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, April 28, 2015

The Rioting in Baltimore

As noted in the 14 April 2015 posting, we are in the process of selling our house and relocating to Israel for what is shaping up to be a protracted period.  This, of course, has consumed our time and energies in ways that go beyond what will be covered in this posting; our realtor now is trying to get everyone together in the same room for the sale closing, with her sights on the middle of next week. This will leave us legally homeless; not to worry, though, because my wife's sister and her husband have graciously offered to put us up in their home for the few weeks between the closing and our departure.   And the date of our departure is now subject to change; my wife's gig in Israel is trying to get her to start a few weeks earlier than planned.  We shall see how that one plays out.

One thing that has garnered the attention of me and my wife is the disconnect between, on one hand, what we read in the news media and hear on campus; and on the other hand, our own experiences in making the various and sundry relocation arrangements.  Last week we visited, among other things, three banks, one insurance agency, a dry cleaner, and, in the case of my wife, a nail manicurist and a wig stylist.  Not one of the personnel encountered in those visits was Jewish, yet, each and every one of them expressed more than a little bit of excitement and congratulations for our upcoming move.  On the other hand, while I did encounter similar enthusiasm from various contacts on the college campus where I teach, there were a few instances of getting "that look" from some far-leftward leaning academics; one even made a comment bordering on the derogatory.  Considering the sources of the comments and attitudes, pro and con, we know that we are doing the right thing.

So, in the strictest sense, the Baltimore riots are not a direct concern for me because I will be far from Baltimore very soon, and have no plans to visit Baltimore between now and our move.

Except that this presumes that the Baltimore rioting will stay in Baltimore.  I remember the Long Hot Summer of 1967, and the 1968 riots which used Dr. Martin Luther King's murder as a pretext for lawlessness.  I am not a gambling man, but if I were, you would need to offer me very, very long odds to make book on the Baltimore rioting not spreading elsewhere.  And if the riots come to New York City, there are some areas of Long Island that are naturals to follow suit. 

And I will be frequenting various and sundry locales in New York City and on Long Island on an almost daily basis, probably until I leave for Israel.

I am willing to bet that IF New York City remains reasonably tranquil, then Long Island would be spared any major rioting.  And that big IF depends, in no small measure, upon how Mayor Bill de Blasio plays his cards.  Blaz ran on a "progressive" (read "Far Left") platform that implicitly if not explicitly promised to hand out lots big pie slices to various disadvantaged minority groups.  Now that Blaz is ensconced in Gracie Mansion, he needs to act like an executive and run the city -- which means making do with limited resources, and saying "No" to more than a few supplicants.  He has already developed friction with many groups typically thought of as his constituency, and which did in fact support his bid for Mayor.

I note that he moved very quickly to smooth over the rift that developed with the Police Department.  This, I do believe, was motivated not so much from the bombast of Patrick Lynch, the police union head honcho, but by de Blasio's pragmatic knowledge that he needs the NYPD to keep order in the city.

But given Blaz's engagement of the likes of Al Sharpton as bedfellows, his relationship with NYPD can never be ideal.

Everyone seems to be watching Baltimore.  I'm watching New York City.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

Thermostat or Calendar?

My Dad had always said that one must use the right tool for the right job.  He did not like it when, for example, I got a wood-burning set for my birthday, and used the wood-burning tool to melt solder (even though it was constructed like, and operated on the same principle as, a soldering iron).  And with Dad, you didn't even think of using any heavy implement other than a hammer to drive in a nail.

Seems that the folks at the college where I teach are using the wrong tool for the job of climate control.  In the New York City metropolitan area, including my own hamlet on Long Island, we have a freeze watch up, with ambient air temperatures considerably below the norm.  But at the College, they cannot turn on the heat because it is already past first day of April, when the heating system is shut down, but before the air conditioning system is fully up and running.

This wouldn't be so bad, except that in one of the buildings where I happened to have had classes two semesters ago, the internal climate control system (term used very questionably) was actually pumping cold air into the classrooms.  This, of course, elicited complaints from students and faculty alike.

But one of the faculty members whose English classes were so affected happens to be a flaming global warmist, and (at least heretofore) is very quick to inject it heavily into her lectures and assignments.

I only hope that at least a few of her students have not surrendered their thinking and reasoning functions (which seems to be more and more the norm at America's institutions of higher learning), and have the courage to question her when she starts again with this global warming pap.

As for me, I have not yet shut down the pilot to my furnace, so, if need be, I can flick the switch and have my heating operational almost instantaneously.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Are Rahsaan and Chris the Names of Terrorists?:

The Chris Roberts item is now going viral.  Chris, for those of you whose internet access has been down for the past few days (mine went down for a few hours yesterday, but the cable company came around and fixed it; was some sort of pedestal box by the driveway a few houses down the street), is a security expert who was removed from a United Air Lines flight by the FBI for tweeting about a potential flaw in the airline security system.   He was en route to give a talk about airline security vulnerabilities.

Turns out that the FBI has, as of this posting, yet to produce the search warrant that was predicate to their seizing his laptop and other equipment.

It's gone viral, so I have little to add regarding the Constitutional and Due Process issues.   The stupidity of UAL and the FBI speaks for itself, and does not need any further expounding.

My comment: 

"Given Mr. Roberts' claims regarding manipulating aircraft systems, we've decided it's in the best interest of our customers and crew members that he not be allowed to fly United,' airline spokesman Rahsaan Johnson told The Associated Press. "

I note that the name Rahsaan, which, contrary to some websites that will not be linked to this posting, is of Arabic origin and not from the Hebrew.  It suggests some Muslim influence.  Mr. Johnson has more inside connections to UAL than Chris Roberts.

Would placing Rahsaan Johnson on the No-Fly List be any less rational than placing Chris Roberts on it?

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Expatriate Owl to Expatriate

The nest is empty, the upkeep on the property takes up too much or our hours and dollars, and we are busy with our respective schedules and not putting the property (real and chattel) to all the uses we did during the childrearing phase of our marriage.  And the realty taxes here on Long Island promise quite credibly to continue to rise well ahead of the inflation rate.  All this, and recent memories of what we had to do when our parents could no longer safely live in homes where they respectively abided for 40+ years, got me and my wife thinking.  And so, almost three years ago, we made the decision to downsize ourselves on our own schedule and terms, instead of being subjected to the trauma of having the move imposed upon us by circumstances largely beyond our control. 

We then began the process of downsizing and fixing up our house in preparation for sale.  Tag sales, Craig's Listings, private deals, and simple giveaways reduced the volume of our chattel possessions significantly.  And then, last fall, we placed the house on the market, and, after a few false starts, entered into what now appears most strongly to be a viable deal for the sale of our house.  The closing date for the deal has yet to be determined, but is slated for a one-month time window that starts in two weeks; the buyers still have some financing and timing issue details to work out.

When I began this Blog back in 2005, the handle "Expatriate Owl" carried (and continues to carry) certain connotations relating to certain incidents and issues from my personal past.  Those who were familiar with me at the relevant moments appreciate the humor in the name selection; it's one of those "had to have been there to understand it" situations.

A few days ago we finished observing the Passover (Pesach) holiday.  The first two nights (outside the Land of Israel; in Israel it is only the first night) are marked by the Seder meal.  The Seder ritual concludes with the words "Next Year in Jerusalem" ("L'Shana HaBa'a B'Yerushalayim" in Hebrew). 

The name "Expatriate Owl" is now on the verge of acquiring a new and concurrent meaning.  The odds of us eating the Passover Seder meal in the Holy City of Jerusalem next year have, over the past few weeks, markedly increased. 

Our decision to downsize has had paybacks, inasmuch as we, having already begun the process, were quite well situated to jump at some sudden unforeseen developments.  A certain very special e-mail message was received and has now been answered.  Some professional opportunities for both me and my wife, barely if at all imagined or imaginable by us just a few months ago, have now advanced well beyond the pipedream stage and are now in the process of converging together, and come summer (or even sooner), G-d willing, we will be based in Israel for what likely will be an extended period (though we do expect some return visits to the States for either and/or both of us on various future occasions).  

As alluded to in recent postings, we have been quite busy, not only with our current professional issues and with the sale of the house, but with making this transition happen.  Now things promise to get even busier.  The contract of sale for the house needs to be consummated, our goods need to be packed and shipped, and the bureaucracies need to be navigated to do things like making the appropriate employment and visa arrangements.

Our son has already been in Israel for a while, and our desire to close the geography and communications gap with him obviously plays into in the mix.  Indeed, with his boots on the ground there, and the power of attorney document in his hand, he has already begun to make preparations for our arrival.

We look forward to it all with some anxiousness, but certainly with far more excitement and enthusiasm than trepidation.  And understand that this is a trade-off of money for adventure; our household income can be expected to decrease somewhat during our residency abroad (though measures have already begun to significantly reduce the risks of our becoming totally impecunious in the process).

And while our planned residence is not in direct proximity to the Holy City of Jerusalem, there is a good chance that one or more of our friends there will invite us for the Passover Seder next year.  If so, then the aspiration of Next Year in Jerusalem will become a reality for us.

L'Shana HaBa'a B'Yerushalayim!

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

The System is Going to Pot

If truth be told, I do have mixed feelings about the legalization of marijuana.

[Having placed the subject on the table, my own personal relationship with the weed is now fair game, so some disclosure is now in order.  My personal relationship with marijuana, entered into and departed from as a college student among other college students, was measurable in days, and not in weeks, months, or years.  The relationship was brief, and not particularly a comfortable one.  My misgivings about it entailed finances, the rule of law, the desire to not be under the control of others, allergies, and serious questions regarding the types of people who were (and are) wed to the weed.  I made the decision to be a non-user of Cannabis sativa.  Decades later, the decision still stands, and has never been regretted, though it did attenuate me socially more than a few friends and acquaintances; the only friend who truly respected my decision to abstain from the herb is long gone, the victim of a tragic crime in which it appears that the perpetuator's use of marijuana played a peripheral role.]

On one hand, the weed does in fact carry many of the evils ascribed to it.  On the other hand, I do subscribe, to a large extent, to the Libertarian view that adults who smoke pot in their own homes and who keep it there should be able to do so unmolested.

Nor can the agricultural and marketing economics of the marijuana industry be ignored.  There are many jobs to be supported by the legalization of marijuana.

It seems that the push to legalize marijuana carries all kinds of side issue in the legal arena, from taxation to firearms to employment to medical applications, and many other matters as well.  The Congressional Research Service has laid out many of those issues for the benefit of the Congresscritters who are addressing them.

I am concerned.  In addition to the gateway drug argument (whose validity may or may not pertain in some or all respects), there is now a situation where certain marijuana-related activities are legal (and encouraged) under state law, but verboten and felonious under federal law.  This give the law enforcement authorities, at federal and state level alike, too much discretion for selectively enforcing and applying the law.

In an ideal world, there would be no marijuana.  But now that it is very much a part of the world, it ideally should be decriminalized.  But the world is not ideal, and until there is a mechanism for truly holding users of the substance accountable and answerable for their actions, if a choice must be made, I must, with my mixed feelings, stand with the proponents of prohibition.  Against the backdrop of prohibition, there is much leeway for adjustment of penalties and establishment of rehabilitation programs.  The details shall be left to the legislators.