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By Eric Johnson
Published May 01, 2023

Image credit: Maria Burmistrova

Happy May Day! Happy Labour Day! Happy Law Day! (?)

Hello and happy May Day. Or as it is known in Great Britain: Labour Day. And elsewhere: International Workers Day. To recognize the honorable notion of human labor, which is celebrated today everywhere but here, our friend Richard von Busack shares a tale of eight jobs that he has held over the course of many years in order to fund his writing habit. His essay will make you grin and grimace.

You may not know that May 1 is also Law Day in the United States, declared as such by Richard Nixon via proclamation in 1969. Citing “rising crime rates, urban rioting, and violent campus protests,” the soon-to-be-disgraced president stated the following with a straight face: “We must recognize a clear duty to obey the laws …”. And then, “equal justice under law is the bedrock of the American system.”

Just a few evenings ago, at the Sacramento Speakers Series, I heard the great presidential historian Michael Beschloss quote Nixon on the topic of law. Beschloss (whom you may know from The PBS News Hour or The Rachel Maddow Show) referred to the famous marathon interview conducted in 1977 by the TV host David Frost, in which Nixon said the following with a straight face: "When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal." 

Beschloss, who has the measured, patrician manner of a scholar, could not disguise that fact that he hates Nixon. Part of his animosity seems to stem from the fact that Nixon tried to have his taped White House conversations and other presidential records destroyed after he learned that their existence had been revealed; as an historian, obviously, Beschloss has a profound commitment to the preservation of the historical record.

Beyond that, Beschloss’s contempt for Nixon clearly results from the fact that the man did not respect the rule of law. Beschloss spoke at some length about his belief that the rule of law is the keystone principle of democracy. (I’ve since learned that he will deliver a keynote address in Chicago in a couple weeks on presidential power as it relates to the rule of law, so the subject is top-of-mind for him right now.) 

Of course, he also addressed this subject as it regards Donald Trump. That is a topic for another day.

Politics, Crime, and the Law

The crime wave Nixon pointed to when declaring May 1, 1969, as Law Day was not a crime wave per se, but rather an outbreak of political violence, sparked in part by an illegal and immoral war, and in part by centuries of injustice.

Viewers of Fox News and readers of Tweets by the billionaire VC David Sacks see a new crime wave in California cities, including San Francisco. This week, Jonathan Vankin, investigates and learns that this is another political myth.

In another piece, Jon looks at the oft-stated claim that “Democrat-controlled” cities are ablaze in violence. Guess which color the most violent places in America were on Steve Kornacki’s maps last Election Day?

Is Crime Out of Control? What's the Reality?

Murder committed by strangers who don't know the victim remained relatively rare, data shows,
Fears that violent crime is out of control on the streets of California cities rose after the murder of a well-known tech exec. But what are the facts and do they back up the rising moral panic about crime?

Why Are Murder Rates High in Some Republican Counties?

Donald Trump greets Kevin McCarthy (R-CA 23) whose district includes two of California’s highest murder-rate counties.
Homicide rates remain high in some of California's most Republican, Trump-voting counties. Are law-and-order policies against crime a bust? Here’s why political voting patterns are a strong indicator of violent crime in states and counties.

For May Day 2023: Eight Weird Jobs

He’s been a File Donkey and an Asbestos Monkey. A Smutwright and a Euphemist. A Packwhacker and a Landlady’s Dogsbody. He sold his blood in a building emblazoned with a vampire bat. And finally, a Shirking Microficherman. We give you the great RvB!

For May Day: A Temp Worker’s Oddest Jobs

A screenshot from “Modern Times” (1936), Charlie Chaplin’s meditation on the vicissitudes of labor.
They were odd jobs, but somebody had to do them. On International Workers’ Day, one peripatetic laborer shares his career lowlights.

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