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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

When I want my numbers crunched, my <$NoAd$>Democratic party demographics explained, and my election dynamics analyzed, I know to go to Ruy Teixeira. Ruy’s with The Century Foundation, the Center for American Progress and probably a bunch of other places I can’t remember. Luckily, he now has his own blog, Donkey Rising. So I know right where to go.

We chatted briefly about the primary race last week at the foreign policy conference. And now he’s penned two posts (#1 & #2) on what he thinks a winning strategy for Wes Clark might look like.

TPM traffic stats are in for October: total unique visitors 349,401; total visits 1,174,598; total page views 1,418,272. As always, thank you for making these numbers possible.

The Washingtonpost.com has gotten each of the nine Democratic presidential candidates to sign up for online chats on the WaPo website this week. (Here's the page they've set aside for it on the site.)

Dick Gephardt is the lead-off this morning at 11:30 AM.

Now, I hear that Gephardt is still the only one of the nine candidates who hasn't committed to show up for the Rock The Vote forum/debate tomorrow night on CNN live from Boston.

What gives?

Sure, labor and seniors may be his target constituencies. But doesn't this put a bit too fine a point on it? Maybe a little face time for the kids?

A new TPM Featured Book, Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass, one of the most riveting, humane and wise books I've ever read -- certainly the best book I've read about what happened in the Balkans in the 1990s.

Here's what I wrote about it in a short TPM review back in March 2002 ...

It's about the war in Bosnia. Not the whole of Yugoslavia. It's not a history, either. It's a war reporter's memoir. If you're looking for the big-picture about the Balkans in the 1990s or the what happened in Kosovo or Croatia or inside Serbia, this isn't the book -- though it contains important information on each of those topics.

This is an interior story, what Maass himself saw. And it is by far the best piece of writing I've read of any of the books written on the 1990s Balkans. By far the best.

Reading it you see how the war in Bosnia was tragic in the deepest, most regret-inspiring and folly-filled sense of the word. This book will make you feel moments of agony. It will also make you laugh. Perhaps most uncomfortably, it will sometimes join these two feelings and reactions quite closely in time. I would say it is the best piece of war reporting I've ever read. And I believe it is. Only covering the Bosnian war, as Maass describes it, wasn't exactly a war so much as a loosely-organized, long-running series of individual and group murders.

This book is humane, and comic, and horrifying in each of the right measures and moments. I cannot recommend it more strongly. If you read it I think it will change you. Perhaps forever.

If you have a chance on Monday check out the Center for American Progress's (aka John Podesta's new liberal think tank) new daily run-down of all things political: The Progress Report.

Also, I mentioned a few days ago that Zbigniew Brzezinski's speech at the New American Strategies for Security and Peace conference was absolutely essential viewing and/or reading. Well, now you can do both. Here's the transcript. And here's a link to the archived video feed.

We’re again seeing the importance of language in politics. Or, more specifically, the way that orotund, abstract language can obfuscate truth-telling, accountability, and just simple facing of reality.

We hear again and again how all the bombings and mayhem are obscuring all the good things that are happening in Iraq. But this is like how the thunderstorm ‘obscures’ the underlying sunny day.

Watching Paul Bremer today on CNN I was struck by his use of language like ‘enemies of freedom’ and terrorists to describe the people we’re fighting in the country (these are from my recollection, the precise phrases may be different.) People who kill soldiers are not, at least not by definition, ‘terrorists’. They’re guerillas or insurgents. This isn’t a matter of cutting them slack, but one of precision. And precision is required to know what we’re doing, what we’re trying to do, and how we can get from clarifying what our goals are to finding effective means to pursue their implementation.

This is part of what Orwell was getting at in “Politics and the English Language” when he lamented that “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”

A note on advertising.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, TPM is now accepting advertising. (We've already run three ads and have two more pending.) And quickly after we started doing so we got inquiries from presidential campaigns wanting to advertise.

This raises a number of issues. And I’ve given the matter some thought. So let me share with you what I’ve come up with.

First, all these advertisements are paid advertisements. Within certain subjective bounds of appropriateness and taste, the ad space on the site is open to whomever wants to purchase it. I don’t want to put too fine a point on it because I greatly appreciate those who choose to advertise and, as a general matter, I encourage readers to visit the sites to support that support. But ads appearing on this site come with no implied endorsement from TPM. I would happily run ads from a conservative candidate or a conservative organization. Please see these ads as no different from ones you might see on the websites of the Times or the Post.

Now, having said all this, political campaigns are a bit different. It’s no secret that I prefer Democratic candidates over Republican ones. And if you read the site over time you’ll see that I prefer some Democrats over others. Indeed, I do and will continue to write about the different presidential campaigns, telling you how I think they’re doing, which I think have better chances of getting the nomination and potentially winning the general election next November.

Will accepting campaign ads compromise my judgment or independence, or perceptions of either?

Needless to say, other media outlets accept all sorts of campaign advertising while they’re also covering those campaigns. And people think little of it. But let’s be frank: blogs are different. I’m the business side and the editorial side in one person. So it’s a little different from a TV station where one group of people runs the news and another group sells the ads.

So what to do? I asked two of the people who I respect most in this profession. And they told me that they didn’t think it was a problem. Both said the same thing: the only problem would be if all the advertising came from one campaign. Other than that, they thought it was a good idea and that I should do it.

I’ve mulled this a lot. And here’s what I’ve come up with. I’m going to accept the ads. (The first one is now running on the site now.) And here are the rules I’m following …

First, only one ad from a given campaign at a time (Some readers weren't clear on what this previous sentence meant. Let me clarify: three different campaigns can advertise at once, but a single campaign can't run three ads simultaneously, or two for that matter.) I don’t have any reason to think at the moment that any of the campaigns want to buy all the TPM ad space. But I just think it’s a good guideline to set up in advance. Second, a company called Blogads is handling the ads for TPM. And I’ve asked the person who handles selling the ads not to discuss with me whatever discussions he’s having with particular campaigns. I know he’s having discussions with several of the campaigns. But I don’t know any more than that. And I’ve asked him to keep it that way.

So that’s what I’ve decided. Blogs are a new medium. The answers to these questions aren’t always clear-cut. I invite your input.

In a recent monograph Ornamentalism, the historian David Cannadine argued that class rather than race was at the heart of the British Empire at its apogee. The British used their empire to replicate an idealized vision of Britain’s hierarchical class system in the colonies.

Just as the home country was becoming increasingly democratic and dukes and earls were becoming anachronisms, Britons (or at least the ones who ran the empire) tried to recreate that vanishing hierarchical class- and status-based society in the colonies. Cannadine figures that that’s why you had all the campish pomp, ceremony and extravagant trappings of the empire. It was a grand act of compensation, remaking or preserving in the colonies what was being lost at home.

You can find other examples of this pattern. The early missionary enterprise in the Spanish empire, for example, had a similar dimension. The Franciscan and Dominican friars who evangelized the New World saw the discovery of America as an opportunity to put right all that had gone wrong during the first fifteen centuries of Christianity.

Christianity in the New World wouldn’t just be as good as that of the Old World, but better. At least as they imagined it, America provided a blank slate, where the edifice of Christianity could be built right from the ground up, free of all the accidents or history and the corruptions and complications of the Old World.

You might call it blank-slatism. Colonized or occupied countries become prey to the philosophical imaginings and unrealizable political wish-lists of the home countries. Privatizing everything is a pretty hard slog at home? Let’s do it in Iraq where we control the whole show. School choice? Hey, teachers unions are nowhere to be found in Iraq. Let’s try it there.

Down in the details of the reconstruction of Iraq there have already been plenty of examples of this. But now we see the most obvious and I’d say the most bizarre example of this in Iraq. As the Washington Post reports on Sunday, Paul Bremer has just announced the imposition of a 15% flat tax on Iraq.

The Post article is made up largely of conservative flat-taxers like Grover Norquist crowing about how good a thing this is. "It's extremely good news," Norquist told the Post. And though Bremer's pronunciamento leaves some ambiguity about whether Iraqis might face graduated levels of taxation under 15%, Norquist says "they told me it's a flat rate and it appears as though it's a flat rate ... It might be a hint to the rest of us."

Conservative economist Bruce Bartlett makes the blank slate argument pretty explicitly. With so little in place, he told the Post, there is no “need not worry about all the political and transition problems that have made adoption of fundamental tax reform here so difficult.”

Indeed.

"Call it liberation or occupation, a dominating American presence in Iraq was probably destined to be more difficult, and more costly in money and in blood, than administration officials claimed in the months leading up to the war. But it need not have been this difficult ... The real lesson of the postwar mess is that while occupying and reconstructing Iraq was bound to be difficult, the fact that it may be turning into a quagmire is not a result of fate, but rather (as quagmires usually are) a result of poor planning and wishful thinking. Both have been in evidence to a troubling degree in American policy almost from the moment the decision was made to overthrow Saddam Hussein's bestial dictatorship."

Well put.

That's from the conclusion of David Rieff's piece on post-war Iraq in the Times magazine today.

See Sid Blumenthal's new piece in The Guardian on the White House's war on the Intelligence Community.

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