Saturday, August 19, 2006

Found in the paper

Found in the paper today. A dialogue on Iraq coverage, a report on Iraq news and a TV review.

Dialogue
Tonight, what you've got is a mini-dialogue between Betty, Elaine and Kat (alphabetical order). We watched Cedric and Wally do joint entries this week and thought not only did they get to knock out an entry on vacation that way, they also had the fun of not working in solitude.So this is a mini-dialogue on the war.
Betty: The snapshot today covered the hearing of Ehren Watada wonderfully but I kept wondering today where independent media was? Am I the only one wondering that?
Kat: No. It's a good point. Independent media, which for me is largely KPFA and The Nation, really needs to be doing more. This was huge and the reality is that, for a change, big media showed interest. If independent media had covered it seriously, imagine how much greater the interest would have been?
Elaine: I'll go along with that and, for me, I keep dropping back to C.I.'s "Walking Through Watada (Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing)" with the joke/clue about Denis Halliday's testimony. The fact that it was ignored by every major outlet demonstrates that it was powerful. Independent media should have been working overtime to find that testimony.
Betty: I laughed at the joke, when C.I. said "Halliday's testimony was apparently delivered via mime which would explain why there's nothing from his testimony in any of the reports." And I got the point Elaine's talking about. When there's an effort to completely sidestep the step the testimony, you do have to wonder what Halliday said that had so much of the press decide they weren't going to include it? Kat wrote about her feeling of numbness regarding independent media.
Kat: Right. I just don't get it. I don't grasp why, all this time later,
KPFA, a station I listen to and count on, can't make room for one program on Iraq? The war's gone on for over three years now. It requires coverage. It is a declared war, and illegal one, but the US invaded. So where is the coverage? It's not fair that it has to duke it out with whatever crisis of the week or perceived crisis, in some cases, that pops up. There's not the coverage for it that you would expect. As a KPFA listener, I've remained neutral when others have said, "Democracy Now doesn't need to air twice each morning!" I didn't care one way or the other. My alarm goes off, it's KPFA. If I've got errands in the car, KPFA's on the radio. If I'm working on a project in the studio, KPFA is on. I may put on music in addition to that, but KPFA is the background through all my waking hours. But as that show, Democracy Now, has repeatedly and consistently ignored Iraq-related issues for over five weeks now, it's become obvious to me that the second airing is grabbing an hour that could be devoted to real programming. Maybe we could have a daily Iraq show in one of those two time slots? Or maybe we could have five different shows in that time slot? I don't know. But I know it's beyond the community, the disenchatment with that program and the feeling that the war needs its own program.
Betty: Well Andrea Lewis made the joke today [on
The Morning Show] that Medea Benjamin should let her know anytime she wants to be a co-host, so what about that? I think the women of CODEPINK could easily put on a once a week show about the war.
Elaine: I agree with that and think they could even rotate it out so that one week it was
CODEPINK, one week United for Peace & Justice, one week ANSWER, and so on. I also like this topic because it's looking forward and if I start looking back on the week's coverage, I'm going to get very rude and nasty.
Kat: I like it when you're rude and nasty!
Elaine: I really try not to be.
Betty: Okay, we'll dream up the Iraq show we'd love to hear but before we do that, let's point out that in the case of "
the Cindy Brady of the faux left" there is cause to be rude and nasty.
Elaine: Absolutely.
Kat: Okay, we'll let's work from the premise that it would be a once a week show, okay?
Betty: And rotating groups so that no one feels it's about one organization only. By using more than one organization, they'd also be allowing more points of views and more ways of looking at stopping the war on air. Theme?
Kat: There are so many great songs past and present. But I think Michael Franti and Spearhead's "Yell Fire" is a great album and Franti is someone who gives back to the community so if I were picking, I'd go with something from that.
Betty: I'd go with "Sweet Little Lies" because it's got a nice musical feel, it mentions the war and the peace movement constantly has to address the propaganda.
Elaine: Good point. So how would the show be set up?
Kat: Discussions, interviews and speeches would be the bulk of the show.
Elaine: Well, with speeches, there would be a wealth of things to choose from. They could provide something current like Ehren Watada's speech from last weekend, but there are also wonderful speeches by Howard Zinn, presentations in fact, and wonderful speeches by Leslie Cagan, Camilo Mejia, Medea --
Kat: Right and what would be especially interesting is the historical perspective they could offer because the movement has changed and grown. There are points that needed to be made last summer, for instance, that will be less necessary next month. There is a wonderful current history that I think many people are unaware of. A show like this could put the moments into perspective and demonstrate the growth of awareness in the country that's come, too slowly for my tastes, but it has come.
Betty: Well I think one speech that has to be played is Jessica Lange's speech from DC last September. Jim's dad recorded a lot of the speeches and that's the one my father shows everyone. You need to picture this fifty-year-old Black man talking about the war to friends his age who have already heard him discuss the war and at some point he's always saying, "Wait, let me show this."
Elaine: "Dick Cheney did not serve. And we know George W. did not serve."
Betty: Yes! It's that list she has where she goes down it. My father loves that speech and other people do too. I'm always surprised. I enjoyed the speech when we were there and she was giving it. But I don't think I really appreciated it until I saw everyone's reaction to it. We were busy and working on the '
"Why Are You Here" and "What's Changed"' and it's a speech that has stayed with me and would even if my father didn't play it all the time.
Elaine: Well that's partly because of the topic and because of the way she delivers it. It's a very effective one and it points out that so many of our War Hawks were --
Kat: Chicken Hawks. Happy to sit out wars but now thrilled to send others into war. That really was an amazing speech. I can still remember it and I haven't watched it since we got back from DC. I'm not big on the television, to be clear. I'm glad Jim's father dubbed me a copy and I will watch it. Probably show it during a party when the troops finally come home. But just talking about it right now, I can hear her voice on the "And you know George did not serve" line.
Betty: What about interviews?
Elaine: Well, we're talking about KPFA which is a local station serving Kat's area. So I would assume you'd make an effort to interview local people about their events as well as noting national events.
Betty: Yeah, that would make sense and I like the fact that activists would be involved as guests. Kat tapes
The Morning Show for me and when I usually listen, it's Saturday and I'm cleaning the house and pulling the jam box from room to room with me. I enjoy their local coverage during that. I'm not thinking, "Tide pools? I'm in Georgia!" I think I'd be very interested in hearing what sort of local events were going on because it would be inspiring in terms of making me think what we could do in my area.
Kat: And interviews would include activists and scholars and journalists. So you've got a show right there. Saying it's once a week and they've got an hour to fill, you go with the interview as the middle piece, the longest one, do a bit of a community bulletin board and then play ten or so minutes of a speech. That's probably 40 or 45 minutes right there.
Elaine: At the top of the show they could do news and press criticism.
Betty: Right. But the first item should always be, ___ number have died. That's easier to do with the American troops because there is an official count. With Iraqis, they might want to say something like, "There were ___ reported deaths since last week when we checked in."
Kat: We took a break because I've got a migraine and I wanted the good stuff, C.I.'s over the counter cocktail combo that wipes out anything. So we took a break and I grabbed
C.I. to get that 'recipe' and the pills.
Elaine: You feel anything?
Kat: Yeah, I can feel the chord at the back of my neck disappearing.
Elaine: Well you're going to start yawning when the pain subsides.
Kat: Yeah, that's what
C.I. said. That as soon as the migraine's all gone I will feel sleepy.
Betty: Are you feeling sleepy right now?
Kat: No, I'm just marveling over how quickly the pain is vanishing. I felt like my neck and head were being squeezed in a vice and that's just fading. FYI, 'over the counter.' I'd give the recipe but if I did someone might have a reaction and turn around and sue. But all the ingredients are over the counter. Betty was talking about the importance of starting with the death toll and I'd agree with that because it sets the tone right there. It gives you the consequences, immediate, of the illegal war right up front.
Betty: And I keep thinking about how
we passed the 2600 mark last Saturday and the press, except AP, all seemed to ignore that. I worry that the numbers don't matter now. Am I the only one?
Elaine: No, I wonder about that too. Is 3,000, for instance, the 'magic number' for coverage next? 2,600 is a huge number -- 2,600 American troops had died as of last Saturday -- and it was shocking that so many didn't see it as noteworthy.
Kat: But, and here's why a show like we're talking about is needed, when I spoke to people about it, they did care. They'd sometimes say something like, "Are you sure?" Because they hadn't heard about it, they would have a moment of disbelief. It's like when you spoke Thursday about
Nancy A. Youssef's article about how the US was keeping a body count on Iraqi civilians killed and there was that shock because people hadn't heard about it.
Betty: There was. When Elaine brought that up, there was this sort of, "Wait, how come I didn't know about that?" Because people don't know for the most part. That's one of the many stories that drives home the point that Iraq needs its own program. But, correction to Migraine Kat, Elaine gave that speech Wednesday?
Kat: She did?
Elaine: Yes.
Kat: Sorry, the whole week runs together and I'm getting the dozy effect of the cocktail combo now.
Elaine: I know, I noticed you trying to hide your yawn.
Betty: Do we need to stop?
Kat: No. I'm fine for a bit more. If I fall out just intermingle my "ZZZZ"s with your own comments.
Elaine: So, it would start with the body count. Then recent events?
Betty: Right. And I'd interject commentary on the coverage in with that. Like, if the show was already on a month ago, when
Abeer's case was going on recently, they could be noting who was using Abeer's name and who was sayin "14-year-old girl" day after day.
Kat: Because that really does matter. It makes a difference if a victim has a name or a face. If they don't, it's just another incident. When they're someone you can see as a person, and you see this in court rooms, when lawyers put a face on the victim, it's more than an abstract incident, it's something that has a victim.
Elaine: Which is a great point but, using the example of Abeer, do they address the fact that the press,
especially the New York Times, was happy to repeat the defense's argument over and over --
Betty: Before they'd even made it in the Article 32 hearing.
Elaine: Correct. Do you deal with that at the top?
Kat: You know what? I think you do. I don't think you just sit there and say "X dead in a bombing." That's not an insult to Sandra Lupien or anyone else doing headlines on KPFA. I listen to those, they have value. But on this program, our dream program, I think the hosts should address the headlines as they go through them. Maybe I didn't hear about every event or incident of violence, but I think the press critique is too important. I'd want that mixed in with the headlines.
Elaine: I had a professor who would agree with your point. His point was always that for the facts you could grab a book. It was more important, to him, that you learned how to process it.
Kat: Exactly. Because the events are going on until the war's over. Probably after as well. And the real value is in helping the listeners learn to see the problems with the coverage and to recognize it when they come across future coverage.
Betty: And Iraq really doesn't get critiqued. I mean, if you're offering Judith Miller in 2006, then either the press is suddenly full of high caliber professionals, ha ha, or else people are sleeping on the job when they should be critiquing.
Elaine: I really think making Judith Miller the eternal punching bag has done nothing but give everyone else coverage.
Dexy is only one example.
Betty: And we're all aware of the attitude some have, no names, that just because they're over there they are above criticism.
Kat: Sense of entitlement. But no names. But yeah, Elaine's point, yeah, Judith Miller or, let's leave Iraq, Elisabeth Bumiller were held to completely different standards than our Green Zone reporters. Dexy is outed as the first-stop for military propaganda,
outed by the Washington Post, and it's not news? The man who was in Falluja in November 2004 and saw only good things. Not white phosphorus. And what did they say, the mainstream, as a defense when they were first shooting down those reports that emerged this year? "Oh, it's not true. We had people there and if our reporters didn't see it . . ." Well it was used and once the military admitted ot it, mainstream media had to change their tunes. But it never led to, "Oh it is true. We had people there and why didn't our reporters see it and report on it?" That's what should have happened. They called it a lie, until the military admitted to it, and used their embeds as their evidence. When they had to admit it was true, where was the questioning of their embeds? So, yeah, we need the press criticism as much as we need to know what's going on there.
Elaine: So is ten minutes at the top of the show enough?
Kat: I'd go with fifteen.
Betty: I'd agree to that. The events need to be discussed. But I'm wondering about another aspect, phone calls?
Kat: I'm completely against them. When it was live, there was a point. Now, due to the absurd, reactionary ruling by the FCC, there's a delay. I have no problem with a listener being a guest but the calls don't feel real to me anymore due to the delay. That's not slamming KPFA for doing the delay. I wish someone would refuse and take it to court but one fine alone could wipe out KPFA.
Betty: I remember that discussion Andrea Lewis and Philip Malderi did on the topic. It's just ridiculous. And a huge overreaction. But not surprising when you consider that the right-wing has been screaming about the issue for years. It has nothing to do with Janet Jackson. If her top had been ripped off by Justin Timberlake on radio, it wouldn't have mattered. You don't have a visual on radio. But it's part of a climate of cracking down and it has nothing to do with obsecenity, my opinion, as much as it does with censorship.
Kat: Good point. There's also the issue that not everyone can handle calls. Andrea and Philip can. Larry Benksy's a pro at it. But the reality is that if it's a new show with hosts who aren't experienced in dealing with calls, you're going to end up with a lot of being polite and allowing someone to go on way longer than they need to. I wouldn't object to KPFA doing a strictly call in show.
WBAI does one, I think.
Elaine: Hugh Hamilton hosts it.
Kat: That's the one. I listened when we were in NYC. I wouldn't have a problem with that. But with one hour and I'd be thinking, "Oh shut up already, someone else has a point and you've just gone goofy."
Elaine: Do you want to eleborate on that?
Kat: Well the woman who made her point about the propaganda efforts of the administration made her point long before she started going into mass hypnosis. In that case, a guest extended her comments and I felt she ended up undercutting her earlier remarks the longer she spoke. I'm coming at it from a differnt place than many would because I listen to KPFA a lot and I know, for instance, Philip's often having to deal with things on air that he shouldn't have to. I'm not for screening calls, put them on. But he's been acused of saying things, "You just said," that he didn't say. I don't have any use for that kind of nonsense and I don't think he did either from his response. And you get the people who, let's say Larry Benksy's talking about cats, okay? He's doing an hour on cats. You'd have someone calling in saying, "Great show, really enjoying it. Now about potatoes . . ." If we're dreaming up a show about Iraq, I don't want callers calling in to use up time by defocusing from the topic. There are actually a lot of smart listeners who call in. But sometimes I hear a call and think, "They must be listening for the first time." If so, great, maybe they'll stick around and really grow to appreciate the station but with so little time, I'm not willing to endure their growing pains.
Elaine: Have you ever called in?
Kat: Yeah. Years ago. I think it was to one of Kris Welch's shows. Not
Living Room because this was before Living Room. And I made my point and was one of those people who then hang up so I can hear the response. But there were more calls back then. Calls don't really get a great deal of time now and when they do get air time, it's usually at the last ten or less minutes. So when I'm listening to a caller who doesn't grasp that they made their point and that there are other people waiting to make a point, I just get irritated.
Betty: What if on one show every now and then, they had a segment that was just phone calls?
Kat: I wouldn't mind that. C.I. said to mention that
Matthew Rothschild was going to be on Monday's The Morning Show --
Elaine: The pay off for the cocktail combo?
Kat: Yeah. We're joking by the way. But Matt Rothschild is a guest pretty frequently. Sometimes they have calls and that usually goes well. But if it doesn't, my thought is always, "Well what did I miss because someone didn't grasp the discussion and didn't grasp it after the question was answered but instead decided to stay on the line?" He's going to be on discussing the federal judge's ruling that
Wally and Cedric have covered the last two days. And I just have this nightmare that someone's going to be calling in and saying something like, "Well the world court isn't something I'm in favor of and . . ." There are good callers and sometimes they need to stay on the line. There was a caller on a segment Andrea did with a friend of C.I.'s --
Elaine: I know the one you mean.
Kat: And the caller was making the point of the genocide of Native Americans and the nature of American wars. It was a solid point and the guest didn't care for it all. Too bad. It needed to be said and I loved that man who called in for saying it. But his comments were on topic. I don't mind if someone agrees or disagrees with the guests for the most part, I do mind when they can't even grasp what the topic is. There was a comedian Philip interviewed a while back and the name's escaping me but on something like that, fine, there are going to be people who are calling in to talk about anything. It was an older man and I'm sure he touched many lives. And I remember enjoying the calls, especially one that mentioned where he first saw the comedian -- can you tell how many hours I've logged with KPFA? -- but that's different from when there's Phyllis Bennis or Matt Rothschild or someone coming on to discuss an issue and a caller wants to ignore the issue and change the topic.
Betty: I get what you're saying. I will hit the fast forward button sometimes when a caller is talking about something like that. I'll just do a quick fast foward because it's obvious that nothing's being added. That's your point, right?
Kat: Right. But I do like your idea of a scheduled time for callers.
Elaine: A "Next week, we'll be taking your calls for twenty minutes"?
Kat: Right. Just don't make me miss out on a great guest because someone wants to hijack the topic by arguing about what's been discussed -- claiming something's been said that wasn't -- or by ignoring the topic to push your pet issue.
Elaine: Biggest story of Iraq this week?
Betty: Ehren Watada. To me that was huge and I can't believe how little coverage it received.
Kat: I'm going to take a pass because C.I. jotted down some thoughts today for an editorial at
The Third Estate Sunday Review. I think that's the biggest topic and that it hasn't been addressed. I don't want to steal the thunder. After that, Ehren Watada absolutely.
Elaine: I know
Jim was really excited about that, about what C.I. made some notes on. I'm really curious now. Ehren Watada would be my choice as well. His hearing did put the war on trial. It would have to because the reason he refuses to deploy to Iraq is that he feels the war is illegal. If we don't have coverage on that, the dialogue doesn't get started. It's easy to say, "Oh, the war is illegal." It obviously is, obvious to me. But when you've got Francis Boyle, Denis Halliday and Ann Wright testifying to why they believe it is illegal, you've got some strong voices making points that America needs to hear. If you're not covering it, you're doing a disservice. I'd also add that when someone takes a stand and it is supposedly a stand that independent media supports, if you're not there covering it and exploring it, you're sending a message that your support only comes at certain times.
Betty: Right. If I was serving and considering taking a stand, I would probably look at the coverage he got, or didn't get, and weigh that into my decision. "Will I get support? Or will I be left standing on my own?" I think he was left to stand on his own.
Elaine: Okay, Kat's yawning. So what's the point of this? I was asked ahead of time to do the wrap up, in case anyone's wondering. Do we think KPFA will air this program? Probably not. But until we can dream of better things, we can't have them. So this was our way of addressing the war coverage and Betty and I worked up the wrap up when Kat took a break to get some medicine for her migraine. Betty, closing thought?
Betty: We have to dream it to get to it. Otherwise we're just zooming down the road wondering if we should stop for directions. Dream the destination.


News report:

Iraq snapshot
Friday, August 18, 2006, the so-called 'crackdown' continues (and early childhood experts may note the engaged-in-a-power-struggle nature of it all as well as the increasing futility), Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing started and concluded Thursday, Ricky Clousing returned to North Carolina and DNA on Jake Kovco's pistol is thought to have been indentified.

Ehren Watada is the first known commissioned officer to refuse to deploy in Bully Boy's illegal war. Yesterday, the military held an Article 32 hearing to determine whether there was reason/cause to take the matter to a court martial. Ehren Watada's attorneys were Eric Seitz and Cap. Mark Kim (of the US Army). While the prosecution called only one witness (to confirm that, as Watada had stated would be the case, Watada did not deploy) and spent the rest of its time showing excerpts o a speech Watada gave this weekend at the Veterans for Peace conference (click here at CounterPunch and here at Truthout and the latter offers video clips of the speech).

Watada's side called three witnesses Francis Boyle, Denis Halliday and retired Amry Colonel Ann Wight. Boyle testified as the nature of the war noting that the lie that Bully Boy pressed (for Congressional and public approval) of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9-11 "
constitutes . . . a conspiracy to defraud the United States government." Ann Wright testified: "I personally believe that the decision of the Bush administration to invade and occupy Iraq without getting the authority of the UN Security Council . . . falls into the category of a war of agrression, which is by international law a war crime. So by a persaon saying 'Yes, I'm gong to Iraq,' one could argue that just by doing that, that is participating in a war crime.'"

As Eric Seitz had expected/predicted, the hearing lasted one day. Watada could find that the hearing determined there were no grounds for proceeding to a court-martial or a court-martial could be the next step. That call will be made by
Lt. Colonel Mark Keith who presided over the hearing. A court-martial could mean as many as seven years imprisonment.

Ehren's father Bob Watada will be in the San Francisco Bay Area on a speaking tour that starts tomorrow and ends August 27th. A full list of scheduled appearances can be
found here. A sample of upcoming events includes:

Saturday 8/19
7:30-9:30
Vigil for Abeer Hamza (14-year old girl who was raped & killed with her family by 5 US troops) Willard Park (Telegraph & Derby), Berkeley Contact: Not in Our Name 510-601-8000
Sunday 8/20
11-5:00pm
American Muslim Voice Foundation Convention
12:45-1 pm Bob Watada speaks 5748 Mowry School Rd., Newark Contact: Samina F. Sundas 650-387-1994
http://www.amuslimvoice.org
Monday 8/21
noon-1pm
Press Conference SF Japantown (Peace Plaza or NJAHS Gallery) Contact: Grace Morizawa
gmorizawa [at] yahoo.com 510-289-1285
Monday 8/21
6:00-8:30pm
Reception & Event in SF Japantown Japanese Community & Cultural Center of NC (JCCCNC) 1840 Sutter, San Francisco Contact: Pete Yamamoto 415/921-5007

Tuesday 8/22
1-3 pm brown bag lunch & educational event Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County 467 Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa Contact: Elizabeth 707-575-8902

Wednesday 8/23
10:30-noon
UC Berkeley gathering with students and campus organizers Heller Lounge, Student Union Building, UC Berkeley Contact: Nina Falleunbaum 510-812-8026 noon-1:30pm Event at UC Berkeley ­ Sproul Plaza Contact: Wesley Ueunten 510-579-2711


Thursday 8/24
noon-3pm
World Can't Wait­Youth & Students Conference San Francisco (site TBA) Contact: Jessalyn Gagui 415-286-3408

Friday 8/25
7-10pm "
Sir! No, Sir!"
Film Screening & Speakers Santa Cruz Veterans Building Contact: Sharon Kufeldt 650-799-1070

Again, a full list can be found by clicking
here (Indybay IMC).

Once again,
Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use public@defenselink.mil to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD." Courage to Resist and ThankYouLt.org. will continue to offer resources, ideas and inspiration. Get the word out.


In addition
Howie Hawkins (Green Party candidate for US Senate from NY) is urging "the peace movement to provide financial support to soldiers who are punished for refusing to participate in the war." And, as many community members have noted, while there's been a "How Can They!" attitude regarding Hillary Clinton's Democratic opponent not being invited to a TV debate, the Green Party candidate is shut out as well -- despite the lack of op-eds, news segments, et al. (The Green Party candidate would be Howie Hawkins.)

Another war resister, Ricky Clousing, is back at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. The
AP reports that he arrived back this morning. Clousing self-checked out of the army in June of last year. Last week, Mike Barber (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) had the scoop that the 24-year-old Clousing would be holding a news conference to announce he was turning himself in. Estes Thompson reports that after turning himself in at Fort Lewis in Washington, he was ordered "to report to a unit at Fort Bragg that handles absent soldiers."


Turning to diplomacy issues, as trade talks went on in Jordan this week, talks
which Petra noted were "co-chaired by Speaker of the Lower House of the [Jordan] Parliament Abdel Hadi Al Majali and his Iraqi counterpart Mahmoud Al Masshadani," Jordan's Ahmed al-Lozi became "the first fully accredited Arab ambassador in Iraq."

Meanwhile in the United States,
Free Speech Radio News reported Thursday that "twenty-one former generals and high ranking national security officials called on President Bush to reverse course . . . and embrace a new area of negotiation with Iraqn, Iraq and North Korea." Speaking with Andrea Lewis on KPFA's The Morning Show today, Medea Benjamin noted that while the US administration makes no efforts to reach out to the Iraqi parliament, "we at the grass roots [level] have." Benjamin was referring to the CODEPINK & Global Exchange sponsored trip to Amman, Jordan where she and others met with Iraqis including the "members of the largest Shia coalition, the largest Sunni block in their parliament, the largest secular coalition, torture victims from Abu Ghraib."

Benjamin observed, "It was quite an amazing coming together of people who, from all different perspectives, wanted to see an end to the US occupation, an end to the violence in Iraq, the reconstruction of their country and we came awy from there, Andrea, with a lot of ideas about how to get the voices of the Iraqi people out in the US so that when we hear that same old excuse here 'We can't leave the Iraqi people now!' we can hear the voice of Iraqis telling us precisely how they want to see an end to the occupation and a broader reconciliation plan."

This comes as
Robert Reid (AP) reports that: "Key U.S. senators complain it's time to tell Iraqis that American troops won't stay indefinitely and to make political compromises to avoid all-out civil war." This as a Dick Cheney stump speech/plea for cash turned into an event. Jesse Harlan Alderman (AP) reports that a Boise, Idaho fund raiser included protestors in "orange [hunting] vests handing out leaflets on hunter safety"; "[p]eace activists silently lining a major downtown arterial with tombstones to mark the mounting death toll in Iraq"; and a "Dick Cheney look-alike contest" with an award of "$22 in free gas and a box of shotgun shells" (and hopefully a list of qualified plastic surgeons).


In Iraq, the chaos and violence continue. Despite 'crackdown' 6.0 which now means that all vehicles are banned for two-days in the capital.
Reuters reports that this ban has been imposed due to the one-year anniversary of the stampeded that killed almost "1,000 Shi'ite pilgrims . . . in a stampede . . . when a crowd . . . was panicked by rumours of a suicide bomber." Al Jazeera notes that the ban is in place until Monday morning. The BBC reports that, in addition to the vehicle ban, there are "[c]heckpoints, [and] body searches". Exactly how vehicle bans, checkpoints or body searches will stop rumors (the stated cause of last year's stampeded) remains unclear.

Bombs?

CBS and the Associated Press report that in Balad Ruz, a roadside bomb claimed killed at least one person. KUNA reports that today it was announced that a "multi-national force (MNF) soldier" died in southern Baghdad on Thursday from a roadside bomb. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that the "British military base near Amarah" was under mortar attack "Friday morning." [In the United States, Amy Bartner (Indianapolis Star) reports on a "new 11-bed unit . . . at the Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center where the most seriously wounded soldiers in the Iraq war will be able to recover" and notes that while body armor is credited with saving the lives of American troops, "that protection can't prevent potentially debilitating injuries to arms and legs".] Australia's NEWS.com notes that a mortar attack on a city council member in Baquba wounded "[f]our bodyguards."

Shootings?In Taji, a convoy ("civilian trucks") was attacked leaving one person wounded and a 'guard' dead
the AP reports. Australia's NEWS.com reports that the truck went up in flames and had been carrying "kerosene" while also noting that a grocer was shot dead in Yarmuk. (Other press outlets do not identify what the truck was carrying.) Australia's The Advertiser reports that seven Shi'ite pilgrmins were shot dead by "gunmen" in Baghdad. KUNA reports that "two civilians" were shot dead in Mosul.

Corpses?
AP reports five were discovered in Mahmoudiya ("gunshot wounds"). The Canadian Press notes the five and adds that six more were discovered "in the Tigris River" ("bullet-riddled and tortured").

Kidnappings?

CBS and AP report that journalist Saif Abdul-Jabbar al-Tamimi was kidnapped Wednesday and that "[t]here has been no claim of responibility". Reporters Without Borders notes that he was kidnapped in Baghdad as were journalists Reem Zeid and Marwan Khazaal who "have been hostages for more than six months" now while journalist Salah Jali al-Gharrawi has not been seen since his April 4th kidnapping. Reporters Without Borders notes: "A total of 49 journalists and media assistants have been kidnapped in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003. Instead of being afforded a degree of security by the fact that they work for the media, journalists have been singled out as targets."

Meanwhile,
AFP reports that Father Saad Syrop was kidnapped, also from Baghdad, Tuesday evening after he had finished Mass (at St. James Church) and was heading home.


In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death in Baghdad of Jake Kovco resumed. Following Wednesday's hypnosis shocker, an unscheduled day-off was taken due to reported delays with DNA test that might reveal the 'owner' of the DNA found on Kovco's gun. As
Michael Edwards reports on PM (Australia's ABC) Michelle Franco ("DNA expert") testified that the DNA belongs to Soldier 14. Reporting on The World Today (ABC), Edwards noted that "Soldier's 14's DNA was found on the gun's slide, trigger, base plate, and magazine."

Soldier 14 previously testified to the hearing
on August 9th and dropped a bombshell when he testified that the (written) statements provided to the military investigation were not reflective of his (verbal) statements -- specifically, as Peter Charlton (Courier-Mail) noted this included the claim that there was a standard procedure (the so-called 'buddy system') in operation "where a pair of soldiers check each other's weapons to ensure they were unloaded."

The
Herald-Sun reports that only the DNA "on the pistol's slide" were ruled by expert Franco to be a direct match (DNA on the "trigger, hand grip and magazine" are believed, by Franco, to be Soldier 14's but are "not direct matches.") Tracy Ong (The Australian) reports that Soldier 14 testified, after the DNA results, that he had no memory of handling Jake Kovco's gun and that his attorney ("Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Green") cross-examined Franco who noted that skin celles "could be transferred through a handshake or carried in sweat."

The
AAP calls the DNA "[s]ensational new evidence," notes that "Soldier 14 has refused to be interviewed by police about the tests" and reports that "Monday . . . Soldier 14 will be cross-examined by lawyers representing Private Kovco's widow, Shelley, and his parents" Judy and Martin Kovco.

The
Daily Telegraph notes that Soldier 14 believes "that both he and Pte Kovco had probably used the same megaphone at the embassy on the day of the shooting" and that's where any DNA swap would have most likely taken place.

Finally, in peace news,
Camp Casey III is ongoing in Crawford, Texas until September 2nd -- on September 5th it switches locations and becomes Camp DC. AFP reports that it "will be located near the National Mall, the blocks-long expanse of lawn between the US Congress building and the White House". While it's still located in Crawford, upcoming events include the following: August 18th forum on peaceful solutions moderated by Carroll Boone and an August 21st War Crimes Tribunal. Actress and activist Mimi Kennedy, of Progressive Democrats of America, will be there on August 20th along with Carolyn Wonderland who will perform from 7:30 to 9:30 pm.

























Finally, a hilarious TV review. All three allowed me to avoid my husband's dreadful column in today's paper.

TV: 4 Days in 7th Hell
Ava and C.I. Camden here. At least that's what our agent tolds us to tell people. We just landed the gig and ay-yi-yi.

Simon and Ruthie are out!

That's the word.

And 7th Heaven needed two new young characters quick. Could we pass for fourteen-year-old cousins just moved to Glenoak? Catherine Hicks took one look at us and laughed out loud. What fun she must have been on Tucker's Witch opposite the world's oldest college student (31 when he was on screens as Otter; 37 when on screens as Bob McGraw).

We avoided Stephen Collins for most of the week because he was on one of his "I could have been Tom Selleck" kicks. (Let it go, let it go. Doesn't TM offer any peace?)

Our big concern, frankly, was us.

We wanted to stand out and thought we could give the show a goose by showing a little flesh. That led to the day one dressing down.

As punishment, drill sergeant, er series creator, Brenda Hampton forced us to watch a few episodes, "So you can understand the 7th Heaven family."

We're not sure, but we think it was the last episode, the one about wedding rings -- where Pop Camden lost his like twenty-something years prior and they were only talking about it now, where the minute-rice hottie lost his and where Simon was having trouble paying for one -- that left us feeling all nasty and wasted like we were tricked out on 'ludes.

There was a beaming Hampton, glowing in front of us, asking, "So you get it now?"

"Yeah, it's about a family in Amish country," one of us cracked.

As an attempted brainwashing, Hampton forced us to watch the episode about Sam & David's birth.

"Get it now?" Hampton asked in sterner tones.

Hey, we've been through the airports, we're familiar with Moonies. We smiled vacantly and said, "It's about life and love and puppy dog tails."

She embraced us warmly, gave us gift bags of Nabisco Oreo Cookies and we think we heard her say something about pamphelt literature that we'd be passing out on the weekend.

We were too busy working up our first big scene.

The script had C.I. Camden saying, "I don't know Ava, I hope everyone likes us." Ava Camden responds, "Me too. They seem really nice and, when I look at them, I just feel the love." C.I. was supposed to respond, "I think I have an idea of how we can get them to like us." Then our characters rush out of the room and the next scene (to be filmed on Friday) would have us making Duncan Hines brownies for everyone in the kitchen.

We filmed the bedroom scene on our second day. We didn't understand the big problem on the set. Look, we know writers are married to every word, comma and period. We weren't going to mess with the lines. We were playing two troublemakers from the Camden side who'd been sent to live with the Rev for awhile (thirteen episodes) so that the love of a good American family could show us the error of our ways. We were spitballing and brainstorming how to make the scene come alive. No one, not one person, told us we couldn't provide our own props.

We think the scene went wonderfully. (And we'll note no one called for a reshoot. In fact, they were so stunned by our creativity, the director forgot to yell "cut.")

We were upstairs in Mary's old room (apparently the designated room for trouble makers) and they'd set some suitcases around to make it look like we'd just arrived. One was open, on the bed and we put a prop in there. The director called, "Action."

Here's how it played. Ava Camden, 14, looks around the room, scared of the newness but in awe of the love that breathes from the wall like lead paint. C.I., 14, knelt before the bed, reached into the suitcase and pulled out a bag.

Beginning to roll a joint, C.I. said, "I don't know Ava" dramatic pause to light up "I hope everyone likes us." Walking over, Ava took the joint and a deep drag before saying, "Me too" and then exhaling to give the scene a visual before adding, "They seem really nice and, when I look at them, I just feel the love," Ava passed the joint back to C.I. Studying it for a moment, then waving it in the air, C.I. shouted, "I think I have an idea of how we can get them to like us!"

Excitedly, we rushed out of the room.

We thought we'd really created something and read the stunned silence that followed the end of the scene to be a testament to that. Only after one of us called, "Cut!" did we realize there was a problem.

We were in Hampton's office, surrounded by Oreos, Campbell soup cans and, we swear, a Dodge Grand Caravan. Hampton was t-ed off.

What did we think we were doing?

Well, the script said we were "trouble makers," right?

"In the 7th Heaven universe," Hampton explained, "that means you've been borderline C-students, who forget to brush after every meal -- you have received your complimentary Crest tubes, right -- and who've dated dangerously."

"Oh, we're sex addicts," one of us said while the other shrugged and added, "Our bad. Wrong addiction. Live and learn."

"S-s-s-e-x!" Hampton stammered. "No one used that word! You 'dated dangerously.' That means you missed your curfews, didn't introduce your dates to your parents and have taken to liberally using swear words like 'darn.'"

She really bore down on the word 'liberally.' We let it pass. So we were playing two losers? Well why didn't she just say that?

"That's right. Social losers," Hampton said firmly.

"So we should be in wardrobe getting some glasses and ugly outfits," one of us said attempting to end the discussion.

"What? No!" Hampton answered. "These are not dorks, these are dangerous characters. We went with you two because we were told you could bring 'gritty realism' to the show. That you'd be convincing as dangerous characters, as --"

We exchanged a look, rolled our eyes and feared she was about to say it, yep, she was.

"darn dangerous characters. We have created a whole arc of growth storyline for them where, by the end of this episode, they go to church to hear Lucy's sermon and by the beginning of the second episode they've repented and recanted their old ways."

She thought that was realism? She obviously never saw Kids or read Drew's Little Girl Lost -- let alone visited the real world.

We just wanted out of there before she ordered us to clean the latrines or, worse, palmed off some more Kraft samples on us.

"Got it," we said nodding.

Day three was a scene where we were supposed to talk to Kevin about feeling like an outsider while he took care of his daughter. Our big lines were "That is just amazing" and "What a sweet baby."

Our big mistake? Saying them when Kevin bends over to change Savannah's diaper.

We thought that was real. Come on, it's only a matter of time before George Stults does a multi-year vanishing act and then reappears playing a creepy character with a creepy hairline on a soap opera. Those looks are transitory, why not enjoy them while they last? Or are we the only ones who remember "Merle the Pearl"?

So we exchanged a look, stared at Stults blue jean clad butt and stated, "That is just amazing" followed by a whistle and "What a sweet baby."

You'd have thought we said, "Break me off a piece of that, Sister Slut!" the way Brenda Hampton came storming up to us.

Back her in office, smoke was pouring out of her ears as she reemed us out (which seemed to be the day-to-day thing she got the most kicks from, obviously Aaron's death has left her feeling "empowered" -- we'll tell Tori).

"That is just about it!" she screamed. "We have already discussed the s-word. For you to do that scene and do it that way was just . . ."

She paused before spitting out the word "suggestive."

But weren't we 'dangerous dating' 14-year-olds? If we wouldn't have sex, wouldn't we at least notice the bods around us? (And did anyone really have a bod on that show other than Stults?)

"This is a family show!" she hissed. "Maybe in three years, when your characters hit 17, we'll do a show revolving around the s-word, giving one of you a pregnancy or STD scare. Other than that, Camdens save it for marriage!"

We shuddered as we remembered the glorification of marriage in the ring episode, where Lucy and Kevin go dreamy eyed at the thought of her parents about to have sex as soon as everyone leaves the room. Creepy.

Hampton insisted that was "reality!" and that married people continue to have sex. We countered we weren't doubting that they did but we don't know many children who get excited about the thought of their parents having . . . We paused, smiled politely and ended with 'the s-word.'

She told us they do that in a religious family, they do it all the time, they get very excited when the parents have the s-word. Not wanting to be questioned on that, she warned us against screwing up tomorrow's big church scene and told us to get out.

We were nervous until we called our agent who set us straight: "Reality is that you're characters won't see 17 -- the show's only got 13 episodes and then it's over. Reality is that Spelling was a franchise but Hampton is Fat Actress. The CW won't kiss her ass. A show that had it's highest rating in 1999 should have been cancelled in 2001."

That calmed our nerves. But we really did want to do a good job -- or, at least, avoid another ass chewing. So we gave a lot of thought to the church scene. We had six lines between us. These little generic statements that never even mentioned the Son of the God. So this time, we decided to tamper with the text.

Hampton didn't hit the roof. She'd blown the roof off days ago. She shot to the moon on this one. Grabbing us roughly, each by an upper arm, (and did she take a moment to compliment our delt tone? No.) she hauled us off to the side.

"What is all that 'Praise Jesus' crap! This ain't no revival!" she snarled.

But it's a family show, a religious family show.

"We do not stress 'Jesus.'"

"How do you do a religious family show, where two characters are pastors, and never talk about 'Jesus'?" wondered one of us.

"Very carefully," Hampton insisted. "Our appeal is splintered among various denominations. You two acted like you were about to start speaking in tongues. Do you know what that would do to our ratings?"

We started to ask, "What ratings?" -- but she looked like Pat Roberston calling for the murder of Hugo Chavez, so we just eased away slowly.

We hit our marks, the director called action and we reshot the scene, which for some reason included Campbell's chicken noodle soup being passed around with the offering plate. We uttered our lines in a mechanical drone -- with all the believability of Condi Rice testifying before the 9-11 Commission.

Hampton pronounced it 'perfection' and before we could break for lunch we had to shoot the next scene with Catherine Hicks. This was the scene where we thank Annie for taking us into her home especially since we're from her husband's side of the family. Hicks is mainly supposed to listen to us then say "We are family, we are" while offering us Oreos.

Pouring all the anger over the way her career turned out into that one line, we felt like she was flashbacking to Chuckie as she nearly crammed two cookies down our throats. This was sincerity torn from the Book of Tammy Faye. We couldn't help but giggle, blowing the take.

Hick was furious and screaming for Hampton, screaming for her agent, screaming for makeup and screaming for her career being in a public toilet.

Hey, don't blame us, we didn't force her to disgrace herself for an eleventh season of bad TV. And it's not like we'd been taunting her with, "Oh yeah, well Bess Armstrong didn't bastardize her craft!" We hadn't brought up any of her contemporaries from the days when Hicks' name conjured a promising, exciting career.

But that was it for us, Hampton told us, we weren't 7th Heaven people. (Gee, you think?) They'd piece together what they could in editing (like they don't do that already) and we wouldn't be needed for the second episode.

She'd had a brainstorm: our characters salvation hadn't taken. We'd gone back to 'dangerous dating' and snuck out, on a Sunday night (a sure sign of our sinful ways -- even the Lord rested on Sunday!), then ditched our dates (who just wanted to share an ice cream soda with us) for the mysteries of the road as promised by an old man offering us a ride to La Jolla (if Hampton was attempting to suggest a portal to hell, couldn't she have just had us head off for the Richard Nixon Museum in San Clemente?).

It would all happen off screen (like most of the action does on that show) and lead to a lot of pondering and soul searching on the part of the Camdens over Oreos and cups of Campbell's tomato soup.

"It'll be another award winning episode!" she exclaimed and we just knew she didn't mean Emmys but some right-wing group applauding the show for tackling the perils of hitchhiking and 'dangerous dating.'

At this point, we didn't care -- our agent had nailed down a pay-or-play for all thirteen episodes. We packed up our stuff and headed out, passing the soundstage where Hampton had gathered in a circle with the cast and profit participants to pray for what really mattered: "residuals," "brand intergration" and "end-of-season renewal."

Can a show about nothing last twelve seasons?

We'd be non-believers like our agent but cloaking itself in the guise of faux-morality had pulled it up to the eleventh season. Appealing to the gods of commerce (the true religion practiced on the product placement heavy show) and the gods of false piety had clearly worked for it thus far.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A lady never gobbles? Thomas Friedman does.

The heat in New York was getting to me, it was getting to Thomas Friedman too. So when my friend Elaine invited me along on a trip, I jumped at it. Sadly, you always take your baggage on any journey and, for me, that means my husband Thomas Friedman.

He swore he would be on his best behavior and I wanted to believe it possible. I just wanted to get out of New York so badly and away from the "ladies" of the War Paint Council. Thomas Friedman accused me all week of being jealous. I'll be the first to cop it, Thomas Friedman and the 'gals' out girly-girl me. True, I never felt I needed to prove my femininty but it's also true that they're distorted version of what it means to be a woman is pretty insulting. But there we were having fun on the west coast, laughing and joking -- I mean me with friends -- and there was Thomas Friedman pouting.

To get him to stop being such a drip, I told him we'd go buy a wig for him. Gail Collins still has his wig. Well a wig turned into a trip to Fredrick's of Hollywood and, several hours later, I should have grapsed that his promise to just 'doll up' in the privacy of our room was out the window.

But I didn't.

Last night was a wonderful party. I was laughing, I was drinking, for once no one was hollering "Betinna, help me flip over to my side, I have gas!" or "Betinna, grab the enema kit! I'm blocked again!" (well if you'd lay off all that canned cheese . . .) or "Betinna, the NAIR's burning! It's burning bad! I guess they aren't kidding when they tell you on the box not to use it down there!"

A man was flirting with me. It's been so long since I've even had a genuine compliment. Okay, Robert Novack did compliment on my eye make up last month but only because he wanted me to show him how to do his eyes similarly.

For just a moment, I was able to forget all about my life back home, about my husband who begs me to use a strap on (keep dreaming), about my husband who thinks we're in a competition to see who can be more lady-like, about it all.

Honestly, I was flirting back.

It may have been the alcohol, it may have been the feeling of freedom, but it was a moment that made me glad to be alive.

And then . . .

I made the mistake of looking across the room when I heard a commotion.

All dolled up, all padded and primped, there was Thomas Friedman in his platinum blonde wig, wearing the red dress that wasn't made out of latex but the fabric had a lot more give than I expected. He had several coats of foundation on and all I could think was, "Unlike me, he's not Black so he really shouldn't use my make up."
But he obviously had. On his face, on his shoulders. On his hairy chest (where it clumped and looked almost ridiculous as his dolled up face with the mustache).

"Has anyone seen Jack or Bobby?" Thomas Friedman asked in the most girlish, whispery voice he could manage.

Someone shouted out that the WB cancelled that show and Thomas Friedman shot a cross look before sashaying through the crowd saying, "I love you, I love you all."

"Who does it think it is?" asked the man who'd been flirting with me.

"Marilyn Monroe," I said grimly.


Marching over, I grabbed Thomas Friedman's arm and told him this wasn't a costume ball.

"I'm here to mingle," Thomas Friedman hissed. "Did you see how everyone turned and looked the moment I entered the room."

"You are embarrassing yourself!" I said as calmly as I could manage.

"Jealous heffer," Thomas Friedman snarled jerking free of my grip.

"It's your funeral," I told him as I headed off to the bar determined to get smashed.

As I tossed back one shot after another, I wondered how many women had to watch their husbands act coquettish with other men?

I got over my pity party quickly.

Mainly because if there's anything Thomas Friedman loves more than dress up it's playing War Hawk. The big talk was Ehren Watada, the brave young man who has refused to go to Iraq and is now facing an Article 32 hearing that will determine whether or not the military should move to a court martial.

Well a War Hawk like Thomas Friedman couldn't keep doing the breathy whispers when he could be squawking.

He started talking Ned Lamont who, a week ago, he didn't even know existed but, like every other gas bag, he got the e-mailed talking points. From Lamont he started lecturing about how the U.S. couldn't leave Iraq. (His previous column was a reaction to Gail having his wig, the minute he got a new one, he didn't need to antagonize her anymore.) As he went on and on about the debt we owe "the Arabs" while also tossing around the term "Islamic fascists."

A crowd was gathering which excited Thomas Friedman, he really thought he had the audience in the palm of his hand, but then the person throwing the party, C.I., called him out on his nonsense.

C.I.: "You're insane. In one minute you're smearing Lebanon and in the next you're talking about the United States creating a nation state that will have divisions and arguments for years to come. You're endorsing a new long-term conflict by putting America in charge of who will be in charge of Iraq."

Thomas Friedman fell back on his generic talking point, "The world is flat."

"No, just your sense of proporition and perspective."

Thomas Friedman was pissed. He was mad. And the front of his dress had a little tent forming because nothing gets a War Hawk's juices flowing faster than conflict.

"Truth be told, some of the most constructive, on-the-money criticism over the past three years about how to rescue Iraq or improve the broader war on terrorism has come from Democrats like Joe Biden, Carl Levin, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Bill Clinton," Thomas Friedman said with all the self-assurance a man teetering on four-inch heels can manage.

His remarks were greeted with hoots and laughter (reminding me of his entrance).

"Hillary Clinton? She's had no critique of the war! She's done nothing but prove that a woman can be as stupid, piggish and militaristic as a man. She's dragging us all a short way, baby," offered party guest Kat to shouts of approval.

Thomas Friedman smiled and twirled a lock of hair at being called "baby" as he prepared his response.

"Allow me to respond," Thomas Friedman said in attempt to pile on the charm but just looking foolish, "What should really worry the country is not whether the Democrats are being dragged to the left by anti-war activists who haven't thought a whit about the larger struggle we're in. What should worry the country is that the Bush team and the Republican Party, which control all the levers of power and claim to have thought only -- Oh! Shrimp puff!"

As Thomas Friedman gobbled down about twenty shrimp puffs in a row (in a very unladly-like manner), the room exploded in boos and hisses.

"You dope," exclaimed C.I. "You're the one who's not thought a whit. There is no larger struggle based on lies. You refuse to address the war you cheerleaded in terms of the lies told to the American people. You cheerleaded this war and you'd still be doing it if it had turned out differently. You're not bothered by the deaths, you're not bothered by the lies, you're a little brat whining that your team didn't win. Don't lecture others about what they have or have not thought or examined. 'The larger struggle' has to do with self-determination. That's basic in a democracy but a little liar like you doesn't give a thought to that. You're fine with any lie that gets your way. And you kid yourself that the lies are okay because of your concept of a 'larger struggle' which is nothing but xenophobia unleashed. Who-Who brought your here? How did you get into my home?"

At that moment, I wanted to dive under my bar stool and hide. Fortunately, I was spared the moment of someone pointing me out by the fact that the booze and the shrimp didn't agree with Thomas Friedman and he folded at the waist as he began hurling.

He continued hurling and clutching his stomach as people began moving away. Soon he was face down in his own vomit.

Sighing, I made my way over to him.

"Stupid desk jockey," sneered a woman looking down at him.

And to think, I'd been afraid he'd embarrass himself with his outfit. I foolishly forgot the power of his mouth.

Shaking his shoulder, I managed to rouse him enough so that he could stand on his own.

As we left the party, Thomas Friedman vowed his revenge. He would have the last word. And he'd do so by silencing the voices at the party. That's all his columns are, conversations with himself, stroking himself, the verbal equivalent of a jerk off.
Which is why I wasn't surprised to wake this morning and find him waving "Big Talk, Little Will" in my face. The title really applies to him if you think about it. I suggested that to him but the mind of Thomas Friedman is a thought-free zone.

"It's all there," he said in revision mode, "all the points I made last night that led to everyone cheering me on. I am the last honest voice."

I didn't have the energy for this. I was lost in thoughts of what-could-have-been? Like, what would have happened if I'd grabbed the inviation of that young man and snuck off? Or what if I was in my final semester of college and the end of this laughable marriage was in clear sight? Or what if Thomas Friedman just disappeared?
I don't mean he died, just ran off somewhere, Las Vegas, for instance, to pursue some dream of becoming a show girl and left me with the apartment in New York?

I snapped out of my day dreaming when I heard him say, "I want to thank you for not bringing up the fact that I embarrassed myself last night, Betinna."

What?

Oh my God, Thomas Friedman was finally going to wake up reality. It was a long time coming but maybe people really can change?

I leaned forward eagerly, ignoring the stench of his morning breath.

"I didn't conduct myself very well," he confessed sheepishly. "A lady never gobbles."

That was it? After everything last night, the only thing he was embarrassed was how he mainlined shrimp puffs like Chris Farley at an all you can eat?

A lady never gobbles? No, but a turkey does.



"Iraq snapshot"
Today, Wednesday, August 16, 2006, it's one day before Ehren Watada's Article 32 begins, a military inquiry learns that hypnosis was weighed as an option, chaos and violence continue in Iraq and curfews became the measure to address everything
as the whack-a-mole 'strategy' grows more ludicrous. If news of Karbala, Mosul and Basra don't drive that point home, Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reporting on the violence spreading outward from Baghdad should.
So
the Bully Boy reportedly frets about who's got his back and allegedly peruses Camus and attempts to market "Adapt & Win" (on the grave yard markers of "Adapt or Die"). And the war drags on.
Today is the day that the New York Times editorial board offered "
Meanwhile, in Baghdad . . ." which includes the following: "As Americans debate where to go from here on Iraq, one thing should be clear. Staying the course until President Bush leaves office 29 months from now is not an option. It is no longer even clear just what course America is on. Most of what Washington now claims to be doing cannot withstand the most elementary reality test." It's a day where the American military fatality count since the illegal invastion stands at 2604, a day where the wounded count since the beginning of Bully Boy's war of choice now numbers 19323. A day when Edward Wong and Damien Cave (New York Times) report that the July death toll for Iraqis at 3,438.
Tomorrow? Ehren Watada's Article 32 hearing begins over his refusal to deploy to Iraq and his attorney, Eric Seitz, "
expects the hearing to be over in one day." Which is why it's important to get the word out. Speaking to Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) in June, Watada spoke of how speaking out publicly could result in retaliation: "I think they will do their best to make an example of me." And, as Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reported last week, the Army has now three times rejected Watada's offer of resignation leading attorney Seitz to offer that the military appears "To want to make a martyr out of him. If that is the case, then we are certainly eager to join issue with them because I think this whole episode is going to be much more embarrassing to the Army than it is going to be detrimental in the long run to Lt. Watada."
As
Cedric Moon (KGMB9) notes the hearing is to determine whether "Ehren Watada will stand trial over his refusal to fight in Iraq". Robert Shikina (The Honolulu Advertiser) reports that the hearing is expected to include only four witness: one called by the Army, three called by Seitz. Nina Shaprio (Seattle Weekly) has reported the three witnesses for Watada: "Francis Boyle, a University of Illinois international law professor, who will testify about the legality of the war; Denis Haliday, a former United Nations assistant secretary general, presenting evidence on the same subject; and retired Army Col. Ann Wright, who will talk about how she used to train soldiers to decline orders if they appeared illegal." Seitz told Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) that Army's witness will affirm that Watada did not board the buses with others in his regiment on June 22nd and that "the Army also plans to use news clippings and video news reports".
Why would the military have a need to make an example of Ehren Watada? As
Susan Van Haitsma (Austin-American Statesman) points out: "Watada joins a growing number of soldiers whose moral convictions are leading to punitive convictions in military courts. Many soldiers who have sought conscientious objector status have been denied it. Thousands of soldiers have gone AWOL as a result of the formidable legal blcks to establishing moral objections to the Iraq war. Many have sought refuge in Canada, though political asylum for U.S. military war resisters is not official there."
More information can be found at
Courage to Resist and ThankYouLt.org.
Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling to leave a message for Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use public@defenselink.mil to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD."
Some rallies going on today:

*
Seattle, 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm, Intersate 5, at the entrance to Fort Lewis
*
Portland holds the second of its rush hour bannerings today at 4:30 pm on I5's pedistrian overpass
*
Kahului. Two events. Sign-holding at 4 pm on Kaahumanu Avenue. Teach-in at 6:00 pm, Maui Community College's Ka Lama Building Room 104A and Bob Watada, Ehren's father, will be at that event.

"On the one hand I had my duty as I knew it, to obey every order without question, to do what I was told, what everyone else was doing, goving over to Iraq and fight. On the other hand I knew that we were not fighting for Democracy, we were not fighting just terrorist, we were fighting an indigenouse insurgency who was resisting our occupation. And many lives were being sacrificed for what I thought was nothing. I came to the point where I could no longer look at the pain and suffering of so many members of the armed forces, os many families being devastated by these loses, and the grief and suffering of Iraqi citizens and all for what I felt was an intentional deception, to wage a war without any purpose, without any noble purpose."
--
Ehren Watada to Courtney Scott via Rougue Valley IMC
And today in Iraq?
Bombings?
The
BBC reports that eight died and 28 were wounded when a bomb went off in Baghdad. The Associated Press notes a roadside bomb in Hillah that killed three Iraqi soldiers (and wounded four more) and states that "[b]ombs killed at least 19 people in the Iraqi captial Wednesday". CBS and AP report that in addition to the bomb that killed eight in Baghdad, eleven more died (for the 19 total) via "[t]wo other bombs . . . in central Baghdad". [Reuters has just upped the total to 21 killed in Baghdad from bombings today.] Reuters notes that, in Basra, Yusif al-Mousawi ("general secretary of Tharalla Islamic Party") was targeted with two roadside bombs (he survived); in Kut, a roadside bomb wounded two police officers; in Jbala, a roadside bomb left three Iraqi soldiers dead while four were wounded; and, in Baquba, a police officer was killed by a roadside bomb that wounded three others. In addition, Damien Cave (New York Times) reports on the bombing of a memorial dedicated to children killed last summer by a car bomber (and, I believe one American soldier was killed in the bombing as well). Cave speaks with Muhammad Khaitan, whose his 14-year-old son Saif Muhammad died in last year's bombing, who declares, "All they left was the foundation. They don't want the next generation to remember how we suffered."
Shootings?
Meanwhile, as Sandra Lupien noted on
KPFA's The Morning Show noted, Basra is under curfew after the storming of a governor's office. Reuters reports that during the attacks on the city council and governor's office, one police officer was killed and five were wounded. The hour long fighting ending, AP notes, when British troops arrived. Reuters is a little more specific: "up to 180 British soldiers and 16 Warrior armored personnel carriers". By the way, in Basra fighting, rockets were used, the AFP reports. (We'll get back to rockets shortly.) And the answer to the violence? Curfew! curfew! curfew! as CNN reports. As the AFP notes, curfew's the sure cure for Karbala today as well -- in fact, forget 'crackdown' -- it's under "lockdown" -- consider it a lid tossed on a pot of boiling water. In Mosul, the armed fighting continued. AP places the death toll from the fighting at five. Reuters notes that these two cities follow the violence in Kerbala yesterday which Iraq's Defense Ministry says claimed the lives of 12 people yesterday. Finally, CBS and AP report that a "Danish soldier was shot in the back . . . in southern Iraq."
Corpses?
AP reports that three corpses were discovered in Kut ("bound, blindfolded . . . signs of torture").
Rockets? Poor William Caldwell IV, he was probably almost over Tuesday's sour stomach following his assurances that Sunday's most violent act in Baghdad was the result of a gas explosion. Well, someone pass him the Mylanta,
CBS and the AP are reporting that the group claiming responsibility for the attack has now released a video of "showing a Katyusha rocket purportedly fired at the U.S.-controlled Green Zone." Because it was four Australian troops and not four American troops wounded in the Green Zone Sunday from a rocket attack, it appears that a number of people are unaware of the incident. That's allowed Caldwell to deny rockets and bombs on the Baghdad neighborhood and, then Tuesday, allowed the military to play the split-the-difference wherein they allowed that okay-bombs-were-used-but-that's-it! Eye witness testimony cites rockets. Caldwell better chug that Mylanta and hope those using rockets on residential buildings Sunday didn't tape their attack as well.
Of the four Australian soldiers wounded in Sunday's rocket attack on the Green Zone, three were released and able to return to duty, the fourth remains in a hospital in Baghdad.
Her name is Sarah Webster and Ian McPhedran (Australia's Advertiser) reports the injuries are minor but include "bruising and lacerations."
In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death in Baghdad of Jake Kovco continues and . . . Well, what do you say after the Major Michael Pemberton ("
head of the military police's special investigations branch") testifies to discussions of hypnotizing one of Jake Kovco's roommates? It's the headline, it's the lede where ever you look -- not surprising. But if we can move on that attempt (not implemented) to jog memory,
here's how Pemberton characterized his relationship with the army chiefs while conducting his investigation: "
I would use the term interference" (AAP). Australia's ABC reports: "Backing up evidence given to the inquiry by another witness yesterday, Major Pemberton said senior military officials in Baghdad ignored his instructions that the body was not to be moved, potentially destroying vital forensic evidence before his investigators arrived." "Backing up evidence given to the inquiry by another witness yesterday"? That was addressed in yesterday's snapshot when Soldier 46's testimony directly contradicted the claims of others that they hadn't been instructed to secure the death/crime scene.