September 25, 2007

A Big Pay-off For Good Governance

A new survey released today, the "Ibrahim Index," takes a comprehensive look at corruption in sub-Saharan African nations, ranking 48 countries on their good (or not-so-good) governance. Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born businessman who made his fortune as chairman of the mobile phone company Celtel, financed the survey, which was administered by Robert Rotberg from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. The data isn't earth-shattering: Mauritius, an island nation bolstered by tourism and a stable government, comes in at number one, while Somalia ranks dead last at number 48.

I Hesitate To Say This...

because there's an obvious sense in which Lee Bollinger is the hero of the hour, and has done exactly the right thing, in academic terms: invite, and criticize. Listen, but take the occasion to (in the most literal sense) speak truth to power. Make clear that an invitation does not honor the dishonorable, and is about the interests of the listeners not that of the speaker. For once in the life of a "petty and cruel dictator," let him sit and listen to open and truthful criticism. The offer of a faculty position to Kian Tajbakhsh was an especially great move.

Thoughts On Ahmadinejad And Iconography

I. Once again, Iran's President Ahmadinejad's reputation was rescued by the ineptitude, rudeness and stupidity of a well- known reporter and then by those opponents of his who reenact the Yeats depiction of a world of discourse in which "the worst are full of passionate intensity." On the "60 Minutes" interview with Scott Pelley, Ahmadinejad showed himself--as in time past he'd done with such other famous and inept interviewers as Mike Wallace and Brian Williams--good- humored, well-informed and patient under rude, persistent, clumsy questioning.

September 24, 2007

A Role Reversal For Obama And Edwards

Last week I did a few posts about some reservations I had with Obama's campaign strategy thus far (see here and here). I thought a bit more about it over the weekend, particularly after reading this solid Adam Nagourney/Jeff Zeleny piece in yesterday's Times, and think I've come up with something a little more fleshed out about both Obama and the overall state of the race. First, as Nagourney and Zeleny document, the nomination increasingly looks like Hillary's to lose.

Ahmadinejad At Columbia

Via television, the scene at Columbia today is fascinating. Lee Bollinger introduced the Iranian president with a blistering speech describing him as a "petty and cruel dictator" and essentially rooting for his downfall. The crowd roared with approval. But when Ahmadinejad took the the podium and scolded Bollinger for telling his audience what to think, a sizeable contingent applauded that, too. Now he's prattling on about The Prophet (boringly enough that CNN has cut away from live audio).

Gays In Iran

Mike, the notion that "we do not have this phenomenon [homosexuality]" in Iran, is hardly the province of Muslim dictators.

Bollinger On Ahmadinejad

Michael Crowley wrote earlier today of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial appearance at Columbia University. Columbia President Lee Bollinger, under fire for inviting Ahmadinejad to speak, provided an impassioned and hugely critical introduction of the Iranian president.


If, several decades from now, anthropologists set out to locate the spiritual hub of early twenty-first-century Washington, they could do worse than the Caucus Room, that bunker of a steakhouse across from the FBI building downtown. Founded seven years ago by a bipartisan klatch of moneymen and influence-peddlers--among them, famed lobbyist Tommy Boggs, Bush-family henchman C. Boyden Gray, and Clinton fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe--the restaurant caters to the bland appetites and bulging egos of Washington's expense-account elite.

Long Division
12:00 AM

If you have some expertise in the politics of the Iraq war, you will instantly find the gaffe buried in the following Mitt Romney riff: "[My assessment of Iraq] is very consistent with what the president is speaking about and what we're hearing from Iraq right now. And that is that the surge is apparently working." At last week's GOP debate, John McCain caught it straight away: "No, not 'apparently.' It's working." He continued, "I can assure you, it's more than apparent.

Bollinger's Remarks

In the circumstance of having allowed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be invited to speak at Columbia University, its president, Lee Bollinger, acquitted himself quite well in the reproaches he showered on the demonic madman who is president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. "Mr.