The Charlotte News

Wednesday, January 26, 1938


Site Ed. Note: The piece on Baumes Law, which, candidly, by name, is one of which we have not become aware, but judging by the piece, we assume to be a no-bail/three-strikes law, (or, actually, a four-ball rule), we find troubling. We don't know if it was by Cash, and we don't care. It is wrongheaded in its assumptions about criminality and its reasonable cures--should there be any. It is not shown statistically that such draconian efforts as three-strikes laws lower crime rates or deter recidivism. While crime came down in the nineties and there might be temptation to attribute that to three strikes laws, the correlation has yet to be shown in jurisdictions which have them. The reduction of crime in the nineties was more likely the result of radical reduction of abject poverty in the country and the greater responsiveness generally to inner city life, increase in government services, and increased police protection from a higher caliber officer, as stressed by the Clinton Administration. (And we disagreed with the Clinton Administration on its pushing a Federal three-strikes law.)

What these laws do is to load the prison system to bursting proportions, make life termers of non-violent felons in many instances, often the third strike in many states being a property crime. The recent annals of jurisprudence are full of cases where the third strike was a grand theft--of a bicycle or the equivalent, the rule being in California, for instance, that if property value exceeds $400, (less in other jurisdictions), the theft is chargeable as a felony.

Indeed, if the middle class public realized how many felonies it regularly commits, it would be horrified at itself. We went to college at a time a few decades ago when it was fairly common to see students with a stock of marijuana exceeding two ounces--a felony for possession for sale, though rarely, if ever, caught or prosecuted. Indeed, there was little effort exerted in that direction on college campuses. (Witness, the piece of this date's page on the sleepy little village of 1938 surrounding our school and realize that little has changed or had in the three and a half decades by the time of our presence there--to its credit, we might add, not its detraction; and we were just there again yesterday, even through the very intersection mentioned in fact, and, while the light works and there is probably a good deal more traffic there now than in 1938, the corner is otherwise exactly as it was then, save that there are now two plaques with the school seal attached to the old rock columns at the entry point.)

The point is that the axe of justice for these types of offenses, more nuisance than danger to society, falls usually on the poor, usually on the African-American community, not the middle class; it is a fact. And it is because the suburban voter is the greater tax base and the suburb where the voters who vote and shape public opinion more typically reside; consequently the object to please their perceived desires, perceived through the loudest, (dumbest), and hautiest among them anyway, is to get the "bad black boys" in their bad black Cadillacs with tinted windows (like the President's), selling dope to and through little kids on street corners, our typical view of it as presented on tv and in movies of the ghetto life--a danger to all, for it leads to the life of crime, spilling into suburbia, impacting property values and tax bases for its consequent burglary, murder, rape, robbery, and so forth. And there is a grain of truth of course in the tragic story as presented; but insofar as the reality goes, it is only a grain of the full story.

There is as much truth in the notion of the racist cop who has it in for little black boy and actively seeks to cultivate a criminal for busting to get the promotion in rank and pay and authority and respect, as there is in the other side of that drama--as much, we say, only still a grain of truth being in that side as well. Mostly, they are penny-ante drug transactions on the street for kicks, the same as in middle class suburbia, though in the latter sector, transacted less openly, and without the presence of guns and gangs to back them up, which in the typical case are not backing them up even in the ghetto, the movies notwithstanding. It becomes the notion we dub as Creeping L.A., that is that when a ghetto problem is presented in movies, it is typically set in Los Angeles, as if Los Angeles, our nautiest and noisiest problem child, were emblematic of the rest of the country. It isn't. Yet, these images become registered in the minds of some who see a parallel with perhaps one or two isolated cases in their community and suddenly these minds see a political axe to grind to get votes by creating an issue from whole cloth, woven from exploited fear. The loudest, dumbest, and hautiest then insist that it is real, to get their way, to pass some draconian law which is totally unnecessary. Indeed, much the same thing happened in California in the eighties and early nineties, when Reagan penology stalked the land, to stoke the fires of distrust between classes, much as in Nixon's day.

But aside from those basic practical issues, the problem with denying bail automatically on a non-violent felony, merely because of a criminal record, without regard to the failures of the defendant to appear or the gravity of the crime alleged, is that it is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment requiring that no excessive bails be imposed. In the instant case, no such law was needed: there were numerous incidents of failures to appear, an escape, and a most grave crime, killing of a police officer, being charged; thus giving a judge full range of discretion to impose certainly a bail beyond the probable reach of the accused. Besides inappropriately removing effectively from judicial scrutiny the decision over whether and to what degree to grant bail, and insulating it in all practical effect, without a lengthy review process into the Federal courts by way of habeas corpus jurisdiction anyway, such a law serves no practical purpose; it presumes that judges before whom defendants daily parade are somehow oblivious to the best interests of justice in individual cases, the occasional horror story of a recidivist defendant being admitted to bail and then murdering again notwithstanding. The horror stories make the news, not the millions of cases processed on bail daily where the defendant reports to court on time and does not commit crimes while out on bail; though we by no means suggest that recidivists do not often continue to ply their criminal trade while on bail awaiting trial. They often do, and that, plus the seriousness of the instant offense, has to be weighed against the Constitutional provision regarding excessive bails through honest case by case judicial review. For the accused, no matter their record, is still entitled to a presumption of innocence and bail protects that presumption, enabling a more meaningful ability to prepare for trial. That is why the Founders incorporated it into the Bill of Rights, not because they were soft on crime; or, who knows, maybe Tom, Jimmy, Jack and Alex and the rest, were not fascists.

Likewise, no law should impose a life sentence as a status offender, when that status is based on a current offense of a non-violent nature--contra which the piece appears to argue. The man had no violent criminal history, only non-violent thefts and burglaries. That he was thereby destined to murder, and to murder a police officer, is nowhere shown by his history. He was no angel, plainly. But he was neither necessarily a murderer or violent. And we do not know but what, had he been provided some real effort at rehabilitation during his early twenties on the initial offenses, he would not have come to be so embittered at the system of jurisprudence and law enforcement that he would murder to prevent capture again. The axiom that prison does little but harden further hardened criminals and that county jail hardens inmates into prisoners fit for prisons has more than a little grain of truth in it by the results shown over time pursuant to standard approaches to penology and jurisprudence. To declare the purpose of the penal law to be one of punishment and no more, is to do violence to society, the potential victim down the road, and lead to the point of nonsense, the old Steve Martin joke--death penalty for parking violations. It has come to pass practically in our society over time just that way, as a life term for stealing a bicycle is very little different, is it not?

Then, respect for the law breaks down generally and the courts cannot possibly cope with the panoply of silly cases brought before it, compromises perforce are made through plea-bargaining, the plainly guilty often go free, and the public emits a hue and cry for stricter laws, removing discretion from judges to afford sure punishment, brimming prisons sought to be privatized to avoid the taxpayer burden, sweep the trash under the rug, and the vicious cycle merrily proceeds. For ultimately, the public will become fed up with spending its tax dollars on a broken system of penology, paroles on those three-strikes life sentences will be given, but with no rehabilitation in the bargain, the horror story of the recidivist parolee will make the news, and the emotional will seek new and more draconian laws, until finally the system is thoroughly repentant, or, as it is fast becoming, thoroughly streamlined, absent judicial discretion, to the point of near Nazism in fact.

It is time perhaps that serious penologists and legislatures do study such worthy experiments as that taking place in Norway, unless, that is, the goal is to provide steady work for prison administrators, designers, and locksmiths.

As to the rest of the page, just what you might obtain from a thorough read of Heywood Broun's piece, we don't know. We aren't sure what we think about it; but it is interesting. Was Jesus a poor judge of character when it came to Judas, or for that matter, Thomas, and some of the others? Or was it that his preaching of the doctrine of forgiveness of sins reflected itself in his disciples, not so much necessarily by anointed choice as by who chose to enter into his fellowship? Was Judas injected into a mythology of Jesus to provide an intriguing story, every good mystery needing an element of betrayal and blood sacrifice, of a righteous man betrayed by his own to the überlords seeking his blood for nothing more than exercising his freedom of belief and thought and speech in the pastures with his friends, thus causing doubt to arise in the government of the established überlords, a mythology designed to attend little boys' and girls' consciences, to effect their better behavior when their immediate überlords, their parents or guardians, are not around to attend them, and by the same stroke to breed in them a healthy distrust of dictatorial regimes, whether individual or collective, private or public? And, Jesus said he was the Son of Man; he did not proclaim himself as the literal incarnation of the deity that subsequent scriptural accounts' interpretations, especially among the cultists, have it; so how does that concept fit with his exploitation as the literal Son of God?

Does Broun not make a point that Jesus's very presence as a deity violates the commandment that one should have no other gods before the God of the Old Testament? Does the presentation of Jesus as deific, rather than as rabbinical teacher, constitute Christian denial of Judaism, passed through time, combined with political rebellion to the authority of Rome and its constraining of religion, a rebellion then against the law of Jahweh, to amend and present a new, more reasonable interpretation of the law, grown far too complex to be obeyed without such intrigue as to make it susceptible of draconian application through subjective, pharisaic "interpretation"?

These are not questions meant to undermine anyone's religious beliefs, as we assume Broun meant no such intolerant inquisition. Rather, they are to stimulate deeper thought about the nature of religious worship and to what extent it is merely feeling rather than postulated on a rational foundation admitting of an objective world view, with the understanding in tow that ultimately there is to be recognized, as with anything not subject to strictly replicatable scientific method, an irreducible postulate into which empiricism may not penetrate,--though, we postulate, the circle of truth may so do in a purely intuitive-poetic, as opposed to emotional, manner--to be accepted on faith, those irreducible minimum choices in the case of religion being whether Jesus or Mahomet or Buddha was of mere myth incorporated into folk tales through time to instill morality and a common belief system, as well as political rebellion to unjust, draconian authority oppressing a particular group of the times in which the various religions found their origins, or actual humans merely perceived by others and dressed in that myth, or in fact extraordinary humans possessed of a certain ability to transact on their world in terms acceptable as basic truth through time, or were instead actually impenetrable deities, infallible in word and act, possessed of special light to perceive and communicate from heaven itself a world view which enabled well being and from which path deviation means sure damnation, an infidelity worthy, among the most fanatical of the cultists, of death itself, posing themselves then as god's instruments for manifesting divine retribution, even if thereby repeating the crucifixion story all over again without apparent realization of the logically paradoxical end into which their own fanaticism inexorably casts them, making themselves the überlord against which they began in their religious zeal to fight.

That a deeply founded religious principle recognizes those irreducible postulates and the various problems inherent within each postulated world view, not just some other club to join by which one can say, "Sure, deacon in the Church, Sunday, Country Club on Sat'day night, and what a party we have, my friend, at both places; why don't you join us?" is axiomatic. The latter sort of thinking derives of feeling and cultism, or, as Cash put it, totemic religion. And if anywhere there ought to be a world view underlying the faith, one fashioned from rational and objective thought with recognition of the irreducible choices on which to postulate a foundation, not subjective feeling, it is religion.

For religion built on emotion is hollow, sanctimonious, without purpose, other than the same basic sociability which may be had within clubs or other confederacies of various sorts, and one which, at the first real sign of trouble, will turn, as with confederacies generally, to action based on group prejudice, us against them: witness Nazism and the KKK, both founded on religious fervor as a cheap device to stimulate political activism for the chosen against the rest or a handy societal scapegoat, ritualistic sacrifice of the totemic variety. Such totemism is readily exampled today by those cultist Bible beaters who emotionally insist that, not just Christianity, but their highly subjectively interpreted and politicized dogmatic version of Christianity is to be preached as religion in the schools through enforced teaching of the "doctrine" of Creationism--not a doctrine at all, of course, but a denial of archaeological and anthropological studies, as well as astronomical and geological data, which are legion through time, in favor of an insupportable conclusion, based on fanciful or non-existent premises, that the world is but 10,000 years old, because the Bible told them so, and the Bible, as they see it as a premise, being the infallible and literal word of God in all respects, insists it as, in their view, heretical to deny any part of it, or to seek even to interpret it poetically, until, at least, it suits their political ends and subjective framework to do so. For all understanding of language is at base interpretation of meaning of symbols, not entirely subjective in its understanding certainly but nevertheless, at base, interpretation; and just because a group of cultists seeks, and always finds, one understanding and another group, another, does not validate one over the other when neither is but a subjective, not a rationally based, construct of meaning. (We have yet to read where Jesus said anything about the death penalty, abortion, or, for that matter, an insistence that one must accept the myth of Adam and Eve or be damned to hell for the rejection of the purely mythical story to explain the inexplicable in a world prior to rationalism. Why is that a necessary part of a Christian belief system? His main message was that of simple forgiveness and the Golden Rule; it is really very simple, and admission to the club requires no more than that belief, regardless of its foundational aspects, not at all the complexity which the totemists insist upon for admission to their little country club brand of it, that it's all or nothing, including, we presume, the part about not suffering a witch to live.)

Well, what do we mean by "circle of truth", for instance? How do we define our own rational view, and the road to reach it, assuming for the moment it is rational in the face of those irreducible postulates into which empiricism in its replicatable form may not penetrate, to reach conclusions of any sort at all? Well, first, turn to our links of yesterday's note and glimmer a bit perhaps of what we mean, that inarticulable and quite unplannable coincidence, divorced from human manipulation, being its most central mechanism for ascertaining truth, though that truth remaining somewhat elusive and subject to some degree of interpretation always by its nature, but basically following the premise that there is more to life than meets the empirical eye or that may be fathomed or that has been fathomed through the ages by anyone in fact living, the posturing poem by the presumptuous poseur on the page of this day notwithstanding. (Roses for a guy named Bill? Huh. Not on your life, Bill.)

Second, we shall reach a conclusion at that moment of last breath, not before. Conclusion, after all, is conclusive, and with it, that ultimate peace in the knowledge that you have it all figured out, one might as well be dead. For if all ultimate questions of existence are finally answered for you in life, that we knew the answer yesterday and so today we needn't be bothered with it further, having found the one clear path and answer, there is really no need to breathe the noxious air any further, to put up with infernal traffic jams, and irritable potato heads at school or at work, now, is there? It is much too difficult a task to be worthy of your habituation since you have all the answers, and, since the path you have chosen inevitably, as all do, will take unexpected and seemingly unregulated turns and twists to defeat your certainty as if by design, you need not fight further. Your burdens may be lifted should you simply conclude and choose the simple expedient to insure preservation of your thusly dedicated answer to it all: Death. So why not be off to heaven and leave the rest of us to plod along? If you say, no, you are living for "family values" and must stay on to insure that your family will be possessed of those values, forget about it. So was Hitler and Mussolini. How does that render you anything beyond human trash and a murderous barbarian? Your family may be a decrepit bunch of criminals, or criminals waiting to happen--the hopeless Sopranoes, for all you know. Get along with you if you have all the certitude of Jesus or Mahomet or Buddha. Time to pack up and leave.

This, you see, is the problem with too much certainty in the face of Nature which is obviously flexible and constantly adjusting itself, else we would not be here, the frailest of the species physically, against the horde of beasts and the hurricanes and earthquakes, volcanoes and the rest, trying violently to oust us from our comfortable lot in verisimilitude, to the extent we can make it, to Eden: what do the words mean? And if it is purely emotionally based, it is also purely subjective and susceptible to any fanciful meaning you desire: thus Hitler, Mussolini. Join their Party.

Or, you may adopt a rational view and realize that we each feel and think and imagine, and should be allowed to do so freely, as long as we are not gunning people down or stealing from them. That any answers are at best transitory of the moment, and always in need of adjustment to circumstance, to allow for human error and Nature's unexpected twisters. Nothing is infallible. By the same token, to afford any form of sustained life and society to aid in that sustenance, it is rational to recognize certain common antecedents, such as commonly accepted meaning to words, realizing that words generationally through time have conveyed different meaning and often derive their meaning from precise context, not to be extended further than that to other contexts.

Anyway, read it for yourself and consider whether Broun who died of pneumonia less than two years later was condemned for "denying Christ" or whether perhaps the hyper-criticism which seemed to follow his somewhat mysteriously exalted position as a well-paid columnist didn't drive him to the brink of madness, so much that he no longer much cared whether he lived or died. (Perhaps, one could make the same argument about Cash, regardless of whether you accept the preposterous suicide scenario dogging his reputation since the grave found him, or not.)

Which leads us to another poser: Why is it that people who normally reserve judgment after death for even the most scoundrelous, will jump up and down and shout to hell with a writer for having set down what that writer honestly thought at a point in time, whether an opinion widely appreciated or one so narrow as to be laughably dismissed as folly? We prefer to reserve our judgment for such thoroughly disreputable personages as Hitler and Mussolini, and their ilk, those plainly responsible for the wanton murder of others for nothing more than their occupation of a class, a status, race, or possessed of some other characteristic, mutable or not.

Religion and crime. There is a relationship there, usually one dissuading the other, but sometimes one aiding the other. Perhaps the trick is to discern why those divergent stimuli from apparently the same source?

Speaking of which, that cartoon on the page, the one with the truck: reminds us of the Ford Fairlane station wagon which belonged to the three slain civil rights workers outside Philadelphia, Mississippi, in June, 1964; only it was the right front tire removed from the still smoldering car when found. Why? What was the symbol being conveyed, if any? The FBI agents hypothesized that perhaps vandals were caught in the act, ransacking the car and left it that way. But the wheel was in the back of the wagon; and the purported reason for the original arrest came from the happenstance of investigation developed after the car had a flat tire in front of the Dallas Garage just outside downtown Philadelphia, the left rear. Was it that if the left will prop the left, then so would the right prop the right?

That "Eighth" Rule*

SEC's new ruling on short selling is an ingenious thing. If Consolidated Black Ink, for example, is going down and down and you have the happy idea that you could lay by a little store unto yourself by hopping on and riding it for a fall, you cannot sell shares which you do not own in Consolidated Black Ink except at a price of 1-8 of a point above the last sale. With this restriction, you cannot accelerate the stock's fall; rather you must check its fall by making a sale above the last sale or stay out altogether. If you actually own the stock, of course, you can sell it at any price you please, or that your broker pleases.

But if CBI is going up and too fast, you think, the rule will not operate to the handcuffing of the short-minded. On a rising market, quotations 1-8 above the last sale are popping all over the place, and you can grab one with ease. This will have the effect of keeping the market from running away with itself on the up-grade, as it will on the downgrade; and both are desirable. The only great risk is that the absence of any considerable short position in a stock will let it plummet to the bottom without profit-taking on the way, which itself is supposed to act as a check.

A Senator Is Seated

Monday, John Milton of Jersey City takes his seat in the Senate as appointed successor to Harry A. Moore, now Governor of New Jersey. This man Milton is the same of whom former Judge John J. Warren, president of the Journal Square National Bank in Jersey City, told a New Jersey legislative committee in 1929:

"John Milton is the 'bagman' for Mayor Hague--the man who does the collecting for him."

The investigation had to do with the fact that Mayor Hague bought, through Milton, some $400,000 worth of bonds in a period when his salary came to $56,000.

This man, too, is the same against whom the Non-Partisan Labor League of New Jersey lodged charges before the Senate that (1) he is Mayor Hague's chief stooge; and (2) "he had known cash transactions of over a quarter of a million dollars with Hague during the period in which Hague's salary as a municipal officer was $8,000, and during which period he had no other gainful employment."

But the Senate side-stepped the consideration of these charges by referring them to the Senate Elections Committee, which has announced that it will be some time before it gets around them.

In that connection we observe nothing but that Frank (I am the the Works) Hague is, in addition to being dictator of Jersey City, also Vice-Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Aurora Borealis

Last night the northern lights were flaring as far south as southern Spain and Portugal, to the great disturbance of the peasants of those countries. Which is to say, of course, that they were also flaring in our own parts. Draw a line from Charlotte through Europe, and it will fall directly across the Strait of Gibraltar. But for some curious and not understood reason, these northern lights are fairly common in our country, whereas they do not, on the average, appear in the same latitudes in Europe oftener than once every ten years.

What is the cause of these lights, which from time immemorial have stirred up superstition in climes far enough south for them to be unusual? When we were young they used to say that they were due to the refraction of sunlight from the snows of the Arctic. But nowadays, it is agreed that they are actually connected with magnetic disturbances in outer space, though the exact mechanism is still not well understood. In our upper atmosphere, there exists a great magnetic field, known as the Heaviside Layer. It enables you to hear shortwave radio signals, since these fly off into space and are only audible because the Heaviside reflects them back to the earth. But this layer is affected by magnetic disturbances anywhere in space. And above all, it is affected by sunspots, which, of course, are great magnetic storms on our central luminary. Last night's lights were probably due to the action of these sunspots, which just now are very powerful, on this Heaviside Layer.

Stop, Look and Listen

Senator "Pat" (for patronage) McKeller of Tennessee has urged President Roosevelt to turn down a proposal of Governor Browning that the State and the Federal Government buy up the power systems of Tennessee. And does Senator "Pat" (for patronage) McKeller decry this move because he is a great believer in private initiative as opposed to state socialism, because he is skeptical of the State's ability to run a power system efficiently and economically? Nope. Not a bit of it.

The real purpose of this urging the President to turn down the proposal, he is kind enough to express in his own words:

"Governor Browning and Senator Berry are going to have the strongest kind of political opposition in the state, and they are simply trying to cook up a plan that will win them some support."

If anything at all could serve as a red flag warning to make this country stop, look and listen before it lets the great politicians take over the utilities, this incident ought to do the works. Senator McKeller is the fellow responsible for that notorious "boodle book," a government document listing every Federal job not under Civil Service. As chairman of the Senate's Post Office Committee, he has blocked every move to take postmasterships out of politics and place them on a career basis. In addition to that, he is a bludgeoning, blundering old blatherskite.

Governor Browning is an up-and-coming politician who owes his election to Boss Ed Crump of Memphis, whom he ditched in the hope of becoming boss himself. The method of this coup d'etat was to call the Legislature in special session and have it amend the primary laws so as to apportion voting strength on a county rather than a popular basis, thus effectively subordinating the will of the people to the will of the Browning organization.

And Senator Berry--Senator Berry is the industrialist-labor leader who got into office by the appointment route, first by President Roosevelt as a coordinator of the remains of the NRA and thereafter by Governor Browning as Senator from Tennessee. He is the same citizen Berry who is suing TVA for damages running into the millions on account of flooded marble lands in which he holds options--bought up, TVA charged, more on the strength of inside knowledge that the lands were to be covered with water than on any commercial worth of the marble there to be found.

And it is this triangle of politicians, McKeller, Browning and Berry, who are eager to get the utilities in Tennessee for their own political factions to keep them out of the hands of inimical factions. Success would mean a rich helping of pie for thousands of their supporters, executive jobs for stalwarts in their organization, a stranglehold on industry and the end of invention, discovery and pioneering in the power business.

Uses of a Baumes Law*

As to the guilt or innocence of the young man Bruce Shue who is charged with the killing of Policeman Rape of Huntersville, we have no slight knowledge or even a theory. At the same time his arrest for this crime has caused the police to check up on his criminal record, and it is a beaut:

Oct. 4, 1928, sentenced in Baltimore to serve five years on four charges of burglary.

February 2, 1934, sentenced to three years in the North Carolina penitentiary for breaking and entering. Later transferred to a prison camp in Iredell County, he escaped, local officers are informed.

May 8, 1937, held by police at Alexandria, Va., on a charge of stealing an automobile.

July 9, 1937, held by Durham police for investigation.

July 30, 1937, arrested at Mooresville on a charge of breaking into a store. Released on $750 bond, failed to appear when called for trial.

Two things are immediately apparent from the criminal activities of this man, still in his low thirties. One is, that he covered a lot of territory. The other--that the law might chastise him again and again, but that it was making little headway in reforming him so that he might resume his place in a free society.

This state (and all other states, for that matter) needs as badly as it needs anything a Baumes Law. Thus fortified, it would have nipped in two places this full-budded criminal career. With a criminal record, he would not have been admissible to bail pending trial on the Mooresville charge; and if he had been found guilty of that fourth felony, he would have gone to prison for life. Which is exactly where chronic offenders belong.

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