Change – from democracy through anarchy to tyranny 275

Change? Yes, there is change under the Obama administration.

A free democracy is being turned into a tyranny.

How is this being done?

One way is by unleashing anarchic mobs; tying the hands of the police; criminalizing the victims of mob-violence; and systematically discrediting civilized values, as described in this column by Thomas Sowell on the “Occupy” movement:

The unwillingness of authorities to put a stop to their organized disruptions of other people’s lives, their trespassing, vandalism and violence is a de facto suspension, if not repeal, of the 14th Amendment’s requirement that the government provide “equal protection of the laws” to all its citizens.

How did the “Occupy” movement acquire such immunity from the laws that the rest of us are expected to obey? Simply by shouting politically correct slogans and calling themselves representatives of the 99 percent against the 1 percent. But just when did the 99 percent elect them as their representatives? If in fact 99 percent of the people in the country were like these “Occupy” mobs, we would not have a country. We would have anarchy.

Democracy does not mean mob rule. It means majority rule. If the “Occupy” movement, or any other mob, actually represents a majority, then they already have the votes to accomplish legally whatever they are trying to accomplish by illegal means. Mob rule means imposing what the mob wants, regardless of what the majority of voters want. It is the antithesis of democracy.

In San Francisco, when the mob smashed the plate-glass window of a small business shop, the owner put up some plywood to replace the glass, and the mob wrote graffiti on his plywood. The consequences? None for the mob, but a citation for the shop owner for not removing the graffiti.

When trespassers blocking other people at UC Davis refused to disperse, and locked their arms with one another to prevent the police from being able to physically remove them, the police finally resorted to pepper spray to break up this human logjam. The result? The police have been strongly criticized for enforcing the law. Apparently pepper spray is unpleasant, and people who break the law are not supposed to have unpleasant things done to them. Which is to say, we need to take the “enforcement” out of “law enforcement.”

Everybody is not given these exemptions from paying the consequences of their own illegal acts. Only people who are currently in vogue with the elites of the left – in the media, in politics and in academia.

The 14th Amendment? What is the Constitution or the laws when it comes to ideological soul mates, especially young soul mates who remind the aging 1960s radicals of their youth?

Neither in this or any other issue can the Constitution protect us if we don’t protect the Constitution. When all is said and done, the Constitution is a document, a piece of paper.

If we don’t vote out of office, or impeach, those who violate the Constitution, or who refuse to enforce the law, the steady erosion of Constitutional protections will ultimately render it meaningless. Everything will just become a question of whose ox is gored and what is the political expediency of the moment.

There has been much concern, rightly expressed, about the rusting of bridges around the country, and the crumbling and corrosion of other parts of the physical infrastructure. But the crumbling of the moral infrastructure is no less deadly. …

If everyone takes the path of least resistance – if politicians pander to particular constituencies and judges give only wrist slaps to particular groups or mobs who are currently in vogue, and educators indoctrinate their students with “non-judgmental” attitudes – then the moral infrastructure corrodes and crumbles.

Another way is by criminalizing citizens who are going about their lawful business. This method is as ruthlessly pursued by the Obama administration, in the name of preserving the environment and species, as the promotion of mob-rule.

How it is done is described in this study by Joe Luppino-Esposito, a Visiting Fellow at the the Heritage Foundation:

How did a law originally enacted to target poaching of migratory birds evolve to authorize an armed raid of a guitar factory in search of wooden veneers imported without the proper paperwork? The Lacey Act was the first federal wildlife conservation statute, narrowly targeted at the interstate sale in poached game. But in the century since its enactment, the statute’s scope has been enormously expanded to the point that it now incorporates the wildlife and trade laws of every foreign nation. As a result, it has become a trap for the unwary, placing honest businessmen and businesswomen at risk of criminal liability for unknowing violations of hyper-technical foreign laws and regulations.

In short, the Lacey Act has become the poster child for the phenomenon of overcriminalization and should be at the top of Congress’s list for reform. …

The original Lacey Act was … a modest addition to federal authority. In effect, it promoted federalism by preventing poachers and pot hunters from circumventing the states’ game laws. And it expanded criminal liability hardly at all, making federal crimes out of conduct that was already prohibited under state law rather than creating a new federal mandate. The penalty for a violation was a not-inconsequential $200 fine.

Over time, however, the scope of the Lacey Act expanded as federal legislators became more comfortable with passing broad federal environmental laws. In 1935, Congress increased the penalty for violations to $1,000 with a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment. Congress also empowered Department of Agriculture agents to arrest citizens for violations in their presence and to execute warrants. Most important, Congress also extended the Act’s list of predicate offenses to include foreign laws. This meant that if a bird was “captured, killed, taken, shipped, transported, or carried” in violation of the foreign state from which it originated, the United States could prosecute that individual or organization. …

In 1981 … indigenous plants were added to the list of covered species, including those that are considered endangered under U.S. law and those identified in the appendices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). …  The Act’s criminal offenses were divided into felonies and misdemeanors, with the former carrying a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment and a $20,000 fine and the latter a maximum of one year’s imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. …

The most significant change occurred in 2008, when Congress expanded the statute’s reach once again to criminalize improper marking and labeling of protected plants. As amended, the statute prohibits the “knowing” import or export of a prohibited fish, wildlife, plant or the “knowing” conduct of a sale of prohibited fish, wildlife, or plant. Additionally, anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct prohibited by any provision of this chapter … and in the exercise of due care should know that the fish or wildlife or plants were taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of, or in a manner unlawful under, any underlying law, treaty or regulation” may be subjected to criminal punishment.

This amendment was hailed by proponents as the first ban on illegal logging operating across international borders. Critics, however, have explained that tracking wood products back to their sources is incredibly difficult and that the “due care” provision is too vague.

Since the beginning of the debate on the Lacey Act, Congress has been concerned about how the statute may affect legitimate business. The result, one century later, is that individuals who try to act within the law are too often ensnared by the Lacey Act.

David McNab and Abner Schoenwetter, who were engaged in the lobster trade, were convicted under the Lacey Act for importing undersized lobsters in 1999. In addition, some of the lobsters were also egg-bearing, and all of them were shipped in plastic bags instead of cardboard boxes. These were not requirements of American environmental law, but requirements of Honduran law—requirements that Honduran courts later determined were invalid. Nonetheless, McNab and Schoenwetter were sentenced to eight years in prison. Due to the low level of criminal intent required for conviction, it did not matter that the two men were unaware of the Honduran environmental regulations.

More recently, armed federal agents raided Gibson Guitar facilities …

Gibson Guitar Corporation beingthe world’s best known and most respected maker of fretted instruments” …

… to seize imported woods intended for fingerboards, for the second time in two years. Although no formal charges have been filed, Gibson believes that it is being targeted for their importing of ebony from Madagascar in 2009 and from India this past year. The Justice Department has confirmed that a criminal investigation is under way.

The case appears to turn on the thickness of the wood and what constitutes “finished” wood. The Indian tariff code “HS 4407” is meant for wood that exceeds 6 millimeters in thickness, which cannot be exported. Wood thinner than that is identified as “HS 4408” and may be exported. In this case, the Indian export documents labeled the fingerboard blanks as “HS 9209,” which refers to “[p]arts (for example, mechanisms for music boxes) and accessories (for example, cards, discs, and rolls for mechanical instruments) of musical instruments,” which may also be exported. But the import forms identified the wood as “HS 4408.” An affidavit filed by a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service alleges that the Lacey Act declarations incorrectly identified the wood as finished veneers rather than unfinished wood that exceeded 6 millimeters in thickness. …

In effect, Gibson was raided because of an otherwise harmless paperwork error. At worst (although even this is unclear), the company may have violated regulations pertaining to the export of unfinished wood that were intended to protect jobs in India. In any event, neither the law in question nor the pending investigation seems based upon the alleged violation or appears to have anything to do with protecting the environment.

Beyond criminal intent, both of these cases also raise questions regarding the requirements of foreign law. In the lobster case, evidence was presented showing that the Honduran regulations at issue were invalid because the size restriction had never been signed by the President of Honduras. The Honduras Attorney General issued an opinion confirming that without the presidential signature, the law was, in fact, invalid. [But] the U.S. court determined that this testimony by an expert on Honduran law was not sufficient to reverse convictions.

As for Gibson Guitar, the company claims that Indian officials permitted the export of the unfinished wood.

If that claim is correct, it appears that in both cases, the United States government is now attempting to make a federal crime out of foreign conduct that the foreign countries do not hold to be unlawful.

Finally, both cases suggest that enforcement of the Lacey Act has deviated far from the Act’s purpose of respecting existing environmental laws to its current use in enforcing laws concerned with trade protection and economic advantage. The Indian regulation that Gibson stands accused of violating exists only to protect Indian workers from foreign competition …  And McNab and Schoenwetter were victims of an anonymous fax to the Fish and Wildlife Service by a competitor who lost out on the bid for the lobster shipment.

Environmental protection was not even at the heart of either case.

The Lacey Act has now become a casebook example of federal overcriminalization run amok.

The abandonment of law and order along with contemptuous disregard of the Constitution on the one hand, and over-regulation to criminalize the innocent and productive on the other, provide a double-barreled means of bringing free America to its knees. “Change – or else!”

And the change to tyranny is also helped along, of course, by Obamacare, the redistribution of wealth, the growingof the national debt, the corruption of the Department of Justice, the implemention of “Agenda 21″* …


* For the evils of Agenda 21, see our posts: Blessed are the slimy, May 5, 2012; Beware “Agenda 21″, June 24, 2011; The once and new religion of earth-worship, October 27, 2011; Agenda 21: the “smart growth” conspiracy, November 21, 2011;Three eees for environmental equalizing economics, December 4, 2011; Prepare to be DICED, March 23, 2012.