Bush a nutjob?

Discussion in 'Computer Support' started by ellis_jay, Jan 10, 2006.

  1. ellis_jay

    ellis_jay Guest

    From: Dave Hazelwood <>
    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 Suck.com.
    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 Annoy.com 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 Annoy.com 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

    ellis_jay, Jan 10, 2006
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