Posted: March 28, 2005


Speech? Speech?

Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III flew solo the other night, speaking for himself and not for his father-the-senator when he keynoted the Sussex County Democrats' spring dinner in Seaford.

Not very surprisingly, the non-candidate gave something of a non-speech.

Beau Biden would astonish his party if he did not file for attorney general in 2006 against M. Jane Brady, the three-term Republican incumbent who once ran a put-up-your-dukes campaign against Joe Biden, but he is still in the coy stage about his political plans. It left him talking in generalities about what Democrats stand for.

He was introduced to a crowd of more than 100 people by Lynn M. Betts, the Sussex County Democratic chairwoman, by his National Guard rank and occupation as "Captain" Beau Biden "who is also an attorney," but the trappings of candidacy were there.

Why else would he bring along his grandmother Biden and his wife? (Joe Biden, who could have upstaged his son, was not there.)

The speech sounded more senatorial than prosecutorial. For example, he banged the Republicans on federal spending, saying, "What has the other side done? They've squandered the surplus."

Anyone who has heard Joe Biden speak would have recognized elements of his style in Beau Biden -- such as the way he reminded his listeners of their mutual ties. He mentioned that he has known some of them for 33 years, since he was three years old, tagging along for his father's first Senate campaign in 1972 when "the ladies of Sussex County" took care of him.

If Beau Biden's speech was Joe Biden Lite, it did not seem to matter to this audience of partisan Democrats.

"He is a chip off the old block. I think Beau has got a great future, state or national," said Senate President Pro Tem Thurman G. Adams Jr., the Bridgeville Democrat who is the voice of Sussex County.

Beau Biden talked about the characteristics of the Democrats as being "faith, freedom, fidelity and fairness," but Adams and the others seemed more interested in hearing of a fifth "F" from him.

File, already.

Gebelein: Leaving Afghanistan better than he found it

Nothing gladdens a judge as much as seeing the rule of law prevail. Richard S. Gebelein, the Superior Court judge on active duty as an army colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, has been watching the respect for law improve since he was called up in August for a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Gebelein, who is due home next month, wrote Saturday to Delaware Grapevine from his e-mail address at about what he has observed:

"As the days are winding down on my tour in Afghanistan, I am beginning to see some of the effects on Afghan society of the U.S. presence here.

"When I am driving to work in the morning, it is now customary to see traffic police taking control of the traffic at each major intersection. Drivers actually stop when the police officer raises a small stop sign in their direction.

"Indeed, a driver commented on one police officer as he let our car cross heavy traffic, 'He's a good man, takes control.' This is a small difference from September when no one paid any attention to the few officers who were actually trying to direct traffic, but it is a significant difference.

"A few days ago when I participated in the graduation of about 100 correctional officers from a brief training program, the speeches from Sarwar Danish, the minister of justice, and his head of prisons both stressed the importance of observing human rights in the treatment of prisoners and the need to get them training so that they might pursue work rather than crime when released.

"These speeches are a significant indication of the Afghan government's desire to adopt international standards in its treatment of those in custody. While the physical facilities are clearly beneath any minimum standards, the personnel are being trained to act with compassion and respect for human rights.

"The world has been slow to assist Afghanistan in prison renovation and construction. It is an area where we must do more. In many provinces the government rents houses where prisoners are held in locked rooms. There is very little security at these private buildings, and as a result escapes occur and respect for the law is diminished. In other provinces prisons do exist but have been severely damaged during the wars.

"The United Nations has estimated that $161 million is needed to establish a minimal prison system. So far, not even $10 million has been pledged. The lack of a truly secure prison is one of the impediments to enforcing the laws against opium and other drugs.

"On the judicial side, the nine justices of the Afghan Interim Supreme Court are now eager to participate in programs that increase their knowledge of other judicial systems. This is a significant change from the past. These justices will be writing the law and procedures for organizing the new court system required under the Constitution of 2004.

"Today we lost four soldiers to a land mine. It was a poignant reminder of the dangers that the Afghans face every day as they try to repair the damage done to their country over the past 25 years. They are a proud and hard-working people who deserve the world's help in rebuilding their country."