Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Girth of the Tabby

Reign in the Great Girth
We've been regular visitors to Golden China Buffet on 227 Lex -- since 2004 -- and here's what strikes me most: Each year that we've come here, my husband Thomas Friedman seems to break wind wiith greater ease and less embarrassment while breathing with greater difficulty.
Yes, the odor is unavoidable. But when we walked down the street into Golden China Tuesday, to the corner booth he favors, his breath -- an odor in and of itself -- was shallow and panting -- his forehead so drenched in sweat -- that for a moment I honestly thought my husband was having a heart attack.
And that's why, for the first time since he returned, it's starting to feel like Thomas Friedman is reaching his spacial-width limit. If he doesn't radically change his diet away from canned cheese and all you can eat buffets, the gas bag nightmare of West 43rd is going to blow out.
For some time now, Thomas Friedman's waist has grown at around 10 percent per month. In 2005, he could wear a 44 waist. By the time 2006 rolled around, he was up to a 56 waist. Before he began wearing women's clothes full time throughout the summer, I had taken to sewing our bed ruffle onto his favorite Dockers as an extension. When a waist grows that fast, year after year, the person can start to think that the laws of nature don't apply to him.
Guess again.

I wrote the above on Saturday as part of an assignment for my English class. We were supposed to write about something or someone we knew. How was I to know my fat ass husband Thomas Friedman would rip me off?

I open up Wednesday's paper and there was "Bring in the Green Cat." I thought, "Strange title." Then I read it.

He'd taken my writing assignment and turned it into his column.

I confronted him about it and, between shots of canned cheese, he told me it didn't matter.

Didn't matter? If I turned it in now, my professor would think I ripped him off!

"Betinna, I never would have let you turn it in," he said spewing bits of cheese over his shirt and tie.

As he licked his tie clean, I burned with rage.

"Let me? Let me! Look, fat ass, you don't 'let me' do anything, I do whatever the hell I want."

Thomas Friedman attempted to wave me away, as though I was Gail Collins or some other simp.

I wasn't going to stand for it.

"Not only do you not 'let me' do anything, but you and your fat ass weigh me down. Now maybe the padded bra you were wearing in your days of dress up leaked into your brain and made you even stupider, but you don't 'let me' do a damn thing. As a matter of fact, you drag me down. The worst day of my life may have been when you returned last month."

"Really?" Thomas Friedman asked struggling to get off the couch.

Huffing and puffing, the sofa groaning beneath his girth, Thomas Friedman finally managed to extract his fat ass from the deep groove it had worn in the sofa cushion.

Breathing deeply he lumbered to the front door, opened it and turned to deliver his exit line.

"I would've thought you worst day was when Nicky K and I threw you in the hatchback of his Ford Pinto."

With that Thomas Friedman was out the door, slamming it behind him.

The hatchback of Nicky K's Ford Pinto?

At first, I thought it was just one of his lame jokes but, as I stood in the middle of the living room, I flashed on something. My mouth was taped. I was looking up, through glass, seeing stop lights flying past above me. My wrists were tied.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
November 16, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq; US war resister
Ehren Watada goes on CNN as his father wraps up a speaking to raise awareness on his son; justice for Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi and her family?; confusion remains as to Tuesday's mass kidnapping in Baghdad as Baghdad appears to have been the site, today, of another mass kidnapping; and America speaks to Gallup who, unlike the Bully Boy, actually listens.

Starting with
Ehren Watada -- the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq. Last week, the US military announced they would move to court-martial Watada. The court-martial is expected to take place early next year. Last night, Watada appeared on CNN's Paula Zahn Now program. Speaking to Zahn, Watada explained how, as late as September 2005, he was willing to go to Iraq (and had volunteered to deploy with any unit) but "then I began findout out some things about how possibly that our government could have misled, not only the Congress, but also the public, and the world as to the reasons why we were going to Iraq, and there were never any weapons of mass destruction, there were never any ties to al Qaeda or ties to 9/11. And I just -- at that point, I personally felt very betrayed as a soldier, willing to put my life on the line and willing to order soldiers to do the same, that we were sent to go and fight a war were the reasons were falsified."

After Watada's appearance, Zahn had a panel discussion.
Joshua Casteel noted "the Uniform Code of Military Justice tells us two things. One is that we have an obligation to obey all lawful orders, but we also have an obligation to disobey all unlawful orders, and -- which includes disobeying orders that are unlawful, even if they come from the President of the United States. Article Six, Paragraph Two of the United States Constitution dictates that treaties that the United States signs on to are to be considered the laws of the land, including among them, the Hague Convention on Land Warfare of 1899, the Neruember Principles, which in 1953, the Department of Defense declared to be official policy. And Justice Jackson, who's the chief . . ." Zahn interrupts to ask if Watada's stand is "justified." Castell replies, "He is one of the few examples of moral courage that we have in the midst of plenty of individuals who show physical courage to go to Iraq and sacrifice for their country. But what we need right now are moral leaders. And Lieutenant Watada is an example of the kind of leadership that reminds us of our better nature and the aspirations of the United States Constitution." Amy Goodman (co-host of Democracy Now!) noted that, "Thousand of soldiers are saying no. The Pentagon doesn't like to talk about this, but Lieutenant Ehren Watada being the first officer to refuse to deploy to Iraq is very significant." A third guest repeatedly interrupted Amy Goodman. For some stranger reason, he appeared to be wearing Mommy's Pantyhose on top of his head. He statements sounded as if they were indeed picked from the crack of his ass in his desperate attempt to unearth his brain. At present, his brain is still believed to be under many layers of s--t.

Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reminds that Watada is facing up to six years if he is convicted in the court-martial to be held next year.

In Iraq today,
Reuters reports that "up to six Baghdad minibuses" were "stopped at a fake security checkpoint" in Baghdad and the passengers appear to have been kidnapped.

In other violence today . . .


Reuters notes car bombs, roadside bombs and bicylce bombs in Baghdad -- six bombings in all leaving at least 7 dead and 18 wounded -- while three are dead and one wounded in Mosul from a roadside bombing.


CBS and AP report the shooting deaths of nine during an attack on a Baghdad bakery. Reuters notes an attack in Baghdad that killed a guard of Mosul's governor and left four other guards wounded.


Reuters reports that twenty corpses were discovered in Baghdad, two in Baiji and four in Yusufiya.

Yesterday, the US military announced six deaths of US troops. Today, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Corps-Iraq Soldier was killed by small arms fire Tuesday while conducting combat operations in Baghdad"; and they announced: "Two Task Force Lightning Soldiers assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, were killed Wednesday and two others were injured when an improvised explosive device detonated near the vehicle they were traveling in while conducting combat operations in Diyala province"; and they announced: "A Task Force Lightning Soldier assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed in action Wednesday by small arms fire while conducting combat operations in Diyala province." The total for the month to date is 44.

The total number of US troops in Iraq?
According to CBS' David Martin, not enough and never will be based upon John Abizaid's remarks to the Senate yesterday "But when you look at the overall American force poll that's available out there, the ability to sustain that commitment is simply not something that we have right now with the size of the Army and the Marine Corps." Let that sink in. According to Abizaid, a War Hawk who never met a battlefield he didn't go weak-kneed over, there are not enough available foot soldiers in the US army or members of the Marines to do what Abizaid feels needs to be done in Iraq.

Turning to legal news, as
noted yesterday, James P. Barker entered a guilty plea for his involvement in the rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi as well as the murder of her parents (Qassim Hamza Raheem and Fakhriya Taha Muhasen) and her five-year old sister Hadeel Qassim Hamza. Abeer, the war crimes took place March 12, 2006 in Mamoudiyah which is a town south of Baghdad. Ryan Lenz (AP) reports that Barker testified to Lt. Col. Richard Anderson that Steven D. Green came up with the plan and, of the rape of Abeer, that "[Paul] Cortez pushed her to the ground. I went towards the top of her and kind of held her hands down while Cortez proceeded to lift her dress up." Barker's attorney makes a strange statement about how the crime results in part from the fact that "The United States Army did not . . . put enough soldiers on the checkpoints." Not enough soldiers at checkpoints? Lenz: "Barker, 23, described changing clothes, then climbing through backyards as the five soldiers left the checkpoint they had been manning to carry out the attack." Well the army was certainly short five soldiers manning checkpoints when the decision was made to rape fourteen-year-old Abeer. In another report filed by Lenz, the issue doesn't appear to be 'staffing' so much as it appears to be oversight: "Barker said he and the others were drinking and playing cards while they manned a traffic checkpoint. Green brought up the idea of raping the girl and killing her family, he said." So, as the story is understood from Barker's confessions, they were on duty, they were stationed a traffic checkpoint, they were in violation for consuming alcohol while on duty, they left their checkpoint." What exactly does Barker's attorney think? That more soldiers would have prevented the five from leaving the checkpoint? Seems like an oversight issue.

The 'repentant' Barker showed 'remorse' by explaining his actions with, "I hated Iraqis, your honor. They can smile at you, then shoot you in your face without even thinking about it." Rape isn't mentioned in his statement; however
Abeer was raped and she was shot in the face (below the left eye). She was also smiled at or at least leered because she went to her parents concerned about the way the US soldiers at the checkpoints were looking at her. Her parents made plans for her to go elsewhere to live for her own protection but before that could happen, she was raped, murdered and her body set on fire in attempt to hide evidence.

Whether Cortez, Green, Spielman or Howard is involved, Barker's statements mean we are no longer talking "alleged" rape or "alleged" murder. It's rather sad that the coverage doesn't reflect that.

In other legal news, Australia's
ABC reports that John Jodka was sentenced to eighteen months for his role in the death of Iraqi Hashim Ibrahim Awad. Awad was taken from him home, killed and then, to cover up the crime, those involved attempted to pass him off as an 'insurgent.' The BBC notes that Hashim Ibrahim Awad had been a grandfather until he was beaten and killed and that Jodka apologized to Awad's family.

Tuesday's mass kidnapping in Baghdad continues to be a source of confusion. Regarding the number who have not turned out, BBC reports that Abd Dhiab, Iraq's minister of Higher Education, states 80 people are still being held and that "some of those who had since been released were badly beaten." In addition, it appears some of them have been killed. Al Jazeera reports that Dhiab "was told of the deaths by hostages who were freed on Wednesday, but he declined to say how many had died." CNN reports on the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, and his show visit to the fifty-year-old Baghdad University. The photo Al Jazeera runs reveals the lie of 'liberation' -- in Baghdad, Nouri al-Maliki steps out of his vehicle flanked by guards with guns at the ready. The kidnapping took place not at Baghdad University but at the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education (a four story building as opposed to a complex). Al Jazeera reports that Dhiab maintains the kidnapped on Tuesday included "at least 100 employees of two departments in the building, as well as about 50 visitors. Dozens remain unnaccounted for."

Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) speaks with Amir Hassan, a professor at Baghdad University, who states, "We are living in the killing stage. We know that our chances of dying is now greater than our chance of staying alive." Over 155 educators have been killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. Raghavan also reports that al-Maliki's speech to students included pro-censorship remarks of how "he would ban pictures, leaflets, placards or other politically inspired materials from campuses". Women's rights have vanished, he's attacked the free press (with his 'four-point plan'), he's now planning to ban political speech on campus and CNN reported this morning that he's now relying on warnings ("beware of God's punishment") to maintain whatever questionable power he still has. Kirk Semple (New York Times) reports on the al-Maliki's facade of power crumbling as government officials (Abed Dhiab al-Ajeeli and Ali Dabbagh) quarrel publicly over how many were kidnapped on Tuesday and how many remain missing.

In peace news,
Pat Gerber (SF Bay Area IMC) reports on Tuesday's San Francisco Board of Education meeting at which school board members voted "to phase out its JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) programs over a two-tear period. It is believed that this is the first time any school district has eliminated an existing JROTC program." Tommi Avicolli Mecca (BeyondChron) notes the speakers in favor and against the resultion and notes: "Speaker after speaker on the pro-JROTC side said that while they didn't approve of DADT or even the war in Iraq, they supported the military program because it benefited kids. Of course, they forgot to mention the plight of queer kids who want to go beyond JROTC."

In other peace news,
AP reports that with the GOP 2008 convention being held in St. Paul, Minneapolis' the Anti-War Committee "has applied for marching and demonstrations permits from the city of St. Paul. . . . [Jess] Sundin said the Anti-War Committee filed for city permits now to provide plenty of time for legal challenges if they're turned down. It's the first group to file for permits, but many are expected to follow."

A day after
Ehren Watada, appears on CNN, his father Bob Watada and his step-mother Rosa Sakanishi wind down a speaking tour to raise awareness on Ehren Watada. The tour winds down on Friday, a full schedule can be found here, and these are the remaining dates:

Nov 16, 7PM, Asheville, NC, Location: University of North Carolina -- Public Presentation, Sponsor: Veterans For Peace Chapter 99, Contact: Tim Pluta, 828-645-1717, , Lyle Peterson, 828-206-0245, Ahmad Daniels, War Resister Vietnam Era (appears in "Sir, No Sir!"), Mark Gibney Human Rights, International & Constitutional Law, Law, Ethics and Public Policy

Nov 17, 11:00AM, Asheville, NC, Location: Warren Wilson College, Sponsor: Veterans For Peace Chapter 99, Contact: Tim Pluta, 828-645-1717,, Lyle Peterson, 828-206-0245, Professor Paul Magnarella (Peace Studies, Warren Wilson College)

Nov 17, 7PM, Atlanta, GA, Location: The First Iconium Baptist Church, Sponsor: Veterans For Peace Chapter 125, The Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition/Atlanta, Atlanta WAND, Contact: Debra Clark, 770-855-6163,

In addition, to Asheville and Atlanta,
Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports this event on Sunday:

The Honolulu chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League will hold a symposium surrounding the actions of Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who is the first military officer to face a court martial for refusing to fight in Iraq. It will begin at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 19 at the University of Hawaii's architecture auditorium. The featured speaker will be Watada's father, Bob; Jon Van Dyke of the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law and Watada's attorney, Eric Seitz.

Joseph Carroll (Gallup News Services) summarizes the most recent Gallup Poll that asked respondents in the United States (from November 9th through 12th) what is "the most important problem facing this country today"? The people respond? The war in Iraq was cited by 25% of Republicans, 32% of self-identified independents and by 48% of Democrats.