Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Friedman Comes Out Against Torture, Logical Consistency

Take a look at today's column. If anyone can find a coherent position on torture, or the war on terror, or Iraq, or anything at all, for that matter, please let me know, because I sure as hell can't.

Friedman's columns are often vapid, and cliched, and grating, and self-serving, but I'll at least give him this — they're usually pretty clear: We need a carbon tax. We should invest more in science. We should grant more visas to highly educated immigrants. We should invade Iraq and turn it into a beacon of progressivism and democracy. Yada yada yada.

This column, by contrast, is a logical mess. As I understand it, Friedman's position is as follows: Torture is wrong. Obama was right to ban it. Bush Administration officials crossed the line, and members of the military murdered detainees. However, al Qaeda is really, really evil, and terrorists want to kill lots of people, and don't love their children, and they were maybe planning to use weapons of mass destruction. So the rules are different, and we shouldn't prosecute Bush Administration officials. Also, it would be politically divisive, and apparently bipartisanship now ranks above the rule of law and morality on the list of things we should be concerned about upholding.

Oh, and if you thought that defeating al Qaeda in Iraq would make America safer, you were wrong. Because victory in Iraq is actually going to increase the likelihood of a terrorist attack on American soil. Why? Because it's like a Hail Mary pass. And you can't argue with a sports metaphor.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Everybody! Over here! Look at me!

Remember that system of freewheeling global capitalism Thomas Friedman spent the better part of his career championing? Well, it recently drove the world economy off a cliff. So what's the solution? Did you guess fundamental reform of global finance? Good work — but that's only half the answer. What's the other half? Well, it's none other than the same set of environmental policies Friedman has been peddling in his books, columns, lectures and neighborhood grocery store (probably) for the last five or six years.

Yes, in a clever sleight of hand in his most recent column, Friedman manages to recast the financial meltdown as a desperate plea from Mother Nature to reduce carbon emissions. Don't get me wrong — I'm a firm supporter of reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment. But in the true Friedman spirit of colorful if tortured analogies, isn't this a bit like KFC trying to convince us that the economic crisis is a clear indication that we all need to be eating a lot more fried chicken, or Billy Blanks trying to convince us that the only road to economic recovery is for everyone to start doing Tae Bo?