Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- February 27-March 12, 2005

This page includes posts from February 27-March 12, 2005 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

March 12, 2005

Ann Althouse wrote a couple of interesting posts recently about bumper stickers on cars, and the messages those items impart to othersósome unintentional.

She has no interest in placing traditional, message-filled bumper stickers on her car, a disinterest I share. On the other hand, somehow I donít have the same attitude with respect to other items Iíve placed on the Mazda I drive to work.

These other decals and symbols are more in the nature of disclosing one's own interests, as opposed to using bumper stickers to tell others how to live their lives.

For example, oval decals for beach towns are popular up and down the East Coast, and Rehoboth Beach is no different. Mine is on the passenger side rear window, next to a decal from the Savannah Sand Gnats minor league baseball team.

We watched a game at their charming old stadium last summer, and itís a fun souvenir. (I also liked the "Bite Me" tee-shirt they were also selling at the time, but it just didnít go with the rest of my wardrobe or my usual attitude.)

The rear window on the driver side also has two decals, one noting my membership in the United States Golf Association and the other from older daughterís college. Iím thinking of putting a Michael Waltrip #15 decal right next to them, just to see if thereís any reaction to the combination of golf, NASCAR, and college.

That, plus he's a witty, personable guy.

I moved the American Flag magnet onto the back of the Mazda when I bought the car in 2003. The car it replaced had that magnet on its back trunk since the fall of 2001. For me, the flag acts as a constant reminder of the folks fighting for us overseas right now, and as sign of support for their efforts.

On the other hand, I don't believe the flag's presence on my car is challenging the patriotism of anyone else.

March 12, 2005
Friends learning with friends

The News-Journal today ran a very nice article about our friend Sally, a victim of ALS.

Her family and several close friends are taking a group class in sign language at the Delaware School for the Deaf.

Sally's ALS has robbed her of her voice, and one of her girlfriends suggested the lessons to preserve the ability to communicate.

Reporter Ed Kenney wrote a moving feature story about the class and Sally's condition. It's really about friendship and love, and well worth reading.

March 10, 2005
Fun for a policy wonk

Those who enjoy writing and thinking about public policy issues should also take advantage of opportunities to work on finding solutions for them. 

It helps maintain a sense of the practical, as opposed to the consideration of the merely theoretical. It can also be fun, at least for some of us policy wonks.

Among other reasons, that's why I was happy to be asked to return to serve on a newly-revived facilities task force for the Cape Henlopen School District.

About seven years ago I was part of the original task force that helped develop the first twenty-year plan for reconstruction or replacement of the District's school buildings, some of which were over 80 years old at the time.

Capital projects for school districts in Delaware have tended to be deferred until emergency conditions develop that force the issue. The funding requirements for these projects include direct voter approval for the tax hikes for the bond issues that pay for the projects, unlike any other form of government here. Naturally, this fact has led in the past to repeated losses in bond elections, as some voters have expressed a keener interest in just saying no than in dealing with an openly recognized problem.

Fortunately, after our initial plan was adopted by the Board, the district did a good job of working to gain public support. The bond election for the first phase of the plan, two new middle schools, won by a 2-1 margin.

Now its time to work on the next phase, which is centered on recommending either renovation or replacement of the high school. Some of the task force members are also original task force participants, and several new folks have also been selected to help. The first meeting went well, and I have every reason to believe we'll be able to come up with a good recommendation by this fall's deadline.

Nothing like a good discussion about population trends, state standards, athletic field requirements, and stormwater management pond rules to set one's blood to racing, I always say.

March 8, 2005
An ALS fundraiser opportunity

Earlier today Delaware State Treasurer Jack Markell was kind enough to notice the links on the home page here relating to ALS, including Sally's Speech.

He also noted that the Delaware Theatre Company is running a production of Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie. All proceeds from their April 5 show will be donated to the ALS Association of Greater Philadelphia.

If you're interested in tickets, email him a note at info AT and Markell will send you the details.

March 7, 2005
The Difference Between Must and Should Can Be Very Small 

Eugene Volokh posted an interesting civil procedure question that also shows that the difference between must and should can be very small. 

Federal court discovery rules for experts who are expected to testify include a provision requiring a written disclosure of several items by these witnesses, including the following:

a list of all publications authored by the witness within the preceding ten years.

Now, suppose the expert witness is also a blogger, such as economist Max Sawicky. What then?

Hereís Professor Volokhís take:

My quick guess is that blog posts need not be disclosed, unless they are detailed enough to form part of the witness's "qualifications" Ö. The requirement, after all, is not simply to disclose all publications, but to disclose "the qualifications of the witness, including a list of all publications."

The professorís reaction to this question, compared to mine, may also illustrate the difference between those who teach law and those who practice it. 

The literal terms of the rule may not have been intended to include the typically short sharp bursts of opinion that characterize so much of the written product of the blogosphere. Nonetheless, I would recommend that the required report include at least a passing reference to the more substantive blog posts that an expert witness wrote, especially if the topics covered in these essays are related to the subject matter of the litigation. 

If Iím planning to use an expert to testify for my client, Iíd certainly want to know what these blog posts said for my own sake. In addition, I would hate to find out about a potentially credibility-damaging blog post at the point that the other side springs it on the witness in cross-examination. 

The better practice should be to ask the witness for any blog references; use the usual Internet search engines to see what if anything the witness might have forgotten to tell you about his prior posted musings; and disclose to the other side any blog posts that relate to the proceedings, ahead of time. This approach, while not necessarily compelled by the Federal rules of civil procedure, certainly strikes me as the prudent choice to make in representing oneís client.

March 7, 2005
Traffic Report

Yesterday marked the 38th month of this site's existence.

Thus far 340,132 visitors have viewed 437,180 pages.

Thanks very much for your patronage, and come back again soon.

March 6, 2005
Shameless self-promotion

Yesterday I posted my newest golf book review.

Long-time Golf World and Golf Digest writer and photographer Jim Moriarty's Open Season is a frequently gripping yarn about a serial killer stalking the periphery of the PGA Tour, tracked by a photojournalist weighed down by some serious emotional baggage.

It also provides an interesting glimpse into the day-to-day workings of professional golf.

March 5, 2005
A little updating could help

The City of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is a very rich place.

If you talk to local real estate agents and look at the local real estate pages, youíd be hard-pressed to find a home of any kind in the square-mile beachfront municipality for less than $600,000. 

The City government is also legendary for its approach to raising revenues. The first tactic always seems to be to demand money from the state, on the theory that it deserves the money as the pre-eminent tourist destination.

After exhausting that option, the next step is usually to find ways to tap the visitors directly. Parking meter revenues usually approach $1 million per year, for example.

Only after exporting as much of the revenue burden as it can does the City make any effort to tap its own residents to pay for the annual cost of governance. Among other reasons, none of which are good, this helps explain why Rehoboth hasnít reassessed its property tax base since 1968.

A short while ago, Rehoboth discovered some major problems with one of its little bridges. It crosses a scenic a pond only a block or so from the Atlantic Ocean. The replacement costs could easily exceed $2 million, especially if the City decides to gussy up the replacement with a fancier pedestrian crossing than the current structure includes.

Naturally, the Cityís first response was to hit up DelDOT to shake some money loose. 

As I understand it, thus far DelDOT has respectfully suggested that Rehoboth should explore other funding opportunities.

One of those options could be to raise property taxes a smidge to cover the bonding costs. However, the Mayor told me recently that the City collects over $850,000 from that tax, and theyíre subject to a $1,000,000 limit under the City Charter (Section 29 a. 30.) 

If our local state legislators are so inclined, thereís a quick fix available for that little problem, and several good reasons to bump it up.

The property tax revenue limit was put in the Charter in 1976 (60 Del. Laws, c. 622). If that restriction had been indexed to match inflation since that time, it would be well over $3 million by now.

A legislative amendment to the City Charter could restore the property tax revenue limit to its originally intended purchasing power. Then, if the City so desired, it could easily pay for the costs of this bridge project and similar necessary long-term expenses from this traditional source.

Thatís a big if. 

On the other hand, sometimes a failed bit of infrastructure can change an attitude or two.

Disclosure: We would be among those paying a slight increase in property taxes under this proposal.

March 3, 2005
A new addition to the blogroll

I've added a new blog to the blogroll on the home page.

The Manolo, he is a true man of the fashion, and he is not afraid to speak of his mind. He is also unafraid to use the sharp wit and the occasional remark of snark to make his point, which is much to be appreciated.

He is well worth the checking out for yourself.

March 3, 2005
In good voice

Earlier this week Miz Gore and Mr. Oglesby each put up interesting posts about how some folks react to the way some of us sound when we talk.

I haven't often heard recordings of my voice. It usually sounds a bit higher than what my inner ear tells me.

I know that it can have a truly hypnotic effect on tiny little baby girls.

When my daughters were under age 1, they would curl up on my chest, face buried either toward my neck or toward my shoulder, as I held them in the crook of an elbow. Once they assumed that position, I would slowly read Goodnight Moon to them.

Reading "Goodnight room," "Goodnight brush," and so on, in a low, soft voice, would make my chest vibrate.

Most of the time, neither one could stay awake for the entire book.

It's one of my fondest memories as a young father. I'm sure Ken Layne will take advantage of the same opportunity with his new son.

March 2, 2005
An Emily Litella Moment

What a great new name for the new Washington, DC baseball team.

It was such a cool idea to blend together the universal interest in the national pastime with the Districtís longstanding commitment to music.

After all, for a relatively small city, Washington presents an incredible number of opportunities to appreciate musical performances, in all the major genres, at a wide variety of venues. Just think of  the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, DAR Constitution Hall, and the MCI Center.

Iím sure that thousands of baseball fans were thinking about that musical connection when they saw this Washington Post photograph from the first winning exhibition game by DCís new baseball team, The Atonals:

Whatíd you say? Itís not the Atonals? Itís the Nationals?


Thatís very different.


On the other hand, Nationals is a really, really boring team name. I think I like Atonals a lot better.

February 28, 2005
A startling mix of smart and stupid

Maybe Howard Dean doesn't want some of us to be Democrats any more.

This morning Hugh Hewitt tipped his readers to a Kansas newspaper story about the new DNC chairman's recent speech last Friday at a Democratic fundraiser in Lawrence. As reported in the piece, Dean's speech included a mixture of both smart and stupid statements.

The most intelligent reported remark he made was a reminder to push for the party's agenda throughout the country, and not just among the comfortably blue spots here and there:

"We need to go everywhere," he told the rally. "There is not one county in this state, I don't care how far west you go, that doesn't have Democrats. We have to be proud of who we are."

One of the best ways to marginalize the Democratic party's prospects is to keep its efforts limited to holding actions where the party currently holds sway. His recognition of the need to push the message to all corners of the country is commendable.

On the other hand, this other statement was boneheaded at best:

And concluding his backyard speech with a litany of Democratic values, he added: "This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."

Geez. Exactly how hard does he want to push folks away from his party? That statement may have felt good to some of the diehard Dems in the audience, but it's a thuddingly ill-considered thing to say if you're trying to convince some folks to switch sides.

In addition, more than a few of us Democrats just don't think of Republicans in such starkly moralistic terms. The GOP stalwarts we know are sometimes misguided and sometimes just wrong, but that doesn't make them Satan's children.

On the other hand, if you want to harden the hearts of those with whom you disagree, and shrink your own political party's sphere of influence at the same time, just call them evil.

It'll work every time.

February 28, 2005
Shameless self-promotion

Last Friday I posted my most recent golf book review.

You Might Be a Hack If... uses the format of Jeft Foxworthy's Redneck comedy shtick to identify the kinds of golfers that don't exactly enhance the sport's reputation. It's often sharply witty.


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


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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2005