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."



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:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which sued the Bush White House over millions of missing White House emails, has released a treasure trove of documents relating to the loss of the emails. We're just beginning to go through them, but CREW says the headline item is that the documents seem to confirm that emails subpoenaed by Patrick Fitzgerald regarding the leak of Valerie Plame's CIA identiy were among those missing from Dick Cheney's office.

Update: You can find the documents here.

Update 2: I just spoke to Anne Weisman, CREW's chief counsel. She says these documents, are just the beginning, and CREW both wants and expects to receive more from the Obama White House. This set of documents was originally provided to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) by the Bush administration when Waxman began investigating the missing White House emails case, so they just represent what the Bush administration was willing to release (albeit to a Congressman, not the public) about its own failings. Obviously there's much more—Weisman says this is only a "very small percentage" of the material CREW needs to understand exactly how the White House could lose several million emails.

Weisman says that these new documents do little to allay her concern about the timing of certain gaps in the email archives of the Office of the Vice President (OVP). "I find it incredible that then-WH counsel Alberto Gonzales gets a call from DOJ saying they're opening this investigation and everything has to be preserved, and then the days immediately following that [call] there are OVP emails missing," she says. Maybe Gonzales forgot that he was supposed to make sure everything was preserved?

An angry mob convened outside the "Late Show" studio Tuesday to demand that CBS "fire David Letterman." In addition to missing a more significant protest about the rape of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Palin defenders once again resorted to hate speech to take down a Palin foe. They called Letterman's son, who was born out of wedlock, a "bastard," his wife a "slut" and Letterman himself a "child abuser" and "a verbal pedophile." And this was after Letterman apologized for his joke about Sarah Palin's daughter, saying it was "beyond flawed" and could not be defended.

See the Video: