The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention. President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd. Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.
Giving up is not “reform.” County Executive Ed Mangano’s proposal to transfer property assessment from the county to the towns might possibly speed up assessment decisions by replacing one large and overwhelmed bureaucracy with several somewhat smaller ones. It will likely recreate problems that were major motivations in creating our highly centralized county government 75 years ago.
The 1938 county charter merged the town Boards of Assessors and the County Board of Equalization, ending three decades of complaints, lawsuits and hard feelings about the lack of specific, uniform levels of property assessments between the towns. In a tax system screaming out for simplification, clarification and a sense of certainty, spinning off assessments to the towns will reintroduce “equalization” as an annual issue. Tens of thousands of residents are still trying to figure out why their assessment went down but their tax bill still went up. The division of taxes heading up the tax food chain in an equitable manner is the most complex subject in local government, and it’s all going to make people very sad, particularly in villages and school districts that are split between townships.
Manhattan District Attorney (D.A.) Robert Morgenthau was facing a spirited Democratic primary challenge from a former judge in 2005, but his opponent had trouble finding anything substantively negative to say about Morgenthau.
The reason I know this: a city-based tabloid newspaper reporter called me weeks before the election, asking whether it was legal to have a Manhattan driver’s license while at the same time registering and insuring a car in Dutchess County, where auto insurance premiums are much lower. The answer: yes, so long as the insured vehicle is primarily garaged in Dutchess County. I was the director of public affairs for the New York State Insurance Department at the time and knew immediately the question pertained to Morgenthau because he met those criteria.
Written by Mike Barry Friday, 16 November 2012 00:00
Garden City novelist Nelson DeMille’s The Panther (Grand Central Publishing) was number one on The New York Times’ fiction bestseller list only weeks after its debut, according to the paper’s Sunday, Nov. 4 edition. This was no small accomplishment, given that J.K. Rowling recently held the top spot.
The next stop on his current book tour in support of The Panther is a local one, to be held on Wednesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m., at Old Westbury Gardens, in Old Westbury. Tickets are $35 per person for members of The Friends of Old Westbury Gardens, and $45 for non-members. DeMille will speak, answer questions, and sign copies of his latest book on that evening. More details are at www.oldwestburygardens.org.
DeMille’s storylines and characters are a vivid reminder that the world is like a bad neighborhood at three in the morning, and I believe that’s a major part of his appeal. Indeed, The Panther, his 17th novel, is an engrossing tale built around one of DeMille’s signature characters, John Corey, the former NYPD homicide detective who works for the federal government’s Anti-Terrorist Task Force along with his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield. As in his other Corey books, DeMille’s fiction offers history lessons, intelligence briefings, and an update on U.S. efforts to combat terrorism. The Panther is set in Yemen, a nation rarely mentioned in the American media.
“It’s not like there’s no news being made there,” DeMille said, during a recent interview, in reference to Yemen, which is situated immediately to the south of Saudi Arabia. “It’s just not being reported.” Few journalists are on the ground in Yemen, and for good reason.
“Al Queda has taken over a couple of cities in the south of Yemen. They’re looking for a staging ground where they can launch their attacks against the West, whether it is the United States or Europe,” he continued.
Corey and Mayfield are tasked, in DeMille’s fictional Yemen, circa 2004, with tracking down Bulus ibn al-Darwish, al-Numair, also known as The Panther. The Panther is a New Jersey native and Columbia University graduate who moves overseas and becomes a terrorist leader and well-known jihadist against U.S. interests, with the federal government believing this make-believe character was instrumental in the real-life October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in the Gulf of Aden, just off Yemen.
DeMille, a decorated Vietnam War combat veteran, said he based The Panther in part on the late Anwar Al-Awlaki (1971-2011), a U.S.-born al Queda leader who was killed in Yemen. The U.S. government has been criticized for periodically placing American citizens, even those who left this country long ago to fight against the U.S., on the CIA’s “kill or capture” list. Receiving this presidentially-approved designation means a U.S.-launched Predator drone equipped with Hellfire missiles may be headed your way sometime soon but DeMille shares the federal government’s belief that, if someone becomes an enemy combatant, “they can be killed on the battlefield.”
Those who believe, like I do, that Hollywood should bring Corey and Mayfield off the printed page received good news near the end of our conversation. DeMille reports that Sony TV wants to create a cable television series which dramatizes their terrorist-fighting adventures.