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Tommy’s Tune: Falling Flat


Seems I’m not the only person less than enthused about Tom Friedman’s new book. Kevin Drum, who actually read the damn thing, poor guy, says – unbelievably – the Times scribe is less critical in “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century” than he was in his previous book, “The Lexus and the Olive Tree,”. Friedman having drunk Silicon Valley’s Kool-Aid for his first cheery look at globalization, came back for more and liked it even better this time.
My pal, Matthew Holt, a U.S. citizen living in Northern California who sounds very much like the Englishman he is, had a response similar to mine when one of his HealthCareBlog readers started gushing about Friedman: Welcome to the party, Tom.
Their correspondence – which includes a few tart insights on book deals and their relationship to the book publishing business – follows. Names have been redacted.

—–Original Message—–
From: HCB Reader
Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2005 8:20 AM
To: Matthew Holt
Subject: From the NYTs – Friedman: Its a Flat World
Every once in a while, a piece comes along that connects dynamics and crystallizes their meaning. Here’s one that fit into that category for me.
(Attachment: “The Earth is Flat” from the NYTImes)
—–Original Message—–
From: Matthew Holt []
Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2005 1:11 PM
To: HCB Reader
Subject: RE: From the NYTs – Friedman: Its a Flat World
So technology + intelligent people elsewhere = a challenge for America? Wow. I’m amazed he found out. Give David Hansen Friedman’s job and perhaps he won’t spend his time cheerleading us into the real problem with America — a ridiculous focus on creating a Middle Eastern empire, which will drag us into poverty. That’s what Friedman’s been preaching when he missed the stuff he’s just discovered in this article. Everyone else paying attention has known this stuff for a long time.
Sorry but Friedman is trite, unoriginal and REALLY pisses me off. As I said, David Hansen wrote this at the Institute for the Future in 1994
—–Original Message—–
From: HCB Reader
Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2005 10:21 AM
To: Matthew Holt
Subject: RE: From the NYTs – Friedman: Its a Flat World
Here’s the problem, Matt. Very few people know who Hansen is, and lots of people know who Friedman is. This is just part of the problem with the way media works. It doesn’t help that there is a vanguard out there who get this stuff. What matters is the point of connection with the mainstream consciousness. Then, and only then, can we begin to respond through change.
I agree with you that Friedman essentially abetted the [Bush] Administration’s move into the Middle East, albeit for very different reasons. When you compare Friedman’s analyses to MOST of the mainstream writers out there, he‚s far more rational and reasonable. (BTW, I thought the “flat world” metaphor sucked.)
I’m not sure its appropriate to be pissed off that somebody else had the more original thought a long time ago. Culture isn’t fair. Be grateful SOMEBODY’S thinking in the mainstream press. We don’t see much of that.
From: Matthew Holt
To: HCB Reader
Sent: Wednesday, April 06, 2005 11:22 AM
Subject: RE: From the NYTs – Friedman: Its a Flat World
I know I know…..
But I seriously believe that all this stuff is connected. If we decide as a nation to spend our time and money being an empire, rather than taking a rational containment view against terrorism, then we will not spend it on the social infrastructure that Friedman is belatedly noticing that we have been missing out on (both in the K-12 education world and in the not-unrelated health care world that we live in, to mention two areas that need major fixes in this nation). The US spent 15 years being derailed by the cost of the Vietnam war, and may well have the same issue given the cost of Iraq and the post-9/11 military build up — all totally unproductive spending.

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