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David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

The New Hampshire Democratic Party has settled its lawsuit against the GOP for the 2002 phone-jamming scandal. No details yet on the terms of the settlement. The case was scheduled to go to trial Monday. If you're late to this story, we've covered it extensively here and at Muckraker.

WaPo:

The new chief of the U.S. General Services Administration is trying to limit the ability of the agency's inspector general to audit contracts for fraud or waste and has said oversight efforts are intimidating the workforce, according to government documents and interviews.

GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan, a Bush political appointee and former government contractor, has proposed cutting $5 million in spending on audits and shifting some responsibility for contract reviews to small, private audit contractors.

Doan also has chided Inspector General Brian D. Miller for not going along with her attempts to streamline the agency's contracting efforts. . . .

Doan compared Miller and his staff to terrorists, according to a copy of the notes obtained by The Washington Post.

"There are two kinds of terrorism in the US: the external kind; and, internally, the IGs have terrorized the Regional Administrators," Doan said, according to the notes.


Although the Post story doesn't mention it, you might recall that David Safavian, the chief of staff at the GSA earlier in the Bush presidency, was convicted for, among other things, lying to the GSA inspector general about his connections to Jack Abramoff. So of course we need less oversight.

More on the voting problems in the mid-term elections:

Voting experts say it is impossible to say how many votes were not counted that should have been. But in Florida alone, the discrepancies reported across Sarasota County and three others amount to more than 60,000 votes. In Colorado, as many as 20,000 people gave up trying to vote, election officials say, as new online systems for verifying voter registrations crashed repeatedly. And in Arkansas, election officials tallied votes three times in one county, and each time the number of ballots cast changed by more than 30,000.

A hard-to-understand story in tomorrow's New York Times on a secret U.S. report that finds Iraqi insurgent groups are self-financing. What makes the piece murky is no distinction is made between "insurgents," "terrorists," and other militant groups in Iraq. Maybe that's the approach of the secret report that the NYT piece is based on. But it would seem to me that lumping all of the various armed factions in Iraq into one category called "the insurgency" would be to miss many important differences in the goals and strategies--and the means of funding--of the many disparate groups currently operating in Iraq.

For instance, one of the secret report's more surprising conclusions, according to The Times, is "that terrorist and insurgent groups in Iraq may have surplus funds with which to support other terrorist organizations outside of Iraq.” It seems counterintuitive that the armed Shiite and Sunni militias battling for control of Iraq would be financing terrorists outside of Iraq while the battle inside of Iraq still hangs in the balance.

In fairness, The Times makes clear that the secret report may be flawed: "Some terrorism experts outside the government who were given an outline of the report by The Times, criticized it for a lack of precision and a reliance on speculation."

The overwhelming impression I'm left with from the piece is that more than three and half years after ostensibly seizing control of Iraq, the U.S. government is still largely ignorant of the armed groups arrayed against its efforts there.

One of the least commented upon aspects of the so-called debate on global warming is the extent to which the business community has for some time now been to the left of the Republican Party on the science of climate change and even, to a certain extent, on the potential political solutions to the problem.

GOP stalwarts like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who is chairman of the Senate committee on the environment, are way out on the whacky right fringe but have managed to dominate their party's discussion of global warming, if not stifle the conversation outright. That's not to say that corporate America has suddenly turned green. Exxon Mobile, for example, has been a particularly vigorous sponsor of global warming deniers. But there has been in place a broader political consensus on the issue than one might be led to believe by looking at the leading voices of the GOP.

Today the WaPo surveys the current political landscape. Corporate America knows that the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is coming. Now it's gearing up to maximize its influence on what that legislation will look like.

The Wall Street Journal has a rundown on the state of play of Democratic ethics reform proposals.

Warrantless wire-tapping, one year later:

For all the sound and fury in the last year, the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program continues uninterrupted, with no definitive action by either Congress or the courts on what, if anything, to do about it, and little chance of a breakthrough in the lame-duck Congress.

While the Democrats have vowed to press for more facts about the operation, they are of mixed minds about additional steps.

Some favor an aggressive strategy that would brand the program illegal and move to ban it even as the courts consider its legality. Others are more cautious, emphasizing the rule of law but not giving Republicans the chance to accuse them of depriving the government of important anti-terrorism tools.

Saudi and Israeli sources are sounding the alarm on stepped-up Iranian activity in Lebanon, according to Time:

Iran is smuggling weapons through Syria to re-arm Lebanese allies Hizballah, despite renewed efforts by United Nations peacekeepers and the Lebanese army to seal off the mountain borders with Syria in the wake of last summer's war between the Shi'ite militia and Israel, according to reports by Saudi and Israeli intelligence sources that have been confirmed by western diplomats in Beirut.

Israeli military officials in Tel Aviv say that Hizballah replenished nearly half of its pre-war stockpiles of short-range missiles and small arms. But western diplomats in Beirut say these calculations under-estimate the weapons flow and that Hizballah has now filled its war chest with over 20,000 short-range missiles -- a similar amount fo what they had at the start of the conflict, during which the group is believed to have fired over 3,000 rockets at Israel.

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