The following is my review for Al Jazeera of Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s new book That Used to Be Us.
In a January 2011 Fox Business interview, three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman – famed begetter of the notion that the US military should make Iraqis “Suck. On. This“- described his forthcoming book That Used to Be Us as “the first book I’ve really written about America”.
Published last month with the subtitle How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented – And How We Can Come Back, the treatise is co-authored by Friedman’s proclaimed “intellectual soul mate” Michael Mandelbaum, a Johns Hopkins professor who appears on an excessive basis in Friedman’s columns and who is credited with coining the mantra that “people do not change when you tell them they should; they change when they tell themselves they must”. Said mantra does not stop either character from cheerleading the US war on Iraq, which Friedman additionally manages to cast as “the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the US has ever launched” despite simultaneously defining himself as “a liberal on every issue other than this war”.
As for Friedman’s assertion that the current book is the first one he has really written about America, this is not entirely reconcilable with his announcement during a 2010 presentation at Istanbul’s Ozyegin University that his then – latest bestseller Hot, Flat, and Crowded “is really about America”. He adds that The World Is Flat, as well as Hot, Flat, and Crowded, marketed as groundbreaking texts about globalisation and the environment, respectively, “have nothing to do with technology or environment at heart” and are instead “basically cries of the heart to get my country focused on fixing itself”.
Watch “Food chain slaves” below, the inaugural episode of Rageh Omaar’s new Al Jazeera program Slavery: A 21st Century Evil.
Starting around minute 19.30 is a disturbingly illuminating interview with Global Horizons Manpower CEO Mordechai Orian, an Israeli who has been indicted for human trafficking of Thai workers to farms in the US, where they were subjected to conditions of slavery.
Interjecting two entirely irrelevant references to the Holocaust, Orian informs Omaar that he is being unjustly persecuted by the US justice system, and concocts the appallingly illogical argument that, if he is going to be accused of human trafficking, then “everything is human trafficking. Going on [an] airplane from Hawaii to LA is human trafficking”.
In an Oct. 7 article for Bloomberg, Jonathan Alter mentions that Texas Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry “recently signed a bill saying you can vote with a concealed-handgun permit but not with identification from the University of Texas”.
Indeed, the website of the Texas Legislature confirms that, as per Senate Bill 14 of 2011, the following serves as valid voter identification:
a license to carry a concealed handgun issued to the person by the Department of Public Safety that has not expired or that expired no earlier than 60 days before the date of presentation
In the text of the bill, a line has been drawn through invalid voter identification such as:
birth certificate or other document confirming birth that is admissible in a court of law and establishes the person’s identity
Other crossed-out text includes
form of identification containing the person’s photograph that establishes the person’s identity
which has curiously been replaced with
United States military identification card that contains the person’s photograph that has not expired or that expired no earlier than 60 days before the date of presentation