I do try to pick the e-mails I can be helpful with. A woman wanted a recipe for sugar cookies. She's never made them before but she just knows that this is the Christmas to make them. I replied and noted that I would suggest anything in the world other than sugar cookies.
She tried it out on her kids Friday. They hated it. I wasn't surprised. My kids never enjoyed sugar cookies and they're older than her kids. When I was a kid, it was something to do. Today, you've got so many kinds of cookies -- and you can buy them in degrees of softness -- that sugar cookies really doesn't cut it unless you're kids already have a taste for them.
The woman had dreams of this becoming a Christmas Eve tradition. They'd gather in the kitchen, make the sugar cookies -- with some for Santa, and then reality intruded.
I'm all for cooking from scratch when you can and have the time. I just don't believe that you wait until the last minute and grab a recipe that your kids aren't going to enjoy (even if it turns out well) and tell yourself "This will be our new tradition."
Traditions usually don't come with planning, they just sort of happen. Yesterday, Mike, my youngest daughter (who doesn't want her name mentioned -- I had an e-mail asking why Mike is the only child named here and that's because the other seven say, "Mother, don't you dare mention my name!") and my husband were bringing the ornaments down from the attic. Our tradition is to put up the tree on the 22nd, no sooner.
How did that become a tradition? Being lazy. And when it was noted, we used as our excuse that one of the children has a birthday on December 21st so, we said, we don't put up the tree until after that birthday. I was talking to my friend Annie about that yesterday and their tradition is that they have gravy and dressing but no mashed potatoes. Why? One year, Annie burned the mashed potatoes. No one griped that there weren't any, so the next year, she didn't even bother to go through the trouble of peeling potatoes. Ten years on down the line, her oldest son has his girlfriend over who asks why there aren't any mashed potatoes and Annie's son says it's just their tradition.
Now if you want to go see The Nutcracker each year (we went through that phase about three years in a row and then it passed) or something like that, you might need to do some planning. But most traditions just happen and aren't imposed. Reading 'Twas The Night Before Christmas happened because my brother had a little too much egg nog one Christmas Eve and the children were a little too hyper so he grabbed the book and got them to circle around.
What I suggested to the woman was that, if she wanted a snack, she try it out each Christmas Eve until something sticks. But use things she's comfortable with and that everyone will enjoy. If everyone hates sugar cookies, you really don't want your tradition to be baking sugar cookies.
So she's going to the grocery store today and getting some of the presliced cookie dough.
My younger sister just called and said if I didn't mention her name I could use her story. She tried to make a tradition with chocolate chip cookies, which her kids did love. But, my sister will tell you this, she somehow missed the cooking gene in the family. It didn't matter how many batches she made or how closely she watched, she always burned the bottoms. She stuck with that tradition for five years until her daughter was explaining to a friend that the trick was you got a knife and scraped off the bottom of the cookies. At which point, my sister asked herself, "Do I want to be known as the woman who always burned the cookies?"
No. So their Christmas Eve tradition became hot cider and each one making a Christmas wish. Which is a really good tradition and one I always meant to borrow but never had the time. When you've got eight kids, you learn real quick that by the time you get them all at the table, you're exhausted.
If you're looking for an outing, caroling is good or going through the neighborhood and looking at Christmas lights. If you're a parent of a young child, before you get your heart set on any musical, think a moment about the videos your child is watching over and over and ask yourself if you're really ready to sign on to seeing one play over and over for the rest of your life?
Now, I did try turkey recipes. I have none to recommend. Left over turkey tastes like left over turkey. You can make an alfredo sauce, you can bake a casserole, you can toss it in a soup, it all tastes to me like left over turkey. If you're having turkey on Monday and you don't want sandwiches, send it home with guests is my advice.
This Christmas, US war resister Ricky Clousing will spend it with friends and family. Others won't be so lucky. Some troops will be in Iraq, some will be in Canada, some will be AWOL in America and 2964 are dead. That number is only going to increase each month that the illegal war continues. Bully Boy does not have the bravery to end the war he started. Next Christmas, are we still going to be wondering when this war is going to end or are we going to be demanding that it end?
I am very happy for Ricky Clousing. It is very hard to stand up and say, "The war is illegal and I won't serve in it." I think it's going to take even more service members doing that to end the war. I also think it's going to take us demanding that our Congressional representatives represent us and end the war. If you've not made your voice heard in 2006, I hope you will in 2007. If you've done something in 2006, contact your Congress person, march, demonstrate, I hope you will increase your activism this year.
The war started with lies. The lies are being exposed every day. This is from C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" Tuesday:
Starting in England where Tony Blair is coming under renewed criticism. Chatham House is a London based think tank that was created in 1920 which has just released a [PDF format] report grading the British prime minister's performance. Sophie Walker (Reuters) reports that Britian's Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett, has termed the report "ridiculously wrong." Which indicates how correct it is. Victor Bulmer-Thomas ("OBE . . . Director at Chatham House since April 2001") is the author of the report.
Tracing the emergence of Blair as Poodle to Bully Boy, the report examines the post 9-11 period and notes that the prisoners held in the gulag of Guantanamo Bay "barely raised an eyebrow in British government circles" nor did Bully Boy's State of the Union address (January 2002) prompt a reaction from Blair despite Bully Boy labeled Iraq, Iran and North Korea as part of the so-called 'axis of evil' when "the United Kingdom had diplomatic relations with the last two and there was no link between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the atrocities of 9/11." The report notes that "by mid-2002 Tony Blair had concluded that President Bush was determined to invade Iraq and that Britain needed to be a partner in this excercise. The British role was therefore to provide diplomatic cover and to enrol allies in Europe and elsewhere as far as possible. This was without a shadow of doubt the defining moment of Blair's foreign policy -- indeed the defining moment of his whole premiership. It will shape his legacy -- for better or for worse -- for many years to come."
The report further notes: "The problem Blair faced was not how to maintain European unity in the face of a threatened US pre-emptive war. . . . . Instead, the problem was how to obtain United Nations approval for a war of choice when NATO intervention was ruled out by French and German opposition. A case for human intervention could have been made, but that was unlikely to command support in the UN Security Council and could have provked a Russian or even Chinese veto. Instead, in close cooperation with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the decision was made to emphasize the need to eliminate Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction."
The report offers that, "in hindsight," the illegal war "was a terrible mistake" and that "the jury is still out" whether or not that call could have been made in real time because that depends upon how much Tony Blair "knew the claims about WMD were overblown or even fabricated." But diplomatic means were ignored ("Hans Blix was calling for more time for the UN weapons inspectors") and there was no threat to England ("even if Saddam Hussein had WMD, they were not directed at the United Kingdom"). Reviewing other areas, the Middle East in general and Afghanistan, Chatam House's report concludes that there has been no 'reward' to England for Blair's decision to throw his lot in with the Bully Boy: "The root failure, however, has been the inability to influence the Bush administration in any significant way despite the sacrifice -- military, political and financial - the the United Kingdom has made. . . . Tony Blair has learnt the hard way that loyalty in international politics counts for very little."
The BBC reports that Tony Blair has rejected the conclusions of the report; however, his comments demonstrate that he's not read it (it's only six pages) -- Blair says that the US needs to be a partner and the report doesn't question that. The report does note the importance of the European Union, the need to respect allies and the fact that Iraq ("disaster") resulted, for the British, from a failure to question (publicly) baseless claims and that working with the US did not require (and the report concludes will not in the future) "unconditional support for US initiatives." Blair, who will be out of office shortly, makes some self-serving claims about the Middle East and the report's already addressed that.
The report's release comes four days after Colin Brown and Andy McSmith (Independent of London) broke the news on the recently disclosed 2004 testimony of Carne Ross to the Butler Inquiry which stated that Hussein being "effectively contained" was a common view "among British officials" all the way up to the illegal war and that an invasion would result in "chaos" for Iraq (". . . Iraq would collapse into chaos") and that there was no threat "of CW [chemical warfare], BW [biological warfare] or nuclear material". All was known and all was ignored by Tony Blair who wanted the same illegal war of choice that the Bully Boy did.
I'm about to put in Friday's snapshot but I want to be sure everyone is aware of the Chatham Report and the news of Carne Ross' testimony. It does matter. Now here's Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for yesterday:
Friday, December 22, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; American military fatalities in Iraq hit 2964 -- 36 shy of the 3,000 mark and Condi Rice is pleased with that figure and want to see it go higher, HIGHER, HIGHER; a US war resister will be released from the military brig tomorrow; Carolyn Marshall demonstrates you don't have to serve in the US administration to be useless; and a remedial walk-through for confused visitors from yesterday.
Starting with news of US war resister Ricky Clousing. Joe Miller (Jacksonville's The Daily News) reports that Clousing "will be released from the Camp Lejeune brig on Saturday." As Bob Geary (Raleigh-Durham Indpendent Weekly) reported yesterday, there is a rally scheduled in Fayetteville (North Carolina) "midday Saturday to be greeted by human rights supporters at the Raleigh Friends Meeting House, 625 Tower St. (the street behind the Cameron Village Post Office). His reception is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., before he catches a flight from RDU back to his hometown of Seattle Wash." Once arriving in Seattle, as Courage to Resist notes, there will be a welcoming at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, 10:15 p.m. Saturday night -- "Concourse B., Baggage Claim 11."
Clousing self-checked out of the US military in June 2005 and, on August 11, 2006, announced he would be turning himself in. Following an attempt at turning himself in at Fort Lewis, Clousing was told to go to Fort Bragg. On October 12th, Ricky Clousing was court-martialed and has been in the brig since then. Like Ehren Watada, Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Mark Wilkerson, and Agustin Aguayo, Clousin is a part of resistance within the military that includes Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress next month. Information on past and present war resistance can also be found in David Zeiger's Sir! No Sir! which tells the story of war resistance during the Vietnam era and, in the new director's edition, also includes bonus material on Camilo Mejia's court-martial, interviews with Cindy Sheehan and Jane Fonda about today's war resistance, and more. The director's cut is availabe for $23.95 and the original version is currently available for $12.95.
Resistance within the military was the story of 2006 but too few were interested in reporting it or, let's face it, in reporting at all. Chatting on some charges, don't call it reporting, Carolyn Marshall (New York Times) continued to flaunt ignorance today, as well as what may very well be xenophobia, as she chirped away about 8 US marines charged in the November 2005 Haditha slaughter without ever noting a reaction on the part of Iraqis -- even a previously reported reaction. (Marshall does have a co-writer. Her past bylines indicate she grabs all the blame for the latest.)
On today's Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez rebroadcast an interview they did with Time magazine's Aparisim Ghosh about the Haditha massacre explaning (pay attention, Carolyn Marshall), "The more we dug, the more we thought something didn't quite add up." How so? The Iraqis "were killed in their homes, in their night clothes. The night clothes were significant because . . . women and children especially, are unlikely to go out in their night clothes, it is a very conservative society." "The victims," yes, Carolyn Marshall, Aparism Ghosh spoke with victims and eyewitnesses, "told us that the Marines came in and they killed everyone in sight." One young girl told of how the Marines killed everyone in her home except for her and her young brother. Click here for the full report from May 30th's Democracy Now! and we'll note what Dahr Jamail said in that discussion: "And the other really aspect of that, I think is important to note on this, is the media coverage, again, surrounding what has happened around Haditha simply because Time magazine covered it, and thank heavens that they did, but this has gotten so much media coverage, and in comparison, so many of these types of incidents are happening every single week in Iraq. And I think that's astounding and important for people to remember, as well."
If Carolyn Marshall needs futher examples of what real reporters do, she might also check out Majid Hameed (Reuters) who spoke with people in Haditha today. Khaled Salman declares, "Those soldiers killed 24 people. They killed women and children, isn't that enough for them to be excuted? Just so that the family can have peace." Her sister was killed in the slaughter. Hameed also notes a local judge, Talal Saed, who states, "They should be tried in Iraq and under the Iraqi law. . . . This is a show trial just to show that the Americans are doing something to be fair with Iraqis but it's nothing more than that."
Equally oblivious is the US Secretary of State. Yes, Condi Rice continues to flaunt her loose grip on reality. Her failure as US National Security Advisor (remember, 9-11 was on her watch) trails her as US Secretary of State. Mark Tran (Guardian of London) reports that Condoleezza Rice "said Iraq was worth the cost in US lives and dollars". Today, the US military announced: "Three Marines and one Sailor assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died Thursday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province." Also today, the US military announced: "An attack against a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol killed a Soldier west of the Iraqi capital Dec. 22. The Soldiers came under sporadic small arms and indirect fire during a patrol. One Soldier was killed and another wounded." Five deaths and Condi says it's worth it. The total number of US troops killed in the Iraq war is 2965 and Condi says 'It's worth it.'
As for the financial costs, the National Priorities Project has released their summary of the US federal government's budget for 2006 which notes ". . . the total cost of the Iraq War rose to nearly $380 billion. . . . Broken down another way, on average, the federal government spends about $11 million every hour on the Iraq War, $256 million each day, or around $8 billion per month."
Condi's statements about things going swimmingly come as the BBC reports that at least seven Iraqi police officers were arrested by British troops in Basra due to suspicions of "corruption and leading a death squad in Basra."
While Condi proves she's useless in every position, Bully Boy hopes and prays that Santa Clause will bring him a way out of the illegal war he started so that he can announce some new 'plan' in 2007. 75 US troops, who lost their lives this month so far, won't be able to wait for that news. It is the deadliest December for US troops since the start of the illegal war and December isn't over.
And in Iraq?
AP notes that two people died and four were wounded in a car bombing in Samarra while two police officers were wounded in a roadside bombing in Baghdad. Reuters identifies the two dead in Samarra from the car bomb as Ahmed al-Yaseen and his wife (name not given) and the four wounded were their children while also noting that two police officers were killed in Samarra from a roadside bomb and, in Suwayra, a bombing left five people wounded. Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that an explosion in Baghad "targeting police patrol in Al Saadon street, central Baghdad" left eight citizens wounded.
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Hiba Abdullah was shot dead while in her car in Baquba and her two-year-old son Mohammed Ahmed was injured.
Reuters notes that the corpse of a "hospital employee" who was kidnapped Thursday was discovered today in Kut. Christopher Torchia (AP) reports that 21 corpses were found in Baghdad, Baquba and Kut today.
CNN reports that iman Emad al-Shimari was kidnapped "at a Sunni mosque in northern Baghdad after Friday prayers."
In peace news, Veterans For Peace announces that they, CODEPINK, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Working Assets were able to purchase 24,000 phone cards which "were distributed to 149 VA hospitals nationwide."
Also in peace news, Guy Smallman (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports that England's House of Lords has determined, three years after, that the police response to a March 2003 demonstartion against the war was "illegal and the protesters' human rights were violated. Lord Bingham has described the police's actions as 'wholly disproportionate' and said that the right to protest is 'an essential foundation of a democratic society'."
In let's-walk-the-vistors-through-real-slowly news (for visitors lost yesterday), the US government wants to sideline Muqtada al-Sadr. Iraqis want foreign troops to stop occupying their country. This week US troops ceded control of Najaf to Iraqis. As the BBC reported yesterday, an attempted end run around al-Sadr took place yesterday when Shia leaders met with Ayatollah ali al-Sistani in Najaf. For visitors who got lost in the basic yesterday, note this from Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP): "In Najaf, Shiite delegates were meeting the country's top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, to ask for his blessing for the new coalition. The deal would excluse al-Sadr, but participants sought to reassure him that it would not sideline his influence". Today, Lebanon's The Daily Star reports that following the meeting with al-Sistani, the same group of leaders will meet with al-Sadr and discuss with him the possibility of a one month truce/cease fire. Already one part of the plan has been enacted, al-Sadr's followers announced yesterday they would return to their cabinet and parliamentary functions. If it's still too hard to put together, the AFP reports: "US officials have made it clear that they favour a realignment in Iraq's unity government, which would exclude Sadr and his Shiite militia". Despite that desire and the Pentagon report blaming al-Sadr, Nouri al-Maliki refuses (thus far) to heed the US call. And, as AFP reports, "this week Iraqi politiicans trampled down to the Shiite holy city of Najaf to talk to Sadr's allies and encourage him back into the coalition." To review, in an attempt to win the favor of al-Sistani and his followers, US forces handed control of Najaf over to Iraqi forces. The US government's hope was that al-Sadr would then be shut out in the talks that took place on Thursday, that a new coalition would be formed which would sideline him. That, however, did not happen. Another bet Condi made that someone else will have to pay off. For visitors still confused, Sam Dagher (CNN) reports: "'President Bush is being misled,' senior Shiite parliament member Ali al-Adeeb said in response to Bush's statement Wednesday that an emerging 'moderate coalition' would marginalize those who 'use violence to achieve political objectives'."
iraqricky clousingsir! no sir!
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