The Losers Awards.
First great novel of the new year.

Taibbi v. Friedman.

I know, by now by disdain for Thomas Friedman is well known. So why keep harping on it?

Well, for a few reasons. Number one, it's easy. I finally got my library copy of Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America. And I know the guy has to perpetuate his own brand, but does he really have to use his phrase "hot, flat, and crowded" five times in the first 37 pages? (Yes, I counted. I'm petty.) The only thing his "hot, flat, and crowded" catch phrase needs is the little "TM" after it.

Number two, I feel that I am in good company. Recently I found Matt Taibbi's review of this book, and it is so, so funny. (And accurate.) What I love about Taibbi is his ability to put into succinct and sparkling writing all the angry thoughts that are rolling around in MY head. He hates Friedman for all the right reasons:

"along comes Thomas Friedman, porn-stached resident of a positively obscene 114,000 11,400 square foot suburban Maryland mega-monstro-mansion and husband to the heir of one of the largest shopping-mall chains in the world, reinventing himself as an oracle of anti-consumerist conservationism.

Where does a man who needs his own offshore drilling platform just to keep the east wing of his house heated get the balls to write a book chiding America for driving energy inefficient automobiles? Where does a guy whose family bulldozed 2.1 million square feet of pristine Hawaiian wilderness to put a Gap, an Old Navy, a Sears, an Abercrombie and even a motherfucking Foot Locker in paradise get off preaching to the rest of us about the need for a “Green Revolution”? Well, he’ll explain it all to you in 438 crisply written pages for just $27.95, $30.95 if you have the misfortune to be Canadian."


"I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with Thomas Friedman for more than a decade now. For most of that time, I just thought he was funny. And admittedly, what I thought was funniest about him was the kind of stuff that only another writer would really care about—in particular his tortured use of the English language...

Remember Friedman’s take on Bush’s Iraq policy? 'It’s OK to throw out your steering wheel,' he wrote, 'as long as you remember you’re driving without one.' Picture that for a minute. Or how about Friedman’s analysis of America’s foreign policy outlook last May:

'The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging.When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.'

First of all, how can any single person be in three holes at once? Secondly, what the fuck is he talking about? If you’re supposed to stop digging when you’re in one hole, why should you dig more in three? How does that even begin to make sense? It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if the editors over at the New York Times editorial page spend their afternoons dropping acid or drinking rubbing alcohol. Sending a line like that into print is the journalism equivalent of a security guard at a nuke plant waving a pair of mullahs in explosive vests through the front gate. It should never, ever happen."

Okay, I've already quoted too much, but I can't help it. I love Matt Taibbi* as much as I hate Thomas Friedman, and that's saying something. I am particularly grossed out by Hot, Flat, and Crowded because I learned that Friedman and I share a birthday--not the year but the same date. Gross! Now every birthday I have is going to be a little bit marred by the fact that I'll think of Friedman somewhere celebrating his birthday at the same time. Although maybe I can view it as another birthday closer to the end of his writing career (i.e., his death). Of course that will have to remind me of my own mortality but I can take it.

The fact that Friedman's book made the New York Times Notable list and Taibbi's (The Great Derangement) didn't shows that the editors at the New York Times, as Friedman might say, "know which side their porn-stache is buttered on."

*Incidentally, if you don't enjoy swearing, you may want to avoid this review.