Have you read the U.S. Constitution? Some people think it is too difficult to understand, but in truth it is a remarkably simple document with only five articles. If you compare this with the constitution of the People’s Republic of China and its 138 articles, or the United Nations Charter with its 111 articles, you can see how really simple the U.S. Constitution is. But notwithstanding its simple nature, there have been some discussions and disputations over what the Constitution means. In these cases, perhaps the best method to resolve these disputes is to figure out just what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote it. The other option is to interpret the Constitution to mean whatever we want it to mean, and there is a loud and vocal crowd of people on the liberal left who prefer to do exactly that. But there is a danger in freely interpreting the Constitution. The Chinese constitution states that the citizens of China have the freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, and of demonstration. But these rights are interpreted only as the Chinese government sees fit, as the student demonstrators of Tiananmen Square can attest. Or could, if they had not been crushed under the treads of Chinese tanks.

Words mean something. This may seem like a glaringly obvious statement, but it is surprising how many people do not believe it. If I enter into a contract with you to deliver 100 widgets each week, and your side of the contract says you will pay me $10,000 for the 100 widgets each week, each of us knows precisely what our duties are. I may not deliver only 80 widgets and expect the full payment, nor may I redefine “widget” to mean a gizmo instead. If I attempt either, I have broken our contract. Pretty clear, right? So is the Constitution, but there are people today who are trying to redefine a very important contract–our Constitution–in this way by redefining its words and the meanings behind them.

Let’s look at two of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights that have been under attack by those who would like to redefine the Constitution. The Second Amendment states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This is perhaps the most misunderstood sentence in the entire Constitution. Some nay-sayers have interpreted it to mean not that individuals should have the right to own weapons, but that the individual states only have the right to arm National Guard units. But why would a states’ rights issue be stuck in the middle of eight Amendments all written to define personal rights, and couched in the same language as the others? The simplest answer is that this Amendment defines a personal right, not a states’ right. But what about that “militia” term that has caused so much trouble? Section 311 of the United States Code defines the militia as all males between the ages of 17 and 45 who are US citizens, and all women who are commissioned officers of the National Guard. Our laws are written with the understanding that all citizens are part of an unorganized militia, with the National Guard considered an organized militia. So again, this isn’t a state issue; it is an individual issue.

But what was the original intent of the Founding Fathers? Here are some of their own words. Samuel Adams said, “And that the said constitution be never construed to authorize congress… to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms…” And George Mason showed that he understood who made up the militia when he stated, “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.” Finally, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.” (my emphasis) Jefferson knew of what he wrote, since the availability of arms among the early colonists made it possible to overthrow British tyranny.

The U.S. Congressional Subcommittee Report on the Constitution in 1982 says, “The conclusion is thus inescapable that the history, concept, and wording of the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States, as well as its interpretation by every major commentator and court in the first half-century after its ratification, indicates that what is protected is an individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner.” But what one government body explains as “inescapable” does not prevent a later group from interpreting it differently. During the Clinton administration, Justice Department officials held that the Second Amendment was a collective state right, not a personal one, as stated outright by then-Solicitor General Seth Waxman. Founding Fathers and simple language be damned, the Clinton administration and liberal leftists across the US have decided to interpret the Constitution to mean what they want it to mean.

The part of the First Amendment that has recently come under attack says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The liberal left interprets this to mean nothing religious–and particularly nothing Christian–may be displayed anywhere in any government body or building. For about 150 years we were able to have Nativity scenes on public land, but the ACLU and other Offended-Americans now see this as a horrible affront to their civil liberties. I previously commented about this in the recent brouhaha over the Ten Commandments monument in Alabama. People often do not realize that the Founding Fathers intended to keep the federal government completely neutral on the matter of religion, but that did not stop the states or people from doing what they wanted with religion, including public displays. The phrase “Congress shall make no law…” shows that Congress must remain completely silent about religion. But how does this stop a judge in Alabama from placing a monument of the Ten Commandments in a state building? Only if you have an expanded definition of the word “Congress” does this current view make any sense.

There are two ways to respond to our Constitution: accept it as the law of the land and live by it, or try to circumvent the Constitution by actively disregarding it or changing its meaning into something else. So into which camp do you think the liberal left falls?

We live in a democracy. After all, we make our political decisions based on majority rule, right? Wrong! We do not live in a democracy, regardless of what the “learned” people say; we live in a representative republic. That means we elect people who then make the political decisions for us. The Founding Fathers carefully examined the various political societies recorded in history, and they specifically did not set up this nation as a democracy. They realized that democracies, while good, tend to be fairly short-lived. About the time a democracy realized that they could vote themselves largesse from the public treasury, that society was doomed and died shortly afterwards.

A direct democracy was one of the ideas put forward by Ross Perot during his runs for the Presidency. He wanted all the people to be able to vote on the various bills presented each year. While this idea may sound nice, democracies have a common problem, termed the Tyranny of the Majority. I may not take your stuff just because I want it. That is theft. It is also theft if a million people vote to take your stuff. But with majority rule, this scenario is quite possible. And once the minority feels it is being unfairly treated by the majority, this situation swiftly degrades into violence. The Founding Fathers realized this, so they configured this nation to be a republic where the voice of a majority in a location could elect a representative who would then vote on behalf of the people. They also outlined specific responsibilities for the branches of the government and wrote down some rights of the people. These two steps help keep the threat of majority rule by the people at bay, but interestingly, they allowed for majority rule to be sufficient for most things in government.

Because the United States protects the rights of the minorities as actively as it does, something else is possible: the Tyranny of the Minority. This may also be called the “Rule of Whine” rather than the “Rule of Law.” Texas state law requires the legislature to redistrict the state based on the US Census taken each decade. It requires only a simple majority vote of the legislature for this redistricting to take place. But something is different this year in Texas: the Republicans control the state legislature for the first time in about 130 years. Rather than accepting this loss of power, the minority Democrats have abrogated their responsibility and fled the state. They are guilty of an adult version of “if I can’t be the boss, then nobody gets to play” tactic of spoiled children. These few people are unwilling to accept that they are not in power, so they are counting on the “Rule of Whine” to get what they want. It does not matter to them that they are not fulfilling their responsibilities or serving the constituents who voted for them in the first place. They want their way, and the required redistricting can just wait until they feel up to it and get their way.

This childish behavior is not only exhibited by the Democrats in Texas, but it is also seen in the actions of the Democrat senators in Washington D.C. A simple majority of senators is necessary to confirm a judge or cabinet member put forward by the President. But Senator Tom Daschle, the Minority Leader of the Senate, is demanding that these appointments need a majority of 60+ senators. He is counting on his whining and complaining to make this happen. This is the tyranny of the whining minority, and sadly, this political temper tantrum seems to be working. It is ironic that when he was the majority leader in the Senate, Daschle said, “The Constitution is straightforward about the few instances in which more than a majority of the Congress must vote–a veto override, a treaty, and a finding of guilt in an impeachment proceeding. Every other action by the Congress is taken by majority vote.” But Constitution be damned, he wants his way now, and if he cannot have his way by being in the majority, he will gladly force his way by obstruction.

In a third example, a minority of people are trying to remove a monument from the Alabama Supreme Court building that contains, among others, a listing of the Ten Commandments. Opponents are claiming that this violates the Constitutional separation of church and state–never mind that this is not actually a phrase used in the Constitution. The relevant part of the 1st Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” They say that this monument is creating an “establishment of religion” there. Really? Which religion? Christians, Jews and Muslims all respect and honor the Ten Commandments, and many of these tenets are commonly held by all other religions. So what is the problem? The problem is the small, whiny minority that does not like religion or the mention of God in any context. If these people get their way, then their voices count for more than the majority. And in removing the Ten Commandments on the basis of not “respecting an establishment of religion,” the courts are trying to force the establishment of one religion, that of anti-theists.

I listened to about four hours of discussion on this subject while driving home last week. One person asked if the people in favor of the Ten Commandments would be just as in favor of placing a statue of Buddha in the Alabama Supreme Court building. Personally, I would not mind if it could be proven that Buddha and his teachings have had as great an influence on our laws, society and culture as the Ten Commandments have done. Is the placing of the Ten Commandments an attempt to convert everyone to Christianity, Judaism, or Islam? Or is it a recognition of our Western heritage of laws and common experiences? It is obviously the latter, but this does not matter to the whiny minority that abhors any mention of God.

Are the rights of the atheist violated in any way as he walks past that monument? No, but he is offended, and that is sufficient for him to invoke the “Rule of Whine” and demand that his will reign supreme–the tyranny of the minority.

Do you have any art in your home? Most people do. We own two nicely framed prints purchased in the early days of our marriage. While those two are the most expensive pieces of art we have, we do have many other smaller pieces that brighten up the place. Why do I bring this up? We purchased our art with our own money; I did not put a gun to your head and demand that you buy these art pieces for us. But there are people who are doing this. No, you normally will not see a gun pressed against your head, but you should have noticed the hand of government taking money from your wallet. Just try withholding taxes because you disagree with the government taking your money, and it will come down on you like the proverbial ton of bricks. If you continue to resist, you will see a gun pointed at your head. That is the nature of government and taxes.

So the next time you want the government to do something for you, think of some government agent holding a gun against your grandmother’s head and demanding that she fork over the money for your pet project. Some things the government does actually pass what P.J. O’Rourke calls the “Grandma Test.” If the U.S. needs some more tanks to fight a war, then it’s time for Granny to cough up her share of the dough. But I cannot say the same thing for the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA is spending about $115 million of our tax money to fund artists this year. Yet is it the responsibility of the federal government to fund art and artists? I don’t think so, and neither did the Founding Fathers. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution outlines all the responsibilities of the Congress. As many times as I have challenged people to look carefully through this list of duties and tell me which one gives Congress the responsibility to fund the arts, not one person has been able to justify the NEA’s funding of artists based on something in the Constitution.

“We need artists,” I hear people cry. Sure, we need artists–our world would be very drab and depressing without them–but do we need the government to pay people to be artists? If I were a mechanic, could I demand that the government take money from you and others and give it to me? No, that would be silly. But you will hear this same argument for artists. After all, if we don’t pay artists to be artists, then they would be forced to do something else besides art, and wouldn’t that be a tragedy? In some cases, perhaps it would be. But I think our society will survive without spray-painted shoes stuffed with potatoes. If people think highly of that project, they are free to fund it, but this is not something the federal government should be doing. I do not believe that Karen Finley’s “performance art” of smearing herself with chocolate passes the “Grandma Test,” and regardless of its quality, neither does the artwork of other artists funded by the NEA.

If I wanted to be a mechanic, I could not go to you and demand that you put me through a technical school just so I could be trained. That would be my responsibility. Likewise, if I wanted to become a painter, I would need to pony up my own cash or beg, borrow, or steal the money needed for training and supplies. But what if I were unable to support myself and my family by selling my paintings? Do I have a claim on your money simply because I am a struggling artist? No, no more than I would have a claim on your money if I were a struggling mechanic. If I were not good enough or well-known and trusted enough to support my family as a mechanic, this would not grant me liberty to take your own hard-earned cash, nor would I be justified in using the government as my personal collection agency. I should take the responsibility to either work harder at improving the bottom line of my business, or find another line of work that pays the bills. This holds just as true for artists as it does for mechanics.

I have been told that we must fund the arts, since if the federal government withheld funding, nobody else would step forward to do it. For a moment, let’s pretend that every dime of NEA-earmarked money has been returned to the taxpayers who must deal with the financial burden of this federal fleecing. Would this spell the end of the arts as we know them in the United States? Certainly not. The overwhelming majority of art projects are privately funded to begin with. So what is the big deal about a few million dollars being spent by the government? After all, the entire NEA budget would not be enough to buy the toys we provide for the military. But there is one major problem with this argument: national defense is delineated in the Constitution as a responsibility of government. Funding the arts, noble though it may be, is not.

I have heard someone argue that if the German government had funded an aspiring young painter named Adolf Hitler, he would never have gone into politics or plunged the world into war. This sounds like a powerful emotional argument–but if we can use this “what if” thinking for Hitler, let’s try considering the opposite side of the coin. What if a young Karen Finley and her chocolate syrup performance art were not funded by the NEA? Perhaps she might have pursued another profession, become a world-class scientist, and discovered a cure for AIDS. Which path would you prefer Karen Finley to have taken? The point is, I don’t mind what she does; I do mind that she felt fully justified to perform her “art” on the taxpayer’s nickel. If Karen couldn’t find enough people to pay for her chocolate-covered peep show, perhaps she should think about other career paths and stop demanding that the government hold a gun to Grandma’s head to buy chocolate syrup for the next performance.

Have you ever gone on a very long road trip with people who do not talk? It is easy for a conversation to die down as the miles roll by. So here is an intriguing conversation-starter if you have some time to kill: ask your passengers to define art. Or you can start by asking about specific items. Is “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso art? Is “Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue” by Piet Mondrian art? Is “Lavender Mist: Number 1” by Jackson Pollock art?

Pretty much everyone will look at these examples as art because we have been told that these three pieces are art, and that their creators are talented artists. But we cannot ever know the nature of art if we must rely on someone else to tell us, “This is art, by gum!” Back in high school, I had a great humanities class which first exposed me to the wide world of art beyond what I had seen in various museums in Europe. Ironically, my teacher used the same text that I came across in my Humanities 101 college class three years later. I enjoyed most of the class and the textbook, but there was one part of the book that truly annoyed me. To shorten a full chapter down to a sound bite, it stated that art is what intelligent and scholarly people say it is, and if you don’t agree with them, you are an uncultured philistine. This brand of intellectual snobbery just does not sit well with me.

So who defines art? We can look to artists for a definition, but more often than not this runs along the lines of “art is what we artists do.” Brian Blanchflower, a modern artist, falls into this camp. He stated, “I firmly believe that art can be made anywhere at any time with any material–it all depends on the artist.” That sounds pretty egotistical to me, since who determines what art is but the artist himself? If I declare myself an artist, then I can do anything I like and call it art. I could strip nude, cover myself with chocolate and call it art. I could create children’s toys from excrement and call it art. I could dunk a crucifix in my own pee, photograph it, and call it art. These three examples of “art” have been self-defined by artists Karen Finley, Mike Kelley, and Andres Serrano, respectively. I must disagree. Over the years, I have developed my own basic rule of thumb for art, even though it is more of a “that ain’t art” rule: if I can do it without talent and/or training, then that ain’t art.

For many centuries, art was desired because of its beauty. You can see this in the way people spent their time and money to create beautiful architecture and to decorate it with graceful paintings and sculptures. This trend continued in most art genres until the 20th century. This century may be characterized as the time when artists seriously challenged the established norms of art in many fields, such as music, sculpture and paintings. Artists like Jackson Pollock were creating pieces that broke the commonly-held rules of art; such artists demanded that everyone view their creations as art. But is it really? I am just as capable of dribbling paint on a canvas as Pollock was. Does this make me an artist? No, it means that his works are less art than they are splatters and drips. His art requires pigments and gravity, but it does not require talent or training. Judging from “Composition with Red, Yellow and Blue,” Piet Mondrian is not an artist because I could duplicate that piece without talent or training. The beauty, or lack thereof, of a piece does not make it art; it is the skill of the artist. “Guernica” is far from being pretty to look at, but it represents a far-from-pretty point of Spanish history. I classify it as art because I can’t duplicate it easily, but Picasso rode the edge of my definition with some of his works.

A common tactic by bad to mediocre artists is to claim novelty rights–that others might be able to reproduce their pieces without talent or training, but that they, the originators, are artists because they thought of the concept first. If you hear this line at an exhibition, you may almost certainly assume that whatever the artist is presenting is not art. You may also assume that the artist in question is a mediocre talent at best. Painting an entire canvas red and adding a few lonely stripes is not art. Sticking a handlebar and bike seat together is not art. (Sorry, Picasso, but you crossed my line of skill at this point.) Pouring salad oil and motor oil on a canvas and entitling it “Oil on Canvas” is funny, but it is not art. Stuffing potatoes into shoes and painting everything silver is not art. Pretty much anything described as “performance art” is not art. (Or as my wife puts it, “What is the difference between performance art and really bad theater?”) In these examples, artists demonstrate no skill or talent, and excuse this dearth of genius by claiming their works are art solely because they are original. Simple originality does not automatically make your creation an artwork, any more than throwing together some foodstuffs in an original way does not automatically make your creation edible.

I can already imagine the angry e-mails replying to this article. Feel free to vent, or to give me your own definition of art. But please don’t e-mail me just to tell me that I am simply too unsophisticated to understand the nature of art. I call this the Emperor’s New Clothes argument, and it simply does not fly with me. True art must transcend the ordinary, and it does not require a Ph.D. to recognize this. That is why I cannot view a work as art if I can recreate it without benefit of talent or training. If I can create it, then it is ordinary. And it is not art.

But feel free to disagree with me and tell me why I am wrong.

Last time I wrote about the intrusive nature of Internet pornography, and some ways that people may monitor their children’s usage of the Internet. In this article, I’d like to explore one way the Internet community may work together on the porn problem.

Most people are familiar with domain names ending in .com. There are also .net, .org, and .edu, but many people aren’t as familiar with .mil, .gov, and .int. These seven top-level domains (TLDs) were created in the 1980s. Anyone may register a new .com, .org, or .net site, but .edu, .gov, .mil, and .int sites are reserved for US schools, US government, US military, and international organizations, respectively. As the Internet extended outside of the United States, new two-letter TLDs were created for each country. With the boom of the Internet in the ’90s, many people saw the need for some new TLDs to be created. In 2001 and 2002, seven new top-level domains came online. Anyone may register .biz, .info, .name, or .pro, but .aero, .coop, and .museum are reserved for aerospace sites, cooperatives, and museums, respectively. For the Internet porn industry, I propose a new TLD: .xxx.

With the .xxx TLD, all adult-level content could have its own specially designated location. Existing porn sites like playboy.com could still exist, but all graphics and streaming audio/video would have to originate from a .xxx site. This would be an easy change for porn sites to implement, and it would permit a new and simple method of porn filtering by enabling people to block any .xxx traffic to their computers. Operating systems like Microsoft Windows or Linux would have to enable this filtering, or it could be a new feature in browsers like Internet Explorer or Netscape. I can envision Internet service providers advertising their services as “family friendly” by blocking .xxx traffic for all their users. Other ISPs could advertise unfiltered Internet access for adults.

No doubt there would be some objections to this change, so let’s look at the possible objections one by one:

You’re preventing me from viewing porn!
Not so. Adults may choose to block or not to block .xxx traffic on their computers. If your ISP has blocked all .xxx traffic, you may switch to another ISP that doesn’t filter it, or request that your ISP not block .xxx traffic to your account.

I won’t be able to go to my favorite .com smut sites any more!
You could still surf to playboy.com, and there would be no noticeable changes as far as you were concerned. But all the adult content would be coming from playboy.xxx or someothersite.xxx. To you, Mr. Pervert, the impact would be negligible.

There shouldn’t be any restriction on my porn.
Our society has already determined that some porn, such as child porn, is illegal to make, distribute and view. But while some porn is legal, it still should not be viewed by minors. After all, adult material is for–well–adults. A respectable bookstore does not sell adult magazines to anyone under 18. Responsible movie theaters which screen NC-17 or X-rated shows do not knowingly sell tickets to anyone under 18. Likewise, porn sites should not grant access to anyone under 18. Many sites have an entry page that requires you to acknowledge that you are 18 or older before going any further. This proposal would be similar, but it would grant parents greater control over their children’s Internet actions.

My civil rights are being infringed!
No, they’re not. You are still able to view smut. Only the location has changed. Quit your whining.

My freedom of speech is being violated!
Viewing porn online has nothing to do with your freedom of speech. Besides, there are only three groups who may restrict your porn access under this proposal: your parents, if you are still a minor; yourself, if you enable filtering on your computer; or your ISP, if it is a “family friendly” service.

Hey! I run a porn site and my freedom of speech is being violated!
Um, no. You’d still be free to host your porn. But you’d have to place all adult material on a .xxx server. Any adult who wanted to view your site would still be able to do so.

I don’t want to lose my .com/.net/.org site!
You don’t have to. You can still keep your site; the only change would be moving the adult material over to your new .xxx domain. The name of the .xxx site doesn’t matter, but to avoid too many conflicts, I would give .com sites priority in registering their domain names under the .xxx domain.

But it will be too difficult to make this change!
Not if your webmaster is even minimally competent.

I don’t want to make this change!
This change will not affect people who wish to view your site, as they would still be able to do so. The main benefactors of this change are parents who wish to prevent their children from getting boobs in the face, and adults who don’t want that either. Are you saying that you want to peddle smut to kids and the unwilling?

There is one major problem with this proposal: how would you enforce it? I am confident there would be sites that would gladly accept this change, since it would permit them to continue in business, and they would have the peace of mind knowing that parents could easily prevent their young and impressionable children from viewing adult material online. I see this as a very responsible attitude. But there would also be sites resisting this change. Since the Internet is a global venue, it isn’t possible for the United States to pass a law telling a site in Holland or Ghana or China what to do. A global organization with global reach would be able to pass and enforce such a law, but I have an inherent distrust of global organizations, so I would prefer a different path.

The Internet community is capable of self-policing as the need arises. You can see this self-policing in action as people report spam abuses to a spammer’s ISP. If the ISP doesn’t take action, then the complaint is bounced up to the Internet provider of that ISP. One of my happiest moments online came when I read a reply from one such provider, telling me they had cut off an offending ISP from the Internet at my request because of repeated spamming and other violations of their terms of service. Something similar could be done by providers who host sites that don’t honor the .xxx convention.

While there are some issues that would take much negotiation and agreement by the parties involved, I believe that creating a .xxx top level domain and the subsequent code changes that would allow people to filter out any traffic from those sites would benefit both parents and people who choose not to view porn. And since there would be no obstacle to people who still want to view porn and those sites that wish to provide it, it would be a win-win situation all around.

Since the big Internet craze has calmed down, many once-profitable sites have seen their incomes drop drastically. Many free services have gone the way of the dodo, either from the sites vanishing or cutting back on services. But one sector of the Internet market has been going strong through this economic downturn: pornography.

The Internet has been a boon for the porn industry. Where people once asked for a brown-paper-wrapped magazine from the top shelf or quietly bought movie tickets while dressed in a hat and overcoat, now people can get all the smut they crave in the privacy of their own homes, thanks to the Internet. Porn sites now offer enough picture galleries and videos on demand to fit every discriminating pervert’s desire. And the market is booming.

I don’t care how well Internet porn is growing, since I don’t visit their sites on purpose. But too often I am assaulted with porn even when I have not asked for it–and I’m not the only one. More and more people are complaining about e-mail spam messages which advertise porn sites. These messages are bad enough with their explicit titles and text, but many porn shillers are using the image capability of many e-mail programs to deliver what I call “boobs in your face.” With the younger generation using computers and accessing the Internet, parents are concerned about their kids getting this sort of spam delivered daily to their e-mail inboxes. And I don’t blame them.

Porn sites are also using sneaky techniques to direct extra eyeballs to them. A common method has been registering domain names very similar to widely used sites. For example, people who mistakenly surf to www.whitehouse.COM instead of www.whitehouse.GOV will access a porn site. Many reputable sites have been buying up their misspelled names and alternate top-level domain names like .com, .net., .org to prevent the smut-peddlers from hijacking their visitors, and to make sure that fumble-fingered folk make it to the right site. Typing in www.gogle.com will take you to the Google search site, as will typing in www.google.net. As little as I admire porn peddlers, I have to give the www.whitehouse.com site credit for being slightly more responsible than many other porn sites. When you access their site, you must now click on a link to get to the smut. This gives the unwitting surfer a chance to realize his or her mistake without seeing anything, but too many other porn sites will instantly slap boobs in your face if you type in the URL. And once they have captured your browser, they will often pop up extra windows linking to other porn sites. These pop-ups are more than annoying, for when you close one of them, they usually generate another dozen or so windows into the wild and wacky. You can think of this as a modern-day Hydra like the one Hercules encountered, with extra windows popping up instead of heads.

To block these pop-up windows I use a little program called Pop-Up Stopper by Panicware, Inc. You can download Pop-Up Stopper for free at www.panicware.com. Not only will it block porn pop-ups, it will also block the annoying pop-up advertisements. The only problem I have had with this program comes from those websites which use JavaScript to open up a small window when a link is clicked. I consider this a very minor inconvenience for a very good service, since Pop-Up Stopper may be turned off and on easily while surfing. And Pop-Up Stopper puts a smile on my face every time I hear the sound of another annoying pop-up being blocked.

Because porn is so easily accessible on the Internet, it is incredibly simple for an inquisitive child to get hooked at a very early age. If you have a computer with Internet access in the house and you don’t want your kids to look at porn, then you must take steps to guard them. So what can a concerned parent do to keep children safe from Internet porn? Quite a few things, really. The most important thing is closely monitoring what children are doing on the computer. This can be as easy as sitting with the children and watching what they do, or installing some sort of “nanny” software to supervise, up to more complicated steps such as monitoring the computer logs to see trends in Internet traffic, or configuring your own home network for maximum content control and monitoring. With the current prices of computers and software and the high availability of broadband connections to the Internet like cable or DSL, it is becoming easier and cheaper to configure a home network. I have residential DSL for an always-on connection to the Internet, a designated server computer to manage my Internet traffic, and two computers that my wife and I use. Our server uses Microsoft Windows 2000 Server as the operating system, with Microsoft’s Internet Security & Acceleration software. This is probably overkill for most home networks, but it serves me well. This software configuration creates a good firewall and web cache server for my network. In addition to logging all Internet traffic, I have configured my ISA server to block known porn sites. So if I were to go to www.playboy.com, instead of ogling naked women I’d get a notification that the porn site has been blocked by the server.

While most people don’t have the means to install multi-thousand-dollar software on their home networks, there are many more reasonable options available that can provide monitoring and filtering services for a small home environment. Any broadband Internet connection needs a firewall to provide security from people wanting to hack into your home network, some Internet sharing software to allow everyone on the network to surf over that one connection, and software to monitor and filter traffic. With these things in place, a parent may prevent children from intentionally surfing to known porn sites and monitor Internet traffic to see who is going where. If keeping your young children away from porn is your goal, this will require constant and consistent vigilance because close monitoring of Internet usage is the best way of seeing what the children are doing. This is true whether you are reviewing the server logs or sitting next to your children as they play on the computer.

My next article will delve into a different approach to porn and what can be done by the Internet community.

Hillary Rodham Clinton recently released Living History, presented as an autobiography of her life dealing mainly with her time in the White House from 1993 to 2001. Regardless of what you think of Hillary as a political figure, this book provides a persuasive argument why Senator Clinton should never be President–or indeed be entrusted with any significant position of power. If readers believe the events as presented in her book, they cannot trust her ability to judge. If readers cannot believe the events as presented in the book, they cannot trust her ability to be honest.

Let’s first assume that each word in her book is the gospel truth. One section of her book which has stirred up the most interest is her description of the Monica Lewinsky affair. She tells about the August 15, 1998, day when Bill Clinton confessed to her that he did have a sexual relationship with “that woman.” In her words: “I could hardly breathe. Gulping for air, I started crying and yelling at him, ‘What do you mean? What are you saying? Why did you lie to me?’ I was furious and getting more so by the second. He just stood there saying over and over again, ‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I was trying to protect you and Chelsea.’” We hear the voice of a woman betrayed. But why did she believe Bill in the first place? Let’s go over a few events and allegations about Bill Clinton. I’ve placed these in chronological order, even though many of these accounts first came to light in the ’80s and ’90s.

In 1969, a British woman claims, Bill Clinton raped her. He claimed it was consensual. In 1972, according to the woman involved, Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her. Years later she reaffirmed that this happened, as did a retired campus police officer. In 1974, another woman claimed that Clinton sexually assaulted her. When contacted many years later, she reaffirmed this, as did several former female students of then-Professor Clinton. These alleged encounters occurred before Bill married Hillary in 1975.

Juanita Broaddrick claimed that in 1978 Bill Clinton raped her and practically bit her lip off. At the time, hospital nurses reported this as a rape. In 1979, a legal secretary claimed that Bill tried to force her to perform oral sex on him. During the 1980s his affair with Gennifer Flowers began, and Arkansas trooper Larry Patterson later testified that then-Governor Clinton had oral sex with a woman in a car parked outside Chelsea Clinton’s elementary school. Sally Perdue, a former Miss Arkansas, testified that she had an affair with then-Governor Clinton in 1983. In 1991, Clinton accosted Paula Corbin Jones after she was driven to Clinton’s motel by Arkansas State Trooper Danny Ferguson. In 1992, Gennifer Flowers recorded her last conversation with Bill Clinton. On the tape Clinton said, “If they ever ask if you’ve talked to me about it, you can say no.” During this same year, Hillary defended Bill against the Gennifer Flowers allegations on 60 Minutes, claiming they were dreamed up by Bill’s political enemies. In 1994, Paula Jones held a press conference to make public her allegations against Bill Clinton. In 1997, Kathleen Willey was seen leaving the Oval Office in a disheveled state; she claimed Bill Clinton had groped her. Also in 1997, Monica Lewinsky was subpoenaed by Paula Jones’ lawyers. In January 1998, Monica Lewinsky’s name first hit the news on the Drudge Report, and for the first time Bill Clinton admitted to an affair with Gennifer Flowers. Later that same month, Bill Clinton wagged his finger at the American public and stated, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

There are now three examples of how Bill Clinton has first categorically denied any affair, then admitted the affair when confronted with substantial proof, and finally excused his actions or claimed it was time to “move on” past this brouhaha. The examples are his news handling of relationships with Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones.

Hillary claims in her book that she believed Bill when he denied a relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Knowing what she must have known about Bill’s previous dalliances, she must be the most gullible woman I know, and I would love to sell her a used car or some Florida land by the quart. Gullibility is not a prized quality in a public official. Do you really want Hillary to negotiate on behalf of the United States when she can’t recognize a bald-face lie told her by a bald-faced liar?

But is it really true that Hillary didn’t know about Bill’s involvement with Monica Lewinsky until August 15, 1998? The idea stretches credibility past the breaking point. After all, the New York Times posted a front-page article the previous day, indicating that President Clinton and his advisors were talking about acknowledging the affair. Does Hillary not read the Times? In his book The Breach: Inside the Impeachment and Trial of William Jefferson Clinton, Washington Post reporter Peter Baker said that Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall was given the task of breaking the news to Hillary two days before she claimed to have learned about Bill’s affair. She also stated that by the time Bill gave testimony on August 17th, she was barely on speaking terms with him. But Sidney Blumenthal stated in his book, The Clinton Wars, that he called the White House on the 17th and heard Bill and Hillary bantering back and forth. They were still working as a team.

And let me bring up another minor point to demonstrate Hillary’s lying. Living History is presented as having been written by her, but that’s just not true. It is assumed to have been ghost-written by three authors who Hillary thanks by name in the book: Alison Muscatine, Maryanne Vollers, and Ruby Shamir. It’s easier to assume that these three professionals ghost-wrote the book for Hillary than to assume that she single-handedly produced a 562-page book in the space of two years while simultaneously serving as a United States Senator. How did she find the time to write this tome and faithfully serve the people of New York? While I can conceive of a very industrious Hillary pounding on her book while being driven to and from the Senate floor, it is much more credible to me that Hillary had those three ghost-write the book for her, and is now taking the credit. Hillary read the audio book version herself; when I heard the “gasping for air” portion quoted above, it sounded so deadpan and lifeless, almost as if she were just reading something rather than reliving what must have been a terrible moment. It makes me think that these words didn’t have emotional impact for her because it didn’t happen that way, because these weren’t her own words. And if she is willing to lie, both in her book and about who wrote it, can you really trust anything else she says? I cannot.

So whether Hillary is the most gullible woman in the world or merely a liar, she is not fit to fill any position of power. Not Senator, and most certainly not President.

Coming off a lovely week-long family reunion, I saw that the American Civil Liberties Union is once again preparing to file a lawsuit against a religion. But let me fill in some of the background to this latest ACLU vs. religion clash. Salt Lake City is the capital of the state of Utah, and it is also the headquarters for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called the Mormons. Two neighboring blocks in the city’s downtown area are owned by the Church, and the Church leaders have long wanted to purchase the street running between them to join these two properties. Finally, the city decided to sell that stretch of the road to the LDS Church for over eight million dollars. The Church took this stretch of road, blocked it to vehicular through traffic, and turned it into a beautiful walkway and park that is often used as a backdrop for wedding pictures. So the Main St. Plaza was formed.

The brouhaha started when people disenchanted with the Church and its teachings started protesting or loudly evangelizing in the middle of the plaza. Often these demonstrations or loud preaching coincided with a wedding party attempting to have pictures taken outside the Temple. I wonder how many new brides left in tears because some boor insisted on shoving anti-Mormon literature in her face and railing against the very organization which owned the land he was standing on. Obviously the Church was not too pleased to see the beauty and peace of the plaza shattered by placard-waving protesters.

When I first heard of this issue about a year ago, I didn’t see a conflict. Since the Church owned the property, they had the right to remove people who were harassing others. I figured that was pretty cut and dried–but it wasn’t. The Church owned the property, but the city had failed to sell the easement on that property. Many people are unfamiliar with the nature of an easement. An easement is a public right to pass through or access someone else’s property. In this case, while the Church owned the property, the easement or right for the people to pass through the property was still retained by the city. Once I realized that the Church didn’t own the easement on the Main St. Plaza, then my opinion flipped: while these protesters might be very annoying and often confrontational, they did have the right to be there. The Church tried to prevent protesters from annoying others on the plaza, and the ACLU promptly filed a lawsuit to prevent the Church from restricting the free speech of these people.

Part of the confusion over this issue occurred because the Church believed it had purchased the easement for the property, but a careful examination revealed that while the purchase of the easement had been in the initial City Council minutes and all the plans for the sale, the easement was not included in the final sale for some reason. So after a lengthy court battle and a lost appeal to the District Court, the Church found itself with a nice piece of property and no way to enforce the peace and calm it wanted. After a while, a plan was put forward for the Church to buy the easement by selling some other Church-held properties to the city. After much debate, this idea gained support, was voted on and passed by the Salt Lake City Council. On July 28, 2003, the Church took full control of the Main Street Plaza. People are still free to walk along the plaza and enjoy the pools, flowers, trees and sculptures, but they are no longer permitted to stand and shout at passersby. Having seen and heard the bedlam that existed before, I think this is a very welcome change.

But it is not welcome to everyone. The local chapter of the ACLU, in concert with the First Unitarian Church and others, is once again mustering support for another lawsuit against the city to block the sale of this easement. Cindy King, a member of the First Unitarian Church, said, “I voted for having the church continue on because I believe it’s important that we support our civil liberties and our civil right.” Paul Rice added, “I believe that if our church doesn’t uphold the views of the little guy who wants to speak their opinion on the public easement, then no one would.” Huh? Now that the LDS Church owns the easement as well as the property, there is no longer a debate, regardless of the opinions of the little guy. The Unitarians stated that their decision to support another lawsuit came from their mission statement, which states they believe in “free thought” and a desire to “promote a free and open religious community in Utah.” While both of these are good and laudable goals, neither applies to this now completely privately owned stretch of ground. But common sense doesn’t seem to be in high supply with the people standing against the Church ownership of the easement. ACLU attorney Dani Eyer demonstrated this lack of sense when she said, “We think that when the city council voted to vacate their easement, they did not have proper secular reason for doing that.” They didn’t have a proper secular reason? How about wanting to get this cantankerous issue behind them? How about bringing peace back to the city? How about a chance to purchase some desirable properties for public use? I guess these ideas aren’t secular enough for the ACLU.

So a peaceful and elegant solution has been put forward and accepted–but it is not accepted by everyone. To appreciate fully the irony of this issue, consider another two neighboring blocks in Salt Lake City. These were also owned by the Church, and the city allowed the Church to purchase the street running between them. But in this case, the Church in question is the Roman Catholic Church. The Cathedral of the Madeleine and some associated Church buildings in the adjoining block were separated by the street running between them, so the Roman Catholic Church purchased the street from the city. It is now blocked to vehicular traffic, much like the Main St. Plaza, and it is much safer for people to cross between the two blocks. While I believe in missionary work, I would be just as displeased to see Mormons congregating by the Cathedral shouting and forcing pamphlets into the hands of the passing priests as I am at the people demonstrating at the Main St. Plaza. If the Catholics can purchase a Salt Lake City street, why does the city or the ACLU think it’s wrong for the Mormons to do so?

Addendum: I just heard on the nightly news that the local chapter of the ACLU will file its lawsuit tomorrow against the sale of the easement. The biblical phrase coming to mind is “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”