Sneaking Suspicions
Archives--June 13-19, 2004

This page includes posts from June 13-19, 2004 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

June 18, 2004
Recommended Reading

What Roger Simon says is true. A short essay, well worth your consideration.

June 17, 2004
Will other state tax credits be challenged, or will Congress block the strategy?

Howard Bashman noted an article in the Christian Science Monitor discussing the potential impact of the recent Hibbs v. Winn Supreme Court private school tax credit holding:

In the 5-to-4 decision Monday that surprised many legal analysts, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, joined the court's liberal wing to provide the decisive fifth vote necessary to uphold a federal appeals court ruling that Arizona's tax-credit setup can be challenged in federal court.

The Monitor piece noted that only two years ago the Court upheld Cleveland's voucher system against a constitutional attack. Supporters of the Arizona tax credit scheme that helped parents with private school costs had won a challenge to the credit in the state court system, but now must defend the statute in Federal court.

I wonder what other state tax credits will be attacked in Federal court, now that the Hibb majority decided that the current federal laws don't prohibit the use of Federal courts against state tax laws.

For example, it's not too big of a stretch to imagine that the folks who don't want kids and don't want the state to help subsidize them will attack the child care credits that many states such as Delaware provide in their income tax code.

Similarly, state tax credit schemes to revive depressed areas might be attacked on equal protection grounds.

I hasten to add that there's no guarantee that these attacks would succeed if brought. Even the Arizona case does not appear to be a slam dunk winner for the folks who are fighting to keep others from using that particular tax credit. Even so, the effort involved will surely put a damper on the enthusiasm with which state governments use this particular method of expressing social policy preferences.

Nonetheless, the fact that the Hibb case depends on a construction of federal law and Congressional intent also means that Congress has a chance to cut off this particular strategy of challenging the democratic process that creates these and other tax credits. I don't see any significant legal hurdles for Congress to amend the Tax Injunction Act to eliminate federal court jurisdiction over these suits, as long as the state courts remain open for such challenges.

The real question is whether Congress will have the political will to accomplish that goal.

June 17, 2004
Charting a conflict of interests

While boating on Rehoboth Bay the last few weekends, we've been treated to a sight that is not unusual in British Columbia or Alaska, but which is pretty uncommon around here.

A small airplane, rigged with pontoons, made a few low-level passes in the northeast corner of the Bay, just west of Dewey Beach, at a place called Head of Bay Cove. It then landed smoothly on the water.

(Here's a link to an aerial photograph shot a few years ago, showing Dewey Beach in the right center, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Rehoboth Bay to the west. The darker water image in the lower half is because the image is combined from at least two picture angles.)

The part of the Bay that served as the plane's eventual touchdown spot also happens to be very popular with jet-skiers.

Seeing the plane reminded me of an anomaly I'd seen previously between the information shown on the state's aeronautical charts and the NOAA nautical chart for the same area (12216).

The chart used by the airplane pilot clearly shows the symbol for a seaplane base at this location.

On the other hand, the nautical chart shows no sign that any boater should expect an airplane to use the same water space.

I don't expect any jet skiers to keep a pocket chart handy while they're tootling around the bay, but it's still worth looking into.

I plan to check with the Federal folks involved with these issues and see what they say.

It just seems a bit odd that this information wouldn't appear on the nautical charts, considering how much other valuable information already appears on them.

June 15, 2004
Consumer guidance

Tonight we did a quick boat run to retrieve the crab pots we set out this weekend. The trip yielded a couple dozen keepers, which we returned to the house to steam.

At that point, however, we decided to first go out and buy a real steamer. Neither of us were especially pleased with our attempt at steaming crabs in a porcelain pot on Saturday night, when we used a self-perforated aluminum pie shell to separate the crabs from the beer/vinegar mixture. Since the pie shell didn’t fit the pan, some of the crabs were more boiled than steamed.

The evening’s search for a steamer produced a surprise, in that the local Walmart didn’t have any. No steamer pots were to be found at the local Giant food store or Kmart, either, which wasn’t quite so shocking.

We finally found what we were looking for at the Rehoboth Outlets, at the Le Gourmet Chef store—a Granite Ware 19-quart steamer set, complete with drain faucet for the lower pan. 

As the crabs expired in the new pot, it dawned on me that the process of preparing them is similar to microwaving popcorn. In both cases, you know your stuff is nearly ready when you don’t hear any more noise inside the chamber. For the crabs, however, it’s a good idea to keep steaming for a few more minutes to make sure they’re completely done, with that great red shell color.

The Granite Wear instruction sheet also included a handy guide for the faucet assembly.

I was especially impressed by the warning that appeared in large bold type at the top of the sheet, which I hereby quote in full:


The folks that wrote this are completely correct, of course.

When dealing with cookware, one simply can’t be too carfeful.

June 13, 2004
Chicken Prosciutto

I put this dish together a few days ago, and my favorite group of food testers gave it a warm welcome.

Chicken Prosciutto

1 ½ pounds boned, skinned chicken breast, sliced into ¼ inch thick pieces
¼ pound thinly-sliced prosciutto ham, chopped or cut into ½ inch or smaller bits
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 small onion, chopped fine (I used a Vidalia this time (Oooh—Vidalias.))
Black pepper
2 teaspoons creole seasoning
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 cup white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup grated mozzarella

Place the sliced chicken in a bowl, and lightly grind or dust some black pepper over the pieces.

Fry the prosciutto over medium heat in a non-stick pan until most pieces have a bacon-like crunchiness. Remove from heat and set aside.

Using a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium/low heat and then cook the garlic and onion in the oil for a few minutes, until the garlic begins to turn a medium brown.

Add the chicken to the mixture, browning both sides for about 5 minutes total.

Add to the pan the prosciutto, creole seasoning, parsley, white wine, and cream, and cook until the liquid is reduced to at least half the original amount.

Stir in the mozzarella cheese and remove from heat.

Serves four, nicely accompanied by rice and salad.

BTW, the prosciutto more than makes up for the absence of any salt in this recipe.

June 13, 2004
They're back

Molly Murray, one of the better reporters at Delaware’s daily newspaper, wrote last week that the blue crab harvest for this area looks promising, especially by comparison to the past few disappointing seasons:

A state estimate of young blue crabs in Delaware Bay suggests the population that will mature for harvest later this summer is three times larger than it was a year ago.

But don't break out the Old Bay seasoning and the crab-picking knife just yet.

Last year's survey of young blue crabs was well below normal. So the higher numbers recorded this year still bring the young crab population up to an average level, said Rick Cole, the state shellfish administrator.

"We'll have to see" what the season brings, he said.

Recreational crabbers but don’t have to compete with commercial fishermen in hunting for these succulent little critters in Delaware Bay, an often difficult stretch of water for small craft.

 Instead, most of us try our luck with our official 2-pot limit, supplemented with hand lines and dip nets or other methods, in the shallow, relatively placid Inland Bays (Rehoboth, Indian River, or Little Assawoman).

This optimistic assessment that Murray reported about seems to be true, based on our first early experience of the season.

During a heavy drizzle/light rain early Friday evening, the four of us donned our parkas and headed out to a promising location in the northeast corner of Rehoboth Bay, near the mouth of Love Creek. In light chop, with the kind of whitecaps you see when the winds about 12 knots, we officially launched our season with a single pot, baited with a very dead, very frozen fish.

The pot included the new terrapin excluder devices I attached that afternoon, designed to let the crabs in and keep the turtles out.

About a half-hour before sunset last evening, my bride and I went back out to put out a second pot, while checking on the first. After a couple attempts, I finally snagged the pot float with the boat hook and pulled the line in.

Nice haul. About 30 crabs, with nearly two dozen easily meeting the 5-inch tip-to-tip size limit.

We emptied the pot’s contents into a bushel basket, re-set the pot, and headed back as my wife returned the small ones back to the bay.

Sometime today we’ll be picking (and eating) the ones we steamed last night, and go out again to check the pots.

This could become a very pleasant routine.

Heh, indeed.


Contact Information:

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


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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2004