Saturday, February 16, 2008

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | '£10 licence to smoke' proposed: "smokers could be forced to pay £10 for a permit to buy tobacco if a government health advisory body gets its way.

No one would be able to buy cigarettes without the permit, under the idea proposed by Health England."
One of these days the Brits had better get around to writing down that constitution they claim they have, because the imaginary one that lives in people's minds keeps getting more and more repressive every day. > News > Metro -- Suit over erosion in canyon nears end: "LA JOLLA – A group of La Jolla homeowners that sued the city over canyon erosion caused by public storm drains has agreed to settle a lawsuit for $4.5 million...Each association homeowner was assessed $4,020 last year to pay for an estimated $2.4 million in emergency repairs, which were finished in recent weeks. They also were earlier assessed $2,500 apiece to pay for litigation. The settlement money will cover most of the association's legal expenses, emergency repair bills and costs of retaining experts. Association homeowners are expected to be refunded a portion of the assessments they've paid."
This was a bad situation for the owners. They live on Mount Soledad, which is an upscale neighborhood in La Jolla. At the top of the mountain is the cross that has generated so much controversy because it sits on city-owned land. Anyway, they had a bad slide that affected almost 600 homes one way or another, so I'm glad they are close to being made whole.
Condo and homeowner associations turning over records to House committee -- South Florida "nder threat of subpoena, condo and homeowner associations that for years refused to let owners examine their records are turning documents over to a state House committee.

The new House Select Committee on Condominium & Homeowner Association Governance wants to examine the records to help determine if 'horror stories' about boards are true and what, if any, new laws are needed to prevent abuses.

'It's amazing how people are starting to surrender their documents and give up information we need for the committee,' Chairman Julio Robaina, R- Miami, said Friday. 'Were getting information that they have refused to give owners for years.'"

Julio Robaina strikes again! Good work, I say. The refusal of associations and management companies to make records available to association members is a huge problem.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I just sent this to
Thanks to Shu Bartolomew for getting me the email address to complain about this. Now we'll see what response I get, if any.

Dear Sir or Madame:
It has come to my attention that my weblog has been banned by DoD and that people who visit it receive a message saying that it is a "malicious website." The weblog is called "The Privatopia Papers," and it is located at

This is to advise you that there is nothing remotely malicious about my weblog, and to inquire why DoD is defaming me in this way and blocking access to a completely innocuous weblog.

My weblog deals with issues pertaining to real estate law and policy, especially homeowner and condominium associations. I am the author of a well-regarded book on that subject (Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Government) published by Yale University Press, and numerous academic journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers. I have a Ph.D. in political science and am also an attorney licensed to practice in California and Illinois. In addition to being a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I also teach a course on this exact subject at the John Marshall Law School.

I think that your designation of my site as malicious must be an error of some sort, but it is defamatory and damaging to me and my professional reputation. I ask that you remove this erroneous and harmful designation and restore normal access to the site.

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Best regards,
Evan McKenzie

Evan C. McKenzie
Associate Professor of Political Science
University of Illinois at Chicago
1007 W. Harrison St., M/C 276
Chicago, IL 60607 USA
(312)413-3782 fax: (312)413-0440
Army Squeezes Soldier Blogs, Maybe to Death
Could this be the issue? It seems that DoD is concerned about blogs written by soldiers. The easiest way to start a blog is to use Blogger. Is Blogger the issue, rather than this particular blog? I can't tell because I'm not on a DoD computer and don't have access to one.
Pentagon Blocks MySpace and YouTube - The Lede - Breaking News - New York Times Blog
And they blocked a whole lot of other sites, too. They are concerned about bandwidth on their servers.
Have they blocked all of Blogger?
Has the Department of Defense blocked access to this site?
I hear from someone I trust that the Department of Defense has blocked access to this site from their computers. I am told the screen message says this is a "malicious website." That's bizarre. I might be occasionally sarcastic, but certainly not malicious. Does anybody know what this is about or what to do about it?
Programs teach legal rights to elementary school pupils | - Houston Chronicle: "So you're 10 years old, you toilet paper the neighbor's yard and the police come a-knocking. What do you do? 'Give your name, your age and then ask for an attorney and ask for your parent.' That's the advice doled out to a room of fidgety fourth-graders at Shlenker School, a private elementary school in Houston, during a presentation by the Southwest Juvenile Defender Center this week. Called 'Why a Lawyer,' it is one of several such programs taught in schools and detention facilities throughout the country by groups worried that children don't know their basic rights — including the right to remain silent."

So the lawyers are teaching kids that confession is bad for the soul?
Saudi king asked to free condemned witch - "RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch called on the Saudi king Thursday to void the conviction of a woman facing execution for witchcraft."
Superdelegates get campaign cash - 2008 Presidential Campaign Blog - Political Intelligence - "Many of the superdelegates who could well decide the Democratic presidential nominee have already been plied with campaign contributions by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a new study shows. 'While it would be unseemly for the candidates to hand out thousands of dollars to primary voters, or to the delegates pledged to represent the will of those voters, elected officials serving as superdelegates have received about $890,000 from Obama and Clinton in the form of campaign contributions over the last three years,' the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reported today. About half the 800 superdelegates -- elected officials, party leaders, and others -- have committed to either Clinton or Obama, though they can change their minds until the convention. Obama's political action committee has doled out more than $694,000 to superdelegates since 2005, the study found, and of the 81 who had announced their support for Obama, 34 had received donations totaling $228,000. Clinton's political action committee has distributed about $195,000 to superdelegates, and only 13 of the 109 who had announced for her have received money, totaling about $95,000."

Your democracy at work.
Condominium owners tell smokers: Take it outside: "Residents of a tony, high-rise condominium along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis are among the first to vote to make their building smoke-free, taking Minnesota's battle over smoking bans into private homes."

The libertarians who love HOAs and condos need to rethink their position. They are always telling us that people have voluntarily contracted to set limits on their own freedom. But the problem is that you also give your neighbors power to make rules you couldn't have foreseen. What is the limit on that? So the way you exercise your "freedom" is to accept a take-it-or-leave-it boilerplate set of restrictions that includes this wild card of rule-making power without clear limits. To paraphrase the old saying (and engage in a bit of hyperbole): First they came for the ham radio operators, and I did nothing. Then they came for the people with pickup trucks and I did nothing. Then they came for the people with dogs and I did nothing. Then they came for the people running home-based businesses. Then they came for the smokers...who is next? I guess the safest course of action is to be a non-smoking retiree who has no visitors and just watches tv all day...with the sound turned way down.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

San Mateo Daily News: 'Spiropod' scrapped---artist sues, wins $150K for removal of his sculpture without consent

A San Mateo homeowners association's decision to say goodbye to Andrew Werby's "Spiropod" sculpture without his consent has resulted in a six-figure settlement for the artist. Werby noticed that the 11-foot-high bronze work he created in 1982 for the Gramercy on the Park condominium complex at 555 Laurel Ave. was gone when he drove by the complex during Easter weekend in 2006.

Spiropod? Sounds like the monster of the day in a Power Rangers episode. Fred Pilot found this nugget.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Data show foreclosures make up half homes of homes sold in Calif. -- :: Merced News, Real Estate, Jobs, Cars and more -: "A growing share of home sales are from foreclosures, especially in states hardest hit by the housing bust. In some parts of California lately, nearly 50 percent of home sales come from foreclosed houses. The trend, which is putting additional downward pressure on home prices, is most notable there and in Nevada, Colorado, Tennessee and Michigan, but is also evident in Ohio, Georgia, Florida and Arizona, according to an Associated Press comparison of 2007 sales and foreclosure data. In Nevada, for example, 17.5 percent of home sales were from foreclosures, more than quadruple the number in 2006."

This is astounding. Where is the bottom of the real estate bust, and can we even see it from here? And how about the HOAs with all these foreclosed homes? What is happening to their finances?

Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Partially mummified body found in AZ tub - Yahoo! News

Owners of the small, standalone unit thought it had been abandoned in August, when rent stopped being paid, Phoenix police Sgt. Joel Tranter said Monday.

Nice that the rent was still getting paid. I guess that's the main thing, right? But to address the minor problem of the dead guy in the bathtub: the body had been there for a very, very long time. It seems that this unfortunate individual may be the tenant who took the place in 1995 and who hadn't been seen since about 2000. Maybe he just died of the Y2K bug, but I think somebody should ask the guy who lived there from 2000 to August 2006. He apparently was claiming to be the 1995 tenant.

I guess there are neighbors, and there are bad neighbors, and then there are neighbors who have dead bodies in their bathtubs for seven years.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Retired Teacher Reveals He Was Illiterate Until Age 48 - San Diego News Story - KGTV San Diego: "OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- John Corcoran graduated from college and taught high school for 17 years without being able to read, write or spell."
Nice to hear that the public school system hasn't changed in the last couple of decades. The one fixed point in an age of change.
My Way News - Bitter Cold, Snow Pummel Plains, East: "HAZLETON, Pa. (AP) - Windy, bitterly cold weather spread from the northern Plains to the Northeast on Sunday, with blinding snow canceling church services in parts of Michigan and causing a 68-vehicle pileup in Pennsylvania."
The scourge of global warming marches on. I see somebody was killed in Berks County, PA. We lived there for about four years and never really had what I would call a brutal winter in terms of arctic cold, but we did experience the nastiest and most frequent ice storms I have ever seen. • Warming temps should end worst cold snap since 2000: "While it was 48 degrees below zero at Fairbanks International Airport on Sunday, the coldest temperature recorded so far in Fairbanks’ worst cold snap in eight years, forecasters were calling for a significant warming trend begining today.

Temperatures should be above zero by Wednesday, said meteorologist Daniel Robinson at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks."

I have friends in Alaska and I keep hearing about how warm it has been in recent years (warm being a relative term). But this winter it has been cold up there, as in 50 below. I remember spending a week or so in the Fairbanks area and parts north--Fort Yukon and Chalkyitsik in November back in the late 1970s. It was 50 below in Fairbanks, 65 below in Fort Yukon, and so cold in Chalkyitsik that it was just beyond belief, although it is a tiny village and I didn't see any thermometers. They were probably all frozen solid anyway. Awful as that may be, it is normal to have extreme cold in the interior of Alaska, so in a strange way this winter is a good thing because they need the permafrost or the environment will change.

And of course here in Chicago we have been alternating between sub-zero cold (6 below yesterday) and big snowfalls. So the global warming "let's all panic" crowd is having a bad winter, too, I guess. The theory about variations in solar energy being a major variable in global temperature may turn out to be true. I think climate is affected by many things and it is nearly impossible to sort it out with precision.
CAI "Governance Guidelines
It would be nice if CAI could get more of its attorney members to follow this one:
FORECLOSURE. Initiate lien and foreclosure proceedings
only as a last step in a well-defined debt collection
procedure—and only after other, less-disruptive
measures have failed to resolve a serious
delinquency issue in a specified period of time.
US-China Institute :: news & features :: usc scholars investigate china's US-China Institute--owner associations: "Homeowner associations are relatively new and increasingly important institutions in China. In June 2007, USC’s Civic Engagement Initiative utilized funding from the USC U.S.-China Institute to co-sponsor an international conference in Beijing looking at the legal, political, social, and economic implications of China’s burgeoning homeowner association (HOA) movement and comparing it to similar trends in other national contexts."

Who is that guy in the white shirt, fifth from the right?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Troubled borrowers are walking away from their homes - Feb. 6, 2008: "Current lending practices have created an environment where a measure as extreme as abandoning a home actually makes sense to some people. Many buyers put little or no money down, so they don't have much invested in them. That leaves them with little incentive to keep making payments when a home's market value dips below the balance of the mortgage. The most serious consequence is a tremendous hit to credit scores. For some, that's better than throwing away money they'll never recover by selling their home."
When the post-mortems are done on this whole catastrophe, the mortgage industry will look very different. The standards for issuing mortgages have been lowered to the point of absurdity.