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Tim CouchI’m not exactly sure why someone who sits on a state legislature (where he represents about two and a half obscure rural counties out of 120 counties in the state) thinks that he can legislate what everyone in the world does, but

Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal.

The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.

Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted. If the bill becomes law, the website operator would have to pay if someone was allowed to post anonymously on their site. The fine would be five-hundred dollars for a first offense and one-thousand dollars for each offense after that.

Representative Couch says he filed the bill in hopes of cutting down on online bullying. He says that has especially been a problem in his Eastern Kentucky district.

Ah, eastern Kentucky, home of one of this blog’s all-time favorite criminals, the Duct Tape Bandit. LOL. That probably answers my original question in this thread.

Aside from the logistics, in that it is absolutely impossible for a state legislature to legislate the behavior of everyone on the internet – no matter how hard they may try – is this a good idea?

Even though I covered the Megan Meier controversy to a great degree, I think it is a horrible idea, and I’ll tell you why.

What happened to Megan Meier was an anomaly. That poor young girl was mentally ill, as evidenced by the fact that she was prescribed not just anti-depressants, but also Geodon, an anti-psychotic. Her adult neighbor Lori Drew was well aware of this, so what she did to that child is absolutely unconscionable, whether one believes she is responsible for Megan’s death or not.

While I realize there are people who have mental illnesses on the internet – and sometimes I wonder if the majority of people posting on the internet have a mental illness – the internet is not a nanny, nor should anyone expect it to be. It is also not a place for children, or the otherwise weak at heart. It is definitely rated “R”, so no one who couldn’t get into an R-rated movie shouldn’t be here in the first place, unless they have parental guidance.

Some other parts of the internet are rated NC-17, some are rated X. With some websites, you don’t even realize you are going to an X-rated site until you are already there (another problem, but responsible internet users simply don’t click on unknown links in the first place).

I can write an article as ElfNinosGreatAuntTilley, and as long as I don’t harm anyone in the process, it is not a crime for me to do that. The right to anonymity is a basic right. It is a right which I exercise everytime I log onto this blog. It is a right which I exercise in my personal life on a fairly regular basis. The fact of the matter is that no one is entitled to know my name, in real life or on the internet. I’m not doing anything wrong, and in fact I do a lot to help others in life, but I like my privacy.

Why do I think it is important for me to post under a pseudonym? There are several reasons, all of which I feel are perfectly valid.

I used to regularly bust scammers on Quatloos, cooperating with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to get these slimeballs behind bars where they belong, and in that capacity I angered some extremely dangerous people. Once I even angered a man who was a dirty ex-NYPD cop, and a former enforcer with the Colombo crime family (yes, the mafia). He had stolen millions from people in a scam wherein he pretended to be a loan company for people who can’t get conventional loans, and he would charge them a large up-front fee. He did his best to ascertain my real identity, and made multiple threats of physical violence against me, including both murder and rape.

In a situation like that, I have two choices. I can either bust the guy under a pseudonym, and be able to sleep at night, or I can do so under my real name, and end up moving every few months. I choose to stay put.

As most of you are aware, I am a professional writer, and I write about true crime as well as criminology issues. However, I didn’t sign up for the publicity which comes with that. I have a unique name, and I don’t want people coming onto this blog to ask me the same questions I’ve been asked (and answered) a million times, and harassing my friends who visit this blog; yet I have every reason to believe they will do that, because that’s what they did when I had a professional website. I just want to be me when I’m here, and I want others to feel comfortable posting here as well.

Tim Couch may not think those are valid reasons for me to not use my real name on the internet, and he’s entitled to his opinion. At the same time, I didn’t elect him, and I don’t live in Kentucky, so his opinion could not possibly be more irrelevant to me.

The fact of the matter is that there are more than enough laws already on the books to handle any situation which might arise on the internet, regardless of whether the person is using their real name or a pseudonym. There are laws against stalking, harassment, obscenity, and other problems. Sure, it might not be easy to find the perpetrator, but it’s not always easy to find perpetrators in real life either.

There are laws to cover what Lori Drew did to Megan Meier, too, if the authorities would use their heads. She could be charged under child abuse laws, stalking laws, harassment laws … the list goes on and on. I don’t know why they decided to not charge her, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t be charged if the prosecutor wanted to do so. Of course, now a federal grand jury is considering charges against her for wire fraud, since she used a false name on MySpace for the specific intention of stalking and harassing another person (though that’s a Catch-22, since Megan Meier also falsified her age with her mother’s permission, as she was otherwise too young to have a MySpace account). It’s not a problem to use a false name in and of itself. It only becomes a problem when someone uses a false name in order to commit a crime, which is something the vast majority of people on the internet will never do.

So, in a nutshell, I think Kentucky State Representative Tim Couch needs to worry about things which are actually under his control. He is not in a position to legislate the internet, since he is just a state legislator. He has, like a typical politician, grabbed onto a controversial issue to get publicity. Even if his law passes, he is only giving his constituents a false sense of security on the internet since the law would not apply to anyone outside that state; he’d do a far greater service to his constituents if he introduced a bill to fund a public information program about the internet, or requiring that children in his state be educated about the dangers of the internet. He knows or should know that he has no jurisdiction to legislate the internet. If he doesn’t know that, he isn’t smart enough to be making laws in the first place.
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Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan

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I found this very disturbing local story while looking for updates on the cop who hit and killed a pedestrian, dragged his body under the police cruiser for over half a mile, then claimed he didn’t know he had hit anyone.

Soldiers dying in their sleepApparently a lot of young soldiers are making it through the war, and coming home only to die in their sleep unexpectedly. Even more strangely, this has happened three times within a three-week period, to three families in West Virginia who live within an hour of one another.

Is the Veterans Administration giving returning soldiers a fatal cocktail of medication for post-traumatic stress disorder? It certainly seems that way, since all three of these young men were taking the same drug cocktail. Healthy young men don’t just die in their sleep. Something stopped their respiration while they were sleeping, and I’d guess it was the drugs they were prescribed combined with their disturbed sleep patterns.

I haven’t heard anything about this in the national media. Is this a national epidemic? It’s possible that it is, and journalists just haven’t put the pieces together to realize that.

Clearly, anyone reading this who is taking that combination of drugs (or knows someone else who is taking it) needs to contact their doctor immediately.

“He would normally stay up watching TV at night because it was hard for him to sleep and I went ahead and went to bed. The next morning when I got up, I found him on the couch, he was in the same position he was in when he went to sleep and he was already gone,” Layne said.

A soldier from Kanawha City, Eric Layne left behind an 18-month old son and a baby girl on the way.

Meanwhile, Logan County resident Cheryl Endicott’s son Nicholas died January 29th while being treated at a military hospital in Bethesda.

He too reportedly went to bed and never woke up.

“They told me that at 10:55, they entered his room, he was non-responsive, had no pulse so they deceased him right then and there,” said Endicott.

Finally, on February 12th Stan and Shirley White lost their son Andrew, another Kanawha County service member who stopped breathing in his sleep. For the Whites, it was the second son they said goodbye too. Robert White died while serving in Afghanistan.

“You’re always expecting and fearing when your children are at war that they’re not going to make it back. They don’t come back and lie in their bed, go to sleep and die. That doesn’t happen. That’s not supposed to happen,” Stan White said.

Each family heard about the others’ tragedies and eventually compared stories.

All three men were in their 20s, served in Iraq and died in their sleep within a three-week period, but that’s only the beginning of the similarities.

Each military man was being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and had started exhibiting the same strange behavior and symptoms.

“Excessive weight gain, anger management disturbed sleep patterns, tremors,” White said.

The young men were each taking a number of prescription drugs before they died, but the combination they all had in common includes Paxil, Klonopin and Seroquel.

You can read the rest of this extremely disturbing article here.

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Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan

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Night of the Living DeadIf you have ever had to deal with the federal government’s bureaucracy, you can only imagine how hard it would be to prove to the government that you actually are alive if their records reflect that you are dead. After all, just showing up at the Social Security Administration isn’t going to do it. Given that, how exactly does someone prove to the satisfaction of the government that they aren’t dead, when they’re dealing with brain-dead government employees who simply believe whatever their computer screen tells them?

Yet, a shocking number of Americans have to find this out the hard way; by at least one official estimate, the government incorrectly declares 35 Americans dead every single day.

The problem begins at the Social Security Administration, keeper of most of the records tabulating deaths in the United States. Like other government agencies, the IRS, with whom Todd has most recently tangled, relies upon Social Security’s database, said Dan Boone, a spokesman for the IRS.

When Social Security determines that an eligible current or future beneficiary has died, it closes the person’s entry in its Case Processing and Management System, or CPMS.

The system is only as good as the data it receives. Sometimes, that isn’t very good.

Todd, for example, was killed when someone in Florida died and her Social Security number was accidentally typed in. Since then, her tax returns have repeatedly been rejected, and her bank closed her credit card account.

“One time when I [was] ruled dead, they canceled my health insurance because it got that far,” she said.

Toni Anderson of Muncie, Ind., expired when someone in the government pushed the wrong button, making the records declare that it was she, not her husband, John, who died Nov. 8.

Social Security even sent this letter: “Dear Mr. Anderson, our condolences on the loss of Mrs. Anderson.”

In September 2006, the inspector general’s office tried to get a fix on how many people Social Security was improperly killing off by reviewing updates to the agency’s Death Master File.

In all, Social Security officials had to “resurrect” 23,366 people from January 2004 to September 2005. In other words, over a period of 21 months, Social Security was presented with irrefutable evidence that it had been “killing” more than 1,100 people a month, or more than 35 a day.

Two months later, in November 2006, the inspector general looked specifically at 251 cases of people to whom the agency continued to issue checks even though Medicare records said they were dead.

“Of the 251 individuals in our population, 86 are deceased and their SSI payments should be terminated,” the audit said. “The remaining 165 beneficiaries were actually alive and their Medicare benefits—and, in some cases, their SSI payments—were incorrectly terminated.”

Read this entire article here.

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Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan 

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