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Bush a nutjob?

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From: Dave Hazelwood <(E-Mail Removed)>
Newsgroups: alt.politics.bush
Date: Tue, 10 Jan 2006 08:37:40 +0800
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"Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime.

It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on
posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without
disclosing your true

In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as
long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I

This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is
buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice
Reauthorization Act. Criminal
penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

"The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," says Marv
Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's
annoying to one person may not be
annoying to someone else."
It's illegal to annoy

A new federal law states that when you annoy someone on the Internet, you
must disclose your identity. Here's the relevant language.

"Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate
telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in
whole or in part, by the
Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse,
threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be
fined under title 18 or
imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called
"Preventing Cyberstalking." It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to
prohibit anyone from using the
Internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy."

To grease the rails for this idea, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania
Republican, and the section's other sponsors slipped it into an unrelated,
must-pass bill to fund the
Department of Justice. The plan: to make it politically infeasible for
politicians to oppose the measure.

The tactic worked. The bill cleared the House of Representatives by voice
vote, and the Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 16.

There's an interesting side note. An earlier version that the House approved
in September had radically different wording. It was reasonable by
comparison, and criminalized only
using an "interactive computer service" to cause someone "substantial
emotional harm."

That kind of prohibition might make sense. But why should merely annoying
someone be illegal?

There are perfectly legitimate reasons to set up a Web site or write
something incendiary without telling everyone exactly who you are.

Think about it: A woman fired by a manager who demanded sexual favors wants
to blog about it without divulging her full name. An aspiring pundit hopes
to set up the next
A frustrated citizen wants to send e-mail describing corruption in local
government without worrying about reprisals.

In each of those three cases, someone's probably going to be annoyed. That's
enough to make the action a crime. (The Justice Department won't file
charges in every case, of course,
but trusting prosecutorial discretion is hardly reassuring.)

Clinton Fein, a San Francisco resident who runs the site, says a
feature permitting visitors to send obnoxious and profane postcards through
e-mail could be imperiled.

"Who decides what's annoying? That's the ultimate question," Fein said. He
added: "If you send an annoying message via the United States Post Office,
do you have to reveal your

Fein once sued to overturn part of the Communications Decency Act that
outlawed transmitting indecent material "with intent to annoy." But the
courts ruled the law applied only to
obscene material, so didn't have to worry.

"I'm certainly not going to close the site down," Fein said on Friday. "I
would fight it on First Amendment grounds."

He's right. Our esteemed politicians can't seem to grasp this simple point,
but the First Amendment protects our right to write something that annoys
someone else.

It even shields our right to do it anonymously. U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Clarence Thomas defended this principle magnificently in a 1995 case
involving an Ohio woman who was
punished for distributing anonymous political pamphlets.

If President Bush truly believed in the principle of limited government (it
is in his official bio), he'd realize that the law he signed cannot be
squared with the Constitution he
swore to uphold.

And then he'd repeat what President Clinton did a decade ago when he felt
compelled to sign a massive telecommunications law. Clinton realized that
the section of the law punishing
abortion-related material on the Internet was unconstitutional, and he
directed the Justice Department not to enforce it.

Bush has the chance to show his respect for what he calls Americans'
personal freedoms. Now we'll see if the president rises to the occasion."

Well, bust my buttons!

I don't know what's more pathetic, Jack Abramoff's sleaze or Republican
paralysis in the face of it. Abramoff walks out of a D.C. courthouse in
his pseudo-Hasidic homburg, and all that leading Republicans can do is
promise to return his money and remind everyone that some Democrats are
involved in the scandal, too.

That's a great G.O.P. talking point: some Democrats are so sleazy, they
get involved with the likes of us.

_______David Brooks


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