Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Clodwatch for February 11th, 2009

First off- it’s been a long time since the last edition of Clodwatch. Second- today we aren’t observing someone ascending to the highest ranks of clodhood, but instead celebrating someone’s escape. Mark it on your calendars: February 11th was the day where Thomas Friedman was (briefly) not a clod.

His column, entitled “The Open-Door Bailout,” manages to shake up his standard formula almost immediately. Instead of the normal Friedman opener consisting of a namedropped foreign billionaire, an exotic city, and a glamorous meeting location, he manages to hold himself back to merely insinuating that the quotes from Indian Express editor Shekhar Gupta were gleaned in just such an episode. He then goes on to give Gupta credit for the central message of the article, instead of talking about how he himself has come up with some earth-shaking idea*. Finally, he also gets credit for realizing that he only has enough material for a column this time, instead of writing an entire book about it. Oh and then adding 200 more pages** of crap later.

Enough about why Friedman is usually a clod extraordinaire, though. From the piece:

“The U.S. Senate unfortunately voted on Feb. 6 to
restrict banks and other financial institutions that
receive taxpayer bailout money from hiring
high-skilled immigrants on temporary work permits
known as H-1B visas”
Why is that unfortunate? As Gupta says, a key ingredient in American success has historically been provided by attracting “the most diverse, smart and energetic immigrants from every corner of the world.” It isn’t even like you can claim that these visas are taking tons jobs from Americans- the Department of Labor is tasked with "ensuring that foreign workers do not displace or adversely affect U.S. workers."

Making the immigration process any more restrictive is insane. Two months ago I sat down with Nepali named Jetha in a dingy internet café in remote western China***. He wanted a native English speaker to help him navigate the absurdly complex maze that is the American Immigration Experience, so there I went. After spending a few hours on it, I’m honestly shocked anyone ever gets to live in America. The entire system is an oblique byzantine nightmare, with a mix of sites, forms, rules, and procedures that culminate in lengthy waits and lottery-based decisions. To my horror the guy was about to throw a LOT of money at a site which scams potential immigrants by pretending to ensure them an admission in the next lottery.

So it’s already this difficult, and Washington wants to make it harder for people who would willingly thrust themselves into the mess that is the American economy?! We may as well abandon the entire system and instead order government employees to personally track down each prospective immigrant and take a dump on them in their sleep. Two birds with one stone, there, because not only will we create new jobs for Americans, but we’ll also then stop leading on people like poor Jetha, who have dreamed of living in the USA for years and have absolutely nothing to show for it.

Kudos to Friedman for managing to make sense, just this once. It isn’t an original argument, but it’s the truth- America needs to overhaul the entire process, and moves like restricting H-1B visas are entirely in the wrong.

*While consulting with the Emir of Kuwait in nearby Dubai at the top story of the most ritzy hotel in the world, or while conferring with the Premiere of China in a Hong Kong 400-star restaurant, or while gabbing with the Pope in an exclusive Roman nightclub, naturally.

**Argh, while looking for a link about that I found that he has since released a third edition with even more crap, almost forcing me to withdraw my faint praise here entirely and delete this whole post.

*** So, do I have what it takes to be an extremely low budget Thomas Friedman? If so I’ll happily travel the Earth to meet with less fortunate people in drab locations and write shockingly long books about all of my mundane thoughts and experiences.


  1. I'm going to officially declare this "Shit on Thomas Friedman Week," I think this is the third article directly or indirectly calling him out in the last 3 days?

  2. Agreed. Shit on Thomas Friedman Week has begun.

    Two months ago I sat down with Nepali named Jetha in a dingy internet café in remote western China.

    Throw in something about looking at your Blackberry Curve, or using a Dell laptop and sign for your 600 page/5 million dollar book deal now.