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, February 21, 2010

Dubai's Securities and Security

The posting of 15 December 2009 discusses how that technology known as text messaging is causing great consternation to various rabbis, who continually attempt to ban it amongst their followers (and have even resorted to litigation to try to limit the scourge of the cell phone text message). Well, it seems that in the 19 February 2010 edition of Yated Ne'eman, a newspaper by and for the more insular religious Jewish communities, Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg mentions in his regular column on page 14 that he himself actually received a text message. Having duly noted the foregoing, I now segue over to the notion that modern communications technology is now being used to protect the Jewish people and to strike at those who would destroy us.

The story of the 19 January 2010 death of Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Dubai under highly suspicious circumstances is now making the rounds. The smart money says that the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, was behind it. It has created an international scandal for all sorts of reasons. I have no specific "privileged information" on any particulars; I only know what I read in the media. Accordingly, my comments, which follow (in no particular order), are of necessity mostly conjecture and speculation. Time will tell how close to or far from the mark they are:

1. For those who have time to watch, videos released by the Dubai police are, in sequential order, here, here and here (they total nearly a half hour viewing time). The use of cell phones and other modern communications is passim.

2. I will not get into the morality of such cloak-and-dagger operations, other than to say that such activities are a tangled and dirty business of which I have not had any part, and have no intention of playing any part in the future. Those who would criticize Israel for Mossad's activities of this sort are, of course, free to do so, but I insist that they hold all other countries to the same standard as the one they impose upon Israel.

3. Espionage as a patriotic act was glorified in the 1960's and early 1970's by the TV sitcom "Get Smart" (which was a spoof of "The Man From Uncle" sitcom, which in turn was a spoof of Ian Fleming's "James Bond" books-cum-movies). There was also the "Mission Impossible" drama series. More realistic in a sense, however, was the TV show "The Prisoner" which starred Patrick McGoohan. Having previously served as a spy (as documented in the prior TV show "Secret Agent"), McGoohan's character resigns from the spy agency, and is imprisoned. The plot of each episode is that The Prisoner refuses to divulge why he quit.

What little I do know about the espionage business is that once you get involved in it, you can never quit. Your handlers will continue to demand that you produce, else you be outed and turned in to the authorities. Without going into details, I know of certain people who had to look over their shoulders every minute of the day because of their past involvements in espionage. It is not a life I would choose for myself.

4. Assuming that the Dubai operation was indeed Mossad's work, the much-needed objective of eliminating Mahmoud al Mabhouh was certainly achieved. Nevertheless, it seems that Mossad underestimated the degree of sophistication of Dubai's security infrastructure. There are certainly evidence leads to be followed from the videos, which surely will complicate matters for the Mossad agents and operatives who in any way participated.

5. The smart money says that some Fatah people helped in the operation. This is probably true, but I think that the Mossad also had operatives on the staff of one or more of the hotels involved.

6. The UK and Ireland are obviously hopping up and down mad and angry about this, given the use of passport information from the respective countries. All else being equal, UK and Ireland have to follow the leads and exact some sort of diplomatic recompense from Israel. All is not equal, however, and this aspect of the game may well be completely changed if Israel were to somehow produce (A) some individual wanted by the law enforcement or espionage organizations in UK and/or Ireland; or (B) some information which, if made public, would cause significant personal and professional embarrassment to a high-ranking UK and/or Ireland government official. I would bet upon the latter, but would not discount the former.

7. Given Dubai's precarious financial position, this is the least of that city-state's worries. I also take this opportunity to note the irony of Dubai's poor condition of financial solvency and possible default on certain major debt instruments backed by its government. Dubai, you will recall, is one of the few places in the world that still has the institution of debtors' prison.

8. Meanwhile, Britain and the other civilized countries continue to vilify and condemn Israel, even as they express great relief that a particularly dangerous terrorist has been removed from the world.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Late Martin Grossman

The Late Martin Grossman

As has made the news rounds by now, Martin Grossman, mentioned in this Blog's postings of posting of 24 January 2010 and 14 January 2010, has finally served his death sentence. He was executed by lethal injection yesterday (16 January 2010) at the Florida State Prison at Starke.

As mentioned in prior postings, I have received many missives attempting to enlist my support to supplicate Governor Crist to commute the death sentence, and have not gone along with them because I believe that Martin Grossman's crime well merited the sentence.

Now that Martin Grossman has passed on, I now set forth my thoughts (in no particular order):

1. My empathies are squarely with the family of the victim, Florida Wildlife Officer Margaret "Peggy" Park, who, by all accounts, was dedicated to the job she loved. I hope that they have found some sort of closure. And I hope that Officer Park can now repose in peace.

2. Most of the aforementioned appeals from various individuals and organizations contain the following quotation from Prof. Alan Dershowitz:

"Even those who strongly support capital punishment would limit it to recidivists or people who commit the most heinous of crimes. Martin Grossman fits neither of those categories. He does not belong on death row. His crime, committed when he was a teenager, was unplanned, unpremeditated and impulsive—the product of a serious mental illness, that can now be proved by medical technology that was unavailable at the time of his sentencing. He has been in prison for more than a quarter of a century, during which time he has been a model prisoner who has shown great remorse for what he did. All that he is seeking now is a 60 day postponement of his execution, so that his supporters can martial the evidence and present his case for clemency. No one should be rushed to execution while doubts remain unresolved. Justice demands that he be given the 60 days to prove that he does not deserve to die at the hands of the state."

Without going into my own reservations about Prof. Dershowitz, the following is noted:

A. Grossman WAS a recidivist. He murdered Officer Park while free on probation for another crime; and in violation of that probation he burglarized a house and took possession of a firearm from that house.

B. Re Dershowitz's phraseology "No one should be rushed to execution while doubts remain unresolved." Is 25 years on death row a rush to execution?

3. One of the organizations that strongly advocated for sparing Grossman's life was the Agudath Israel of America, of which I have blogged several times. The Agudath Israel, an organization with its own set of issues and problems, has compromised its ability to oppose future death sentences. This may well come back to haunt them.

4. I did not sleep well last night or the night before. This is not an uncommon occurrence with me, but some of my sleeplessness the last two night was connected to thoughts about Grossman. Actually, I should feel for my fellow Jews, even the likes of miscreants such as Grossman, so this was not necessarily a bad thing.

5. Along similar lines, the arguments proffered by the various Jewish organizations all boiled down to two rationales: (A) Grossman was a fellow Jew; and (B) Grossman became a changed man during his 25+ years of imprisonment. The former should be irrelevant to the administration of justice. As for the latter, if indeed Grossman became a changed man it was because (i) it is more difficult to obtain recreational drugs when one resides on death row in a prison; and (ii) the Aleph Institute organization, which reaches out to Jews who are not in proximity to Jewish communities (including the military and prisons), had a positive effect upon Grossman. The "fellow Jew" and "changed man" arguments, while not viewed as valid by me or by Governor Crist, are the natural, logical and inescapable results of the fact that the Jewish people strive for the ideal of helping our own in need. This is not a bad thing, and indeed, it is why we are still alive and thriving on this earth after thousands of years of persecutions, physical and spiritual. And it is why we will remain here, whether our enemies like it or not!

6. I don't see nearly as much in the media about other murderers who have been executed thus far during the year 2010: Vernon Smith and Mark Brown in Ohio; Gerald Bordelon in Louisiana; Kenneth Mosley and Gary Johnson in Texas; and Julius Young in Ohio. When a Gentile murders someone it is not nearly the big news story that it is when a Jew commits a serious crime like Grossman did. The story of a dog biting a man is of minimal newsworthiness, but the story of a man biting a dog puts ink on newsprint. And there is no doubt that of all the stories of fallen law enforcement officers on the Officer Down Memorial Page, the Jewish cop killers are well outnumbered by the Jewish officers who were killed in the line of duty. Heroes with names such as Marshalik, Galapo, Weiner, Gadell, Rakow, Kramer, Mirell, Schiffries, Fox, Astell, Rosenfeld, Cantor, Bloomfield, Borkin, Seiden or Katz!

7. It certainly distresses me that one of my fellow Jews died last evening. But it distresses me even more that one of my fellow Jews would commit acts as brutal as those committed by Grossman.

8. Bottom Line: Martin Grossman made some bad decisions. He has now borne the consequences of his decisions. Unfortunately, his decisions have resulted in the waste of two lives, his own and his victim's, and in untold anguish to his victim's friends and family, and to Grossman's friends and family, and to the Jewish community.

Justice has been served. A senseless tragedy has finally drawn to a close. I mourn the loss of Officer Peggy Park, and I mourn the loss of Martin E. Grossman.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Man Behind the Curtain

As mentioned in the posting of 24 January 2010, Martin Grossman is scheduled to die by lethal injection in Florida this coming Tuesday, 16 February 2010, for the murder of Florida Wildlife Officer Margaret "Peggy" Park.

There seems to be some controversy over whether the curtain should be drawn when the lethal injection is administered. I can see arguments pro and con. I am not totally sold on the broadcast of live (or delay embargoed) executions, but there definitely should be witnesses to the process, whether victim's family or randomly-selected jurors.

I am informed that in Florida the curtain is still drawn when the injection is given, so that if the execution goes on as planned, Martin Grossman will be the Man Behind the Curtain.

The "Save Martin Grossman" appeals have been coming into my e-mail in-box (and, for that matter, my snail mail mailbox), and many organizations have jumped onto the bandwagon.

I note that one name associated with many if not most of the appeals I have received is "Alan Dershowitz."

Call me a conspiracy-minded paranoid if you wish, but I read a lot into Prof. Dershowitz's involvement in this and any other case. Because Dershowitz always has some sort of agenda, which may or may not be, to one extent or another, compatible and concurrent with the interests of the Jewish community at large and/or with the personal interest of the individuals in power at the various organizations that purport to represent the Jewish community.

It's not that I don't respect Prof. Alan Dershowitz, for indeed, he has done much of the right thing. But whenever Dershowitz is in on anything, he is in it for Alan Dershowitz.

My hunch: Although Martin Grossman is likely a financial pauper, perhaps some of the community-minded individuals and organizations might be willing to pony up for Dershowitz's retainer fee.

In the movie "The Wizard of Oz," Dorothy, the Lion, the Tin Man and the Scarecrow are admonished: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

In the case of Martin E. Grossman, there are two men behind the curtain, Grossman and Dershowitz. Certain interests want to draw public attention to Grossman, but do not want anyone to pay attention to Dershowitz. Which is why I am doing the opposite.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Taxman or Taxwoman, Part 2

This Blog's posting of 24 January 2006 commented on the Internal Revenue Service Office of Chief Counsel's Memorandum Number 200603025, which in turn opined on the deductibility as a medical expense of a taxpayer's gender reassignment surgery costs. Few of us tax cognoscenti doubted that the matter would eventually be brought to court by the taxpayer involved, and though Chief Counsel Memoranda and similar taxpayer-specific IRS pronouncement are always sanitized of taxpayer identification information, the taxpayer's identity was one very ill-kept secret amongst the tax practitioners and pundits.

Yesterday, the U.S. Tax Court released its opinion in the case captioned O’Donnabhain v. Commissioner. To synopsize this very lengthy opinion:

The taxpayer, born of the male gender and named Robert Donovan, decided to become a woman and, to that end, changed his name to Rhiannon G. O’Donnabhain and underwent so-called gender reassignment surgery. Donovan/O’Donnabhain claimed, as a medical expense deduction on his/her tax return, the not inconsequential health care bills associated with the latter. The IRS disallowed the deduction, Donovan/O’Donnabhain disputed the IRS's decision in the Tax Court, and the Tax Court ruled that the medical expenses for the "gender reassignment surgery" were deductible, but that the doctor bills and associated expenses for the breast augmentation were elective cosmetic surgery and thus not deductible.

My take on it:

The Court's ruling was correct and appropriate.

I personally believe that this so-called "gender identity disorder" diagnosis is, at best, a misguided politically-correct classification concocted by the medical profession.

And, it follows, that I am not too keen on having the taxpayers subsidize this so-called gender reassignment surgery (which is mutilation, plain and simple).

The failing in this case was with the medical profession, which went into the tank for certain sinister forces by treating a mental disorder as a physical one. This, in my view, is analogous to treating appendicitis not by removing the inflamed appendix, but by excision of the intestines which are inflaming the appendix. The American Medical Association's perversion of its craft sets dangerous precedent.

But the IRS should not be engaging in medical practice or medical diagnosis or the dispensation of medical advice. This means that the IRS should not issue blanket prohibitions as to what is or is not medically necessary for any given patient. This, I believe, is a far greater evil than this "gender identity disorder" hoax, which must be laid at the feet of the medical profession.

[The pro-homosexual lobby has already begun to claim this tax case as a victory for their abominable agenda. Take my word for it, or google it; I do not now wish to glorify their nefarious agenda by linking to any of their many postings on the case.].

As for Robert Donovan / Rhiannon O’Donnabhain, it is noted that he/she (a) seems to have been prompt and candid with discharging his/her tax return reporting and filing duties; (b) seems to be a reasonably well-functioning employee in the workplace, and seems to have been so even as he/she was transitioning from male self-identity to female self-identity; and (c) seems to have left no basis for any hint or suggestion that his/her past service in the U.S. Coast Guard was anything other than honorable. In the final analysis, Donovan/O’Donnabhain is more by far a victim than a wrongdoer.

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