Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- October 9-22, 2005

This page includes posts from October 9-22, 2005 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

October 22, 2005
Get us an editor--stat!

It's commonly known among journalists that Saturdays are the slow day in the newspaper business.

Sales are usually off quite a bit from the Sunday bulge and the normal weekday sales figures.

That fact may be the best explanation for an odd story/headline combination that ran in today's News-Journal--or at least, the kindest.

The story dealt with the latest employment figures from the Delaware Department of Labor, and the headline started things off with a bang:

State boasts 700 fewer jobs in September


Why would anyone boast about having fewer jobs?

The story eventually explains that this number comes from an increase in formally unemployed Delawareans, from 17,400 to 18,100 during September 2005.

The story then causes a bit more confusion, with this additional competing factoid about the last twelve months of job data:

Although there was a net gain of 5,800 jobs, a rise of 1.4 percent from September 2004, the state is projecting slower job gains this year. Economists forecasted earlier this year job growth would slow by the end of the year.

[Emphasis supplied].

So what are we to make of this interesting combination?

It seems to me that if the News-Journal wanted to spin this story so it could use "Boasts" in the headline, it should have highlighted the net gain in jobs, instead of the net increase in unemployment.

Or, if the News-Journal wanted to highlight the slight increase in unemployment, it certainly should have avoided the cognitive dissonance it caused with this headline.

Maybe the editors were at one of the Friday night high school football games, instead of hanging around at work.

After all, it's just the Saturday paper.

October 20, 2005
Tomato/Apple Cider Chicken

My bride came home from a college function recently, bearing two gallons of leftover apple cider. 

I like the stuff as much as anyone, especially with a few Sweetzel’s spiced wafers.

When there are only two of us in the house, however, some of this stuff could turn into apple jack unless we found some way to use it up.

If you find yourself facing a similar risk, here’s a recipe that could help.

Tomato/Apple Cider Chicken


1 cup dry pasta (I used small shells)
1 chicken breast, boned and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 stalks celery ribs, chopped fine
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups apple cider
flour for dredging
three tablespoons canola oil


Boil water and make the pasta while preparing the rest of the dish.

In a large sauté pan, heat 1 ˝ tablespoons of canola oil, and sauté the onions until soft. Add the chopped celery to the onions, cover the pan, and cook over low heat for five minutes. Add the tomatoes and cider, and let it reduce for 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, dredge the chicken pieces in flour, and season the pieces with salt and pepper. In another pan, sauté the chicken in the rest of the oil until lightly browned.

When the pasta is cooked and drained, add it and the chicken to the vegetable mixture, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves two, with a bit left over.

October 19, 2005
Certainly made an impression, and not in a good way

Divorce and bankruptcy cases don’t often show people during their finest hours. When one reads the judicial opinions regarding these and other emotionally wrenching legal matters, it helps to keep that fact in mind.

On the other hand, sometimes some of these litigants seem to go out of their way to create an impression---and not in a good way.

A college professor and his wife were married in 1967, and divorced in 1993. During the divorce proceedings, the ex-wife was awarded $2,000 per month in alimony, along with a share of certain annuities. In addition, the court ordered the repayment of thousands of dollars of cash that had been taken from the ex-wife’s parents, along with interest.

From the quoted passages in yesterday's Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in a subsequent bankruptcy proceeding, it’s safe to say that the professor didn’t take his losses well: 

Over the past nine years, the Debtor has taken evasive action to avoid paying his ex-wife … amounts she was awarded under the parties’ divorce decree. . . .

The Court found the Debtor to be a very difficult witness. He refused, for example, to acknowledge the authenticity of his signature on his bankruptcy petition or on a Consent Order entered in the state court dealing with the payment of [two creditors], claiming that the signatures could have been stamped. He claimed that he does not know what Chapter 7 is, even though he has filed five Chapter 7 petitions. At times, the Debtor seemed to be calculating the likelihood that his statements could be verified. At other times he seemed to be inventing excuses and explanations on the spot. The Debtor seemed to have virtually no appreciation or respect for the gravity of the proceedings initiated by him in the Bankruptcy Court. Given the very high level of the Debtor’s education and stature within the educational and international communities, the Court found the Debtor’s cavalier attitude and lack of candor to be surprising and offensive.

Things didn’t approve when the case went to the next level, before the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel:

The Panel also notes that at oral argument, the Debtor’s counsel advised the Panel that his client was the most sanctioned debtor in the district and that counsel himself is probably the most sanctioned attorney in the district. Counsel did not attempt to persuade the Panel that any sanctions received by either himself or his client were unjustified but presented the statement as if it were a badge of honor. Counsel further conceded that during the Debtor’s testimony given at the trial of this matter his client was “swimming around the truth.” Then, as if to clarify, counsel advised this Panel that his client had in fact told some “egregious lies” during the trial of the adversary proceeding. Counsel’s admissions leave this Panel wondering whether the Debtor was even swimming in the same pool as the truth. Obviously, the bankruptcy court’s findings regarding the Debtor’s complete lack of credibility are well founded.


After recounting this sorry history, the Circuit Court then addressed the legal issue in the case—whether a bankruptcy debtor had an absolute right to convert his case from Chapter 7 to Chapter 13, where a payment schedule could be set for the payment of his debts. 

It wasn’t hard to guess which way they would go. The Circuit Court affirmed and adopted the reasoning of the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel:

[T]he legislative history suggests a one-time absolute right to convert but that phrase cannot be implemented without also looking at the policy, stated in that same legislative history, behind permitting the debtor an absolute right to convert. That is that “the debtor should always be given the opportunity to repay his debts.” The bankruptcy court here found that the Debtor never intends to pay his debt to [his ex-wife] and that he is abusing the bankruptcy system to thwart all of her efforts to attempt to collect the debt. As evidence of this, the bankruptcy court points out that the Debtor has been given the opportunity in the past to make payments under installment plans and utterly failed to comply with those plans. Permitting the Debtor in this case to convert to a chapter 13 turns on its head the policy reason for providing a debtor with such a right. “The rationale for readily granting conversion under § 706 is to encourage debtors to repay their debts; however, Congress did not intend to allow or condone abuse of the bankruptcy process.” [citations omitted]. Neither will this Panel permit such abuses of the bankruptcy system as those attempted by this Debtor.

This decision strikes me as the proper reading of the statute and the correct result, especially under the circumstances. Nonetheless, I also have the feeling that this decision won’t be the end of the matter.

October 18, 2005
Smart Drive

This morning I went to two high school assemblies. It’s only been 34 years or so since the last time I did that. 

I went to Dover High School as the representative of the Attorney General’s Office, to be part of an opening presentation for a new initiative to improve driving safety among teenagers, called SmartDrive.

Delmarva Broadcasting Company, which owns and operates eleven FM and AM radio stations on the Delmarva Peninsula, is the lead sponsor. It came up with a program that combines monthly education modules that young drivers work on with their parents, along with a pile of individual and school-based incentives to do well on the periodic tests that are an integral part of the process.

Electronics, gift certificates, and concert tickets were among the swag items noted and vigorously applauded by the several hundred seniors and juniors in the auditorium. 

The Attorney General’s Office, the Delaware Office of Highway Safety, and other public and private partners are also working with DBC on this new project.

Between assemblies, I spoke with Pete Booker, DBC’s chief executive officer, and renewed an acquaintanceship that goes back to the early 1970s at the University of Delaware. At the time, Booker could always be found at the UD radio station in the old Student Center. I was a photographer for the college newspaper and yearbook, both of whose offices were next door to the radio station.

Booker was optimistic that the SmartDrive concept would produce safer young drivers, reducing accidents and the tragic deaths caused by foolish, preventable mistakes. 

It looks like a good idea, and it’s certainly well-intentioned.

October 17, 2005
Aw, man

Jeff Goldstein posted a short, funny note pointing to a reference on the Reason Magazine blog about an FBI study showing an uptick in marijuana arrests from the prior year.

Jacob Sullum’s piece noted that marijuana made up over two-fifths of all drug offense arrests, and that

As usual, the vast majority of marijuana cases (89 percent) involved possession, as opposed to cultivation or trafficking.

It certainly makes sense that most of these arrests don’t involve the more serious issues of growing or selling the stuff. Customers far outnumber the growers and sellers of most commodities, legal or otherwise.

What has me curious is the extent to which marijuana arrests are simply an additional offense to the crime that first drew the police officer’s attention. That’s because the Reason piece reminds me of a story from my infrequent work as a prosecutor in Wilmington’s Municipal Court in the early 1980s.

I would report to the Criminal Division when one of the regular city prosecutors was either out sick or on vacation (Somehow, they were never available to return the favor).

The first item of business required me to review the large stack of formal charges against the crowd facing justice that morning. With the normal complement of 40 to 50 defendants, there would often be over 150 charges to read, sign, and begin the process of confirming if the witnesses were going to show up.

The typically few marijuana possession charges on the list were almost always an addition to the fundamental offense.

For example, the defendant would have been stopped for some traffic offense, such as running a stop sign. When asked for his license and registration, a joint would fall out of his car’s visor onto his lap, when he lowered the visor to retrieve the ordered items.

In one case I remember vividly, the defendant faced 6 traffic counts and one marijuana possession charge with just this kind of fact pattern.

During this time, however, it was usually next to impossible to prosecute one of these minor possession charges successfully. Inevitably there was some kind of problem with the chain of custody or state chemist witness unavailability.

With that history in mind, I had no problem offering the defense the option to plead guilty to any three traffic charges listed, as long as one of them was the most serious, a reckless driving count. The other four charges, including the joint possession case, would go away.

Fastest plea bargain I ever made.

October 17, 2005
Update on bog books

After reading my recent post recommending John McPhee's The Control of Nature, blogbuddy Ann Salisbury sent a note that the New Yorker Magazine had recently reprinted the Atchafalya segment on its website.

Here's the link. Peruse the whole thing, as they say.

Meanwhile, I'm still reading John Berendt's The City of Falling Angels and John Barry's Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America. Both are very good.

October 14, 2005
Great show

Several hundred Motown fans crowded into the Rehoboth Convention Center last night for the Original Funk Brothers, part of this fall's Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival.

Jack Ashford, who won a Grammy for the documentary about the group, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, led his musicians with his distinctive play on the vibes and tambourine. Most of the songs were from the long list of Motown hits for which the band provided the original studio recordings, but there was also a very well done jazz piece.

During one painfully funny interlude, the group was also assisted by a dozen or so volunteers from the audience, who "helped" with a rendition of My Girl on stage, complete with an homage of sorts to Motown musical choreography.

One young lady had a great voice, but most of the men fell into the category of being so bad they were good.

The set lasted about an hour and a half, and was a lot of fun.

The festival continues through this weekend.

October 12, 2005
Missed their chance

I must confess to at least a small bit of annoyance with the announcement that there may be a new James Bond in our movie-going future:

There may be not only a new actor playing James Bond but also there could also be the first ever blonde Bond.

Meet Daniel Craig — a 37-year old Brit with 34 movies to his credit but largely unknown outside the United Kingdom. Craig is considered movie tough guy than pretty boy and the leading contender to become the sixth 007.

As far as I'm concerned, they've missed their chance once again.

It's not like I couldn't have made myself available. They could have called me, explained about the situation with Pierce Brosnan, and quietly but firmly tried to bring me around to the notion of taking over as his replacement.

But no.

Some folks might even suggest that I have perfected the look of suave menace that is the hallmark of the famous fictional spy, as in this recent example:

Maybe it was the wedding ring--but some things are just not negotiable.

October 11, 2005
Harbor of Refuge

Mike Mahaffie recently posted a great picture of the Harbor of Refuge lighthouse, off Cape Henlopen, taken while riding the Cape May/Lewes Ferry during some stormy weather.

The structure is also the subject of a very good memoir of an eventful year spent on lighthouse duty by a Coast Guardsman named Stephen Jones. (I've had the first edition hardback for a long time, but it's still available in paperback.)

Jones just happened to be on duty during one of the worst storms to hit the Delaware Coast, in March 1962.

I was in the third grade in parochial school at the time, and have a vivid memory of joining my classmates in prayers that our teacher's beach cottage would not be destroyed.

However, I have no present memory of whether our prayers were answered.

October 10, 2005
Shameless self-promotion

I took advantage of the Columbus Day holiday to write and post my newest golf book review this afternoon, which you can read here.

Curt Sampson's The Slam: Bobby Jones and the Price of Glory is a clear-eyed yet respectful look at the legendary golfer and his unmatched string of major tournament victories in 1930.

October 9, 2005
There's still time

Wednesday of this week begins this year's edition of the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, running through Sunday, October 16.

There's still a little time left to check the schedule and see if a favorite performer or group's show is sold out, or if tickets are still available.

We're looking forward to seeking the Funk Brothers, the studio band behind most of Motown's long string of hits, and the subject of a great documentary film.


Contact Information:

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


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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2005