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I See Your Cohen And Raise You All-In


How much more Friedman could this be? Well, it could perhaps use more apocryphal cab driver. But otherwise, none more Friedman:

President Obama is assembling his new national security team, with Senator John Kerry possibly heading for the Pentagon and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice the perceived front-runner to become secretary of state. Kerry is an excellent choice for defense. I don’t know Rice at all, so I have no opinion on her fitness for the job, but I think the contrived flap over her Libya comments certainly shouldn’t disqualify her. That said, my own nominee for secretary of state would be the current education secretary, Arne Duncan.

I…gawd. If you’re going to write a column about how magic education “reformers” can solve anything when they have exceptionally little record of success even in their own portfolios, at least go all the way and nominate Michelle Rhee for Attorney General too.

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  • Vance Maverick

    I don’t know Rice at all, so I have no opinion on her fitness for the job

    That’s a pretty impressive conjunction there — aren’t the Villagers supposed to deny that they’re a village?

    • dporpentine

      Exactly. It’s like when David Brooks tsk-tsked people who criticized Paul Ryan despite not having spoken with him one-on-one. Friedman let the veil drop for a second. And most people will never notice.

  • D’s Squirrel Food

    Well, it worked on Battlestar Galactica.

  • Question. When was the last time Friedman wrote anything that wasn’t completely stupid?

    • DrDick

      I am beginning to think he has early onset dementia. His columns have gotten progressively more inane and stupid.

  • Tsk, tsk, Scott. You couldn’t even go for the Chandler reference?

  • mark f

    Didn’t he play pro hoops in Australia? What other qualifications does one need?

  • bradP

    For instance, it would be very helpful to have a secretary of state who can start a negotiating session with Hamas leaders (if we ever talk with them) by asking: “Do you know how far behind your kids are?”

    But….What about nation building at home?!

    • witless chum

      What the Friedmaning Friedman?

      • bradP

        Its Friedmania!

    • If only we had the technology to send Arne Duncan back in time. With his visionary ability to ask his question, he could have avoided the Civil War by asking Frederick Douglass “are you aware of the achievement gap between slave children and free children?” (Lincoln’s been on my mind the past couple days)

  • arguingwithsignposts

    Just out of curiosity, why would Kerry be such an excellent choice for defense? Not to mention he’d throw another special Mass. Senate election into the mix.

    • Hogan

      What part of “Friedman knows him” do you not understand?

    • pj from la

      Kerry seems posh. A cabbie in Jakarta confirmed it.

    • Murc

      Kerry wouldn’t be a bad SecDef, I don’t think. Among other things he has a lifelong passion for veterans affairs.

      But assuming we’re talking about his qualifications for a post in the Executive Branch, he’d be a better SecState. He’s Chair of the Foreign Relations committee and by all reports very much enjoys diplomacy.

      In fact, this column is the first I’ve heard of his name being bandied about for SecDef; I’d usually heard him mentioned in the same breath as Rice.

      Notwithstanding all that, while Kerry would be a fine SecState, maybe we can find someone who isn’t currently holding a valuable Senate seat to do the job.

  • c u n d gulag

    I think I see now why the NY Times keeps Friedman, Brooks, and Douthat on staff.

    It’s to hold them up for ridicule twice a week.

    Arne Duncan – now that them there’s some pure comedy gold!

    • somethingblue

      Well, at least it would get him out of the Department of Education …

      • JKTHs

        But it’s not like he wouldn’t get replaced with someone who has the exact same views

    • “I think I see now why the NY Times keeps Friedman, Brooks, and Douthat on staff.

      It’s to hold them up for ridicule twice a week.”

      Nah. Friedman is around because he sells a shitload of books and is guaranteed pageviews. Brooks is around because he is unequaled at telling Upper East Side rich people how uniquely awesome they are, and without them the Times couldn’t charge through the nose for all those print ads for midtown retailers. Douthat . . . actually, you’re probably right about him.

      • DrDick

        Indeed. Friedman appeals to a lot of middle brow upper middle class and middling rich folks, because he makes them feel smart since he shares their opinions.

      • sharculese

        Douthat performs a similar function to Brooks but for a different audience. Are you an adult who should know better but still wants to view the world in a small-minded, parochial way? Chunky Bobo is there to tell you that’s not only okay, but the only intellectually consistent position possible.

    • witless chum

      No, that’s why they publish Maureen Dowd.

      They think Brooksy and Friedman are important and provactive thinkers. Douthat is there because the Times editors like to think of themselves as publishing a diversity of views, but they don’t care about that enough to tolerate the full-on crazy sex panic that passes for cultural conservatism in this country. So, they need someone to do muted, polite sex panic and Douthat went to Harvard.

      • DrDick

        I am sorry, but the only things that Douchehat and Friedman provoke is derision and disdain. Both are simply pompous intellectual featherweights who give rightwing talking points a thin patina of respectability.

        • freemansfarm

          Right, and that’s why the Times keeps them on. They mouth the usual right wing BS, but they do it in a way that makes it seem “respectable.” And they themselves are no doubt much more respectable, and respectful of those who disagree with them, than the run of the ranch right winger.

          Thus, the Times can say to its right wing critics, “See, we have right wingers on staff here,” but, at the same time, they don’t actually have to deal with total scumbags such as you hear on talk radio, see on Fox, or read in right wing blogs. Yes, some folks see through the facade and treat these folks with the derision and disdain they deserve, but just think how much more transparent that would be if they had, say, Thomas Sowell as one of their columnists, or the clowns from RedState, HotAir, or any number of right wing blogs, or one of those radio blowhards.

        • witless chum

          The first sentence in your post is, unfortunately, not true.

          Our alleged elites really think these guys are smart and insightful. The fact that our economy is set up like a casino run by the insane and our response to climate change is equivalent to a child hiding under its bed in a burning house is probably related to this.

  • Rice as US ambassador to the UN has been heavily involved in providing cover for Rwandan and Ugandan aggression against Congo.

    • rea

      heavily involved in providing cover for Rwandan and Ugandan aggression against Congo

      . . . which apparently translates to mean that (1) she has expresed some reservations about the sufficency of evidence of the involvement of the Rwandan government (the effect of which is that involvement by outsiders, rather than involvement by the Rwandan government specifically, got condemned by the UN), and (2) she has expressed some (apparently well-justified) frustration with the behavior of the government of the Congo.

      Darn few Amercians understand what is going on in Central Africa, and a little caution in throwing out weight around over there seems consequently a good idea.

      • The involvement of the Rwandan government in crimes in eastern Congo going all the way back to 1996 is very well documented. Nobody except Rice seems to be denying the role of the Kagame regime in backing M23. Being as that in 1994 she refused to recognize the slaughter in Rwanda as a genocide for purely political reasons I would say her record on these matters is pretty poor. Since 1996 the Rwandan and Ugandan governments have been involved in the widespread killing, rape, and robbery of civilians in east Congo. The US government including the “progressive” administrations of Clinton and Obama have provided material and diplomatic support to the governments of Rwanda and Uganda during this time.

        • Hogan

          I think you’re giving Rice a lot more policymaking credit than she deserves.

  • MosesZD

    I get so tired of all this reform education crap. It is, and remains, an income problem at its core with low-income people stuck in a rut because they don’t have the resources available and necessary at the critical early stages of a child’s life that will set him (or down) the path to success.

    My daughter goes to school at one of the Top-5 HS’ in the State and Top-500 in the Country. The school is completely stuck on itself.

    I pointed out to my wife that based on the economic profile of the community, the measurable academics were all within 2% of the expected academic profile.

    Two-percent. That’s what they’ve done. Two-percent better performance than one would expect if you built a HS in any other predominantly white, upper-middle class/lower-upper-class neighborhood.

    Now, I think two-percent is remarkable because there are 1700 students. And it’s tremendously hard to move a student body that large in any direction.

    But, in the end, the ranking is because of social and economic factors not under the control of the school. And not because they have some special teaching magic. I’ve seen what they’ve done. There’s nothing special there.

    • MosesZD

      *will set him (or her down) the path to success

      • catclub

        will set him (or her) down the path to success

        Fixed for pedantitude. Of course it is a word.

    • Pretty much. I went to good schools in a bad school system (the same one that Rhee was supposedly brought in to reform). It takes a special kind of willful ignorance to see that the schools in the wealthier neighborhoods of the system are working very well, the ones in the poorer neighborhoods are having a lot of problems, and decide that the solution is a top down solution using testing.

      • c u n d gulag

        Well, in all fairness, they figure that they can’t prove the inferiority of the poor blacks and browns without testing them against the rich whites.

        • Give Rhee some credit, she cleared out the Board central administration which was a real nest of incompetence, time serving and hostility. Otherwise what you say and go read Diane Ravitch

          • Cody

            I’m going to wager it’s hard to not turn into a real incompetent asshole when people shit on your job left and right and cut your funding because you’re trying to teach poor people.

            Not that I’m trying to defend every bad administrator, but I’m sure there are good ones that just collapse under the awful system enforced on them.

    • School reform is, among other things, a distraction from talking about economic segregation. There’s a flicker of conscience at play, because most of the reform people honestly do want to mitigate disparities in educational performance and life opportunities. The problem is they want to blame people–teachers and their unions–and avoid any talk of the deep structural causes, because to fix the structural causes would upset the social order on which they sit near or at the top.

      • witless chum

        This. It honestly comes out of the generally laudable American idea that more and better education is A Good Thing. Middle to upper middle class Americans have sort of a cult of education, that our educational system is wonderful and will lift people up the social classes. It has the advantage of being partly true, given that exceptional people can use the education system that way and do all the time.

        It’s also the approved story of the baby boomers, that their parents made sacrifices and worked hard so they could go to college. Which, duh, a lot of their parents did do that and it’s a much more pleasing story than “society was really set up well for my benefit for awhile there after World War II.”

      • rm

        From within the Borg, I can tell you that educators are working hard to cooperate with a zillion reform initiatives, not because we don’t understand the issues of economic disparity, but because there seems to be nothing we can do about that. We have this massively tilted playing field; nothing will change that; can we do a better job helping students anyway? We sit near the bottom of the social order and might like to see it upset, but that ain’t happening. So, there will always be reform initiatives, one after another, forever.

        • I wasn’t referring to educators, I was referring to the hedge fund types who think they know better than teachers what does and should happen in the classroom.

          • JKTHs

            Friedman knows better than the teachers in the classroom because he talked to some cab driver, a known authority on the subject

          • rm

            Oh, I know. Those hedge fund types create national advocacy groups that print glossy “reports” that oversimplify the problems and propose simple, one-step solutions, and state legislators love them and make educators attend statewide conferences to listen to this stuff, and then the educators take these oversimplified one-step solutions back to their schools and figure out how to comply with the New Reform Effort(tm) in a way that actually makes some tiny lick of sense. It’s very important to be seen complying, because money follows. The trick is to implement the one-step oversimplified reform effort as part of an actually competently designed package of difficult complicated pedagogical work.

      • JL

        It’s this, but not just this. Some of the reform people who would be more open to structural change are cynical and figure (with some reason) that society is never going to fix the structural causes, at least not any time in the foreseeable future, so they might as well go for what’s (in their view) actually possible and accomplish what they can.

        • Anon21

          It’s also based on the notion that some large urban school districts do much better at educating poor, minority students than others, and so it seems like it might be worth trying to find what the former are doing right and what the latter are doing wrong, even if that doesn’t eliminate the entirety of the achievement gap.

          • Which ones are those? Other than the odd charter or public school that gets “results” that are short-lived and rather modest. Which large, urban districts are doing a great job with poor student?

            • Anon21

              Which large, urban districts are doing a great job with poor student?

              Well, you’re putting words in my mouth. I made a comparative statement, not an absolute statement. But to the point that yes, there are large differences between urban school districts in how well they do with poor students:


              That’s old info. But basically, it shows that Washington, D.C. (and the data is pre-Fenty, so no, you don’t just get to blame it all on Michelle Rhee) is much worse than Boston or New York at delivering basic math education to poor students. Doubtless there are a lot of reasons for that, but I think it’s fair to infer that the education system has something to do with it, and to want to bring D.C. more in line with its more successful urban school district counterparts.

    • pj from la

      Calls for educational reform opens the public coffers to the venture capitalists. It’s a simple as that.

  • Jameson Quinn

    Attorney General? I say, Secretary of Labor! Suck. On. That.

    • witless chum

      How about we come up with a sensible moderate compromise and Obama just makes Duncan vice president and then resigns?

      • mds

        No, in accordance with the Village’s current “deficit” hysterics, a sensible moderate compromise would apparently be Obama making Pete Peterson vice president and then resigning.

        • spencer

          Pete Peterson? Clinton’s Ambassador to Vietnam? Former Democratic congressman (FL-2) Pete Peterson?

          Is there another, more odious Pete Peterson who I’m not familiar with? Or has this Pete Peterson done something that I missed?

  • Leave the parody to The Onion. I mean, sure, Friedman writes some stupid stuff, but if you’re going to parody him it’s got to be something that at least for a moment seems like it might have had the possibility of being true. `

    Oh, wait…uh, he did write this?

    OK, sorry, carry on…

  • david mizner

    In one graf he says: “The biggest issue in the world today is growth,” whatever than means, but it must be true because in the next graf he quotes Michael Mandelbaum “foreign policy expert” (and co-author of a book with Friedman) who says…”The biggest issue in the world today is growth.”

    He’s taking thumbsucking to a whole new level.

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