aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Fred Kaplan War Stories: Lost Voices
Seven noncommissioned officers of the 82nd Airborne Division wrote an op-ed in the Aug. 19 New York Times, calling the prospect of victory “far-fetched” and appraisals of progress “surreal.” Two of them died in Iraq on Monday. A third was shot in the head during a firefight before the op-ed piece was published.
[The two who died, Staff Sgt. Yance T. Gray, 26, and Sgt. Omar Mora, 28,] were inveterate readers of history, and they relished talking about books on civil wars and insurgencies-and how those histories related to the war that they were fighting-for hours after returning from a patrol.
In other words, these were precisely the sorts of soldiers that Gen. Petraeus is trying to groom for a new U.S. Army attuned to the requirements of 21st-century warfare: soldiers who fight valiantly and think strategically.
It would have been interesting had some congressman or senator asked Petraeus what he thought of these aspiring acolytes’ observations. After Petraeus cited claims of improvements in the Iraqi army’s performance, some legislator should have recited the seven NCOs’ description of the “Janus-faced” Iraqi security forces who are trained by U.S. personnel by day and help insurgents plant bombs that maim those same American soldiers by night. [...]
When the op-ed appeared three weeks ago, I wrote a column predicting that it would make an impact, that some would invoke it as “a set of boots-on-the-ground rebuttal points” to the “lofty claims” in the then-forthcoming Petraeus report. It is galling that so many pundits and legislators touted a Times op-ed by two Brookings scholars who spent eight days in Iraq and came away persuaded that the war might be won-but paid virtually no attention to the far more unusual, even unprecedented, op-ed by seven active-duty soldiers still based in Iraq, some on their second or third tour of duty, who dared to step forth and argue otherwise.
I’m not saying that, because the NCOs are grunts, they’re right-or that, because Petraeus is a commanding general, he’s wrong. I’m just saying it would have been good to have that dialogue. It would be good to have soldiers who think in these terms rising through the ranks. My guess is that Petraeus wouldn’t disagree. The question is how many more smart, brave soldiers we’ll lose while the rest of the nation sidesteps the debate.
Acapella ain’t what it used to be
Report: Most Georgia police have no eyewitness guidelines
Not exactly surprising, the findings will be presented at a legislative hearing tomorrow at the state Capitol in Atlanta:
Hundreds of law enforcement agencies in Georgia have no specific guidelines governing the collection of eyewitness evidence, according to a preliminary report from the Georgia Innocence Project.
Eighty-three percent of the 296 police agencies surveyed by the group reported no written rules on the handling of eyewitness identification, the group found. [...]
The Georgia Innocence Project, which was involved in the cases of three of the men cleared in Georgia, has been pushing for uniformity and higher standards for the ID process. The group argues that witnesses are not intentionally fabricating information but that human memory is fallible.
The group compiled its report after sending open records requests to 500 law enforcement agencies throughout Georgia. Of those, 130 failed to respond. The group has analyzed 296 of the responses received so far. [...]
Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, an Atlanta Democrat, fought to pass an eyewitness ID bill last year. But opposition by prosecutors brought the measure to a standstill.
Prosecutors have also been key to the funding cuts for pubic defenders. Last year pay was cut for lawyers who represent indigents facing capital charges and then in May 41 full-time jobs - 12 percent of the work force - were eliminated.
Last week several human rights organizations demanded the state increase spending for public defenders. Maggie reminds us “the prosecution spends money, too. For every defense expert, there’s probably another prosecution expert. It goes both ways.”
Georgia’s refusal to adequately fund the defense of capital cases is not an isolated incident. In fact, numerous studies have reported the same failure in the vast majority of death penalty states.
The problem is particularly acute in “the death belt,” which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Missouri, and now (once again) Georgia, among others.
Inadequate funding means inadequate legal representation and unfair trials. The climbing number of exonerations of innocent people makes it painfully clear that substandard representation is unacceptable.
Jim Marshall (D-GA): still not liberal
Through the last three election cycles the unsuccessful Republican strategy to defeat Macon Bush Dog Jim Marshall (for those who don’t click, I’m steamed by the stupid liberal targeting of Marshall) has consistently been to paint him as a liberal out of step with his conservative Republican district.
So it should not be surprising to find that the National Republican Congressional Committee is trying to associate the guy with the full page MoveOn.org ad in the NYTimes referring to Gen. David Petraeus as “General Betray Us.” The NRCC is calling on Marshall to give back a campaign donation from MoveOn.org.
What is surprising - and pleasantly so - is to find that MoveOn actually contributed to Marshall!
Well it turns out that contribution came in 2000. That’s before Sept. 11, before the Iraq war and before Marshall got elected to Congress.
“Will Jim Marshall, who has benefited in the past from over $3,000 in campaign cash from MoveOn.org, do more than pay lip service to the group’s despicable behavior and give up the money MoveOn gave him?” the NRCC’s news release asks.[...]
Marshall’s press secretary, Doug Moore, was more than happy to point out a television interview Marshall gave shortly after Petraeus’ report on Iraq this week.
“(It was) not at all a fair characterization of the character of Dave Petraeus,” Marshall said.
Marshall also said Iraqis should look forward to the day when they can take out newspaper ads that amount to “a vicious attack against a commanding general ... without fear of physical reprisal.”
As for the substance of Petraeus’ report, Moore said Marshall found it “spot on.”
Ken Spain, press secretary for the NRCC, said the group stands behind its news release. He said Marshall should give back the money and speak out against Democrats who are jumping on Petraeus and calling his report to Congress less-than-accurate.
Here’s how Marshall’s likely opponent reacted:
[R]etired Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Goddard, who is campaigning to be the Republican nominee to face Marshall in the 8th Congressional District, put out a statement about Petraeus’ report earlier this week.
An excerpt: “I found it utterly disgusting for Moveon.org to question General Petraeus’ patriotism when he has spent the last 40 years of his life defending this nation. Moveon.org may not support this war, but to call General Petraeus a traitor is cowardice and un-American.”
However, Petraeus, 54, has not spent the last 40 years of his life defending this nation. Forty years ago, in 1967, the general was still in high school in upstate New York. He graduated from West Point in 1974.
By the way, there’s been no word lately from former Congressman Mac Collins, who said he’s considering another run against Marshall and would face Goddard in the primary.
My 2Ã‚Â¢ on the ad is that I am not willing to be held captive to the Right Wing construction that using such language about Petraeus is by implication going after the brave men and women he commands, but I do agree with James Joyner that it’s not the level of discourse I favor.
Wish this could happen in Georgia
There’s got to be some liberals with big money up there in Alpharetta. I sure wish they’d put it to work. And use Colorado as a model...
On Friday The Denver Post reprinted an excerpt from Chapter 9, “Move Over, Christian Coalition: The New Political Kingmakers,” of Richistan: A Journey Through The American Wealth Boom And The Lives of The New Rich, by Robert Frank:
The group began with a lunch. Al Yates, the retired president of Colorado State University and one of the state’s most powerful and distinguished African Americans, sat down in the spring of 2003 with his friend Ken Salazar, then the state’s attorney general . The two had grown increasingly frustrated with the state’s leadership. Colorado’s education system was faltering. Its health-care system was a mess. Job growth had slowed following the technology and telecom bust of 2001 and 2002. The Republicans in the legislature and governor’s office were spending much of their time waging an ideological crusade against the Left, introducing bills targeting liberal college professors and pushing legislation banning the discussion of homosexuality in the classroom. They also backed a resolution to support a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Salazar and Yates wanted change. They knew they couldn’t rely on the existing political establishment, so they decided to try to create a political movement of their own.
They started holding informal meetings with leading Democratic thinkers and businesspeople. The group didn’t talk about specific policies, but rallied around broad values associated with “progressive politics” - social justice, fairness and creating greater opportunity for even the poorest Coloradans. Rutt Bridges was one of the first members. Also onboard was Pat Stryker, a low-profile mom who is worth an estimated $1.4 billion from her stake in her family’s medical-supply company, Stryker Corp.
In early 2004, Yates called Tim Gill, a tall, lanky computer geek who made more than $400 million during the tech boom. Gill had devoted millions to antidiscrimination measures for gays and lesbians around the country, so when the Denver legislature started becoming a hotbed of antigay legislation, Gill vowed revenge. “My philosophy during the 2004 election cycle was ‘punish the wicked,’ “ he says, sitting in his art-deco mansion across from the Denver Country Club. “I wanted to stop all the antigay bills from going through.”
The group had one unifying goal: ousting the Republicans.
Aside from funding ads, the group recruited Democrats to run for office. Being a Democrat in the Colorado legislature had become a dead-end career path, since their bills were often quashed by the Republicans. The Gang of Four scouted for bright, aspiring Democrats and helped fund their campaigns. They also funded negative ad campaigns against up-and-coming conservatives, to stop them before they became powerful.
“Marilyn Musgrave started on the school board,” Gill says. “She would have been so much cheaper to nuke when she was on the school board or even when she was in the legislature. We need to be vigilant and find politicians who are bad and stop them when it’s cheap rather than allowing them to get into an expensive position.” [...]
[P]ollsters and Republicans say the Gang of Four was largely responsible for the 2004 upset.
“They all came together and they had a profound effect,” said Floyd Ciruli, a Denver-based independent pollster. “But for them, the Democrats wouldn’t have won.”
Whether or not we on the left are noticing (the gang of four is too conservative and conventional to be lauded by the netroots), those on the Right are. Here’s The Family Research Council commenting on the same article (scroll down).