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, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova 5772

Am very busy. The sun shall set in a few hours, marking Rosh Hashanah, the New Year (5772) on the Hebrew calendar.

Wishing all L'Shanah Tova Tikatevu, a Happy and a Healthy New Year in 5772.

Gotta run.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bloods on Their Hands

Like many other areas of the country and the world, Long Island has its share of gang problems. If rival gangs only killed one another, then that would be one thing. But violence between rival gangs is seldom confined to members of the rival gangs.

One such rivalry up here involves two separate factions of the Bloods gang. There is a certain geographic territory which is contested turf between the Braveheart Bloods and the Wyandanch Bloods. Richard Dormer, the Suffolk County Police Commissioner, is now attempting to obtain a civil injunction which would prohibit 37 particular members of the Bloods gangs from congregating in that defined geographic territory.

The New York Civil Liberties Union (which, as the name implies, is the ACLU's New York franchise), now seeks to intervene with an amicus brief in the case. But because each of the 37 gangsters is, at this time, going pro se (i.e., without an attorney), the NYCLU is effectively their attorney.

I understand where the NYCLU/ACLU is coming from on this one. I really do. It is, after all, a significant imposition on one's freedom if one is restricted from associating with one's associates.

But I also understand that the gang members such as the Bloods have zero respect for the law and for the Constitution which the NYCLU/ACLU invokes to protect the so-called "rights" of the Bloods. It was that very disconnect which, many moons ago, caused me sufficient agita and disgust to allow my ACLU membership to lapse, never to be re-upped again, when the ACLU evinced a greater concern for the Nazis in Skokie than for the integrity of American values.

The NYCLU doesn't seem to get it that the Bloods and similar gangs are, in fact, actually dangerous, not only to one another, but to the public at large. Law-abiding citizens cannot safely walk down the street when the Bloods congregate together. The drugs the Bloods purvey corrupt the neighborhoods, and induce formerly law-abiding youngsters to enter into a pattern of crime, violence, and, in too many cases, death. That great abstract notion of individual rights is all well and good, but when the Bloods congregate in Wyandanch, then nobody, least of all the law-abiding citizenry, has any individual rights.

It is ironic that the NYCLU officials are so quick to carry signs reading "Safe Schools," but are doing everything in their power to prevent Commissioner Dormer from making the streets of Wyandanch safe (if such is possible anymore).

And it is certainly not lost on this observer that the lead defendant (because he leads in the alphabetical order if not the pecking order) in the case, Dormer v. Alexander, is a Blood named Jihad Alexander. That given name tells me about 85% of what I need to know about the type of thugs the Suffolk County Police are dealing with.

And so, I'm with Commissioner Dormer 100% on this one. My only misgiving is that the relief sought from the court is to enjoin Jihad Alexander and his fellow Blood thugs from congregating in a particular area of the Town of Babylon. In my own mind, they should be excluded from the entire State of New York (with the possible exceptions of Dannemora, Attica, Rikers Island or Sing-Sing).

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Only a Week Late!

Collegiate education is a two-way process. Yes, I get up in front of my classes and I lecture, but the students also have responsibilities. These include (but are not limited to) submitting their assignments on time.

I make this clear on the first day of class. And the course syllabus document explicitly states that assignments submitted late without good cause and absence of negligence will be penalized, and that such penalty can extend clear down to a grade of "Zero" for the assignment. Good cause and absence of negligence includes informing the Professor (that's me!) of the situation as soon as practicable. The greater the tardiness, the greater the penalty!

And it always works out that several students submit tardy assignments each semester. And at least one of them is a real whiner, and uses the line to the effect that he or she was "only a week late." Sure enough, yesterday I got the "only a week late" whine from a student who didn't like the low grade his assignment received.

I have developed a script, which I copy and post in my reply e-mails. I now share it with you. Readers in the education profession are, of course, welcome to borrow it:

Philip W. Warner filed his petition to the New York State Tax Appeals Tribunal just 7 days late. His petition was dismissed for lateness.

In 2000, Kenneth Bernard Rouse filed his habeas corpus petition in Federal District Court just one day after the deadline expired. The petition was dismissed for lateness, and Rouse's death penalty stood (though the cretin is still alive as of this writing).

The Village of Lynbrook filed a motion for summary judgment just one day late in the New York Supreme Court. The motion was dismissed for lateness.

Joanne Austin filed her petition with the U. S. Tax Court just one day late. It was dismissed as untimely.

Christine Lamanna filed her petition with the New York State Division of Tax Appeals just one day after the extended deadline. It was dismissed as untimely.

The protest of "Mama's Restaurant" (name changed to avoid embarrassing the taxpayer) was postmarked one day beyond the deadline. The Illinois Department of Revenue, Office of Administrative Hearings dismissed the protest as untimely.

A certain Indiana business (whose identity is confidential under Indiana law) remitted its employee withholding taxes to the Indiana Department of State Revenue just one day late. The lateness penalty was imposed.

And over in England, Commerce Connections, Ltd. was just one day late in remitting its Value Added Tax to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs. The default surcharge was imposed. And Geoffrey John Clarke's VAT was electronically submitted a mere 1 hour and 42 minutes past the midnight deadline, and he also had to pay the default surcharge to HMRC.

So don't come whining to me that your assignment was submitted only one day late -- Let alone a week late. If you submit your assignment late, then it will be penalized! End of discussion!!

Labels: , ,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Out of Their League

I really shouldn't be writing this post because I have a whole load of papers to grade, and lots of other things to do tomorrow (my wife and I have already accepted the fact that our respective time constraints will preclude our attendance at a party to celebrate the engagement of a daughter of some good friends of ours). I have spent the past few hours grading assignments, and am not quite yet halfway finished.

But I am somewhat peeved, not so much by the late submission just e-mailed to me by one of my students, but by his attitude. He is attending college on an athletic scholarship, and seems to think that the demands on his schedule from athletic activities give him an automatic exemption from deadlines for submitting assignments.

I myself was a high school athlete, and appreciate quite well the positive influence athletics can have on a person's development. I am quite willing to make reasonable schedule accommodations even as I hold the jock students to the same standards as everyone else. And I certainly am pleased whenever my jock students win over their opposition.

But people who attend college (especially a college such as the one where I teach, which is heavily subsidized by public tax monies) should be there to pursue their educations.

I have had some students who played various sports, but who were also mindful of their academic responsibilities. These students approached me at the beginning of the semester and apprised me of their athletic obligations, and, where necessary, arrangements were made to accommodate the scheduling conflicts that inevitably arose. And those responsible and conscientious student-athletes used faxes and/or e-mails to submit their assignments timely when they were out of town to play their opposing teams. Some of them even pulled "A" grades in my courses.

This student(?) who now is submitting his assignments late while whining about his jock schedule is not in their league as far as I am concerned. Perhaps what makes his attitude all the more galling is that he has already taken a prior course of mine, and should by now know what my rules are and how I enforce them. He will be graded according to my well-publicized standards. Whether that grade is "A" or "F" or anything betwixt and between depends entirely upon him.

And I also have to wonder about what ever became of the real scholar-athlete. Senator Bill Bradley and Supreme Court Justice Byron "Whizzer" White are not the only role models in that regard. My high school Biology teacher (advanced "Blue" version) was a working-class family's son who got out of Johnstown by going to college on a jock scholarship, and who was the school's football coach. One of his assistant coaches was a Math teacher whose courses I took for two years, who also escaped Johnstown via the jock scholarship route. A former business partner of mine, who has a postgraduate degree, was a national collegiate athletic champion and an Olympic Team alternate. Several teammates of mine from high school have gone into professions such as Medicine, Law and Dentistry.

As matters currently stand, this aforementioned student of mine is not going to be in their league any time soon.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Obama loses Election in NY-9

As reported here and here, Republican Bob Turner trounced David Weprin, the Democratic Party apparatchik who had been viewed as the sure-fire winner in the contest for the seat in New York's 9th Congressional District, which became vacant with the resignation of Anthony Weiner (who was Chuck the Shmuck Putzhead Schumer's successor and protege).

The real loser of the race, of course, is Barack Hussein Obama.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Congresswoman from Florida who is now chair of the Democratic National Committee, is in denial (at least publicly), and claims that NY-9 is an aberration because it has a disproportionate population of religious Jews who begrudge Weprin's carrying the water for the same-gender marriage law recently passed in Albany. But that doesn't explain it because according to DNC Debbie's logic, they also should be up in arms against New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who also supported the abominable legislation.

Moreover, from 1923 until now, NY-9 has consistently sent Democrats to represent it in Washington, notwithstanding its disproportionate population of religious Jews. And the registration ratio is 3:1 in favor of Democrats. And plenty of non-religious Jews (and, for that matter, non-Jews, religious and otherwise) have told the news reporters that they voted out of disgust with the Obama adminstration.

In my mind, there is an even stronger indicium of the seriousness of Obama's loss. There is a Brooklyn-based rag called the Jewish Press [Note: the Jewish Press website has been uncharacteristically slow to load over the past few days.]. Yes, my household does subscribe to it, but with the understanding that beneath its strong advocacy for the Jewish community worldwide, it is largely yellow journalism with blue ink.

The Jewish Press endorsed Weprin in the race [alternate repost link here]. Its rationale:

"He has a long record of standing up for the interests of his constituents in terms of child care, health care, senior care, etc., and has always impressed us with his understanding of the special needs of the Orthodox community’s broad array of voluntary social service safety networks." … " Mr. Weprin’s opponent in the race is Republican Bob Turner, a retired communications industry executive. Preliminarily, Mr. Turner has advocated a prompt 35 percent cut in government spending without any new taxes, but insists this would not necessarily impact significantly on the lives of those who depend on such government funds, particularly Social Security and Medicare. " "Given his overarching negative view of government spending, it is hard to imagine Bob Turner going to bat as strongly as David Weprin in any struggle for funds to minimize the impact of government cutbacks on the 9th CD."

In other words, the Jewish Press's (not so well) hidden agenda is the government funding that some of its cohorts receive. One dirty little secret in the Jewish community is that disproportionate numbers of Jewish families from the more sheltered and insular groups, by dint of their inferior practical educations, are dependent upon diverse government-funded social welfare programs.

But even those sectors of the NY-9 population did not come out in droves to vote for Weprin to protect their rice bowls, as the Jewish Press implicitly exhorted them to do. Indeed, yesterday, the day of the election, I had occasion to walk along the street in a NY-9 neighborhood populated mostly by religious Jews, and the mood of the street was squarely for Bob Turner and against Obama. And not only on account of Obama's policies regarding Israel, either.

Many Democratic candidates for lower offices have, publicly and otherwise, expressed concern over the effect of Obama's national policies on their own local campaigns. My betting record on the outcomes of races for political office is not that great. But I do believe that Bob Turner's win in NY-9 is a bit more significant than DNC Debbie would have us believe.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Press 1 for English, Press 2 for Violence

My wife practices at a large area hospital. The concept of giving aid to the poor is a distinct part of the Judeo-Christian culture, and accordingly, a percentage of her department's patients are the so-called "charity cases." As much as we may complain, this aspect of Western culture is one thing that has made us so great.

I daresay that I myself am a beneficiary of this, because my great-grandmother, widowed with three young daughters, was the recipient of aid from various sources when she came to America. But her descendants have by and large succeeded, and collectively, even adjusting to constant dollars, have voluntarily donated to charity ("tzedaka" in Hebrew) many multiples of the amounts our matriarch received (even when you don't count the multi-millionaire cousin of mine who is active on the board of a large charity). Just today, for example, I myself wrote and mailed out checks to two institutions that care for orphans. I expect to cut a few more checks in the next few weeks, what with the Rosh HaShanah holiday coming up.

But like everything else, charity often gets abused. Within the past week, an administrator in my wife's department was venting to my wife about a patient (not my wife's) who is a "charity case," understands close to zero English, does not work, and is probably an illegal alien, but who took up so much of the administrator's time in getting the woman's medical treatment attended to. What is this woman contributing to our society? My grandparents at least mastered the English language, and didn't need translators to transact normal routine business like healthcare, grocery shopping or banking.

My wife, along with all her other activities, is now taking some post-professional education courses. The particular course she now is taking is about the role of culture in health care. In connection with this, she came out with a somewhat profound observation this evening (or, rather, she had the gumption to post it online for her classmates and instructor to see). It goes something like this:

Being that language is a part of the respective cultures, are we not, in America today, witnessing some cultural violence on account of the great obsession to translate everything into Spanish?

The menu, then, is " Press 1 for English, Press 2 for Violence."

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What's on Our Bookshelves (Plural)

[It's September 11th, 2011. As the sun set on September 10, 2001, I saw the World Trade Center towers a few blocks south from where I was walking to the subway. The next morning they would be destroyed by Muslim terrorists. So yes, I do have a strong personal connection to the Muslim attacks of September 11, 2001. But I have mixed feelings about it all. On one hand, I am not comfortable with the 9/11 memorial mania, or, more specifically, its exploitation by certain political and commercial interests. But on the other hand, America must never forget it, and must recognize it for the attack on our values that it was!]

Brigid posted a piece entitled "What's On Your Book Shelf?" Several bloggers have responded, including but not limited to Murphy's Law, Aaron, North, and Rev. Paul. So now, I shall weigh in with my household's book collection.

I have, of late, fantasized actually taking the time and effort to catalog our collection, but, as will become apparent, that day is in little danger of arriving any time soon. The truth is that we have more books than do many small town libraries.

First of all, the only rooms in our house that normally do not contain any books are the laundry room, the bathrooms, and the garage. But books do occasionally find their way even to those locations.

Of the remaining rooms, the only one that does not have a piece of furniture and/or a fixture specifically dedicated to the repose of books is our dining room, but, the two buffets, which were custom-made for my wife's parents over 50 years ago, each have a number of books and magazines stacked on them, which my wife and I have been reading at meals (typically but not necessarily our Sabbath meals in connection with discussion with our guests).

Continuing, room to room:

One of our kitchen cabinets has two shelves of cookbooks.

Our den has my wife's computer stand, which has several computer-related books. There is also a cabinet next to the piano which contains sheet music, old and new. And there are music books and sheet music on top of the piano as well. They will, of course, need to be removed and straightened up when the piano gets its now somewhat overdue tuning.

The living room has four 7-foot high shelving units. They all contain various Judaica books, including a Talmud set, a Mishneh Brurah set, various editions of the Torah and Hebrew Bible, a whole shelf of various prayer books (everyday (English-Hebrew, Spanish-Hebrew and Russian-Hebrew) and various editions for each of the holidays. There is an extensive collection of Jewish Law and Jewish History tomes, and a complete set of the original Ben-Yehuda Hebrew Dictionary (which belonged to my wife's grandfather). And the bar-buffet (also part of the aforementioned buffet set) contains not liquor, but yet more books, mostly Judaica but also history.

The Master Bedroom has 5 bookshelf units. One contains my history/military/law collection, and a yet to be completed set of Maimonides's Mishneh Torah, plus some law-related books. My wife has taken over the other units with her various sci-fi, medical, and romance fiction, et cetera.

Our son is now in an apartment with a roommate, but his bedroom still has lots of his books on the bookshelves there.

The guest bedroom has 3 bookshelf units, one of which is almost totally occupied with my various collections of items other than books. The other two contain old college textbooks, and books of history, humor, Judaica, and various literature. These include Wendy Northcutt's Darwin Awards books. There is also a box full of books which a neighbor had put curbside for trash pickup, but which I rescued, but have not yet put onto any shelf. They are mostly old novels. At some point I will probably donate them to a library, but my wife had expressed an interest in reading them, so there they sit.

My office (a converted bedroom) has 3 shelving units containing mostly law books and books about business. There are also reference books such as dictionaries (English and English-to-Otherlanguages), Thesaurus, the Chicago Manual, the Bluebook, etc.

There is a bookshelf out in the upstairs hallway, containing classic and semi-classic literature, including Kipling, Jules Verne, Gulliver's Travels, Milne's Winnie the Pooh, Pinocchio (the Collodi book, not the Disney version), et cetera.

There are two linen closets in our upstairs hallway. One of them has no linens in it, only books. Old books. Encyclopedia Britannica, with companion Atlas, Dictionary, and yearbooks up to 1974. Also older law books, including past editions of Black's Law Dictionary. And the 1946 Heritage Press edition of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Et Cetera.

At any given time, there are, on various pieces of furniture, books "in transit" which have not yet been returned to their place on the bookshelf, or else have not yet been assigned an established shelf as a normal position.

In our household, we love our books!


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

An Important Person

I was in Pennsylvania yesterday and this morning. Returning home was a challenge, what with all of the flooding, but I am now safe and sound back home.

Yesterday, en route from my morning appointment, the car in which I was sitting was approaching an intersection, and the driver, an old friend of mine, noticed a funeral procession approaching from the left, the cars bearing a suction-cupped purple "Funeral" flag. He said, "I wonder who they're burying now?"

I, of course, had no idea, but counted 7 cars after the hearse, and speculated, correctly, that they were headed to the well-known cemetery about 2 miles down the road which was at the next intersection.

The car in front of us turned on his lights and flashers and latched on to the procession. My friend wondered aloud whether he should do likewise, and thus be given pass to go through the numerous stop signs along the road to the cemetery.

I told him to go for it, which he did. We probably could have made slightly better time via an alternate route, what with the slow speed of the funeral cortege (but we got to go through the stop signs). But I think that we did the right thing.

First of all, at Jewish funerals (which this was definitely not), those who attend the services at the funeral home but who, for whatever reason, do not go to the cemetery afterward, often follow the hearse for three steps in order to participate, at least symbolically, in escorting the deceased to the final resting place.

Secondly, along similar logic, we and the car in front of us raised the number of cars following the hearse from 7 to 9, an increase of not quite 29 percent. Note that the more cars a bystander sees following the hearse, the more important they will believe the decedent was in life. Anyone who sees a hearse followed by a long string of cars in the funeral procession invariably thinks, "hey, I don't know who they are burying, but it must really be someone important!"

So our car and the other tag-along increased the decedent's importance rating by 29 percent.

May the decedent, whomever he or she was, rest in peace!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


We had a relatively nonproductive Labor Day Weekend. While, as reflected in the prior posting, our power was restored after about 24 hours, a wide swath of houses beginning just 5 properties away remained dark for over 6 days.

Our shul had its annual Labor Day barbecue yesterday, run by the Sisterhood. As in past years, my wife volunteered me to run the actual barbecuing (which included procuring the charcoal, setting up the grills, et cetera). My preferred method is to make my own charcoal from wood; this year it would have been ideal because of all of the downed trees in the vicinity. [For the record, when I make my charcoal I have a hose at the ready and frequently spray water into the flaming wood fire to create the charcoal. As seen in the old advertisements, that is how the Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee makes their charcoal.].

But there is one particular neighbor who gets squeamish about ordinary outdoor barbecuing, let alone the open flames necessary to create charcoal from wood. She's basically a sweet late-middle-age widow, but her tolerance for risk is extremely low. Another shul neighbor is a firefighter with FDNY, and he has no problem with the conduct of my charcoal-making process, as long as the fire is not left unattended. So, as not to cause this fine woman any untoward angst, I have for several years been using the pre-burnt wood purchased at the store (and known commonly as "charcoal"), at least at our shul barbecues.

At my own home, I do the charcoal-making routine. My immediate neighbors, who seldom if ever have occasion to peer over the fence into my back yard (and vice versa), don't seem to mind, except for the teenage son of one of them who about 2 years ago was all upset about air pollution and greenhouse gasses and global warming. But I explained to him that if the combustion process of which he complained did not occur in the pan of my backyard barbecue grill, it would occur in the charcoal manufacturer's facility -- and gasoline would be burned in order to transport the bag of charcoal to the grocery store. By manufacturing my own charcoal, I use local wood, so while the charcoal-making process is the same in either event, the gasoline or diesel fuel combustion inherent in the transportation process is eliminated.

If I must use charcoal, I prefer the lump charcoal to the briquette charcoal. [And, of course, I never, ever use lighter fluid, let alone the match-light charcoal briquettes.]. The lump charcoal leaves less unburnt charcoal. But this year, I decided to try the Kingsford's Mesquite Briquettes. I bought one bag of Kingsford's Mesquite and one of the lump charcoal. Having done the somewhat scientific comparison, I still prefer the lump charcoal to the briquettes, but if I am compelled to use briquettes, the Kingsford's Mesquites are slightly superior to ordinary briquettes.

In any event, the barbecue went off quite well. We had approximately 50 people in attendance. Busy as I was at the grill, I didn't have much opportunity to sit down and shmooze with the other attendees. I had to tend to the grilling. It was tiring and draining.

But I do not complain! My social isolation was nothing compared to the social isolation experienced by our men and women in uniform whose military duties keep them away not only from the picnic tables at the barbecue, but from their families and friends at home. It is highly likely that I will once again pull barbecue duty next year. And I shall be happy to serve.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Irene's Aftermath

Hurricane Irene was Tropical Storm Irene by the time she got past Long Island. At about 7:45 AM on Sunday morning, after most of the storm had passed and the precipitation was minimal, we lost our electricity. It was still out Sunday evening, so my wife and I had a romantic candlelit dinner and then, after reading by flashlight for about an hour, went to bed. But I couldn't get to sleep, so about 2 AM I went out for my workout run. Being that there were no street lights, nor any light from any houses (except for a handful who had generators), I had to be careful where I stepped. At one point I realized that, about 15 feet in front of me, was a tree that had come down and was totally obstructing the roadway. So I stepped over the trunk and continued my run (the tree was in a section of the neighborhood where the developers had the foresight to lay the electrical and cable TV and telephone lines underground, so live downed wires were not an issue at that point).

But, on the other hand, the lack of artificial lights from the immediate vicinity, together with the clear sky, gave a view of the constellations the likes of which I had not seen since a few years ago when we were up in the mountains.

After about 24 hours our power came back on, and we have been fully operational ever since. Unfortunately, some of our neighbors, including the people directly behind us, have yet to get power restored. My rabbi told me that someone had told him that a major stepdown transformer blew, and while that information would not be admissible in court under the hearsay evidence rules, it completely explains the events; accordingly, I shall go with that story unless and until I hear something more definitive.

Our pool, of course, was full of leaves and twigs, and also a fair amount of algae. I was able to swim a few laps in it today, and got a relatively good workout and cool down after my run. I got out the major stuff but the pool bottom needs a good vacuum. My pool maintenance guy is scheduled to come tomorrow. He is paid to deal with those issues, and so, he will earn his money this week.

During the 24 hours we had no power, I had occasion to drive in the immediate vicinity. For about a mile on a main road out here, the traffic lights had no power. In New York (and, I daresay, just about every other state), if the traffic light is not working, then the intersection is treated as though it were a 4-way stop sign intersection, which means that all cars must come to a full stop. I only saw 3 cars in addition to my own obey that rule, the rest of them just drove through! The Suffolk County police blew that golden opportunity to erase half of the County's deficit, because they could have written an easy 100 tickets at any of the affected intersections.

Yesterday I started teaching again. I'm happy to be back, but it is going to be a very challenging semester for all sorts of reasons.

Labels: , ,