Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

For better or worse, Michael Brown can probably avail himself of the doofus exception to the laws on the books against perjurious testimony. But here's just another example of the guy's fibs on the hill yesterday.

And all out in the open <$NoAd$> (from the Post) ...

As fiscal hawks surrendered, would-be government contractors were meeting in the Hart Senate Office Building to figure out how to get a share of the money. A "Katrina Reconstruction Summit," hosted by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and sponsored by Halliburton, among others, brought some 200 lobbyists, corporate representatives and government staffers to a room overlooking the Capitol for a five-hour conference that included time for a "networking break" and advice on "opportunities for private sector involvement."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) sent his budget director, Bill Hoagland, who cautioned that federal Katrina spending might not exceed $100 billion. But John Clerici, from a law firm that helped sponsor the event, told the group that spending would "probably be larger" than $200 billion. "It's going to be spent in a fast and furious way," Clerici said.

Straight up looting.

AP: "A Texas grand jury's recent interest in conspiracy charges could lead to last-minute criminal indictments _ possibly against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay _ as it wraps up its investigation Wednesday into DeLay's state political organization, according to lawyers with knowledge of the case. Conspiracy counts against two DeLay associates this month raised concerns with DeLay's lawyers, who fear the chances are greater that the majority leader could be charged with being part of the conspiracy. Before these counts, the investigation was more narrowly focused on the state election code."

The Post now has a nice piece up about the unfortunate coincidence that Abramoff's business partner, Adam Kidan, happened to pay a huge amount of money to the guys who the cops say whacked Abramoff's erstwhile business partner, Gus Boulis.

Late Update: This looks interesting too.

Michael Brown: "It's my belief that FEMA did a good job in the Gulf states."

Who's going to get a hold of the transcript of this guy's testimony and give it the fact check it deserves?

If anybody finds articles or <$NoAd$> blog posts with good fact-checks of this bozo's malarkey, send it in and I'll link.

I only got a few grafs into the Times run-down before I found this ...

He [Brown] said much of the criticism of FEMA has sprung from misunderstandings about its capabilities and true mission - "FEMA doesn't own fire trucks, we don't own ambulances, we don't own search-and-rescue equipment" - and that he had advised New Orleans residents on Sunday news shows, as the hurricane was closing in, to get out of town, even though the governor and mayor had not yet decided on evacuating the city.

Interesting. If you look at our Katrina Timeline, you'll see that that Mayor Nagin issued a voluntary evacuation order at 5 PM local time on Saturday. I think that means he'd decided to evacuate the city. He followed that up with a mandatory evacuation order at 10 AM local time on Sunday morning.

In other words, Nagin had issued a voluntary evacuation order more than a dozen hours before Brown hit the airwaves. And the mandatory order was pretty much simultaneous with Brown's alleged TV-fest.

In and of itself this fib may not be the be all and end all. But I think it's pretty clear Brown's Sunday show voice crying in the wildnerness line is bogus. And certainly it's just the tip of the iceberg with this militant oaf.

Found more lies? Let us know about them here.

Disgraced disaster goof and horse judge Brown: "I know what I'm doing, and I think I do a pretty darn good job of it." Says his biggest mistake was not making Nagin and Blanco get organized: "I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences, and work together," he told a congressional panel. 'I just couldn't pull that off.'"

Boy, would it be nice if someone asked this sorry fool a real question. See our Katrina Timeline for some possibilities.

Of course, it now seems the White House has realized he deserves the fate of proven incompetents: a new job. Medal of Honor next.

Breaking news out of Florida.

Two men, Anthony Ferrari and Anthony Moscatiello, arrested in the gangland killing of erstwhile Abramoff business partner Gus Boulis.

Unmentioned in today's AP story are the quarter million dollars in unexplained payments Abramoff business partner Adam Kidan made to Moscatiello, Ferrari and their family members around the time of Boulis' death.

Kidan earlier explained that the payments were for "catering" and "surveillance".

Small world.

There is a rather cryptic article in tomorrow's New York Times about Jack Abramoff's first brush with the law back in 2002 and how he got unbrushed.

This is the case in late 2002, when the Acting US Attorney in Guam opened a criminal probe into Jack Abramoff's lobbying activities in the US Pacific island protectorate. Yet days after federal prosecutor Frederick A. Black notified the Justice Department's Public Integrity section of his inquiry into Abramoff, he was demoted. And his new bosses barred him from pursuing any other public corruption cases. That brought the entire Abramoff investigation to halt.

Administration officials argue there was nothing out of the ordinary with an acting US Attorney being replaced by a permanent apppointee. But Black had been the 'Acting' US Attorney in Guam for twelve years. So that explanation seems rather weak.

The news in the article is that FBI and DOJ IG personnel have been investigating just what or who might have been behind Black's timely demotion.

Former Attorney General Ashcroft comes in for some discussion, in part because Abramoff had apparently boasted of his close ties to the former AG and his staff at the Justice Department. Yet "a spokesman for Mr. Ashcroft," reports the Times, "said the former attorney general and his aides at the Justice Department had done nothing to assist Mr. Abramoff and his clients and had had no significant contact with him."

Now, it seems to me that Abramoff and Ashcroft must have been buddies on at least some level, because there's this heretofore unpublished email exchange (just added to the TPM Document Collection) sitting on my desk, in which their staffers are hashing out which date Ashcroft, his wife and his staff could enjoy the pleasures of the Abramoff skybox at DC's MCI Center in late 2000.

In the exchange, Abramoff's Kevin Ring hashes out possible dates with Ashcroft's Andy Beach. Ring later forwards the exchange on to Susan Ralston, Abramoff's skybox gatekeeper, for approval. And I can't help but notice the February 2nd, 2001 piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which notes that Ashcroft brought Beach with him to the Justice Department. Presumably, two years later, Beach was still there as Ashcroft's scheduler at Justice Department.

So who knows? Maybe there was just some line of communication after all.

Perhaps even more interesting, though, is a possibility that goes unmentioned in Tuesday's Times piece: Karl Rove.

The Los Angeles Times article on the Guam story from August 7th, 2005 (discussed here and reproduced here in the Globe) notes that Black's replacement, Leonardo Rapadas, apparently came at the behest of none other than Karl Rove.

Wrote the Times ...

His replacement, Leonardo Rapadas, was confirmed in May 2003 without any debate. Rapadas had been recommended for the job by the Guam Republican Party. Fred Radewagen, a lobbyist who had been under contract to the Gutierrez administration, said he carried that recommendation to top Bush aide Karl Rove in early 2003.

It's probably worth mentioning that at the point Black got the ax in November 2002 and was replaced by the party-backed Rapadas, the aforementioned Ralston was working as Rove's executive assistant.

Small world.

More and more from the administration and former administration bunglers we're hearing the line that the problem was insufficient power to use the military in a domestic natural disaster.

Certainly, the military has a role to play in a major natural disaster. State National Guard troops are almost always deployed. And in catastrophic cases, only the regular military has the ability to organize major transports of resources, execute certain rescue missions, perhaps even handle a sort of para-law enforcement in extreme cases.

But a simple look at the <$Ad$> facts of what actually happened almost a month ago in Louisiana shows no evidence that anything that went wrong went wrong because the federal government lacked sufficient authority or because the US military was given too small a role.

It's simply not true.

In almost every case, the culprits were fully-empowered civilian officials who proved incompetent at executing their given tasks.

Response to a major natural disaster is basically a civilian mission. It went poorly in this case because because the federal government let the civilian disaster relief infrastructure decay dramatically over the last four years; because there was little thought given in advance to how the federal and state and local authorities should interact in a crisis; because the president and his chief advisors ignored the issue for a critical few days; and because the plans in place at a local level were themselves inadequate to the scale of catastrophe that could have been and was predicted.

Blame it on the locals or blame it on the Feds -- neither storyline requires you or even allows you to claim that things went wrong because the military lacked power to intervene.

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, you don't repair disorganized or incompetent government by granting it more power. You fix it by making it more organized and more competent. Just so here -- the move to militarize government's domestic responsibilities rather than improve them is a dangerous trend. And it suggests that, functionally, there's little left of conservatism today other than a warped big-government authoritarianism.

Governmental incompetence solved -- or rather papered over -- by militarization has a long history. And authoritarianism's hand is usually as clumsy as it is heavy.

I'm curious to see whether Andrew Bacevich has had anything to say about this.