Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mustache of Globalization Headed for Poorhouse

BOULDER, Colorado -- General Growth Properties, the second-largest mall developer in the US, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Thursday. It is with no small amount of glee that we report this news because of the connection between this company and the world's worst geographer, Tom Friedman.

Friedman's wife Ann is the daughter of Matthew Bucksbaum, who founded GGP in 1954. The family's net worth was estimated at $4.1 billion just two years ago, but as the company's stock has fallen in value to 50 cents from over $40, that fortune has shriveled by 97%.

The man who waxes (his mustache) on endlessly about how the world is flat, and globalization will make the poorest of the poor richer than their wildest dream, if only they can get on Facebook, or something, and has all of a sudden developed a superficial, pop environmental sensibility, is actually a multi-millionaire spouse of a strip mall empire heiress. The poor and destitute of the world certainly look different when you are flying business class on Lufthansa and playing golf at an exclusive Bangalore country club.

I won't waste my time or yours by rattling off all the inane, sophomoric, bewildered things that Friedman has said over the years in his books and his unreadable New York Times column. I will leave that job instead to former Moscow Times reporter and Mongolian basketball star Matt Taibbi, who offers two masterful take-downs of Friedman in New York Press. I will just say this - globalization is interesting not because it makes the world "flat" and even, but because it is highly uneven, which is what leads to things like growing income inequality, the explosion of slums, and the creation of new migration and citizenship regimes. Any geography student worth their salt knows this, but Tom Friedman is too busy sucking down the climate-controlled air in his 11,400-square-foot mansion in Maryland to recognize this simple fact.

So, let's just enjoy watching him getting pied in the face and do some Tom Friedman column Mad Libs from McSweeney's.

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