[Humor warning: This article was written tongue-in-cheek. -- CM]

I realize I am taking my life in my own hands with this article. This may well be the most dangerous article I have written to date, since I may be successful in angering 100% of my readers. The women may issue a fatwa against me because I will explain how they fail to communicate correctly with men. And the men may hunt me down because I will reveal how women may talk to them and be clearly understood. We men may never have any peace if women master these secrets.

[Comments by TPK: Aw, how cute. My honey assumes that it is up to the women to change their ways. All right, ladies, how many of you have problems with vocal communication? Any difficulty making your thoughts and feelings known to others? Now, just out of curiosity -- how many taciturn men are in your life, who not only refuse to speak, but do not want to hear what anyone else has to say either? (Oh, let's not always see the same hands.)]

Let’s face it — men and women just don’t communicate well. Sure, we speak the same language, but the main problem comes from the different ways we understand the same words. It is possible to tape a conversation between women and play it back to a group of men. What may seem to the women to be a clear, understandable conversation will sound like code-words to the men. Since I have been married for several years, I have managed to decode some of these conversations. Newsflash for the guys — “feminine protection” does not mean a pink pistol with frilly lace.

Ladies, it is pretty easy to know what a man is thinking, but there is no real need to even try. At any one time, a man is thinking of one of three subjects: sex, food, or the game. [With occasional forays into money.] Since there are only these three subjects present in our brains, a simple process of elimination can be used to discern the subject currently rattling around in a man’s skull. When men are talking with women, we may seem to be following the conversation, but in reality our minds are on one or some combination of these three subjects, and our mouths are on automatic. If you hear us say things like “uh-huh,” “yes,” “no,” or “that’s nice, dear,” you may be reasonably sure that our minds are elsewhere and our mouths are in idle.

[So, essentially, as long as you want to talk about food, sex, the game, or ways to make more money, your man will pay attention to you. Otherwise, you're screwed. This really ought to encourage your efforts at communicating with him, right? Nothing about how well your child did in school today, or a thought-provoking movie you saw, or something lovely you read -- nope, you've got to stick to food, sex, game, money. The Captain decrees the male sex is fundamentally incapable of understanding anything else, and will not listen if you do not stick to subjects he understands. And this is supposed to foster communication between the sexes?]

As easy as it is for a woman to read a man’s mind, it is nearly impossible for a man to know what is going on in a woman’s mind. This inability stems partially from the limited subject matter men work with, and partially because women don’t normally spend their time thinking about sex, food, or the game, but mostly we’re unable to read women’s minds because they are heavily shielded. It is my theory that generous use of perfume is a key part of this shielding. Good perfume makes us think of sex, while bad perfume makes us think of escape. It’s devilishly ingenious.

I bring up the fact that men are almost always unable to read a woman’s mind because too many women act as if men could. OK, men, show of hands: how many of you have asked the woman of your life, “What’s wrong, dear?” only to receive a variation of “Well, if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you”? Let’s see… one, two, yep, it’s not unanimous, but it’s a very large majority.

[Please note that the Captain himself is not raising his hand. I have never played this stupid little mind-game with him and I never will.]

Since the women reading this (those few who haven’t switched away because they can’t handle the truth [or the ones who feel compelled to edit this dreck]) are protesting that they don’t expect men to read their minds, allow me to give a few more examples. Too often a woman will stand in front of a closet bursting with clothes and complain to her husband, “I have nothing to wear.” The husband will take one look at the wall-to-wall clothes and come to the obvious conclusion that his wife has somehow gone blind or insane, and he will go back to reading the newspaper article about the game. A truly loving husband, noticing her vision problems, may point out a few dress options or gently suggest counseling. But as noble as his intentions may be, he does this at his own peril since he runs the real risk of being branded as insensitive to her needs.

The man is being insensitive because while his wife’s lips moved and sounds came out, and he correctly heard her, what she said was not what she really meant. She wanted her husband to read her mind and realize that when she said “I have nothing to wear,” what she really meant was “I want to go shopping for a new dress.” And every well-meaning attempt by the husband to point out one lovely dress after another in the closet only demonstrates to her that he is not successfully reading her mind.

[We'd probably do better in this regard if we took the bull by the horns and weeded out our closets more often. Many of us, myself included, keep clothing long after it's gone out of fashion or when it no longer fits -- sometimes because it has sentimental value, as with my wedding dress, and sometimes out of sheer inertia. If men could see our closets the way we see them, they would not be all that surprised how little there is to wear.

By the way, how long do men keep their underwear? Doesn't the average guy have at least one ratty, holey, greyish pair that reveals more than it conceals -- and that he absolutely refuses to get rid of for some crazy reason -- because they're "lucky," because he got them in college, because he is convinced that if he wears them regularly, his waist size will not change? Whatever.]

The next example is very similar, but it has a twist. The wife may be standing before the pantry or fridge and exclaim, “There’s nothing in here.” The normal husband will hear what she said and assume that’s what she really meant. Sadly for him, his standard reply “So go and do the grocery shopping, already,” will not be the solution he assumed it would be. The sensitive husband may volunteer to go shopping with her, or offer to go shopping himself if he is really henpecked sensitive. While both of these suggestions would fix the problem as stated, the real conflict comes from the disconnect between what his wife said and what she really meant. The mind-reading husband would know that what she really meant was, “I don’t want to cook tonight. Take me out to dinner.” Since she is thinking of food, and food is one of the three subjects at which men excel, there is a greater chance that the husband will be successful in reading her mind and knowing the true intention behind her words.

Men are direct in their conversations. If a man compliments another with, “Wow! What a great car!” he is usually thinking, “Wow! What a great car!” If a woman says that, what she is really thinking is, “Take me out for a ride.” If a man asks another man, “So how is the game?” he just wants to know how the game is going. When a woman asks the same thing, his response about the score will discourage her because she might really be saying, “Hey, if the game is boring, how about some nookie in the back room?” She will convince herself that her husband doesn’t know how to make her happy because he is incapable of reading her mind. (You might think that her thoughts of sex would make it easier for him to read her mind successfully. While that is normally true, the interference of the game will make this most unlikely.)

So what can be done? Unless women spend more of their time thinking about sex, food, or the game, men will continue to fail to read their minds. Therefore, the responsibility for clear communication falls squarely on the women. After all, it is the female of the human species that is guilty of saying one thing while thinking of another.

[Awright, punk. Here's the deal. Women have this apparently benighted concept that human beings ought not to just blurt out their innermost thoughts and feelings without a jot of grace or preamble. We believe in the gentle art of conversation. Frankly, you're much likelier to get what you want if you go about it gently and gradually, building up to your point in order to persuade your audience. You've done this if you've ever asked for a raise -- you don't just barge into your boss's office and declare, "You need to give me more money!" How well would that work? No, you gather your most persuasive arguments, craft a careful speech or memo or e-mail, take a deep breath, and give it your best shot.

Most women perform this process almost subconsciously as we talk; we enjoy conversation, and we usually try to build to a point. If you're willing to wait a bit, we will get to that point. You don't have to solve the problem right away, unless we specifically ask for solutions. All we really want you to do is listen. And listening to us seems to be a skill with which you are wholly unfamiliar.]

Women need to understand that men are not like onions: we have no layers, and we say what we mean. So women need to be both direct and clear in their communication with us. Don’t be afraid to be blunt. “Take me out to dinner” is good, but if you have something specific in mind, then be specific — “Take me out to the Ruby River Steakhouse.” A direct comment of “You! Me! Sex! Now!” will almost always be welcome, but it is a bit wordy. Just saying “Sex!” while peeling off your clothes is good enough to get your point across. [Of course, after reading this, you may not be particularly eager to engage in sex...]

So men and women can successfully communicate if we remember that mind-reading is best done in magic shows, and if women are both direct and clear in how they speak with men. [And, of course, if women give up talking to men about anything that happens to be worthwhile or interesting to the women. Remember, food, sex, game, money. Sheeze.] There is no need to change how women communicate with women. Any confusion in that communication will come from men overhearing the conversation and thinking that they are talking about frilly revolvers with high-velocity ammo.

Now comes the really tricky part — how to get my honey to do her editorial polish on this without sprinkling her caustic comments all through it?

[Dream on.]

[I was sure she'd say something about polishing a turd. -- CM]

Comcast is the largest Internet provider in the United States. It is in the company’s best interest to attract and keep as many customers as it can for its products. Any action that will cheese off the customer base is a bad idea. It’s simple economics, right?

Enter www.afterdowningstreet.org, a liberal site that is still all aflutter over the leaked memo that originated from 10 Downing Street, in London. The key section that has captured their attention is the following: “There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” Liberals are focusing on the last sentence and using that as proof that “Bush lied, and people died!” This is why nobody agreed that Saddam had WMDs in the ramp-up to the war.

Wait. That’s not the case. Every intelligence service on the case agreed that Saddam had WMDs, used WMDs, couldn’t account for all his WMDs, and was drooling over the prospect of getting more WMDs. To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, “Stop using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.” John Hinderaker of Power Line Blog has done a grand job of explaining the yawn that is the memos. But liberals, in their loathing of President Bush, cannot be convinced that it isn’t a smoking gun after all.

So afterdowningstreet.org has been doing its part to spread the Left’s anti-Bush story, but something happened. For about a week, some e-mails sent by site owner David Swanson with his website’s URL in the signature were not getting where he wanted them to go. In Swanson’s own words:

We didn’t know it, but for the past week, anyone using Comcast has been unable to receive any Email with “www.afterdowningstreet.org” in the body of the Email. That has included every Email from me, since that was in my signature at the bottom of every Email I sent. And it included any Email linking people to any information about the upcoming events….

Comcast effectively censors discussion of particular political topics, and impedes the ability of people to associate with each other, with absolutely no compulsion to explain itself. There is no due process. A phrase or web address is tried and convicted in absentia and without the knowledge of those involved.

The anti-spam software that Comcast uses, a Symantec product called Brightmail, essentially started to catch anything with the site’s URL as a spam message. This action was not originated by Comcast, but by the Brightmail software that the company uses. I do not claim to be a Brightmail expert, but I have been using the software on my e-mail server for almost two years, so I am reasonably familiar with the program. Before I used Brightmail to filter out my spam, I was using another product, and it was catching as much as 3% of my e-mail traffic incorrectly. Each day, I would spend at least an hour verifying that what it had caught was indeed spam, releasing the messages it had caught incorrectly, and writing new rules in an attempt to catch the stuff that got through.

In all the time I have been using Brightmail, the program has never once identified something as spam that wasn’t. My favorite feature of Brightmail is not having to spend my time writing rules to catch spam. All through the day, a group of Symantec employees is busy writing rules to catch spam, and my Brightmail server downloads these new rules as soon as they are available, many times each hour. Since my domains generate, on average, between 75% – 80% spam, I am very happy with the way Brightmail has cleaned up my e-mail.

But Swanson isn’t a fan of the anti-spam software. In his article, he sees Comcast’s use of Brightmail software as a specifically-directed attack on his site and its content by Symantec. He quotes extensively from People-Link.org, the group that is hosting afterdowningstreet.org, about this brouhaha:

Targeting the inclusion of a website url can only have one outcome: that communications about that website and the issue it is presenting will be blocked from large numbers of people and that the communications from that site’s administrators and the campaign’s organizers will not reach their full constituency.

Whether Comcast’s intention or not, this is effectively political and unconstitutional.

I can empathize with the aggravation and life-disrupting effects of an untrustworthy e-mail system. But I can’t agree with Swanson or his host that this issue is unconstitutional because it is not a First Amendment issue. The First Amendment specifically states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech…” But in what way has Congress written a law preventing Swanson from speaking? He has not run afoul of the law; he has been hit by the actions of non-government software being run by a non-government company. And make no mistake — Comcast could chose to block any e-mail for any reason, and it would not be a First Amendment issue.

Mr. Swanson, like everyone else in the U.S., is free to express his political views and his opinions of the government, but that freedom does not mean that a private company is obligated to allow an individual to express his views through the use of that company’s assets. Nor can an individual cry foul and complain of censorship if people react negatively to the sentiments he chooses to make public. The Dixie Chicks have the freedom to state their displeasure about the President, but they can’t really complain if people choose to boo them. 2 Live Crew is free to perform at whatever venue it can book, but no publisher is obligated to buy or sell the band’s music.

While it would be within Comcast’s right to filter out the liberal e-mails passing through its servers, I do not believe this situation was a conscious choice on the company’s part. For one thing, while Comcast uses Brightmail to filter its e-mail, the company relies on Symantec to provide and update the rules that determine the filters. If this had been a directed attack on liberal lunacy, Symantec would have created a multitude of rules to filter out e-mails originating from a myriad of different liberal sites. But that wasn’t the case. This site was the only one affected, and when Comcast brought this issue to Symantec’s attention, the rule was promptly removed. This isn’t the act of a company with a political axe to grind.

Brad Friedman of BradBlog.com jumped into this fray, both tracking the block and announcing when it was lifted. He posted the following as the rules changed: “The official line from Symantec, as Fertik reported it to us, was that the Bright Mail [sic] filter is completely automated, and due to the increasing appearance of ‘www.afterdowningstreet.org’ in email, their automated filter kicked in.”

While the comments posted by others are not condoned by Friedman, they are quite illuminating:

Just another piece of evidence that those who support Bush do NOT respect or have any concern for what the U.S. Constitution says and represents. Just like Bush and all of his cronies whose real g_d is the dollar. New motto for the Republican Party: ‘It isn’t fascism when we do it’.

What Comcast did is illegal. Comcast should be prosecuted, and BRAD BLOG should investigate who made this decision at Comcast, and do a story on that person. And the story should include the reasons this person did this, and BRAD BLOG should link this story to how Corporate America is beholden to the Republicans.

This is big, and it’s a huge discovery, and I salute whoever detected this. They think they can get away with anything! Then they tell us not to compare the Bush Administration to Hitler’s ministry of propoganda. This Comcast travesty falls under the Bush Administration fake news reports, etc…….which draws a valid comparison to Hitler’s & Goebbels ministry of propoganda. Who said we can’t make this comparision? It’s a valid comparision!

So if it’s a spam filter issue, fine. But we’ve all seen Bushco wield its axe to squash dissent, so it’s not a stretch at all to think it could be deliberate.

So here are the two possibilities: President Bush and his evil sidekick Karl Rove told Symantec to block the URL to punish the site, or the Symantec software automatically kicked in with a sharp rise of e-mails coming from the site. I’d vote for the latter, but that’s because I understand Meyer’s Law:

When the same set of facts can be explained equally well by

  1. A massive conspiracy coordinated without a single leak between hundreds or even thousands of people -OR -
  2. Sustained stupidity and/or incompetence

Assume stupidity and incompetence

It’s called artificial intelligence for a reason.

A bucket is a handy tool. What other tool makes transporting and storing liquids and other materials so easy? And it is so low-tech that it can be crafted easily from different materials, but it seems that every one I see these days is being made out of plastic. Arguably, the five-gallon bucket is a major workhorse at home and in businesses.

But there is a dark side to the useful five-gallon bucket — each year a certain number of infants and toddlers fall face-down into these buckets and drown. The loss of just one child is heart-breaking, and buckets now come with a warning label reminding parents to keep them out of the reach of children. Yet even the best of warning labels may be ignored, and it takes only a short moment of inattention to lead to the tragic loss of life.

Many different solutions have been proposed to prevent this loss. Lid designers have produced bucket lids that are more difficult for children to remove, but these designs don’t matter if a lid has already been removed by an adult. Some people brainstormed the idea of punching holes in the bottom of the bucket to let the liquid drain out — the idea is that with no liquid in the bucket, no child will drown. While this idea would prevent loss of life, it would also completely invalidate the primary usefulness of a bucket — to move and store liquid.

Imagine living on the American frontier and needing to lug water by bucket from the stream a quarter-mile away. That would be hard enough work without adding a hole to the bucket to make most of the effort dribble away. But we see good efforts being dribbled away in many other aspects of life, including aid to Africa.

Live 8 was organized to help Africa. “We don’t want your money – we want you!” Specifically, the organizers and participants of Live 8 wanted the people of the world to tell the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union to “double aid, drop the debt and make the trade laws fair” for Africa. That is their solution — pressure other people to do something to fix the problem. It makes me wonder how much money these artists have personally put up toward relief in Africa, or if they feel their work ends with “raising awareness” of the problem. Issues of fundraising hypocrisy aside, is Live 8 really the best way to aid Africa? Will doubling aid, dropping Africa’s debts, and removing all trade barriers fix Africa’s poverty problems?

When making any charitable donation, you should ask what percentage of the money you give will actually go to the intended recipient. In the U.S., less than a quarter of every dollar taxed from you and me for welfare actually makes it into the hands of a needy person. The rest is consumed by the process of transferring the money; portions are given to people in between. Sending aid money to Africa is much like transporting water over a long distance in a leaky bucket — you will have to do a sizable amount of work to get only a small amount of aid to the person at the end.

The continent of Africa is rich in resources and labor, so why are the African nations so very poor? Writer P.J. O’Rourke wrote a chapter in his book Eat the Rich titled “How to Make Nothing from Everything,” detailing how and why Tanzania doesn’t work. The nation of Tanzania, and Africans as a whole, are poor and suffering — not because the people are lazy, not because there are no resources, and not because the West is keeping them poor. Africa is poor because there is corruption at all levels of government and a woeful lack of freedoms.

Anthony Daniels of the Telegraph wrote an excellent article explaining the problems with aid to Africa. It is well worth the full read, but here are three paragraphs of special interest:

However, aid can do harm as well as good, and this truth is much harder to grasp or depict in a few simple, emotional images. The balance, in fact, is on the side of harm. Civil wars in Africa – in Somalia, Ethiopia and the Sudan, for example – have been kept going by food and medical assistance, which puts tremendous power in the hands of both governments and insurgents. In conditions of famine brought about by war, he who controls the distribution of food aid is king.

Even in countries at peace, aid on a large scale fosters patronage and corruption. The Nordic countries now admit that it was their aid to Tanzania that allowed the late Julius Nyerere forcibly to remove three quarters of the rural population into semi-collectivised villages: in other words, that the billions of aid quite unnecessarily impoverished Tanzania for decades and produced an economic disaster from which the country is still recovering.

Charity is therefore not what Africa needs. No country grows rich by the grace and favour of another. What Africa needs is good – which is to say limited – government, as well as more trade. It is likely to get neither, and no number of rock concerts will help to bring them about.

The corruption of African governments consumes 80% of the aid given to Africa. 80%! In that case the bucket is mighty leaky, indeed!

I am pleased to see some people giving President Bush credit for trying to help Africa, even if this news is buried deep in the newspaper when it is reported at all. Much more aid has been sent to that beleaguered continent by the U.S. during the years of President Bush than the so-called “first black President” ever did, even though the Left credits President Clinton with doing more because he could feel their pain. Actually doing something isn’t as well-favored by the Left as appearing publicly sympathetic and crafting the proper sound bites.

So we are sending money, food, medicine and condoms to Africa, and most of it will simply leak away. It would be much more efficient to stop trying to fill a leaky bucket and fix it properly, but to do so would be to deny the African people the 20% of our aid that actually reaches them, and to deny them aid even for a short time would be to deny that which makes us human.

What can be done to stop rampant corruption by governments in Africa? Well, we could do our own distribution of the aid, but that would require increased infrastructure in the area, which in turn would consume some of the aid monies.

We could also inspire the governments not to plunder their own people, but once officials have gotten a taste of government graft, how hard will it be to wean them off the gravy train? It seems more likely that to do the job properly, we may need to intercede in a more direct fashion. But with the War on Terror still being waged, many people are understandably concerned about committing U.S. troops willy-nilly. I doubt we have the will as a nation to intervene in Africa in a way that would bring about lasting relief from corruption and tyranny.

What Africans need most is to be free — free from corrupt leaders, free from oppression, and free to live their lives as they see fit. We have brought this freedom to Iraq, and the people are freer now than they were for thirty years under Saddam. Do we have the strength and the courage of our convictions to help bring freedom to Africa? I’m afraid we don’t. And while we dither and debate, Africa will continue to groan under the thumb of its oppressors.

I’ve spent a good chunk of the month of July on vacation. Through the miracle of modern technology, I was able to queue up several comments for the time I would be away. Other than a short period of time around President Bush’s address, I was far away from any Internet connection. Being way up in the hills can do that to you.

While up in the hills, I was disturbed to hear on a staticky radio that there had been an attack in London. My wife stayed in the car, listening to the updates, while the rest of us got reports from her over the Talkabout radios. This was not the action of “insurgents,” “bombers,” or “misguided criminals.” Let’s call it what it was — the act of terrorists. Recognizing that they are no match for our military forces, al-Qaeda and other terrorists are resorting to the actions of cowards — deliberately targeting innocent men, women, and children.

I have a problem with targeting unarmed people, and especially with targeting women and children. It is in my nature to want to protect these people from harm. It is clear to me that the terrorists and the homicide bombers in Israel have lost their basic human compassion for the weak and innocent. Judging them by their actions, they are animals, as my Dad put it when he heard the news from London.

I wrote a while ago about the way Islam is publicly portrayed as a “Religion of Peace,” but I just don’t believe it. I won’t go as far as to say that all Muslims are murdering fanatics, but the majority of peaceful Muslims have remained silent about the actions of their violent co-religionists. This is why we have not heard about demonstrations of thousands of Muslims in Britain rallying their support for the victims of the subway bombings and protesting the hijacking of their religion by some fanatics.

To make the Muslim silence more relevant to us Americans, imagine some Baptist preachers getting TV face-time to announce the praiseworthiness of fellow Baptists who strap explosives to their bodies and explode themselves in non-Baptist areas, killing the strangers around them. The killing of non-Baptist men, women, and children is a moral act, claim these preachers, and the Baptists doing this go right to heaven. Now imagine that instead of indignant responses from other Baptists, denouncing these preachers or the Baptist terrorists exploding themselves in public places, there is only silence. What are non-Baptists supposed to believe about the official position of all Baptists when the only voices they hear are the ones who praise the killings? This is exactly what we are hearing from preachers of Islam.

I explained how Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs is a hated man by Muslims and the Left because he dares to quote the words of Muslims accurately. He recently posted an exchange in England about the bombings that explains why the terrorists feel justified in indiscriminately slaughtering innocents.

Host: Mr. Hani, make no mistake. The same assembly ruled that Jihad in Iraq is allowed against soldiers. Even Sheik Osama [sic] Al-Maqdissi, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi’s mentor… OK. Abu Hani, OK… He asked Al-Zarqawi not to kill civilians and to attack only the Americans… I mean, only soldiers…

Al-Siba’i: The term “civilians” does not exist in Islamic religious law. Dr. Karmi is sitting here, and I am sitting here, and I’m familiar with religious law. There is no such term as “civilians” in the modern Western sense. People are either of Dar Al-Harb or not.

Hani Sibai, director of London’s Al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies and self-professed Islamic scholar, has publicly stated that everyone is either a part of the Dar al-Islam, the “house of Islam” as a Muslim in a Muslim state, or part of the Dar Al-Harb, the “house of war.” A six-month-old baby, its nursing mother, and the wheelchair-bound grandmother standing nearby are all legitimate targets in the Dar Al-Harb. Convert or die. This is Sibai’s real message. Are you comfortable with either option? I am not.

There is a poignant scene near the end of the recent Merchant of Venice movie. Al Pacino, as Shylock, stands outside the synagogue where he once worshiped. He longs to go in, but the Duke’s court has declared that he must convert to Christianity as a part of his punishment, or forfeit his life. To save himself, Shylock is forced to abandon his Judaism. Without saying a single word, Pacino shows the cost of this abandonment in Shylock.

I haven’t been directly issued the challenge of “convert or die,” but my faith is too important to me to give up. I consider it to be something worth fighting for. And I am not asking for Muslims to give up their faith, either, but mainstream Islam needs to police its own fringe elements or America and the rest of the concerned world will be forced to clean out the fanatics for them. Since 9/11, we have been doing exactly that.

Our fight is not with all of Islam. Our fight is with that part of Islam that glorifies the indiscriminate slaying of innocent men, women, and children. I believe that there are many good and faithful Muslims who want to live peacefully with their non-Muslim neighbors, but there are also some fanatic Muslims who are doing the Devil’s work, not God’s. About two centuries before Mohammed came out of the desert, a prophet explained how to judge the good from the evil in people:

For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him. — Moroni 7:16-17

Blowing yourself up in a crowded subway or slamming a full plane into a building is not the action of someone who serves God.

I think it’s time to post some more random thoughts that have been bouncing around in my brain but have been too small to develop into a full article.

It’s amazing how good you feel after some simple exercises. I like seeing that my treadmill regimen is getting progressively harder, and I’m able to handle it.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with chewing gum, but don’t chew it while you are on the phone. The poor person on the other end will get an earful with every chew. And speaking of loud gum chewing, I recently sat about 50 feet away from a kid in a meeting, and I could clearly hear him chomp away. Apparently he hadn’t yet mastered the difficult task of chewing with his mouth closed.

The family reunion is coming up, and it’s a great time to catch up with the folks I just don’t see too often. I prefer the reunions that aren’t too structured. As long as there are enough games and activities to keep the young kids active and happy, I’m content to sit in the shade and gab. I am now officially an old fart.

The lovely and talented wife is two states away taking some college classes. While I miss having her close, I’m glad that she can take these classes. After years of happily-married life, being a bachelor again during these weeks is not fun. Happily, the full five seasons of Babylon 5 on DVD arrived in the mail. I now have 110 episodes to watch to keep myself entertained.

I guess I should do the dishes one of these days.

Since people have crossed a lion with a tiger to create a liger (Napoleon Dynamite would be so proud), has anyone tried crossing humans with chimps or other primates? I’d guess our DNA would be similar enough to create a hybrid, but this would bring up a mess of ethical issues. Is it ethical to monkey with human DNA like that? (Pun most certainly intended.) If a human/chimp cross were successful, would the resulting hybrid be entitled to a measure of “human rights,” since it would be 50% human? Any further breeding of the hybrid with chimps would produce offspring that were 25%, 13%, 6%, and 3% human in subsequent generations. At what point is a living thing “not human enough?” Believe it or not, our society has already wrestled with this question as it pertains to race.

I’ll do the dishes after I watch this next Babylon 5 episode.

Since I’ve been thinking Sci-Fi for a bit now, which do you think would have a greater effect for good or ill on the human race — free and plentiful energy, or instant teleportation? Hmm…

Is there something wrong with pondering “what if” questions? If so, is it doubly wrong to ask “what if” questions about “what if” questions?

So the Watergate icon, “Deep Throat,” has finally been revealed to be the then-#2 man at the FBI, W. Mark Felt. The major media seems practically orgasmic about the critical role a whistleblower can play. Funny how the same media sang a very different tune when Linda Tripp was the whistleblower.

I have no problem with people jumping into their hot tubs. I have no problem with people jumping into their hot tubs between midnight and 4 am. But I do have a problem with people in their hot tubs when they are right next to my bedroom window, and they are very loud. I guess people either don’t know or don’t care that their voices carry much farther in the stillness of the night than they do during the day.

Are people fundamentally different in 2005 from the people of 1505 or 1005? Or are the basic goals of power, fame, and money the same driving forces for all humanity throughout the ages?

If you could see the past or the future with complete clarity, which would you prefer? I think I’d be more interested in viewing the past.

OK, I think I’d better do the dishes now.

On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress declared that the political ties between the thirteen colonies and England were sundered. We look at July 4th as the birthday of our nation, but it took years of fighting to force Britain to recognize our separation and independence from them. Our Constitution was ratified in 1789, and our nation has been running under the Constitution for the two centuries since.

The Constitution is what gives the federal government power, and it was a radical change from the way governments had been previously set up. Before the writing of the Constitution, power was seen to flow from the ruler(s) to the people only as the rulers saw fit. But the Constitution recognizes that all power and authority resides with the people, and that we the people grant power and authority to the government to act in our name. Americans are citizens and the source of power in the U.S. Britons are subjects, and the crown and government rules them. That is a major difference.

We are sovereign and should not be subject to the government, other than in those narrow areas where we the people granted the government power. An American citizen cannot make a treaty with another nation; that is a power we granted the government, and you can read what authority to make laws we granted the Congress in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. That section outlines those few areas where Congress may legislate. But it is in the nature of people and bureaucracies to take more power for themselves over time.

The members of Congress were told that they have power “To regulate Commerce … among the several States,” but this means that commerce within a state is not in their purview. But that limitation doesn’t matter to Congress — all they have to do is expand the definition of interstate commerce. If I use electricity in my business (and who doesn’t?), Congress feels it may legislate my small shop because the electricity could have come from a plant in another state.

Recently we saw that the Supreme Court declared that home-grown and home-consumed marijuana somehow counts as “interstate commerce” because the patients are not buying their weed from out-of-state growers. Using this same logic, I am affecting every other state’s economy by not buying items from them.

There is a joke among us geeks: “2 + 2 = 5, for very large values of 2.” And if you are free to define what 2 is, you can make this equation true. The Supreme Court has already done so with their definition of what constitutes “interstate commerce.” As a common plebe who isn’t as wise and educated in the nuances of the law, I understand interstate commerce to be the buying and selling of stuff (that’s the commerce part) that is done across state lines (that’s the interstate part). But my definition just isn’t sufficient for the nine Justices in black. A person can be taking part in interstate commerce if he is buying or selling something within a state, but which would affect someone else in another state. The camel’s nose of interstate commerce has allowed the entire camel, his family, the Congress, staffers, and parasitic hangers-on to enter the tent. It’s a bit crowded now, so the Supreme Court has tossed out some freedoms to make room. I hope you don’t mind, but it’s what happens when people change the definition of words.

And speaking of the Supreme Court, they hit the news again recently with a new ruling. The Fifth Amendment ends with “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

This taking of private property for public use is called “eminent domain,” and it has been used in our nation’s history to get the land needed for highways and railroads. It has been used to take both public and private land from the state of Utah to create the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The need to take the land from the former land owners must be justified by the nebulous “public good.” Ordinarily this means making a public road that the majority of people will use. But in the case of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, the public good was paying back the environmental nuts who supported President Clinton, and permanently putting off limits the only known American deposits of low-sulfur coal. But I digress.

“Public use” means something. And it most certainly does not mean taking the property from one private person to give to another private person with the expectation that the government doing the taking will get more tax revenue after the transfer. But five Justices, specifically John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Anthony Kennedy, saw the redistribution of private property from one private person to another as a public good. The Ornithophobe does a grand job of summing up the decision this way:

Imagine it. Your home brings in say, $800.00 a year in taxes. That same property, commercially zoned, could be worth three times that in tax revenue, to say nothing of the economic impact of additional job revenue. THERE IS NOW NOTHING TO PREVENT THEM FROM SEIZING YOUR HOME, AND GIVING IT TO A BUSINESS/DEVELOPER/CORPORATION. That’s what this decision means. You no longer own your own home. You have it conditionally on the sufferance of your local government, and if they so choose, they can take it. For any reason, or no reason at all.

I have come to the realization that this one Supreme Court decision has destroyed private property ownership in the United States. Thanks to these five Justices, you no longer own the land you are living on — you are merely a steward holding the land until the government sees fit to take it from you. Sure, they are supposed to give you “just compensation” for the snatched land, but that’s not been true for many decades. It is common for a city to condemn the building, regardless of its condition or worth, before exercising eminent domain. This makes the building essentially worthless, so any evaluation of the property value is on the land only. My wife wondered if this Supreme Court ruling would have an effect on housing costs in this nation. After all, why buy a home when some local government could jump in and take it for some nebulous public good at any time?

The Constitution means something, and it isn’t as confusing as four men and a woman may think it is. Had this ruling come down in 1775, it would have been included in the list of objections against the British government as outlined in the Declaration of Independence. And it is possible that a hot-headed band like the Boston Tea Party could have visited their displeasure on anyone who would be willing to condone the taking of one man’s property to give to another.

But this happened in 2005, where we have grown ever more tolerant of government excesses. And while today is Independence Day, I fear that in too many ways we are far from free from tyrannical government.