July 19, 2006
Winston Churchill wrote in his
World War II memoirs that the first time he was able to sleep
soundly after being named prime minister in the early days of
the war was the night of December 7, 1941. The Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor assured that the United States would be a "full
partner" and, even though Britain would soon loose Hong Kong and
Singapore, proverbial crown jewels of its empire, eventual
victory over the Axis was assured. Similarly, President
Roosevelt then had the public and political support needed to go
to war, the only alternative to a stalemate more bloody than the
First World War followed by an onerous peace treaty in a world
dominated by fascism.
Nothing comes close to a tragedy
as a unifying force in a family, a community or a nation.
President Bush was in a very
similar position following the September 11, 2001, attacks on
the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Not without reason have the
two events been seen as parallels. Contrary to what happened 65
years ago, the current President, however, has squandered a
calling to lead a united nation in a noble cause.
Mr. Bush had the
unquestioned support of a huge majority of Americans the day he stood amid the
smoldering wreckage in New York and proclaimed a "global war on terror." His
sending troops into Afghanistan to bring Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to justice
was widely hailed as even more worthy than President Truman's decision to commit
the military to Korea. It no longer mattered that Mr. Bush held office by virtue
of a questionable court decision which effected a result counter to the desires
of a majority -- albeit a slim majority -- of voters. He was our President and
he was doing the right thing for the right reasons.
What has happened
since is nothing short of a tragedy in itself. (CLICK HERE
to read a comprehensive and insightful article from last Sunday's Washington
The nation is bitterly
divided -- perhaps more so than it has ever been, with the exception of the
Civil War and the sectional divide which preceded it. Quickly converted into a
catchphrase, 'global war on terror' has since been used to shield an agenda with
a rationale that defies logical explanation.
Whether it was in
support of oil-industry interests, a desire for revenge for a failed
assassination attempt on his father, reliance on false intelligence concerning
the potential for developing weapons of mass destruction, an imperialistic
compulsion to export our way of governing to a part of the world not exactly
longing for it, a desire to take out one of several malevolent dictators
currently ruling, or a combination of all those things, President Bush committed
the United States to what can appropriately be described, borrowing a phrase
from history, as "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Unlike Vietnam, where
the doctrine of containment of communist aggression held over from the 1950s
lent considerable support to the early steps along the path to full-scale U.S.
involvement, President Bush acted on nebulous authority counter to the advice
and expertise of a veritable phalanx of knowledgeable persons, including his own
Secretary of State and the senior senator from Delaware. Consider what you're
doing, Mr. President, and if you feel you must do it, do it in concert with our
European, Asian and Mid-east allies and the United Nations.
The reply was to again
cite that 'global war on terrorism'.
The result, bought at
a cost so far of the deaths of more than 2,500 American service personnel and
injury to nearly 20,000, not to mention -- as is seldom done -- untold numbers
of Iraqi and others who are victims of a foundering policy which has no real
possibility of succeeding by any measure we can consider reasonable. Here at
home, we are almost daily discovering new implications of a draconian law and
executive actions unprecedented even in full-scale wartime. (CLICK HERE
to read the Boston Globe account of testimony by Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales.) In the process, the United States has lost the respect of the
governments and publics of nations formerly close to us and earned the hatred of
several we should be seeking to inspire.
Still the 'global war
on terrorism' is offered as the only rationale for what continues to occur.
that terrorism and terrorists exist -- as they have literally since the dawn of
history -- we suggest that the 'global war on terrorism' may be too convenient a
vehicle to be allowed to expire at any time in the near future. The force sent
into Afghanistan quickly toppled the government which supported Osama and took
physical control of all but a small portion of that nation. We are told that it
is there that he and his organization are holed up in caves in terrain too
rugged to effectively clear. At the same time, it seems, it is not too rugged or
remote to prevent Osama from effectively managing a worldwide network of
dedicated disciples and periodically producing broadcast-quality videos spewing
his venom. Are those caves technological palaces?
The General Assembly passed up an
opportunity to buy back the Public Building on Rodney Square for upwards of $5
million. The real estate subsidiary of M.B.N.A. Bank purchased the historic
structure in 2003 in a deal that was heavily shrouded. M.B.N.A. and, with it,
the building is owned by Bank of America, which finds itself with something of a
white elephant on its hands.
The Public Building is
commonly referred to now -- at least by relative newcomers -- as the Daniel
Hermann Courthouse. Its history, however, goes all the way back to 1914 and for
62 years it housed both city of Wilmington and New Castle County governments as
well as state and municipal courts.
Employing the state
Freedom of Information Act, Delaforum was finally able to find out what the bank
planned to do with the building (CLICK HERE
to read the Delaforum article), but city officials stonewalled on providing any
accounting of the deal or deals which led up to the acquisition. By the time the
plans were forced into public view, M.B.N.A. had possession and had begun
extensive exterior renovation.
there was little public reaction to what was happening to the Public Building.
In other instances, the outward appearance of structures deemed of historic
value is the object of considerable public scrutiny before any alterations can
be made. Defenders of old farmhouses, schools and miscellaneous structures are
The bank also gutted
the interior of the building to provide, it said, for reconstruction into
executive offices. The exact condition of the insides is not generally known.
Is, for instance, the majestic cityside staircase still there?
It would be a good
idea for the state to reacquire the structure if only to prevent its
deterioration while holding it for a use which is certain to arise at some time
in the future. Since it will be to Bank of America's benefit to shed what it
obviously considers useless real estate, it would make good business sense for
the bankers to settle for a break-even deal.
The state, however,
should insist that the front of the building facing King Street be put back the
way it was -- by removing the architecturally offensive porch, restoring the
disappearing steps and entranceways, and recarving the stones above the doors.
The bridge over 11th Street has to go. In return, the state can accept whatever
happened inside while negotiating how much restoration is needed to offset the
esthetic damage to the sides and rear of the structure.
The immediate need is
to establish strong legal protection for the Public Building to prevent any
further misuse of a structure so intricately tied to Wilmington's history and
July 13, 2006
goes around, they say, eventually comes around.
The Delaware Supreme Court has
agreed to review a rather arcane provision in the Delaware
constitution to determine if it really prohibits appointment to
be a senor county official of anyone who has not lived in the
county for at least a year. If so, the court has been asked if
the prohibition against a newcomer violates the all-encompassing
equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.
On the face of it, there can't be
much open to question about the first point. Article III,
Section 11, reads in its entirety: "No person shall be elected
or appointed to an office within a county who shall not have a
right to vote for a Representative in the General Assembly, and
have been a resident therein one year next before his or her
election or appointment, nor hold the office longer than he or
she continues to reside in the county, unless herein otherwise
provided." Beyond noting that judges here and elsewhere have
become adept at applying the 14th Amendment cure-all whenever
confronted by a thorny issue, we'll refrain from commenting on
the second point until their honors decide it.
What's at stake here is whether
New Castle County Executive Chris Coons can appoint someone from
elsewhere to be chief of police. He said there is such a person
on the short list of five candidate finalists he's considering,
but insists that should not be interpreted to mean the outlander
is the leader of the pack.
Strictly speaking, the high court
agreed to render an advisory opinion in response to a request
from Governor Ruth Ann Minner. But that's because only the
governor has the right to seek a decision when there is not a
specific case or legal dispute before the court. In his response
agreeing to her request, Chief Justice Myron Steele agreed to
put the matter on a fast track, a tacit acknowledgement of her
having suggested urgency in light of the New Castle County
Steele directed Attorney General
Carl Danberg to defend the state constitutional provision and to
argue against applying the 14th Amendment and Gregg Wilson,
county attorney, to take the opposite side.
What's particularly interesting
is that almost two years ago, Wilson's predecessor, Timothy
Mullaney, was forced to resign after then auditor Robert Hicks
discovered that Mullaney's principal residence was in Kent
County. When Mullaney ignored Hicks's request for an
explanation, Hicks went to then Attorney General Jane Brady
asking what should be done about that.
While Hicks alleged that Mullaney
was not complying with a county law requiring employees to take
up residence in the county within a year of their having taken a
job with county government, Brady replied that he was apparently
guilty of a more egregious violation in that then County
Executive Tom Gordon had appointed him to be county attorney in
violation of the constitutional provision. In the hierarchy of
laws, state law trumps a county ordinance and the state
constitution trumps both.
Bit of a tangent here: It's not
clear at this point how the prior-residency requirement got into
the Delaware constitution. It's a fairly safe bet, however, that
it was not part of the original 1897 document, but came in as a
later amendment. That was probably because the General Assembly
was miffed by something someone in county government did. State
legislators are known to use their preeminence to respond to
miffs. What would be interesting would be to discover what it
was that miffed one or more legislators so much that they were
able to secure the necessary supermajorities in two successive
assemblies to slip something like that into the constitution.
But, there it is. You go figure.
Back on track: That Hicks-Mullaney
embroilment occurred in the politically supercharged summer of
2004. Mullaney was a Gordon political appointee. Hicks had the
support of then Council president Coons. (To get the flavor of
things as they were,
CLICK HERE to read an article from the
Coons said there is nothing
inconsistent about how he apparently felt about the
prior-residency requirement in 2004 and his obviously strong
desire to overturn it in 2006. He told Delaforum that he was
focused then on Mullaney's violation of county law by not
establishing a bona fide county residence after his
appointment. That, Coons added, is "a requirement my
administration has enforced for my managers."
reason for challenging the constitutional provision initially
involved not only the police chief position but also appointment
of a director of public safety to succeed Guy Sapp, who has
since resigned. That point was rendered academic with the
appointment of Ron Frazier to that position. Frazier and his
family have lived in Middletown for several years.
He told County Council's public
safety committee on July 11 that he had applied for the police
chief job, but that during the interview process, Coons tapped
him to be the new people chief's boss.
Council voted unanimously to
confirm his appointment after Frazier told the committee that
his basic philosophy is that "people need to feel safe no matter
where they live." Several Council members said they came away
from private introductory meetings impressed both with him and
by his credentials.
Frazier began his career 33 years
ago as a beat cop in Havre de Gras, Md. After five years there,
he joined the National Railroad Passenger Corp. police force as
a captain and rose to be chief of police and security, directing
a force of 350 officers deployed nationally. After 20 years with
Amtrak, he went in 2004 to the U.S. Department of Health & Human
Services where he was involved in public health and
July 11, 2006
you believe a school district that outlaws red ink on report
cards in favor of 'less stressful' hues -- purple is the color
of preference -- so as not to upset kids who get a failing
grade? Or one that forbids teachers from using the word
'failure', or any derivation thereof, during parent conferences?
The acceptable terminology, believe it or not, to tell mom or
pop that junior is 'tending toward achieving deferred success'.
While that sort of political
correctness evokes chuckles, the same philosophy that produces
it can lead to tragedy. That happened in Atlanta, Ga., last year
when Cynthia Ann Hall, a five-foot-tall, 51-year-old grandmother
employed as a sheriff's deputy, was put to guarding Brian
Nichols, 33, a six-foot-one former college football linebacker
on trial for rape. He easily pushed her aside, took her gun and
killed a judge, a court reporter and another deputy and it took
an extensive manhunt to recapture him.
Those and a slew of other
examples of p.c.-gone-wild are contained in the recently
published Muzzled: From T-Ball to Terrorism by Michael A.
Smerconish. He's a talk-radio-show host on a Philadelphia
station and columnist in the Daily News who has had it up to
here with the all-pervasive prohibitions against saying or doing
anything that might possibly disturb anyone belonging to a
protected race, religion, ethnicity, physical state, sexual
orientation or gender.
Deputy Hall, of course, had her
job not only because hiring practices and duty assignments
appropriately prohibit discrimination against females but also
because applicant qualifications have been tailored and obvious
physical characteristics appropriate to given situations must be
overlooked. There is no place for blatant racism, but tossing
that blanket over a host of real-life conditions is hardly a way
to correct what needs correcting.
Then there's the double standard
evident in such things as trying to scrap the nearly
half-century non-disparaging tradition behind Florida State
University's linking itself with Seminole Indians while
gleefully accepting stereotypes inherent in references to the
'Fighting Irish' of the University of Notre Dame.
Smerconish pulls no punches and
covers a lot of ground in 249 pages of fast-moving narrative. He
calls political correctness "a domestic cancer." Warning that
the book is not for the squeamish, he said, "You'll encounter
example after blood-boiling example of average Americans who
have been bound and gagged by the P.C. police in every area of
life. ... I wish it were made up, but sadly it's all too true."
The book should be on everyone's list of required summer