Tuesday, June 29, 2004

But How do They Make Backups?

If you have essential, important information, I urge you to make copies as backups.

I don't know the number of times that I've had to tell someone that their information was lost for good because they hadn't made a backup of their document or program. And, I suspect that if the information was really important to an organization, the failure to be able to make backups would be a pretty bad policy. Potentially devastating.

I don't intend this post as a political comment, yet I just can't fathom a statement from the Bush Administration that copying data from the Department of Justice computer system would cause it to crash, and result in the loss of extremely sensitive and important material. I can't imagine a computer system where backups weren't an integral part of the failsafes practiced. Yet, that is the reason being used to deny a Freedom of Information Act Request - that Sharing Lobbying Data Will Crash Computers

Maybe they need to get a group of IT specialists in there fast before a squirrel messing with an electrical line causes a power outage that robs us of extremely important data.

The Foreign Lobbyist Database contains records first collected to track if lobbyists were spending money to help spread propaganda by Nazi agents in 1938. It supposedly contains records of some significant recent spending by the Saudi Government. The Center for Public Integrity has more information about its importance on their site in an article entitled Foreign Lobbyist Database Could Vanish.

This sounds like some information that is worth protecting carefully. It's definitely time to update those computers,and make backups.

Tall Ship Warning

If you have a chance to keep an eye out on the Delaware Bay tonight or tommorrow morning, you might see part of a fleet of a dozen tall ships that will be sailing up the Delaware Bay.

Some of them will enter or have entered the Delaware Bay between Cape May and Lewes, and others will be navigating the C & D canal, and entering the Delaware Bay over by Delaware City.

The Tenacious, a UK ship, was set to arrive at Pea Patch Island, near Delaware City, tonight. I wish I had learned this earlier. I would have run out with my camera for some photos.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Michigan Legislates Legible MDs

We do venture outside of Delaware's borders sometimes, and look at what other states are doing.

Especially when someone is blogging about it. Case in point, a blog about Michigan Comp Law which pointed out a home grown bill that would require Doctors to write legibly.

Why is it that I can't help but think that the Michigan legislation might be as effective as a recent amendment to a minimum wage law in Delaware that Fritz Schranck pointed towards at Sneaking Suspicions, which would repeal the law of supply and demand.

Ferry Celebrates 40th

On July 1st, the Cape May - Lewes Ferry will Celebrate its 40th Anniversary.

On the 2nd and 3rd, fireworks, pirates, and a tribute to the Beatles mark the celebration in family fun style.

Will it see another forty years? Regardless of that, the celebration looks like a good time if you want to entertain the family.

But, I'm going to pursue the question just a little. Will it see forty more years? I guess that depends on who you ask.

In the Anniversary press release, the Executive Director of the Delaware River Bay Authority stated:
The Ferry, which handles 1.1 million passengers each year, is an integral component in the region's transportation and tourism industry. Today, we are laying the foundation for the next forty years and our commitment to this important southern link and the people who use it has never been stronger.
That's not quite the impression I get from the Delaware Legislature, which initiated a two year study on the feasibility of replacing the ferry with a combination bridge and tunnel. Their joint House and Senate resolution will supply a decision in January of 2005:
WHEREAS, growth and development in Sussex County has increased the pressure on Delaware's highway system in that area; and

WHEREAS, as it is currently operated, the Cape May - Lewes Ferry is neither an effective commuter conveyance nor a strong draw for tourists to Sussex County, losing millions of dollars each year and having lost approximately $3 million last year alone; and

WHEREAS, it takes over an hour to cross the Delaware Bay by Ferry at a cost of $25.00 each way during the peak travel season; and

WHEREAS, years ago, the concept of a combined bridge/tunnel crossing to traverse the Chesapeake Bay between the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula with the Virginia mainland was investigated and built; and

WHEREAS, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel Crossing has proven successful, providing for uninterrupted and expedient travel across the Bay; and

WHEREAS, a project to build a bridge/tunnel crossing to traverse the Delaware Bay between Delaware and New Jersey would be similar in scope to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel Crossing; and

WHEREAS, the General Assembly finds and declares that the construction of a Delaware Bay Bridge/Tunnel Crossing would be an inspiring engineering feat and, when completed, could be used as a multi-purpose structure, acting both as a major route for interstate transportation and travel and a platform for wind turbines or tidal generation facilities to generate electricity desperately needed throughout Sussex County;


BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate of the 142nd General Assembly of the State of Delaware, the House of Representatives thereof concurring therein, with the approval of the Governor, that the Delaware River and Bay Authority is directed to study the feasibility of constructing a Combined Bridge/Tunnel Crossing to traverse the Delaware Bay.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that no later than January 15, 2005, the Delaware River and Bay Authority is directed to submit to the Governor and the General Assembly a report describing its research and findings, including the potential costs to motorists using the bridge/tunnel.
So, the foundation for the next forty years of transportation between Cape May and Lewes may be something being considered by the Delaware River Bay Authority. But it may not include a ferry.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Gambling on a Wink and a Nod

There's a fear that slot machines will soon become a reality in Pennsylvania.

What does that mean for the State of Delaware?

It could be detrimental to the State's budget. Delaware receives a decent sum of money every year from slot machines placed at three horse tracks in the State. Except, they aren't slot machines. They're "video lottery" machines.

What's the difference? I'm not sure. The last time I stuffed one of the machines with quarters and pulled down a handle, I didn't see anything about it that reminded me of a video lottery. It seemed to be a slot machine. If it looks like a slot machine, and plays like a slot machine, and pays like slot machine, I'd suspect that it is one.

But slot machines are unconstitutional in Delaware. Section 2, dealing with the legislature states the following:

17. Lotteries and other gambling.

Section 17. All forms of gambling are prohibited in this State except the following:

(a) Lotteries under State control for the purpose of raising funds,

(b) Lotteries (other than slot machines, roulette, craps and baccarat games) provided that each is sponsored and conducted under the limitations of Section 17B by companies, organizations or societies which have been in existence for at least 2 years; provided, however, that no person who shall not have attained the age of 18 years shall participate in any lottery (where money is the prize) otherwise authorized by the article,

(c) Wagering or betting by the use of pari-mutuel machines or totalizators on horse races conducted at racetracks within or without the State, provided that such wagering or betting may be conducted only either:

(1) within the enclosure of any racetrack licensed under the laws of the State to conduct a race meeting, or

(2) within the enclosure of any racetrack licensed under the laws of the State to receive and accept wagers or bets on electronically televised simulcasts of horse races.

(d) Bingo games as conducted under the limitations of Section 17A.

The General Assembly shall enforce this Section by appropriate legislation.

While the language is a little confusing above, it does allow for scratch off and drawing styled lotteries by the state, horse racing at licensed tracks, and other lotteries (not including slot machines) organized by the types of groups listed in the next section:

17B. Lotteries not under State control; organizations authorized to conduct; submission to referendum; districts; regulation; penalties.

Section 17B. Lotteries not under State control shall be lawful when sponsored and conducted by volunteer fire companies, veterans organizations, religious or charitable organizations, or by fraternal societies provided that said company, organization or society has been in existence a minimum of 2 years and provided the net receipts or profits arising from the conducting or operating of such lotteries by the aforementioned companies, organizations or societies are used solely for the promotion or achievement of the purposes of such companies, organizations or societies, and provided further that the aforementioned companies, organizations or societies are operated in a manner so as to come within § 170 of the United States Revenue Code and regulations promulgated thereunder by the United States Secretary of the Treasury.

1. The General Assembly shall provide by law for the submission to the vote of the qualified electors of the several districts of the State, or any of them, mentioned in paragraph 2 of this section at the general election held in 1984, the question whether the playing of lotteries not under State control shall be licensed or prohibited within the limits thereof; and in every district in which there is a majority against license, no organization, mentioned in this section, shall thereafter sponsor or permit lotteries not under State control, within said district, until at a subsequent submission of such question a majority of votes shall be cast in said district for license. Whenever a majority of all the members elected to each House of the General Assembly by the qualified electors in any district named in paragraph 2 of this section shall request the submission of the question of license or no license to a vote of the qualified electors in said district, the General Assembly shall provide for the submission of such question to the qualified electors in such district at the next general election thereafter.

2. Under this article, Sussex County shall comprise 1 district, Kent County shall comprise 1 district, the City of Wilmington, as its corporate limits now are or may hereafter be extended, 1 district, and the remaining part of New Castle County, 1 district.

3. The General Assembly shall enact comprehensive legislation providing for licensing for all organizations conducting and regulating the conduct of lotteries under this section and may provide such penalties as may be necessary to enforce such legislation.

Nothing in there appears to give the State the right to allow slot machines at race tracks, or anywhere else. So, what's the story?

Governing.com notes that seven per cent of Delaware's budget from last year was from "video lotteries" yet notes a legislator's concern that gambling in neighboring states might take away that source of revenue. The First State pockets a nice chunk of change from the non-video video lotteries.

The Albany Law School Program on Racing and Wagering Law has an excellent page on definitions of the machines titled What Is a Video Lottery Terminal, Anyway? They look at the statutes that have been passed to authorize video lotteries in a number of states, including Delaware. The definitions' section of the Delaware Code Chapter on Lotteries defines the machines as follows:

(i) "Video lottery machine" shall mean any machine in which bills, coins or tokens are deposited in order to play in a game of chance in which the results, including options available to the player, are randomly and immediately determined by the machine. A machine may use spinning reels or video displays or both, and may or may not dispense coins or tokens directly to winning players. A machine shall be considered a video lottery machine notwithstanding the use of an electronic credit system making the deposit of bills, coins or tokens unnecessary.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has a great chart which looks at the status of all the states when it comes to gambling laws. Stateline.org pinpoints Middle America as the nation's betting hotbed.

What should Delaware's reaction be to the possibility that Pennsylvania might permit slot machines at 12 establishments around the State, and Maryland's legislature will probably discuss the issue next week? Should there be an expansion of slots to a Casino on the Wilmington Riverfront? Another casino in Southern Delaware in Georgetown?

Delaware's video lotteries may be some of the most recent efforts in a long history of governments earning money on games of chance. It's now ten years since the Horse Racing Preservation Act helped save the race tracks of Delaware. The law was passed in 1994, and it turned some run-down tracks into some of the most profitable racing venues in the United States.

But, I'll confess that I've only been to the local track twice to pull back a slot machine's handle. And, I'm not sure I really care if another couple of casinos are added to Delaware. And, I suspect that basing the economic health of a State on games of chance is a little like building a foundation for good government with a house of cards (no pun intended.)

And the thing that bugs me most is that we've been letting people gamble for a decade on slot machines, while with a nod and a wink, we've been calling them video lottery machines. I'm a little tired of the lie, and I think it's long overdue to actually amend the State constitution to conform to reality. You can call it a video lottery, but the more common name is a "one-armed bandit." The fraudulent name the legislature has given it has robbed them of their dignity and integrity.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

President Ronald Reagan- My Recollections of an Army Assignment

I served a short but interesting 2 year tour of service in the U.S. Army MP Corps. After my training at Ft. McClellan, Alabama, I was assigned to permanent duty at Ft. Carson Colorado, near Colorado Springs and NORAD. The very first duty that I had at Ft. Carson, just a couple of days after moving in, was to participate in the presidential security detail for President Ronald Reagan.

The president was to visit the Air Force Academy which was also located in Colorado Springs, and Army MP's were called upon to supplement the Air Force security personnel and the Secret Service. It was an exciting duty for a young recruit, one who was still trying to acclimate to the altitude and army life. It was a memorable couple of days done in traditional army style (with no sleep). I was impressed by the complexity of the security plans and the number of personnel and equipment that was utilized on this routine travel stop by our president. My specific task involved securing a rooftop from enemy snipers. None were permitted to set up shop there, and none did.

Later in my tour of service I helped with the security detail for the Arch Duke of Luxemburg. It was fun and memorable as well, but performed after a good night's sleep. My most difficult task on that day was to handle an unruly photographer in such a way as remove him from the area I was to secure, but without making a spectacle. Unbeknownst to me, I was being watched by my Command Sergeant Major at that moment. His comments about that incident were the only positive words I ever heard him say..."good job". Actually, he followed the chain of command and said it to my sergeant, not to me.

On those duty assignments, I was well trained, briefed, and comfortable with my assigned tasks. I do remember times however, earlier at Ft. McClellan where I was twice given an assault rifle and a loaded magazine and assigned to guard duty. First I guarded a payroll, and on the second occasion I guarded a ammo storage area. This was simple enough, except for the fact that I had never previously seen or touched an M-16. Thank goodness those assignments turned out to be uneventful as well.

Monday, June 07, 2004

In-House Counsel - Limited License to Practice Law

In an article at Law.Com, the current trend to require limited licensing of In-House counsel is discussed. This would mean in some instances that an attorney would be required to be licensed in the state wherein she works as in-house counsel, and in some cases she would have to register or get limited licenses in all of the states that the client company operates. Apparently NJ is charging $750 each, for such a license/registration. This can get really expensive, really quickly. And why is it necessary? Is it more than a fund raiser?

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Freebery and Gordon - What should they do?

As news of the indictments continues to flow, and predictions of the impact upon the upcoming county elections, what should Freebery and Gordon do? Should they perhaps follow the same procedure that they would apply if one of the County Police were under indictment? Or the Treasurer (if we even have one) ? Should they put themselves on administrative leave pending the resolution of the charges?

Or are they somehow different?

Maybe the County Council should step forward and make the responsible administrative decision?