Sneaking Suspicions

Archives--March 10-16, 2002 (Week 10)

Commentary from a practical perspective

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This 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

Steamed Shrimp

I like to cook.

Periodically I’ll describe here some of the recipes for dishes I enjoy preparing.

For the NCAA tournament this weekend, here’s 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 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, they’re done. Remove from the heat and pile the shrimp on a bowl or plate.

These shrimp don’t 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 cup of ketchup also seems to go well with the seasoning.

March 15, 2002

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):

"Abuse of a corpse is a Class E felony with a sentence of one to two years per offense," said Gilley. "We haven't determined other charges right now, but we do know that approximately 120 bodies were taken out of Bradley County to the Tri-State Crematory."

Mac Thomason recently posted a short note about the new Tennessee charges:

I don't even want to know what "abuse of a corpse" means.

Fortunately, the code provisions defining the crime of abusing a corpse are not nearly as gruesome as the acts that might fit the charge.

Here’s the Tennessee statute:

39-17-312. Abuse of corpse.

(a) A person commits an offense who, without legal privilege, knowingly:

(1) Physically mistreats a corpse in a manner offensive to the sensibilities of an ordinary person;

(2) Disinters a corpse that has been buried or otherwise interred; or

(3) Disposes of a corpse in a manner known to be in violation of law.

(b) A violation of this section is a Class E felony.

Based on the facts reported thus far, Marsh’s 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 they’ve identified the final number and origin of all of the abused corpses, however, there won’t be any deals.

Based on the facts thus far reported, however, I don’t think Marsh should expect to ever leave prison, except perhaps in a pine box.

Or maybe an urn.

March 15, 2002

Bring in a special prosecutor

I saw this story on the Internet today:

Two Women Jump Off High-Rise with Cat

Two women committed suicide with their cat in Berlin early on Friday by jumping together from the 23rd floor of a high rise building, police said.

Police said the tabby cat was killed instantly along with the two women, aged 32 and 45, who jumped from an apartment block in the central Mitte district.

The women left no clues as to why they had decided kill themselves or why they had taken the cat with them.

This case cries out for intensive investigation—of the cat.

I just don’t think we should assume that pets are always innocent, no matter what happens.

Especially cats.

We had one for over 16 years, until he took his last senile dump on the living room rug.

I’m well aware of the risks of ascribing human qualities to pets, but still—it was a cat.

I wonder if the German authorities will appoint a special prosecutor.

March 15, 2002

March Madness

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 Men’s Basketball Championship.

Almost as soon as the tournament began on Thursday, however, I lost my desire to follow Holy Cross’s 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:

The NCAA opposes all sports wagering. This bracket should not be used for sweepstakes, contests, office pools, or other gambling activities.

This sounds like a perfectly reasonable suggestion to me. I’m equally sure that millions of basketball fans around the world have already heeded the NCAA’s advice.

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Click here for this week's golf column, if you're interested.

March 14, 2002


I enjoyed reading Eugene Volokh’s 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.

I’m 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 mater’s teams are called The Fightin’ Blue Hens.


I know that there’s 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.)

Here’s a suggestion for a new T-shirt design that reflects The First State's newfound notoriety:

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March 13, 2002

Four Claudes, minimum

From our friends at Reuters, once again:

Bush 'Very Displeased' INS Gave Hijackers Visas

The White House said on Wednesday that President Bush was very displeased that six months after Sept. 11, the Florida flight school where two of the hijackers studied was told by immigration authorities this week that their student visas had been approved.

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 haven’t seen a statement on this matter issued from Senator Tom Daschle’s office. However, I expect that the diminutive leader of the Senate Democrats will be "disappointed" about the INS snafu.

March 13, 2002

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 Yates’s 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 can’t 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

Beaching and moaning about access

A recent story about beach access called to mind two points I often make in my representation of the Department of Transportation.

  • If you really want something, be prepared to pay for it.
  • A deal’s a deal. Some people need to be reminded of that.

The Associated Press reported March 11 about a Malibu Beach controversy involving David Geffen, who does movies and such.

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 Delaware’s 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 day’s tidal charts.

Sometimes the public has trouble reaching its own recreation resource at the water’s 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.

Geffen is willing to talk about opening the pathway, but "there are a great number of public safety issues to be addressed,'' said spokesman Andy Spahn. Geffen, whose low-slung house stretches across four oceanfront lots on Carbon Beach, has had an intruder in his living room.

Steve Hoye, leader of Access for All, said he will try to address Geffen's safety concerns. Hoye said he is considering installing a time-locking mechanism to close the Geffen gates at sunset.

The AP story highlighted one northern California example where the arrangement worked:

[T]he Mendocino Land Trust became the first nonprofit to fight for and maintain a public pathway across private land. The trust operates a spot overlooking the restless Mendocino Bay.

The spot had been offered to the public in 1977 by the owner at the time in exchange for building permits. But the property later changed hands and the new owner, John Brittingham, sued after the trust opened the path in 1996. A judge ruled against Brittingham.

The trust now operates the viewpoint as well as another, more remote trail, leading to a nick in the coast known as Cantus Cove. Volunteers police the trails for trash and maintain signs marking where public property stops and private property begins.

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 can’t say I’m 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.

I later wrote an expanded version of that e-mail for my golf column for The Cape Gazette.

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.

March 11, 2002

This one earned five Claudes with an Oak Ridge cluster

Our friends at Reuters may have outdone themselves today:

China Says It's Deeply Shocked by U.S. Nuke Planning

I am, as at least one American says, not making this up.

The Reuters story, of course, reports China’s 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:

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday the classified Pentagon report was simply ``sound, military, conceptual planning'' and not a precursor to any imminent U.S. action.

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:

China said Monday it was deeply shocked by a report in the Los Angeles Times about a U.S. move to prepare contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries including China.

The third and fourth paragraphs also quoted a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sun Yuxi:

"Like many other countries, China is deeply shocked with the content of this report,'' Sun said. "The U.S. side has a responsibility to explain this.

"China is a peace-loving country and poses no threat to any country.''

Without a trace of irony, Reuters also noted the following:

China regards Taiwan as a rebel province and has threatened to attack if the island declares independence or delays reunification talks indefinitely.

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 city’s storied past dating back to the Manhattan Project, seemed appropriate.

March 10, 2002

Klamath update

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:

  • $1.6 million to accelerate the delivery of conservation, technical and financial assistance for irrigation water management, filter strips and creation of wildlife habitat to improve water quality and result in a water savings of up to 30 percent in some cases.
  • Farmers and ranchers will be granted an extension to enroll in an Emergency Conservation Program for financial help in paying for water for livestock.

The feds will also

  • explore opportunities for delaying loan repayments, rescheduling or consolidating loans or even writing down of some indebtedness.
  • Start nearly two dozen projects in the Wimena-Fremont National Forest, intended to produce more than 20 miles of stream enhancements, additional spring protection and "meadow enhancements," and also "decommission nearly 45 miles of roads."
  • In the meantime, both the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service and the Interior Department’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were told to complete their work on the biological opinions about the area as soon as possible, and to make it their highest priority.
  • In addition, the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation will speed up a fish screen project for the Upper Klamath Lake. According to the release, the nearly $14 million project can be accelerated such that the screens are in place, as recommended by USFWS, before April 1, 2003.

The screens will help keep the fish in the lake instead of being sucked into the pipes used for irrigation.

Given the strong feelings out in Klamath, I doubt the farmers, enviros, and others who’ve been fighting over the area’s 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.

March 10, 2002

This one rates five gruesome Claudes

Flesh eating rash that killed woman called rare

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.

From the Arizona Republic via Drudgereport.

Contact Information:

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

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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