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, December 27, 2005

Long prison term

Darcell Prince's 50-year prison sentence for murder has been upheld on appeal. Prince, along with codefendant Leo Foster, brutally robbed and murdered one Huey Rich, a Chicago man who was attempting to advance his career as a hairdresser. The crime was aggravated not only by its brutality, but by the fact that Prince had impersonated a police officer while doing it. Given the well known marshmallow jellyfish stance taken by Illinois towards invoking the death penalty on miscreants (though not all Illinois prosecutors have cottoned up to it), a 50-year sentence is about the best society can hope for. But even then, there remains the possibility that Hillary Clinton or some other politician of her ilk might pardon him and set him free.

What makes the Darcell Prince case so remarkable is that the victim, Huey Rich, is the son of Congressman Bobby L. Rush. To the Congressman, I extend my sincerest sympathies on his loss. And I would hope that any other murder under similar aggravating circumstances would draw commensurate punishment from the Illinois courts, regardless of whether the victim had any political connections. I do not believe that Congressman Rush deserves what he is going through.

I say that fully cognizant of the Congressman's role, in his younger days, as an activist of the Black Panther Party, an organization not noted for its nonviolent activities. The Congressman proudly boasts of his Black Panther achievements on his official Congressional website. And his late son Huey was named after Huey Newton, another Black Panther not noted for his nonviolent ways.

I don't particularly castigate Congressman Rush for the extremes he took in his youthful activism. I have no problem accepting that he truly believed in the righteousness of what he did, and that his intentions were basically good. Hey, back in those days there really was unfair discrimination against African-Americans.

But what would happen if political activism with equally noble motivations were undertaken on the opposite side of the political spectrum? Many Ku Klux Klanners were just as sincere and idealistic in their Klan activism as Bobby Rush was with his leftist activism. And many sincere and idealistic Jewish boys and girls, witnessing violence against the Jewish community, joined the Jewish Defense League. [For the record, I declined several invitations to join the JDL, notwithstanding the personal self-defense measures I found necessary to implement against individuals who gave me trouble.] Would one of these individuals, if elected to Congress, boast of their former JDL activism on his or her Congressional webpage the same way Bobby Rush boasts of his Black Panther activism? I smell a double standard here!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Laura Blackburne update: What's the deal?

So now the Queens County Bar Association has officially come out in support of Judge Laura D. Blackburne. They agree that what she did was wrong (duh!) but think that removal from the bench would be too harsh a penalty.

This is from the same organization that rated her as unqualified when Ms. Blackburne ran for the judgeship in the first place back in 1995!

And in 1992, Ms. Blackburne resigned as chairwoman of the New York City Housing Authority after it was revealed that she misspent over $300,000 in Housing Authority funds to renovate her office, including such things as a pink leather. Her justification was that the people who come into her office ought to feel more at ease.

Run that by me again: Ms. Blackburne is not fit to sit on the bench, but removing her from the bench would be too harsh a penalty? Am I missing something there?

[Someone has come up with the idea that "Maybe It Takes a Blogger to Change a Court System." The "It Takes A Blogger" blog is much more into Judge Judy Kaye's black-robed bench brats than I am, so I will refer you all to that one, and will add that link to my list.]

Friday, December 23, 2005

News from Tax Land

Following up on my 27 October 2005 post regarding Harriet Miers's tax returns, Senator Baucus has introduced a bill that would require the Joint Committee on Taxation to review the tax returns of Supreme Court nominees. The actual tax return documents would likely be reviewed on an "eyes only" basis by Committee staffers, who would then report to the Committee whether or not the tax returns reflect compliance with the Internal Revenue Code.

On one hand, the thought of a Congressional bureaucrat being a shadow IRS agent is inherently scary because there is significant potential for abuse.

On the other hand, the taxpaying public does need to know that the judges who talk the talk about tax law compliance are also walking the walk. The rank and file IRS employee's tax returns are audited; all the more should the Supreme Court nominee's tax returns be audited.

My 27 October post insinuated that Harriet Miers withdrew her name from consideration because Baucus found the skeleton in her closet when his 12 October request for Harriet's tax returns remained unrequited 12 days later. When my wife and I did a mortgage re-fi a few months ago, we were able to come up with our back tax returns in about 12 minutes. Why couldn't Harriet do it in 12 days? I consider Sen. Baucus's proposed amendment to require the review of Supreme Court nominees' tax returns as confirmation that Harriet had some warps and glitches in her tax affairs.

Supreme Court nominations don't really happen all that often, but if Baucus's bill becomes law, then it would pre-emptively weed out all the would-be Supreme Court nominees who do not keep a kosher kitchen with their finances.

Which brings us to Michael and Marla Sklar. Like me and my wife, the Sklars send their kids to Jewish religious day schools, and pay tuition accordingly. And like me and my wife and other parents who send their kids to non-public schools (religion-based or otherwise), the Sklars are quite open to ideas for controlling the tuition costs. So Michael and Marla came up with an idea: The schools where the Sklars send their children (and, for that matter, the school where my son goes) have a dual curriculum. For half the day, the students learn secular subjects such as Math, English, Science, Social Studies, Gym, et cetera. The other half of the day (or, in the case of my son's school, the first half of the day) is devoted to Jewish religious studies.

Well, it seems that the Church of Scientology and the IRS settled their past litigation by entering into a secret sweetheart deal whereby certain payments by individual Church of Scientology members to the Church for certain "religious" training and education will qualify as charitable deductions on the members' individual income tax returns. This is noteworthy because in 1989 the Supreme Court specifically ruled in the Hernandez case that such expenses are not deductible. Essentially, the IRS circumvented the Supreme Court, which raises all kinds of troubling issues.

It is not the purpose of this discourse to get into all the ins and outs of the Scientology faith (other than to emphatically state for the record that I personally do not subscribe to it), nor do I nor the Sklars particularly strive to bash the organization or its members or its purported tenets of faith. But like me, the Sklars take the position that if the Scientologists are entitled to a charitable deduction for religious training and education, then dammit, the tuition we pay for the religious studies portion of our childrens' tuition should be given commensurate tax treatment!

And so, the Sklars prorated the Jewish studies from their tuition payments and took the charitable deduction on their 1991, 1992 and 1993 tax returns. The IRS accepted those returns without much ado. The same deduction was disallowed by the IRS on the Sklar's 1994 tax return. The Tax Court upheld the IRS's disallowance of the deduction, and that decision was affirmed on appeal to the Ninth Circuit.

As their 1994 tax return was being audited, the Sklars claimed a similar deduction on their 1995 tax return. That, too, was disallowed, and the Sklars contested it in the Tax Court. Yesterday, the Tax Court once again ruled against the Sklars. But though the IRS won, it might have been at some cost. The IRS, which heretofore has been very evasive about the secret sweetheart deal with the Scientologists, stipulated that such an agreement exists. And while it is true that stipulations in Tax Court litigation cannot be used for any purpose other than the particular matter at bar, the IRS will henceforth be very ill postured to deny that they made the deal with the Scientologists.

There is a good chance that the Sklars will appeal this latest Tax Court decision against them (that decision will no doubt be made by the Sklars, in consultation with their attorney). And, like other payers of tuition to private religious schools, I would be pleased to no end to see the Sklars prevail over the IRS, not only on account of the grand principle involved here, but also for mercenary reasons because I myself would stand to benefit from a similar deduction.

But Michael and Marla might not be the appropriate poster children for the religious day school tuition deduction! Michael Sklar, you see, is an account. A Certified Public Accountant. And not just an ordinary CPA, but a CPA who specifically prepares tax returns for members of the public. And this CPA named Michael Sklar, who prepares tax returns for the public, received two extensions of time to file his own 1994 tax return. But even after getting his due date extended to October 15, 1995, Michael didn't file the return until November 16, 1995 (which may be a reason why the IRS audited it in the first place)!

There is no getting around the fact that the system is biased against the dilatory taxpayer. Michael and Marla, I would suggest, are not the ones who should be leading the charge to secure from the IRS the same courtesy it extends to the Scientologists, any more than Ted Kennedy should be the prime sponsor of legislation to punish drunken driving. What we need are people who not only have fulfilled their tuition obligations, but who have fulfilled their tax obligations as well.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Where's the Leadership?

During the past 48 hours, Governor George Pataki has been appealing to the Transport Workers Union to come back to the bargaining table and end the illegal strike. Until now, Pataki's involvement in this labor dispute has been appeals to morality and common decency.

But in 1996, when, during prolonged contract negotiations with the United University Professions, the union representing faculty at the State University of New York schools, he unilaterally stopped making payments to the UUP's Benefit Trust Fund. The New York Public Employment Relations Board ruled that the funding cut-off was illegal, but Pataki still refused to resume contributions. For approximately 2 years, the UUP members had to shell out for their own medical and dental and optical care until funding was resumed and reimbursements were finally tendered.

Now, Pataki is singing the song about how the TWU's strike is illegal. Pataki lost the moral high ground in 1996, and thus is in no position to invoke the values of morality and decency upon which he now bases his appeal to the TWU.

Pataki's style (or lack thereof) stands in stark contrast to that his fellow Governor, Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania. Rendell, you will recall, just a few months ago stepped into the labor dispute, and brokered a resolution that kept the busses and subways running in Philadelphia. And in 1974, one of Rendell's predecessors in office, the late Milton J. Shapp, took the initiative to end the nationwide strike of independent truckers. Governor Shapp, himself a former trucking contractor, informed the truckers, in no uncertain terms, that (1) if they blockade Pennsylvania's highways, then their rigs would be confiscated; and (2) he would (and in fact did) lead a delegation to Washington to resolve the issues of fuel costs and other matters. And so, a Democratic governor successfully convinced a Republican administration to address the truckers' problems.

Thus far, Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg have taken the position that settling the labor dispute is not part of their respective jobs. And, if one is to go strictly by the book, they are absolutely correct. But then again, there is this thing called "leadership." Leadership, as those who have been to Officers Candidate School know, means taking charge of a situation when a control vacuum exists. Rendell and Shapp, the guys from Harrisburg, understood the concept and were willing to think outside of the box to offer creative leadership solutions.

If Pataki wishes to end this strike, he essentially has two choices. He can follow the book and impose fines and imprisonment upon the TWU and its leadership. This he has the legal right to do, but it would be a very costly proposition, and few if any believe he is willing to pay the price to achieve it.

Pataki's other option would be to reclaim the moral high ground he lost in 1996. Even at this late hour, he still can do it by clearing off his calendar and personally appearing at the bargaining table to broker a settlement. Given Pataki's lackluster leadership skills thus demonstrated (including his allowing Rudy Giuliani to take the initiative with the press briefings in the days following the Muslim terrorist attack of September 11th 2001), I wouldn't get too excited over such a possibility.

The TWU strike is illegal and should be halted immediately! But as long as TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint is the only player in the game who engages in sound and intelligent leadership practices, you can expect the strike to continue until Pataki and Bloomberg give away the entire store!

Racism and the NYC Transit Strike

Remember how the moonbats were singing their song about how the response to Hurricane Katrina was racist? Despite the rantings of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and all the other whiners, the official morgue tally indicates that Katrina took WHITE casualties in numbers disproportionate to the population!

But if the Katrina response had racist implications, then let me suggest that the same can be said about the current New York City transit strike, which is adversely affecting the livelihood of the b-l-a-c-k community. This is especially so because disproportionate numbers of b-l-a-c-k people and other Downtrodden Disadvantaged Minority Group Members (DDMGMs) hold workforce positions where employment alternatives to physically appearing at work, such as telecommuting or using vacation time, are not viable options. The professional in a law or accounting firm can often telecommute, but the menial laborer cannot.

And the longer the transit strike continues, the more economic and social damage will be inflicted upon the DDMGMs.

So howcum Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are supporting the transit strike?

And, pray tell, does it really matter to the DDMGM whether his or her family's suffering from the transit strike's economic and social havoc can be attributed to racism without running afoul of the official Political Correctness regulations?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

IRS taxpayer assistance cutbacks

As the new tax return filing season approaches, the Internal Revenue Service now plans to reduce the available hours of telephone taxpayer assistance. Colleen M. Kelley, the President of the National Treasury Employees Union, is of course against the IRS's plan. This is one instance where the public interest coincides with the NTEU's interest; the public needs the telephonic assistance and the NTEU employees need the jobs.

But there are some very serious questions as to whether the IRS can simply cut back its taxpayer assistance program without running afoul of the 2006 Treasury Funding legislation. Indeed, Congress specifically intended that that the IRS concentrate on "pre-filing taxpayer assistance and education."

In his book Many Unhappy Returns, former IRS Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti admitted that he does not prepare his own tax returns. At least one IRS manager had all kinds of trouble filling out her own tax return. If the IRS's own boys and girls have trouble doing their own tax returns, then what about the American public?

The various Congresscritters won't win any votes back home by agreeing to IRS telephonic taxpayer service cutbacks. The smart money says that the IRS's cutbacks won't be as drastic as they are now leading us to believe.

Monday, December 19, 2005

War in Iraq & War in NYC

Just something to make note of:

So many labor unionists oppose American military action in Iraq on the supposed grounds that the Iraqi people are being harmed and otherwise used as pawns in America's broader agenda.

Yet, when it comes to labor disagreements (including the contract dispute between the MTA and the TWU), these same labor unionists and their labor unions have no compunctions about using the people of New York City as pawns in the war.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

MTA vs. TWU: Follow-up

To follow up on the prior posting regarding the labor dispute in New York City between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Transport Workers Union Local 100:

The purpose of this posting is not to give a blow-by-blow account of the ongoing labor dispute, nor to parrot other blogs or news articles. Like other posts on this blog, this is nothing more or less than my own general perspective to the situation. And, like many if not most of my other posts, it is a perspective that does not comfortably fit into any typical or stereotypical niche or hole.

As a preliminary matter, I shall disclose that I have a teaching gig at a New York public educational institution, and as such, am a public employee covered by the "no strike" provision of the Taylor Law. I am also a dues-paying member of the relevant public employee union, notwithstanding my extreme philosophical and political differences with unions in general and my union in particular. So already, I do not conform to the stereotype!

And, to all you unionist and union sympathizers, don't cry too hard for the TWU! The Taylor Law, which prohibits public employees from striking, isn't totally anti-union. To the contrary, Section 208(3) of the Taylor Law allows the public employee unions to take an "agency shop fee" deduction from public employees who are not union members. So if you are a public employee in New York, the union touches your paycheck whether or not you are a member. This is legalized extortion!

There is now in effect a preliminary injunction against the a strike, violations of which would supposedly cost the TWU and its individual members beaucoup bucks. The TWU has rejected what the MTA has purported as its best and final offer, and has threatened to go on strike at 12:01 AM on Tuesday 20 December 2005.

In my prior post, I said that "[w]hat it all boils down to is which side will blink first." This assessment still holds. The Taylor Law (properly known as the Public Employees' Fair Employment Act, and codified as Article 14 of the New York Civil Service Law) was enacted in 1967, in response to the 1966 TWU strike that crippled New York City. But the Taylor Law's "no strike" provision has proven to be a farce. The TWU stopped work for 11 days in 1980, and was given amnesty for striking. So, given the historical record, there are some serious questions as to whether the consequences provided in the "no strike" provisions of the Taylor Law will really be enforced.

The pattern of late has been (A) TWU-MTA contract heading towards expiration mode; (B) TWU making noises to the effect that it may strike; (C) government gets injunction against strike, with severe financial consequences if injunction is violated; and (D) labor dispute settles, new contract inked, and cycle begins anew. This script cannot continue indefinitely. Eventually, the TWU (or, perhaps, some other public employee union in New York) will step across the line and actually strike. And when (not if) that happens, the :no strike" provisions of the Taylor Law will be put to test. If there be amnesty, as happened with the 1980 strike, then the Taylor Law will prove to be nothing more than a another piece of paper to litter the subway platforms of New York. And enforcing the provisions would entail a prolonged period of transit system dysfunction until the replacement workers sufficiently progress up the learning curve.

Do Governor Pataki and Attorney General Spitzer have the baitzim to enforce the Taylor Law? Perhaps they do, but I, for one, am not making book on it. Both George Pataki and Eliot Spitzer are lame ducks who have immediate aspirations for higher office. They may be quite reluctant to soil their hands on the mess that would accompany any serious effort to enforce the Taylor Law.

If the "no strike" provisions of the Taylor Law are not to be given serious regard, then the Taylor Law is a farce, and its continued existence will ultimately breed contempt for the rule of law and contempt for the authorities who are supposed to enforce the law.

And so, I say that the Taylor Law should be enforced. But how do I reconcile this with the fact that that my own union is now in contract negotiations, and has in fact floated the possibility of an illegal strike? This presents no real contradiction, because if the Taylor Law is not enforced, it for all intents and purposes does not exist. And if the TWU can strike with impunity, then all I ask is that my own union be extended the same courtesy.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Church vs. The Tax Man

To follow up on my post of 9 November, Marcus Owens, attorney for All Saints Church in Pasadena, has dispatched to the IRS a missive in which he points out what appear to be some very serious procedural flaws on the part of the IRS, which appears to have delegated the determination too far down the hierarchy. Sort of like the Admiral having the cook's mate decide whether to give the order to engage the fleet in battle.

For those who like waiting for long downloads, the Owens letter of 13 December 2005, with its many attachments, is posted on the All Saints Church website. For those with limited patience and/or computer memory capacity, the Church's press release of 14 December 2005, not so long of a download, gives most of the flavor Marc Owens's letter.

And though this particular church is totally and completely at odds with my political, social and religious beliefs and philosophies, I am more concerned about the IRS's abuse of its power than any moonbat idiotarian stunt the church can pull. Moonbats can always be dealt with, but not the IRS. So, politics and religion notwithstanding, I sure hope that the church doesn't lose this battle with the tax collector!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

NYC Subways on Collision Course

Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union represents the men and women who operate New York City's busses and subways. Their current contract expires at 12:01 AM on 16 December 2005, and they have authorized a strike if no new contract is in place by then. This would be in violation of the Article 14 of the New York Civil Service Law, commonly known as the "Taylor Law," which, among other things, prohibits public employees from striking.

Normally, the public sentiment would consider the TWU's demands to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for 8% raises each year for three years to be more than a little bit greedy, but this time the current circumstances are not normal. At the negotiation table the MTA has been doing its usual whining about how it is strapped for cash, which is not in and of itself remarkable.

What IS remarkable this year is that all the while it has been pleading poverty, the MTA has been anguishing over what the beancounters say is a budget surplus. In that regard, my grandparents lived for approximately 30 years in a house a few feet from a very busy street intersection. When they moved to an apartment, they had trouble dealing with the quiet, having gotten so accustomed to the traffic noise. The MTA, so accustomed to budgetary deficits and shortfalls and cash crunches, has trouble dealing with budget surpluses, which are not part of its corporate culture.

So to make their dreaded surplus go away, the MTA has decreed special Holiday Bonus Fares for its ridership during the end of the year 2005. These essentially are half-price fares for the weekends and the last week of the year.

Depending upon one's opinions and world views, the TWU people may be of a somewhat lower socioeconomic class, and they may not all have advanced educations, and they may or may not be obstinate, and they may or may not be greedy. But the one thing they ARE NOT is stupid! They certainly see the MTA's profligate dumping of dollars with the Holiday Bonus Fares, and they rightly consider the MTA's offers to them to be not only stingy, but an insult to their intelligences.

The MTA cannot have it both ways! If they are truly cash-strapped, then they were shmucks to even discuss a Bonus Holiday Fare half-price policy. And if they are not cash-strapped, then they should be able to offer the TWUers more than they are offering (though not necessarily the 8% for 3 years as demanded).
And then, there are some issues that are not really quantifiable in dollars and cents. Matters as basic and simple as going to the latrine to piss! Seems that the MTA has tightened up the work rules to limit the bathroom breaks to six minutes. And there are other work rules that are not much better.

So right now, the TWU and the MTA are on course for a head-on, high speed collision. If a strike comes about, New York City risks significant economic impairment, the TWU leadership risks incarceration, and the TWU rank-and-file membership risks punitive fines, loss of jobs and other administrative sanctions.

What it all boils down to is which side will blink first. And this time around, stacking up each side's plusses and minuses, it would seem that Toussaint and his crew have less to blink about than the MTA.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Solomon Amendment: FAIR v. Rumsfeld

The Supreme Court has just heard oral arguments in the case of the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, Inc. v. Rumsfield. This is the case where the Constitutionality of the so-called Solomon Amendment, which denies funding to schools that prohibit the military from recruiting on campus, is at issue.

The Solomon Amendment was promulgated in response to denial of access, on the part of many colleges and universities, to military recruiters, based upon the military's recruit requisites that reflect its restrictions on homosexual behavior.

As of this posting, the transcript of the oral argument has yet to be placed on the Supreme Court's website. [ In case you are interested, the American Bar Association has posted the Petitioner's Brief, the Respondent's Brief and the Petitioner's Reply Brief.]

I shall not now get into the reasons for my support of the Solomon Amendment, nor for my opposition to homosexual behavior in general (though I really don't think that the government should concern itself with what two consenting adults do in the privacy of the bedroom).

What I will point out, however, is that once upon a time a tactic used by draft resisters was to feign homosexuality in order to avoid military service. Men used to put on dresses and stockings to get out of their military service!

One would think that the so-called anti-war faction would be striving to PRESERVE a means to avoid military service (which, to be sure, is largely irrelevant as long as there is no military draft).

Moreover, my graduating class has exactly 100 people in it, and if the military comes to campus and recruits 5 of my classmates, then I am only competing with 94 for a job instead of competing with 99. Wouldn't it make sense to let the military recruiters come onto campus, so that anyone they recruit would be that much less competition for all the homosexuals who seek jobs?

They don't call the moonbats "idiotarian" for nothing!

Swastikas, Crystals and Crescents

The International Committee of the Red Cross has just adopted a new symbol, the Red Crystal. This is supposedly a resolution to the problem of international acceptance of Israel's Mogen David Adom, or, more specifically, agreement by Muslim governments to not attack ambulances and other humanitarian vehicles using the symbol (if such is possible). The Muslims have big time problems with use of a six-pointed star, and the MDA's symbol is "sometimes perceived as having religious, cultural or political connotations. This has affected respect for the emblems especially in certain conflict situations and has diminished the protection the emblems offer to victims and to humanitarian and medical personnel."

Well now, the Muslim countries have supposedly agreed to respect the Red Crystal. We shall see whether they do or not (but I wouldn't bet on it).

Some symbols get a bad rap. The swastika, for example, was originally a symbol denoting positive things such as fertility, health and prosperity. Then Hitler adopted it as his own symbol, and it since has become almost universally connected with hatred and lawlessness. Thus, the brickwork on the facade of the firehouse in Glenside, Pennsylvania built in 1927 before Hitler came to power, features a swastika motif (albeit a reverse swastika). The Glenside firefighters certainly do not attach any hateful or negative connotations to the symbol on their building, and have quite appropriately withstood the controversy that occasionally has arisen regarding the swastika at the top of their firehouse.

But because of what Hitler did to the swastika's image, it is absolutely out of the question for a new innovation to be able to use a swastika symbol without engendering some very, very negative feelings. Thus, the ICRC affiliate in Germany will not be using the Red Swastika as its symbol any time soon.

The same thing can be said about the crescent symbol used Islam. As of September 11, 2001, some Muslims did to the crescent what Hitler did to the swastika. And so, through no fault of the bona fide peace-loving Muslims of the world, the Muslim crescent has now become a symbol associated with hatred, deceit, lawlessness and murder.

Accordingly, the United States and other countries should withdraw their recognition of the Red Crescent symbol, and remove the protection it now accords vehicles flying the Red Crescent flag. Let the ICRC affiliates in Muslim countries use the Red Crystal!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Judge Blackburne update

Following up the Judge Laura Blackburne post of 29 November, the New York State Court of Appeals has unanimously suspended her from the bench pending its review of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct's finding that Judge Laura should be Ex-Judge Laura. Trouble is, the suspension is with full pay.

So here we have another one of Judge Judy Kaye's black-robed bench brats who is being subsidized on the taxpaying public's dime to do NOTHING!

This is standard procedure in New York. A better way to do it would be to suspend the judge WITHOUT PAY, but provide for full restitution of back pay if and when he or she is exonerated. Letting these black-robed bastards continue to drink at the public trough on full salary does little to inspire popular confidence in the judiciary.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ben Ladner affair update

Latest on the Ben Ladner Affair (originally posted 31 October 2005):

The American University Board of Trustees (or rather, the Chair and Vice Chair of that august body) has responded to the Senate Finance Committee's request for information regarding the remuneration (or rather, REMUNERATION all capital letters) of former AU President Benjamin Ladner. The AU letter of 1 December 2005 is posted on Senator Grassley's page, as is Grassley's 2 December 2005 acknowledging memorandum to the effect that he intends to start kicking a few butts.

What the AU Trustees' letter essentially says is that a secret sweetheart deal was made with Ladner by the former Board Chair, and that the current Board, stuck in the predicament as they were, paid Ladner the Dane-geld to make him go away.

Go get 'em, Chuck!!!

Stay tuned for further developments.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Paying for Press Coverage in Iraq

Now the liberal press seems to be whining about the new revelation that the Pentagon has been paying for positive publicity in the news media.

As pointed out on Betsy's Page, paying for positive press has long been a part of the American military strategy.

Military contracting is a complex and often dysfunctional field (as I learned firsthand in a previous existence as a Contracting Officer for the Department of Defense).

But just what is wrong with the notion of paying for positive publicity? The moonbats do it! I'm sure that Fenton Communications is not running the Cindy Sheehan Show for nothing!

Propaganda is just as necessary and legitimate as any other war strategy. When we had the September 11 Muslim terrorist attacks, Mayor Rudy Giuliani realized immediately that the battle had to be fought in the press as well as on other fronts. And those of the New York Republican Party (myself included) who curse Giuliani for delaying and thereby rendering ineffective Rick Lazio's campaign to oppose Hillary should remember that Rudy's high media visibility was made possible by none other than Governor George Pataki. George could easily have picked up the microphone, pulled rank on Rudy, and enjoyed all of the international media hype that was showered upon Rudy.

In many respects, the Giuliani administration and its aftermath is a replay of a script concerning Rudy's paesan from Philly, the late Frank L. Rizzo, where the party leadership passed over its own and put an outsider at the head of its ticket, and the outsider turned out to be a bull in the china shop who upset the equilibrium within the party. But at least the Democrats in Philly didn't lose their control over the city, like the Republicans in New York seem to be doing with their state. And there was the illusion of law and order in Philadelphia, because Rizzo, like Giuliani, knew how to get ink in the press. It is no mere coincidence that the Rizzo team included several journalists.

So, to the folks at the Pentagon, I say keep the positive publicity rolling, but make sure that you get good bang for the buck when you pay for the press coverage.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Casino Tax Breaks

The Administration's proposed Gulf Coast rebuilding plan includes tax breaks for the casino industry. After writing a letter dated 22 September 2004 to President Bush in protest of such tax breaks, and after getting 64 other members of Congress to join him in another letter dated 12 October 2005 to the President, Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) has spoken on the House floor to decry the plan. Mr. Wolf pointed out that "giving tax breaks to massage parlors, casinos, liquor stores and golf courses while we cut Federal programs for the less fortunate cannot be explained to the American people. Congress must be sure these tax benefits of the gulf rebuilding package do not go to massage parlors, casinos, liquor stores, and golf courses."


While the casinos would likely enrich the gaming industry and its supporting entourage of real estate brokers, lawyers and accountants, the one thing the casinos will NOT do is facilitate the orderly and efficient rebuilding of the community (whether in a social sense or an infrastructure sense). Casino gambling in Atlantic City was sold to the people of New Jersey on the premise that casinos would reverse the decline of Atlantic City. They did, but not very efficiently, and at great cost in other trade-offs. The block by the Boardwalk was quickly rebuilt, but many of the interior blocks remained in ruins or vacant for over 20 years. And even after the casinos came in, the Atlantic City infrastructure such as its hospital and the utilities did not commensurately improve.

Query: What are the chances in, say, the next 50 years, that a major hurricane will hit Atlantic City during a Labor Day Weekend? And if that happens, how will people be able to evacuate Absecon Island for the mainland?

Maybe I'm waxing nostalgic, but I prefer the REAL Atlantic City, before the casinos came.

Universities, high-tech industrial parks and military installations are more efficient nurturers of communities than casinos. Because Universities, high-tech industrial parks, military installations and even ordinary manufacturing plants produce goods and services that are beneficial to society, while gambling is little more than the creation of risk for its own sake, with no net benefit inuring to the community.

On Long Island, the Shinnecock Indians want to build a casino. I empathize with them. Fishing is no longer a viable industry for them (or almost anyone else on Long Island), and the loopholes that enable them to sell tax-free cigarettes are closing. But casinos will bring additional problems to Long Island. I question the wisdom of having Long Island casinos. And I question the wisdom of the Government's policies that are now effectively redefining the Native American culture as one of gambling and cigarettes.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

So Who's the Shmuck?

The good news is that Ms. Terry Paxton has just been given a 10-year sentence. She embezzled over $140,000 from the law firm where she was office manager.

This in itself is not particularly unusual or remarkable. But two facts of this case that warrant comment are:

A. Terry's husband had helped pay off money which Terry had stolen when she had previously worked for another law firm; and

B. While she awaited trial, Terry got a job at yet another law firm. Law Firm Number Three, fully aware of Terry's tendencies, came forward to the District Attorney, gratuitously put up $2,000 as partial restitution for Terry's defalcations, and beseeched that Terry receive probation and not jail time. The partners of the third law firm was impressed with Terry's office skills, and wanted to keep her in their employ.

While one's immediate inclination is to brand Terry's husband as a shmuck, one must consider that if the gender roles were reversed, it would just be another case of a woman standing by her man.

The partners of Law Firm Three do not have that excuse.

The LF3 partners may be shmucks, but they are not unique shmucks. In 1985, Jane Amador embezzled from a succession of Miami law firms, including the Miami office of 300+ attorney law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. For her defalcations, Amador got 10 years probation -- and then was hired by the very lawyer who defended her in the criminal proceedings.

And the problem is not necessarily unique to the legal profession. In 1979, the Charleston real estate firm of Read and Read hired one Judy Bode as a secretary, said Judy Bode having been convicted and on probation for writing bad checks. Judy was quickly promoted and given additional duties and privileges, including access to the firm's checkbooks. Of course, Judy promptly went into business forging the signature of partner Emerson B. Read on the checks.

Okay, so Read should have investigated Judy Bode's background a bit more thoroughly before hiring her. Does that make him a shmuck? Not necessarily, EXCEPT that Emerson Read gave Judy Bode free access to his signature rubberstamp which he used to sign the checks. Why did Emerson Read use a rubberstamp to sign checks? Because he had a physical impediment which prevented his signing checks and other documents the regular way. How did he get this physical impediment? His hand was shot off in a hunting accident.

The record [Read v. South Carolina National Bank, 335 S.E.2d 359 (S. Carolina 1985)] does not specify, but it is entirely plausible that Mr. Read was such a klutz that he accidentally shot off his own hand.

Was Read a shmuck? You be the judge!