Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- October 31-November 6, 2004

This page includes posts from October 31-November 6, 2004 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

November 5, 2004
Not enough of you volunteered, so now youíre all volunteers

Sometimes normal life has a way of matching elements of the military mindset portrayed so well in Joseph Hellerís Catch-22.

For example, we keep three large plastic bins in our garage for recycling. One holds newspapers, one holds cans and plastic bottles, and the last one holds glass bottles and the occasional cardboard box.  

About once a month we drive to the recycling igloos behind the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center and empty our bins.  

Itís not a big deal. In fact, sometimes itís surprising how much stuff goes in the bins that would otherwise be part of our weekly trash pickup. 

Nonetheless, apparently there arenít enough of us folks doing this volunteer recycling.  

The Delaware Solid Waste Authority and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control are now floating a plan to require mandatory recycling, with curbside pickup. The new proposal comes complete with a monthly charge for the privilege of no longer volunteering to recycle.

Thatís some catch, eh? 

According to News-Journal reporter Jeff Montgomery, the required recycling proposal is one of the ways that the Solid Waste folks are trying to handle a much larger problemónamely, theyíre running out of storage space at their New Castle County facility:

State officials have been exploring ways to expand Delaware's chronically low recycling for several years. The effort accelerated after the Delaware Solid Waste Authority reported that it would have to reduce drastically the use of the Cherry Island Landfill by 2006 or undertake an immediate $66 million repair and expansion. ***

Backers of the plan hope recycling will divert 30 percent of residential wastes from landfills, counting gains from a proposed ban on yard waste disposal in landfills.

I'm sympathetic, but this is pretty annoying nonetheless.

There is one working landfill in each county, and based on land use changes and significant in-migration throughout the state,  itís no stretch of the imagination to recognize that at least one more landfill per county would be needed to handle the next half-century or so.

Iím using that long a timeline because when it comes to LULUs (Locally Unwanted Land Uses), you just canít beat landfills for bringing out the NIMBYites.

If the State would locate and buy the necessary acreage for three more such facilities, complete with some sizeable buffer properties, then the counties could adjust their land use decision-making accordingly.

Land values arenít really dropping anywhere in the State, and buying these acres wonít be any cheaper ten years from now.

My primary concern with this required recycling proposal is that it may lull the decision makers into a false sense of security that they donít really need to plunk down several million dollars for new landfill space sooner rather than later. If ever there was a good reason for government to landbank, this is one of them.

Iíd be much more inclined to agree with this idea if the payments for recycling were earmarked for the purchase of new landfill property. The increased recycling might slow down the rate at which the new property must go online, but we also know it'd be there when it was needed.

November 4, 2004

To read some Democratsí reactions to the presidential and congressional election results, youíd think the apocalypse is well nigh upon us.


Would some of you all just chill for a bit? 

The country is not utterly doomed because the Republicans have a current majority in both Houses and a re-elected President in the White House. 

Your time might be better spent thinking about why Bush won 12 million more votes than Bill Clinton ever did, for example.

And while youíre doing that, try to think the best of your fellow Americans, the 51% or so that didnít vote the way you thought they should. Or does your assumption that someone usually acts in good faith only apply if they vote Democratic? 

If you actually believe that, feel free to go on losing in the next campaign, and the next, and the next. You deserve it. 

If you remain open-minded, however, you will pick up some clues that may lead to eventual Democratic victories. 

As for where to find some of these clues, might I suggest breaking out a bit?  

Here are a few suggestions to help some of my fellow Democrats improve their prospects with the vast, mostly centrist crowd of American voters. 

Go to a NASCAR race, walk around the souvenir stands before the race, and just listen. Once youíre in the stands, ask for help in understanding the details about how the race works from the woman or man sitting next to you. Theyíll be happy to help, and the way they react to the event will also be instructive.  Watch one of the post-Nextel Cup Race shows on Speed Channel, the ones featuring the drivers, and see if you can appreciate what the fans love about them.

At its best, NASCAR embodies several virtues, including meritocracy, teamwork, individual initiative, and an enthusiastic embrace of capitalist values. Thereís nothing particularly Republican about any of these qualities, but some folks may need reminding of that fact. 

Rent and watch the Blue Collar Comedy Tour DVD. Millions of people in the red counties already own a copy, and Iím willing to bet there are far fewer copies sold in the blue counties. See whatís really funny about living here in America, and with an improved sense of humor you might be better able to reach potential voters.

As the minority party, Democrats would do well to keep in mind both the immediate and long-term benefits of incrementalism. For example, I believe you can convince most folks to go along with eliminating family-only rules on visitations in intensive care units. It's a step toward recognizing some of the similarities between gay and straight relationships, without spooking those who object to gay marriage.

If Democrats are patient, they'll also be given opportunities to take advantage of Republican miscues, because it will happen. 

There are plenty of instances where the party in power overreaches, with fairly speedy consequences. Think of Clintonís first two years in office and the 1994 congressional elections, for the most recent example. Thereís no reason to assume that the Republicans wonít eventually screw up in much the same way. 

In addition, remember that the Republicans have an opportunity to put into place their vision of America. Itís not a dead cinch that they will succeed in that effort, by any means. In addition, if folks in the center donít like what they see, theyíll be more than ready to do something about it in 2006 or 2008, if a reasonable alternative is presented.  In any event, Democrats have an equal opportunity to modify the Republican vision, especially in sensitive areas of public policy where more than a simple majority is needed. Think Social Security reform, for example. 

Remember always that itís far easier to reach an effective compromise with someone whom you havenít already called a moron. Amazing how that turns people off, isnít it?

I don't presume to know every aspect of what it would take to swing 6% of the American voters to the Democratic column. However, I do know that petulance, condescension, and a smug attitude of entitlement never sell.

November 3, 2004
A Partial Microcosm?

A huge number of voters in New Castle County, Delaware went for Kerry, so Delawareís 3 electoral votes went there, too.

The lower two counties, Kent and Sussex, went for Bush, but their lower actual vote totals werenít enough to counter the population advantage NCC has over them.  

This result is similar to most other states throughout the country, even those painted deep red. It also happened in the 2000 race [hat tip-Vodkapundit].

This really isnít a blue state/red state dichotomy in the United States. Itís far more of a red county/blue county split.

Delawareans have always known about the cultural and social distinctions between upstate and down, usually referred to as above the canal or below the canal. The influx of new immigrants to Delaware in the last twenty years hasnít really altered this distinction.

On the other hand, the new residents have seemed to affect Delawareís status as a bell-weather state, one on which pollsters and politicians formerly relied upon as a microcosm of the nation as a whole. This is the second straight presidential race in which the First State found itself picking the loser, and for this native, that still seems odd.

The common wisdom in other places is that the new immigrants to Southern states and to Western states such as Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho have simply increased the Republican hold on the local political power structure. That hasnít happened hereóif anything the opposite has occurred. Democrats picked up several open seats in the State House. Governor Minner also won re-election, but only carried New Castle County in doing so, which I think is a first-time ever event for any governorís race here. 

Somethingís different about the folks whoíve moved here, compared to those whoíve moved further south or out West, that explains the dissimilar political effects of their migration. I havenít figured out what it is, but I plan on doing some asking around.

November 2, 2004
Thick and steady

We went to vote around 12:30 this afternoon at Rehoboth Elementary, the official polling place for the 4th Election District for the 14th Representative District. There was a 45-minute wait in the L-Z line. 

If our last name began with an A through K, on the other hand, our wait would have been measured in seconds. 

The alphabet split used by the election officials to break up the line wasnít working quite as well as planned. Nonetheless, the staffers insisted that it was working fine earlier, and were mystified as to why there was such an odd distribution of last names in the middle of the day. 

There wasn't much anyone could do about it, either. The registration card boxes were split by letter, and the two ladies working the M-Z box were working as fast as they could. We chatted with neighbors and friends, and read the local paper

One election staffer is a neighbor of ours. He said theyíd had about 1,300 voters go through the four voting booths by noon or so. That number matches the total turnout for this election district in the 2002 general election, but this time there were 8 hours remaining. Turnout may well exceed 75%, at this rate.

He described the voting as busy and steady, and assumed that it would continue to be heavy for the remainder of the day. 

Party challengers were there from both major parties, although around here theyíre more like observers and recorders than bitter partisans seeking to intimidate the innocent. They check off the names of whoís voted from their copy of the registration lists as people check in. Party activists retrieve the lists periodically, and use the check-offs to help target the get-out-the-vote efforts.

We drove two other polling places this afternoon, and they looked just as busy.

November 2, 2004
On Call

I'm on call today, along with a dozen or so other Deputy Attorneys General throughout the state, and probably several hundred government attorneys in the other states.

Each Election Day, the usual complement of state attorneys assigned to represent the Elections Department swells significantly. Our job is to handle election law compliance and enforcement activities that might arise.

This is the eighth general election in which I've had this assignment, and in the previous seven it's been pretty quiet.

One reason for the relative calm is that the Elections folks try very hard to make voting as simple and easy  as possible. For example, there's an online search engine to point voters to the appropriate polling places, and there's also a handy telephone number for the same purpose.

There are some tense local races this year, in some cases even more emotionally charged than the presidential campaign. That's not particularly unusual, actually. Nonetheless, we've been lucky to avoid some of the bitter fights that other places went through in the past.

Let's hope that experience continues today.

November 1, 2004
Sweet talking

Thanks to some family matters, I was home for a while this afternoon. 

The phone rang at around 2 p.m. It was Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), the former State Treasurer, Congressman, and Governor. His recorded message supported the election of Matt Denn, the Democratic nominee for Delaware Insurance Commissioner. 

Denn is the former legal counsel to Governor Ruth Ann Minner, who seems to be in an increasingly tight re-election race with Judge William Swain Lee, the Republican nominee. Minner served eight years as Lieutenant Governor to then-Governor Carper. Nonetheless, Carper made no mention of Governor Minner in the tape I heard. 

About five minutes after the Carper call, the phone rang again. This time it was President Bill Clinton, with another taped message asking us to vote for Senator Kerry and Governor Minner. 

He sounded tired. In fact, it was about the most uninspired bit of oratory Iíve ever heard from him. The overwhelming sense I had was that Clinton was completing a necessary chore, in which he had no real emotional investment. 

Frankly, both calls struck me as odd. You'd think that the campaign staff would have listened to the Clinton tapes before they went out, and heard how flat he sounded. And even though rumors persist about a rift between Carper and Minner, you'd also think they'd put aside those differences for the sake of the party.

Maybe not.

For some additional discussion about this last-minute campaigning, check out the comments at this post. The anonymous host at Delavoice also reports that Rudy Giuliani is making similar taped calls for Judge Lee. I listened to it, and Rudy sounded quite a bit more animated and positive than Clinton.

It wasn't hard to beat.

October 31, 2004
Shameless self-promotion

I posted my latest golf book review this afternoon.

Golf Wit & Wisdom should be helpful for beginning golfers who'd like to know more about their new sport.


Contact Information:

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


Home Page
Table of Essays
Table of Essays 2002
Links to the Weekly Archives

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 2002-2004