Friday, February 17, 2017

Where Have You Gone, Professor Kingsfield?

There is something called the United States Court of International Trade, and it recently handed down a decision on an issue that involved actual lawyers and judges spending actual time in court. I say that because when I tell you what issue was at hand, you will not believe it was a real thing.

Snuggies are blankets and not anything like priestly vestments, Judge Mark Barnett ruled.

If you need reminding, Snuggies are the "blankets with sleeves" which are advertised on television as a handy way to cover up with a blanket and still be able to use your arms without exposing them to the frigid air from which the blanket protects you. The United States Justice Department, which you would think would have some better things to do, had argued that Snuggies were in fact garments. The wide, flowing sleeves and long gown-like construction, the department said, was similar to academic robes or the cassocks or robes worn by some religious groups.

Judge Barnett noted that academic garments usually close in the back -- which, considering the sedentary lifestyle of a high percentage of academics, is something for which one may give thanks. Priestly vestments may close in the back instead of the front, but they actually do have closures and the Snuggie does not.

You are perhaps wondering exactly why this is a matter before the United States Court of International Trade. Well, Snuggies are imported rather than made in this country,  although probably not for long once someone tells President Trump about them. The department of Customs and Border Protection -- which also, you would think, would have some better things to do -- ruled they were garments. The company that imported them sued the government for this suggestion and thus, someone at the Justice Department who will probably not include this case on his résumé got the job of trying to convince a judge that Snuggies were just like a priest's or professor's robe.

So why did the Customs and Border protection office make such a ruling? Were they attempting to protect the domestic blanket industry against the incursion of this sleeved infiltrator? Did a Congressman have a brother-in-law in the hospital gown manufacturing biz who'd gotten a deal on some red polyester fleece and was looking to turn it over? Nope. Were they just opposed to the idea in general, figuring that there were already things called sweaters and sweatshirts in the world? Nope again.

Imported blankets carry import duties of 8.5 percent of the cost. Imported garments carry import duties of 14.9 percent. Uncle Sam was fine with you buying Grandma a nice little gift she could use to watch TV and not turn the thermostat up to Mohorovičić discontinuity levels. He just wasn't fine with taking less than 10 percent of the money.


fillyjonk said...

Given the temperature of my office these past few days, I am intrigued by the idea of Snuggie-as-academic-gown.

(And yeah, on the sedentaryness. I spend 45 minutes a day pretending to cross-county ski just so I can eat something other than lettuce....)

Friar said...

I would think the gown might fit under the robes.

We clerics have as much propensity towards the same lack of motion, but I had another joke for us.