Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The American Constitution Society is the progressive counterpart to the conservative Federalist Society, a group which, whatever you think about its effect on America, has been extremely effective in seeding the courts and the legal academy with committed Movement conservatives who've worked for years to shape American law and government.

This weekend, the Yale Law School chapter of the ACS, the national ACS, the Open Society Institute and the Center for American Progress are putting on a conference at Yale Law School that will discuss and plan how to build a movement within the legal community that will do the same for progressives -- law shaped to serve the many, rather than the few and the powerful. The conference is titled The Constitution in 2020. And National ACS is launching a new Constitution in the 21st Century project to continue the discussion that will begin this weekend.

Like all the best stuff being done on the center-left right now. This isn't about 2006 or 2008 or figuring how all the cards might fall right in this or that cycle. It's about creating the building blocks of progressive reform, one step at a time, one lawyer at a time, one new idea at a time, building networks of like-minded individuals who create enduring change. That's stuff that doesn't show results in a week or a month; but it endures. And if done wisely, it's something progressives need a lot more of.

In any case, the conference goes from Friday the 8th through Sunday the 10th. Some of the noteworthy participants include Judge Guido Calabresi and former Judge Patricia Wald, former Solicitors General Drew Days and Seth Waxman, former Acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger, former Dean of Stanford Law School Kathleen Sullivan, ACS Executive Director Lisa Brown, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress John Podesta, Cory Booker, and constitutional scholars and big-think big-wigs Bruce Ackerman and Cass Sunstein.

Pre-registration is required; but the conference is open to the public with a nominal fee (15 bucks) for attendence. You can see the full schedule here. And they're even chattering about it already on a new conference blog.

It's open to the press too. So if you're within a reasonable distance of New Haven and you care about these issues, you might want to stop by.

Good news from Iraq from the AP ...

Lawmakers put the finishing touches Tuesday on an agreement making Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani president and Shiite Adel Abdul-Mahdi and interim President Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni Arab, his two vice presidents.

On Thursday, the 275 lawmakers elected Jan. 30 likely will name Shiite leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari prime minister, clearing the way for lawmakers to begin focusing their attention on writing a permanent constitution by their Aug. 15 deadline.

Every step is a small one. But these are all in right direction.

Don't go! Don't go!

With news now breaking that Rep. Tom DeLay had a 1997 trip to Russia paid for by lobbyists who were, in some fashion or another, working on behalf of the Russian government, there must be a few Democrats out there who worry that he might actually be taken out by these burgeoning scandals. After all, he's great for the Dems. Heck, we're even planning on having a section of the new site we're launching devoted to tracking the DeLay/Abramaff scandal. So it might even require some site redesign on our end.

But, really, I wouldn't worry.

Even if the White House tries to get rid of DeLay (which would not surprise me) I doubt he'll go that easily. And even if he goes, actually make that when he goes, the truth is (and anybody who covers the Hill knows this) that his corruption has seeped all through the House GOP caucus.

There's a reason they call it the DeLay machine. It's not just DeLay. It's a system of organized corruption that many, many Republican members of the House have benefited from. Not all corruption is illegal or even against congressional ethics rules, mind you. But enough of it is, as we're now seeing with DeLay. And he's splashed his mud all over the House.

Late Update: Two other points about DeLay, or rather one question with possibly two answers. Who's turning on the bug man? Call me cynical: but Drudge is playing this story awfully prominently. That makes me wonder whether a thumb at the White House that used to be turned up just turned down. More concretely, a lot of DeLay's lieutenants are now under indictment or on their way there. Eventually, you've got to figure one of them starts to squeal. You've seen Deliverance, right?

So let's see where we are.

The president went to Parkersburg today and said, didn't hint, but said that the Social Security Trust Fund doesn't exist. In other words, he said that the Treasury notes that make up the Trust Fund won't be paid back. And that means that he intends for the government to default on that portion of the national debt.

I know he didn't unpack it that way. But that very much is what it means

Let's break it down to essentials and explain what we're talking about.

For two decades your Social Security payroll taxes have been used to offset the cost of upper-income tax cuts. If I'm not mistaken that money has been used at the highest rate (i.e., in absolute dollars terms per year) under this President Bush. The money is supposed to be paid back, with interest.

That's the deal. That's what bonds are.

But now the president stands there holding on to one of these notes and jokes that they're not worth anything.

Foreigners hold quite a bit of US debt. What are theirs worth? Are they going to get their money paid back?

Wealthy Americans do too. In fact, most of President Bush's personal wealth is in the form of US government debt. Is he going to get his money paid back?

He wants to borrow $5 trillion more. Are those folks going to get paid back?

That's what this is all about. Defaulting on that portion of the federal debt. Those folks will all get their money back. But the president figures you can be stiffed.

If you pay most of your taxes in payroll taxes (like the overwhelming majority of Americans) he's trying to play you for a fool.

Simple as that.

Late Update: Here's a number someone should run. President Bush has been president for four years. He's run very big deficits and during that same period, if I'm not mistaken, Social Security has been running very big surpluses. So his government has been sticking the Social Security administration with Treasury notes that he says and believes are worthless. Obviously the debt obligations of the United States government don't begin and end with each new presidency. That would what, at least until recently, differentiated us from the banana republics of the world. But if he really believes these obligations will never be paid back, why did he use that money -- what must amount to hundreds of billions of dollars -- to subsidize his tax cuts?

Good stuff!

Democratic Whip, Rep. Steny Hoyer's office has an informative and fun calendar posted documenting the first half of the president's Bamboozlepalooza Tour, with a nugget of bad press for each day of the tour so far.

Definitely give it a look.

Ahhhh, March 11th, the NYT reports Bush reduced to using Bamboozlepalooza to win over Republicans. Brings back memories. Okay, okay, I'll spare you ...

TPM Reader BD sends along word that Sen. John Cornyn has posted the full text of the speech he gave on the floor yesterday on his senate website. Presumably this is in an effort to blunt the controversy over his remarks by putting them in the context of the entire speech. To me, the offending passage -- suggesting a connection between judicial activism and violence against judges -- speaks for itself, notwithstanding the fact that other passages say (what else do you expect?) that such violence cannot be justified.

But, no need to take my word for it. Read the context and decide for yourself.

(ed.note: For reference and searching sake, the passage that has caused the controversy begins 'Finally, I don't know'.)

Sen. John Cornyn's hometown is San Antonio, Texas. And San Antonio is a city with some tragic experience with violence against judges.

On May 29th, 1979, a killer-for-hire, Charles Voyde Harrelson murdered Federal District Judge John Wood Jr.

In the words of a New York Times article (11/20/1982) that appeared three years later during Harrelson's trial, he hid "in ambush outside the judge's apartment [and] used a high-powered rifle to shoot Judge Wood in return for a $250,000 payment from a drug dealer [Jamiel Chagra] who was facing trial before the judge."

(ed.note: Note of thanks to TPM Reader JW. And for those of you who are addicted to trivia, yes, Harrelson is the father of actor Woody Harrelson.)

Who was in charge of rapid-response for the president's visit this morning to the Bureau of Public Debt in Parkersburg, West Virginia, the physical home of the Treasury notes that make up the Social Security Trust Fund?

Half the point of President Bush's privatization jihad is to make off with all that money which is owed to future recipients. And here he goes to case the joint, but I'm not hearing a lot about it.

Here's an update from the local paper.