The Fried Man

[updated with more stuff]

The Poor Man has been doing a Tom Friedman poetry thing (along with some other sites — it’s Friedmania lately), and I totally got busted by Brad R. a couple days ago while sneakily hanging out in the comments there when I should have been, you know, dragging down the discourse here and chasing away the readership. The problem is that I’m obsessed with Tom Friedman.

Here’s my Friedman poem. You’ll recognize an echo of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

The world is charged with the grandeur of Tom.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

Now it gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil!

Crap. Why do men not wreck his rod?

I’m ashamed to admit this obsession. It’s unseemly.

But among the million, billion bits of Friedmanism that have exploded into the air like pollen lately (with his new book, etc), the one that’s really stands out is the Grist Magazine interview.

Not content with running around saying the world is flat (in his new book, The World is Flat), he’s got this damn-fool thing going called ‘geo-green.’ I’ve been trying to collect terms to describe this thing of his, and it pretty much beggars the thesaurus. You could say it’s ‘horseshit,’ and that’s true, but it would do less violence to sensibility and the beautiful English language to just call it “Muuuuh!” with your face all contorted and hands crabbed into I’m-a-retard claws. I’m doing that now. (Muuuuh!) It’s like four-dimensional horseshit, string-theory horseshit. It’s like slices of baloney folded into a hypercube.

Grist is that new environmentalist magazine, and my onetime Feedmag editor, Amanda Griscom, who cruelly got married without me, interviews Friedman. Quod Griscom:

In January, the three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times debuted his “geo-green” strategy, a powerful proposal for reframing America’s quest for energy independence to appeal to hawkish neocons and lily-livered tree-huggers alike. By aggressively curbing America’s energy consumption, Friedman argues, the Bush administration could reduce the global price of oil to the point where it would force regimes in the Middle East to diversify their economies, thereby priming them for democratic reform.

Now, the unique, four-dimensional genius of Tom Friedman manifests itself when you try to track — not even to answer and correct, but merely to follow — the falsehoods, bad assumptions, and misapprehensions in one of his bagatelles, as he’s explaining it. Friedman expands on ‘geo-green’ (his comments are in boldface because Friedman has such a bold face):

I would say that geo-green is the natural successor to neocon.

Wha? But if…

The neocons basically believe in using American military power to drive the democracy agenda…

Well no, because the PNAC mission statement explicitly says that they seek global hegemony for the US as the last remaining superpower, and the…

…in the Middle East, and that, idealistically speaking, was the purpose of the invasion of Iraq.

Wait, those WMDs you were writing about all the time in your column. Iraq threatening America with poison gas and nukes. What about the…

The reality is we do not have the resources to do that again — not in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or anywhere.

Because Iraq is in chaos partially thanks to you, and we’re still bogged down in…

Yet we have a fundamental interest in promoting political and economic reform in that part of the world so people have better governance, more opportunities, and less frustration.

But that’s exactly backwards: We promote reform, sometimes, in order to increase stability, not because we want to reshuffle political systems to create more global competitors. And who is the Middle East historically frustrated, or rather angry at, and why? Because it often seems as though there’s an elephant in the room — an elephant whose name begins with the letter…

Like the president, I want to see that political reform agenda go forward.

Iy, iy, iy. It makes your head spin. Aye-aye, captain. We’ll keep an eye out, say I. Actually, one way that you could have the industrial west bank on reaching its golan cutting fossil-fuel emissions israil infrastructure. But this isreally about Friedman. He isareal important columnist. Cripes, what’s that damn trumpeting? Who keeps eating all the peanuts around here?

To fill in: If we can get the President to curb US oil consumption (by imposing a gasoline tax that raises prices to $4/gallon), we can get Middle-Eastern countries to produce other things besides oil, and that will in some fashion make them become democracies.

Muuuuuh! Because wait one second here. That goes against exactly every interest of every single major player, from the bellicose neocons, to the insular Saudi monarchy, to the price-driven American consumer, to the profit-seeking oil companies, to the oil-enfolded Bush administration. Everyone gets exactly what they don’t want and would not tolerate, and Friedman’s genius (he is a genius) is in somehow bending time, space, and the beautiful English language to make it all seem not-ridiculous, for as long as he’s actually speaking.

You see him on television and he’s all super-ingratiating, with florid hand gestures, contouring his voice like he’s addressing a fourth-grade class. And THIS and THAT and…well (pause) hey, HERE’S a thing. (Points finger.) The POINT is… (Spreads hands). And do you know what I learned from THAT? (pause, one-beat, two-beat; intense eyes and moustache)… I learned [some alleged crap from a foreign cab driver, about globalism.]

It’s a form of mesmerism. Friedgali, Friedsputin.

Let’s review this a bit. George W. Bush, of the Texas Bush dynasty, is going to sponsor a huge gasoline tax to reduce US dependence on oil, squeezing the Saudis and helping to depress global oil prices. Then if… But why go on? Clearly, monkeys are already flying out of one’s ass. What’s this? A note from former President Reagan.

Hi, Gav! Brrr! Sure is cold here in Hell!

No, no, let’s go on. China and India have exploded or fallen into the sea or something, because their hugely increasing demands for oil don’t exist in this scenario. We depress the mideast economy and the entire global oil industry singlehandedly by imposing a 100% gasoline tax in America, offering tax rebates to sort of give back the money to Americans on the other end.

No, no, let’s keep going. Intentionally wrecking the Mideast economy makes them like the US more than they do presently. And as MJ says in comments, Middle Eastern economies will diversify to produce more rugs, goat cheese, and pistachios. Or… (What else do they have in abundance there?) Angry young men with automatic rifles. No, that’s the wrong answer. (Dates and yogurt.) Or maybe they grab up part of the vanishing US tech sector (since China and India have exploded).

And then the deus ex machina appears. Voila! Democracy in the Mideast. Where did that come from? Don’t know! But Richard Perle is happy and smiling and no longer wants to attack anybody. PNAC changes its name to Project for Nice American Chaps. But that’s not all. Friedman is making that “Aha!” face of his and pointing an index finger in the air. It’s a Green Revolution!

I’m stealing this from somewhere, and someone knows I’m stealing it from him. But it’s the God-honest truth and the only possible explanation. Thomas Friedman, genius, thinks this stuff up on the can.

(Some wag is bound to ask if I have a better idea to achieve greater energy independence, forge peace in the Mideast, and lower greenhouse emissions. And yes indeed; I believe strongly in some fairly ordinary and simple ideas for such things. But you see, if you ask it that way, it’s like saying, “Well, it’s easy to scoff, but do you have a better plan to make the Pistons win the playoffs, cure resistant strains of Tuberculosis, and make a fortune at the blackjack tables at Caesar’s Palace?” which presupposes that a gigantic, bizarre Rube Goldberg scheme to do several completely unrelated things at once is somehow sane and reasonable, and not, by definition, batshit-fucktard nuts.) (Excuse me; I’m getting a bit specific there.)

Later, Griscom asks:

What’s the timeline on all of this? Realistically how quickly could we implement these proposals and see the rewards?


I think we could do it in the blink of an eye. If the president got behind this, imagine what leaps and bounds he could make. Imagine if George Bush did a Nixon-to-China and he brought the coalition together, bringing neocons and geo-greens together. It would be historic. He’s got the Congress. He’s got the White House. He has all the power necessary to do this.

This is the most influential columnist in America. As long as he continues to roam free and unembarrassed, I will continue to have insomnia and/or a drinking problem.


Comments: 15




I know, Thomas Friedman gives me chills. He really is a kind of mad genius — there was something sublime about him seeing a woman trying to survive by letting people pay her to weigh themselves on the scales she carried around and then pronouncing it a symbol of the economic policy that will save the world. But he’s really a lot like a child — only a child could seriously think America has anything like an anarchic free market.


Does Mr. Friedman not consider that the international oil market would fill the void created by what he sees as a depressed American demand? And what precisely does he see as a possible set of market alternatives to be pursued by countries of the region? Rugs? Goat dheese? Pistschios?



I appreciate Mr Friedman’s willingness to leap into the aching void and educate us dumb environmentalists about the need for energy conservation.
Well done, Thomas! Surely your bold new vision will make thousands of hippies think twice before buying Hummers.

The Dark Avenger

Tom, Tom, the columnist at large
Tell us about the world
Using a Slovak hooker named “Marge”,
A Yemeni taxi-driver who whirls
Tom through the dusty alleys of Sana
While quoting lyrics from “Santana”.

Hey, this poetry shit is hard. The free-verse shit I wrote as a young heart-broken lad of 18 is one thing, but now I understand why Eliot had a nutty wife and Robert Lowell went off the rails once in a while.

My head hurts Mr Gumby


Why don’t you guys just lay off Friedman, ok? It’s not his fault his plans are untenable. It’s reality’s. It’s just like the war in Iraq. Ok, so the flowers and cheering crowds and democracy didn’t happen, but is that Friedman’s fault? Of course not. If the world have only had the decency to conform to his vision of it everything would have been fine. And maybe all those laid-off American workers won’t turn into brilliant, innovative inventors and entrepaneurs. Are you going to blame Friedman for that too? What’s the poor man to do, go around inspiring and encouraging everyone himself.

I think with geo-green, Friedman’s finally got it right. The problem with the Iraq invasion and outsourcing is that people in power actually made/are making it happen, and reality inevitably messes things up. Ah, but geo-green! At last Friedman has come up with a plan that is guaranteed not to be put in action, and so can live in pristine glory forever.


That’s *almost* as funny as the time David Brooks recommended that Bush mention the decline of meritocracy in his SOTU.



Hey, don’t worry — he’ll come up with another one any day now. He’s going to grab that copy of Foreign Affairs and have a nice long sit in the room with the towel racks on the door, and the next thing you know another geopolitical Gordian knot is sliced in twain.

So you totally caught me hanging out at the Poor Man, huh?


It would be funny if it weren’t actual.

Friedman is what convinces me reality has gone INSANE.

I mean, I thought it had — what with Bush getting reelected and Brooks getting an NYTimes column and and and.

But Friedman’s the proof, you know?


Thomas Friedman on the can? Did you really have to conjure that image? I’m emotionally scarred!


My theory is that Friedman took some Ecstasy in the mid/late nineties for zeitgeist research purposes and hasn’t been the same since. Globalization is just so… happy!


Middle Eastern country without oil income = stable democracy — like Afghanistan. It’s so simple, how could we have missed it?


And Egypt…


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Tommy “Give War a Chance” Friedman!? This is our “Geo-Green” prophet? Ya gotta be kidding-surely we can do better than this corporate hack that travels the flat-world first class, being shuttled in limos to the finest golf courses where he writes the corporate promotional ads that pass for “insightful opinion”. How many of his greens fees were paid for by the C.E.O. of Toyota for him to write that they should take over G.M.? He wants to start a “Green” party? Forget oil-lets talk water-2.5 billion gallons a day to irrigate the world’s golf courses (the same amount of water it would take, per day. to support 4.7 BILLION people at the U.N. daily minimun) An average of 18 pounds of pesticides per acre, per year on golf courses (agriculture uses 2.7 pounds on average). Next time he’s teeing off and gets the inspiration to write how everyone else should “sacrifice” for the good of the nation- I hope he thinks about the 150,000 acres of the Colorado River Delta, which now receives just 0.1 percent of the river water that once flowed through it-that area could be covered to a depth of 2 feet with water drawn from the Colorado River by the city of Las Vegas-which uses much of that allotment to water it’s more than 60 golf courses. Friedman’s nothing more than an opportunistic hypocrite that will use any cause to sell a book.


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