Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Monday, March 19, 2007
Justice for Pekearo, Marshalik and Romero
Nicholas Todd Pekearo and Yevgeniy "Eugene" Marshalik were the two New York City Auxiliary Police officers killed in the line of duty last week on 14 March 2007. The actions of these heroes quite likely prevented even more deaths and injuries from the rampant gunman. As Auxiliary Police Officers, they were unarmed. Details of their cold-blooded murder, and of their respective funerals, are reported elsewhere.
In addition to the condolences to the families of APOs Pekearo and Marshalik, condolences are due to the third victim of the shooting rampage, bartender Alfredo Romero Morales. May they all rest in peace!
This posting spotlights two side issues to the aftermath of these fallen officers' heroic actions.
1. The assailant, David Garvin, is identified in many news reports as a "former Marine." Only a few news outlets, such as the New York Sun, bother to report that Garvin was discharged from the Marine Corps under less than honorable circumstances and that NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly is himself a retired USMC officer. Why are the Marines being given such negative spin?
2. The fact that two of the murder victims were police officers on duty is, to say the least, an aggravating circumstance which, all else being equal, should weigh very heavily towards imposition of the death penalty. But in New York there is no official death penalty (and even when the now-invalidated statute was on the books, Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau specifically had a policy against its use. Morgy has his reasons, apparently from his own near-death experience as a Navy officer during WWII, and I will not now castigate him for it. But society does lose something by not applying the capital punishment in the most egregious cases which scream out for it.
Even in those jurisdictions which do have an effective death penalty, it is a protracted and expensive process. The price of justice for a fallen police officer is very high indeed.
But in this instance here, other NYPDers who arrived on the scene, and who were armed, shot Garvin dead. On the plus side, the people of New York were saved the expense of bringing the killer to trial and then, supplying him with legal counsel, food, water, recreation, health care and oxygen for the remainder of his life. The families of APOs Pekearo and Marshalik were spared the agony of reliving the murder at the trial.
But death at the hands of a police officer, without the due process of the legal system, is in many respects the antithesis of justice. It is a leg-on to a totalitarian police state.
It is unfortunate that the justice these two fallen police officer received (and let us not forget Mr. Morales as well) from the barrel of a cop's service firearm was a better quality of justice than the New York court and penal system is now capable of providing.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Dr. Rashed or Dr. Mengele?
I am appalled at this matter for all of the obvious reasons everyone else is appalled at this matter. My comments, in no particular order:
1. One sidebar to Gidone Busch's killing by the NYPD is that Dr. Ivan Oransky, a psychiatric resident at New York-Presbyterian Medical Center, unlawfully accessed Gidone's medical records and leaked them to the New York Times, which featured a sidebar article about Gidone's psychiatric history. NY Presby booted Oransky from its residency program.
2. Relevant quotation from the late Justice Michael A. Musmanno:
"Today no cemetery is without tombstones, no grave remains unmarked. Even in holocausts resulting from conflagration, explosion, earthquake or flood, where identification of individual bodies must sadly fail, a general monument is raised to the common dead. Over every military grave the Cross or the Star of David blesses the named martyr beneath. And where large numbers are interred in a common grave because an exploding shell commingled the remains beyond separation, a cenotaph rises to honor the Unknown Dead.
It is unthinkable today that anyone should be consigned to the earth without a shaft, big or small, naming him who has departed forever from his mourning kin and friends. Those who have no respect for the dead can have but little appreciation of the dignity of man, either living or dead."
Kotal v. Goldberg, 375 Pa. 397, 404-05, 100 A.2d 630, 634 (Pa. 1953) (Musmanno, J.).
The case before Judge Musmanno involved the question of whether the cost of a tombstone was allowable as damages in a wrongful death action. But if a decedent is to be given the respect of a monument or marker, then the desecration and mutilation of a decedent's body must, a fortiori, be condemned by the law.
3. Along similar lines, the writings of Maimonides himself are replete with passages requiring respect for the deceased.
4. For many years, the medical profession has been whining about how the lawyers are driving up the cost of health care with the medical malpractice suits. It must be remembered that injured patients may or may not sue their doctors, but angry patients will almost always sue the doctors who slight them. For too many years, the medical profession has allowed itself to develop a severely exaggerated attitude towards their self-worth, and has passed on this arrogant attitude to its new inductees. If the medical profession continues to bring into its camp individuals who have no respect for or understanding of the dignity human life, they can expect the lawsuits to continue.
[Disclosure: My wife is a physician. In order to preserve my marriage, I DO NOT take on med mal cases.]
5. I am not telling the various state licensing boards how to dispose of Dr. Rashed's inevitable upcoming applications for licensure. But his conduct in this case is relevant to his fitness to practice medicine, and, when he applies for licensure, he should be called upon to explain why he is fit to practice medicine, in light of the misdeed to which he has pleaded guilty.
6. Hasn't the medical profession learned from its experience with Dr. Mengele?
Congresscritters Tom Reynolds (R, NY) and Jim Ramstad (R, MN) have introduced H.R 779, the Tax Snooping Prevention Act of 2007. Seems that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration ("TIGTA")'s Semiannual Report to Congress of 31 March 2006 had reported that "[t]here has not been a noticeable decrease in the number of violations" of the antibrowsing provisions of Internal Revenue Code Section 7213A.
So Messrs Reynolds and Ranstad have proposed legislation to double the antibrowsing penalties. The penalties for willful unauthorized access of a taxpayer's records by IRS employees come in three flavors:
1. Fine and/or imprisonment.
2. Damages to the affected taxpayer (current minimum $1,000, which would double under HR 779).
3. Getting canned from your position with the IRS (or any other Federal agency).
My take on it:
First and foremost, my personal empathies lie with my ex-colleagues at the IRS. They, for the most part, labor diligently, within the constraints of the confusing tax laws and regulations, and the often dysfunctional IRS bureaucracy.
Which is why I have no problem with punishing the bad apples! America's tax system depends upon the taxpayer voluntarily, without compulsion or coercion of a Federal agent, truthfully and completely filling out and filing their tax returns and paying the taxes due. And the public will not do this if they knew that their personal info on the tax return would be bandied about to strangers (or, worse yet, to adversaries such as ex-spouses, nosy neighbors and the like). Which would mean a return to the more oppressive methods of taxation employed in other nations, today and in the past.
So I have no problem with, and in fact applaud, HR 779 per se.
But HR 779, if it becomes law, would not solve the basic problem, which is a complex, convoluted and confusing tax code that is unwieldy to interpret, enforce and administer. And I still am not convinced that Congress has the collective political will to bring about real reform to our taxation system.
For the record:
A. When I worked for the IRS, I did not have the resources to personally access the IRS computer system for any purpose. If I needed a particular taxpayer's record, I had to fill out a form and submit it to a clerk whose job it was to perform the access and obtain the tax record print-out (which usually took a few days). So there was a paper trail of all my accessions of taxpayer info from the IRS computer system. And I will categorically state that each and every one of those accessions was either a case assigned to me, or directly related to a case assigned to me. IRS employees who follow such guidelines have nothing to fear from HR 779.
B. My own personal income tax returns have already been filed this year. The Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 tasked the IRS to get 80% of America's income tax returns filed electronically. They are short of this goal, and I have not been much help to them in achieving it. I have seen too many blunders with the IRS losing track of the tax returns it receives. Though the U.S. Postal Service is certainly far from infallible, it can keep the IRS honest if you use certified or registered mail to file your tax return.