- The Washington Times - Friday, September 20, 2002

Et tu, Babbin?

In "A grounded raptor is an albatross"(Op-Ed, yesterday), Jed Babbin concludes his column about warring against Iraq with the Latin phrase "Saddam delendus est," which presumably means "Saddam must be destroyed." When using this phrase, Mr. Babbin harkens back to the Roman Cato the Elder and the Third Punic War, in which Rome finally vanquished Carthage, even plowing salt into the Carthaginian soil to render the land worthless (the origin of the phrase a "Carthaginian peace").

But according to historian Eugene Ehrlich, author of "Amo, Amas, Amat and More," Cato used the ominous phrase "delenda est Carthago" ("Carthage must be destroyed") in order to goad the hesitant Roman Senate into destroying its former enemy, by then impotent. Carthage, no longer a threat to the Roman Empire, was deliberately tricked into accepting what it thought to be generous terms, and then the great city was destroyed. Mr. Ehrlich states that this phrase "survives as an ironic reminder that a ruling clique in a powerful nation can have its way in crushing a helpless rival if it musters the rhetoric to stir irrational passions."

Given the subject of Mr. Babbin's column, is he trying to send a mixed message?


Arlington, Va.

The capitalist who caved in

As reported in "SEC to probe Welch perks" (Business, Tuesday), former General Electric CEO Jack Welch disclosed Monday that he will give up a portion of his retirement compensation, which prompted public outcry after its disclosure in court papers related to his divorce.

Just what exactly does Mr. Welch gain by renouncing his compensation package? Not a thing. His 20 years of leadership changed GE from a $13 billion maker of light bulbs and washing machines into a $480 billion industrial leader. The value of his presence at GE is undisputed. Only someone ignorant of what a chief executive does could claim with a straight face that Mr. Welch didn't earn every cent he was paid, and yet that is precisely kind of person to whom Mr. Welch caved in.

If Mr. Welch really cared about his public perception, he would have had enough pride to defend his compensation. CEOs have been under fire for years for their pay. If Mr. Welch simply would have answered his critics by saying, "I earned it and who cares about anyone who thinks otherwise," he would have done more to demolish the anti-wealth-creating mentality than a thousand essays by others.

It says a lot about a man when he can't justify his pay. It means he thinks his compensation is some kind of a game instead of the fair trade of one value for another. It says even more when one of our great capitalists can't defend capitalism.



The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism


D.C. ballot's pot initiative

In a recent article about the struggle to place a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot in the District ("Medical pot awaits decision," Metro, Wednesday), I was described as "infuriated" with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. This certainly is true, but the article failed to convey the precise source of my anger.

When we were informed by the board that Initiative 63 the Medical Marijuana Initiative of 2002 had qualified for the Nov. 5 ballot, we asked the board to consider holding a special session to certify the initiative immediately.

The reason we asked for immediate action is straightforward. If the U.S. Court of Appeals reverses an earlier U.S. District Court decision which in March declared unconstitutional the Barr appropriations amendment forbidding the use of District funds for any initiative to lessen criminal penalties for marijuana the board will be unable to spend money to place the initiative on the ballot. If, however, the board prints the ballots before the Court of Appeals rules, the initiative will appear on the ballot no matter what the court decides.

When I raised this issue with Kenneth J. McGhie, general counsel for the board, he said the board would not consider certifying the initiative until its regularly scheduled meeting next Wednesday. He added that the board did not care how or when the Court of Appeals ruled because the board is "impartial" and acts without regard to outside events.

I later discovered that the board was planning to wait as long as possible for the Court of Appeals to rule before placing us on the ballot (as reported in the article). This not only ran counter to what Mr. McGhie had told me, but also demonstrated that the board is abandoning standard procedure in order to stymie our initiative.

The District will incur additional costs if the ballot is sent to the printer after today. One can be certain, therefore, that the ballot normally would be finalized by that time. Given the absence of legal barriers to printing the ballots after today, the only reason to delay is pure bias against our cause.

Given the city's $323 million deficit, it is outrageous and, to me, infuriating that the board is planning to spend additional funds on these ballots in an effort to deny District residents the right to vote on a broadly supported initiative.


Director of government relations

Marijuana Policy Project


Maryland defends its Wilson Bridge replacement plan

The Maryland State Highway Administration is making sound business decisions to manage the replacement of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the polar opposite of what is charged in "The bungled Wilson Bridge project" (Editorial, Sept. 6). The project is the largest and most complex local public-works effort undertaken in more than a generation. The sheer size and immense complexity sometimes produce unanticipated challenges, as occurred last December when the bidding for the bridge superstructure (the portion above the foundations) contract yielded just one contractor bid, which came in 75 percent higher than our estimate. Together with our federal and Virginia partners, we prudently rejected the overpriced bid an example of "bureaucratic rigmarole" that saved taxpayers tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

As confirmed by a team of outside experts impaneled by the highway administration, a wide variety of factors constrained interest by bridge-building contractors. One factor was that other states simultaneously were bidding megabridge jobs, including the Oakland-Bay Bridge in California. Another factor, frankly, was September 11. As we reflect on the tragic events of a year ago and the long shadow they have cast on our nation, the reality is that the August-December superstructure bidding period was a time of severe dislocation, economic and otherwise.

Moving forward, we forged an aggressive and business-smart plan to get the superstructure work back on track. Breaking the single contract into three smaller elements will enlarge the pool of potential contractors capable of bidding. Staggering the advertisement dates of the three smaller contracts will ensure that we do not end up competing with ourselves for the finite number of contractors. We are leaving no stone unturned in marketing the jobs to potential contractors. These actions will maximize contractor competition and elicit the lowest-priced qualified bids while allowing the superstructure work to begin expeditiously.

Managing the complex Wilson Bridge project is much like conducting an orchestra: All the instruments must play at the right moment, or the result can sound like a traffic jam. With nearly two years of construction completed on schedule and under budget, our strategic approach for the future is premised on completing the project as swiftly and cost-efficiently as possible the best way to fix the actual traffic jams that burden Wilson Bridge commuters and other travelers.



Maryland State Highway Administration


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