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.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Racial Disturbance in Deer Park

Deer Park and Wyandanch are two adjacent hamlets in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York.  Wyandanch is mostly African-American, while Deer Park is overwhelmingly white.

There has been some racial unrest in those communities during the past few weeks.  Some white people from Deer Park have been firing heavy duty Fourth of July fireworks over the border line into Wyandanch, causing injury and fear in predominately residential neighborhoods.  The fireworks were smuggled into Deer Park from South Carolina by Deer Park residents and other whites.  Over the past few days, however, the Deer Park gangs have taken to throwing rocks and shooting bullets into residential Wyandanch neighborhoods, and now, have physically invaded Wyandanch and attacked and kidnapped Black women and children there.

The Wyandanchers, quite understandably, have begun to retaliate, and have invaded Deer Park.  They burned down a garage used to store fireworks.  Members of the Wyandanch auxiliary police have suited up and are entering Deer Park with their weapons, making arrests.

Given the circumstances, one need not be politically liberal to empathize with, or even support, the Wyandanchers.

[Actually, the foregoing is a fabrication.  It was concocted as an exemplar, albeit a fictional one, of communities under attack who attempt to stop the lawless assailment.  And people of good will from all across the political spectrum invariably support the retributive measures taken by the attacked communities.  --  Unless, of course, the attacked communities happen to be Jews living in Israel or elsewhere.]

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Another Reason Why I do not Live in Boro Park

 The Boro Park (or Borough Park) neighborhood of Brooklyn is home to one of the highest density Jewish populations in America.  Though the community is not totally monolithic, there is a significant mentality of insularism amongst the populace.  Geographically, it is too attenuated from my law practice, and from my wife's medical practice, for us to make our home there (though we do have personal and professional occasion to venture into the neighborhood).  And with all due respect to our friends who do live in Boro Park, there is also a cultural attenuation that is no less than the geographical.

One newspaper by and for the insular religious Jewish community is Hamodia.  For all of my reservations about its editorial policies, I do choose to read it (and process the contents with due regard to such policies)  Though it does have an internet presence (don't get me started with the Rabbis' hang-ups about the internet), I read the print edition, which usually comes to me after a delay of about a week or two, after passing through a number of hands.

As with just about any other newspaper, one of the more popular features of Hamodia is its "Letters to the Editor" section.  The first letter appearing in the 1 July 2014 edition is entitled "Leave Your Contact Info," written by one "M. M."


The letter reads: 


"I live in Boro Park where it is a challenge to finding parking spaces, especially on alternate-side-parking days. It is an unwritten rule that people double park and the traffic police look away and don’t give tickets for double parking.

Today our car was blocked in and my wife had to take a car service to work.

I also double park. Once, someone who recognized my car rang my bell to complain that I was blocking him. He suggested that if I double park, I should leave a note on my dashboard indicating where I can be contacted in case the person whose car I am blocking wants to get out." ...

The letter goes on to extol the virtues of leaving contact information for the benefit of those whom you inconvenience by your double-parking.

Reading the letter at face value, one might conclude that the community is so cohesive that they have a system of social mores that facilitate amicable cooperation to successfully maximize the benefits available from a limited supply of parking spaces, much like the valet parking systems in urban parking garages.

But, having been boxed in by double parkers in Boro Park, I cannot take that view.  There is a sense of entitlement to double park.  And the double parkers are not always so prompt to move their cars when you need to get going; they have been known to take the attitude that their shopping errand should take precedence over my need to drive to my next destination on my itinerary.

When I was younger, the armamentarium in the trunk of my car (a large Pontiac Le Mans) sometimes included a sledge hammer, which I had occasion to use in the course of a not-so-lucrative manual labor business venture one summer.  If the younger version of me were boxed in by a Boro Parker with the entitlement attitude, there would be an excellent chance that the sledge hammer would be put to the use for which it was created -- smashing the culprit's windshield.  It is a small wonder that it has not happened.  My son and his friends certainly thought of it when they were boxed in by a Boro Double Parker (but decided that such measures would only further delay their departure; they just hit the horn of their car for a few minutes and the double parker eventually came to move his car).

[Now, of course, some axle grease generously applied to the door handles would be my preferred mode of retribution.  Especially if the double parker were a woman who had gone shopping for some fancy clothes.].

On the very next page of the Hamodia print edition was a reprint of Charles Krauthammer's piece "Government by Fiat," as well as an article by Eliezer Stern entitled "Lawless President Again," each noting Barack Hussein Obama's attitude that he is above the law and can do as he pleases.

The irony of the juxtaposition is not lost upon me.


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Thursday, July 03, 2014

LIRR/MTA loses the Moral High Ground

Been busy grading papers, submitting grades, and, these past few days, an out-of-town business excursion.

The Long Island Railroad has undergone significant changes from the 1920's, when arose the famous case of Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad, a Cardozo opinion known to law students in every law school torts classes in America.  Instead of a private enterprise, the LIRR is now a division of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.  Long Island is very dependent upon the LIRR operations for its economic health.  For a number of years, I was a daily LIRR commuter; I still use it from time to time (including yesterday, but don't get me started on that mostly frustrating overnight excursion to Harrisburg and back to Penn Station and back home via LIRR).

As mentioned in the posting of 31 July 2013, there was union complicity in a massive Railroad Retirement Board disability pension scheme.  The unions have given the public an impression of cupidity and insolence.  The LIRR's unions have set a 20 July strike deadline.  And, until a few days ago, the LIRR/MTA have commanded the moral high ground in this dispute (morality being a relative value in that Class D minor league that entails the MTA, the LIRR, and the labor unions having contracts with them).

Helena Williams had been President of the LIRR, and, as one who actually took the LIRR commute on an almost daily basis, understood the concerns of the commuters.  She did take some steps to reform the old entrenched LIRR culture.

But then, Tom Prendergast took the helm of the MTA.  Prendergast has an engineering and technical background (as distinct from Williams's background as a labor lawyer).  Prendergast's vision is technical upgrades, and therefore wants engineering and technical types, and so, Williams was pink-slipped and replaced by Patrick Nowakowski, who does have a track record overseeing commuter rail infrastructure upgrades in Philadelphia and Washington.

Well now, it turns out that Williams struck a deal with LIRR and MTA.  She is still in the LIRR's employ as a consultant, still drawing a salary, and, in such a posture, will soon qualify for a full pension -- all in return for her to not bring a lawsuit against LIRR/MTA for gender discrimination.

Is Williams playing the gender card?  Obviously yes.  Was she given disparately poor treatment on account of her gender?  Could very well be.  If it were just Williams and the MTA/LIRR establishment, then all would be evenly matched and the whole thing would not be much concern to anyone else.

But because of this labor contract negotiation, the LIRR/MTA has placed itself into a "can't win" position.  If LIRR is so financially strapped that they just cannot afford to raise the salaries and benefits of the rank-and-file workforce, then how were they able to come up with Helena's lagniappe?  And why would they settle the dispute so quickly and quietly if there were no basis for Helena's implied claim of gender discrimination?

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been saying that he has no intention of insinuating himself into the LIRR's labor dispute.  It must be remembered that when Andy's father, Mario, was Governor, he did step in to pressure the MTA to settle the threatened rail strike. 

Until a few days ago, LIRR/MTA could claim the moral high ground.  Now, that territory is occupied by neither.  Not that I have any great admiration for Andy Cuomo, but he now has an opportunity to claim the moral high ground abandoned by the MTA/LIRR.

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Monday, June 09, 2014

Recoupment at a Price

Following a stint in the United States Marine Corps, Harry E. Findel, following in his father's footsteps, found civilian employment with the Long Island Railroad, where he served as an engineer.  Nothing I have found even suggests that either his military or civilian service were anything other than honorable.

Following retirement, Harry and his wife Shirley moved to Florida.

Harry died on September 18, 2013.  And then, Shirley, in her grief as she strived to deal with the adjustments necessitated by her new condition of widowhood, received a disconcerting letter from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the parent organization of the LIRR.  The letter informed Shirley that a clerical error was made in 1995, resulting in Harry's receiving a monthly $124.80 per month more than he should have been paid, and will she please remit the accumulated $26,707.20 discrepancy back to the MTA (which the MTA will be deign to extend the courtesy of allowing such repayments through convenient deductions from her own widow's pension payments).

Comparing the numbers on her reduced pension check with her living expenses, Shirley saw that the arithmetic would not work for her, and so, she has lawyered up and is contesting the MTA's determination.

The MTA is claiming that it has the fiduciary duty to recoup the pension payments.

And, quite frankly, they are correct.  And they should get the recoupment.

But this recoupment, even if they recoup every penny, will come at a price.

As mentioned in the posting of 31 July 2013, there was a big Railroad Retirement Board disability pension fraud scandal involving LIRR employees.  The last of the defendants have been sentenced.  Some got some hard time in the pokey, but former LIRR conductor Christopher Parlante, who gave a great operatic performance as he sang from the witness stand, was spared the slammer for his own fraud, and ORDERED to repay his ill-gotten gain of almost $295,000 at the rate of $25 per month.  Doing the arithmetic, he should have it all cleared in less than a thousand years.

The comparison between Parlante and Shirley Findel is not lost on the widow or her attorney.  And the news media have not missed that cruel irony either.  Again, all signals indicate that Harry Findel served honorably, and he does not seem to have been implicated in this disability retirement scandal.

The LIRR and MTA have been made into monkeys by the whole affair, as has the union, which, as noted in the 31 July 2014 posting, gave free office space to Marie Baran, the "consultant" who advised the LIRR retirees how to game the system to claim false disability from the RRB.

The LIRR is now at a labor contract impasse with its unions, who now threaten to strike in July if the impasse is not resolved.  I do not know how this one will play out, but it would not be surprising in the least if this Parlante-Findel comparison is somehow insinuated into the story line.

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