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January 2009

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January 30, 2009

Gimme a G! .... gimme an R! .... gimme an E! .... gimme another E! .... gimme a D! The economy is in a tailspin. Thousands of families are facing the wretched experience of a job loss. Investors, from charitable foundations and university endowments to owners of 401-K pension accounts, are seeing asset value halved. Governments are curtailing services in all 50 states. But it seems that the blinds are shut tight in executive suites and boardrooms. From public proxy statements and other sources we're learning that corporate executives are weathering the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression under blankets of unconscionably fat performance bonuses even where performance has been shoddy. President Obama has called it "shameful". Senator Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, has said that, to the extent that bonuses and pay raises came directly or indirectly from public bailout money, he'll press to have the money returned. We suspect that what has become public so far is but the proverbial tip of the iceberg. While there apparently is no law to go after blatant abusers, we would suggest that the Securities and Exchange Commission require every public company to immediately file an electronic accounting of all executives who during the past 12 months received bonuses of $100,000 or more and salaries of $1 million or more. The lists should be posted on the Internet and the media encouraged to further disseminate it. Then customers, stockholders and others who deal in meaningful ways with those companies should undertake by whatever lawful means are at hand -- product boycotts, protest meetings, demonstrations, picket lines and such -- to demand redress. Such tactics have ended many untoward actions up to and including wars. There is no reason they can't work now to translate mere indignation into some degree of recognition that there can be no protected privileged caste during troubled times.


January 19, 2009

It was more than just hopeful thinking. Standing in Tubman-Garrett Park awaiting the arrival of the symbolic train carrying President-elect Obama one could not help but get caught up in the enthusiasm around you. It was great political theater -- temperature in the teens, the bunting and oversize flag, and a cadre of Secret Service officers in their uniform dark coats with tiny identification buttons in the lapels. But as the wait went on you realized that you were witnessing history and were actually a tiny part of it. The nation was on the cusp of a defining moment and this was its beginning. Obama's coming into office has been compared with the inaugurations of Lincoln and Roosevelt, and you could appropriately add Jefferson and Jackson. That he is the first man of color to hold the highest office in the land just 40 years after blacks achieved full citizenship with a guaranteed right to vote made the coincidence of the weekend with the holiday commemorating Martin Luther King all the more poignant. But there is much more to ponder. Obama assumes his office with a clear mandate to bring about change -- not just to address the economic crisis which grips the nation and to end a war that should not have been begun but also with regard to health care, education, climate change and virtually all the other important issues of our day. Both in the process of achieving the office and preparing to assume it, Obama has demonstrated his ability to govern in an open, even-handed and reasoned manner. After the inaugural parade and the balls are over and the crowd has returned home we will, by all accounts, have a leader we can respect and follow.


Not lost amid the rush of emotion was the fact that Delaware is once again very much in prominence at a turn of the national experience. Joe Biden, who has represented us well for 36 years in the U.S. Senate, will now occupy the second highest office in the land. What began with Caesar Rodney's ride from Dover to Philadelphia to cast a key vote for American independence was continuing along the Amtrak right-of-way from Philadelphia to Washington.


May God bless Mr. President, Mr. Vice-President and America.


January 8, 2009

It should not come as a surprise, but -- whadda ya know! -- DelDOT has done it again. As reconstruction of Ferris Road between Prices Corner and Faulkland Road nears completion, we realize it's not going to be an extension of the State Route 141 freeway after all. For well over a quarter century what was to have been a western bypass around Wilmington -- Interstate 695 -- has come to an abrupt halt at its interchange with Kirkwood Highway. Now, it seems, the halt won't be as abrupt, but there will still be one. A through highway with interchanges at Faulkland Road and Lancaster Pike and a right-turn-only connector at Alapocas Drive would have been an obviously more logical design. There would still be the McConnell Bridge bottleneck -- How long ago was it that a painful public planning process for a replacement was brought to naught? -- but that's another tale for another day. It seems the same talent which produced, at great cost, the inadequate and, in several ways, absurd and dangerous result at Blue Ball is still calling the shots at the Delaware Department of Transportation.


We understand that state representative Joseph Miro plans to once again introduce legislation to outlaw use of cellular telephones while driving. With inattentive driving second only to speeding as the major cause of collisions, it's well past time that Delaware followed the lead of California, New York, 10 other states and the District of Columbia and provide a tool to control a traffic hazard which is as avoidable as it is obvious.


January 1, 2009

It has been impossible to wish anyone a happy new year without adding a desire that the coming 12 months will prove to be better than the previous 12. There's a universal feeling that 2008 provided the worst possible combination of circumstances and events. Taking a broader view, however, there have been many years that were worse and many turns of the calendar when the outlook for the future has been more grim. After all, there is nothing magic about January 1. It's an arbitrary date used since ancient Rome to fix a point at which Earth's journey around the sun begins again on an elliptical path to return 365 sunrises later. To be sure, there are other dates on which new years begin -- the Chinese lunar year at the appearance of a new moon in what westerners regard as late January or early February; the vernal equinox when spring overcomes winter; July 1 when numbers crunchers begin a new fiscal ledger (The federal government has pushed its accounting year back to October for some obscure reason.); Labor Day when the vacation season gives way to workaday reality; Rosh Hashanah later in September, decreed by God to be at the head of the Hebrew calendar; the ever-retreating start of the 354-days Islamic year; and many others. But whatever date is observed it's an annual point at which we open a fresh page of human experience. From here we can look forward with hope to whatever the future holds. All we can be sure of: there will be good and bad, triumphs and challenges, hopes that are dashed and dreams which come true. On that note -- Welcome, 2009; Happy New Year! 

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