This page includes posts from August 10-16, 2003 in the usual reverse
order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these
Today I experienced a crowded reminder of the changes
that have occurred in this resort area in the last several years.
It wasn't that long ago that the most popular tourist
period at Delaware's beach resorts was the last week or so in August,
combined with first few days in early September, up to and including the
Labor Day holiday weekend.
Weekly beach house rentals reached their peak prices
for those last fourteen days, as families scheduled their summer vacations
until just before their kids returned to school after Labor Day. These rentals
usually run Saturday afternoon to the next Saturday morning, which creates huge traffic jams on Saturdays
when combined with the day-trippers, seasonal visitors, and the year-round
This year the really big beach weekends this year are
August 9-10 and 16-17. The shift away from the traditional end of summer looks
like it will be permanent.
That's because many school districts both upstate and where
the out-of-state tourists live now schedule their school starts
before Labor Day.
The Washington Post ran
a story today about this growing phenomenon:
If there is a trend, it's that school time is creeping in on beach time
like high tide.
Almost three out of four schools start classes before Sept. 1,
according to Market Data Retrieval, a Connecticut company that annually
surveys schools districts. Just 15 years ago, only half of schools got
started that early.
For example, the
School District is one of the largest upstate school districts. The
first day of classes this year is August 26, with the
"staff development days"
to begin August 18.
Pre-Labor Day starts won't happen here. There are
too many Cape Region kids, parents, teachers, and administrators with summer
beach jobs. The local tourism economy couldn't stand it.
My personal reminder of this phenomenon hit me early
this afternoon as I returned from golfing at a club 20 miles north of home.
Traffic came to a complete halt on State Route 1, a four-lane dual highway,
about 10 miles north of my house. (The Rehoboth city limits are about
three miles further south from there.)
Those folks were probably going to be stuck on the
highways for at least a full 90 minutes to two hours before reaching their
Fortunately, I know the back-road alternatives, and
was able to leave the blocked traffic behind after a quarter-mile crawl.
Some of the Big Weekend travelers are pretty
This evening my younger daughter and I joined a
major traffic jam during a severe thunderstorm. After I dropped her off at
her destination, I began the long slog back.
Traffic was still glacier-like, and the rain was
I looked to my right and saw a couple riding a large
The woman sitting in the rear seat held a golf-sized
umbrella over the two of them--a perfectly sensible solution, especially at
3-5 miles per hour.
English is an
admittedly hard language to master. Qualified teachers of English as a
Second Language are in high demand for a reason.
If one of the pieces
of spam I received this week is any indication, some folks need to brush up
on their skills.
unwanted e-mail was yet another advertisement for special pills to eliminate
certain sexual inadequacies.
In itself, that
wasn’t too surprising. About every third piece of spam I receive seems to
focus on my alleged need for complete sexual satisfaction through the use of
pills, creams, videos, or web-cams.
Instead, the best
part of this e-mail was its title:
Females Will Go Crazy For You!
In my mind’s ear I
can hear the accent perfectly suited for this come-on: The Festrunk
Brothers, the two “wild
and crazy guys” played by Steve Martin and Dan Akroyd on Saturday Night
choice of language didn’t keep me from deleting this e-mail, but at least it
provided a unintended grin.
August 14, 2003
Nice bit of timing for a double-whammy
Sometimes one just
has to wonder whether a quiet little backchannel of communications allows
two different courts to time their related announcements with such
Take this week’s
example, for instance.
Harvey Bowman and his
wife operated the Platinum Club in Anniston, Alabama. The Platinum was
not only Alabama’s only strip club; according to the federal authorities, it
was also where the Bowmans ran a highly profitable prostitution ring.
As part of their law enforcement
efforts, the government seized the Platinum Club, closed it down, and put
the touch on $1 million of the Bowmans’ cash at the same time. The Feds also
arrested the couple and successfully prosecuted them on prostitution
On August 12, Bowman and his wife were
sentenced to prison terms of 1 ½ years and 2 years, respectively.
The AP story about the criminal court proceedings also mentioned a
related civil lawsuit brought by the Bowmans, and noted the fact that
their civil appeal was now before the 11th Circuit, where further
proceedings were expected.
On August 13 the
Circuit Court issued its opinion in the case, in which the Bowmans
challenged the government’s seizure of the Platinum Club without notice and
a prior hearing, where the couple could have had a chance to stop the Feds.
The appellate panel
ruled that it did not yet have jurisdiction over any appeal from the seizure
or its effects, because the couple’s claims did not meet legal and factual
conditions for the appeal to be heard, at least not until the completion of
further steps in the District Court.
Court noted that any real harm to the Bowmans as a result of the seizure
ended once the District Court ruled the Government had probable cause to
believe the property was connected to crime at a later hearing, which is
what happened in their case.
In a very dry tone,
the panel noted that “at best they can hope to recover lost profits”
for a relatively short period of time.
In light of the
subsequent criminal proceedings, that statement doesn’t fully express how
dim those hopes really are.
In so ruling the
Circuit Court didn’t exactly rub salt in the Bowman’s fresh wounds from the
criminal proceedings. On the other hand, the panel gave a pretty clear
signal that as far as their civil case was concerned, the couple could
expect to feel the first few crystals of the stuff that
pours when it rains
in the not-too-distant future.
this situation don’t show up all that often in the court system.
When they do,
however, some of us are just left to speculate.
August 13, 2003
The Sneaking Suspicions Recipes List
Someone wrote and asked
how to search this site for the various recipes I occasionally post. I toyed
with setting up a search function for this and other purposes, but so far I
haven't been able to master some of the intricacies of this version of
While I work on that
little techie problem, in the meantime here's a list of links for the
recipes posted to this point in this site's modest history:
Shrimp and Sausage Creole
September 29, 2002
Two-Day Spaghetti Sauce, with Sausage and Meatballs
October 6, 2002
Mashed Potatoes for
November 2, 2002 Scones
November 9, 2002 Oatmeal Raisin Movie Cookies
March 19, 2003
Never-used Old Bay®
in the cupboard? How is that possible?
July 27, 2003
August 9, 2003 The anticipation of
Hope you like 'em.
Glenn Reynolds and I have a few things
Within that short list is a
notable distinction between us, however, over and above the stark difference
in the daily number of visitors to our respective websites.
I bought a
Judging from his
Glenn sounds happy with his selection of a 250hp, rotary engine,
road-hugging-through-the-Tennessee-twisties sports car.
In a week or two, I hope to report
the same level of satisfaction with my choice of a sprightly 130hp, 5-speed
manual, fuel-sipping, 85 mile-per-day-over-flat- coastal-plain commuter car
I plan to use for the next 160,000 miles or so.
In the meantime, here's a tale
from my recent car hunts that surprised me.
A sales representatives at one of
the dealerships pointed out the alloy wheels on the particular model he was
I asked him if people actually
chose their cars based on the wheels. After all, I said, you can't see the
wheels while you're driving, and no one else can see the wheel design while
He insisted that many folks do, in
fact, pick their cars based on the wheels, or spend a truly startling sum on
a special order.
He also said that fathers come to
the dealership with their teenage daughters, ready and willing to buy their
little darlings their first car. On several occasions, the girls sniff at
the vehicle choice based solely on the wheel design, and tell their fathers
"You can drive that thing if you want, but I won't even sit in it," or words
to that effect.
The salesman insisted that the
fathers then knuckle under to their daughters' demands.
Later conversations with several
other car sales staff confirmed the same experience.
I know I'd much prefer to hear a
different response from the dads in those situations, such as a simple "No
problem. We won't be buying any cars today. We're leaving now."
August 12, 2003
Check first before you buy. That includes your lawyer.
Thomas Raymond Ross
found himself in deep trouble.
The Feds were after
him on drug charges, and he was looking at serious prison time.
Ross was not one of
those folks who prove the adage that a man who represents himself has a fool
for a client. He knew he needed a lawyer.
Ross then retained
Malik Ali Muhammed to represent him in the case, which went to trial on
February 8, 2000.
There was only one
Almost two months
before the trial, the California Bar had placed Muhammed on disciplinary
I suppose Muhammed
somehow forgot to mention that little problem to Ross before the trial.
In fairly short
- Ross was
- Muhammed was
- Ross learned of
Muhammed’s suspension four months after his conviction.
- Ross appealed to
the Ninth Circuit, claiming
that his Sixth Amendment
right to assistance of counsel includes the right to a lawyer who is an
active member of the bar at the start of trial, and thus—no matter how
well or poorly Muhammad actually performed—Ross’s rights were violated.
appellate panel disagreed.
precedent, the judges noted the following:
The Sixth Amendment
right to counsel exists “not for its own sake, but because of the effect
it has on the ability of the accused to receive a fair trial.” [citation
omitted]. It follows that “defects in assistance that have no probable
effect upon the trial’s outcome do not establish a constitutional
violation.” [citation omitted]. If counsel, who once passed the bar but
was suspended before trial, still performed adequately, the process is not
made fairer by awarding defendant a windfall even if he can’t identify a
single thing a licensed attorney would have done differently. [citation
Here, we cannot say that
Muhammad’s suspension and subsequent disbarment render the verdict
The Court left open
the possibility that Ross could eventually prove that Muhammad was an
constitutionally ineffective advocate, in a subsequent collateral appeal.
The panel simply wasn’t willing to give Ross a quick victory based solely on
Muhammed’s suspended bar status.
Here’s the consumer
tip that this case calls to mind—check first before you buy, including that
lawyer you were thinking of retaining. For example, the
State Bar’s web page includes a feature that allows site visitors to
confirm that their counsel remains in good standing. I tried this service on
one of my favorite California attorneys,
and it works.
It’s a shame that
folks need to take this small step toward self-protection, even for
something as potentially critical as the lawyer they decide to represent
them. Nonetheless, the frailties to which all humans are subject can also
affect lawyers, many of whom are also human.
Thomas Raymond Ross
New York City’s
government sometimes seems to go out of its way to find new and different
ways to lose lawsuits. The annoying thing is that it’s usually an avoidable
Second Circuit decision issued against the City and its Parks Department
supports the not-so-novel idea that city agencies should primarily limit
their permit pricing decisions to recovering the government’s cost of
dealing with the activity, rather than trying to accomplish some other
purposes, however laudable some of those goals might be.
Alternatives (“TA”) is a bike/pedestrian advocacy group, and has been busy
pushing its agenda for thirty years.
One of the most
popular events TA sponsors is its
New York City
Century Bike Tour.
The extremely popular
Tour begins and ends in Central Park, and winds through much of the city.
The politicking is kept up throughout the event:
[P]articipants are urged to sign petitions advocating
a car-free Central Park; many riders wear shirts with slogans such as "One
Less Car"; riders in the 2000 tour were given pro-bike postcards and urged
to mail them to city officials.
As one might easily
imagine, the cost to stage the Tour is not cheap. It’s also intended to be a
significant source of funds for TA’s advocacy efforts. To offset these two
expenses TA charges a registration fee for the bikers. It also uses
commercial sponsorship opportunities where it can, such as logo placement on
TA's web site, permitting free sample food distribution during the Tour, and
similar logo placements on the event’s programs, banners, and other printed
On the other hand, TA
is not the only entity that is put to some expense by the Century Tour. New
York City had its own burdens.
city's Parks Department charged a basic
$25 permit fee, and also tapped the TA for one of its “special events” fees.
In setting this fee,
the Parks staff used an agency document listing ten considerations, for
example security, estimated crowd size, and noise issues. Unfortunately, the
document gave no guidance about how to use the factors to set the fee.
Instead, the city used a matrix table to set the maximum fees to be charged,
largely based on whether the event was public or private, and whether there
was significant commercial sponsorship involved.
TA paid the city
$5,500 and $6,000 in special event fees for the 1999 and 2000 Tours. For the
2001 Tour, the City said the fee would be $6,000, and then made an offer
that TA felt it had to refuse:
If you remove the corporate
elements of your event, specifically the Ben and Jerry’s presence and the
Clif Bar sampling, and make the entrance fee simply a suggested donation,
on all your literature including your website, then you will only be
required to pay the permit application fee of $25.00 and post the
appropriate insurance bond.
TA decided it had
enough, and sued the City over the fees.
Neither the District
Court nor the Second Circuit had any significant difficulty finding fault
with the special events fee system.
In affirming the
lower court, the appellate panel noted the following:
[T]he Commissioner has
unrestricted discretion in deciding whether to impose a “special events”
fee at all. And, … the regulations allow the Commissioner uncontrolled
discretion in deciding the amount of the fee, limited only by the
prescribed maximums. It is true, the ordinance prescribes a list of
“factors” to be considered, but it assigns no weight to any of the
factors.... [T]he statutory scheme effectively gives the Commissioner
absolute, unregulated discretion as to the amount of the fee for any
reason she deems pertinent, within the prescribed maximum limits. The
Commissioner may impose a fee as high as $100,000 and as low as one dollar
(or zero dollars) on a public Central Park event that enjoys commercial
sponsorship, and any fee between $25,000 and zero for an identical event
without commercial sponsorship…. The City was unable to explain how it set
fees ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 for particular events. Regulations
granting such broad and unchecked discretion to a government official
charged with imposing fees on traditional expressive activities cannot
overcome the “heavy presumption” of invalidity to which prior restraints
on speech are subject.
As this case
illustrates, the City was attempting to be a little too controlling, while
reserving to itself an essentially uncontrolled environment in which to
grant permits with First Amendment implications.
That state of affairs
was never going to last. It was a mistake to attempt to retain a power the
City shouldn’t have exercised in the first place.
The better option
would have been to relate the special event permit fee to the cost of
providing the necessary city services implicated by the particular event.
Given that many such events produce offsetting income, in the form of tax
revenues from the commercial activity inspired by such events, it wouldn’t
be necessary for the permit fees to be determined by a total cost recovery
On the other hand,
there was nothing too special about this event fee, other than it’s
August 10, 2003
I almost stepped on this little
fungi early this morning as I took the dog outside.
It wasn’t there yesterday.
These mushrooms are
a telltale sign of the continued wet weather
we’ve been having here this summer.
unseasonably cold ocean temperatures are a
significant contributing factor.
When we’re driving home from work
up north, we can see the clouds forming into huge piles just along the
coast, as the warmer air inland moves east and hits the cold air mass above
the chilly Atlantic. Rain is the inevitable byproduct.
I’m sure this weather pattern is
normal somewhere else on God’s green earth. It’s just not too normal around
here, at least not in August.