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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

This is a just a brief update on the new site we're gearing up to launch: tpmcafe.com. We've been doing various sorts of planning for this new project -- some figuring out money stuff, but mostly just thinking through how to design the site to make the content and discussion areas compelling to readers. And in the course of thinking through both of those parts of the equation I finally decided that I would actually take the plunge and hire a real live bona-fide paid employee.

Now, that may not seem like such a big thing. But you have to understand that this site had been around for about three years before I decided to hire myself as a paid employee. And that wasn't anything I'd ever planned on doing. Actually, and you'll have to pardon my getting a little nostalgic, but some of you might get a kick (or, admittedly, perhaps a laugh) about what this site looked like when it first went live in November 2000. All the old material has been reformatted into the new design. That's what you'll find if you look back into the archives. But the actual design at the time looked like this --- a thin white strip of text against a background of blue, the archeo-tpm, you might say. Over the years, I slowly gave way to adamant and sometimes pointed reader pressure for widening the text area until it ended up as it is now.

In any case, for the first couple years I did the site, I did everything by myself. Then for each of the last two years it's been me and one part-time unpaid intern, first Zander Dryer and now Avi Zenilman. But the new site is going to include a bunch of new administrative responsibilities. So that's what's behind the decision. A good deal of that will be dealing with the discussion areas where readers will be able to hash out the big questions and challenges the country is facing today. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, we're going to try to do a lot more of the tracking of particular stories and legislative issues. More specifically, we're going to open up that part of what this site does to readers themselves.

I don't have to tell you that starting at the end of last year I turned almost all my energy at TPM over to following the Social Security story and tracking just where everyone on Capitol Hill was on the issue. By and large, TPM Readers strongly supported that decision. But in addition to the few who just found it too monotonous, which I can understand, there were others who wrote in asking why there wasn't more attention to all the other important issues.

Now, to me, Social Security was the defining issue of the beginning of the second Bush administration. I think it still is. But the reason I focused entirely on that one issue wasn't simply because I thought it was so important. On a more mundane level, it's just not possible for one person to immerse him or herself so deeply in more than one issue at a time. So one of the things we're trying to accomplish with the new site is to give groups of people venues to dig into these issues on their own as well as to host individual, topic-focused blogs that will zero in on particular issues. (Some parts of the site are going to come online slower than others and I've no doubt that a lot of experimentation and tinkering, much based on your insights and feedback, will be involved.) And helping organize that is going to require at least one more set of hands.

A few times in the past we've had little mini-fundraising drives for reporting trips to New Hampshire and the conventions and more recently for our contest T-Shirts. Next week, we're going to do another big round of fund-raising to put together some start-up funds for the new operation. So we'll be bringing you more information about that shortly.

Finally, we've gotten a lot of emails with questions about the new site and, even more helpfully, suggestions. So please keep them coming. They're very helpful and much appreciated.

More news soon.

DeNote to DeLay: We've got so much love to give. Isn't this our time?

Today ABC's The Note today gives Tom DeLay an advance exoneration and asks for an interview with the bug man.

Saith the Notesters: "And/but without a functioning House ethics committee, there is no natural forum in which Leader DeLay can clear up the legit unanswered questions about some of his conduct. And/but his unwillingness to do it in the feeding frenzy of a packed press conference seems reasonable. May we suggest an interview with The Note, Dan Allen?"

It's such a tough spot for the bug man, having all these unanswered questions swirling at a time when there's no functioning ethics committee. How could he have known that purging the ethics committee of its three non-DeLay loyalists and forcing through a re-write of the committee's rules to prevent it from issuing any more 'admonishments' of his behavior would lead to such an unhappy impasse?

They say power is the greatest aphrodisiac. And The Note's (as, for that matter, does much of Washington) got it bad.

(Perhaps we can set their moment to Dusty Springfield: "You don't have to say you love me/Just be close at hand. You don't have to stay forever/I will understand.")

You'll want to see the whole thing.

Is it the fruit of the Iraq war? The death of Arafat? The Brits think it's due to their patient lobbying through the course of the first Bush administration. Whatever the reason, the US, and that means the Bush administration, is more closely involved in peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians than it has ever been before. And for a host of reasons, there is actually some reason for hope on the ground where there has not been going back inot the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency.

At 2 PM today at the National Press Club, a new organization CALME (Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East) is announcing an online petition drive for an open letter to the president commending his renewed attention to the issue and urging him to stay the course, to stick to it, in the face of what are certain to be setbacks in the negotiations and complications in other parts of the region.

(One might less charitably suggest the tendency of some in administration camp to get distracted by more fun ventures like invading other countries. But that's me talking, not them. They're very bipartisan.)

The event today will be emceed by former Joint Chiefs Vice Chair Joe Ralston. And on hand will be former Rep. and 9/11 Commission Co-Chair Lee Hamilton, former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger and others. And if you go to the website you'll see that they've already compiled an impressive and very politically and religiously diverse least of signers.

The point, however, is not so much to get the bigwigs on board as to get ordinary Americans from across the country to add their voice. It's neither to bash the White House nor rally around it, but commend the recent progress and to get as many Americans as possible to make clear that settling this issue once and for all, with a two state solution, is not just a concern for Arabs and Jews, peaceniks or likudniks, or some peripheral concern, but something the great majority of Americans recognize as both the right thing to do and in America's vital national security interests.

If you'd like to add your voice, visit the site.

Amazing. Fascinating. I'm not sure what else to say, but please do it.

According to Ralph Z. Hallow of the Washington Times, there's a building movement among House conservatives to push ahead with passing a Social Security phase-out bill this year.

The thinking to this point, you'll remember, was that the House wouldn't move until the senate did. Phase-out is a much dicier proposition in the senate than it is in the House. So House Republicans did not want to make a risky vote on phase-out until they were certain the thing actually had some chance of becoming law. Otherwise, they'd run the risk of getting mauled in November 2006 for a wasted vote that Senate Republicans would likely run away from.

But now it seems a few of the ultras in the House have convinced themselves that it's actually good politics to vote on it, send it over to the senate, and if it dies there blame the Democrats.

"Some Senate conservatives privately agree with their House counterparts," writes Hallow, "that the Social Security debate has swirled out of control and that the situation is now playing into the hands of Democrats, who adamantly oppose partial privatization of Social Security. These conservatives say the only way to save the situation is for the House to pass a private-accounts bill and let the Democrats take the blame for blocking Senate passage."

This would be a smart and gutsy strategy if phase-out were popular. But since every public poll available seems to show that it's not popular at all, it's not immediately clear why letting the Democrats stop this unpopular bill in the senate would necessarily be a bad thing for them. Indeed, common sense would suggest that stopping an unpopular piece of legislation would be something they'd be happy to do.

For what it's worth, I doubt very much that it would currently be possible to get a phase-out bill through the House at all. But in purely political terms I have little doubt that the Democrats would love to see them try.

Mike Allen in Thursday's Post: "People who are working in support of DeLay's position said the next several days would be critical, as leaders wait to see whether any other House Republicans call for his resignation."

The House that DeLay built. Over at our Bankruptcy Bill blog, Jason Spitalnick reports that the House is planning to schedule a whopping 30 minutes for the Household Repossession and Foreclosure Empowerment Act of 2005 (aka the Bankruptcy Bill.)

The point is simple, the logic unassailable. Republicans say they care about Social Security but claim there won't be enough money to make good on the money (your payroll taxes) borrowed from the Social Security Administration.

Today, however, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly to abolish the inheritance tax, a tax that, by definition, only impacts people who inherit money from extremely wealthy forebearers. If passed by the senate this new legislation, which would come into effect in 2012, will cost the Treasury $745 billion dollars during its first ten years. Figure in associated interest on the added debt and the number comes closer to a trillion dollars.

That is about a trillion fewer dollars in the US Treasury over the course of the same decade in which the Social Security Trustees say the SSA will begin (2017) to start drawing on the Treasury notes in the Trust fund to cover scheduled benefits (2020, if you go by CBO estimates.)

There's no hidden complexity here. It's a zero-sum game. They say Social Security is in trouble because we don't have enough dollars to make good on the Trust Fund (which today holds roughly $1.7 trillion in Treasury notes). And here they are voting to take a trillion more dollars off the table.

In other words, they could not care less about Social Security and everything they say on the subject is a joke.

If someone tells you that at least the Republicans have a plan and the Democrats don't, laugh in their faces. The Republican agenda (the actual bills they are passing right now) is to keep weakening Social Security at every opportunity, just like they're doing today. The most constructive thing anyone can do under present circumstances to protect Social Security, the only 'plan' that isn't a joke, is to oppose the Republican agenda in Congress, to stand up and say "do no more harm."

DeLay apologizes for 'inartful' threats against federal judges. "Sometimes I get a little more passionate, and particularly during the moment, and the day that Terri Schiavo was starved to death, emotions were flowing. I probably said — I did, I didn't probably — I said something in an inartful way, and I shouldn't have said it that way, and I apologize for saying it that way."

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