This page includes posts from
April 4-10, 2004 in the usual reverse
order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these
April 9, 2004
I have decided to try to make some money from writing this blog.
Today I set up two special tip jars on the home page of this site, in the right column.
If you enjoy reading this site and you’d like to show your appreciation, I’d be honored if you clicked over and donated what you could.
Both do great work, and touch the lives of thousands of victims and their families and friends.
I can assure you that zero % of the money will come back to me. They’ll receive the contribution; you’ll gain a tax deduction; and knowing those two facts will be my compensation.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
April 8, 2004
I enjoy reading Virginia Postrel’s commentary, and found myself in complete agreement with her post today about the Iraqi conflict:
That’s why I prefer to read the considered opinions on military matters provided by those with real world experience, such as the coolly delivered analyses provided by bloggers such as Citizen Smash, Rev. Sensing, and the gang at Sgt. Stryker’s barracks.
Anything they say about the war on terror carries far more weight than anything I can add to the discussion.
The old adage that you should write what you know is a principle that some other folks would do well to remember.
April 7, 2004
Meanwhile, the recent post about motor vehicle ticketing disparities and other group variations generated an interesting response from one of my regular e-mail correspondents.
She works as a planner for a major metropolitan school district in California, and passed along the following:
She was right.
April 6, 2004
A long time ago, during the Republican administration of Pete DuPont, someone hit upon the idea of giving each Delaware legislator a chance to direct the flow of some of the state’s transportation funds in their own district.
Each senator and representative district received the same amount of Suburban Street Funds, and they decided where and how to spend it.
Long before I began advising DelDOT in 1987, the Street Fund was extremely popular with the General Assembly. Several legislators spent far more time spending their allotment of a couple hundred thousand dollars apiece than they devoted to dictating how DelDOT would spend a couple hundred million more on other transportation projects.
Whoever thought up this arrangement was no dummy.
It didn't take long after the creation of the SSF line in the state bond bill for some legislators to become a bit adventurous with their Street Fund projects. Eventually I wrote several legal opinions and memoranda about the state constitution's limits on these expenditures, all of which essentially boiled down to a few simple rules: The money could be spent on transportation-related projects, on property that was either publicly owned or dedicated to public use. In addition, the money could be allotted to municipalities who also agreed to the same limitations.
As is often the case, however, some decisions can be perfectly legal without being the best choice from a policy perspective.
For example, one state representative, Al O. Plant, directed thousands of dollars in Suburban Street money to the City of Wilmington for various City transportation projects.
Using the state money for these purposes acted as leverage on the City’s own funds. After receiving Rep. Plant’s allotments, the City then transferred the equivalent amounts of its own cash to a special City account, to be spent on non-profit social welfare projects designated by Rep. Plant.
Thousands of these dollars found their way from that special account into another bank account, controlled by the Reverend Lawrence W. Wright, a good friend of Rep. Plant.
Charity begins at home, of course.
Several thousands of these dollars were then re-deposited into the personal checking account of Rev. Wright, as well as in checks written to Rep. Plant.
Not long thereafter, a federal grand jury indicted Rev. Wright on various federal stolen property charges, money laundering violations, and two counts of making false statements to the FBI.
Rep. Plant was not indicted, perhaps because he died before that could be accomplished.
Rev. Wright was convicted and sentenced to 51 months in prison. He appealed his sentence to the Third Circuit, arguing that the District Court should have made a downward revision in the sentence in light of his charitable works as a minister.
In affirming the sentence today, the appellate panel quoted approvingly from the District Judge’s own explanation for his decision:
Both the District Court and the Third Circuit showed remarkable restraint under these circumstances.
April 5, 2004
Three recent stories about group disparities are well worth reading.
The first piece, in The Tennessean (hat tip—Drudge Report), reported on variations in motor vehicle violation ticketing rates in the Memphis area. The results run counter to what most people might think:
The newspaper's report (at least in the edition I read) didn’t address a fundamental question relating to these gender differences—that is, to what extent are men more likely to commit the kinds of motor vehicle offenses that would spur an officer to take enforcement action.
That basic problem in statistical analysis is astutely noted in David Post’s short essay in The Volokh Conspiracy.
Post describes the issue as applied to the repeated claims that a disproportionate number of Americans are ticketed for driving while black. He cites a new study by Stephen Michelson in the Arizona State University law journal, Jurimetrics:
Post summarizes Michelson’s findings:
If true, then the real question becomes far more difficult than the one which has troubled many state police agencies and civil rights activists—why the disparity among those who speed the most?
An even worse racial disparity dilemma is now facing parents, teachers, and school administrators in Delaware.
Test scores in the statewide eighth grade math test over the last six years show persistent and significant racial variations in passing rates. More than half of all students fail to meet the minimum standards, and the numbers are simply awful for blacks:
A chart that accompanied the News-Journal story showed this disturbing pattern across nearly every school district in the state. For example, in Brandywine School District, which includes part of Wilmington and a large swath of New Castle County north of the city, 81.72% of the white students passed, but only 36.64% of the black students passed. In Cape Henlopen District, where I live, the numbers are nearly as bad—78.35% compared to 39.22%.
The story discusses a variety of potential solutions:
Frankly, this News-Journal piece was one of the more infuriating stories I have read in quite a while.
I specialized in discrimination law through most of the 1980s, with an emphasis on testing issues. During that time I believed and argued that whatever the causes for racial variations in test performance during the 1960s and 1970s, by the turn of the century these disparities would surely be reduced. It certainly looks like I was far too optimistic.
April 4, 2004
This afternoon I posted my latest golf book review—Jimmy Demaret: The Swing's the Thing, by John Companiotte.
It's a biography of the once-popular PGA player, nowadays more famous because of The Golf Channel's rebroadcast of Shell's Wonderful World of Golf series than for the fact that Demaret won three Masters. The Texas native hosted the series after his 31-victory tenure on the PGA Tour.
Demaret's life and career deserved a good, well-written biography.
Unfortunately, this one isn't.
April 4, 2004
A couple months ago I posted a recipe that touted the therapeutic benefits of pounding veal as part of the preparation process.
Last night I made a few changes to this recipe that worked out very nicely.
I shredded some prosciutto and fried it until it was crisp. At the point in the recipe where I added the wine and parsley to the browned veal, I put in the prosciutto bits along with a few tablespoons of cream.
We served the result on a bed of couscous.
Several oohs and aahs resulted, which are always nice to hear.
In the recipe proportions used in the February 1 post, I'd estimate I used about 1/8 pound of the Italian delicacy and about 1/4 cup of cream.
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 2002-2004