real Americans safe" or "to defend freedom" or "to get them before they get us" or "because they would torture us", then you have missed the entire point of Western Civilization and the United States of America.  I would suggest that you find a nice home in North Korea, or perhaps Saudi Arabia.

Bush and his cronies and puppet-masters degraded the honor of the U.S.A. with every one of these unspeakable acts. Good riddance to his entire administration.

Now, will we do the right thing and actually put them in jail?

Long-distance BBQ

I had a great Saturday.  After talking about it for a long time, we finally organized and did the "Taste of Texas" dinner.  One of the dad's from playgroup (Stefan), is a pilot and owns a four-seat Mooney (see here to get an idea of what it looks like).  Stefan and I took off at about 10am and flew from Sugarland to Boerne, TX, just NW of San Antonio (about 1 hour in the air).  There we borrowed the airport car and drove to the SisterAcres winery and picked up a few bottles of (rather good) locally produced wine.

From Boerne, we took a quick hop to Llano (20 minutes), a tiny burg in the hill country.  We swung by Cooper's Pit BBQ, where they, well, BBQ stuff in big brick pits.  We got brisket, pork tenderloin, ribs, and chicken.  Dipped in sauce and then slapped on a plastic tray.  They wrapped it up for us in some trays and we were off.

Next stop was Brenham (another 20 minutes) where we grabbed a pecan pie from the on-site airport diner.  After that it was back into Sugarland and back to Stefan's where the playgroup had assembled.  Then we ate, had some wine, and tried to keep children from mangling each other or the poor dog.

The flight was great. You get to see everything on the ground, and can see how the climate completely changes from swampy/humid in Houston to scrubby/dry out in the hill country.  It was windy, so one of the landings was a little bumpy, but otherwise it was pretty slick.  There is a lot more to flying one of those little planes than you'd think.  Especially around Houston, you have to stay alert at all times for instructions or requests from the air controllers (and yes, its the same controllers working the commercial flights).  The information input is overwhelming, and by the end of the day I had some ability to translate the communications Stefan was getting from the controllers.  But only a little. 

By the way, the BBQ is unbelievably good.  I'd drive the fours hours to pick it up.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Brittle Bones

Apparently the Vollrath family is prone to breakage. Last night Abby "fell" off of the Smart Cycle (stationary bike thing that attaches to the TV as a video game).  She broke her clavicle.  It's not severe, and she'll heal up just fine in a few weeks.  She's got a sling to wear, but that's about all we can do.  Lot's of pain, lots of crying, but she's held up like a trooper so far.

I said "fell" because sources have informed us that foul play may be involved.  We're still waiting for CSI:Bellaire to clear the scene, but we have one primary suspect, a 3' 1" blond female caucasian.

Auto Bailout Down the Tubes

Thank God.  Sorry to Michigan, but this was always a stinker of a plan.  Let's throw $14 billion into three companies that rightfully belong in bankruptcy so that they can.......go bankrupt three months later than we expected. 

Just to be clear, there was nothing about the bailout that could have altered the fundamental problems of US automakers. These seem to be three-fold:
1) High costs per worker.  This is not because current auto-workers are paid ludicrous amounts of money. Those actually working for the Big Three earn about $56 an hour in wages and benefits, while workers at Japanese plants in the U.S. earn about $49. Not a huge difference. The problem comes because in addition to the $56 per hour, the Big Three pay about $17 per worker hour in benefits to retirees. It doesn't matter how much they restructure their existing labor force, that $17 per hour has to be paid.  The bailout doesn't address this.
2) The Big Three make relatively crappy cars.  Quick, you want to drive an Olds? Why does Olds still exist? Hummer? Buick? Seriously, the vast majority of cars made by Detroit suck. This is unfixable by the bailout - and no, making greener cars doesn't help this.
3) Foreign auto-makers have better production systems.  They are more efficient at design, procurement, and production.  Nothing about the bailout changes the relative advantages of the foreign firms.

I, for one, am glad it failed. Let them go to Chapter 7 or 11 and then the market (not some government appointed car czar) will decide whether the pieces of GM, Ford, and Chrysler are worth picking up. In the meantime, go ahead and pledge money to garuantee benefits if you want.

As a total aside - shouldn't the car czar really be called the "auto-crat"?

Lego for Everything

See here for an interesting comparison of recently "troubled" governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich and a Lego mini-person.  Eery coincidence, or something more sinister?  Are the Danes trying to inflitrate Midwestern governments?  I report, you decide.

Poor Chinese People

No, I don't mean "poor" as in "not a lot of money", but "poor" as in "sad and put upon".  The Chinese government has issued numerous statements over the years about how some other country has "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people", which apparently is a classic mis-translation into English of what the Chinese really mean (something more along the lines of "you're a d-bag").

This site has counted up the number of times people have officially hurt the feelings of the Chinese.  Not surprisingly, Japan came in #1 (with 43 instances - or roughly twice every three years since Communist China was founded).  The USA is #2 with only 23 times. 

We can do better!  I challenge everyone to offend the sensibilities of the entire Chinese nation as much as possible. We're the USA. We should be #1!!!   We don't send professional athletes to the Olympics to finish #2 do we?  Come on America, let's get a move on!

We're all gonna die! (part II)

So the economy is looking worse and worse. Jobless claims are up to their highest levels since the early 1980's, or depending on how you measure it, the 1950's.  Regardless, the recession is on and looking bad.

How do we recover from this?  Well, the federal government is mulling over a large ($800 billion?) fiscal stimulus bill that would have the government start spending on things like infrastructure, health care, etc. to get the economy moving.  The intellectual back-up for this comes from the Keynsian multiplier.  That is, every dollar of government spending becomes income to someone else (a business from whom they bought concrete to build a new road), who then in turn spends this (on your salary), and you spend this on things like TV's and take-out Chinese food.  The original $800 billion stimulus actually generates an extra (1+x)*$800 billion in economic activity. "x" is the Keynsian multiplier, and your average macro textbook will tell you that x could be as big as 1 or 1.5  (So we could get $2 trillion in new economic activity by spending $800 billion). 

This all hinges on the size of x - (by the way, theoretically we think that "x" is bigger for government spending than for tax cuts, so that is why Obama is focusing on spending).  But this site, run by two really good economists reviews some research that suggests that "x" may actually be zero.  That is, $800 billion in government spending could only generate $800 billion in new GDP.   That's still good - but not the bang for the buck that you'd like. 

So when you are listening to the news about the fiscal stimulus, it is useful to realize that much of the discussion can essentially be boiled down to asking how big "x" is.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Always, always, always check you child's work before they go back to school:

In this case, Mommy works at Home Depot, and little Sparky drew Mommy selling snow shovels to a host of maniacal stick people.  
What? You thought it meant something else?  Dirty, dirty mind.

Monday, December 1, 2008

In Defense of Kirstin

This is for Kir, who gets worked up over this kind of stupidity.

From Slate:
      If you're like me, you grew up worrying about people starving in other
      countries. Your mom would tell you things like, "Eat your food. There are
      kids going hungry tonight." But hunger, as a global threat, is now
      dwarfed by overweight. According to Popkin, the population of obese and
      overweight people worldwide—1.6 billion—is now twice as large as the
      population of malnourished people.

An interesting fact, perhaps.  But if true, then there are about 800 million under-nourished people in the world, while the population of malnourished people is 1.6 billion + 0.8 billion = 2.4 billion.  The prefix "mal" means "bad" or "incorrect" or "wrong".  Like malfunction, or malignant, or malcontent, or maleficent. It does not mean "under".   Anyone with poor nutrition is malnourished, and their actual weight is immaterial.

Stupid interweb.


Sig sent this site along.  I'm not sure I wanted to know this much about poop, but there you have it. 

Multimedia Review

Finished a few books worth mentioning:
1) The Reformation, by Diarmaid MacCulloch.  Hefty tome on religious history from about 1500 to nearly 1700. A very interesting review of what the Church looked like before the Reformation, and then a suprisingly readable walk through Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and others as they break with Rome.  Two reactions to the book.  First, it is quite clear from this history that most of the Reformation consisted of political entities using a religious controversy to extract themselves from Popish intereference.  Second, the various Protestant sects were willing and able to fight about nearly every single meaningless detail of the liturgy.  It strikes me that it was a bunch of stubborn German(mainly) academics who refused to acknowledge the other guy might be right.  It reminds you of Churchill's comment along the lines of: "The arguments are so intense precisely because the stakes are so small."

2) The Big Con, by Jon Chait.  This starts out as a quick history of supply-side economics, showing that Jude Wanniski and Arthur Laffer were essentially hacks.  Their crackpot ideas (just lower taxes and everything will take care of itself) was latched onto by Republicans - NOT because Republicans believed in their soul that low taxes are right - BUT because Republicans realized they could win elections by telling people they would cut their taxes without cutting spending.   From there the book wanders off into Chait's own screed about the failures of modern media to call the Republicans on this.  Regardless, it is a quick interesting read, and highlights for you how intellectually vacant the whole Laffer curve and supply-side economics argument has always been.

3) The Horse, The Wheel, and Language.  This should really have been a more interesting book. The author is an archaelogist who is summarizing the arguments from academia regarding the "homeland" of the Indo-European language.  This primitive Indo-European langauge is the "mother" language of Sanskrit, Hindi, Persian, Latin, English, German, French, Spanish, and pretty much most of the rest of Europe.  His argument is that the steppe-living people of the area just north of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea were the originators of this language, and that their adoption of horses to both ride and pull wagons was the impetus that pushed their culture and language out into new areas.  The book, though, is thick with archaeological detail that stuns with its boredom. Nothing like reviewing the various pots found in an ancient garbage dump on the Volga river to really bring the story to a screeching halt.  It's too bad, because a better, shorter, pithier version of this book would probably be really interesting.

Also have seen several movies recently:
1) Iron Man - finally got to watch the DVD.  For a Marvel comics action movie this is pretty good.  And it is all Robert Downey, Jr.  He is fantastic, and makes the movie worth watching.  Otherwise its just as clunky as Daredevil.
2) Quantum of Solace - saw this in the theater.  For a Bond movie, it is really good.  Daniel Craig is excellent, and I enjoy the rough and tough Bond more than the Roger Moore befuddled gent routine.  Only moderately superfluous action sequences (the plane chase has no purpose), but the opening car chase is great.  Well worth your money and a bucket of popcorn.

Thanksgiving Debriefing

The big innovation this year on Turkey Day was deep-frying a turkey.  We borrowed a gigantic crawfish pot and propane burner from some neighbors, stoked up about 9 gallons of peanut and canola oil to 370 degrees, and started frying anything we could get our hands on. 

We learned a lot of things doing this frying:
1) You cannot overestimate the amount of oil you need. (Thank you to Randalls for being open until 4pm)
2) High-temperature resistant silicone gloves are essential
3) Deep-fried turkey is really good - BUT, for the effort involved, I'm not sure it's worth it.  We also had smoked turkey and a regular roasted turkey, and the fried turkey was not that much better.
4) Have a really deep pot (like we did) to fry a turkey, because oil shoots out of the turkey's butt when you put it in
5) Deep fried mashed potato balls are incredibly good.  They have earned a spot on our regular T-giving menu.  So puffy.  So tasty.  Mmmmmmmmmm.....
6) On the other hand, deep-frying a Reese peanut butter cup is not worth the trouble.
7) Hanging outside with your fryer is a nice way to spend Thanksgiving.  We chucked everything in there - onion rings, jalapenos, mushrooms, candy bars, the turkey, mashed potatoes.  If Abby and Maddie had not been careful, I probably would have battered and fried them too