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Another Open Letter to Thomas Friedman

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Mr. Thomas Friedman
The New York Times Washington Bureau
1627 I Street, N.W., 7th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20006

Dear Tom:

It's been 8 months since I last wrote to you, and I must say, you have really outdone yourself in that time. You have long been one of the biggest proponents of the hostile takeover of our government by Big Money interests and you have always occupied a special place as one of the most pompous and grandiloquent horse's asses in all of American pop culture - and, I know, that's saying a lot in the era of Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and David Brooks. But recently, you have really gone the extra mile, striving mightily to mimic in column form the depths of human behavior previously reserved for the sweatshop task masters you hold up as the great hope for humanity's future.

You have continued to shill for the Iraq War you helped push America into, too dumb, too arrogant or too embarrassed to acknowledge what America's intelligence agencies, Colin Powell, John Warner and others acknowledge: that it's time for a change. As you pimp yourself out on television, we the little people you look down on with such scorn are able to watch you lose your grip on reality. Oh sure, your media friends and the fancy elites you hang out with would never mention any of this to your face - questioning your contradictory statements and caustic demands for more Americans to die in Iraq is as odious to the cocktail party crowd as asking you whether your 70s pornstar moustache symbolizes your long lost desire for another career in the San Fernando Valley.

But I digress.

The truth is, Iraq is not why I write you today. I am sending this letter in response to your column today - another signature Friedman piece, signature for its mindlessness and its craven genuflecting to your billionaire friends. A little background first: I had gotten used to this from you and like many Americans, had stopped reading your drivel entirely. But I came back to your work when I happened to see your comments during a televised lovefest between you and Tim Russert (undoubtedly, one of your good friends - both of you share a burning affinity for power worshipping).

As you probably recall, you bragged about writing columns in support of the Central American Free Trade Agreement even though you acknowledged you "didn't even know what was in it." You didn't know that the pact included no protections against the environmental destruction you pretend to care about, you didn't know that the pact included no protections against child slave labor, and you didn't know that the pact includes provisions banning American taxpayer money being targeted at companies that keep jobs in the United States. No, as you said, "I just knew two words: free trade." It was a stunning admission even for you, a person who calls himself a journalist. Apparently, you missed that day in journalism school where they taught about only reporting things as fact that you actually take 5 minutes to investigate (and apparently, Russert missed that day too, because he didn't bother to ask a follow up question when you admitted to the country you write columns about things you don't even look into).

So after I saw this, I started occasionally reading your work again. My motivation was less intellectual curiosity and more circus freakshow oogling: I wanted to see how far the editors at the New York Times editorial page will continue to print your increasingly incoherent babbling. And from the looks of it today, there are no limits - you apparently have free rein to print in the largest newspaper in the world whatever theories you come up with, no matter how totally divorced from reality they are.

Today, your column starts out by invoking your Judaism, which is disgusting unto itself - please, I beg you, stop invoking a religion based on social justice to package your propaganda that trumpets the evisceration of the social safety net and the economic persecution of American and foreign workers.

You quickly move on to say "I've always believed in free trade, accompanied by better pension and health care safety nets." Of course, you offer us no explanation for what you mean, but then, that's likely the point: there is no explanation, because as economists on both sides of the ideological spectrum agree, the kind of free trade that you "have always believed in" forces American workers to compete with slave labor, and thus has accelerated the slashing of workers pensions and health care benefits, even as corporate profits and worker productivity skyrocket. Perhaps we are to read from your line that you believe in all of that, but that you believe the solution is just to have everyone's jobs be outsourced, and incomes be replaced with welfare. We, the readers, can't be sure.

Then you go on to say "I'm not a free trader anymore. I'm now a radical free trader." Why? Not because of hard data on stagnating wages, increased poverty, higher economic inequality - no, using that to make conclusions wouldn't be the Friedman way. No, you are a "radical free trader" now (as if you weren't before) because on a few of your junkets, you picked up a few interesting anecdotes that help you keep shilling for Big Money interests. At one point, you cheer on how your CEO buddies are really excited to outsource more American jobs. At another point, you provide us an anecdote of a businessman in Nebraska, and write breathlessly: "Midwest Indians publishing Arabic brochures for Nebraskans importing from Koreans for customers in Kuwait." Oh, how Friedmanesque. Like your colleague Paul Krugman today, you could have just as easily written about Wal-Mart's Arkansas white corporate executives exploiting Chinese slave labor to sell dry goods to now-unemployed people in Toledo. But no, only the little people think about that.

Your piece, not surprisingly, ends in crescendo of attacks, as you piously lecture the vast majority of Americans who tell pollsters they are sick of your free trade propaganda, sick of our government selling us out, and sick of trade pacts that include no basic wage, environmental, labor or human rights protections. You scream at us that "the way you keep good jobs in this country" is by giving people "the freedom to do whatever can be done with anyone, anywhere, anytime."

Thank you, at the very least, for finally being honest. Because what you have now finally admitted is that you really, truly in your heart do not care about ordinary people. You have written in print that you believe our government's policy, legislated in our name, should be to give corporate executives the freedom to, among other things, employ child or slave labor, the freedom to dump poison into rivers, the freedom to bust unions and the freedom throw political dissidents in jail. You believe they should have the freedom to do all of that, and still be able to sell the products made under those conditions back into the American market because as you write "whatever can be done will be done by someone, somewhere." And in a sense you are correct: somewhere in some oppressive dictatorship like, say, China, someone is being chained to a factory floor to do work at 30 cents an hour. The disgusting part is how you think encouraging that atrocious situation is good for society.

Now, of course, you want us to believe that you all these people who can do things somewhere are getting the jobs to do these things because they are supposedly better trained or better educated. That was the crux of your book, The World Is Flat. The Chinese, you say, are supposedly getting way smarter than Americans and you somehow expect us to believe that's how they are getting our blue collar jobs. You never bother to explore what people like Sen. Byron Dorgan have shown: namely, that these countries are getting our jobs not because businesses see a comparative economic advantage in terms of skills, but because they see a comparative advantage in terms of political oppression.

Let's put it very clearly so even a pea-sized brain like yours can process this concept and comprehend it: These countries' major economic advantage is not a natural one, like them having better soil, and it is not a merit-based one, like them having smarter people. No, their major economic advantage over America in terms of attracting jobs is the willingness of their governments to allow their environments to be destroyed, their workers' to be paid slave wages, and their citizens to be thrown in jail when they form a union or protest this oppression. It is, in other words, a manufactured advantage - and worse, it is one that the trade policy you advocate actually REWARDS. When our government says it is AOK for companies to sell products made in a Chinese sweatshop here in America, we are not only encouraging the outsourcing of our own job base, but we are actively endorsing oppression, rather than trying to end it.

You cheer this all on, leading us to the logical conclusion that, for instance, had you known about it, you would have applauded Jack Abramoff's efforts to make sure forced abortions and sweatshops continue to run free in the Marianas Islands. In your twisted world, that was a great lobbying effort because it might have helped push your "whatever can be done will be done by someone, somewhere" theory. Apparently, your highly touted support for spreading democracy, freedom and modern civilization is only applicable to you supporting invading countries like Iraq based on lies. When your supposed desire to spread these virtues comes into conflict with your more intense desire to help your billionaire friends cash in on oppression, the latter always wins out.

Now, I know, Tom, we need to understand and sympathize with your limitations. Yes, yes - we can only imagine how hard it must be for you to see all of us little people from the bay windows of your 11,000 square foot mansion in Bethesda. It's tough, we know - how could we expect you to understand what's going on in the real world or appreciate the consequences of the policies you advocate, when you've married into one of the wealthiest families in the world? We can't - and we shouldn't. But still, your column today reeks of what should we call it...Insanity? No, you are certainly elitist, but you aren't insane...Ah yes, the word for your behavior is none other than desperation.

Like David Brooks who recently called for an end to American voters deciding elections here in America, and like David Broder who attacked as "elitist insurgents" voters who dare to challenge incumbents in Congress, you, Tom, are showing all the psychological signs of a person who knows they are being slowly unmasked as a fraud and thrown onto the scrap heap known as irrelevance.

You are lucky, to be sure: the billions of dollars of family money at your disposal will insulate you from any economic effects of your own irrelevance. And there is no doubt that you will find aid and comfort within the Beltway media establishment - there's always room there for another piglet suckling at the teat of power. But rest assured that no matter what happens in the upcoming election, we are done being mesmerized by the propaganda from Washington's corporate front groups, we are done drinking in the platitudes of politicians who turn around and screw us over, and we are done with pundits like you who seek only to provide happy, sedating elevator music as you work overtime to shove us onto a conveyer belt that takes us into the economic slaughterhouse you champion.

Sincerely,

David Sirota