Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Thomas Friedman's one moment of public truth

President's Day. Thomas Friedman appeared to think it was his day. After ignoring his 'friends' (and events in the world) for some time, he's facing some difficult truths. Don't worry, he'll shortly spin them in his favor. But Monday was a moment of him realizing he doesn't know as much as he thinks he does.

These are very rare moments, so I do try to enjoy them when they pop up.

He was hoping to have his "friends" Davey Brooks, Nicky K, Todd S. Purdum and Dexter Filkins over for an indoor picnic today. He invited them last week.

Davey Brooks first question was whether or not Gail Collins would be here? Thomas Friedman's been pissed at her due to the fact that she's placed him on a Frequent Suspension list. Thomas Friedman swore no way in hell would "the Furby" be invited.

Davey needed more assurances.

"She's insane, Friedman, insane!" he screamed over speaker phone. "She's been brushing up against me and telling me she loves animals, loves them, really, really loves them. 'I'm into animals,' she says. Then she starts talking about how she loved this horse called Black Beauty when she was entering puberty! I'd thought of asking her out but now . . . Where would I take her? The kennals?"

I was so delighted to know that the plan had worked out. But Davy could not be convinced that Gail Collins would not be attending, no matter how many reassurances Thomas Friedman gave him.

Finally, Thomas Friedman rang off, hollering, "It's your own damn fault for stuffing that sock!"

He then turned to me and instructed me to call Nicky K.

What am I, his social secretary? But Thomas Friedman insisted. He said that since I was so close to Mrs. K, it made more sense for me to call.

Wanting to shut the husband up, I dialed. But made the mistake of doing the call on speaker phone.

"Betinna!" Mrs. K exclaimed. "It's so good to hear from you. How have you been?"

Seeing Thomas Friedman pacing back and forth, with his shorty robe riding up in the back, I knew this had to be a quick call if I was going to spare myself the torture of his fat ass on parade. Best to get the point and hope he'd plop that hefty rear back down on the couch in time to catch his "story" (NBC's Passions.)

"Thomas Friedman wants to throw an indoor picnic Monday, for Presi -- er, for Thomas Friedman Day," I said.

"Oh, that man's ego!" Mrs. K laughed. "It's as large as his ass. Let me check with Nicky."

At the talk of his ass, Thomas Friedman froze and began attempting to crane his neck to get a look at his butt. I can't believe it was that difficult for him to see, it is huge, after all.

"Betinna?" Mrs. K asked.

"Yeah, I'm still here."

"Uh, well, Nicky's not feeling well . . . I know it's only Wednesday, but he's sure that he'll be sick on Monday, so we're going to have to say no. I'm sorry."

"I am sick!" I heard Nicky K yell in the background. "Sick of his fat ass, his brow beating! Who does he think he is? And do you know it's been months since he even called? Friends don't do that! I've taken a lot of his crap over the years, insults, cheap jokes, choking, but I will not be overlooked as if I am merely another one of The New York Times' many grievous errors! Tell him he can lick my . . . He can lick my . . . He knows what he can lick!"

"Gotta' go, Betinna," Mrs. K said hanging up.

"Lick his what?" Thomas Friedman roared. "His balls? He'd have to have a set for me to lick 'em!

Thomas Friedman never comes off more camp/fem than when he's trying to butch it up.

It's like watching Grizzly Adams' hairer sister flounce around in a shorty robe.

It got worse when he invited Dexter Filkins. A shouting match ensued over the phone.

"You are not in Iraq! Well, if you are, if, if you are, you can write your crap just as easy from here as you do from there. It's not like you ever leave the Green Zone! What's a matter, Dexy, you in love with Burns!"

It wasn't pretty. The whole time Thomas Friedman was sneering "protege," I kept thinking he was realizing how badly he'd burned his bridges with Nicky K. The two used to be so close. Nicky K looked up to him. It was like watching the little kid with Rosalind Russell in Mame. Those days are gone.

He never did reach Toddy Purdum. Maybe Todd was finally washing out that jock now that he's moved over to Vanity Fair? I can't imagine they'd enjoy the fumes ("groove on" Thomas Friedman always says) the way the paper of record did. (Unless they wanted something to counter the sickeningly sweet smell from those perfume strips hidden in every issue.)

So it went for Thomas Friedman. Each invitation, turned down.

He spent all Wednesday night screaming, "What do you do when bad things happen to good people!"

By Thursday, I was irritated at having to wait two hours to get into the bathroom (he was taking his bubble bath -- "Stars must be pampered, Betinna!") so when he finally emerged, I said, "What good people? You're good people?"

He fussed and fretted over that before finding another way to slam Arabs in a column.

It was the usual McCheese from the mind that badly demonstrates over 12 million served. But there was one item of truth in it:

Who knows whether any of this is true.

Not a question, a statement. And one I think can apply to each and every one of his columns. I like to think of that statement as "The Confession of Saint Thomas."

So Presidents' Day came and went like any other except for the cake I had to bake and frost. "Thomas Friedman's Day" it read. He pulled himself away from Days of Our Lives and Passions long enough to say, "I want an end piece. I really big end piece. I like the really big ends."

I was too tired to voice the obvious comeback.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Found in the paper

In the United Kingdom today, over 200 people gathered at St Nicholas and Writhington Church, in Radstock, Somerset for the funeral of Corporal Gordon Pritchard who died in Basra on January 31, 2005 becoming the 100th British soldier to die in Iraq. 101 British troops have died in Iraq, official count. Gordon Pritchard, who was 31 years-old, is survived by his wife Julie-Ann and his children Stacey, Harrison and Summer.

Alexander Panetta, of the Associated Press, is reporting that Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay maintains that "latest intelligence" indicates that the four memebers of Christian Peacemaker Teams are still alive. The four members, kidnapped in November, were last seen in a January 29th videotape. The four members are:

James Loney, 41, of Toronto;
Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32, a former Montreal resident;
Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Va.,
and Norman Kember, 74, of London [. . .]

Sunday's upsurge in violence continued on Monday. Reuters is reporting that bombings in Mosul and Baghdad today killed "at least 19 people." The Associated Press reports that in Karbala one American soldier was killed in a bombing and that in Mosul, a bomber killed himself in a "restaurant packed with policemen eating breakfast, killing at least five people and wounding 21, including 10 policemen". The Department of Defense has identified Capt. Anthony R. Garcia of Fort Worth, Texas as one of the 34 US military fatalities this month. Garcia died of from gunshot wounds after a February 17th shooting that took place on a military base in Tikrit. Garcia is survived by his wife Doris and his children Kelly and Garrick.

Brian Zimmerman, of Gannet News, is reporting that questions still surround the shooting death of Army Reservist David Douglas who died two weeks after returning to the United States from a one-year stint in Iraq. Commenting on the violent deaths of many returning veterans, National Guardsman Alfonso Williams told Zimmerman:

You have a whole lot of built-up anger from being over there. . . . You can't explain (what it's like) to anybody. And to them, what they may think is screaming and hollering to you is a normal tone.

In 2005, the military reports that 136 active duty personnel committed suicide. No figures are kept for those who are inactive. The current number for US military fatalities in Iraq stands at 2276.

As Jane Mayer reported in The New Yorker, early warnings were ignored by the administration about the environment created for abuse of prisoners in Guantanamo. Noting that "Human rights are under threat," Amnesty International is calling for the closing of Guantanamo. Tuesday, Amnesty International will host a live online discussion:

Live chat with Moazzam Begg, ex Guantánamo detainee, on 21 February, 6-7pm GMT

Moazzam Begg, British citizen, was held for "nearly three years," as noted on Democracy Now!. Amnesty International's call echoes the call of the UN investigation team as well as the prime ministers of Germany, France, England and Malaysia. U.S. Charm Minister Karen Hughes, speaking to Al Jazeera, rejected calls to close Gitmo and reportedly maintained that not only are the people imprisoned in Guantanamo wanting to kill Americans but that some released "have gone back to fighting and killing Americans." If the report is accurate, it is surprising that such an assertion would be made by the Minister of Charm and not Bully Boy himself.

In this country, the Associated Press is reporting that Republican governors George Pataki (New York) and Robert Ehrlich (Maryland) have joined the chorus of voices objecting by administration plans to turn over control of "six major U.S. ports" to Dubai Ports World. Senators Robert Menendez (New Jersey) and Hillary Clinton (New York) are also objecting to the proposed plan. Speaking out against the plan involving the Arab company, Mendendez stated today, "We wouldn't turn over our customs service or our border patrol to a foreign government. We shouldn't turn over the ports of the United States, either."

Feminist Wire Daily is reporting that CWIG (Center for Women in Government and Civil Society) has conducted a study on "the percentage of women in policy-making positions - such as state legislators, elected officials, high court judges, department heads, and top governor's advisors" for the years 1998 to 2005 and found that the rate of growth for women in those positions increased by only 1.6% -- "from 23.1 percent to 24.7 percent." FWD notes:

Slow progress for women in state government has national implications, says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers. State and local office serve as a "pipeline" to draw women into national politics. Not to mention, adds Walsh, state legislatures themselves are "making a tremendous amount of policy" –- in 2005, 48 state legislatures considered over 500 anti-choice bills.

On the national level, NOW notes, that although "almost nine million more women voted than men" only fourteen women serve in the United States Senate and only sixty-seven in the House, while of the fifty governors in the United States, only eight are women.

As noted on Sunday's KPFA Evening News, Saturday Feb. 25th, a Counter-Recruiting workshop will be held, open to the public, from 2 to 5pm at the Veterans' Memorial Building, Room 219, 401 Van Ness Ave. March 1st is the National Law Student Day Against the Death Penalty (SDADP).

In other news, Philadelphia Indymedia is reporting that Governor Ed Rendell vetoed the Pennsylvania's Voter ID bill. Rendell, who spanked Casey Junior in the 2002 election race, stated, "I see no reason to enact laws that will result in voter confusion and disenfranchise legitimately registered voters." Member of Protect the Vote had successfully fought against the proposed legislation and were on hand for the veto ceremony.

In other civil liberties news, following what BuzzFlash has called "Just Your Average Week of the Bush Administration Betraying America," the ACLU features a snapshot of governmental spying/snooping in the form of Betty Ball who states:

It is true that I have become more motivated to work for justice and social change knowing that the government is abusing its powers like this. But I am worried about how far the government will go to squelch First Amendment rights and silence dissent. Will we all be rounded up and incarcerated? Already so many people have been frightened away from participating in our events, and have asked to have their names removed from our mailing lists, for fear of the consequences of associating with us. I hesitate to call people to discuss plans for rallies or protests because I don’t want them ending up in an FBI file labeled as a "domestic terrorist."

Meanwhile, author and activist Diane Wilson remains in a Victoria County jail in Texas. Wilson was arrested for unfurling a banner that read "Corporate Greed Kills--From Bhopal to Baghdad" at a Dick Cheney attended fundraiser in Houston on December 5, 2005. Wilson's banners are apparently too much for the delicate sensibilities of the foes of democracy. She is currently serving a 150 day sentence for a 2002 action where she climbed a Dow Jones tower and unfurled a banner which read "Justice For Bhopal." CODEPINK is calling for Wilson's release.

In other take action news, is asking you to Take Action: Demand Coverage of Able Danger (more info on the Able Danger program can be found at Able Danger Media Monitoring).

Finally, Monday's Democracy Now! featured:

"Readings From Howard Zinn's 'Voices of a People's History of the UnitedStates:'"
Today we spend the hour with readings from a Voices of a People's History of the United States edited by historian Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove. It is the companion volume to Zinn's legendary People's History of the United States ­ which has sold over a million copies.We will hear dramatic readings of speeches, letters, poems, songs, petitions, and manifestos. These are the voices of people throughout U.S.history who struggled against slavery, racism, and war, against oppression and exploitation, and who articulated a vision for a better world. Performances include Danny Glover as Frederick Douglass, Marisa Tomei as Cindy Sheehan, Floyd Red Crow Westerman as Tecumseh and Chief Joseph, Sandra Oh as Emma Goldman and Yuri Kochiyama, and Viggo Mortensen as Bartolomeo de Las Casas and Mark Twain.

This entry was compiled by:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim;
Rebecca of
Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of
Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
C.I. of
The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review;
Kat of
Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills);
Cedric of
Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of
Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of
Like Maria Said Paz;
and Wally of
The Daily Jot.