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Friday Roundup

Kids have Fred Flintstone vitamin tablets and we have...  As if the waning support forobama health care reform wasn't enough of a problem, now President Barack Obama has to cope with the latest report from EcastasyData.org, which tells us that "the most notable new style of ecstasy tablet is the Obama head, which seems to be part of the same group of unusually shaped tablets that contain BZP, TFMPP, caffeine and other random bunk ecstasy substances (DXM, very low doses of methamphetamine, and methylsulfonylmethane). "  Our president's visage is simply the latest addition to a long line of Ecstasy mimic designs, which include Homer and Bart Simpson, the Smurfs, Snoopy, and the Ninja turtles. 

 

MySpace suicide update.   Back in October of 2006, 13-year-old Megan Meier hanged herself after being taunted and bullied on her MySpace page by a 16-year-old male named Josh Evans.  Turns out "Josh Evans" was really Lori Drew, the mother of a former friend of Meiers, who set up her own MySpace account -- in a false name -- in order to torment Meier for supposedly spreading gossip about Drew's daughter.  While this no doubt earned Drew a spot on the list of People You're Most Likely to Meet in Hell, the Missouri prosecutors looked over the case and concluded that no crime had been committed.

Two years later, the Feds came to a different conclusion, indicting Drew for... well, that's where it gets tricky.  The actual offense was accessing a computer involved in interstate commerce without authorization for the purpose of engaging in tortious conduct (in this case, intentional infliction of emotional distress).  The theory was that Drew had committed this offense by violating the MySpace's Terms of Service, which prohibited engaging in conduct that was "potentially offensive," etc.

The problems with that should be apparent.  If I stuck a line in the About page here stating that "offensive comments" wouldn't be tolerated, and you posted one denigrating someone, does that mean you've just committed a federal crime?  The case eventually went to trial, and the jury convicted Drew on three misdemeanor counts.  The defense filed a 29(c) motion for judgment of acquittal, and in July, the judge announced that he was going to grant it.  He did so last Friday (opinion here), concluding that the twisted application of the statute sought by the prosecution would render it unconstitutional "on vagueness and related doctrines."

That's not the end of the matter, of course.  Back in May, the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act was introduced in Congress.  The Act

Amends the federal criminal code to impose criminal penalties on anyone who transmits in interstate or foreign commerce a communication presently pending in subcommittee, intended to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to another person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior. 

That seems sufficiently specific to avoid any First Amendment problems, don't you think?  It's presently pending in subcommittee.

Only in California.  Earlier this year, Carrie Prejean, Miss California 2009, engendered controversy during the Miss USA pageant by responding, when asked whether every state should legalize same-sex marriage,

Well I think it's great that Americans are able to choose one way or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. You know what, in my country, in my family, I think I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there. But that's how I was raised and I believe that it should be between a man and a woman.

Prejean finished second in the pageant, and claimed that the controversy over her answer cost her the crown.  Her state title was taken away a few months later, and on Monday she filed a suit against Miss California pageant officials, accusing them of religious discrimination and of inflicting a host of other indignities upon her.  (Those sufficiently motivated -- and your name is no doubt legion -- can read the full complaint here.)  The organization has contended that other activities, such as appearing in photos sans religious garb, as shown here, were the reason for her termination.

Prejean's barely coherent response raises the better question of why anybody would take seriously the opinions of a beauty queen contestant on an issue more complex than tanning tips.  Any lingering doubt on that score should have been dispelled by the hysterically famous answer given by Miss Teen South Carolina a few years back:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj3iNxZ8Dww[/youtube]

 

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