Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest

The decision by the Bush administration’s Department of Homeland Security to slash New York City’s anti-terror funding by 40 percent is mind-boggling. How anyone committed to protecting the country could think this was a good idea is beyond belief.

Just five years ago, this city suffered the worst terrorist attack in world history. We know that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney haven’t forgotten 9/11, because they haul it out every chance they get to justify their disastrous war in Iraq. But by gutting the city’s funding to prevent the next 9/11, Bush & Co. have tipped their hand to show that not only do they not give a damn about New York—despite embracing the city as a backdrop for their 2004 convention—but they have no grasp of the symbolic message they are sending to terrorists who still burn with the wish to do grievous harm to America’s financial, cultural and media capital.

Indeed, the administration’s reasons for the cuts are so patently absurd, one could be forgiven for wondering if Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney actually want another 9/11, another urban mass slaughter to spur patriotism and mask the quagmire that grows daily in Iraq. The other major city to suffer a 40 percent reduction in funding was Washington, D.C., the other victim of 9/11. What can one say about a government that reduces the protection of its country’s two most prominent cities while increasing funding to Omaha, Neb., Louisville, Ky., and Charlotte, N.C.?

The Department of Homeland Security says it is unimpressed with the New York Police Department’s anti-terrorism strategies. Rather than the NYPD’s current Operation Atlas—in which hundreds of extra police officers work daily around the city on anti-terrorism squads—Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and the anonymous panel members who determined the federal spending said the city should be using that money instead to buy better gas masks and other gadgetry. Such a technology-intensive strategy may favor the Republican vendors who sell such equipment, but it is often irrelevant in preventing terrorist attacks. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has won high praise and worldwide admiration for the way his department has kept the city safe from attack over the past five years. That Mr. Chertoff would presume to tell Ray Kelly how to do his job is laughable.

Piling absurdity on top of incompetence, the Department of Homeland Security further asserted that New York City has no “national monuments or icons.” Apparently the New York Stock Exchange, the United Nations, the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Statue of Liberty do not qualify as icons in George Bush and Dick Cheney’s world. And they have apparently forgotten the foiled Al Qaeda plots to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels. The city itself is a national icon—it has world-class symbols, millions of people gathered closely together and major transit hubs that make convenient targets. Another attack here would do unparalleled damage to the nation’s economy.

Of course, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Commissioner Kelly will continue to provide a high level of protection to the city. The loss of federal money—from $207.6 million to $124.5 million—is serious but not critical. Certain worthy projects, however, such as a plan to install an $80 million security-camera system in the Wall Street area, similar to London’s “Ring of Steel,” may be delayed.

George W. Bush is well on his way to going down as one of the worst Presidents in U.S history. Fortunately for New Yorkers, Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly are making sure he doesn’t take New York down with him.

Hope Grows in Harlem

Few people would argue with the proposition that public education needs change, perhaps even drastic change. True, the teachers’ union wouldn’t agree, but then again, that’s part of the problem.

In recent years, the Bloomberg administration and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have encouraged the growth of so-called charter schools throughout the city, but especially in poorly served Harlem. Charter schools operate with public money but are not subject to union control and stifling bureaucracy. The schools are often operated by community groups.

While not every charter school is a success, the results in Harlem indicate that public education in New York needs more charter schools, not fewer. The New York Times recently noted the difference between two schools located side by side in Harlem. One, the KIPP Star College Prep Charter School, is producing students whose reading scores are among the neighborhood’s highest. The other, traditional school, P.S. 125, is performing well below par. Only 36 percent of students from third to sixth grade met reading standards last year.

Those who argue for the status quo complain that somehow charter schools are unfair competition, or that they increase the gap between educational haves and have-nots. Nonsense. The charter schools simply are doing a better job educating children. The establishment should be studying why the charter schools are achieving these results, not attacking them for their success.

Generations of poor children in New York’s inner-city neighborhoods have been cheated out of a decent education—and not only because of a flawed state funding policy. The old system of work rules and union control put procedure and process ahead of education. The results spoke for themselves.

By the end of 2007, Harlem will have 17 charter schools. City Hall and the Department of Education should be encouraged to move forward with the charter-school experiment.

Dreaming of a Subway Series

Are you ready for some baseball? The answer, if you’re any kind of New Yorker, ought to be an emphatic, Marv Albert–like “Yes!” With both of the city’s teams in first place (as of this writing), New York figures to be in store for a memorable summer at Shea and Yankee stadiums.

The Yankees, who moved into first place by crushing archrival Boston on Monday night, obviously are no strangers to success. Since Joe Torre’s arrival a decade ago, the Bronx Bombers have dominated baseball like they did back in the days of Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. This year, however, the Yanks have been hit with a rash of injuries that have sent stars like Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and, most recently, Derek Jeter to the sidelines. Mr. Matsui, in fact, is done for the year.

A few weeks ago, the Yankees looked like a dynasty in decline. Today, it is very much in the hunt for yet another division title and playoff berth. Credit Mr. Torre with keeping this banged-up team in contention.

As for the Mets, they seem to be stealing a page from the Yankees, circa 2000. They’ve been in first place since the beginning of the season and have built a comfortable lead over the Phillies and the dreaded Braves. They’re doing it with a mix of terrific young stars like David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes, solid newcomers Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Delgado, and wily veterans like Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez. General manager Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph have built a team that figures to end the Braves’ long run as the dominant team in the National League East.

Both New York teams figure to make the playoffs this year. The last time that happened was 2000, when the Yanks and Mets met for the first all–New York World Series since 1956.

Can it happen again? As baseball fans know, hope springs eternal.