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.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Terror in the Dentist's Office

When you find a good dentist (or, for that matter, any other healthcare professional), you stick with him/her. Finding a family dentist is a special challenge for my household because my wife's father was a very prominent dentist. Since he suddenly passed away 25 year ago, my wife can never really, truly be totally satisfied with any other dentist.

Recognizing her extreme biases in the matter, my wife did, after some experimentation, find a local dentist to whose office she could bring herself without too much compunction. He was very excellent and well reputed (my wife even had occasion to recommend him to others), but he passed away at a relatively young age. His junior associate took over the practice, and that is who we now use for our dental care. My wife's personal hang-ups notwithstanding, we are quite pleased with the arrangement. I will note he does the cleaning himself; unlike his departed mentor (and, for that matter, my wife's late father), he doesn't delegate the work to his dental assistant. This gives him better opportunity to comprehend what actually is going on in his patients' mouths.

A few days ago I went to our dentist for my semiannual cleaning and x-rays. The visit was unremarkable as far as my dental health goes. What was remarkable was that the background music played during my visit consisted of one of Cat Stevens's albums.

Other than my own interactions, I don't know too much about the business side of my dentist's practice. I'm certainly not about to tell him how to run his practice (and, as mentioned, my family is quite satisfied with the quality of dental care he provides). Specifically, I do not know his arrangements for procuring the office background music, and I have no present plans to ask.

But I am sure that all intellectual property rights are duly honored and enforced in the arrangement. Which means that the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens (and before that, Steven Georgiou) and now known as Yusuf Islam, somehow receives his royalties for the music played in my dentist's office.

There are some serious questions as to whether the money that supports Stevens/Islam also supports terrorism. This is not based upon the mere fact that Stevens/Islam has embraced the Muslim faith, but upon his statements and actions and activities.

It is rather disconcerting to think that a person such as my dentist helps to support terrorism. But the royalty money for Stevens/Islam that comes from my dentist is probably far, far less than the terrorist support that comes from the typical American driver's gasoline purchases.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Responsibility for the Illegal Aliens

This seems counterintuitive at first: Judge Rolando Acosta ruled that undocumented aliens could pursue their lost wages claims against their former employers, and that the defendant former employers could not inquire as to the plaintiffs' residency status. Gomez v. F & T Int'l (Flushing, NY) LLC, 2007 NY Slip Op 27269, 2007 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 4646, N.Y.L.J., 16 July 2007, p. 22 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. 2007).

Actually, Judge Acosta was right on the money. The two injured illegals who worked for the building demolition contractor were paid off the books, and were never asked for and never did submit any papers purporting to document their status. As Judge Acosta put it, "[n]ow that plaintiffs are injured and seeking lost wages, the owner and general contractor are suddenly concerned with plaintiffs' alien status and income tax returns."

The employers who were hiring the illegals took little to no safety precautions for employers who used tools such as wirecutters (the big kind for structural concrete reinforcement wires) and jackhammers. They paid them off the books, asked no questions, and knew damn well that the illegals were illegals. Now, Judge Acosta is effectively making them take responsibility for the very severe injuries the workers incurred.

This is one of those "clean up the garbage and the rats will go away" situations. As long as there is incentive for employers to hire illegals, the illegals will come here. And the problem is particularly recalcitrant in the building industry, especially the demolition segment of the building industry.

The windfall to the illegals is a relatively small price to pay for bringing responsibility to the building industry. And, if the injuries sustained by these illegals are half as serious as purported, then most of that money will be plowed back into the health care system (which is a morass unto itself).

And, if the IRS is on its toes, there will be consequences to the employers for the off-the-books wages.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Ranting about Officer Timoshenko

There is the website (more specifically, a message board) called the NYPD Rant. As the title implies, it is a place for malcontent NYPD cops (and their following) to whine and piss and moan and complain.

The NYC administration and the and NYPD top brass are not too comfortable about the NYPD Rant's existence because it does not show the positive aspects of the NYPD. I myself have mixed feelings about it, but if I had to choose yea or nay, I would have to come down in favor of allowing it to continue. The following factors are what sway my vote:

1. I myself am party to various Internet discussion groups whose purpose is to exchange information regarding matters of mutual concern in academia. As often as not, these groups are also rant rooms for the members, and in fact, my own rantings are above the group average.

2. There is such thing as freedom of expression, and while freedoms of expression do have various limits, NYPD cops have certainly not waived ALL of their rights to free expression.

3. If you sift through all of the negativity and whining and pissing and moaning and complaining, the NYPD Rant page really does provide better and more current info than the official NYC and NYPD websites.

Case in point: When and where are funeral services for Officer Timoshenko? Not on the NYPD official page!

This posting today by a Ranter who goes by the handle "Rob Roy 777" cogently points out the NYPD Rant's superior and speedier reporting of the news and info than the so-called "Official" websites. Rob Roy asks, "If the Rant can honor Oficer Timoshenko … WHY CAN'T THE CITY'S OWN WEB PAGE? OR EVEN THE POLICE DEPARTMENT'S?"

I have my issues with Rudy Giuliani. He is pro-same gender marriage, pro-abortion and anti-ferret. He cross-dresses. And his administration's handling of the murder of Gidone Busch by NYPD cops was an absolute disgrace (on this issue, I definitely do not side with the NYPD). But the reason I am now considering him for my vote in the upcoming Presidential election (actually, none of the candidates have yet made their case to me) is that he understands (1) there is a war going on, (2) our enemies are fighting that war against us, (3) we had damn well be fighting a war against said enemies, and (4) the war needs to be fought in the news media as well as on the battlefield and in the streets.

If NYC and the NYPD are to win the battle in the news media, they must establish themselves as a credible and reliable source of information. This they have not really done. And so, if I want info regarding something like the particulars for Officer Timoshenko's funeral, I SHOULD be able to get it at the official NYC and NYPD websites. But I can't, so I and everyone else must go to such sleazy joints as the NYPD Rant website in order to get good info.

If the NYC administration and the NYPD top brass are really, REALLY uncomfortable with the NYPD Rant, then they have themselves to blame for its existence. People wouldn't go there if the official websites were more reliable and timely.

And, lest we forget, Rest in Peace, Officer Timoshenko!

Labels: , ,

More Miscellaneous Briefs

A. Ex-Judge David Gross Pleads Guilty

Well, another black-robed bench bum is headed to the Big House. The Dishonorable David Gross, formerly a judge in the Nassau County, New York, District Court, has pleaded guilty to a money laundering conspiracy charge. The US Attorney's office is gunning at a sentence in the 37 to 46 month range (though he theoretically faces up to 20 years).

Gross's behavior on and off the bench was questionable, ranging spraying with a water hose the police detective who came to investigate a complaint that Gross was showering nude in his back yard with his children present, to keeping the jury deliberating on September 11, 2001 after the Muslim terror attacks.

The Newsday story on him carried a quote from one of Gross's former colleagues:

"I wouldn't characterize him as the top legal mind, but he worked hard at what he did," said Michael DerGarabedian, a Rockville Centre attorney who worked closely with Gross for years. "I would characterize him as a person who talked too much, and probably talked himself into something that he shouldn't be involved in. That's just the way he was. ... He never shut up."

Okay, so Gross isn't the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Maybe this is just as well. Imagine how much damage he might have done if he were brilliant!

B. High School Terrorists:

The previous posting on the Second Circuit's affirmance of the Wisniewski decision came not a day too soon. Now, some arrests have been made in what is alleged to be a Columbine copycat conspiracy at Connetquot High School on Long Island. It is now a criminal matter, but even more importantly, the Connetquot school administrators now have rock-solid legal footing to keep the alleged terrorists away from the school.

C. R.I.P., Officer Timoshenko:

NYPD Officer Russel Timoshenko has succumbed to his wounds received when he was arresting some car thief thugs. The charges against the three suspects, now in custody after a wide manhunt, will certainly be upgraded to include murder.

The two fugitive suspects were apprehended in Pennsylvania, and brought back to New York. Dexter Bostic, the alleged triggerman on Officer Timoshenko, was restrained by Timoshenko's own handcuffs, and Robert Ellis, who allegedly shot Timoshenko's partner, Officer Herman Yan, was restrained by Yan's handcuffs. Officer Yan's bulletproof vest saved his life, and I am grateful to report that he is out of the hospital and recovering. The alleged driver, Lee Woods, was captured very shortly after the shooting. He would be the logical guy with whom to work for a plea bargain in exchange for testimony.

Predicting the future is a very tricky business, but you would do well to put your money down on the following:

1. Bostic and Ellis will spend the remainder of their lives behind bars.

2. Woods might or might not eventually taste freedom again, but he will be out of circulation for quite some time.

3. I will be following the developments in what promise to be very long and protracted legal proceedings against the suspects.

4. Officer Timoshenko's NYPD colleagues will be following those legal proceedings even more diligently and exactingly than I will.

Officer Timoshenko may be gone, but it seems that his handcuffs are still doing their duty. Rest in Peace!

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Threats are No Joke

Okay, so the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has upheld the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, which, in turn, upheld Richard Mabbett, the Superintendent of Schools for the Weedsport Central School District.

Aaron Wisniewski, one of the brats under Mabbett's charge, had sent out an AOL Instant Message to his buddies, said message entailing an icon depicting a pistol firing a bullet at a person's head, with splattered blood, and the legend "Kill Mr. VanderMolen." Aaron's English teacher was Mr. Philip VanderMolen. Aaron was suspended from school for a semester, and the lawsuit captioned Wisniewski v. Board of Education followed.

[As this post is being written, the judicial opinions seem to only be available on proprietary fee-based databases. The LEXIS-NEXIS cite is Wisniewski v. Board of Education, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 15924 (2d Cir. 2007), aff'g 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41017 (N.D.N.Y. 2006).].

My commentary on the case:

1. Remember that the incident occurred in April 2001, which was before the Muslim terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. A few weeks prior to the incident, the student body had previously been informed that threats would not be tolerated and would be treated as acts of violence. Seems that Superintendent Mabbett and his subalterns knew, even in those halcyon pre-September 11th days, that terroristic threats are inimical to an environment conducive to effective education.

2. The lawsuit made some ado over the fact that the incident did not occur on school property, and did not use school computers. But Mabbett appreciated that his concern should not end at the boundary line to the school property. And the courts upheld him.

3. At the time of the incident, Aaron Wisniewski was a 15-year-old in the 8th grade. Having been duly apprised of the illegality of his acts, and of the potential consequences thereof, he chose to transgress, and he received the punishment. So far, so good. But then, his parents, Marty and Annette, got upset that their darling son's First Amendment rights to free speech were trampled upon, and brought the lawsuit. Maybe this is Aaron's real problem. Maybe he is the victim of piss-poor parenting. Maybe his parents ought to stop being terrorism facilitators and start being parents.

4. If truth be told, my own conduct in elementary and secondary school was not always that of the model student. I transgressed the rules on more than a few occasions, and the consequences of such transgressions, ranging from being compelled to stand in a corner to a one-day suspension, were imposed upon me. I didn't go home crying to Mommy and/or Daddy because I knew that Mommy and Daddy would invariably back the school principal every time. For that reason, the discipline imposed upon me was a success! I misbehaved, so I was punished! I eventually got tired of being punished, so I started to significantly curtail my misbehaviors. Works like a charm!

5. The plaintiffs in the case are "Martin and Annette Wisniewski, on behalf of their son Aaron Wisniewski." Of all of my youthful misbehaviors, not once did I ever threaten or harm any of my math teachers, and so, they were able to effectively teach me the subject in a nurturing environment. Applying the mathematical skills I learned back in grade school and high school, I figure that Aaron Wisniewski, who was 15 years old in April of 2001, is now 21 years old. And if indeed he is 21 years old, he should dismiss his parents from the case, accept the dismissal of his case, accept the one semester suspension he was given 6 years ago and then straighten out and fly right!

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Terrorist in Drag

The latest news: Maulana Abdul Aziz, the terror-inciting Muslim cleric at the Lal Masjid in Islamabad, was arrested while trying to sneak out in a woman's burqa.

This is not the first time that a Muslim terrorist has hid under a woman's burqa to elude capture. Indeed, it is totally consistent with the Muslim terrorist ploy of using ambulances to transport bombs and terrorist personnel. And the IRA Provos, who rank perhaps a half step above the Muslim terrorists at best, have also had instances of dressing up in drag to escape Maze Prison.
And even when the Muslim woman is really a woman, she still can be carrying a bomb under her burqa.

This is all very troubling. On one hand, there are the obvious security issues involved in allowing people who apparently are women to walk about at large wearing burqas. On the other hand, if we prohibit burqas (which I happen to favor), then the civil libertarian sob sisters will demand that religious Jewish women not be permitted to cover their hair.

This all is more than just a hypothetical scenario for me. My wife is one of those religious Jewish women who does cover her hair. And at the culturally diverse educational institution where I teach, I have had students sporting all kinds of head coverings. One semester I had 3 kippot (in addition to my own kippah), a shaitel, two turbans and 4 hijabs on my class roster.

More to the point, I have had in my classes Muslim women who covered their faces with niqabs. And while I never at any time feared for my personal security on account of it, I would be less than honest if I were to tell you that I never gave it a second thought.

There needs to be a way to find out who and what are underneath the burqas and the niqabs. There are two ways of doing this:

1. Have the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency spend millions and millions of our tax dollars to develop a hand-held burqa buster device which detects the minute electromagnetic resonances of the chromosomes to determine the gender of the wearer, as well as the signature resonances of explosive materials.

2. Use good old animate energy. Man's Best Friend can surely be trained to sniff out the burqa wearers. My favorite cyberspace canine, Lagniappe, has been trained to do something similar to this. The basic principles and technology are already available, and, quite frankly, I personally have a higher degree of confidence in a cadre of properly trained canine companions than in any of DARPA's high-cost overrun technology.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ambulance Disservice

When the recent scandal regarding misuse of funds at various Long Island volunteer fire companies was breaking, I was ready to bet the mortgage money that there were more such instances in other localities, perhaps a bit more egregious. Unfortunately, nobody took me up on the wager.

Harvey S. Grossman, the ex-Treasurer of the Plymouth Community Ambulance Association has just been sentenced to 5 to 20 years for using over $2 Million in PCAA funds for personal expenses such as furniture, home improvements, travel, jet skis, his daughter's bat mitzvah party, racing his stock car, et cetera.

Co-defendants Jeff Cohen and George Gilliano, who didn't embezzle nearly as much as Grossman did and who apparently cooperated in making the case against Grossman, are slated for sentencing in a week and a half. The way I'm calling it: Jeff and George have good odds for seeing some amount of jail time, but not nearly as much as Harvey got.

And the way I'm calling it for Harvey: In 5 years, when he theoretically becomes eligible for release, the IRS crackdown against abuses by nonprofit organizations will have raised the public consciousness so as to make it politically unwise to spring Mr. Grossman the first time up. But he is likely to behave reasonably well in prison, so he is quite unlikely to stay in for the entire 20 years.

[Disclosure: A number of years ago, under circumstances having no relevance to the Blog and having no relevance to ambulances, I had several occasions to respectively meet both Harvey and Jeff. I do not recall ever meeting with George Gilliano.].

It is a maxim among tax enforcement personnel, in whose ranks I formerly served, that whenever money changes hands, information also changes hands. I have no particular personal ill will towards Harvey or Jeff (or, for that matter, George), but am taken aback by the crass stupidity respectively displayed by two individuals of above-average intelligence. The embezzled funds were, by and large, filched via credit card and check, two money transfer modes which tend to leave clear verifiable trails of information. If Harvey would have been content with less than two million bucks, he could have found some indirect ways to transfer assets without the tracking inherent in credit card postings and checking account drafts. Like syphoning a few gallons of gasoline from an ambulance every week, grabbing an occasional gallon of windshield washer fluid, et cetera.

This, by the way, is quite likely just the beginning of Harvey's and Jeff's and George's legal problems. Surely the IRS smells some tax potential in their cases. Embezzled funds count as gross income for taxation purposes, so Harvey, Jeff and George can expect to hear from the IRS (if they have not been contacted by the IRS already).

But never mind the income tax. The Internal Revenue Code also provides for what are euphemistically called "excise taxes" on improper transactions between tax-exempt organizations and the key personnel thereof. Without going into the complex convolutions of the Internal Revenue Code, there are instances, possibly applicable to at least some extent here, where the "excise tax" is equal to twice the benefit received! It is also worth noting that where there are more than one individuals involved in the scheme, they all can be jointly and severally liable for this "excise tax."

So, in addition to having to reimburse the PCAA, Harvey, Jeff and George most likely have some accounts to settle with the IRS (and, for that matter, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue).

And if that were not problematic enough, I will note that the Form 990 which tax-exempt organizations are required to file with the IRS is, unlike other tax returns, open to public inspection. It takes a while for these forms to post on the Internet, but the PCAA 990s for 2003 and 2004 were each signed by Harvey. One need not be a tax lawyer with a MBA to know that Internal Revenue Code provides criminal penalties for filing false tax returns. Well, the IRS knows where to find Harvey for the next 5+ years.

I do feel bad for Jeff and Harvey (and George, too, even though I have never met him). But I feel even worse for the taxpayers of Plymouth Township.

Labels: , , , , , , ,