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!"

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Sad news found in the paper

Yesterday, sad news.

"Rosa Parks: 1913-2005"
Rosa Parks, the Alabama seamstress whose refusal to sit down on a Montgomery bus sparked a year-long boycott that is considered the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, has died.

The above is from "Rosa Parks dead at 92" (Defenders News Service, The Chicago Defender).

From Bree Fowler's "Civil Rights Pioneer Rosa Parks Dies at 92" (Associated Press):

The Montgomery, Ala., seamstress, an active member of the local chapter of theNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People' National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was riding on a city bus Dec. 1, 1955, when a white man demanded her seat.Mrs. Parks refused, despite rules requiring blacks to yield their seats to whites. Two black Montgomery women had been arrested earlier that year on the same charge, but Mrs. Parks was jailed. She also was fined $14.
Speaking in 1992, she said history too often maintains "that my feet were hurting and I didn't know why I refused to stand up when they told me. But the real reason of my not standing up was I felt that I had a right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of treatment for too long."
Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system organized by a then little-known Baptist minister, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who later earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
"At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this," Mrs. Parks said 30 years later.
"It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in."The Montgomery bus boycott, which came one year after theU.S. Supreme Court's landmark declaration that separate schools for blacks and whites were "inherently unequal," marked the start of the modern civil rights movement.

From Cassandra Spratling's "Rosa Parks, civil rights heroine, is dead" (Detroit Free Press):

This gentle giant, whose quietness belied her toughness, became the catalyst for a movement that broke the back of legalized segregation in the United States, gave rise to the astounding leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and inspired fighters for freedom and justice throughout the world.
Parks, the beloved mother of the civil rights movement, is dead, a family member confirmed late Monday.
But already it's evident that her spirit lives in hundreds of thousands of people inspired by her unwavering commitment to work for a better world - a commitment that continued even after age and failing health slowed her in the 1990s.

From Jannell McGrew's "Parks' quiet courage helped change the world" (Montgomery Advertiser):

"She's gone, but she has left her footprints on the sands of time," said local civil rights activist Johnnie Carr, a close friend of Parks, after hearing the news of her death Monday. "What she did contributed so much to the success of whatever we did in trying to break down the segregated rules and regulations we had in the community and the world."

Parks was selected by Time as one of the 100 Most Important People of the Century.

More today:

Civil Rights Pioneer Rosa Parks 1913-2005
Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks has died at the age of 92. It was 50 years ago this December that she refused to relinquish her seat to a white man aboard a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested and convicted of violating the state's segregation laws. Her act of resistance led to a 13-month boycott of the Montgomery bus system that would spark the civil rights movement. The boycott would also help transform a 26-year-old preacher named Martin Luther King Junior to national prominence. In 1958 King wrote "no one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, 'I can take it no longer.''' Parks had been involved in the fight for freedom since the 1940s. She was active in the NAACP, helped raise money to defend the Scottsboro rape case and attended trainings at the Highlander Folk School of Tennessee. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said yesterday ''She sat down in order that we might stand up. Paradoxically, her imprisonment opened the doors for our long journey to freedom.'' Henry Louis Gates Jr called her "the Harriet Tubman of our time." After he was freed from jail Nelson Mandela recalled how Parks had inspired him and others in the South African struggle against apartheid. We'll have more on Rosa Parks in a few minutes.