So credit for this goes to The Rachel Maddow Show, which if you're not already a massive massive fan of you should be. Who doesn't want a cynical, mildly abusive, angry left wing lesbian delivering their news every day?
Anyway, turns out there's this joyous website called http://www.overcriminalized.com/ The website concerns itself with legislation before the US Congress, and aims to "provides details, status, and basic commentary on legislation pending in Congress that could perpetuate the dangerous trend of criminalizing more and more conduct that is socially and economically beneficial and of punishing Americans for acts they commit" All sounds well and good, and it's a vaguely good idea, there are several items they identify that are concerned with things like making sure definitions of what constitutes a crime according to the legislature isn't so loose as to be open to abuse by a prosecutor. It cites the difference between a kid who brings a kitchen knife to school, and the scout who forgot to take his penknife out of his back pocket as a fairly decent example.
However, then it all goes a little wrong... From their front page, they state: "Criminal law is supposed to be used to redress only that conduct which society thinks deserving of the greatest punishment and moral sanction..." and "trivial conduct is now often punished as a crime." Now I want you to bear this in mind as we go on, as these aims and definitions are fairly crucial to what follows.
So if you then go look at the legistlature they're keeping their eye on, there's the Noose Hate Crime Act which would prohibit displaying a noose in public “with intent to harass or intimidate any person because of that person’s race, color, religion, or national origin.” Violations would be punishable by criminal fines and imprisonment of up to 2 years. And granted, someone could accidentaly carry a noose around and get arrested for it (I hear you arguing, who carries a noose around, but if anyone's gonna do it it would be someone like me), so you can accept that without too many problems, but again, it doesn't stop there....
The National Health Insurance Act would criminalize the disclosure of personally identifiable medical information. Violations would be punishable by criminal fines of up to $50,000 and imprisonment of up to one year. Now given that America isn't completely sold on Obamacare yetwhilst it's a little bizzare that they consider the selling of personally idenitifable information a trivial matter, maybe they're just being over-zealous in their opposition.
Or maybe not.... The War Profiteering Prevention Act would prohibit schemes to defraud the United States, including those to “materially overvalue any good with the intent to defraud the United States,” in connection with contracts to provide goods or services to the United States for overseas missions. I'm beginning to get a little concerned that they consider war profiteering a "trivial matter" and something which doesn't come under the definition of something "which society thinks deserving of the greatest punishment and moral sanction..." God bless capitalism I say.
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! They are also keeping their eye on Child Labour Safety Act which would increase penalties for the illegal use of child labor. Violations of existing prohibitions in the Fair Labor Standard Act would be punishable by criminal fines of up to $50,000 and imprisonment of up to 6 months per each employee the subject of such a violation. Under current law, violations are punishable by civil penalties of up to $10,000 per child worker. Because Walmart (ok and primark in the UK to be fair) quite like the cheap cost of their child labour fines, and thats only the ones they find out about, mwahahahaha!!!!!!
I probably should have prefaced this all by saying that overciminalized is run by The Heritage Foundation a typical pretty damned right wing think tank, and so perhaps none of this is all that surprising, but usually these kind of things are kept to the secret documents and meetings of groups like The Family (also see more rachel maddow clips on her website in relation to the whole uganda thing, or just google uganda and gay and see the delights that will confront your monitor). For the record, the initial clip with Rachel Maddow talking about the above, as well as the general support of slave labour practices amongst business groups, see here.
Can you tell I've found the formatting buttons? Be prepared for increased readability in future. I can't promise anything about the grammar though...
Music: Most of this was punctuated by watching other rachel maddow clips, however I just clicked play and Geri Halliwell's Mi Chico Latino came on, so you should all go to listen to that. Alternatively, go listen to The Baseballs, who are picking up momentum in this country with their rock and roll versions of Umbrella, which you've probably heard somewhere, or Hot and Cold, or a variety of other covers.
Incidently, does anyone else find it really really hard to not spell it umberella nowadays?