Josh Marshall

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I'm just beginning to reread Between the Woods and the Water and remembering just how good a book it is.

As noted before, it's out of print. But it turns out there are several places you can find a copy. So let me point a few out. has a few used copies available. You can also get used copies at And the book is apparently still in print in hardcover in the United Kingdom so you can grab a copy at Amazon UK. And a paperback edition is apparently coming out in the UK in a few months.

It seems there's no end of dirty laundry in the hamper of George Argyros, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Spain and Andorra.

Right about the time President Bush was nominating him as Ambassador to Spain, the local district attorney's office was getting ready to sue him and his company Arnel Management Co. for defrauding numerous middle and low-income renters out security deposits, over-charging for repairs, and various other bad acts. Here's the original complaint.

This could have been a major obstacle in the way to getting approved as Ambassador, an appointment Argyros had earned by raising what the Orange County Register tallied up as "tens of millions for Bush's campaign and the GOP." (The LA Times said he "headed a $30-million fund-raising effort in California last year for President Bush.")

Luckily, Argyros' friend Tony Rackauckas is the District Attorney. And he helped put the kibosh on the whole unfortunate matter by getting Argyros' name pulled from the suit. Then, when he was accused of a conflict of interest because Argyros had donated money to his campaign, Rackauckas decided he was really more of a good government man after all and referred the case to the state citing his conflict. These clever shenanigans kept the whole thing on ice long enough to help GA get his ambassadorship. And eventually the state and Arnel settled.

If you're from Orange County you no doubt have heard plenty about this sorry tale. If not, you can check out this site put up by disgruntled members of the DA's Office. Or check out some of the many articles the OCWeekly has written on the subject.

Later: more on GA's long, twilight struggle to force Orange County residents to build an airport with a runway that flies into a mountain.

Here's a complicated but interesting article in Roll Call about Enron and a group of long-time Tom DeLay operatives.

The article, frankly, is a bit hard to make heads or tails of. But I think this is less a matter of the quality of the reporting (which is first-rate) than the inherent complexity or even intentional opacity of what the reporters were looking at.

Briefly, three long-time Tom DeLay advisor/ operatives -- Ed Buckham, Karl Gallant, and John Hoy -- got themselves hired by Enron to put together an astroturf activism campaign in favor of electricity deregulation. This was all done with the assistance, of some sort, of DeLay.

In any case, who's really interesting here is Karl Gallant.

Gallant has been buzzing around the Majority Whip's political operation for the last several years -- most conspicuously as head of the Republican Majority Issues Committee. But his activities are much more complex and varied. He is one of the pioneers of astroturf organizing -- i.e., phony, ginned-up, grass-roots activism -- which he's employed principally on behalf of the tobacco industry, but also gun-rights advocates, the National Right to Work Committee, various other anti-regulatory and anti-tax efforts, and myriad Republican candidates.

And now Enron.

More on Gallant soon.

More on Doug Paal's appointment as envoy to Taiwan. According to Tuesday's Taipei Times, AIT spokesperson Judith Mudd-Krijgelmans says Paal's appointment remains on track.

More follow-up on Douglas Paal's appointment to serve as United States envoy to Taipei.

The Washington Post's In The Loop column took note of the New Republic article on Friday. (See bottom item, "Undone Deal?")

Today the Taipei Times said "Speculation is mounting that the nomination of Douglas Paal to head the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) could be withdrawn, as an article on Paal in a conservative US newsweekly (sic) has once again called his appointment into question."

Early this afternoon State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher was asked about the status of Paal's appointment.

Question: "Question about Taiwan. Can you comment about the possible withdrawal of Douglas Paal's nomination as Washington's envoy to Taipei"

State Dept. Spokesman: "I haven't heard any discussion of that"

Question: "And is it true that his appointment is being held up because of a delayed FBI background check?"

State Dept. Spokesman: "I wouldn't discuss anything like that anyway … don't know."

More soon.

We were about to post the second addition to the TPM Book List, Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Unfortunately, it turns out that the book is out of print. So it's not appropriate for the book list (we'll be adding a replacement soon). But I still couldn't help sharing with you how marvelous a book it is.

The book is classic travel-writing. Fermor, an Englishman and classically so, was born in 1915. And in 1934 he more or less walked from Holland to Constantinople. It took him about eighteen months. The first leg of the trip is chronicled in a book called A Time of Gifts, regrettably also apparently out of print.

Between the Woods and the Water covers travels through Hungary and Rumania. I'm actually not sure whether the third installment was ever written, or for that matter whether Fermor is still alive to write it.

Purely as a piece of writing the book is beautiful and a wonderful read. But the ever-present subtext is the Second World War. Not only will many of the characters in the book -- the people Fermor meets and attaches himself to along the way -- be dead in a decade. More than that, you realize that this whole world will disappear. Shattered first by the on-rush of fascism, both domestic and German, then ripped apart by the war, then smothered under decades of rule as Soviet client-states.

This could easily play like an easy cliche. (I would expect it to if I were reading this short review.) But in Fermor's hands it's something far richer and grand. He manages to tell a captivating story, which captures the un-rushed nature of the moment, while weaving it together with an effortless mix of erudition and history.

It's out of print so I don't want to spend too much time on it. But this is a book you can fall in love with. Amazon appears to have a few used copies available.

By all means, grab one if you can.

We'd like to announce that Talking Points Memo is now accepting contribution payments through the PayPal payments system. Of course, we've long taken payments through But some readers have said they don't like paying through Amazon, for various reasons. So, if you're one of those who feel that way, this is another option.

The money gets through to us fine either way. So take your pick. And, you know, give early and often.

The story that TPM broke yesterday afternoon (that Judge John D. Bates, has been assigned to hear the Cheney/GAO case) has now been picked up by Dana Milbank at the Washington Post. Don Van Natta's piece in the Times is still, well ... Bates-less.

You heard it here TPM World Exclusive!  You heard it hear first!  Must Credit.first. The all-important Cheney/GAO case has been assigned to Judge John Bates.

Bates is a Bush appointee who was confirmed only on December 11th, 2001. He's considered a moderate Republican.

Carter Phillips of Sidley & Austin has, apparently, been retained by the GAO to argue their case.

Late Update: Judge Bates served as Deputy Independent Counsel under Ken Starr from September 1995 until leaving in March 1997.

That year Bates argued the case in which an appeals court ruled that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton had to turn over notes of conversations about Whitewater.

During that proceedings, in April 1997, Bates told the court "We certainly are investigating individuals, and those individuals -- including Mrs. Clinton -- could be indicted."

Less than a year later, in January 1998, when Starr was coming under fire for partisan bias, Bates told the Washington Post ...

The independent counsel's office has been staffed over the last several years by professional prosecutors with enormous experience who have diligently and properly followed relevant leads in an attempt to discover the truth. These individuals are not partisans who are on a mission but rather professionals who take their jobs and obligations seriously.

The two are far from identical, but it sure will be interesting to see the arguments Bates made about the earlier case of turning over notes.

The Reed-Rove-Bush-Enron Connection: pitiful, but aberrant, embarrassment? Or telling sign of a deeper pattern?

Let's review what we already know.

Back in 1997 Karl Rove recommended Reed for a pricey consulting contract with Enron. According to sources cited in this New York Times article, the idea was to send a lot of money Reed's way -- not from, but in some sense on behalf of Bush 2000 -- so as to keep him in the Bush camp. It seemed like a way for the Bush campaign to keep Reed happy but, shall we say, off the books. You might even call it an outside partnership.

We now know from this more recent article from the Post that Reed was doing what's called 'astroturf' organizing (phony grass-roots activism) for Enron.

This looks at least pretty similar to another set-up Reed had going at about the same time.

Back in 1999 and 2000, I wrote a series of articles on Ralph Reed and Microsoft. At the time Microsoft was working the political system hard to ward off the Justice Department's antitrust suit. That included spreading a lot of money around conservative circles and investing a lot in a possible future Bush presidency.

They also hired Ralph Reed to do astroturf work for them. This was during the same period of time when Reed was some vague sort of 'advisor' to the incipient Bush campaign but not an official consultant.

There's more.

Reed did his work for Microsoft in conjunction with a guy named Tom Synhorst, a phone-bank maven specializing in astroturf work. (Reed and Synhorst were involved in setting up a number of front groups for Microsoft which agitated against the antitrust suit.)

By the time I wrote this article in mid-2000, Reed and Synhorst were also both working for Bush. In fact, back in 1999, they had been getting ready to ambush John McCain on Bush's behalf in South Carolina, as I discussed in this other article.

What's interesting here, however, is the timing. Reed and Synhorst were part of a close-knit group of political advisors working with Rove and Bush as far back as 1997.

Here's what Ceci Connolly said in a profile of Bush in the St. Petersburg Times in May 1997.

Officially, Rove and Bush are thinking no further than 1998. However, it is no secret they talk regularly to prominent strategists such as Iowa's Tom Synhorst, Californian Don Sipple and outgoing Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed. Everyone in the group knows Bush needs a tax cut to compete with the other big-name Republican governors who have led the way.
We know that Rove got Reed the Enron gig in 1997 (mobilizing evangelical revivalism for electricity deregulation) to keep him on ice for Bush. He got his gig with Microsoft in 1998.

Are we talking about a similar set-up here?

More on this tomorrow.