I want to make two things clear before I get into this. First off, if you want to learn about globalization, read something by Jagdish Bhagwati or Paul Krugman or, hell, even Friedman's earlier "Lexus and the Olive Tree." These works have a great deal of insight, relevance, and originality. Secondly, Friedman can often be an excellent and insightful analyst of international affairs, and he is undoubtedly one of the world's most important, impactful columnists, so I don't want to seem to think the man a total fool.
Having said that, "The World is Flat," which argues that new technologies, increased international trade and the proliferation of democracy and open markets have led to a world that is more interconnected and, essentially, smaller. Somehow Friedman, in his endless dunderheadedness, is inspired by an Indian CEO, who tells him how the playing field is levelling, to equate this progression with a flattening. Now, as Taibbi's review mentions and my friends and I have endlessly pointed out, the metaphor is wrong from the get-go. Not only is a flatter world less interconnected and create greater distances between nations and businesses than a round one, but the concept, the image of a flatter world is, in one's mind, so antiquated and outdated as to clank against the pomo concept of advanced globalization and super-duper technologies. It's not only inaccurate, I mean to say, but completely inappropriate. And so those of us who have read Friedman almost religiously over the past decade or so -- and enjoyed and agreed with the majority of his work -- are now embracing the shaudenfriede wholeheartedly.
In the future, my guess is that old Tom with lose the "flat" metaphor toute de suite, and soon thereafter begin to speak of globalism and its effects with considerable insight.
The other thing Rich got me thinking about is the excitement and preparation of these death watches. And then the great vast release of the post-mortem. The pre-death coverage is all masturbatory -- the tension builds, we get fantasy shots of humans in agony, closing in on their ultimate breath -- and the death brings an orgasmic explosion equivalent to the wattage of the celebrity. Witness the nonstop Pope chatter relative to the dead Terri who? More importantly, Americans can now dream a new and improved American dream: Death, it's the new life. If I cannot become a celebrity in real life, to be hounded by reporters and paparazzi, my every moment catalogued and deconstructed and analyzed ad infinitum only to be devoured by the vapid, faceless millions, the new non-thinking will go, perhaps I can still be famous in death, if only for a day or two. I'm not kidding. Just you watch, soon some lucky reporter will come across a suicide note that reads: "I'm truly humbled by all of this attention. For further info, please contact my PR agent at..."
And it's not just products, says Clay Risen's excellent piece on Brand America in the current issue of New Republic, which clarifies and magnifies an enormous issue for the Bush administration and the US in general. Risen talks specifically about multinationals suffering due to an American image problem abroad, but the subtext is all about the means and ends of American soft power, which has been popping up everywhere of late. In the March/April Foreign Affairs, foreign relations expert Steven Cook talks about the right way to promote Arab reform, and of course there's the UNDP's 2004 Arab Development Report (Executive Summary), which does attack the Bush administration somewhat, but is generally fair. The newest Bush tool, the Millenium Challenge Accounts, which supposedly delivers money to nations who show improvement in key developmental and political areas and most recently approved funding for powerful and so strategically relevant Madagascar, is essentially impotent, having coughed up a measly $110 million since its 2001 inception.
What we have to wonder is when this administration will wake up and realize that it is fanning, not extinguishing, a fire. The US is selling not only Royales with Cheese and Grande Mocha Lattes, but also democracy, and while some seem to be buying with gusto, some are reluctant to dive in, and still others offended. The problem with Bush and the neocon efforts is that their salesman do not use a sweet, seductive sales pitch but the butt of a gun, embargo threats, or other economic sanctions. Marketers for multinationals are able to adapt to anti-Americanism, and have even begun to do just that:
"Pepsi may have taken the new anti-Brand America strategy the furthest: According to The Economist, the soft drink-maker has launched an ad campaign in Bahrain that builds up Coca-Cola as an American brand while positioning itself as the local favorite."
Perhaps what is best about the CEO's and marketing VP's of major multinationals is that they have no policy power, and are thus unable to inspire fear. Here and now I call for a reversal of the strategy the Department of Defense employed to steal Robert McNamara from Ford for its Secretary position. Let's send our best foreign policy officials back into the breach, as heads of international marketing for McDonald's, Starbucks, and the like, and we might soon see understanding break over previously staunch global citizens. Wolfowicz' appointment as World Bank President is probably a step in the right direction.
Beck's song, on the other hand, is a funked out, riffed up, bouncy jive take on his own LA adolescence, with bits of Spanish lyrics and satirical shout-outs to Yanni, James Joyce and others. Like "Two Turntables" years ago, it is primed to become THE good times anthem of the Summer of 2005.
Does this suggest that the awards process is faulty or the list of prizes is less than comprehensive? Perhaps. But surely Joe Morgenstern of WSJ is a less insightful, referential, and just generally less enjoyable critic than both A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis of the Times, not to mention New Yorker Anthony Lane.
Finally, Terry O'Quinn gets some press props in this Sunday's Times for his work as hunter, survivalist, and unpredictable Zen master John Locke on ABC's "Lost." I've been watching this show since Day One and can only think of two television actors who've been equally good in recent years: Ian McShane on HBO's "Deadwood," and James Gandolfini of "The Sopranos."
In a perfect meeting of actor and character, O'Quinn's worn yet available face and intense eyes are perfect for Locke's preternatural calm, anecdotal wisdom, and flinty gravity, which present a character somewhere between Clint Eastwood's drifter and Caine from TV's "Kung Fu." You're not sure what he'll do next, but you definitely want him on your team.
Thanks, Mr. O'Quinn. I'll be watching until they take Locke away from us.
The article is essentially a straightforward piece of reporting on Hirsi Ali's life, politics, and handling of death threats, and I think it only touches on the heart of the tale, which is the powerful, compassionate, and fiercely beating heart of its subject. Her steely-eyed stare and ability to smile and charm through a time of torment during a recent "60 Minutes" interview made Hirsi Ali a great deal more enthralling than Christopher Caldwell's piece. Hirsi Ali is a strking woman, in appearance, tone, and words, and to practically ignore this power is to misrepresent the person. The attached picture proves this point.
Also, I would've liked less discussion of Holland and more placement of Ali's thoughts and politics into the international sphere, where they belong. Reading the article I couldn't help thinking about Canada's Irshad Manji, ex-Muslim and author of "The Trouble with Islam." Both have started a firestorm in their homeland and have the Muslim diaspora debating change and modernity and fundamentalism and jihad.
I wonder why I can look across the Western world and find no Muslim men taking a similarly vocal, tough, and transgressive stance. Where is the Martin Luther of Islam? Why have so few Muslim men stood up and attacked their faulty faith? Perhaps because female oppression within Islam -- genital mutilation, male bigamy, lack of social worth, public hiding and shame -- has bred a bolder strain. Suffering is often the midwife to courage and insight, and these two women would seem to be prime examples.
But that seems too simplistic a reason. For Hirsi Ali and Manji are keenly aware of their task, which is less about a clash of civilizations than a bridging of three cleavages: that between Islam and its new home, the West; that between moderate and fundamentalist Muslims; and that between men and women within the faith.
I'm thankful for their courage and their faith in the human capacity for change, but my guess is we will begin to see a real Islamic transformation when prominent Muslim men finally point the finger at their oft-misguided brethren.
nice article by the Chicago Tribune's Sam Smith re my favorite nba team and their corralling of wunderkind lebron james and his cleveland cavs last night.
Sam Smith Story
i watched the whole game, and nocioni did some real nice work on lebron. but what smith doesn't mention is the cavs
anyway, the most im