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, January 28, 2008

Hitting the Bottle

Well, my wife and I are back from visiting our son in the Holy City of Jerusalem, and visiting other friends and relatives, and seeing Israel. Our return flight was rather turbulent so the "Fasten Seat Belt" signs were on for almost the entire time (though we did get up and walk around a bit). One of the passengers had a medical exigency, but she seemed okay after they met her with a wheelchair at the landing.

But, with the tailwinds slightly more intense than anticipated, we actually landed a few minutes early. It's good to be back home again. But I already miss Israel and the Holy City of Jerusalem.

This posting deals with the differences between the respective security of American airports and Israeli airports. Specifically, the US Department of Homeland Security Transportation Safety Administration's "Three Ounce Rule" for carrying liquids on airplanes.

As is widely known, airline passengers are limited to 3-ounce bottles of liquids, in a 1-quart clear plastic bag, onto airlines. Accordingly, that liter of bottled water I was sipping had to be discarded when I entered the airport at Newark. At Israel's Lod Airport (while I appreciate what David Ben Gurion achieved, I am not a worshipper of Ben Gurion and accordingly, still call the airport "Lod"; just as I still call the international airport in New York City "Idlewyld"), I was permitted to continue sipping my liter of bottled water as I entered, and eventually to carry it onto the airplane; indeed, I carried the same bottle, with more than 3 ounces remaining, off the plane when it landed in the USA.

This is not an indicium of Israel's lax security. Indeed, they detected, in my wife's luggage, the two bottles of Prigat orange juice concentrate, and required her to open the suitcase before allowing it to be checked. Israeli air travel security has long been the benchmark. Even back in 1973, when I was traveling back via El Al, I was asked some pointed questions regarding my stay in Israel. I had spent time on an archaeological dig, and the airport security people asked me questions regarding the dig which, had I not been there, I would not have been able to properly answer. Had American airports even come close to Israel's standards in 2001, then the Muslim terrorist attack of September 11th would almost surely not have been successful (and might not have even been attempted).

The difference between TSA's security and Israel's security is that the TSA people inspect luggage and bags, while the Israelis check out and evaluate people. Suitcases don't commit acts of terror, terrorists do! And the Israeli's prime objective is to spot the terrorists, not to look into suitcases.

Until TSA starts looking for terrorists (which would include the use of valuable tools such as profiles) instead of measuring the ounces of water in the bottles carried by passengers, then I will feel more secure traveling from Israeli airports than from American airports.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Whose Government do They Work For?

We're in the Holy City of Jerusalem, where we are scheduled to remain until our departure back to the States. The particulars of our visit here are beyond the pale of this blog; suffice it to say that it has been and continues to be a wonderful experience.

It is noted that the shmucks at the State Department have done it again! According to a Jerusalem Post article by Ruth Eglash, US citizens in Israel now have to wait 6 months just to register a birth of a child under the new "appointments only" system at the US Consulate. Which makes the appointments a commodity of value, ergo the inevitable trafficking in appointments.

It is parenthetically noted that the State Department has been anti-Jewish and pro-Arab at least since 1815, when Secretary of State (and later, President) James Monroe removed Mordecai Noah as US Consul to Tunis because Noah was Jewish. They have been pandering to the Muslims ever since.

In any event, isn't the function of the State Department supposed to be to serve the needs and interest of Americans? How can such delays promote the best interests of America? And what message is being sent to other nations, friend or foe, when the consulates of the US State Department does not protect and serve Americans?

Labels: , , ,

Monday, January 21, 2008

In Appreciation

During our current visit to Israel, we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly; but above all, we have seen the beautiful! One genre of experiences which collectively can be filed in the "beautiful" category is the many instances of encounters with Christians, American and otherwise, who support Israel against those who would destroy it.

I do not in any way negate or ignore my various profound theological differences with the Christian doctrines, or the gross historical abuses done to the Jewish people in the name of Christianity. At such time as the Messiah comes or returns, we will then know whether we all are Christians or whether we all are Jews. Such matters aside, I wish to express my gratitude and appreciation to the Christian supporters of Israel in general, and to those who have chosen to visit Israel in particular.

Unfortunately, many so-called Jewish leaders have not been so emphatic in their backing of the Jewish people.

Tomorrow, we are scheduled to return to the Holy City of Jerusalem. We will, in all likelihood, have further occasion to meet more of our Christian friends who are visiting the holy soil of the Land of Israel.

To all our Christian friends whom we have met (or will meet) here, I say "thanks."

Labels: , , ,

Friday, January 18, 2008

Valor of Israel

This blog was never intended to be a "me, too" type instrumentality. Everyone seems to love to talk about their trip to Israel, and my wife and I are no exception. Without in any way detracting from anyone's "I had/am having a great time in Israel" blog, this posting will not dwell upon the minute details of our great time in Israel, other than to definitively and unequivocally state that our excursion here has been, and continues to be, enjoyable, meaningful and inspiring (and physically draining as well).

Instead, this posting will spotlight the Israeli people with whom we have been most privileged to meet.

Imprimis, on 15 April 1942, King George VI collectively bestowed the “George Cross” upon the people of Malta for their bravery under siege by the German forces. The valor of the Maltese people is certainly beyond question, but the people of Israel have been under siege for more than half a century. The missiles directed towards Israel are not only Kassem rockets or rocks thrown by unruly Arabs, but also diplomatic diktats by world leaders and, not the least, the attitudes of the news media.

It is one thing for an American or Canadian farmer to plant a field along the US-Canadian border (as many do). But for an Israeli farmer to cultivate a field up to Israel's border with any one of its neighbors -- that takes real bravery and dedication! So we can only admire – and support – the Israeli people we have met who not only farm their fields up to the border, and not only live in communities there, but live normal lives, despite the prospects of the Kassem rockets coming from over the fence.

As for the people now living in the Holy City of Jerusalem (to which we expect to revisit before returning to America), that they can live normal lives is quite amazing. Yet, they do, year in and year out, despite the 60 year barrage of bombs and missiles and diplomatic diktats. The people of Israel warrant our support.

[Disclosure: Our own backing for Israel is more than verbal or financial – Our son is currently studying in the Holy City of Jerusalem (and, though other factors play into the mix, the opportunity to visit him has been a major consideration behind our trip here).].

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Holy City

In covering the Middle East events, the MSM, in their fawning rush to kowtow to the Islamofacists, use names such as "Holy City of Najaf" or "Holy City of Karbala" or "Holy City of Mecca."

The one Holy City the MSM hardly ever qualifies as such is Jerusalem!

Yerushalayim 'Ir Ha Kodesh! Jerusalem the Holy City! We remember Jerusalem the Holy City when we say the blessings for our holidays, for Rosh Chodesh, and our every day blessing after partaking in a meal.

Jerusalem is the Holy City for the Jewish People, and to the world!

As King David wrote in Psalm 137:

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand fail me! Let my tongue cleave to my palate, If I do not remember you!

Before the 1967 war, the Holy City of Jerusalem was divided. Worship at holy sites was severely restricted to Jews (and Christian holy sites were also disrespected).

Now, President Bush is pressuring once again for the division of the Holy City of Jerusalem. And Prime Minister Olmert, who has totally lost whatever sense of identification with Torah values he may have once possessed, is all too eager to go along!

We must not allow those who would wear the shoes of Titus to divide the Holy City of Jerusalem! We must speak up to keep Jerusalem united!

We must not forget Jerusalem!

This posting was made from the Holy City of Jerusalem. We are in Israel for business and pleasure. So far, very enjoyable.
Greetings from the Holy City of Jerusalem!!!!

Labels: ,

Monday, January 07, 2008

Grassley's on the Warpath Again

It hasn't posted yet on Senator Grassley's website, but the Senator has taken an interest in the National Museum of the American Indian; specifically, the lavish spending habits of its immediate past Director, W. Richard West, Jr. This includes some very cordon bleu travel and hostelry, as well as $48,500 from the Museum's bank account to commission an official portrait of himself.

Grassley's letter of 3 January 2008 to Roger Sant, Chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents (which was carried in the 7 January 2008 Tax Analysts newsletter in the LEXIS-NEXIS database, citation 2008 TNT 4-65) is now asking that the Smithsonian give full documentation of these travel expenses, as well as documentation (including e-mails) regarding the approval of those expenses by the NMAI and/or Smithsonian Boards. Grassley's letter no doubt will eventually post on his website and/or elsewhere, and you will then be able to read the details. And I would not be the least bit surprised if some very high-placed toochases at the Smithsonian and/or NMAI get a brisk paddling (and there may be some taxation issues which might attract some attention from some bureaucrats, lowly ranked or otherwise, a few blocks away at 1111 Constitution Avenue).

The folks at the Smithsonian just don't get it! The resignation a few months ago of former Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small for similar profligate living off of the Smithsonian's coffers should have been the signal for everyone to pull the purse strings a bit tighter. But Rick West continued to live high off the hog, and apparently, his superiors uttered nary a word of question or disapproval (and, perhaps, may even have inked the voucher papers behind the disbursements).

As reflected in some e-mails obtained by the Washington Post (not my favorite rag, but hey, give credit where credit is due), the mortar and building blocks of the Museum figuratively contain many a nickel and dime from many Native American youngsters who skipped their lunches so that the NMAI could be built. We are talking about Indian Reservations where notoriously abject poverty abounds, and yet, these young boys and girls were willing to make significant cutbacks in their impecunious budgets to help make NMAI a reality. Nobody was asking Richard West to go without lunch; only to buy his lunch and dinner and travel at reasonable prices.

I cannot help but compare and contrast Rick West to Rabbi Avrohom Pam. Rabbi Pam founded the Shuvu Schools in Israel to give the émigrés from the former Soviet Union the adequate Jewish education which the Israeli government failed to provide. The story is told (and I do not doubt it in the least) that Shuvu once needed about $800 to get a particular program for girls off the ground in Haifa. The Rabbi's wife had planned to visit Israel, but ended up forgoing her trip so that the approximately $800 she had intended to use for airfare could go to a more worthy cause.

Uncle Sam is living under conditions of a stressed budget. When my household budget gets tight, we all do what we can to cut out at least the most extraneous items. But there is a tax gap to be filled, and, for the past few years, Congress and the IRS have amply made clear their intentions to give increased scrutiny to tax-exempt organizations.

The message is that we need a healthy tax-exempt sector to continue to do its good works in our society. But if you are going to have the privileges of a tax exemption for your existence, then you are expected to manage your financial affairs with a minimum of waste and inefficiency, and with a lot of transparency. This is especially so if, in addition to your tax exemption, you are the recipient of government funding or other largesse.

Expect to hear more from Senator Grassley on the Rick West affair!

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Fat Al for a Pal


There are a number of individuals who oppose racial harmony. The Reverend Al Sharpton is one of them.

Can you blame him? If racial harmony were to break out, then Sharpton would be out of a job. Racial strife is Fat Al's meal ticket. [N.B. This isn't just an African-American thing. Plenty of people from diverse other groups would be similarly challenged in their livelihood if there were racial, religious and ethnic concord in America.].

Fat Al was on Long Island yesterday, fomenting trouble in the John White case. John White is an African-American resident of Long Island. It seems that on 9 August 2006, some white youths whose blood alcohol content was not necessarily zero showed up in front of White's house, apparently angry with White's son Aaron. John White went out and confronted them. John White's gun discharged, killing Daniel Cicciaro Jr. John White was convicted of manslaughter and now awaits sentencing.

White's defense was that he is a product of the segregated South during the era of Jim Crow laws, and he instinctively reacted to the white youths outside his home as though they were a lynch mob, and therefore had not formed the mens rea to commit the crime. Shades of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

I consider Fred Brewington, who was one of White's attorneys, to be a very able counsel (though he does push towards the left of the political spectrum). Many of Brewington's cases are employment discrimination cases, and his clients are not all necessarily African-American. I attached no negativity to White's case on account of Brewington's handling it; as contrasted with all of Lynne Stewart's clients. Throughout the trial I kept an open mind, and even after White's conviction, was waiting to see how matters developed on the promised appeal before passing any judgment of my own.

But Sharpton's involvement in the case (and, more specifically, John White's embrace of Sharpton) has put to rest all doubts I had heretofore been willing to tentatively accord John White.

The right to keep and bear arms carries the responsibility to discharge those arms prudently and justly. John White did not do this. John White could have called the police when the gang appeared at his door, but did not. This may well have been a factor in the jury's deliberations.

Another undeveloped theme in the trial was the white youths' dispute with John White's son Aaron. He supposedly had threatened to rape a white girl (other than color, how does this really differ from his father's claim of a lynch mob?). He arrived to testify in court under escort by bodyguards, and wearing a bulletproof vest. Query: Was he any better than his father's defense painted the white youth gang?

My take on it: This case exemplifies the worst of Long Island. Cicciaro and his surviving cronies are nothing to write home about, and certainly do not make the roads any safer with their ethanol-powered temperaments. Though Cicciaro's death was tragic and unnecessary, it cannot be said that he was not cruising for a bruising. Aaron White's presence in society is not a particularly stabilizing force. And John White got a little too trigger happy.

And on this latter score, the verdict, I believe, was appropriate.

Labels: , ,