Friday, October 06, 2006

Thomas Friedman's Bad Ideas & Blurry Boundaries

Friday came way too soon. I knew Mrs. K would be banging at the door shortly after I returned from class and I spent most of the week dreading Friday.

To try to figure out what I'd be dealing with, I made a point to read Thomas Friedman's "Big Ideas and No Boundaries." It was like a communique from the sixties -- only from the radical right, not the radical left. My husband Thomas Friedman even declared himself a radical in it. Part manifesto, part bill of service, it might as well have opened with "Death to the middle and lower classes that prey upon the wealthy!" and closed with "From now on I'm Trish Rothschild Friedman!"

After I finished laughing as his declaration that he was a "radica free trader," I got to work with my highlighter searching for clues. I paid attention to the section where he wrote: " I was in Nebraska where I met Doug Palmer. He and his partner, Pat Boeshart, make . . ."

I'd cracked the code and was wondering whether getting Mrs. K off my back was worth confronting Thomas Friedman or not?

It had been so peaceful, so fun, with him on the lam.

But there was the KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK at the door, followed by POUND-POUND-POUND-POUND as I approached it and I knew before I opened it that Mrs. K would be red eyed, runny nosed and, in a word, pathetic. Just like last week.

Seeing my predictions confirmed, I grabbed my purse, told her to follow me, hailed a cab and we were off.

"Where?" she asked.

I explained the clues. Pat Boeshare and Nebraska were a reference to the Tyco Plastec East trade show from 2005. 655 West 34th Street, which could mean only one thing, they were holed up at the Chelsea Star Hotel.

"I don't believe I know that hotel," Mrs. K replied.

I started to explain how Thomas Friedman and I had visited it when bringing chicken soup to an ailing Willie Safire but didn't have the heart or, at least, courage.

We pulled up a block from it and walked toward its.

"It certainly is colorful," Mrs. K said, sounding, to me, a lot like like Miss Dorothy in "Thorougly Modern Millie."

I was tempted to reply, "Sister, you don't know the half of it."

Instead, I just nodded.

I was talking to the clerk at the front desk when Mrs. K wondered off. Since she wasn't wearing a hazmat suit, I immediately grew worried. I finally found her in the "communal baths."

"Well, I guess it conserves water," she muttered as I led her away.

"They're not checked in under their own names," I explained.

"Oh, Betinna, oh, Betinna!" she fretted. "How will we find them?"

"They're here, trust me," I counseld and explained we needed to visit a little known lounge where I was sure we'd find an interesting act.

"Oh, Betinna, I haven't the time to soak up cabaret."

I guided her to it anyway.

And what greeted us? There, in a faux leather jacket that extended to the calf, wearing a brassy red wig with hair to the shoulders, was Thomas Friedman in mid-song as he sashayed around the room singing:

Just leave everything to me.
If you want your ego bolstered, muscles toned, or chair
Just leave everything to me.
Charming social introductions, expert mandolin instructions:
Just leave everything to me.
If you want your culture rounded, French improved, or torso
With a ten year guarantee.
If you want a birth recorded, collies bred, or kittens
I'll proceed to plan the whole procedure
Just leave everything to me.

He was working up to a dramatic climax when he spotted us.

Throwing his hand mike to floor, he cursed and then headed for the bar.

"Over there," I said, pointing to the piano, "is Nicky."

Nicky K was dolled up in bad Nolan Miller and his eyes were so wide he looked like Ivana after a face lift.

Blinded by love, Mrs. K rushed to him in tears while I mosied up to Thomas Friedman who was attempting to score a drink from a closeted looking Wall St. type.

"Come on, Day Trader, buy a radical free trader a drink," Thomas Friedman barked in a voice that sounded 'top dwawer.'

"Well Patty Hearst, as I live in breathe," I said.

He didn't even bother to turn and look at me.

"Trish," he corrected. "I'm Trish now."

Attempting to make small talk, I began, "Well, you certainly look . . ."

But my voice trailed off.

"Damn good!" barked Thomas/Trish Friedman cutting his eyes towards me. "I've lost forty pounds!"

"You have? Well look down, over your shoulder, and I think you'll find them."

Hopping off the bar stool, Thomas/Trish Friedman attempted to stare me down.

"I'm not coming back, Betinna. I have been given a choice of, returning, or joining the forces of the Billionaires for Tax Justice and I have chosen to stay and fight. I want to tell the people the truth. Tell them how if they have no money, no one gives a damn about them. I want to make them aware that this country belongs to the rich and only to the rich. I'm tired of you and your kind with your common ways. The corporate state must be willing to relocate, by which I mean eliminate, all of society's droppings. How long will it take before even the George Soroses of this country understand that whatever happens to Dennis Kozlowski sooner or later happens to them? How long will it be before we all understand that we must fight to endenture the rest of you?"

Pretty big words for someone who sorely needed to run a comb through their wig.

I thought of explaining to Thomas Friedman that I had no interest in taking him back, explaining how I'd finally grasped that we didn't sleep in a tiny single bed once his fat ass was out of it, explaining how wonderful each day began without hearing his irritating whine or the joy in reaching for a pair of pantyhose and finding that they hadn't been stretched out by his wide hips.

But why bother? I doubted he would understand.

Instead, I walked over to the piano where Mrs. K was attempting to help a dazed looking Nicky K off the stool.

"Where am I? What is happening?" he asked.

I nodded to Mrs. K and and we each grabbed an arm and began dragging him towards the entrance.

"What day is it?"

"Oh, Nicky," Mrs. K cried. "Everything will be fine."

"Is the war over?" he wondered as we got him to the street and into a cab.

No, the war wasn't over, but who had the heart to tell him?

We rode in silence to their home and then I headed back to my apartment wondering what he would remember, if anything, of the weeks after Thomas Friedman tossed him over a shoulder and whisked him away?

And then I started to wonder why he had kept repeating my name when he had been in his fugue state?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, October 6, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, war resister Darrell Anderson is headed home (he returned to the United States, turned himself in at Fort Knox on Tuesday, now he's headed home),
World Can't Wait staged protests across the United States on Thursday, the Danish military suffers a fatality in Iraq, the US military notes a death toll on Iraqi police officers but continues to look the other way with regards to violence toward Iraqi women, and Bob Watada, father of war resisterer Ehren Watada, continues his second speaking tour to raise awareness on his son.

Starting with war resister Darrell Anderson. In April of 2004, Anderson was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq and awarded a Purple Heart. Returning to the US and learning he would be redeployed to Iraq, Anderson elected to self-check out of the military in January 2005 and move to Canada. Anderson spoke out publicly against the war while in Canada, attempted to win refugee status (something the Canadian government has refused all war resisters), met Gail Greer, married her in February 2006 but decided to return to the United States. On Saturday, he crossed the Peace Bridge back into the US and, on Tuesday, he turned himself in at Fort Knox.
Jim Warren (Lexington Herald-Leader) reports that Jim Fennerty, Anderson's attorney, states Darrell Anderson "was released from Fort Knox this morning and is on his way home". AP reports that Anderson "is expected to be discharged without a court-martial".

While some resist war, US Secretary of State Condi Rice incites it. Rice was in Baghdad on Thursday where -- as
Robin Wright (Washington Post), Philp Shenon (New York Times) and CBS and AP reported -- her plane had to circle the airport for approximately forty minutes due to mortar and rocket attacks. Not aimed at her, mind you, such is the state of Baghdad that Rice's unnannounced visit didn't effect what's become life as usual. From there, on Friday, Condi headed to the Kurdish region, which is oil rich, and, as AFP reports, made noises about sharing the wealth with Massud Barzani (regional president). She was so busy that the meeting in London among "world powers" had to be delayed two hours, Thomas Wagner (AP) reports which left "leaders little time to reach a consensus and making it unlikely." If the decision on sanctions has been delayed, a detour's been created in Bully Boy's march to war on Iran meaning, possibly, citizens around the world should pray that Condi has many more unexpected layovers. (Update on this by Sophie Walker of Reuters.)

Wright (Washington Post) noted, Rice's visit began as the Kurdish parliamentarian Mohammed Ridah Sinkawi was assassinated. As Shenon (New York Times) noted, the visit with Iraqi president Jalal Talabani took place "in the dark" after "the lights went out . . . It was a reminder of the city's erratic -- and sometimes nonexistant -- electrical service." Along with electrical problems, Rice visit occurred as Xinhua reported that: "Toxic water in the Tigris river killed thousands of fish and birds in Iraq's Salahudin province . . . The provincial water directorate, which produces drinking water for people in this area, ordered all its projects to suspend working and wait for the tests' results". Three years after the illegal war began and they can't even keep the lights on the fortified Green Zone of Baghdad, nor can they address the issue of the Tigris which provides "drinking water supplies for millions of Iraqis."

CNN reports Joseph Paterson ("commander in charge of police training in Iraq") announced that "Since September 2004 . . . about 4,000 [police] officers have been killed and 8,000 injured". And of course, as AFP reported earlier, between 800 and 1,200 police officers are being retrained after they were thought to be complicit in the mass kindappings from earlier this week. What the US military refuses to talk about is women in Iraq. Nabeel Ziriqi (Al Jazeera) reported earlier this week: "A recent spike in attacks on women has forced many in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul to retreat into their homes or resort to armed escort by relatives and tribal guards. In recent weeks, Mosul residents have witnessed an unprecedented rise in the number of female corpses found throughout the city. Alaa al-Badrani said her friend, a school principal, was kidnapped from her home in the Bakr district of the city by an armed gang."


Bahrain News Agency reports that a roadside bomb targeted "a US military patrol . . . passing by in Husaiba to the est of the Iraqi city of Ramadhi." No word on any casualities or fatalities. AFP reports mortar rounds wounded seven in Baghdad. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports a "double bombing" that first "set the generator ablaze, then when firefighters and others rushed in, the second went off" resulting in one death and four injured.


KUNA reports that Denmark's 500 troops serving in Iraq are now 499 as a soldier, injured in an "armed confrontation" in southern Iraq, died as he was being transported to a hospital.


Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports seven corpses discovered "floating in the area of Suwayrah". AFP reports that Baghdad police discovered 35 corpses in the capital in the last 24 hours.

This comes as the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Malki's little examined 4-part 'peace' plan continues to be hailed by an unquestioning press. One not hailing it is
Firas Al-Atraqchi (Al-Ahram Weekly) who notes of the first plank -- 'security committees': "The committees would monitor whether police and the Iraqi army effectively pursue militia fighters after an attack. But the plan falls far short of any significant effort to curb violence because it does not address the disarming of militias, which Maliki had promised in late May, and focuses entirely on Baghdad. The rest of the country, it seems, can go to hell."

IRIN reports a slight improvement for the life of prisoners in Iraqi prisons just as AP reports that: "Guards at Guantanamo Bay bragged about beating detainees and described it as common practice, a U.S. Marine sergeant said in a sworn statement". (If you're confused as to the connection between Guantanamo and Iraq, on today's KPFA's Living Room, Kris Welch presented some recorded footage of Janis Karpinski explaining the efforts to "Gitmo-ize" Abu Ghraib.)

In legal news,
AP reports that the trial of Pendleton Eight, accused of shooting an unarmed Iraqi dead after dragging from his Hamdaniya home, included testimony today from one of the eight, Melson J. Bacos, who testified "he saw two Marines fire at least 10 rounds into 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad". AP reports that Bacos, a medic, "pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy charges" in the death of Awad.
Reuters reports that Bacos tetified Lawrence Hutchins III had devised a plan for another Iraqi (one who had been in and out of Abu Ghraib) but, when unable to locate that man, they went after Hashim Ibrahim Awad who happened to live next door to the Iraqi Hutchins had intended they kidnap and kill.

Meanwhile, in London,
AFP reports that an inquest into the death of ITN reporter Terry Lloyd heard testimony from Nicholas Walshe who stated Lloyd "was shot in the head by US troops as he was driven away from a gunfight". As the BBC noted, March 23, 2003, Terry Lloyd "has not been seen since he and three colleagues came under fire as [they] were on the road to the city of Basra." The Guardian of London reports that, in addition, a British solider testified "he saw a US tank open fire on the ITN team's vehicles" and that this was "the first public acknowledgement that British forces witnessed the events of March 22, 2003, in which Mr. Lloyd and his interpreter Huseein Osman died and his French cameraman Fred Nerac went missing near Basra in southern Iraq."

Frederic Nerac remains missing and
Reporters Without Borders notes that "British defence ministry opened an investigation in June 2003 into their [Nerac and Hussein Osman] disappearance at the insistence of Nerac's wife Fabienne and press freedom organisations including Reporters Without Borders."

Will Dunham (Reuters) reports that "signs of wear and tear on the U.S. military" has resulted from Iraq and Afghanistan and that "Many troops are facing second and third long combat tours and less time between overseas deployments." Or none at all. A point Laurie Loving makes very clear on page 2 of The Nation's October 16, 2006 issue. Loving, a member of Military Families Speak Out, opens her letter with the following: "My son is in the 172nd Stryker Brigade (Army). It recently had its one-year deployment to Iraq extended while in the midst of deploying back to the United States. He is one of the 400 soldiers who had made it back to Fairbanks, Alaska. A few days later he was informed that he was going to be sent back to Iraq. His brigade has been sent to Baghdad to save the occupation."

In US congressional news,
John Nolen (CBS) covers Republican Senator John Warner's reaction to this week's visit to Iraq: "In two or three months, if this thing hasn't come to fruition and if this level of violence is not under control . . . I think it's the responsibility of our government, internally to determine: Is there a change in course that we should take? And I wouldn't take off the table any option at this time." This as AFP reports on Republican Senator Chuck Hagel's trip to Vietnam which found him drawing some comparisons to Iraq and Vietnam and declaring "War should always be a last resort." Reporting on the other side of the aisle, Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) notes that Democratic "U.S. House Reps. Neil Abercrombie and John Murtha say President Bush will have to mobilize all members of the Army National Guard and Army Reserve -- including 3,000 Hawaii citizen soldiers -- for an indefinite period. There are not enough active-duty military to handle the current level of violence in Iraq, the two Democrats said yesterday. That would affect Army National Guard units like Hawaii's 29th Brigade Combat Team, which currently is not supposed to be mobilized for six years since returning from Iraq this year."

In peace news, across the United States people participated in demonstrations, rallies and marches as part of the
World Can't Wait actions. Whethere the turnout was ten people or in the hundreds, all demonstrations made a difference, had an impact and was made up of people willing to stand up. We're going to note some of the events, not all. Over 200 locations took part and what follows is a sample of some events reported by the press.

Reno Gazette-Journal reports that an estimated 40 people turned out in Reno, carrying signs that read "Vote for change," "I believe in our Constitution, why doesn't Bush?," "Where is the plan?" and U.S. Out of Iraq." Adam Leech (Portsmouth Herald) reports that at least fifty turned out in Portsmouth, Maine and he quotes Vietnam vet Brian Vawter saying, "I think we're all pretty fed up with what's going on iwth the decline of our rights and the direction this country is going. People have a need to express themselves directly because their view isn't being expressed by either partly in Washington right now." Sam Shawver (Marietta Times) reports that ten people turned out in Marietta, Ohio and quotes two: James Gawthrop stating, "I just learned about a few days ago, but my hands were shaking over the 'torture bill' Congress passed last Thursday. Now the Bush administration can detain anybody suspected of being a terrorist indefinitely. They can use secret evidence to hold you. They can even use torture"; and Janie Poe who wore a CODEPINK t-shirt to the demonstration stating, "I've been talking with many young people, and I'm impressed. Listen to young people. They're very concerned about their future, and they're very informed." [Poe urged people to support Amnesty USA and speak out against torture.] In the previous, that's a hundred people who stood up (more if press estimates are off).

In Florida,
John Simpson (Bradenton Herald) reports that 150 people turned out in Sarasota to demonstrate and quotes Naomi Nye: "People are fed up. The tide is definitely turning." Simpson also notes 82-year-old Sara Dick who stated, "We're in even more danger (now). In some areas, there are more rights, but we're always slipping and sliding backwards." Christian Hill (The Olympian) reports that an estimated 300 people gathered in Olympia, Washington and quotes college student Brandon Franz stating, "The people of America are supposed to have the voice in what's done, not the ruling elite" and Kirsten Anderson who states, "I'm doing this for my grandchildren. I'm a little old to have it be for me, and it's the ones comping up that I care about. It's their country, too, especially now." Summer Banks (Yale Daily News) reports that an estimated 60 people participated near campus and notes one was "[l]ocal resident and self-proclaimed Republican housewife Monica McGovern" who stated, "I am calling for Bush to step down or for Congress to impeach him. I would like to see him indicted for war crimes." Beth Freed (Dallas Morning News) reports that an estimated forty people participated in Lewisville, Texas resulting in "slowed southbound traffic on Interstate 35E . . . . Many commuters honked in support of the peace demonstrators outside the office of U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, while others slowed to express their disagreement" and quotes Nikki Henderson stating, "We as Americans should not tolerate decisions like last week's legislation. It allows Bush to interpret the Geneva Conventions on his own."

Big or small turnouts, people stood up. They stopped their normal day to speak out.
Louis Medina (The Bakersfield California) reports an estimated seventy-five activists were particiapting by the end of the events and quotes college student Araceli Aguilar stating, "I came here to protest the Bush administration. I don't agree with what they're doing. I don't agree with the war, which they said is over, yet we still have our troops there and they're dying." Melissa Nix (The Free Lance Star) reports that, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, an estimated two dozen students of the University of Mary Washington participated and quotes college student Jason Walsh who held 268 pages listing the names of American troops who had died in Iraq, "That's a small book. It's a waste, because no one's going to read it. No one cares about these soldiers except their families." OregonLive reports that a little less than 400 people participated in Portland's march. In Santa Fe, New Mexico, Lubna Takruri (AP) reports that "dozens" turned out and the mayor, David Coss, spoke to the group.

A mayor, students, retired people, those who work in the home, those who work outside it (and those working outside frequently also work inside), a wide range of people took part.
Patrick Flanigan (Rochester Democrat and Chronicle) reports that an estimated "150 people gathered in downtown Rochester [New York] on Thursday to protest President Bush's handling of the war on terror and the mounting death toll in Iraq" and quotes Donna Mummery: "Our country is about to embark on a very dangerous course. By taking to the streets on a work day, you are saying enough is enough." Also in New York, Alice Hunt (Poughkeepsie Journal) reports that activists gathered in New Paltz and quotes Josh Schulman stating, "Our first step is to initiate that dialogue and permeat the mass media with the message Bush does not speak for many Americans." While in NYC, Chelsea Cooley (Washington Square News) reports: "Hundreds of protesters packed the streets yesterday, marching 33 blocks from the United Nations building at First Avenue and 47th Street to Union Square, chanting their message: 'Drive out the Bush regime!'"

In one of the largest reported turnouts,
Emma Graves Fitzsimmons, Brendan McCarthy and Rudy Bush (Chicago Tribune) report that an estimated 1,500 people turned out in Chicago and quotes college student Rebecca Miller on skipping class to attend, "It's just one class. I can always make up the homework. This is more important." and Thyandrea Adams who shut down her business to be present, "I told them not to come into work today. This is a day that's important. It was worth it to show support from our community." In Seattle, Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports "several hundreds" turned out and Barber quotes Patricia Thompson who brought "her 82-year-old father" because, "He is horrified at the mess they made of Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction was a snow job. We never finished in Afghanistan. It's an absolute shambles of incompetency and profiteering."

In San Francisco, Dennis Bernstein and Nora Barrows Friedman covered the event for
KPFA's Flashpoints on Thursday (broadcast archived -- if you can listen online, you can hear it for free), Charles Slay (San Francisco Indybay Media) has created a photo essay, and John Koopman, Patrick Hoge and Marisa Lagos (San Francisco Chronicle) report on the "hundres" (it was well over a thousand) and notes 17-year-old Jessica Cussins, among the many who left campuses to attend, stating, "I felt that this was more useful. I wanted to be part of it. I think what we're doing (in Iraq) is wrong." Alice Walker is quoted stating: "I just want the children to know that some of the elders are with them, and that we're very happy they are speaking out and saving their own lives by resisting the Bush regime." [You can also check out Mike's "Blue Angels buzzing rally and power cut (San Francisco)" which relays Jess reporting via cellphone.]

Ehren Watada was not in Salem, Oregon yesterday but he was remembered. Tim King (Salem-News) reports that among those participating in their local World Can't Wait demonstrations ("between 75 and 100") was Reed Elder who urged that everyone check out Ehren Watada's website and that other "soldiers who also don't agree withe the direction of the nation" should be speaking out.

Bob Watada, Ehren's father, is now on his second speaking tour to raise awareness of his son who is the first US officer to publicly refuse to serve in the illegal war. Some of the upcoming events include:

Sat 10/7 2:00-4:00 pm Welcome Reception for Bob Watada
JACCC Garden Room, 244 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles
Contact: NCRR 213-680-3484, email:

Sun 10/8 2:00-5:00 pm Forum with Bob Watada
Nat'l Center for the Preservation of Democracy, 111 N. Central Ave., Los Angeles.
Contact Ellen Endo 213-629-2231 or Mo 323-371-4502

Sun 10/8 6:00-8:00 pm An Evening of Discussion and Learning hosted by Rev. Phyllis Tyler
11326 CherryLee Dr., El Monte (Rev. Tyler is Senior Pastor of Sage Granada Park United Methodist Church in Alhambra) Co-sponsored by NCRR and the National Japanese American United Methodist Church Caucus
Contact: NCRR 213-680-3484 email:

Mon 10/9 7:00pm Veterans for Peace (Chapter 112) and Citizens for Peaceful Resolution
E.P. Foster Library, Topping Rm. 651, E. Main St., Ventura
Contact: Michael Cervantes 805-486-2884 email:

Wed 10/100 7:00-9:45 pm CSULB Asian American and Chicano & Latino Studies Classes
Dr. John Tsuchida and Dr. Juan Benitez
1250 Bellflower Bl, Long Beach

Thurs 10/12 6:00 pm Whittier Area Coalition for Peace & Justice, Mark Twain Club Potluck
($3 donations) Bob speaks at 7:00 pm. First Friends Church of Whittier, 12305 E. Philadelphia St., Whittier
Contact: Robin McLaren 562-943-4051 email:

A full schedule, in PDF form, can be found
here. More information on Ehren Watada can be found at and information on all known war resisters can be found at Courage to Resist.

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