This page includes posts from
July 3-16, 2005 in the usual reverse
order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these
July 11, 2005
Blogging will be even lighter than usual here over the next two weeks.
Next week I'm making a presentation on First Amendment issues at the annual legal workshop for transportation attorneys sponsored by the Transportation Research Board, in Portland, Oregon. Between wrestling with Powerpoint and a borrowed laptop, as well as trying to finish up a bunch of other stuff before I go, there's not a lot of time to spend on writing for this site.
In the meantime, if any of you would like to share some good brewpub or restaurant recommendations for Portland with me, I'd be happy to conduct my own personal research and report back here to you all.
July 10, 2005
The London bombings weren't the only example of terrorism in the transportation sector last week.
In another infuriating example of what happens when the criminally incompetent and corrupt run things, nearly 200 people lost their lives in a ferry accident in Indonesia last Thursday.
The AP report in today's Washington Post is almost matter-of-fact in reporting on a death toll that was completely preventable, but for a near-total abdication of responsibility:
These ferry disasters are all-too common in Third World countries, as I've written previously. Unfortunately, these incidents are among the more egregious examples of the kind of official idiocy that typifies so much of the world's troubled provinces.
The regular folks trying to survive under these conditions don't need debt relief as much as they need seriously bad government relief.
One can only hope that criminal charges will eventually be brought against those responsible for this latest multiple homicide by neglect of duty.
It's a faint hope, at that.
July 8, 2005
This sign is on State Route 1 just below Dewey Beach:
The road splits Delaware Seashore State Park between the Atlantic Ocean and Rehoboth and Indian River Bays.
Diamondback terrapins try to cross the road during egg-laying season to reach the sand dunes on the ocean side. DNREC set up small fences on the bay side to block this move. The agency also created bayside spots for egg-laying that don't risk the turtles' lives, but some of these critters are pretty tenacious.
DelDOT uses this message board and another one at the other end of this stretch to remind drivers that what they might think is a dark smudge on the road could be an expectant mother.
The cooperative effort seems to be working.
July 7, 2005
In this case, however, the gap is between those who support the continuation of Western civilization, and those who seek to destroy it.
The initial response of the vast majority of the British people and their government to this outrage has been stirring. I hope it continues.
July 6, 2005
I suppose at some level the title of this post is a bit obvious, seeing as how it forms the basic plot line of umpteen movie thrillers. On the other hand, a recent Delaware Chancery Court decision about three women who co-own a beach house a few miles south of here provided a real-life example.
In the mid-1980s three DC-area civil servants found a beach place in North Bethany, in the Tower Shores development. It fit their plans for a vacation spot they could call their own, as long as they pooled their resources.
Here’s a picture of the house, hidden behind several trees, and only a few steps away from the oceanfront.
The unmarried women each chipped in $13,000 toward the $162,500 purchase price, with the remainder handled with a mortgage. They set up their ownership interest as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. In addition, they each signed a separate agreement about how they would deal with the contingency that one or more of them wanted to sell off their interest.
If two of the owners wanted to sell, the remaining housemate had the right to buy them out before being forced to a sale and disposition of the proceeds.
If only one owner wanted out, however, she had to offer her portion for sale to the other two, at an appraised value if they couldn’t otherwise reach an agreeable price. Another option gave the remaining housemates the choice to accept a new purchaser of the one-third interest, or buy the share on the same terms and conditions, or find a purchaser for their shares, or sell off all three shares.
In addition, any new purchaser buying into the arrangement was also bound by these terms, to prevent a forced partition sale.
Apparently the shared ownership worked well for over fifteen years. In the meantime, however, property values in this part of Delaware began to soar.
One owner met a real estate agent in July 2002, who told her the property could be sold for between $850,000 and $950,000. The three women talked it over, but the other two balked at selling the house. Instead, they referred their housemate to the terms of their old agreement, hoping they could hold onto their beach property.
Eventually the housemate sued her friends instead, trying to force a partition sale. In response, one of the other housemates found a potential purchaser, who offered $230,000 for the one-third share. According to the court testimony, his idea was to build a duplex on the property that the two remaining housemates would keep, and he would sell the other unit to recover his profit.
This idea didn’t satisfy the other housemate, which at one level makes sense. The discounted offering price for her share left about $100,000 on the table, on a property now appraised at $950,000 total. On the other hand, expert witnesses for both sides agreed that the first refusal clauses had a legitimate discounting effect on the total value, compared to a sale that wasn’t subject to these special terms.
Nonetheless, Vice-Chancellor Strine decided that under these circumstances the reluctant housemate could not force a partition.
First, he ruled that she had knowingly volunteered to give up her right to a statutory partition of her ownership interests when she signed the original agreement.
Second, he decided that the parties’ limits on disposition of their property did not violate Delaware’s public policy, and cited recent legislative enactments to prove his point:
The Vice-Chancellor also made this cogent point in describing why the parties’ intended use for their beach property helped persuade him that their original deal should be upheld:
The judge also noted that while the 1986 agreement certainly had a discounting effect on the property’s current value, the reluctant housemate would still see a substantial return on her original investment. Under these circumstances, therefore, Strine had little difficulty holding the housemate to her original bargain.
The result seems perfectly fair to me.
July 5, 2005
Our friends at PETA are a remarkably dim group, at least when it comes to the generally accepted meaning of the word “fun”.
A few years ago, for example, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities sponsored an outdoor art exhibit called The Party Animals.
In similar fashion as the painted dolphin statues gracing our town this summer, this series featured highly decorated donkeys and elephants (of course--it's DC).
As noted in a prior post about this little dustup, here’s what a Washington Post article by Neely Tucker said about the purpose of the exhibit:
So how did PETA’s “Ella PhantzPeril” statue meet that goal?
Here is the official photograph:
PETA filed suit when the Commission turned down their submission.
However, a U.S. District Court judge ordered that the statue had to be accepted by the Commission, because at least two other accepted entrants also conveyed messages deemed inconsistent with the Commission’s stated preferences.
At the time, I took a dim view of PETA’s artistic sense, as well as their basic sense of fun.
The grim statue ended up at Connecticut Avenue and Q Street, N.W., not far from DuPont Circle. It later fetched a none-too-fabulous $2,950 in the auction held that fall, a result I was pleased to comment upon at the time.
Eventually, the District Judge also ordered the Commission to pay back $4,000 of the original $5,000 fee paid by PETA. The government then appealed to the DC Circuit.
Today the Circuit Court reversed the lower court’s order against the Commission, and perhaps brought an end to this sorry episode in public relations and public art. In addition, the opinion reminds us that the First Amendment doesn’t block every government effort to control a particular means of expression:
Makes sense to me.
Perhaps the next time PETA decides to try its hand at popular artwork, it might also consider that figuratively speaking, one usually catches more flies with honey than with, um, other stuff--even if it’s a circus elephant’s.
Hat tip—Howard Bashman.
July 4, 2005
Last night we joined an estimated 80,000 close personal friends crowded onto the boardwalk and the beach in Rehoboth, and watched one of the largest off-shore fireworks displays the town has ever had.
You can watch a short video clip by clicking here.
Have a great Independence Day!
July 3, 2005
A recent AP story carried a Claude-worthy headline about diet maintenance while on vacation, in the one truly significant tourist destination where good living clearly takes precedence over good health:
No kidding. Have another praline.
On the other hand, I'm glad to learn that a sense of humor continues to thrive among American tourists:
Those responses reaffirm my faith in mankind.
Even so, the headline earns two Claudes.
Official small print disclaimer: This is, after all, a personal web site. Any opinions or comments I express here are my own, and don't necessarily reflect the official position of my work as a government attorney or any of my clients.
That fact may become obvious later on, but it needs to be said here anyway.
© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2005