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 There are LOTS of examples of this, such as the now-repealed Rockefeller drug laws.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“If they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.”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.
Continue reading “The Emmaus/RISSE (probable) arson”

The Kitty Genovese narrative largely debunked

Read the New Yorker article about the 1964 Kitty Genovese murder, and you will recognize that the New York Times story of the time had done a grand disservice to our views of the cities, especially NYC.

kitty_genoveseIf you were old enough – and I was – the name of Kitty Genovese was a name you knew. Not just that she was a murder victim in Queens, NYC, stabbed to death on March 13, 1964, “one of six hundred and thirty-six murders in New York City that year,” but that the apparent indifference to her plight by over three dozen “witnesses” spoke volumes about the apathetic nature of a segment of American life:

…the gist of the [New York Times] piece lent itself perfectly to Sunday sermons about a malaise encompassing all of us. Continue reading “The Kitty Genovese narrative largely debunked”

Florida: race, murder, self-defense

“The most damning element here is not that George Zimmerman was found not guilty: it’s the bitter knowledge that Trayvon Martin was found guilty.”

After George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin death in Florida, the New York Daily News did a piece When will it end? Deadly racial targeting of black men and teens is hardly ancient history.

So I find it difficult to look at the case as a singular event but in the context of a social pattern. Black-on-black murder doesn’t make headlines, unless it hits an epic proportion, as it has in Chicago recently. Black-on-white murders statistically draw tougher sentences. So there is always uneasiness when a white-on-black killing takes place. Continue reading “Florida: race, murder, self-defense”

Not wanting to know the criminals’ names?

There’s a contingent out there who seem to relish the blow-by-blow of crimes, many of which I don’t know how they became national news.

I’ve noticed, particularly on Facebook, that after some particularly grievous, horrific crime – the Boston Marathon bombing, the Sandy Hook, CT elementary school shootings, the Aurora, CO movie theater shootings – there is this contingent of folks who argue that we ought not mention the names of the accused, but should instead focus solely on the victims. It’s as though by not saying the names of the perpetrators, or alleged ones, it would deny them the fame they presumably wanted; this phenomenon exists even when the presumed criminal is already dead Continue reading “Not wanting to know the criminals’ names?”