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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

They All Deserve One Another

Some people just don't interact well with one another. Some people have relationships even more contentious than the one between me and my mother-in-law (which is very, very highly contentious). And then, there are those whose super-contentious relationships place one or more parties in physical danger.

The law has a mechanism, sometimes but not 100% of the time effective, for protecting those in physical danger from contentious interpersonal relationships. It is called an Order of Protection.

The typical Order of Protection is issued by a court with jurisdiction over criminal matters, and stigmatizes the respondent accordingly. But in New York, the Family Court can, within the confines of its limited jurisdiction, issue Orders of Protection for those in "intimate" relationships that have grown contentious. Family Court OPs do not carry quite the same stigma as ones issued by criminal courts (provided that they are adhered to). After all, most people can understand, if not justify, intimate relationships going askew and boiling over.

Recently, the New York State Legislature expanded the Family Court's jurisdiction to issue OPs. An OP can issue to someone who is not a family member, but who has an intimate relationship with the protectee. This removed much reluctance on the part of abused people in boyfriend/girlfriend relationships to stigmatize their significant other with a criminal court OP, and has, no doubt, saved many a woman (and probably a few milquetoast males) from a battering.

Jessica's complex situation involves various contentious relationships. When Jessica "grows weary of her husband, which seems to occur with some frequency, she rekindles her relationship with [Jeremy]. Eventually, she either tires of him or finds renewed interest in [Jeremy] (or both) and a new cycle begins."

After a 10-day stint with Jeremy, culminating in Jeremy's threat to shoot Jessica and her husband, Jessica came to the Madison County Family Court for an OP. Judge McDermott found that Jessica's relationship with Jeremy was "intimate" enough to fall within the scope of the revised Family Court Act, but declined to issue an OP for " public policy" reasons, namely, the law's interest in preserving the marital relationship. Judge McDermott told Jessica that she was free to obtain the OP in criminal court.

Jessica's attorney appealed. On appeal, the Appellate Division, 3rd Department called Judge McDermott to Captain's Mast for declining to issue the OP.

It is tempting to say that Jessica deserves whatever she gets. It is difficult to sympathize with Jessica's shmendrick of a husband for tolerating Jessica's modus operandi. And Jeremy isn't anything to write home about either, at least until he completes some anger management courses (and the simplest way for him to manage his anger would be to find someone better than Jessica to be intimate with).

But the law would lose the popular respect it now commands if it did nothing to prevent violence.

This case is a "damned if they do and damned if they don't" situation for advocates against domestic violence, for the sanctity of marriage, and for the rule of law.

Meanwhile, Jessica will remain in the driver's seat unless and until the two poor excuses for men in her life get up on their hind legs and say, "Enough!"

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

How Fallen are the Mighty!

This posting is an expansion upon a reply posting I made to another blog.

The Agudath Israel of America is an organization that is now in crisis. Accordingly, my relationship to AIA is now not entirely comfortable. On the one hand, AIA has long advocated for the needs of religious Jews such as myself, and has done -- and continues to do -- some very positive things (not all of which are visible on the radar monitor). On the other hand, AIA now has a leadership crisis. The AIA of today is not the same AIA of twenty years ago. The individuals constituting AIA's leadership are each too caught up in their respective personal or partisan agendas to effectively advocate for the good of the religious Jewish community at large (Harry Maryles has analyzed the dynamics of this).

And there are other religious Jewish organizations which, while not directly under the AIA umbrella, are, to one degree or another, de facto allies of AIA, on particular issues if not on a wholesale basis. But AIA has, with good foundation, long claimed to be the alpha (or, rather, Aleph) lion in the pride, and has implicitly been acknowledged as such by the various religious Jewish leaders.

But the individual rabbinical leaders have each tried (and, to one degree or another, succeeded) in having AIA take on the particular agenda of their own particular subconstituency, effectively taking a "one size fits all" posture for matters where this is definitely not appropriate. As a result of the various individual dysfunctions, AIA has now morphed from clean advocacy from the moral high ground to hastily wiping the shit off the collective faces of the religious Jewish community and categorically denying that there are any foul odors in the air.

Some examples:

On 25 September 2002, over 200 New York City firefighters responded to a blaze in Brooklyn. Two firefighters were injured. The fire was the result of arson, as part of an insurance fraud and bankruptcy fraud scheme by the Jacobowitz family. There was also an attempt to bribe a fire marshal. While the Agudath Israel of America did not explicitly come out to advocate lenity for the Jacobowitzes, the Satmar Rebbe (of whose insular community the Jacobowitz family is part) did try to mobilize support for them.

The AIA long denied that there was sexual molestation in the yeshivas, until it simply could no longer deny the obvious. Today, AIA still lobbies the New York State Legislature to prevent a relaxation of the statute of limitations.

AIA took a leading role in appealing for clemency for Martin Grossman, who was sentenced to die for brutally murdering a Florida Wildlife Officer while Grossman was out on parole for other crimes.

And today, they now are whining that the sentence for Sholom Rubashkin was unfair (okay, I concede that 27 years is a bit excessive for big time bank fraud, and I agree that a sentence of 7 to 10 years would be more appropriate).

And so, over a decade or so, the Agudath Israel of America has ceded the moral high ground, and now comes to me to beseech my support in helping out fraudsters, arsonists, child molesters, spouse abusers, and cop killers. Where do I, as an honest, law-abiding religious Jew, fit in to Agudath Israel's agenda? When will the Agudath Israel of America start to once again advocate for us, instead of viewing us collectively as a potential ATM to help finance their damage control for damage that they are no longer able to cover up? And how can we law-abiding religious Jews expect AIA to return to the moral high ground when its own Executive Vice President has disrespectfully flouted the law by not keeping his New York attorney registration current?

We law-abiding and honest religious Jews are becoming very frustrated at the Agudath Israel's disconnection from us, from the constituency it is supposed to represent and champion.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Challenge of Teaching Common Sense

Having, way back when, done a stint requiring a security clearance, I am a bit more security-conscious about my students' exams and papers than are many of my colleagues with their students' papers, exams, et cetera. Specifically, the exams are kept in a locked filing cabinet for 2 years (the effective time limit on my campus for appealing a grade) and then they go through the shredder. And I never discuss any particular student's performances or grades with another student (and only discuss particular students with other faculty on a need to know basis).

As a faculty member, I am privy to the last 4 digits of my student's SSN. But I never use this chain of digits to identify my students; I just use their names.

Yesterday I finished grading the exams administered the day before to my students. This particular examination is all multiple choice, and answers are encoded by the students onto the Scantron form to be graded by an optical reader machine.

My verbal instructions to the students included a statement that while they needed to put their names on the answer sheets, it was completely unnecessary for them to enter their Social Security Numbers on the answer sheets. In fact, I mentioned that, generally speaking, it is NOT a good idea to use or divulge your Social Security Number unless absolutely necessary.

Notwithstanding this, out of the 41 students in the class, 2 put their SSNs on their answer sheets!

I didn’t ping the 2 students for failing to follow directions. But perhaps I should have. I cannot help but question their good sense and judgment. And I cannot help but wonder whether they will go onward in future years to exercise their wonderful judgmental skills while in the employ of the Coast Guard or the EPA.

The two students were not the highest scorers on the exam, to say the least.

I long ago realized that I cannot teach common sense in a classroom setting. Sometimes common sense can be learned through experience. And, in the long run, the principles enunciated by Charles Darwin do eventually kick in.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Flushing all Discipline down the Toilet

Now, some officials and parents are getting all upset because some students at Bronx's In-Tech Academy have apparently been tasked to latrine-cleaning as a punishment for misbehavior. See here, here and here.

[I have, with unusual and atypical self-restraint, resisted the temptation to insinuate some excretory pun into the title of this posting, but I cannot prevent you, dear reader, from thinking of any and grinning.].

I really, really, do not see what the problem is. The students misbehaved, so they were compelled to clean toilets as a punishment. So what?!?!?

The kids involved have misbehaved in school. This, while in no way commendable, is, within limits, normal.

The misbehaving kids were given some practical negative feedback (known in my day as "punishment" or "discipline") for their misbehavior. This, once upon a time, was normal, but all of the liberal sob sisters hung up on the rights of the poor misguided and deprived children have made it increasingly difficult for school teachers or administrators to mete out any meaningful punishment without being subjected to punishment themselves.

What is happening is that the perpetuators are being cast as victims. And the school administrators who tried to discipline them (who are the good guys/gals in this scenario) are now being vilified as wrongdoers.

And so, whatever disciplinary regime the school administrators have tried, against all odds, to maintain in their school, is now being flushed down the toilet!

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lawyer Number 1676253

In 1964, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the British Prime Minister, belatedly realized that he had forgotten to register to vote, and accordingly, could not participate in his own election. It was somewhat of a minor embarrassment at worst; all Sir Alec lost was one of the popular votes, which did not affect the outcome of the election. One need not actually vote in order to be Prime Minister of England.

Last week, the New York Law Journal published a 15-page listing of New York attorneys admitted in the First Department who were delinquent in their registration, along with notice to show that they are in compliance with the registration requirements (i.e., submit the registration form and pay the biennial fee). Apparently, all the lawyers there have not brought their registration status into compliance, despite several notifications sent out by the Office of Court Administration and/or the Disciplinary Committee. The next step, for any of the listed lawyers who fails to comply, is disbarment.

As an attorney admitted to practice in several jurisdictions, including New York, I take somewhat of a hard line view of this. It goes beyond being a week or a month late with getting in the papers and the check; it is now a complete disregard for their professional responsibilities. I can almost understand, and am predisposed to a somewhat more gracious view, with respect to those lawyers who practice out-of-state or out-of-country. And, of course, there invariably are a few who have gone deceased and, as such, are neither able nor qualified to bring their registrations into currency.

But as for the living and breathing New York lawyers, they begin to become a disgrace to the profession, and a cloud upon the integrity of those of us who do comply with the rules.

This Blog has made several postings regarding the Agudath Israel of America, an organization currently in a period of tribulation. Harry Maryles has likewise posted about Agudath Israel on his blog. I will not now go into the niceties of the Agudath Israel's leadership problems, other than to generally state that, unfortunately, it has problems in exercising effective leadership to fulfill what are supposed to be its core mission and values.

The most effective way to lead is by example. After a number of blunders during the past decade or two, AIA needs to set some positive examples for its constituency.

The last lawyer's name enumerated in the New York Law Journal's aforementioned listing is one David Zwiebel, who is none other than Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, the Agudath Israel of America's Executive Vice President. According to the New York State Unified Court System's website, Zwiebel (whose New York Attorney Registration Number is 1676253 is slated to reregister in December 2010, which means that his registration last lapsed (i.e., he didn't pay the biennial registration fee) in December 2008, about a year-and-a-half ago. And while Rabbi Zwiebel might arguably not have to practice law as such in his capacity as EVP of AIA, his continuing lapse into delinquent status detracts significantly from his credibility as a spokesperson for an organization that has taken and continues to take so many public stands with respect to so many cases in the courts, civil and criminal. In light of Zwiebel's risk of disbarment, this matter well exceeds the magnitude of ironic embarrassment inherent in Sir Alec Douglas-Home's neglecting to register to vote.

Zwiebel's registration (or lack thereof) may, in and of itself, pale in comparison to Agudath Israel of America's other problems and issues, but, as a poor public example, it is emblematic of AIA's leadership crisis.

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Terrorist Candid Camera

According to an Associated Press article, the sob sisters in the MSM and Israel's Foreign Press Association are now whining that Israel is using videos confiscated from some of the participants in the "flotilla" incident. They seem to think that just because the footage was shot by journalists, it should be off-limits to the Israelis as far as explaining Israel's side of the story goes.

To which I say, "Boo Freakin' Hoo!"

The MSM has long used articles and footage from the terrorist organizations to constitute its own stories (can you say "Al Jazeera"?). And the MSM has long used information from whatever sources it can get, and has long insisted upon its Constitutional right to not disclose those sources.

The MSM seems ill postured to deal with the fact that Israel is beating it at its own game.

What really galls the MSM, no doubt, is the damning quality of the evidence. As more and more evidence surfaces, Israel's case grows stronger and stronger.

Now that Israel has shown that it can keep the flotilla people out of Gaza, maybe Netanyahu should take another testosterone shot and start excluding foreign journalists who serve as the terrorists' useful idiots.

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