Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- February 12-25, 2006

This page includes posts from February 12-25, 2006 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

February 25, 2006
Shameless self-promotion

This afternoon I posted my newest golf book review, which you can read here.

Roberta Isleib says that Final Fore is the last in her Cassie Burdette mystery series.

I hope she's just kidding.

February 23, 2006
The potential for going Biblical

Chancellor William Chandler writes with startling clarity when he sees the need to do so, which for members of the corporate bar appearing before him can be a frequent occurrence.

In a recent letter opinion about a proxy/merger fight over Serena Software, Inc., for example, he suggested he would go Biblical on the plaintiffs if they couldn't prove why their case was distinguishable from a similar lawsuit that had been recently settled in the California courts.

Shortly after Serena announced that another company was going to buy it for $24 a share, two groups of class action plaintiffs filed suits against the deal--one in Delaware and the other in the Golden Bear State. The subsequent proxy statements filed with the SEC allegedly failed to address the Delaware plaintiffs' disclosure claims. The California plaintiffs then reached a settlement with the company, but the Delaware plaintiffs pressed on. They filed for an expedited hearing in Chancery Court, suggesting that their problems with the company disclosures still weren't fully addressed in the Memorandum of Understanding for the California settlement.

The Chancellor agreed to expedite the Delaware case, but he also gave a bit more than a hint about the potential consequences if he later felt misled:

[T]hese actions were filed concurrently. There is no evidence that plaintiffs are jumping on the bandwagon late in the game. In general, this Court encourages defense counsel to approach plaintiff shareholders from other jurisdictions, and to seek compromise on all claims in order to make a global settlement. Such a global settlement was not reached, and certain issues arguably remain to be litigated that have yet to be addressed by the California Action or MOU. On the other hand, because expedited proceedings entail social costs as well as market uncertainty (especially in the context of an impending shareholder vote on a merger transaction), this Court will not be pleased if plaintiffs are unable to demonstrate that significant disclosure issues remain unaddressed by the MOU.

(Emphasis supplied).

Something about that highlighted phrase sounded familiar, so I did a little searching and found this:

But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.

Yea, verily--and woe to those who do not heed the Chancellor's word.

February 23, 2006
The odd couple

The recent cartoon controversy that inspired the placement of the Danish flag at the top of the home page of this site has also produced at least one odd couple.

Former cabinet secretary William Bennett and current Harvard law school professor Alan Dershowitz co-wrote a very good op-ed that ran in today's Washington Post.

I highly recommend it to you.

This passage in particular appealed to me:

[R]adical Islamists have won a war of intimidation. They have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons. The mainstream press has capitulated to the Islamists -- their threats more than their sensibilities. One did not see Catholics claiming the right to mayhem in the wake of the republished depiction of the Virgin Mary covered in cow dung, any more than one saw a rejuvenated Jewish Defense League take to the street or blow up an office when Ariel Sharon was depicted as Hitler or when the Israeli army was depicted as murdering the baby Jesus.

So far as we can tell, a new, twin policy from the mainstream media has been promulgated: (a) If a group is strong enough in its reaction to a story or caricature, the press will refrain from printing that story or caricature, and (b) if the group is pandered to by the mainstream media, the media then will go through elaborate contortions and defenses to justify its abdication of duty. At bottom, this is an unacceptable form of not-so-benign bigotry, representing a higher expectation from Christians and Jews than from Muslims....

When we were attacked on Sept. 11, we knew the main reason for the attack was that Islamists hated our way of life, our virtues, our freedoms. What we never imagined was that the free press -- an institution at the heart of those virtues and freedoms -- would be among the first to surrender.

The sorry story about most of the nation's major media outlets on this issue gives me the impression that their editors and publishers would rather wish away the reasons why 9/11 occurred, rather than deal openly with the risks presented by actual, mortal enemies.

One would think that there had already been enough examples in the last century of the evil that follows appeasement, without adding to the list in this one.

February 20, 2006
Another page

I added a third page to the Along the Way photoblog, which you can see by clicking here.

Hope you like them.

February 19, 2006
New addition to the site

I've added a photoblog to Sneaking Suspicions, which I'm calling Along the Way.

That's because most of these photographs were taken during my daily commute to and from work along a 41-mile stretch of Kent and Sussex Counties in Delaware. There will also be some other pictures of Delaware scenes taken elsewhere.

Some of these shots appeared here previously, but in a smaller frame. I also switched to a white background, instead of the light-yellow you see here.

Another downstate blogger, Mike Mahaffie, inspired this addition by his fine collection of Delaware photographs, which you can see here.

February 19, 2006
Budget headline becomes Claude winner

If you really want to understand which policy priorities drive government, look at where the money goes, instead of where the political types focus their public pronouncements.

And if you really want to understand the power relationships between those governments, look how they distribute the money among themselves.

Itís a political version of one of the golden rules: whoever has the gold makes the rules.

A February 16 article by Dennis Cauchon in USA Today discussed one aspect of this story, describing how state and local governments have increased their reliance on federal funds. One-third of the inflation-adjusted rise in state and local government spending since 2000 has come directly from federal coffers, with half of that from Medicaid allotments.

This is not really news to those who follow state budgets on regular basis. Nonetheless, the USA Today piece is a useful reminder of how much tax revenues are imported from the Feds into the bank accounts of smaller governments, along with all the rules about how it can and must be spent.

The only real quibble I had with the story was its headline:

Federal aid fuels spending by states

Imagine that.

For sheer obviousness, this one earns a single Claude.

I also suggest that Cauchon and his fellow reporters might find it interesting to follow how the state governments deal with reduced Federal funding by reducing their own revenue transfers to local governments. After all, when the moneyís not coming in from above, itís harder to find the cash to hand out to those below you on the government ladder.

Local governments in Delaware had a similar experience in the current fiscal year relating to municipal street aid. This program is a form of revenue-sharing, in which a set amount of state money is distributed from the stateís Transportation Trust Fund to each of the 57 municipalities. The money is parceled out using a formula that takes into account municipal population and the miles of local roads the cities and towns maintain.

For several years the annual appropriation was kept at $6 million, but in Section 97 of this yearís bond bill the General Assembly quietly cut it to $5 million.

This is a small example, at least as measured by most government spending programs. Nonetheless, the cut reflects a basic principle about governmental financeóyou canít really depend on tax revenues that you donít collect yourself.

February 16, 2006
Salt in a self-inflicted wound

A year ago yesterday I wrote about a U.S. District Court decision in Maryland that dismissed a First Amendment claim by the Baltimore Sun and two of its writers, then-columnist Michael Olesker and reporter David Nitkin.

Governor Ehrlich had issued a directive that no executive branch officials were to talk to either men, although journalistic access would continue to be granted to others at The Sun. In addition, government officials affirmed that any Freedom of Information Act or similar requirements for documents or other forms of access would be honored. 

They just wouldnít talk to these two particular guys anymore.

One part of the post bears repeating:

Iím looking at this from the cold-eyed perspective of a government attorney with over 20 yearsí experience in dealing with the press, so I know Iím not being fully objective here. Ö

Usually these things arenít that organized, or so openly blatant. Press folks working for governments eventually know who among the press can be trusted and who cannot, and act accordingly. They usually donít announce a freeze-out; it just happens. Sometimes itís accompanied by a quiet word or two with an editor, explaining with a typically rueful tone that itís just become impossible to work with a particular reporter. These conversations sometimes lead to assignment changes, especially if the newspaper feels it will be at a competitive disadvantage with other media outlets who continue to have access.

The paper appealed the decision to the Fourth Circuit. While the appeal was pending, Olesker was forced out of his job:

Michael Olesker, a columnist for 27 years at The Sun, resigned yesterday amid allegations that he had used sentences and paragraphs from other newspapers in some of his columns without attribution.

"I made mistakes," said Olesker, clearly dejected, as he began cleaning out his desk in The Sun's newsroom. "I would never take somebody else's work and call it my own. I have always tried to serve my readers as honorably as possible. In the current climate, with so many political eyes staring at me and this newspaper, I feel it's in everyone's best interest for me to resign."

Iím open to correction, but there seemed to be a combination of self-importance and self-pity in those remarks.

This week the Fourth Circuit put a dash of salt into this particular old wound of Oleskerís, by affirming the lower courtís dismissal of the complaint.

In so holding, the Circuit Court panel made a few comments that have a familiar ring to them:

Public officials routinely select among reporters when granting interviews or providing access to nonpublic information. They evaluate reporters and choose to communicate with those who they believe will deliver their desired messages to the public. By giving one reporter or a small group of reporters information or access, the official simultaneously makes other reporters, who do not receive discretionary access, worse off. These other reporters are sometimes denied access because an official believes them to be unobjective. [citation omitted,] (noting the "common and widely accepted practice among politicians of granting an exclusive interview to a particular reporter" and "the equally widespread practice of public officials declining to speak to reporters whom they view as untrustworthy because the reporters have previously violated a promise of confidentiality or otherwise distorted their comments"). ***

[T]he challenged government response is a pervasive feature of journalism and of journalistsí interaction with government. Having access to relatively less information than other reporters on account of oneís reporting is so commonplace that to allow The Sun to proceed on its retaliation claim addressing that condition would "plant the seed of a constitutional case" in "virtually every" interchange between public official and press. See Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138, 149 (1983). Accordingly, we conclude that, in the circumstances of this case, no actionable retaliation claim arises when a government official denies a reporter access to discretionarily afforded information or refuses to answer questions. 

Somehow I doubt that The Sun will try to have this case heard by the Supreme Court. The paper's claims always struck me as asserting an arrogant, unwarranted privilege to force government officials to talk to its reporters. 

Perhaps the fact that at least four members of the Federal judiciary disagreed with The Sunís arguments will cause a re-evaluation and re-adjustment at the newspaper. 

Based on my experience, however, I will not hold my breath waiting for this change of heart.

February 14, 2006
Taking your best shot (figuratively speaking), now that he's open

Vice-President Cheney doesn't often screw up, which seems to be among the reasons why some folks go crazy when they talk about him.

On the other hand, when he does do something remarkably careless and stupid, such as shoot a buddy during a quail hunt, it's perfectly appropriate to call him on it.

I especially liked this approach, which pre-dated the Texas accident but is nonetheless relevant and very, very funny:

As for my own qualifications to characterize the Cheney incident, click here.

Hat tips to,, and

February 12, 2006
Simply magical

Last night we went to see the Cashore Marionettes, brought here by the folks at the Henlopen Theater Project.

The performance was simply magical.

The marionettes were totally convincing. It was so much fun to watch the audience invest so much hope that what they were seeing was actually real.

If you ever have a chance to see a live performance, just go. It's well worth it.

To see a short film that will show you why, you can click here for a short documentary.

February 12, 2006
That didn't take 'em long

The birds around here have been enjoying the unseasonably warm weather.

Among other signs, they avoided the bird feeder out back, preferring the stuff they can find on their own--until the blizzard hit.

In no time, they were fluttering around the feeder:

The cardinal seemed to be lording it over his more drably-feathered companions.


Contact Information:

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


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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2005