Saturday, December 11, 2004

Northoftampa: Carrollwood: Standards officer to police neighborhood
Fred Pilot sent this along. He noted the reference to "dirty work." How did that song go? "I don't wanna do your dirty no more."

CARROLLWOOD - Homeowners in the Country Place subdivision will no longer have to volunteer to cruise the streets and cite other neighbors for deed violations.

Board members recently hired a person who lives outside the neighborhood to do the dirty work.
Florida's new condo ombudsman finds phone is already ringing

Oh, yes indeed. I think we can safely assume that he will not have to drum up business. But the reporter is wrong--Rizzo is not "the nation's first condominium ombudsman." He is the third. Mary Lynn Ashworth was the first, for the state of Nevada, with jurisdication over all forms of common interest housing including condos, and she took the job in 1998 and held the job until Eldon Hardy took over from her and became number two, in (I think) 2001. I receive a wonderful Christmas card from Mary Lynn this year. Thanks again, Mary Lynn.

He doesn't have an office yet or even a business phone number, but already angry condo owners are tracking down Virgil R. Rizzo at his Fort Lauderdale apartment and bending his ear.

"It's been unending. I've been getting calls at home all day long starting at 8 a.m.," said Rizzo, the nation's first condominium ombudsman. "People have legitimate complaints but they, unbelievably, expect me to resolve them immediately."
[more] | Take that, property owner!

(December 11, 2004)

A MELBOURNE man is seeking an apology from energy company TXU after it sent him a letter addressed to "Paranoid Fool". Hawthorn photographer Albert Comper was shocked and appalled yesterday when he received the letter, which began "Dear Paranoid". Mr Comper, 28, had telephoned TXU and other energy companies last month seeking the best deal for his newly acquired rental property.
[more, but still a mystery]

Talking House / New radio service adds to real estate saturation in our lives

How's this for a real estate sales technique? There is now...

...a technology called Talking House, by giving a house its own radio channel transmitted from a box in the garage to anyone within 300 feet of the home, allows you to tune into a detailed description of a house without even getting out of your car. I noticed my first Talking House last month at 473 Andover St., in Bernal Heights, when I spotted a rather goofy-looking sign reading "Talking House: Tune into 1670 AM." Outside, the dwelling looked like a plain-Jane Marina-style, two-bedroom home over a one-car garage. But the Talking House set me straight: Encompassing 2,300 square feet on a double lot, the house boasts two more bedrooms and a bathroom downstairs behind the garage and a giant rumpus room that opens out onto a deck and the L-shaped yard. "If you like country living, then this home's for you," said the recording by listing agent Monique Wong-Lee. "It's a dog lover's dream."
Did Kerik withdraw because of condo dispute?
President Bush chose Bernard Kerik, former NYC Police Commissioner, to succeed Tom Ridge as Secretary of Homeland Security. Kerik just withdrew his nomination, saying he had a nanny problem. But there may be more to it than the "hired an illegal alien and didn't pay the taxes" thing. Maybe the real problem is that he didn't pay his condo assessments:

just five years ago he was in financial trouble over a condominium he owned in New Jersey. More serious trouble than anyone realized: NEWSWEEK has discovered that a New Jersey judge in 1998 had issued an arrest warrant as part of a convoluted series of lawsuits relating to unpaid bills on his condo...The lawsuit relating to Kerik’s apartment stems from his failure to pay maintenance fees. A court found that Kerik owed about $5,000 on the unit. When Kerik failed to comply with a subpoena related to the unpaid bill, a judge on Aug. 24, 1998 issued a warrant for Kerik’s arrest. It is unclear whether the warrant was ever served or withdrawn. Court computer records indicate that the lawsuit remains open, but there was some confusion on Friday over the location of the full record.
The Polarization Express (
I have argued that the spread of HOAs could contribute to political polarization because of niche marketing and the different relationship to public government. Here is a conference devoted to answering whether America is, in fact, becoming more politically polarized. The consensus, it seems, is "yes."

PRINCETON, N.J. -- The title of the conference held here last weekend, appropriately enough, included a question mark: "The Polarization of American Politics: Myth or Reality?" The 45 academics, politicians and journalists who gathered at Princeton University's Center for the Study of Democratic Politics never reached a vote, but all the evidence pointed toward the second alternative... James Gimpel of the University of Maryland and Bill Bishop of the Austin American-Statesman showed that "red" and "blue" voters are increasingly living in separate enclaves, with distinctive lifestyles, attitudes and partisan leanings shared among neighbors. To that extent, most of the conferees agreed, polarization is not just a phenomenon affecting politicians but something rooted in deeper social changes. Especially as sophisticated line-drawing for new congressional districts combines with the emerging pattern of like-minded voters living in geographical clusters, the latent divisions in American culture are made explicit on Election Day.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Australian: Scrapbook: Battle for free-market agenda is only half won [December 10, 2004]
From the Dean of the Free Market, 92-year-old Milton Friedman himself:
After World War II, opinion was socialist while practice was free market; currently, opinion is free market while practice is heavily socialist. We have largely won the battle of ideas; we have succeeded in stalling the progress of socialism, but we have not succeeded in reversing its course. We are still far from bringing practice into conformity with opinion. That is the overriding non-defence task for the second Bush term. It will not be an easy task, particularly with Iraq threatening to consume Bush's political capital.

True--it would not be easy, but then President Bush has shown no real indication of wanting to "reverse the course" of this trend to make the federal government ever-larger. - Neighborhood rules on the line
Interesting story forwarded by Fred Pilot that draws the obvious but often ignored parallel between municipal codes and HOA rules.

FORT LAUDERDALE — Poppy Madden has emerged as an unlikely hero in a campaign known as the "Laundry Wars." She has triumphed — twice — at City Hall for the right to hang her wash in the hot Florida sun.
"I'm still hanging my purple panties," Madden says. Her clothesline is protected from neighbors' complaints by a state law that encourages solar power — in this case, using the sun rather than a clothes dryer.

"Seeing clean laundry hanging in a yard is a lot less of a problem than having someone's loose dog leave a deposit on your lawn, she says."

The clothesline battle in this waterfront city is the latest chapter in a familiar story about the balance between personal freedom and community standards. Such disputes can stem from city codes, which was the case with Madden's clothesline, or from restrictions set by homeowners associations.
Eminent Domain Watch
Thanks to John Ryskamp for sending me this link to a blog on eminent domain, with loads of links on the Kelo case. And the author has the good taste to use the same format I do.
Welcome to
Here is the excellent site put together by Chris Webster of Cardiff University, Wales, and Georg Glasze of the University of Mainz, Germany.

Thursday, December 09, 2004 / News / Nation / Hawks evicted from Fifth Ave.
Most of the stories about common interest communities deal with condominium or homeowner associations. Ocasionally I run across one that deals with the housing cooperatives. Most of those stories deal with co-op boards rejecting famous would-be buyers. Here's a new issue:

NEW YORK -- They can't go home again, but two well-known red-tail hawks evicted from their nest atop a posh Fifth Avenue building were trying to do just that yesterday...The urban drama began to unfold Tuesday, in the rain, when workmen raised a scaffold to the top of the building and tore out the nest that lay over an arched cornice. The nest was anchored by spikes originally intended to keep pigeons from depositing their droppings. The workers removed the spikes too. or the past nine years, thousands of bird lovers have come to see to the nest on the 12th-floor ledge that's been home to Pale Male, so named for his plumage. There, he fathered 25 chicks with a succession of mates -- the last three fledglings in June.
The hawks gained fame through television specials and a book, ''Red-Tails in Love."..Brown Harris Stevens Property Management Services issued a statement yesterday saying that they do not own the property and had acted ''on behalf of the cooperative building owners in a management capacity. . . . The building researched and carried out the removal of the nest during an inactive period as a safety precaution." ''What strikes me is the selfishness of a small group of residents who are scarcely affected, but have robbed thousands of people, including children, of the pleasure of these magnificent birds, right by Central Park," Matthiessen said. ''These animals are a wonderful show of how nature can exist in the city. This was a violent, disruptive act."

But I'll bet the local pigeons were cheering. They were probably tired of being lunch.
California, U.S. in a Housing 'Bubble,' UCLA Forecast Says
Economists at UCLA have invoked the B-word again. In an outlook to be formally released today, forecasters say California and the nation are beset by a housing "bubble" that will depress construction next year, slowing the nation's economic recovery.Yet the fallout from the bubble in California won't be devastating, according to the UCLA Anderson Forecast. Indeed, the Golden State's economy will expand at a faster clip than the nation's in 2005, thanks in part to a recovering Bay Area, the widely watched forecast says. ..
Outside of California, overbuilding is viewed as the main problem by UCLA. One telling statistic: The nation has added one new residential unit for every adult added to the population over the last two years. The historical average is one unit for every 1.7 new adults.The bottom line: Today's pace of construction can't be sustained, Leamer said. Housing starts nationwide are expected to slow to 1.8 million units next year from 1.94 million this year.

I wouldn't mind a slowdown in new housing construction. I think there is a lot of over-building going on, concentrated in "hot" areas that in a few years will be practically unliveable. The traffic congestion on feeder roads will cost you two hours just to get from home to the expressway. The schools will be over-capacity with kids in trailers, and the voter/taxpayers will refuse to pay more. And sooner or later--especially in California--people will say "no thanks" to mediocre tract homes with HOAs, located in the middle of nowhere, that cost $500,000. That's the cure for "sprawl." Not a dictatorial regional planning board, a la Portland. Failure of demand. Works every time.
Judge orders vet to remove Marine flag - 12/7/04
Follow-up to post of a few days ago. As usual the trial court rules against the homeowner. A deal is a deal, a rule is a rule. Next stop: the state legislature? That's what happened with armed forces flags in Illinois--allowed, per the State Legislature.
CEO Insights - November/December 2004: CAI to comment on proposed assessment escrow rule
If you scroll down to the bottom of this page you can see that CAI is requesting comments on this rule. Perhaps some readers of this weblog have comments:

If you would like to provide input on this proposal, please contact Molly Foley-Healy, CAI’s vice president of government and public affairs, at or (703) 797-6266.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

HUD proposes rule requiring lenders to escrow HOA and condo assessments
Here's the text of the proposed rule in .pdf format. Read it for yourself. This is potentially a major bombshell. Imagine there's no assessment collection's easy if you assessment striking more listening to them cry...
Sorry...I was channelling John Lennon there for a minute. I'm fine now.

What does this mean? How about...that the federal government considers the assessment stream important enough to the public weal to require escrowing like property taxes? How does that square with the "HOAs are private" litany?
Boing Boing: Update on Louis Rossetto's mother's house
This was passed on to me by a reader. It is a detailed account from the weblog BoingBoing of a Landmark Preservation Committee in the People's Republic of Berkeley. Very interesting reading. This is so similar to the reactions people report about their HOA Architectural Review Committee that I think it merits consideration--even if you do away with HOAs, you are not free. There are layers of oversight lurking to waylay you. I'd thank the person by name but all I have is an e-mail address and I hate to give those out without permission--so, thanks!

Update on Louis Rossetto's mother's house--
A couple of days ago, I wrote about the problems Louis Rossetto's mother was having trying to get permission from the city to add a small addition to her house in Berkeley (Link). On Monday, Berkeley's Landmarks Preservation Commission held a meeting to decide whether to grant landmark status to the house. In short, his mother got permission to build the addition. Congratulations!
Here's Louis' report from the meeting:

A report from the front: the battle was lost - but the war won!
[the details of the meeting follow]

The author of the meeting narrative says he was...

...saddened to have witnessed first hand a truly arbitrary, philistine process that must be repeated ad nauseum across America, and that causes neighborhood wars, promotes mediocrity (if not worse), and can leave people emotionally and financially ruined without even protecting the alleged purposes of the landmark ordinances. As my mother wrote in her ad, this wasn't about preservation, this was about the local Soviet trying to assert its control over the block.

Yahoo! News - Parents Go on Strike, Move to Front Yard
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that my 7 year old twins picket me with a special "Dad Unfair, Big Bad Bear!" sign. Now, at last, parents are striking back. Where do I go to join the picket line?

DELTONA, Fla. - Even though the dishes, garbage and dirty laundry were piling up, homeowners Cat and Harlan Barnard were getting no help from their two children. After begging and pleading with their 17-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter to help out around the house, the Barnards decided they were fed up. So they went on strike — and moved out to the front yard.


Berkshire Eagle Online - Editorials--Coup and counter-coup in Becket, Mass.
Fred Pilot once again reaches down into the boiling soup of HOA living and retrieves this amazing nugget:

There's always been something of the Wild West about Becket, and this latest donnybrook involving the Sherwood Forest Neighborhood Association is true to form. The SFNA was a sleepy little voluntary homeowners' association in the 600-acre subdivision created in one of the worst land-use decisions in the history of Berkshire County. But that was before a Dover attorney, Carl N. Edwards, got himself elected vice president last year in a stacked meeting and began working to create a sort of shadow town government. He changed the bylaws to preclude any challenges to his power, and began issuing tax bills to finance the expanded activities of the Neighborhood Association, which included the removal of unregistered pleasure boats. It's supposed to take an act of the Legislature to establish a government with the power to tax, but Mr. Edwards told anyone who questioned him that it was all legal under common law. Last Sunday afternoon, the neighbors mobilized to take back the Neighborhood Association. They decided to hire an attorney to represent them against the titular leadership of their organization, and to re-enfranchise themselves to participate in its deliberations. It's quite a to-do, even by Becket standards. Stay tuned.
I will. Stay tuned, that is.
Update: On December 15, 2007, I received a letter from the aforementioned attorney Carl N. Edwards of Dover, MA, along with a press release from the United Auto Workers announcing the end of the litigation and a CD full of supporting documentation. Mr. Edwards says that Harry Sykes "was a licensed contractor who had bought multiple lots in Sherwood Forest and had been issued a premit to build over a retention basin on a tiny portion of wetlands in violation of at least a dozen state and local laws, and contrary to the requirements of the Federal Rivers Act. Since the land was in running water, the local political road district attempted to help Sykes and the official who issued him the permit by digging a drainage trench. The trench, however, ran up hill; flooding the neighborhood and washing out a road. Bob Madore lived in the flooded neighborhood and joined abuttern in what became the high profile case known as Madore v. Sykes. Madore had led the unionization of the Berkshire Eagle in 1997, and would subsequently play key roles in union victories at other newspapers owned by the Eagle's parent corporation." Edwards' press release goes on to say that Syke's complaint about Madore was dismissed as lacking in credibility. He says that despite the Berkshire Eagle's support for Sykes in its coverage, Sykes did not prevail in court (I presume in the litigation over the flooding), and the building permit expired. Madore has been elected head of the Northeast District of the UAW, and for additional information (so says the press release), you can contact:
Joelyn Leon, United Auto Workers Region 9A, at

For my part, I have no opinion regarding what happened or who is right, other than there are two conflicting accounts and I am making them available.
Small condo groups deal with their owners' quirks
Thanks to Fred Pilot for spotting this. Small condo developments are popping up all over the place. Chicago has zillions of them, and here is San Francisco with the same thing. People convert small apartment buildings to small condo buildings. Then instead of a landlord taking care of the place, you have a condo association. Fine in theory, but in practice a gene pool of four to ten owners isn't likely to yield enough people willing and able to run the building. So now what? Municipalities can either let many of these buildings go to pot (for you San Franciscans, I don't mean the herbal recreational kind) or do something to keep them afloat. But how about not allowing them to be set up in the first place?

here's a saying that the only thing harder to manage than a three- unit condominium is a two-unit one. While owners in large developments can rely on a professional management company, small building unit owners don't have this buffer. They are usually their own trustees and must persuade their fellow trustee-owners to agree to a new roof or paint job. Bad feelings can follow a negative vote, and just one obstructionist or irresponsible owner can turn the most elegant converted Victorian home into a battleground.
[more] Homeowners' associations able to bring out the best, the worst and the absurd in neighbors
At least, they seem to bring out the worst in the author of the article. "Poop free or die"? But he goes on to take a look at the bigger picture.

...when the notification came out that our homeowners' association (HOA) was seeking people to run for its board, I very seriously considered doing my part and taking a turn on the board. I even thought out my campaign strategy, as this is something you have to be elected to. I planned to rally the people in the neighborhood who walk their dogs in the greenspace without bothering with the plastic poop baggies. My campaign slogan, "Poop free or die," I would plaster all over the neighborhood on little plastic signs. I'd promise that, if elected, I would move to dump the clean-up-after-your-dog rule so that they would no longer feel guilty about not picking up after their dogs.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004 Va. man ordered to pay damages for motel mess...Room was coated with petroleum jelly

Entry Number One in the "Weird Crimes Against Property" Awards...

BINGHAMTON -- A Virginia man who admitted Monday to coating his motel room with the contents of 14 jars of petroleum jelly in May will have to pay $3,886 for damages to the motel.
...Chamberlain was charged May 10 after he coated every object in a Motel 6 room in the Town of Chenango with petroleum jelly, Broome County sheriff's deputies said.
Mathews didn't ask Chamberlain on Monday why he coated his room with petroleum jelly, and Chamberlain didn't offer any explanation.
[more, including photo of Mr. Petroleum Jelly.}

I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for ? Star Wars Battle in NJ
GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP, NJ-December 7, 2004 — Not so long ago in a galaxy five miles southwest of Philadelphia, Mike Degirolamo had a plan. But the authority in his sector sought to suppress it. The plan was to build a 20-by-12-foot model of a Jawa Sandcrawler, a relatively obscure icon from the original "Star Wars" film, before the next installment of the saga "Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" opens in May. To get the project done, he doesn't need the Force, but rather the power to persuade the township council it's a worthy project. The council is planning a special meeting to discuss whether Degirolamo will be allowed to erect the ode to the movies he loves on the property of a local business. ...Degirolamo, 38, is a "Star Wars" fanatic who built a 35-foot model of a different sci-fi ship for the opening of the last Star Wars installment in 2002.
hat massive model was assembled in Degirolamo's yard. After neighbors complained and inspectors showed up, he had to put up a fence.
It could be worse. What if he was a Ben Affleck fan?
Gov. Bush taps retired Fort Lauderdale doctor/lawyer as state's condo ombudsman
Fred Pilot sent along this article about the new Florida condo ombudsman. Note the part about the "bitter dispute" with his own association.

A retired Fort Lauderdale doctor and lawyer has been chosen to serve as the first condominium ombudsman in the nation, a position that will require him to educate more than 1 million condo owners and to resolve disputes with their 17,000 associations.

The appointment of Virgil R. Rizzo, 67, who is in the middle of a bitter lawsuit with his own condo association, was announced Monday by Gov. Jeb Bush.

The Florida Legislature created the position earlier this year over the objection of many condo lawyers and directors. Supporters of the law said they would try to add homeowner associations to the ombudsman's jurisdiction at the legislative session that begins in March.
Yahoo! News - Eco-Terrorism Suspected in Md. Fires
More on this--was this an act of domestic terrorism?
INDIAN HEAD, Md. - More than a dozen expensive homes under construction were burned down early Monday in a suburban Washington housing development that had been criticized by environmentalists because it is next to a nature preserve, officials said. An FBI (news - web sites) agent said the fires may have been set by environmental extremists. A dozen homes were destroyed and 29 others damaged near the state's Mattawoman Natural Environment Area. No injuries were reported. The damage was estimated at at least $10 million. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Faron Taylor, a deputy state fire marshal, said investigators believe fires were set in at least four of the homes, which were priced at $400,000 to $500,000. Taylor refused to say what led investigators to conclude it was arson.

Note that the person who wrote the article refers to "environmental extremists," and then whoever wrote the headline used the term "eco-terrorism." There are some fine distinctions made these days over use of the word "terrorist." The folks in Iraq who are taking hostages, sawing their heads off and mailing the videos to Al-Jazeera, and blowing up people standing in line at police stations are called "militants," "insurgents," or "rebels," but never terrorists, even though by any conventional definition of the word they are terrorists. ANow, what about these domestic terrorists (if this was politically motivated arson)? Are they going to be called terrorists, or "extremists"?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Arson Destroys 12 New Md. Homes (
A dozen empty houses in a new Maryland subdivision that is the focus of a long-running environmental dispute were destroyed and numerous others were damaged yesterday in what officials said were more than 20 coordinated, methodically planned arsons.

No one was hurt, but the attack left the Hunters Brooke subdivision, near Indian Head in Charles County, scarred with blackened, gutted houses, and it terrified the quiet community near the Potomac River about 25 miles downstream from the District.

This has been happening out west, in the San Diego and LA areas, for some time. It's a new front in the old wars over development. Most people go to the village council meeting and complain. They win or lose, and if they lose they stay or move. These folks, however, flick their Bics. The issue is whether the second Bush administration will treat them as the domestic terrorists they really are, or whether it will ignore them as Clinton I and II and Bush I did. Do they have bigger fish to fry? That's what they said about Al Qaida in 1995.
Marc Steyn: An Englishman's home is his dungeon
Steyn at his best, reflecting on the fact that hot prowl burglaries (done with the resident at home) are rampant in the UK. Why? Steyn says because the crooks know people have no firearms, and because of the practice of prosecuting victims for using too much force in defending themselves against criminals who invade their homes:

An Englishman's home is not his castle, but his dungeon and ever more so - window bars, window locks, dead bolts, laser security, and no doubt biometricrecognition garage doors, once the Blunkett national ID card goes into circulation...In America, it's called a "hot" burglary - a burglary that takes place when the homeowners are present - or a "home invasion", which is a much more accurate term. Just over 10 per cent of US burglaries are "hot" burglaries, and in my part of the world it's statistically insignificant: there is virtually zero chance of a New Hampshire home being broken into while the family are present. But in England and Wales it's more than 50 per cent and climbing. Which is hardly surprising given the police's petty, well-publicised pursuit of those citizens who have the impertinence to resist criminals...In New Hampshire, there are few burglaries because there's a high rate of gun ownership. Getting your head blown off for a $70 TV set isn't worth it. Conversely, thanks to the British police, burning the flesh of a London dressmaker to get her watch is definitely worth it...

Committee for a Better Twin Rivers v. Twin Rivers Homeowners' Association :: ACLU of New Jersey
Here's a summary of the Twin Rivers case from the New Jersey ACLU website. The case is on appeal. There are also links to the complaint and the ACLU brief. I don't know what the briefing schedule is.
Macomb Daily : Marine Corps flag dispute goes to court 12/06/04
A circuit court judge today may decide whether a Macomb Township man can continue flying a U.S. Marine Corps flag at his condominium. The Windmere Common I Association is seeking a preliminary injunction against John and Joanne O'Brien to remove the flag, which is attached to the front of the garage, an alleged violation of the association's by-laws.

O'Brien "delivered a flier explaining the situation to all 92 units and no one has indicated they oppose his flag." But, predictably, the association attorney makes the slippery slope argument--if this is allowed then we'll have a Klingon flag next, yada, yada, yada. "You start down that slippery slope," he said. "Someone could display the flag of the Taliban, Iraq, the Viet Cong or Nazis." Right. I'm sure there's a whole line of fascist just waiting to put up their favorite flag if the USMC banner is allowed to remain.
Yahoo! News - Holiday Displays Take Over Neighborhoods
Fred Pilot rings the Salvation Army Christmas bell with this story of holiday lights gone berserk, straight outa Geneva. Illinois, that is:

GENEVA, Ill. - Greg Parcell isn't thinking about the 50,000 lights all around him, or the computer that has them blinking to the beat of "Let it Snow" on the radio. Instead, his mind is on what's missing as he stands in what seems the one empty spot in his front yard. "I still have to put up the penguins around the campfire," he says. Parcell, 47, is a toy soldier in a growing army of Christmas enthusiasts becoming more sophisticated at turning yards into blazing monuments to the holidays. New companies are cropping up with elaborate, automated decorations and the computer equipment to coordinate them, giving anyone with a wallet the ability to create scenes similar to a theme park...In Monte Sereno, Calif., a couple whose huge display attracted thousands of passers-by angered neighbors and led the city council to require a permit for any exhibit lasting longer than three days. This year, the yard holds a 10-foot Grinch, its spiny finger pointing at the house of the neighbors who initiated the complaints.


Sunday, December 05, 2004 -10 questions you ought to ask your homebuilder
"I know the colors and special little features are more fun to think about and easier for people to understand, but they don't matter much if you don't have quality construction," said Peter Robberson, president of the Colorado chapter of the National Association of Home Inspectors and owner of Welcome Home Inspections in Colorado Springs.

Important questions to ask before, during and after construction of a new house:

1 Who is building the home?
[more...nine more, to be exact] / News / Local / Bradford gun club drawing concern
Six months after a bullet was accidentally fired into a Haverhill neighborhood from a local shooting range, neighbors say they want answers about what has been done to prevent a similar incident from happening.

Yes, I imagine some answers would be in order.
Article: Teenagers fail to see the consequences?| New Scientist
Juveniles may find it harder than adults to foresee the consequences of their actions. The finding may explain why teenagers act compulsively and take more risks
[more, but if you didn't know this you have never met a teenager]
Somebody paid for this study? OK. I want to study the behavior of objects that are suspended on a rope and then released. Do they fall, or rise, or remain hanging in space. Can I get some money for that?

Tampa Bay's 10 News:"TRAILER TRASH" headline breaks controversy
So now it's OK to call people "rednecks" (see below about the Barrington anti-deer hunting "I'm a mom") and "trailer trash"? I think "hillbilly" is also permissible--some college football coach yelled that at the other team's fans a couple of weeks ago--I think they were Oklahoma fans. You also hear "cracker" thrown around, along with "white trash."

What do these words have in common? They are negative steretypical words used to describe working class white people, who are now the only group it is permissible to ethnically slur. Is this supposed to be progress?

Rutherford Institute's amicus curiae brief in Kelo v. City of New London
If you like property rights, and I know lots of HOA activists say they do, then you will love this brief. You have the Magna Carta, Federalist No. 10, Calder v.'s a cornucopia of property rights delights. Give it read.
SSRN-Kelo v. New London: Deciding the First Case Under the New Bill of Rights by John Ryskamp
Thanks to John Ryskamp for e-mailing me with the link to his article on the case of Kelo v. New London, currently before the United States Supreme Court.
Here's the abstract of his article, with my emphasis:

The Supreme Court has just decided to hear Kelo v. New London (No. 04-108). The Court will use the case to decide--for the first time in thirty years - whether there should be elevated scrutiny of housing. Previous cases - such as San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, Lindsey v. Normet and Dandridge v. Williams--rejected such elevation, but the Court indicated that it was prepared to raise scrutiny if there was a proper Constitutional formulation which located such scrutiny in the Constitution. This paper provides the formulation, beginning with James Madison's statement that the Constitution prevents every assumption of power in the legislative or executive. For the first time, the author shows how Madison's use of the word every brings housing and similar facts, under the jurisdiction of the Constitution and mandates elevated scrutiny. Given the administrative and political problems inherent in imposing a higher level of scrutiny on housing, the author provides different scenarios for adjudication.

I think this is potentially a very significant case that could have major impact. My Constitutional Law class did a simulation on it. Students played the role of current USSC judges, hold conferences, and vote as they think their own justice would. Last week we held the final vote. Result: 6-3 to reverse the Connecticut Supreme Court and give the win to the property owner, Kelo. Here's the breakdown:

Reverse (meaning Kelo wins): Rehnquist (I know, he's sick--but the student who played him felt fine); Scalia; Thomas; O'Connor, Kennedy; and (shocker) Breyer.

Affirm (meaning New London wins): Stevens; Ginsburg; Souter. Homeowners association picks a fight with man over American flag
Not again. Please. Not again. Is there a psychologist in the house who can explain why HOA directors do this?
ABC13 Eyewitness News
(12/03/04 - HOUSTON) — The American flag is in the middle of a fight between a west Harris County man and his homeowners association.
"Old Glory" has been sitting on Charles Watson’s front lawn on Glen Eagles near Grousemoor for more than five years, but his homeowner's association now says it must go. It claims the former serviceman, who has family serving in Iraq, did not get prior approval before making home improvements, and the flag is in violation. The flag can be mounted on the house, but not on the lawn.

Neighbors don’t object to the flag’s placement, and Watson refuses to move it, saying he has earned the right to display the flag. The association has until December 7 to respond to paperwork filed by Watson.

Proposal Would Hit Blue State Taxpayers
Can't remember if I posted on this before, but it has been in the press.

As President Bush lays the groundwork for a possible overhaul of the U.S. tax code, one option under consideration would deal its biggest financial blow to citizens of blue states such as California and New York. Some conservative activists are urging the Bush administration to scrap the federal deduction for state and local taxes as part of a broader plan to revamp the nation's tax system...Taxpayers in California and New York, for example, which have top state income tax rates of 9.3% and 6.5% respectively, would be highly affected; residents of Florida and Texas, which have no state income taxes, much less so.

That's quite a bite. So, New Yorkers would pay 9.3% of their income to the state, and then pay federal tax on that portion of their income as well. Ow.
Lawmaker Seeks to Privatize State Pensions
Thanks to Fred Pilot for spotting this. Tax collection, pensions...this is a big day for announcing new privatization initiatives, isn't it?

Declaring rising pension debt a "ticking time bomb," a California legislator proposes converting public employee retirements from a traditional defined-benefit system to the 401(k)-style plans held by most American workers.

Employees hired by a public agency after July 1, 2007, would automatically be enrolled in the new contribution plan proposed by Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Northridge). The plan would make pension payments for public agencies more predictable and potentially lower costs, he said.
Private Firms to Chase Delinquent Taxpayers (
I don't like the sound of this at all. The part about the private collectors keeping up to 25% of the amounts they recover seems like a strong incentive to engage in, shall we say, rapacious collections practices.

When Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) teamed up in September to get the House to pass an amendment blocking the use of private companies to collect back taxes from delinquent taxpayers, it seemed the Bush administration plan might be doomed for at least a year.

But in the final hours of drafting a 3,300-page spending bill last month, House and Senate negotiators eliminated Capito's and Van Hollen's handiwork, clearing the way for the Internal Revenue Service to hire commercial debt collectors. These private agents could keep as much as 25 percent of the amounts they recovered.

While the Bush administration has strongly supported the initiative as a way to increase revenue collections amid growing deficits, critics contend it could lead to harassment of taxpayers and breaches of privacy. Labor groups representing federal workers also oppose the change. But it has the backing of the debt-collection industry, which has contributed heavily to GOP organizations and causes since Bush became president.