American Elephants


A Whale of an Ugly Tale by The Elephant's Child

George Will recently told this appalling story about a whale, a huge humpbacked whale, and a marine biologist named Nancy Black. Black, 50, who also captains a whale-watching ship, had watchers on her boat in 2005, “when a member of her crew whistled at a humpback whale that had approached the boat, hoping to entice the whale to linger. 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. Black sent it after editing it slightly to highlight the whistling episode.”

NOAA found no harassment — but indicted her 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 from defrauding the government during the Civil War.

“A year after this strange charge— that she had lied about the interaction with the whale that produced no charges —more than a dozen federal agents, led by one from NOAA raided her home. They removed her scientific photos, business files and computers.”Clearly a fishing expedition.

When she and two aides were in a dinghy observing killer whales feeding on strips of blubber torn from their prey — a gray whale, she has” been charged with the crime of feeding killer whales.” To photograph the killer whales’ feeding habits, she cut a hole in one of the floating slabs of blubber, and through the hole, attached a rope to stabilize the slab while a camera on a pole recorded the whale’s eating.  She was charged with feeding whales who were already eating prey that they had killed.”

“Six years ago, NOAA agents told Black’s scientific colleagues not to talk to her and to inform them if they were contacted by her or her lawyers.” Since then she has been unable to speak to one of her closest friends. To pay for her defense she has cashed out her life’s savings which were intended to purchase a bigger boat. NOAA has delivered an administrative subpoena to her accountant, although no charge against her has anything to do with criminal intent.

In 1980, Will says, “federal statutes specified 3,000 criminal offenses. By 2007 there were 4,450, and they continue to multiply”. Our daily activities expose us to potential prosecution by a government official. Such laws enable zealots to intimidate decent people who never had any culpable intentions, and to inflict punishment without the presence of a crime.

Here’s a story about a prosecution by the IRS by a vindictive zealot who doesn’t like people who, in this case, trained for a marathon. You don’t want to come to the attention of the federal government, particularly this one.

Or you can read lots more in Harvey Silvergate’s Three Felonies a Day; How the Feds Target the Innocent.   Some people are bewildered by our demands for smaller government, and less regulation. Government has a way of expanding on its own, and regulations are seldom repealed. New ones are added instead, well-meaning ones, but most will take another nibble out of your individual liberty. Liberty doesn’t preserve itself automatically, we have to be watchdogs and fight for it.

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