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 There are LOTS of examples of this, such as the now-repealed Rockefeller drug laws.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.

Consistency

“If they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is to-day, can guess what it will be to-morrow.”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.

Presidents Day 2019: Second Bill of Rights

“The unrestricted competition so commonly advocated does not leave us the survival of the fittest. The unscrupulous succeed best in accumulating wealth.”

Abraham Lincoln 1836
Abraham Lincoln, Congressman-elect from Illinois. icholas H. Shepherd, photographer. Springfield, Ill., 1846 or 1847

Some Presidential trivia:

From Summer Bowl 9 (Chuck Miller)

Donald Trump has 24, Ronald Reagan has 10, and John Tyler has the most at 30. The most what?

Who was the last U.S. President who did not nominate a judge for the U.S. Supreme Court?

JEOPARDY! game #7807 aired 2018-07-17

CITING THE PRESIDENT $400: In the 1970s: “When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal”
CITING THE PRESIDENT $800: In the 1970s: “Our long national nightmare is over”
CITING THE PRESIDENT $1200: “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved–I do not expect the house to fall–but I do expect it will cease to be divided”
CITING THE PRESIDENT $2000: In an early 20th c. message to Congress: “We have stood apart, studiously neutral”
CITING THE PRESIDENT $2,000 (Daily Double): In the early 20th c.: “I took the canal zone, & let Congress debate, & while the debate goes on the canal does also”

JEOPARDY! game #7806 aired 2018-07-16

4, 4 (two words, each with four letters) $1000: In 1848 Martin Van Buren was the presidential candidate of this party that opposed slavery in western territories

JEOPARDY! game #7868 aired 2018-11-21

PRESIDENTIAL IRONY, Final Jeopardy! 1 of the 2 Presidents who offered Daniel Webster the VP slot; he declined both, thinking the job went nowhere.

Answers below.

Why Thomas Jefferson Owned a Qur’an

Why James Madison would say our real problem is not misinformation

“The unrestricted competition so commonly advocated does not leave us the survival of the fittest. The unscrupulous succeed best in accumulating wealth.” Rutherford B. Hayes

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union Message to Congress, January 11, 1944, including the Second Bill of Rights:
“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence… People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
“In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all — regardless of station, race, or creed.”

“I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s Hell.” – Harry S Truman, 1948

“If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1956

The Eisenhower Matrix

When the President and His Chef Feuded Over Cold Beans

Thursday, August 8, 1974: the night that Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency (three hours)

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter pass up riches to live modest, giving and truthful lives

George HW Bush was a complex man who somehow perfectly embodied a simpler time: both a blue-blood and, to quote Nixon, a ‘nut-cutter’ who knew how to carry out the dirty work of politics

When New York Tried to Take Away a W

What Obama secretly did at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Pastor: When White Folks Say Obama Was an ‘Embarrassment’, Here’s What You Say

One Last Time (44 Remix) – Christopher Jackson, Barack Obama, Bebe Winans #Hamildrop

Answers to quizzes:

Summer Bowl 9:
The number of the age difference between the President and his First Lady
Jimmy Carter

JEOPARDY!
Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Abe Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt
Free Soil
William Henry Harrison or Zachary Taylor

Jackie and John Kennedy wedding
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and John Kennedy talking at their wedding reception, Newport, Rhode Island / Toni Frissell. 1907-1988, photographer, 12 September 1953


Photos from the Library of Congress. No known copyright restrictions.

Book review: The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis

Ellis reminds us that democracy was viewed skeptically in the 18th century

Given all the other tomes on my bookshelf, I surprised myself by checking out from the library, The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis (2015), the author of Founding Brothers and American Sphinx, about Thomas Jefferson.

The subtitle, Orchestrating The Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, informs how George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, along with others such as Robert Morris and Gouverneur Morris (not related), got the thirteen colonies, who had fought off the British, came to accept another centralized government.

A lot of reviewers noted, and it was my experience as well, that our American history courses in high school presented the narrative of the last quarter of the 18th period woefully incompletely. There was the revolutionary fury of the Declaration of Independence and the war, which was reasonably well laid out. The Articles of Confederation -they failed, but why? – followed. Then the Founders came up with the Constitution – but how? – including the Bill of Rights.

In fighting the American Revolution, the colonists were cohesive in that limited battle against the British. However, the notion that these 13 nation-states would then relinquish their independence to accept the creation of a powerful federal government was no guarantee. Certain visionaries diagnosed that structure created by the Articles of Confederation was doomed to fail. They suggested conventions, purportedly to amend the Articles, but ultimately to throw them out.

As Newsday noted: Ellis’ account of the run-up to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the subsequent state-by-state ratification process is so pacey it almost reads like a thriller. New Yorker Hamilton, fearful that anarchy was looming, developed a national vision first; Madison was just a bit behind. Jay, serving as foreign affairs secretary, was trying to fashion coherent foreign policy. But all agreed that if their efforts were to succeed, a reluctant Washington, who had retired to Mount Vernon, had to be on board. Washington’s revolutionary credentials were unassailable.

“In 1780, most Americans, having thrown off the fetters of a faraway central power, would have thought the kind of national government envisioned by Washington and Co. as peculiar in the extreme. Some historians have viewed the Constitution as a betrayal of the American Revolution by a cabal of elites who crushed an emerging democracy. Ellis, however, reminds us that democracy was viewed skeptically in the 18th century; he prefers to see the efforts the quartet as ‘a quite brilliant rescue’ of revolutionary principles.”

I totally agree that, for a topic that could be very dry, I found the book surprisingly engaging. Ellis explains how the Founders, even those opposing slavery such as Hamilton, essentially ducked the question for the cause of federalism, hoping the topic would be addressed down the road, which it was, decades later.

I should mention that I got the large-print version of The Quartet because that happened to be the edition near the checkout. I didn’t NEED it, but I’m not complaining about it either.