Saturday, September 01, 2007

Loonier than Friedman

Where the hell was Nicky K?

You'd think he'd be easier to find than my husband Thomas Friedman but that was not the case.

Thomas Friedman cut a wide path -- as anyone who'd ever checked out those chunky hips could attest.

I never realized how common it was to come up across people saying, "Thomas Friedman? Yeah, I saw him last night, passed out in his own vomit, his wig sliding off his head."

By comparison, it was very difficult to get any news of Nicky K.

When he'd phoned and left that mysterious message on my answering machine, I'd just had the strongest feeling that he was cracking, that too much time spent with Thomas Friedman had sapped him. And I just knew if I could find him right now, before Thomas Friedman got to work on him again, I could get the truth out of him.

I could find out, for instance, about the other Mrs. Thomas Friedman. And I could find out exactly why Thomas Friedman and Nicky K decided to kidnap me from that outlet mall in New Jersey.

It must have been like getting an agitated phone call from J. Edgar Hoover in 1966 with him mentioning something about JFK and knowing that, if you could reach him fast enough, you could get the truth.

So I checked out every seedy cabaret dive there was.

And, let me tell you, NYC has more seedy cabaret dive's than it does roaches. Which is really saying something. The really big shock there was stumbling onto a someone doing an impersonation of my husband Thomas Friedman performing his drag act. It was like when you look in your compact and catch a reflection off a window behind you. Spooky.

After the impersonator finished the act (closed with "I'm A Little Tea Pot"), I followed to the bar, plied on the drinks and hoped that some information might be the end result.

The impersonator removed the wig and it was a man. Timothy Freed. He filled me in that he'd grown up a loser. He'd been an oddball throughout high school and the other children teased him for being different.

"I couldn't help it," he said choking on his words, "I liked the columns. Other people liked going out on Fridays. For me, the best way to start the weekend was a little hint of Jovan musk and Thomas Friedman's column read in bed. Does that sound strange to you?"

Oh, boy, did it. But I lied and said not at all, swore there were probably millions of kids like that all over the world.

"Only he understood me," Timothy said waiving towards the bartender for another drink. "He's the last of the star-stars. The ones who weren't bound by gravity or fact. Thomas Friedman makes the world by describing it in his terms without any concerns over veracity."

Oh, how much fun he must have been at the school pep rallies.

"Timonthy," I cut in, "have you seen Nicky K?"

Timothy stared at me blankly.

"Nicholas Kristof."

The blank look remained.

"He publishes columns in 'The New York Times' as well."

"Oh," Timothy said patting my hand, "I really don't like reading."

Well that explained how he ended up a fan of Thomas Friedman. To non-readers, Thomas Friedman might even seem gifted.

"Can I tell you a secret?" Timothy asked.

I was about to reply but I felt someone watching me.

"I used to practice . . . I learned to kiss with Thomas Friedman's columns. I would kiss those columns all Friday night."

On the wall in front of me was a mirror above the bartender. Someone was watching me. I could see that. He has his face pressed against the glass and his hands on either side of his face.

"I'm so glad that you don't find that strange, Betinna. I did other things with the columns too --"

It was Nicky K!

"Sometimes, I'd stuff Thomas Friedman's columns in my BVDs and wear them down there all day in school and this one time --"

I was off the bar stool and running towards the door. Nicky K saw me coming and turned.

"Betinna!" Timothy called out as I ran onto the street.

I looked up and down the street quickly, attempting to find him.

He'd disappeared.

But there was a brochured on the ground in front of the window. "Spinal Surgeries" was all it said other than an address.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills)
Friday, August 31, 2007. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, disease outbreaks in northern Iraq, Bully Boy shows contempt for Congress (again), Texas gears up for a big protest Saturday and more.

Starting with war resistance. Tampa Bay's
WMNF (88.5) interviewed Aidan Delgado.

Aidan Delgado: First of all I wouldn't encourage just anyone to become a Conscientious Objector because if you don't know it already CO status is the most difficult way to get out of the army. Mine took 18 months and it was a hard 18 months. So if someone's just looking to leave the military, CO status is not the way to do it and you should only do it if you feel absolute moral conviction that you can't participate. And the other thing I would stress is to go online and look up CO packets that have been successful. Go and read through a couple of entire packets that show what it takes to become a successful CO. And don't ever be intimidated by the army and don't let them tell you the regulations. You have to go and read the regulations on CO yourself. Look at some of the successful packets to get an impression of how wide the field is and how you can go about it.

Aidan Delgado also tells his story in
The Sutras Of Abu Ghraib: Notes From A Conscientious Objector In Iraq which came out this month. The advice he offered on the radio is advice he followed. That includes the packets and that includes not allowing the military to tell you what you really believe as they attempted to with him.

Aidan Delgado: When I wrote
The Sutras Of Abu Ghraib: Notes From A Conscientious Objector In Iraq in my mind I was reacting against a lot of the war literature that was out there -- books like Black Hawk Down and The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell and a lot of the older war novels -- in that I think too much of the war novels are really a kind of hero worship in disguise and they tell the stories of violent actions and real physical bravery and daring. And I think that's great and I think that story needs to be told; however, I think there's a huge gap and I don't think we should read only one kind of war story. And I'm proud to say my war story is not about violence although there is violence in it. And it's not about war exploits although those are in it too. It's kind of about the moral side of war and the moral journey and the development which I think is something that will resonate with a lot more readers. I'm not interested really in having a, you know, heroic soldier flag waving gently in the background. And I'm not really trying to entertain people or satisfy their ghoulish curiosity about war. I really want people to think about the other side, the personal side, that hasn't been reflected in all these gory, violent war memoirs . So my idea was to create a different kind of war novel that talks about the shades of grey not the uncompromising black and white, good and evil, to talk about all the moral quandries and decisions you have to make as a soldier.

There is a growing movement of resistance within the US military which includes Timothy Richard, Robert Weiss, Phil McDowell, Steve Yoczik, Ross Spears, Zamesha Dominique, Jared Hood, James Burmeister, Eli Israel, Joshua Key,
Ehren Watada, Terri Johnson, Carla Gomez, Luke Kamunen, Leif Kamunen, Leo Kamunen, Camilo Mejia, Kimberly Rivera, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Agustin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Abdullah Webster, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson, Kyle Snyder, Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Kevin Lee, Mark Wilkerson, Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Stephen Funk, Clifton Hicks, David Sanders, Dan Felushko,Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Joshua Casteel, Katherine Jashinski, Dale Bartell, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Chris Capps, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Christopher Mogwai, Christian Kjar, Kyle Huwer, Vincent La Volpa, DeShawn Reed and Kevin Benderman. In total, forty-one US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum.

Information on war resistance within the military can be found at
The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. Tom Joad maintains a list of known war resisters.

Iraq Veterans Against the War will be in Texas. Texans For Peace are staging an American People's Poll on Iraq in Fort Worth, Texas featuring many speakers including IVAW's Adam Kokesh, Leonard Shelton and Hart Viges as well as Diane Wilson, Tina Richards, Ann Wright and many others. Click here for the press release. There is not a fee to attend, the event is Saturday, in Fort Worth, Texas which is also where the Republican Straw Poll will be "taking place in General Worth Square". People will begin arriving at nine in the morning, the speeches will begin at 1:30. There will be music and entertainment. Though the event is free, people can donate and Texans For Peace is encouraging everyone planning to attend to print up tickets online. The tickets will be used for a number count of those attending. No one will be turned away because they didn't have access to a computer to print up the ticket.

The event is sponsored and Endorsed by
Texans for Peace, Dallas Peace Center, IVAW, Veterans for Peace, Crawford Peace House, Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace, CODEPINK - Dallas Chapter, Peace Action Texas, Peace and Justice - Arlington, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and more.

Throughout the day (nine to five, this is a Saturday) there will be canvassing and straw polls, the pre-rally entertainment starts at one p.m. and the peace rally begins at 1:30 and lasts until 3:30. Fort Worth is a city in Texas, part of the Dallas and Fort Worth region known there as "DFW." Suburbs, towns and cities in the area include Denton, Plano, Arlington, Irvining, Bach Springs, Desoto, Duncanville, Lewisville, Addison, Grand Prairie and a host of others. There is a point. Texans for Peace notes that you can catch the Trinity Railway Express to Fort Worth and that at 12:30 pm volunteers will be helping transport people to the rally.
Community member Diana and her family took part in the April 2006 immigrants rally in downtown Dallas that had at least a half million participants making it the largest protest in Dallas' history. She noted the traffic issue when she shared her experiences from that rally. Today, she explained over the phone that the easiest thing for people to the north, east or south of Fort Worth wanting to attend Saturday's events but unsure of how to get there is to utilize the Trinity train. She suggests grabbing a Dart Express Train and taking it to Union Station (in downtown Dallas). You can pick up the TRE there. ("It's the big, brown -- same brown as UPS uses --train that runs right next to the two light rails," says Diana.) ADDED: Dallas and Billie both note that there is also a solid white train. Billie: "Brown or white, they are real trains that look like trains, not the light rail." Texans for Peace notes that the TRE (Trinity Railway Express) runs from eight in the morning until eleven at night on Saturdays. September will kick off many actions across the country calling for an end to the illegal war and this Saturday, Texas kicks off the action in Fort Worth.

September is a month of actions and protests and it kicks off tomorrow in Fort Worth Texas.Jeff Gibbs will apparently not be in Fort Worth or DC.
Gibbs (CounterPunch) explains, "I am tired of protests: they don't stop wars. Not protests that are mostly sign waving and hooking up with friends and strangers and feeling the solidarity and then going back to work or school on Monday. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result." Gibbs' feelings on this are quite common. If those are your feelings then figure out what actions do speak to you. If something's not speaking to you or working for you, find something that is. The movement doesn't need to grow stagnant. Gibbs is calling for work-stoppage and other actions (all solid actions). Iraq Moratorium is proposing new actions as well.

And in Iraq . . .
Yesterday's snapshot noted:

While Iraq's Foreign Minister critiques the British decision to withdraw, David Miliband, UK Foreign Secretary, has his own (and presumably the British government's take).
Thomas Harding (Telegraph of London) reports that Miliband has indicated what others think (including the US) really isn't the issue declaring "we will always take British decision in the British national interest. Our decision about Basra are about the situation on the ground in Basra not the situation on the ground in Baghdad" (with Harding noting that was "in reference to America's zone of control").

Miliband joins with the UK's Minister of Defence Des Browne to pen a column for the Washington Post where they explain the British decision to withdraw from Basra: "We pledged to help Iraqis develop a functioning state, with armed forces, police and other institutions capable of delivering security for the people. We also promised that, when we had done that, we would promptly hand over full responsibility for security to the legitimate, elected Iraq authorities." Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) notes that Basra Palace is the last British base within Basra and that "[t]he American military is known to harbour concerns over the security of the oilfields that are Iraq's only source of oil exports and its supply lines along the north-south highway". The British began the occupation of Basra April 6, 2003. That was over four years ago. As Great Britain's Socialist Worker notes, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has declared that there is no planned withdrawal (5,500 British forces are in Iraq, the Basra withdrawal is expected to allow for no more than 500 troops to leave Iraq) and that British army head Richard Dannatt has termed Iraq "a region perched precariously above a large proportion of the world's remaining supply of oil."

Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) reports that 5,000 Iraqis in the northern part of the country have cholera. AFP reports that the the World Health Organization terms the outbreak a "major epidemic". Earlier this week, UNICEF announced they had "rushed emergency aid" in to "Suleimaniya and Kirkuk in northern Iraq" and that: "Serious problems with water quality and sewage treatment are being blamed for the outbreak. Local reports indicate that only 30 per cent of the population in Suleimaniya has an adequate water supply. Mains water is only available for two hours per day at the most in the main city quarters and suburbs. A water quality report from Suleimaniya from July showed the only 50 per cent of the water inside the city was chlorinated. Many people have been reduced to digging shallow wells outside their own homes." IRIN quotes Slaimaniyah General Hospital's Dr. Dirar Iyad stating, "We need urgent medical support as the disease is spreading. We didn't expect an outbreak in this area. There is a shortage of medicines to control the disease and the focal point [source of the disease] hasn't been identified yet . . . Five deaths have so far been reported here and in Kirkuk, and we believe more could occur over the next couple of days as victims are already in an advanced stage of the illness." Cockburn explains, "Most of Iraq outside Kurdistan is flat so water and sewage need to be pumped, but this has often become impossible due to a lack of electricity. The water in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is highly polluted and undrinkable." Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) notes that earlier (June) there was an outbreak in southern Iraq.

Cockburn also notes 4.2 million is the current number of Iraqi refugees "of whom two million have been displaced within Iraq." UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie vitied Iraq and Syria this week to meet with Iraqi refugees. The UN notes that Jolie visited a Damascus UNHCR center and visited the "small rented room shared by 13 people between the ages of eight months and 67 years" of one family who were registering with the center and also visited Iraq's Al Waleed camp "which houses 1,300 refugees . . . where there is no running water or electricty." ABC News (US) has photos of the visit. Pasadena Weekly notes the estimate is 1,200 for the number of Iraqi refugees she met with on Tuesday. Many external Iraqi refugees have gone to Syria or Jordan. Today, Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) noted, "The Syrian government has announced it will soon prevent Iraqi refugees from crossing its border unless they have work visas. The new rules take effect on Sept. 10. Over 1.5 million Iraqi refugees have fled to Syria since the U.S. invasion. More than 30,000 Iraqi refugees continue to arrive in Syria each month." Peace Mom and candidate for the US Congress in California's eighth district Cindy Sheehan recently visited Iraqi refugees in Jordan. Great Britain's Socialist Worker reports, "Asked whether the occupying powers had taken steps to alleviate the suffering of refugees, she compared the tiny amounts spent to the billions given to the military. Cindy Sheehan said, 'This is a war crime. It is a crime to create so many refugees and then wash our hands of them'." Josie Clark (Independent of London) also noted the London press conference last week and that Sheehan was asking "the UK to help with the emergency aid operation and to consider taking more refugees from the area."

Refugees, disease outbreaks, how lucky the Iraqi people are to have been 'given' 'peace.'
David S. Cloud (New York Times) reports today that an independent committee established by Congress and headed by Gen. James L. Jones will report that the Iraqi police force needs "remaking" due to "corrupt officers and Shiite militants suspected of complicity in sectarian killings". There's the Bully Boy's 'progress'. Rosa Brooks (Los Angeles Times) offers some strong truths regarding the need for US forces to withdraw and also observes, "The honest (though not very satisfying answer is that no one really knows what will happen in Iraq after the United States leaves. Interestingly, a poll in March found that a majority of Iraqis thought the security situation would improve immediately after a U.S. withdrawal. But things could also get worse -- and anyone who claims to have a crystal ball is lying. We long ago squandered any capacity to guarantee a happy ending for the Iraqis."

Meanwhile the US White House has launched an attack (again) on the legislative branch of the United States.
Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) reports that the US military brass distributes 'rap sheets' on visiting Congress members to "Iraqi officials, U.S. officials and uniformed military of no particular rank" and, by these sheets, those encountering representatives of the US Congress know where they're friend or foe and treat accordingly. This is an assault on the legislative branch and an embarrassment to Congress. Weisman notes:
At one point, the three were trying to discuss the state of Iraqi security forces with Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, but the large, flat-panel television set facing the official proved to be a distraction. Rubaie was watching children's cartoons.When Moran asked him to turn it off, Rubaie protested with a laugh and said, "But this is my favorite television show," Moran recalled.

The disrespect shown to Congress, forget the particular members, is shameful. That these actions have been tolerated goes a long way to demonstrating just how Congress continues to stand up for itself repeatedly. The White House should be called to the carpet on this.

Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) examines the long relationship between Iraq and the US, ponders the candidates for president and notes, "Poor al-Maliki. He is just the latest to discover that in certain circumstances, being a friend of the United States is a terrible position indeed. Uneasy lies the head of America's allies. Just ask Saddam Hussein." As Kimberly notes, Nouri al-Maliki knew the odds going in (or should have). Meanwhile Nermeen Al-Mufti (Al-Ahram Weekly) summarizes the many failures of al-Maliki's government (including "seems unable to keepts its own ministers in the cabinet) and concludes, "Al-Maliki is facing domestic and international criticism over the failure of his government to achieve national reconciliation and pass certain laws --- principally the US-favoured oil law. So far, Al-Maliki has reacted angrily to criticism, pledging to stay on in office." Robert H. Reid (AP) reports that al-Maliki is now attempting to blame Sunnis for this week's viiolence in Karbala -- the violence that was Shia-on-Shia violence. Sami Moubayed (Asia Times) reports on the latest paranoid induced ravings of al-Maliki regarding Krabala: "Maliki also accused the culprits of having wanted to blow up the shrine of Imam al-Hussein and then ordered the arrest of Hamid Kannush, a member of the city's municipality who is a ranking member of the Sadrist bloc. Kannush was accused of conspiracy in the Karbala violence. Maliki was effectively saying: the Sadrists did it, although his office's official press release blamed 'the Saddamis'. Maliki's office, however, did not actually explain what had happened in Karbala. National Security Advisor Muwafaq al-Rabei, however, said that militants wanted to occupy the two holy shrines of Imam al-Husseini and Imam al-Abbas, 'and topple the Maliki government'."

Marshall Helmberger (Timberjay Newspapers) reminds, "And don't forget that Gen. Petraeus himself said the most critical progress in Iraq had to come on the political front. On that score, there’s little debate over the fact that the Iraqi government is in utter chaos. A large portion of Prime Minister al-Maliki's cabinet has quit, as have significant blocs within the Parliament. None of the benchmark legislation the White House called 'must-pass' six months ago has been approved. The political situation is so bad that some in Congress, from both parties, are now calling for al-Maliki's replacement and rumors are again afoot about a U.S.-supported coup that would put former interim Iraqi prime minister and CIA informant Ayad Alawi in charge in Baghdad. So much for promoting democracy. While President Bush hasn't yet signed on to the idea, it's clear even the White House is no longer oblivious to Iraq's political implosion."

In some of the violence today . . .


Reuters reports a Samarra car bombing that claimed the lives of 4 police officers (seven wounded). Late last night, Mary Orndoff (The Birmingham News) reported that a plane "carrying Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, and two other sentors" was en route to Baghdad when it was fired upon by three rockets. No person or plane was hurt.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Gunmen killed a barber man, Ghazwan Jawad, inside his shop in Al Nasr neighborhood. The deceased worked as a personal barber man to a colonel in Kirkuk police." Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) explains Ghazwan Jawad's murder is "the ninth slaying of a barber in the city this year by Islamic militants who oppose Western haircuts and grooming styles."


It's Friday. Reports trickle out of the day's violence on Saturday.

Today, the
US military announced: "A Marine and a Soldier assigned to Multi National Force-West died Aug. 29 in separate in attacks while conducting combat operations in AlAnbar Province." The announcement brings ICCC's total for the number of US service members killed in Iraq so far this month to 80 with the total since the start of the illegal war to 3738.

A new book entitled Army of None, published
by Seven Stories Press, available at Courage to Resist and many other places, is written by Aimee Allison and David Solnit. This is a practical, inspiring book on ways to resist. Watch for these events in the month of September [And clicking here will give you more info]:

Sep 14 at 4:00P
Army of None Workshop - San Jose, CA @ Californians for Justice, San Jose, CA;Sep 14 at 7:30P Army of None Book Release/Signing - San Jose, CA @ Dowtown San Jose - Location TBA; Sep 15 at 12:00P Army of None Tour in Pittsburgh, PA; Sep 19 at 7:00P Army of None Tour in Cleveland, OH; Sep 20 at 6:00P Army of None Tour @ Kent, OH;Sep 23 at 6:00P Army of None Tour @ Milwaukee, WI; Sep 24 at 6:00P Army of None Tour in Milwaukee, WI @ Milwaukee, WI;Sep 25 at 7:00P Army of None Tour @ Madison, WI; Sep 26 at 6:00P Army of None Tour @ Madison, WI; Sep 27 at 6:30P Army of None Tour @ May Day Books, Minneapolis MN; Sep 28 at 10:00A Army of None Tour @ High Schools in Minneapolis, MN;Sep 28 at 7:30P Army of None Tour @ Lyndale United Church of Christ, Minneapolis MN; Sep 29 at 1:00P Army of None Tour @ Rondo Community Outreach Library - St. Paul, MN; Oct 12 at 7:00P Army of None Tour @ Bluestockings Bookstore - New York City; and Oct 17 at 7:00P Army of None Tour @ Sanctuary for Independent Media - Troy, NY

In US political news,
Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) reports that US House Rep John Conyers has declared that impeachment may be off Nancy Pelosi's table (more room for the centerpiece made of the spines that once were in Democratic leaders) but it's not off his table and Pelosi "cannot prvent me from introducing an impeachment resolution." Remember that for two reasons. First, Conyers have caved and backtracked on this issue before. Second, those enablers rushing to rescue Conyers a few weeks back kept insisting that Conyers had no real power. He's said otherwise. Rothschild wonders, "So what's his hesitation now? And when is a more appropriate time than now, after all the crimes Bush and Cheney have already committed?" Also wondering about the refusal to move foward on the part of Democrats is Jimmy Breslin (New York Daily News via Common Dreams):

There had been the sound of many feet on a Brooklyn street at the first funeral, of firefighter Joseph Graffa-gnino, and at the second funeral, of firefighter Robert Beddia, a fire engine sounded in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. In my office about an hour later, slips of paper came silently out of a machine, the slips coming from the Department of Defense and carrying the names and ages of the 14 soldiers who were killed in Iraq when their helicopter crashed. Four were under 21 and nine 25 or under. Of course the first thought was how the city at this time could handle such calamity if the 14 dead were New York firefighters or police officers. This gives a good view of the catastrophe that happens in Iraq, day after day. But as the soldiers die at a time of national Alzheimer's, there was virtually no reaction to the 14. When anybody you elect tries to end the war, Bush blocks all intentions with a veto or threats of a veto that prevent it. And his Supreme Court is ready to validate whatever he does, this court with its five Catholic justices, and a chief who falls on his face a couple of times that we know of. Our politicians despair that there can be no way to override Bush and save our young and everybody of any age in Iraq. Of course there is. By all the energy and dignified disgust of a nation that needs it to keep any semblance of greatness, there is an extraordinary need for an impeachment of this president and his vice president.You start an impeachment with an investigator who starts to develop a case. That's what got Nixon out. He had the most expensive, elaborate defense in the world, and when they were pressed his assistants folded and Nixon quit. I wonder whether Bush and his people can do any better when pressed.

Breslin was one of the few voices this time last year noting the silence on Iraq as media elected to travelogue over the summer and allowed Iraq to fall off the media radar. The late Molly Ivins also called out the nonsense. Sadly, others cannot be added to the list. As he did last summer, Breslin is refusing to allow his voice to be wasted.

democracy now
juan gonzalez
margaret kimberley
iraq veterans against the war
army of none
aimeee allison
david solnit
jimmy breslin
matthew rothschild
mcclatchy newspapers
the los angeles times
tina susman
rosa brooks
the washington post
karen deyoung