Jeez, can't believe it's the middle of June already. Yikes. Well, here's the list of stories from yesterday's Riff, Kevin Drum, and MoJo blogs that touch on Blue Marble subjects: 

Honesty FAIL: Healthcare CEOs tell the House just what slimy stuff they're made of.

Ovation deflation: Obama gets booed by doctors.

What Not to Bear: Some say the gay pride flag needs a makeover. Calling Stacy and Clinton...

Protest bonus round: A few sad people still offended by Letterman's joke, reject nth apology.

Palin's instincts: Kevin Drum admires Palin's political opportunism.

The exposé of Sammy Sosa's past steroid use hasn't surprised much of anybody. I lived a few blocks from Wrigley in Chicago during the magical 1998 season and even as a middle schooler I could sense that something was amiss. After Big Mac, BALCO, Clemens, congressional interventions, A-Rod, and Manny, fans and the sports press don't have the energy left to go through the outrage motions with Slammin' Sammy. In Robert Lipsyte's excellent overview of recent sports books he suggests that the sports media take a new approach towards the steroids story:

Meanwhile, it feels like the pin-striped suits are slinking away without the media-mauling they deserve, much less real punishment. Maybe this is the chance for the sports media to make a comeback, avenge the loss, win one when it counts. While it might be hard to mount a war crimes charge against George W. Bush, what about a steroids trial? After all, he was managing partner of the Texas Rangers in the early 1990s when Jose Conseco, the guru and snitch of performance enhancing drugs, played for him and began sharing his needle.

So, George, what did you know and when did you know it?

Funny that Lipsyte should mention Bush's former ownership of the Texas Rangers on the day the Sosa steroids news broke. During the 2000 Republican primaries the candidates were asked what they considered their biggest mistake and Bush somewhat famously answered that his had been to sign off on the 1989 trade of Sammy Sosa from the Texas Rangers to the Chicago White Sox. It was a dumb answer—he did, of course, have a DUI—but it was innocuous enough and may have endeared him to baseball-loving Americans. The 2000 elections, after all, fell right during the height of the Steroid Era; a time when balls were flying out of ballparks, and the game was enjoying an incredible surge in popularity. So while Bush's trade of Sosa looked particularly stupid in 2000, when Sammy was in the midst of a 4-year stretch where he hit an insane 243 homers, a decade of steroid scandals later (including Sammy's own day of reckoning) the trade doesn't look any better.

Why? Because, to owners throughout the majors, the Steroid Era was worth the largely player-focused ignominy that followed. The game enjoys a popularity and profitability today that it never would have without the enhanced exploits of Sammy and Mark McGwire in 1998, Barry Bonds to follow, and so on.

This is precisely Lipsyte's point: owners haven't suffered any consequences for their role in the Steroid Era (other than temporarily losing the services of players suspended for juicing). Steroid use is a stain that falls solely on the players (even as they feel the physical after-effects on their bodies), while the real moneyed interests continue to get off scot-free. 

Today's 5 MoJo must reads:

1) Tehran's declared war on satellite dishes; this email explains the methods.

2) Seattle lost its rain; The Onion wants its headline back.

3) Cheney "lost" those Valerie Plame emails; CREW found some damning docs under a big pile of his BS.

4) Remember the good old days of Obama's presidency, back when no one booed his crazytown health care ideas? Sorry Big O.

5) Last: Hey, a contest! Looks like gay pride flag designers are finally over the rainbow. Does Shepard Fairey know?

In March, Michelle Obama delighted locavores when she planted an "organic" vegetable garden on the White House's South Lawn. For years, Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and other sustainable food activists had been pushing the idea as a way to reseed interest in do-it-yourself agriculture. Less than two months later, the National Park Service disclosed that the garden's soil was contaminated with toxic lead, and the plot's educational value took on a new flavor as the New York Times and other papers discussed how to make urban backyards that are laced with old lead-based paint safe for growing kale and cauliflower. But those stories might have fingered the wrong culprit. 

Starting in the late 1980s and continuing for at least a decade, the South Lawn was fertilized by ComPRO, a compost made from a nearby wastewater plant's solid effluent, a.ka. sewage sludge. Sludge is controversial because it can contain traces of almost anything that gets poured down the drain, from Prozac flushed down toilets to lead hosed off factory floors. Spreading sludge at the White House was a way for the EPA to reassure the public that using it as a fertilizer for crops and yards (instead of dumping it in the ocean, as had been common practice) would be safe. "The Clintons are walking around on poo," the EPA's sludge chief quipped in 1998, "but it's very clean poo."

 

"Intolerable"

The Wall Street Journal reports:

A state television channel in Iran said the government summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents U.S. interests in Iran, to complain about American interference. The two countries broke off diplomatic relations after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. An English-language state-run channel quoted the government as calling Western interference "intolerable.''

Hmmm.  Is this just another instance of their usual go-to position on everything, or does it foreshadow some kind of crackdown on "agents of foreign influence" or some such?

Spring is traditionally a pretty wet season in America's quintessential rainy city, Seattle. But this year, the Emerald City has become famous for its rare dry spell.

The Seattle Times reports, "If the rain holds off today, Seattle will match the May-June record of consecutive rainless spring days set in 1982. While there have been reports of some very light rain in and around Seattle, no precipitation has reached Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where the National Weather Service measures rain levels. The record for consecutive dry days for May-June is 29."

As observers, all we can do is hope (and perform rain dances). For the record, I'm pretty sure that this drought hasn't been manufactured by the government.

Look on the bright side, no rain is better than acid rain...or is it?
 

Green Shoots

Martin Wolf notes that (a) trade data suggests that the current recession is as bad as the Great Depression but (b) our response has been much better.  So are we out of the woods?

Robust private sector demand will return only once the balance sheets of over-indebted households, overborrowed businesses and undercapitalised financial sectors are repaired or when countries with high savings rates consume or invest more. None of this is likely to be quick. Indeed, it is far more likely to take years, given the extraordinary debt accumulations of the past decade. Over the past two quarters, for example, US households repaid just 3.1 per cent of their debt. Deleveraging is a lengthy process. Meanwhile, the federal government has become the only significant borrower. Similarly, the Chinese government can swiftly expand investment. But it is harder for policy to raise levels of consumption.

The great likelihood is that the world economy will need aggressive monetary and fiscal policies far longer than many believe. That is going to be make policymakers — and investors — nervous.

I think he's right.  Green shoots aside, economic fundamentals continue to look pretty dismal.  And since world leaders don't seem to have the mettle to face up to this, it probably means those green shoots are going to turn brown again pretty quickly.  But I sure hope I'm wrong about that.

Quote of the Day

From Robert Kagan, allegedly the "smart" neocon, on Barack Obama's oft-stated desire to engage with Iran diplomatically:

It would be surprising if Obama departed from this realist strategy now, and he hasn't. His extremely guarded response to the outburst of popular anger at the regime has been widely misinterpreted as reflecting concern that too overt an American embrace of the opposition will hurt it, or that he wants to avoid American "moralizing." (Obama himself claimed yesterday that he didn't want the United States to appear to be "meddling.")

But Obama's calculations are quite different. Whatever his personal sympathies may be, if he is intent on sticking to his original strategy, then he can have no interest in helping the opposition. His strategy toward Iran places him objectively on the side of the government's efforts to return to normalcy as quickly as possible, not in league with the opposition's efforts to prolong the crisis.

What a douchebag.  These guys really have no shame at all.

Five prominent news organizations announced today that they will team up to create DocumentCloud, a database of primary source documents easily searchable to readers. ProPublica and Talking Points Memo, both online news organizations that specialize in investigative reporting, joined the New York Times as founding members. It's nice to see that quality online investigative journalism is finally receiving the recognition it deserves.

This follows Saturday's announcement that the Associated Press will begin syndicating investigative reporting from four sources, including ProPublica, to its 1,500 member newspapers in July. Is this a sign of the rising prominence of online investigative journalism, or the final death knell of print newspaper reporting?

Shahram Kholdi, a graduate student at the University of Manchester, has been in contact with friends and relatives in Tehran during the past few tumultuous days. He reports that the security forces in Tehran have been focusing on a particular target: satellite dishes.

From an email he has sent to scholars and associates: