the new york times
thomas friedman is a great man
the common ills
I married an idiot. If that wasn't obvious before yesterday, it was this morning.
Yesterday started, as do most days with Thomas Friedman, in high drama. He had on his new wig, the good one we bought in California, and was applying his fake mole while I was attempting to shower and get ready for classes.
"Betinna," he whined, "the steam from your hot shower is making my hair go limp."
I pretended not to hear. He whined louder.
That was pretty much the morning except for the fact that he was excited due to the fact that he and Robert Novak were going to "storm" the "Times" today and demand that Gail Collins return his "ratty old wig -- not because I'm going to wear it but I don't want my own good looks besmirched by Gail Collins dressing up as me."
As him? Or as Marilyn Monroe? Or as him dressed up as Marilyn Monroe?
I almost asked but I just wanted to get out.
Classes were fun. Life is always fun away from Thomas Friedman. I think I could get stung by a bee in Central Park and I'd say "ouch" before realizing that even a day in the park with a bee sting was more fun than five minutes with Thomas Friedman.
I was heading towards our building when I saw Robert Novak.
Blood was dripping from his mouth. His blonde wig was askew. He was wearing a blue evening dress, strapless, that hugged him too tightly around the chest and seemed to ride up into his arm pits which probably explained the stains.
He saw me and put both hands in front of him as if to wave me away.
"I'm not Marilyn."
I didn't think he was.
"Your husband," he said with his trademark snarl, "accused me of trying to steal his thunder! I am not trying to be Marilyn!"
"You look nothing like her," I said because it was true and because I wanted to get away from his bad breath.
"Pardon?" I asked.
"Valerie Plame! I dressed up as Valerie Plame. She's sexy, she's got a hot husband. I just wanted to be her for one day and maybe have the world show me a little sympathy and compassion! But your husband attacked me! He accused me of trying to be a quote 'Young Marilyn.'"
Novak pointed to his mouth. Holding my nose, I looked towards it.
"Three teeth! Your husband knocked out three of my teeth!"
Three bottom teeth. Was I supposed to be sympathetic? I remembered how crooked and yellow they were.
Fortunately, the maintenance man, Pedro, came out and interrupted, warning me that I'd better go check on my husband.
"I was unclogging a toilet in the apartment next door when I heard the commotion and rushed in," he said.
Nodding, I hurried past, advising Novak that his slip was showing and he needed to fix his wig.
The door to our apartment was wide open. I could hear sobbing from inside. Loud, chest heaving sobs. I checked my watch. Noon. And already on Dawn Patrol with the Judy Garland of the "New York Times."
Swallowing, I walked in to find Thomas Friedman on the couch sobbing.
"Betinna! Betinna! Thank God, you're home! You'll never believe what that awful, awful Robert Novak did to me!"
His mascara had run, forming spiderwebs down his cheeks. Other than that, he didn't look any worse for the wear. Well, Novak was a very, very old man.
Thomas Friedman was in mid-sob when he saw the look on my face. He seemed to grasp that I wasn't going to provide the sympathy he so wanted. In a flash, he was off the couch and rummaging around the room.
"Where's the bourbon?"
Oh, we were playing Sugar Kane? I headed into the kitchen and put a kettle of water on the front burner.
A few minutes later, Thomas Friedman sailed in.
"It was awful," he said plopping in a chair.
"You were awful," I corrected.
"Me!" he hollered waving his hand in the air. "Look what he did to me with his ferret teeth!"
It was a tiny cut.
The kettle started to boil. I grabbed two cups and some tea cups.
Settling in at the table, I sipped my tea and stared at Thomas Friedman who was being petulant.
"Well it wasn't my fault!" he snapped leaping to his feet. "I'm just, I'm just all mixed up."
The understatement of the decade.
I waited for his drama spell to dry out.
He eyed me for a moment then tried a new tack.
"Well, it's not my fault!" he huffed. "I'm bloated, I'm all over the place emotionally. I think I'm getting my visitor."
"Yes, my visitor."
Thomas Friedman rolled his eyes, "My visitor, Betinna. My monthly visitor."
"Thomas Friedman, you don't have a monthly visitor."
"Well," he said clutching his fake breasts, "then why are these so sore?"
"Thomas Friedman, your breasts, they are not real bosoms."
That did it. He stormed out of the kitchen. I tried to remember if I was out of Kotex?
He didn't speak to me all night. He was "working" on his column.
"The Central Truth."
The central truth is that it's the so-sure-they-are-the-center idiots that have prolonged this illegal war. But I got to a passage and my mouth dropped open. I read it to him aloud: "Early in the Iraq war a prominent Sunni Arab leader said to me privately, 'Thomas, these Shiites, they are not real Muslims.'"
He averted his eyes.
I threw the paper at him.
"You made me a Sunni?"
"Well, you are . . . dark skinned."
"It's called Black!" I shot back. "Not only did you make me a Sunni, you made me a Sunni bigot."
Thomas Friedman grabbed his compact and lipstick and began applying another thick coat. I stared at him and the clumps that formed above his upper lip where the mustache met the bright, coral red. Snapping the compact shut, he stared at me.
He threw his hands up in a gesture that meant -- well I have no idea what it meant.
"Betinna, you're so negative. You only see the bad things. Yes, I made you a Sunni. Yes, I made you a bigot. But you are a prominent Sunni bigot. Prominent."
I was about to respond but the phone began to ring. I looked at Thomas Friedman who shot his eyebrows up and looked back at me.
Sighing, I stood and walked over to the phone.
It was Mrs. K.
"Betinna, have you seen your husband's column this morning?"
I was in no mood to discuss it.
"The reason I'm calling is because it's upset Nicky. I-I don't know what's going on. He's been pacing and muttering to himself all day."
God love Mrs. K, but if she thought that was a problem, she should try living with Thomas Friedman.
I'd give anything for just muttering and pacing, I thought as I stared at my husband in full drag at the breakfast table painting his toenails, and some of that pacing might walk off his fat ass.
"I know this sounds strange," she said, "but it seems to have something to do with you."
"He keeps saying your name, Betinna. And it's as though, well it's as though he's having an argument with Thomas Friedman. He keeps screaming, 'No, Thomas, you are morally confused. We can't do this to this girl.' Then he starts saying your name and something like 'Run! Run for your life!' He's got me very worried."
I told her I'd be right over.
Hanging up, I turned to Thomas Friedman and asked, "What did you do now?"
"If that was Robert Novak, you call him back and tell him I can hire a lawyer too! I can! I can hire Robert Luskin! Ha! I can hire --"
"It was about Nicky K. He's become unhinged."
Thomas Friedman snorted, "You only just noticed!"
Still bitter and still bitchy over Nicky K's Pulitzer win.
I grabbed my purse and headed out with Thomas Friedman whining after.
"Betinna! You promised me we would go shopping for girdles!"
I ignored him. "Moraly confused." Yes, I'd just read the phrase in Thomas Friedman's column this morning, but something about it seemed strangely familiar.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, September 8, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, bits of the long over due US Senate reporton the lies that led to war (they're calling it a look into the intell) are scattered like crumbs, US soldier Mark Wilkerson reflects on how he reached the decision not to take part in the illegal war, US soldier Darrell Anderson is reportedly headed back to the United States after attempts to be granted asylum in Canada,
and Australia's Bully Boy says Brendan Nelson is doing a "fantastic job."
In the United States, AP was first out of the gate with: "A senate intelligence committee report says there's no evidence Saddam Hussein had a relationship with terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or his al-Qaida associates before the Iraq war." CBS and AP quote US Senator John D. Rockefeller stating of the report: "Ultimately, I think you will find that administration officials made repeated prewar statements that were not supported by underlying intelligence" and that it shows "the administration pursued a deceptive strategy abusing intelligence reporting that the intelligence community had already warned was uncorroborated, unreliable and in some critical circumstances fabricated."
Reuters notes that US Senator Carl Levin has pointed to the Bully Boy's statement on August 21st and attempted (yet again) to make an unfounded link. Levin: "The president's statement, made just two weeks ago, is flat-out false."
Though the press wants to play Levin's statement as an allegation, public record shows Bully Boy stated: "I square it because imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein, who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who had relations with Zarqawi." As Levin pointed out, that "is flat-out false."
The lies that led into illegal war. Yesterday, AP notes, the Senate passed a spending measure to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with another $63 billion dollars.
As the cost in blood and currency continues to add up, more and more people turn against the illegal war. In the United States, Byron Pitts (CBS) reported on the mood in Jacksonville, North Carolina and spoke with retired Marine Colonel Jim Van Riper who admits to vote for Bully Boy twice but intends to vote Democratic for the first time. Van Riper tells Pitts: "I've turn him [Bully Boy] off. I've tuned him out." The cost in blood? AFP notes the Baghdad morgue body count for August stands at 1,584. It also includes 2666 US troops who have died in Iraq since the start of the war, 118 British troops (that includes the one who died Thursday) and 115 "other" for a total of 2899.
Of the US fatality count, Emil Guillermo (Asian Week) notes, "Ironically, of the Iraq war deaths, over 2,500 came after" Bully Boy's "declared on May 1, 2003, 'Mission Accomplished'."
CNN reports that, in Baghdad, a roadside bomb left six injured and killed three ("including a mother and child" among the dead) and that a US soldier died "south of Baghdad" from a roadside bomb. Reuters reports a car bomb in Baghdad that killed a police officer "and a bystander". Sami al-Jumaili (Reuters) reports the death of eight in Kerbala from mortars.
CNN reports that three people were shot dead in Baquba and a sunni tribal chief was shot dead in Hawija. Reuters identifies the man as Ibrahim al-Khalaf and notes that an Iraqi soldier was shot dead near Samarra (with two others wounded).
AFP reports six corpses were found in Baghdad ("tortured . . . shot to death"). Reuters reports the corpse of Haider Hamza was discovered "shot dead in front of his house" and that he had been "an interpreter working for Danish troops in Iraq".
AFP reports that Brigadier Muzher Kamel Mohammad ("head of the police force protecting Iraqi courts") was kidnapped in Baghdad. This as Reuters reports the US is clashing with people in Falluja and "U.S. troops used loudspeakers to demand people turn in 'insurgents' or face a 'large military operation'." Falluja. Again. As if November 2004 wasn't destructive enough. Hearts and minds, as Mark Wilkerson has noted, are not being won.
And the much touted non-handover? As Jim Sciutto (ABC) notes: "Watching the headlines in the American media today, you might think the U.S. military handed over military control in Iraq to Iraqis. There was certainly a ceremony yesterday -- a handshake at a military base where Iraqi commanders took control of an Iraqi army division from coailtion commanders -- but the real story is the arithmetic. Yesterday's handover affects the tiny Iraqi navy and air force, with a few hundred folks in each, and a single Iraqi army division, the 8th Army with 5500 to 7000 troops. This means only about five percent the 115,000 regulars in the Iraqi army now take their cues from the Iraqi prime minister. The rest remain firmly under foreign control -- and so do the most dangerous areas of the country, such as Baghdad and the volatile Anbar province in the west. The 8th Army operates in the relatively small -- and relatively quiet -- Diwaniyeh province in southern Iraq."
In peace news, Diana Welch (Austin Chronicle News) reviews the case of war resister Mark Wilkerson noting his disillusionment ("When we went, our general mission was to win the hearts and minds of the people. But when I got there, and I saw the people and how we were treating them, I thought, 'We're doing exactly the opposite'."), his awakening (finding out who was profitting -- "certain individuals were making on this war, how much money the corporations like Halliburton were making"), having his conscientious objector application rejected as he was called up for another tour of duty, and then deciding to check himself out. Alan Gionet (CBS4) reports that Rebecca Barker, Matt Wilkerson's mother, stated, "I think the public is looking at anyone who goes AWOL as cowards and it goes much deeper than that." Welch notes that Wilkerson could face a special court-martial (if found guilty, one year sentence is the maximum) or a general one (which would led to seven years if found guilty). Gionet reports: "Wilkerson is confined to base while his unit faces what could be its third deployment."
Meanwhile, Phinjo Gombu (Toronto Star) reports that war resister Darrell Anderson will be leaving Canada and returning to the US, according to his mother Anita Anderson. This should take place during the last weekend of September and he will be met at the border by peace activists and Vietnam veterans as well as by Jim Fennerty, his attorney. "If he is not arrested immediately, Anderson plans to travel to Fort Knox in Kentucky to turn himself in. It is one of the two army bases where deserters are kept while the army decides whether to court-martial or discharge a soldier."
In Washington, DC Camp Democracy continues through September 21st. It is free and open to the public. Today's events focused on labor issues. Saturday, September 9th, many events will be taking place and among those speaking will be Antonia Juhasz (The BU$H Agenda), Ray McGovern and Bill Moyers. The events will kick off at 9:00 a.m. in preparation of the 9:30 a.m. march around the Capitol Building "To remember the fallen and remind Congress and the public of the human cost of the War on and Occupation of Iraq." Sunday, September 10th will feature Juhasz, Ann Wright, Raed Jarrar and others. A complete schedule can be found here.
And beginning September 21st (International Peace Day), via United for Peace & Justice:
It's time to answer fear with courage, to step out of our personal comfort zones and take bold action to end the Iraq War.Join us in a week of nonviolent action, including civil disobedience, from September 21-28, and in pressuring pro-war politicians all this fall through the Voters for Peace pledge.
In Australia, Defence Minister Brendan Nelson continues to be a subject of discussion over his role as self-designated media spokesperson for the April 21st Baghdad death of Jake Kovco. First into the fray was prime minister John Howard who has "full confience" in Brendan Nelson. Of course he also claims to have "full confidence" in Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston whose testimony directly contradicts Nelson. And it's also true that Howard is the Bully Boy down under. So no one really cares what he says as he speaks from both sides of his mouth except possibly for this statement which has strong echoes of "Heck of a job, Brownie" -- from ABC's The World Today, Howard: "Dr Nelson is doing a fantastic job." Fantastic of a job, Brendie!
For those who missed it, yesterday Houston told the hearing that he had repeatedly warned Nelson not to speak to the press because the events of Jake Kovco's death were not clear. Or as WA Business News sums it up: "Defence force chief Angus Houston has directly contradicted the Defence Minister's statement to police about private Jake Kovco's death, saying Brendan Nelson ignored repeated warnings not to speculate about the shooting."
Samantha Hawley summarizes (on ABC's PM) thusly: In a witten submission to the Military Board of Inquiry, Dr Nelson says it was Air Chief Marshal Houston who told him that Jake Kovco had been handling his loaded weapon in some way when it discharged. But Angus Houston directly contradicts that claim. In his own submission, the Defence Force Chief indicates he repeatedly urged the minister against speculating about the cause of death, saying it appeared to have been a tragic accident but this would need to be confirmed by the Board of Inquiry."
We turn to this statement from April 27, 2006: "Of course we are, and I'm personally, very angry about it. I'm very disappointed. The inquiry and the investigation will get to the bottom of it. But I just ask Australians, it's very easy to criticise Defence. It's a large organization. It does wonderful things for Australians and for people in times of trouble, but don't just, I just say to Australians, don't just take a free kick here."
A free kick? Hasn't Brendan Nelson earned it? The statement above was when he went to the press to announce that Jake Kovco's coffin had returned home but not his body. It's been one mix up after another. Put yourself in the Kovco family's place, think of all the mix ups/screw ups Nelson's overseen and been responsible for and wonder if Brendan Nelson is the poor-put-upon he'd like to paint himself or someone performing their job very poorly.
iraqjacob bruce kovcojake kovco
phinjo gombudarrell anderson
united for peace and justice
ann wrightmark wilkerson