Friday, November 10, 2006

Thomas Friedman, trained in gas baggery, not economics

My husband Thomas Friedman is not an econmist. He is a nag, a nudge, a nit-wit, often the fool, and pudgy bordering on fat. But he trained not an economics but in gas baggery.

I would assume that, and quite a deal more, would be obvious to even his most casual readers; however, I was accosted on campus by an angry young man who had just read "China: Scapegoat or Sputnik" in the morning's paper.

"I hate your husband!" he hissed at me, anger scrawled across his face.

I appeared to throw him for a loop with my response of "Goody, let's dish."

Sadly, there was not time for that because he regained his composure, he wanted me to explain the latest column.

How do you solve a mystery like Maria or bring logic to the illogical mind of Thomas Friedman?

The answer, quite simply, is that you don't because you can't.

I explained that Thomas Friedman was on his best behavior because he's attempting to really knock the paper out before those Christmas bonus checks get written. He's been nervous ever since Monday when he saw that the price of Kraft's Easy Cheese went up. The economy's been in the toilet for years but let them raise canned cheese a few cents and finally it's "message received."

Being on best behavior meant a number of things. For one thing, it meant he toned down his tendency to come off like a print version of another Tom -- Tom Arnold. I sometimes feel as though I should call Roseanne and ask her, "Honey, how did you ever survive that?"

Both men jabber on and on about nothing and sprinkle in a few dated pop-cult refs. But Thomas Friedman is trying to get the big Christmas bonus because, as he put it, "Betinna, canned cheese does not grow on trees!" Which is why he only uses "super-size" in today's column. What most would call a high-rise or skyscraper, Thomas Friedman calls "super-size." His obsession with food and eating has alarmed me so much (well, provided me with a few jokes) that I mentioned it to my friend Elaine who initially begged off saying she preferred not to analyze anyone who hadn't gotten on her couch.

After I explained that, were Thomas Friedman to get on her couch, he'd probably break it, Elaine was game. She mentioned a number of variables and possibilities but I seized on the first thing, that it could be medical and possibly he'd had a stroke which had disrupted his normal visual-spacial cognition.

Elaine was prepared to offer other explanations but he really does write like someone who's suffered a brain disruption.

I was thinking about that while the angry young man was letting off steam in my response to the "good" that Thomas Friedman had only used "super-size."

I then pointed out that the paper he works for, "New York Times," enjoys nothing so much as lecturing, or hectoring, the Democrats. The slightest move to the left leaves the paper so frightened that executive-editor Bill Keller recently issued a memo regarding future fawning pieces on Barak Obama should avoid the use of the phrase of "left-handed" and instead utilize
ambidextrous or, better yet, "center-handed."

That really explains the entire column. Thomas Friedman is hectoring Democrats, he's toeing the paper's line that the world is flatter than one of my husband's brain waves, and he's pushing a rush to the economic bottom for all but the select few.

When that appeared to calm the angry young man, I then noted, again, that Thomas Friedman was degreed in gas baggery and not economics by pointing out that if you're writing about the economy and trade, it is encumbent upon you to note the huge trade defecit the United States has been running for some time. An economist would, a gas bagger wouldn't and, of course, Thomas Friedman avoids the the topic the way he avoids any food that can't be classified "high fat." (Proving that you are what you eat.)

The calm young man no longer looked as if he wished to dismember me so I chalked it up as a positive and headed home only to realize that the negatives always come home to roost. There was Thomas Friedman, running around the apartment with his pants down around his ankles, whining that he hadn't a bowel movement in two days and that we needed to go to the emergency room A.S.A.P. Thomas Friedman packing it in? A nasty visual but one that made perfect sense in the larger scheme of things.

Coaxing him to eat some bran was proving as unsuccessful as urging him to pull up his pants until I thought to spray the bran with canned cheese. He was then like a kitten with a saucer of milk. If only everything else was this easy.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, November 10th. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the US military announces they will court-martial Lt. Ehren Watada, the US military also announces the death of five more US troops in Iraq, John Howard makes Australians and the rest of the world glad that there's only one of him, and David Swanson explains what really happened in DC.

Starting with news on US war resister Ehren Watada. In June, Watada went public with his refusal to deploy to Iraq because the war is illegal and deploying would subject both himself and those serving under him to war crimes. In standing up, Watada became the first US commissioned officer to publicly refuse to serve in the illegal war. On August 17th, Article 32 hearing was held. [For details on Ann Wright's testimony, click here, Dennis Halliday click here, and here for Francis A. Boyle.] Following the hearing on the 17th, the US military announced August 24th that the presiding officer of the hearing, Lt. Colonel Mark Keith, had made a recommendation, court-martial. Yesterday, The KPFA Evening News reported that the US military had decided to court-martial Watada. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that "Lt. Gen. James Dubik, agreed with the recommended charges of missing a military movement and conduct unbecoming an officer." Gregg Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that conviction during the court-martial ("held next year") could result in "six years in jail and a dishonorable discharge." Honolulu's KITV spoke with Eric Seitz, attorney for Watada, who stated, "Unfortunately the army does want to make a martyr out of him. They have told us they will not enter into any agreement that doesn't include at least a year of incarceration, and that's just simply something we are unable to agree to." Rod Ohira (Honolulu Advertiser) notes the following statements by Watada after learning of the recommendation to court-martial him:"I feel the referral of the charges was not unexpected and at this time, I'm moving forward as I always have with resilience and fortitude to face the challenges ahead. . . . I think as the recent elections show more and more Americans are opening their eyes, but we aren't there yet. It is my hope that actions such as my own continue to call for the truth behind the fundamental illegality and immorality of those who perpetrated this war."

Coverage of war resisters in the US independent media has been embarrassing and shameful. Rebecca checks in on several independent outlets only to find that none have anything on Watada this morning. He appears to getting the full-Brobeck from independent media. (CBS notes Watada here.) War resister Ivan Brobeck returned to the US from Canada to turn himself in Tuesday and he didn't even make the indy headlines. (Nora Barrows Friedman did interview him on Monday's Flashpoints.) It's not cutting it. Not for Brobeck, not for Kyle Snyder who's also been ignored after returning to the US and, on October 31st, turning himself in at Fort Knox only to self-check out again after discovering the military had lied yet again. Not for Joshua Key who learned that the Canadian government was denying him refugee status.

A list of war resisters within the military would include Watada, Key, Snyder, and Brobeck. It would also include many other names such as Darrell Anderson, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Meija, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman, Corey Glass, Patrick Hart, Clifford Cornell, Agustin Aguayo, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, and Kevin Benderman. That's just the ones who have gone public. (Over thirty US war resisters are currently in Canada attempting to be legally recognized.) It is a movement and should be covered as such. Ehren Watada's father and step-mother are currently on a speaking tour (tonight they're in NYC) and details on that will be at the end of the snapshot.

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 in January.

Grabbing headlines is Ali al-Shemari. The Iraqi Health minister announced a number for the death toll of Iraqis due to the illegal war. AP notes that he places the death toll at 150,000. The KPFA Evening News pointed out on Thursday that is he was actually basing his 'count' on the United Nations estimate of at least 100 Iraqis dying each day "that calculation would be closer to 130,000." CBS and AP note that he rejects the number of approximately 655,000 in the Lancet Study but thinks his own number is "OK." Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) calls the number "an off-the-cuff estimate". Puppets can't go off-the-cuff or off-script which may be why AFP is reporting that the estimates being watered down (the Health Ministry is now saying between 100,000 and 150,000).

Meanwhile the US military has announced today "One Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died Thursday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province" and also "Two 89th Military Police Brigade Soldiers were killed and one Soldier was wounded Thursday after their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device at 12:48 p.m. Thursday in west Baghdad." Later in the day would come more announcements. This: "One Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died today from non-hostile causes while operating in Al Anbar Province," and this: "One Soldier assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) was killed and another wounded Nov. 10 during a combat logistics patrol when their truck was hit by an improvised explosive device west of Hadithah" for a total of five deaths announced today. ICCC currently lists 24 as the number of US troop deaths in Iraq for the month, thus far (2842 since the start of the illegal war). As the numbers continue to climb, Michael Luo and Michael Wilson (New York Times) report that funerals have become so common for the First Battalion, 22nd Infantry in Iraq that planning time for services have been cut from 45 minutes to five minutes.

While the numbers (on all sides) continue to mount, AP notes Donald Rumsfled stated (yesterday), "I will say this -- it is very clear that the major combat operations were an enormous success." Oh White Queen, get someone to help you a-dress quickly. Forgetting the illegal nature of the war for a moment, that's a bit like a drunk driver who plows into a car and kills an entire family stating, "I will say this -- I pulled away from the curb nicely."In some of the reported violence today . . .


AFP reports: "In violence on the ground, a powerful blast killed an Iraqi army colonel and his five bodyguards in the northern town of Tall Afar. Reuters notes it was a car bombing and that 17 people were wounded while, in Kirkuk, a roadside bombing injured two Iraqi soldiers.


Reuters notes that, in Yusufiya, 14 people were kidnapped (by "gunmen") and then found dead and a man was shot dead in Diwaniya. Christopher Bodeen (AP) reports that three family members were shot dead in Baghdad (home invasion).


Reuters reports, "Police fished the body of a woman, bearing signs of torture and bullet wounds, from the Tigris river in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said." In addition, Christopher Bodeen (AP) informs that 33 corpses were discovered "in Baghdad and several nearby cities."

In Australia, War Hawk and prime minister John Howard's laughable comments yesterday have resulted in more punch lines. Gillian Bradford observered to Eleanor Hall (ABC's PM) that "Whatever the opinion polls here may say here about Australians' desire to get out of Iraq, the Prime Minister isn't swayed" and he intended to ring Tony Blair up just as soon as he (Howard) finished his cricket match. Give 'em Flair, Howie. AAP reports that: "Prime Minister John Howard should tell George W Bush that he's pulling Australian troops out of Iraq when the two leaders meet next week, Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says. Mr Howard will have lunch with the US president during next week's APEC meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam - their first meeting since Mr Bush's Republican party was thumped in US mid-term elections." Bully Boy gets to Vietnam a lot more today than when he 'served,' doesn't he? Meanwhile Xinhau reports: "Howard said he will commiserate with Bush in person at the APEC meeting in the second half of next week.Howard said he had always accepted that the majority of the Australian public had been against the military commitment to Iraq." Howard 'accepts' the majority opinion, he just doesn't 'respect' it.

In peace news, yesterday's snapshot noted Cindy Sheehan was arrested outside the White House while attempting to deliver a petition (with over 80,000 signatures) calling for the US troops to be brought home. Not quite. David Swanson (Let's Try Democracy) reports she was arrested outside the White House long after the petition: "Late Wednesday afternoon Cindy decided to lead a sit-in right in front of the White House, and then -- finally -- the Park Service arrested her. The Associated Press changed the lede to its article to read as follows: 'Activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Wednesday as she led about 50 protesters to a White House gate to deliver anti-war petitions.' Not quite accurate. The petitions had been delivered several hours before the arrest. But what the heck, it probably got more editors to pick up the story. Thanks, again, Cindy!" Swanson outlines the events as being stalled at the gates of the White House when attempting to deliver the petition leading activists to place pages in the fence and to send pages over the fence. Hours later, Cindy Sheehan staged the sit-down.In other news of activists who refuse to hit the snooze button, Wendell Harper reported on yesterday's The KPFA Evening News and today on KPFA's The Morning Show that Medea Benjamin was among those activists participating in a rally outside the soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco office calling for troops home now.

Finally, Ehren Watada's father, Bob Watada, and his step-mother, Rosa Sakanishi, continue their speaking tour to raise awareness on Ehren -- the first commissioned officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq. Due to increased interest there have been some date changes and a full schedule can be found here. Upcoming dates include:

Nov 10, Early PM, New York City, NY., Press ConferenceLocation: UN, 777 United Nations Plaza, First Avenue and E. 44th StreetSponsors: Veterans For Peace Chapters 138 & 34Contact: Thomas Brinson, 631-889-0203, ltbrin@earthlink.netGeorge McAnanama,

Nov 10, 7:30PM, New York City, NY.Location: St. Paul/St. Andrews Methodist Church -- West End Avenue and West 86th Streets,Sponsors: Veterans For Peace Chapters 138 & 34Contacts: Thomas Brinson, 631-889-0203,

Nov 11, 10AM-2:30PM, New York City, NY.,Veterans Day ParadeSponsor: Veterans For Peace Chapters 34 & 138, IVAW, MFSOContacts: Thomas Brinson, 631-889-0203, ltbrin@earthlink.netGeorge McAnanama,

Nov 11, 3-5 PM, Flushing, NY.,Location: Macedonia AME Church (718) 353-587037-22 Union St.Sponsors: "United for Lt. Watada"Contact: Gloria Lum 646-824-2710,

Nov 11, 7 PM, New York City, NY., Manhattan,Location: Columbia University, Broadway and W 116 St., Bldg- Mathematics Rm 312Sponsors: Asian American Alliance, "United for Lt. Watada",Veterans For Peace Chapters 138 & 34Contact: Gloria Lum 646-824-2710

Nov 12, 11AM-1PM, Providence, RI., Location: Brown University, The John Nicholas Brown Center, 357 Benefit Street at WilliamsSponsor: Veterans For Peace NationalContact: Naoko Shibusawa, 401-286-1908,

Nov 12, 7PM, Rockland County, NY., Location: TBASponsor: Rockland Coalition for Peace and Justice, Veterans For Peace National and Veterans For Peace Chapter /Rockland CountyContact: Nancy Tsou, LYTHRN@aol.comBarbara Greenhut

Nov 13 , TBA, Ann Arbor, MI, "The Ground Truth" and Bob Watada,Location: University of Michigan, Angel Hall, Auditorium B,Sponsors: Michigan Peace Works,Contact: Phillis Engelbert, work - 734-761-5922, home - 734-662-0818, cell- 734-660-489,

Nov 14, TBA St. Louis, Mo. Location: Friends Meeting House, 1001 Park Avenue Sponsors: Veterans for Peace Chapter 161, 314-754-2651Contact: Chuc Smith, 314-721-1814, vfpch61@riseup.netiraq

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