Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- January 18-24, 2004

This page includes posts from January 18-24, 2004 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

January 24, 2004
Messing about in the kitchen on a cold winter evening

This dish turned out to be just the right kind of hearty for a cold winter's evening. It's not based on any formal recipe--it's just something I put together while messing about in the kitchen, using stuff we already had in the house.

I had been outside enough today, thankewverymuch.

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup flour
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
8 plum tomatoes, diced
1 small can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 tsp. basil leaves
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. filé powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 dashes hot sauce (Tobasco
®, for example)
1 bell pepper, chopped fine
1 rib celery, chopped fine
1 cup rice
1 small can (14.5 oz.) low-sodium chicken broth
2 whole cooked chicken breasts, diced

In a large dutch oven or other high-sided pan, first make a medium-brown roux with the butter and the flour.

Add the onions and garlic to the roux, cooking over low heat until the onions are softened. Then add the tomatoes, herbs, spices, filé powder and pepper, as well as half of the chopped bell pepper and celery. Stir occasionally as the mixture simmers for 10 ten minutes. Add the rest of the bell pepper and celery, along with the rice and the chicken broth. After ten minutes simmering, add the chicken pieces. Continue to simmer for 15 more minutes, or until rice is done.

Serves 4-6.

January 23, 2004
Howard Dean's Joe Biden Moment

Howard Dean's presidential campaign continues to be troubled by the former Vermont governor's own actions.

This week, for example, Dean had a Joe Biden moment.

Here's a little reminder for the history-impaired.

During the 1988 presidential race, the eventual Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis, tripped up the popular Delaware Senator, effectively ending Biden's campaign.

Dukakis' people gave the press copies of an "attack video" that showed Biden doing a bit of plagiarizing from a speech by Neal Kinnock, a British Labor Party leader.

In an ABC interview this week, Dean was quoted as follows:

"I am who I am," Howard Dean told [Diane] Sawyer in a transcript on the show's Web site.

Now, where have we heard something like that before, eh?

"I am who I am"

I yam what I yam--Popeye, as played by Robin Williams

Albin: "I am what I am", as played by David Edwards

Howard Dean:
"I am who I am"
Popeye the Sailor:
"I yam what I yam"
Albin, in
La Cage Aux Folles:
"I am what I am."

With these continual lapses in judgment, I just don't know how much longer Dean can last.

January 22, 2004
Nice work, if states can get it

UCLA law professor Steven Bainbridge wrote a comprehensive post detailing the reasons why he believes Delaware is the legal home for so many major corporations.

Bainbridge notes the usual "race to the bottom" and "race to the top" arguments, the Chancery Court's appeal as a business-oriented court system, and the fact that the state's decisional law tends to support the creation and maintenance of shareholder wealth and control.

As a Delaware attorney, I'd say he understands very well why my state holds such attraction for both corporations and the corporate bar. I highly recommend his essay.

I also think it can't be overstated that both major political parties in Delaware are keenly aware of the goose/golden egg impact that the Delaware Corporation Law has on both the State budget and on the local legal economy, which just happens to be a primary source of campaign funds.

Delaware's politicians know better than to mess with success, or to bite the highly educated hands that feed them.

January 21, 2004
Child’s play

Last week’s Delaware Supreme Court decision over visitation rights and responsibilities made me wonder if the child was the only immature participant in the proceeding.

A divorced couple shares responsibility for their little boy, a five-year-old at the time of the incident. The mother lives in southern New Jersey, about an hour away from the father, who has primary residential custody of the boy. Under the terms of their consent order, the mother has visitation rights with her son on every other weekend and every Saturday.

The father signed the boy up for T-Ball, which included practices and games on Saturdays near their Delaware home. However, the mother refused to take the boy to the first T-Ball practice. The father forced the issue by going to Family Court, which told the mother to take the boy to the weekend events.

The mother appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court’s decision in a brief order:

The trial court correctly concluded that it is in the Son’s interest to participate in constructive activities, like T-Ball. Nothing in the [Standard Visitation] Guidelines requires that Son’s activities be approved by both parents, and the fact that T-Ball takes some time away from Mother’s visitation does not mean that Son is being deprived of a continuing relationship with Mother. The Family Court acted well within its discretion. [citation omitted].


This is the kind of case that makes one question how much an innocent pastime such as T-Ball was being used as just another weapon between the two warring parents, or whether this was an honest dispute over the benefits of playing baseball. 

Unfortunately, I think the former is the more likely explanation.

January 20, 2004
Book Reviews and the Internet

Terry Teachout and David Sucher exchanged correspondence recently about book reviews and their appearance in major newspapers and magazines. 

Teachout noted that for these two venues, book reviews are typically limited to appearances at or around the date of initial publication. Sucher’s response was to praise the additional opportunities for writers presented by the blogosphere,

where someone can "review" a book which was published ten years ago.

Teachout agreed, and felt that blogs are becoming increasingly influential as a source of book sales. He also understood why:

[I]t’s worth remembering that this phenomenon is made possible by two other phenomena. The first is linkage. The reason why people buy books after reading about them on blogs is because they can—i.e., all they have to do is click on the link. And the reason why they can is because of the emergence of on-line bookstores.

In my experience, the Internet’s connection to book reviews and bookselling goes well beyond blogs, although bloggers’ influence in discussing and selling books is a more recent and welcome additional development.

For example, Sneaking Suspicions has been in existence for just over two years. On the other hand, for over six years I have operated Hole By Hole as a golf-related website, complete with book reviews that began appearing on the site in March 1998.

It started out simply enough. I was trying to figure out a way to increase traffic to Hole By Hole, and found out about the Amazon Associates program. A short while later I posted the first book review on my site, complete with a link back to Amazon.

Since then, I have posted over 140 more book reviews at Hole By Hole. In addition, the book reviews eventually led an editor to ask me if I had any interest in writing the weekly golf column for the local newspaper.  The editor and publisher agreed that the reviews could run in the column, which has been a big help toward meeting my weekly column deadline on several occasions.

To give you a sense of scale, about half of the typical 1500 or more visitors to Hole By Hole each week read one or more book reviews at the site, including those dating back from the very beginning.

Unlike major newspapers and magazines, online book review outlets such as Hole By Hole don’t rely on immediacy for their appeal. In fact, the authors and publishers of golf books don’t seem to mind a bit that my reviews don’t always track the projected publication date.

For one thing, golf books (at least the better ones) tend to have a long shelf life. In addition, the easy availability of reviews on the Internet can keep a book in the public eye far longer than print outlets alone, which of course helps sell them.

My experience as an online reviewer/seller is by no means unique. There are thousands of similar affiliates with online booksellers, many of whom follow a similar niche approach to the business.

Blogs are simply another way for the Internet to reach book buyers, a point not lost on the book authors who use their blogs as a self-marketing tool.

The net-savvy bibliophiles among us are perfectly fine with that.

January 19, 2004
Crawfish (crabmeat) pie

Janis Gore is not only a fine blogger, but a great cook.

That is the totally unbiased conclusion my family reached after trying out her crawfish pie recipe.

Only, we didn't have crawfish, so we used crabmeat instead.

It still turned out great, both in taste and in appearance.

Here's the recipe as she sent it to me. My notes follow below.

Crawfish Pie

1 medium onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 10-3/4 oz. can cream of celery soup
4 tbsp. tomato sauce
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1 lb. crawfish tails plus fat
1/2 cup mushrooms, diced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup whipping cream
12 (or so) Dutch Ann (Natchez product tart
size pie shells (You may use any size pie shell. This recipe will fill one deep full pie shell or 12 tart size shells or maybe 2 regular pie shells.

Pre-bake empty pastry shells at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Saute onions, garlic and celery in butter until limp. Add soup, tomato sauce, sugar, and parsley. Cook ten minutes, and then add crawfish. Cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes, and then add mushrooms, salt, and peppers.

Gradually add bread crumbs and mix well.*** Add cream. Mix well and spoon into pie crusts. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

*** Note: This mixture should be creamy enough to dip and handle easily. If not, add whipping cream until mixture is of the consistency to spoon easily, but not run. Sometimes vegetables are dry, and you might need to add a bit of cream.

(Fritz, if you have sensitive ones in your family you might like to reduce the peppers a bit.)

For the crabmeat version of this pie, I substituted a pound of crabmeat. Also, we were out of tomato sauce, so I used 4 tablespoons of Prego pasta sauce instead.

The recipe filled a Pampered Chef stoneware 11-inch pan, in which I pre-baked a single sheet of pre-made pie shell, stretched a bit to fit the larger pan's dimensions. Everything fit just fine.

As for Janis' warning about the pepper, we used them in the amounts called for in the recipe. Nonetheless, I can see how some folks would cut back a little to suit their own taste, perhaps by taking a pinch out of each half-teaspoon.

January 19, 2004
A conservative approach to emancipation

John Steele Gordon wrote a persuasive article supporting the emancipation of the folks who live in the District of Columbia. 

Gordon points out that at the beginning of the District’s existence, the people living there voted for and were represented in the governments of the two states whose land was taken for the purpose of creating the national capital. Congress mucked up the arrangement shortly thereafter. 

The Virginia segment of the District returned to the Commonwealth before the Civil War, but Maryland still sits there with a chunk of its original acreage cut out of the bottom.

Gordon suggests that the Constitution be amended to return to Maryland the voting rights of and representation responsibilities for the District’s citizens.

Since the idea dovetails with what I’ve always thought should happen, naturally I agree with him.

It’s an appropriately conservative approach to returning fundamental fairness to those who live in DC. It places these folks on the same footing as those living in Baltimore or Annapolis. As a citizen of another small state that doesn’t bother me at all. On the other hand, creating a new city-state is completely wrongheaded, and is a political non-starter.

I doubt very much that Gordon’s suggestion will make it into this week’s State of the Union address. Nonetheless, I think it would help President Bush’s legacy if he were to announce his support for restoring representative democracy to the District under this arrangement, on a similar schedule as the same efforts now underway in foreign lands.

January 18, 2004
Positive politics

Somehow I doubt that Paul Krugman has ever gone to a NASCAR race.

If he did, I’m sure the habitually grumpy political columnist/professor would feel out of place.

On the other hand, several million other men frankly enjoy the spectacle and excitement of a well-run high-speed contest, whose trappings also include a wholesale embrace of American patriotism as well as its more crassly capitalistic elements.

These race fans are the subject of an intriguing article by Jeff MacGregor appearing in today’s NYT.

MacGregor spent a year on the NASCAR circuit, and so he was well-placed to describe the effort by political analysts and consultants to use “NASCAR dad” as shorthand for a major segment of the American voter population. 

He’s careful to note the incongruity of trying to encapsulate a wide swath of American men into a single set of political or social characteristics, while still retaining some meaning to the result.

Nonetheless, I think in one important respect MacGregor nails it:

Nascar dad wants a political process, a president, a government, that make him feel the same galvanizing, heartbreaking pride he feels when he looks at his flag. Nascar dad wants to be moved, inspired, encouraged. Nascar dad wants to be put in touch with his better angels.

Nascar dad wants to know that all his hard work, all his effortful virtue and his diligent vigilance, all his ancient bravery and his bone-deep devotion, all his canny intelligence and his remarkable ingenuity, all his abiding love of country, and all the struggle in his living and his dying, is in service of something much greater than himself.

These desires touch upon the difference in approach to the presidential campaign that Jeff Jarvis recently wrote about at his site, in which he took issue with this quote from a recent Krugman column: 

The real division in the race for the Democratic nomination is between those who are willing to question not just the policies but also the honesty and the motives of the people running our country, and those who aren't.

Jarvis points out the fundamental error in Krugman’s preferred strategy:

Dean and company find themselves at a strategic crossroads, perhaps too late. … For them, it's all about venting, even revenge.

But that doesn't find a leader. That doesn't create a winner. That doesn't build the nation. That just makes them feel better.

Senator John Edwards (D-NC) seems to have understood the difference all along.

His campaign has for the most part been free of the bitterness found at the core of others’ quest for the Democratic nomination. Given NASCAR’s huge presence in North Carolina, perhaps Senator Edwards was in a better position than his competitors to understand how a significant portion of potential voters would react to a campaign built on tearing down instead of inspiring to build up.

Unfortunately for him, NASCAR dads tend not to be on the front lines of political activism. As Jarvis points out, however, the astringent attitudes of the Dean bunch and others now seem to be losing supporters, while more upbeat candidates such as Edwards are gaining.

We’ll know soon enough whether too many Democratic activists are more willing to lose with the cold comfort of their negativity than to win with a politically positive message.


Contact Information:

Fritz Schranck
P.O. Box 88
Nassau, DE  19969


Home Page
Table of Essays
Table of Essays 2002
Links to the Weekly Archives

Official small print disclaimer: This is, after all, a personal web site. Any opinions or comments I express here are my own, and don't necessarily reflect the official position of my work as a government attorney or any of my clients.

That fact may become obvious later on, but it needs to be said here anyway.

© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2003