Who's a Pirate, Now?

From the Wall Street Journal, it seems the US Federal Court is having some trouble deciding what constitutes piracy.

"Violent attacks on the high seas without lawful authority have always been piracy under the law of nations, in 1819 and today," said the lead prosecutor, Benjamin Hatch, at a pretrial hearing last month.

"So if one ship fires a bow-and-arrow," asked Judge Raymond Jackson, rubbing his brow, "or a slingshot, or a rock, those are all acts of violence, and thus piracy?" The prosecutor nodded.

The public defender, Geremy Kamens, weighed in. "That a slingshot fired upon another ship would expose the defendant to a mandatory life sentence shows the absurd result of this reading," he said. The defense added that under this broad definition, Greenpeace activists could be considered pirates for their anti-whaling antics on the seas.

No, Mr. Kamens, it shows the absurdity of mandatory sentencing. Whether the sprig of mistletoe is thrown at Thor or Baldr, it's still assault, though obviously the result will be different, as should be the consequences.

Don't mess with boats.

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