Saturday, November 27, 2004 - News - 'Hairy' Houdini Caught On Tape -- Again
So--this must be why HOAs ban dogs.
The famous British dog who freed fellow canines from a pound is once again making headlines -- this time in his newly adopted home. "Red" has taken to locking his owners out of their home.
[more...including video] | Memoir of Brando pulls no punches
Now, here's some advanced thinking on energy conservation, from the late Marlon Brando. He coulda been a contenda with this idea, instead of just a bum.
"He was an autodidact. He taught himself, but he had a real intellectual capacity and a razor mind. The behavior of Australian termites could fascinate him. He built a tank in his house that had eels in it. He wanted to power the house from the power of electrical eels down in Tetiaroa (Brando’s island in Tahiti). He wanted to get a television camera up among the frigate birds that would fly around the atoll so he could photograph the other birds as they were floating around. He actually did that."
Wired News: Rough Reception for DNA Law
It has become a staple of American mainstream news that somehow John Ashcroft shredded the constitution and that the USA-PATRIOT Act reduced the scope of our civil liberties to subatomic levels. That's nonsense. But in the meantime, HOAs are banning flags and political signs, taking people's homes in foreclosure, and running banana republic private governments. Now here is somebody finally mentioning what the VOTERS of California just did to themselves:
Californians recently approved a measure to create one of the nation's most aggressive criminal DNA databases, but civil liberties groups and privacy advocates are fighting to get it scaled back. Law enforcement officials say Proposition 69 will be a boon to solving a growing backlog of violent crime cases, but it also raises the possibility of innocent people getting trapped in the vast database along with murderers and rapists and having limited ability to get their file expunged. The new law, officially called the DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act, is expected to add the genetic data of 1 million people to California's databank over the five years, making it the largest state-run DNA databank in the country. The law, approved by 62 percent of the state's voters in the Nov. 2 election, allows police to take DNA samples from every adult and juvenile convicted of a felony and from all adults arrested for specific felonies such as sexual assault and murder. In 2009, the law will be broadened to enable police to gather DNA data from anyone arrested for any felony -- ranging from residential burglary to murder -- whether or not they are ever charged or convicted with a crime.

The Cost Of Being Blue (
Columnist David Broder's latest, on the way the election results will impact American urban policy.
...presidents and members of Congress respond to those who put them in office. As Ronald Brownstein and Richard Rainey wrote in the Los Angeles Times, Bush's biggest gains came in 100 fast-growing exurban counties, on the far fringes of metropolitan areas, where the countryside is giving way to new housing developments. Many of the families filling those homes are transplants from the cities. It is no coincidence that the part of the federal government most closely attuned to urban problems is the Cabinet agency most remote from this White House. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has been run -- even in Republican administrations -- by prominent and dynamic figures, from George Romney to Jack Kemp. Today, few in Washington can even name the man in charge of the city agenda.

Friday, November 26, 2004

The New York Times > National > Property Rights Law May Alter Oregon Landscape
Thanks to an alert reader (unfortunately I don't have the name to extend personal thanks) who sent this along.
Over the past three decades, Oregon has earned a reputation for having the most restrictive land-use rules in the nation. Housing was grouped in and near the cities, while vast parcels of farmland and forests were untouched by so much as a suburban cul-de-sac.Environmentalists and advocates for "smart growth" cheered the ever-growing list of rules as visionary, while some landowners, timber companies and political allies cried foul. But in a matter of days, the landowners will get a chance to turn the tables. Under a ballot measure approved on Nov. 2, property owners who can prove that environmental or zoning rules have hurt their investments can force the government to compensate them for the losses - or get an exemption from the rules. Supporters of the measure, which passed 60 percent to 40 percent, call it a landmark in a 30-year battle over property rights.

I've been telling my constitutional law class that the real frontier of liberties these days is property rights. The USSC (and here the voters of Oregon) are rewriting the book on the relationship between state police power over regulatory takings, abuses of the eminent domain power, and conditions placed on construction permits that amount to takings. The USSC is hearing Kelo v. City of New London, a real sleeper of a case that I will have more to say about later. But in this NYT article, we see the voters taking matters into their own hands.
Twin Rivers board candidates speak
Thanks to Fred Pilot for passing me this link. Twin Rivers, in New Jersey, is the focal point of a major case (in which I am an expert witness) filed by the ACLU to get judicial recognition of state constitutional rights for HOA residents. The Committee for a Better Twin Rivers (whose side I testified for) is challenging the HOA, alleging that the internal political processes of the HOA are undemocratic and illiberal. Here's a press description of how local democracy is proceeding at Twin Rivers:

EAST WINDSOR — Candidates running for the Twin Rivers Homeowners Association's board of directors shared ideas about the future of their community during a candidates night last week at the Twin Rivers Community Center.
Three of the four candidates — challenger Al Wally, incumbent Joseph Molinari and incumbent Lori Vono — participated in the Nov. 18 forum directed by Nominating Committee Chairman Wilson Hernandez. Incumbent Roger Frey was absent because of a family emergency.
The forum got off to a boisterous start after Mr. Wally personally insulted Mr. Molinari during opening statements. Mr. Molinari stood from his chair and said he refused to participate in the event with Mr. Wally, whom he called an "obnoxious idiot."Mr. Molinari was convinced to stay by audience members, including board President Scott Pohl and Vice President Herb Felzer.

I don't know what Wally said that insulted Molinari, but I notice that the board President (who has occupied the position for quite some time) and VP wanted Molinari to stay despite calling Wally an "obnoxious idiot." Does that sort of language constitute "sharing ideas," I wonder?
Paper by Ron Cheung (see below) on interaction between HOAs and local governments
Check this out--it bears careful reading.

And this brilliant graduate student in Economics at the University of British Columbia has a home page at He even has a link to...The Privatopia Papers!
Dissertation examines impact of HOAs on local public finance in California
Now, this looks interesting.
The Republic :: Maximus brings its private government to BC
From Vancouver comes this objection to privatization.
The vast US company that won a records management contract at the BC Ministry of Health Services does quite a bit more than manage records. It's quietly building a complete privatized government

A cursory look at the US company that last week won a huge contract to take over part of the provincial government's record keeping duties reveals a glimpse into the future of government and society. It's a future right out of the best of the science fiction thrillers playing on the silver screen. And that future is privatized.

Maximus, a huge Renton, Virginia-based government information management company, was handed a $324 million contract by the BC Ministry of Health Services to transform the ministry's collection, storage, and retrieval of patient information, and to perform information services with those records for ten years. Since all residents of BC are automatically part of the patient records system, this means, as the company itself says in its press release about the deal, “Maximus' efforts would include registration of all British Columbia residents” and “maintaining correct information on all registered residents.”


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

BBC NEWS | UK | England | North Yorkshire | Rhubarb attack in family feuding
See? I told you so. Ban guns, they turn to knives. Ban knives (see below) and they turn to...rhubarb. Now when they ban rhubarb, it will be asparagus.

A woman attacked her elderly brother with rhubarb over a family feud, a North Yorkshire court has heard. William Porter, 72, suffered double vision and needed painkillers after Margaret Porter threw three sticks of rhubarb at him, hitting him in the eye.

Deer smashes into condo but spares occupant
It was a wake-up call Bernard Gallagher won't soon forget. The 25-year-old plumbing laborer was sleeping in a bedroom of his mother's Palos Hills condominium Friday when a six-point buck came crashing through the bedroom window.
In other news, the condo association fined the owner for having an animal in the unit. Not really.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Brain Truster Ron Artest Speaks to America's Youth

Ron Artest, the main culprit (along with an addle-pated fan who threw a beer at him) in the shocking NBA brawl was on the Today show this morning. The following question and answer occurred.

MATT LAUER:...what do you say to the twelve-year-old fan of the sport who's seen this and is trying to come to terms with what he or she has seen?

RON ARTEST: Right. They seen [sic] -- they seen disrespect, you know, from -- from the crowd, and then they seen a frustrated reaction from a player, and they got to understand that, you know, sometimes things happen. People go to war but we don't want to go to war. You know, nobody -- nobody wants to die, you know. But things happen and you move on. You try to move on and you try to make everything positive. So what I can tell kids is, you know, things happen and, you know, try to move on and -- and always try to stay positive and keep positive people around you, and that's how you will get by.

After this , the head of the NBA players' union blamed the whole thing on the war in Iraq. I don't know which is worse--Artest's brain-dead lack of insight into his long-standing and well-known refusal to control his violent impulses, or the attempt to attribute the whole thing to the mood of a nation at war. Once upon a time society assumed that everybody had at least a vestigial conscience. But in the NBA now we have an entire sporting institution that is premised on sociopathy as the norm. Investigative reporter Jeff Benedict, author of Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA's Culture of Rape, Violence & Crime, says that 40% of NBA players during the 2001-2002 season had criminal records including at least one serious crime.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Homeowner Gateway
Have you checked out this site?
The Homeowner Gateway puts Web sites of interest to homeowners, in developments governed by homeowner associations, at their fingertips."
CNN/Money: Highest income zip codes
Note the trend--rapid increase in "fast-growing areas in the West, such as Nevada." That means places with high concentrations of HOA-run subdivisions. Too bad the list they published stops before they got to the West--all I see are the "post suburbs" of the Frost Belt. Nice to see that nearby--well, at least not too far away--Kenilworth came in first. Go, Chicagoland.

Here are the U.S. communities with the highest percentage of six-figure income earners, according to OnBoard LLC, which created this list based on statistics collected from government and commercial sources.

The number is increasing quickly, especially in fast-growing areas in the West, such as Nevada.Still, most zip codes where the greatest majority of the households have six-figure income are found in long-settled, posh suburbs in the Northeast. - Opinion: Push forward schools, leave behind skeptics
President George W. Bush announced this month that he will push to extend the accountability requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act into high schools. While the guardians of the status quo are howling that the sky will fall, the evidence gives us good reason to think educational standards help rather than hurt.

Currently, the law requires states to set achievement standards on basic-skills tests for grades three through eight, and hold schools accountable for reaching them. In the three years since the No Child Left Behind Act became law, public school officials have not been shy about vilifying it and denouncing its effects. It's no wonder. After decades of cruising along with no accountability for their job performance, many school officials have come to feel that they are professionally entitled to run our schools however they want, regardless of whether kids are actually learning.
The Beaufort Gazette: Camden, N.J., named most-dangerous city
This is why so many New Jersey residents prefer the suburbs...even if it ends up meaning living with an HOA. It beats getting robbed at gunpoint.
Scotland - Crackdown on knife crime unveiled
Step one: ban guns. Response: major problem with knife crime. Step two: ban knives. Likely response: major problem with stick crime. Step three: prohibit self defense? I mean, why not eliminate the middle man?
Tough new curbs to tackle the "scandal" of knife crime in Scotland have been announced by First Minister Jack McConnell.

He disclosed details of a five-point plan which will introduce a licensing scheme for the sale of non-domestic knives, and increasing from 16 to 18 the age limit for purchasing knives.

The Executive is also proposing to ban the sale of swords and to give police the power to arrest on suspicion of carrying knives and offensive weapons. And the sentence for possessing a knife or offensive weapon is to be doubled from two years to four.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Karate Man Is No Burglar Fan (from This Is Local London)
I love stories like this.

Three would-be thieves who tried to break into business premises got the fright of their lives when they were confronted by a samurai sword-wielding, third dan black belt...Mr [Lewis] Montague [age 58] heard noises and pulled the door blind open as the intruders were trying to get in. He let out a blood-curdling yell, called a kiai, and chased them off the site...Mr Montague added: "I ran after them, I jumped the gate, still with my sword and I was still shouting. I've never seen so much smoke coming from tyres before."

Good work, Mr. Montague. The best part is the smoking tires. That, and the fact that he's 58. Is this guy cool, or what?

Oh, and while we're on the subject of people who take care of problems by themselves...

OSLO, Norway (AP) -- A purse snatcher in a small Norwegian town picked the wrong 88-year-old woman to rob, since she was with a tough younger man at the time.
And her 78-year-old friend end up sending the thief to the hospital, and then to jail this week, the local newspaper Moss Avisen reported Friday. [more]

And just to show that there are still some self-help types in higher office...

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) - President Bush stepped into the middle of a confrontation and pulled his lead Secret Service agent away from Chilean security officials who barred his bodyguards from entering an elegant dinner for 21 world leaders Saturday night. [more]