Political Animal

Protests in Iran

PROTESTS IN IRAN….Student leaders in Iran have called off today’s demonstrations due to threats of massive reprisals, a fact that I learned only on the blogosphere. Jeff Jarvis comments, “There is surprisingly — shockingly — little coverage of the events,” and I have to agree. A quick web check of the LA Times, New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN turned up nothing. I realize it’s not necessarily the biggest story of all time, but you’d think they’d have something on their front pages about all this.

I’ve read conflicting reports over the past few days about how effective these protests are and whether foreign support for them is a good idea, and I have to confess that I don’t know enough about the whole thing to have an opinion. It would be nice if the mainstream media helped me out a bit here.

However, the mainstream media isn’t the only place to go these days. If you want to read more, IranMania has a good roundup of today’s events and Winds of Change has lots of links.

Hyper-Nationalistic Blondes

HYPER-NATIONALISTIC BLONDES….Via Asymmetrical Information, I learn that the original Axis of Evil is falling apart at the seams. Just a few days after Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi compared a German member of the European Parliament to a Nazi prison guard, a minister in Berlusconi’s government has called Germans “hyper-nationalistic blondes” and accused them of being rowdy beach invaders.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reacted by cancelling his Italian summer holiday.

But here’s the best part: the minister in question, Stefano Stefani, is the tourism minister. I predict a sudden uptick in German holidays in sunny Spain this year….

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall, Who’s the Net Savviest of Them All?

MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL, WHO’S THE NET SAVVIEST OF THEM ALL?….Chris Mooney points to today’s Lycos 50 column, which is all about the Democratic presidential candidates and asks the question, who’s the most popular on the internet these days? Why, Howard Dean, of course!

How popular on the Internet is Dean these days? More popular than Madonna, Dr. Phil, or Alyssa Milano.

Hmmm, is that the best they could do? I mean, at least I’ve heard of Madonna and Dr. Phil, but who’s Alyssa Milano?

Anyway, it’s no surprise that Dean has “left his competition in the dust when it comes to online popularity,” since he’s the only one of the bunch who’s really using the internet much at all. But the list also reminds me of what a tiny crowd we news junkies are: Dean may lead the presidential wannabe pack, but he doesn’t even register in the overall Lycos Top 50, ranking behind Neopets, Metallica, FAFSA, and other pop culture icons. At this point, there really aren’t very many people who care about anybody who’s running for president.

The column doesn’t give exact rankings for each of the contenders, but here’s the list in order of internet popularity:

1. Gov. Howard Dean
2. Sen. John Kerry
3. Gen. Wesley Clark
4. Sen. John Edwards
5. Rep. Dennis Kucinich
6. Sen. Bob Graham
7. Rev. Al Sharpton
8. Sen. Joe Lieberman
9. Rep. Dick Gephardt
10. Sen. Carol Mosley Braun

Interviews and Intimidation

INTERVIEWS AND INTIMIDATION….Asked about efforts to root out Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction back in January, George Bush had this to say:

The inspectors are there to verify whether or not he is disarming. You hear these reports about Iraqi scientists being interviewed, but there’s a “minder” in the room.

He was quite right to be concerned about intimidation from minders, of course, and later in the month, under pressure from the U.S. and the UN, Iraq began allowing private interviews.

Now let’s flash forward to today, where former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean is in charge of investigating the 9/11 attacks. Apparently minders are now in vogue:

Mr. Kean said that commission members were unhappy that some agencies ? they cited the Justice Department in particular ? had insisted on having monitors present at all commission interviews with their respective officials. That can foster a chilling sense of “intimidation” among witnesses, Mr. Kean said.

Indeed it can, as both George Bush and Saddam Hussein knew very well just a few short months ago. I wonder what it is that John Ashcroft is afraid of?

(Anyway, doesn’t this whole business of “minders” sound a bit Stalin-esque? It kinda reminds me of all those “political officers” they had sprinkled throughout the military to keep an eye on the officers. Brrrr.)