Should you go to prison just for lying?

I tell my child, as we all tell our children, that lying is wrong.  A lot of things are wrong.  But does that mean you should go to federal prison?  Guess what: that is exactly what can happen if you lie in a federal investigation.  What’s more, you might not even know that there’s an investigation!  Today’s Wall Street Journal has as the next installment in its serious of the criminalization of America the woeful tale of marine biologist Nancy Black, is facing a $100,000 legal bill and criminal charges for lying, when she didn’t know there was an investigation, and she didn’t believe she was either lying or misleading anyone.  In fact she thought she was cooperating with someone from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

How could this be?  Here is what 18 USC 1001 has to say:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully—
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
(3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;

shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both. If the matter relates to an offense under chapter 109A, 109B, 110, or 117, or section 1591, then the term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be not more than 8 years.

The breadth of this law is staggering, and the results could be perverse.  While the jury should have a good view of this, why would anyone not assert their 5th amendment rights when talking to anyone from the federal government?  After all, who knows if there’s an investigation?  Want to end up with a $100,000 legal bill finding out?

This is a law that prosecutors under administrations of both parties have used.  So what should it say?  Perhaps there needs to be a tie to a conviction of an actual crime we care about.  Perhaps the standard otherwise needs to be such that only sworn statements are applicable, in which case isn’t the existing purgery law enough?  And it has the added benefit of putting someone on notice that they could be held accountable for lying.


More lies from the lying liars who tell them

Some time ago, now Senator Al Franken wrote a book called Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.  I read the book, and found it to be a lousy read as petty, spiteful, and true.  You may not agree with his politics or his style, but the one thing you can say about Senator Franken is that he has always valued the truth.  On the other hand, I don’t know why anyone actually believes Fox News at all.  Because they and their chief liar Bill O’Reilly are at it again!  This time, it’s a railroad job against Senator Coburn, who had the audacity to call my Congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi, a nice lady, and who said, when talking abut the insane notion of putting people in prison for buying insurance, that “The intention is not to put anybody in jail. That makes for good TV news on FOX but that isn’t the intention.”

Bill O’Reilly can’t have that, so he claimed, “We researched on Fox News if anybody had ever said you’re going to jail if you don’t buy health insurance. Nobody’s ever said it.”  Guess what?  The New York Times did some investigating and found at least six instances where someone on Fox News  did say it.

When reporter at the New York Times was caught some months ago for plagiarizing, he was forced to resign and the entire newspaper was shamed.  Not so for Fox when they just make stuff up, as apparently they have no shame!  And so I think they deserve a new name: The Republican Liars Network (RCN).  Not all Republicans are liars, and not all liars are Republicans, but those who choose to believe what they know to be lies, aren’t much better than the liars themselves, especially when they act on that information in the voting booth.

All I can ask is please, Senator Franken, don’t update your book.  There’s just too much material.

Nokia making money the old fashion way: suing Apple

Back in the early 1990s, when Apple saw the threat coming, but didn’t have a decent response, the only resort they had was to sue Microsoft in what became known as a “look and feel” lawsuit.  They lost, and their fall from grace continued like a lead balloon.  It was only when they came to terms with the fact that they really had no decent products that Steve Jobs was able to rescue the company.

courtesy: Yerson O

Today, the shoe is on the other foot.    Once again, there has been a fall from grace, but this time the one doing the falling is Apple’s disrupted competitor, Nokia.  Apple has taken huge swathes of market share away from Nokia because, quite frankly, Nokia phones aren’t what they used to be.  They suck in comparison to Apple, and the reason they suck is that they attempted to cater strictly to service providers and not to the people who use the phones.  Nokia’s Symbian O/S is slow and uninteresting in comparison to Apple’s OS/X.  Their integration with existing products such as the iPod is so limited compared to Apple’s ecosystem as to be entirely insignificant.  Nokia’s network functionality was so poor as to be unusable, except for specific applications like Good.  Their IMAP functionality was just broken for mailboxes of any size.

And so Nokia has announced that they are suing Apple for infringement of ten patents, since it seems that it is the only way they will make money.  I don’t know whether there is any merit to their suit, but I can say two things:

  • A lawsuit will not help consumers one bit; and
  • There is a special place in Hell for those who bring lawsuits involving technology that is standardized.

If Apple’s earlier experience is any indicator, Nokia has further to fall.  They must stop suing and start innovating and catering to consumers, who Apple rightly recognized were the real customers.  Apple has given Nokia a good kick in the pants, but Nokia has a long history of success.  They are down but not out.  To be out, they need to be thinking about new approaches to the consumer, new ways to attract developers, and it actually all has to work.

Nokia image courtesy of Yerson O

This Post Brought To You By…

paperworkToday it was broadly reported that bloggers must inform consumers when they receive contributions for promotions they make on their blogs. But one wonders where it stops. Shouldn’t one’s day job have as much, if not more, material impact on what one says and doesn’t say? What about one’s stock portfolio?

For the record, this site makes me $0.  I work for Cisco Systems.  I won’t reveal my stock portfolio, but will tell you that I constrain my postings on this site to at least not completely inflame my superiors on business-related matters.  That means that if you’re looking for someone who is critical of MPLS and many Internet Service Providers, while I am, I’m probably not going to rant here about it.  Some of those people are customers, and they might reasonably ask what I am doing to make things better.

I will say this about my stock portfolio.  It hasn’t stopped me from talking negatively about some of the companies whose shares I have owned, believe it or not.

And The Mud Continues to Fly…

Yes, it seems as though the best chance Senator John McCain thinks he has is to throw mud, and he has begun the slinging by continuing the nonsensical charges about an association with someone who was a sixties radical that has been debunked in the major press outlets.  Meanwhile, those same outlets (Reuters, CNN, New York Times) are reporting a gross abuse of power by McCain’s running mate, Governor Sarah Palin.  What’s the chance that he has actually associated with Mrs. Palin?  And this is the thing that scares me the most about this Republican ticket.  Normally, I could care less about the VP pick.  However, as the current VP has demonstrated an unhealthy predilection to abuse his power, I would like to see the practice stop.  Worse, McCain is no spring chick.  He could actually die in office, and this woman would then be able to continue her perssonal crusades, not from the Governor’s office, but from the Whitehouse.

In the meantime, President Bush is nowhere to be found, except in a sketchy piece in today’s New York Times, in which he told people that it’s a good thing he’s still president and that he wouldn’t have wanted to deal with the economic mess his own deregulation helped create day one in office.  The problem with this statement is that he has spoiled nearly everything he has touched: our budget, education, foreign policy, our Constitution & Bill Of Rights, our standing in the world, and many other things.  Please let’s hope the damage can be contained by a prompt change of power.