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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The New York Bailout Rules

New York, notorious as one of the most overbloated and wasteful bureaucracies, has been getting things right of late.

Firstly, we had that "photo-op flight" of Air Force One over the Statue of Liberty, which threw a significant percentage of the people in Lower Manhattan into panic, and caused the financial markets to take a little plunge. The White House looks like a smacked toochas with Louis Caldera proffering an official tail-between-the-legs apology, and our senior Senator, Chuck Schumer, vehemently and appropriately denounced the lamebrained secrecy tactics of the White House Military Office. This time, it wasn't Schumer who was the putzhead!

And then, there is Walter E. Carver. Mr. Carver's financial misfortunes drove him to seek public assistance, which he received for approximately two and one-half years, from September 1997 to March 2000. The terms of his public assistance required him to w-o-r-k at subsidized employment. After receiving the bailout from the New York taxpayers (myself among them), Mr. Carver got back onto his feet, and his financial luck markedly improved.

In fact, he hit a $10,000 prize in the New York Lottery.

And so, pursuant to New York's Social Services Law ยง 131-R, the State of New York claimed one-half of that $10,000 lottery prize as reimbursement for the public assistance provided to Mr. Carver.

Walter E. Carver brought a lawsuit against New York, claiming that the reimbursement requirement effectively brought his pay, for the w-o-r-k he did, below the minimum wage. Judge Schneier, of the Kings County Supreme Court, banged his gavel on his bench, and sent Carver right out of the courthouse. Three weeks earlier and three blocks away, Judge Sifton, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, did similar with Carver in his Federal Class Action suite on the same issues. That case is reported at 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27496. Thus far, Carver is a double loser (as is his attorney, Richard D. Lamborn, Esq.).

Carver's legal misadventures might not be complete. The wages he received, and the entire $10,000 lottery prize, are considered income for Federal and New York State taxation purposes. Wouldn't surprise me one bit if Carver gets Lamborn to tilt at the IRS windmill as well.

Meanwhile, New York would do well to (A) better enforce its policy of reclaiming lottery winnings from public assistance bailout recipients; (B) publicize the fact that such is done, so as to take much of the glamour attraction from that welfare magnet that is New York City; and (C) legislate similar statutes to facilitate the reclamation of lottery winnings from current and former prison inmates.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Time to Sleep, a Time to be Alert

Michelle Malkin and Amanda Terkel, who, to say the least, do not view the world from the same perspective, are among the many who have been making a big deal about Barack Hussein Obama's economic advisor, Larry Summers, falling asleep at a meeting with the credit card executives.

Quite frankly, I have no real problem with it. My biases are colored by the fact that I am afflicted with a sleep disorder, which acts up from time to time (and I am now amidst one of those periods where sleep tends to be evasive).

While insomnia and dyssomnia are certainly problems, the greater problem is the public's attitude towards people who suffer from such afflictions. It is, as far as I am concerned, nothing less than discrimination based upon a physical condition.

As a solo practitioner, I am fortunate to be able to, when necessary, take a nap during the day, in my office, without jeopardizing my livelihood. Likewise, if it doesn't interfere with my class schedule, I can sleep in my office at the University (and indeed, a little 25-minute nap makes me eager and raring and ready to go in front of the classroom).

But things weren't always that way. In a former position with Uncle Sam, I had this one supervisor who made a big deal of my dozing off. At the time the IRS picked me up, I had already consulted an attorney and was gearing up to file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC. My transfer to the IRS made life much simpler for me, my supervisor, my supervisor's supervisor (without whose harassment, my own supervisor might have been mostly off my case), and the U.S. Government in general. [N.B. Aside from that one issue, I did get along quite well with my supervisor, and do speak well of her -- which made me very reluctant to take the step of initiating a complaint. But, as mentioned, the IRS mooted the issue by hiring me away from the government agency where I worked.].

A psychiatrist with whom I am casually acquainted socially believes that a disproportionate number of job failures, marriage failures, and juvenile delinquency have inadequate sleep in their etiology. Looking back on some of my prior relationships, I must agree with him.

The insomnia suffered by Charles Dickens has left its mark in many of his works. The "fat and red-faced boy in a state of somnolency" from The Pickwick Papers, and Sydney Carton's line "It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known" from Tale of Two Cities -- only someone tormented with insomnia could have written these lines.

As for Larry Summers: (A) He is probably much more dangerous if he makes his decisions while sleep deficient; and (B) as long as he is sleeping, he cannot implement his economic policies -- policies which I generally oppose.

So get off from Larry Summers's case, and let him sleep!

There are, of course, certain positions where one needs to remain awake. For example, security forces on ships sailing off the African coast, who protect the ships from pirates. In this incident with the MSC Melody , the security forces on the Italian cruise liner were certainly awake and alert.

What is interesting is that (A) the cruise company had hired Israeli security personel; (B) who wielded and used firearms. Ths MSC Melody then was bound for the Jordanian port of Aqaba, which is directly across the border from the Israeli port of Eilat.

Surely the Jordanian authorities knew, officially or otherwise, of the Israeli presence on the ship that was scheduled to dock in its port. This tells us something about unofficial international cooperation against the terrorists!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Sewer Service

After nearly a week, I now have internet access again. We had technical problems last Monday, and with the last two days of Passover on Wednesday & Thursday, coupled with some big time ineptitude on the part of the Best Buy and its Geek Squad, we were unable to get back up until this afternoon (Sunday). No thanks to the Geek Squad or Best Buy; we called in a local who, after several attempts (and one return of a new router to Staples), did in fact get us up and running. Tomorrow, my wife will cancel the Geek Squad appointment that had been set for this coming Wednesday (more than a week after the first call!), because their services are now unnecessary.

It has been very challenging to exist for a week without internet access (though 3 of those days, the last 2 days of Pesach and Shabbat, would not have been internet access days for us anyway). Almost as challenging as the 6 + days without internet access have been the 8 days of Passover without beer (but we did have an enjoyable holiday, and the Carmel 777 Brandy and Jelinek Slivovitz. sufficed quite well).

The big story now in LawyerLand is that a process serving company, American Legal Process, together with its president, has just been charged with various offenses in connection with falsified evidence of service. If these charges are proven (and there seems to be some rather strong and damning evidence in the AG's pocket to substantiate them), then many people had default judgments taken against them because they were never served with the papers.

This will have to play out in the courts. ALP's attorney, Corey Winograd, is, of course, zealously defending his client and insisting that ALP and its president, William Singler, did nothing wrong. This, of course, is what a defense attorney should be doing.

[Disclosure: A few years back, I had a case with Corey Winograd, and have no reason to impute his client's scumbag attributes to Corey personally.].

This subversion of the judicial system is a very disturbing matter. The process servers who falsify their affidavits and other documentation are no less a threat to American freedom than the terrorists and pirates.

And while I applaud Andy Cuomo, the New York Attorney General, for his proactive interest in the matter, the potential for political payback cannot be ignored.

I note that in Binghamton, some volunteer lawyers have taken on the task of aiding families of the victims of the recent shooting spree there. Reading between the lines, much of their work will effectively be aid to illegal aliens. These illegal alien enablers are being organized by the New York State Bar Association, an organization in which I allowed my membership to lapse quite a few years ago, a decision I do not regret.

My question: Will the NYSBA round up a cadre of volunteer attorneys to help out the real Americans and legally present aliens who were victimized by American Legal Process?

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Season of Freedom

Just came off of two days of Passover, followed by my usual Sabbath observance, which equals three days of being incommunicado from the world beyond my own little community. We did have good time, but there were no guests this year for various reasons (which was just as well, because my wife got hit by some virus and was largely out of commission after the first Seder).

My wife's moonbat Cousin Shira, mentioned briefly in last year's post, is in no financial condition to do out-of-town traveling, and so, she wasn't with us this year either. I'm somewhat disappointed. For one thing, I miss the interesting politically-charged conversations we get into. Our son was with us this year, and, having spent the prior year in Israel and witnessed a few incidents firsthand, he has come back with some rather staunch political views regarding what must be done to ensure the security of Jews in the Holy City of Jerusalem. He would have made some interesting addititions to the conversation. Moreover, I would rather that Cousin Shira spend the Seder with us than with the leftward-leaning crowd in her hometown. But I digress.

Much has been written regarding the "Passover Seder" hosted by Barack Hussein Obama, including the disgusting sugary praise from the various ecumaniacs and leftist-leaning self-appointed Jewish spokespeople. My own sentiments of the are largely compatible with those expressed by Debbie Schlussel (though Debbie is a bit too conciliatory for my tastes towards Obama's nominally Jewish sycophants).

One issue not mentioned in Debbie Schlussel's posting (and certainly taboo among the politically correct crowd) is the comparison between the way we the Jewish people deal with our own past enslavement on one hand, and the way the b-l-a-c-k people deal with theirs.

G-d heard our cries, and liberated us from Pharoah's bondage. That meant that we had to take on the responsibilities of a free people. Because so many of us had been conditioned from birth into the slavery mentality, a new generation had to be raised with a mentality of responsibility. And so, we wandered in the desert for 40 years. After those 40 years, we were ready to assume the responsibilities of a free people. We acknowledge our past enslavement and indeed, tell our children about it. We do not whine about how the Egyptians enslaved us, and we do not use it as an excuse for personal or national failure!
In short, we have dealt with our prior condition of servitude, and have gotten ourselves beyond it!

Compare and contrast that with the b-l-a-c-k community in America, who, after more than One Hundred and Forty years, in many cases still whine about enslavement (never mind that some of the slaveholders were also b-l-a-c-k), still cite their previous condition of servitude as an excuse for personal and group underachievement and failure, and still have not taught responsibility to the next generation.

I wish all who would take up the burdens of freedom a Happy Passover (and, to my friends who celebrate Easter, "A te, la Buona Pasqua.").

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Portraying the Wrong Picture

The news story now making the rounds (as in here and here and here) is about how certain newspapers in Israel photoshopped the women out of the news photo of the new Israeli Cabinet.

The fact is that in some religious circles, portraying a woman in a photograph is considered immodest. The newspapers at issue here are published by and for such segments of the population, therefore, they do not publish photographs which portray women. In fact, some have been known to insist that all photographs of people, even of males, are prohibited.

This posting shall not now get into the issues of whether pixelating or airbrushing out the women out from the group photo is or is not more journalistically ethical than rearranging the positions of the entire group so as to exclude the women, or whether it would or would not be better to not publish the photo at all.

What this post WILL address is the implication, in news stories such as the one at issue, that those Jewish people who eschew photographs of women are somehow "more religious" than those who do not.

Imprimis, I detest the use of the term "ultraorthodox" to describe any Jewish person. The use of the "U" word serves only to fragment the Jewish people, and to subject those of us who adhere to the Torah commandments to ridicule.

There are many groups of religious Jews who, for many generations, chose to stay isolated to one extent or another from society at large. Even when contact and communication could not be avoided, such groups have retained costume and custom which differs from the general norm. They are, in a word, insular. They have always been around, but in today's world of rapid transportation and communication, these groups now are noticed by more and more people who, even twenty years ago, would have been oblivious to their existence. Many of their practices are based more upon group traditions than upon any mandate from the Torah.

I have no particular quarrel with such groups; indeed, I regularly interact with many to one extent or another. And I read several publications whose intended readership is such groups [N.B. The Israeli "Yated Ne'eman" mentioned in the story officially split from the American publication of the same title a number of years ago; let us say that they now are divorced but they still sleep together.]. Such newspapers -- and their readerships -- have the right to decide which photographs will or will not be published in their pages.

As for my religious observance, I daven (pray) three times each day, keep the Sabbath and the dietary laws, and, in a few days, will observe the Passover. For the record, I personally have no religious issues with photographs of women who are decently clad. And, not that it really, really matters, but I wear a kippah and my wife covers her hair with a wig or a snood. Those who happen to wear the black hats but who are sex offenders, tax cheats, womanizers, or even ordinary murderers may well be more insular than I am, but they are not more religious!

Do not confuse insularity with religiousity!

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