Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thomas Friedman, Living on the Five Finger Discount

Thomas Friedman is on a China kick. It all started when the new buffet opened up down the street. Thomas Friedman is nothing if not an all you can eat type of man, as any photo of him will attest.

I knew something was up last Thursday when he came strolling into the kitchen in sweat pants and a t-shirt that said "Baby Likes" on it. For Thomas Friedman, it was practically formal wear.
Rare is the day he squeezes into anything other than his silk shorty robe.

Leaping to my feet, I was scrubbing the kitchen floor, I immediately asked who died and what funeral we needed to attend. Thomas Friedman assured me that other than Bill Keller being "brain dead" all was right in the world, that a new establishment had opened up down the street and to grab my purse because we were going.

The hostess' name was Liang though Thomas Friedman insists upon calling her "Soon-Yi" repeatedly. He also insists upon telling the same lame joke each time we go, "Soon-Yi, in America we call this 'Chinese food' but in your country it would just be 'food!'"

Between that, his Soon-Yi comments, and just for being Thomas Friedman, Tuesday afternoon, Liang replied, "You know in China you would be called 'American bore' but in this country you are just a 'bore.'"

Thomas Friedman was furious.

"I will never come back to this communist cell!" he screamed as he piled his plate full of General Tso's chicken. As usual, he piled my purse full of shrimp which is bad enough but he tends to scoop it out of the ice with his hands and many ice chips fall in as well.

A lunch buffet to Thomas Friedman means you eat all you can there and swipe enough to have dinner on at home as well. He calls that "the free market at it's finest."

I have tried pointing out to him that what he's doing is hardly honest or honorable but he tells me I'm now "lost to the peaceniks." If I had any sense, he belives, I would have "catered" our dinner party last week by hitting a buffet with several large purses and backpacks.

What you or I might call free loading or, worse, theft of service, Thomas Friedman sees as "righting the market."

"The world is flat, Betinna," Thomas Friedman declared as I stared at his greasy mouth and the food flying around it. "Everything is fair game."


Like on Wednesday morning when he flew into a fit as I tried to watch Democracy Now!?

He was grumbling throughout the interview but he grew enraged at this point:

AMY GOODMAN: In the interrogations, you told the BBC that you met an Israeli working as an interrogator at the secret intelligence center in Baghdad.
JANIS KARPINSKI: Well, in a separate facility, not under my control, where the task force was originally assigned, I was escorting a general officer, who was not assigned in Iraq, but was making his last visits to different units, because he was getting ready to retire, and he asked to go over to this facility, because he knew a lot of the people that were working over there. And when the sergeant major asked if he wanted to see -- tour the rest of the facility, if I wanted to go with them, I declined. I said I would wait there in the foyer. And there were three individuals there, three men, and they had D.C.U. pants on, one of them had blue jeans on, and different shirts.
AMY GOODMAN: D.C.U. means?
JANIS KARPINSKI: Desert camouflage uniform, the desert military uniform pants. And one of them had a pair of blue jeans on. So I said, "What are you guys doing here?" And I said to this one individual, who looked like he was an Arab, I said to him, "Oh, are you a translator? Are you from Kuwait? Are you from Iraq?" And he said, "No, I'm not a translator, and I'm not from Kuwait or Iraq. I'm from Israel. And I work in this facility." So, I never -- he never told me that he was an interrogator. But that facility was likely used for interrogation. So, if he worked in that facility, you could conclude that he had something to do with interrogation operations, but he never told me that.

Thomas Friedman had recently attempted to have the last word, as he is so fond of, on the subject of not one Israli being in Iraq. As with so many claims he makes in his columns, I always think he would be better off researching some of his claims but apparently veracity isn't a big deal at the New York Times. Thomas Friedman says "facts weigh thought down" and attempts to write with as little actual thought as possible -- a technique that grows ever more obvious, if you ask me.

When that came up in the interview, Thomas Friedman started screaming at me that I was a "flaming insurgent, bordering on an anarchist, with one hand on your dust mop and the other ready to spray paint a lovely mink!"

He blames the "radical feminist" Gail Collins partly for my transformation. He also blames the trip to D.C. with Elaine and Gail Collins. But most of all he blames The Common Ills which is a web site that he feels "worries too much about the little nothings of the world." Strangely, he doesn't blame Democracy Now! but that's largely because he sees it as "a developing market" on which he could plug his book The World Is Flat. He has taken to sending Amy Goodman's "notes" which she obviously ignores but I'm sure they provoke much laughter each time they arrive.

All his finger pointing should be very tiring but when he feels he has been wronged, he can always muster the energy for an attack such as his column Wednesday.

Things were already tense Tuesday but he was determined to finish his lunch, all five plates and two bowls of won ton soup.

"I will get my money's worth!" he insisted between slurps.

I just wanted to go home before things got worse. But Thomas Friedman decided that we needed new silver ware and after he shoved several settings into my purse, he felt we also needed more plates.

It was at that point that Liang walked over and wondered exactly what the hell Thomas Friedman was doing.

"Should I call the cops?" Liang asked pointing to my purse.

"That is your answer to everything!" Thomas Friedman shouted, spewing won ton soup across the white table cloth. "You want to enforce authoritarian rule on everyone! You and your planned economy of 'I will spend this much on plates and that much on food and it will all be just fine.' Well that's not the way it works, Soon-Yi, in this country, the market decides demand! I will accept no apology from you!"

"I'm calling the cops," Liang said.

"I said I would not accept your apology! Go now, Soon-Yi, go!"

While Liang went to call the police, Thomas Friedman grabbed my purse and high tailed it onto the street.

"This is living, Betinna!" Thomas Friedman cackled as I attempted to hurry him down the street. "Living Hand to Mouth! Nothing else is even close!"