1972: “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

Ban The Box

convicted of a criminal offenseAs I indicated last week, my diaries for this segment of 1972 are, alas, gone. I did write about the incident a decade ago, but of course, the details get a bit fuzzy over the passage of time.

What has become more clear in the years subsequent is that I was very lucky. The district attorney wanted us to be charged with a misdemeanor after the IBM demonstration. That is to say, a crime. The judge decided that we would be charged with a violation. The significance of this has probably been enormous.

When I’ve applied for a job, for a loan, for graduate school, and who knows what else, there has often been The Question. “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” Fortunately, the answer has always been, honestly, no.

Who knows what the consequences would have been if the judge had not been, openly, sympathetic to our actions. And since we essentially had merely crossed a property line, there were no bad outcomes. Certainly, no one was harmed, and no property was damaged. I wonder now about the hundreds of folks in upstate New York, not to mention thousands upon thousands of people nationwide who have criminal records because of acts of conscience.

Ban the box

In part, this is why I have long been a supporter of what has been called Ban The Box. “Ban-the-box laws received their name because they ban the criminal history box on initial hiring documents. The goal of the ban-the-box movement is to promote job opportunities for persons with criminal records by limiting when an employer can conduct a background check during the hiring process and encouraging employers to take a holistic approach when assessing an applicant’s fit for a position.

From the National Employment Law Project (NELP): “Nationwide, 37 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted what is widely known as “ban the box”… These policies provide applicants a fair chance at employment by removing conviction and arrest history questions from job applications and delaying background checks until later in the hiring process.” The link has a number of resources.

Aug. rambling: BS asymmetry principle

RIP, Don Everly, Nanci Griffith, Charlie Watts

asymetry principle
Also known as Brandolini’s Law, this is the simple observation that it’s far easier to produce and spread BS, misinformation, and nonsense than it is to refute it. https://sketchplanations.com/the-bs-asymmetry-principle. The original images and associated explanatory text on this website are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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A Harvard professor predicted COVID disinformation on the web. Here’s what may be coming next

FDA grants full approval to Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer, BioNTech

Jordan Klepper  debates anti-vaxxers and Recounts His Wild Experiences at Trump Rallies

This Physicist Discovered an Escape From Hawking’s Black Hole Paradox and Hubble captures an ‘Einstein Ring’

Malware Camouflaged As Code

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver – Ransomware and Opioids III:
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For the First Time on Record, Rainfall Observed at Peak of Greenland Ice Sheet

How We Fix the Climate

The Southwest’s most important river is drying up

Census growth data for every city, county, district, and  state

Crime and other topics

That afternoon in 1978.

The Dresden Job jewel heist

White Ohio woman gets probation for $250K theft, while Black woman jailed for stealing $40K

A history of the Segway

My Physicalmental Illness – John Green

 Why People Who Brush Still Get Cavities

Gene Roddenberry would have been 100 years old

Not me:  Colleagues remember Professor Emeritus Roger Green

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How to reheat and re-crisp French fries

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FULL 9TH INNING from Field of Dreams’ CRAZY final inning between White Sox and Yankees

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The Solution to Jeopardy’s Hosting Crisis


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Bad Wolves: Rebecca Jade featuring Jason Mraz, Miki Vale and Veronica May, which won a San Diego Music Award

Mighty Quinn – Manfred Mann

RIP, Charlie Watts:  Paint It, Black – Rolling Stones; Honky Tonk Women – Rolling Stones; Slow Turning – John Hiatt (namecheck)

The Hymn of Jesus by Gustav Holst

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Coverville 1369: Cover Stories for The The and Tears For Fears and 1370: Tributes to The Everly Brothers and Nanci Griffith

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Er Huang by Qigang Chen.

Novorossiysk Chimes (Flame of Eternal Glory) by Dimitri Shostakovich

Amy Biancolli writes about  The Tale of the Bow

Give someone the third degree


The Third Degree (1919)

Here’s a curiosity of the language. To give someone the third degree is an American idiom.

It “means to interrogate them ruthlessly, to grill them without mercy, perhaps with threats or bodily harm. The idiom to give someone the third degree came into use around the turn of the twentieth century in the United States to describe interrogations by some police departments. The origin of the idiom is uncertain.

“Some credit Washington D.C. police chief Richard H. Sylvester, claiming that he divided police procedures into the first degree or arrest, second degree or transportation to jail, and third-degree or interrogation. A much more plausible explanation is the link with Freemasonry, in which the Third Degree level of Master Mason is achieved by undergoing a rigorous examination by the elders of the lodge.”

Likewise, when it comes to burns, the higher number, the more severe. First-degree burns (superficial burns)… cause pain and reddening of the epidermis… Second-degree burns… affect the epidermis and the dermis… They cause pain, redness, swelling, and blistering.

“Third-degree burns go through the dermis and affect deeper tissues. They result in white or blackened, charred skin that may be numb. Fourth-degree burns… can affect your muscles and bones. Nerve endings are also damaged or destroyed, so there’s no feeling in the burned area.” That was, BTW, a painful recitation.

It’s different for crimes

The third degree notwithstanding, crimes are regarded differently. I was aware of this from the time when I was arrested in May 1972 for fourth-degree criminal trespass at an antiwar demonstration, I discovered that it wasn’t even a crime – felony or misdemeanor –  but a violation, similar to a traffic citation.

The issue came up in a discussion over the third-degree murder charge, among others, George Chauvin is facing in the death of George Floyd. By the logic of the first two examples, third-degree should be the most serious. But, as someone who’s been watching legal shows since the original Perry Mason, I knew this is not the case.

From Wikipedia: “In most US jurisdictions there is a hierarchy of acts, known collectively as homicide, of which first-degree murder and felony murder are the most serious, followed by second-degree murder and, in a few states, third-degree murder, followed by voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter which are not as serious…”

So someone might be given the third degree over a first-degree murder charge, and both would be serious. But WHY is this different? I DON’T KNOW. Explain this to me if you can!

Crime per Ayn Rand, James Madison

“who knows what the law is to-day”

James MadisonI must admit I’ve never actually read Ayn Rand. The opinions of many who have either perused her books or watched the movies based on them were unimpressed.

Yet, a Quote A Day thing popped up in my email, and it made a certain amount of sense. Of course, I don’t know the context. “The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

This seems to be a fairly accurate description of the laws of America, at different points in time, for a select population. For instance, the Black Codes of the Jim Crow era. Black people could be fined if they worked in any occupation other than farming or domestic servitude. There are LOTS of examples of this, such as the now-repealed Rockefeller drug laws.

Federalist 62

James Madison probably penned Federalist No. 62. It is largely about the nature of the House of Representatives versus the Senate. For instance why a Senator should be older than a member of the House.

But there is this one paragraph that just jumped out at me.

“The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself.” In other words, one ought not to change the law frivolously.

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read…” Has not the Congress, and undoubtedly state legislatures, regularly passed omnibus bills? They have provisions that almost no one had looked at. And they often have repercussions that were unforeseen or foreseen only by a devious player or two.

“…or so incoherent that they cannot be understood…” I was watching one of the Sunday morning news shows. The moderator said a particular bill meant X. An inept White House representative – let’s call him Larry K. – said it meant Y. The moderator said, “I’ve read the bill!” Larry mused that the MEANING of the bill was beyond what was actually on the paper. Ouch.


“If they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.” Some traffic speed traps are like that, suddenly changing the speed limit without proper signage.

“Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?” I was struck by something on Trevor Noah on July 15, 2020. Teen Jailed for Not Doing Homework. Where is such a law? The case was in Michigan, and was actually a judge’s ruling.

“In mid-May, a Michigan judge found a 15-year-old Black student guilty of ‘failure to submit any schoolwork and getting up for school,’ and sent her to juvenile detention.” She stayed for 78 days before “the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered the teen’s immediate release. The situation sparked “conversations around the school-to-prison pipeline and systemic racism. ”

Thus endeth the musings for today.

The Emmaus/RISSE (probable) arson

“The need in Albany is clear: Refugee families need long-term mentoring and education as they build new lives after experiences of trauma, dislocation, and relocation.”

risseIt’s human nature, I suppose, to be more strongly affected by tragedies that are close to home. I’m a former United Methodist, and I know the building at 240 West Lawrence Street in Albany, which was once a parsonage for the Emmaus United Methodist Church; I once helped the pastor move in one July 4. I’ve attended the church occasionally at Emmaus, and knew a subsequent pastor rather well, including attending her first service at the church, also, ss it turns out, on an Independence Day.

The first bit of news I read this week was this from AlbanySNN, the school notification site:

The after-school tutoring program at Emmaus United Methodist Church on Morris Street is cancelled until further notice due to a Tuesday morning fire at the program’s nearby administrative offices.

The tutoring program is operated by Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus, or RISSE, whose West Lawrence Street headquarters were badly damaged in the fire.

We will keep you posted on the status of the tutoring program.

Then The Wife calls me with more disturbing details about the fire, which was only five blocks from our home:

Police are trying to determine if slashed tires found on two vans owned by Refugee and Immigrant Support Services of Emmaus on West Lawrence Street are linked to an early morning fire that gutted office and instructional space used by the group, firefighters said…

RISSE, which helps immigrants and refugees adapted to life in the United States, is based in the nearby Emmaus United Methodist Church.

The only thing I can think to do, in order to fight off my deep disappointment over this probable arson is to contribute to RISSE. Read about the good work the organization has done:

The need in Albany is clear: Refugee families need long-term mentoring and education as they build new lives after experiences of trauma, dislocation, and relocation. About 400 refugees arrive annually in New York’s capital area. While government-sponsored organizations provide initial intervention, community-based support for the longer-term is critical.

This is not a rich organization. It is affiliated with a financially poor congregation, which nevertheless is doing great things. Please consider making contributions yourselves.

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