Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Ahh the Shame! the Humanity! the pure unadulterated humor value!

Signatures, Jack Abramoff's pricey DC eatery where the beautiful people right-wingers ate well and the congressmen ate for free, is looking for a new name.

And they've set up a special page at the restaurant's website where you can sign up and suggest one.

I think I'm going to put in for 'License Plates'.

(ed.note: Special thanks for TPM Reader OM for the catch.)

Late Update: Okay, I thought License Plates was pretty damned funny. But TPM Reader VT just came in with Jack in the Box. And that may take the prize.

Even Later Update: Bravo! TPM Reader HTH manages both nominal continuity and residential appropriateness by renaming Signatures, The Pen or perhaps The Federal Pen, though here brevity may be the soul of wisdom.

It's not too early to start thinking about it: what is the president going to say in his state of the union address? what claims will he make, fraudulent or otherwise? And what will the alternative be?

A couple quick follow-ups on the Abramoff article in the Post today.

First, there's this passage ...

DeLay, a Christian conservative, did not quite know what to make of Abramoff, who wore a beard and a yarmulke. They forged political ties, but the two men never became personally close, according to associates of both men.

"Personally close" can mean a lot of things. And what it means in the often-inherently-phony world of politics is anyone's guess. But in this context I take the passage above to mean that though they had politics and political money ties, it was always an arm's length relationship on a personal level.

That's not what I hear in talking to people. In fact, I have an February 2003 email between Abramoff and Christine DeLay in which they discuss a private dinner with the DeLays, the Abramoffs and Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin and his wife Irene the night before. The email makes it sound the two couples were close and socialized together.

Remember too that back in August the Post ran an unrebutted but now endlessly discredited claim that DeLay had washed his hands of Abramoff in early 2001 after first hearing about the murder of Abramoff's erstwhile business partner Gus Boulis.

Certainly, claims that the two men weren't close would be entirely self-serving from the DeLay side; on the Abramoff side, that's less clear. But for the reasons above and others, call me unconvinced.

Then there's this passage ...

Abramoff wallowed in his access, real and imagined. When his crack administrative assistant Susan Ralston bolted for a position with White House political adviser Karl Rove, Abramoff told colleagues he had gotten her the job even though it was Ralston's old boss, Reed, who made it happen, her former colleagues said.

Is this really credible? Abramoff was tight with Rove. And 2000/2001 when just on the cusp of Abramoff's glory days when he was a huge player in DC. And his right-hand-woman (she was a key player for both men; the title understates her role) went to work for Rove when the Bush administration came in.

We know that Abramoff worked assiduously and fairly successfully to get colleagues and business associates of his into key positions in the administration for obvious reasons. And his key assistant goes and becomes the gatekeeper for Karl Rove. But he had nothing to do with it.

I just don't think that passes the laugh test.

It was Ralph Reed? He's close to both men of course. And perhaps he put in a good word for her too. But somehow I figure the guy who'd worked with her closely for years would be the more likely person to have secured the appointment than someone like Reed she'd never worked with.

And look at the phrasing. "Ralston bolted for a position with White House political adviser Karl Rove." Apparently she just couldn't get away from him quick enough.

Of course her "former colleagues" say that Abramoff didn't have anything to do with getting her the job! Ralston's now at the center of -- if not necessarily implicated in -- two on-going criminal investigations. She doesn't need any more trouble than she's already got.

I don't know the specifics of how she went from Abramoff to Rove. But I think more than self-serving testimony from Ralston's proxies is needed to jettison the common understanding that Jack got her the job.

The bamboozlement makes it half way around the world before ... well, this from the San Antonio Express-News ...

Media reports that U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay had convinced the state's highest court to hear his appeal were as widely circulated as they were, well, wrong.

Justices for the Texas Court Criminal Appeals agreed merely to consider hearing DeLay's money laundering case. They never said they would accept the case, said Edward Marty, the court's general counsel.

The erroneous media reports, which the San Antonio Express-News published in a wire story and displayed online, come from DeLay's spokesman, Kevin Madden, in an e-mail sent to reporters Tuesday evening, after courts had closed for the night.

“FYI-Breaking news out of Austin, TX,” the e-mail stated. “The state Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed to hear Mr. DeLay's habeas motion that was filed at the end of last week. The court has set a one-week deadline for briefs to be filed by the parties involved. The court could essentially decide to end Ronnie Earle's prosecution after hearing this motion and the facts presented.”

Asked about his on-the-fly bamboozlement, Madden told the paper's Lisa Sandberg: "In an effort to be instantaneous, I wasn't precise.....My understanding (of the decision) was correct. The way I relayed it wasn't."

I thought that in my years as a reporter I had navigated some fairly treacherous terrain. Then I tried making my way through the hectic ridiculousness that is the New York commercial real estate market. My God. Not that I'm trying to become a mini-Donald Trump or anything, just looking for a little slice of office space for our expanded operation here at TPM. But it ain't easy.

For instance, on one of my first jaunts into this square foot jungle, I went to see a space listed at 750 sq. ft.

That seemed like a decent amount of space for four people -- me and three employees, all in one open work area. So after working out some preliminaries over the phone, I made my way down to the neighborhood in question, found the appointed building and ambled up the staircase to get my first look at the new TPM world headquarters. After a bit more smalltalk with the landlord I found myself in a room that struck me as, well ... somehow very cramped.

I started making my way around the stretched out little box not knowing quite what to make of it. And as I looked around for things to look like I was looking at (not as simple a proposition as you might think) and questions I thought I should think to ask, we came to the conclusion that we were in a room that measured 30 ft. by 9 ft.

"Of course, you know, you lose a little square footage in commercial space," the man assured me with a sort of trailing off cadence.

At this point, I should say that I quickly banged out the numbers in my head, which suggested this space was really rather closer to 270 sq.ft rather than the advertised 750 sq.ft. Should, but unfortunately can't since the whole experience had left me in such a cloud of weirdly-self-inflicted bamboozlement that somehow it wasn't till I was back on the street making my way back home that I progressed from thinking something just wasn't quite right about the place to a more mathematically-grounded realization that there had been a certain lack of truth in advertising about the aforementioned square feet.

In any case, now a couple weeks later I'm nothing like the commercial real estate naif I was then. I'm well-versed in the distinction between rentable and usable square feet. Only a rube wouldn't know that it's standard to include less-than-easily-utilized space such as the walls of the building, stairways you have no access to and sometimes even patches of land in nearby counties when tabulating 'rentable' square feet.

Anyway, live and learn.

What I choose to report on and write about here at TPM has always, to a great degree, tracked my own interests and obsessions and curiosities. So if you start noticing posts on sub-letting or loft space or the low-end Manhattan office space market popping up, you'll know what went wrong.

The Washington Post has a lengthy backgrounder on Jack Abramoff on the front page of Thursday's paper. My main criticism of the piece would be that the authors do too little to place Abramoff's ascent into the context of the consolidation of Republican control over K Street and the operation of the DeLay Machine in the House of Representatives. I don't think the one can be properly understood without the other.

Still, not every article has to cover every topic or angle. And Schmidt and Grimaldi manage to bring together a great deal of information about Abramoff into a compelling narrative. Anybody interested in understanding this story should read this piece.

DeLay gets a friendly ruling from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Travis County DA Ronnie Earle is currently appealing a lower court ruling that threw out one of the counts he brought against REp. Tom DeLay (R-TX). But however the appeal is decided, the delay itself threatens to push the actual trial date well into 2006 and probably past the point of no return for the former Majority Leader.

In response, DeLay filed a speedy trial motion before the Court of Criminal Appeals. And today the Court, which Roll Call's John Bresnahan reports (sub.req.) is made up of nine Republican judges, gave Earle a week to file a brief in response to DeLay's request.

According to Bresnahan the Court "could either throw out the charges entirely or order an immediate trial for DeLay in the money-laundering case."

Earlier in the history of this site, I used to periodically recommend books -- usually works of popular history. So here's another: The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians by Peter Heather. I'm only about half way through it. But I've read more than enough to recommend it.

This topic is a perennial. But it's also one that is almost hopelessly encrusted with myth and overworn interpretations which make the period very hard to get a hold of or approach in any fresh way. Heather's book is crisply and engagingly written. And it's quite accessible even for someone with no background or knowledge of the period. He manages to bring together both the high history of emperors and battles with the longer-term changes in the societies and economies of the German and other 'barbarian' peoples from central and eastern Europe who dismantled the western Empire in the 5th century.

If you're the sort who likes finding a thick book about some distant period in the past that you can lose yourself in for a spell, try this one out.

You've probably heard the name Jim Marcinkowski. He has been one of a handful of retired CIA officers who've stood up publicly over the last couple years to take on those in and out of the administration who say that outing Valerie Plame was no big deal. Now he's running for Congress in Michigan's 8th District against incumbent Mike Rogers (R).

My recollection is that Rogers was a Social Security phase-out wobbler, last time we checked.

There are so many complicated details of what is happening today in Iraq, as various factions and sectarian groupings vie for position in the aftermath of this month's national election. But one clear and bright spot does stand out -- the utter and seemingly limitless humiliation of Ahmad Chalabi.

Last week we noted Chalabi's feebler-than-feeble election results, which showed him coming in well under 1% of the national vote and facing a complete shut-out from the new national assembly.

Apparently, though, Chalabi was hoping for something of a rebound from ballots cast by Iraqis living overseas.

Seems that didn't pan out, though.

The Washington Post reports that preliminary results of the "special vote" -- which includes Iraqis living abraod, in hospitals, the army and in prisons -- showed Chalabi bagged a mere 0.89 percent of the vote.

The Post also notes that without seat in the Assembly, Chalabi would presumably also not be able to join the government, thus perhaps limiting at least to some degree his ability to preen, pose and posture in the western press.