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Tom Friedman at the Opera House

August 3, 2011

I don’t respect a US commentator more than this bloke. He levitates above the melodrama of presidential campaigns and White House gossip to write about globalization, the environmental wreckage of climate change, US competitiveness and technology, all of which he relates to malfunctioning American politics. He hits the carbon lobby and argues that America should go for energy independence as the best response to terrorism.

He said last night that America wasted time chasing Al Qaeda. Instead it should have responded to September 11 by nation-building at home, especially by building energy independence – that is, to deny the Saudis the oil revenue with which its princes subsidize Salafist Islam.

Friedman has an intimate knowledge of the Middle East so much so that he sounds disinclined to waste any more time on it. He is critical of the Palestinian leadership and of the Netanyahu government. He says that all the region’s Arab leaders are “dead men walking”. But he warns the Arab Spring may have come too late – the societies have been left without the tools they need to make the transitions.

His forthcoming book will barely mention China. “Our problem is not China. Our solution is not China.”

He says of China, “A country that censors Google is not setting itself up for a creative future.”

He rejects some of the simplistic pro-Chinese enthusiasms: “If supercomputers and bullet trains were the arbiters then Japan would be leading the world economy.”

He indicted the excessive partisanship in Washington. He says it is caused by the gerrymander of Congressional boundaries which rewards both parties with more safe seats than can be justified. The politicians end up, as a result, appealing to their hardcore base supporters more than to the centre. The rhetoric gets more extreme. As it does on TV where 24 hour cable news, strengthened by the O J Simpson trial, recruits extreme, hotheaded loudmouths to keep news entertaining. American politics becomes sports.

America, says Friedman, needs politicians who will cut, tax and invest.

On climate change Friedman said, in response to deniers, that if we do everything – and the climate does not change – so? We will have clean air, clean water and super-competitive industry. In the meantime we will have sensibly taken out the necessary insurance.

5 Comments
  1. David Armstrong permalink
    August 3, 2011 8:15 pm

    Bob: I agree with your assessment of Tom Friedman. I often find myself “recommending” his New York Times pieces.

  2. gordicans permalink
    August 3, 2011 8:42 pm

    Don’t know much about this bloke but saw him on telly tonight. Impressive his ability to a convey a large idea into a short sentence.

  3. August 4, 2011 12:18 am

    Indeed and it was a pleasure to see him interviewed yet again on “7.30”. I am sure FNC loves him too! His comments on the nature of congressional precints is interesting. Bob in order to gain a further understanding of the nature of how many safe seats there are in Congress can you recommend some further references or perhaps after the BB writers festival educate us in an overview article so we can appreciate the nature of the debates and personalites further? I sometimes watch CSPAN but as John Stewart pointed out it was perhas a little genteel for aussie tastes. I was amused by the notion of yielding time sounded like reading Malory’s L’morte de Arthur with polite knights!!

    Lastly have we imported the nature of divisie debate from the US or is it a function of cable news 24 hour talking heads conserative think tanks and web site where people can simply launch into viscious attacks from all sides?

  4. Watson permalink
    August 4, 2011 11:42 am

    It’s just (un)common sense!

  5. Ralf Kluin permalink
    August 7, 2011 3:07 pm

    Recently back from the USA, having been in places like North Carolina, I was surrounded by certain people, members of the Tea Party Republicans, behaving like a bunch of jihadist seemingly waging war on their fellow American freedom loving people. Back in Australia, with the reported news that O’Farrell has made a deal with Nile, I’m quickly forming the view that the Liberal’s have morphed into a political extreme right tea party gang of sorts. You only need to observe the Hillsong mob, praying to their God, as they seemingly appeal for the deliverance of a hard right wing saviour.

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