Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The weirdest thing we've learned so far about 'Richard Reid' is that his name actually seems to be Richard Reid. According to the Wednesday London Times, fingerprints from the FBI have positively identified the shoe-exploding suspect as a small-time British criminal named Richard C. Reid. A British national with an English mother and a Jamaican father, Reid had a "string of convictions for street crime such as muggings" and converted to Islam while in prison.

Articles in various other papers also provide a host of details which give a pretty clear sense of where this story is going. The AP says Reid had belonged to an Islamist organization called "Tabliq" but quit because they were "not radical enough." The London Times said Reid's mom went looking for him at the local mosque a few months ago after he went to Pakistan and stopped communicating with this family.

Perhaps most disturbing is the report that Reid attended the same Mosque that was home to Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, who has just gone on trial in Virgina. AbdulHaqq Baker, chairman of the Brixton Mosque, says he's sure Reid couldn't have been acting alone basically because Reid was too much of a doofus to have cooked up the whole plan by himself - a charge which seems amply supported by the just-released mug-shot, above.

I guess we could call this 'crony-watch.' Here's the scoop. Last Friday, long-time Gore insider Peter S. Knight sent friends an email informing them that he was taking a job as managing director of Metropolitan West Financial. That's the LA-based asset management company Al Gore signed on with as Vice Chairman last month.

Even absolute rulers have to delegate, right? Well, someone's got to tell the Sultan of Brunei - the oil-rich, mini-state perched on the edge of Malaysia. The Sultan's bio on the Brunei national website says:

Besides being the Sultan and the Ruler, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah is concurrently the Prime Minister, Defence Minister, Finance Minister, and head of the religion of Brunei Darussalam. Being a working monarch, he is involved in the conduct of the State affairs internally and internationally.
A working monarch, indeed!

Not the fog of war perhaps, but maybe we should call this the fog of terrorism. In the last post we noted the Washington Post report that 'Richard Reid' - alleged shoe-igniter - was really Sri Lankan national Tariq Raja.

Now CNN - relying on a Scotland Yard spokesman - seems to imply that the man really is a British national and perhaps even is Richard Reid, but changed his name to Abdel Raheem after converting to Islam.

More striking still, one of the subduers of the man in question - a Frenchman who happens to be a journalist - says the man had "light skin." That seems hard to square with the picture opposite unless the FBI guy is the stoned-looking dude on the right with the pull-over hood.

P.S. At least now we know he had exploding shoes.

I'm not sure whether it was admirable discretion or facile, unhelpful political correctness (I'm leaning heavily toward the latter) behind the networks' initial decision to ignore or keep mum about the question most everyone, yesterday, was likely asking about 'Richard Reid,' the guy who tried to light his shoes on fire aboard that flight from Paris to Miami: his seeming ethnic extraction.

For better or worse, people trying to discover whether this was Al Qaeda-related would want to know whether the suspect was a Muslim.

His apparent identification as 28 year old Sri Lankan national Tariq Raja doesn't completely resolve the matter. 'Tariq' is an Arabic name, as far as I know. And in South Asia I would assume it signifies being a Muslim. Yet, according to the CIA, Sri Lanka is only 7% Muslim. Of course, how little we know about what's happening here is driven home by the fact that some government officials are refusing to rule out the possibility that the guy was just trying to light a cigarette.

Look, I don't want to take anything from Rudy Giuliani. The Fall of 2001 has been his finest hour. Actually, hold on. I'll take a bit away from him: I hear that for the last month or so he's been completely checked out on his job and has been focusing on lining up gigs for his post-mayoralty consulting gig. But I'm not gonna give him a hard time over that. His performance in the midst of tragedy will go down in history, and his mayoralty - though certainly a more mixed picture - seems unquestionably historic.

But Time's decision to make Giuliani its Person of the Year represents a colossal failure of nerve and honesty. And it may even be a small sign of the baleful effects of media industry conglomeration.

Time's self-described criteria for the designation is "the one person on Earth who has had the biggest effect on history throughout the year -- for better or worse."

Can anybody say with a straight face that that person is Rudy Giuliani and not Osama bin Laden?

I've gotten another request that TPM add a section or recurring item featuring reader comments. I'm considering it. One of the things I like about TPM is its simplicity and relative featurelessness. But perhaps this would be a good addition.

Okay, a few quick points to run down. This piece at ABCNews.com has a helpful run-down of the various political and faction leaders in and around the new Afghan government.

This article from the New York Times makes it look like I'm pretty much definitely going to have to pay out on that bet with my friend from the Washington Post over whether John Walker is going to end up doing time.

I've gotten a lot of folks suggesting that I post the list of news and commentary links that I work from on my computer desktop each day. I use it as my homepage, and a number of my friends now do as well. Of course, it'd only be useful as your homepage if you're interested in the selections of domestic and foreign news and commentary sites it contains. In any case, you be the judge.

Good December 19th post by Marshall Wittman on new GOP Chairman Marc Racicot (I wish Marshall had links to specific posts like TPM, but alas ...). Racicot is insisting on remaining a corporate lobbyist while serving as GOP party chair. One might be forgiven for snarkily commenting that, in practice, shilling for the GOP and "energy, agricultural and recording industry interests" probably doesn't amount to such a conflict after all. But Marshall's got a good point. If Racicot gives a damn about the Republican party, he'll take Marshall's advice and make a choice between the job and the bucks. Of course, as a Dem, I just assume he keeps the job and brings on a few more clients. At the top of my list would be the Asbestos Council, Association of PCB Manufacturers, or maybe the Saccharine Institute.

Finally, am I the only one who wonders why there's a dorky, goofballian singing segment at the end of Larry King Live ever since September 11th? I mean, isn't it bad enough we have to endure terrorism?

I'm not sure when the New York Times is going to stop calling the 'B' Section 'A Nation Challenged,' but today's section is packed with interesting pieces.

This article shows how the rule of the Taliban was in many ways an example of a common process one sees recurring throughout history: circumstances wherein the collapse or mutual destruction of urban elites leads to armies from the countryside taking over and imposing the backward ways of rural villages on the cities (sorta like GOP control of the House of Reps! ... okay, sorry, just kidding ... back to our story). As the article explains, in many ways, the rigid rule we associate with the Taliban - enforced-burqa-wearing, no education for girls - has always been standard fare in many villages of southern Afghanistan, the region where most of the Taliban leaders came from. What was new was the imposition of these severe customs on the more educated and cosmopolitan cities, as well as their enforcement in other regions of the country where such a harsh code had never been known.

John Walker's parents and lawyer have been expressing increasing frustration that Walker - presently cooling his heels on the U.S.S. Peleliu in the Arabian Sea - has thus far not been allowed to meet with his lawyer. The White House responds that for the moment at least Walker is simply a prisoner of war and has no constitutional rights per se until he's bounced over into the judicial system.

Whatever problems one might have with military tribunals, is it really possible to gainsay the White House response on this one?

The Post raises the possibility that information collected now under military interrogation might not be admissible in a subsequent court proceeding. And a visit from the Red Cross would seem to be in order, though perhaps not a Red Cross-delivered letter from the 'rents.

But isn't it just ludicrous to assume that John Walker - at best a prisoner of war taken by the US armed forces - has the same rights as someone arrested in the United States for a criminal offense?