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.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye

Three years ago this past summer, the Israeli government forcefully removed all of the Jews from Gaza. A Judenrein Gaza, the theory went, would go a long way towards placating the Arabs there and induce them to make peace with Israel.

Almost every day since, the Hamas terrorists have launched rockets from Gaza into Israel with impunity. Moreover, most of the rockets are specifically aimed not at military targets, but at civilian communities.

For reasons having to do more with Israeli partisan politics than any principles of integrity, the government of Israel has finally, at long last, done what virtually every other government elsewhere on the planet would have done after three days -- Responded with military force!

So now, I just got an e-mail from the UJA-Federation of New York, copying its website posting, entitled "UJA-Federation Response to Israel Crisis." For the uninitiated, the United Jewish Appeal - Federation is the charitable fundraising apparatus of the so-called "Jewish Establishment." I call it the "Judenrat," for it tends to pander to the leftward-leaning elements of the Jewish population by effectively apologizing for staunch adherence to Torah values and Jewish strength. Needless to say, I am not and have never been one of their regular contributors. Liberals, as many of you have surely realized, are hung up on victimhood and guilt, and become most apologetic whenever they escape victimhood and become successful.

The NY UJA-Federation, from time to time, sponsors seminars which qualify for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education credits, of which I and other New York attorneys must rack up twelve per year in order to retain good standing to practice law. The costs of the UJA-Federation seminars, on a per-credit-hour basis, is typically very competitive, and so, as a result of my attendance at one such event a number of years back, I am on the Judenrat's e-mail and snail mail lists (though, in all fairness to UJA-Federation, they are not nearly so obnoxious in their use of these lists as are many other organizations).

But I digress. The first 4 paragraphs of the E-mail I just received read as follows:

"The government of Israel has initiated military efforts to bring peace to its southern area and the border with Gaza.

These efforts were undertaken after the inhabitants of Sderot and neighboring communities endured months of missile barrages emanating from the Gaza Strip. And it ought to be noted, those missiles were launched after Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, providing the Palestinians with the opportunity to live side-by-side in peace with Israel.

The results — whhat we are reading about and viewing on TV today — are tragic foor all people in the region.

The Israeli government concluded there is no alternative but to undertake an effort to end the rocket attacks and violence, so the people of Israel's south can live in peace. We mourn the loss of innocent life on both sides of the border, and we join with all people of good will in hoping that these efforts are successful in ending the threat and reality of missiles hitting civilian communities."


The e-mail/web posting appears over the signatures of John M. Shapiro, UJA-Federation President; Jerry W. Levin, Chair of the Board; and John S. Ruskay, Executive VP and CEO. The e-mail, in fact, is from Ruskay.

I am old enough to remember who John Ruskay is. Back in the 1970's and the 1980's, John Ruskay, son of a successful garment industrialist, was active in supporting the so-called "Peace Now" movement in Israel, which advocated a withdrawal from Gaza and Judea and Samaria.

In full-page advertisements that appeared in the New York Times on 20 January 1988, p. B6 and 26 January 1988, p. A22, Ruskay was among the Peace Now signatories who advocated "against the occupation, for territorial compromise." Ruskay was a signatory to a full-page ad with a similar message that appeared in the New York Times on 16 March 1988, p. B2.

Well, Israel DID withdraw from Gaza, and look what is now happening! Israel got itself into its current jam by pursuing the very policies advocated by Ruskay 20 and 30 years ago!

So now, I get this e-mail from John Ruskay, incredulous at the perfidy of the Arabs after Israel showed its good faith (read "stupidity") by withdrawing from Gaza, and beseeching me to make a donation to help alleviate the suffering!

The basic fault is the fallacious presumption that the Arabs are capable of negotiating in good faith with the Jews. This is clearly not the case. Nor can the Arabs be trusted by anyone else! Leftists cannot recognize that there is such thing as evil people. Hamas hates the Jews and wants to kill us! Period! End of Statement. The only thing they understand is strength and force turned against them!

As for Ruskay, he differs hardly one iota from the arsonist who rushes to the conflagration he himself ignited, urinates into the flames, while proclaiming to the world that he is helping to extinguish the fire!

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Keystone Cops are Out of Ammunition

My holiday is now Chanukah. To all who are celebrating it, I wish a Happy Chanukah. And to all of my friends who are now celebrating Christmas, you all have a merry one!

I have long questioned the wisdom of the various gun buy-back programs which are periodically conducted by prosecutors and law enforcement authorities. The entrepreneurial types among the gangs can finance their operations and lifestyles by stealing guns, and then selling them to the DA for $200 a piece, no questions asked.

Nassau County (NY) DA Kathleen Rice claimed that
her recent anonymous weapons buy-back was a success.

The eastern boundary of Nassau County, NY, dividing it from Suffolk County, was once (with slight variations) the international boundary between the Dutch New Netherlands and the British New England. Kathleen Rice's successful program in Nassau County can be compared and contrasted with the gun buy-back program across the border in Suffolk County.

The first five paragraphs of the article "Gun-Buyback Glitch" by Ann Givens in Newsday, 24 December 2008, p. A8 [Denoted in Newsday's Internet edition
here as "Suffolk Runs out of Cash for Gun Buybacks"] say it all:

Mark DeAngelis heard that Suffolk County was giving people $200 gift cards to turn in illegal handguns last weekend, so he looked behind a rafter in a warehouse he rents and found a revolver he stashed there 20 years ago, he said.

He called Suffolk's Third Precinct in Bay Shore, confirmed that they were still doing the program and then drove there and turned over the gun, he said.

But after he handed the gun to the officer, he said he got bad news: There was no money left.

"He basically said, 'You just gave me an illegal handgun. We're out of money. Do you have a problem with that?' " said DeAngelis, 43, of Patchogue, who said he bought the gun to get it out of the hands of a man he considered dangerous.

"He said he would give me a receipt if I went in the back and showed him some ID," DeAngelis said. "I just walked out. I thought the whole point was that the program was supposed to be anonymous."

As explained by Lt. Bob Donohue of the SCPD Community Outreach Bureau, the bottom line is "If they hand us an illegal handgun and we have no money, we can't give back the gun."

And so, Suffolk County's anonymous illegal gun buy-back program is neither a buy-back program, nor anonymous. And the bait-and-switch tactics conceivably might not even be legal!

Accordingly, Suffolk County residents who wish to voluntarily relinquish their firearms are best advised to cross what formerly was the international border, and sell their guns to Nassau County.

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Monday, December 22, 2008


I'm all burnt out, after a busy week. In no particular order:

My Final Exams are finished -- sort of. There are still 4 students who need to take their Final Exams, what with conflicts and medical issues and the like. I'm not much on making the special arrangements, but these four all had legitimate situations.

Actually, the exams were originally scheduled for first thing this coming Monday morning, but none of the students were too keen on the idea, and I was even less keen on the idea (and I had a conflict, to boot). So I was able to get a room (ironically, the same room in which the class had normally convened during the semester) in the late afternoon to the evening, so I held two exam sessions, and covered all but 4 students. That's not bad. And, what with the snowstorm(s), I guess that the students and their instructor really lucked out.

But now, I need to grade the Exams. That's my project this coming week -- along with grading the Term Papers.

2. Our fatso friend, referred to as "He" in prior postings here and here and here, was our houseguest this Shabbat. He initially had set out to go to the city to visit his son and daughter-in-law, but the snow was coming down and he saw the aftermath of a collision, so he called our rabbi, with whom he also has an open invitation. The rabbi's daughter had 3 friends staying over, and one of the rebbitzin's friends was also there, so the rabbi called me to ask us to put He up for Shabbat. It was no problem, especially because our son was still away at school (his last final exam is this coming Tuesday).

The best thing is that He didn't have a chance to stop at the bakery for his usual fattening cakes and pies, so my wife wasn't tempted to eat those things (believe me, she ate enough as it was, especially for Shabbat lunch, when the Ivy League lawyer mentioned here also joined us, thus replicating the same situation -- and results -- as the Shabbat on Sukkot when I was the only nonfatso at the lunch table. But we all had a good time, as usual.

3. A law review article of mine, written and published a couple of years ago, came to the attention of a lawyer with whom I am acquainted. Turns out that it is relevant to a case he has. The upshot is that I got paid to do an hour's research regarding related issues in his case. If he plays his cards correctly, his client stands to gain a nice piece of change from some of his former business associates.

4. Tonight is the first night of Chanukah. It was just me and my wife, being that our son is still away at school. But that's not so bad either!

Happy Chanukah (to all those who celebrate it)!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yoga and Taxation

When I was in law school, I took one course in taxation. Had you told me then that I would eventually specialize in taxation law, I would have laughed derisively. But take note, all you law students and prospective law students: You won't find your legal specialty; your legal specialty will find you! I shall not now bore the reader with a rehash of the chain of event that resulted in the discovery of me by the taxation specialty, other than to say that by the end of my first day with the IRS, I was hooked on taxation.

The question is frequently asked as to what I find so interesting and intriguing about taxation. Here is just one of the reasons for my fascination: Washington State Department of Revenue, Excise Tax Advisory No. 2034.08.183 (1 December 2008) [Reproduced in its entirety]:

The purpose of this Excise Tax Advisory is to explain the tax reporting responsibilities of persons providing Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong classes.

“Physical fitness services” are included within the definition of “retail sale” under Washington’s excise tax laws. RCW 82.04.050. Income from physical fitness services is subject to business & occupation (B&O) tax under the retailing classification, and retail sales tax must be collected and remitted, unless an exemption applies. A personal service or activity that is not included within the definition of “retail sale” is generally subject to B&O tax under the service & other activities classification.

Physical fitness services are activities involving physical exertion for the purpose of improving or maintaining the general fitness, strength, flexibility, conditioning, and/or health of the participant.

Yoga originated as an Eastern philosophy and discipline approximately 5000 years ago. In addition to physical postures (“asana”), traditional Yoga classes typically emphasize significant breath regulation (“pranayama”) and meditation (“dhyana”) components as well as significant discussion of the historical and philosophical origins of Yoga. Participants will generally enjoy physical benefits from a traditional Yoga class, but those benefits are not the primary focus of the class. Similarly, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are Chinese martial arts in which physical fitness is not the primary focus of the traditional disciplines.

When physical fitness services were first included in the statutory definition of “retail sale,” Yoga had not been introduced into the mainstream fitness industry. It was largely practiced in Yoga studios and practitioners’ homes. Over the last several years, the traditional practices of Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong have remained the focus of many facilities and practitioners; however, other facilities and practitioners have begun to make the physical benefits the primary focus of their classes.

The Department generally presumes that classes offering the traditional practices of Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong do not constitute “physical fitness services” because physical fitness is a secondary or incidental benefit of these classes, but it is not typically the primary focus. This presumption may be overcome by showing that the primary purpose of the class is physical fitness.

However, when these classes are conducted at a health or athletic club, fitness center, health spa, or similar facility (“fitness facility”), the presumption is that the primary focus of any such class is physical fitness, and that the class therefore does constitute a “physical fitness service.” Community centers, parks, school gymnasiums, universities, colleges, hospitals, medical facilities, and private residences are not considered “fitness facilities” for purposes of this advisory.

A person providing Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong class(es) at a “fitness facility” may overcome these presumptions that the class is a physical fitness service with evidence demonstrating the primary purpose of the class. Such evidence may include, but is not limited to, lesson plans or other similar materials that identify the specific curriculum followed in the class indicating that physical fitness related activities are not the primary focus of the class. For example, in the case of a Yoga class this would include a class curriculum that places significant emphasis on breath regulation, meditation, and/or discussion of the historical and philosophical origins of Yoga with the incidental physical fitness related activities.

# # # # #

You just cannot dream this stuff up!!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Madoff Scandal

There is so much on the Internet about the Bernard Madoff scandal, and the story will likely persist for some time to come. We obviously haven't seen the worst of it yet.
In addition to my agreement with all that it is a big disgrace, and in addition to my joining those who call for Madoff's incarceration and impoverishment, my specific commentary is as follows:

1. If indeed Madoff was running a "Ponzi" type scheme, then, by definition, the later the scheme collapses, the greater the numbers of victims and dollars that are involved. Better it should fall apart now than a month from now.

2. I don't have any money directly invested with Madoff, but the effects on the market cannot help but affect my other investments.

3. A few of the affected investors, institutional and corporate, have evinced arrogant attitudes towards the public in general and/or me personally. Maybe, just maybe, this will inject into them a small quantum of humility.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

What's in a Name?

The absurd cases that appear with some frequency in America's courtrooms never cease to amaze me.

The law in New York is that anyone has the right to use any name of his or her choosing, unless there is some motive for fraud or other nefarious purpose. In order to change one's name, one can take either or both of the following legal paths:

A. File a petition in the court to obtain a court order allowing the change of name; and/or

B. Simply adopting the new desired name (with or without the court order).

The Appellate Division, Third Department, has overturned a trial court's denial of a petition for a name change. The case is Matter of Earl William Golden III, ___ A.D.3d ___, ___ N.Y.S.2d ___, 2008 NY Slip Op 9333, 2008 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 8983, N.Y.L.J., 12/9/2008, p. 30, col. 1 (3d Dept. 2008). The uncontested contentions in the petition are that the person who was born a baby boy and named Earl William Golden at birth now identifies with the female gender, and accordingly, seeks to change the birth name to Elisabeth Whitney Golden. The trial court noted the likelihood of confusion in the change of name from the male to female gender, but the Appellate Division panel found that this alone was not sufficient reason to deny the name change.

What is so absurd about this case? Apparently, "[i]ncluded in the submission was an affidavit from petitioner's spouse indicating that she supported the name change request and had no objection thereto."

So has Golden transitioned from a man to a lesbian? Is his "spouse" a real woman? A former woman? What's going on here?

The court can only go by the evidence before it. I cannot help but wonder, however, whether there might not actually be some sort of ulterior motive based in fraud or confusion. Either that, or this guy/gal is just plain wacko after all.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hot Rod: Some Dots to Connect

I am not, and have never been, an intense watcher of Illinois politics.

Accordingly, I will defer to those pundits whose working knowledge of the Chicago political machine is superior to my own (with due regard to their personal political agendas).

Having stated that, I cannot help but find a few dots to connect in the emerging Blagojevich scandal:

1. The Service Employees International Union ("SEIU") looms large in the Complaint against Hot Rod Blagojevich.

2. During the big 1989 hospital strike in New York City, Local 1199 -- which in 1998 affiliated with SEIU -- was greatly aided in their strike efforts by Jesse Jackson.

3. The Reverend Jesse Jackson's son, Jesse Jr., is a Congressman who hails from Chicago.

I make no presumptions and level no accusations. But it wouldn't surprise me in the least if, when all is said and done, Jesse, Junior and/or Senior, were somehow involved in this Hot Rod Blagojevich affair.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Prison for the Clueless

This New York taxpayer will be supporting one more clueless nitwit for at least 19 more years. And that suits me just fine!

Edwin Frazier just got a 19-to-life sentence for his role in a home invasion that turned fatal.

Frazier, Ernest Johnson, Jovan Phillips and mastermind Eric Calace (spoiled rich kid whose father and grandfather are noted real estate developers) went to burglarize the home of Dane Aulak, Calace's cannabis connection. Aulak was home at the time, and accordingly, a struggle ensued with him. Aulak was fatally shot by Johnson and/or Phillips, but, in the struggle, managed to flip a gun away from Johnson or Phillips. Aulak's brother Jesse caught the gun and, in self defense, fatally shot Johnson and Phillips.

Here is the Suffolk County DA's press release, with all its updates at the bottom.

Calace, who was waiting in the car when it all happened, cut a plea deal for 17 years in exchange for his cooperation with the Suffolk County. [Eric the Spoiled Rich Kid Calace actually has something resembling a chance. His sentence ends in 2024, but he might get out in 2021 if he behaves well. If Dear Old Dad's real estate empire survives, then Eric might actually have a job to go to when he gets out. But I suspect that Calace, Sr. did his share to facilitate Junior's descent into hell long before he sprung for Junior's defense attorney.].
Frazier pleaded guilty to Murder II and was formally sentenced to a 19-years-to-life term.

So now, Frazier is whining to the Judge "How come I have to take their fall? … Why couldn't I plead to a burglary charge?"

To which I say, "Boo Freakin' Hoo," to borrow a quote my 2nd favorite Filipina, Michelle Malkin (my No. 1 favorite Filipina, now retired and doting on her grandchildren, is a Jewish girl from Manila who lost a brother during the Japanese occupation).

The exchange at the sentencing hearing between Judge Hudson and Frazier's mother is very telling:

"You didn't fire the weapon, but you held it," Hudson told Frazier. "Ready at your leader's command to kill."

"But he didn't!" the suspect's mother, Pamela Mays-Frazier, 40, shouted at the judge.

The way I read this, Frazier received, during his formative years, precious little guidance on how to be responsible for his own actions. And very few clues in matters of other common everyday wisdom. He certainly didn't get much from Mom.

Even Frazier's lawyer conceded, afterwards, that if Frazier didn't take the plea deal for Murder II, he likely would have gotten slapped with the maximum.

Frazier is lucky. His two accomplices got what amounts to the back door death penalty -- they were "victims" of justifiable homicide. It's the best we can do for capital punishment in New York, now that the sob sisters on the Court of Appeals have taken that prerogative away from the prosecution.

Frazier now has 19 years to get a clue or two before his first parole hearing. But I wouldn't bet that it will happen.
Meanwhile, we taxpayers will be footing the bill for Frazier's room and board. But that's a cheap and economical alternative to having Frazier out walking on the streets.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

News Media Nomenclature

A. I heard some discussion on the radio in which the term "anti-AIDS activists" was used. Of course, those who might be labeled as "anti-AIDS activists" do constitute a diverse spectrum, so one cannot really apply any blanket generalizations to them.

But it seems to me that a fair number of individuals who would apply such a label to themselves do in fact engage in homosexual activity; and the engagement of multiple serial sexual partners is known to be very common among those who regularly practice homosexual activity.

Accordingly, aren't at least some of the purported "anti-AIDS activists" effectively PRO-AIDS activists?

B. Again on the radio, I heard the term "alleged Islamic militants" in connection with the Mumbai massacre. This was AFTER the Indian police had interrogated the surviving terrorist, who admitted that he came to Mumbai to commit terror with his group, in the name of Islam.

Why do they use the word "alleged" when it has already been established?

And, for that matter, why does the news media use the word "militants?" Why are they so reticent to use the word "TERRORISTS?"

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