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.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Charitably Appreciating the President

One great strength of America is its charitable organizations. In other cultures, the poor are poor, and the rich are rich, because that is how the karma has destined them to be. Charitable giving is a Judeo-Christian concept which requires everyone, no matter how disadvantaged, to help those who are in more dire straits. For all the bad press our charitable organizations have received of late, they have enabled Americans, individually and collectively, to succeed and become great forces of responsibility in this world.

As mentioned in this Blog's 13 September 2011 post, my own family was helped by charitable giving, and now, having for the most part achieved a fair degree of financial stability if not affluence, has given back and continues to give back even more than we received in order that others might overcome their obstacles.

Barack Hussein Obama's tax legislation proposals have, over the past few years, included caps on itemized deductions. The Alliance for Charitable Giving is concerned (as am I ) that such restrictions might discourage charitable giving.

Sue Santa, the Senior Vice President of the Philanthropy Roundtable (which sponsors the Alliance for Charitable Giving) has commented on Obama's State of the Union Address as it pertains to charitable giving:

"We believe that our tax code should encourage and incentivize private charitable giving. We appreciate that the President seems to acknowledge the value of charitable giving but we remain cautious and won’t speculate until we see the details of the President’s plan."

Sue, methinks that you are being a bit overly charitable!

Barack Hussein Obama does acknowledge the value of charitable giving, but only to the extent that it enables the donee organizations to pay nice salaries, bonuses and perquisites to his allies, sycophants and cronies. [Can you say "ACORN"?]. In the ideal world envisioned by Obama, there are no charitable organizations, only instrumentalities of Big Brother's governing regime.

America, or any other society, is only as free as its charitable organizations.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Policing the Pill Poppers

Item: Letter to the Editor, Newsday, 12 January 2012, p. A33:

"Put Pharmacies inside Precincts"

The recent robberies and killings resulting from people's addiction to painkillers requires a very simple solution: Make pharmacies stop selling the pills and create a few centralized pharmacies on Long Island in police precincts for pickup of authorized controlled substances.

Then maybe not only will addicts stop filling these prescriptions, but maybe doctors will stop writing them or be held accountable for writing them.

Michele Zodda, St. James"

My comments, in no particular order:

1. Yes, our household receives home delivery of Newsday every morning. The many reasons why I am not the greatest fan of Newsday shall be dispensed with at this time, but here on Long Island the publication does have one minor thing to be said in its favor, namely that it is better than the New York Times. We have chosen to subscribe to it as a source of information, but are not very wild about it. A more practical reason why we subscribe: My wife's patients are always asking her about medical-related items appearing in Newsday, so she needs to know what Newsday published in order to affirm, qualify or (more frequently) debunk it when the patients ask her about it.

2. Lately, there have been a number of violent and deadly incidents at some Long Island pharmacies, perpetuated by drug addicts seeking to sate their chemical cravings. This Blog's posting of 23 June 2011 discusses one such horrific episode. discusses one such horrific episode. Newsday has been running an investigative series on the problem, implicating various physicians and pharmacists who have been less than careful in the prescription and dispensation of certain drugs. In that regard, Newsday is functioning as the press should function because its coverage of the matter will surely spur some reforms.

3. Though I never was really into the Dismal Science of Economics, I did take a number of Econ courses in college and in grad school. The phrase "a few centralized pharmacies on Long Island in police precincts" reeks of oligopoly if not monopoly. This would reduce competition in the marketplace, and raise the cost of prescription drugs. I know nothing about the letter writer, Michele Zodda (other than her address), but wouldn't it be ironic if she were in the camp of the Occu-Shmucks who crowded Zuccotti Park and whined (and continue to whine) about too much money and power being in the hands of too few?

4. More along those lines, what criteria would be used to determine which pharmacy entrepreneurs get to have those coveted concessions inside the police precinct stations? Who would make the decision? How could politics not play a role? And if politics does play a role, how could the big pharmacy chains not sink their resources into the venture, to the exclusion of the small business entrepreneurs?

5. Isn't the whole purpose of pharmacies and drug prescriptions to control the misuse of drugs in the first place? Why should the public tax money be used to duplicate a system that functions reasonably well in the first place? Shouldn't the system be tweaked instead of reinventing the wheel?

6. Why should the pharmacy industry be singled out? Shouldn't other high risk industries also be sited in police precincts? In such regard, try this little Googling exercise: restrict results to the prodeathpenalty.com website. Then google the following words or phrases: "Drug store," "drugstore," and "pharmacy." Each of those will get a small number of hits. Now try "convenience store" and you will get over 100 hits. Convenience stores are even more likely to be the scenes of violence than pharmacies.

7. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? With all due respect to my friends and clients in law enforcement, the powers of the police do need checks and balances. Indeed, the reason the United States has endured as a nation is because its governmental systems have had effective checks and balances. There will need to be measures taken to prevent the 7-Eleven concessions Michele Zodda would logically place in the police precinct stations from giving the police force too many free doughnuts. And, for that matter, Ms. Zodda's pharmacies from giving too many of their wares to the police officers.

8. I agree with Ms. Zodda that there is a problem. But changing the locations of the pharmacies will not resolve it. The problem is not that pharmacies stock controlled substances (remember, that is the very purpose of having pharmacies in the first place). The problem is that the pharmaceutical manufacturers have, over the past 30 or 40 years, bypassed the physician. The full color, full page display ads are not just in the New England Journal of Medicine and other physician-oriented publications; Big Pharma now spends billions to advertise in in newspapers and consumer-oriented magazines, and in the broadcast media. The physician is no longer a fully-empowered gatekeeper to keep controlled substances away from those who should not ingest them. As long as Big Pharma markets to the patients without the meaningful participation of the physician, the drug-related violence will be all the more exacerbated.

9. The police are too busy fighting crime. Why not just let the pharmacists be properly trained and armed? That would free up the police officers to do what they have been trained to do. Besides, at the precinct pharmacies envisioned by Ms. Zodda, the police would be under special obligation to bend over backwards in ensuring the criminals' constitutional rights. The private sector pharmacist with a Glock would not be held to quite the same standard.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Dad and Other Heroes

My parents are now in the process of downsizing their living quarters, and I, as their son, am helping them (read "doing most of the work").

While growing up, my siblings and I always knew that Dad worked in a job which imposed significant restrictions upon what he could and could not discuss with us. We were conditioned to never ask Dad what he did; whatever he wanted us to know he would tell us, and nothing more.

Years later, while working for the Department of Defense and holding my own security clearance, I understood far better my somewhat abnormal childhood predicament of not knowing what my Dad actually did at work. And I had several occasions to interact with individuals, military and private sector, who knew my Dad professionally (and sometimes personally).

Going through my Dad's files has been very enlightening. First of all, his security clearance level was a few notches higher than he had led me to believe, even after I had my own clearance. Moreover, seeing his travel and debriefing instructions, and knowing now about the missions and activities of some of the installations to which he traveled, I now realize that my Dad played a major role in the development and production of some very important military projects.

When I was in Israel during the early 1970s, more than one of my Dad's friends and colleagues whom I visited intimated to me, in a rather surreptitious manner, that Dad's work was a major contribution to the Israeli military's technological advancement. One of the documents I found in my Dad's filing cabinet was a letter of thanks from the Israeli Ministry of Defense for the work he did (whatever that may have been). And, of course, several letters from various offices in the Pentagon reflect some big time involvement in some big time projects.

The engineers and scientists who design and perfect the technology used by the military are heroes of a special kind. It is because of those engineers and scientists in the private sector that America maintains its military firepower, global superiority, and historical prosperity. It is because of them that we have had a successful space program, which paved the way for artificial satellites; you owe them all a debt of gratitude each time you speak on your cell phone.

Those engineers and scientists paid (and continue to pay) a price for the work that they do. There are certain stresses, particularly when security clearances are involved, which come to bear upon the engineers and scientists, and upon their families. For those people, it is not "just a job;" complain as they might, they do it because it is a passion which gives them immense satisfaction. Dad could have taken over his own father's business and amassed far, far more money. But my Dad went into his line of work because it is what he wanted to do.

Of course the civilian engineers and scientists do not take quite the same personal risks as the American servicemen and women who are fighting on the front lines in Afghanistan (though many, including Dad, have served in the military). Their work does not warrant all of the perquisites accorded to military veterans. That being said, my Dad is an American hero, as are the thousands of other engineers and scientists who do and have done private sector work on military contracts. To all of you, I give my thanks.

Going through Dad's papers, I saw mention of some interesting names and places. I have every reason to believe that my Dad was involved in even more serious and salient projects than those directly mentioned in the file. For all of Dad's old age issues, he no doubt remembers those matters, and I really am very curious.

But some questions are best left unasked.

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Monday, January 02, 2012

Facilitation Comes in Many Forms

"I was wrong" and "I was wrong, but" are two separate and distinct attitudes.

Certain incidents in Israel of purportedly religious Jews behaving poorly have made the international MSM news [I will not be explicit in this posting; you have probably read about it.]. And some of the more insular rabbinical leaders and organizations, in Israel and in America, have finally issued statements regarding the behaviors involved, stating, quite appropriately and correctly, that the poor behavior on the part of a few misguided individuals is not an exemplar of the overwhelming majority of religious Jews.

Except that many of the aforementioned statements expend more ink on whining about how the news media is spinning the stories against religious Jews than in condemning the ill behaviors.

This, in my opinion, is an attempt to dodge the real issue: The poor behaviors involved are natural and logical consequences of the stances taken by the rabbinical leadership. The appropriate thing to do would be to unequivocally condemn the behaviors, and then follow up such condemnatory statements with support for and facilitation of civil if not criminal consequences against the wrongdoers.

Once upon a time, the religious Jewish community was viewed by the public as exemplars of honesty, rectitude and wholesomeness. By not standing up to the corruptors with vested interests, the rabbinical leadership has, of late, yielded the high moral ground, and their followings have been led astray.

Methinks that the impetus for many of the recent condemnatory statements has been the public embarrassment of the rabbinate, and not the despicable acts of the rabbis' followers. Had these matters not gone viral, I suspect that many of the rabbis would have been content to let their followers do the damage they have done.

By not speaking out unequivocally and definitively, many of these rabbinical leaders have facilitated the poor behavior of their followers. Perhaps, in at least some cases, that was what was intended.

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