Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Muse on the News

There's plenty of weirdness in the news this morning.

President Bush announces that he's shocked - SHOCKED! - at what's going on in Myanmar (which I notice the BBC is starting to call "Burma" again). Actually he said "outraged" but the echo of Casablanca is irresistable. A military dictatorship, who knew? Mr. Bush, who woke you up? This has been going on for I think 19 years, and for the previous 6 years of your term you've taken essentially zero notice. I hate to say this, but I think the Burmese junta is just coiling to strike, and nebulous "support" from the U.N. is going to do nada to shield the monks when the shooting starts.

Then there's the flap over Mahmoud Ahmedinajad's speech at Columbia University. This was a good thing, and kudos to Columbia for inviting him and carrying through. Kudos also to President Bollinger, who called Ahmedinajad as he saw him in his introduction. The Iranians are complaining, but I thought it was a good give and take. Barack Obama is right: we should be talking to our enemies.

I gather Pres. Ahmedinajad, in response to a question about Iran's death penalty for homosexuality, claims that there are no homosexuals in Iran. I suppose he's sure they got them all.

In this invitation, Columbia compares very favorably to my alma mater, the University of California, which just disgracefully raised a stink when Dr. Lawrence Summers was invited to speak to the Board of Regents at Davis. It looks to me as if "free speech" at U.C. is limited to people the University community agrees with. I don't agree with Dr. Summers' opinion on the different abilities of men and women in science and math; but refusing to allow to him say anything (in a formal speech to the Board of Regents) is not the appropriate response, and reinforces a popular conception of U.C. as a narrow-minded cabal of repressive left-wing ideocrats. I'm sorry, but it's true.

And finally in domestic political news, Pres. Bush's Secretary of Transportation (with White House approval) seems to have been using her office and her staff to lobby state governors and members of Congress, particularly from Michigan, to push the EPA to oppose California's request for a waiver on regulating greenhouse gases from cars and trucks. Congressman Henry Waxman thinks this is a violation of the Anti-Lobbying Act; and thank you, Mr. Waxman, for ferreting this out.


  1. From her grave, KI, Molly Ivins is chuckling.


  2. If you're comparing me to Molly, Curtis, you flatter me waaay too much.

    As I think about the Columbia incident, though, I think President Bollinger's attempt to show that he wasn't truckling to dictators by insulting President Ahmedinajad was a mistake. It wouldn't be understood anywhere outside the U.S., it just looks like American academics are rude to their guests and contributes to our current world-wide reputation as loud bullies.

    In any case, Ahmedinajad isn't really a dictator in the ordinary sense of the word: if he pisses off Ayatollah Khamenei, he won't last long. Look at his predecessor.