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, July 27, 2011

Evil in Oslo

There is no question that Anders Behring Breivik is truly an evil person.

This is not to say that his observations and analyses of the problem are totally without merit. Indeed, the Norwegian Labor Party's policies of deference to the Muslims have, among other things, facilitated threats and attacks against Jewish families and businesses in Oslo and Stavenger.

But Anders Behring Breivik is truly an evil person, and I do not applaud his lethal actions in the least. My empathies are with the victims, regardless of whatever connections they may have had to the Labor Party in general, and its policies of dhimmitude in particular.

But let's compare and contrast the attitudes towards Breivik with those towards the Muslim terrorists. How many liberal-thinking individuals and organizations give pass to the Muslim terrorists on account of the perceived sins of their targets? If you say justify the actions of the Hamas terrorists who fire rockets at civilian targets in Israel because of Israel's policies towards the so-called Palestinians, then why shouldn't it be acceptable to justify Breivik's actions on account of the Muslims' actions against the indigenous peoples of Europe?

And I note that the judge in Norway has remanded Breivik to 8 weeks of solitary confinement with no communications to the outside. If you complained about imprisoning the Muslim terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, then you should be up in arms about this unjust treatment of Breivik! How many of those who now applaud Breivik's solitary confinement were out demonstrating that Gitmo should have been closed?

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Reason to Believe, or just Conjecture

The 14 July 2011 posting to this Blog speculated as to the possibilities of the Agudath Israel of America being concerned for collateral damage from the media feeding frenzy regarding the murder in Brooklyn of Leiby Kletzky. If the speculations did not hit the bull's eye, neither were they too far off target.

To square everything up front, I do not consider myself to be an opponent of the Agudath Israel of America, and respect and appreciate its many good works on behalf of the religiously observant Jewish community (of which I am a member). But neither is the Agudath Israel above criticism, nor should it be.

Having learned the harsh and painful lessons of history, the Jewish community inherently takes a very dim view of Jews reporting their fellow Jews to the secular governmental authorities. It is more than a social norm; the Rabbis inserted a section into the daily prayer routine addressing the issue.

This is not to say that one should NEVER report a wrongdoer, even under Rabbinical law. But the presumption is that whatever wrong the wrongdoing Jew has done to his fellow Jews does not warrant intervention by the secular authorities, and that the situation is best dealt with by Rabbis and community leaders.

Unfortunately, the theory has not panned out in practice. I shall not now get into the psychosocial analysis; suffice it to say that certain types of aberrant behavior are not adequately understood by non-experts, and that ordinary rabbinical training in a Yeshiva does not constitute adequate expertise.

The Agudath Israel of America is essentially a political organ that does the bidding of the leaders of the European yeshiva world which has been transplanted to America following World War II. A legitimate purpose, if followed correctly.

But the problems of sexual abuse have been amplified on account of the failure of the Rabbis to recognize the dynamics of the crime and the criminal. There has been a big cover-up, analogous in many (but not all) respects to the problems now facing the Catholic Church.

And certain Rabbinical leaders have made statements to the effect that one must obtain permission from a rabbi to report the misdeeds to the authorities.

The Agudath Israel has issued so-called "clarification" of its position. Distilled to its essence, the AI's position per its "clarification" (which has many attributes of a back-tracking) is:

A. One is allowed to report it if one has sufficient reason to believe ("raglayim la’davar" in Hebrew) that it is abuse.

B. One is not allowed to report it if it is only conjecture ("'eizeh dimyon" in Hebrew). This is not a bad thing, inasmuch as many innocent people's lives have been destroyed by false accusations.

C. The differences between certainty and speculation are so complex and intricate that one needs to consult with a rabbi to really determine which is which (unless, perhaps, one actually saw it happen in real time).

I shall not now add to the feeding frenzy by linking to the numerous posting made with the past 24 hours; and I don't want to unnecessarily parrot other commentators. This Blog is not intended to be a "me, too" organ. It suffices to now say that the Agudath Israel's "clarification" has, in many quarters, created more controversy and confusion than it has clarified. Many individuals and organizations who, even a year ago, would have been squarely in the Agudath Israel's corner are now beginning to ask questions.

Some background: A number of years ago I was on the board of a Jewish day school. To the best of my knowledge, there was never any problem regarding abuse of students by school employees (though we did have other types of problems to address). During that time, however, I did have many occasions to compare notes with board members of other institutions.

One such board member (with whom I had a legal case unrelated to either of our institutions) told me that he had an abuser in the employ of his institution, and that the abuser was quietly fired, and was teaching at another institution. My acquaintance told me that he mentioned at board meetings that, as an attorney, he would be concerned regarding liability of the institution (this is before such a thing became the big concern it now is), and he threatened to do the reporting himself if the Executive Director did not. Within a week, he was preempted by the abuser's girlfriend (or rather, ex-girlfriend), who learned that her daughter had been abused by this guy.

The norm was to quietly fire the abuser, and keep quiet about it, even as the abuser went somewhere else to teach and abuse. I am not convinced that the practice has totally ended (though the threat of lawsuits has curtailed it significantly).

Perhaps the litmus test should be whether one feels strongly enough to terminate the employment of the person in question. If you truly believe that he may be the victim of false accusations, then you should have the fortitude to keep him in your employ, and stand behind him and back him up.

If, however, you yourself are not confident enough to keep him in your employ, then that should be your "raglayim la’davar," your sufficient reason to believe. When it comes to sexual abuse, if he's bad enough for you to fire, he's bad enough for you to report to the authorities.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Is This Any Way to Run a Loan Program?

This past Memorial Day weekend, an automobile accident claimed the life of a very accomplished and talented humanitarian. Laura Kavazanjian was a Brown University alumna (where she played field hockey), and also had a graduate degree in Education from Harvard. Laura wanted to save the world, and had a special place in her heart for marginalized girls in the developing world.

But, at about 1:30 AM on May 28, while sleeping in the back seat (sans seat belt) of a car driven by her fiance, Laura was killed when she was tossed from the vehicle as it left the road and rolled over. The couple was en route from their class reunion at Brown to a wedding in New York. [I am unaware of any information regarding the existence or nonexistence of any toxicology report in connection with the tragic incident.].

A loss to Laura's family, a loss to Laura's friends, and a loss to humanity!

And so, at the suggestion of Laura's Harvard classmates, the Laura Kavazanjian Memorial Fund was established, to help grad students who aspired to help Laura's marginalized girls in the developing world. Surely a fitting and proper memorial to Laura!

But now, Congressman Timothy Bishop has a new and novel plan to perpetuate Laura's memory and posthumously carry out her dreams. A few days before the fatal crash, Laura had repaid her student loan to the government in the amount of $44,462.25. So Congressman Bishop has written a letter to Arne Duncan, Obama's Education Secretary, requesting the Department of Education to make a donation in the amount of $44,462.25 to the Laura Kavazanjian Memorial Fund.

"Bishop explained if Laura had not repaid this loan, it would have been forgiven and would have become an expense of the Department of Education, making it a responsibility of taxpayers. The appeal to Duncan is to redirect the dollars Laura paid and it 'would be as if she had not repaid the loan,' the congressman said."

You lost me there, Timmy!

First of all, there is an obligation to repay student loans. Except under extreme hardship situations, they are nondischargeable in bankruptcy. Yes, there is partial loan forgiveness for those who enter certain professions, but the loans are supposed to be repaid! And yes, if Laura had died before she paid the loan it would have been forgiven. But Laura DID pay off the loan. By extention, Timmy, after I die, shouldn't the money I paid to satisfy my student loans be donated to my favorite charity? How about my car loans and mortgage loans which I have paid off during my lifetime? And how about my wife's student loans she incurred while going undergrad and medical school? Timmy, this doesn't click!

Secondly, Timmy, you and your colleagues have budget problems! I know that $44,462.25 is not going to make any difference in our nation's debts of trillions, but shouldn't you all be setting an example of austerity during these tight times? I guess it's your freewheeling sense of entitlement that bothers me, and I know that many other taxpayers have similar sentiments.

Thirdly, shouldn't the Department of Education's function be to provide for education of Americans? I have nothing against bolstering the education of disadvantaged foreigners. I myself make charitable donations to organizations which do just that (though it bothers the politically-correct thinking libtards to no end because most of the disadvantaged foreigners whose educations I support happen to be poor Jews in Israel). If Laura's friends and classmates wish to help educate young girls in Malawi, then they are certainly welcome and encouraged to direct their charity dollars in that direction.

[In such regard, Laura was a 3rd Generation Brown grad, her father and grandfather having graduated Brown and gone out and made something of themselves. Laura was a child of privilege (and, to her credit, she sought to use her privileged position to help the world, unlike so many spoiled trust fund brats who end up screwing up their lives). She lived in one of the wealthier school districts on Long Island. Her family and social circle certainly has the means to make charitable donations as they see fit. They are not so impecunious that they need the U.S. taxpayers to make their charitable contributions for them.].

And did Laura have life insurance? I cannot imagine someone of her socioeconomic class not having it. I had a life insurance policy when I was in college (best time to get it ratewise, worst time to get it premium-wise). She had no dependents, so why not use the proceeds from her life insurance policies to help those Harvard students get their degrees so that they can go and educate all of those marginalized girls in the developing nations of the world?

According to Tim Bishop's logic, the Department of Education's loans should be forgiven if they are not paid, and treated as though they are forgiven if they are paid! Even the big banks bailed out by Congressman Timmy and his cohorts didn't operate with such profligate and irresponsible lending practices!

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Horrible Crime, Lots of Repercussions:

As this posting is being composed, the big news story unfolding is the gruesome murder and dismemberment of Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn as he was returning from day camp. There is a sufficient media feeding frenzy going on that there is no need to link to anything in this posting. Needless to say, the politicians are in on the feeding frenzy as well.

First and foremost, my condolences go out to Leiby's family. I cannot even imagine what they are going through.

In journalism school (not that I ever went to J-School), they teach that stories of a dog biting a man are not newsworthy, but when a man bites a dog, it's usually good for the front page. What is unusual about this story is that the suspect is from the same religious Jewish community as Leiby. Hey, when Gentiles kill one another, nobody makes a big deal about it (just ask the people of South Sudan or Rwanda or places like that), but when Jews kill one another it upsets the whole world!

My instincts tell me (and my friends and acquaintances in law enforcement seem to have similar gut hunches) that (A) Leiby and/or his family have/had some familiarity with the perp; and (B) the perp probably has some prior experience in this type of misdeed.

My observations:

1. In many insular Jewish circles, pains are taken to give the dead various honorifics in speech and writing. I myself, for example, will often (but not always) add a phrase such as "may they rest in peace" when speaking of my departed grandparents. But many blogs and newssites use the honorific "HY'D" which is the transliteration of the abbreviation for HaShem Yikom Damo, which is Hebrew for "May G-d avenge his blood." HY'D is commonly used in connection with those killed by Gentile enemies of the Jewish people (think victims of the Nazis). In the case of Leiby, it is now being used in connection with someone killed by a fellow Jew.

2. Everyone in Leiby's community seems to be trying to keep the true facts from the young children. Counseling experts are giving advice on how to break it to the children. Okay, I agree that there is a right way and a wrong way to break the news to the children, but keeping them in ignorance is the coward's way out. In such regard, when I was 5 years old, a 3-year-old playmate of mine was sexually molested and murdered, and her body stuffed in a cabinet in the basement of the teenage perp. I had just been over her house with my mom the week before. My dad was in the searching party, and my mom had gone to junior high with the assistant District Attorney on the case. My parents found a way to tell me that this young girl was killed, and though they didn't give all of the graphic details, neither did they deny that something terrible had happened to the playmate and that I would not be seeing her again. And they did it without having to engage the services of a counsellor or psychologist.

3. The Agudath Israel of America has released a public statement on Leiby's murder. It includes the sentence "We join the entire community in expressing our tremendous gratitude to the New York City Police Department, the FBI and local government officials for their round-the-clock efforts in leaving no stone unturned in their search; and we hope and trust that the perpetrator of this murder of an innocent boy will swiftly be brought to justice."

You will recall that the insular factions represented by Agudath Israel have, of late, been taking the attitude in deed if not in word that it is better to sweep child molestation under the rug and let the rabbis handle it, but one should not go report it to the authorities without sparingly-granted rabbinical permission. The irony of the Agudath Israel's statement about Leiby is not lost on many, including myself.

If it turns out that the perp had a record which was covered up by someone in the Agudath Israel constituency, then the Agudath Israel would have excellent reason to be concerned about its continued viability as an organization, what with its steadfast support of those who have covered up and continue to cover up the child molestation.

Methinks that the Agudath Israel's chickens may be coming home to roost!

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Monday, July 11, 2011

NYC's Opposition to Confidentiality is Confidential

I really did not believe that I would have anything monumental to say that hasn't been said about the Casey Anthony case. No justice was delivered, and even if any or all of the jurors had possessed an IQ exceeding 190, no justice could have been delivered because, with the big time losers for a mother and grandparents (not to mention the unknown and legally nonexistent sperm donor), little Caylee was doomed from the time the sperm penetrated the ovum. The defense counsel, who could have let things sit after winning, partied over the victory, to the shame and deprecation of the legal profession.

In New York a few weeks ago, Matter of Kiara C., a case with some similarities and differences to the Anthony case, was handed down by the Queens County Family Court. Kiara was a 15-year-old teenager from a highly dysfunctional family who, having been impregnated by an illegal alien, hid her pregnancy, and hid the infant upon giving birth, recklessly suffocating the infant in the process. Kiara was tried as a juvenile delinquent and not as an adult.

Kiara is a far, far better person than Casey Anthony. Kiara has graduated high school, and is now in a vocational training program. It doesn't do a whole lot for her deceased infant, but at least Kiara has an outside fighting chance to become a functional and valuable member of society at some level.

The issue in the Matter of Kiara C was whether Kiara's records of delinquency should be sealed. The City of New York had vigorously opposed the motion to seal Kiara's record, but in a well-reasoned opinion, Judge John Hunt wrote that "The adjudication of juvenile delinquency in this case was never intended to constitute a Scarlet Letter which must be forever displayed to the public at large, and the notion of imposing punishment is contrary to the purposes underlying the juvenile delinquency statute."

A reporter for the New York Law Journal queried the Law Department of the City of New York for a comment. What did the spokesperson for the Law Department say? The standard line that they do not comment on cases involving juveniles on account of the confidentiality concerns.

Confidentiality concerns indeed!

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Flagging the Fourth of July

I'm at home today, the Fourth of July, doing paperwork and avoiding the crowds and the traffic.

Seems that a goodly number of real estate salespeople, from diverse realty offices, have a gimmick to get their name in front of the populace: Planting minature American flags on people's lawns (with a business card, of course).

The prospect of a slide down the slippery slope of crass commercialism is marginally troubling, but it IS nice to drive, walk, run or bicycle down the street and see all the flags at the curbsides. And if it takes some good old American commercialism to make it happen, then that is not such a bad thing!

I was out riding my bike today for a good workout. I was riding down a marginal road by one of the the main streets here. The marginal road, of course, has all of the homes, and it is separated from the main highway by a long traffic island, planted with trees and grass. On the traffic island I saw an American flag on the ground. So I put on the brakes, turned around, picked up Old Glory and stood it up straight, then saluted it and continued on my way.

That's really all there is to report from here. It isn't much.

But in some respects, it really IS a big thing!

Happy Birthday, America!!!

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