Daily Archives: April 13, 2014

They promised us Smart Diplomacy™ – we got bupkis

No texting!

No texting!

As Putin swallows Eastern Europe, US Ambassador urges UN to ban texting while driving.

What’s (almost) amusing about our current administration’s incompetence and helplessness (and its grasp of priorities) is that this crowd ridiculed the naive, simpleton ideas of conservatives and promised to bring professionalism into the State Department.

Whoo boy.


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This probably won’t help your daughter but it sure as hell jeopardizes your college-bound son

Waiting for your boy with sharpened knives

Waiting for your boy with sharpened knives

By a vote of 140-0, the Connecticut House has just passed an Act Concerning Sexual Assault and Partner Violence on Campus , and the state Senate is expected to whoop it through in the coming days. There’s not much new here, it’s just an opportunity for our representatives to look as though they’re doing something on the issue of the day, but this is a good time to remind your male children headed for college that they are walking targets and are in serious danger of having their lives permanently marred, even ruined, should they engage in sex on campus. Here’s why: “sexual assault” is now not limited to rape and violence; it also includes sexual contact (not just intercourse) with a person incapable of giving her consent and a girl with alcohol in her system is deemed incapable of giving such consent.

Connecticut law, like that of many states, deems males to be 100% culpable for all sexual activity they engage in under the influence of alcohol, while woman are not – indeed, they are deemed incapable of consenting to sexual activity if they are under the influence, and any such activity by a drunk girl and her boyfriend is, at her option, at least a grade B misdemeanor and can quickly escalate into a felony. The scenario your male child should understand is that if he meets a girl at a party and they drink, then go back to her dorm room to finish the evening, if the next morning she decides that she really hadn’t want to have sex after all, she can complain and bingo – he’s guilty. Thrown out of school, branded a sex offender on his permanent college records and quite possibly referred to the police for criminal prosecution.

Connecticut’s law allows for these complaints of “intimate partner violence” to be filed anonymously, too, and around the country there are tales emerging of Kafkaesque nightmares, where males are brought up on charges brought by anonymous accusers, with no right to know their identity,  question them or even see evidence that might reveal the identity of the accuser. Connecticut’s new law just made this explicit.

I have two daughters; I also have a son. These days, I’d be reluctant as hell to see him head to the modern university.


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Poor ol’ doggies


Kosher Dog

Kosher Dog

Observant Jews prepare their homes for Passover, and that means clearing out non-kosher foods for Fido.

When it comes to the annual celebration, some observant pet owners don’t only avoid eating grains and leavened breads, known as chametz, themselves; they also have Fido and Fluffy abide by the dietary restrictions to keep their homes holy.

For the past 20 years, Star-K, a kosher certification agency, has been publishing an annual list of Passover-friendly pet foods. The brands on the list aren’t necessarily kosher, but they are Passover-friendly in that they are free of wheat and rice.

For some, tweaking their pets’ diet is too much hassle, and they go for other options.

“Depending on how strict you are, some people might board their pet for a week,” says Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen, the director of the Center for Jewish Living at the Jewish Community Center on the Upper West Side.

Others ceremoniously “sell” their pet’s food to a nonobservant friend for Passover. That way, Cohen explains, “the food doesn’t belong to you, it just lives in your house.”

That’s what Rikki Davidson, 29, plans to do. Davidson, who lives on the Upper West side with her husband, her son and her 7-year-old Maltese, Zoe, doesn’t want to be wasteful, so she plans to sell Zoe’s favorite treat, Nutri Dent, to a nonobserver and keep it in their house. After the holiday, she’ll buy it back. The dog’s regular kibble isn’t an issue.

“Zoe happens to be on a grain-free dog food,” Davidson explains.

Things aren’t so convenient for Gessner and Marcy.

“I was hoping I would get away with feeding her dog food, but [my rabbi] wants to err on the side of caution, so we’re going to be cooking for her,” says Gessner.

She plans to feed Marcy “human food,” which will include organic kosher meat and apples, instead of her typical diet of Orijen kibble. The pup will also have to forego her favorite treats, Wagatha’s biscuits and chewy bully sticks.

“It’s going to be hard, though, because she loves to chew,” says Gessner. “But I’m handmaking her breakfast and dinner, so she’ll survive.”

I absolutely get this – an observant home should be pure throughout, but as someone outside this tradition, I find it kind of cool, and amusing, although perhaps not so funny for the dog. What the heck, it’s just for a week and as noted by the dog lover above, they’ll survive.


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Do it here, do it now


Short shrift

Short shrift

Palm Beach dissolves its planning & zoning commission, warns architectural review board members they’re next.

By Aleese Kopf

Daily News Staff Writer

The Architectural Commission needs to change its attitude or it could receive the same fate as two town boards that were dissolved of their members this week, the Town Council warned Tuesday.

The council dismissed 20 volunteer members of the Landmarks Preservation and Planning & Zoning commissions at Tuesday’s meeting. Earlier in the meeting, they gave the Architectural Commission its last warning.

Council members said they’re getting numerous complaints of the Architectural Commission’s “unfriendliness” and lack of constructive feedback, but they did not identify who is being criticized. Commissioners also are forgetting their guidelines and are rude to applicants at times, they said.

“Certain members seem to think that they’re there to insert their personal preferences as to what should be approved and what shouldn’t be approved without real regard to the requirements,” said President Pro Tem Bill Diamond. “I attend practically every ARCOM meeting, and when I hear someone say they don’t ‘like’ this project, and they don’t define why they don’t like it, I get very upset.”

To clarify its role, Town Attorney John Randolph has attended several recent ARCOM meetings to relay the council’s expectations and explain the criteria for reviewing projects.

He told Commissioner Henry Homes III in February: “With all due respect, Mr. Homes, I don’t think ‘I do not like it’ is a reason to defer or disapprove of something. In the event of disapproval, you are required to state those criteria which it doesn’t meet. When you defer an application, I believe you should give some guidance as to criteria you don’t feel are being met.”

Respect required

Mayor Gail Coniglio said she’s troubled by the antagonistic atmosphere on the commission and the rudeness of members’ feedback to applicants.

Several commissioners have recently compared applicants’ designs to airports, hotels, commercial buildings, offices and medieval castles.

“To say someone’s architecture looks like an airport hangar … it hurts, not only the community, but the applicant, and it sets up a very controversial and contentious desk,” Coniglio said. “We’ve had this conversation so many times. With a human being, you have to be polite, you must be respectful, you must give consideration to (those who) make presentations to you.”

Commissioners also have told architects that their designs look like they belong in Boca Raton, Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and other nearby communities, which President Robert Wildrick said is “inappropriate.”

Architectural Commission Vice Chairman Nikita Zukov, who listened to the council reprimand Tuesday, said he agrees with council members and the mayor about the commission’s attitude and behavior.

“Every architect comes to me or I go to their office to review their submissions before the meeting,” he said. “They all tell me their grievances with ARCOM.”

Zukov said he’s discussed how to address architects and applicants with commissioners.

“The job of this commission is to review what somebody else submitted,” he told them. “These are equal architects or residents to you. They’re not your students. They should not be preached to or talked down to. You have no right to do that. You have to give your opinion on what’s best for the town, not what you like.”

The irony is that here in Greenwich, it’s even worse: we’ve ceded control of our property to a handful of staffers, not citizen volunteers, and no one in town government has the balls to tell them to shape up. Perhaps tossing out the planning and zoning commission members would send the right signal.



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The freedom of citizens and the progressives’ war against it

Floyd Abrams, dean of First Amendment law (and quite the liberal, in the classical sense) is disturbed by the left’s attempt to transform the individual’s rights recognized by our constitution into a collective one.

What seems to me most surprising and disturbing about the [McCutcheon v. FEC ] ruling, though, is not to be found in the predictably much assaulted (and I believe sound) majority opinion but in the dissent.  For there, for the first time, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan join with Justice Stephen Breyer’s minimization of long-recognized  and well-established First Amendment interests by maintaining that, after all, the side seeking to overcome those interests had at least as strong a First Amendment argument on its side.  In McCutcheon, that argument is based on the notion that the avoidance of whatever is defined as “corruption” strengthens the First Amendment.  With the First Amendment thus placed in some sort of supposed equipoise (since “First Amendment interests lie on both sides of the legal equation”) the case becomes an easy one.  It is, in my view, but in a different direction.

In his dissenting opinion in McCutcheon, Breyer takes that a step further, concluding that “the First Amendment advances not only the individual’s right to engage in political speech, but also the public’s interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters.”  (emphasis in original).  The First Amendment, he maintains, must be understood as promoting “a government where the laws reflect the very thoughts, views, ideas and sentiments, the expression of which the First Amendment protects.”

…[W]hat … does Justice Breyer mean by “collective speech?” In his opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts persuasively objects to relying on the “generalized conception of the public good” set forth in the Breyer dissent, taking issue with the very notion of “collective speech” as being contrary to “the whole point of the First Amendment” of not permitting the will of the majority to carry the day by preventing speech of which it disapproved.

…. But at least on this issue, only one side believes that the best protection for democracy is more rather than less speech.  That is a disturbing and recurring reality.

Those who object to the submersion of an individual’s right of free speech into an undifferentiated soup of a “collective right” might also look at what’s happening to our Second Amendment. The (retired, thank God) Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is out with a book on suggested changes to our constitution; it’s full of ways to strengthen the hand of the central government at the expense of individuals and state governments, naturally, but it’s his proposed change to the Second Amendment that most clearly illuminates his intentions:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

Four out of nine Supreme Court justices want to interpret the First Amendment as a right subservient to the collective good of the community and I suspect those same four would agree with Justice Steven’s proposal. After that, the Fifth? Surely, the collective good of the people trumps the right of a defendant to refuse to help the police with their inquiries.

And so on, right down the line.


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