maybe sbl can follow malawi’s example and fine people for farting

Malawi No Farting Lawi mean, why should the sbl stop at projector fines? if they’re really looking to raise some money, sbl should consider taking a page out of malawi’s playbook. the african nation is considering passing new “gas laws” that would fine people for breaking wind in public. i guess this means i won’t be visiting lilongwe any time soon.

but seriously, this would be a quick way for sbl to raise a lot of money quickly. think about it: fining sbl conference attendees for cuttin’ cheese is a sure moneymaker. conference attendees are usually on the run, sitting for long periods of time and ‘holding it,’ irregularly eating fried, greasy foods, drinking coffee in between sessions, standing around talking and ‘shifting their weight’, crop dusting each other as they hurriedly pass each other on the way to sessions, breaking wind at the biblical archaeological society booth simply out of spite, and staying up late drinking. and that’s before they get back to the hotel room. quite frankly, i am fearful of my hotel room at the san francisco marriott marquis come this november. what if the malawi police are in there? or worse yet, sbl fine collectors? it could result in citation after citation with the roommates i have. and only heaven knows how many citations would be handed out in the ‘blogging and online publication‘ section. heck, sbl could raise enough money in the blogging section to buy projectors for every conference attendee. they could just put one in every free tote bag you get when you walk in along with the israel travel brochures and continuum/t+t clark ads you immediately throw away.

so come on sbl, take the next logical step and do like the malawis do: fine ’em for flatulence.

california online impersonation law goes into effect jan 1, 2011

California FlagA new California state law, SB 1411, goes into effect today, which makes it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate someone via a social media outlet or through e-mails. The bill is in response to a rise cybercrime that uses online anonymity on blogs, email, and other social networking sites to harm, intimidate, threaten, and defraud others, not unlike the seemingly never-ending saga of Dr. Golb and the Dead Sea Scrolls that played out in New York last year.

Here‘s the bill’s history. It is one of the few California bills to pass both the assembly and senate unanimously. Precedence is being set, and the laws are finally catching up with the crime and the criminals.

california bill would crack down on e-impersonators

Online Impersonation

Battling impostors: SB-1411 is designed to punish those who use fake identities online. Credit: Christopher T. Fong and Russell Yip / The Chronicle

An article in SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle online) by Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera highlights California State Bill 1411 (SB-1411). If passed, the bill:

would make it unlawful to knowingly and without consent credibly impersonate another person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means with the intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud another person.

Current law addressing false impersonation is outdated and was not drafted with the technologies of the 21st century in mind.  SB 1411 brings us up to date by making these forms of cyber impersonation a punishable offense.

State Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) introduced a bill in June that would make it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate someone. SF Gate has previously reported on the bill here.

If Simitian’s bill passes, online impersonations with the purpose “of harming, intimidating, threatening or defrauding” would be punishable with a maximum fine of $1,000 and one year in jail.

The article states:

Malicious online impersonation has often been brushed away as the complaints from overly sensitive people who can’t stand parody or criticism, but a range of recent incidents have really stressed the question of where to draw the line.

Recent incidents? I might know of one.

The bill unanimously passed both the California Assembly and Senate, and now awaits Governor Schwarzenegger’s signature.

I strongly urge the governor to sign the bill. As a victim of this kind of crime, I cannot underscore how important this kind of legislation is. The first amendment was designed to protect differences of opinion, dissenting views, and to promote new ideas, not as a shield to protect criminal impersonators, forgers, and identity thieves hiding behind electronic forms of anonymity in an effort to dodge accountability and civil remedies while they perpetrate well-orchestrated, premeditated campaigns of harassment, defamation, and libel against their victims.

The law is coming.

Wikipedia wants the seal even without the FBI’s seal of approval

FBI Seal

FBI Seal

Wikipedia wants the seal, but could care less about the FBI’s seal of approval.

A fight has broken out over whether Wikipedia can display the FBI’s official seal on its online encyclopedia. The FBI has said “no way,” and has written Wikipedia asking it to remove the seal. Wikipedia responded with a “no” of their own, and appears ready to fight the matter in court.

The FBI’s deputy general counsel, David Larson, cities a particular law that says duplicating an official “insignia” is illegal without permission.

But Wikipedia strikes back on that point, saying the FBI redacted the most important part of that U.S. code, which defines an insignia as “any badge, identification card, or other insignia.”

“Badges and identification cards are physical manifestations that may be used by a possessor to invoke the authority of the federal government. An encyclopedia article is not,” Wikipedia’s letter says. “The use of the image on Wikipedia is not for the purpose of deception or falsely to represent anyone as an agent of the federal government.”

I’m with Wikipedia on this one. This is a no-win situation for the FBI. The FBI (or at least its legal department or its publicist) has violated rule number one: don’t protest a disagreement that no one knows about. In fact, they violated another rule: never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel (especially when that “someone” uses digital ink and is comprised of an army of people looking for a reason to stand up for free speech).

Wikipedia’s legal arguments will win out, and the FBI will have to go all, well… go all “FBI” on Wikipedia if they want to pressure Wikipedia on this matter, which will only make them look worse.

I predict that the FBI will either back down, or will look for some agreement so they can save face. The FBI logo will stay on Wikipedia’s FBI page.

Until then, here’s my gesture of solidarity.

ken starr named president of baylor university

Kenneth Starr, Dean of Pepperdine University's Law School, has been named President of Baylor University.

yesterday, it was announced that pepperdine law school dean, kenneth starr, has been named president of baylor university. it was no surprise that the former solicitor general of the united states and former independent counsel, whose investigation led to the impeachment of president bill clinton, was named to lead a university. i just always figured he’d be pepperdine’s president one day.

regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, and regardless of what you think of bill clinton and the monica lewinsky scandal, and regardless of where you stand on california proposition 8 and gay marriage, dean starr is a wonderful man. he is kind and very sensitive to the opinions of others. in my interactions with him, i have always found him to be a fair and sincere man and scholar.

even though we disagree on prop 8 (he testified in defense of the measure, arguing that the same-sex marriages performed in california while it was briefly legal should be nullified, while i wrote against of the measure), i find him to be a wonderful thinker, educator, and leader. and despite the fact that one may disagree with him on a particular issue, dean starr remains a professional, open to debate, and always very soft spoken and kind.

and of course, he knows the law very, very well ;-)

i wish dean starr well on his new challenge at baylor, and thank him for being a wonderful leader during his time at pepperdine. baylor has certainly gained an incredible scholar and leader.

life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and broadband: finland makes access to internet a right

Flag of Finland

Flag of Finland

at a time when americans are debating whether access to life saving medical treatments and health care is fiscally plausible for all of its citizens, finland has passed a law declaring access to high-speed broadband internet is not a privilege, but a right. you heard that correctly: the country with a highly decentralized three-level, publicly funded system of health care woven into a private insurance system, has now decreed that acces to broadband internet is a right of all of its citizens.

Services must provide a minimum speed of 1 megabit per second, but the LA Times reports that the government plans to make access to super-fast 100-Mbps broadband access a legal right for Finland residents by the end of 2015.

melissa rohlin of the los angeles times adds:

the government has pledged to expand the legal right to 100-megabit broadband access by the end of 2015.

this means while we have not yet figured out how to provide basic health care to our citizens, finland is ensuring access to the internet. yet, they are doing so with private companies. this is not an example of socialist government controlled internet service, but rather a government mandate that the finnish internet service providers actually provide a minimal level of service to all parts of the country.

can you imagine if our government required our companies to actually provide decent cell phone service to all citizens? then maybe i could get a signal in my own home. instead, i have at&t.


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