Mustachioed soothsaying simpleton Thomas Friedman long ago mastered a formula for justifying business trips all over the world by writing columns about them—columns that, while not genuinely insightful or even pleasant to read, contain a sufficient number of plausible-sounding platitudes to enable your average Xerox Corporation regional manager to sound informed during his morning meeting with underlings and sycophants.

The formula is pretty much like this: schedule a few interviews, fly on out there, and piece together a column with a bunch of quotes from people capped by a zingy opener featuring some jaw-droppingly obvious bit of conventional wisdom or common knowledge presented as revelation, combined with either something a cab driver said, or something that Tom Friedman saw in an airport. It should be superfluous in every way. Thomas Friedman is similar to Alicia Silverstone, in that he vomits up lightly chewed pap for his readers, who are babies. He can't just keep on doing this forever, can he?

I've learned three things visiting New Zealand and Australia: There is a place in the world where rugby is front-page news. There is a place in the world - the Auckland airport - where the restrooms have digital clocks in the entryway telling you hourly when they were last cleaned and when they will be cleaned again. And there is a place in the world where moderate Republicans still exist - unfortunately, you have to take a 13-hour flight from Los Angeles to get there.

1. Rugby is popular "down under." Alert the National Geographic Society.
2. Tom Friedman saw something in an airport. It has nothing to do with anything.
3. Tom Friedman is far wealthier and more influential than you or I will ever be.

[NYT. Photo: Getty]