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My husband Thomas Friedman, gone but not gone far enough away.
He's found a new woman to dress up like, k.d. lang. I happen to love "Constant Craving" and her work with Tony Bennett. Doesn't mean I'd want to be married to someone who dresses like her.
But Thomas Friedman's decided to 'butch up' and I learned that not from him, who fortunately I haven't seen since last week, but from Gail Collins.
Poor Gail, she never saw it coming. Maybe the bushy brows, really "bushy brow," obscured her view.
She phoned all week.
Monday, she was so sure "Davy" could "no longer ignore the call of his loins."
He'd come up to her that day and, noting the love of large farm animals she'd once told him of, wondered if she'd ever thought of living on a farm?
"Betinna," Gail gushed, "I know he's planning his future and seeing me in it!"
Poor, clueless Gail. Once again not grasping that the "I like farm animals" line I fed her was my little joke on her. Her brain was like a mocking bird, beating fast, hovering but never really landing.
I got off the phone quickly with the excuse that I had an exam the following day.
Tuesday, she was at my door.
"Betinna, he brought up the farm again!" she chirped as she fluttered around my living room. "He even asked me if I knew JC Watts from the film 'Baby Boom.' You know what that means, right? He wants us to move to the farm!"
I tried to correct her that, in 'Baby Boom,' Diane Keaton's character doesn't move to a farm in Vermont with a man in tow. I also attempted to point out that Keaton's move comes only after she loses her job, her power job. Might David Brooks be attempting to tell her something?
"Oh, you're confusing movies," Gail insisted. "You're thinking of the one she got the Oscar for."
'Looking for Mr. Goodbar'?
No. In that one Keaton dies at the end, never sets foot on a farm. She does have sex a number of times and a jock strap clad, young Richard Gere might make the ending less harsh but there's no farm in the film.
"Well, it's one of the Woody Allen movies," Gail said dismissively.
She wanted to talk, instead, about the worry line that "Davy" was developing between his brows. She said it made him look "more intense" and reminded her of Mr. Darcy and then she was off in Jane Austen land and I tuned out thinking she would never get a life.
Forty minutes later, I must have forgotten to say "uh-huh" because she hissed that I wasn't listening.
I told her I was tired. She told me she'd seen my husband Thomas Friedman and explained how he was dressing like a female Elvis. Right away, I knew he'd dropped his Patty Hearst phase and switched to k.d.
She was bothered that I wasn't interested in hearing more.
Wednesday brought an excited call.
Davy had told her that, quote, "Sometimes people have a lot more to offer than they recognize and I think that's probably true of you."
"He gets me!" Gail squealed. "He really, really gets me! He gets my deepness. He gets my complexity. He gets the woman, he gets the girl!"
I was getting that my original suspicion that he was clueing her into a change coming down the pike was correct.
I thought of explaining to her that just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean that people aren't out to get you but she was already mad at me for asking how safe her job was?
"I am the most powerful woman in the newspaper business!" she snapped. "I edit the editorial page of the nation's paper!"
Yeah, and she writes weak ass editorials, takes orders from the editorial board (she got really mad when I reminded her of the time she was taken to the woodshed for getting a sandwich wrong -- mustard on pastrami) and really does nothing with her position.
She hasn't increased the output of women on the op-ed pages.
She hung up on me. No great loss.
But she called back to insist that "just being a woman and doing this job is feminism!"
No, sounds to me like it's Gail Collin-ism.
I pointed out that, most weeks, she ran two pieces by regular columnist Maureen Dowd and two pieces by women doing guest columns.
"Sounds pretty good to me," she pouted.
Monday through Saturday alone, there are at least four op-eds each day. Two are regular columnists, two are guests. Forgetting Sunday, that meant twelve guest columns ran each week. Two of those were usually women. Did she think that was a good record?
"Yes, I do, Betinna. Yes, I do. It's feminism! It's feminism because I'm picking the ten men whose guest columns I run each week. This is called 'progress.' Get it?"
No, I honestly didn't. And I reminded her that long before she ever started at the "New York Times," before Anna Quindlen was a contributer even, the paper had provided one token woman.
"We still have that!" she insisted.
I know they do. It's Maureen Dowd these days, it was Maureen Dowd before Gail got put in charge.
But, for instance, what if she had brought a woman columnist on board as a regular? She could have, when William Safire retired, she could have. She insisted that she had to replace him with a conservative, John Tierney.
I pointed out that when Bill Keller became executive-editor of the paper, he was replaced with David Brooks, a conservative. Was she calling the middle-of-the-road Keller a "conservative"?
No, she wasn't.
"All I know is that you introduced two new regular columnist. As the editor, you had a say in who got hired and who didn't. And both times, you went with White male, and both of them were conservative."
"Are you trying to play the race card, Betinna? Why do your people always do that? Is this your way of getting back at me for never noting Coretta Scott King's passing in an editorial or commissioning an op-ed about her passing?"
"Actually, Gail, I'm playing the woman card, not the race card," I said getting angry as I remembered how she could find time to write about the death of a friend at the same time she was ignoring Coretta Scott King's passing. "And if you want to know what I really think, I think you're a fraud. I think you're a phoney. I think a lot of women hoped you'd make a difference, hoped you used your power. But you weren't interested in anything but being the Queen Bee, the exception, as though you were so damn threatened that if another woman stood out, you wouldn't be noticed. I think you're disgusting. I think when you had two positions to fill and you went with White males both times, I think you proved you were disgusting and sexist."
"You don't know what you're talking about," Gail snapped at me. "I wrote a book on women who lived in the early part of this nation's history."
"Yeah, dead and gone. The way you like your women, so that they can't outshine you."
"Feminism owes me big! I am a breakthrough lady!"
"You're a queen bee who didn't do anything except push your own agenda. You didn't raise one woman up from the ranks. You're a joke."
"Well your husband doesn't think so! I know for a fact that he's been talking to Keller and higher up about me and the fact that 2008 will be an election year. He's reminding them how important that will be for the paper."
"Thomas Friedman hates you. If he's talking about you, that just means that the paper's firing you."
"You sure do know a lot for a colored woman from New Jersey!" Gail huffed.
"What did you say?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, the term is 'African-American.' Well you already called me racist for ignoring the death of Coretta."
"Gail, you are a racist and you're a sexist and you're a queen bee. But what's this about New Jersey?"
Gail gasped and hung up the phone.
What was that New Jersey remark?
Did Gail know something about my life? Or was it a put down? Yeah, she's from Drew Carey's home state but she loves to picture herself as Carrie Bradshaw and the ultimate New Yorker. Was it a put down or did Gail know something?
She wouldn't return my calls. Thursday morning, I saw Davey Brooks "2008: The Prequel" and knew it was all over for Gail. The paper was making a big push for the 2008 election, which was two years away, and that was obvious by the fact that their economist continued to make electoral predicitions.
I figured I'd go confront her on the New Jersey remark and find out what she meant by that.
I arrived as she was packing her office. The word had come down.
"I wasn't fired," she hissed glaring at me, "I was demoted. There's a difference."
"I'm sorry," I said.
"There's a difference!"
She threw a leatherbound copy of "Emma" at me. If Gail was hurling Jane Austen, you knew it was serious. She didn't even bother to pick it up off the floor.
"I made a difference," she spat out apparently at me but she seemed to be attempting to convince herself with some inner dialogue vocalized out loud. "I proved that a woman can do it. She can do it. I made a difference and I shook things up. I left an impression."
I was pissed, both because of the New Jersey remark and because that book had come dangerously close to hitting my head.
"You leave nothing. You broke down no barriers for women on the op-ed pages. When you started the paper had one regular female columnist, Maureen Dowd, and you leave with the paper still having only one female columnist. All you did was bank a check and let the paper hide their sexism behind your name. You were just a name on the masthead."
Gail looked at me strangely. She was pissed. She had her head slightly down and her nostrils were flaring. She looked like a horse. She looked like Bo Derek trying to act. Obviously, Gail had been watching MyTV's "Fashion House."
Picking up her box, she walked up to me, looked me up and down, and then snarled, "Betinna, dear, go fornicate yourself."
Cackling, she strode out of what had been her office for five years -- already it was being repainted. There would be no trace of her left behind.
The official story was that she needed time to finish a sequel to her book -- that no one bought or read. She was supposedly stepping down and, no surprise, her replacement was a man.
I thought about how when, she became editor of the editorial pages, six men were regular columnists and only one woman was. I thought about how, when she started, broadcast television had three evening news shows and three male anchors. As she leaves, while the ratio at the paper is still one woman to six men, Katie Couric finally breaks through to become the first woman to be the sole anchor. More progress was made in broadcast TV than at the paper of record while Gail Collins was in charge. If there's any justice, that will be remembered when her badly written sequel comes out and some women feel the need to offer something nice just because she was 'a break through.' She never did anything with her position. Two columnist spots had to be replaced while she was in charge, both went to men.
Friday, I turned to the op-eds and there was my husband Thomas Friedman's "The Energy Mandate" confirming that he had been behind the ouster in his attempt to 'butch up.' His man date was with James Carville and Stan Greenburg and with the three of them (and not a woman even mentioned) hopefully someone got to second base.
She won't take my calls so I have no idea what New Jersey meant. As for the Queen Bee herself, she got stung. I put on Tori Amos' "The Bee Keeper" and danced around the apartment.
Is it sweet sweet
Sweet the sting
Is it real your infusion
Can it heal where others before have failed?
If so could somebody
Shake shake shake me sane
'cause I am inching ever closer to the tip of this scorpion's tail
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills)
Friday, October 13, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; a coroner finds US forces guilty in the death of a reporter; war resister Ricky Clousing was court-martialed and sentenced yesterday; a British general grabs the headlines with his thoughts on Iraq; southern states in the US are polled on the war; Iraqi police continue to be an issue; and is that friendly person marching in the protest 'cool' or military intelligence?
Starting with Ricky Clousing who faced a court-martial yesterday and was charged with desertion but pleaded to AWOL. As the AP noted last night, Clousing will be confined for three months and "receive a reduction in rank before getting a bad conduct discharge." April Johnston (Fayetteville Observer) notes that the location Clousing will be defined has yet to be determined and charts the awakening of Clousing faced with realities in Iraq and his own spiritual beliefs which led him to self-check out "for nearly 14 months" before he turned himself in. Laurie Goodstein (New York Times) covers the awakening as well and notes that the military took the case seriously: "Yet the military prosecutors made it clear on Thursday that the stakes were high. Although they did not challenge his motives, they said if one young soldier disilluioned by the reality of war could give up the uniform punishment, what of others?"
Of course the military saw that the stakes were high. Clousing is part of a movement of war resistance within the military that only continues to grow. The US military grasps that. Does independent media?
Goodstein interviews Chuck Fager of the Quaker House who took Clousing's call: "This call was unusual. . . . I don't have these kinds of probing discussions about moral and religious issues very often. . . . I said to him, you're not crazy or a heretic for having difficulty reconciling Jesus' teachings with what's going on in Iraq."
Last Friday, war resister Darrell Anderson was released by the US military and informed that he would face a dishonorable discharge. Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo and Ehren Watada are war resisters currently awaiting word from the US military.Courage to Resist covers all public war resisters. Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Patrick Hart, Kyle Snyder and Corey Glass are among the war resisters who are attempting to be granted asylum by the Canadian government.
War resistance and other efforts to end the war come at a time when the American public has turned against the war and polls have tracked this trend for too long and it's too firm for for it to be shaken. CounterPunch News Services reports on a new poll from the Institute for Southern Studies and the School of Public and International Affairs at North Carolina which finds: "56% of Southerners believe the U.S. 'should have stayed out of Iraq'"; "Southerners are skeptical about the goals of the Iraq mission"; and "62% of respondents in the South said they were 'very sad' about the course of the war". CounterPunch reports: "The results signal a shift in Southern attitudes towards Iraq. As recently as July 2005, a Pew Center poll found 53% of Southerners believed using military force against Iraq was 'the right decision,' the highest level of support in the country."
Next week, October 19th, Vietnam war resister Dave Dellinger will speak about "Resistance to War in a Volunteer Army" at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South in Manhattan from seven pm to nine pm.
As the resistance grows, more voices speak out from all places and all areas. Richard Norton-Taylor and Tania Branigan (Guardian of London) report on the surprising statements of British General Richard Dannatt who "dropped a political bombshell last night by saying that Britain must withdraw from Iraq 'soon' or risk serious consequences for Iraqi and British society. In a blistering attack on Tony Blair's foreign policy, Gen Dannatt said the continuing military presence in Iraq was jeopardising British security and interests around the world." The BBC reports: "Tony Blair has said he agrees with "every word" the new head of the British Army said on the Iraq war. But the agreement depends upon a watered-down interpretation of the remarks. Regardless of how the remarks are interpreted, Australia's ABC reports that Chatty Cathy Brendan Nelson, who holds the title of Defence Minister in Australia, doesn't care: "So long as I remain Minister, we are there to see the job through." Of course, should the military inquiry into the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco do its job and apportion accountability (don't hold your breath), Nelson might not "remain Minister" for very long.
Last Friday, Nicholas Walshe testified at an inquest in London that he'd seen ITN reporter Terry Lloyd "shot in the head by US troops as he was driven away from a gunfight." Lloyd was killed March 22, 2003 as was Huseein Osman who was acting as interpreter. Fred Nerac, the camera operator, has never been found. CNN reports that Andrew Alker, the coroner, has ruled: "Terry Lloyd died following a gunshot wound to the head. The evidence this bullet was fired by the Americans is overwhelming."
Lynn Lloyd, wife of the late Terry Lloyd, is quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald stating that the US military "allowed their soldiers to behave like trigger happy cowboys in an area in which there were civilians travelling." The Pentagon denies any wrongdoing took place. CNN reports that Chelsey Lloyd wants justice in the death of her father and has stated of the US military: "They did not come to this inquist to explain their actions. Let them now do so in our criminal courts where they are guaranteed to get a fair trial." The BBC reports that the killing has been called a war crime by the National Union of Journalists and notes a statement by David Mannion ("editor in chief" ITN): "I have no doubt it was the fact that the vehicle stopped to pick up survivors that prompted the Americans to fire on that vehicle. I would also like to say something that I know Terry would have wished me to say. Independent, unilateral reporting, free from official strictures, is crucial; not simply to us as journalists but to the role we play in a free and democratic society."
Terry Lloyd died in March 2003 -- one of the early fatalities. And the chaos and violence continues.
Reuters reports that a bombing of police station in Hilla resulted in six deaths and 12 wounded. A later Reuters story reports the number wounded dropped to ten -- because two more moved over to the death column for a total of eight dead. CBS and AP note that the bomb was placed "under his [police commander] desk or chair, apparently by someone who evaded security". And the US military announced today that soldier died in Iraq on Thursday from "an improvised explosive device." [The death brought the US military fatality count to 46 for the month and 2759 since the start of the illegal war.]
Christopher Bodeen (AP) reports that two girls and six women were shot dead in Suwayrah (while two more were kidnapped), "a father and his two sons" were shot dead by in Baquba while another two people were shot dead elsewhere in Baquba.
CNN reports that, in Dhuluiya, the corpses of 14 people kidnapped on Thursday were discovered "dumped in an orchard". Reuters notes that seven corpses ("riddled with bullets") were discovered in Balad and another two were discovered "near Garma, near Falluja".
As the violence and chaos continue in Iraq, James Gordon Meek (New York Daily News) reports: "The Bush administration plans to shut down a highly successful Iraqi police academy in Jordan even as security in Iraq worsens, the Daily News has learned. The Jordan International Police Training Center near Amman will stop training Iraqi police recruits this year, having already graduated 40,000 cops from its eight-week course since 2004, U.S. officials confirmed." Meek notes that the Baghdad Police College "has to be rebuilt because of bungled construction." Confused? This follows Griff Witte's September reporting (Washington Post) on the issue of Parsons' "botched construction of a $75 million police academy in Baghdad so badly that human waste dripped from the ceilings" and, therefore, "posed a health risk".
This also follows the news from last week that the Eighth Brigade of the Second Division of the Iraqi National Police was the primary suspect in a mass kidnapping leading even the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, Willie Caldwell IV, to declare:
"There was clear evidence that there was some complicity in allowing death squad elements to move freely, when in fact they were supposed to be impeding their movment. It was realized that removing them from Baghdad would, in fact, enhance security." The 'answer' then was 'retraining.' Retraining where may be the question to ask today. Of course, as James Hider (Times of London) noted last week, "US forces have been re-training the Iraqi police, but the programme has had little impact". Most recently, reporting on the mass slaying of the employees of the Baghdad TV station, both Kirk Semple and Qais Mizher (New York Times) and Ellen Knickmeyer and Naseer Nouri (Washington Post) noted that witnesses described the assailants as being clad in police uniforms and driving vehicles bearing the markings of the Iraqi police.
But not to worry. Gerald Burke (the American "National Security Adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior") tells AFP that the ministry he advises/controls 'budgets' for deaths of police officers and, currently, they're 'budgeting' for the death of 25 Iraqis each day. Sounds like just the thing to stress at the next Jobs Fair.
In peace news, the ACLU has released some documents. Are you now or have you ever been a peace activist? Chances are you've been spied upon during the illegal war in Iraq. The ACLU finds: "The documents show that the Pentagon was keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database" and quotes attorney Ben Wizner stating: "When information about non-violent protest activity is included in a military anti-terrorism database, all Americans should be concerned about the unchecked authority this administration has seized in the name of fighting terrorism." Those with longer memories will recall the days of spying on peace activists, feminists, civil rights workers and basically anyone else 'guilty' of 'thought crimes.' (If your memory is short, click here.)
Meanwhile, Bob Watada, father of Ehren Watada, is nearing the end of the second speaking tour to raise awareness about his son -- Ehren Watada is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. The upcoming dates include:
Sat 10/14 morning Press Conference San Diego
Contact: Reiko Obata 858-483-6018 email: email@example.com for San Diego events.
Sat 10/14 6:00 pm Lt. Watada Dinner/Fundraiser San Diego (suggested donation: $15)
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito, 1036 Solano Drive, Solano Beach
Mon. 10/16 4:30-5:30 pm National Lawyers Guild of San Diego
Room 300, Thomas Jefferson Law School, 2120 San Diego Ave, San Diego
To see the schedule in full, PDF, click here. More information on Ehren Watada can be found at Courage to Resist and ThankYouLt.org.
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