Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- March 28-April 3, 2004

This page includes posts from March 28-April 3, 2004 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

April 3, 2004
Blogging at the cutting edge

Two days ago I posted a short piece about the congressional election controversy currently raging in south Texas, and titled it LBJ must be smiling right now. The piece included a cite referring to the former president's own 1948 election brouhaha.

A Reuters story on the same subject, posted on the Internet at 5:47 p.m. on April 2, appeared under the following headline:

Texas Vote Tiff Stirs Memories of Lyndon Johnson

Advantage: Sneaking Suspicions!!

Not bad for a guy who usually posts one piece per night, eh?

April 2, 2004
Creating an entertainment niche

Last night my wife and I went to an open house celebrating the re-opening of the Rehoboth Cinema.

The six-screen movie house closed a few years ago after the other movie complex in the area, Movies at Midway, expanded its facilities to 14 screens, most of them in the new stadium seating configuration.

On the other hand, the Rehoboth Cinema screens were less than 10 years old when the prior operator gave up the lease. The facility seemed to be in good shape, just unused.

The new owner, Bob Weinholt, is trying to fill a different viewing niche than the offerings at Midway. He’s opening his new place as a second-run theater. This week’s offerings include Cat in the Hat, Last Samurai, Along Came Polly, and Lost in Translation.

The real draw is the ticket price--$2.50 apiece. The concession stand prices are also lower than usual. The combination should attract many retirees, vacationing families during the summer season, movie buffs that didn’t make it to the theater during the movie’s first run, and folks who figure out that two tickets are about the same as a DVD rental fee, and it’s on a big screen with great sound.

We enjoyed a free showing of Love, Actually, in a clean, nicely appointed theater that was about three-quarters full.

The only glitch was that the volume controls were turned up too high, something that I’m sure will be fixed when we go back the next time.

And we definitely will.

April 1, 2004
LBJ must be smiling right now

Texas Republicans caused a furor last year with their moves to consolidate their power in the Texas legislature and elsewhere by redistricting. Texas Democrats did what they could to block the inevitable, including abandoning the former republic for a while.

Eventually the majority party had its way, and the new primaries have already had an impact on Democratic aspirations.

In a story in the Houston Chronicle, (hat, Ciro Rodriguez, a Democratic Congressman, is alleging election fraud caused his opponent Henry Cuellar to squeak past him during the recount:

"What has happened in Webb and Zapata counties is just not logical, it's not explainable, and it's extremely irregular to say the least," Rodriguez said, referring to areas where scores of previously unrecorded ballots for Cuellar surfaced this week.

Rodriguez is now preparing to sue.

According to the Chronicle reporter, Rodriguez’ attorney thinks that someone marked ballots for the challenger that the actual voters left blank in the space for the congressional portion of the primary.

Imagine that.

A Cuellar spokesman showed that he’s still in campaign mode, and therefore not inclined to be gracious in apparent victory:

"To question the integrity of South Texans just because things aren't going his way is really sad," [Colin] Strother said.

I believe that somewhere in heaven LBJ is looking down right now, and smiling.

March 30, 2004
Update on the Rhode Island State Senate Redistricting Case

Last fall I wrote a post about a unique problem in the recent redistricting of the Rhode Island Senate.

It’s unique because the redistricting was caused not only by the decennial census results, but also because of a state constitutional amendment that reduced the total number of Senate seats.

Most of Rhode Island’s African-American voters were geographically concentrated in a particular former district in Providence, and remained so after the redistricting.

On the other hand, the percentage of their population in the new district dropped from nearly 26% to over 21%. A Latino won the post-redistricting election for that new Senate seat.

The District Court granted a defense pre-trial motion to dismiss, and the First Circuit panel decision that I discussed in October was also vacated for rehearing en banc.

Today the Circuit Court issued its latest decision, remanding the case back to the District Court to create a more complete factual record before tackling the difficult Voting Rights Act issues.

Here's the new opinion's money quote:

We are … unwilling at the complaint stage to foreclose the possibility that a … claim can ever be made out where the African-American population of a single member district is reduced in redistricting legislation from 26 to 21 percent. Yes, one would ordinarily expect the consequences to be small, but not always, and arguably not here (based on past history). At this point we know practically nothing about the motive for the change in district or the selection of the present configuration, the contours of the district chosen or the feasible alternatives, the impact of alternative districts on other minorities, or anything else that would help….

On the other hand, the plaintiffs cannot prevail merely by showing that an alternative plan gives them a greater opportunity to win the election, [citation omitted], or that an otherwise justified boundary change happened to cost African-Americans a seat.

I think the plaintiffs will have a tough time winning on remand. Here’s why, as noted in the October post:

Assuming an equal spread of Rhode Island’s population among the 50 Senate districts before redistricting, there were roughly 21,000 residents in each district. The mandated reduction in Senate seats caused an increase of nearly 6,630 additional residents per district. 

As a simple matter of demographics, therefore, African-American political prospects in Rhode Island were not improved by the reduction in Senate seats, regardless of the new district configuration….

It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that a large part of the reason for the slightly diminished African-American percentage is due to the increased population base per district. 

Stay tuned.

And a hat tip to Howard Bashman for his announcement about the latest decision.

March 29, 2004
113,000 reasons not to be cute about bute

A common acceptance and adherence to a set of basic rules is what distinguishes sports from real life. In fact, the only way a sport can remain a sport is if there is general agreement about the principles under which the competition is held.

Unfortunately, some folks try to skirt the edges of acceptable behavior, and the temptation often rises with the stakes.

In recent years, for example, the Delaware Harness Racing Commission has seen an upsurge in its caseload. Two of the state’s horse tracks are set up for harness action, and all three locations are the primary beneficiaries of the video lottery system, known elsewhere as slots. The new money has boosted purses significantly, and the need to make sure no one’s doing anything funky has also increased.

A state Supreme Court decision issued last week gave an interesting glimpse into the dark side of racing.

The Commission’s rules outlaw any foreign substances in the horses during the races, including “all narcotics, stimulants, depressants, or other drugs or medications of any type.” There are limited exceptions, however, including this special provision:

Phenylbutazone ... may be administered to horses three years of age and older in such dosage amount that the official test sample contain not more than 2.0 micrograms per milliliter of blood plasma.

This non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, nicknamed bute, is also prescribed for humans on relatively rare occasions. Post-race testing can readily detect bute in the horse’s bloodstream, and under the Delaware rules a sliding scale of penalties is imposed for violations, depending on the test results.

Homer Hochstetler co-owned and raced a two-year old horse named Kadabra in an elimination race at Dover Downs in November 2001. Kadabra won the $12,000 purse, which also qualified it for the final race in the series a week later. The horse won again, this time earning Hochstetler a cool $100,000.

Nine days after the final race, however, the results came back from the blood tests. The State Steward fined Hochstetler $1,000 along with the additional penalty of losing the $12,000. The disqualification also led to the loss of the $100,000 from the series final. The Harness Racing Commission upheld the fines and penalties, and Hochstetler appealed to the Superior Court. After that court upheld the administrative decision, Hochstetler appealed to the Supreme Court.

The en banc Court took a dim view of the horse owner’s contentions:

We agree with the Superior Court’s conclusion that Rule, read in context, is not vague or ambiguous:

Administrative regulations ... must be read as an inter-related whole….

Rule 8.3 provides a general prohibition for “medications of any type” to be in the blood of any horse at the time a race is run “except as specifically permitted by these rules.”

Rule 8.3.6 is the only rule to provide an exception for phenylbutazone to that general rule and only applies the exception to horses three years of age and older. Therefore, these rules do prohibit the administration of bute to two-year-old horses [note omitted].

Thus, unless Hochstetler found a rule allowing bute in two-year-olds, he should have known that bute was prohibited.

Ouch. That’s an expensive lesson on what can happen if you try to be cute about bute.

March 29, 2004
Get well, Stuart

I was sorry to learn this morning of Stuart Buck’s recent health difficulties, and join in the hopes and prayers of others for his speedy recovery.

March 28, 2004
Shameless self-promotion

This afternoon I posted my latest golf book review—Putt to Death, by Roberta Isleib.

It's a fun little murder mystery, the third in a series starring a struggling young LPGA Tour player. Besides the usual difficulties with her game, Cassie Burdette also has a certain penchant for discovering dead bodies.

Considering all the humps and bumps on the TPC course at Sawgrass, where this week's PGA Players' Championship is being held, I can think of a few other places to look.


Contact Information:

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


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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2004