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, November 29, 2009

Names On & Off the List

By now, the whole civilized world (and much of the uncivilized world) knows that Michaele and Tareq Salahi were waved through the White House security and attended Obama's State Dinner for the Prime Minister of India, and even got within handshake distance of Barack Hussein Obama himself.

My question: Suppose their name had been Cohen or Levy or Rabinowitz? Would the White House security staff have waved them through without making further inquiry to the party planners (i.e., consulted an actual copy of the official guest list)?

Before you answer, consider Tareq Salahi's connections in the Arab world which Obama is so anxious to please and grovel down to.

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Two Judges Get It Right

When I first came across the story of the Suffolk County, NY judge who completely canceled the mortgage debt of a financially troubled homeowner, my initial instinct was to back up the bank. After all, my wife and I have made our own mortgage payments, and are wondering where our own free ride is in that regard. Where is the purchaser's responsibility here?

But now that I have read the actual judicial opinion, I'm with Judge Spinner all the way on this one. If the mortgageholder had only been hardnosed, then I would not feel so bad about the delinquent homeowner's feet being held to the fire. But here, the bank couldn't even give the Judge a straight answer as to just how much was outstanding, due and owing on the debt. This is abuse of the judicial process at its worst.

And so, the Judge has reduced that elusive figure to an even, round and definite figure: Zero!

And, westward a few miles in New York County, Judge York (no relation to the city or county) has put a whining loser in his place. It seems that Timothy Keefe, who couldn't stick it out with the first law school he attended (Hofstra), transferred to New York Law School, and then, after receiving a grade of "C" in a legal writing course, sued NYLS, demanding that NYLS change its grading system from letter grade to Pass/Fail.

It is oft stated that the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. Keefe's foolish client was sent back to the showers.

And, having been involved in professional matters that also involve New York Law School, I would, all else being equal, tend to defer to the school's faculty in determining a grade for any student.

[A number of years ago, I went to court pro se, and I won the case for my foolish client. He has yet to pay me for it, though.].

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our Day Trip to Washington

We spent money this past weekend. Yesterday we flew down to Washington for the day for a "cousins club" reunion on my wife's side of the family. Beautiful weather, uneventful flights, no unusually heavy traffic to or from the airport, and a close parking spot in the airport parking garage. We all had a good time.

We didn't actually go to Washingon, being that we were entirely outside the Beltway the whole time, getting picked up at Dulles Airport by my wife's cousin, who took us to his rather spacious home in Centreville, VA before turning around and going to the main event in Potomac, MD, where another of my wife's cousins has a house almost as spacious (though neither of the two houses is nearly as voluminous as some of those mansions on River Road in Potomac, near the Congressional Country Club).

My mother-in-law and her sisters each married men who, even if they did not come from a wealthy family, were industrious workers and beneficent providers. And while some of my wife's cousins no doubt have trust funds established for their children, nobody of the next generation seems to be a spoiled trust fund child; each seems headed towards their own respective achievements. While they all are quite well provided for -- both in terms of material goods and higher education tuition -- none of them seem to be particularly spoiled. Inherited wealth need not predestine one to a life of carefree indolence if the parents who pass down the wealth insist upon passing down personal responsibility as well.

The only times I had ever before flown out of Dulles were 20+ years ago, during my government service years; each occasion was a brief stopover to change from one flight to another. On one of those occasions I actually went inside the terminal building for a few minutes. In the past 20 years, there have been several changes, not the least of which has been the construction of two terminal buildings in addition to the landmark one designed by Eero Saarinen. When we arrived, we rode the shuttle to the Saarinen building, where my wife's cousin awaited us out front. When he dropped us off to depart, however, we walked, via the underground concourses, to the very end of the far terminal. It was a poor excuse for my own daily workout (I had run a few miles the night before, immediately after Shabbat), but for my wife, it was more than her usual exercise. Notwithstanding the moving sidewalks in the terminals, she did walk the route quite well, and she didn't delay me all that much.

My passages through Dulles have done little to inspire a sense of security. My liberal friends and relatives (including my wife's niece, who lives in Washington, works for a left-leaning social service group, and attended the family reunion) will not take kindly to the observations I now make.

First of all, the significant numbers of Muslim personnel who work the security system (x-raying baggage and monitoring the metal detectors) is not encouraging, particularly in light of the significant number of Muslim passengers who normally course the terminal. Of greater concern is the fact that the news stand concessions in the terminal are operated by Hudson News, a Muslim-run entity that also has Union Station in Washington, and Penn Station in New York, among other places.

Query: Are the inventories delivered to the vendors in the terminal screened like the passengers' luggage? Remember, you or I need medical documentation and special inspection to bring in a bottle of liquid containing more than 3 ounces, but thousands of bottles containing 12 ounces or more of liquid no doubt enter the terminal every business day! Moreover, the concessionaires in the airport have legitimate reasons to use boxcutters in the course of their normal businesses. You will recall that a box cutter was used to kill the pilot of American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston's Logan Airport on September 11 2001. It certainly would be easy to get boxcutters into the terminal via Hudson News, from whence they can be handed over to terrorists.

Perhaps I would not be so hung up if there were a Million Muslim March in Washington, where a million (or even a hundred thousand) Muslims would show up to declare that the Ft. Hood massacre was not what Islam is all about. But until something of that nature actually occurs, I stand by the foregoing comments.

After we flew back to New York, my wife and I decided to give ourselves a dinner out as a belated anniversary present (each of our schedules has really been busy for the past 2 months, so we didn't get a chance this year). So we tried this relatively high-priced kosher restaurant that purports to have Continental ambience and cuisine.

What they were lacking was service. There were only 4 or 5 tables occupied, so it wasn't that the waiters were too busy. But the waiter did not bring a plate of bread to the table until we asked him, and even then, there were only 4 small pieces (we did ask for seconds). We waited an inordinate amount of time for each course (not necessarily the waiter's fault). And we waited even longer for the check, even though we asked a number of times! One would think that a business would wish to get paid as soon as possible for the goods and services it provides. One would think that a waiter would wish to please his customers, who decide how much he will be tipped.

And so, on that latter point, I left far less of a tip than I normally would. I couldn't quite bring myself to totally stiff the guy, but he was pushing it close! I do not envision us dining at that establishment at any time in the foreseeable future.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

John Allen Muhammad: By the Numbers:

The personal "chemistry" between me and the man who was my 10th and 12th Grade Math teacher was often dysfunctional, due to our differing backgrounds, viewpoints and personal values (and, dare I say, my own less than optimal attitude). Nevertheless, I did learn much Math -- and more -- under his tutelage, and look back upon him as one of my better secondary school mentors (and almost all of the teachers I had in Junior and Senior High School were quite good). In fact, I have been known on more than one occasion to utilize some of his classroom humor in teaching my own students.

One of the stories Ms S told us dealt with the sailor sitting at the end of a bench, with a young and beautiful woman at the other end. The sailor moves to the middle of the bench, that is, half-way towards the woman. He then moves to a point three-quarters of the way down the bench, that is, half-way along the remaining space now separating him from the woman. He then moves half-way, and half of that half-way, and so on. Will the sailor ever get all the way to the woman at the other end of the bench?

The answer is not, he will never exactly reach the woman. He will, however, come close enough for all practical purposes!

The statistics now to be cited are not necessarily exact, but, for the purposes of this analysis, they are close enough for all practical purposes:

The African-American population of the United States now stands at about 45 million, or about 14% of the population. Approximately 5% of them are now incarcerated in a Federal, State or local prison.

Which brings us to John Allen Muhammad.

According to Muhammad's boy toy and collaborator, Lee Boyd Malvo, Muhammad convinced Malvo that "violence was the only way to correct perceived injustices to African-Americans."

I count 2 African-Americans among the 10 murder victims of John Allen Muhammad. That's 20%. Okay, so if the African-Americans are indeed 14% of the population, then one would expect 1 or 2 out of a sample of 10. The best that can be said is that Muhammad did no less of an injustice to African-Americans than whatever force or institution it was that he was crusading against.

As for incarceration, well now there is another Black person incarcerated. His name is Lee Boyd Malvo. He killed 10 people (including 2 African-Americans) and the cost of it was the (hopefully) permanent incarceration of another Black person.

Whatever dysfunctions the American establishment has perpetuated upon the Black people, John Allen Muhammad has, proportionally speaking, performed far worse!

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Odds & Ends: Assuming Responsibility

The items in this posting all relate, directly or indirectly, to the issue of accepting responsibility for one's actions.

1. The Fort Hood Massacre:

According to a news brief I heard on the car radio en route home from shul this evening, friends and relatives of the shooter in the Fort Hood massacre (whose name will not be set forth in this posting) seem to be insinuating that the cause of his murderous rampage was that he had long been subjected to being taunted and discriminated against on account of his religion.

Hold it right there, buster!! I have been one of a single-digit minority of Jewish kids in a junior high school, and was taunted accordingly. I have worked for a civilian US Government activity where discrimination against Jewish people was blatantly practiced by people in top managerial positions. I have lost jobs under circumstances where anti-Semitism clearly played a role. Applying to the theory the friends and relatives of this murderer-traitor (remember the definition of "treason" in the U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 3), I and lots of other Jewish people should now be indiscriminately shooting up people in their places of employment. But we don't see Jewish people doing these things! I'm not buying into the excuse!

2. Resigning from the Bar:

In New York (and other states), there are two types of cases where attorneys resign from the Bar. Firstly, there is the attorney who has moved out of state, has no plans to further practice in New York, and who really would rather not pay the biennial registration fee (currently $350, and likely to increase in the future).

But the term "resigning from the bar," as used in the parlance of legal circles, usually has a more negative connotation. What it amounts to is disbarment on consent, whereby the attorney saves the judicial system (and the taxpayers) the trouble of attending to the administrative matter of striking the attorney's name from the roll of attorneys in good standing to practice before the courts in the State. Attorneys who do so are accorded ever so slightly more favorable treatment when they apply for reinstatement (a minimum of 7 years later), for they then are better postured to say that they accepted responsibility for their transgressions.

But in order for such a resignation to be accepted, the resignor must acknowledge in writing, among other things, that they could not successfully defend themselves against the misconduct charges pending against them.

Howard L. Blau wants things both ways. He wants "to resign gracefully and with the dignity that should be allowed to a lawyer who spent almost 40 years of his life performing thousands of hours of pro bono work as an attorney," yet he refuses to acknowledge that there are charges pending against him which he cannot successfully negate. The Court has not accepted his resignation, but has disbarred him. But, given the fact that Blau has already practiced law while under suspension, it is entirely possible that he will once again practice law without the benefits and perquisites of admission to the Bar.

3. Vincent has Returned:

A year ago, spoiled trust fund brat Shea Rosen, with four car crashes and three traffic tickets under his belt, pills in his socks, and cannibis on his breath (I cannot make any statements regarding ethanol in his bloodstream because he refused to take the breathalyzer test), ran down two joggers, killing one and severely injuring the other. Not an exemplar of accepting responsibility for one's actions.

Yesterday, Vincent Saunders, the surviving jogger, ran and completed the 6-mile route in memory of his girlfriend and jogging companion, Amanda Malloy. [This was reported in Newsday, 7 November 2009, p. A8, but last week Newsday switched its website to a (mostly) pay for access, and raised the newsstand price of its print edition. It is not clear whether this will increase Newsday's profitability.].

Vincent had been on my personal list of people whose welfare I pray for. Just a few weeks ago, one of the people on the list, the mother of a good friend of mine (the friend also happened to be one of the single-digit minority of Jewish kids in my junior high school, as noted above) passed away, and so, I had to remove her name from the list. It is very heartening to be able to remove someone from the list because they have recovered, and not because they have passed on. Vincent Saunders is now off the list. Keep on running, Vincent!

[As for the defendant, Shea Rosen, his next court date is now 30 November 2009. Excellent, excellent chance that Vincent will be also walking into that courtroom.].

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