Five at 8 – 6/17/09

  • What we have here is a failure to communicate. Yesterday, the State Department claimed credit for keeping Twitter, the microblogging service, from shutting down for maintenance on Monday afternoon at the height of demonstrations taking place in Iran. Today, according to the BBC, Twitter says the State Department was no factor. The San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, finds the local man responsible for helping get information out of Iran during the protests over the presidential election. He configured servers here to prevent Iran from shutting off the flow of information from bloggers there. Iran has the largest number of bloggers per capita in the world.

    NPR reports on its Two-Way blog that it has a fairly steady stream of information coming from a contact in Tehran.

    With foreign reporters confined to their hotels, it’s getting harder to get images from Tehran. Here’s one from a rally yesterday.


    Now, because you’re a News Cut reader, I know you need more than the Iran story in 140 characters, so here’s an excellent backgrounder from Abbas Milani, the director of the Iranian Studies Program at Stanford University, in a presentation to Google. (h/t: Open Culture)

  • This isn’t Iran. It’s the United States, where recent intercepts of the private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously revealed, the New York Times reports. Only the personal communication of foreigners is supposed to be monitored. But the government is having a hard time distinguishing which e-mail belongs to a foreigner and which belongs to an American.
  • You move to a new city and when your telephone is installed, it turns out you’ve inherited the number once used by a prayer hotline. You get calls day and night from people. Do you change the number or talk to the people?
  • The Minnesota Budget Project has its assessment of Gov. Pawlenty’s unallotment on its Minnesota Budget Bites blog and points out the budget problems haven’t been solved:

    And unallotment will cause a great deal of pain for low-income families, but still fail to solve our underlying budget problems. The Governor can only cut spending in the FY 2010-11 biennium, but our state faces a projected $3.1 billion deficit for the FY 2012-13 biennium. We need a long-term solution to our budget problems, not a one-time quick fix.

    Eric Ostermeier, at Smart Politics, looks at the impact on higher education and finds that as recently as 2007, Minnesota spent more per capita on higher education than any other state except Hawaii. Even with Pawlenty’s cut of about $38 per capita, the state will likely retain the ranking.

  • What’s the worst idea ever? The Atlantic has started another blog — Ideas — and is accepting nominations. I’d have to nominate “New Coke.” You?

  • Bonus: Can an algorithm give you advice about your love life?


    Midmorning – Reaction to the governor’s unallotments. Guests include Tom Scheck, MPR political reporter; Chris Coleman, mayor of St. Paul; Dr. Michael Belzer, medical director and chief medical officer at Hennepin County Medical Center; Larry Pogemiller, DFL Senate majority leader. Pogemiller, you may recall, proposed a 7-percent across-the-board cut in the budget last March. There’s a chance you’ll get talk-show whiplash at 10 when the topic turns quickly to the Cannes Film Festival.

    Midday – The Pawlenty administration gets its voice heard on the subject. Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson is one of the guests in the first hour.

    Talk of the Nation – NPR political analyst Ken Rudin is guest in the first hour. He’ll mention Coleman-Franken again. Don’t roll your eyes. All of the Web traffic statistics say despite public claims that people are sick of Coleman-Franken, those stories are consistently the most read. Second hour: How stories live and die in viral culture.

    All Things Considered — The more the stories come out about Bernie Madoff, the harder it is to believe he (a) acted alone and (b) the Securities and Exchange Commission wasn’t incompetent. A guest this afternoon is David Margolick, who wrote a Vanity Fair article this month, examining the role Madoff’s sons played — or not.

    Click the link below to watch the “60 Minutes” piece on the guy who tried to tell authorities it was all a scam.

    Watch CBS Videos Online

    • Bob, your Five at 8 feature is consistently a favorite for me, but today’s is especially packed with goodies. Thanks for the video backgrounder on Iran. Keeping up with what’s going on doesn’t help us much if we don’t know the backstory of the characters involved. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking. If you haven’t seen the film Persepolis, you should. It gives a sense of how ordinary people’s lives have been affected by power struggles from the time of the shah, through the regime change and after.

    • bsimon

      Minnesota Budget Project writes

      “The Governor can only cut spending in the FY 2010-11 biennium, but our state faces a projected $3.1 billion deficit for the FY 2012-13 biennium. We need a long-term solution to our budget problems, not a one-time quick fix.”

      This is the most undercovered aspect of the state budget disagreement. The ongoing budget imbalance has been a problem for years, but the Legislature & Governor continue to kick the can down the road. How about some explanations about how that came to pass – and what the potential fixes might be?

    • BJ

      bsimon – “How about some explanations about how that came to pass ”

      To the best of my memory in 2002 Roger Moe and Tim Pawlenty wanted to become Governor so they pulled out every accounting trick in the books to blance a budget without really balancing the budget. The media gave them a pass, I believe it was their way of thanking Ventura for being so nice to them. And for every year since the legislature has done some form of this magic trick, reduce the budget without cutting most services.