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.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stop & Frisk, Then and Now

It is axiomatic that the law enforcement function often needs to resort to unsavory, brutal and, sometimes, deadly measures in order to maintain safety and order in society.  Which means that law enforcement officers require some sort of checks, balances, restraints and tethers on their activities.  This is not an attack upon the integrity or value of law enforcement, but rather, is a recognition of the human dynamics which operate upon law enforcement officers and everyone else.  This is why police departments have strict and exacting disciplinary regimes; it is why police departments are overseen by civilian review boards; and it is why even those Justices on the Supreme Court bench who are viewed as staunchly conservative in their outlook have steadfastly upheld the validity of the Miranda warnings requirements.

On the other hand, it is a key liberal, progressive and Democratic Party thing to sit in the comfort and safety of one's armchair and bash the police officers who are compelled to resort to unsavory, brutal and, sometimes, deadly measures in order to maintain safety and order in society.  And it is a liberal, progressive and Democratic Party thing to scream "racism" in connection with shows of force by police departments.

Accordingly, New York State Assemblyman Eric A. Stevenson, being an African-American Democrat representing a largely African-American district in the Bronx, was very quick to jump on the Bash-the-NYPD bandwagon in condemning the NYPD's so-called "stop and frisk" policy.

Now, it seems, Eric is having second thoughts after a 4-year-old constituent in his district was killed by a stray bullet.  He is now singing the "We need to give the police leverage to use stop-and-frisk. They should be allowed to do it" song.

While I do not expect Eric to all of a sudden realign his political orientation, he is operating very much in consonance with the old political maxim:  "A conservative is a liberal who was mugged last night."

Monday, July 16, 2012

They Also Serve

The latest domestic issue in Israel is the matter of drafting yeshiva students to serve in the Israeli Army or other national service (the latter including but not limited to those who dig in the rubble of buildings destroyed by terrorists' bombs and missiles, to find survivors).

I agree that Israel and the Jewish people have a need for Torah to be studied, and that the many individuals who are cut out for the task should be facilitated in doing so.  I believe that in G-d's greater cosmic plan, Israel's continued existence is dependent upon it.

Certain religiously-observant insular groups view the proposed conscription of their own as improper exposure to the negative influences of the non-religious.  And, to be sure, military service has, in all nations, proven to carry its share of morally negative influences, part of the price to be paid for liberty and security.

But those who serve in the military -- and their families -- resent what they perceive as gross ingratitude by the yeshiva crowd.  Each time the telephone rings, those who send their sons to learn in yeshiva full time do not experience quite the same dread and tribulation as those whose sons -- or daughters -- serve in the military, particularly in the armed services of a country such as Israel.  My own cousin has a son in the Israeli Army, in a combat unit.  She can never feel totally calm in those seconds before she answers her ringing telephone.

And then, there are special units of yeshiva students who do serve in the Israeli Army.  Their service record, collectively, is among the best.

I do believe that a significant segment if not a majority of the non-religious Israeli population would not object to nonconscription from the insular religious communities if it were known that the yeshiva learners were studying Torah with the specific purpose of doing so for the welfare of the non-religious soldiers on the front lines.  Unfortunately, too many insular rabbinical leaders have condoned if not encouraged from amongst their followerships too many incidents of contempt for their fellow Jews who happen to not yet be religiously observant.  These incidents of contempt and violence shall not be glorified with specifics; it suffices to say that the contempt and violence are real.

With that background, I note that the 4 July 2012 issue of the Hamodia newspaper contained, in its Inyan Magazine supplement, an article entitled "Kol Nidre in a Foxhole:  Recollections of a frum World War II Veteran."  The article recounts Irving ("Yitzchak") Lang, a religious American Jew who served in the U.S. Army during the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, and has plenty of medals, ribbons and citations to show for it.

Mr. Lang is praised in Hamodia, a newspaper of the insular religious Jewish community, as someone who fought the good fight against Hitler, against those who sought to destroy the Jewish people.   Hamodia has, of course come out against the conscription of the young people from the insular religious Jewish communities in Israel.  I do not know what Hamodia's editors had in mind in running the article, but I do not believe it to be a mere coincidence.

My question:  Are the Muslim forces who threaten Israel any less hostile to the Jews than the Nazis were?  Are their intentions any more benevolent?  And if not, then shouldn't those who serve in the Israeli Army be given no less respect than that accorded to Irving Lang?

And not that it especially matters, but my own son, who currently is learning in a yeshiva in Israel, is now seriously considering enlisting in the Israeli Army.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Why the Tax Collector Needs to be Kept Honest

Theodore Warshaw was one of Bernard Madoff's victims.  Warshaw died in 2006, and the executors of his Estate filed an Estate Tax return with the New Jersey Division of Taxation, on which they reported the value of his Madoff investments to be $1,463,733.  After the Madoff scam became public, the executors filed a claim for a refund, contending that the true value of Warshaw's investment with Madoff was zero.

The case went to the Tax Court of New Jersey, which issued a decision on the matter.

What is notable in that decision is Footnote 1, reproduced in its entirety as follows:

"n. 1  Although the Director contends that he has 'insufficient information or knowledge to form a belief as to the truth of Plaintiff's statement that in December 2008 Bernard Madoff was exposed as engaging in the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history', the Court finds that in December 2008 the Madoff Ponzi scheme became public. The Director also claims that he has insufficient knowledge to admit that in March 2009, Madoff pled guilty to eleven Federal charges in Federal District Court. The court finds that this is evidenced in Trustee Picard's Interim Report as provided by Plaintiff in its papers."

Having once been in the employ of the Internal Revenue Service, I can fully appreciate the excesses to which a tax collector -- ANY tax collector -- can gravitate.  That is the nature of the taxation function, even with the most ethical of tax personnel.

This is why giving too much power to the taxation function is very dangerous.

Which is precisely why the individual health insurance mandate penalty in Obamacare needs to be repealed.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Free Medical Care with No Penalty Tax

Some (but not all) of the matters occupying me have abated, and I am now once again postured to return to blogging, for what little I have to say at the moment.

Yes, I have read the Supreme Court's decision confirming the Constitutionality of the so-called "shared responsibility payment" penalty in the Obamacare law.  The Supreme Court has ruled on the issue, and therefore, it is the law of the land unless and until such time as it is repealed.

As much as I resent being subjected to the "shared responsibility payment," I resent even more the exceptions to it.  Specifically:

Internal Revenue Code Section 5000A(d)(3) exempts illegal aliens from the responsibility.  So the healthcare system must provide healthcare to the illegals, but they don't have to pay for it!

Internal Revenue Code Section 5000A(d)(4) exempts incarcerated prisoners.  Not that a whole lot of them have sufficient income to be required to pay for health insurance, but those who do have the means should certainly be required to be insured.

Which brings me to a particular incarcerated prisoner.  While all of the court watchers were watching the U.S. Supreme Court on 28 June 2012 for its Obamacare decision, another court came down in another matter.  Specifically, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the 10 year sentence imposed upon radical terrorism-enabler and disbarred attorney Lynne Stewart.  She is currently incarcerated at the Carswell Federal Medical Center in Ft. Worth, and reportedly is very ill.

I resent the fact that Lynne Stewart is not required to carry health insurance like the rest of us, yet is being given free medical care on the taxpayers' dollar.  But I would resent it even more if she were out walking (or, quite likely, being pushed in a wheelchair) free on the streets.