NEWS DAY | WikiLeaks, Afghan alfalfa / Islam, Tea Party and freedom / 19 Minnesota schools

Pentagon Papers and WikiLeaks – Frank Rich was writing for the Harvard Crimson and “knew the whistle-blower had to be Daniel Ellsberg” when the New York Times published the first installment of the Pentagon Papers. Today Rich is a columnist for the New York Times, with the historical perspective to remind us that

the impact of the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War (as opposed to their impact on the press) was far less momentous than last week’s chatter would suggest. No, the logs won’t change the course of our very long war in Afghanistan, but neither did the Pentagon Papers alter the course of Vietnam. What Ellsberg’s leak did do was ratify the downward trend-line of the war’s narrative. The WikiLeaks legacy may echo that. We may look back at the war logs as a herald of the end of America’s engagement in Afghanistan just as the Pentagon Papers are now a milestone in our slo-mo exit from Vietnam.

From Afghanistan comes another perspective on how badly the war is going or, more specifically, how hopeless the COIN strategy is. Ann Jones gives one example after another of failed counterinsurgency moves, from the bridge that is not connected to any roads to an American agricultural specialist’s plans to “introduce alfalfa to these waterless, rocky mountains to feed herds of cattle principally pastured in his mind.”

Yet even as I was filling my notebook with details of their delusionary schemes, the base commander told me he had already been forced to “put aside development.”  He had his hands full facing a Taliban onslaught he hadn’t expected.  Throughout Afghanistan, insurgent attacks have gone up 51% since the official adoption of COIN as the strategy du jour.  On this eastern front, where the commander had served six years earlier, he now faces a “surge” of intimidation, assassination, suicide attacks, roadside bombs, and fighters with greater technical capability than he has ever seen in Afghanistan. …

Being outside the wire had filled me with sorrow as I watched earnest, heavily armed and armored boys try to win over white-bearded Afghans — men of extraordinary dignity — who have seen all this before and know the outcome.

Ann Jones has a book out on her years “embedded with the civilians” in Afghanistan, Kabul in Winter. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Nineteen Minnesota schools will share $24 million in federal grants – a dubious distinction, since the money is designated to turn around the state’s lowest-performing schools, and comes with lots of strings attached. In an interesting choice, a MN Department of Education press release listed seven schools that did not get the grant, but not the 19 that received the funding. MPR, however, listed 32 schools that qualified to apply, and also which ones applied, received grants, or were denied grants. The 19 schools that did get the grants include:

Minneapolis: Bethune Elementary (district), Broadway High School (district, alternative), Edison Senior High (district), Hmong International Academy (district), Lucy Laney (district), New Visions (charter), Wellstone International High School (district)

St. Paul: Humboldt Senior High (district), Maxfield Magnet Elementary (district)

Suburban: Brooklyn Center Secondary (district), Northview IB World School (district-Osseo)

Statewide: Braham Area Secondary (district), Butterfield Secondary (district), Cass Lake-Bena Secondary (district), East Central Senior Secondary (district-Finlayson), Isle Secondary (district), Ogilvie Secondary (district), Ponemah Elementary (district-Red Lake), Red Lake Senior High (district), Waubun Secondary (district)

The turn-around requirements are stringent, usually including new principals as well as a full-time turnaround supervisor and more instructional hours. The turnarounds must be implemented by the time classes start in September.

“They hate dogs.” That’s among the claims in the latest round of anti-Muslim bigotry spewing from the anti-mosque organizers, reported by TPM. Tea Party and anti-mosque organizer Diane Serafin thinks that Muslims hate dogs, singing, women, Christians and Jews, and are taking over the country with Shari’a law.

“They feel there’s religious freedom,” she said. “And I know it’s there in the Constitution and everything, but everything I read says Islam is a political movement.”

“I think there’s a movement going on in the United States to take over our country,” she added.

Let’s see – she thinks religious freedom is in the constitution, but that Islam is a “political movement” and it’s constitutional and proper to repress a political movement?

There definitely is a political movement, with religious ties, that lacks basic familiarity with and commitment to the guarantees in the Bill of Rights and constitution. But it’s not Islam.

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