"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:

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:

In honor of Gay Pride Month, the folks at WNYC's Studio 360 have suggested that the gay flag needs a makeover. For some reason, they think the rainbow flag, originally designed in 1978, has outlived its ability to turn heads and corrupt the youth of America. So far, the contest's Flickr page has just a handful of entries, like this one, which makes up for its Microsoftastic design with a clever appeal to the universal love of bacon.

 

 

If you've got design skills, you have until June 26th to rebrand gay identity. Extra points if you use the Photoshop clone tool. And, please, nobody tell Shepard Fairey about this.

 

 

 

 

 

The much-debated war spending bill made it through the House last night. Altogether, the bill asked for $106 billion, including the orginal $75.5 billion that Bush requested for 2009. The bill included a little side project that might help solve one of Obama's biggest problems: how to save the car industry and the environment, simultaneously.

The "Cash for Clunkers" program sponsored by Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) intends to hand out $4,500 vouchers to people who bought cars that got 10 more miles-per-gallon than their old ones. Vouchers for $3,500 will go to consumers who made a 4 mpg improvement. Experts estimate that the program could create up to $1.5 million in car sales per year, but it's unclear how much it will do for the environment. "Light truck" owners will only be required to make a 5 mpg change to earn a voucher, even if their new car is a 16 mpg Hummer by GM. Cash for Clunkers is a good idea in theory, but we're not going to get anywhere if the government rewards people driving unapologetic gas-guzzlers for becoming only slightly more responsible.

Some Republicans opposed the program because it appears to be another handout to the failing auto industry, while Democrats such as Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) say it doesn't go far enough. Sound familiar?