Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Janet Jackson-ing of Thomas Friedman

Thomas Friedman can whine. In print or in person, my husband can whine.

He's mastered the art which you might think is about as marketable as an English degree, but he's found his nitch and profitted quite handsomely.

But just when one might be about to break into a chorus of "The Future's So Bright I've Got To Wear Shades," he misses another deadline on another Friday column.

How did it happen?

Last week, I put the Kooky Cokie Roberts in her place. And as much as Thomas Friedman enjoyed that, he couldn't really enjoy it without "outside validation."

That's what he called it. Oh please, I responded, you just want to dish.

And that's all he wanted, that and a few hundred to buy a new dress.

See, he really needed to share this with his fellow gasbags, the ones that make up the War Paint Council. But what's a boy, dressed like a girl, to do when he's got no scratch for a new frock?


Whine loudly.

Whine repeatedly.

"Betinna! They've seen me in every one of these dresses! You don't know how cruel and cutting Robert Novak can be!"

Sounded like a personal problem, if you ask me.

I heard about it, over and over, before departing for classes. I heard about it, over and over, when I'd walk back in the door.

Now back in the day, before I learned he and Nicky K had kidnapped me at a strip mall in New Jersey, Thomas Friedman was perfectly happy to drug me and tell me I was from a "backwater village" where the women wore sheets. Cheapskate didn't even furnish me with clean -- let alone flat -- sheets so having endured the humiliation of not only walking through Times Square in a fitted sheet but also the ride up factor, I wasn't overly worried that the 'girls' might be a little tough on fat ass if he showed up in last year's fashions.

He was in the midst of a quandry. A fashion quandry because he doesn't really do moral ones. Was his gossip so worth dishing that it was worth wearing old glad rags or should he attempt to wait me out and hold the dish until I gave him some money.

I was honestly starting to feel like Ricky Ricardo and that feeling was only compounded when Thomas Friedman attempted to make his own dress. He can't sew and even cutting in a straight line is something of a challenge for him (how did he ever pass first grade?) so possibly I shouldn't have been surprised by the results but they sure were laugh worthy. He'd taken the toilet accessories. He wore the tank cover as a hat, the rug that went around it was almost covering the front of his body (he called it "a maxi" -- meaning the dress, not the pad)and he had the seat cover around his neck with a few wash cloths pinned to it to create a blouse.

After I finally stopped laughing, I told him, "No, it's perfect. It's you. Everyone will be so jealous."

He seemed suspicious but his greatest weakness is his immense vanity and, soon, he had convinced himself that he had created something truly remarkable. (When your past creations include "The World Is Flat," the marker is relatively low.) So, Wednesday afternoon, he invited the 'girls' to lunch. Robert Novak was first through the door and he's apparently tired of dressing his age. There's really no other excuse for the naval plunging neckline on the dress he wore which looked like something from the 1980s. I had to put on shades to avoid the glare off that ocean of white flab.

Trailing right behind was Juan Williams looking rather put off and wearing a cheerleader's costume.

He attempted to inform everyone that he wasn't attempting to bring back the old Britney Spears look, that he was actually paying homage to the TV show "Heroes" but many a well plucked eye brow was raised in disbelief.

Slimey Simon Rosenberg was next through the door wearing what appeared to Cher's Oscar gown the year she didn't get nominated for "Mask." Armstrong Williams went with Bjork's Academy Awards' monstrosity. Lastly, a newly butch Petey Beinart wearing jeans, white t-shirt and sneakers. I did, however, detect a trace of eye liner.

I had agreed to greet everyone at the door so that Thomas Friedman could make a dramatic entrance. ("Bless you! Bless you!" he'd responded repeately, sailing out of the living room at the first knock.)

Looking around at the tired spangles, I wondered at first if everyone's wife had taken control of the finances -- a step I would loudly applaud. Then it hit me, the War Hawks had hit hard times. Sure they still got their face time on camera. But their books really didn't sell these days and the high speaking fees weren't pouring in. Having sold a lemon, they had to accept life in a nation plagued with buyer's remorse. I pictured them all having a tag sale.

Judging by Petey's bulge, he hoped worn items would garner higher bids than clean ones -- he appeared to either be wearing several jock straps or had stuffed one with two pairs of tube socks.

As they were taking their seats and grumbling about the cucumber sandwiches (though none hesitated to grab one), I heard Thomas Friedman clearing his throat -- my signal to introduce him.

Standing in front of the room, I got everyone's attention and announced, "Ladies and Petey, the one and only Thomas Friedman."

He cued up "Put The Blame On Mame" on our stereo and made his entrance doing a shimmy which allowed the fat rolls to create a strong impression that left many guests grabbing for Dramamine.

The gasps, however, came less from the celluite jiggles and more from the outfit.

The gasps were quickly followed by cat calls.

It had happened so quick, like Carrie standing in front of everyone in the gym before the pigs' blood gets dropped on her. Thomas Friedman was trying to absorb what had just happened.

Attempting to take control of the situation, he announced (a) that he had big news but he was interrupted by Petey Beinart who rose menacingly from the sofa and stormed up to Thomas Friedman, using his own well padded crotch to crush my husband against a wall.

Even with Petey (mis)singing "I'm bringing sexy butt" (while wagging his own rear), I really didn't see it coming until it actually happened: he ripped the wash cloths from the toilet seat cover.

"My chests!" cried Thomas Friedman in horror, immediately clutching himself while Peteny smirked and winked at the hooting crowd.

Now if that had been broadcast, the FCC would have truly been able to make a case against indency. Sadly, only the losers of the War Paint Council were witnesses. Convulsed with laughter, they strode out leaving a sobbing Thomas Friedman still covering his nipples.

"Betinna," he blubbered, "I've been Janet Jackson-ed!"

The drama switch had been turned on and it was non-stop theaterics: handwringing and blubbering, allusions to poor Blanche du Bois with a few verbal nods to "Suddenly Last Summer" tossed in for good measure. The soap opera ended after an hour, cancelled due to my disinterest, and Thomas Friedman took to his closet where he's remained ever since. Each morning, I see a few more empty cans of canned cheese piled up outside the door but otherwise have no indication how he's 'maintaining.'

The trauma/drama was so great that he missed the deadline for Friday's column. My plan to destroy him is right on schedule.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills)
Friday, May 18, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, day 7 passes with no news of the whereabouts of the 3 missing US soldiers, the US miliarty announces more deaths, America's ABC announces the death of two of their journalists in Iraq . . .

US military announced that they were continuing the search "for three missing U.S. Soldiers who are believed to have been abducted . . . Saturday in Quarghuli Village". The soldiers remain missing. One identification that has been made is the fourth soldier killed on Saturday. CNN reports that he has been identified as Anthony J. Schober of Reno, NV.
CNN lists the three missing soldiers as being: Byron W. Fouty, Alex R. Jimenez and Joseph J. Anzack Jr. Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) notes: "The manhunt has involved an extraordinary array of resources, including helicopters, drones, manned aircraft, forensic experts, FBI interrogators and dogs that can sniff for bombs and bobieds."
Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that, yesterday, "the wear was showing, not just on the soldiers obsessed with finding their comrades but also on the hamlets that dot the region southwest of Baghdad, which is blessed with groves of elegant date palms and riddled with pro-Al Qaeda insurgents. Hundreds of local men have been detained for questioning, leaving women, children and legions of ferociosly barking dogs in charge of Iraqi towns such as Rushdi Mullah, a community of 86 households under a virtual siege by troops looking for their buddies."

snapshot noted: ". . . protests take place in Baghdad, . . ." That was it (my apologies). The protests were described yesterday by Thomas Wagner (AP): "In northern Baghdad, about 200 Iraqis marched down a street in the mostly Shiite neighbourhood of Shaab, shouting slogans and carrying banners demanding that the thousands of US soldiers conducting a security crackdown in the capital stop creating forward operating bases in neighbourhoods and searching homes for suspected insurgents and militiamen." Thursday protest resulted from the tensions that Susman describes today. Today was day seven of the 3 US troops being missing and, only on day seven, did the New York Times decide it was front page news (Damien Cave's "Hunt for 3 G.I.'s in Iraq Slowed by False Trails"). Also in the paper is Paul von Zielbauer's report on the just revealed story (AP broke this yesterday) about the army's investigation of the June 2006 attack and kidnappings (2 US soldiers) and later deaths revealed that the dead "had been left for up to 36 hours without supervision or enough firepower or support to repel even a small group of enemy fighters." No one in the Times draws the obvious comparison from the June 2006 events and the attack last Saturday. This despite the fact that the report on the 2006 attack noted the 25 minute arrival by the "quick reaction force." Last Saturday's attack took one hour before other troops arrived. Or one hour until Wednesday when the US military changed their story and began insisting that it took 30 minutes. The report on the 2006 attack wasn't criticizing the responders -- it was noted that the distance plotted was too great -- a command issue, not an on the ground issue. The same thing appears to have happened with last Saturday's attack.

As the war drags on, some work to end it.
Judith Scherr (The Berkeley Daily Planet) reports US war resister Agustin Aguayo took part in "a gathering Tuesday morning outside City Hall sponsored by the city's Peace and Justice Commission, Courage to Resist and the Ehren Watada support committee. The event was to celebrate the city's first Conscientious Objectors and War Resisters Day, an event to be observed annually every May 15." Monday, pre-trial motions begin for Ehren Watada -- the first officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq and the first officer to be court-martialed (in February, it ended in a mistrial and double jeopardy should prevent him from being court-martialed again). Also on Monday, airs Questioning War-Organizing Resistance from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm PST and will address the issue of war resistance with guests including Pablo Paredes, Michael Wong, Jeff Paterson and Camilo Mejia. More information can be found in Carol Brouillet's "Questioning War- Organizing Resistance- War Resisters Radio Show" (Indybay IMC).

Camilo Mejia's just released
Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia (The New Press) traces his journey. From pages 224-225:

Through media contacts from before I went underground, I had gotten the contact information for a man named Steve Robinson, a retired Special Forces veteran who led an organization called the National Gulf War Resource Center, which provides support to veterans of the 1991 Gulf War. Steve in turn put me in touch with Tod Ensign, the director of the soldiers' rights organization called
Citizen Soldier.
Thus a couple of weeks after the end of my leave I found myself on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue outside the address that Tod had given me over the phone. Looking at the building from the street, I thought at first I had arrived at the fancy headquarters of a well-funded organization. Once inside, however, I found that the
Citizen Soldier offices were quite modest. Furthermore, far from the uptight, heartless image I'd always had of attorneys, Tod turned out to be a down-to-earth kind of guy, with a big smile and a physical resemblance to Christopher Walken -- a similarity only enhanced by his heavy New York City accent. As a young attorney in the sixties and seventies, Tod had been involved in the Vietnam GI resistance movement, and had helped underground soldiers living abroad with safe passage back to the United States, a legal defense, and the means to get their stories out to the media.
As soon as I spoke with Tod the door to a new world opend up before my eyes. I went from feeling powerless and alone to realizing that there was a whole network of people and groups, from women's rights organizations and antiwar veterans to military families and religious groups, who all felt as I did about the war.
Tod and I discussed how I was going to handle my absence from the military. We agreed that I should do everything I could to avoid getting arrested and then give myself up voluntarily while insisting in court on my right to be legally discharged from the service. This strategy of surrendering myself would defeat the charge of desertion, which is roughtly defined as unauthorized absence from the military with the intent to remain permanently away.

Mejia has been taking part in a speaking tour that wraps up today:

Friday May 18 - Berkeley 7pm at St. Joseph the Worker featuring Camilo Mejia.US war resisters are part of a growing movement of war resistance within the military: Camilo Mejia, Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Joshua Key, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

Tod Ensign, who Camilo Mejia wrote of, also started up the
Different Drummer Cafe where a group of Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke in March. Eric Ruder (ISR) provides a transcript and we'll note Matt Hrutkay today:

About a week and a half ago I was browsing through the VA Web site. They have a section in there devoted to PTSD. It has a guide for VA medical providers, doctors, psychologists, etc. that are dealing with people coming back from Iraq having these issues. And they have in there an encouragment to physicians to diagnose people with "adjustment disorder," "anxiety disorder," and "personality disorder." The reason they're doing that is so they can claim that there was a pre-existing condition before I joined the army and my issues have nothing to do with being blown up twenty-one times.
According to statistics, 18 percent of soldiers coming back from Iraq suffer some form, mild or severe, of PTSD. That's 18 percent according to an army physician at the VA. Of those, add to that people like me who have multiple symptoms of this but still get diagnosed as it being "my own problem." Add to that, people who are scared to go to mental health clinics because of their chain of command, because they're scared they won't get promoted. Because they're scared their buddies will make fun of them. I think you can then see how much prevalent that issue is and what the numbers are probably more likely to be. I'm not going to say what percentage really have PTSD coming back because it would be a guess. But I think it's clear from my own experience that this issue is probably the most prevalent issue facing returning soldiers and it's being compltely ignored.

CODEPINK is in DC for the summer of activism and Rae Abileah shares, "Today when I was at Congress for a meeting I stopped by the underground subway between the House buildings and the Capitol as many Congressmembers were walking through to vote on something. Though I didn't have a specific bill to ask them about, I did shake many of their hands, and to every one I asked the question, 'Have you done something today to staop the war in Iraq?' 'Help us bring our troops home!' Because it is possible to walk these halls of Congress and feel very distant from the mere idea of war, it felt very effective be a constant voice about the conflict outside the passageway to the Capitol. Imagine if every time there was any vote in Congress, every member going from their office to the Capitol was confronted with the message that it is time to bring our troops home and get out of Iraq.
Our Congresspeople are for the most part behind the times in terms of public opinion about the war. Not only do we have to 'push' them to do the right thing, support key legislation, stop the war... we have to 'pull' them, by leading them towards the right direction. I envision hundreds of people here on a daily basis helping to pull Congress away from the Bush Agenda and towards peace. To increase our numbers from a dozen to a hundred... we need YOU! Click on the links to the right to find out how to join us in DC! Or raise a ruckus at your Congressperson's nearest office!" The links she was referencing are:

Apply to Join Us in DC
DC Pink House Info
DC Sumer Trainings
CODEPINK Women for Peace
Cindy Sheehan and a number of other individuals and organizations are working to make this summer one of activism and volume so that Congress not only grasps that the people have turned on the illegal war but that it is time to end it.

United for Peace & Justice notes:

Peace activists are surging on Washington DC -- to bear witness as Congress again takes up Iraq War funding and the Pentagon budget, and continues to hold hearings on civil liberties, torture, and more.
Click here for the latest legislative information.
May 15-July 31: SWARM on Congress
June and July: CODEPINK DC Activist House
UFPJ hopes you will get the word out: There is plenty to do in Washington, and a steady flow of people into the nation's capital will have a tremendous impact in the coming months. UFPJ endorses these efforts, and encourages other creative actions and projects, both in DC and around the country. (If you are organizing an action,
please post it on our events calendar.)

Turning to Iraq, two journalists who worked for the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) were killed in Iraq yesterday: Alaa Uldeen Aziz and Saif Laith Yousuf.
AFP reports they were "ambushed and killed as they returned hom from work at their Baghdad office" and notes: "At least 170 journalists and media professionals have been killed in the fighting that has gripped Iraq since the March 2003 US-led invasion, according to the watchdog Reporters without Borders." AP quotes Terry McCarthy (ABC correspondent in Baghdad) stating: "They are really our eyes and ears in Iraq. Many places in Baghdad are just too dangerous for foreigners to go now, so we have Iraqi camera crews who very bravely go out. . . . . Without them, we are blind, we cannot see what's going on." ABC notes:

Aziz is survived by his wife, his two daughters and his mother. Yousuf leaves behind his fiancee, his mother and brothers and sisters. Mike Tuggle, an ABC News producer who worked with Aziz, remembers a game of pool they played on his first trip to Baghdad.
"I had some down time and got into a game of pool with Alaa. He beat me badly. Just before he hit the last ball in he looked up at me and said, 'My name is Alaa Uldeen, but you can call me Aladdin, because I have his magic on the pool table," Tuggle wrote in an e-mail message.
"The balls they just disappear," Tuggle continued, "And his face lit up with that big smile of his."

In Iraq today . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a mortar attack at Abu Dhaba killing one ("5 were injured including children"). Reuters reports: "A suicide bomber blew up his vehicle at an Iraqi police checkpoint in the town of Mussayab, south of Baghdad, killing three people and wounding four police said."


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Baghdad, a police officer was shot dead in Baghdad, that following an explosion in Baghdad's Al Hurriyah, two people were killed (6 wounded), two police officers were shot dead in Al Wajihiya (2 more wounded) and Bku Shukr Saber ("Kurdish Iraqi army officer") was shot dead in Kirkuk.


Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports five corpses discovered in the Babil province. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 25 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and 15 corpses in Baquba.

Today the
US military announced: "While conducting operations two MND-B Soldiers were killed and nine others were wounded in separate attacks in the southern section of the Iraqi capital May 17. Three soldiers have been returned to duty." And they announced: "Three Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed in Diyala Province, Friday when an explosion occurred near their vehicle."

IRIN reports on the educational crisis in Iraq and quotes Baghdad University's Professor Fua'ad Abdel-Razak, "Violence and lack of resources have undermined the education sector in Iraq. No student will graduate this year with sufficient competence to perform his or her job, and pupils will end the year with less than 60 percent of the knowledge that was supposed to have been imparted to them."