Monday, July 23, 2007

"Dumb Laws?"

AM New York had a piece this morning about NY's "dumb laws." While I agree that there are many stupid laws out there (like the ones that prohibit swearing in front of women, or using donkeys on Sunday) many of these seemed to have a purpose. To wit:

"Dumb laws in New York City that have been passed (some have been repealed):

* A law restricting homeowners and storekeepers from using a hose to clean the sidewalk (these hoses can cause a slippery walkway, get pedestrians wet, and don't really "clean" the sidewalk, they just move the dirt into the street)

* A law requiring property owners to be responsible for keeping the street clean up to 18 inches in front of the curb in front of their property (in this case, clean probably means free of business-related debris. You know, to keep them from just discarding garbage out front, and obstructing the walkway.)

* A law requiring bars to obtain a license for a second pool table (this just seems like a way to raise revenue)

* A law requiring taverns to post 'no spitting' signs (part of a bygone era. But as anyone who has lived in an Asian city can testify, those people who do spit in public make it super-gross.)

* A law forbidding putting on puppet shows in windows (again, this could be to keep them from blocking the street, or to save children from poorly performed theater.)"

There are a couple other examples in the article, but most of them seemed to have a purpose. Yeah, it is probably annoying to obey them, but most are well-intentioned. The only one that really ticked me off is that the following was categorized as a "dumb" law:

"establish stiff fines for defacing U.S. flags on private property that are on par with those reserved for hate crimes against religious institutions."

What is the problem with that? Seriously? If someone were to deface the American flag outside my house it would feel invasive, offensive, and in general just upsetting. Any person who does such a thing is not only committing an act of vandalism, but is making a statement about my right to free speech.

Long story short? AM New York is dumb.


The Pedant said...

I've complained about these "dumb law" lists forever. So much of the time, the laws are not "dumb" so much as people just don't like the (generally socially conservative) principles behind them.

Sherbs said...

Hey-my cousin was the first publisher of AM New York! But, since he's not there anymore,I guess it can be listed as dumb. But, do remember, AMNY was the first free paper, and started a very important trend. Granted, it's because "young people don't read," but still...

(And I agree, these laws are dumb!)

Sarah said...

I think that the bit about private property implies one's own property. Because if I come to your apartment and deface a flag there, there are already quite a few laws being broken (breaking and entering, reckless endangerment, etc). But I'm not sure.

annulla said...

OK, AM New York isn't the world's greatest newspaper. But on the other hand, the price is always right.

Annie said...

Pedant- clearly we are related.

Sherbs- really? The ones in the article aren't the best, but I'd hesitate to say that they're dumb. they clearly could have picked much stupider ones. Like those prohibiting certain numbers of women from living in a house together (lest it become a bordello).

Sarah- The article clears that up, the law was suggested after someone defaced flags on a row of houses, including one belonging to the wife of a 9/11 victim.

Annulla- I guess you get what you pay for.

sarah said...

So now my question with the flag burning is:

Is it like the law for hate crimes because of the extra punishment, or because lighting the flag on fire is a hate crime, or similar? Hate crimes are more severely prosecuted than non-hate crimes (although a judge must rule whether it's a hate crime first). So is it a parallel situation because of the punishment, or the crime?

Did the article say? My opinion on whether it's a dumb rule hinges on this, so it's clearly very important. Although I doubt AM New York is up to such nuance (and that's my judginess for the day).

The Pedant said...

Sarah - I'd say that the philosophy was that the intrusive nature of destroying someone else's flag was basically attacking them for what they believed. That is, at its essence, what a hate crime is; punishing someone for having a specific animus when committing an otherwise criminal act.

I'm a little skeptical about hate crimes, myself, because I'm not sure that the guy who kidnaps and tortures a person to death because he enjoys doing it should be considered less worthy of punishment than someone who does it because he is a racist. And under the hate crimes laws as they stand, that's how it works out.

Sarah said...

Pedant, I agree. Makes sense about the flag.