There oughta be a law, Vol. 47. Two scourges of American law in the past several decades -- the idea that any bad result should be the subject of legislative remedy, and the unfortunate tendency to name those remedies after the victims of the bad results -- have combined to produce the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act.
Meier was the 13-year-old who committed suicide last year after a 16-year-old boy she'd befriended on the Internet made hateful remarks to her on her MySpace page. Except, it turned out, there was no 16-year-old boy; as this article recounts, Megan's correspondent was actually "the mother of a former friend of Megan's who allegedly created a fictitious profile in order to gain Megan's trust and learn what Megan was saying about her daughter." Megan's understandably distressed parents called for "some sort of regulations out there to protect children," and into the breach leapt Reps. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) with HR 6123, which provides
Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.
"Communication" runs the gamut of the New Technology, including "email, instant messaging, blogs, websites, telephones, and text messages."
Now, we could spend some time discussing the First Amendment problems with this proposed legislation, but we really don't have to, since it's so obviously unconstitutional. We could talk about how at least this would prevent tragedies similar to what happened to Megan and others, except as far as I can tell, there were no "others"; Megan's case appears to be unique. We could talk about how lucky we are that Congress has nothing else to do than this, having solved all the other problems bedeviling the country. But it cost me $62.78 to fill up my Honda Accord the other morning, so we're not going to talk about that, either.
You don't write, you don't call... If you do want to talk about dumb laws, there's this story from China:
A draft law in Liaoning province makes it an obligation for adult children to contact or visit their parents regularly.
I wouldn't have guessed that there's a Jewish Mother lobby in the Chinese legislature.
Things I didn't know, Vol. 48. Another lawyer alerted me to RC 2921.38, which carries the alarming title, "Harassment with bodily substance." The statute provides that no one
with intent to harass, annoy, threaten, or alarm another person, shall cause or attempt to cause the other person to come into contact with blood, semen, urine, feces, or another bodily substance by throwing the bodily substance at the other person, by expelling the bodily substance upon the other person, or in any other manner.
The protected class includes only law enforcement or those in detention facilities, unless the perpetrator has the HIV virus, hepatitis, or tuberculosis, in which case everyone is covered -- no pun intended -- and it's a third degree felony instead of a fifth degree felony.
Of course, that's rather benign treatment. A month ago, an HIV-positive man was sentenced to 35 years in prison in Texas for spitting on a police officer, on the theory that his saliva was a deadly weapon, despite the Center for Disease Control and Prevention finding that no one has ever contracted AIDS from saliva.
(At which point, Walsh leads me back to the car, whispering "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinato -- er, Texas.")
Okay, no more politics, I promise. Well, after this...
If I was John McCain, I would use every last dollar in my campaign spending account to buy up all the copies of this picture and make sure that no one ever saw it again.
See you on Monday.