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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Two fascinating articles (one from the Post and another in the Times) on the persistence of al Qaida and the way its loose, distributed organizational structure has allowed it to regroup for more attacks. They are both really must-reads.

Here's one question I have: why is it that once caught al Qaeda operatives so often seem to talk so freely? No doubt, those who get interrogated in places like Morocco (as those discussed in the Post article) get treated to some very persuasive questioning techniques.

But even the ones in American custody frequently seem to talk up a storm once they're questioned. (But wait! Don't you think the scene down in Guantanamo is like something out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting? No, not really.)

I'm not sure what I think of that.

The priest abuse scandal is certainly the biggest scandal in the Catholic Church today; but it's not the only one. What about the shameless puffery and preening deceptions of this man, Edward Cardinal Egan, the SO CALLED 'Archbishop of New York'?

Like most other people inclined to believe the best about people, I had always assumed that when Edward Egan called himself Archbishop of New York that that meant he was really the Archbishop of New York, as in the Archbishop of the five boroughs.

The truth, I'm sorry to say, turns out to be very, very different.

As you can see from this map, Archbishop Egan's territory includes only Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island. Most of his archdiocese -- if not most of his parishioners -- is actually out in the suburbs in places like Westchester and Rockland and Dutchess counties. So even though Egan styles himself 'Archbishop of New York' he's actually not Archbishop, or bishop for that matter, in Brooklyn or Queens.

Now certainly there are a lot of Catholics in Manhattan. But when I think of New York Catholics I think it's the Outer Boroughs that most readily come to mind, don't you?

So who's this other Bishop of New York? Well, that would be Thomas V. Daily, Bishop of Brooklyn. In fact, you don't have to go much further than the title Daily goes by to see he's cut from a very different cloth than his colleague on the other side of the river. While Egan is off showboating as 'Archbishop of New York,' Daily is content to go by the unassuming title of Bishop of Brooklyn. But in fact, he's also bishop in Queens too!

So, who really deserves the title? Well, the website of the Diocese of Brooklyn says that Daily's diocese caters to more than 1.8 million Catholics. I couldn't find a number on the Archdiocese of New York's website, but DCL Online (the "bi-weekly eLetter for Catholic professionals") says Egan's Archdiocese caters to more than 2.3 million Catholics. (Unlike the Diocese of Brooklyn's website, the Archdiocese of New York's doesn't seem to have any page with statistics. But after what we've discussed, is that really a surprise?)

Now, Egan's flock is clearly bigger -- by about half a million people. But how many of those 2.3 million are real New Yorkers? Don't you figure it's possible that a half million or more of Egan's flock are just folks from the suburbs? I'd say it's pretty likely. And, if true, that would mean that Bishop Daily -- content to go by Bishop of Brooklyn -- is actually more a New York bishop than Egan.

Edward Egan. When will he come clean?

I haven't read an article in some time with which I so quickly and reflexively agreed as this one by Mickey Kaus yesterday in Slate. As Mickey says in the piece, many people must have thought in their heart of hearts, but not been comfortable saying: I'm all for homeland security. But do we have to call it 'homeland security'?

The phrase really does have a deep blood and soil tinge to it which is distinctly Germanic, more than a touch un-American, and a little creepy. I mean, we -- that is to say, Americans -- don't really use this word -- not just liberals or cosmopolitan Northeasterners, but really any of us. And even the concept is a little fishy from the perspective of American national culture. I would at least have understood if President Bush wanted to call it 'heartland security' because I know he's into that sort of thing. But 'homeland security'? I mean, I guess fatherland security would have been worse. But it's sort of a close call.

One reason to avoid this sort of terminology is that what we're now calling homeland security has an inherently and likely unavoidable big-botherish tilt to it -- I mean in the sense of increased policing and surveillance on the homefront and possibly even a slight militarization of domestic security. But if it has to have some of this tilt why add to it with the vaguely fascistic or at least teutonic verbiage?

Anyway, I'm going to try to make a point not to use the phrase any more on this site (I have less control over terminology in pieces I publish elsewhere). But after reading Mickey's piece I was curious just how the phrase 'homeland security' got so popular.

The story goes something like this.

When the Bush administration came into office they were very big on what they called 'Homeland Defense.' By this they meant, essentially, National Missile Defense.

After 9/11 it became quite clear that we did indeed face serious threats on the homefront. But there were much more effective and easier ways for our enemies to attack us than to lob ICBMs from Baghdad or Pyongyang. Thus, the shift in policy and terminology to 'homeland security.'

But 'homeland defense' didn't start with the Bushies. The phrase really got into the public vocabulary with the release of "Transforming Defense: National Security in the 21st Century," a report on the future of the US military by something called the National Defense Panel.

The panel was appointed on February 6th 1997 by then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen but the panel itself was mandated FY 1997 Defense Authorization Act. In essence, this was the Republican Congress wanting another look taken at American defense priorities.

When the NDP reported back in December 1997 the gist of their report was that the US should be putting more priority on defense of the American mainland, though the report was equivocal on the question of missile defense as part of the equation. In any case, from that point onward, 'homeland defense' was a stock phrase in the vocabulary of national defense talk.

But where did the NDP pick up the 'homeland defense' phraseology? That's not entirely clear. If you do database searches for the phrase pre-1997 the great majority of the hits you get are about South Africa, Germany, Russia and a series of other countries where you might expect this locution has a more natural appeal.

Looking closely, however, the NDP almost certainly got the phrase from National Missile Defense enthusiasts who had been using the term, albeit obscurely, since the mid-1980s. One of the earliest examples I could find, for instance, is a October 16, 1985 Heritage Foundation backgrounder by W. Bruce Weinrod in which the author helpfully notes that "In the mid-1960s, Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) development made a U.S. homeland defense problematical."

Another pro-SDI report released in December 1985 helpfully noted that "The side that solves homeland defense problems first, however, would be in the catbird seat." Later, just after the Bush administration left office, the former head of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, Henry Cooper, wrote with frustration that the "Fragile support for a U.S. homeland defense is threatened by disharmony, and misrepresentations propagated to advocate parochial interests."

All this fun stuff aside though, the phrase doesn't seemed to have picked up much steam in the mainstream press -- that is to say, outside of technical or policy journals, and particularly the defense policy press -- until the early Clinton administration. Actually, the first example I saw of the phrase in a daily is an April 1st, 1994 Washington Times OpEd by none other than Strom Thurmond in which the old codger wrote the following lament ...

The Clinton administration has said that worldwide proliferation of mass-destructive weapons is a top priority. But the administration has placed too little emphasis on the counter-proliferation value of missile defense and has demonstrated no sense of urgency in getting improved defenses into the field. A limited homeland defense is dead for all practical purposes, even though we could soon face a renewed threat from resurgent Russian nationalism and militarism. Worse yet, the administration appears willing to accept ABM Treaty limitations on theater missile defenses, the kind intended to protect our troops abroad and our allies from threats like that of North Korea.
Actually to my great chagrin, I later realized that a year earlier -- also in the Washington Times -- then-Senator Malcoln Wallop cautioned that efforts to build theater missile defense systems not "prevent us from building homeland defenses." But between you and me, I'd rather just pretend Strom said it first because having the thing rolled out into the public debate by Strom Thurmond on April Fool's Day is just a bit too good to pass up.

Anyway, let's ditch 'homeland security' and come up with a more American phrase.

God, is it ever late. But this story is just too funny to pass up -- and the dailies for some reason don't run the really juicy detail. For some time now the Governor of the South Carolina has been pulling out every stop to prevent the federal government from depositing plutonium in his state -- which I guess is pretty understandable. It's sort of a mini-version of the whole controversy about Yucca Mountain out in Nevada, where they want to store all the spent nuclear power plant fuel.

Anyway, ever since John Calhoun's time the South Carolinians have been ready to nullify federal laws and orders and generally lead their Southern brethren down the dark path of treason against the United States pretty much at the drop of a hat. Of course, Andrew Jackson made it clear you couldn't do this about one hundred and seventy years ago and the Civil War sort of settled the matter for good about thirty years later. But yesterday South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges tried out a comedic latter-day version of nullification by declaring a state of emergency and basically outlawing any transit of weapons-grade plutonium on South Carolina roads and highways.

So if you have any and you were planning on driving it through South Carolina, well ... don't! Because you're not allowed to do that anymore.

Anyway, what exactly Hodges is up to isn't exactly clear. But part of his rationale is pretty damn funny. You'll remember that Jose Padilla -- gang-banger bad seed turned al Qaida bad seed -- is now being held in a military prison down in South Carolina. Hodge's new argument is basically this ... Look, you've got the Padilla guy down here and you're saying he was going to build a dirty bomb by stealing nuclear materials, right? And now you're going to bring nuclear materials into the state? So close to Padilla? After he said he wants to make a dirty bomb? Hell, that's just too dangerous. Too close. No can do. Sorry.

Look, I'm not making this up. Here are the first grafs of the governor's executive order ...

WHEREAS, according to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a "known terrorist" with connections to al Qaeda who allegedly planned to build and explode a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States has been recently captured by federal authorities and is presently being detained as an enemy combatant in Charleston, South Carolina;

WHEREAS, a "dirty bomb" is a conventional incendiary device laced with radioactive materials that upon detonation scatters and disperses radioactive particles into the atmosphere, thereby exposing potentially thousands of persons to radiation;

WHEREAS, weapons-grade plutonium is a primary ingredient utilized in creating dirty bombs;

WHEREAS, the United States Department of Energy has publicly announced that it will begin sending truck shipments of weapons-grade plutonium to the Savannah River Site located in Aiken and Barnwell Counties, South Carolina as soon as June 15, 2002; WHEREAS, when, in the Governor's opinion, a danger exists to the person or property of any citizen and the peace and tranquility of the State or of any political subdivision or particular area of the State designated by him is threatened, the Governor shall declare an emergency and may take such measures and do all and every act and thing which he may deem necessary in order to prevent violence or threats of violence to the person or property of citizens of the State and to maintain peace, tranquility and good order, pursuant to § 1-3-410, et seq., of the South Carolina Code of Law

Poor Ashcroft. Some posts just pretty much write themselves.

I guess it wouldn't be Talking Points if I didn't have readers writing in with various mixtures of surprise, bewilderment and scorn for the attention I give to the seemingly endless saga of Chandra Levy, the bouncy twenty-four-year-old Bureau of Prisons intern whose life was tragically cut short a bit more than a year ago by a person or persons unknown.

It bewilders me a bit too, I guess. I've never had much interest in or patience with this sort of story. And my path to preoccupation with it began in what I suspect was an uncommon manner.

You certainly wouldn't know it today. But back before a year ago, Gary Condit was the sort of pol that right-thinking Washington -- the supercilious center -- just loved. He decried partisanship. He decried Bill Clinton. He pretty much always said what your standard talking head wanted to hear.

So when a woman in DC went missing and it was pretty obvious that she was Condit's girlfriend it pissed me off that pretty much everyone in town was giving the guy a pass -- give a pass, that is, to someone who was always happy to dish a little cheap moralism for the usual suspects in the Washington press corps. Of course, later, for many the whole Condit thing got conflated with the Clinton thing, which I never really understood. And it's sort of hard to think back now to a time when anybody was cutting Condit any slack. But that's what sparked my original interest.

Last summer I had a decent number of readers write in and say that it was either disgusting or bizarre that I was giving the issue so much attention in these virtual pages. Or, at least as often, I'd hear that it was terrible that I was paying so much attention to something so trivial and meaningless when President Bush was running the country into the ditch.

I got a number of those today, actually. And I guess those comments just make me wonder why some people don't seem to think there's enough time in the day to think critically about national politics, the war on terrorism, and the still-baffling murder mystery which took place in one's own town. Or the history of the Dutch Republic, for that matter, which is likely more intrinsically interesting than all of them wrapped together. But that's another matter.

I guess the point is that this site is not only about politics or how bad the Bush administration is. It's about a lot of things.

Anyway, one other point on Zacarias Moussaoui. Moussaoui is now telling the court that he was not involved in the 9/11 plot and that he can prove it. Now, I don't know what Moussaoui can prove or not prove. Frankly, the guy seems a bit, as my grandmother used to say, 'touched in the head.' That aside though what's really weird is that there's a decent chance Moussaoui is telling the truth.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think Moussaoui is just some innocent. I have no doubt that he was here training for just the sort of mission the 9/11 guys pulled off. But was he part of that operation? There are actually a lot of intelligence and law enforcement types (a minority perhaps, but quite a few) who don't think so.

What's sort of chilling is that he might actually have been training for the next mission. And his associates -- the ones who weren't quite so obvious -- might still be out there milling about.

Wow! Nice catch by TPM reader WG.

I'm never one who likes seeing speakers heckled or booed at college commencement speeches, pretty much no matter who they are.

But check out the last graf of this AP story on President Bush's speech on volunteerism at Ohio State University today.

Bush was invited to speak at the Ohio State commencement by representatives of the graduating class. But immediately before class members filed into the giant football stadium, an announcer instructed the crowd that all the university's speakers deserve to be treated with respect and that anyone demonstrating or heckling would be subject to expulsion and arrest. The announcer urged that Bush be greeted with a "thunderous" ovation.
Yikes. Talk about zero tolerance.

Here's some good evidence that you don't have to be an out-of-favor (Christie Whitman) or out-to-lunch (Spence Abraham) cabinet secretary to sound like a complete goof. But, man, does it help ...

A couple reporter friends and I made a trip this morning up to the part of DC's Rock Creek park where the remains of Chandra Levy were found a few weeks back. The quick and dirty story I can tell you pretty quickly: we didn't see much.

Admittedly, I was hoping we'd maybe find a bone or maybe a Vote Gary! button or something. But ever since the Levy family investigators found Chandra's shin last week (after it had -- if you believe the DC Metro police -- been planted there by a dead-beat racoon), the cops have been back in force cordoning the place off and not letting anyone get anywhere near it.

Why this matters exactly -- since everyone and his brother had the run of the place for a week -- isn't exactly clear. But that's how it is.

Anyway, a few observations.

First of all, we could not get close enough to see the specific area where the remains were found. But we could see enough to get a sense of the sort of area in which it happened, how dense the foliage is, how steep the incline is -- stuff like that.

And here's the deal, the foliage is really dense. The place in question may be as little as a few hundred yards from residential homes but you might as well be in the middle of a forest. Scratch the word 'park' from your consciousness when you think of the scene and replace it with the movie title 'Deliverance.'

Second, there aren't a lot of people around. My friends and I spent a while driving around that section of the park trying to find an access toward the crime scene that wasn't blocked by a police car with a couple cops kickin' it, working on a donut, or playing solitaire on the on-board laptop. In maybe twenty or thirty minutes of driving around the different little roads and by the numbered picnic grounds we saw a total of two people. One was a guy parked on the side of the road with a van. I had the sense that he was probably also dumping a body. So he wouldn't have given anyone much grief. The other guy was either a homeless guy or a jogger. Or maybe he was a self-improving homeless jogger. It was a little unclear. Anyway, point being, we were there in the late morning. And I think you probably could have done a lot at that time of the day and not have worried that people were going to see you.

Third, there were a lot of cops tight around the crime scene. But it was hard not to get the sense that the reason they were there was that it was so *&$%@#& embarrassing to have missed the leg bone that they pretty much just had to go there and hang out for a few days and put up a lot of tape just to live the whole thing down.

Fourth, this is pretty speculative. But having seen the lay of the land here is what occurred to me. In the area in question there is basically a plateau where there are some picnic areas and some other places to hang out and either have a picnic, throw a ball around, have sex, or kill someone. Then sloping down from that plateau is a ravine that's quite steep -- in many places 45% or greater. And at the bottom is a tiny brook. Chandra's body was found a bit more than half-way down one of those ravines. You can see most of this on this map from the Post.

From seeing the terrain, one thing that's very clear is that no one took her body up the ravine. It's just too steep and that would be the one place where someone could potentially see you. What sort of made intuitive sense to me, though, is that someone may have basically shoved the body over that ravine and then it rolled down to the approximate area in which it was found.

This is morbid, I admit. But that seemed to me like the most logical supposition.

One other point, from various circumstantial evidence, I think it's quite clear that she went there to meet someone she knew. But we'll get to that later. And I still have a hunch -- and a bit of information -- that tells me this case is going to blow open sooner rather than later.

TPM makes special personal visit to police-cordoned-off Chandra crime scene. More later tonight.

As you know, last Thursday's surprise presidential announcement of a major restructuring of the nation's homeland security apparatus was in no way connected to the testimony that day of FBI agent Coleen Rowley or poll slippage due the ever-mounting number of FBI screw-ups. In fact it was a triumph of leak-discipline pulled off by the Bush White House getting a jump on the bureaucracy by presenting the bureaucracy and the congress with an already-put-together blueprint for how it was all going to happen.

Yep.

No doubt this is why Andy Card, Nick Calio and a few of Tom Ridge's people yesterday had to tell a presumably somewhat bewildered group of congressional aides that the White House wouldn't be able to send over any actual legislation for upwards of a month. ("Two to three weeks" is what the Post article actually says.)

(The Post reporter who just filed this story is none other than Dana Milbank, who wrote the earlier rather glowing piece on the White House secrecy triumph ... catch-up for earlier ingenuousness? We report, you decide ;-) ... )

Let's not even try to carve any delicate humor out of this one. Clearly, if the 'get the jump on the Hill and the bureaucracy' line were even vaguely true, they would have had this done already. No question. The fact that they haven't confirms -- as much as anything like this ever can be confirmed -- that they were trying to get a jump on the polls and the media cycle, not the 'bureaucracy.'

And in case you're wondering whether there was any poll number deterioration, check out this snippet from today's Cook Report ...

Then the last Gallup Poll, taken before the president's Thursday night announcement of a new Homeland Security Department, showed his approval rating dropping seven points in a week, to 70 percent, the lowest since Sept. 11, with his disapproval rating up six points to 23 percent, the highest since the September tragedy. Although it's dangerous to read too much into any single poll, what in effect happened is that the Gallup polling simply came into line with most other surveys that showed the president in the low 70s and on the verge of dropping into the 60s -- still good numbers, but no longer considered "stratospheric."

There was also an intangible that seemed to be taking hold before the announcement. Pollsters and other political operatives had begun suggesting that there was a certain uneasiness among Americans in recent weeks, that things didn't seem to be in control. There was a certain frustration from the endless warnings of upcoming terrorist acts against our country and that we still had not managed to track down Osama bin Laden. In some private polling, but not in the Ipsos-Reid/Cook Political Report samplings, there was also a drop in "right direction" numbers, with the "wrong track" column surging. And even though it was not directly rubbing off on the president, it was not what a president's advisers like to see happening.

Lucky for the White House the president really does have an aggressive polling operation. Or else they might not have seen this one coming.

Phew!

Not to Josh Green: Buddy, move quick. You can probably squeeze a quick Oped out of this. The polling angle never dies!

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