Commentary from a practical perspective
page includes posts from the site's tenth week, March 10-16, 2002 in the usual reverse
order. Each week's postings are perma-linked to these pages.
March 16, 2002
I like to cook.
Periodically Ill describe here some of the recipes for dishes I enjoy preparing.
For the NCAA tournament this weekend, heres a simple recipe for steamed shrimp that my family and friends enjoy.
Use a steamer pot, or a pot large enough to hold a metal colander.
For each pound of peeled and deveined medium or large shrimp, in a small bowl make a seasoning mix of 1 teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of cajun seasoning, and one tablespoon of Old Bay® seasoning.
There are several brands of cajun spices that will work well in this recipe. The House of Blues chain sells a version online, and there are other varieties available through online outlets such as Peppers (look in the dry seasoning section).
Pour into the pot a ½ cup of cider vinegar and a 12 ounce bottle or can of beer. Heat to boiling.
As the liquid heats, place a layer of shrimp in the steamer container or colander, and spread a liberal dose of the seasoning mix over the layer. Repeat until you run out of shrimp and seasonings.
Place the steamer container or colander over the boiling beer/vinegar mixture, cover, and wait a few minutes.
Remove the cover, stir the shrimp a few times, and cover again. Check frequently.
When all the shrimp are pink, theyre done. Remove from the heat and pile the shrimp on a bowl or plate.
These shrimp dont need anything to go with them other than a good beer.
For those who like cocktail sauce with their shrimp, however, a mix of a tablespoon or two of horseradish to a ¼ cup of ketchup also seems to go well with the seasoning.
The charges just keep coming
Ray Brent Marsh finds himself in a growing pile of trouble relating to his operation of the Tri-State Crematory. On Wednesday of this week the State of Georgia added to their already large number of counts against him. Marsh now faces 204 allegations of theft by deception by dumping bodies instead of meeting his contractual obligations to cremate them.
In addition, the State of Tennessee joined in on Monday. Sheriff Dan Gilley of Bradley County filed six warrants for abuse of a corpse with the Georgia officials in Walker County, raising the ante against the now-jailed crematory operator (or, to be more accurate, apparent non-operator):
Mac Thomason recently posted a short note about the new Tennessee charges:
Fortunately, the code provisions defining the crime of abusing a corpse are not nearly as gruesome as the acts that might fit the charge.
Heres the Tennessee statute:
Based on the facts reported thus far, Marshs problems with the law seem to fit nicely within subsections (a) (1) and (3).
As with Georgia, the Tennessee officials will more than likely seek consecutive terms for each of the convictions they may obtain. In addition, the news stories point out that several bodies also came from Alabama.
This is one of those criminal cases that will probably finish with a plea bargain. The facts just look too one-sided to think otherwise. Until all of the affected states are satisfied that theyve identified the final number and origin of all of the abused corpses, however, there wont be any deals.
Based on the facts thus far reported, however, I dont think Marsh should expect to ever leave prison, except perhaps in a pine box.
Or maybe an urn.
Bring in a special prosecutor
I saw this story on the Internet today:
This case cries out for intensive investigationof the cat.
I just dont think we should assume that pets are always innocent, no matter what happens.
We had one for over 16 years, until he took his last senile dump on the living room rug.
Im well aware of the risks of ascribing human qualities to pets, but stillit was a cat.
I wonder if the German authorities will appoint a special prosecutor.
Earlier this week I suddenly developed a keen personal interest in the basketball fortunes of Indiana University, The University of Pittsburgh, UCLA, Ohio State, The University of Tulsa, North Carolina State, Holy Cross, and Boston College, as they began the NCAA Division I Mens Basketball Championship.
Almost as soon as the tournament began on Thursday, however, I lost my desire to follow Holy Crosss exploits.
I may find myself losing interest in one or more of the rest of these schools over the weekend.
The NCAA posted a helpful bracket so that I could follow my interests throughout the tournament. At the bottom of the graphic appears this warning:
This sounds like a perfectly reasonable suggestion to me. Im equally sure that millions of basketball fans around the world have already heeded the NCAAs advice.
Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
Click here for this week's golf column, if you're interested.
March 14, 2002
I enjoyed reading Eugene Volokhs piece about the Colorado collegiate intramural team that calls itself The Fightin Whities.
Naturally, the talk radio shows have also had a bit of a field day with this story. One of the local guys bluntly stated that the activists pushing for greater sensitivity in naming mascots or other school symbols simply needed to get a life. Some of the callers I heard also chimed in that there were far worse problems facing people than the source of mascot names. One man said that as a middle-aged white guy, he was frankly pleased to see some support.
Im not revered for my own sensitivity, but I can personally appreciate why some would be troubled at the symbolic impact of college or professional sports mascots.
This unlikely reaction has much to do with the fact that my own undergraduate alma maters teams are called The Fightin Blue Hens.
I know that theres a storied past supporting this choice, dating back to Colonial times. Delaware regiments in the Revolutionary War passed the time by betting on cockfights, and their preferred breed for the sport was the blue hen.
Still, I would have preferred some other option. I must admit, however, that the limited size and accomplishments of my home state certainly make it difficult.
Perhaps all we need is an update. For instance, Delaware is now a major financial center, especially in the booming credit card business. (Our new official motto: Caveat Borrower.)
Heres a suggestion for a new T-shirt design that reflects The First State's newfound notoriety:
Four Claudes, minimum
From our friends at Reuters, once again:
As in other cases, the headline writer simply worked from the lead sentence. The fault is therefore shared, leading to a four-Claude rating, at a minimum.
There are times when I would like to be a fly on the wall. The point at which the President learned of this particular screw-up is one of those times.
As of this writing, I havent seen a statement on this matter issued from Senator Tom Daschles office. However, I expect that the diminutive leader of the Senate Democrats will be "disappointed" about the INS snafu.
The Yates Verdict
Ginger Stampley and other Houston bloggers have followed the Yates case closely. Stampley posted a helpful collection of links, including a timeline and a NYT op-ed piece about the legal limits of Texas insanity defense pleas.
From what Stampley and others have written, along with the news reports over the last few weeks, it seems to me that Yatess attorneys knew very well how difficult it would be to obtain an acquittal based on the insanity plea. Their real goal looks to have been simply to save Mrs. Yates from the death penalty. That part of their task begins tomorrow.
Mrs. Yates may have a substantial prospect for a sentence of life without probation or parole, even as she had little real chance of avoiding the guilty verdict. The trial evidence describing her schizophrenia could give the jurors ample justification and opportunity to show Yates a level of mercy that this seriously disturbed woman was unable to comprehend herself when she killed her children.
In considering whether the death penalty should be imposed, I can accept making a distinction between a psychotic and a psychopath. Psychotics may not deserve the death penalty for murders committed under the burden of their mental illness, even if they cant meet the requirements to prove an insanity defense. On the other hand, a psychopath may fully deserve the death penalty, because by definition they do not really care whether their actions are right or wrong.
From this standpoint, Mrs. Yates should be spared the death penalty.
Click on this link for an interesting article defining psychopathy and its related condition, sociopathy.
Click on this link for a description of psychotic conditions, including schizophrenia.
March 12, 2002
A recent story about beach access called to mind two points I often make in my representation of the Department of Transportation.
Under California law and the law of many other ocean coast states like my own, the area between the low water line and the mean high water line is public property. At many places, such as most of Delawares coastline, the entire beaches are publicly owned, either by the state or by municipalities such as Rehoboth Beach. Tourists and locals alike have easy access.
At other locations, the beaches down to the mean high water line are privately held. Walking along those parts of the beach without trespassing requires knowledge of that days tidal charts.
Sometimes the public has trouble reaching its own recreation resource at the waters edge, because there are too few public access ways to cross over to it. Apparently Malibu is one of those spots. (Perhaps the LA blogger contingent can fill in a detail or two here.)
The AP story says legal public access to this stretch of coastline is limited to two pathways set three miles apart. A 1972 voter-approved referendum tied remodeling permits or similar land use regulatory decisions to landowner agreements to grant rights of access through their property.
In 1983, in return for granting permission to remodel a Malibu beachfront residence, the California Coastal Commission obtained an agreement to provide a walkway across private property to reach the beach. Geffen owns the property, and is apparently balking a bit at following through on the promise to provide the pathway.
The rules require the access agreements to be in place within 21 years or they legally disappear, so time is running out.
Geffen is among the more famous landowners that have yet to meet their part of the land-use bargain. In addition, local governments are also reportedly less than enthusiastic about picking up the maintenance burden for the access paths.
In response, the Commission is enlisting non-profit organizations to accept responsibility for the pathways and thereby assure their creation and continued existence.
The AP story highlighted one northern California example where the arrangement worked:
When I first read this story, my first thoughts went immediately to a Supreme Court case well-known to land use law practitioners: Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, 483 U.S. 825 (1987). That case involved this same law, and invalidated a requirement for a lateral access along the front of a property facing the Pacific.
The Court ruled that such requirements cannot be imposed unless they are justified by a public purpose related to the permit at issue. If the State wanted to provide a continuous strip of land along the ocean for its citizens, it had to pay for the privilege, not impose a burden on adjacent property owners.
Apparently California courts have upheld access conditions for land use permits entered into before the Nollan decision. The Geffen property seems to be subject to one of these "grandfathered" pathway requirements.
The controversy brings to the fore several interesting policy considerations.
First, the Nollan case tightened the requirement to link a permit condition to the purposes behind the permit itself. This case and a few others forced governments to face the prospect of paying for what they desire on behalf of all their citizens, including the use of the power of eminent domain.
Second, even if the conditions are legally permissible, the nagging questions of security and maintenance must be faced, or the area will fall victim to the familiar tragedy of the commons.
Third, if you make a deal with the government concerning your property, you should expect to be held to your bargain. Someone on the other side of the issue may be more than happy to make sure you do.
Beach update March 13, 2002:
I spoke today with an attorney for the Coastal Commission. She confirmed that the Nollan case did not apply to pre-Nollan agreements to donate, such as the Geffen situation. She also confirmed that the bargaining over beach access dedications continues. The Commission works with a host of local governments and non-profits to find responsible entities willing to accept maintenance responsibility for these pathways.
She also said that the degree to which local governments are willing to take up this responsibility varies tremendously. Given the political climate in which small governments often operate, I cant say Im surprised.
March 11, 2002
This morning, Glenn Reynolds posted a link to his archive page for the week including September 11. The Instapundit page includes what I think was my first-ever e-mail to Reynolds, which he quoted at length the afternoon of the attack.
Writing the golf column is a welcome break from my professional work, but that week I never felt less like writing about golf. Fortunately, my EZPass associates at the Port Authority also loved golf.
The fact that we talked about the sport in our last meeting at the WTC before September 11 provided a helpful context to express my reaction to the attacks and still meet my commitments.
I believe my comments that week are still true.
Much good came from this evil attack, but it was an awful price to pay.
This one earned five Claudes with an Oak Ridge cluster
Our friends at Reuters may have outdone themselves today:
I am, as at least one American says, not making this up.
The Reuters story, of course, reports Chinas official reaction to the recent Los Angeles Times breathless account of U.S. contingency plans for using nuclear weapons.
Far down in the story, the Reuters piece noted the real significance of the Times story:
By then, however, the Reuters story already exhibited the normal measured tone for which the news service is so well-known.
This was the lead sentence:
The third and fourth paragraphs also quoted a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sun Yuxi:
Without a trace of irony, Reuters also noted the following:
Charles Austin gave the original LAT story five Claudes in his recent post on this subject. With three uses of "deeply shocked," including the headline, five Claudes seemed insufficient for the Reuters follow-up.
An additional Oak Ridge cluster, in honor of the Tennessee citys storied past dating back to the Manhattan Project, seemed appropriate.
The saga continues for this Northwest environmental/farming controversy.
I last wrote about Klamath in early February, after the National Academy of Sciences issued a report that should have spurred all sides to step back and do more research before pushing their respective agendas.
That's not bloody likely. Then again, some of us are more optimistic about the possibility of St. Paul moments than others.
In the meantime, the President told the affected federal agencies to work on a series of relief efforts targeted at the most time-sensitive needs of the various interests. The group held its first meeting on March 8, and announced several steps to be taken this year.
According to the press release about the meeting, these measures include the following:
The feds will also
Given the strong feelings out in Klamath, I doubt the farmers, enviros, and others whove been fighting over the areas limited water supply for several years will wholly accept these first few steps. Each side will probably find fault with the proposals seen to benefit the other.
From my perspective, the Feds are showing at least some good faith efforts to provide timely assistance to all sides. Until the biological research about the Basin and its fish is more complete and defensible, that's about all anyone should expect.
This one rates five gruesome Claudes
An unfortunate victim of necrotizing fasciitis is beyond caring, but the headline writer used the lead sentence in this story for inspiration.
This time, therefore, both the reporter and the editors are to blame for the five-Claude rating.
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