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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Little Old Man from Pasadena

As blogged here on 9 November 2005 and 16 December 2005, the All Saints Church in Pasadena was under audit by the Internal Revenue Service, the issue being whether, by dint of a single sermon by a guest preacher, the Church engaged in partisan political activity in violation of its tax-exempt status.

The IRS has closed its investigation of the Church, and the Church's attorney, Marcus Owens, now questions the procedures (or lack thereof) used by the IRS in the course of the audit. Having once been in the employ of the Service, I share Marc Owens's concern over the lack of accountability within the IRS (which Mr. Owens, having once occupied an IRS position far higher than my own, must also personally appreciate).

Now that the audit has been closed, Marc Owens's letter seems to be the ceremonial first ball in a brand new ballgame. There may well be repercussions on account of the IRS's laxity with the statutes and regulations.

I certainly have no affinity for the All Saints (Episcopal) Church as far as its religion or politics go. They are idiotarian moonbats, plain and simple. My concern is the behavior of the IRS.

Is the IRS justified in revoking the tax-exempt status of a church on account of a single sermon by a preacher? To that question, I will answer, with broad shoulders, a definitive "Yes!"

But if indeed the IRS seeks ensure that tax exemptions are only accorded to those entities which qualify, and which follow all of the rules (including the ban against political activity), then they have very fertile ground to plow in many American mosques, whose fare regularly entails preaching far more subversive and dangerous than the anti-Bush sermon heard at All Saints.

The IRS should stop picking on a little old man in Pasadena, and get down to the real business of the real tax money.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Clean Cash or Dirty Dollars?


I frequently read a judicial opinion which my instincts tell me is not only an incomplete account (very few of them tell the whole story), but is missing some major, key significant puzzle pieces which are the stuff of great intriguing literature and/or film.

The latest such judicial opinion is Glassman v. Wachovia Bank NA, N.Y.L.J., 17 September 2007, p. 20, col. 1, 2007 N.Y. Slip Op. 51699(U), 2007 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 6227 (Sup. Ct., N.Y. Co., 2007).

Roberta Glassman, who has homes in both Florida and New York, rented a "self service" safe deposit box at Wachovia Bank in West Palm Beach. The box rental agreement provides, inter alia, that any items missing from the box are the boxholder's responsibility, and that " the Bank has no liability whatsoever unless the loss is caused by the Bank's gross negligence, fraud or bad faith."

Through some bureaucratic dysfunction, five months after Ms. Glassman rented the box, someone at Wachovia mistakenly listed the box as unrented or delinquent, and accordingly, Wachovia had the box drilled. The technicians who drilled the box immediately realized that the box was rented, and immediately summoned the cognizant Wachovia employee, who immediately had the box inventoried. All present at the inventory agreed that the box contained $12,000 in hundred dollar bills, and a Sufolk County (NY) municipal bond.

Roberta Glassman's claim: The last time she accessed the box, she withdrew $3,000 in hundred dollar bills, in preparation for her trip to Europe, leaving $87,000 in hundred dollar bills. Ms. Glassman sued Wachovia for the $75,000 allegedly missing from the box.

Judge Michael Stallman denied both sides' motions for summary judgment, ruling that the facts were sufficiently disputed so as to warrant a trial. Judge Stallman noted: "Of course, it is plaintiff who has the burden of proving that the allegedly missing $75,000 was in the Box at the time it was drilled and that the Bank is legally responsible for the loss."

Having once been in the employ of the Internal Revenue Service, I have been trained to think dirty. I level no accusations, make no assumptions, and, in fact, hope that Ms. Glassman ultimately proves to be an honorable person with pure motives. But here are my dirty thoughts on the matter, in no particular order:

1. If Roberta Glassman is to prevail at trial, she will, no doubt, be asked to explain how she came into possession of 900 hundred dollar bills. Did she collect them one by one, in the same manner in which I collect matchbooks, wine bottle corks, or caps from beer bottles? If so, then, at the rate of one per week, it would take her approximately 18 years to collect them.

2. If she withdrew them from her bank account, then there should be some bank records reflecting some withdrawals of some nice large and round numbers of dollars. I don't know how Ms. Glassman's bank (Wachovia or otherwise) works things; what I do know is that the tellers at my bank mark the deposit or withdrawal ticket to reflect not only the total amount of cash involved, but also a breakdown of how many bills of what denomination were given to the customer. Such records, if they exist, should be available if the transactions occurred within, say, 7 years.

3. More along the same lines, if the bank from which Ms. Glassman obtained the 900 hundred dollar bills is Wachovia, then Wachovia should be able to access its records. If Wachovia hasn't kept a kosher kitchen (remember that they bungled big time by drilling the box in the first place), then Ms. Glassman may be entitled to have the jury be given the "missing evidence" instruction by the Judge.

4. "Roberta Glassman" is not a particularly unique or unusual name. The whitepages.com website returns 3 hits for Roberta Glassman, including one in West Palm Beach and one in Commack, NY, in what amounts to a senior community. The West Palm Beach listing pegs her in the age range of 75 - 79, which is close enough to the 74 year age mentioned in Judge Stallman's opinion. Commack is in Suffolk County, the same county that issued the bond listed on the box inventory. Accordingly, the smart money says that the West Palm Beach and Commack listings are of our girl here.

5. According to a New York Times society page announcement from 4 February 1991, "[The groom's] mother, Roberta Glassman, is the president of RBG Consultants, a fund raising concern in Brookville. His father, a professor of medicine, is the director of New York University's department of cardiac catheterization." Similar information appeared in the NYT wedding announcement of the couple's daughter on 21 March 1993. So she not only had a husband who earned a sizeable salary, but also was involved in fundraising consulting. Each of these callings is quite honorable, but the possibilities for financial hanky panky do exist, and do increase along with the amount of available money.

6. There is an eleemosynary organization, with offices in Suffolk County and Nassau County, called Hospice Care Network. Among its donorship is one "Mrs. Roberta Glassman," who was generous and kind enough to be listed in the $25,000+ range of donation. It is most likely that this generous gift to the well-reputed charity was tendered by check and not by cash.

7. Ms. Glassman is apparently a competent (or even, perhaps, astute) manager of her own finances. If she invests money in sound investments such as municipal bonds, why did she keep $90,000 of her funds in cash, which produces no income when it sits in a safe deposit box?

8. Wachovia certainly does not wish to be on the hook for $75,000. On the other hand, word on the street that a Wachovia bank messed up and drilled what was supposed to be a customer's secure safe deposit box cannot possibly attract new customers. The negative publicity, if the story goes national, might cost Wachovia more than the $75,000. Wachovia obviously does not have totally clean underwear in this matter, and indeed, it might not have been Wachovia's only screw-up.

9. If Roberta Glassman did in fact have the $90,000 cash in her safe deposit box, then the explanation as to the money's origin will likely prove very interesting. If she didn't, then she will likely be made to look liked a smacked toochas on the witness stand. In the non-stupidity column, Wachovia might conceivably break even on this one, but they cannot score a clear victory. Either way, it should prove very interesting.

10. And then, there is another possible outcome: Neither Roberta Glassman nor Wachovia Bank wish to have their weak spots made public, so they decide to settle the matter before trial. If I had to bet on one outcome or another, this is where I would make book.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Clearance Denied

Some good news in the fight against illegal aliens.

A security clearance was denied to an individual who knowingly hired an illegal alien as a babysitter and who failed to pay the Social Security taxes and other obligations in connection with the illegal alien's employment.

Controlling the illegals cannot be done if the illegals alone are targeted. The facilitators of the illegal aliens must also be held accountable. In this case, such seems to have been done.

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We had some fatso houseguests for Rosh Hashanah (this is in addition to the one to whom I have been married for 20+ years). The couple (hereinafter referred to as "He" and "She") are long time friends of ours whose own house is currently undergoing reconstruction, so He and She stayed with us for the holiday. And they really are fine and wonderful people.

He was an athlete in his youth, and is still in reasonably good physical condition. She, on the other hand, makes my wife seem anorectic by comparison.

The sad truth is that She is too fat to walk more than about 25 feet without having to take a break. She is too fat to get up to light the candles for Rosh Hashanah or Shabbat. She is too fat to even get up to extend her reach a few inches so she can get the newspaper at the other end of the table. And She is obviously too fat to climb the short flight of stairs to the living room level of our house, let alone to the guest bedroom upstairs.

Which wouldn't be so bad, except that She is -- and there is no nice way of expressing this -- too fat to adequately tend to her personal hygiene. I'm not sure which is worse, the odor of her body fluids or the strong perfume She uses in a futile attempt to cover up the body fluid odors. I can ill tolerate being in the same room with her. After 3 days, it was really getting to be a bit much.

She spent the entire three days in one of three positions: (A) sitting on the chair in the ground-level den; (B) sitting on a chair in the dining room; and (C) using the ground-level bathroom of our house. While in Position B, the dining room, she ate quite a bit of fattening foods, while leaving the salads untouched. The most strenuous exercise that She ever gets is driving her car around the block. And so, She just keeps getting fatter and fatter.

[My wife may be significantly overweight, but at least she does get some amount of physical exercise in. My wife is able to walk a mile to Shul, and then another mile + to visit friends, and then return. Along with everything else she eats, my wife eats salads and other healthy foods (though her intake of other fattening foods is not really under adequate control). But for all her excessive weight, my wife can walk up and down stairs, can tend quite well to her personal hygiene, and sometimes even swims a few laps in our swimming pool.].

Fatso is not just a physical condition; Fatso is a state of mind. There are few fat people who do not engage in off-the-record munching which they fail to take into account when assessing their calorie intake (but which nevertheless is input to the metabolism processes). I know which dresser drawer my wife uses for her secret stash of chocolate. I have chosen to ignore it; my other alternative would be to call foul on it, after which she would only find some alternative location for her chocolate stash.

In any event, I note that Judge Holwell has just decided the case of New York State Restaurant Assn. v. New York City Board of Health, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66935 (S.D.N.Y., 07 Civ. 5710, September 11, 2007) which essentially invalidated the New York City rule that required fast food restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus. Without going into the merits or specifics of the case, I will observe that the fatsos -- the very persons the various state menu calorie count rules were intended benefit -- pay no heed to calorie counts or other nutritional info anyway. Fatsos see food and eat it. Period! These calorie count rules and nutrition labeling rules cannot be expected to induce fatsos to lose weight.

Nutritional labeling only distracts from the real issues. The fatties don't pay the nutritional labeling any mind, and those of us who eat responsibly don't really need the nutritional labeling. The fatso lobby wants us all to accept the fatties and not discriminate against them and all that. But it's time for the fatsos to take responsibility for their bodies!

Love the fatso, but hate the fatness!

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

L'Shanah Tova Tikatevu, 5768

Got lots to do today, in preparation for Rosh HaShanah and otherwise.

New Year greetings to everyone from me and my family. Everyone have a happy and a healthy one!

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Friday, September 07, 2007

How do the Rabbis call this one?

I'm now back in busy mode. I have started teaching again, and so far, the semester has been busy as usual for this time of the year, but no remarkable incidents thus far. This, of course, suits me very well.

I had an appointment in Manhattan this morning, but it was scrubbed on account of the fatal incident at the Kingston Avenue station, which suspended train service from Brooklyn to Manhattan on the 2, 3, 4 & 5 trains. Fortunately, the E train was operational, and I was able to get to school in time to teach my class. One of my colleagues was kind enough to give me a ride home, so I didn't have to take the Long Island Railroad back.

If you are sitting in a courtroom and your cell phone goes off, it will be confiscated by the court officer. As a result of this well publicized and consistently enforced policy, I have heard damn few cellphones ring in courtrooms.

Compare that with the cell phone policies in synagogues! In one of the shuls I have frequent occasion to visit, there is a poster on the wall imploring everyone to respect the sanctity and dignity of the venue by switching off their cellphones during prayer. But 4 of the past 6 times I have davened there, at least one cell phone went off during prayer. They have a rule which is not enforced, so everyone considers it to be a joke.

Exacerbating the travesty is that the cell phone that went off during davening, in all but one instance, had an owner who is a rabbi.

If the rabbis won't abide by the shul's cell phone policy, then how can anyone else be expected to?

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Sunday, September 02, 2007


Yesterday at shul, the Rabbi made several comments. It was particularly crowded, as was expected, given that the Rabbi and Rebbitzen had lots of guests for their daughter's Bat Mitzvah.

One of the things the Rabbi mentioned was that it is now the Month of Elul, and we should not wait until Yom Kippur to grant mechilah (forgiveness) to all who have wronged us during the year.

I asked the Rabbi whether we are required to forgive people who continue to keep on wronging us. He assured me that just because I forgive you for doing something to me yesterday doesn't necessarily mean that I am forgiving you for doing it to me again tomorrow.

And so, I hereby grant mechilah (reserving, of course, the right to collect monetary debts owed) to any and all who have wronged me during this past year. When you seek forgiveness from G-d, you can now tell Him that you have resolved your wrongs against me, and that he should not punish you on my account.

I also take this opportunity to ask mechila from any and all I may have wronged during the year.

And I intend to continue to pay off all of my monetary debts on or ahead of schedule.

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