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, October 30, 2011

Still here, just busy.

I'm still here, but just have been quite busy. Now I am taking a break from grading exams.

Next week promises to be a very active one, with a number of adversarial confrontations on the card.

Thus far, the snow did not stick to the roads or our driveway (though there's about a half inch on the cold metal of our automobiles). The accumulation was far worse over in New York City. In that regard, I take comfort in the fact that the Occupy Wall Street occupiers are uncomfortable with the snow.

Gotta go now, to prep for the many activities next week.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Holiday Timing

In the Hebrew calendar (which long predates the Gregorian), the Month of Tishrei contains a long series of holidays.

1 and 2 Tishrei are Rosh Hashanah (it is a 2-day holiday even in the Land of Israel);

10 Tishrei is Yom Kippur;

15 Tishrei begins the Festival of Sukkot. The first day is one during which religiously-observant Jews such as myself do not engage in activities such as working, switching electricity on or off (this includes booting up on the computer), riding in a motor vehicle, et cetera. Outside the land of Israel, 16 Tishrei is also such a day [a practice from ancient times, before computers and televisions and radios, when those outside the Land of Israel did not know for certain when the Rabbinical Court confirmed the sighting of the full moon, so two days were observed to ensure that the proper day was kept.].

On the intermediate days of Sukkot most of the aforementioned activities are permitted.

But the Festival of Sukkot ends with Shmini Atzeret on 22 Tishrei and Simchat Torah on 23 Tishrei (in Israel, the two occur on the same day, 22 Tishrei), which day/days are also days where we do not do the various aforementioned activities.

Charitable giving in the Jewish community tends to run high around this time of year, (A) because the giving of charity ("tzedaka" in Hebrew) is viewed favorably by G-d when He judges us during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; and (B) on account of this, Jewish tzedaka organizations tend to go full throttle with their solicitation campaigns.

My wife and I have, in addition to our regular checking account, a special Tzedaka checking account, into which we deposit about 10% of our paychecks and other income. From that account we write our tzedaka checks. In addition to simplifying our records for tax purposes, it also induces a good tzedaka discipline.

So what did I get in the mail today? A solicitation from a religious Jewish organization (I shall not embarrass anyone by naming it) for their fundraising dinner in about 3 weeks. Having just emptied our Tzedaka Account, for us to purchase a full-page Journal Advertisement would place a strain on our budget. Had we known of this fundraising dinner we before the holidays we likely would have gone with at least a full-page ad, inasmuch as one of the honorees is the son of some old friends of ours.

Their timing is piss poor on this one!

Tonight begins Shmini Atzeret. To all, Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday)!

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kids and Cops Behaving Poorly

I will admit to my inherent bias in favor of law enforcement officers, at least in America. This is not to say that I automatically accept the word of a cop, and certainly not to say that cops can do no wrong. But the cop who is out on the street making the arrest usually does not have the luxury of acting out a cleanly scripted routine resembling anything from Emily Post's Book of Etiquette. Moreover, cops, like everyone else, have their own biases and character flaws.

The jobs which the cops must do are not always the cleanest.

The story of a run-in between cops and teenagers last June is now gaining traction in the press. The kids were coming off a party in Manhattan's East Village at about 1 AM, and, if the reported facts of the story are anything near correct, one or more of the teenagers yelled at some plainclothes officers, who took the occasion to make the arrest. One of the kids kept his cool and attempted to calm down the others, except that he did so in their native language, which seemed to upset one or more of the arresting officers.

Up until this point, I'm with the cops. There seems to have been some ethanol and cannabis usage involved on the part of the kids, not at all unusual for parties in places such as the East Village.

One of the cops made some anti-semitic remarks to the kids. While this does not particularly add any luster to his profession, it must be remembered that he is not out there to be an Albert Schweitzer or a Mother Theresa or any other proponent of the universal brotherhood of mankind, but rather, is out there to detect and apprehend wrongdoers. So, while I do not hold this particular cop in personal high esteem, I'm still able to defend his on-the-job performance at this point.

Oh, yes, the audio portion of the incident was recorded by the kids on a cellphone. Cops everywhere should welcome this technological memorialization of the record, because, presuming that the cops were acting legally and professionally, such recordings can be invaluable in deconstructing the whinings of spoiled brats who scream "police brutality!" in their lawsuits. Even after hearing the recording, I'm still able to defend the cops.

Or at least I was until it was asserted that there were TWO cell phone recordings, but that the arresting officers erased one of them. Which is probably why all charges have been dropped -- not because Mamma's Golden Boys & Girls were given a bad rap by the cruel and heartless bigoted policemen, but because the spoliation of the evidence by the cops would not have played well at the trial.

Bad Cops! Bad Boys & Girls! And a good meal ticket for the ABC News producers who made hay of the story.

The Festival of Sukkoth is almost upon us, so I've got to log off. Chag Sameach to everyone!!

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Friday, October 07, 2011

Yom Kippur 5772

Tonight at sundown will be Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

I am now preparing to account to G-d for my sins this past year (which are not inconsiderable), and carbo-loading and hydro-loading for the fast.

I ask forgivenness from all whom I have wronged, and grant forgivenness to all who ask it of me.

Wishing all an easy fast, and a happy and healthy new year for 5772.

May your name be sealed in the Book of Life!


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Student to the Rescue

I have many gripes about America's educational system, but they all tie, indirectly if not directly, into the fact that students are now being taught WHAT to think instead of HOW to think. It has gotten to the point where students, for example, will ask me which topic I want them to write about for their term papers. I tell them, both orally in class and in writing on the course syllabus handed out the first day of class, that part of the term paper grade is based upon how well THE STUDENT selects a topic of interest in the news and ties it into a textbook chapter covered in the syllabus. This, quite intentionally, requires the students to use and develop their thinking skills. Asking me what I want them to write is tantamount to asking to be told what to think.

Fortunately, there are still plenty of students who can come up with their own ideas and thereby produce some interesting term papers for me to read. But the "please tell me what I should think" crowd is slowly growing in number. What is so scary about this is the knowledge that a society that craves being told WHAT to think is far more susceptible to a repressive takeover than a society of individuals who think for themselves.

The college where I teach is quite culturally diverse. Note that I use the term "culturally diverse" and not "multicultural." "Culturally diverse" is a situation where an organization or a society has participants from different backgrounds who have different perspectives and who think differently and who interact with one another. "Multicultural" is a political agenda that uses cultural diversity as a pretext for impinging upon individual rights. Because multiculturalism is so centered upon group rights as opposed to individual rights and responsibilities, it does not foster individual thinking.

On my college campus one can regularly see students and faculty from many different backgrounds, hear many languages spoken, see many styles of clothing and accessories being worn, and eat from a variety of cuisine styles (some of which are actually quality meals). As a professor, I strive to maintain a classroom atmosphere where students can feel free to contribute to the class discussion. This means that I go to great lengths to not embarrass students, or single out students on account of their exotic names, clothing, accents, et cetera. I try to be accepting of individual opinions, even as I express my own.

But sometimes it is necessary to give a student a figurative kick in the toochas. Like the young lady who came to class wearing a tee shirt with a picture of Che Guevara on it. I knew that I had to say something to her, but was not quite sure how.

But the lecture was about corporations. Corporations can be classified in several ways. One way is the distinction between domestic corporations (incorporated in the same state) and foreign corporations (incorporated in a different state) and alien corporations (incorporated abroad). I mentioned that multinational corporations frequently operate through subsidiaries incorporated in the foreign country where they operate, which are alien corporations. I explained that one advantage of such a strategy is that the foreign government is limited in the assets it can attach.

I realized that this was my entrée to Che Guevara. I gave the example of the various American corporations whose assets in Cuba were expropriated when Castro came to power, and then put in a word about the repressiveness of the Castro regime. That got me right in there to point to the young lady's tee shirt with the picture of Che Guevara emblazoned on it.

This young lady was quite clueless about just who the mass murderer Che Guevara was. And, quite fortuitously, another student in the classroom is the granddaughter of refugees who fled the Castro regime and came to America about 1960. And she, with all of her knowledge and opinions on the matter, saved me the trouble of having to give a history lesson lecture to the young lady in the Che Guevara t-shirt.

And so, to La Cubana, I say, "Muchas Gracias!"

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