Saturday, May 19, 2007

Popcorn and Queso in the Kitchen

I had a nice e-mail from Pete on Tuesday. He was obviously young and wanted some help with recipes for next Friday night. I wrote back explaining I would like to help but I would need to know the kitchen set up and could he give me the e-mail address of his mother? When he did, Stacey, his mother, and I exchanged several e-mails.

Pete is nine-years-old and his sister's high school graduation is next week. While that's a very big deal, sometimes we can forget it's not easily apparent to everyone in the family. Pete was planning a get together with two friends who also have siblings who will be walking down the aisle next Friday. Stacey was surprised Pete was putting together a party but had no objections and think it will honestly allow them to make Friday a big day for all. "I just call it the 'Big day' right now," she wrote at the end of the week after we'd exchanged several e-mails.

She is comfortable with her son using the microwave and pleased he is wanting to prepare his own snacks so anything that could be microwaved was fine with her. All families will be eating a meal before the graduation so that leaves snacks after. (All graduates have their own plans for post-ceremony.)

Pete wanted cheese, he was very clear about that. So with that in mind and using the microwave, I have two recipes to suggest.

Parmesan Popcorn
Microwave popcorn
container of grated paremsan cheese

Pop popcorn in the microwave. Pour popcorn into a large plastic bowl. Sprinkle with paremsan cheese.

At first Pete felt cheated by that recipe. Then he tried some and he's on board with it now. Since cheese was a big ingredient for him and his friends, the big ingredient, I asked about chips and he said he loved queso. There are many queso recipes and I think a large number of us have started out with the tried and true one offered on the can of Rotel.

From the official ROTEL site, here is the recipe for ROTEL cheese dip.

1 lb. pasteurized processed cheese spread, (Velveeta), cut into 1" cubes
1 can (10 oz.) Diced or Whole RO*TEL Tomatoes & Green Chilies
Microwave: Place ingredients in a covered casserole. Microwave on HIGH until
cheese spread is melted, about 5 minutes, stirring once.

Pete was especially pleased with this recipe because it was "a real one" having appeared on the back of a can. Depending on how much and how quickly you eat it (they'll be watching DVDs during their party), it may need to be reheated. If reheating, use a spoon or fork to stir before reheating and pay attention to the edges of the dip so that those portions do not end up hardened and burned after cooking -- that will require more elbow energy when cleaning the dish. ROTEL makes mild, normal and spicy flavors. If their hot is not hot enough for you, you can add jalapeno peppers to the dish. You should use canned jalapeno peppers if you're not used to handling fresh. (If you use fresh, you know the seed issue -- they burn and, if handling fresh jalapenos, wash hands after and do not rub eyes while handling fresh jalapenos.) For more salsa taste, you can use two cans of ROTEL with the same amount of cheese.

Pete's mother was honestly surprised that her son was planning a party and planning to handle the food himself. Stacey wrote that graduations mark a passage of time but "obviously not just for the graduate." With 7 children already having walked down high school diploma aisle and my youngest finishing high school shortly, I will add that the younger kids, whether they act aware of it or not, are very aware of what's taking place.

They can also feel left out. Asking an 18-year-old to try to include their younger sibling(s) is a fight in futility. For most, this is "freedom." They've got their plans for the night post-graduation. Graduation day itself is running here and there and talking non-stop on the phone. Expecting that they're going to make time for or remember to (even if they want to) their younger siblings is like expecting a bride to greet all the guests before the wedding. It's not going to happen.

Nor should it. This is their day and they've been encouraged by us to get good grades, to study, to go to classes, etc. year after year so this is their light at the end of the tunnel. By mid-week after graduation, expect moping and confusion -- that's generally when it sinks in that the world didn't change. That's a natural response. As the parent, you can make that comedown easier by preventing nah-nah moments from the younger brothers and sisters. To do that, you should try to plan something for the younger ones. It might be something like the party Pete's having. It might be spending post-graduation with photos of your own graduation and sharing stories so the younger ones understand the process. But if you want the ingredients for household disaster:

Shower your graduate with non-stop attention prior to the ceremony
Ignore the younger siblings feelings
Repeatedly state, "This is ____'s big day"
Sprinkle generously with "You'll understand some day" without offering any explanations
Ask repeatedly, "What is your problem? Why can't you be happy for your sister/brother?"

Now younger teenagers are very good about nursing their petty grievances and devising their own "Someday" revenge plans so you may not need to worry about flare ups there. But even they can have the same lost feelings as younger children. What does graduation generally signal? Leaving home. It may mean they move out immediately, it may mean they go off to college. But something is changing and even young brothers and sisters are aware of that. So there are a lot of tensions you may not even notice.

I'd suggest you avoid statements like, "I know you're sad because you're thinking ___ is going to moving . . ." If you want to hear, "SO!" -- by all means say that. An easier way to address the issue is to bring it up in passing, and to describe it as your own feelings.

For the graduate? The comedown's going to happen. This is a happy and proud moment for a parent and you're going to enjoy it. So will they. But usually, mid-week post-graduation, they'll be a little on edge, a little moody, because it's sunk in that the entire world didn't change. There's not a lot you can do with that because that's something everyone has to realize. But you can spare yourself and them the nah-nah moment from younger siblings who have felt left out and been waiting for this "You're not all that!" moment.

Polling. Do you follow it? Do you fret over the ups and downs and try to figure out how to put your spin on it and deliver it in the pompous Tim Russert manner? If you're not interested in packing on forty-five pounds to really achieve that Russert "style," maybe you'd be interested in this from Dennis Kucinich:

For Immediate Release
May 15, 2005
BANDON, Oregon -- Dennis Kucinich was the winner in a straw poll of Coos County Democrats, following the county's annual Democratic Recognition Dinner May 12.
Kucinich gathered 26 percent of the votes to best the seven other Democratic presidential candidates, according to Matt Christensen, chair of the Coos County Democratic Central Committee.
Christensen said Kucinich led a tight top-tier race between himself and Sen. Barack Obama and John Edwards, who scored 24 and 23 percent, respectively.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson placed fourth with 14 percent, followed by Sen. Hillary Clinton (9 percent), former Sen. Mike Gravel (4 percent), and Sens. Joseph Biden and Christopher Dodd, who each received less than one percent.
While Oregon is a primary state, Christensen said the party used a caucus model to select a winner in the non-binding vote. He said during the dinner there were displays for each of the candidates and candidate literature was available. Following the dinner, participants had an opportunity to speak on behalf of their favored candidate prior to public balloting.
Kucinich was represented at the event by Ellen King of Vancouver, Washington, a member of the Kucinich national campaign organization.

You might not have heard of that poll. Presumably, people attending that function are following issues as opposed to someone bothered, usually in the middle of dinner, by a ringing phone and a voice they've never heard of asking for a few minutes of their time?

I've received several e-mails from people saying that they'd support Dennis Kucinich if they thought he had a chance of winning. I can only tell you what he said in 2004, if you vote for him, he is electable. That's how it works. All the hot air from pundits doesn't mean a great deal. If you've never grasped the 'experts' are guessing. That's why, post-election, they are frequently so wrong.

If you're someone who agrees with Kucinich's stand on issues and talk of what this country should be focusing on, support him in the primary. I say that because Jonas wrote that he doesn't want to waste his vote. I don't think you can ever 'waste' a vote by using it on someone you believe in. But if you do, fine. In the general election in November 2008, vote 'safe' (however that ends up being defined) but there's no danger in using your primary vote to register your support for someone you believe in. If enough people use their primary votes that way, Kucinich would be our candidate.

If you really don't think he can win the primary (I do think he can), also consider the fact that the stronger his showing is, the more the other candidates are going to have to move away from being lackeys for Big Business and start addressing the issues he is raising. I don't think you can "waste" your vote -- in a primary or a general election. But if your fear is about "wasting," the primary is a very "safe" place to send a message. You can find out more about where Kucinich stands on the issues by visiting his website.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" from Friday:

Friday, May 18, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, day 7 passes with no news of the whereabouts of the 3 missing US soldiers, the US miliarty announces more deaths, America's ABC announces the death of two of their journalists in Iraq . . .

US military announced that they were continuing the search "for three missing U.S. Soldiers who are believed to have been abducted . . . Saturday in Quarghuli Village". The soldiers remain missing. One identification that has been made is the fourth soldier killed on Saturday. CNN reports that he has been identified as Anthony J. Schober of Reno, NV.
CNN lists the three missing soldiers as being: Byron W. Fouty, Alex R. Jimenez and Joseph J. Anzack Jr. Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) notes: "The manhunt has involved an extraordinary array of resources, including helicopters, drones, manned aircraft, forensic experts, FBI interrogators and dogs that can sniff for bombs and bobieds."
Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that, yesterday, "the wear was showing, not just on the soldiers obsessed with finding their comrades but also on the hamlets that dot the region southwest of Baghdad, which is blessed with groves of elegant date palms and riddled with pro-Al Qaeda insurgents. Hundreds of local men have been detained for questioning, leaving women, children and legions of ferociosly barking dogs in charge of Iraqi towns such as Rushdi Mullah, a community of 86 households under a virtual siege by troops looking for their buddies."

snapshot noted: ". . . protests take place in Baghdad, . . ." That was it (my apologies). The protests were described yesterday by Thomas Wagner (AP): "In northern Baghdad, about 200 Iraqis marched down a street in the mostly Shiite neighbourhood of Shaab, shouting slogans and carrying banners demanding that the thousands of US soldiers conducting a security crackdown in the capital stop creating forward operating bases in neighbourhoods and searching homes for suspected insurgents and militiamen." Thursday protest resulted from the tensions that Susman describes today. Today was day seven of the 3 US troops being missing and, only on day seven, did the New York Times decide it was front page news (Damien Cave's "Hunt for 3 G.I.'s in Iraq Slowed by False Trails"). Also in the paper is Paul von Zielbauer's report on the just revealed story (AP broke this yesterday) about the army's investigation of the June 2006 attack and kidnappings (2 US soldiers) and later deaths revealed that the dead "had been left for up to 36 hours without supervision or enough firepower or support to repel even a small group of enemy fighters." No one in the Times draws the obvious comparison from the June 2006 events and the attack last Saturday. This despite the fact that the report on the 2006 attack noted the 25 minute arrival by the "quick reaction force." Last Saturday's attack took one hour before other troops arrived. Or one hour until Wednesday when the US military changed their story and began insisting that it took 30 minutes. The report on the 2006 attack wasn't criticizing the responders -- it was noted that the distance plotted was too great -- a command issue, not an on the ground issue. The same thing appears to have happened with last Saturday's attack.

As the war drags on, some work to end it.
Judith Scherr (The Berkeley Daily Planet) reports US war resister Agustin Aguayo took part in "a gathering Tuesday morning outside City Hall sponsored by the city's Peace and Justice Commission, Courage to Resist and the Ehren Watada support committee. The event was to celebrate the city's first Conscientious Objectors and War Resisters Day, an event to be observed annually every May 15." Monday, pre-trial motions begin for Ehren Watada -- the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq and the first officer to be court-martialed (in February, it ended in a mistrial and double jeopardy should prevent him from being court-martialed again). Also on Monday, airs Questioning War-Organizing Resistance from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm PST and will address the issue of war resistance with guests including Pablo Paredes, Michael Wong, Jeff Paterson and Camilo Mejia. More information can be found in Carol Brouillet's "Questioning War- Organizing Resistance- War Resisters Radio Show" (Indybay IMC).

Camilo Mejia's just released
Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia (The New Press) traces his journey. From pages 224-225:

Through media contacts from before I went underground, I had gotten the contact information for a man named Steve Robinson, a retired Special Forces veteran who led an organization called the National Gulf War Resource Center, which provides support to veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. Steve in turn put me in touch with Tod Ensign, the director of the soldiers' rights organization called
Citizen Soldier.
Thus a couple of weeks after the end of my leave I found myself on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue outside the address that Tod had given me over the phone. Looking at the building from the street, I thought at first I had arrived at the fancy headquarters of a well-funded organization. Once inside, however, I found that the
Citizen Soldier offices were quite modest. Furthermore, far from the uptight, heartless image I'd always had of attorneys, Tod turned out to be a down-to-earth kind of guy, with a big smile and a physical resemblance to Christopher Walken -- a similarity only enhanced by his heavy New York City accent. As a young attorney in the sixties and seventies, Tod had been involved in the Vietnam GI resistance movement, and had helped underground soldiers living abroad with safe passage back to the United States, a legal defense, and the means to get their stories out to the media.
As soon as I spoke with Tod the door to a new world opend up before my eyes. I went from feeling powerless and alone to realizing that there was a whole network of people and groups, from women's rights organizations and antiwar veterans to military families and religious groups, who all felt as I did about the war.
Tod and I discussed how I was going to handle my absence from the military. We agreed that I should do everything I could to avoid getting arrested and then give myself up voluntarily while insisting in court on my right to be legally discharged from the service. This strategy of surrendering myself would defeat the charge of desertion, which is roughtly defined as unauthorized absence from the military with the intent to remain permanently away.

Mejia has been taking part in a speaking tour that wraps up today:

Friday May 18 - Berkeley 7pm at St. Joseph the Worker featuring Camilo Mejia.

US war resisters are part of a growing movement of war resistance within the military: Camilo Mejia, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Joshua Key, 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.

Tod Ensign, who Camilo Mejia wrote of, also started up the
Different Drummer Cafe where a group of Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke in March. Eric Ruder (ISR) provides a transcript and we'll note Matt Hrutkay today:

About a week and a half ago I was browsing through the VA Web site. They have a section in there devoted to PTSD. It has a guide for VA medical providers, doctors, psychologists, etc. that are dealing with people coming back from Iraq having these issues. And they have in there an encouragment to physicians to diagnose people with "adjustment disorder," "anxiety disorder," and "personality disorder." The reason they're doing that is so they can claim that there was a pre-existing condition before I joined the army and my issues have nothing to do with being blown up twenty-one times.
According to statistics, 18 percent of soldiers coming back from Iraq suffer some form, mild or severe, of PTSD. That's 18 percent according to an army physician at the VA. Of those, add to that people like me who have multiple symptoms of this but still get diagnosed as it being "my own problem." Add to that, people who are scared to go to mental health clinics because of their chain of command, because they're scared they won't get promoted. Because they're scared their buddies will make fun of them. I think you can then see how much prevalent that issue is and what the numbers are probably more likely to be. I'm not going to say what percentage really have PTSD coming back because it would be a guess. But I think it's clear from my own experience that this issue is probably the most prevalent issue facing returning soldiers and it's being compltely ignored.

CODEPINK is in DC for the summer of activism and Rae Abileah shares, "Today when I was at Congress for a meeting I stopped by the underground subway between the House buildings and the Capitol as many Congressmembers were walking through to vote on something. Though I didn't have a specific bill to ask them about, I did shake many of their hands, and to every one I asked the question, 'Have you done something today to staop the war in Iraq?' 'Help us bring our troops home!' Because it is possible to walk these halls of Congress and feel very distant from the mere idea of war, it felt very effective be a constant voice about the conflict outside the passageway to the Capitol. Imagine if every time there was any vote in Congress, every member going from their office to the Capitol was confronted with the message that it is time to bring our troops home and get out of Iraq.
Our Congresspeople are for the most part behind the times in terms of public opinion about the war. Not only do we have to 'push' them to do the right thing, support key legislation, stop the war... we have to 'pull' them, by leading them towards the right direction. I envision hundreds of people here on a daily basis helping to pull Congress away from the Bush Agenda and towards peace. To increase our numbers from a dozen to a hundred... we need YOU! Click on the links to the right to find out how to join us in DC! Or raise a ruckus at your Congressperson's nearest office!" The links she was referencing are:

Apply to Join Us in DC
DC Pink House Info
DC Sumer Trainings
CODEPINK Women for Peace
Cindy Sheehan and a number of other individuals and organizations are working to make this summer one of activism and volume so that Congress not only grasps that the people have turned on the illegal war but that it is time to end it.

United for Peace & Justice notes:

Peace activists are surging on Washington DC -- to bear witness as Congress again takes up Iraq War funding and the Pentagon budget, and continues to hold hearings on civil liberties, torture, and more.
Click here for the latest legislative information.
May 15-July 31: SWARM on Congress
June and July: CODEPINK DC Activist House
UFPJ hopes you will get the word out: There is plenty to do in Washington, and a steady flow of people into the nation's capital will have a tremendous impact in the coming months. UFPJ endorses these efforts, and encourages other creative actions and projects, both in DC and around the country. (If you are organizing an action,
please post it on our events calendar.)

Turning to Iraq, two journalists who worked for the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) were killed in Iraq yesterday: Alaa Uldeen Aziz and Saif Laith Yousuf.
AFP reports they were "ambushed and killed as they returned hom from work at their Baghdad office" and notes: "At least 170 journalists and media professionals have been killed in the fighting that has gripped Iraq since the March 2003 US-led invasion, according to the watchdog Reporters without Borders." AP quotes Terry McCarthy (ABC correspondent in Baghdad) stating: "They are really our eyes and ears in Iraq. Many places in Baghdad are just too dangerous for foreigners to go now, so we have Iraqi camera crews who very bravely go out. . . . . Without them, we are blind, we cannot see what's going on." ABC notes:

Aziz is survived by his wife, his two daughters and his mother. Yousuf leaves behind his fiancee, his mother and brothers and sisters. Mike Tuggle, an ABC News producer who worked with Aziz, remembers a game of pool they played on his first trip to Baghdad.
"I had some down time and got into a game of pool with Alaa. He beat me badly. Just before he hit the last ball in he looked up at me and said, 'My name is Alaa Uldeen, but you can call me Aladdin, because I have his magic on the pool table," Tuggle wrote in an e-mail message.
"The balls they just disappear," Tuggle continued, "And his face lit up with that big smile of his."

In Iraq today . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a mortar attack at Abu Dhaba killing one ("5 were injured including children"). Reuters reports: "A suicide bomber blew up his vehicle at an Iraqi police checkpoint in the town of Mussayab, south of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding four police said."


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Baghdad, a police officer was shot dead in Baghdad, that following an explosion in Baghdad's Al Hurriyah, two people were killed (6 wounded), two police officers were shot dead in Al Wajihiya (2 more wounded) and Bku Shukr Saber ("Kurdish Iraqi army officer") was shot dead in Kirkuk.


Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports five corpses discovered in the Babil province. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 25 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and 15 corpses in Baquba.

Today the
US military announced: "While conducting operations two MND-B Soldiers were killed and nine others were wounded in separate attacks in the southern section of the Iraqi capital May 17. Three soldiers have been returned to duty." And they announced: "Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed in Diyala Province, Friday when an explosion occurred near their vehicle."

IRIN reports on the educational crisis in Iraq and quotes Baghdad University's Professor Fua'ad Abdel-Razak, "Violence and lack of resources have undermined the education sector in Iraq. No student will graduate this year with sufficient competence to perform his or her job, and pupils will end the year with less than 60 percent of the knowledge that was supposed to have been imparted to them."