Tucked away in a must-pass DOJ Reauhorization Bill that wandered through the Senate, the House and the Oval Office the other day was this little passage which now becomes law:
"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."
This is of course from Senator Arlen 'damn-this-infernal-internet' Specter who has for years been trying to get this bill (or something like it) passed, without success.
Leaving aside for a moment the whole unconstitutionality of the thing (ever heard of the First Amendment?), this just goes on to show that the current Republican administration is just dumber than a sack of hammers.
I mean come on guys, think about it! I thought the Republicans were all about small government, and making things easier for Americans to get ahead? How does this new law do anything other than limit what law abiding americans can do, whilst not limiting what law abiding non-americans do, and thus giving them an edge? And let's be fair, it ain't like the rest of the world needs an edge over the US right now!
The technology I saw on the streets when I went back to England last October made all the excitement about TiVo and DVRs over here look like we'd just discovered Fire. And Europe is behind Asia, technologically speaking! Trade embargoes, fortress mentalities and lack of education are keeping America a decade behind the rest of the developed world right now, and that gap is growing...
So the last thing we need now is more dumb laws limiting what Americans can say or do when those same laws do not apply to the rest of the world.
Fortunately, this law has little chance of surviving in the wild.
The Supreme Court has treated the Internet as a fully protected medium for public discourse, and has held that First Amendment protections are fully applicable to communications over the Internet. Several lower court decisions have further upheld the right to communicate anonymously over the Internet.
A Royal Flush beats a pair, and the Constitution beats some sneaky attempt to circumvent public debate on freedom of speech, so this law will not last long, but sheesh - every day this place is looking more like a cross between the Klingon Empire and the Ferengi Alliance - a land of low brow bullies and money grubbing weasels.
Sorry if that statement annoys you. Or am I....?