"One more thing and then I'm going!"
That's what Thomas Friedman was shouting from the hall. He sounded drunk.
Since Christmas, every couple of days, he'd show up banging on the front door and start by complaining that I'd changed the locks. He'd yell and holler, stopping every few minutes to beg me not to call the police.
Like I'd do that. Like I needed my trashy marital life splashed on the front page of "The New York Post."
When he wasn't complaining, he was swearing that he loved me, that he "really, really, really" did.
I wasn't having any of it.
As expected, he showed up on Christmas day, acting as though nothing had ever happened, wondering what I was cooking?
He wasn't thrilled that I'd invited guests and I seriously doubt either Rebecca, Jess, Ty, Elaine, Cedric or Wally was thrilled to see him. He wasn't thrilled with the way I was cooking the turkey, he wasn't happy about the dressing, he wasn't pleased with anything and was a huge drag but that was fine, I knew where I was going with all of this.
Dinner was over in about a half-hour. That was fine too. Everyone wanted to reflect on the year but I knew he'd bore everyone by steering the conversation to his Tall Texas Tales, I'd read the laughable columns (e.g. "And the Color of the Year Is ..."). Which he did. I figured it would send the guests packing -- which it did -- and that was okay too.
As soon as all the guests were gone, he wanted his presents. Of course he would assume not only that I'd gift him but that I'd do so in the plural.
"No, not yet," I replied. "I've made a special treat for you. Fruit salad with cheese topping."
"Cheese topping, did you say, Betinna?" he asked, licking his lips, and his beady little eyes looking quite rat-like.
He ate his way through the whole bowl, only sometimes stopping to use a utensil. There were bits of cheese stuck to his mustache and he looked dazed when he finally came up for air.
Elaine had suggested I consider hypnosis to recapture my lost memories but I was more interested in getting Thomas Friedman to talk which is why I immediately left the table and returned with a pie.
"Cheesecake," I told him.
"With cheese topping!" he said smacking his lips with delight.
I wanted to get him fat and full so the fool would drop his guard and, as he scooped pieces of the pie up with his hands, I knew I was well on my way.
His cheese lust still not satisified, Thomas Friedman then began going to the cabinets and hauling out his precious canned cheese. Putting the nozzle to his mouth, he did one shot after another.
As he did so, I piled on the flattery.
"Thomas Friedman, you really are a great man. A wise man. So smart."
He was eating up the flattery while he was sucking down the cheese. His chest puffed out so far, several buttons popped off his shirt.
"Yes, I am, yes, I am," he agreed before moving on to another can of cheese.
After 15 minutes of this, I noticed his eyes were heavily lidded and he seemed on the verge of dropping into a cheese coma.
"But there are some," I said slowly, "who think Nicky K is much smarter."
"Nonsense!" he barked followed by a loud belch.
"Well, different tastes perhaps," I said waving a hand.
"Betinna, Nicky K owes everything he is to me."
"Okay, sure," I said dismissively.
"What have you heard?" Thomas Friedman asked setting the canned cheese aside.
"Well, he does 'rescue' all those women."
"Only from foreign countries!" snorted Thomas Friedman. "Even then, the little pansy is shaking in his booties."
"If you say so," I said starting to rise.
"Well, it's not like you would know. You've never gone on any of his Cambodia trips with him."
Thomas Friedman burped again and reached for my arm.
"You just sit down and I'll tell you about Sainted Nicky K," he snarled. "Yeah, he's Mr. Big Shot in Cambodia where people think he's something but in the United States, he can't do a thing without me."
"Oh, I don't know about that."
"Betinna, I am the man! I am the top dog!" he growled.
"Of course you are," I said, my voice dripping with fake sentiment.
"Whatever. It's really not that important. But he did win the Pulitzer."
"What! It was a sympathy prize! Or he slept with all the judges! He didn't earn it! Me, I walk like a giant where ever I go, because The World Is Flat. Nicky K, he cowers in any country where the economy's not tanking!"
"If you say so. It's not like he ever does anything you say. He really is the leader, you're the Lenny to his Squiggy."
Thomas Friedman slammed his fist down on the table causing the plates, glasses and dishes to rattle.
"Let me tell you about a little trip to New Jersey in 2004 . . ." he began.
"That's really not necessary," I said. "We'll just both pretend that you're the leader and not the tag along."
"Tag along! Tag along! I am his mentor! We were on Interstate 78 and he started whining, for the twelfth time, about his tiny bladder. He wouldn't shut up and he finally pulled over at an outlet mall in search of a bathroom. While he was doing that, I was looking at some lovely lace bras. The saleswoman was glaring at me --"
"Oh, Thomas Friedman, if you're just going to make up stories --"
"Shut up! This is the truth! I was fingering this one bra that hooked around front and the saleswoman comes over, pay attention here and see if you don't remember, and says to me, 'Can I help you?' I was looking her up and down and it was just so obvious this woman thought she was better than me --"
"Well was she?"
"Yeah, that's the attitude you had then. Eyeing me like I was a perv. Telling me your shift was almost over so I'd better hurry up and make a selection."
I don't think Thomas Friedman even realized what he was confessing to, he was too zonked out on cheese and too determined to show what a big man he thought he was.
"So Nicky K comes running up to me saying he's made sissy and we can go now and I stop him and point to you. I tell him, 'I really don't like her attitude.' What does Nicky want to do? Split. Just up and split. I'm the one who pointed out that he buys women. But he never takes. I had to egg him on and goad him just to keep him on board. We left the store and, after I bitch slapped him a few times, he agreed to pull around in his Pinto. We got in and waited for you to leave. You finally showed up, locked the store's door and were walking through the parking lot with us following. Nicky K was full of excuses on why we couldn't do anything, whimpering about how there were laws in this country, whining that we had no way to tie you up. I waived the three bras I'd shopliffted and that shut him up! When you were moving towards a car, Nicky zoomed in and cut you off. I got out of the car and you said, 'Oh, it's the fat man.' I asked, 'Who the hell are you talking to?' and you looked straight at me, then slowly turned around, scanning the parking lot, until your eyes came back to me and you said, 'You're the only fat man I see.' I hollered to Nicky and we grabbed you, then I tied your ankles with a bra, then your hands. Nicky slapped a Support The Troops bumpersticker over your mouth and I lifted you up while he opened the Pinto's hatchback. I tossed you in and slammed it down. Nicky K was standing there, wringing his wrists and hopping from foot to foot because he had to pee again. I had to slap him to get him to stop blubbering. When he finally stopped sniveling, we got in the car and drove. He was still freaking out, even after we hit the Jersey Turnpike but I told him to grow a pair and be a man. That little freak can't do a thing without me!"
Thomas Friedman smirked at me for a few seconds more before it hit him what he'd just admitted to.
I hadn't grown up in some 'backwater village' overseas. I'd been kidnapped from New Jersey. By Thomas Friedman and Nicky K. It wasn't that different from the 'rescuing' Nicky K did overseas, it had just happened here, in the United States, where it wasn't seen as 'rescuing' but as kidnapping. A federal crime.
Thomas Friedman bolted from his chair and rushed over to me.
"I-I-I was joking. I just made that all up."
"Get out," I told him.
"It wasn't me. It-it-it was the cheese talking!"
"Get out," I repeated slowly.
Still staring at me, he backed out slowly.
"Don't call the cops, please, don't call the cops!"
As he ran off, I did make one call. To a locksmith. It was Christmas day, I was told, so it would cost plenty. I didn't care, I just wanted the locks changed.
By midnight, Thomas Friedman was back. I heard him trying to fit his key into the lock. Then I heard him cursing. Then he started pleading for me to let him in.
He's done that every other day since. He'll stand outside the front door, begging and pleading.
"I've got a gift for you," he'll announce or he'll say he'll loves me. Always, he asks if I've told anyone.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills)
Friday, December 29, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Decemeber is now the deadliest month this year for US troops, Ehren Watada finally appears in print in The Nation, is Sabrina Tavernise angling to be the new joke of the New York Times, and the US military reveals how little heart and compassion they have as they move to court-martial a soldier suffering from PTSD -- one they did nothing to help.
Starting with fatality news. Today the US military announced: "Three Marines assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died Thursday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province." Watch for the New York Times to ignore that or Little Man Marcs to report "One marine died" if the pattern this month holds true. The Times can't say they weren't warned when they decided to ignore fatalities and minimize the few that they covered but readers of the paper who depend on it to provide reality (no chuckles) may end up shocked when they discover that today December became the deadliest month for US troops. The three deaths up the total for the month to 107. Prior to this announcement, October had been the deadliest month with 106.
Some outlets report 105 and that has to do with the fact that the US military tends to hold the deaths a bit, and has the since the start of the war, waiting for those first of the month look back press accounts to be published and then noting a death or two afterwards. 106 is the number ICCC uses, 106 is the one we'll go with here. 107 is now the total number of US troops who have died in Iraq this month. The total number of US troops who have died since the start of the illegal war stands at 2996 -- four shy of the 3,000 mark.
US troops have not been the only military fatalities and England's Ministry of Defense notes:"It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that a UK serviceman was killed yesterday, Thursday 28 December 2006, in Basrah, southern Iraq. The soldier, from 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, was taking part in a routine patrol in Basra City when the Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle he was travelling in was targeted by a roadside bomb. He was very seriously injured and airlifted to the Field Hospital at Shaibah Logistics Base, but unfortunately died later as a result of his injuries." That death brought the total number of British troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 127.
Turning to the issue of war resistance and starting with The Nation magazine. On page 14 of the January 8/15 2007 issue (a double issue) Marc Cooper has an article entitled "Lt. Ehren Watada: Resister." The Nation makes the article availble online to subscribrs only for whatever reasons but seems unaware that they've published it for all (subscribers and non-subscribers) on Yahoo -- click here. Cooper describes Ehren Watada as "the lighning rod case of resistance" (Watada is the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq); and notes the speech he gave in August at the Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle (click here for text at CounterPunch and here at Truthout which offers both text and video of the speech) where Watada declared, "The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it."; and notes that, in January, "a 'Citizen's Hearing on the Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq,' featuring Daniel Ellsberg and Princeton professor emeritus Richard Falk will be convened in Tacoma, Washinginton, in support of Watada".
January 4th is the date scheduled for the military's pre-trial hearing and Feb. 5th is when the court-martial is scheduled to begin. The US military is attempting to force journalists to testify at the pre-trial hearing (see yesterday's snapshot).
Watada is part of a movement of resistance within the military that includes Kyle Snyder, Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing (who was released from the military brig on Satuday) Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Key, Ivan Brobeck, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight 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. Appeal for Redress is collecting signatures of active duty service members calling on Congress to bring the troops home -- the petition will be delivered to Congress next month.
Resistance takes many forms in the peace movement. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Cindy Sheehan was arrested in Crawford, Texas outside Bully Boy's ranchette along with four other activists. Sheehan called the action a "peace surge" to combat Bully Boy's notions of escalating the number of US troops in Iraq. The AP reports that Sheehan's attorney Robert Gottlieb believes the arrest will have no impact on the conditional verdict the judge issued this month in Manhattan. The Smoking Gun reports that, were Sheehan convicted, the maximum sentence is six months in prison and the maximum fine is $2,000.
In another mother for peace news, Theresa Hogue (Corvallis Gazette-Times) reported last week on Michelle Darr, a mother of six, who was arrested December 12th for attempting to get US Senator Gordon Smith to sign the Declaration of Peace (her third arrest this year for attempting to lobby Smith, she was arrested twice in September) and will face a tril in January. Darr told Hogue, "What they (her children) see me doing is as important as what they don't see me doing. If Im not using my voice and efforts in the cause of the common good, how can I expect them to take initiative when the need arises? I don’t want them to ever think oppression and genocide are acceptable, or that war is a way to solve problems."
Along with courageous acts of resistance like Sheehan's and Darr's, demonstrations will take part around the United States to note the 3,000 mark for US fatalities in Iraq. United for Peace and Justice notes:
Another Grim Milestone -- 3,000 Deaths Too Many
More than 2,990 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. By the time you read this, the death toll may have reached 3,000. We must bear witness to this tragic milestone, even though many people are already beginning their celebrations of the new year. And when we do take action on this occasion, we must remind others that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, women and men have also died in this outrageous war and occupation. Our call to end this war and to bring all the troops home now must be heard in every corner of the country! The killing must stop. Click here for some suggested ways to bear witness.
Military Families Speak Out notes:
MILITARY FAMILIES MOURN 3,000TH TROOP DEATH, PARTICIPATE IN NATIONWIDE VIGILS AND CALL ON CONGRESS TO END THE IRAQ WAR Family Members of Fallen Soldiers and Families of Troops Currently Deployed in Iraq Available for Interview Dec 29, 06 On the eve of the 3,000th troop death, the next horrific milestone in the Iraq war, Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), an organization of over 3,100 military families opposed to the war in Iraq, calls on the 110th Congress to honor the fallen and prevent further deaths by taking action to end the Iraq war. read more »
3000 Deaths Too Many As Bush considers sending thousands of additional troops to Iraq to control the violence, our troop death toll nears the 3,000 mark. It is crucial that we commemorate this grim milestone in Bush's disastrous war by pressuring Congress to bring the troops home NOW, and to stop this insanity NOW! Click here for CODEPINK suggested actions you can take.
Also refer to World Can't Wait's Protests & Vigils Planned the Day After the Number of US Troops Killed in Iraq Reaches 3,000
As the press continues to note that Bully Boy is seriously considering escalating the number of US troops on the ground in Iraq, Warren P. Strobel and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) note: "Two attempts last summer to stabilize Baghdad by sending in more troops failed. The increased U.S. presence led to a brief drop in violence, but as soon as the troops left the neighborhoods where they'd deployed, the violence skyrocketed." That was the crackdown that cracked up and accomplished nothing. It began in June and by August, the US military was noting that, in July, attacks on US forces were up (double the January amount) and bombing attacks on civilians were up 10%. And last week Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reported on the US Pentagon's findings "that the violence in Iraq soared this fall to its highest level on record" and this during the continued increase of US troops in Iraq. But like a greedy tele-evangilist, Bully Boy can just cry out, "Send more! Send more!"
CNN reports a bomber "waited near the house of Sheik Kadhim Hameed Qassim" in northern Bagdad and then detonated the bomb "when the clearic, his security and family members arrived after Friday prayers" leaving the Shi'ite cleric dead and also killing "his brother and severn others" and leaving 15 wounded.
Reuters reports two police officers were shot dead in Jurf al-Sakhar and seven more wounded. AFP reports a police officer and "a bystander" were shot dead in Hindiya while, in Mussayib, a police officer was shot dead and five more wounded. KUNA reports four Iraqi soldiers were shot dead "southwest of Kirkuk" and a fifth Iraqi soldier was injured while, in nothern Iraq, "two employees who . . . worked for the Petroleum State Company" were shot dead.
KUNA reports that the corpse of a kidnapped police officer was discovered in Kirkuk.
Meanwhile, AFP reports on the increasing demise of communal baths in Baghdad from violence and financial costs: "In its glory days when Iraq was one of the most developed Arab countries in the Middle East, the hammam used to employ 16 people. Today only four permanent staff remains on the payroll as massive inflation takes hold." and quotes the owner of the bathhouse explaining, "The electricity is often down. Gas for heating has become too expensive. We pay 20,000 dinars ($14) for a bottle compared to 1,000 just two or three years ago. How do you expect me to carry on? There are days when it costs me more to open than doing nothing. I love my profession but it's disappearing."
In I-Schilled-for-the-U.S.-military-and-all-I-got-was-a-red-face news, Sabrina Tavernise's 'scoop' in the New York Times had holes blown through it earlier this week and has now fallen apart completely. The US military announced (to her and James Glanz of the New York Times) that they had been holding Iranian 'terrorists' and 'insurgents' since the 12th of December. In the latest development to rip the story of Iranian 'terrorists' to shreds, the BBC reports that the two diplomats who were held by US forces but in the country of Iraq at the invitation of Iraq's president, Jalal Talabani, were released. On the detention of the two diplomats, AFP quotes the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hasan Kazemi Qomi, stating: "Fortunately with the effort exerted by the Iraqi officials, the US forces who firstly denied their arrest were obliged to admit it and under pressure from the Iraqi government to release them. The arrest of these diplomats was carried out contrary to international laws and the Geneva convention."
In the US, the AP reports: "Sgt. Edward W. Shaffer, 24, of Mont Alto, died Wednesday afternoon at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas" after being injured in November 13th bombing in Ramadi and quotes his grandfather, Edward Shaffer, stating that "All they could do was try to keep him comfortable. They couldn't do any more for him." 24 year-old Shaffer is among many troops who die from physical injuries recieved in Iraq but, due to dying after they are shipped out of Iraq, do not get included in the official body count.
Another war related death not included in the count is covered by Megan Greenwell (Washington Post), 29-year-old James E. Dean, who had served in Afghanistan and recently recieved orders to deploy to Iraq, barricaded himself in his father's house on Christmas day, and was killed in an exchange with police officers.
Yesterday, NPR's Daniel Zwerdling reported that the US army's crappy record on addressing PTSD within the ranks just got worse: the army is moving to court-martial Tyler Jennings who suffers from PTSD and was diagnosed with "Crying spells... hopelessness... helplessness... worthlessness" five months ago and received no assistance.
the washington post
ann scott tyson
the new york times
nancy a. youssef