Daily Archives: February 20, 2010

Here’s a no-brainer budget saver

Greenwich Police Department adds four officers to anti-drug unit. If, as is obvious, they aren’t needed elsewhere, then why not fire them now and save $500,000 a year plus millions in future pension costs?

Last year, Ridberg focused many of the unit’s efforts on prescription drug offenses, which he said is less common and thus netted fewer arrests. But this year, with the focus on illegal drugs, Ridberg said he expects the numbers to continue on an uptick as the year progresses.

The more work police put in to drug enforcement, the more arrests that will result due to how pervasive narcotics are in society, Ridberg said.

“The drug problem in the community will never be solved without consumers deciding they don’t want to do drugs anymore,” Ridberg said.

Well, the drug-consuming public isn’t going to change its mind so let’s forget that. As for shifting our police department’s attention from prescribed to illegal drugs, can Chief Ridberg even begin to appreciate the humor in that? Oxycontin good, heroin, father of Oxycontin, bad? The sooner we give up our drug war, the better. Until then, let’s take advantage of our Chief’s inadvertant revelation and fire a bunch of them.

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Greenwich Time : We’re against cellphone towers but don’t dare say why

The brave editorialists at Greenwich Time, speaking truth to power, come out strongly today against placing cellphone towers near schools. Fine,but wouldn’t you like to know why, or on what facts they base their opposition to such siting? Well they won’t tell you, because they have no facts to support their position. I’d prefer they admit that and go on with their argument anyway, rather than just ignore the issue entirely. An entirely worthless editorial that says nothing.

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I remember, 30 years ago, Howard Stern saying these folks had weak ankles and couldn’t skate

He was wrong. Shani Davis wins silver medal in speed skating

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Does this mean anything?

U.S. bank lending falls at “fastest rate in history”. I’m no economist so I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound promising.

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LA Times discovers that big houses are cutting their prices

Including Leona’s here in Greenwich. They missed the latest $5 million cut, but they get the point.

Eisenberg has the listing of a home that tops 14,000 square feet with a 3,500-square-foot detached guesthouse nestled on more than an acre of land — and an asking price that has been reduced by about half to $10.8 million. Its rooftop tennis court has city-to-ocean views, and the ballroom can hold 200 people.

“I listed it for this seller a few years ago in a different market,” said Eisenberg, who has been selling real estate for 15 years. “Quite simply, there was a time that Sunset Strip showplaces were garnering close to $2,000 a foot.”

That figure has dropped to probably $800 today, he said.

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Here’s a surprise – U2 guitarist discovers that “Green” means “NIMBY”

After huge expense, an eco-sounding homeowner discovers that his Malibu neighbors just don’t want houses near them. I’m shocked.

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Byram restaurant closes – owner blames Susie

"At least I can slurp soup!"

“That bitch never reported that Regis or Cathy was here” wailed owner Sam Harris  to FWIW’s Scusie. “I don’t know how much she’s paid by Valbella’s  Mafia owners to report those god damned sightings, but you’d think she’d take pity on a small fry like me. At the least, I want back the fifteen bucks a week I paid her.”

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All the News we want you to know

The Wall Street Journal was out this morning with an article covering a judge’s decision that J.P. Morgan was screwing its own client. That client happens to be a rather large investor in the New York Times, Carlos Slim.

In a ruling unveiled late last month in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Judge Jed Rakoff said the New York bank structured the deal so it would have allowed a major competitor of Cablevisión to gain confidential information about the company, which is Mexico’s largest cable-television operator.

That competitor, Telmex Internacional SAB, is owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, who has been fighting off Cablevisión’s advances on the Telmex telephone monopoly. Cablevisión itself is a unit of Grupo Televisa SAB, Mexico’s largest media giant. The dispute amounts to one of the year’s first showdowns between two of the country’s most powerful companies.

[snip]

“J.P. Morgan has been our banker for more than 20 years,” said Alfonso de Angoitia, executive vice president of Grupo Televisa, the largest shareholder of Cablevisión, and the largest Spanish-language broadcaster. “We feel betrayed.”

So why isn’t the betrayal of a client by J.P. Morgan newsworthy to the New York Times? This guy says it’s because Slim is made to look like a chump for trusting Morgan, and neither he nor the paper he owns want that known. These days, the Times seems determined to print only what it is forced to print, weeks after real stories have become impossible for it to ignore longer. Hardly a model for cutting-edge reporting, I should think, but when editorial decisions are based on ideological and business justifications, not too surprising.

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The New York Times – 40 years behind

Travel article here on Vieques, Puerto Rico. It sounds okay, but not nearly the place it was in 1970 when, as young lads of 16, my best friend Teddy Sumner and I found our way there while exploring on our own. We were just looking for a place to camp and snorkel but when we asked directions the locals, seeing we were gringos, directed us to the beach that served as the demarcation line between the U.S. Navy’s bombardment range and a semi-permanent protesters’ camp.

So, while we really were just there to check out the diving, we ended up with a bunch of Quakers and other types, being filmed by U.S. Marshalls in helicopters. Somewhere in Washington, I presume, Teddy and I are still preserved on film as dangerous radicals instead of two kids misdirected to a protest site. The island was quite nice, by the way and, despite the bombing range, quiet and rural. I may go back, if I’m not barred by some terrorist screen.

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A discouraging look at the Afghan army

It’s from the New York Times, but the reporters they have out in the fighting seem pretty solid types so I expect this is accurate. Sounds like it’s the officer class that is lacking, more than the Afghan soldiers themselves. These people did defeat the Russians (and the English and Alexander the Great and everyone who’s ever messed with them) so presumably they can fight. But they aren’t being led.

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So how we doin’?

Twelve houses have both gone to contract and sold this year and while that’s not a huge data base, it is manageable for a non-spread sheet guy like myself to analyze. Sales price to assessment is too limited, I found, because many of the houses either had no assessment or didn’t reflect the renovation/construction put into them. 

So for now, I just pulled their histories and compared final sales price to original ask price. That ratio is 71%, so it seems we still have sellers who are more optimistic than market reality permits.

Sales in Percentage classes:

90% + 2

80% + 2

70% + 1

60% + 4

50% + 3

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Breaking news from 60 B.C.

Can't even afford clothes!

Cash-strapped Pompey barred from selling players.

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Put dogs in the teachers’ lounge too

50-year-old, bi-polar crack addict Greenwich High substitute  teacher arrested on prostitution charges in Norwalk. That’s quite a headline.

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Real Spies

Just in time for the Mossad/Dubai/Fatah assassination plot, the WSJ has an article up on five books detailing British trickery during WWII. They all sound interesting, but here are two:

2. The Double-Cross System in the War of 1939 to 1945

By J.C. Masterman
Yale, 1972

J.C. Masterman was an Oxford don who, during World War II, chaired the secret Twenty Committee—20 is XX in Roman numerals, but XX is also a “double cross.” The group coordinated false information fed to German intelligence through Nazi spies who had been “turned.” Masterman waited nearly three decades after the war’s end to publish his account of how the committee and more generally the British Security Service (also known as MI5) actively ran and controlled agents of the German espionage service, but his book caused a sensation nonetheless. It was the first great, unsanctioned breach in the wall of British wartime secrecy. As an operating handbook of astonishingly successful deception, “The Double-Cross System” is without peer. But some of Masterman’s colleagues never spoke to him again for having exposed their work.

3. The Man Who Never Was

By Ewen Montagu
Lippincott, 1953

Operation Mincemeat, designed to divert German attention away from the Allies’ impending invasion of Sicily in 1943, involved planting false papers on a genuine corpse outfitted to be a British Royal Marine, “Maj. William Martin.” The body was dropped in the ocean off the coast of Spain; when it washed ashore, the Germans soon discovered what seemed to be plans for an invasion of Greece and Sardinia. Mincemeat worked perfectly—the Nazis took the poisoned bait and rushed to bolster their Greek defenses. A novel published soon after World War II told the tale of the operation, but readers had no idea how close to the truth the improbable story was until the appearance a few years later of “The Man Who Never Was.” Lawyer Ewen Montagu, who had been the naval-intelligence representative on the Twenty Committee during the war, was given official permission to write the book after a reporter began digging for the half-buried facts in the fictional version. Montagu produced a genuine wartime thriller.

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NPR (!) airs a rational story on nuclear power

Not too surprising because it’s an interview conducted by Scott Simon, NPR’s best news host, I think. Simon interviews Stewart Brand, my generation’s hero for his Whole Earth catalogues and asks tough questions as Brand explains how he went from a fierce opponent of nuclear power to a strong advocate. The audio link won’t be posted until noon, but if you missed the show, it’s well worth clicking here later in the day.

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Your name is destiny

Guide him down, Penny!

An unlicensed 23-year-old makes unauthorized landing at LAX.

The rogue touchdown by the 23-year-old pilot, identified by police as Skye Turner, set off security alerts before he was arrested and charged with stealing the Cirrus SR22, according to federal aviation and law-enforcement officials.

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Yoo and Bybee lynch mob delayed for at least a week

The two lawyers accused on writing “torture memos” for the Bush administration have been cleared of professional misconduct but Democrats still want blood. Vermont’s Patrick Lehay, for instance, has scheduled a hearing next week. But according to this legal scholar, the real question is why the lawyers were ever pursued in the first place.

The Office of Professional Responsibility, as the Washington Post report notes, had doggedly pursued John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who as Justice Department lawyers authored memos providing advice and direction on enhanced interrrogation methods including waterboarding.

In a Friday information dump (which tells you it does not aid the cause of the administration and those seeking Yoo’s and Bybee’s punishment), we got a glimpse at two drafts of OPR’s report, its final report, and then the recommendation of David Margolis, a career lawyer and Associate Deputy Attorney General.

Margolis’s report is 69 pages long. Margolis essentially shreds the work of OPR, finding no basis for a referral of professional misconduct for either lawyer.

At times the work of OPR itself seems to have violated the professional standards it was charged with enforcing. Sloppiness abounds. Margolis finds, for example, that OPR applied the wrong legal standard, the “preponderance of evidence” rather than the more stringent clear and convincing evidence” standard that state bar proceedings would utilize. (p. 11) Margolis also concludes that OPR’s findings ”do not identify violation of a specific bar rule.” ( p. 12) Margolis further notes that OPR’s analysis and legal standard shifted from draft to draft. (pp.13, 15-16)Margolis explains that OPR was counseled to consider “the conduct of Yoo and Bybee in light of circumstances that then existed.

Interestingly, Margolis reveals that OPR was told to consider that Yoo and Bybee rendered advice when “American lives were particularly at risk at the time.” (p. 16) OPR didn’t do so. Bybee’s successor assistant attorney Jack Goldsmith, who withdrew one of the memos at issue and was subsequently critical of Bush era interrogation polices, made an unsolicited submission urging that OPR should be ”exercis[ing] great caution when assessing the professional responsibility of executive branch attorneys who act in time of national security crisis. Any standard that would have landed Robert Jackson [famed Nuremberg prosecutor and Supreme Court Justice] in trouble cannot be the right standard.”

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Mossad, Dubai and the new world of surveillance

Interesting article in yesterday’s WSJ from  guy who would seem to know what he’s talking about. Until reading this, I had believed another commentator was right and that the assassination was too careless to have been Mossad’s work, but apparently, they were surprised by Dubai’s technological prowess.

But the real, and so far unappreciated, achievement in this affair belongs to the Dubai police, who were able to integrate all the evidence at their disposal into one clear picture and do so with remarkable speed.

Whoever sent the hit squad to Dubai was not aware that the police and security services had such advanced capabilities at the ready. The investigators managed to put together still and video shots taken in seven different locations and place them on a single timeline together with the cellphone records of the individuals in the footage. Doing this requires sharp analysis and advanced computer skills, and computerized intelligence systems able to cross check information from various sources.

How did the Dubai police manage all this? Did they have help? For now, it remains a mystery. But in any case, misjudging the ability of the Dubai authorities so spectacularly is evidence of a serious intelligence failure on the part of the organization that sent out the squad.

UPDATE: On the other hand, the arrest and extradition back to Dubai of two Fatah members does suggest the possibility that this was a Hamas-Fatah fight.

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Oh! Well I guess if you have me on tape, maybe I did say it

Obama’s latest fine appointment caught in a lie:

President Barack Obama’s new Islamic envoy, Rashad Hussain, changed course Friday – admitting he made sharply critical statements about a U.S. terror prosecution against a Muslim professor after initially saying he had no recollection of making such comments.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0210/33210.html#ixzz0g3qAiOq8

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