Commentary from a practical perspective
page includes posts from June 2-8, 2002 in the usual reverse order. Each week's postings
on the home page are perma-linked to these pages.
Its been five months since Sneaking Suspicions opened for blogging on January 6, 2002.
The stats package my web host provides says that thus far there have been approximately 21,487 visitors, reading 25,106 pages of this stuff. I have no idea how this breaks down among unique visitors, but a glance at the top referrers list shows that quite a few of you drop by on a regular basis.
Thanks very much for the patronage, the cross-links, the e-mails, and the kind words from readers and fellow bloggers.
Click here for this weeks golf column, if youd like.
Learning from other cultures
Im not one of those fervent nationalists who believes that America cant be improved by adopting or adapting the practices of foreign countries to our way of life.
The real story of America, after all, is how immigrants from all over the world bring to this country some of the best parts of their native culture, and add those bits and pieces to the amazing mix already here.
An Associated Press story today provides yet another beneficial suggestion that we can continue to learn from others from foreign lands, even our former enemies:
Come to think of it, I haven't heard about any Vietnamese priest sex scandals lately. Hmmmmn.
June 6, 2002
Landsburgs essential points are contained in the following quotes:
As I read the majority opinion, however, the problem was not so much with the state of regulatory takings law and its cost impacts on either the government or the governed. The problem was that the plaintiffs argued for an unreasonably broad expansion of takings law. The court majority properly recognized the problems with plaintiffs argument, in part by noting the logical consequences of adopting it.
As with so many other aspects of the law, its important to keep the context of a particular case in mind while also considering the underlying principles discussed within it.
Lets recall the facts about the plaintiffs legal theory for recovery in this case, in addition to the Justice Stevens quote that started Landsburg down this path.
For instance, the plaintiffs sought a remarkably expansive test for determining what would be considered a regulatory taking:
At this point, however, current takings law doesnt go as far as plaintiffs were suggesting:
Its not as if the plaintiffs didnt recognize the existing limits of regulatory takings law. They readily admitted it, but continued to press for a new, broader definition:
In light of the plaintiffs all-embracing theory of recovery, then, perhaps it shouldnt have been too surprising to see the majority opinion challenge the argument by taking it to its logical limits:
Note that the Court never said there couldnt be a regulatory taking requiring compensation, even as to development moratoria. Nonetheless, the majority decided that if the routine practices of administrative law were to be changed as drastically as plaintiffs sought, that notion first deserved the careful consideration of the legislative process.
For example, consider the humble traffic signal light. Some of my clients and other transportation economics specialists can compute the road user delay costs for a given traffic light, based on the local economy and an accepted formula for its calculation. That number can add up in a big hurry, depending on traffic volume and other relevant factors.
If I take the Tahoe plaintiffs logic to the same extreme as Landsburg does, then presumably the government should compensate each road user for all those traffic light delays.
Real life doesnt work that way. Although there is an admitted cost for the delays caused by traffic lights, the signals are there for reasons that counter any governmental obligation to pay the road users for their presence. If the delays become intolerable, then the intersection may become a separated-grade interchange, or the signal will be removed, or some other fix may be implemented, but theres no regulatory taking in the meantime.
As I noted in my first post on the Tahoe case, its important to keep in mind the strategic or tactical decisions made in litigation, and how those choices can affect the legal theories eventually discussed by the Court. I suggested that some of the individual plaintiffs might have won if they hadnt been so smitten with the broad-based approach, a point the Court majority also noted:
In sum, I dont believe the Tahoe majority opinion actually supports Landsburgs description of it:
Instead, I believe the court essentially expressed a natural and justifiable reluctance to take the law as far as plaintiffs desired. The court's language, with which Landsburg found fault, was only intended to show why.
The Tahoe case certainly did not eliminate the possibility that governments will owe individual citizens for regulatory takings. It just continued the balancing approach to the question of whether a regulatory taking occurred, based on precedents established many years ago.
The eventual determination of how much government we should have and how we will pay for all of its costs remains to be made primarily by the voters, and not by the courts.
I believe that Megan and MTZS will wholeheartedly agree with me on that last point.
June 5, 2002
For once, I completely agree with R. W. Apple Jr.
Not on political stuff, mind you. This involves a far more important matter.
Mr. Apple is also a big fan of bratwurst.
In a mouthwatering paean to the humble Wisconsin sausages, he describes in delicious detail how they are made, how they should be cooked, the preferred brands, and the appropriate beverages to help wash down the delectable hunks, as the drippings curl around the edges of ones lips.
Perhaps I should explain.
My wife and I are baseball fans. As children, long before we met, we went to Phillies games both at Connie Mack Stadium and the concrete tire they call Veterans Stadium. Our first date after I finished my state bar exam included a night game at the Vet. We sat on the first base side of Fenway Park at a Bosox/Brewers game during our honeymoon.
Since then either or both of us have gone to baseball games in many places over the years, including Wrigley Field, Baltimores Camden Yards, Seattles Safeco Field (first week it opened), and Denver (Mile High Stadium, the first Rockies season).
Each time we sampled the many fine foods available at the stadiums. This is a critical and required element of the total baseball experience.
Gastronomically speaking, however, none of these trips could compare to the time we saw a game at Milwaukees old County Stadium.
It was an afternoon contest on a gorgeous sunny Sunday in July. Our two young Little League-playing daughters were excited to see another major league contest.
I drove the rental car into the parking lot about an hour before the game.
The smell was intoxicating.
All around us, brats were smoking up on little charcoal grills.
In all our years of going to baseball games, we had never seen so many people tailgating.
Obviously, Milwaukee baseball fans know how to live.
We bought our own brats during the game, and were immediately converted to these tasty delights.
Bratwurst links are now available where we live. Reading this article reminded me to go out and buy some soon.
Joanne Jacobs posted some interesting comments recently about the benefits of vocational training. One of her correspondents noted the following:
In addition, Anne Wilson feels there are some unreasonable burdens placed on those seeking to learn a trade:
There are three generations of IBEW electricians in my family, so Im not a wholly unbiased observer on this issue.
I think Anne has a point about the focus placed on college prep coursework. At least around here, however, the schools are not the only source of the problem. Neither the parents nor the children seem all that enthused about the building trades, despite the distinct economic advantages to learning these skills.
I serve on a school district committee dealing with adjusting the use of the districts existing school buildings after two new middle schools now under construction are completed. Depending on the configuration decisions made about the remaining buildings, there could be some excess building capacity for programs not now offered in the district.
I asked about the potential use of the space to develop trades classes, either on a district-only basis or in cooperation with the local vo-tech school district. The response was a bit surprising.
The vo-tech school currently offers very few if any classes in the traditional trades.
Its not as if the district cant find the teachers or classroom space. They just cant find the students.
For some reason, teenagers in this area seem to have little or no interest in learning how to be a plumber, carpenter, electrician, or similarly skilled worker, no matter what the marketplace says about the current high value of these jobs.
The local school superintendent gave me an example. A tool and die company owner tried to develop an internship program with the local vo-tech, combining classroom experience with work in his busy shop. The first year pay was to be $12 per hour, rising to $26 per hour when the students completed the program.
There were no takers.
I hear similar comments from the highway construction company owners I deal with in my agency representation throughout the state.
The school people say theyd be glad to offer the classes, if they could somehow attract students to sign up for the programs.
If the Delaware experience is any indicator of a national trend, maybe the real selling job for vocational training should be directed at the parents and kids.
The First Amendment in the real world
A situation last Saturday in my little town might be thought provoking for students of the First Amendment.
Parking on the ocean block of Wilmington Avenue in Rehoboth Beach is of the head-in, quarter-in-the-meter variety. A sidewalk is immediately adjacent, so pedestrians walk next to the front end of the parked vehicles on the way to and from the Boardwalk and the beach.
About 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon, a merchant called Rehoboth police to complain about an SUV parked in one of the spaces. As reported on a website (with accompanying photographs),
According to the morning DJ on a local radio call-in show this morning, a summer-hire city police officer reported to the site, and radioed for assistance. One of the sergeants then showed up and called for a tow truck, after first discussing the issue with a detective.
The trucks occupants showed up during the towing operation, and were taken to the police station. The DJ was under the impression that a disorderly conduct charge would be filed, but did not know the outcome as of early this morning.
Some preliminary thoughts:
Talk among yourselves, and let me know. Ill share the responses.
Three Claudes for this injudicious headline
An AP story today discussed the recently published financial statements filed by the nine Supreme Court justices. Once again, the headline was more thuddingly banal than the story, which was otherwise unremarkable:
The median household income of all Americans in 2000 was $42,148. In contrast, the lower limit of income among the top 5% households in the country for the same year was $145,526.
These data are taken from the Census Bureaus report, Money Income in the United States: 2000.
The study shows conclusively that when youre one of the 9 most powerful judges in the United States, you will be paid more than the average employee, Federal or otherwise.
That must be such a comfort.
The Burdine case made it back into the news today.
Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand an en banc Circuit Court decision that gave Texas a choice of either providing a new trial or setting free an inmate convicted of a vicious capital crime.
As detailed in a post last January, the fact that his defense attorney often slept through the first trial had a lot to do with this result.
Im not surprised, and expect a new trial will begin shortly.
I hope that this time the Texas prosecutors watch the defense attorney across the aisle. As I said a few months ago:
Pass the hot sauce, and then go see this movie.
Its an hysterically funny send-up of all kinds of American racial stereotypes, with an inspired cast and a great premise. Make sure you stay through all of the credits.
Osama Bin Laden and his boys may not understand this movie, but the rest of us normal American folks certainly will.
June 1, 2002
My wife and I went to see Attack of the Clones last night.
For once, we shared the same opinion about a moviewildly uneven overall, painfully wooden dialogue, characters that were hard to care about, but great special effects.
The weird part of the experience occurred just as the movie finished.
When we saw Spider-Man on its opening weekend, the crowd erupted into cheers and applause as soon as the end credits started rolling.
This time, the audience was as somber and quiet as when we watched In the Bedroom last summer.
That kind of reaction was perfectly understandable for the searing emotions displayed so well in Sissy Spaceks compelling drama. However, I doubt that the almost gloomy attitude we observed last night was the result George Lucas intended.
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