This page includes posts from
May 8-21, 2005 in the usual reverse
order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these
May 21, 2005
As promised earlier, this link will take you to this week's golf column. It's about this spring's golf trip to the north end of the Myrtle Beach Grand Strand. In addition, there's a story about a recent hole-in-one by Pete Oakley, a Champions Tour player from this area.
I hope you like it.
May 19, 2005
As spring weather warms up southern Delaware, there's a frequent temptation to open up the car's sunroof and drop down the windows for a blast of fresh air.
Sometimes that's not such a great idea:
On the other hand, some folks call this the smell of progress.
May 18, 2005
United Airlines has been mired in bankruptcy proceedings for quite a while now.
The creditors who leased to the giant airline quite a few of the airplanes that flew the formerly friendly skies are becoming more than a little antsy about the prospects of ever being paid. When slow pay becomes no pay, that’s perfectly understandable.
Some of these folks joined together to attempt the repossession of 14 of the planes, as they had a right to do under the Bankruptcy Code and the special rules that apply to airplane leasing agreements.
Imagine their surprise when United sued them under the nation’s antitrust laws. Imagine the creditors’ further surprise when the bankruptcy judge blocked their collection efforts, effectively enjoining them from any further attempts to recover the planes and re-lease them or sell them for whatever residual value the jets might still have.
Perhaps this initial reaction to the creditors’ efforts isn’t such a big surprise. After all, a run on United’s leased fleet might have a disastrous effect on the company’s efforts to stay intact. On the other hand, on May 16 the Seventh Circuit took an extremely dim view of United’s approach to debtor-creditor relations, in a unanimous panel opinion authored by Judge Frank Easterbrook.
I especially liked the tone used by the judge to describe the situation:
The panel didn’t have much trouble considering the airline’s antitrust theory to be underwhelming, either:
The panel also reminded the parties of the basic economic realities of the situation, and pointed out the potential risks and rewards for both sides:
The panel then reversed the lower courts and remanded with instructions, including an order to permit repossession unless United immediately caught up on its rental obligations.
That’s a painful reality for the airline, but one that its leadership probably should have foreseen. For their sake, I hope they find a way to come in for a soft landing from this unimpressive legal flyer.
May 16, 2005
I first went public two years ago with the idea of creating the first new city in Delaware since 1981, and the initial reaction was largely favorable, if a bit muted.
With the continued torrid pace of development in the area since that time, however, the interest in following through on this proposal is now increasing.
Today's speech touched upon the same basic elements described in the Brighton website materials. I'm to make a similar presentation to another local group in early June.
I'm beginning to feel hopeful that a critical mass of similarly-minded folks is beginning to build to the point where the new city idea may actually come to fruition.
Giving the speech was fun, too, as was handling the questions afterward.
May 14, 2005
This afternoon I posted my newest golf book review.
Golf's Short Game for Dummies is a useful collection of playing tips for the part of the game that most amateurs spend too little time practicing. It's a well-done addition to the popular Dummies® series.
May 13, 2005
A few months ago I wrote a blog post supporting the Bush Administration’s effort to reduce farm subsidies.
Thankfully, I’m now being joined by some august company.
The Wall Street Journal’s lead editorial today [subscription required] discussed the effects of one of the more outrageous commodity subsidy programs and its effects on the potential Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta).
It’s a great editorial about the domestic sugar industry and its outsized, undeserved influence on American politics.
I especially liked these two segments, focusing on Florida’s Fanjul family and the tiny number of other cane growers:
I’m sure that to some small extent my thoughts on this matter are influenced by what I read—especially when the novel I’ve just finished reading is Carl Hiaasen’s Strip Tease. The main plot line revolves around a South Florida Congressman in thrall to a local sugar baron.
Nonetheless, there’s a strong logic behind the notion that our neighbors to the South would be in better economic shape in the long run, and thus we would be also, if the domestic sugar lobby’s apparent stranglehold on American trade policy was eliminated.
Ending that dominance would be, as they say, sweet.
May 12, 2005
It’s interesting to see what will bring out the displays of wounded pride in some people.
A con man named Glenn Benton Finck took advantage of a relatively gullible motor vehicle dealership in Springfield, Missouri. Finck managed to obtain several fine cars, an RV, and a trailer from his victim by passing himself off as Beau Lee DuBois, a stockholder in a California winery. The scheme even included assurances from a person claiming to be from Bank of America, assuring the dealership that the money had been wired.
That assurance was as false as Finck's promise to pay.
Eventually the plan unraveled, however, and the authorities caught up with Finck in Austin, Texas. At that time he was still using the name Beau Lee DuBois.
In the inevitable appeal from a 63-month sentence for a wide assortment of Federal crimes, Finck challenged the punishment on several routine grounds, none of which were successful.
Finck added an additional, noteworthy wrinkle to his appeal to the 8th Circuit, however. He claimed that the District Court violated his due process rights by using the name “Glenn Benton Finck” in the court proceedings, including the judgment.
The police originally charged Finck under that name, but as noted above, he went by the “Beau Lee DuBois” moniker while he was committing these crimes. The trial court added that name as an AKA reference in the caption.
According to Finck, the failure to limit the charge to the DuBois name alone had serious consequences:
Nonetheless, the Circuit Court was not exactly moved to tears by this claim:
A footnote in the case suggested at least a partial explanation for the Court’s reluctance to adopt this unusual and bogus argument:
I just wonder what the training course was that Finck found so objectionable to being made to take it a second time.
Then again, self-inflicted wounds are among the most painful.
Perhaps he should have used one of his other 52 names when he snookered that Missouri dealership.
May 10, 2005
In turn, I thank Tyler Cowen for tipping Bainbridge.
My results were as follows:
These scores would not surprise any of my family members or close friends, if they saw the questions.
May 9, 2005
Several years ago my clients at DelDOT came up with a relatively inexpensive design to cross a small stream bed in the Christina River watershed, as part of a major road construction project in New Castle County.
As planned, the box culvert they had in mind would have cost about $200,000 to install. Unfortunately, the environmental permitting agencies had to approve the plan, and they didn't like this idea. Their staffers insisted that small critters in the area, including turtles and other local wildlife, would not use the culvert to cross from one side of the road to the other.
At the time, DelDOT didn't have any real response to this allegation, and so the engineers changed the crossing design to a bridge in order to accommodate this particular environmental risk.
That bridge cost $2 million.
Thanks to an ongoing study by Bridget Donaldson of the Virginia Transportation Research Council, however, transportation agencies should have a somewhat easier time convincing their environmentalist counterparts that a well-designed culvert structure will give our wildlife friends a good opportunity to adapt to us humans.
Here's how a recent press release described her project:
What's really cool about this study is that the Virginia DOT is posting infrared pictures of the animals using these culverts, which you can see here.
It's not just deer and coyotes, either. One photo at the site shows a blue heron walking through.
There are other potentially significant benefits to the use of these crossing culverts. Car/deer collisions are on the increase nationwide, and these culverts could play a large part in reducing that risk. Donaldson quantified one aspect of the cost/benefit analysis relating to these accidents in this quote:
According to the release, the study should be completed by the end of the year.
I expect that the state transportation agencies in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Southeast regions will pay close attention to the final results.
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 2002-2005