Bureaucrats with too much time on their hands, Part 4,328


From the “Not even The Onion could think of this” category come two stories of bureaucrats who clearly haven’t spent enough time outside of government employment.

First, Reason TV’s Nanny of the Month for June 2013 – a New Mexico politician has introduced a bill that could put people who demean people in jail for one year. To protect children, you see:

Not that this really needs a takedown, but Ed Morrissey gives us one anyway, including a reminder that there is legal precedent that should knock this law flat:

Actually, the issue of punishing speech that causes “substantial emotional distress” for public figures has already been addressed, even in civil complaints, by Hustler Magazine v Falwell. The court ruled in that case that such speech is only actionable when it contains a “defamatory falsehood … made with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”  Without that standard on public figures, the ability to criticize public figures would be essentially dead, and so would liberty….

Granted, that standard doesn’t necessarily apply to private figures publicly maligned or bullied, but publicly is another term of art, too.  Yelling “You swing like a girl!” at a Little League game at an opposing player may not be the highest example of sportsmanship for a youngster, but it’s hardly something that requires intervention by law enforcement or the courts … not even when the parents yell that kind of nonsense, which is more often the case.

Even more to the point, these are issues that should be handled by private interaction, not by law enforcement.  If the bullying gets physical, then assault and battery is occurring, and that’s another matter entirely, but verbal bullying is one of the less-pleasant consequences of free speech.  It doesn’t require court intervention, but better supervision and exercise of authority, be it parental, educational, or both.  Otherwise, we will soon find ourselves in the position of filling court dates up with complaints that come down to “He called me a boogerhead!”

Somehow, another bureaucrat managed outdo New Mexico. Thanks to Mark Steyn at The Corner for a heads-up on this – a magician who has to have an emergency plan to save his rabbit:

“You won’t believe what the USDA has come up with now,” Hahne wrote in an email message late Friday afternoon.  “If this wasn’t so stupid, it would be funny!”

He went on to share details about his continued harassment by the USDA — all for using a three-pound rabbit in his magic act:

My USDA rabbit license requirement has taken another ridiculous twist. I just received an 8 page letter from the USDA, telling me that by July 29 I need to have in place a written disaster plan, detailing all the steps I would take to help get my rabbit through a disaster, such as a tornado, fire, flood, etc. They not only want to know how I will protect my rabbit during a disaster, but also what I will do after the disaster, to make sure my rabbit gets cared for properly.  I am not kidding–before the end of July I need to have this written rabbit disaster plan in place, or I am breaking the law.

In his email message, Hahne also explained the timeline via which he must comply: 1) the new regulation became effective Jan. 30, 2012; 2) the written plan must be completed by July 29, 2013; 3) Hahne and his wife, Brenda, must be trained to implement the plan as written; and 4) the written plan must be available for review by USDA inspectors by Sept. 28, 2013.

Now, personally, I like what the blogger’s son suggested:

I don’t know if that will satisfy the bureaucrats, though; it’s a solution that makes sense, costs the businessperson nothing, and doesn’t require action by the regulators.