Josh Marshall

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Okay, I know there are plenty of other things in the world of far more concern than this. But we've gotten a bunch of emails asking, 'So what happened to your car? What's the latest?' If you're more interested in the usual fare (which I can certainly understand), just skip down the post below.

Now, as was pretty obvious from the moment the garage manager called us Tuesday morning and told us someone had taken our car, the thing is clearly long gone. After that, the folks from Central Parking started making accusations blaming the whole thing on us, then saying our car wasn't nice enough to steal and other bizarre behavior before finally admitting that it had been stolen and that they had apparently left the key in the car, which presumably made it rather easy to steal.

(For a point of reference, this is a big company, which may be why they act this way, I guess. I think they probably run like half the parking garages in New York City and their website says they're the "leading provider of parking and transportation-related services throughout North America, South America and Europe.")

Anyway, finally, the higher ups got back to us after we kept complaining. But despite some initial conciliatory words we found the same pattern of weirdly aggressive behavior toward customers that seems to run through the whole company. My wife and I were just talking to the company representative, Neal Sanderson, today who told us what the company thought it was reasonable for them to pay us. I pointed out that their offer didn't seem quite equitable since it would only buy us like a third of the car we had. And, remember, this was the car that's so lame that no one would want to steal it anyway.

Then the Monty Python portion of the conversation got underway.

Now in a graver voice, the Central Parking guy, Sanderson, said, "Well, we have evidence the car was not in mint condition. In fact, we have documentation that it had several scratches on the side ..." At this point, as a uncontrolled chuckle started to sneak out of my throat I hear my dear pregnant wife saying, "Don't even ..."

A little backstory is in order. A few months ago, one of the garage employees ground another car against ours leaving a deep scratch and some miscellaneous nicks on the drivers' side of the car. They gave us a claim ticket to get it fixed and they'd reimburse us, etc. We'd gotten the estimate. Hadn't had the work done yet. But the 'documentation' was the report of Central Parking damaging the car.

So at this juncture in the conversation I point out that this seems hard to figure how they should pay us less to replace our car, which they got stolen, because it had lost value when they banged into it.

After all, if we wanted the thing crashed into and stolen we could have saved a lot of money just parking it on the street, right? (Has anyone else had this kind of experience with this company?)

Anyway, it went from bad to worse from there.

We'll keep you posted.

Let me tell you about a new site we've launched to cover the 2006 election campaign, TPM's Election Central.

It's hosted over at TPMCafe.

Our goal is provide running news, updates and commentary on every competitive race in the country -- and even some that aren't so competitive perhaps, but still worthy of attention. Below the first post, you'll see our poll tracker, with every campaign 2006 poll released in the previous 48 hours.

The site is edited by Greg Sargent (who you probably know from New York Magazine, the American Prospect, his Horse's Mouth blog and other publications) and written by Greg, our TPM staff and our crack team of TPM interns.

Our goal is to have some new development, nugget or scoop from the campaign trail every time you return.

To make it every thing we want to make it, we need your help. If you know of a poll that just broke that we don't have, send us an email. And tell us what's going on in your district and state. We troll Google and follow all the politics sheets. But what makes us able to drill down and find stories that more conventional news outlets either can't or won't is your email, your tips and updates.

You read the papers and see the television coverage of the races in your area, go to the townhalls, get the flyers. So you're going to know first when the revealing statement gets made, when the key development happens. None of our coverage on Social Security last year would have been possible without readers keeping us posted on how the story was developing at the district level. So we're asking for your help again.

If you've got a tip or an update or just want to let us know about an angle we're missing, shoot us an email at our regular comment email address up there at the upper right hand corner with the subject line "Election Central". We'd love it if you'd be part of our project.

Thanks and let us know how we're doing.

Good article by Michael Hirsh in Newsweek on the dangers and foolishness of conflating al Qaida with Hizbullah and Hamas, and more generally how President Bush doesn't understand who he's fighting against.

The proprietor of a liberal blog on the possibility I may not agree with Juan Cole on what's going on in Lebanon: "For many of us who are not Jewish, you lose us right there. For good. Very transparent. Poof. You - as a commentator - simply cannot post critical comments about Israel and continue normal social relations with your Jewish community. Ergo, you flip."

Will Lieberman take over for Rummy? And was that the source of the problems in the first place?

Juliette Kayyem thinks it's a possibility.

Israeli Minister for Public Security, Avi Dichter, on how Israel is fighting the war. From the Times ...

Avi Dichter, the Israeli minister for public security and until recently the director of the Shin Bet counterterrorism service, said: "I don't think we were surprised by Hezbollah. If there are surprises, they're local surprises, not strategic surprises."

By that, he meant the depth and quality of Hezbollah underground bunkers and storehouses, Israeli officials said. Dichter said Israel's deliberate pace was an effort to minimize casualties, both to Israeli forces and to Lebanese civilians.

"You can do it in a short time," he said. "You can flood southern Lebanon with ground troops and you can bomb villages without warning anyone and it will be faster. But you'll kill a lot more innocent people and suffer a lot more casualties, and we don't intend to do either."

TPM Reader LS on Israel's war on Hizbullah ...

I find Juan Cole's remarks interesting, and I have some really sympathy with the indignation of Israel's targeting civilians. Here's the thing, though. I have yet to see anywhere on line an honest attempt to wrestle with the conundrum Israel faces. Hizbollah operates within civilian neighborhoods, and does things like house its weapons in apartment buildings (where people actually live). What are the military options for dealing with an enemy that positions itself in this way? It seems that a conventional state based armed force is damned if it attacks these weapons caches in that it will undoubtedly visit a huge civilian collateral damage on non-combatant civilians. It is also damned if it does nothing, allowing weapons caches to be built up and used against the state. I would be really interested to hear what military experts and the ethicists who teach, say, at West Point, are saying about this sort of dilemma of military situation. What are the rules of war in this post-Grotius, post-Clausewicz era? What should the rules of war be in this scenario? Is it even possible to devise rules of war and engagement in this circumstance? Breczinski's remarks posted by Steve Clemons suggest thinking about this as a hostage taking situation: Hizbollah is holding civilians hostage by their weapons caches. Are there other analogies out there?

Juan Cole's view on twowars in Lebanon ...

Israel's present policy toward Lebanon, of striking at so many civilian targets as to hold the entire civilian population hostage, is unspeakable.

I haven't complained about the Israeli border war with Hizbullah. I'm not sure it is wise, and I don't know how many Israelis Hizbullah even killed in, say, the year 2005. Is it really worth it? But I don't deny that Hizbullah went too far when it shelled dozens of civilian towns and cities and killed over a dozen innocent civilians, even in reprisal for the Israeli bombing campaign. (You can't target civilians. That is a prosecutable crime.) That is a clear casus belli, and I'd like to see Nasrallah tried at the Hague for all those civilian deaths he ordered. The fighting at Maroun al-Ra's and Bint Jbeil was horrible on all sides, but it was understandable, even justifiable. The fighting itself isn't going to lead anywwhere useful, though, and it is time for a ceasefire and political negotiations--the only way to actually settle such disputes.

What was done to Lebanon as a whole is among the most horrible war crimes of the young 21st century. And that it was done tells me that there is something sick in the heart of the Israeli military and political elite, a sickness of the soul that had better be faced and remedied before our entire world catches the contagion.

This is a snippet out of a much longer post. So read the whole thing. I clipped out this portion to capture the distinction Cole's drawing between the fighting near Lebanon's southern border with Israel and the bombing campaign across the breadth of Lebanon.

Late Update: This has come up in response to various items I've reprinted in recent days. So just to restate what most of you probably know, just because I reprint something here does not mean I agree with it. If I do or don't, I'll say so.