Daily Archives: December 13, 2012

None (Liberals won’t anyway) dare call it a police state

U.S. citizens’ now under surveillance of federal government. All U.S. citizens.

The rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation.

Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited. Data about Americans “reasonably believed to constitute terrorism information” may be permanently retained.

The changes also allow databases of U.S. civilian information to be given to foreign governments for analysis of their own. In effect, U.S. and foreign governments would be using the information to look for clues that people might commit future crimes.

“It’s breathtaking” in its scope, said a former senior administration official familiar with the White House debate.

 

The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution says that searches of “persons, houses, papers and effects” shouldn’t be conducted without “probable cause” that a crime has been committed. But that doesn’t cover records the government creates in the normal course of business with citizens.

Congress specifically sought to prevent government agents from rifling through government files indiscriminately when it passed the Federal Privacy Act in 1974. The act prohibits government agencies from sharing data with each other for purposes that aren’t “compatible” with the reason the data were originally collected.

But the Federal Privacy Act allows agencies to exempt themselves from many requirements by placing notices in the Federal Register, the government’s daily publication of proposed rules. In practice, these privacy-act notices are rarely contested by government watchdogs or members of the public. “All you have to do is publish a notice in the Federal Register and you can do whatever you want,” says Robert Gellman, a privacy consultant who advises agencies on how to comply with the Privacy Act.

As a result, the National Counterterrorism Center program’s opponents within the administration—led by Ms. Callahan of Homeland Security—couldn’t argue that the program would violate the law. Instead, they were left to question whether the rules were good policy.

Under the new rules issued in March, the National Counterterrorism Center, known as NCTC, can obtain almost any database the government collects that it says is “reasonably believed” to contain “terrorism information.” The list could potentially include almost any government database, from financial forms submitted by people seeking federally backed mortgages to the health records of people who sought treatment at Veterans Administration hospitals.

Previous government proposals to scrutinize massive amounts of data about innocent people have caused an uproar. In 2002, the Pentagon’s research arm proposed a program called Total Information Awareness that sought to analyze both public and private databases for terror clues. It would have been far broader than the NCTC’s current program, examining many nongovernmental pools of data as well.

“If terrorist organizations are going to plan and execute attacks against the United States, their people must engage in transactions and they will leave signatures,” the program’s promoter, Admiral John Poindexter, said at the time. “We must be able to pick this signal out of the noise.”

Adm. Poindexter’s plans drew fire from across the political spectrum over the privacy implications of sorting through every single document available about U.S. citizens. Conservative columnist William Safire called the plan a “supersnoop’s dream.” Liberal columnist Molly Ivins suggested it could be akin to fascism. Congress eventually defunded the program.

Where’s Dollar Bill and his lickspittle crew on all this? Hiding.

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One tiny mistake gets blown all out of proportion

Colored Congressman apologizes for using the word “midget” on House floor.

The Georgia Democrat used the word — offensive to some, who prefer the term “little people” to describe those with dwarfism, he noted today — in a metaphor about the Michigan labor situation in which he made a point about an unfair matchup. “What happens when you put a giant with a midget in a cage fight?” he asked rhetorically.

Today, he said he has since learned that the language is “no longer socially acceptable,” much like the “n-word,” which he said used to be widely used but is no longer. “It was out of ignorance, not spite or hatred,” he said. “I will never use that term again.”

He called it a “learning moment.”

Good lord, what will the meddlers do next – ban loud TV commercials?

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You know that Democrat sob song about children brought here as illegal immigrants and who now deserve citizenship?

Here’s one now: Alien jailed for hiding videocam in restaurant bathroom.

STAMFORD — A former Subway worker was sentenced to serve a year in prison for hiding a video camera under a bathroom sink in the Noroton Heights store and filming patrons.

Marco Dias 22, of Bridgeport, was sentenced by Judge Richard Comerford Wednesday afternoon after he pleaded guilty to a voyeurism charge.

Police investigators discovered the camera was designed to look like a memory drive, the affidavit said.

Detectives then found a video file that showed Dias setting the camera up in the bathroom; police released a photo from that video file.

They also found films of two men and a woman using the toilet.

“It appears from the angle that this subject had set up the camera that he is more interested in seeing the genitalia of male subject, which may include minor children as well as adults,” the affidavit states.

After determining Dias has been in the country illegally for 12 years, Darien police contacted the U.S. Immigration Service, which placed a detainer on him.

Apparently Mr. Dias won’t be attending college at taxpayers’ expense. Our loss.

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Nothing is too small for our federal government to worry about

As of January 1st, it will be a violation of federal law to run a television ad louder than the show it appears on. This is what our bureaucrats spend their time and our money on? Can you imagine how many people were paid to draft this regulation and then field, summarize and evaluate a year’s worth of comments from all those affected and who claimed to be affected?  My loopy grandmother used to insist that there be a law like this; she also wanted one that penalized the use of telephone rings during the shows themselves because they confused her when she picked up the phone and found no one there.

Deafness and, later, leukemia quieted Granny’s complaints but it seems her ghost has moved permanently into Washington, where it can cure every little woe of life.

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Mendacity has consequences

Obama accepts Susan Rice’s withdrawal from consideration as Secretary of State. First glimmer of good news since the election.

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Time to trundle Mama off to the Witherell and sell the house out from under her

Granny's kitchen

Granny’s kitchen

The low end market – under $1 million is hot – no inventory to speak of and lots of buyers, which means almost anything will sell, in any condition.

23 Mianus and 18 Annjim, $979,000 and $895,000, respectively, both report contracts today and with all respect to the late owner of AnnJim, a jurist I admired, his house was, to use a technical real estate term, a real POS. Gone in nine days nonetheless, as is everything in this category. So if an adorable senior citizen in your family is still occupying her bungalow, tying up capital that rightfully should be yours, now’s the time to get her out of there.

In another price range, but the Riverside equivalent of “low end”, 26 Meadow Road finally reports a contract. It started at $2.495, far too high for this house (that’s not just my opinion, it was the market’s judgement) but once it was marked down to $1.999 it found a buyer. I really liked this house and its neighborhood, but $2 1/2 million was stretching it.

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Sale prices reported

 

85 Zaccheus Mead (September contract) sold for full asking price, $2.795. Two great acres on Zaccheus Mead? I’d describe this deal as one of those where you buy the land and get a perfectly good house for free. Not bad at all.

 

 

38 Meadowbank

38 Meadowbank

For even more money, you could have bought 38 Meadowbank Road in Old Greenwich for $2.9 million. While I liked this house, its quirky layout that reflected a series of additions over the years meant it didn’t work for several of my clients. Of course, that was back when the owners were asking $3.6, and there were better options available. At $2.9, and assuming you were willing to pay a premium to live near the beach, this might have been a reasonable price. Maybe.

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Either way, the self-employed and small businesses are screwed

Aetna CEO predicts a 50%-100% increase in health insurance premiums as ObamaCare kicks in, the CBO estimates the increase to be “only” 10%-13%. I’ve never known a government program to come in anywhere close to budget so I’d bet the Aetna executive is right. If you’re one the unlucky Americans not eligible for a subsidy from taxpayers, and 43% of us  – that’s just about everyone who pays federal taxes – are, then you’re not gonna’ love it.

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The soft bigotry of low expectations

We play hockey, not polo but otherwise we're just as good, eh?

Ja sure, we play hockey, not polo but otherwise we’re just as good, you betcha!

New Greenwich Avenue store purports to be “the Swedish Ralph Lauren”.

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If you have to ask the price …

I can't believe it!

I can’t believe it!

But I’ll tell you anyway: Brother Gideon’s brought 135 Field Point Circle in Belle Haven to market @ a cool $12 million. Occasional water glimpses only, but 2 1/2 acres in perhaps the most prominent location in Belle Haven, so people will see your house and even better, understand your significance to the world. You could be all in for perhaps $20 million here with your new maxi-pad and still be okay so far as values go – land values, that is.

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Nathaniel Witherell – our next fiscal disaster

We are not amused

We are not amused

Balzac penned the following and it’d be too bad if it were buried in the comments section:

Is anyone else puzzled by the Town committing another $2.4 million to the previous $3.6 million and $22.8 million to rebuild the Witherell nursing home?
This project alone consumes 10% of our Town debt limit for 20 years. There are 169 towns in Connecticut. 168 of them have concluded that owning a nursing home is not a municipal government function. On the other hand, Greenwich has concluded by a 90%-10% vote at the RTM that it is an absolute necessity. Meanwhile management projects to require $20 million in town subsidy over the next 20 years, and more if the private fundraising falls short of their target of $9.3 million (amount raised in the last 2 years: $250,000). Oh, and if management’s projection of Medicaid reimbursements is off by 1% annually over the next 27 years, that will cost the town another $50 million. Anybody want to bet on that? 2% is $100 million. You will pay this bill. The real beneficiaries of the town subsidy ($1 million this year, $2 million next)  are the Teamsters, thru the above-market subsidy to their wages (78% above prevailing).[emphasis added] The payroll above prevailing is $1.8 million annually. Is there another Teamsters-represented nursing home in the state? On the planet? Apparently the taxpayer must shoulder this forever, and be happy to do so.

This lack of vision will end badly, in a decade or so, when the losses become too large, the burden finally too much for the taxpayer (who cares about him, the poor shlub?). Then and only then, will the Town make the decision that 168 Towns came to long ago……

Selectman Drew Marzullo’s on the wrong side of this issue, but perhaps a smart boxing about his ears will bring him around.

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Out of town broker

Cos Cob natives relax before snowplow season

Cos Cob natives relax before snowplow season

There’s a land listing in Riverside on the open house tour today and I’ll go see it: 101 Indian Head Road, or “Red Top”, for those who remember old street names. Although it’s co-listed with Riverside’s own Randy Kelleher, I’ve got to believe it was the Stamford broker who penned this:

RARE OPPORTUNITY. FIRST TIME ON MARKET. A FABULOUS OVERSIZED LEVEL PROPERTY ON PRIVATE DEAD END ROAD OFF INDIAN HEAD. FAR POTENTIAL OVER 8000 SQ FT. HOUSE SOLD AS IS BUT HAS THE “BONES” TO UPGRADE AND ENJOY YEARS OF QUIET LIVING IN A SPECIAL PLACE. FABULOUS BACKYARD WITH INGROUND POOL. COMMON AREA PARCEL ACROSS THE STREET. ALT ADDRESS IS 26 RED TOP ROAD.

Randy would know that there are no “above-ground pools” anywhere in town except Byram and, most famously, Cos Cob, and so would never waste precious listing space on such a superfluous distinction.

And from the “we get results department”, 78 Doubling Road, which just yesterday I guessed was ripe for a price discount, has dropped to $6.1 million today, down from its new Relocation owner’s opening of $6.5 and down considerably from its 2007 purchase price of $8.6. If you can pick this up in the $5s, and it appears you can, that’s probably pretty good.

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