Daily Archives: August 28, 2015

More potential Starbucks employees

They make enough noise so that you might think they are, but actually they're less than 3% of the population

They make enough noise so that you might think they are, but actually they’re less than 3% of the population

University of Tennessee tells students, professors to stop using offensive terms like “she” and “he”.

The University of Tennessee has told its staff and students to stop calling each other ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘him’ and ‘her’ – and to start referring to one another with terms like ‘xe’, ‘zir’ and ‘xyr’ instead.

The Knoxville branch of the public university, which has 27,400 students, sent a memo round to its members filled with unusual new parts of speech to avoid referring to anybody’s gender.

According to a gay rights official at the university, the new language regime will make the university ‘welcoming and inclusive’ and stop people feeling ‘marginalized’.


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Why Putin so loves Obama

Shut up and let me drive

Shut up and let me drive

Charles Krauthammer explains. The only thing I disagree with Mr. Krauthammer here is that he attributes Obama’s acquiescence to naiveté and ambivalence towards Russia. I used to think that; now I don’t.

On September 5, 2014, Russian agents crossed into Estonia and kidnapped an Estonian security official. Last week, after a closed trial, Russia sentenced him to 15 years.

The reaction? The State Department issued a statement. The Nato secretary-general issued a tweet. Neither did anything. The European Union said it was too early to discuss any possible action.

The timing of this brazen violation of Nato territory — two days after President Obama visited Estonia to symbolize America’s commitment to its security — is testimony to Vladimir Putin’s contempt for the American president. He knows Obama will do nothing. Why should he think otherwise?

  • Putin breaks the arms embargo to Iran by lifting the hold on selling it S-300 missiles. Obama responds by excusing him, saying it wasn’t technically illegal and adding, with a tip of the hat to Putin’s patience: “I’m frankly surprised that it held this long.”
  • Russia mousetraps Obama at the eleventh hour of the Iran negotiations, joining Iran in demanding that the conventional weapons and ballistic missile embargos be dropped. Obama caves.
  • Putin invades Ukraine, annexes Crimea, breaks two Minsk cease-fire agreements and erases the Russia-Ukraine border. Obama’s response? Pinprick sanctions, empty threats and a continuing refusal to supply Ukraine with defensive weaponry, lest he provoke Putin.

It is true that Putin’s resentment over Russia’s lost empire long predates Obama. But for resentment to turn into revanchism — an active policy of reconquest — requires opportunity. Which is exactly what Obama’s “reset” policy has offered over the past six and a half years.

Since the end of World War II, Russia has known that what stands in the way of westward expansion was not Europe, living happily in decadent repose, but the United States as guarantor of Western security. Obama’s naivete and ambivalence have put those guarantees in question.

It began with the reset button, ostentatiously offered less than two months after Obama’s swearing-in. Followed six months later by the unilateral American cancellation of the missile shield the Poles and the Czechs had agreed to install on their territory. Again, lest Putin be upset.

By 2012, a still clueless Obama mocked Mitt Romney for saying that Russia is “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” quipping oh so cleverly: “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” After all, he explained, “the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”

Turned out it was 2015 calling. Obama’s own top officials have been retroactively vindicating Romney. Last month, Obama’s choice for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared that “Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security.” Two weeks ago, the retiring Army chief of staff, Raymond Odierno, called Russia our “most dangerous” military threat. Obama’s own secretary of defense has gone one better: “Russia poses an existential threat to the United States.”

Turns out the Cold War is not over either. Putin is intent on reviving it. Helped immensely by Obama’s epic misjudgment of Russian intentions, the balance of power has shifted — and America’s allies feel it.

And not just the East Europeans. The president of Egypt, a country estranged from Russia for 40 years and our mainstay Arab ally in the Middle East, has twice visited Moscow within the last four months.

The Saudis, congenitally wary of Russia but shell-shocked by Obama’s grand nuclear capitulation to Iran that will make it the regional hegemon, are searching for alternatives, too. At a recent economic conference in St Petersburg, the Saudis invited Putin to Riyadh and the Russians reciprocated by inviting the new King Salman to visit Czar Vladimir in Moscow.

Even Pakistan, a traditional Chinese ally and Russian adversary, is buying Mi-35 helicopters from Russia, which is building a natural gas pipeline between Karachi and Lahore.

As John Kerry awaits his upcoming Nobel and Obama plans his presidential library (my suggestion: Havana), Putin is deciding how to best exploit the final 17 months of his Obama bonanza.

The world sees it. Obama doesn’t.


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Polo this Sunday, 3:00 PM

Last one in's a rotten egg!

Last one in’s a rotten egg!

There’s a polo game scheduled up at White Birch this weekend (game, 3:00, gates open @1), and if you’ve never been to such an event, I recommend it. While the game is no longer played with severed heads of enemies, it’s still fun to watch, because the sight and sound of these mounted teams thundering down a 300-yard-field is rally exciting and beautiful at the same time.

They used to charge ten bucks per car load for the great unwashed; it’s up to $40 now, but that’s for the car and all its passengers, so it’s still a very affordable treat – kids love it and so, too, do adults. I met a very nice, older lawyer in the courthouse once who told me how his family always made the trip up from NYC to Greenwich to watch the games: “who’d think it, a nice Jewish family from Brooklyn, having such fun? We have a great time.”

I’d skip all the baloney garb that many of the participants, mostly, it appears to me, Westchester County and north-Stamford residents all Greenwich wannabes, wear, and just enjoy it. You don’t need to know the rules, because what’s to know? The ball goes between the goal posts, it’s a point. If not, not.

Bring a lunch and refreshments if you want. I’m pretty sure refreshments aren’t served to the carload people like us, but who cares?


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I can’t stand it

Welcome to the Nutmeg State

Welcome to the Nutmeg State

I “zipped” down to Greenwich yesterday (hence the dearth of blogging) and came back up here to Portland. What should be a 4 1/2 hour drive took 6 hours, each way, with all of that delay occurring on the Merritt and I-95 (I alternated trying to escape the jams). This trip was deliberately scheduled for off-peak hours to avoid rush hour traffic, and I planned a Thursday, pre-Labor Day, with the thought that most vacationers would either already be where they wanted to be or would be leaving today or next week. Fat chance. CT has become what Long Island was, and remains, 20 years ago: a decent enough place, in some areas, once you’re there, but impossible to get there or leave with any confidence of smooth travel.

Speaking of vacationing, however, son John has spent the past few days with friends on Vinyl Heaven island, and is in good spirits and in reasonably decent shape. He’ll be back to merry Portland today, I think, ahead of the invasion.


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Cat Rock sale

2 Cat Rock Rd (representative photo)

2 Cat Rock Rd (representative photo)

2 Cat Rock Road, $1.4 million, 31 days on market. There is clearly no fourteen-year inventory in this price range.


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Sale price disclosed

16 Shoreham Club Road, which I reported was pending a couple of days ago, closed at $5.2 million. Nice price, but not the $8 million it asked when it started this process three years ago.


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93 Doubling Road – great old mansion but …

93 Doubling Rd

93 Doubling Rd

I visited 93 Doubling Road’s broker open house yesterday, and it’s truly a sight. It’s not dark inside, as I’d feared, and its been updated to modern standards (except for the laundry room, but I suspect the lady of this house won’t be spending much time there), so the buyer can move right in.

The slate tiles on the roof, 100-years-old, are literally thick enough to use as terrace paving stones and are probably good for another couple of centuries. As is the house, in all its sprawling glory. Only 4 of its original 54 acres are left, but that’s still enough for complete privacy and the tennis court, sunken out of view, is an idea whose time should never have passed. The wine racks, by the way, will hold 1,138 bottles (it took me forever to count them!), though it’s empty now, except for three magnums of champagne – a shrewd negotiator can probably get those thrown into the deal. Hell, at this price, he can probably demand that the racks be completely replenished.

But that price: $14 million, is going to be a tough sell. I heard one very, very experienced agent, someone who’s sold plenty of homes in this price range, say, “it’s absolutely magnificent, but it’s going to take a special buyer.” That’s true of any house in this price range, of course: buyers in the $9 million-and-up category are thin, but that hasn’t stopped 71 other Greenwich owners from putting their houses up for sale in that price range. Of course, only 12 houses asking $9 + sold in the past year (and many of them fell below that threshold in the final negotiations), but that’s good news for buyers: with 14 years of inventory out there, there’s plenty of time to look.


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Cry, our beloved country

New Math

New Math

So I’m in Starbucks this morning, and my tab came to $2.78. “Here”, says I, proffering three pennies, “I’ve got three cents, for the quarter.”

“Barrista”, baffled look on her face: “I’ve already rung it up on the computer, but I guess I can do the math.”

Not wishing to engage in an old-math training session at 6:45, I took pity on the girl, and accepted my $0.22 change.

From her diction, and because, after McDonalds, Starbucks probably hires more college graduates than any other large retailer in US (though McDonalds is switching to law grads – they’re cheaper), I assume this girl was the beneficiary of at least some post-high school education, yet she can’t add or subtract. Older readers will remember when the kids at McDonalds used to tally up orders on order pads manually and, with rare exceptions, come up with the right total. They even managed to make change.

The Asians are going to eat our lunch (and drink our coffee).


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