Commentary from a practical perspective
page includes posts from August 4-10, 2002 in the usual reverse order. Each week's
postings on the home page are perma-linked to these pages.
August 10, 2002
The New York Times reported on an agreement to sell the once multi-billion dollar telecom giant Global Crossing for a total of $250 million.
Boy, Ill bet Democratic National Committee head Terry McAuliffe is thinking hes one lucky guy for cashing out when he did.
In any event, the blogworthy part of the story was the following quote, for which even a high Claude rating seems completely inadequate:
Frankly, Im stunned.
Some people have absolutely no sense of humor.
They dont even realize that their own sanctimony blunts the effectiveness of their arguments. Worse yet, they dont seem to have any understanding of how their excessive piety comes across to others.
The animal rights folks at PETA fit this category just a little too well, as illustrated by a story in todays Washington Post by Neely Tucker.
The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities is overseeing an outdoor art exhibit this summer called The Party Animals. It being Washington, the artists were expected to provide approximately 200 polyurethane models of donkeys and elephants spread throughout the District.
There was an intended overall theme beyond the donkey/elephant motifs, of course:
Well, "fun" is a relative term.
A few organizations decided to go just a tad political with their attempts at providing a good time for all.
(I could be wrong, but Im thinking that last elephant was not created by an actual Republican.)
Anyway, the animal rights advocates pointed out these examples in their inevitable lawsuit, and achieved the result they wanted:
The attorney representing PETA provided a good object lesson in how to appear completely oblivious:
Perhaps the Commission just didnt understand the meaning of the word "FUN".
I know when Im walking around town, I'd be entertained and amused to see a statue of a mistreated elephant. Nothing makes me smile more than to see a whimsical, imaginative statue of a pachyderm being poked, prodded, and needlessly punished.
How self-righteous can PETA be?
Quite a bit, apparently.
(This post expands upon an e-mail I sent today to Alabamas finest government architect, Terry Oglesby, which he then posted on his own site. Youll see why very shortly.)
Last night my younger daughter performed with her fellow rock 'n' roll campers at The Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach . They were the opening act for the regular weekly appearance of Love Seed Mama Jump, a popular local band with a new national CD to their credit.
It was the culmination of two weeks of collaborative musicianship, involving over 20 kids ranging in age from about 8 to 16.
The kids displayed startlingly good musical talent and a comfortable stage presence.
In the middle of the show, the crowds overall reaction underwent a significant shift, from warm yet polite applause to overwhelming approval. This occurred when a mix of younger and older kids put on an amazingly well done performance of Lynyrd Skynyrds Sweet Home Alabama.
After that song, the band had the crowd in its collective palm.
The older kids, including our own budding rock star, finished the show with three songs they had only begun to practice the day before the show.
They played Green Days When I Come Around, complete with stage jumping by the guitarists and singers. Then they announced their intention to play homage to Black Sabbath, and wailed away with a loud, driving performance of Paranoid.
A few dozen cigarette lighters glowed above the hundreds of applauding spectators at that point.
The topper came with a 13-year-old guitarists stunning rendition of Jimi Hendrixs Star Spangled Banner, followed immediately by the bands rousing, wild version of Purple Haze.
Major credits go to Walt Hetfield, the Cape Henlopen music teacher who ran the camp. It was a great time, and the huge grins on the kids faces after their performance were a wonderful, memorable sight.
Note: Here's the local paper's story about the camp, as well as a photograph of these talented kids:
Thanks to Ann Salisbury to tipping me off to U.S. District Judge David Carters preliminary injunction decision, blocking the City of Cypresss attempted condemnation of church-owned property for a retail establishment. (Wienerlog also deserves credit.)
I last wrote about this case May 31. At that time I understood that the City tried to meet the public purpose requirement for the condemnation by claiming that it needed the property tax revenue from the parcel that wouldnt be generated if it were developed as a church. From my perspective, that was the best argument on the Churchs behalf that I thought the City could make, in that it seemed remarkably weak. And yet, that seemed to be the basis of the Citys argument.
At least according to Judge Carters decision, the Citys position was even more feeble than I thought.
The quick recap
Judge Carters decision relied on several different elements, but especially relied upon the relatively new Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. Section 2000cc-2.
The primary benefit of the RLUIPA provisions, at least at first glance, is that it subjected the Citys actions to strict scrutiny. That means that the governments land use decision could only burden the churchs property if it was
42 U.S.C. Section 2000cc(a)(1).
As constitutional lawyers of a certain somewhat sarcastic bent know, applying "strict scrutiny" to a governmental decision usually means that the judicial review will be strict in fact and fatal in law.
That happened again here, but the facts as recited by the Judge make me think that the City would have had a tough time defending itself even under a far less rigorous standard of review.
Consider the following:
Ann says the judge is a good one, and theres nothing in the opinion to give me any different impression. Reading between the lines of the 36-page opinion, he was giving some very clear signals to the City to consider very, very carefully the risks of further litigation in this matter.
If the Citys counsel has any influence, and if the Churchs representatives restrain from exercising an understandable urge toward triumphalism, this decision could be the last one either side really needs to obtain to bring the matter to a final conclusion.
After all, theres still plenty of space for Costco on nearby land. The Church members might even want to stop by after services and take advantage of a sale or two.
Sometimes the only difference between a sidewalk and a street is the width of the pavement
Nowadays, one of the hardest things to do in providing new transportation infrastructure is to obtain a consensus on where to put it.
My clients go through this difficult exercise routinely. Each year they run dozens of public workshops and hearings on all sorts of improvements to the states network of streets, roads, and even bus shelters.
Delawares transportation responsibilities are remarkably broad. If a street or highway is not a municipal street or privately-owned, its the states job to maintain it. This includes almost all of the thousands of miles of tree-lined suburban streets in hundreds of residential subdivisions.
When the General Assembly passed legislation directing the State to assume control of these streets many years ago, it also fortunately gave the Department a set of standards as well as discretion to determine the conditions under which it would agree to accept the streets for "perpetual maintenance," as its called.
In over a thousand such agreements since at least the early 1950's, DelDOT carefully refrained from accepting responsibility for the sidewalks within these developments, even as it assumed responsibility for the street surfaces.
This farsighted approach could be classified under the "We may be dumb but we're not stupid" category of governmental decision-making.
Currently there are nearly 1000 miles of such sidewalks throughout the State. The three counties, especially the most populous one, would love to be able to slough off the myriad complaints they receive about crumbling sidewalks onto the States shoulders. Thus far, the General Assembly has shared the Departments less than enthusiastic response to the suggestion that it assume such a role.
Nonetheless, whenever the Department plans for major improvements on its other roads in the urbanized areas of the state, it must incorporate new sidewalks into its plans if
17 Del.C. Section 132(f). The state is then responsible for the maintenance of these new pathways.
As it turns out, the real difficulty in meeting this task is obtaining local approval of or at least local neutrality to installing new sidewalks where none previously existed. On some sizable projects, the only remaining continuing controversies are over whether to have sidewalks, on which side of the road the sidewalks should be placed, how wide the sidewalks must be, how the state will deal with the old trees in the area, and so on.
The emotion that is evident during the discussion over these little paths is often far more heated than the debate over the actual road improvements.
Therefore, I could only nod my head in rueful recognition when I read a story about a sidewalk in Bethesda, Maryland, where a similar drama is now unfolding:
WaPo staff writer Brigid Schulte reports that the fight concerns a possible four-foot-wide concrete strip that would run along a street that connects an elementary school and a middle school. As in my clients experience, emotions are running hot:
The local officials seem a bit dumbfounded at the uproar:
The modest project is expected to cost $78,000. According to some, however, the cost is much higher:
The county will make a decision after a public hearing today. From the tenor of the story, however, I really doubt that the controversy will end any time soon.
My web host dropped several days of statistics from their records, and unfortunately cant seem to retrieve them. I used an averaging method to estimate the missing numbers of visits and pages (eliminate highest and lowest days of the month, and average the rest).
With all that, I estimate the site traffic as of the seven-month anniversary as follows: Visits 35,267; Pages 43,920.
As ever, thanks very much for your patronage. This site is far more popular than I thought it would be.
Three Claudes for a census study headline
For those who know their American history, geography, or sociology, the inclination to award more than three Claudes for the following headline would be pretty strong:
Im giving the NYT headline writer a bit of a break, on the assumption that I can trace the relative cluelessness of the banners contents to the decline in education standards in the last 15-20 years.
As reported by Janny Scott, the story sets out the 21st-century version of an old story--the American immigrants and their effect on major metropolitan areas:
Adjusted for inflation and particular locations within New York City, the same results could be read in a story written in August 1902.
The news is not cause for concern, from my perspective. If anything, it gives me hope for the country. America should continue to benefit from the peculiar drive and ambition that new immigrants bring with them. I see these qualities whenever I meet the folks from Central America, Asia, and elsewhere that my wife teaches in her ESL classes. From the similar stories of immigrants posted by Ginger Stampley and others, Im sure that our local experience is not unique.
As for the income data, its simply a basic truth that most immigrants dont bring with them to America the annual household income found in Scarsdale and reported in this story. (For that matter, only a tiny percentage of American-citizen households earn Scarsdale-sized wages.) I just dont see any significant impediments to the chances that todays low-income immigrants will improve their lives significantly, now that theyve come here.
A few weeks ago a gentleman from a British publishing house contacted me about the possibility of working with them on a satirical book about golf fashion. Apparently they had come across a copy of a golf column Id written a while ago on the subject. He wondered if there was a chance that the sorts of things discussed in the column could be expanded to book length.
After several e-mails back and forth, we finally had a very pleasant telephone conversation in late July, working out a schedule and other details.
I sent the draft book outline to them on Monday, and now Im waiting for their comments.
If this works out, expect significant and utterly shameless marketing activities to occur on this very site.
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