Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pizza in the Kitchen

Lynn wrote to explain she's on a strict budget to pay for summer camp for her kids (one's going to basketball camp, one's going to band camp and the youngest feels he should be able to go to camp too so he's going to summer camp). Traditionally, Saturday was pizza day and they'd order two large pizzas from Pizza Hut and have a salad ("which the kids largely ignored"). So to save money for the children's camps, she bought Jiffy pizza crust mix last weekend and it was a disaster.

She was wanting help. First, I have and do use Jiffy pizza crust. But I think the instructions (after the adding of water) are pretty much useless. So here's what you do (she tried this Thursday and it worked for her the same way it has for me), you mix the water and the mix as described on the box. You do not wait five minutes as the box instructs. You wait at least an hour. Put the bowl in the oven. You're not cooking it, you're just putting it in there so it will rise. I usually put a hand towel over the top of the bowl. You can leave it for an hour or more. I have a very large family and I can tell you that you can mix three boxes (add the equivalent water for three boxes) in one bowl with no problem. I'd usually whip up six boxes (two bowls). After you let it rise for at least an hour (I've forgotten and let it go three hours once with no problems at all), you need a work space that the box really doesn't explain. Here's what you do, use a large surface, such as a table or, I prefer, a large cutting board place in the sink. Flour the surface you are using. Empty the bowl onto the floured surface. Now knead it, punch it, roll it, twist it. I do this for about ten minutes then divide up the dough. If you're only using one box of mix, you don't need to divide it up. If you're using more than one, divide the dough by the number of boxes you've used.

Now after the dough rising, this is the hardest step. You need to pizza pans (and can get those at most grocery stores). In a pinch, you can use a square cookie sheet, but I don't know why you would. So, for me, using three boxes, I have three sections which I roll into a ball. I oil (olive oil) the pans. This isn't standing in grease. This is a light oil. I then put one bowl in the center of pan and use my hand to flatten it and spread it out. What will happen, during the early days especially, is as you spread the dough out to fit the round pan that you will be left with holes. Tears you piece together -- just grab two ends and press them together. But holes, you're going to have them until you get good at it. And you don't need to panic because we're going to take care of it.

You do not now begin making the pizza. You take the uncooked dough and cook it in a 425 degree oven for five minutes exactly. The box says two to three minutes. The box doesn't know what it's talking about. After five minutes (exactly), you remove it from the oven and set it on a stove burner (cold stove burner). This is when you will begin to assemble the pizza. The first thing you will notice is that the holes, as the crust baked, went away. That's why you don't need to worry about them. (I'm talking about holes the size of a nickle and smaller.)

The sauce. Lynn tried using tomato sauce (from a can) it didn't work. She tried using a brand sauce from a jar, it was too sweet. That's because most pizza sauce isn't sauce that goes on top of pasta. It's a tomato paste watered down. So I'd suggest you buy a small can of tomato paste (1 for each pizza) empty the contents into a bowl (you'll need to scrape it out), then add two cans of water. (An alternative will come up in a minute.) You can also add oregeno or "Italian seasonings" to it as well. Mix it. It will be runny. That's pizza sauce.

The trick here (unless someone prefers their pizza to be mainly sauce) is to now spread it on the cooked crust. This is not a thick coat. Do not worry when it's a thin coat. (To spread it, you can use a spatula or the back of a spoon.) Now it's cheese time. (If you're using cheese.) Mozarella is my favorite, it's what I always have on hand and what I use on pizza. If you want to experiment, go for it. But it is tomato sauce, cheese and then toppings.

Here's where Lynn is lucky. Though her kids mainly ignore salad they really don't care for meat on their pizza. If you (or your kids, or you girlfriend or boyfriend or husband or wife or . . . ) does, you can buy pepperoni (which doesn't need to be refrigerated as long as it is unopened) and Canadian bacon (which does need to go in the fridge) in the meat department at your local grocers (same aisle that the bacon and sandwich meat is on). If you're using meat, add it before vegetables. Unless you're making a meat lover's pizza, remember every inch isn't covered with meat. Those who skip meat and those who add meat are now at this step, non-meat toppings. Black olives and green olives can be bought in cans and jars. When I'm using black olives, I add the juice from the can to the tomato paste (for the sauce) instead of water. If you haven't bought these sliced, you'll need to. You can buy canned mushrooms that are sliced as well. You can also use fresh mushrooms. (You can use both on the same pizza.) Fresh bell peppers can be sliced up. Jalapeno peppers can be used (if I'm making six pizzas, they'll be on two because not everyone likes them). You can use any vegetable topping you enjoy but -- no fresh tomatoes. They will not cook in the time you have left for the oven. I don't care for sundried tomatoes on my pizza but if you're wanting tomatoes, use those instead.

You're pizza is now ready to be cooked. You've already cooked the crust for five minutes so ignore the box when it says 20 maximum. You're going to cook for 12 to 15 minutes. (Judge by the cheese.) After that, you're reading to cut the pizza and serve. (With children, you may want to let it cool a bit before serving.)

One more thing. I do love anchovies. Have you tried ordering an anchovy pizza lately? We generally use one of two places when we're ordering pizzas, or we used to. Back in December, my husband attempted to get anchovies on one pizza and was told no. They weren't going to open a can for one pizza. What? Well we don't order from them anymore (even when we're not getting an anchovy pizza). But if you like anchovies, you can buy them at the grocery store (in a tin, same aisle as the tuna). With those, same drill. Put the sauce on, put the cheese on, and then put the anchovies on.

Now the dough was fixed for Lynn Thursday. She's trying my sauce suggestion today and, fingers crossed, she's taken care of. Billy has e-mailed before that too many choices are too scary for him because he's new in the kitchen. If anyone needs less choices: put on the sauce, put on the cheese, put on slices of fresh bell pepper, sprinkle some semi-circles of white onions, and then sprinkle some black olives on. You're not attempting to cover every area of the pizza.

As Elaine noted, C.I.'s "And the war drags on . . ." is probably my favorite entry of the week. We both love it. Women need to use their voices to call out the illegal war. If they refuse to, they're not "women," they're little girls. Or they are women who want to look like little girls. As my son Mike's "The faux who are our foes" noted, the day of the vote, the day of the Democratic sell out, Katrina vanden Heuvel elected to write about . . . American Idol. Knock-knock, is there a grown up home? Judging by her post, no there's not. Just a little girl trying to look cool and failing because, as the Washington Post noted yesterday, American Idol had six million less viewers than the year before. Woops! It's as though she bought a pair of blue jeans to fit in only to find out that she bought the wrong brand! Maybe next time she can just try acting her age. I believe she'll be 48 this year. Is that not disgraceful? A 48-year-old woman who edits and publishes a political weekly, deciding to blog the day Congress votes on whether or not to continue funding the illegal war, and Katrina vanden Heuvel is off writing about American Idol. That's pretty disgusting. Maybe the Mud Flaps will grow up someday but, at 48, it's a little too late to hope that Katrina vanden Heuvel will grow up. And why didn't she mention Diana Ross? Certainly Diana Ross was bigger than Smokey Robinson in her lifetime. Smokey left the Miracles and had a long spotty patch where a hit would pop up only every few years. So reading her gush and include the womanizing Smokey Robinson really puzzled me. We're not talking a Lionel Richie here (someone more suited to vanden Heuvel's era) who raked up tons of big hits.

The Miracles were really over before the 70s began. "Tears of a Clown" (which is too ooom-pa-pa for my tastes) was a hit in 1970 but you can find it on a 1967 Miracles album. (That should be Make It Happen and if it's not, I'll hear about it from my husband.) That really covers their only important song from 1967 until Smokey leaves the band in 1972. Followed by two albums no one remembers (that had no hits) then two minor top 40 hits from A Quiet Storm (1975), followed by 4 flop albums (no hit singles) then, finally, the biggest hit of his solo career up to that point (1979's "Cruisin'). Flop album. Followed by another album with his biggest hit of his solo career "Being With You" (number two on the charts). Next album flops but has a minor top 40 hit ("Tell Me Tomorrow"). Three more albums, all flops, no hit singles. Then 1987's One Heartbeat which should be called two songs ("Just To See Her" -- big top ten hit and the title track less so -- Smokey got help on the songwriting for this album). Nonstop flops ever since and now he records gospel. But there was Katrina vanden Heuvel acting like she was a huge Smokey fan, remembered all the hits and the question is, "What hits?" She was ten in 1969 and the Miracles were really over by then. What she's remembering. Less than ten minor top forty hits spread out over the 70s and 80s? From the time she was 15 until she was 23, Diana Ross had three number one hits, huge number one hits: "Love Hangover," "Upside Down" and "Endless Love" (the last number one for nine weeks). In addition to that, during those years, Diana had other songs that were top 40 hits ("I'm Coming Out," "Why Do Fools Fall In Love," "Mirror Mirror" being only three examples that springs to mind -- my husband is going to love me for this post -- he talks like this whenever he drags out his vinyl). So it's more than a little surprising that Katrina vanden Heuvel wanted to pretend that she grew up on Smokey when she wasn't a teenager in the sixties (although, there again, Diana Ross was bigger in the sixties than was Smokey). But if seems strange that she'd gush over a bunch of males while ignoring the most popular female singles artist of the 20th century (Billboard magazine), you just need to remember that Katrina vanden Heuvel publishes a magazine that prefers male writing over females -- roughly four men for every woman published. So it's not that surprising that she completely omits Diana Ross while pretending she grew up loving Smokey. Again, he was a womanizer (he's supposedly found Christ and stopped that as well as cocaine), maybe Katrina vanden Heuvel considers that a plus?

So Congress sold out this week. Some members didn't. An intro for this:

Don't miss hearing Dennis Kucinich on NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! this weekend, May 26-27. Check here for local broadcast time in your area. You can also listen online.

Also this week, Dennis Kucinich took to the House floor to speak for one hour about the theft of Iraqi oil. I'm pulling from the end of the speech because I'll assume you've either read it all already or you read the first part. If you didn't read all the way through, here is the ending:

Mr. Speaker, the last 50 minutes that I have spent talking about the effort to try to privatize Iraq's oil, if you go to one of the search engines, you can find perhaps 1 million different citations relating to this. So it is impossible to cover this kind of a subject, even in a period of an hour. But it needs to be said that this administration has pushed the Congress to put language in funding bills for Iraq that would set the stage for the privatization of Iraq's oil.
I am going to quote from the first war supplemental, that the President shall make and transmit to Congress a determination, No. 2, whether the Government of Iraq is making substantial progress in meeting its commitment to pursue reconciliation initiatives, including enactment of a hydrocarbon law. Then under subsection (b), it says if the President fails to make this determination, the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of our Armed Forces from Iraq.
In other words, privatize your oil, or we are leaving you without having a security and peacekeeping force to replace the United States Army.
In the second supplemental, the administration language promoted the President transmitting to Congress a report in classified and unclassified form, article 2, whether the Government of Iraq has enacted a broadly accepted hydrocarbon law that equitably shares revenues among all Iraqis.
Now again, they don't talk about what the real purpose of the Hydrocarbon Act has been. It is not about sharing revenues equitably; it is about a complex restructuring of Iraq's oil industry for the purpose of turning Iraq's oil over to private oil companies.
Finally, in the third supplemental that is before this Congress this week, there is an article from the Senate side that relates to Iraq oil, and I quote: "The United States strategy in Iraq shall hereafter be conditioned on the Iraqi Government meeting certain benchmarks." And one such benchmark, "enacting and implementing legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources of the people of Iraq." And it goes on to pay homage to the issues of equity and ethnicity.
Madam Speaker, it is clear that the people of Iraq are under enormous pressure to give up control of their oil. When you consider that there was no cause to go to war against Iraq, that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, that Iraq had nothing to do with al Qaeda's role in 9/11, that the administration kept changing the reason why we went into Iraq, and here we are, years later, we are still in Iraq, and enormous pressure is being put on the Iraqi Government to privatize their oil.
I am here to say that there is another path that can be taken, and that path is part of
H.R. 1234, a bill that I have written that would enable the war to end by Congress determining that no more money will go for this war, telling the administration that it must open up diplomatic relations with Syria and Iran, and moving in a direction where we put together an international peacekeeping and security force that would move in as our troops leave. And then we set the stage for real reconciliation that cannot come with the U.S. serving as an occupying army.
We have a moral responsibility to the Iraqi people whose country we have ravaged with war to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars of damage, whose people may have experienced the loss of perhaps as many as a million Iraqis during this conflict, innocent people, whose social bonds have been torn asunder. We have a moral responsibility to work to bring about a program of reconciliation between the Sunnis, Shiites and the Kurds which can only come when we end the occupation. We have a moral responsibility to bring about an honest reconstruction program, absent the U.S. contractors who have been gouging the Iraqi people, and gouging the American taxpayers as well, but we have to make sure that the Iraqi people have control of their oil.
I would like to believe that this war has not been about oil. I would like to believe that there was some kind of a righteous cause connected to what we did; but I know better, and the proof is in this Hydrocarbon Act.
This Congress has an opportunity to finally take a stand and reject this Hydrocarbon Act. We can strip out this provision forcing Iraq to privatize its oil. We can strip that out of the legislation. Or we can simply defeat the legislation because that is in there, and then go back to the boards and tell the President, look, Mr. President, we are not going to give you any more money for this war, which is what I believe we should do. Tell the President, this war is over, Mr. President, and use the money that is in the pipeline to bring the troops home. Let's go and reach out to the international community. With the end of the occupation and the closing of bases, we will have people who will start listening to us internationally, and we will have some credibility.
But the morality which this country rests on, our heart and soul of who we are as Americans, is not reflected by this obscene attempt to steal the oil resources of Iraq. That is why I have chosen to take this time to come before the Congress, to lay these facts out for Members of Congress and for the American people so that you can see without question the relationship between war and this oil and the relationship between the pressure that is being put on the Iraq Government right now and privatization and the continuation of the war.
Let's end this war. Let's end the attempt to control Iraq's oil. Let's challenge the oil companies in this country as this House has done this morning. Let's take a stand for truth and justice. Let's take a stand for what is right. Let us not be seduced by this idea that somehow we have the military might, and we can, therefore, grab other people's resources. That is not what America is about.
America has a higher calling in the world. It is time we began a process of truth and reconciliation in our own country, in reaching out and creating the healing of America. But we must first begin with the truth, and the truth is what I have told this Congress today.
Madam Speaker, thank you.

If you haven't read it all, I urge you to. In a week of cowardice, Kucinich did stand up, one of the few.

Now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" from Friday:

Friday, May 25, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, 63% of Americans favor withdrawal from Iraq in the latest poll (even if the New York Times buries that fact), in Shreveport a self-check out is arrested (the fourth for the year), the US military announces more deaths of US service members with May already being the second highest month for American troops deaths, and more.Yesterday, both houses of the US Congress demonstrated how quickly they can act . . . when anything stands in the way of their own vacation. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) notes today, "Congress has approved nearly $100 billion dollars in war spending through September without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq." Goodman notes the final House vote was 280 for and 142 against and the final Senate vote was 80 in favor and 14 against. In addition, Democracy Now! provided clips of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi -- who demonstrated that sneering at science and academics isn't solely a GOP thing as she used the ridiculously low figure of "over 100,000 Iraqis" dead when the study conducted by the British medical journal The Lancet placed the figure, last year, at over 655,000 -- and House Minority Leader John Boehner -- who demonstrated he could stay "on message" ("terrorists!") even while sobbing like a guest on the daytime TV circuit speaking of their 'personal' battle with an addiction -- Boehner apparently being addicted to illegal war, mass killing, and fantasy. Evelyn Pringle (CounterPunch) observes, "Congress has demonstrated its unconditional love for the Bush administration by handing the war profiteers another $100 billion worth of good reasons to keep the war in Iraq rolling along at full-throttle. [. . . ] And the statements in speeches made by members of Congress while debating the bills don't mean anything because 95% of Americans never hear those speeches. Honest politicians should be out screaming to any reporter who will listen to educate Americans about where the hundreds of billions of tax dollars have ended up. This war is 100 times worse than Viet Nam. At least with Viet Nam, the war profits were not being funneled over the backs of our dead soldiers in plain sight directly into the bank accounts of current and former members of the administrations in power at the time. Nor were they being funneled to the family bank accounts of the Presidents who were in office during the Viet Nam war." The BBC notes that, following the grandstanding of Congress and the Bully Boy, "Hours later, the US military reported the deaths of five soldiers in Iraq." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid laughably announced of the bill that fully funds the illegal war and makes the Democrats equal partners in Bully Boy's illegal war, "The days of blank cheques and green lights for his failed policy are over." By which Reid appears to mean that the US Congress has instead handed Bully Boy a debit card and asked kindly that he please not visit the ATMs too often.The Democrats full bodied, naked embrace of the illegal war comes at a time when the American people turn ever more against the illegal war. The public began turning against the war in 2005 and, since then, the opinion has only hardened. A CBS poll this week found that 76% of Americans polled felt "the war is going badly" -- an increase of ten percent -- and 61% maintain that the US "should have stayed out" of Iraq. A CBS poll? Well the New York Times has finally agreed to allow their names back on the joint polling and somehow managed to avoid all the media critics who must have been sleeping while CBS issued one poll after another on Iraq the last few months while the paper of little record appeared to suddenly be poll shy. Though they weren't called out on that, they should have been. The poll is, indeed, a joint-poll by CBS and the New York Times -- as were the recent polls billed just as CBS polls because the paper really didn't want to cover the American public's ever growing opposition to the illegal war. But they've put their names back on the poll. And gladly run it . . . under the headline "Poll Shows View of Iraq War Is Most Negative Since Start" . . . on page A16 of today's paper. To no one's surprise at the paper, Janet Elder avoids it like a plague so it's left for Dalia Sussman to write it up. The paper hasn't been in the news business for over a century, it's in the management business and Sussman's happy to do her part. Which is how her ridiculous write up can avoid the issue of withdrawal which the poll found [PDF format warning for the link] 63% of Americans favor (32% wanted no timetable for withdrawal -- Bully Boy's approval rating was 30%). 63% of Americans favorite withdrawal from Iraq? Sounds like a front page headline. (Sussman doesn't even note it in her laughable write up until paragraph nine where it's noted for two sentences and then never built upon or mentioned again.)Not only isn't it a headline, the Times (again) buries the poll deep inside the paper. When they refused to run with the joint-polling over the previous months, questions should have been asked but possibly people don't actually read the Times anymore, they just visit links? Though this poll doesn't make the front page, another does, on immigration. (The Times is working overtime to sell the Congressional efforts to strip immigrants of their rights -- including immigrants that are American citizens because they were born in the United States.) 63% of Americans say a timetable needs to be set for Iraq withdrawal and the Times publishes that on the same day that the Congress votes to continue funding the illegal war and drops any mention of withdrawal. The poll's not news? 76% saying the illegal war is "going badly" and 61% say the US never should have invaded Iraq and Congress elects to do nothing but it's not news?Well why not? 3 American soldiers went missing two Saturdays ago -- in an attack that killed 4 others and 1 Iraqi translator, and the paper didn't front page that until seven days after it happened. One of the 3 has now been declared dead and the paper's not interested in front paging that either. (The search continues for the 2 still missing.) However, Michael Gordon's unsourced speculation that Moqtada al-Sadr was in Iran is front page news -- despite the fact that it has no named "American official" source to it, despite the fact that it doesn't include the news that al-Sadr spoke in Kufa today (calling for US troops to leave Iraq). Our Rona Barrett of the Grey Lady leaps to the front page with a story proclaiming al-Sadr has been in Iran despite the fact that, as the BBC noted today, "This was never confirmed."Exactly whom is Gordo working for because, for a reporter, he appears to miss a great deal? Last week, one of the world's oldest think tanks, Chatham House, issued another report. As expected, the same mainstream media that ignored the previous report (taking Tony Blair to task for getting in bed with the United States and becoming nothing but a lackey to the Bully Boy) foamed over the mouth on this one (including Gordo's own paper -- maybe he can't read?)
The PDF format report "
Accepting Realities in Iraq" included a heading entitled "Muqtada al-Sadr cannot be ignored" -- a position Gordo appears to share. However, Chatham House argued that due to his base, popularity and influence, al-Sadr cannot be ignored and strong efforts should be made to bring him into the political process. (Yesterday's news that puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki was replacing the six ministers from al-Sadr's camp who had resigned would indicate that al-Maliki also hasn't read the report.) This at a time when Gareth Porter (IPS) reports that al-Sadr (a Shi'ite cleric) appears to have strong support from the Sunni resistance with the binding factor being their joint demand for US forces out of Iraq. Porter is offering an analysis and building on (and crediting) work done by Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) at the start of this week. Also at the start of the week, Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via CounterPunch) broke the news that in 2004, the US military attempted to assassinate al-Sadr in Najaf which, surprisingly?, never made it into the New York Times.But then, so much of the violence doesn't -- the real 'hidden violence' despite the Times' laughable claims last Saturday.Bombings?While the US military attempts to divide Baghdad by 'walls' (over the objections of the puppet of the occupation), some Iraqis attempt to divide the capital by bombing bridges. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) notes the latest bombing -- "the bridge linking Al Adil and Al Khadraa neighborhoods in west Baghad" -- as well Baghdad mortar attacks that killed 4 people (15 wounded), and a Baghdad explosion that killed 1 person, a car bombing in Muqdadiyah that killed 4 police officers (6 civilians wounded).

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that three farmers were shot dead in "the orchards of Um Al Romman village". Reuters notes that a tribal sheik was shot dead in Falluja.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 20 corpses discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes two corpses were discovered in Latifiya.
Reuters also notes the following announced deaths of US service members in Iraq (all announced today): 2 US soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad (Thursday), 1 US soldier killed in Nineveh Province by a roadside bomb (Thursday), 1 US soldier killed by a Baghdad roadside bomb (Tuesday), 1 US soldier killed by in Salahaddin Province by a roadside bomb (Thursday), and 1 US Soldier killed by gunfire (Thursday) in Diyala Province. The six deaths add to a mounting count for the month which ICCC calculates to currently be 93 for the month thus far. Only April has had more US military fatalities with 104 and, of course, May still has six days left in it. ICCC's count for the total number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war stands at 3444.
Among the victims of violence are women though they remain the true hidden victims.
Kasia Anderson (TruthDig) interviews Yanar Mohammed (Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq) and asks early on the obvious (though usually unasked) question, "How did the onset of the Iraq war change things for Iraqi women, specifically?" Mohammed replies, "Well, although people on this part of the world think that Iraqi women are liberated, actually, we have lost all of the achievements or all the status that we used to have. It is no longer safe to leave your house and get groceries. We're not speaking here about a young woman trying to reach the university, because that is beginning to get too difficult. We're not speaking here about women who are trying to go back and forth to work and even those of my friends who do that already because they have to--many of the police at work are being killed for sectarian reasons. So, you have to witness all sorts of atrocities just going back and forth to work, and if there is this new [policy] of Sunni and Shiite, checking all the IDs of people, you leave the house and you do not guarantee that you come back safe. [. . .] Well, the myth of democracy has killed already half a million Iraqis, and if it were giving us real democracy, where people are represented according to their political affiliations or their economic understanding or their social justice affiliations, that would have been understood. But the way Iraqis are represented is according to their religion and their ethnicities. It is as if the U.S. administration is trying to tell the whole world that Iraqis are not entitled to political understanding or political activity. The political formula that was forwarded to us is a total insult for a part of the world where the politics are very much thriving and all kinds of politics--with the dawn of the war, thousands of political parties have registered. And they all wanted to be competing, or let's say running into democracy, but who was empowered, who was supported? It's mostly the religious and mostly the ethnic groups, and the women's groups? The U.S. administration wasn't really interested to speak to, let's say, free women's groups. They preferred to bring decorative factors to the parliament, where they look like women, but they all voted for a constitution that is against women. And the constitution at this moment has imposed Shariah law upon us, when in the times before the war we had more of a secular constitution that respected women’s rights. So, it's one more thing lost for this war."
Yanar Mohammed mentioned university students.
On Tuesday, the Ibn Al Haitham college faced a mortar attack in Baghdad that left at least 4 students dead and at least 25 wounded while, same day, an attack, in Baghdad, on a mini-bus claimed the lives of 9 students (including two female students). On Wednesday, Baghdad's National Theater was attacked with mortarts leaving at least one person wounded. The theater is where college students and recent college graduates have mounted a new play, The Intensive Care Unit, which castmember Rita Casber described to Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) as "Our play is a miniature of our reality. It conveys the reality the people in Iraq are subjected to." Londono noted that Casber is the sole woman in the cast and late to the cast -- she joined only after death threats (over the 'crime' of wearing a tank top on stage) forced the original actress to leave the production.On the subject of schools, Alive in Baghdad intervews students at the girls' school in Baghdad, Safina Middle School. The link is not currently working, we'll quote the students next week. Last month, Alive in Baghdad interviewed Hameeda al-Bassam who works a private library in Baghdad and spoke of the difficulties she encounters traveling, in her wheelchair, through checkpoints and scenes of violence to arrive at work. She spoke of inside the library as one of the few places where the chaos and violence has yet to emerge and noted, with regret, that due to the violence she has had to curtail her work week. Please note that the videos have audio and an English translation at the bottom which can serve as closed captioning.Also on the subject of women in Iraq, the AP reported yesterday that Clenard M. Simmons was given a 30 year sentence after pleading guilty (April 5th) "to four counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of aggravated sexual abuse for five attacks from February 2004 to May 2005" which took place at Fort Hood as well as while he was stationed in Iraq and the victims were five female US service members. The AP noted that "Simmons attacked the soldiers in their barracks, groping and threatening them."Though frequently ignored and swept under the rug, women serving in Iraq are under very real attack from those serving with them. For more on this, see Jane Hoppen's "Women in the Military: Who's Got Your Back?," Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff's "The Rape of the 'Hadji Girl'," andAllison Tobey's "Serving in the Rape Zone" (Off Our Backs); Traci Hukill's "A Peculiar Version of Friendly Fire: Female Troops Face Double Danger" (The Progressive); and "Women and the military" (The Third Estate Sunday Review). And always look to what happened to Suzanne Swift. Swift went to Iraq wanting to serve her country (US) and quickly discovered that those above her expected her to serve them. Repeated attempts to stop the abuse and harassment resulted in no action (unless a course in how Swift could learn not to 'invite' harassment is considered 'action' -- anyone thinking it is should have their head examined). Swift self-checked out. As Sara Rich, Swift's mother, has noted, Swift wasn't against the illegal war. Swift wasn't saying, "I will not go back because I'm against the war." She checked out because when the military refuses to discipline their own, you have to take the situation into your own hands. To not do so would be 'inviting' harassment. There's not a (rational) woman alive who should be able to question Swift's decision to self-check out. She was abused, she was harassed, she was the victim of command rape, and the military did nothing. She went through channels and rather than disciplining the ones breaking the code of conduct (and exhibiting criminal behaviors) the military's 'answer' was to 'teach' Swift how not to 'invite' criminal acts upon her person. (Which is similar to the US military's refusal to punish those enlisted males who regularly attack women serving when the women go to take a shower. Instead of coming down hard and sending a strong message that the crime of rape is not tolerated in the US military, the military elects to caution women to 'buddy up' and never visit the latrines alone.) So Swift self-checked out, the smartest thing she could have done and no (rational) woman would say otherwise.Swift is now against the war and the treatment she experienced (laughably known as military 'justice') went a long way towards opening her eyes. In a climate that regularly rails against the military banning YouTube and blog postings, you might think the gag order imposed upon Swift would raise some righteous indignation but websites have largely been silent. Swift's mother, Sara Rich, is not gagged and Melissa Sanders (Socialst Alternative) interviews her -- Rich explains that her daughter's been extended in the military through January 2009 and, in response to a question about the "sexualized violence against female soldiers," rightly notes,"We're teaching guys about 18 to kill, and that killing's ok, before they are even allowed to legally drink. If you do that, I mean, who's going to tell them that raping isn't ok?"Along with Sanders' article, more information can be found at Suzanne Swift's website. (Which her mother runs and the military has no control over Sara Rich.)

Turning to the issue of war resisters,
The Shreveport Times reports that Jackie Leroy Moore was arrested in Shreveport today for self-checking out and that he is the fourth self-check out to be arrested in Shreveport this year. Though the military continues to undercount the number of enlisted choosing to self-check out (undercounts for the press, they know the privately held number), this is part of the growing resistance within the military to the illegal war. "It now appears that if this war in Iraq is to end, it will be our soldiers who will have to bring it about," observes Albert Petraca (JuneauEmpire). "Nowadays, our soldiers also know this war is lost. Thankfully, soldiers have begun to take matters into their own hands. From U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada's refusing deployment to Iraq, to the appeal for redress now circulating among active-duty personnel, to Iraq Veterans Against the War's recent decision to support resisters, we are seeing the initial stirrings of what will likely grow into a movement of soldiers in revolt. The Defense Department recently admitted that at least 3,196 troops deserted in 2006, with an 8 percent increase already in the first quarter of 2007. Plummeting enlistment standards are unlikely to fill this void. The life-altering decisions made by these brave men and women are, in many ways, even more difficult than those made by former resisters. Today's volunteer soldier, unlike Vietnam-era draftees, is too often callously scolded by the mostly comfortable for having freely signed a recruitment contract and, therefore, must suffer the consequences. This judgmental attitude reveals a profound disrespect for service men and women who answered their country's call based on a belief that their government spoke truthfully about weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi links to 9/11. We now know that the pretense used to play on their genuine feelings of duty was little more than a pack of lies."
Watada is part of growing movement of resistance within the US military that also includes Joshua Key, Terri Johnson, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson,
Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty 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.

Heads up, the latest
Bill Moyers Journal begins airing in some markets tonight (PBS -- each station can determine when they air an episode) and features Maxine Hong-Kingston. (Transcripts and video will go up at Bill Moyers Journal.)

Finally, independent journalist John Pilger is on a speaking tour with his new book Freedom Next Time and his documentary Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror (which looks at DC, Afghanistan and Iraq). June 7th, he will discuss his book with Amy Goodman at The New School, Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street, beginning at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:15). Admission is $5 per person and students (with ID) can attend for free. Pilger will sign copies of his book afterwards and Amy Goodman will sign copies of her latest book (written with her brother David Goodman) Static. "For ticket information, contact (212) 229-5488 or For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or For more information, click here or e-mail"
June 11th, Pilger will be in Los Angeles at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (244 S. San Pedro St.) and will discuss his book and show his documentary beginning at 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm). The price of admission to the even is five dollars. "Directions, maps, and parking info at: by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, and The Nation Institute, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. For ticket information, call or visit the JACCC. Box office: 213-680-3700 (Box Office Hours: Monday - Saturday: Noon - 5 pm)For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or For more information, email"

June 13th finds him in San Francisco showing his film and discussing his book at
Yerba Beuna Center for Arts (beginning at 7:00 pm, doors open at 6:00 pm) and the price of admission is $15 general and $5 for students. "Presented by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, The Nation Institute, and KPFA, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. For ticket information, call 415-978-2787 or order online at In person tickets at YBCA Box office located inside the Galleries and Forum Building, 701 Mission Street at Third. (Hours: Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat & Sun: noon - 5 pm; Thu: noon - 8 pm.) For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or For more information, email"

From San Francisco, he moves on to Chicago for the 2007 Socialism conference. At 11:30 am Saturday June 16th, he and
Anthony Arnove will participate in a conversation, audience dialogue and book signing (Arnove is the author most recently of IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal) and that evening (still June 16th) at 7:30 Pilger will be at Chicago Crowne Plaza O'Hare (5440 North River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018) as part of a panel of international activists. To attend the conference, the fee is $85. For Saturday and Sunday only, the price is $70. To attend only one session, the cost is ten dollars. "Presented by The Center for Economic Research and Social Change, The Nation Institute, with support from the Wallace Global Fund. Co-sponsors: Obrera Socialista, Socialist Worker, International Socialist Review, and Haymarket Books. For ticket information, call 773-583-8665 or e-mail For media inquiries, contact (212) 209-5407 or For more information, email"

The Socialism 2007 conference will take place in Chicago from June 14-17. Along with Pilger and Arnove, others participating will include Dahr Jamail, Laura Flanders, Kelly Dougherty, Joshua Frank, Amy Goodman, Sharon Smith, Dave Zirin, Camilo Mejia, Jeremy Scahill, Jeffrey St. Clair and many others.