Monday, August 20, 2007

Oyster-related crime and its absurdist consequences

In an earlier post I wondered whether readers could identify eleven different oyster-related felonies out of the 2,324 total in Texas, a number tallied by Texas Public Policy Foundation researcher Marc Levin in a Houston Chronicle op/ed. Impressively, regular commenter Nurit identified eight of them off the top of her head. If you need a clue regarding the others, accurately pointed out that none of them require sex offender registration (though a Farker intoned darkly in the comments that the same couldn't be said for the "bearded clam").

Please, whatever you do, don't take the failure to require sex offender registration for oyster-related crimes as any sort of "challenge," as another Farker suggested. Let's not give the Texas Legislature an excuse to make that 2,325. (Besides, I think it may be covered under the expanded animal cruelty laws.)

I hadn't even thought of looking to oyster-related crimes in literature, but a commenter at Myth Happens suggested there at least four were committed The Walrus and the Carpenter. I count fraud and murder, but I don't think you get to four unless you also include conspiracy to commit on both charges. Had the Walrus and the Carpenter committed their offenses here, though, as a commenter pointed out,
in the State of Texas there is a law of parties. If you are anywhere near the perpetrator when he commits the crime, you get the same penalty. In other words, if it is a capital offense the oyster could get fried!
In any event, I still don't know what are the eleven actual Texas felonies related to oysters. Indeed, I've discovered myself in near-complete ignorance regarding oyster-related crime.

As with The Walrus and the Carpenter, I'm shamed not to have recalled the bivalves' key role in a Monty Python sketch quoted by a Farker that alleged all sorts of criminal activity and intent on the part of the mollusk clan:
The randiest of the gastropods is the limpet. This hot-blooded little beast with its tent-like shell is always on the job. Its extra-marital activities are something startling. Frankly I don't know how the female limpet finds the time to adhere to the rock-face. ...

Another loose-living gastropod is the periwinkle. This shameless little libertine with its characteristic ventral locomotion ... is not the marrying kind: 'Anywhere anytime' is its motto. Up with the shell and they're at it. ...

The great scallop ... this tatty, scrofulous old rapist, is second in depravity only to the common clam. This latter is a right whore, a harlot, a trollop, a cynical bed-hopping firm-breasted Rabelaisian bit of sea food that makes Fanny Hill look like a dead Pope... and finally among the lamellibranch bivalves, that most depraved of the whole sub-species - the whelk. The whelk is nothing but a homosexual of the worst kind. This gay boy of the gastropods, this queer crustacean, this mincing mollusc, this screaming, prancing, limp-wristed queen of the deep makes me sick.
A Grits commenter, Jeremy, offered more suggestions, channeling Jasper from the Simpsons on the subject:
Using an oyster shell as a highly deadly shuriken....That's a paddlin. Eating oysters after Labor Day.....That's a paddlin. Paddlin through an oyster bed....Oh you better belive thats a paddlin.
So there are more potential oyster-related offenses out there than I'd considered. Some wondered about the safety of oyster offenders while incarcerated. Mr. Anxiety imagined the subsequent jailhouse discussion:
Joe: What are you in for, Jim?
Jim: Murder, you?
Joe: uh......oysters.
Indeed, suggestions for possible oyster-related crimes turned out to be more bountiful than I'd imagined. And yet, do we really need eleven oyster-related felonies? Can none of that be taken care of through regulatory structures or civil courts? It's not just these 11 acts, but many of the 2,324 different acts that Texas has declared felonies could probably stand (but not withstand) a redefinition of what behavior we treat as criminal.

In closing, a Fark commenter competently if sarcastically identified the real, underlying stakes in criminalizing so many human behaviors:
Remember kids

That is 2,300 ways to be denied the right to bear arms, the right to vote, hold office, to be doctor, lawyer etc.

2,300 ways to be denied a job, loan, application etc for the rest of your life.

2,300 ways to invite harassment from law enforcement when they see that you are a convicted felon.

Hooray for everything being a felony.

I love making second class citizens.

1 comment:

JT Barrie said...

I'm a law abidin' citizen. I haven't touched oysters since my wild youngun' days. I haven't eaten oysters in over 25 years. Course, I never got caught eatin' em when I was a young whippersnapper. Guess I was just plain lucky. Now, you guys confirm how cagey I was to quit them varmints.