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, April 23, 2007

Two Virginia College Massacres

Just over 5 years before the 16 April 2007 Virginia Tech massacre in Blacksburg, Virginia, there was another shooting massacre less than 100 miles away. On 16 January 16, 2002, Peter Odighizuwa, a student at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, VA, killed the Dean, Anthony Sutin, along with Professor Thomas Blackwell and student Angela Dales.

There are many parallels between the two incidents. The shooter in each case was a foreign-born person legally in the United States who had severe emotional issues, who took out their frustrations with handguns.

But there is also a contrasting distinction between the two incidents, a distinction which seems to have been lost in the news media feeding frenzy. In the Appalachian School of Law incident, the killer only murdered three victims, as compared to the 32 victims at Virginia Tech. And at ASL, the killer's rampage was stopped because another student was able to go to his car and access his firearm, which he used to subdue the killer.

Regardless of your opinions regarding the regulation of firearms, there is no denying the facts.

Disclosure Number 1: Less than 3 months before the ASL massacre, I had met with several ASL faculty members for the purpose of discussing my prospective employment there. Considerations of family and geography dictated that I not pursue the matter any further at that time.

Disclosure Number 2: My wife has two cousins who are enrolled at Virginia Tech. We were, of course relieved to learn that they are safe and sound. But it wasn't really good news that they were not victims, because someone else's family instead of ours got the bad news.

May the victims of both masssacres rest in peace, and may their families be comforted!

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Updates on IRS and Garson

Well, folks, the IRS has just tacked on a additional week's grace period to file the taxes if you are "affected by the major storm that hit the Northeastern United States April 16." The IRS's benevolence may or may not be appropriate, but my concerns expressed in the previous posting still stand and indeed, are amplified.

As Adam Smith observed:

"The tax which each individual is bound to pay ought to be certain and not arbitrary. The time of payment, the manner of payment, the quantity to be paid, ought to be clear and plain to the contributor, and to every other person. Where it is otherwise every person subject to the tax is put more or less in the power of the tax‑gatherer, who can either aggravate the tax upon any obnoxious contributor, or extort, by the terror of such aggravation, some present or perquisite to himself. The uncertainty of taxation encourages the insolence and favours the corruption of an order of men who are naturally unpopular, even where they are neither insolent nor corrupt. The certainty of what each individual ought to pay is, in taxation, a matter of so great importance, that a very considerable degree of inequality, it appears, I believe, from the experience of all nations, is not near so great an evil as a very small degree of uncertainty."

By granting an additional blanket extention, the IRS has further diminished the certainty.

The IRS's unusual act of grace may well have been the result of a calculated comparison between the evils of this additional uncertainty on one hand, and the prospect of being confronted with too many individual case-by-case decisions on the other. If so, then I respect and applaud the IRS's decision. But my premise still stands that there is a price to be paid for the IRS's calculated laxity.

In other IRS news, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson will soon step down to become CEO of the American Red DoubleCross. Commissioner Everson brought about some much-needed reforms to the IRS, and can be expected to do some much-deserved toochaskicking at the American Red Cross. I wish him the best of luck, because he will need it.

And ex-judge Gerald Garson, of whom I posted 2 weeks ago, has been convicted on 3 of 7 counts, including the most serious bribery charge. While the theoretical maximum time faced by Mr. Garson is 15 years (if the sentences are consecutive), the time for the most serious charge is 28 months to 7 years. The scheduled sentencing is 5 June 2007, but don't bet against postponements or other complications. Whatever sentence Judge Berry pronounces will tell us a lot about Judge Berry. I shall be quite surprised if Garson actually serves more than 4 years.
And maybe the IRS will review Garson's tax picture, if they haven't done so already. That will give him something to do while he is in prison.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tax Filing Extensions

Over the Pesach break, Uncle Sam and Governor Spitzer each pooped in my mailbox. Not as much of a tax refund as last year, but the checks have been deposited (and will soon be spent, inasmuch as my son is about to begin college).

But not everyone files their tax returns as early as we do. There is the inevitable last-minute line at the post office every year.

On account of the storm, the IRS has given a 48-hour extension to "Taxpayers directly impacted by the storm." This wording is ambiguous, and is not at all clarified by the IRS's supplemental "Frequently Asked Questions" regarding the extension.

And the IRS has also given a 6-month extension to those affected by the Virginia Tech massacre, which "applies to the victims, their families, emergency responders and university students and employees."

Not that such extensions are per se unfair or overly-indulgent. But the way they are worded is susceptible to diverse interpretation. I predict that the IRS will either (1) become bogged down in the construction of these ambiguous terms, whether in the courts and/or its own staff; or (2) the IRS will throw in the towel and just grant the extension to anyone who claims it, without any meaningful investigation or verification.

The IRS has left itself open to challenge by drafting ambiguous and uncertain regulatory pronouncements.

Disclosure: On account of the storm, hundreds of flights in and out of New York were canceled or delayed or diverted. Many of my students returning after the Passover break were among the affected travelers. There was an assignment due on Monday 16 April, but, given the travel situation of so many of my students, I extended the deadline to Wednesday 18 April.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Never Mind Imus

Okay, so the Imus saga is monopolizing the front pages of the papers, and everyone seems to be talking about Don Imus.

I never was an Imus fan, and have no feelings for him one way or another. He has paid his dues over the years, and he is entitled to whatever he reaps, and he is a big boy (and a Marine) who can deal with the consequences of his own words and actions.

My problem with this Rutgers Women's Basketball affair is that those girls (they are still girls to this 50+ man) are still not public figures. If they were playing professionally, or running for public office, or trying to advance their careers as celebrities, then they would have been fair game for Imus's remarks. But they are college students who are involved in a college extracurricular activity (many for the scholarship funds to pay their tuition).

I will not now discourse on the ills of collegiate athletics, which is a separate issue altogether. Nor will I discuss the merits -- or glaring lack thereof -- associated with the substance of Imus's remarks.

But because those girls are not yet public figures, they are still entitled to their dignity and privacy. Imus violated it. There should be consequences for him.

And now there are!

The Imus case is now concluded!

My only comment is: What gives Jesse Jackson (of "Hymietown" fame) or Al Sharpton (who used racial polarization to foment the Crown Heights pogrom) the right or moral standing to complain about what Imus said?

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Flushing out the crooked judges

The trial of Gerald P. Garson, former Brooklyn judge now accused of accepting bribes, is being watched by many in New York and elsewhere. The evidence against Garson is overwhelming, especially the secret audio-video recordings made in his chambers. The one weakness in the prosecution's case is that their star witness is Paul Siminovsky, the disbarred lawyer who, as part of his plea bargain, wore the wire and is now singing on the witness stand.

A brief blurb on the front page of the 3 April 2007 issue of the New York Law Journal:


On the first day of cross-examination yesterday, Mr. Garson's attorney, Michael S. Washor, tried to fluster Mr. Siminovsky and damage his reputation, mostly by recounting Mr. Siminovsky's disbarment and his undercover work for prosecutors.

"You lied to this man, your mentor?" Mr. Washor asked.

At one point he earned a mild admonition from Justice Jeffrey G. Berry. Mr. Washor was questioning Mr. Siminovsky about his plea to a misdemeanor; when he asked Mr. Siminovsky what date he had pleaded guilty, Mr. Siminovsky asked, "In court?"
"No, in the toilet," Mr. Washor replied.

Mr. Washor also could be heard speaking softly to his co-counsel, "Let me handle it. This [expletive], I'm going to get him."

After dismissing the jury, Justice Berry called Mr. Washor a "talented attorney" but asked him to "tone it down."

Mr. Washor apologized to the jury, but proceeded to ask Mr. Siminovsky if he knew the difference between a court and a toilet.



Many have expressed outrage and disgust at the corruption in the courts in Brooklyn.

My comment here is that, having litigated cases in the Brooklyn courts, I am unable to discern all that much difference between a Brooklyn court and a toilet.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Passover Greetings

Just a short Passover Greetings post, to wish everyone a happy and kosher Pesach. We are in the process of clearing out all of the chametz, which includes all fermented grain, which means the bread and whiskey and beer. For the first time, the seder will be at my own home (so I'm stuck with leading it). We're looking forward to it.

And remember that just as G-d performed miracles for us to bring us out of Egypt, He continues to work miracles for us even in our day.

[Note to the followers of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton: It took the Jewish people 40 years, in the desert, to cast off the indolent habits of slavery, after which we assumed the responsibilities of nationhood. Stop whining about slavery and start acting responsible! Can you not see that so many of your own people have taken up the responsibility of being free and independent, and are prospering right before everyone's eyes?]