Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I don't know if there is one, but there ought to be a catchy word to describe the situation in which someone puts forth what seems to be a really good idea, only to find out later that they never had a chance of pulling it off, and for reasons that they should have seen and would have seen but for their being so enamored with the idea that they were blind to the reality that their idea had absolutely no chance of ever coming to fruition...

One such example is Virginia Attorney General Robert McDonnell's idea to require sex offenders to register their email addresses and instant messaging screen names so they can be blocked from accessing popular social networking sites such as Myspace.

At first blush, who could argue with such a proposal? Who wouldn't want to keep sexual offenders away from places where they can prey upon unsuspecting victims?

But why in the world would McDonnell, or anyone else with half a brain, think this would actually work? Email addresses and IM screen names are easy to come by. There's no central repository or clearinghouse that keeps track of the email addresses that people use. Unlike driver's licenses, there's no government agency doling out email names only after one proves their identity.

So what would keep a sexual predator from simply signing up for multiple email addresses and screen names? What's to prevent them from giving the state one email address that they would only use for checking out movie listing and box scores, while they use the names they've kept to themselves to log on to Myspace or whatever other networking site they want to? Sexual predators already know that what they're doing is wrong... so why would anyone think they wouldn't simply sign up for another screen name and email address if they couldn't access a site with the ones they were using?

I have no doubt that McDonnell is a sincere man who truly would like to minimize the dangers sexual predators pose to the community. And since we can neither simply shoot them, nor can we lock them up for life and throw away the keys, I applaud his efforts to find new ways of dealing with the problem.

But ignoring reality in the pursuit of an admirable goal is dangerous. It wastes resources, as both money and time are allocated to programs which can not work. It makes the sponsors look silly - or worse - to those who are more firmly rooted in reality. And, worst of all, until the sponsors finally admit their plan was inherently flawed, it keeps them from looking at programs that could accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

And, as we all know, another such example of a flawed-from-the-start program is Bush's attempt to shove democracy down the throats of those in the Middle East.

Just like McDonnell was right in trying to protect us from sexual predators, Bush was right to try and protect America from terrorism and other threats.

But where Bush screwed up was in thinking it was the lack of democracy that was the source of our troubles... rather than what was the cause, and what he should have seen as the cause, that terrorism was caused by the belief of terrorists that their religion not only approved, but demanded, they kill non-believers.

So just like McDonnell is destined to spend a lot of time and a lot on money pursuing a program which will have no chance whatsoever of success, Bush was destined to spend a lot of time and a lot of money and a lot of lives pursuing a program which had absolutely no chance whatsoever of succeeding.

I just hope that McDonnell is quicker to face reality than Bush has been. Because as bad as it is when first setting out on a quest to not see what you ought to see, it is far worse to continue to ignore what is smacking you upside your head.... especially when your continuing to deny reality is the reason over 2,000 American soldiers and Marines have lost their lives.