Another Blow To Free Speech

Well, thumbing their nose at the Constitution (as usual), this travesty of a “campaign-reform” bill was passed by the House last night. Fortunately, it doesn’t take effect until the next election cycle, so there’s plenty of time for the Court to slap it back down into the moral swamp from which it arose.

I’d like to see Bush use some of his political capital and veto it, but he may be counting on the courts to solve the problem.

And if it somehow survives, I wonder if paying an ISP for webhosting services, and publishing a weblog criticizing a candidate, will qualify as “paid advertising” under the law, and thus become illegal. If not, there’s a silver lining here. Webloggers will suddenly have much more electoral influence than television stations and newspapers, and may be the place that people go to get their campaign information…

[Update at 2 PM PST]

An anonymous reader points to a story from a couple years ago describing a case in which a web site owner ran afoul of existing election law. This is a very scary precedent. Combine this FEC ruling with the atrocity occuring on the Hill right now, and webloggers may very well be in big trouble next election cycle.

[Samizdater Perry de Havilland weighs in]

Cool. Then Samizdata can live up to it’s name and act like an off-shore Samizdat for prohibited words. Intercourse [editor changed the original word–this is a family weblog…] the US laws… I am not in America and so they mean nothing to me, but my friends are in the US and we stand ready to be at their disposal.

Which raises the question of another loophole. Suppose I rehost my domain offshore. Does the law still apply? Or am I still breaking the law because I’m a US citizen? How about if I post anonymously (Samizdat style, so to speak)? Will the FEC Gestapo trace the packets to find out who’s creating the posts?

This law is really a civil liberties disaster, and I suspect that even if the courts don’t knock it down with extreme prejudice, it will quickly collapse from its own internal contradictions come election season…

GWB, Evil War Monger

Just in case you weren’t already thoroughly disgusted with the IOC and the Europeans, read this article from Newsweek.

Because Dubya changed the words at the ceremony from ?I declare open the Games of Salt Lake City, celebrating the Winter Olympic Games? to “On behalf of a proud, determined and grateful nation, I declare open the Games of Salt Lake City, celebrating the Winter Olympic Games,? they think that we’ve “hijacked” the Olympics.

Sorry, folks, but the Olympics have become a parody of themselves and political correctness.

Letter From Lagos

I’ve decided to start a new Transterrestrial Feature–the Spam Du Jour.

Here’s today’s:

ALHAJI OBIORA OKOYA
Tel: 871-762535915
FaX.: 871-762535916
Lagos, Nigeria.

Well, I’m so glad to hear that Alhaji survived the little munitions dump incident. I was worried about him…or her.

ATTN.: THE MANAGING DIRECTOR / CEO.

Ayup. That would be me.

Dear Sir,

REQUEST FOR URGENT (CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP OF THE TRANSFER OF US$46,560,000.00 (FORTY SIX MILLION, FIVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS ONLY).

All caps. Gosh, it must be an IMPORTANT request.

I hope this letter will not embarrass you since we have not had any previous communication.

Well, no, but I’ve gotten hundreds like it from your Nigerian compatriots. I’ve never seen a country with so many people trying to get so many millions out of it.

It must be the largest dollar exporter in the world. I have this image of people wading through greenbacks to get to work, sweeping them up like early autumn leaves, the refuse dumps overflowing with literally filthy lucre.

Thank the gods above for dedicated civil servants like you, so eager and selfless, toiling on your computer all day to ease your beleaguered country from this almost-Biblical plague of dinero.

I got your reference from the Nigeria Exports Promotion Council (NEPC)

Oh, I see. “Exports” must actually be the Ibo word for “Confidence Game.”

…and went further to have it confirmed by your country’s trade department under private inquiry that is not related to my aim of writing you this letter.

I’m so glad that you were willing to go to so much trouble to check me out before you attempt to fleece me.

But I’m curious. If you did all that, how come I’m just “Dear Sir”? I mean, a guy might think that you didn’t know his name. Kind of like this is just a form letter or something…

I, on behalf of my other colleagues from different Federal Government of Nigeria owned parastatals decided to solicit your assistance as regards the transfer of the above stated amount into your bank account.

Into my bank account? Really? All for me?

And just what is a “parastatal”? Is it anything like peristalsis? Sounds like it to me, or more likely the ultimate result of it…

This fund arose from the over-invoicing of various contracts awarded in my parastatals to certain foreign contractors some time ago.

Translation: we stole a bunch of money from some foreigners, and now we’re trying to figure out if you’ll help us fence it. Well, actually, to be more accurate, we don’t have any money at all, except just enough to pump out of bunch of email spam–we’re just trying to figure out if you’re stupid and greedy enough to give us your bank account number so that we can empty it for you.

We as holders of official positions in various parastatals, were mandated by this new civilian government to scrutinize all payments made to certain foreign contractors by the past military government and we discovered that some of the contracts they executed were grossly over-invoiced, either by omission or commission.

Oh, surely no one would do something like that on purpose? It had to be by omission. And hey, mistakes are mistakes, we wouldn’t want them to have to deal with the hassle of asking for a refund, so we just won’t bother their little heads about it.

Also we discovered that the sum of $66,560,000.00 (Sixty-Six Million, Five Hundred and Sixty Thousand United States Dollars Only) was lying in a suspense account, although the foreign contractors were fully paid their entitlements after executing the said contracts.

You know, kind of like the change you find lying around when you look under the sofa cushions.

We all agreed that the over-invoiced amount be transferred (for our own use) into a bank account provided by a foreign partner, as the code of conduct of the Federal Civil Service does not allow us to operate foreign accounts.

Yes, it’s a relief to have a Civil Service code that maintains the integrity of hardworking civil servants like yourself. Fortunately, it doesn’t have any pesky rules about stealing from foreign contractors, or scamming people on the internet with wacky tales about sharing the booty.

However, we have succeeded in transferring some of these money, precisely US$20,000,000.00 (Twenty Million United States Dollars Only) into a foreign account in GENEVA (SWITZERLAND) last week.

GENEVA? The one in SWITZERLAND?

Really!?

Gosh, and a rube like me would have figured that you meant GENEVA (ILLINOIS). Good thing you told me. Now I know that you guys really are worldly and sophisticated, and all that.

But unfortunately, the provider of the account has severed all forms of contacts with us as he has refused to adhere to our earlier mutual agreement insisting that the total amount be paid into his nominated bank account before disbursement will take effect.

Yeah, I know what you mean. Some people just can’t be trusted. But then, who would know that better than you?

If for US$20M (Twenty Million United States Dollars Only) we are not compensated, how can one guarantee full compensation on remittance of the balance of US$46.560M (Forty-Six Million, Five Hundred and Sixty Thousand United States Dollars Only).

It is a conundrum, I have to admit. I’m stumped.

We are therefore seeking your assistance based on the balance amount of US$46.560M, which can be speedily processed and fully remitted into your nominated bank account.

Oh! You mean it was just a rhetorical question? You have a solution? That’s great–I can stop hurting my head trying to come up with one now.

And you’re saying that you’ll trust me with the money, even though that other Swiss guy screwed you over?

I…I…I don’t know what to say. I’m just so touched.

And they say the world is too cynical and not trusting enough. Well, they just never met you gentlemen, did they?

On successful remittance of the fund into your account, you will be compensated with 25% of the amount for assistance and services and 5% set aside for expenses contingency.

Ummmm…let’s see [getting out calculator], so I’ll get to keep $13,968,000.00 (THIRTEEN MILLION NINE HUNDRED SIXTY EIGHT THOUSAND US DOLLARS) just for the privilege of temporarily parking the whole amount in my account? I mean, gee, I could go out and buy a nice car with just a couple day’s interest.

Sounds like a good deal. So good, that you’d almost think it was one of those Internet scams.

Say…this isn’t one of those Internet scams, is it?

This transaction is closely knitted and in view of our SENSITIVE POSITION we cannot afford a slip, I assure you that this transaction is 100% risk free.

Well, I guess I can’t ask for a better guarantee than that, now can I? I mean, a hundred percent. You can’t get any more of something than a hundred percent.

We will avail you with our identities as regards our respective offices, when relationship is fully established and smooth operation commences.

I am at your disposition to entertain any question(s) from you in respect of this transaction, so contact me immediately through the above telephone and fax numbers for further information on the requirements and procedure.

Oh, I’ll be sure to do that.

Please note that the DEAL needs utmost confidentiality…

Oh, utmost confidentiality. Got it. No one will ever know except me.

Well, me and the readers of my weblog. But they won’t tell anybody.

…and your immediate response will be highly appreciated and we will use our own share of the money to establish a lucrative firm in your country.

A lucrative firm? Gee, that’s my favorite kind. I’ve been running one of the other variety for a long time now, and it’s getting pretty old…

Yours Truly,

ALHAJI OBIORA OKOYA

Truly, the pleasure was all mine. In fact, I’ll take the greatest delight in forwarding your little love note to the FBI, where they can file it with all the others.

Al Gore, Gulf Warrior

Best of the Web says today:

Gore is no peacenik–he was one of only 10 Democratic senators who voted for the Gulf War–but it does seem likely that if he were president, America would be weighed down by deference to Europeans and pointless concern over “root causes.”

Yes, particularly since, as BotW fails to point out, he agonized over the vote (at least publicly) and, according to Alan Simpson, eventually sold it to the highest bidder in return for additional floor time–in prime time.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!