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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, July 30, 2012

WHISTLING UP HARASSMENT

"We just paid $200 to have a whale hock a loogie on us, that's what we did."

Bill Engvall has a hilarious bit on going to see whales on a boat and how miserable he was. The whales blew a gust of spray over them and how the Californians were so excited.



Its a good thing they didn't whistle at the whale though. George Will tells a tale of the Obama administration and the NOAA:
Black, 50, a marine biologist who also captains a whale-watching ship, was with some watchers in Monterey Bay in 2005 when a member of her crew whistled at the humpback that had approached her boat, hoping to entice the whale to linger. Back on land, another of her employees called the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to ask if the whistling constituted “harassment” of a marine mammal, which is an “environmental crime.” NOAA requested a video of the episode, which Black sent after editing it slightly to highlight the whistling. NOAA found no harassment — but got her indicted for editing the tape, calling this a “material false statement” to federal investigators, which is a felony under the 1863 False Claims Act, intended to punish suppliers defrauding the government during the Civil War.
Those charges went nowhere for a year, so agents swarmed on Mrs Black's house and seized scientific photos, business files and computers, hoping to find something they could get a prosecution with. She was charged with "feeding" killer whales by taking a bit of the torn apart gray whale they were already eating and putting a camera on it so she could get footage of them feeding. Her friends were told not to talk to her, particularly if contacted by her lawyers. They sent a soebpena to her accountant, although none of these charges have the slightest thing to do with finance.

Notice here two things. First, the federal government is demented and out of control. They're all acting like special prosecutors, spending millions to get some kind of case, no matter how related it is to the original investigation. They got started and looked stupid, so they're pushing until they find something, anything to get a case built around. In the meantime, they are harassing this woman and abusing their power.

Second, notice that False Claims Act reference? This is a law that was passed during the Civil War, an effort to stop corruption. First, a bit of background. Corruption in this context is the practice of military suppliers to overcharge for lower quality goods. It became infamous during the Napoleonic wars where the English shipyards were so corrupt it took decades and several ruined careers of good men trying to stop it before it finally was dealt with. Read the biography of Captain Thomas Cochrane - easily the greatest naval captain of the war - some time to learn more about this.

Although greatly reduced by efforts of men like Cochrane and Pitt, corruption kept going. It was easy to do. Governments needed supplies desperately, and there was huge money to be made. By the time anyone found out, it was deep in the field, far from notice, and the men were powerless to complain. So your shirts fell apart, so the dye ran in the rain so your uniform looked pathetic, so your food was largely gristle and bone. The companies got paid top dollar.

This still goes on, at a much more sophisticated level these days. The same sort of hideous cabal of people in government and suppliers who bribe and cut them in on the profits work together to defraud taxpayers and governments at the expense of the men and women in the military. Today its useless spare parts, extra engines, overcharging for materials, and in the end, the congressmen who helped get a cushy no-work job at Evilbastard Industries when he is finally voted out of office.

So during the US Civil War, the Lincoln administration worked on a bill to make it easier to punish people ripping off the government on military supplies. It was called the False Claims act of 1863 and lying to a federal officer when questioned became a federal crime.

This was only meant to deal with corruption. Instead, the federal government said "hot damn!!" and has been using it for every situation and federal officer since. Remember Martha Stewart? They thought she was guilty of "insider trading" (making stock buys and sales based on information not generally known to the public) which has always seemed like a bizarre crime to me to begin with. Isn't making decisions on good information usually called "wise?"

They couldn't get her on insider trading. So they nailed her on lying to a federal officer, claiming her testimony included lies. Its been a fallback position for the feds for a long time. Is your statement inconsistent? Do you have a tough time remembering things exactly in order? Did you change your mind about something? Bingo, lying to a federal officer. Ordinary cops probably salivate at the very idea of being able to jail someone for lying to them.

This is one of those laws that went way beyond its intended use, like Sarbanes-Oxley which is routinely applied to situations that have nothing whatsoever to do with financial auditing or bookkeeping. Lawyers love this kind of thing, it makes them feel and look clever (to their peers) and as judges are former lawyers, they love it too. So you don't get judges who rule "you cannot use that law on dog collars to apply to food disposal at a diner" they go "wow that's clever, you go girl!!!"

Its basically impossible to not break federal law these days, and they take advantage of that. If they want you for, say, being a big and public donor to a rival to the sitting president, they can nail you for something. And if they can't find a good case, well after a few years eventually your testimony will conflict and they have you for lying to a federal officer and obstruction of justice.

And that, my friends, is the kind of abuse of power and rape of liberty that men like John Adams and George Washington took up weapons to fight in the late 18th century.

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