The New York Times’ own wacky Tom Friedman *UPDATED*

This is the cozy mansion New York Times‘ columnist Tom Friedman calls home:


Judging by its size, it probably has a carbon footprint roughly equal to a small nation’s:

As the July edition of the Washingtonian Magazine notes, Friedman lives in “a palatial 11,400-square-foot house, now valued at $9.3 million, on a 7½-acre parcel just blocks from I-495 and Bethesda Country Club.” He “married into one of the 100 richest families in the country” – the Bucksbaums, whose real-estate Empire is valued at $2.7 billion.

Heating and cleaning the pool alone probably consume enough energy to power a factory.  The picture above is somewhat out of date, so things may have changed, but I’ll note that Friedman’s solar panels are, well, conspicuously absent.

All of which makes it screamingly funny when Friedman, after a first paragraph so profoundly ignorant its laughable (I’ll get back to it later), offers the following idea as a means for the Tea Partiers to gain the New York Times‘ seal of approval:

But should the Tea Partiers actually aspire to break out of that range, attract lots of young people and become something more than just entertainment for Fox News, I have a suggestion:

Become the Green Tea Party.

I’d be happy to design the T-shirt logo and write the manifesto. The logo is easy. It would show young Americans throwing barrels of oil imported from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia into Boston Harbor.

The manifesto is easy, too: “We, the Green Tea Party, believe that the most effective way to advance America’s national security and economic vitality would be to impose a $10 “Patriot Fee” on every barrel of imported oil, with all proceeds going to pay down our national debt.”

Friedman is right that America shouldn’t be dependent on foreign oil, but he seems to have forgotten that it’s his own party (and his own paper) that has made it virtually impossible for America (a) to drill, (b) to process oil shale or (c) to produce meaningful nuclear power.  Instead, he’s hooked his wagon to solar and wind energy, both of which are incapable of servicing America’s energy needs.  This means that Friedman wants to make us economically suffer by taxing us even more, without enabling us to have any viable energy alternatives.  (He also thinks a carbon tax is a hunky dory idea.)

A $10 a barrel tax  and a carbon tax may be irrelevant to a man living off of “one of the 100 richest families in the country,” but it will destroy America’s industry and, frankly, every thing else but for her wealthiest class.  In other words, Friedman has neatly spelled out the recipe for an economic meltdown similar to Zimbabwe’s and one that will leave the same outcome:  a poverty stricken nation, centered around a small, fabulously wealthy (and, inevitably, corrupt) ruling class.  We already know which niche Friedman has carved out for himself.

But really, what can one expect from a man who shows his profound ignorance and sneering disdain for America — not to mention his shallow intellectual dilettantism — in his very first paragraph.  (See, I promised I’d get back to it.) I usually wait until deep within my posts to sound this stupid:

I’ve been trying to understand the Tea Party Movement. Sounds like a lot of angry people who want to get the government out of their lives and cut both taxes and the deficit. Nothing wrong with that — although one does wonder where they were in the Bush years. Never mind. I’m sure like all such protest movements the Tea Partiers will get their 10 to 20 percent of the vote.

That paragraph has just got everything one would expect from someone living and work in the one of the ritziest, and most liberal, parts of the world.  In mere sentences, we get oozing condescension for the foolish, impenetrable masses; contempt for the anger that sees people taking to the street, Constitutions in hand, protesting a rapacious federal government; and, of course, the inevitable attack on George Bush.

As to that last point (“where the heck were they during the Bush presidency?”) I think this simple chart is a good starting point for explaining where these same frustrated (as opposed to angry) people were before Obama; or, more accurately, why they weren’t taking to the street to protest government overreach:


Need I say more?  No, I don’t think so.

UPDATE:  Turns out — no big shock here — that Friedman’s not the only green colored hypocrite.

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  • Ymarsakar

    Bush wasn’t lying when he said he was trying to cut the deficit in half. It’s just that it didn’t matter at the time due to perception.
    Also TF is another hypocrite.

  • Danny Lemieux

    The nice Liberal  family that lives next to me is as green as green is.. Just about as green as the Lawncare logo on the chemicals truck that saturates their prize lawn, garden and trees twice a year. If only they wouldn’t get so upset because we entertain a few dandelions on our lawn now and then.

  • JKB

    The manifesto is easy, too: “We, the Green Tea Party, believe that the most effective way to advance America’s national security and economic vitality would be to impose a $10 “Patriot Fee” on every  kilowatt of energy in excess of the regional average used to power a modestly appointed 5000 sf home, with all proceeds going to pay down our national debt.”

    There I fixed it.

  • suek

    >>impose a $10 “Patriot Fee” on every  kilowatt of energy in excess of the regional average used to power a modestly appointed 5000 sf home, with all proceeds going to pay down our national debt.”>>
    Terrific!! ‘Cause that should mean that I get a $10 rebate for every kilowatt of energy _below_ the regional average, right?  And since my modestly appointed home is approximately 3/5 the size of your regional average home, that means I expect to make all kinds of money!!  Either that or somebody needs to add a second floor on my house!
    (Who the heck thinks 5000sf is an average sized home???)
    ((even though I do agree with the underlying premise here, though.  Just not on the particulars))

  • JKB

    What about my change gave you the idea it supported sharing the wealth or egalitarianism?  It is about setting an arbitrary, but high, floor on when a surcharge is imposed.  So you chose or could only afford a house smaller than this arbitrary floor on the KW charge?  What does that have to do with charging a fee for energy usage on very large homes?  Just because the charge has a minimum house size says nothing about any right to have a home of that size.  The benefit to those below that house size is that they are not subject to the charge.
    The 5000 sf is as arbitrary as $250,000.  It does, however, have a factor of punishing ostentation rather than success.   The charge, unlike one on every barrel of imported oil, would encourage reduced excessive consumption above and beyond that needed for a very comfortable home.  Obviously, there would be exemptions for a home occupied by more than 10 people.  The charge would encourage investment in energy reduction research by those best able to fund it.  Research that could then be incorporated into homes of smaller size.

  • Thunderhart

    I have been concerned with the size of Friedman’s house given its obvious hypocrisy if powers it with coal-generated electricity, but did some minimal digging and found this link from five years ago:
    “We live in a big house in Bethesda, [Md.,] but our home is heated and cooled by geothermal. We drilled some 30 wells in our backyard. We tried to do solar but couldn’t get the capacity — there wasn’t enough sun to make it possible. We bought a Prius right after 9/11, and we just got a Honda Civic hybrid. I have one of the Lexus hybrids on order — I’ll be one of the first in the group to get those, probably within a month. Environmental awareness is very much a part of our household. My wife is on the board of Conservation International; it’s the biggest check we write every year.”
    In the same article, he answers thusly on the subject of nuclear power:
    “Besides a gas tax, what other methods for reducing energy dependence would you propose?
    I’d focus on two other things: I would begin building more nuclear power, and I’d have a carbon tax on coal and all high-emission energies that would raise their cost and make wind and solar much more cost-efficient.”
    … and:
    “You say we need to ramp up nuclear power, but how would you deal with the storage and security problems it poses?
    We’re going to have to bury it in a mountain in Nevada, and Nevada is going to have to suck it up. That’s how I would deal with it. The risk of climate change by continuing to rely on hydrocarbons is so much greater than the risk of nuclear power.”
    Lastly, in a more recent interview with the same journalist, Friedman says that “greed” is going to get us more quickly to the energy innovations we need. I would call it free market innovation, but hey, whatever gets you through the night.
    (obviously first time commenting here — how does one make paragraph breaks?)

  • Bookworm


    Re paragraph breaks, two hard returns usually works for me, but I think other people’s interfaces might affect that.

    Re Friedman, thank you for the info, and I’m glad to know that he’s putting his money where is mouth is, sort of.  My understand of geothermal energy is that it’s of limited utility outside of the very cold belt.  You have to drill really deep to get very warm — something that is prohibitively expensive and not always possible.  Otherwise, what it does is take the edge off the cold.  It’s not a substitute, or so I’ve heard, for most forms of energy consumption.

    It’s striking too that Friedman notes in your quotation that solar does not work.  He’s right.  We have solar.  It’s a cute gimmick.  It lowers our energy bills somewhat, so that in perhaps 20 years, we might break even.  Ultimately, we generate a few light bulbs worth of power a day.  Taxing foreign oil will make us power, not make us more energy efficient.

    As for free market innovation, boy, do I agree with that!

  • suek

    >>…Friedman says that “greed” is going to get us more quickly to the energy innovations we need.>>
    I wonder if “greed” is another word for “capitalism” in Friedman’s lexicon.    I suspect it’s another one of those words that is interpreted differently depending on your political orientation.

  • BrianE

    Did Friedman mean geothermal or a ground water heat pump, which works like a traditional heat pump, but works year round since ground water is at a constant temperature?

  • Ari Tai

    We forget energy is not “just” a commodity, it is “the” commodity that underwrites every significant improvement in quality of life.  The more expensive it is, the more we sweat.  The less it costs, the more others can compete for our pocketbook, and the more we can compete for others’ pocketbooks (a fundamental definition of wealth – we’re never poorer than we work only by ourselves and can consume only what we produce).

    Next generation energy sources must compete at the margin, not the first airplane seat (barrel) sold, but the last (cheapest) seat (which in spite of “peak oil” is still less than $2 barrel at the well-head and 1 cent a kilowatt-hour at the coal-plant).   It’s folly to think a (local v. world-wide) tax can change this equation without making us all the same amount poorer.    The only contender this century that has a chance is nuclear.  There are new uranium designs that consume almost all waste rather than produce it.  There are also non-uranium based fuel cycles (the thorium LFTR) where waste is not an issue (requires only 300 years of fences and locks working to decay to harmless levels).    Note that Bill Gates understands that what is annoyance for us in higher prices is an absolute disaster for the world’s poor that he’s trying to help, see his recent talk – plus he indirectly makes the marginal cost observation in the Q&A.  But this requires research and new law, leading to new regulation that promotes rather than discourages experimentation and entrepreneurship. 

    The current rules that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has to operate under mean no risks can be taken, no new technology can be used before 25 years have passed and billions of dollars are invested – not in the new technology, but in growing a cadre of new regulators and regulations specific to the new technology.   Call it a precautionary principle on steroids.  The good news is the developing world won’t tolerate this stupidity and will succeed without us.   But they’ve also been the first victims – consider the food riots in Egypt two years ago when we raised their price of bread (by subsidizing the conversion of grain into auto fuel). 

    When the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire United States is written, our reluctance to compete in being the most profligate user of lowest-cost energy to maintain our nation’s leading productivity will rank high as a cause.