Why You Have To Trust Your Government: California Edition

I do not consider myself a libertarian or anarchist; I believe government exists to promote the common good. But I also believe 1) that the only way to have good government is to cultivate transparency and accountability; 2) the only way to have transparent and accountable government is to have a limited government; and 3) I am under no illusions about the capacity of fallen humans for greed, lust for power, and arrogance, especially when they claim the purest of intentions.

I apologize for whipping a dead horse, but I found this story too gruesome to pass up. The article is written in an antiseptic journalese, but the reality behind it is sickening.

To sum up: in 2007 a forest fire destroyed some 65,000 acres of forest in California. Cal-Fire, the California State agency in charge of fighting forest fires, blamed the logging company Pacific-Sierra Industries and sued them to reimburse the cost of fighting the fire. The Federal Government decided to get involved, and the Department of Justice launched another lawsuit. While Pacific Sierra denied any wrongdoing, they figured they could not win in court, and settled to pay California and the Federal Government some 55 million dollars and 25,000 acres of land.

In the last few months however the case was reopened: Cal-Fire, it seems, had fabricated the evidence against Pacific-Sierra, and destroyed exculpatory evidence. Now, two federal attorneys have come forward saying they were removed from the case because they had a history of turning over exculpatory evidence (as the law requires them to do), and resisting pressure from supervisors to cover it up.

So, if the accusations are true, the California Fire Fighters and the Federal Government are guilty of a mafia-style shakedown of a private business. Let me repeat for emphasis: if the accusations are true very important Federal Prosecutors in Washington DC are no better than John Gotti or Whitey Bulger shaking down a liquor store, and they deserve to be incarcerated.

The bad news is that all of this is playing out in equity courts, not criminal courts. For it to be a criminal case, the Justice Department would have to bring charges against itself, and we all know that is not going to happen. The good news is that California judges are willing to take another look at the case thanks to new evidence, and are taking steps to ensure a fair proceeding.


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