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04 September 2007


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Friedman believes he is (or is paid to be) a thought leader. He notices some facts about the world, its economy, or social relationships and ties them up in a narrative/model grounded on a marketable metaphor. In this instance, a more intellectually rigorous individual would try to say something about the change in connectivity between agents in the worldwide marketplace.

I would say too that it's tripe, but tripe is too much of a delicacy.


"The New York Times pays these men to write this tripe?"

yeah, Col., but what amazes me even more is that I pay good money to read them--well, actually, I prefer to think I pay good money to read Krugman. Friedman and Brooks are just there if I have the stomach to read through their tripe. And I think they both broke the "tripe-ometer" today......

Buzz Meeks


They, NYT and the two jesters you have mentioned, are just part of the well greased Likkud/Israeli noise machine. I wish there was a law in place that would force them to label their offal as "paid political commentary" or more succinctly paid for hire propaganda.

Buzz Meeks

Peter Principle

The irony of Friedman's "the world is flat" schtick is that he, himself is a main beneficiary of the old hierarchical world he claims has disappeared. In the non-flat world, reporters who have long since risen several levels above their own competence can enjoy rich and rewarding careers as editorial pundits, simply by virtue of their employment by the great and mightly New York Times -- that shrine of conventional wisdom to which all right-thinking (or at least, career-minded) elites must pay homage.

On his own (say, as a blogger) Friedman would be a nobody -- one of those pathetic souls reduced to touting their own posts on comments left on other people's blogs.

In other words, Friedman has the sole virtue of being the living proof of the absurdity of his own pop theories.


I’m put in mind of a scene from the BBC series, I Claudius. In the scene Claudius, just returning, dripping wet, from being tossed into the Rhine on orders from his certifiably insane nephew, the Roman Emperor Caligula.

The Emperor, seeing that Claudius is still alive, orders him down on his knees and, with huge sword in hand, prepares to chop off Claudius’s head….but pauses, eventually relents and then asks Claudius a rather odd question:

“Tell me Uncle, do you think I am mad?”

Now what is Claudius to say? He’s on his knees, the Emperor hovers over him, with sword in hand……it’s a tricky situation to say the least and the predicament shows on Claudius’ face. There is a pregnant pause as Claudius grapples for an answer…which finally comes to him:

“You mad? No, I don’t think that possible. Why, you set the standard for sanity in the world today”.

Brooks and Friedman set the standard for professional journalism in the world (DC world) today.

David Solomon


I am with you. I too pay to read the Times, but it is really Krugman who stands out.

Lately I have taken to reading the Washington Post, at least it makes no pretense about being a liberal paper. Further, Dana Priest makes up for a lot of their regular nonsense.



The New York Times and the Washington Post have a reputation of having a robust Neocon presence in their Editorial Staffs.

The difference, I suppose, between Democrat and the Republican Neocons in the Commentariat lies in their easily identifiable and Koolaid induced talking points.

Friedman once appeared on the Charlie Rose Show, and postulated that American Software Developer job losses to India was a good thing. The reason was, you see, is that the newly hired, reduced wages Indians would drink Pepsi Cola on the job, while merrily typing their code on Dell Computers (US Companies....why not global?), and that this would produce good jobs in the USA.

What a dolt! The Pepsi plants are in India, so the amount of profit that leaves Pepsi India, headed for Corporate headquarters is probably slight. While Dell is a good employer and the only major that still maintains US assembly plants, the parts for all of these computers are virtually all made overseas, save for the intellectual capital that designed the chips.

Furthermore the US Dell plants manufacture for domestic consumption. There are Dell plants in Malaysia and Ireland for those regional markets, with a Huge plant nearing completion in Chennai India.

All in all, not much in the way of domestic job gains. If Globalism is taken to its logical conclusions, there will not be many jobs for Americans who are not in the elites, the military industrial complex, retail, medicine, and the manual labor trades, which are overwhelmingly manned by Latin Americans.

On the subject of US military interventions abroad, both of these cats are favorably inclined. What say you Colonel, are they agents provocateurs of the AIPAC.

PS. The wife and I went to a short sojourn to the beachside Navy Lodge in Coronado, only to return to discover your last post on the Vietnam Iraq comparo missing. Am I right to assume that the thoughtful exchange of views went south in a hurry, aided and abetted by draft dodger induced screeds and fact challenged overly professorial pronunciamentos?


One could find two editorial writers in Mumbai, that could make the case for Globalism/Outsourcing more convincingly, using logic and the King's English in a manner superior to Friedman. This would be accomplished with a renumeration for the two modest enough as to employ them and still have money left over to hire a bright new American reporter straight out of college.

What have you done for us lately, Friedman....besides giving us the Friedman unit?


pl says:

I am here to tell you folks that if there are people on earth who do not inhabit Friedman's "flat earth," they are Arab sheikhs. they are the upholders of traditional and particularist life. They are the guardians of 'urf (tribal law).

Well, you could argue that the fact the average u.s. citizen could have any knowledge or concern about tribal law in the arabian peninsula is evidence of 'flatness' but I won't because Friedmans premise is stupid.

I think one of the interesting things about the Sadrist movement is that it's genesis is in poor rural shia becoming urbanized: the rectangular layout of 'Sadr city' marks it as a late 20th century development in Baghdad. To the point: I think there are actually pretty significant theological differences between the Sadrists and Najaf with respect the 'Judiciary.'

I believe in canonical Shia Islam the adjudication of disputes is supposed to occur within a strict framework, where the judge has been trained and reports to a theological hiearchy with a 'chain of command' leading to Najaf, metaphorically if not physically. I believe the Sadrists believe that local leaders are qualified in making at least some judgements ala the tribal sheihks even if they don't fit into the theological hiearchy. I have heard it said that 'tribal' life in Iraq doesn't really break down strictly into Shia vs. Sunni. The connections the Sadrists have with the 'Sunni' resistance I think stem from their family ties with the rural 'tribes.'

I am not an expert and this is all heresay derived from the fact that the history and culture of arabia is quite relevant to u.s. society at this time...

my feeling is that al-quaeda vs. 'the tribes' is more about an intra-tribal power struggle than any nascent 'Islamic State of Iraq.' sheihks looking at grabbing power can get money and weapons (and soldiers) from Saudi arabia by making connections with 'al-quaeda.' since Wahhabi-ism began around Fallujah this exchanges goes back to the ascendance of al-Saud... but you (pl) are the professor, is this totally off-base?

there must be a tension between the Salafi movement and the 'traditional' tribal system that is independent of and older than 'al-quaeda'...

Abu Sinan

Friedman really doesnt have a clue about the Middle East. It is still amazing that these types, like Daniel Pipes and Robert Spencer still have people who look to them for answers.

They have been so wrong, so many times on such a range of issues non of them, or their ilk, have any credibility.


i understand the Select feature is being phased out. but for now

For a long time, i diligently searched the blogs for reposts of Maureen Dowd until I saw this

The New York Times now offers a complimentary subscription to TimesSelect if you're a student or faculty member with a valid college or university e-mail address to be eligible for this offer.

My alma mater provides free email addresses with the edu domain, so does my local community college. So, I became a Selectman.

W. Patrick Lang

"They are the guardians of 'urf (tribal law) [and 'Aadah]. Those are the very characteristics that have made them rise in rebellon against Al-Qa'ida.
You think it was our money?"

I agree again. But what also pushed them against al-Qaida was the latter's power grabbing practice and attempts to impose their own brand of Wahhabi-like or Taliban-like Islam. The tribes are religious, but they have pride in their own traditional blend of orthodox Islam, Sufi Islam and 'Urf-'Aadah. The Q guys made the same mistake in Chechniya.
Amatzia Baram"

W. Patrick Lang


"Well, you could argue that the fact the average u.s. citizen could have any knowledge or concern about tribal law in the arabian peninsula is evidence of 'flatness'"

Are you talking about me? pl



"Well, you could argue that the fact the average u.s. citizen could have any knowledge or concern about tribal law in the arabian peninsula is evidence of 'flatness'"

Are you talking about me? pl

No, you were paid by the government to be an expert on sheikhs in arabia.

I'm talking about myself and other people groping for information about what is going on.

If the world were otherwise, why would I care?


the cordesman who spoke on npr's talk of the nation today and the cordesman that brooks cited as proof of his argument have to be different cordesmans


The insipid noises that Friedman and Brooks make are little more than the death rattles of the corporate media.

With the proliferation of free web sites full of timely real-world insights and intelligent commentary (and Col. Lang's site here is one of the best examples I know of), the corporate media today continues its degeneration towards being less about news or analysis, and more about selling advertising and its concomitant reinforcement of the staus quo.

I believe that what we are observing here is nothing less than the passing of the current corporate model of the free press, as that media dinosaur is replaced by something more along the lines of what Thomas Paine might have had in mind for the dissemination of information in a free republic.

Personally, I welcome this evolution, and I regularly give thanks to those who post and moderate such discussions as we are lucky enough to enjoy here. As Friedman and Brooks are the past, Colonel Lang and friends are the future.

James Pratt

It is one of the ironies of life that the greatest enthusiasts for market forces are those who are most insulated from the possibility of social demotion. Even though the Iraq War has been opposed by most Americans for two and a half years, most of the network broadcast and cable media,
and the national print media are still trying to sell it to the people. Pro-war pundits like David Brooks, T. Friedman, Jonah Goldberg et al need never fear the consequence of their rosy Iraq predictions being proven wrong, as they have been so often in the past. Their employers, and about 30% of the population, will overlook them being wrong in a good cause.
Those who have been prescient about the Iraq aggression (as the late Prof. Milton Friedman called it) in the military, academia and the media often have been sacked or denied opportunity because of what they said.

Clifford Kiracofe

<"attempts to impose their own brand of Wahhabi-like or Taliban-like Islam. The tribes are religious, but they have pride in their own traditional blend of orthodox Islam, Sufi Islam and 'Urf-'Aadah">

Although I am not an area specialist, Professor Baram's comment is interesting and the reference to the Caucasus is on point, particularly in Daghestan.

On the tribes and all that, SST readers might find, as I have, the professor's very interesting paper (2003) on Iraqi tribes useful in the present context:

From a comparative perspective with regard to imperial management, the 20th century British policy (and the internal debates on it) in the Sudan with reliance on local tribal leaders may have some "lessons."

Cold War Zoomie


Has a certain ring to it.

Peter Principle

Col. Lang may be many thing, but he is neither "average" nor "flat."


Every newspaper these days seems to need a conservative commentator or two to balance out the reality happening in the rest of the paper. Insight and scholarship never seem to be required for those positions. Brooks is that guy at the NYT, I think.

I'm not sure how to explain Friedman. He's often interesting, but like most folks who generalize too much, often wrong. He's right that the world is getting "flatter" in the sense he means, but there are plenty of places that haven't been touched by this trend yet. Some may never be.

Cieran, I think that we may be seeing the death-rattle of newspaper columnists, for the reasons you cite. I hope we aren't seeing the death of newspapers as well. There really aren't any institutions yet to fill the void.


>I have heard it said that 'tribal' life in Iraq doesn't really break down strictly into Shia vs. Sunni. The connections the Sadrists have with the 'Sunni' resistance I think stem from their family ties with the rural 'tribes.'

I thought many tribes mixed both Sunni and Shia.

Jim Schmidt

If you have any thought at all of reading the "The World is Flat" by Tom Friedman, I'd recommend instead a CliffNote summary of "The Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith or the Wikipedia entries for mercantilism, classical economics, monetarism and the internet. You will both save yourself a few bucks and the embarrassment of falling asleep on the couch trying to read Friedman's book.

A quicker study still and more to the point, is the tongue lashing given by Mr. Jensen to Howard Beale in the 1976 movie "Network":


You have meddled with the primal

forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I

won't have it, is that clear?! You

think you have merely stopped a

business deal -- that is not the

case! The Arabs have taken billions

of dollars out of this country, and

now they must put it back. It is

ebb and flow, tidal gravity, it is

ecological balance! You are an old

man who thinks in terms of nations

and peoples. There are no nations!

There are no peoples! There are no

Russians. There are no Arabs!

There are no third worlds! There is

no West! There is only one holistic

system of systems, one vast and

immense, interwoven, interacting,

multi-variate, multi-national

dominion of dollars! petro-dollars,

electro-dollars, multi-dollars!,

Reichmarks, rubles, rin, pounds and

shekels! It is the international

system of currency that determines

the totality of life on this planet!

That is the natural order of things

today! That is the atomic,

subatomic and galactic structure of

things today! And you have meddled

with the primal forces of nature,

and you will atone! Am I getting

through to you, Mr. Beale?


Tom Tomorrow nailed Flathead Friedman pretty well...

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