Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- January 25-31, 2004

This page includes posts from January 25-31, 2004 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

January 30, 2004
Joementum comes to Delaware

I can vote in Delaware Democratic presidential primary next Tuesday.

Although it may turn out to be an entirely futile gesture, I plan to push the lever for Joe Lieberman.

I didn’t vote for the Connecticut Senator when he was on the undercard in the presidential election in 2000, but it wasn’t because of anything he did or said. For me it was more of a protest vote against the prior administration and the guy he was paired with at the time.

Among the remaining candidates for this year’s Democratic nomination, Lieberman is the only one who comes close to my position on foreign policy and national security.

Twenty-eight months ago we received a brutal reminder of the primacy of those areas of presidential responsibility, and what needs to be done to protect ourselves. As Roger L. Simon wrote recently, Lieberman recognizes that.

Senator Lieberman visited Delaware today, but unfortunately I didn’t learn he was here until it was too late.

It would have been fun to meet him.

January 29, 2004
Ecclesiastes comes to Cocoa

The City of Cocoa, Florida is a modern kind of small town. Located 50 miles east of Orlando, its 16,000 or so residents enjoy easy access to their local government officials.

In fact, any person with access to the Internet can e-mail City Manager Ric Holt or the Mayor and City Council, and let them know about any problems or concerns they may have. There’s no need to be a resident of Cocoa to take advantage of this opportunity.

On the other hand, at the Council’s regular meetings a different set of rules applies:

In its discretion, the council may set aside up to thirty minutes of each regular meeting for “delegations.” The purpose of such delegations shall be for any resident or taxpayer of the city to make his/her views known to the city council upon any subject of general or public interest.

* * *

The council recognizes that delegations is for the purpose of legitimate inquiries and discussion by the public and not for the purpose of advancing arguments or repetitious questions concerning matters which the council believes to be closed or not of general public concern. The council shall have the right at any delegations to decline to hear any person or any subject matter upon proper motion and majority vote by the council.

[Emphasis added]. 

Clarence Rowe doesn’t live in Cocoa, and doesn’t pay taxes there, either. Nonetheless, it seems that he was a regular attendee at the Council meetings, and frequently spoke before the Council. 

Reading between the lines, I also have the impression that Rowe wore out his welcome. 

On two occasions in 2002, the Mayor invoked the residency rule. The council let him talk, but Rowe’s speeches were limited to the topics on the meetings’ agendas. 

Rowe then sued the City on First Amendment and equal protection grounds, but the city obtained a summary judgment order from the District Court on his facial validity challenge. 

Rowe appealed to the Eleventh Circuit. Nonetheless, the panel was not particularly sympathetic to his First Amendment argument:

The City Council’s Rules of Procedure do not, on their face, violate the First Amendment…. As a limited public forum, a city council meeting is not open for endless public commentary speech but instead is simply a limited platform to discuss the topic at hand. The rules on their face simply do not impermissibly restrict speech.

The appellate judges didn’t think much of Rowe’s Equal Protection claim, either:

“The Equal Protection Clause does not forbid classifications. It simply keeps governmental decisionmakers from treating differently persons who are in all relevant aspects alike.” Nordlinger v. Hahn, 505 U.S. 1, 10 (1992)….

A bona fide residency requirement, as we have here, does not restrict speech based on a speaker’s viewpoint but instead restricts speech at meetings on the basis of residency….

 To permit non-residents, those without a direct stake in the outcome of a City’s business, to ramble aimlessly at City Council meetings on topics not related to agenda items would be inefficient and would unreasonably usurp “the presiding officer the authority to regulate irrelevant debate . . . at a public meeting.” [citation omitted]. The restrictions in the challenged regulations are reasonable and viewpoint neutral.

Some folks confuse the right to petition government with their own idea about when and where they can exercise that right. This short opinion is a handy reminder.

Then again, the principles noted by the court shouldn’t be news to anybody, having been previously mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 3:7:

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--

 …A time to be silent and a time to speak.

January 29, 2004
An hour after sunrise

This morning continued the cold spell we've been going through lately.

On the other hand, the period shortly after sunrise did have its nice features:

Marshland and St. Jones River, Kent County, Delaware January 29 2004

This picture was shot looking east over the marshland through which the St. Jones River flows, a short distance south of Dover Air Force Base.

January 29, 2004
A different kind of affirmative action

This week the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued another in its series of decisions concerning the desegregation of Mississippi’s higher education system.

The appellate court upheld the trial judge’s approval of a class action settlement that was also approved by the Mississippi legislature. It came after nearly three decades of litigation begun with the initial filing in 1975, seeking to end segregation’s lingering effects on the state’s colleges. 

The dollar value of the agreement could exceed $500 million spread over the next seventeen years. Nearly half that amount is set aside for significant capital upgrades to the three historically black institutions: Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State, and Alcorn State. 

The 44-page opinion gives a concise history of the lawsuit and the terms of the eventual settlement, including the fact that the settlement proceeds are in addition to the normal appropriations for each university. The panel decision is especially revealing for those who haven’t followed the case closely, but I don’t intend to discuss all the details. 

I’m most intrigued by one aspect, however:

The agreement establishes both a publicly funded and a privately funded endowment for the benefit of Alcorn State, Jackson State, and Mississippi Valley State. Mississippi will create the public endowment, which will consist of $70 million, over the course of fourteen years. Additionally, the agreement requires the Board to use its best efforts over a seven-year period to raise $35 million for the privately funded endowment. Initially, the endowments will be managed by a seven-person committee composed of the presidents of the historically black universities, the Commissioner of Higher Education, two members of the Board, and a member to be agreed on by the other members.

The income from both endowments will be allocated 28.3% to Alcorn State, 43.4% to Jackson State, and 28.3% to Mississippi Valley State, with the schools being required to use the funds for other-race15 marketing and recruitment, including the employment of other-race recruiting personnel and the award of other-race student scholarships. The schools may also expend the endowment income on the academic programs provided for in the agreement. Alcorn State, Jackson State, and Mississippi Valley State will each receive its pro rata share of the endowments when the institution attains a total other-race enrollment of ten percent and sustains that enrollment for three consecutive years. After obtaining full control over the endowment funds, the historically black universities may use the income for “sound academic purposes such as faculty compensation, academic program enhancements and student scholarships.”

15 The agreement defines “other-race” as non-African-American.

A group of plaintiffs who opposed the class action settlement challenged this part of the deal, among other elements.

Nonetheless, the Circuit Court turned aside their challenge:

We … reject Appellants’ objection to the requirement that each of the historically black universities achieve and maintain ten-percent other-race enrollment before receiving its share of the endowments. As the United States explains in its brief, the ten-percent threshold seeks to ensure that the historically black universities devote the endowment funds to promoting the desegregation of their schools, not to upgrading them “so that they may be publicly financed, exclusively black enclaves by private choice.” Fordice, 505 U.S. at 743. This provision will not encourage the historically black universities to discriminate in admitting students because the current admissions standards are uniform across the state-university system; the schools lack discretion to deny entry to those applicants who meet the uniform criteria. Instead, the ten-percent threshold will provide the historically black universities with a legitimate incentive to recruit and to attract other-race students.24

24 Moreover, we note that the ten-percent threshold responds to the monitor’s observation that the historically white universities have been desegregating faster than the historically black universities.

Not a little irony there, it seems to me.

After all, the problem began with the state’s official policy of creating separate and unequal educational opportunities for its students based on race, with the black colleges kept in a deeply inferior condition. Now, in order to improve the chances for full desegregation, special affirmative action efforts must be employed to attract non-black students to Jackson State, Alcorn State, and Mississippi Valley, including the use of race-based scholarships.

There’s no cause for celebration of that fact.

January 28, 2004
Blogroll Changes 'n' Stuff

I've added a few more folks to the Blogroll on the home page.

The two most recent additions are Nick Schulz' Transition Game and Wonkette.

Schulz' site goes on the roll for the reasons described in yesterday's post. As for Wonkette, I agree with what Eugene Volokh said.

By the way, if you've added Sneaking Suspicions to your blogroll and your site doesn't appear here, just send me a note with the preferred URL and I'll be happy to reciprocate. It's part of my grand scheme to add enough daily visitors to make it worth my while to take Matt Welch's advice about Blogads.

January 27, 2004
Techno/sports geeks unite

Today Glenn Reynolds noted with approval the arrival of Nick Schulz’s new blog, Transition Game, focused on the twinned issues of sports and technology. As Reynolds says,

“[T]here’s a lot more overlap between those subjects than there used to be.”

No kidding.

Here’s an example taken from my July 11, 2003 golf column for The Cape Gazette. The piece below discusses golf, NASCAR racing, and harness racing, three sports where technology issues are a prime source of interest for their fans.

For golf, it’s club design. For NASCAR, it’s a matter of equipment standardization. And for harness racing, the technical issues relate to drug testing.

In all three cases, the technology issues also relate to maintaining the integrity of the sport.

New PGA Tour protocol--hand in your driver with your scorecard

It’s getting a little testy out there on the PGA Tour.

Tiger Woods recently alleged that somebody on the Tour is using a driver that doesn’t conform to technical rules designed to limit the "spring-like effect" of crushing a golf ball against a thin face of titanium at well over 100 mph.

The equipment rules adopted by the USGA and the Royal & Ancient last summer placed a limit on the Coefficient of Restitution (COR) of 0.830 on all drivers used in competition.

Thinking about words like "coefficient" usually makes my hair hurt.

Basically the rule is intended to keep golf balls from being rocketed off the club face more than it should.

At the swing speeds Tour players generate, this is a real risk. For amateur golfers, whose average drives lag behind most members of the LPGA Tour, this is not a major possibility.

Dave Anderson wrote in the July 6 New York Times that the Tour is considering changes in its procedures to provide for equipment checks at each Tour stop. Players can voluntarily prove that their drivers remain within the official performance limits. As Anderson put it:

"Woods is wrong in putting so many other long-hitting pros under suspicion, but he is correct in putting this unidentified pro, who he believes is getting extra distance off the tee with an illegal driver, on notice as a suspected cheater — the worst insult in golf.

"Although testing next year will be voluntary, it will also be on demand. With a portable testing device at every PGA Tour event, Woods or any other pro can request the rules officials to test the driver of a certain player, or the drivers of several players. Even if the driver proves legal, it could provoke some angry rivalries."

I watched some of the Western Open coverage on ABC on July 5. The network ran a very good segment on this issue.

I preferred Curtis Strange’s suggestion over Tiger Woods’ recommendation for mandatory driver testing before each round. Strange said the Tour should follow the NASCAR example, in which the vehicles are checked not only before the race, but also immediately thereafter.

As racing fans know, there can be some ugly consequences if a car or truck is found to be out of compliance. For example, this spring NASCAR suspended Craftsman Truck series crew chief John Monsam for two races for violating equipment rules on Jon Woods’ Ford. Monsam also had to pay a fine.

The same post-event testing model is also used in horse racing, under rules adopted by the Delaware Harness Racing Commission and similar regulatory bodies. Again, there’s a premium on maintaining the integrity of the sport for the sake of its long-term success.

The risk is the same in all three sports. There’s a lot of money at stake, and unfortunately some folks will try less-than-legal means to enhance their chances to obtain some of that cash.

The point of post-event testing is also the same—the honor of the sport is more important than any of its participants, and anyone who would besmirch their sport’s honor has no place in it.

There’s no time like right after the event to frighten some folks into remembering that fact.

The first few posts at Schulz' new site look promising. I'll be dropping by regularly to see how it takes off.

If you like sports, you should too.

January 26, 2004
The proper limits of political discourse

I’m not a regular viewer of The McLaughlin Group

The show usually gives off far too much heat and not enough light to suit my tastes in public affairs programming.

Nonetheless, while channel-surfing yesterday I came across a welcome bit of commentary on the show.  

The group was discussing the recent debate in New Hampshire, where Peter Jennings attempted to discern if Wesley Clark would distance himself in any significant way from an odious claim by one of his supporters:

JENNINGS: General Clark, a lot of people say they don't you well, so this is really a simple question about knowing a man by his friends. The other day you had a rally here, and one of the men who stood up to endorse you is the controversial filmmaker Michael Moore. You said you were delighted with him.

At one point, Mr. Moore said, in front of you, that President Bush -- he's saying he'd like to see you, the general, and President Bush, who he called a "deserter."

Now, that's a reckless charge not supported by the facts. And I was curious to know why you didn't contradict him, and whether or not you think it would've been a better example of ethical behavior to have done so.

CLARK: Well, I think Michael Moore has the right to say whatever he feels about this.

I don't know whether this is supported by the facts or not. I've never looked at it. I've seen this charge bandied about a lot.

But to me it wasn't material. This election is going to be about the future, Peter. And what we have to do is pull this country together. And I am delighted to have the support of a man like Michael Moore….

JENNINGS: Let me ask you something you mentioned, then, because since this question and answer in which you and Mr. Moore was involved in, you've had a chance to look at the facts.

Do you still feel comfortable with the fact that someone should be standing up in your presence and calling the president of the United States a deserter?

CLARK: To be honest with you, I did not look at the facts, Peter. You know, that's Michael Moore's opinion. He's entitled to say that. I've seen -- he's not the only person who's said that. I've not followed up on those facts. And frankly, it's not relevant to me and why I'm in this campaign.

JENNINGS: OK, thank you, sir.

In reacting to this, Eleanor Clift used some classic Beltway-speak in an obvious attempt to defend Clark’s responses to Jennings.

Thankfully, Tony Blankley, Pat Buchanan, and especially Lawrence O’Donnell would have none of it:

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Question: Did this hurt Clark? Tony Blankley.
MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, look. I mean --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is this the real land mine?
MR. BLANKLEY: This is stunning. This would be the equivalent of one of the other candidates saying all those things about Clark. I understand he's a clinical paranoiac. I don't know for sure; he might or might not be. Repeating it would be shocking and appalling and irresponsible. And his calling the president a deserter in the terms he did, acquiescing in that charge, I think puts him beyond the pale.

MS. CLIFT: Now wait a second.
MR. BUCHANAN: He gave credence to a --
MS. CLIFT: A more nimble politician would have said, well, I --
MR. BLANKLEY: Not a more nimble, a more sane politician.
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. A more nimble --

MR. O'DONNELL: Just a decent person wouldn't have --

MR. BUCHANAN: Exactly.
MS. CLIFT: A more nimble politician would have said--
MS. CLIFT: -- I wouldn't necessarily use that word, but there are questions --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We're almost out of time.
(Cross talk.)
MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. There are questions about whether --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Eleanor?

MS. CLIFT: There are questions about where George W. Bush was for a year of his military service.
MR. BUCHANAN: He gave --
MR. BLANKLEY: He wasn't a deserter! Peter Jennings gave him two chances.
MR. O'DONNELL: You don't have to be a nimble politician to handle that question. You have to be a decent human being. He wasn't a deserter.
MR. BUCHANAN: He gave credence to a vicious slander.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back.

[Emphasis in bold].

As others have noted, this “deserter” claim is not only false; it also says more about the accuser than the accused, and none of it good.

Some statements really are reprehensible, even in political debate. I’m glad that some in the public arena still know that, and are willing to remind those whose partisanship provides a convenient but completely insufficient excuse.

January 26, 2004
Two Claudes for a campaign strategery story

Candidates for political office are well aware that they must appeal to several types of voters for support.


Actually, anyone who slept through their American Civics class in high school also knows this.


That’s why this Reuters headline today earned two Claudes:

Edwards Pushes for Undecided New Hampshire Voters

Well, duh.

At this late date, there’s not much point to pushing for votes from those who already decided to vote for someone else, now is there?

On the other hand, this routine story ended with a not-so-routine quote from a New Hampshire woman, describing why she was impressed with the Senator from North Carolina:

“He has a lot of charisma,” Debbie McCrum, 54, said after hearing Edwards speak in Gorham, New Hampshire on Saturday. “He makes me think of Bill Clinton. He's like Clinton, but with integrity.”

For a lot of us, that missing character trait helps explain our voting choices in the last couple presidential elections.

How we perceive a candidate’s moral qualities will also help push our voting decisions in the next one, too.


Contact Information:

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


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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2004