Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I just noticed this update at the MSNBC website, predicting rough-sledding for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan because his son made several hundred thousand dollars consulting for a company angling Iraq oil-for-food contracts. The fact is supposed to be made public tomorrow in an interim report issued by Paul Volcker, the man Annan appointed to investigate the program.

The piece also quotes copiously from administration officials who argue that Annan must have knowingly ignored that his son was trading on his name. "How do you not know that your son is making all this money? How do you not know that your son is pushing Cotecna [the company in question] in meetings."

Perhaps I'm the only one. But when I was reading this I couldn't help but notice that what the administration officials appear to be describing is considered to be standard acceptable practice in Washington lobbying culture.

What am I missing?

Combining environmental ethics and public entertainment, the Center for American Progress's ThinkProgress blog recycles noxious RNC pro-phase-out lies into usable, productive humor.

More material on the never-ending-decline of CNN. This is the text from the front page of the site, as of 12:11 AM on the east coast ...

A representative of the parents of Terri Schiavo said Sunday last-ditch appeals will be made in Washington to get the brain-damaged woman's feeding tube reinserted. After a news conference announcing the plan, a woman, saying she was from the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigades, grabbed the microphone to say Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die in peace.

Nope. Not The Onion, CNN.

I'm not sure I can stay up late enough to see their report on sword-swallowing privatizers or the preview of the new CNN Presents documentary on the man raised from infancy by a pack of lizards and his brave struggle to adjust to life among humans.

Reader mail ...

I am a public employee in California. For 16 years I worked at UCLA, and for nearly 17 years I have worked for LA Superior Court. Not only is Arnold trying to change the State pension system, his proposals include every pension system covering public employees, from the State to cities and counties, to school districts, to water districts, etc. We are all under attack. Information from my Union shows that LACERA, Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association, gets 75% of its funding from dividends, about 12% from the County, and the rest from employees. My University of California pension is coordinated with Social Security. So basically, both my pensions and Social Security are being held hostage by the Republican party. This is a horror story for my family. What we thought would be a good retirement for us may collapse as Arnold wants the end of all funding for public employee pensions by 2006. I have money invested for retirement, that is my deferred compensation which could tank any time. I really am glad to see you put this on your blog for the rest of the country to see. And if Arnold wins in California, no state will be safe from the Republican plan to repeal the 20th century and promises made to employees. I would love to move out of the country now. Thank you for publicizing this.


Posted without <$NoAd$>comment.

I haven't paid as much attention as I should to the political struggle brewing in California -- though that is where I grew up (1975-1987). This article by Dan Balz in tomorrow's Washington Post paints a revealing picture of just how much Gov. Schwarzenegger (R) has embraced both the policies and the confrontational style of President Bush.

A family-wide <$NoAd$>problem ...

At the same time one of Florida's most visible television reporters brought the news to viewers around the state, he earned hundreds of thousands of dollars on the side from the government agencies he covered.

Mike Vasilinda, a 30-year veteran of the Tallahassee press corps, does public relations work and provides film editing services to more than a dozen state agencies.

His Tallahassee company, Mike Vasilinda Productions Inc., has earned more than $100,000 over the past four years through contracts with Gov. Jeb Bush's office, the Secretary of State, the Department of Education and other government entities that are routinely part of Vasilinda's stories.

See the rest from the Herald-Tribune.

One of the many interesting things about writing a blog, and the rapid feedback it provides, is writing a post with a particular viewpoint and then having a reader write back, disagreeing, who then goes on to make the same point you thought you just made.

Got that?

True clarity in writing or speaking is a difficult proposition, especially in a medium that doesn't afford the luxury of extensive revision and editing.

This point occurred to me this evening when I received a note from a reader disagreeing with my earlier post about the Schiavo case.

Respectfully and patiently, the reader told me that I had missed the issue which was really at stake and then went on to press the point about the rule of law.

As I suggested above, I couldn't find anything in what he said that I disagreed with. So evidently, in some fashion or another, he and I were talking past each other. And when I considered it further, the issue that I hadn't dealt with clearly enough was the difference between this case in its moral dimension and its legal one.

When I said this case was "murky and dark and difficult to reason through" I was talking about the moral and human questions it raises. Who's right and who's wrong in this instance? Whose wishes should prevail in such a case? How do we compare the life of someone who has no consciousness of their surroundings or existence to someone with all their faculties intact?

Let me share with you one of the letters about the Schiavo case that has had the greatest impact on me ...

1) My mother suffered cardiac arrest in May 2003, and was revived, but with severe brain damage. I faced the do-we-pull-the-plug decision. Everyone -- doctors, other family members, etc. -- assumed that I would and this place enormous pressure on me. I took me a week to realize that, in my own mind, the decision was equally clear: I did not want to pull the plug. My mother's doctor spoke condescendingly of my "not being ready to let go yet". The doctor at the nursing home, to which she was moved, couldn't hide the shock on his face when I told him I'm an atheist, and that, no, I wasn't doing it for religious reasons.

The point is this is just to note that we are -- at least in New York, where I live -- pretty far along toward the pro-life-support position becoming disreputable, and I hope some good comes out of the Schiavo case in at least letting people who feel as I do know that they are not alone. Schiavo's parents, let's not forget, have been trying to preserve her life: this wasn't a case invented by Republican attack group.

So, yes, the moral case is cloudy, difficult and painful. But the legal one, as near as I can tell, is not. And that, to me, is the crux of the matter.

The law is not the same as morality. Law is rooted in values and moral judgments, yes. Often moral judgments are what prompt us as a society to pick up the pen again and rewrite the law. But the two are not the same. And that is precisely the point. That is the power of the law -- or one of its great attributes, what makes the 'rule of law' more than just empty rhetoric.

It is precisely because we cannot come to agreement on the most contentious and profound questions of morality that we have the law -- an agreed-upon-in-advance set of rules -- to find our way to solutions which are at least equitably-arrived-at if not necessarily moral or ones that we ourselves agree with. The alternative is a descent into public violence and lawlessness, which we are already seeing the first hints of in Florida.

There is a high public morality at stake in respecting the rule of law even in cases where we disagree with the outcomes it generates or even find them immoral in themselves.