Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I never read the Slate Diary of Robert Klingler, the supposed American CEO of a major European auto manufacturer, later exposed as a fraud. But the article born of the investigation into the hoax is one of the most interesting little detective stories I've read in a long time. You really must read it.

The upshot of the story is that 'Robert Klingler' is not some anonymous schmo but almost certainly a fellow named Ravi Desai, a storied and rather whacked impresario from the dot.com era.

Desai himself is fascinating to learn about -- and one learns a good bit about him from this article. Many folks manage to be highly educated and fabulously and legitimately successful. Not a few are able to live as frauds and hucksters who pad their resumes with myriad non-existent accomplishments and credentials. There is a select breed, however, able and for some odd reason perhaps best understood through the modalities of psychiatry inclined to be both. Desai apparently falls into that category -- the few, the proud, the ridiculous.

The author of the article, Jack Shafer, has been my editor at Slate for the last year or more. And occasionally, frustratingly so, since he's constantly sending me back to do more reporting, more interviewing -- often long after I feel enough's been done. But reading this article, I see that Jack lives by what he preaches. And it also makes me wish Jack were doing more of these investigative type pieces.

Of course, I guess there's one more possibility yet unmentioned. Perhaps Jack's been yearning to write such a piece for some time. And the original hoax diary was just a ploy to make it possible -- cunninngly and sinisterly devised as a joint enterprise by the fertile minds of Ravi Desai and Jack Shafer!!!

Obviously, the Public Citizen report on Army Secretary Thomas White didn't come out today, as I said it would previously.

TPM regrets the failed prediction, based on a tip from someone I'm now referring to as the source formerly known as reliable. 'The source' will regret it even more, once TPM gets a hold of him. But that's another matter.

However, I am assured by, well, let's say extremely informed sources that the report is still coming out. And there's still a good chance it'll be out by the end of the week.

The folks at Public Citizen are telling people in DC that they have a big report coming out on Tuesday about former Enron executive and current Army Secretary Thomas White. They're using words like "bombshell" and telling some it'll force White to resign.

I haven't seen it, so I can't tell you whether this is more than just bluster.

I have said, though, that I think White's in trouble. Not because his ouster is merited (though I suspect it is), but because it must be looking more and more convenient to the political wizards at the White House.

I'm writing tonight from out of town, so can someone go over to the Post offices and check to see if Karl Rove and/or Mitch Daniels has hacked into the paper's server. I'm not sure how else to explain this risible clunker by Rob Norton in the Outlook section. It's Fineman with green eye shades.

Admittedly, Outlook is for opinion pieces. But coming after this sop it's hard to know what to think.

A little follow-up on Doug Paal's nomination to serve as AIT Director in Taipei.

Earlier this week, in a letter dated March 4th, Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell telling the Secretary:

The February 21st article in The New Republic regarding Douglas Paal leads me to express my deep concern about his potential appointment to direct the American Institute in Taiwan.

Later he writes that the "assertions made in The New Republic ... warrant further inquiry."

Helms goes on to request Powell's personal response to four questions he outlines based on issues raised in the New Republic article.

A copy of the letter has now been added to the TPM Document Collection.

Given the recent back-and-forth on the Croatian war, I thought it made sense to focus this installment of the TPM booklist on the 1990s crisis of the former Yugoslavia, what Misha Glenny rightly calls the Third Balkan War.

There are scores of books written on the Balkan Crisis, but today we're recommending two. The first is Misha Glenny's The Fall of Yugoslavia: The Third Balkan War. This is the book for getting the history. Glenny has since written another more broad-ranging book, The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers 1809-1999, which I have not read. But Fall of Yugoslavia is a masterful introduction to just what happened in Yugoslavia in the 1990s. And why things went so horribly wrong.

Glenny is a print and electronic journalist and he is steeped in the colorful particulars of life in 1990s Yugoslavia as only a working journalist who was there can be. He weaves this together with a brisk, engaging narrative, as well as a rich command of the history of the region. There's nothing forced about Glenny's mixture of history and contemporary reporting. The effect is pure elucidation.

Occasionally, reading Glenny, I sensed that he might be too even-handed, finding at least some small measure of blame and sympathy for almost every group in the drama, if not every actor. But in general I don't think there's any faulting him on this ground.

What's most powerful about the book -- aside from its crisp narrative and edifying effect -- is the way it shows just how many people had to act willfully, irresponsibly, and impatiently, in order to lay the groundwork for the horrors that followed. Not just the bad guys, but in many instances the people who would later prove to be the victims -- the Bosnians, the Croats, et. al.

Foolish, irresponsible actions early on by the Bosnian Muslim political leadership, for instance, don't cut away a sliver of responsibility from the Bosnian Serbs for the atrocities they later committed. But Glenny gives you a sense of how one was connected to the other. And the same might be said of the impetuous, early diplomacy of the Germans which, arguably, had similar consequences.

My one misgiving about this book is that it's concerned largely with what happened in the very early 1990s. Glenny updated it twice, most recently in 1996. But the essence of what he's writing about is the very early 1990s, before the post-Dayton, American phase of the war began.

The other book we're recommending today is Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass. This is a quite different sort of book. It's about the war in Bosnia. Not the whole of Yugoslavia. It's not a history, either. It's a war reporter's memoir. If you're looking for the big-picture about the Balkans in the 1990s or the what happened in Kosovo or Croatia or inside Serbia, this isn't the book -- though it contains important information on each of those topics.

This is an interior story, what Maass himself saw. And it is by far the best piece of writing I've read of any of the books written on the 1990s Balkans. By far the best.

Reading it you see how the war in Bosnia was tragic in the deepest, most regret-inspiring and folly-filled sense of the word. This book will make you feel moments of agony. It will also make you laugh. Perhaps most uncomfortably, it will sometimes join these two feelings and reactions quite closely in time. I would say it is the best piece of war reporting I've ever read. And I believe it is. Only covering the Bosnian war, as Maass describes it, wasn't exactly a war so much as a loosely-organized, long-running series of individual and group murders.

This book is humane, and comic, and horrifying in each of the right measures and moments. I cannot recommend it more strongly. If you read it I think it will change you. Perhaps forever.

Social Security may not be the most captivating topic around. But it is one of the most important. Here's a new Social Security info page from the folks at Campaign for America's Future.

Who are they? Reliably liberal. And on this topic, completely right.

Think of CAF as the liberal Democrat's version of the DLC (aka Democratic Leadership Council).

Definitely stop by the site.

I just caught a minute of Ari Fleischer's daily briefing today. And what caught my attention was the back-and-forth on Army Secretary Thomas White.

Fleischer 'defended' White against new charges that he had not divested himself of Enron holdings, as he had promised he would during his confirmation hearing. But he 'defended' him only in that highly circumscribed Washington sense of the word that might be loosely translated into the American vernacular as 'hung out to dry.'

In any case, to my ears, the defense sounded distressingly weak. It sounded to me like 'we're sure White's trying to fulfill his promise, we're sure he wants to, he'd better, don't ask me any more questions.'

If I were Thomas White, I'd be quite nervous right now. Not only does it look like he's in quite a good bit of political trouble. But you have to figure also that he's beginning to look a rather convenient scapegoat to Karl Rove and the rest of the folks at the White House political office.

To date, White is the only senior member of the administration that we know was deeply enmeshed in Enron wrong-doing. Not illegality, mind you. At least not necessarily. But the sort of corporate bad practices, while an executive at Enron, which at the very least everyone seems to agree are blameworthy.

Perhaps we'll find that other members of the administration are similarly tainted. But thus far we just have not seen proof of that. I'd imagine that the administration would like nothing better than to demonstrate zero-tolerance for Enron-type shenanigans by tossing some bad-actor overboard -- particularly if they could find someone who fit the bill and yet was utterly expendable.

Just off the top of my head, I think they'd be looking for maybe, say, a 2nd level appointee at a major department, someone of some consequence, but not anyone with deep connections to the principals (or principles) of the administration.

Like I said, if I were Thomas White ...