Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Wanna read a nice selection of bluster, tautology, nonsense?

Then by all means read this column by Daniel Pipes and his researcher Jonathan Schanzer about why toppling Saddam Hussein would be a walk in the park. (You or I could probably do it ourselves out in the garage with a few common implements and supplies purchasable at the local Home Depot!) The column is an apt primer on this new breed of yahoo-cons for whom Iraq has become a totem, a dogma, a logical banana peel waiting for the slow-witted to stumble on.

(Yup! Ouch, indeed.)

Don't get me wrong: most Iraq-hawks have an easier time piecing together a logical argument. Some are even friends of mine. But this sort of talk raises a more general question. Who will mark out the terrain that will allow one to be a hawk, but not a dork, on Iraq and the war on terrorism?

The point of opposing Iraq yahoo-cons is not that Saddam deserves a break. Nor is that we shouldn't be pushing to get inspectors back in or finding ways to get Saddam Hussein out of power. It's simply based on the recognition that we're almost certainly facing bigger dangers right now from those terrorist cells in Yemen, Somalia, Hamburg and (most of all maybe) Saudi Arabia. And we probably can't root them out and go back to Baghdad for old time's sake at the same time.

Hell, even I can tell you that. And I don't even have my own institute with the words 'Middle East' in it.

The CIA has been getting a lot of grief lately over our lack of quality human assets in the Al Qaeda and Taliban ranks. But what are our spooks supposed to do? Send some fresh-faced American kid over to Afghanistan, have him knock on the cave door and say, 'hey, I wanna join!'?

I mean, c'mon! Let's be realistic.

Does the Post have a conflict here? This article gives some more details on the future New York Sun - the new daily being financed by Conrad Black et. al. and edited by Seth Lipsky and Ira Stoll.

The headline of the article should probably read:

Pitifully Small 'Daily' to Be Read By Almost No One; History of Failures Precedes Attempt
Actually, come to think of it, the actual headline ain't too different:
I feel a touch vindicated in my earlier comments about the pittance being put forward to finance the Sun - a paltry $15 million, the rough equivalent for Black of the cash you or I might toss down for a bunch of CDs or maybe a low-end laptop. The Post says the paper will be a broadsheet of "only four to six pages with a daily press run of only 6,000 to 10,000."

That makes Drudge's earlier comment that the Sun would be set to compete with the New York Times sound more than a touch laughable.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with a tiny daily, I suppose. And it may be a wise place to start, giving the advertising recession. They can always grow from there.

I hope they make it.

As regular readers know, TPM never goes in for self-congratulation. But let's make an exception.

We've been making the case about Richard Perle's cheesy inside-the-administration, outside-the-administration double game since early October.

Now the bigs are getting into the action. Bob Novak asked Secretary Rumsfeld about it over the weekend on Novak, Hunt & Shields. And no sooner does that happen than Maureen Dowd's gotta get into the act.

All I can say, welcome aboard! And Maureen, whatever I said about you in the past, that's all behind us. Let's do lunch. It'll be fab!

P.S. Actually more I-told-you-so to come when Vanity Fair releases its January issue with David Rose's article on mid-1990s Sudan policy.

Let's get the month rolling with a couple choice quotes.

This is from the New York Times Editorial Page's December 1st tribute to Mary Jo White, out-going United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Because of her reputation for integrity and independence — hers is jokingly referred to in Washington as the "sovereign district" — the Bush administration has also allowed Ms. White to pursue inquiries into Senator Robert Torricelli's relationship with a fund-raiser, as well as former President Clinton's 11th-hour pardons.
Is this one of those "errors of fact and of logic" that Ira Stoll talks about? Allowed? Please.

Next Quote.

You're a man of great moderation, Mr. Perle.

- Chris Matthews to Richard Perle
Nov. 26th, 2001

Noted without comment ... What is there to say?

Being so diligent and scrupulous, TPM rarely has to issue corrections. Regrettably, here I do. In the last post about The New Republic and its partial sale, I said that one of the buyers was Conrad Black. Actually, I didn't read the Daily News piece closely enough because that's not what it says.

What it says is different, though a touch byzantine. It says that some of the new TNR buyers are also involved in the financing of the new New York daily The New York Sun, and that Conrad Black is one of the seven people behind the Sun. What it doesn't say is that Black is also a buyer of TNR.

Certainly, my screw up here has something to do with not paying enough attention in trig class, or logical reasoning, or whatever that class was where they're always showing the overlapping circles.

I'm also assured by a flack for one of the interested parties that Black is not involved in any purchase of TNR.

Actually, I'm thinking this is a good thing for TNR. Because given the pittance Black's committing to the New York Sun project, I figure he'd probably only be offering to infuse TNR with about $39.99.

Wow! I've got to run to work so I don't have a lot of time to comment on this. But this is a really big deal. Or at least it's a really big deal if you live in the incredibly small world of opinion magazine journalism. This article in the Daily News says Marty Peretz is selling 2/3 of his stake in the New Republic. Apparently one of the buyers is Conrad Black - whose interest in the mag has been rumored for some time. But the article seems to have Peretz denying there's a sale. Of course, the real question is whether my TNR friends are going to hook me up with the scoop.

A few quick points to start the day and then I really gotta cut back on the posts. First, today is Winston Churchill's birthday, which is cool since Churchill rocks, even if many members of the Churchill cult mistake key aspects of his personality. Here's a reprint of Churchill's obit from the New York Times, which turns out to have been written by Tony Lewis.

Here's the AP obit for George Harrison, who - very sadly - died yesterday in L.A.

Also, a brief update on yesterday's post about the odious Enron corporation. I had meant to include something to this effect in the original post, but didn't manage to work it in. Whatever glee I might have about the demise of Enron certainly doesn't take away from the deep misfortune this is for the outfit's many employees, for whom this is obviously an unmitigated disaster. As the article hints at, though, that's really just another indictment of what a racket the outfit was.

Finally, let's all get ready for a slew of stories which will make clear what should have already been obvious for all those who have eyes to see: that Social Security privatization is about to make the GOP sink like a stone.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when at first we do plane-spot!

According to this article in the Daily Telegraph, the leader of the imprisoned plane-spotters, Paul Coppin, was detained in August in Romania for similarly aggressive plane-spotting. And he may even have been nabbed earlier in the year in a similar incident in Poland.

Meanwhile, with the lull in new news about the plane-spotters, reportage has given way to commentary. This article from the BBC speculates on why the Greeks don't seem to give a *#$% about the plane-spotters or their predicament. And none of them seem able to grasp what the attraction is to plane-spotting.

More ominously, the piece demonstrates that the plane-spotting crisis is dashing whatever might have been left of British philhellenism .

"Though less than 20 years old," writes BBC correspondent Ryan Dilley, "the courthouse in the coastal town of Kalamata [where the plane-spotters are held] is already as mangy as the stray dogs that sun themselves on the scrubby grass outside. With a family of pigeons noisily nested in the ceiling of the main hall, graffiti covering many walls and every clock in the building stopped at 10 to seven, Kalamata's court has the air of a shopping arcade fallen on the hardest of times."

Finally, this article ("Nerdism with just a dash of risk") from the Daily Telegraph and this one from the Independent ("Plane-spotting: Harmless hobby that can become a dangerous and costly obsession") shed new light on the seductive but sometimes dangerous craft of plane-spotting and the pitiful nimrods who practice it.

"Most plane spotters lead stable lives," an editor of one aviation magazine told the Telegraph, "Plane spotting is their fix. Some people get off on drugs and some on taking down tail numbers."

Meanwhile, here's the plane-spotting quote of the day, from Alex Standish, editor of Jane's Intelligence Digest. "It seems very, very unlikely that [one] Nato country would be interested in spying on another by infiltrating plane-spotting trips."

I hope this doesn't blow my New Dem credentials (on many issues at least) but I must confess that the Enron götterdämmerung is filling me with no end of schadenfreude.

Partly, this is simply due to my belief that most energy deregulation is a bad idea. But more than that it stems from what always struck me as Enron's gargantuan corporate arrogance, best typified by their Ask Why ad campaign ...

It is a small word ...
but it can bring years
of conventional assumptions
to a jarring halt.

Find out how we're changing
the way industries think.

The ethos behind the campaign was best captured by this TV ad (needs Windows Media Player) which has a hapless man in a metal business suit laboriously walking through various cityscapes amidst spryer go-getters on the rapid rush to the global marketized utopia.

You can just hear "metalman" saying in a stilted, half-computerized monotone:

I am the welfare state; I am the old-fashioned, outmoded command economy relying on regulation and bureaucracy, immune to the liberating force of efficiencies and the invisible hand.  Help... I am lame... I've fallen and I can't get up... Deregulate me... Please!!!

The point was that people who didn't buy into the Enron-ian model of Sis-Boom-Bah, rah-rah free-marketism were stodgy cowards who were just afraid to think anew, to ask why? The commercial fades out with a half-computerized, half-female voice repeating ... why, why, why, why ...

Well, of course, now it turns out that Enron was basically a house of cards. Its business model turned to be, if not a scam, then at least, shall we say, rather unworkable.

It seems these wise-asses weren't so sharp after all.

By the way, if want to check out the ad, which I strongly recommend, don't wait too long! I'm sure Enron's bummin' creditors will be there any day now to repossess the servers and every last pixel.

Why, why, why, why ...