The Bronx Blogger

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Marine Reservist Explains Why War Protestors Are Sorely Misguided

Here's an column by Katherine Kersten of the Minneapolis Star Tribune which highlights the stark differences in attitude between Marine Colonel Jeff and so many Americans (and especially news-media reporters!) who view the liberation of Iraq as a costly mistake:

Reservist says protesters are breaking faith

If I have time later, I'll replace this sentence with a short analysis of the article.

I was pointed to this story by an item at the Powerline blog.

Here's the text of the column in case the link goes bad:

Reservist says protesters are breaking faith

by Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune
September 29, 2005

Cindy Sheehan made big news at the antiwar rally in Washington last weekend. Cameras clicked as graying Vietnam-era biggies -- Joan Baez, Jesse Jackson -- relived their glory days. Seven busloads of Minnesotans joined them, drawn from groups such as the DFL Party and Women Against Military Madness.

Sheehan set the "outside the mainstream" tone. She has called the foreign terrorists in Iraq "freedom fighters." Now -- get this -- she is demanding that America pull our troops not only out of Iraq, but also out of "occupied New Orleans."

Back in Minnesota, Marine Col. Jeff Vold watched the protest unfold. Unlike the demonstrators, Vold knows Iraq firsthand. A Reservist from Maple Grove, he returned last March from seven months in Fallujah and Ramadi, the heart of the violent Sunni Triangle.

Vold's view is 180 degrees different from the protesters'. For years, he says, America took a passive approach to extremist threats. We learned the hard way that this emboldened terrorists and ultimately led to Sept. 11. Abandoning our mission in Iraq now, he says, would be both ill-advised and dangerous.

Vold knows the painful cost of aborting a mission midstream. He was in Somalia in early 1994 when America turned tail. "We abandoned the Somali people because we took 18 casualties in October 1993," he said. "It was a shameful act." That same year, he sat in frustration on a troop ship off Kenya as hundreds of thousands of people were hacked to death in Rwanda. After the first Gulf War, he says, we left the Shiites to a bloody fate. "In Iraq, we're going to stay the course against the terrorists and give the people a chance at freedom and a representative government."

Vold ticks off the extraordinary progress underway in Iraq. In Ramadi, he witnessed ordinary Iraqis braving mortar fire to vote in the January 2005 elections. In just two weeks, on Oct. 15, he adds, these courageous people will have another historic opportunity -- a chance to vote on Iraq's new constitution.

Across Iraq, Americans and Iraqis are working together to reclaim the country from Baathists and terrorists. They are building or refurbishing schools, hospitals, roads and sewer systems. "The battle with the terrorists left Fallujah in rubble," says Vold. "But every day, people thanked us. 'We might have to rebuild our house,' they said, 'but you gave us back our city.' "

Do the Washington protesters know about these great strides? Vold can't say. "When I got back from Iraq, I was disappointed -- astounded, really -- to read the news. The media was saying it's all a failure, while we saw successes around us every day."

Vold puts the continuing sporadic violence in perspective. Most of Iraq, he says, is quiet. "Baghdad is a vibrant city, the size of Chicago's metro area. A bomb goes off -- it's a bad thing, but it's like we're sitting in Eden Prairie and a bomb goes off in Andover. The police investigate, people go about their business. Rush hour is one big traffic jam."

Antiwar demonstrators sometimes claim that their prime motivation is concern for the safety of American troops. "Support the troops," the lawn signs say, "bring them home."

But it doesn't work that way, says Vold. "I try not to take it personally. The reason I'm a Marine is to ensure this is a free country. But I don't think the protesters know the effect they're having on the soldiers. You're always tired, cold or hot, homesick. The last thing you need is a sense that people back home say your mission is doomed, when you see good things happening all the time."

Vold adds that antiwar rhetoric sometimes implicitly portrays soldiers as dupes on a fool's errand. "We volunteered to go to Iraq. The guys over there, who know the situation best, are re-enlisting in great numbers. Most of the guys I served with think this is the best thing America has done in our careers."

How did the Sheehan protest play in Iraq? Yesterday, I asked Vold's friend, Lt. Col. James MacVarish, an adviser to Iraqi troops in Fallujah. He told me in an e-mail that the Iraqis he works with believe such protests and the press they generate "play directly to the strengths of our mutual enemy." Iraqis "are absolutely astounded," he adds, "that we 'allow' that to continue." A few days ago, he had to give his Iraqi colleagues an hourlong civics lesson on freedom of the press.

MacVarish says that the terrorists can't win militarily. So their strategy is to make the U.S. and Iraqi people "bleed a little every day." They hope that the resulting media attention will turn the tide of American opinion against the war, and make the political cost of sustaining it too high. "The more play the press gives Cindy Sheehan," MacVarish concludes, "the better the terrorists' chances are of ultimately succeeding here."

What would a terrorist victory mean? "If we leave before the new government is established and the Iraqi Army is ready," says Vold, "the people will be at the mercy of the bad guys" -- beheaders and torturers, who blow up children. MacVarish minces no words: "If the terrorists win over here, stand by. There will be no stopping them anywhere in the world."

Katherine Kersten is at

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Steven Vincent Warned Me About Iraq, But I Didn't Listen

It's not like I had much of an excuse.

I had the guy practically to myself for a solid half-hour.

In very short order I was very impressed with his seriousness, integrity, boldness, and passion for the truth. I took advantage of my time with him to pump him for wisdom about the course of war in Iraq.

Even though he had journeyed to Iraq twice and spent three and a half months there. Even though he written a brilliant book about Iraq that had been published just a week before. Even though he had challenged my own thinking on Iraq by his sharp and deeply disappointed criticism of the U.S. coalition campaign in Iraq. I still didn't let it register that I should digest what he had to say with all the urgency I could muster.

[Note to readers: I wanted to write and post this essay about Steven Vincent over three weeks ago, but I haven't been able to finish it so far. So I have decided to post the beginning of it, and update it piece by piece until I have it completed.

I will also edit it as necessary to make it as seamless as I can. Not only will stuff get reworked and reworded, but whole pieces are liable to get lopped off and disappear forever. So don't be surprised if the end product has evolved into something unpredictably different by the time I'm done.]

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

President Bush Addresses the U.N

Here is a link to video of President Bush's speech to the U.N. Security Council Summit at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York yesterday: "Bush at U.N. Security Council"

Here is the text of the speech that President Bush delivered to the U.N.:


United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York
9:48 A.M. EDT
September 14, 2005

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you for the privilege of being here for the 60th anniversary of the United Nations. Thank you for your dedication to the vital work and great ideals of this institution.

We meet at a time of great challenge for America and the world. At this moment, men and women along my country's Gulf Coast are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters in American history. Many have lost homes, and loved ones, and all their earthly possessions. In Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana, whole neighborhoods have been lifted from their foundations and sent crashing into the streets. A great American city is working to turn the flood waters and reclaim its future.

We have witnessed the awesome power of nature -- and the greater power of human compassion. Americans have responded to their neighbors in need, and so have many of the nations represented in this chamber. All together, more than 115 countries and nearly a dozen international organizations have stepped forward with offers of assistance. To every nation, every province, and every community across the world that is standing with the American people in this hour of need, I offer the thanks of my nation.

Your response, like the response to last year's tsunami, has shown once again that the world is more compassionate and hopeful when we act together. This truth was the inspiration for the United Nations. The U.N.'s founding members laid out great and honorable goals in the charter they drafted six decades ago. That document commits this organization to work to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war," "reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights," and "promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom." We remain committed to those noble ideals. As we respond to great humanitarian needs, we must actively respond to the other great challenges of our time. We must continue to work to ease suffering, and to spread freedom, and to lay the foundations of lasting peace for our children and grandchildren.

In this young century, the far corners of the world are linked more closely than ever before -- and no nation can remain isolated and indifferent to the struggles of others. When a country, or a region is filled with despair, and resentment and vulnerable to violent and aggressive ideologies, the threat passes easily across oceans and borders, and could threaten the security of any peaceful country.

Terrorism fed by anger and despair has come to Tunisia, to Indonesia, to Kenya, to Tanzania, to Morocco, to Israel, to Saudi Arabia, to the United States, to Turkey, to Spain, to Russia, to Egypt, to Iraq, and the United Kingdom. And those who have not seen attacks on their own soil have still shared in the sorrow -- from Australians killed in Bali, to Italians killed in Egypt, to the citizens of dozens of nations who were killed on September the 11th, 2001, here in the city where we meet. The lesson is clear: There can be no safety in looking away, or seeking the quiet life by ignoring the hardship and oppression of others. Either hope will spread, or violence will spread -- and we must take the side of hope.

Sometimes our security will require confronting threats directly, and so a great coalition of nations has come together to fight the terrorists across the world. We've worked together to help break up terrorist networks that cross borders, and root out radical cells within our own borders. We've eliminated terrorist sanctuaries. We're using our diplomatic and financial tools to cut off their financing and drain them of support. And as we fight, the terrorists must know that the world stands united against them. We must complete the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that will put every nation on record: The targeting and deliberate killing by terrorists of civilians and non-combatants cannot be justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance.

And the world's free nations are determined to stop the terrorists and their allies from acquiring the terrible weapons that would allow them to kill on a scale equal to their hatred. For that reason, more than 60 countries are supporting the Proliferation Security Initiative to intercept shipments of weapons of mass destruction on land, on sea, and in air. The terrorists must know that wherever they go, they cannot escape justice.

Later today, the Security Council has an opportunity to put the terrorists on notice when it votes on a resolution that condemns the incitement of terrorist acts -- the resolution that calls upon all states to take appropriate steps to end such incitement. We also need to sign and implement the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, so that all those who seek radioactive materials or nuclear devices are prosecuted and extradited, wherever they are. We must send a clear message to the rulers of outlaw regimes that sponsor terror and pursue weapons of mass murder: You will not be allowed to threaten the peace and stability of the world.

Confronting our enemies is essential, and so civilized nations will continue to take the fight to the terrorists. Yet we know that this war will not be won by force of arms alone. We must defeat the terrorists on the battlefield, and we must also defeat them in the battle of ideas. We must change the conditions that allow terrorists to flourish and recruit, by spreading the hope of freedom to millions who've never known it. We must help raise up the failing states and stagnant societies that provide fertile ground for the terrorists. We must defend and extend a vision of human dignity, and opportunity, and prosperity -- a vision far stronger than the dark appeal of resentment and murder.

To spread a vision of hope, the United States is determined to help nations that are struggling with poverty. We are committed to the Millennium Development goals. This is an ambitious agenda that includes cutting poverty and hunger in half, ensuring that every boy and girl in the world has access to primary education, and halting the spread of AIDS -- all by 2015.

We have a moral obligation to help others -- and a moral duty to make sure our actions are effective. At Monterrey in 2002, we agreed to a new vision for the way we fight poverty, and curb corruption, and provide aid in this new millennium. Developing countries agreed to take responsibility for their own economic progress through good governance and sound policies and the rule of law. Developed countries agreed to support those efforts, including increased aid to nations that undertake necessary reforms. My own country has sought to implement the Monterrey Consensus by establishing the new Millennium Challenge Account. This account is increasing U.S. aid for countries that govern justly, invest in their people, and promote economic freedom.

More needs to be done. I call on all the world's nations to implement the Monterrey Consensus. Implementing the Monterrey Consensus means continuing on the long, hard road to reform. Implementing the Monterrey Consensus means creating a genuine partnership between developed and developing countries to replace the donor-client relationship of the past. And implementing the Monterrey Consensus means welcoming all developing countries as full participants to the global economy, with all the requisite benefits and responsibilities.

Tying aid to reform is essential to eliminating poverty, but our work doesn't end there. For many countries, AIDS, malaria, and other diseases are both humanitarian tragedies and significant obstacles to development. We must give poor countries access to the emergency lifesaving drugs they need to fight these infectious epidemics. Through our bilateral programs and the Global Fund, the United States will continue to lead the world in providing the resources to defeat the plague of HIV-AIDS.

Today America is working with local authorities and organizations in the largest initiative in history to combat a specific disease. Across Africa, we're helping local health officials expand AIDS testing facilities, train and support doctors and nurses and counselors, and upgrade clinics and hospitals. Working with our African partners, we have now delivered lifesaving treatment to more than 230,000 people in sub-Sahara Africa. We are ahead of schedule to meet an important objective: providing HIV-AIDS treatment for nearly two million adults and children in Africa. At the G-8 Summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, we set a clear goal: an AIDS-free generation in Africa. And I challenge every member of the United Nations to take concrete steps to achieve that goal.

We're also working to fight malaria. This preventable disease kills more than a million people around the world every year -- and leaves poverty and grief in every land it touches. The United States has set a goal of cutting the malaria death rate in half in at least 15 highly endemic African countries. To achieve that goal, we've pledged to increase our funding for malaria treatment and prevention by more than $1.2 billion over the next five years. We invite other nations to join us in this effort by committing specific aid to the dozens of other African nations in need of it. Together we can fight malaria and save hundreds of thousands of lives, and bring new hope to countries that have been devastated by this terrible disease.

As we strengthen our commitments to fighting malaria and AIDS, we must also remain on the offensive against new threats to public health such as the Avian Influenza. If left unchallenged, this virus could become the first pandemic of the 21st century. We must not allow that to happen. Today I am announcing a new International Partnership on Avian and Pandemic Influenza. The Partnership requires countries that face an outbreak to immediately share information and provide samples to the World Health Organization. By requiring transparency, we can respond more rapidly to dangerous outbreaks and stop them on time. Many nations have already joined this partnership; we invite all nations to participate. It's essential we work together, and as we do so, we will fulfill a moral duty to protect our citizens, and heal the sick, and comfort the afflicted.

Even with increased aid to fight disease and reform economies, many nations are held back by another heavy challenge: the burden of debt. So America and many nations have also acted to lift this burden that limits the growth of developing economies, and holds millions of people in poverty. Today poor countries with the heaviest debt burdens are receiving more than $30 billion in debt relief. And to prevent the build-up of future debt, my country and other nations have agreed that international financial institutions should increasingly provide new aid in the form of grants, rather than loans. The G-8 agreed at Gleneagles to go further. To break the lend-and-forgive cycle permanently, we agreed to cancel 100 percent of the debt for the world's most heavily indebted nations. I call upon the World Bank and the IMF to finalize this historic agreement as soon as possible.

We will fight to lift the burden of poverty from places of suffering -- not just for the moment, but permanently. And the surest path to greater wealth is greater trade. In a letter he wrote to me in August, the Secretary General commended the G-8's work, but told me that aid and debt relief are not enough. The Secretary General said that we also need to reduce trade barriers and subsidies that are holding developing countries back. I agree with the Secretary General: The Doha Round is "the most promising way" to achieve this goal.

A successful Doha Round will reduce and eliminate tariffs and other barriers on farm and industrial goods. It will end unfair agricultural subsidies. It will open up global markets for services. Under Doha, every nation will gain, and the developing world stands to gain the most. Historically, developing nations that open themselves up to trade grow at several times the rate of other countries. The elimination of trade barriers could lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the next 15 years. The stakes are high. The lives and futures of millions of the world's poorest citizens hang in the balance -- and so we must bring the Doha trade talks to a successful conclusion.

Doha is an important step toward a larger goal: We must tear down the walls that separate the developed and developing worlds. We need to give the citizens of the poorest nations the same ability to access the world economy that the people of wealthy nations have, so they can offer their goods and talents on the world market alongside everyone else. We need to ensure that they have the same opportunities to pursue their dreams, provide for their families, and live lives of dignity and self-reliance.

And the greatest obstacles to achieving these goals are the tariffs and subsidies and barriers that isolate people of developing nations from the great opportunities of the 21st century. Today, I reiterate the challenge I have made before: We must work together in the Doha negotiations to eliminate agricultural subsidies that distort trade and stunt development, and to eliminate tariffs and other barriers to open markets for farmers around the world. Today I broaden the challenge by making this pledge: The United States is ready to eliminate all tariffs, subsidies and other barriers to free flow of goods and services as other nations do the same. This is key to overcoming poverty in the world's poorest nations. It's essential we promote prosperity and opportunity for all nations.

By expanding trade, we spread hope and opportunity to the corners of the world, and we strike a blow against the terrorists who feed on anger and resentment. Our agenda for freer trade is part of our agenda for a freer world, where people can live and worship and raise their children as they choose. In the long run, the best way to protect the religious freedom, and the rights of women and minorities, is through institutions of self-rule, which allow people to assert and defend their own rights. All who stand for human rights must also stand for human freedom.

This is a moment of great opportunity in the cause of freedom. Across the world, hearts and minds are opening to the message of human liberty as never before. In the last two years alone, tens of millions have voted in free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, in Kyrgyzstan, in Ukraine, and Georgia. And as they claim their freedom, they are inspiring millions more across the broader Middle East. We must encourage their aspirations. We must nurture freedom's progress. And the United Nations has a vital role to play.

Through the new U.N. Democracy Fund, the democratic members of the U.N. will work to help others who want to join the democratic world. It is fitting that the world's largest democracy, India, has taken a leadership role in this effort, pledging $10 million to get the fund started. Every free nation has an interest in the success of this fund -- and every free nation has a responsibility in advancing the cause of liberty.

The work of democracy is larger than holding a fair election; it requires building the institutions that sustain freedom. Democracy takes different forms in different cultures, yet all free societies have certain things in common. Democratic nations uphold the rule of law, impose limits on the power of the state, treat women and minorities as full citizens. Democratic nations protect private property, free speech and religious expression. Democratic nations grow in strength because they reward and respect the creative gifts of their people. And democratic nations contribute to peace and stability because they seek national greatness in the achievements of their citizens, not the conquest of their neighbors.

For these reasons, the whole world has a vital interest in the success of a free Iraq -- and no civilized nation has an interest in seeing a new terror state emerge in that country. So the free world is working together to help the Iraqi people to establish a new nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. It's an exciting opportunity for all of us in this chamber. And the United Nations has played a vital role in the success of the January elections, where eight and a half million Iraqis defied the terrorists and cast their ballots. And since then, the United Nations has supported Iraq's elected leaders as they drafted a new constitution.

The United Nations and its member states must continue to stand by the Iraqi people as they complete the journey to a fully constitutional government. And when Iraqis complete their journey, their success will inspire others to claim their freedom, the Middle East will grow in peace and hope and liberty, and all of us will live in a safer world.

The advance of freedom and security is the calling of our time. It is the mission of the United Nations. The United Nations was created to spread the hope of liberty, and to fight poverty and disease, and to help secure human rights and human dignity for all the world's people. To help make these promises real, the United Nations must be strong and efficient, free of corruption, and accountable to the people it serves. The United Nations must stand for integrity, and live by the high standards it sets for others. And meaningful institutional reforms must include measures to improve internal oversight, identify cost savings, and ensure that precious resources are used for their intended purpose.

The United Nations has taken the first steps toward reform. The process will continue in the General Assembly this fall, and the United States will join with others to lead the effort. And the process of reform begins with members taking our responsibilities seriously. When this great institution's member states choose notorious abusers of human rights to sit on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, they discredit a noble effort, and undermine the credibility of the whole organization. If member countries want the United Nations to be respected -- respected and effective, they should begin by making sure it is worthy of respect.

At the start of a new century, the world needs the United Nations to live up to its ideals and fulfill its mission. The founding members of this organization knew that the security of the world would increasingly depend on advancing the rights of mankind, and this would require the work of many hands. After committing America to the idea of the U.N. in 1945, President Franklin Roosevelt declared: "The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation." Peace is the responsibility of every nation and every generation.

In each era of history, the human spirit has been challenged by the forces of darkness and chaos. Some challenges are the acts of nature; others are the works of men. This organization was convened to meet these challenges by harnessing the best instincts of humankind, the strength of the world united in common purpose. With courage and conscience, we will meet our responsibilities to protect the lives and rights of others. And when we do, we will help fulfill the promise of the United Nations, and ensure that every human being enjoys the peace and the freedom and the dignity our Creator intended for all.

Thank you. [Applause from assembles delegates]

10:13 A.M. EDT

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ask, and You Shall Receive

Tonight is primary night for New York City. The big prize up for grabs is the Democratic candidacy for mayor. The recipient of this honor will have the right to assume office if somehow Mayor Michael Bloomberg crashes and burns between now and November.

An hour and a half ago, I had a phone conversation with someone who, according to my caller ID, was calling on behalf of "Central National Research".

Here's how it went.

Woman with a somewhat mechanically upbeat voice:

"Hello, there is now one hour left you to go to the polls tonight. Go vote for Congressman Anthony Weiner for Mayor. There is one hour left at the polls. Go vote for Congressman Anthony Weiner."


"Is there any particular reason why?"


"Excuse me?"


"Particular reason why?"

Woman (no longer somewhat mechanically upbeat):

"Because he's running." [Click... dial tone]

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Fourth Year of War Behind Us

Four planes, two skyscrapers, and the Pentagon were attacked September 11, 2001, and 3,000 folks and 3,000 families were destroyed.


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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Michael Brown Update

I highlighted Michael Brown's role in the response to Hurricane Katrina in this post: "What Role Did President Bush Play in the New Orleans Nightmare, Part II?"

Here is an update on the responsibilities that Mr. Brown will have now that he's been reassigned back to Washington, D.C.:

FEMA's Brown Promoted to 'Assistant President'

If you click on the above link, you will be able to read the following story, plus have access to a wide variety of items that you probably won't get a chance to read anywhere else, courtesy of Scott Ott of Scrappleface. Scott Ott's motto is "News Fairly Unbalanced. We Report. You Decipher."

[ Mitigating Circumstances Alert on behalf of Under Secretary Brown: Michael Brown has made some infamous comments in the past two weeks that give the impression that he may have been in over his head in supervising the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. And his agency, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), has made some widely publicized bureaucratic decisions that have the appearance of being unforgivable mistakes. Nonetheless, I personally do not believe that he has done a poor job. It is not clear to me that a career bureaucrat with more impressive credentials would have done a much better job than he did. If Michael Brown was indeed in over his head, it was because Hurricane Katrina was something that very, very few people outside of the Coast Guard, the Pentagon, and some private charities were prepared to deal with. ]

FEMA's Brown Promoted to 'Assistant President'
by Scott Ott

(2005-09-09) -- According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website, director Michael Brown is headed back to Washington D.C. where he has been offered a new position as "Assistant President of the United States for Outplacement".

The post would continue Mr. Brown's meteoric career trajectory which began when he was "assistant city manager" of Edmond, Oklahoma, overseeing all activity on a large veneer desktop, including organization of paper-fastening devices and emergency replenishment of hot caffeinated beverages.

In his new post, Mr. Brown would oversee emergency restoration of personal crediblity and rehabilitation of the resume of a former top government official.

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Monday, September 05, 2005

Public Schools Teachers Union Urges Boycott Due to Fear of Private School Competition

I'm still working on my next Steven Vincent post. In the meantime, I'm posting a link to this story about kids who got scholarships to attend private elementary schools:

"Private schools do more for variety of kids"

I was directed to this story by the following item on the Powerline blog: "The power of moral vision".

Public school unions sometimes like to conflate the idea of promoting healthy competition to public schools with the idea of attacking public schools. While it is true that competition attacks the public school monopoly, it is a fatal attack on public schools themselves only if the public schools cannot adapt to the competition.

And since public schools have proven capable of adapting, competition isn't even an attack in such cases, but a prod to improvement. Public schools shouldn't be shielded from the accountability that many of them so desperately need.

UPDATE The above link to the Minneapolis Star Tribune article has gone from free, unrestricted access to free, registration-required access. So here is the text of the article that I linked to:

Private schools do more for variety of kids
by Katherine Kersten, September 5, 2005

The education establishment tends to see red at the words "school choice." It claims that public schools suffer when kids -- even poor kids in marginal schools -- leave the system to attend private schools.

What about reports that low-income kids often do better there? Private schools "cream" students, we're told -- skim off the best -- while public schools have to take all comers.

Recently, the National Education Association -- the nation's largest teachers union -- called on parents to boycott Wal-Mart, in part to protest the "anti-public education activities" of founder Sam Walton's son, John Walton.

Walton's "anti-public education" sin? He co-founded the Children's Scholarship Fund, which gives tuition dollars to low-income children whose parents believe they would do better in private schools.

The Children's Scholarship Fund has a presence in the Twin Cities. Each year since 1999, it has partnered with Kids First, a local nonprofit, to help 600 to 1,000 children attend the school of their choice ( The mission, says Kids First director Margie Lauer, is to provide "a choice for parents, a chance for children."

Last week, I decided to test the conventional wisdom and visit Kids First families who clearly don't qualify as educational "cream." How are they faring outside government schools?

I stopped first at Mary Collins' home on Selby Avenue in St. Paul. Collins' sons, Lamar, 11, and Donte, 9, attend St. Peter Claver School in St. Paul on Kids First scholarships.

Seeing Lamar and Donte, bright-eyed and beaming, you'd never guess that they -- like Collins' seven other adopted children -- were born with drugs in their systems. They were crack babies, found cowering under a bed after a crack house raid eight years ago.

"All my children came to me with severe medical problems," says Collins, who subsists on government adoption subsidies. Some of the older children attended St. Paul public schools. "But they seemed lost there," she says. "Classes weren't structured enough."

The younger boys found exactly what they need at St. Peter Claver. "The academics are rigorous, the classroom environment is disciplined and harmonious, and teachers tell me just what to do about my boys' special learning needs," Collins says.

How could this be? St. Peter Claver, whose students are nearly 100 percent minority and low-income, has far fewer resources than St. Paul public schools. It spends about $5,000 annually per pupil, while St. Paul schools with similar demographics generally spend around $11,000. And the Collins boys are precisely the kind of "special needs" kids who are supposed to soak up resources.

Moral vision

The answer, I suspect, is this: St. Peter Claver, whose principal is Teresa Mardenborough, is rich in one essential "resource," which the public schools tend to steer clear of. It has a clear, confident moral vision, and teaches it with no apologies.

Collins says she saw immediately that the school's focus on moral character made all the difference for her boys. St. Peter Claver guides them to think seriously about their purpose on Earth -- their vocation, she calls it. "The public schools have signs on the walls -- 'Respect others,' 'Be nice,' " she explains. "But they can't tell the students why they should do these things, which can be difficult. It's a moral issue for public schools. They think it crosses the church-state line."

St. Peter Claver, she says, is trying to bring back the faith-based vision of the good life that she learned as a girl.

Lamar and Donte tick off the virtues they're learning: honesty, responsibility, respect, generosity. They both like school uniforms. "If you wear jeans and an armless shirt, then it's like you don't want to learn," Donte explains. St. Peter Claver, adds their mother, expects students to "dress for success."

"Our principal tells us that black students should be leaders, not followers," says Lamar.

Lamar and Donte sympathize with a 7-year-old neighbor who sometimes cries before taking the bus to his public school. "In public schools, there are fights for no reason," says Lamar. "I said, 'You should go to our school because you're talking about fighting and stuff. Our school isn't like that.' "

Change in conduct

In Minneapolis I met another Kids First family: Chalnicea Smith and her 12-year-old daughter, Musulyn Myers. Smith, a single mother, recently lost her job as a home health aide. Musulyn is in seventh grade at Ascension School in north Minneapolis.

Musulyn was out of control in her public school kindergarten, says Smith. "She was suspended -- in kindergarten! I was being called to school all the time. At the end of the year, I vowed, 'She's not going back.' "

Musulyn's conduct improved dramatically when she switched to Ascension, whose students are 95 percent minority and nearly 60 percent low-income. Again, the school's moral vision was key.

"Ascension teaches the kids a clear sense of right and wrong," says Smith. "Every day, they learn self-discipline, trustworthiness, kindness and gratitude." The school uniform, she adds, is a constant symbol of this moral code. "It shows that school is about what you learn, not how you look."

Dorwatha Woods, Ascension's imposing principal, sets the tone as mentor, disciplinarian and master teacher. "After school," says Smith, "Musulyn sits in Ms. Woods' office, and she makes sure Musulyn does all her homework. She tells her to be grateful: 'Your mother's making sacrifices every day to send you here.' "

During the next legislative session, we're likely to hear "sky-is-falling" rhetoric about how public schools lack the resources they need to deal with "the hardest cases." But schools like St. Peter Claver and Ascension take "the hardest cases" on a shoestring budget.

They are confident in the power of their moral vision.

Katherine Kersten is at

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

What Role Did President Bush Play in the New Orleans Nightmare, Part II?

If I'm going to defend President Bush, then I should criticize him too, when information like this comes out:

"You have got to be kidding me"

"Memo to Bush: Fire Michael Brown"

The first link is from Brendan Loy's weblog, The Irish Trojan's Blog. He is one the relatively few people who specifically and publicly forecast the scale and depth of devastation that was very likely going to follow in hurricane Katrina's wake. He actually has more than one story posted now on some disturbing problems with the Bush administration response.

The second post is from the website of Michelle Malkin, a conservative journalist and pundit who is very supportive of President Bush. Michael Brown is the head of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency).

Update: Click here for the latest on Michael Brown and his reassignment back to FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C.: "Michael Brown Update".

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Welcome Fellow Instapundit Readers

Glenn Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee. He is widely known for his extremely popular and respected weblog,

Earlier tonight I e-mailed him my last post about hurricane Katrina and President Bush. He agreed with me that the story was important, and he put an update on his latest post that links back to mine.

So courtesy of Professor Reynolds, I'm now receiving a large influx of visitors to The Bronx Blogger.

For those who would like to know more about my perspective on things, you can check out this post: "Bush Post Repeat".

Here's an interesting little item about Iraq that I posted in April: "CNN and Other Media Report on Anti-US Demonstrations in Bagdhad, But They Ignore Large Anti-Terrorist Demonstrations".

And here's another post I particularly like: "Girls Gets Geography Lesson, Two Weeks Later She Saves 100 People".

This weekend I hope to put up another post about Steven Vincent. I will explain how Steven surprised me with some of his views about President Bush's handling of the liberation and reconstruction of Iraq. And I'll tell how I don't completely agree with his assessment.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate getting feedback, so feel free to leave comments.

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Friday, September 02, 2005

What Role Did President Bush Play in the New Orleans Nightmare?

While reading the Powerline blog this evening, I came across an item that I think should get widespread notice by people who are upset at the catastrophic disaster that continues to play out in New Orleans.

The item documents a key aspect of President Bush's response to the crisis that is really quite a revelation, something that everyone who cares about New Orleans should know about.

Here's the link to the Powerline item:

"Why Was New Orleans Evacuated?"

Here's the link to the news story that the Powerline item quotes:

"Mandatory Evacuation ordered for New Orleans"

And here's the text of the above news story, in case the link grows stale (emphasis added):

Mandatory evacuation ordered for New Orleans
8/28/2005, 10:48 a.m. CT
The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In the face of a catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, a mandatory evacuation was ordered Sunday for New Orleans by Mayor Ray Nagin.

Acknowledging that large numbers of people, many of them stranded tourists, would be unable to leave, the city set up 10 places of last resort for people to go, including the Superdome.

The mayor called the order unprecedented and said anyone who could leave the city should. He exempted hotels from the evacuation order because airlines had already cancelled all flights.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco, standing beside the mayor at a news conference, said President Bush called and personally appealed for a mandatory evacuation for the low-lying city, which is prone to flooding.

"There doesn't seem to be any relief in sight," Blanco said.

She said Interstate 10, which was converted Saturday so that all lanes headed one-way out of town, was total gridlock.

"We are facing a storm that most of us have long feared," Nagin said.

The storm surge most likely could topple the city's levee system, which protect it from surrounding waters of Lake Pontchartrain, the Mississippi River and marshes, the mayor said. The bowl-shaped city must pump water out during normal times, and the hurricane threatened pump power.

Previous hurricanes evacuations in New Orleans were always voluntary, because so many people don't have the means of getting out. Some are too poor and there is always a French Quarter full of tourists who get caught.

"This is a once in a lifetime event," the mayor said. "The city of New Orleans has never seen a hurricane of this magnitude hit it directly," the mayor said.

He told those who had to move to the Superdome to come with enough food for several days and with blankets. He said it will be a very uncomfortable place and encouraged everybody who could to get out.

Nagin said police and firefighters would spread out throughout the city sounding sirens and using bullhorns to tell residents to get out. He also said police would have the authority to comandeer any vehicle or building that could be used for evacuation or shelter.

The Superdome was already taking in people with special problems. It opened about 8 a.m. and people on walkers, some with oxygen tanks, began checking in.

In a neighborhood in central city, a group of residents sat on a porch. It was almost a party atmosphere.

"We're not evacuating," said Julie Paul, 57. "None of us have any place to go. We're counting on the Superdome. That's our lifesaver."

She said they'd spent the last couple of hurricanes there. They would wait for a friend who has a van to take them, because none has cars.

At a nearby gas station, Linda Young, 37, was tanking up her car.

"I'm really scared. I've been through hurricanes, but this one scares me. I think everybody needs to get out," she said.

She said they planned to leave Saturday but couldn't get gas, and didn't want to go without it, so got up early and got in a gas line.

In the suburbs, evacuations were under way.

"That sun is shining too bright for this to be happening," said Joyce Tillis, manager of the Holiday Inn Select at the airport in the suburbs as she called the more than 140 guests to tell them the hotel was under a mandatory evacuation. "It's too nice a day."

Tillis lives inside the flood zone in the community of Avondale. She said she called her three daughters and told them to get out. "If I'm stuck, I'm stuck," Tillis said. "I'd rather save my second generation if I can."

UPDATE Welcome Instapundit readers. Click here to get to the main page of my blog: The Bronx Blogger.

UPDATE It also looks like President Bush's team may have dropped the ball. Click here to find out more: What Role Did President Bush Play in the New Orleans Nightmare, Part II?

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