Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Philadelphia, 240 Years Later

On the occasion of Independence Day ("Fourth of July" is a calendar date while "Independence Day" is the name of the occasion; even the British have a Fourth of July) my wife and I got together with some other U.S. expatriates in my town last evening.  Not like the Independene Days of the past.  We all sensed that there was a damper on things, caused by the policies of the Obama presidency.  And while it would not be fair to say that everyone at the gathering is a Trump supporter (few of us were unabashed in backing him), it would be an accurate statement to say that none of the attendees at the gathering expect a Hillary Clinton presidency to fix things significantly.  It all boils down to a "who would be the least worst" thing.

Anyway, the discussion got to the Democratic convention coming up in Philadelphia, a city with which I have more than a little amount of familiarity.  (My mom had an aunt there, and I still have cousins who live in the city and its suburbs. Business from my Long Island law practice took me there on a number of occasions.  A former business partner of mine is now there, too.  And my wife did her undergraduate studies in Philadelphia.).

The question now is whether there will be unrest of the type seen at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.  I believe that there may well be.  Disorder has already been threatened, whether puerile or serious (i.e., the not-so-veiled threats of violence from the Sanders crowd that already was unruly in Nevada)

There will be demonstrations.  The question now remaining is how violent they will be allowed to become.

P.S.  The transit system in Philadelphia is now impaired for the summer with the removal of a significant portion of the railcar fleet on account of technical problems.

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Friday, July 01, 2016

Civis Romanus Sum

Seems that Hallel Yaffa Ariel, the Israeli girl killed by a terrorist as she slept in her bed, was an American citizen.  From the State Department, we get the usual mawkish half-hearted condolences.  President Jimmy Carter set the tone back in 1979, when some Iranian terrorists took the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran hostage and Carter allowed the situation to continue, literally until the last day of his term in office.

Once upon a time, there was an international perception that America would protect its citizens abroad.  In 1904, President Teddy Roosevelt had the State Department send the famous "Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead" telegram to secure the release of Ion Perdicaris, an American (or, as it turned out, a former American) held hostage in Tangier.  [Never mind that Raisuli's political demands were met; at least Roosevelt sent in the Marines.].

Genghis Khan had no patience for those who harassed his subjects.  And in 1850, the Don Pacifico affair boosted the political career of Henry John Temple, the Viscount Palmerston, who would become British Prime Minister five years later.  As Palmerston noted in his speech to Parliament, in the days of the Roman Empire a Roman citizen's declaration of his status as such ("Civis Romanus sum") would bring various privileges and protections not only from the Roman governmental authorities, but from the governments of other nations as well.

This questionable ability and resolve of the State Department (which, you will recall, utterly failed to protect its own Ambassador in Benghazi) is not sitting well with the American expatriate community here.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Packing it in Israel

Here in Israel we have just completed the Holiday of Shavuot, commemorating the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.  For various reasons that will not be expounded at length here, it is celebrated one day in the Land of Israel and two days outside of the Land of Israel (which means that the holiday is still in progress in the USA).

Israel is still reeling from the terror attack at the Sarona Market complex in Tel Aviv.  Much has been written and reported and punditized about the incident; I have little to add at this time, but gratuitously note that (1) Israel Police, along with military personnel carrying their weapons, have shown a higher profile these past few days; and (2) during this coming week I expect to ride a bus that passes within 2 blocks of Sarona. 

What I will mention, though, is that during the past two days at my Shul worship services (Saturday, of course, was Shabbat, and today was Shavuot), I saw a heretofore unprecedented number of individuals packing heat.  Two I know to be law enforcement officers, but that did not explain the others.  Turns out that word was informally passed that those licensed to carry should carry to shul during the holiday.

Before we departed from the USA I had a discussion with my rabbi.  He had made the decision to enlist armed security for Rosh Hashanah services, and was considering asking some congregation members who are licensed to carry (including two retired police officers) to carry on a regular basis.  Another rabbi of another congregation caught some heat (pun intentional) from his resident leftards for doing that.  With the strong encouragement of the Rebitzin, my Rabbi told everyone that they would be welcome to carry.  Most of the congregation members backed him on it.

In Israel everyone seems to understand the need for defensive measures, but these days it must be difficult to be a Jewish hoplophobe in America.

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Sunday, June 05, 2016

Yom Yerushalayim

Today is the 28th day of the Month of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar.  It is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the reunification of the Holy City of Jerusalem in 1967.  The Holy City came back into Jewish hands for the first time in nearly 2000 years.

My wife and I spent Shabbat with some friends in the City and saw some of the festivities last night.  My wife got out before the worst of the traffic and came home so that she could go to work today.  I stayed because I had a meeting scheduled in the Holy City today.  I'm done with that gig but am still here, waiting to meet my son for dinner.

The world cannot hack it when the Holy City of Jerusalem is in Jewish hands.  UNESCO is now trying to deny the Holy City's Jewish past, and would prefer to destroy it than to allow it to remain in Jewish hands.

UNESCO is not in charge.  Obama is not in charge.  The EU is not in charge.  G-d is in charge, running things.  The Holy City will remain in Jewish hands if G-d wants it to (and I do believe that He does). 

אִם אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְרוּשָׁלִָם תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִי
תִּדְבַּק לְשׁוֹנִי לְחִכִּי אִם לֹא אֶזְכְּרֵכִי,
אִם לֹא אַעֲלֶה אֶת יְרוּשָׁלִַם עַל רֹאשׁ שִׂמְחָתִי

"I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her cunning.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I remember thee not;
If I set not Jerusalem
above my chiefest joy.

  -- Psalm 137

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Yom HaZikaron

In Israel, today was Yom HaZikaron, the literal translation of which is "Memorial Day" and, as that implies, is a day to remember the sacrifices of all of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen/women who gave their lives in defense of the nation.  That it occurs immediately before Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) has great poignancy.

One great tradition of Yom HaZikharon is that 11:00 AM, the sirens all sound and everyone stops what they are doing and stands at attention.  Drivers pull their cars to the sides of the road and get out so that they can stand at attention.

Today I was at a meeting on the sixth floor of a building.  Through the window I could see a tree-pruning crew at work on the street below.  When the sirens sounded, they brought down the man in the cherry-picker, who joined his co-workers as they stood at attention by their truck, some holding their chain saws in hand.

Today, wife was accompanying a group of medical students on some hospital rounds.  When the 11:00 siren sounded, the patient at whose bedside they happened to be, a veteran of the Yom Kippur War, insisted upon getting out of his bed and standing at attention with everyone else.

At many businesses it was "white shirt day," and many places had special ceremonies to commemorate Yom HaZikaron.  Businesses closed at 1:00 PM, by which time I had begun my trek back home.

In Israel it is unthinkable to stage a recreational event such as a golf tournament on Yom HaZikaron.  The Israelis are serious about remembering their war dead.  Israel's military casualty count now stands at 23,477.  Israel's population is about 8.5 million.  The United States population is more than 40 times that of Israel.  Go do the arithmetic!

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