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.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Inequality and the NYPD

Today's Quote of the Day (selected by the City & State website people) is from New York City Commissar Mayor Bill de Blasio:

" I don’t tell the NYPD how to do their work when it comes to protecting me—they’re the experts. I respect that. So, in any given moment, they may see something I don’t see. They may act in a way that isn’t immediately understandable to me. But they’re trained to handle things in a certain way."

This comment refers to the Mayoral Motorcade being observed violating multiple traffic laws, even as de Blasio attempts to ram legislation through City Council to lower the speed limits in New York City.

Very interesting, Bill!  You seem to have no trouble micromanaging New York's Finest when they try to protect the public from terrorism.

So it is one standard for Comrade Bill and the Nomenklaturaniks in his Politburo, and another standard for the rest of us.

So this is what he means by the Tale of Two New Yorks and the inequality crisis?

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Politics and Archaeology, and Hygiene

Archaeology has always had lots of political baggage.  Now, it seems, New York City politics may have some archaeological baggage.

Some urban archaeologists have uncovered a two-century old buried mass of trash on the grounds of City Hall.

"The centuries-old trash, in a pile found three feet underground and extending to a depth of about six feet was also filled with liquor bottles and various items associated with food waste, suggesting it may have all came from one celebratory event."

There are endless possibilities for historical political repercussions in the highly unlikely event that the item's former owner is ever identified.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

The Meat of the Matter in Denmark

As one who abides by the kosher dietary laws, I do personally take notice of Denmark's new edict to prohibit kosher slaughter, ostensibly grounded in a supposed concern for not causing pain to animals (but many, myself included, read some other agenda into it).

Fact is that kosher slaughter severs the jugular vein, causing instantaneous death to the animal.

I shall not now dwell on the arguments pro and con regarding kosher slaughter ("shechita" in Hebrew), or regarding vegetarianism or veganism.  I will, however, note the irony in the recent death of another animal in Denmark, namely, Marius the Giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo.

Something is not kosher in this new Danish governmental edict.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tales from some Old Dusty Papers

The anniversary of my Dad's passing is almost upon me.  Actually, I go through it twice annually, once for the Gregorian calendar and the other for the Hebrew calendar.

I have been going through his papers, organizing them, putting them into electronic format (usually PDF).  I go through periods where I make lots of headway, and then go for a few weeks or months with no activity.  The process is slow, and it has a heavy emotional element to it.  There are documents in the trove that reflect matters Dad had discussed with me, and then, there are papers that tell stories I have never heard before.  There is no doubt in my mind that Dad intended me to eventually see those papers, put two and two together, make some inferences from my knowledge of the way the Department of Defense worked, and thereby receive the oral history he could not directly impart to me for reasons of confidentiality and security.

During my days with the Department of Defense 30 +/- years ago, I had occasion to encounter more than a handful of people, in and out of uniform, both Government and Contractor side of the table, who had occasion to personally work with Dad, and a few more who had never met him personally but had seen his name in various contexts.

Dad was strongly principled, but I never really viewed him as being an outspoken activist of my own stripe; he certainly was more reserved than I am and didn't like to make too many waves.  But, as I learned during the past 48 hours, he was quite capable of causing consternation and agita to government contractors and high-level bureaucrats.  Perhaps his recessive gene for that trait has expressed itself in me (his own father, my grandfather, was notorious for speaking his mind and irritating polite society when necessary).

Looking at my calendar and seeing that the anniversary date is imminent, I once again started looking through Dad's papers.  This is not the venue to go into details of my latest findings, but it will suffice to say that Dad was instrumental in getting a certain government contract canceled when he was in Uncle Sam's employ.  The contract was for certain aircraft components which, in following the laws of physics, invoked the law of unintended consequences, thereby causing other systems of the aircraft in which they were installed to malfunction.  Dad wrote memos, backed by scientific data and drawings, to explain the situation and go above the head of the particular bureaucrat who thought that the aircraft flew just fine.

It is clear that the bug in the system posed a real danger to the military personnel who flew in the aircraft (and, of course, to any bystander who might happen to be proximate to the point of impact in the event of a crash).

Many years ago I had heard Dad discuss this matter, very circumspectly, with some of his technical / scientific / engineering friends.

Perhaps the reason Dad was successful in averting the potential damage was that not only did he rationally and convincingly describe and analyze the problem, but he also proposed a few solutions to it.  The implementation of those solutions was apparently not well received by several in the offices of certain private sector contractors, nor by certain higher level bureaucrats within the government.

Shortly thereafter, Dad received a promotion to a higher civil service grade.  He was only a year and a half out of college.  It would take me almost five years into my own government career to cause perturbations of a similar magnitude.

Rest in Peace, Dad.

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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Posthumous Tax Affairs of Philip Seymour Hoffman

I know virtually nothing about the financial affairs of Philip Seymour Hoffman, so this posting will, of necessity, constitute much speculation.

But he likely possessed sufficient assets for his estate to be liable for the Estate Tax.  The Estate Tax Return is due 9 months after the date of death, with a 6-month extension available if timely requested.  It will therefore be a while before this matter actively surfaces.

Because PSH was not legally married to Mimi O'Donnell, his significant other, there will be no marital deduction applicable to his Estate.

I also note that more than 20 years ago, an IRS Technical Advice Memorandum, together with an obviously related Field Service Advisory, gave some very cogent reasoning for valuing illegal drugs in the possession of a decedent at their street retail value for Estate Tax valuation purposes.

One would hope that the IRS Estate & Gift Tax people would be too busily engaged in their own niche to be distracted or befouled by some of the IRS's other high profile problems, and would insist upon getting the government's due from the late Mr. Hoffman's estate, with due regard to the bags of heroin found in Hoffman's apartment.

Rest in peace, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

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