Daily Archives: December 22, 2015

Hanlon’s Law: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.


Not any more

But sometimes mere malice is inadequate.

Intelligence gap fuels terrorist expansion in Afghanistan

KABUL—Fourteen years after the U.S. and its allies routed most al Qaeda militants from Afghanistan, the country is again becoming a haven for extremist groups, the result, in part, of inadequate surveillance of its far-flung territory, Afghan and Western officials say.

At the height of their presence five years ago, the U.S. military and its allies operated 852 bases and outposts across Afghanistan, many with their own informants, drones and surveillance balloons to monitor even remote areas of the vast and rugged country.

Today, these spy assets are largely gone. …

“We lost a lot of eyes and ears,” said an official with U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. “Reporting from the provinces dried up.”

The Taliban and al Qaeda aren’t the only militant groups that appear to be exploiting the intelligence gap. Thousands of Central and South Asian Islamist militants have crossed into Afghanistan undetected this year after their havens in Pakistan were attacked by Pakistani military forces.

The takeover of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1996 was a boon to Islamist militant groups from abroad. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda flourished there until they were scattered by the U.S. invasion that followed the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

One of the primary goals of the 2001 U.S. invasion was to ensure that Afghanistan would never again be a safe haven for terrorists.

The lack of intelligence about militant activities in remote areas of Afghanistan stems from the drawdown of U.S. forces and the shutting of U.S. and NATO bases that began in 2012.

“There was a dramatic weakening of intel capabilities,” said Franz-Michael Mellbin, the European Union’s envoy to Afghanistan. “It was like a watershed—it should not have been. And we still feel the consequences.”



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Good thing current Yale students aren’t on the court yet

license plate

Banned in Virginia

Appeals Court for Federal Circuit rules that government can’t reject socially unacceptable trademarks. 

WASHINGTON—The U.S. government can’t reject trademarks that some people might find disparaging or offensive, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday, citing constitutional free-speech protections.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington struck down a nearly 70-year-old provision in federal law and sided with Simon Tam, the frontman for the Asian-American rock band the Slants. Mr. Tam had sought to register the band’s name, but a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office examiner denied the registration, saying the phrase was likely disparaging to people of Asian descent.

The ruling could help the Washington Redskins football team, which is fighting a 2014 Patent and Trademark Office decision to cancel its trademarks because Native Americans found the name disparaging. The team’s case is in a different court, but the Redskins are making the same legal argument as Mr. Tam.

Tuesday’s decision endorsed a robust view of the First Amendment as it struck down a part of the 1946 Lanham Act that barred the registration of disparaging trademarks. The appeals court also acknowledged its ruling opened the door for the registration of trademarks that contain ethnic slurs and “offend vulnerable communities.”

“Whatever our personal feelings about the mark at issue here, or other disparaging marks, the First Amendment forbids government regulators to deny registration because they find the speech likely to offend others,” Judge Kimberly Moore wrote for the court’s majority. She said the Constitution protects free speech “even when speech inflicts great pain.”

I wonder whether this will put an end to state motor vehicle departments, like Connecticut’s DMV, from rejecting personalized license plate combinations that it finds offensive? Seems to me, it should.

Every state has a different set of criteria for judging vanity plates. David Silverman’s application for ATHEIST was deemed too offensive for New Jersey roads. Since he’s president of American Atheists, he’s not letting his plate go on the infamous banned license plate list. According to Autoblog.com Silverman has already filed an appeal with the DMV.


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Hillary proves that, even for dyed blondes, math are still hard


I don’t THINK I just said I’d close half the schools in the country but then, what do I know?

“I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better than average job”


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Christian idolaters triumph in Maine

Christmas Tree

Who screams “Welcome Jesus!” louder than Hello Kitty?

Bowing to national pressure, a Bangor principal has been forced to let a crypto-Christian teacher keep her pink “Hello Kitty” Christmas tree in her classroom.

Down here in Portland, we’re quaking. Once this starts, can maddened crusaders from the north be far behind?


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Coming to Greenwich by 2025?


Riverside – Cos Cob border

“Berlin Wall” separates the poor from the wealthy in Peru.

Ten feet high and topped with concertina wire, to add musical highlights.


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Never claim what you don’t know to be true


Aftermath of a bad meal

Chapotle’s stock price continued to tumble today after yet another e-coli outbreak was traced to it’s “locally sourced, fresh food”. 

I think the restaurant’s pretty good, actually, but this statement by its CEO isn’t helping its credibility:

In an effort to restore public trust, Chipotle CEO Steve Ells has stressed in multiple TV appearances over the past couple of weeks that no E. coli cases were contracted by customers eating at stores after November 7.

“We can assure you today there is no E. coli in Chipotle,” Ells said on CNBC’s “Mad Money” last week.

On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a different strain of E. coli sickened five people from three states. The customers all reported illnesses from November 18 to November 26 and had eaten at Chipotle in the week before their illnesses started.

Technically, last week was well past November, so the statement might be accurate, but even Clinton encountered difficulty explaining what “is” is.

UPDATE: Bloomberg has a lengthy article on the issue. One take away: the “local produce” schtick was always just that – less than 10% of the chain’s produce is grown within 350 miles of the restaurants serving it. And even that’s going to disappear as Chipoltes moves to far more stringent safety inspections of produce, inspections that will be too expensive for small farmers to afford. So hello, McDonald’s.


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So when will Eric Holder be arrested?

Erich Holder fast and furious

He’s fast and he’s furious, and you’ll never catch him

CT manufacturer pleads guilty to not properly registering machine gun parts.

U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly said in a statement. “Stag’s misconduct has resulted in hundreds of these weapons being lost or untraceable. In addition, Stag’s possession of dozens of unregistered machine guns is particularly egregious. Federal firearms laws exist to ensure that all legal firearms are properly accounted for and don’t wind up on the street, and in the hands of those who shouldn’t possess them. Gun manufacturers who don’t follow the rules and violate federal law not only face license revocation, but criminal prosecution. I commend the ATF for expertly investigating this matter.”

Do say. The company involved here seems to have flouted the law, and since it was caught doing the same thing in 2007, probably deserves what it got. But what about our government’s own “Operation Fast and Furious”, which “lost” hundreds of automatic weapons to the Mexican cartels, and has yet to be held accountable?

During Operation Fast and Furious, the largest “gunwalking” probe, the ATF monitored the sale of about 2,000 firearms, of which only 710 were recovered as of February 2012. A number of straw purchasers have been arrested and indicted; however, as of October 2011, none of the targeted high-level cartel figures had been arrested.

Guns tracked by the ATF have been found at crime scenes on both sides of the Mexico–United States border, and the scene where United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed December 2010. The “gunwalking” operations became public in the aftermath of Terry’s murder. Dissenting ATF agents came forward to Congress in response. According to Humberto Benítez Treviño, former Mexican Attorney General and chair of the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, related firearms have been found at numerous crime scenes in Mexico where at least 150 Mexican civilians were maimed or killed.[18] Revelations of “gunwalking” led to controversy in both countries, and diplomatic relations were damaged.

As a result of a dispute over the release of Justice Department documents related to the scandal, Attorney General Eric Holder became the first sitting member of the Cabinet of the United States to be held in contempt of Congress on June 28, 2012. Earlier that month, President Barack Obama had invoked executive privilege for the first time in his presidency over the same document.


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Old Greenwich sale

184 shore road

184 Shore Road

184 Shore Road, asked $1.995, got $1.6 million. Some of the property is in the AE flood zone but the listing says “not a drop of water during Sandy!” and I believe it – the house has been there since 1880 and hasn’t floated away yet.

This was also listed as land, but I hope it survives: cute house.


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But she forgot to explain how this would help


Now if I can just remember where the debate’s being held …

Clinton promises to spend an extra $20 billion of taxpayers’ money on government funded research to cure Alzheimer’s. That’s $2 billion a year for ten years over what the NIH is currently spending. How does that compare to money being spent by private drug companies, charities and AJ , up in his Canadian laboratory? She doesn’t say.

And what is special about government spending that would improve the research already being conducted? Other than the fact that, as government spending, at least half of it could be directed to friends? Again, she doesn’t say.

You’d almost think this was just another empty campaign promise, like her vow to oppose gay marriage a couple of years ago.


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Look for, the union label, it shows we’re able to kill jobs, today


I lost my job through the UAW!

After losing several elections to represent Volkswagen workers, the UAW was given a helping hand by Obama’s Labor Board, who ordered that VW allow a small cluster of workers to unionize. That group formed less than a month ago and today filed its first unfair labor complaint against the company.

When VW opened the first foreign car manufacturer’s factory in America in 1978,  it made the mistake of inviting in the UAW, and the factory was soon unprofitable, and closed. The company vowed not to make that mistake this time, but failed to take into consideration the possibility of a communist being elected president.


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Russia bombs the hell out of Syria, Kerry approves

“We’ve never been bombed like this”, one civilian says.

“We’re seeing a huge increase in the number of civilian casualties. More and more people are being hurt because the intensity of bombing is greater,” Rae McGrath, country director for Turkey and North Syria for the American aid agency Mercy Corps, told The Washington Post‘s Liz Sly.

McGrath added: “It’s hard to imagine that the conditions in Syria could have become worse than they already were, but they have.”

US President Barack Obama has repeatedly expressed his belief that the Russians — who began their air campaign in Syria on September 30 on behalf of the Syrian government — will get bogged down and ultimately withdraw from the conflict. But as time goes by, the Russian air campaign is becoming only more intense.

“Where are these reasonable Russians that [US Secretary of State John] Kerry claims are starting to see the light?” a doctor in an Idlib hospital asked The Guardian on Monday.

“Bashar’s jets never bombed us like the Russians do,” the doctor said, referring to the forces that support the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. “ISIS never hunted us down like this.”

Where are the “reasonable Russians” – gloating in Moscow, it seems, where our feckless Secretary of State is groveling, wiping yet another “red line” from the sand.

In a visit to Moscow to discuss the conflict last week, Kerry said that the US was “not seeking regime change” in Syria. And he hailed Russia for its “significant contribution” to efforts to end the war.


And then it’s time for hot cocoa. Pajama Boy meets his master.


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487 North Street, a 3.97 – acre single building lot, closed at $2.5 million. A client of mine paid something like $4.7 for two lots, 5-acres in 2013, so this seems about right.

108 Cutler Road

108 Cutler Road

108 Cutler Road, which sold for $1.6 million in 2003, sold for $1.550 million today. Tough road.


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Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be donkeys


You mean, Chelsea didn’t have to be that way?

In a startling, breakthrough discovery, scientists believe they’ve found the  defective gene that breeds Democrats.


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Well that’s one way to be able to afford a house in Riverside

30 Club Road

30 Club Road

Adam Siegel, who less than four years ago purchased 30 Club Road in Riverside for $6.450 million, plead guilty yesterday to mortgage fraud.

To be fair, the “bad acts” he plead guilty to are perhaps not illegal – indeed, a conviction of another trader for the same “lying” is on appeal because a court has ruled that the defendant should have been allowed to present evidence that what he was accused of is common practice on Wall Street. Siegel’s guilty plea is subject to his right to withdraw it should that defense be upheld.

Still, a rotten way to end the year.


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You didn’t miss much yesterday

27 Bayside Terrace

27 Bayside Terrace

27 Bayside Terrace sold for $1.5 million. Although it sold as just one lot, it’s 0.7 acres and a subdivision is probably doable.

18 Oval Ave

18 Oval Ave

18 Oval Avenue, Riverside, asked $1.695, got $1.495.

18 W. End Ave

18 W. End Ave

18 West End Avenue, originally asking $1.149, dropped to $895,000 and reports a contract. Lots of work to be done here, but a nice, walkable location to Old Greenwich’s train and school.

532 North Street (circa 1920)

532 North Street
(circa 1920)

No pictures up yet, but 532 North Street is back on the market, now asking $4.750 million. Tamar Lurie listed it at $5.750 from 2013-2014 without success, they “renovated” it (a very loose term in real estate) in 2015 and she’s dropped the price a million. Owners paid $4.550 for it in 2005, so that’s a decent place to start south of, I would think.


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So why don’t they shave their heads?


Whip me, beat me, subject me, enslave me! All in the name of your god.

My internet access was down yesterday, so I’ll catch up with real estate news today, and also get to son John and all of you readers who were so supportive of him during his illness. Today would have been his birthday, and that’s both a sad day, and an appropriate time to write about him.

But first, some humorous news: Snowflakes and female Christian ministers have been wearing hijabs in solidarity with their Muslim friends, and at least some Muslim women don’t appreciate the gesture:

Please don’t wear a hijab.

For us, as mainstream Muslim women, born in Egypt and India, the spectacle at the mosque was a painful reminder of the well-financed effort by conservative Muslims to dominate modern Muslim societies. This modern-day movement spreads an ideology of political Islam, called “Islamism,” enlisting well-intentioned interfaith do-gooders and the media into promoting the idea that “hijab” is a virtual “sixth pillar” of Islam, after the traditional “five pillars” of the shahada (or proclamation of faith), prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage.

We reject this interpretation that the “hijab” is merely a symbol of modesty and dignity adopted by faithful female followers of Islam.

To us, the “hijab”is a symbol of an interpretation of Islam we reject that believes that women are a sexual distraction to men, who are weak, and thus must not be tempted by the sight of our hair. We don’t buy it. This ideology promotes a social attitude that absolves men of sexually harassing women and puts the onus on the victim to protect herself by covering up.

As Americans, we believe in freedom of religion. But we need to clarify to those in universities, the media and discussion forums that in exploring the “hijab,” they are not exploring Islam, but rather the ideology of political Islam as practiced by the mullahs, or clerics, of Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Islamic State.

In the name of “interfaith,” these well-intentioned Americans are getting duped by the agenda of Muslims who argue that a woman’s honor lies in her “chastity” and unwittingly pushing a platform to put a hijab on every woman.

Please do this instead: Do not wear a headscarf in “solidarity” with the ideology that most silences us, equating our bodies with “honor.” Stand with us instead with moral courage against the ideology of Islamism that demands we cover our hair.


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