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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ebola Nurse Shows Do-Gooders All About "Me"

What can the Ebola hysteria teach us about how public policy gets made and executed?

If the actions of Kaci Hickox are any guide, it is that certain segments of the population have a permanent "hall pass" to live their lives free from any responsibilities, while burdening those unfortunate to be around them with an infinite set of dangers, burdens and obligations.

Kaci Hickox is the nurse who went to West Africa and was involuntarily quarantined upon her return to Newark Airport. She has insisted she will defy requests to self-isolate herself for the recommended 21-day Ebola incubation waiting period.  According to this report, she already has left her house to go bike riding. Not surprisingly, the State of Maine is threatening her with arrest if she does not quarantine herself, and the ridiculous specter of negotiations to persuade her to voluntarily comply did not work either. Stay tuned. In the meantime, her antics -- because this is starting to really seem either very contrived or signs of narcissistic personality disorder -- make the new Halloween horror costume du jour that of a female nurse riding a bike. 

Hickox is a nurse who went to Africa to do good, or so we are led to believe and expected to believe without questioning. For purposes only of this column's specific deconstruction of her actions, let's take her at her word.

So she intends to do good, and what is her reward? She is suspected to have come into proximity with a pretty deadly virus for which the reported death rate is 50% or more, and then gets a one-day quarantine in New Jersey upon her return (it was lifted after one day after federal authorities pressured the New Jersey Governor to lift it). Most recently, she got self-isolation orders from authorities in the State of Maine where she resides, and her public declarations of resistance have led to her being threatened with arrest. (Mind you, those threats of arrest occurred before she was revealed to have gone out for a bike ride in the Maine countryside.)

Now, the virulence of Ebola is severe and the penalty for negligence (or outright malevolence) by the infected or of carriers is risk of death.  (One wonders whether the virus is far less deadly among patients who are not otherwise weakened by nutritional or other immune system deficiencies.)  But I concentrate here on the mentality of the nurse and her many colleagues who share the mentality, because psychology drives activity and it also drives public policy.

To be brief: The purportedly charitable do-gooder impulses are not what they seem. Not with the nurse -- sorry, Kaci -- and not with elected and appointed public officials.

What it is really is individual fulfillment, everyone else be damned.  You can almost hear the whine: I'm gonna do whatever I want, and no one has the right to tell me to stop. 

By extension, the mentality screams that the individual has the right to avoid all responsibility. You see, under the selective relative morality of the narcissist, what is right is "all about me." 

Consequently, we have this paradox: A nurse who could potentially put you at risk of death is immune from criticism, but anyone who reminds the brat about her putting other innocent people at that risk is subject to having imputed to them the vilest of motives. 

You see, there is a difference between a right and an entitlement. A right is something that one may enjoy without burdening another. An entitlement necessarily burdens another. Here, we have not a right of this Kaci Hickox to roam freely, coughing and emitting virulent bodily liquids where she so chooses, but a claim to entitlement.

There is a dangerous flip side to this claim to entitlement. It is the corresponding, equal obligation upon others. And in this case, it is an obligation upon others to suffer, to sustain the risk to themselves (and to their families, anyone with whom they may come into contact) of death, to suffer the ultimate responsibility of endangered life, so that someone else -- someone without responsibilities -- may live without responsibility.

Historically, going back to medieval times and well before, societies lacking all but the most rudimentary understanding of disease still employed quarantines of infected and diseased persons. As merciless as that may have been to the afflicted, the policy was not intended to be mean but rather was a desperate attempt to survive by people who did not and could not know better.

But now, we see potentially infected people expressing indignation at being denied their right to go about their normal lives, even if they cause others to die. 

In other contexts this is called depraved indifference to human life. 

There is doing good. There is appearing to do good. And then there is the almost atavistic mentality that justifies the present actions under the theory that doing good for some justifies -- no, it requires -- that others suffer. In fact, there might be no limit to the suffering that some are expected to shoulder. Under such a mentality, putting the lives of others at risk is not merely acceptable collateral damage; it might be...dare we say it?...desired.

This mindset is poisonous, toxic and utterly deadly. It will lead to an unexpected but foreseeable reduction in legitimate charity and an increase in bonafide suffering.  Consider that the next time you hear someone smugly assert that "we must help" someone. 

Such a mentality cannot be considered compassion.  Rather, it is a manifestation of someone who has refused to grow up, accept that freedom has both responsibilities and consequences, and resists all efforts at basic accountability. In light of that, Kaci Hickox's activities as a nurse may be better seen for what it likely is, that is, just naked self-indulgence without any regard for anyone else. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Still waiting on Revised Bitcoin Regulation

The typical Friday afternoon news dump did not happen: the so-called "Bitlicense" that has outraged most of the Bitcoin / digital currency community was not released in its revised Beta form as some of us observers were anticipating. The original draft regulation was released July 17, 2014 and sent some industry participants scurrying for moving vans and passports. 

The original comment period for Bitlicense 1.0 was to expire in early September, but was then extended an additional 45 days until this past Tuesday. 

A good collection of reputable comment letters and other related commentary can be found on this website maintained by the international law firm Davis Polk. That is a law firm known for representing the largest of the large financial institutions, so industry companies should be wary of the conflicts -- both actual, perceived and disclosed depending on the ethics and financial desperation of the rainmaking partner -- inherent in using a law firm as a "trusted confidential adviser" for confidential business matters while it is servicing, and has been servicing, the much bigger competition for generations.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bitlicense 2.0: Stay Tuned

The initial comment period for the New York State "Bitlicense" regulation on "virtual currencies" ends Tuesday, October 21st.  A new draft revision, but not a final version, of the regulation should be forthcoming, probably sooner rather than later, and that would be followed by a new comment period for the public.

A new analysis of the revisions will be provided as circumstances warrant.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Jail To The Redskins?

This is about so much more than a football team's nickname.

Some New Jersey state lawmakers think there's nothing wrong with encouraging people to boycott the products of a business which they disfavor because of its name. Especially when the business owner is unsympathetic because he is a billionaire. But it's a brilliant political and strategic move to pick on a particularly unsympathetic if not contemptuous target.

(Further implied: The cost of destroying the millions of dollars of the brand value of the objectionable business name is the owner's problem, and since he's a rich guy, he sorta deserves it.  After all, we live in an age of the Rage of the Mediocre. And note that there's not one peep about a Native American head, adorned with a feather headdress, adorning the crest of the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team.) 

Change around the group identities of the players, and you have the type of government-induced discrimination that gave rise to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and legal remedies for civil rights violations arising from "official state actions" under Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States Code.  Remember what groups were the particularly unsympathetic, and in some corners, contemptuous and reviled targets 60 years ago.

Politics doesn't even logically enter into this.  The number of acknowledged Native Americans residing in the districts may be less than one percent of the population (US Census 2010 estimates New Jersey's Native Americans and Alaska Natives to be 0.6% of the population.) So this cannot, not logically at least, be a move to pander for additional votes -- not unless someone is really microtargeting the electorate.  

This is simply not the province of the government.

But what if this is not about the stated agenda?

What if this is about a movement to condition the people to accept a grossly activist government that will use its full force to decide which private enterprises, industries and media outlets will survive, and which will be intimidated into silence or extinction?


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Is The Rage Of The Mediocre Threatening Our Economy?

If you have achieved, or at least worked very hard and tried to improve your situation, you should never be made to feel like you owe anyone else an apology.

Or pay protection money to avoid a guilt trip, or hostility.

But some commentators in New Jersey think that high-achievers -- they target Ivy Leaguers in this article, but the principle and target class is broader -- should get, deserve and accept a "drubbing" and furthermore, should understand that the losers want to see them fail.

Read my solution in a sharp commentary here. My article, out of the Financial Policy Council think tank in New York, links to the New Jersey Advance Media (parent company of the Star-Ledger) opinion column.

These unbridled, unrestrained and unapologetic sentiments presage the creation and encouragement of a mental underclass, not of lower-IQ people, but of scornful, spiteful, miserable people who will gladly destroy anyone and anything around them. This is an incipient, nihilistic, atavistic class which (in my careful observation) crosses all socioeconomic and political boundaries. In the legal system, it bears watching, because such class members serving on juries could imperil your clients simply on the basis of achievement envy.




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Citizenship Fraud: Can Transgender Birth Certificate Changes Get Immigrants The Vote?

There is a seemingly-benign "transgender rights" bill, introduced in the New York City City Council yesterday, that would allow persons to change their gender status on birth certificates -- without actually changing their biological gender.

This bill threatens to turn official government documents into the domain of fantasy. That is, an official, government-issued document can now represent as fact, something which is not objective fact.

Get that?

This is not an issue of sensitivity or political correctness. It is an issue of flat-out document fraud -- as I explained in my December 2013 article about a similar New Jersey state bill passed by the legislature, and later vetoed by Governor Chris Christie in January 2014. (The bill was reintroduced this year.)

However, I question whether there is a deeper agenda that has nothing to do with transgender rights.

When an official government document can represent something which is neither objectively, demonstrably true in the present nor definitely not true in the past (that is, when the person was born!) but which is merely desired in the present (the gender change), what assurance can we have about any other government document?

I wonder if this is really part of a ploy to weaken the factual underpinnings of the citizenship requirement for the right to vote, and thus to ease the integration of millions of undocumented persons who entered through the nation's borders "without inspection" (that is, people formerly known as "illegal" immigrants but basically no longer illegal since border crossings have essentially been decriminalized) into the political, economic and social fabrics of the United States.

But the New York bill is worse, that is, more susceptible to encouraging fraud by weakening the concept of the birth certificate actually reflecting objective facts about the person. This New York bill would allow a person to change the birth certificate, without actually having changed gender.  This means that a man, being born a boy and with unmistakable male organs, can successfully change his birth certificate years later to reflect his current desire to "be" a woman, to have the certificate refer to him as "female," yet the person (I'm afraid to use a gender-specific pronoun anymore) would still be biologically male.  This is changing a representation, an official certification of a prior objective condition, from his factual state to its now-desired fantasy state.

(Before you ask, my solution is to allow gender changes to be reflected on current government records and documents. That is, by the way, the current policy in New York City, where medical evidence of the gender change has long been required.)

This is literally no different from changing a birth certificate to reflect a person's desired birthplace -- from a foreign country to, say, someplace in the United States. 

How do we have a judicial system based on facts, on evidence, when official government documents can now be changed to reflect one person's desires?

The ramifications of this legislation go far beyond issues of gender identity. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sayreville High School Cancels Football, Bullies The Good In Easy Way Out

Gutlessness comes in many forms. In its most pernicious form, it is disguised as compassion or equality or something else sounding benign in order to cover up its true intent or effect.

BREAKING NEWS FRIDAY NIGHT - Seven Sayreville HS football players arrested in connection with hazing assaults. (This underscores my point: Why couldn't actual accountability, targeted at those suspected of being primarily and perhaps criminally responsible, have been chosen instead of the broad brush of punishing the majority of innocent kids?)

This is my view, admittedly cynical, on the suspiciously-hasty decision by Sayreville (N.J.) High School administrators to cancel the football seasons of each of its football squads in response to allegations and preliminary findings of bullying. (Update: The first allegations were and are serious enough. Perhaps much more serious than indicated by the initial reports. Here is breaking news from Wednesday, and some expert analysis out Friday if you have a strong stomach, and a recap if you can stand it.)

Before you continue, understand that in no way am I condoning or minimizing the hazards of bullying (or anything worse and far beyond "bullying," which is what Wednesday's reports are starting to suggest, and which further reports out Friday really emphasize the potential criminal nature of some forcible assaults which go beyond "bullying" or even "hazing"). Read this column carefully. My criticisms of the school administrators should never be taken as an endorsement of the behavior they claim to be attacking. I do question the stated motives that are being voiced and wonder whether the haste in cancelling the football season might have been done to hasten an end to any investigation.

In short, I am asking: What are you doing with that shovel? Are you digging for the truth? Or trying to bury something?

As you'll see in this article, the primary stated objective is to "take a stand against bullying."

But has anyone thought about the initial -- real -- victims?

Has anyone thought about this: The kids, those who were bullied (and hopefully not worse), may be blamed or scapegoated for the season's cancellation.  The blame-the-victim syndrome occurs in many contexts in life; why not here?

Now, as an experienced attorney and an investigative attorney at that, I am naturally inquisitive and play my investigative cards close to the vest. Even when I publicly speculate on something, I hold something back. Anyone who is certain they know what I am thinking, especially when I comment publicly in the news media, is only very certainly an ignorant person. (You have questions? Come to the source -- me -- and come only to the source if you want to know what I am thinking. No one else knows or is authorized to say.) What I can reveal about my suspicions is this:

This decision, these findings, all of this is coming quickly. Too quickly. Makes me think either there's something to hide, or the real agenda is being hidden.

A real investigation is thorough and cautious, and puts getting the result right over expediency or how it looks to the public. (See my primer on outside investigations, including a link to my further criticisms of the "Bridgegate" internal investigation by the Gibson Dunn firm, by clicking here.) 

As stated above, this seems just too quick for comfort. Why cancel the season and ruin the sporting experience of high schoolers -- especially when some of them might lose out on college scholarships and otherwise miss out on what could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience?

I would hate to think that these adolescents (I'm talking about the good ones, again) are being sacrificed on an altar of expediency, if it is more important for administrators to show they are, ostensibly, doing the right thing, than it is to actually do the right thing which is to protect the good kids through a legitimate investigation which prioritizes getting it right and holding the truly culpable accountable.

The unintended message (at least I hope it is unintended) to the good kids, likely the vast majority of student-athletes very much adversely affected by this, is that everyone is held responsible for the actions of a few.  This is injustice, pure and simple, and far from affirming some grandiose principle it undermines respect for authority by teaching the good kids they will be treated as responsible as the bad kids.

The unmistakable result is that holding someone accountable, even if it is the innocent, is a necessary price to pay. The reality is that adults either too incompetent or too lazy -- yet having no problem cashing their public-employee checks paid by taxpayers of the same town of Sayreville, NJ -- to use elbow grease to try to do the dirty work of figuring out who is really guilty, cannot be bothered to get it right.

The result is to take the easy way out. Instead of working hard, it's easier to just cancel the season.

It's as if someone were in a hurry to do that, to cancel the season, in order to "call off the dogs," to get the investigation stopped by being able to claim that a remedial action was taken, that the guilty have been punished, so there's "nothing to see here, just move along."

Yes, I am wondering whether something is being hidden here, and cancelling the season might be a way to cover it up.

But regardless of what theory ultimately proves correct, the cancellation of the football season is no way to reward good behavior. In fact, it is the most efficient way to induce more bad behavior. 

Punishing the good kids for the actions of a few, because the adults in charge cannot or will not have the patience and discipline to do a proper investigation, sends a very bad message indeed.

The good kids get bullied twice. First by their teammates. Secondly, by the school administrators charged with protecting their interests but who are showing that the kids come last.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Hispanic Terrorism: When New York Was Ground Zero For The FALN

"Republicans have made a horrible mistake in acting like they don’t welcome immigrants...Name me the Hispanic terrorist who has done damage to this country? I’ll wait for the long pause.”

 -- U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Bell (R-NJ)

There have been Hispanic terrorists in this country's history. They have killed people. They have targeted landmarks, and successfully (and tragically).
These terrorists targeted our leaders, including supposed immigration reform godfather, former President Ronald Reagan.
These Hispanic terrorists were considered a danger on par with Mideast terrorism three decades ago.
But this recent history is being ignored in one of the endless attempts to rationalize illegal immigration and demonstrate "compassion." Look closer, my friends; use your noggin and dig deeper to see what is motivating these attempts.
I suggest you will see that these efforts are really about trying to get the approval and recognition of others that you are sufficiently compassionate. In the process of trying too hard, of course, one reveals ignorance of the history of terrorism in this country, and sometimes even insincerity.
There have been plenty of Hispanic terrorists in this nation's history, and recent history, for that matter. But Bell's claim -- incorrect factually -- would also logically fail even if true, as the absence of evidence is not evidence of, well, anything other than the fact of the absence because one cannot prove a negative.
Here is the shocker to readers: Perhaps the most dangerous domestic terrorist group in the United States in the late 1970s was the Puerto Rican terrorist organization FALN.
This group bombed major landmarks like New York's Rockefeller Center in 1974, and the historic Fraunces Tavern restaurant right off Wall Street in 1975 (killing four).
I suggest you read this Human Events article from 1981 to learn quite a bit about our history of domestic terrorism. As the article points out, Puerto Ricans (being statutory citizens since 1917 by birth) have freedom of movement and need not cross a border, plus they can and do blend in seamlessly, more so than people from other countries of origin. 
Puerto Rican terrorism may have abated entirely in the last 30 years, but the lessons for immigration enforcement (without which any policy is meaningless) remain.