Saturday, February 03, 2007

It's nice to scoop Drudge. I've been whining about the cold here for two days. Here's the weather advisory, just in case you global warning believers think I'm making it up. Here in Lindenhurst it is now -8 with an 11 mph wind coming out of the west, for a wind chill factor of -27. Global warming, my ***.

Bitterly cold temperatures will drop into the 5 below to 15 below
zero range overnight... with the coldest temperatures north of
Interstate 80. Gusty west winds of 15 to 20 mph will continue to
diminish tonight... but the combination of the bitterly cold
temperatures and the wind will allow for frigid wind chills as low
as 25 below to 30 below zero tonight. Temperatures will only rise
to around the zero degree mark on Sunday for areas north of
Interstate 80... and from zero to 5 above zero south of Interstate
80. West winds will becoming gusty again on Sunday with daytime
wind chills of 20 below to 30 below zero. Bitterly cold air
temperatures and blustery winds will continue to keep wind chills
in this range through Tuesday morning.

A Wind Chill Advisory means that very cold air and strong winds
will combine to generate wind chills at or less then 20 below
zero. This will result in frost bite and lead to hypothermia if
precautions are not taken. If you must venture outdoors... dress
in layers and cover all skin. Make sure you wear a hat and
gloves. Limit outdoor activity to minimize exposure... as
frostbite can occur in 30 minutes or less.
KRT Wire | 02/03/2007 | Condo association criticized over ban on mezuzahs
As well they should be. L'chaim.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Laurie Richter says Jewish law requires her to attach a mezuzah to her doorpost. But the board that runs The Port condominium says displaying the 5-inch-long case with a religious message inside violates the condo documents and has ordered it removed. Because wreaths were allowed on doors during Christmas, Richter accuses her board of discrimination. "I don't want to be causing any rifts here so Christians can't hang wreaths, but it seems the rights of Jewish people are being violated because Christians don't have to hang wreaths but we have to hang mezuzahs," she said. The association that runs the 16-story, 129-unit condo cites the bylaws that prohibit owners and occupants from attaching, hanging, affixing or displaying anything on the exterior walls, doors, balconies, railings and windows of the building.

The Capital Times: Madison, WI, goes condo
Go back just eight years and there was almost no downtown condominium market. Then, in 1999, visionary architect Kenton Peters took what was then an 83-year-old industrial building, Union Transfer Station and Storage Co. at 155 E. Wilson St., and turned it into more than two dozen stylish condos. All but three of the units sold before construction began. Now, a half dozen larger condominium projects punctuate the downtown landscape. Nolen Shore. The Loraine. The Marina. And there are more ambitious ones on the way. You need a map to keep them all straight. Nearly 900 condominium units - conversions and new construction - have been built since 1998 in or near downtown Madison, and 1,600 more are planned or under construction. Beyond that, there are projects under discussion to add another 1,000 units.
My Way News - Orlando Homeless Laws Stir Heated Debate
From the land of oranges, HOAs, and condos, come these municipal ordinances imposing behavioral restrictions. I guess it's another kind of special district: sort of a "homeless-free zone." Note the reference to the luxury condo buildings:

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - At Lake Eola park, there is much beauty to behold: robust palms, beds of cheery begonias, a cascading lake fountain, clusters of friendly egrets and swans, an amphitheater named in honor of Walt Disney.

Then there are the signs.


Visit the park's restrooms, and you'll find this sign on the wall above the hand dryers:


On streets around Lake Eola, where drug dealers and prostitutes once roamed, residential towers like "The Paramount,""The Metropolitan at Lake Eola," and the "The Vue at Lake Eola," are now rising. In addition, the city is finalizing plans to renovate the downtown Citrus Bowl and build a new performing arts center and "Events Arena" by 2011 - at a cost of $1 billion.

Homelessness, in the view of Dyer and members of his staff, adversely affects public safety and economic development, and therefore must be addressed.

"Al Gore is a Greenhouse Gasbag"
Here is a great article on global warming, based on a lengthy interview with University of Pennsylvania Professor of Geology Robert Giegengack, who actually knows a great deal about the subject, unlike Al Gore. Giegengack is not a zealot or a politician either. He is not even a Republican, having voted for Gore himself. But he tears Gore's propaganda film to pieces. Here's a snippet, which is especially significant because the ultimate bottom-line measure of global warming is sea level:

“Sea level is rising,” Giegengack agrees, switching off the sound. But, he explains, it’s been rising ever since warming set in 18,000 years ago. The rate of rise has been pretty slow — only about 400 feet so far. And recently — meaning in the thousands of years — the rate has slowed even more. The Earth’s global ocean level is only going up 1.8 millimeters per year. That’s less than the thickness of one nickel. For the catastrophe of flooded cities and millions of refugees that Gore envisions, sea levels would have to rise about 20 feet. “At the present rate of sea-level rise,” Gieg says, “it’s going to take 3,500 years to get up there. So if for some reason this warming process that melts ice is cutting loose and accelerating, sea level doesn’t know it. And sea level, we think, is the best indicator of global warming.”"
Share your homeowners association story
That's the headline on this request from a reporter at the Santa Cruz Sentinel, sent along by Shu Bartholomew. Scroll down and you find this:

With a growing population dealing with housing prices that stubbornly remain some of the highest in the nation, many in Santa Cruz County have bought into the townhouse and condominium option. But along with the lower price and the benefits of sharing the costs of common-area maintenance come the well-known headaches of being part of a homeowner association.

If you have stories contact staff writer Gwen Mickelson at
SSRN-Paternalist Slopes by Douglas Whitman, Mario Rizzo
I found this link on Instapundit. What follows is the abstract of a forthcoming law review article on a new form of paternalistic public policy by Douglas Whitman and Mario Rizzo. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines "paternalism" as follows: "Paternalism is the interference of a state or an individual with another person, against their will, and justified by a claim that the person interfered with will be better off or protected from harm." I'd say that a lot of HOA regulation is paternalistic. The assumption of such rules is often that residents are incapable of taking proper care of their homes unless micro-managed by authority. And "slippery slopes" are situations where something is done that inevitably leads to other things being done that were not originally intended. The metaphor is of a person who takes one step down a slope and then slips and goes all the way to the bottom. The article apparently takes the position that, while advocates of paternalistic laws claim their proposals are modest, there is a slippery slope quality to these new forms of paternalism, and "soft paternalism can pave the way for harder paternalism." Does that fit HOAs in anybody's mind? Interesting question.

So, here's what Whitman and Rizzo will be saying in their forthcoming article (my emphasis). I'll be reading the whole thing as soon as I can.

A growing literature in law and public policy harnesses research in behavioral economics to justify a new form of paternalism. Contributors to this literature typically emphasize the modest, non-intrusive character of their proposals. A distinct literature in law and public policy analyzes the validity of "slippery slope" arguments. Contributors to this literature have identified various mechanisms and processes by which slippery slopes operate, as well as the circumstances in which the threat of such slopes is greatest.

The present article sits at the nexus of the new paternalist literature and the slippery slopes literature. We argue that the new paternalism exhibits many characteristics identified by the slopes literature as conducive to slippery slopes. Specifically, the new paternalism exhibits considerable theoretical and empirical vagueness, making it vulnerable to slopes resulting from altered economic incentives, enforcement needs, deference to perceived authority, bias toward simple principles, and reframing of the status quo. These slope processes are especially likely when decisionmakers are subject to cognitive biases – as the new paternalists insist they are. Consequently, soft paternalism can pave the way for harder paternalism. We conclude that policymaking based on new paternalist reasoning should be considered with greater trepidation than its advocates have suggested.

Friday, February 02, 2007

ABC News: Retiree Whacks Suspect With Frying Pan
But did he say, "Hey Moe! Hey Larry! Hey Moe! Hey Larry!"
Salt Lake Tribune - School voucher bill passes House by a single vote
This would be the first universal, statewide, school voucher program. Pretty dramatic step along the road to privatization, I'd say.

A school voucher bill passed the Utah House by a single vote today. It is now expected to sail through the Senate and win the governor's signature...HB148 will let parents spend public money on private school tuition. Every Utah family, with the exception of current private school students, would be eligible for a voucher ranging from $500 to $3,000 depending on family income.

Global Warning Alert!
Today's news is full of doom and gloom as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proclaims that global warming is "very likely" our fault. At least, they are 90% sure it is. I thought the .05 level (95%) was the minimum confidence level for proving a hypothesis. Apparently when all you want is for the entire human race to make massive, fundamental changes in the way we live, 90% is good enough, and we should disregard all the scientists who think the jury is still out.

In other news, here in Chicago we don't know from global warming right now. It is Situation Normal for February. We have been in the deep freeze for a week and the next week is even worse. The weather forecast says that between now and next Wednesday, the temperature will range from a balmy -22 to a torrid 17. When I walk across the Jackson Street bridge on my way from Union Station to UIC, and it is about 10 degrees with a 30 mph wind, pardon me for thinking that global warming doesn't sound all bad.

Oh, and not to appear callous about the stranded polar bears in that widely-distributed photo, but did you know that a polar bear can swim for 100 miles? They have been getting stranded on ice floes and swimming to safety since long before homo sapiens showed up. My guess is those bad boys are alive and well and eating seals right now. : Growth versus eagles

I don't understand how protecting eagles turns into a $5000 fine for sitting on your deck, but here goes, from the land of cheese:

VILLAGE OF PRAIRIE DU SAC - Carol Lukens, of First Weber, maintains eagles have no problems with people and that the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council needs to stop fighting with the village about the Nonn development...John Keefe of FBEC said the council appreciates the cooperative work done on the condominium documents. He provided 14 points, mostly word changes for the board. With attorneys from the village of Prairie du Sac, Ken Nonn and FBEC the Specific Implementation Plan was revised. Keefe said specifically the mid-November through March 31 time period be defined as winter eagle season...The council's research indicates eagle watching brought in $1.2 million to the community during a time when business tends to be slow in the community. All other concerns about lighting, stormwater, retaining wall and the landscape plan had been addressed. After voting the approval of the SIP, trustee John Pletzer said he was not pleased that if he bought a condo for $200,000, if it were 45 degrees, he could not sit out on his riverfront balcony without incurring a $5,000 fine from the condo association.
The Sun News | 02/01/2007 | State Farm drops coastal policies
Tough times for home owners seeking insurance (even those who didn't set their home on fire with burning underpants--see below):

State Farm Insurance Co., South Carolina's largest insurer of homes, said Wednesday it will drop almost 1,000 policies for homes on the oceanfront. The company's decision comes about a month after Allstate said it would drop 12,000 policies in order to minimize future hurricane risk. S.C. Farm Bureau Insurance started dropping 3,000 customers along the S.C. coast last fall.

Ananova - Husband's underpant tantrum destroys home
Try convincing your homeowner's insurance claims rep that this is covered by your HO-3.

An angry husband who threw old clothes into the garden and set fire to them because he couldn't find any clean underpants accidentally burnt his home down.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Origins of "Exposing AHRC"
I said below that the "Exposing AHRC" site was new. But I stand corrected. Pat Haruff called to my attention a post from Tom Skiba, CEO of the Community Associations Institute, who writes CAI's "Ungated" blog. He recommends reading the "Exposing AHRC" site way back in March of 2005 (see the sentence I bolded below). So, the site must have been up and running then, although I must confess that I had never seen it until this week. (Obviously I don't spend enough time web surfing.)

The rest of the post is worth reading apart from his mention of that site. He asks for reasonable people to find some middle ground for conversation. I hope Tom doesn't mind if I republish it in its entirety as food for thought.

The Internet Soapbox
by Tom Skiba on March 21, 2005 12:11PM (EST)
The internet is an amazing tool, it literally brings the world to our desktops. Unfortunately it also provides a soapbox for anyone with an axe to grind, and separating the valid, reliable and thoughtful information from the ill-informed babble is left as an exercise for the reader. Our industry, like many others, has spawned its own set of dedicated haters and they have taken to the web as the tool of choice.

Sun Tzu said to know your enemy, so every month I try and spend at least some time on the various anti-HOA websites. I try and limit my visits as the vitriol and unbalanced information tend to give me indigestion. One of my regular visits though, is the American Homeowners Resource Council at What this site lacks in thoughtful analysis it more than make up for with volume and outrage. (I would also suggest for an alternate viewpoint.)

I am a firm believer that individuals can have differing opinions, that they can discuss them thoughtfully, and that multiple points of view can be equally valid. Unfortunately, many of these websites would have readers believe that everyone involved in the HOA industry is evil, that CAI dictates law to legislatures around the country, and that valid contracts freely entered into should be null and void – all powerful characterizations even though false.

And yet there are some things that we can agree on: boards should represent their entire communities responsibly, homeowners should become involved in their communities, and living in and leading an association requires you to educate yourself. The big difference between us is that we at CAI believe that the vast majority of America’s 270,000+ communities, more than one million volunteer board members, and over 55 million residents already understand this and work diligently every day to build effective and well-run communities, and groups like AHRC do not.
What happened to the American Homeowners Resource Center?
Several people have asked me what happened to the AHRC website at, which has been down for several days. The short answer is, I don't know. I have asked around but nobody else seems to know, either.

The mystery deepened when just a few days ago, right around the time of AHRC's site going down, a new website appeared called The "AHRC Exposed" site is basically an intense personal attack on Elizabeth McMahon, the prime mover of AHRC, and on AHRC itself, and asks for anybody who feels maligned by AHRC to email the site. Of course, AHRC's web site includes personal attacks on attorneys, property managers, and others who AHRC's correspondents feel have done homeowners wrong. They have gone after me at times for not towing the party line on foreclosure for unpaid assessments. So I guess you could look at this as tit for tat in one sense.

But at least we know who runs AHRC. Not so with "AHRC Exposed," which is one of those interesting websites that contains absolutely no information identifying the person or persons running it. It just sits there in cyberspace, slamming AHRC and the McMahons and asking for more negative information about them. Oh, and proclaiming that most people are very happy with their HOA, according to the Zogby study that CAI paid for. I have tried to find out whose site "AHRC Exposed" is. No luck yet. I have learned that the domain was registered by an organization called "Domains by Proxy" out of Scottsdale, Arizona. Here is the info that I have so far:

Domains by Proxy, Inc.
15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
United States

Registered through:, Inc. (
Created on: 14-Jan-04
Expires on: 14-Jan-08
Last Updated on: 14-Jan-07

If anybody knows more about this, let me know. The mystery deepens...
Dr. Valeriano's Teaching, Research, and News Blog
Here is a new blog by my colleague here at UIC, Brandon Valeriano. He teaches international relations, and his blog includes some insightful commentary, fascinating links, and witty comments.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Developer defends homeless-village concept - Orlando Sentinel
I guess it had to happen: a planned community for the homeless, to get them in one place so they don't bother people. I gather from the article that this developer "transformed" a bad neighborhood into an upscale "Garden District," but the former residents are still hanging around. So the developer proposes to build them cheap housing near the jail and call it "Tiger Bay Village." Can you imagine what their HOA board meetings will be like?

At a meeting inside the neighborhood he helped transform from a crack den into the trendy Garden District, urban developer Michael Arth on Friday defended his latest big idea: a $100 million village for the area's homeless. About 40 people crowded Arth's office to weigh in on Tiger Bay Village, a place where the homeless would live, work and get counseling. Some had questions about paying for it while others were worried a secluded village would stigmatize the homeless and further ostracize them from mainstream society...His plan calls for building a resort-style,pedestrian-friendly village on 125 acres in rural Volusia County near the jail. It would have bungalows, dining halls, community gardens, a swimming lagoon and winding paths...Lindsay Roberts, the executive director of the Volusia-Flagler Coalition for the Homeless, said she also was concerned about segregating the homeless. She said at one shelter in Daytona Beach, school officials had to move the bus stop because some children made fun of kids who lived at the shelter. "The object is to integrate them, not segregate them," Roberts said after the meeting.