THE OTHER SHOE DROPS: Updates To Previous Posts
† It’s Past Time For Iraq To Stop Sponging Off U.S. Taxpayers: A couple of months back, Robert Kaplan, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, wrote a chilling op-ed in The New York Times that made the case “American troops are providing security for a Chinese state-owned company to exploit the Aynak copper reserves, which are worth tens of billions of dollars. … [W]hile America is sacrificing its blood and treasure [in Afghanistan], the Chinese will reap the benefits.” This exact scenario is playing out in Iraq, which awarded lucrative 20-year oilfield service contracts to Chinese, Russian and Angolan companies, reports Reuters:
The United States spent blood and treasure on an Iraq invasion critics said was for oil, but U.S. oil majors were largely absent from an Iraqi auction of oil deals. …
Iraqi officials said this proved their independence from U.S. control, and that their two bidding rounds for deals to tap Iraq's vast oil reserves - the world's third largest - were free of foreign political interference. …
No U.S. firms bid for fields offered in the second round, and of the four fields bid on by U.S. firms in the first round, only Exxon Mobil won a major prize, leading a group to clinch a deal for the supergiant West Qurna Phase One field. …
The U.S. showing is far from the predictions of some invasion critics, who envisaged domination of Iraqi oil by a triumphant U.S. administration in the thrall of U.S. oil majors.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that our treasure continues to be squandered in Iraq, even as Congressional Democrats are pressing the Obama administration to figure out how to pay for his Afghanistan surge – some, even advocating levying a “war tax”:
Even as the U.S. military scrambles to support a troop surge in Afghanistan, it is donating passenger vehicles, generators and other equipment worth tens of millions of dollars to the Iraqi government.
Under new authority granted by the Pentagon, U.S. commanders in Iraq may now donate to the Iraqis up to $30 million worth of equipment from each facility they leave, up from the $2 million cap established when the guidelines were first set in 2005. …
Some of the items that commanders may now leave behind, including passenger vehicles and generators, are among what commanders in Afghanistan need most urgently, according to Pentagon memos. …
U.S. commanders in Iraq say they have been judicious in assessing what equipment to earmark for donation. Alan F. Estevez, a deputy undersecretary of defense, wrote in an e-mail that "an important and vital goal is to leave behind fully functioning bases to the Government of Iraq to enable Iraq's civil capacities."
But a U.S. military official critical of the process said the new regulations allow too much latitude to commanders, provide little oversight and fail to account for the urgent need of American forces in Afghanistan, which need the same kinds of items that the troops in Iraq are leaving behind.
"How can a generator or an SUV or a relocatable building be excess if you are buying the very same thing and sending it to Afghanistan?" said the official, who is involved in the process and spoke on the condition of anonymity [emphasis, The Stiletto].
Good question - especially as Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced at a press conference that his country would not be able to pay for its own security forces until 2024. As The New York Times notes, “The timing of Mr. Karzai’s pronouncement was not ideal: this coming week [Defense Secretary Robert Gates] has been summoned to explain to Congress the expected $30 billion a year it will cost for the escalation of the Afghan war.”
† Home-Grown Muslim Terrorism Discombobulates The Media: In a May 2007 nationwide survey of Muslim Americans by the Pew Research Center, nearly half (47 percent) said they think of themselves as Muslim first, American second, and 26 percent said there are circumstances in which suicide bombings are acceptable. At the time, the MSM bent over backwards not to acknowledge the possibility that the survey suggested there could be more than half a million people living amongst us who can justify terrorism against American civilians in certain situations.
Now that Pakistani authorities have arrested American Muslims Ramy Zamzam, 22; Umar Chaudhry, 24; Waqar Khan, 22; Ahmad A. Minni, 20; and Aman Hassan Yemer, 18 (these last three are U.S.-born) - who allegedly wanted to join al-Qaeda and go to Afghanistan to kill U.S. troops – it’s interesting to see the MSM finally start to connect the dots, though The Washington Post remains unable or unwilling to report the implications of the Pew survey honestly.
Los Angeles Times: "Radicalization is clearly happening in the U.S.," said Mitchell Silber, director of analysis for the Intelligence Division of the New York Police Department. "In years past, you couldn't say that about the U.S. You could say it about Europe."
Some feel radicalization in the United States has been worse than authorities thought for some time.
"People focused on the idea that we're different, we're better at integrating Muslims than Europe is," said Zeyno Baran, a scholar at the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington. "But there's radicalization - especially among converts [and] newcomers, such as the Somali case shows. I think young U.S. Muslims today are as prone to radicalization as Muslims in Europe." …
In contrast to the heightened extremist activity in the United States, Europe has remained relatively calm this year. But the West needs to keep up its guard on both sides of the Atlantic, said Farhad Khosrokhavar, an Iranian French scholar who interviewed jailed extremists for his book "Inside Jihadism."
"You can be middle-class and have bright prospects but become a jihadist," he said. "We have to broaden the analysis. This idea of American exceptionalism, the comparison with Europe, should not blind us to the fact that we are going toward a broader participation in jihad."
The Washington Post: A spike in terrorism cases involving U.S. citizens is challenging long-held assumptions that Muslims in Europe are more susceptible to radicalization than their better-assimilated counterparts in the United States. …
Several U.S. and international terrorism analysts say that American Muslims, as a group, remain more prosperous, assimilated and moderate than those in Europe. But the analysts also note that immigration trends, the global spread of a militant Islamism and controversial actions by the United States and its allies since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks increase the chances that U.S. Muslims could carry out a domestic attack.
"The U.S. is experiencing what countries like the U.K. have gone through several years ago," said Sajjan Gohel, director of international security at the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a research organization in London. "The worry for the U.S. is there will be a similar blow-back of homegrown terrorism."
A 2007 study by the Pew Research Center found that most Muslim Americans are "decidedly American" in income, education and attitudes, rejecting extremism by larger margins than Muslim minorities in Europe [emphasis, The Stiletto].
The New York Times: As the years passed after Sept. 11, 2001, without another major attack on American soil and with no sign of hidden terrorist cells, many counterterrorism specialists reached a comforting conclusion: Muslims in the United States were not very vulnerable to radicalization.
American Muslims, the reasoning went, were well assimilated in diverse communities with room for advancement. They showed little of the alienation often on display among their European counterparts, let alone attraction to extremist violence.
But with a rash of recent cases in which Americans have been accused of being drawn into terrorist scheming, the rampage at Fort Hood, Tex., last month and now the alarming account of five young Virginia men who went to Pakistan and are suspected of seeking jihad, the notion that the United States has some immunity against homegrown terrorists is coming under new scrutiny.
Editorial Note: This Associated Press article details the difficulty in investigating and prosecuting home-grown terror cases: If the FBI moves in to stop a nascent terrorist plot from being carried out, prosecutors may not have enough evidence to get a jury to convict on terrorism or attempted murder charges. The Zazi case (last item) is a perfect illustration.
† Faster Internet For Islamofascists: Terrorism investigators say that the arrests in Pakistan of the five young Muslim men from Northern VA who allegedly tried to join al-Qaeda indicates that terrorist recruiters are increasingly turning to the Internet to connect with would-be jihadis, reports The Washington Post:
Investigators and terrorism experts say recruitment worldwide has become far more Web-based, with recruiters playing a critical role in identifying potential radicals and determining whether they can be trusted. …
"Online recruiting has exponentially increased, with Facebook, YouTube and the increasing sophistication of people online," a high-ranking Department of Homeland Security official said Saturday on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
But criminal investigators said the explosion of online communication made it extraordinarily difficult to monitor, and they indicated that their tracking abilities were limited by constitutional and privacy considerations. "Other countries may have different capabilities, and those are capabilities we don't have," said one federal law enforcement official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
Ironically, terrorism experts said one reason for the growth of online recruiting is the success of efforts by the United States and other nations to penetrate Islamist terrorist networks and Muslim communities since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. …
Experts said the case of the Northern Virginia men is especially troublesome because it apparently involved recruiting on YouTube, a Web site with mass appeal that is extremely difficult to monitor. …
In most cases, experts said, potential recruits are the ones who reach out to radical Web sites and chat rooms in the hopes of finding someone to introduce them to a militant group.
"A recruiter does not radicalize a person from scratch," said Manuel R. Torres Soriano, a terrorism expert in Spain, where the Internet played a key role in influencing some of the perpetrators of the 2004 Madrid train bombings. "They deal with people who are already ready to die."
As it happened, while a recruiter for the Pakistani Taliban vouched for the American jihadis, leaders of several extremist groups suspected they were CIA plants and wanted nothing to do with them.
† The Nobel Peace Prize? Really?: Noting that Human Rights Day is the same day President Barack Hussein Obama receives his Nobel Peace Prize, actress and activist Angelina Jolie discusses the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, and a Council on Foreign Relations report funded by the Jolie-Pitt Foundation that “offers recommendations to improve the U.N. Security Council's responsiveness by discouraging vetoes in cases of mass atrocities, while urging the United States to make clear its willingness to act on its own if necessary.” She also takes the Obama administration to task for not doing more to stop the bloodshed in this Newsweek op-ed:
How is the Obama administration's approach to Sudan an evolution of justice? In addition, when the administration says it intends to work to "improve the lives of the people of Darfur," I would like to know what that means, besides the obvious point that their lives could hardly get worse.
And what will be the precedent set for future leaders? Will they end up receiving high-level international attention, and remain free to pocket financial assistance and aid relief pouring into their country? Is there incentive for them to act with impunity or will they fear they'll be held accountable?
In Sudan, the administration should explore ways to bring al-Bashir to justice, even as it encourages stability in Darfur. This means bringing all permanent members of the U.N. Security Council on board to send the message that the international community will not tolerate mass atrocities.
I also hope we will act sooner and more powerfully to prevent future atrocities. …
Holding perpetrators of mass atrocities accountable is the best way to ensure justice today and peace in the future. Sudan is the place to start.
Federal funding for performance pay in public schools would quadruple, to $400 million a year, under a bill moving through Congress that reflects the growing political momentum behind an education reform idea once considered anathema to many Democrats and labor leaders.
The Teacher Incentive Fund, launched during the Bush administration, has become a priority for President Obama. It has awarded more than 30 grants to school systems, states and public charter schools to develop new ways to reward top-performing teachers and principals in high-needs schools, with student test scores a significant factor but not the only one. Classroom evaluations are also considered. …
The increase in performance pay funding, now at $97 million a year, is included in an omnibus spending bill approved by the House on Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure Sunday, and Obama has said he will sign it.
The WaPo also spotlights LA’s groundbreaking approach to teacher training and performance evaluation:
Through an initiative that Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls a model for the nation, Louisiana has become the first state to tie student test scores into a chain of evaluation that reaches all the way to teacher colleges. Those that fail to perform on this new metric someday could face shake-ups or, in extreme cases, closure. …
The movement to overhaul public education through high-stakes testing has accelerated since the 2002 No Child Left Behind law mandated an expansion of standardized exams and put low-performing schools in jeopardy. Now, the Obama administration wants to use test scores to help evaluate teachers and the institutions that train them. Louisiana provides the most aggressive example.
UL-Lafayette, a major teacher producer in the Acadiana region, is working to fix possible flaws in its program that the state Board of Regents identified in August. The report examined three years of test data from classrooms led by first- and second-year teachers to determine which teacher preparation programs had the strongest impact. …
Duncan has said that many education schools do a "mediocre job" in preparing teachers, but he has praised Louisiana often. "This is simply having the courage to say that great teaching matters," Duncan said last month. "Why is it today that we have only one state operating in this manner?"
Reports show that Florida and Texas are moving toward linking test scores and teacher preparation. Maryland and Virginia officials said they are studying Louisiana's approach.
† The Poetry Corner: Part II (second item): On Friday’s “Tonight Show,” Conan O'Brien had “Emmy award winning master thespian" William Shatner back on to read excerpts from Sarah Palin's best-selling memoir, "Going Rogue," accompanied by bongos (transcript courtesy of The Christian Science Monitor):
"One year while stalking sheep, I disappeared..."
"I always remind people from outside our state that there's plenty of room for all of Alaska's animals [pause] - right next to the mashed potatoes."
"Kid Rock is very pro-America. Also has common sense ideas."
Then to whooping and thunderous applause that lasted at least half a minute, Palin made an unannounced appearance to read from Shatner's autobiography, "Up Till Now":
"What made TJ Hooker's character so interesting is he remembered the old rule of law enforcement. Of course I understand he robbed that bank because you have no self-esteem - BOOM, taste my nightstick!"
"My whole being resonated with an incredible feeling that I was going to go visit with an elephant on a starlit, moonless night in Africa and I was going to visit that elephant in my underwear."
"As I finished Mr. Tambourine Man I glanced over at Johnny Carson who had a look of astonishment on his face vaguely similar to look on Spock's face when his brain was missing."
As Palin and Shatner walked off stage arm-in-arm, O'Brien cracked, "Good to finally see those two together."
Well, didn’t Captain Kirk always get the girl?
† Life Imitates “A Law Abiding Citizen”: Should he want to run for president again, former AR Gov. Mike Huckabee is going to have to prove he’s not soft on crime – usually, not a problem Republicans have – by formulating serious proposals for prison and sentencing reforms that will serve society by deterring crime, punishing criminals and ensuring that prisoners now warehoused in overcrowded facilities are not let loose en masse by judges on Constitutional grounds. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat urges conservatives to “ownership of prison reform, and correct the system they helped build.” Huckabee should lead that effort.
† Updates To Previous Posts (last item, What It's Like To Be Sheriff Joe): Not even 24 hours after the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Washington revoked the authority of Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies to round up suspected illegal immigrants on the street, he used a state law to conduct a crime and immigration sweep in Phoenix. He has now “escalated his tactics … not only defying the federal government but launching repeated investigations of those who criticize him,” reports the Los Angeles Times:
A local television station, KPHO, in a 10-minute-long segment last month, documented two dozen instances of the sheriff launching investigations of critics, none of which led to convictions.
The most notorious case involves county Supervisor Don Stapley, a Republican who has sometimes disagreed with Arpaio's immigration tactics. Last December, deputies arrested Stapley on charges of failing to disclose business interests properly on his statement of economic interest. …
A judge in September dismissed several of the allegations against Stapley, and prosecutors dropped the case. …
County Atty. Andrew Thomas - Arpaio's ally in his fights with the supervisor - charged Stapley this week with misusing money he raised to run for president of the National Assn. of Counties.
"It's just extraordinary, the kind of thing that takes place in Third World dictatorships," said Paul Charlton, a former U.S. attorney who is representing Stapley. He predicted the latest charges would also be dismissed. "So many people are of one mind on a single issue - illegal immigration - that they are willing to ignore these misdeeds."
Arpaio brushes off suggestions that he's used his office to go after critics. Many of the complaints, as in the Stapley case, come from targets of anti-corruption probes that started with tips rather than the sheriff's personal intercession.
"We don't abuse our power," Arpaio said in an interview. "We do what we have to do." …
The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into Arpaio's tactics. The sheriff has refused to cooperate and has called for an investigation of the investigators.
† Updates To Previous Posts (last item, Multiculturalism Vs. Animal Rights): Liberian Mamie Manneh, 41, was sentenced to three years’ probation for illegally importing 65 pieces of smoked monkey parts - AKA “bushmeat” - into the country in violation of federal law and an international wildlife treaty, reports The Staten Island Advance:
Ms. Manneh, also known as Mamie Jefferson, initially denied smuggling in the exotic foodstuff and contended her right to eat it was protected by the First Amendment and federal religious-freedom law.
However, prosecution experts, along with the defendant’s former minister, refuted her claims of bushmeat’s religious significance. …
While acknowledging the plausibility of bushmeat having religious significance, he said her claim lacked sincerity, and she had testified at depositions with an "alarming level of calculation and dissembling."
The judge said her faith didn’t bar Ms. Manneh from applying for the necessary permits to import the animal parts, and she did not explain why she had misled border officials.
† Updates To Previous Posts (last item, 10 Reasons Michelle Obama Should Be Proud – Really Proud – Of America): This latest installment in The Stiletto Blog’s ongoing series meant to help instill the necessary pride of country in Michelle Obama’s consciousness to enable her to serve as an unofficial ambassador focuses on Americans who honor the sacrifices of our war veterans. Thousands of volunteers converged upon Arlington National Cemetery and other military burial grounds on Saturday morning to place wreaths on the graves of 16,000 soldiers, reports The Washington Post:
In 1992, Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath in Harrington, Maine, began the tradition when he and several others decided to decorate several hundred graves at Arlington. Morrill and his wife, Karen, make the trip every year, stopping in different cities along the way to host events dedicated to service members and victims of terrorism. The Worcesters also founded the nonprofit organization Wreaths Across America, which has spread the wreath-laying to other states.
This year, volunteers placed more than 16,000 wreaths on graves at Arlington, in areas at the Pentagon, on graves at Fayetteville National Cemetery in Arkansas, at Battery Park in New York City and at the memorial site for United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa. For the second year, the Wal-Mart Foundation donated more than $150,000 to pay for and transport the wreaths.
Meanwhile, the Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program - a consortium of funeral homes and cemetery providers in partnership with Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, American Legion Departments in nine states and other groups – ensures that homeless veterans “receive the honors in death that their service in life merited”:
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides eligible veterans with opening and closing of the gravesite, a grave liner, a headstone or marker, a graveside ceremony and burial in a National Cemetery. Participating Dignity Memorial funeral directors provide transportation, preparation, clothing and casket.
Editorial Note: Author Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha, who live in Bangor, are donating $12,999 (he thought $13,000 was unlucky) to bring 150 soldiers serving in the Maine Army National Guard from Camp Atterbury, IN, back home for Christmas. The infantrymen will be deployed to Afghanistan in January.