Obama's war because Bush focused on Iraq

The May 17 letter writer was right: President Obama has now claimed the war in Afghanistan as the war that should have been fought and finished. But does anyone remember that it was President George W. Bush who walked away from Afghanistan seven years ago, just when Al-Qaida and the Taliban were all but footnotes in history? Does anyone realize that when Bush walked away from Afghanistan, he gave Al-Qaida and the Taliban the chance to come back from the brink of extinction? Does anyone realize that when he walked away from Afghanistan he did exactly the same thing that America, under his father, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, did when the Soviet Union withdrew its troops in 1989, which led to the rise of the Taliban?

Many of you complaining about Obama and the current situation in Afghanistan were right there with Bush, beating the Iraq war drums, which allowed Bush to walk away from Afghanistan and allowed Al-Qaida and the Taliban to make their comeback.


• • •

A May 17 letter writer asks a reasonable question about why we are not rising up as we did during the Vietnam War.

The answer is simple: We eliminated the draft. Can you imagine the uproar if a son, father, husband or brother were conscripted today?


Coal plant conversions

Should we seek even greener options now?

As one of many who had a hand in converting three metro-area coal-burning power plants to cleaner fuels and operations, I was pleased to read your editorial on the Metro Emissions Reduction Project ("Cleaner air for metro," May 16). One of my proudest moments was watching the old smokestack at Xcel Energy's High Bridge plant in St. Paul fall to make room for the new natural-gas plant.

The dramatic reductions in harmful air emissions from these aging plants has been a boon to all who live and breathe in the Twin Cities.

I wonder, though, as concerns about climate change mount, whether we should make the same choice at other coal plants today.

Minnesota's coal plants are well over 40 years old on average, and many face expensive upgrades to address mercury, smog and fine-particle pollution in the coming few years. Plant improvements needed to accommodate the new pollution-control equipment often add many years to a plant's life without addressing carbon dioxide, the main source of global-warming pollution.

Our air will be cleaner, at an enormous cost to utility customers, but we will have locked in millions of tons of future carbon dioxide.

The question for policymakers is whether to encourage such investments or ask if it would make more sense to retire and replace these plants with lower-carbon options. We are already seeing that the combination of aggressive new energy-efficiency and renewable-energy targets and a slowing economy are reducing customers' energy demands, which should force the oldest and least-efficient plants into retirement.

Let's push for cleaner air, lower utility bills and a cooler planet -- a win-win-win.



Scholarship applicants testify to their impact

In these times of economic crisis and municipal deficits, there is a cry to cut spending, including on education. We read stories about unmotivated students and lackluster teachers and about how American students are slipping behind in math and science. While this makes incendiary news, there is a side to this story that is not being told. Spending in our local schools and supporting our teachers and administrators is by far the most-effective investment we can make in our future.

I serve on the Minneapolis branch of the American Association of University Women scholarship committee. Each year the AAUW awards scholarships to two outstanding women from Minneapolis high schools.

This year the scholarship committee read 64 five-page applications to choose the eight semifinalists. One of the readers said, "This is the hardest thing I've ever done," because the quality of the applicants was so high, the financial need in these times was so desperate, and the sheer drive of each student to produce outstanding academic, school and community-service accomplishments was astonishing.

We read and reread carefully written recommendations diligently prepared by teachers and guidance counselors. One of our interview questions was, "What motivates you?"

Over and over the answer was mothers or a particular teacher. Most often these were refugee mothers who had absolutely no opportunity for even a minimal education. The dream of education proved a powerful force. We felt their pain and their joys. We could not help realizing the teaching that lifted these young women to their potential.

Minneapolis should be proud of the educators they support. The scholarship committee and the 400 members of the AAUW are.


Catherine TarsNey

Paper should champion national debate champ

Catherine Tarsney won the national High School Tournament of Champions in debate ("St. Louis Park senior wins national debate crown," May 19).

The tournament coordinator called the unanimous 9-0 decision for her final debate on using economic sanctions as a legitimate foreign-policy tool "beyond belief."

This story appeared in the West extra section.

After reading about Tom Petters and Denny Hecker on the front page for months, why wasn't this story on page A1, above the fold?

RUSS PAUMEN, Maple Lake, Minn.