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, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013

Today, my wife and I each ran a few small shopping errands to procure items which might conceivably prove convenient tomorrow, which happens to be Memorial Day 2013.

We each are old enough to remember an era when most retail business establishments were completely closed on Memorial Day.  But now, most retail shops are open on Memorial Day.

There is nothing wrong per se with going to the beach on Memorial Day (which will be off the table for many on account of the low temperatures which now perform the valuable service of making the "global warming" proponents seem like smacked toochases).  There is nothing per se wrong with having an outdoor barbecue on Memorial Day.  There is nothing per se wrong with sleeping in late on Memorial Day.  [Neither my wife nor I particularly plan to do any of those things tomorrow].

But it must be remembered that Memorial Day is not about us going to the beach; it is not about us having a barbecue; it is not about us sleeping in late.  Memorial Day is about the ones who did not come back, who cannot go to the beach, who cannot join us for a barbecue, and who now sleep in eternal repose.

And so, out of principle, we are trying to avoid doing any shopping on Memorial Day if we can help it.

To the soldiers and sailors and Marines and airmen who did not come back:  Rest in Peace!  There still are plenty of grateful Americans who have not forgotten you.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Princely Sum for a Minor Infraction

I have had no firsthand encounters or experiences with Justice Cynthia Kern, who sits on the bench of the New York Supreme Court in New York County.  [Note to those of you who have not spent much time in the State of New York:  Do not be too awed or impressed with Judge Kern's title.  In the New York State judicial system, the "Supreme Court" is the lowest court of general jurisdiction, comparable to the Courts of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania, or the Circuit Courts in Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia or Michigan, or the Superior Courts in California or New Jersey, or the District Courts in Texas.].

Justice Kern seems to be above average as far as Manhattan judges go, which is neither shameful nor exemplary.  She is despised by the New York City teacher's union, which, if anything, pushes her ever so slightly towards the righthand side of the bell curve.  She seems to make good rulings more often than not.

But neither does Judge Kern does not impress me as being quite in the same league as Holmes, Cardozo, or even Judge Judy Scheindlin.  And one recent decision of hers has been effectively reversed on appeal, on Constitutional grounds.

Albert Prince is an artist who creates sculptures out of, well, junk.  This is his artistic preference, even if I would not procure his objets d'art for my own home.  Albert became artistically inspired by a rooftop television antenna placed in the refuse pile for collection, and, being so inspired, placed the antenna into his car with the intent of creating a new sculpture from it.  [I parenthetically note that, technologically speaking, rooftop antennae are museum pieces in this day and age of cable television.].

The New York City Administrative Code ยง 16-118[7], translated into English, essentially prohibits anyone except the Department of Sanitation from removing recyclable trash placed at the curb, violators being subject to fines and impoundment of vehicles.

One of the NYC Sanitation Nazis caught Albert in the act of taking the antenna and placing it into his car.  The car was impounded and Albert was fined $2000.  The Environmental Control Board upheld the penalty.  Albert appealed the ECB decision to Judge Kern, who upheld the ECB.  Albert appealed Justice Kern's ruling, and the Appellate Division overturned Kern's decision, ruling that $2000 was an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment for the infraction committed by Albert Prince. 

It is heartening to see that at least one appellate tribunal in New York sometimes understands that the purpose of the U.S. Constitution is to protect the citizenry from the excesses of government.

But another question is begged by Prince's case.  Howcum the government is so quick to fight monopolies, except when it is the government that wields the monopoly power?  Wouldn't competition make the NYC Department of Sanitation more efficient?

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Delegation, Bloomberg Style

Speaking as the holder of a hard-earned MBA degree, I will note that the process of delegation implicitly entails a trade-off:  When you delegate, you free yourself from the burdens of the task, but, in return, you give up many of your personal choices and preferences as to how the task will be done.  Good managers understand this, and, in delegating, must decide which of the specifications for the task are really, really important, and which specifications are a matter of personal taste or happenstance.

In the Woodside section of the New York City Borough of Queens is Doughboy Park, which features a bronze statue honoring/memorializing those who put on the uniform to serve in World War I.  A fitting and proper memorial in all respects.

But, like all public monuments, Doughboy Park needs periodic maintenance and upkeep.  And, like most governmental units these days, the New York City Parks Department is in a budgetary crunch, and the upkeep of Doughboy Park was assigned a low priority.

The solution:  A group of community volunteers, including some veterans, got approval from the Parks Department to spruce up Doughboy Park.

I do agree that it would not be the shade of green I personally would choose for the purpose.  But it is beautiful, the Park is far better off having been painted, and some volunteers were kept off the streets and out of trouble for a few days.  What's there to not like about it?

But what else can be expected of a city whose CEO wants to impose his own choices upon the population?

I hope that the new paint which the Parks Department will procure will not contain too much sugar!

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Shavuoth 5773

This blog has been quiescent for a while, but be assured that I have not.  It is end of semester mode at school (and therefore the Final Exams I have had to compose and will soon have to administer and grade), there are family issues, there is a little bit of travel coming up, et cetera.

Amidst all of that, I have been engaged in  some activities behind the scenery and in the wings on certain issues that have garnered national attention and concern.

The Festival of Shavuoth comes in at sunset.  It is a major Jewish holiday (which, unfortunately, has been minimized in importance by some of the less observant and more assimilated sectors of the Jewish community) commemorating the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai.

I will soon sign off of my computer and prepare to celebrate the holiday.

Wishing all a Chag Sameach Shavuoth!

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Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Police Officers as a form of Entertainment

Sometimes even the police need help from the police.

Like Camille San Filippo and Jannet Velez, two of New York's Finest who witnessed a perp in the act, chased  the perp down into the nearby subway station, and were injured in the struggle.

San Filippo and Velez, though in plainclothes at the time, showed their shields to one Corbin, the New York City Transit Authority toll agent on duty at the time, who was safely ensconced in the toll booth.  San Filippo and Velez asked Corbin to call for reinforcements, which Corbin could easily have done by pushing a button and/or depressing a pedal.

But Corbin declined to do so.

When San Filippo and Velez sued the NYCTA and its parent entity, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the trial judge ruled in the defendant's favor and dismissed the lawsuit.  The Appellate Division, to its credit, reversed, and reinstated the lawsuit.

I will note that:

1.  New York City, you will recall, is where, in 1964, 38 people watched and did nothing as Kitty Genovese was beaten, raped and murdered before their eyes.

2.  I attended only one live professional boxing match in my life.  It was then that I realized that at such events, the gentlemen are the guys in the ring.  The wild animals are the people in the audience.  I don't care to be one of them, but I support their right to attend a boxing match for entertainment.  If you get your jollies watching such violence, then by all means go to the boxing match, but don't endanger the on-duty cops and the public by treating a scuffle with a perp as a spectator sport for you to drool over.

3.  As this post is being written, the MTA is actively promoting its "If you see something, say something" public safety campaign.  Query:  How can the MTA expect public cooperation when its own boys and girls don't say something when they see something?

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