May 08, 2012


Rand Paul has introduced a bill to revise the Lacey Act.

I'm sure somebody will pop up and tell me how important it is to maintain American criminal penalties for inadvertent violations of discontinued foreign trading regulations, but I can't see a downside here: "this bill removes each and every reference to 'foreign law' within the Lacey Act and substitutes the Lacey Act's criminal penalties with a reasonable civil penalty system."

That lobster case really sticks in my craw, if that's the expression I want. The details are here, but essentially several people were sent to federal prison for years because of participating in the import and distribution of lobsters that were shipped in plastic bags, because of a Honduran regulation, no longer even in effect at the time, that "mentioned" that cardboard containers should be used. It was one of those prosecutions that didn't even make a pretext of solving a problem, righting a wrong, protecting anyone, or making the world better in any way: it was simply a case of trying to find a "creative" technicality on which to charge these people after having decided they've got to be charged with something. None of the people involved had any way of knowing that the containers in which their shipment of lobsters arrived were the "wrong" sort, nor that the penalty for their being the wrong sort would wind up being multiple years in federal prison. The federal agents themselves didn't know, and also had no way of knowing till they had done the requisite after-the-fact "research." It was a purely malicious prosecution, of no use to anyone, resulting only in harm and achieving nothing but to visit misery upon innocent citizens whom the law is theoretically meant to protect.

This sort of thing drives me crazy, and I'm glad someone is finally trying to address it. It's not much, I grant. This is only one of thousands of crazy laws that should be revised or repealed in the cause of justice and sanity. And I have no idea if this sensible revision has any chance of getting enough votes to pass muster in Congress: after all, Congress was stupid and short-sighted enough to pass the damn fool provisions in the first place. But it is a step in the right direction, which is the kind of step rarely if ever seen in this day and age when it comes to legislation, so: well done, Senator Paul. More please.

Added: The New Republic's Thomas Stackpole pops up to explain how important it is to maintain American criminal penalties for inadvertent violations of discontinued foreign trading regulations.

Posted by Dr. Frank at May 8, 2012 03:04 AM

Have you seen this yet, the footage of a homeless man being beaten to death by police? Utterly horrifying.

Posted by: Nate Pensky at May 8, 2012 06:52 PM

Yeah, Nate, it sure is.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at May 9, 2012 12:41 AM

Rand Paul, with his usual crackpot libertarian ideas, what a doofus. Oh, wait, he is the only sane person in the room on this issue ... . Maybe those libertarian crackpot ideas are not so bad after all ... .

Posted by: Lexington Green at May 14, 2012 11:59 PM