Thursday, December 03, 2009

A Case Study in Stupid

We all know that homeowners' associations are not known for their high IQs. But sometimes, the word "stupid" isn't enough. "Stupider" doesn't even cut it. This is a case for the superlative, since this may be the stupidest thing one of these petty little tyrannical enemies of freedom has ever done. That sound you are hearing is a local colony of bacteria laughing at how mind-numbingly dopey this bevvy of bureaucrats is.

So, let's tally up the stupid in this report. Let's see, we have a:
  • 90 year old man, who is a
  • Military man, a
  • Colonel, a
  • World War II and Vietnam vet, a
  • Recipient of the Medal of Honor, and is
  • Perhaps the most decorated combat veteran alive,
and the Heroes of the Homeowners' Association are going after him to:
  • Ban his flagpole from which he occasionally flies a U.S. flag.

Are these people serious?

And yes, I know there are rules, blah blah, property value, blah blah, respect for "the authorities," blah blah. But this is the stupidest hill ever for them to die on. This is the thing they want to be inflexible about - under these circumstances? Can you just smell the stupid? They are going to try to enforce this utterly idiotic rule in this, the age of talk radio and the internet. Clueless doesn't even scratch the surface.

Bureaucrats are as bureaucrats do.

This is what a plummeting property value looks like. Thank God for the HOA lest this blight spread!


OSC said...

Agreed. Stupid.

BTW, for future reference, such men are Medal of Honor recipients, not winners.

Rob said...

The Lord knows that I have extremely little respect for "authority", especially when it comes to "the government", but there is a huge difference here: HOA's are purely voluntary. The fact is that people like this veteran buy a piece of property knowing that it is covered by an HOA.

My father bought his home in an HOA community years ago because he didn't want to live in a neighborhood that "could turn into a tobacco road." Of course, now he complains whenever he gets burned himself by their idiotic rules, but that's what you get when you want to dictate what your neighbors can do with their property. I find it hard to work up a lot of sympathy in a case like that.

Jonathan said...

Forget the message of the flag, freedom of speech/expression, etc. I'm sure the HOA isn't out to stifle the message; they're enforcing the rules. If it's ok to put up a flag pole in violation of the rules, then what's next and where does it stop?

The homeowner signed up to the HOA rules with the same signature that he used to sign up to serve his country. Should his pledge be treated any differently to follow the rules of either vocation of soldier vs. resident?

If the residents want to change the HOA covenants to allow a flag pole, they can.

Peter said...

I agree with Rob and Jonathon. HOA's are voluntary associations of property owners. They have reasons for their rules, and noone is under compulsion to buy a house in that neighborhood. This is not a fight against an external "authority," but against his own pledge and contract. The fact that we might disagree with the rules is another matter.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Rob, Jonathan, and Peter:

You are all absolutely right. I would never want to buy property or live in such a neighborhood. It is a voluntary matter. I don;t dispute that at all.

The HOA in this case has the authority to ban flagpoles and flags. The WW2 vet is wrong to claim he has the right to break the rules. I'm not arguing this as a free-speech issue. Technically, it's a contract issue. The Colonel had surrendered his freedom of expression when he bought the property. That's not my point.

Nevertheless, you can be right and still be stupid. My point is that they are being stupid to the nth degree in this case.

They should have let this one slide. There have been similar cases involving HOA rules and flags, and they never end well for the HOA.

The law was on the side of the City of Montgomery regarding its policy of racial segregation on public transportation, but there was no way they could win a PR battle against Rosa Parks.

All this HOA has done is make a martyr out of the Colonel, and made themselves a target for the charge of "not supporting the troops" and being "unamerican." I don't believe they are guilty of any such thing, but once again, you can be right and be stupid at the same time.

Maybe they think this is a worthy hill to die on, but I think it is likely a case of egos. This is just too petty a case to escalate to such an irrational (and stupid) level.

The whole concept of the HOA is moronic, if you ask me. But people are free to give up their freedoms if they want to.

Dear OSC: Thanks.

Jonathan said...

I think the HOA administration are being wise and prudent stewards to take a stand to defend the integrity of the contractual covenants for their community residents. Sure, they will take some heat and ridicule for so doing, as you have demostrated by calling them stupid. And in the end, as I suspect, such a public reaction may even result in the community residents voting to change the HOA covenants to allow flag poles. But, as to why these are wise stewards to follow the rules and the proper procedures for enforcement and/or proper change in the rules: in contract law, the concept of "waiver" is a powerful defense against a breach of contract action. So to simply "let this one slide" as you suggest is to invite other rebellious, individualistic residents to test the limits and see just how far up the flagpole (so to speak) they can hoist their own nonconformist colors of choice, given a waiver for the good Colonel. Sure, those other nonconformists may not garner public sentiment for their pink flamingoes or lawn gnomes, but they won't need it; instead, they'll be making their legal case for "waiver" based on the good Colonel's 'slide' treatment, and using that defense they will be in a better position to remain a thorn in the side of the peace-loving neighborhood. In short, to "let it slide" will bring nothing but future discord and strife to the suburban utopia that HOAs promote and protect.

Peter said...

HOA's are moronic? Not if you want to keep your property value. Try selling your house when your neighbor's lot is a junkyard. But, then,it's a matter of preference. To each her own.

And, I can see your point. In college, I wouldn't want to have joined a fraternity because of all of the artificial rules. Still, others freely joined the frat, and were glad they did. But then, any voluntary organization has rules. These organizations are free to set the rules, but if they discriminatory in the way they interpret the rules, then they leave themselves open to lawsuits. I mean, what if the guy was a draft-dodger, and put up an "I hate America Flag." Doesn't he have the right? In some way, he surely does. Live and let live. But the HOA doesn't want to go there. And, as a group, they are precisely expressing their freedom of association, a freedom that's under attack today.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Jonathan:

This kind of "wise" bureaucracy tends toward a "zero tolerance" mentality that leads to things like kids getting expelled from school for having a butter knife in their lunch kits, or a high school ROTC student being suspended for having an obviously phony rifle in his car (to be used for ROTC class itself). And once egos get involved, rarely do these things get corrected without a lot of screaming, yelling, and lawsuits.

True wisdom understands that there is room for flexibility and that there are exceptional circumstances. Bureaucracy tends toward a rubber-stamp view of the world. Even criminal sentences can be commuted or modified based on circumstances. The approach to rules based on the "law of the Medes and Persians" invites such stupidity.

Allowing an elderly veteran to fly a flag is not going to turn the place into a ghetto. What is likely to happen down the road is that Congress will pass a law making the U.S. flag and its display exempt from HOA rules. I don't agree with such a law, but that's simply where this is headed.

In trying to cling to their power (for whatever reason) in making this a hill to die on, they will ultimately have less authority thanks to the public outrage it will cause.

I think letting this one slide would cause a lot less strife than taking on a decorated WW2 vet over the issue of the U.S. flag at a time when emotions are raw because the country is in an undeclared war.

Maybe they're just hoping the old colonel will die soon and their property values will be protected from the scourge of nonconformist U.S. flags and the peace of the community can be protected by a voluntary gag on any and all causes of disagreement. A strange Utopia indeed!

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Peter:

You write:

"HOA's are moronic? Not if you want to keep your property value. Try selling your house when your neighbor's lot is a junkyard. But, then,it's a matter of preference. To each her own."

Wow. Property values are determined by the market. Using bureaucracies to try to control the market is seldom successful. And if the only thing keeping your neighbors from turning your neighborhood into a ghetto is a rule against it, well, that doesn't speak very well for your neighbors or your neighborhood.

I don't live under any HOA rules. My neighborhood is by no means a beautifully landscaped gated cookie-cutter community out of the cartoon movie "Over the Hedge" - and though some neighbors do a better job than others - it all works well without an HOA.

It's just my opinion, but I prefer freedom to voluntarily surrendering it in order to artificially preserve the property value. A lot of mischief has gone on in the past in the name of seeking to preserve property value - including racial discrimination.

The underlying philosophy of the HOA is that freedom does not work, that self-interest and peer pressure are not enough incentive to keep neighborhoods nice. It is a kind of Marxist philosophy that operates on a non-governmental soviet that has quasi-governmental power. That's just not for me. If it works for you, fine.

If your neighborhood must resort to threats to keep your trashy neighbors from putting their cars up on blocks, well, you can have that neighborhood. I'll take my little plot of relative freedom where the neighbors act out of voluntary self-interest instead of turning themselves into inmates.

And once again, even if an HOA is a good idea in your neighborhood where the neighbors would turn into barbarians and Philistines without the rules - I still think it was a stupid PR move for this particular HOA to show such inflexibility in this particular case.

Jonathan said...

Dear Father,

For the same reasons as the HOA, I am not moved by the cases of the pocket-knife-wielding boyscout or the JROTC cadet who unwittingly left his (albeit "ceremonial") rifle in plain view in his vehicle on school grounds. They got exactly what they deserved for their infraction.

Once you let it slide: a pocket knife becomes bowie knife; and some crazed student grabs a shotgun or AR-15 left out in another's car back window, and it's all over but the cryin'.

And, your example of clemency for an offender may be an example of a sovereign's power to "bend the rules" but even that operation has its own rules and protocols and even so it doesn't always work out well--ask Gov Huckabee.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Jonathan:

We are going to have to agree to disagree, but I think we have become a sad people who have long since traded freedom for temporary (and illusory) security - contrary to Franklin's wise counsel.

In spite of all the gun control laws, for example, we still have gun crimes. Even more "zero tolerance" laws and regulations would not have prevented Columbine. How many laws and rules were already broken on that day? Would a zero-tolerance policy on sharpened pencils have saved a single life? If anything, the restrictions cost lives, as the faculty were disarmed by those same do-gooder zero-tolerance rules. More stupidity, good intentions notwithstanding.

Our founders would be astounded, no, horrified, to see how many laws, restrictions, rules, regulations, and bureaucracies we live under today in the name of "safety." And of course, the same mentality is why we have a healthcare bill being proposed that threatens to jail people for not having health insurance. After all, where does it all stop? Maybe we need to put people in jail for library infractions. After all, keeping Catcher in the Rye three days past due is just a slippery slope away from spiriting the Oxford English Dictionary off to Brazil.

I personally do not feel safer that 2 inch Swiss Army knives and ladies' nail files are confiscated when I go to the New Orleans Insectarium (which is federal property). I think it just proves what a cowardly and pathetic people we have become. I hope I live to see the day when Americans grow their spines again.

Some people like the nanny state, others don't. I think the HOA is a quasi-governmental version of Nanny. I personally do not want a bureaucrat to wipe my nose for me and tell me what time to go to bed. You can keep it.

Peter said...

People voluntarily follow rules, in this case,agreed upon zoning laws. My guess is that even your house is under certain zoning restrictions, right? Marxist? Non-government Soviet? That's comical. By your standards, other such Soviet-style groups of inmates would include every monastery, all time-share owners, and the National Football League. Senior citizens, for instance, sometimes choose to live in neighborhoods that have early curfews. Because you would choose differently doesn't mean that others should be governed by your choice. But again, it is a matter of freedom. You're free to live where you do, and I'm free to live in a neighborhood that has agreed upon restrictions, including rules against those would park their junked cars in their front yard. (My guess, again, is that you can't leave junked cars on your street either, or a toilet, and that that's covered by city laws). And, I don't see how this is "artificially" preserving property value. It's a common agreement among free citizens. What's the problem? You have your place, and I have mine.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Peter:

I defend your right to surrender your rights to an HOA. Absolutely.

I hope you defend my right not to live under one, and to think the whole concept is stupid and un-American.

We do have zoning laws, not to mention Social Security, Medicare, the Federal Reserve, and the income tax - all of which are inimical to the U.S. Constitution and are Marxist in their philosophy. I oppose all of them. But I live under them out of compulsion. I find it perplexing why anyone would willingly add another level of (pseudo-governmental) bureaucracy and choose to be told they can't put up a fence, a Christmas decoration, or a flag pole on their own property.

But more power to you!

Peter said...

What do you think of monasteries? Doesn't Jerry Neyrey surrender his rights? Of course, he or I, at any time, could move. Of course, our choices are not of the same degree, but they are choices nevertheless. Again, what about the condo crowd, the senior citizens who want to live quietly? Isn't choosing a certain amount a regulation also a freedom. I mean, if I choose a private/religious school, I am choosing regulation in the name of my freedom. When I signed the contract, I did so because that is excactly what I wanted. That is freedom. So, it's not surrendering our rights, it's choosing a way of life. Again, I respect your decision. I didn't want to be in a frat, and I don't like rules in general, or people telling me what to do. In my neighborhood, I have no onerous obligations. I advertise Christ at Christmas. Really, I'm a bit perplexed, because I thought that such small, free associtians would fit into your thinking that smaller, self-governing, autonomous communities are better.
But, again, my guess is that we are pretty close on this. Peace.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Peter:

Once again, I would never tell people they can't surrender their freedom to fly the U.S. flag. You are absolutely right that people make such choices all the time.

My points are these:

1) This was a stupid PR move to choose to stand between a decorated veteran and his flag. I think it reflects a rigid foolishness that is likely a mask of pettiness and jealousy. Yes, the HOA is right. But sometimes you can be very right and be very foolish.

2) Home Owners Associations often feature petty and simply ridiculous rules - the kinds of things that bureaucrats and control freaks love to enforce.

Furthermore, the restrictions of HOAs are not for the sake of religious devotion, nor for the sake of taking care of those less fortunate, nor for academic ideals, nor even for the sake of military discipline - but really for a rather openly self-serving purpose.

Again, if people want to live that way, it is their choice. You are right that I'd rather see people voluntarily give up their own freedom rather than using the power of the state to take mine.

There is something terribly pathetic about the attitude that banning an old war hero's flag will protect everybody's property value. I doubt that such concern over property value was his motivation for serving in the military. But hey, I guess you have to keep the riffraff (you know, like nonconformist patriotic recipients of the Medal of Honor) from running amok. I'm sure the guy is a menace to the community.

I guess here in my neck of the woods, we aren't quite so conformist. We have a little more of a laissez-faire attitude. It is not uncommon around here to see a grown man dressed in a pirate outfit, or someone else carrying a chicken under his arm, or women dressed in fairy wings, or sometimes even a guy in clericals riding a bicycle when it is 90 degrees out. Nobody bats an eye.

And if one of my neighbors wants to fly a U.S. flag, a Confederate flag, a Bourbon French flag, or an LSU flag - that's really just fine by me. If property values in Indiana are decreased by such outrageous things as U.S. flags, you have an odd economy indeed. And you are welcome to it! :-)


Peter said...

I am not a conformist. I choose to live in a neighborhood where you can have flags, but not litter your lawn with signs. This is not outwardly imposed, but it is a free choice. Our own HOA is not petty and ridiculous. And, I love New Orleans, too. Peace.