Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- May 25-31, 2003

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This page includes posts from May 25-31, 2003 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

May 31, 2003
Life imitating The Wind in the Willows

On occasion I become impatient with those who write editorials for a living, and others seemingly content to express opinions on public issues without also volunteering to do something about their concerns.

A line from the first chapter of one of my favorite books, Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows, often captures my reaction to these folks:

"Oh, its all very well to TALK," said the Mole, rather pettishly....

Blogging is similar to editorial writing, at least in the form I practice it. Therefore, after considering my sentiments about those who talk without taking action, I decided to press forward with a proposal I'd been working on for about eighteen months.

I went public with the idea last week--to create the first new city in Delaware in the last twenty years.

Those interested can read about the proposal for the City of Brighton, Delaware at this site, or follow the media coverage links at the site for more information.

Thus far the direct public contact I've had about the idea has been very favorable, with a few exceptions.

I'm looking forward to seeing how far I can take this new city proposal to completion, with the help of others who share my views.

May 30, 2003
The Internet and dated cultural references

I have a few things in common with James Lileks--relatively short stature, a regular newspaper column, and the fact that our wives are our own harshest critics.

In addition, despite the wise counsel our spouses freely give us, we both continue to enjoy making cultural allusions to items from our pasts, even when a dated reference causes others to furrow their brows, struggling to recall how it could fit the current topic.

As my wife tells me on too many occasions, not everyone is my age. Not everyone read or saw every book or movie to which I’m referring in some attempted witticism. Sometimes, and far more often than I can tell, the listeners’ smiles are meant to be polite, not to show that they understand and agree.

For the stuff I post on this site, however, the Internet can provide mystified readers and/or listeners with a quick way to discover how these cultural touchstones go together.

I just have to remember to find the reference and put in the necessary URL citation, for their sake.

For example, today I read an odd little story published by the AP that led with the following headline:

Warthog Goes for Wild Ride in Van

The article reported that a sedated warthog at an Indiana zoo revived itself momentarily, and somehow knocked the van in which it was riding into gear. The vehicle then rolled down hill before crashing into a fence to a stop. The warthog was slightly injured, but was asleep again when zoo officials caught up to it.

That’s not what I was thinking when I first read this news flash.

I was thinking of the underground comic superhero Wonder Warthog, for whom the idea of a wild ride in a van fit absolutely perfectly.

For others, however, that reference would only make sense if they remembered him.

At least this time I recognized that my allusion was just a bit obscure.

Now I suppose some twenty-something reader will write in to tell me they learned about the Hog of Steel in their college's Cartoons and History course.

Kids these days.


May 29, 2003
No stringers here

On occasion I’ve had a little fun with R.W. “Johnny” Apple, Jr., the long-time NYT correspondent.

On the other hand, in some respects the man’s talent is undeniable.

I refer specifically to his penchant for identifying and appreciating some of the finest in American regional cuisine.

This week’s extended paean to Philadelphia’s contribution to this nation’s gustatory delights is a very good example.

Apple shows he understands the subtle flavors, the complex mix of not-so-healthy stuff that millions of Mid-Atlantic Region residents enjoy daily, including (in no particular order) cheese steaks, hoagies, and, of course, scrapple.

How can one rank one’s favorite foods, after all?

They’re each great in their own way.

It’s probably true that these particular items, along with ice cream and Tastycakes, are among the major contributors to Philadelphia’s status as a haven for the very well fed.

Having tried other region’s attempts at mimicking cheese steaks and hoagies, however, all I can say is, nice try. Go find better rolls, and you’ll be on the way to coming closer to the real thing.

In addition, if you want to be taken seriously around here on other important issues, do not, ever, call a cheese steak a “steak and cheese” sandwich.

Apple notes that even within the region, variations can co-exist peacefully, notably in the different ways folks prepare scrapple.

In my family, for example, a perfectly done slab is between 3/8ths to ½ inch in thickness, fried to a golden brown on both sides, with the middle kept semi-soft. In my wife’s family, however, the scrapple pieces are only 1/8 inch thick, and fried totally crisp all the way through, somewhat like a chunky potato chip.

To help maintain domestic tranquility, therefore, we alternate these approaches.

I also choose to believe that Apple did his own research for this remarkable report, despite the NYT’s recent credibility challenges noted by Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus, and this site, among others.

It’s impossible to imagine that Apple used any stringers to help gather the facts and opinions sprinkled throughout his article. The man looks like he enjoys every minute of the process of conducting his own, in-depth analysis, at least for these pieces.

And after all, who can blame him?

May 28, 2003
Finding the money by tapping Uncle Sugar

Part of the Bush Administration’s deal-making for the newly-signed tax cut legislation included a nice piece of change for the states from Uncle Sugar: $20 billion, in fact, divvied up according to a population-based formula, according to this Washington Post article.

As the piece noted, the Federal one-time grants come at a very opportune moment for the states, most of which are struggling to make budget targets.

Darn shame that only the Feds can print money, isn’t it?

As expected, Democratic Party types were a little snarky about the cash going to the states, as shown by this quote:

Some Democrats argue that $20 billion falls far short of what is needed.

Alice Rivlin, head of Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton, said yesterday at a conference sponsored by the National League of Cities that "$20 billion is a good idea . . . but it's not nearly big enough to fill an $85 billion budget gap." Rivlin, founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, referred to the states' total shortfall projected for fiscal 2004.

I’m a little surprised that Rivlin would say this. I gave her more credit than what this statement implies.

That’s because the only way to take this statement at face value is to agree with its underlying assumption—there should be no cuts in spending in any state budgets.

With all due respect, that makes no sense.

Fortunately not all Democrats agree, although on a personal level it stings a bit.

Yesterday, for example, the Delaware General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee agreed with Governor Minner’s suggested budget proposal to eliminate most state employee pay raises for the next fiscal year. It is part of her program to manage Delaware’s fiscal shortfall, and there’s no question that taking this step along with (mostly) freezing new hires will save many millions of dollars.

Delaware is not in great shape, but it’s in far better financial condition than most of its sister states. In part that’s because there’s been a long-time bipartisan consensus on most budget issues, including some truly important financial policies such as recognizing the difference between one-time money sources such as estate tax receipts and long-time revenue streams such as income taxes.

Some of the problems other states now face can be traced to forgetting this and other prudent budget principles. For now, one can only hope that the state governments continue to find the money by deciding they need less of it in the first place, instead of adding to their deficits by avoiding some painful choices.

May 27, 2003

Shakespeare behind the wheel

The Washington Post ran a story today by Dee-Ann Durbin about a survey disclosing a wide variety of bad driving habits among American drivers. The surprising thing about the piece was the open and honest response made by those answering the survey questions:

Ninety-one percent of drivers of all ages acknowledged at least one risky activity in the previous six months, including 71 percent who said they sped; 59 percent who ate while driving; 37 percent who used a cell phone; 28 percent who wore no seatbelt and 26 percent who used no signal when turning. Fourteen percent admitted to reading while driving.

With all due respect, most of these folks are rank amateurs when it comes to driving with less than perfect adherence to safety considerations.

The ones who admit to only one unsafe activity at a time are mere pikers, in fact.

My regular commute adds up to over 400 miles per week, most of which takes place on dual highways with a posted 55 mph speed limit.

Without going into detail about particular dates and times, on more than a few occasions I have sped too fast, while chewing a McNugget or other car-friendly snack, while not wearing my seatbelt, while talking on my cell phone, while changing lanes without using my turn signal, and while glancing over at the passenger seat to read the newspaper's headlines.

It’s a combination of driving faults not everyone could match, and which I’m not too proud to admit I’ve done far too often.

My own bad habits stand in sharper relief now that I’ve been riding with younger daughter, proud possessor of her new driver’s license permit. For the last few weekends she's been driving the two of us into town to her sales job at a local gift store, as I officially guide her own tentative steps toward automotive independence.

Observing how careful she is and how she drives the right way (most of the time) only makes it more obvious that I should do the same.

After all, the fault, dear reader, is not in our cars, but in ourselves.

May 26, 2003
A one-woman COPS show

Fortunately no one was hurt.

Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be right to comment on an incident that occurred here this weekend.

That said, as I read the police reports in today’s statewide newspaper my first reaction was to wish that this entire episode was captured on videotape.

The woman now facing a wide array of criminal and traffic charges could have filled an entire COPS show with her alleged antics.

The Nassau Bridge takes the only dual highway around here, State Route 1, up and over a railroad spur. A few county roads connect to Route 1 a short distance north of the bridge, and lead to a few homes and some farm acreage. South of the bridge lies the Five Points intersection, where travelers split off to head east to Lewes, south to Rehoboth Beach, or west to Georgetown.

According to police, at about 2:15 a.m. Sunday morning a 29-year-old Rehoboth woman left one of the side roads north of Nassau Bridge and began driving her 1997 Accord south toward Five Points--in the northbound lanes, however, at approximately the posted 55 mph highway speed limit.

At just that time, a southbound police cruiser was in the area, and spotted her. 

(Here’s where the video would start running).

The state trooper activated his siren and lights, but it had no effect on the errant driver. She continued south, up and over the Nassau Bridge.

A northbound SUV swerved to evade her on the bridge, but apparently seeing a land yacht coming directly at her didn’t make an impression. She kept going.

The trooper then drove across the median to the northbound side to try to stop the woman. The tactic had no effect, and she continued south in the north lanes.

Fortunately, a whole passel of troopers managed to maneuver their vehicles to a point in her path just above Five Points. That worked.

She was taken into custody, charged with drunken and reckless driving, reckless endangering, and resisting arrest. The police took her to their local troop station, less than half a mile from Five Points. 

The video should keep running, however, as suggested by the dry tones of the police report:

[The woman] also was charged with criminal mischief, disorderly conduct and a host of traffic charges, as well as failing to submit to fingerprinting, and with theft for allegedly stealing fingerprint cards, [police spokesman Sgt. Walter] Newton said.

I can perfectly visualize the events in the booking room that led to this interesting additional collection of allegations.

This incident would make a great COPS show all by itself.


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 2002-2003