This page includes posts from December 8-14, 2002 in the usual reverse
order. Each week's postings on the home page are perma-linked to these
December 14, 2002
This banner doesn't exactly tempt readers with its novelty, now does it?
The story itself, by AP Writer Ula Ilnytzky, is a well-done round-up of the many ways New York City’s commercial existence would be deeply harmed if the transit workers violate the recent court order to refrain from withholding their services.
It is well worth remembering how fragile the city’s recovery has been since September 11, and this controversy won’t help. Even the threat of the strike has probably already convinced many would-be tourists to avoid the risk of being caught in Manhattan without an easy way off the island.
The report outlined the basic bargaining positions thus far:
Looks to me like there’s a middle ground in there both sides could reach with a little help from the State, a significant participant in MTA’s overall financial support.
Note: Of course there’s a pun in this post’s title. Some standards are well worth maintaining.
Link to Tampa Bay Online via Drudge Report.
December 14, 2002
After listening to portions of Senator Lott's statements at his press conference yesterday, and reading about it online, I considered writing a post comparing Senator Lott to Foghorn Leghorn.
I decided that might be unfair--to Foghorn Leghorn.
After all, even that famous rooster would have found a clue in his barnyard by now, after a week's gone by.
The Senator is obviously still searching.
The sad fact is that Lott's potential status as the next Senate Majority Leader could be yet another proof of an old aphorism:
*The description for those other types is actually a bit more colorful in the original, but this is a family-friendly site.
December 13, 2002
Karlyn Barker of the Washington Post wrote a story about the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities that might make some folks a bit more careful about their future dealings with the agency.
Earlier this year the Commission sponsored the popular Party Animals sculpture exhibits that graced the District with well-done, creative, and frequently amusing donkey and elephant statuary.
The overall plan for the exhibits included auctioning off most of the statues to raise money for other arts programs.
The only problem is that the Commission managed to finagle the auction so that the agency won the bids for nine specific statues.
To make things even more interesting, the Commission didn’t actually pay for the artwork they acquired during the auction.
They had their reasons, as they viewed the situation:
Not counting the Commission’s bogus bids, the rest of the statues brought in over $925,000 in live and online bidding. One elephant brought in $12,500.
Barker tracked down one professional auctioneer who explained the problem:
For some reason, the Commission’s statuary set-asides did not include one of the more famous elephant sculptures in the series.
Perhaps it brought up bad memories.
I refer, of course, to the PETA-sponsored elephant I wrote about last August.
In stark contrast to the Commission’s stated goal of promoting “fun,” the PETA pachyderm aimed at creating a very different set of emotions. It showed
A U.S. District Court judge ordered that the “Ella PhantzPeril” statue had to be accepted by the Commission, because at least two other accepted entrants had also conveyed messages deemed inconsistent with the Commission’s stated preferences.
At the auction, however, the PETA statue earned only a comparatively modest $2,950.
I talked to a Commission staffer today. It seems that a person affiliated with PETA was the successful bidder.
I can’t say I’m deeply shocked at either the purchase price or the apparent purchaser.
Then again, maybe I just have a different sense of FUN than some other folks.
Note: For yet another pleasant little PETA story, click here.
December 12, 2002
Nineteen years ago we went to the movies and saw The Christmas Story for the first time.
We liked it so much we went back to see it again soon after, this time with my parents. They loved it, too.
Ever since then, I’ve always managed to take a break or two during the holiday season to watch it again. Sometimes I only see bits of it, but one of my favorite parts is Ralphie’s scene with the Department Store Santa:
Based on a decision this week by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, it looks like someone should watch this movie classic at least one more time.
In early February 2001, Randy Orr (definitely not Ralphie’s brother, BTW) showed himself to be a bold brazen article, as the nuns at my parochial school used to say.
He held up a credit union in Fairview, Pennsylvania all by himself, and initially escaped with $65,468.00.
Here is how the court described the armed robbery:
Thanks to a friend of Orr’s who tipped off the investigators, he was caught. Orr pled guilty to using a dangerous weapon in connection with bank robbery, and received an enhanced sentence of 50 months' imprisonment.
On appeal, Orr challenged the increased prison time, arguing that
The Court didn’t think much of these arguments.
The unanimous panel first dealt with the claim that the pellet gun was not such a big deal:
Then the court dismissed the notion that Orr had merely “brandished” his weapon, justifying something less than the punishment he received:
Considering the facts of this case, and the timing of the opinion’s release, it would have been nice to see the Third Circuit also quote the critical passages from The Christmas Story, when discussing the dangerous qualities of pellet guns.
Maybe they’ll add a footnote later.
December 12, 2002
The other day the Man Without Qualities kindly posted a version of the St. Thomas More Prayer.
The British martyr is considered the patron saint of lawyers and politicians. There are several local chapters of the St. Thomas More Society in the United States, some of whom have their own websites.
Reading the More prayer was inspirational:
December 11, 2002
This week the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the federal drug law conviction of Juan Mederos Gomez, against Fourth Amendment claims relating to how the government discovered he was to receive over nine pounds of methamphetamine.
The legal issues in the case were fairly routine as these cases go. On the other hand, the government’s drug interdiction efforts that led to the seizure of that startling amount of speed were pretty interesting.
Daniel Medrano is a long-time postal inspector in Indianapolis, Indiana, and a recognized “prohibited mailings narcotics specialist”.
In late April 2001, ten national guardsmen joined Medrano and 39 other postal inspectors at the United States Postal Service Express Mail hub in Indianapolis. The mail pieces moved along a conveyor belt during the sorting and transfer operation, which continued past 2 a.m.
One Express Mail package, marked for “next-day by noon” delivery that day to Minneapolis, attracted just enough attention to cause an inspector to bring it to Medrano, standing about 20 yards away.
Here’s why this package also made Medrano suspicious, based on his training and experience:
Medrano detained the package, based on these initial impressions. A few hours later, he contacted the mail carriers in both LaBrea and Minneapolis who handled the routes at the sender and receiver addresses. They confirmed that the addresses were legitimate, but that the names didn’t match the addresses.
At that point, the inspectors brought in a drug-detection dog named Wendy. She “alerted” to the package. (The dogs also “alerted” to 29 other packages out of the thirty-five selected for closer inspection during that one shift.)
After the alert, Medrano prepared a search warrant application, and successfully obtained a U.S. Magistrate’s authorization early Saturday evening.
The inspectors then opened the package, and found the methamphetamine. They arranged for a controlled delivery to Gomez on Monday, April 30, who was then arrested.
Gomez’ legal challenge centered on whether Medrano had enough reasonable suspicion to detain the package and take the time to contact the mail carriers in California and Minnesota. On this record, neither the District nor the Eighth Circuit had much difficulty in upholding the reasonableness of the government’s crime detection efforts.
In fact, the appellate court was pretty blunt about it:
And that’s not a bad thing; at least, not when it involves over nine pounds of methamphetamine.
*An homage, of sorts, to our friends at FedEx.
December 11, 2002
Or at least, something so similar that it sounded completely unforced a few days ago.
According to the Mississippi newspaper, Thurmond and Lott addressed the crowd at a November 1980 political rally:
According to the Washington Post, one of Senator Lott's spokesmen offered the following explanation:
Somehow I doubt that's so clear a statement. At least, that it's a clear statement as that spokesman described it. In fact, given the 1948 Dixiecrat platform to which Senator Lott implicitly referred, it's perfectly understandable how others might feel it conveys certain other sentiments, not nearly so neutral in tone.
As my father says when he's, shall we say, a bit exasperated, "Jesus H. Priest!"
December 10, 2002
Last April I wrote about an aspect of our federal structure that even Judge Stephen Reinhardt might agree fits one of the original understandings of the phrase.
The U.S. Supreme Court is handling a lawsuit brought under its original jurisdiction, between the State of Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
From the Maryland perspective, it involves a fight against sprawl. From the Virginia perspective, it involves a fight over state's attempt to provide critical public services.
What’s unusual is that Maryland tried to block development in Virginia, by claiming the right to force a Virginia water agency to obtain a Maryland permit to build a new water intake system in the middle of the Potomac River.
Maryland eventually granted this permit, but the case continued because of the certainty that the same issue would recur.
Here’s part of what I wrote in April:
[T]he 1632 Charter from King Charles I granted the entire river to Maryland. However, a 1785 compact between the two states gave Virginia residents the right to use the river and even build structures on it, as long as the improvements did not affect navigation….
Given the colonial-era understanding of the term "navigation," I believe that Virginia will eventually win this suit, as long as it can show that the intake pipe system presents no real hazard to the ability of maritime traffic to use the Potomac. Since any sane water system design would already take that into account, I really doubt that this $11 million project runs that risk.
Turns out I guessed correctly. The Washington Post reported today that Special Master Ralph Lancaster filed a report recommending that the Supreme Court rule in favor of Virginia.
Maryland now has an opportunity to file exceptions to the report, and final arguments may be heard before the Court this spring.
On the other hand, it’s pretty rare for Master recommendations to be overturned.
Lancaster’s report is 97 pages long, not counting the appendices. It is well worth reading, both for those interested in colonial-era history and those interested in the ongoing debate over development in the Washington metropolitan area.
I spoke with Stuart Raphael, the attorney who handled the case for Virginia. He also suggested I read Virginia's Brief on the Merits of Maryland's Remaining Claims.
The passages in the Brief beginning at page 46 should be illuminating for those few innocent folks who may continue to believe that environmental disputes are always fought on the merits.
I wonder if the new Democratic (VA) and Republican (MD) governors will feel quite the same way about this case as their predecessors did, considering the switch in party affiliation experienced in both administrations.
December 10, 2002
Two more links worth reading about Trent Lott, from decidedly different perspectives:
Max Sawicky doesn't wake up every day wondering out loud why he should go on living, in stark contrast to some of his fellow leftists. His remarks about Lott won't please Republicans by any means, but also remind Democrats to maintain a sense of proportion about their own party's failings in race relations.
Robert George wrote a great piece about why Lott shouldn't serve as the next Majority Leader, pointing to several examples from the past in addition to this latest idiotic fiasco, made worse by the completely inadequate non-apology apology. George's essay and his prior work on the Republican National Committee may help convince wavering Republican Senators to find a better man (or woman) to lead the next session.
December 9, 2002
Just in time for this semester’s college finals, the Associated Press reported today on a disturbing new trend:
Reporter Steve Giegerich described several examples of parent/professor interaction that I simply can’t imagine would have occurred when I was an undergraduate a few decades ago:
One sociology professor at Louisiana Tech told Giegerich that he
Other professors are a bit less diplomatic in their assessment:
A few instructors also pointed to the high cost of college education, and the natural interest of parents in making sure their “investment” is worth it.
I discussed this story tonight with our older daughter, a sophomore who’s in the middle of her fall semester finals this week. She was as surprised as I was.
She has absolutely no interest in any similar parental intervention.
That’s my girl.
December 8, 2002
Once upon a time, I did something that annoyed my wife.
She let me know she was angry about it.
Unfortunately, I was feeling a bit too righteous about what I'd done, and so I tried to be a bit too clever in my response.
In my most sincere voice, I said, "I'm sorry you got upset."
Using some extremely direct language, she then made sure I understood that she understood that what I said was not really an apology.
Yesterday, Radio Free Europe posted a story with this headline:
I understood immediately what the caption writer intended by using the quotation marks. The story carried the headline's intent even further:
On the television news last night, I watched the Kuwaiti spokesman react to this non-apology apology in much the same way that my wife did. His language was a bit more diplomatic, however.
I could have told Hussein it wouldn't work.
December 8, 2002
My wife gave me a digital camera for my birthday.
Here's one of the first pictures, taken in our living room:
At least one blogger should like it.
December 8, 2002
We are none of us indispensable.
At least two of our country's current leaders need to be reminded of that fact--Trent Lott and Bernard Law.
Senator Lott's recent remarks about the opportunity the country allegedly missed with the Dixiecrats' loss in in the 1948 presidential election shows that he has no business being the Senate Majority Leader in the next Congress.
Virginia Postrel's December 7 post about Lott should be required reading in every newsroom with any dealings with him.
I don't care if his people or others say he was just kidding. First, the context in which he said it doesn't fit with any actual joke-telling intentions. Second, there really are some things you just don't joke about; at least, not if you're in a leadership position and want to be taken seriously in any other context.
To some extent, the latest revelations about the Boston Archdiocese simply pile on the already massive amount of evidence of literally sinful mismanagement by Cardinal Law. In stark contrast to the usual deference shown cardinals by priests, a Boston group of clerics has finally worked up enough courage to call for Law's resignation.
Good. He should take their advice, and soon. Others can clean up the mess he made. His own efforts thus far have proven to be too tentative, too defensive, and too little.
For some folks, it's hard to imagine a world in which they are not among those in charge. They could use a little perspective.
It's a big world. It will not collapse if they're gone.
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