Brits Demand Internet Ban For Pedophiles

The London Guardian reports today on a demand from British telecommunications giant BT for law enforcement to notify ISPs of convictions for sex offenders so that they can be denied internet services:

The courts should bar everyone convicted of sexual offences against children which involve the internet from using the technology, said Nick Truman, head of security at the online arm of British Telecom, BT Openworld.
Mr Truman, a member of the Home Office internet taskforce for child protection, also called on the police to inform ISPs of convictions so that the offender’s internet account could be cancelled. …
The police do have powers to pass on information about registered sex offenders to third parties, such as the head teacher of a local school, but this does not cover commercial organisations such as ISPs.

It sounds like a great idea, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing to try, but I rather doubt it would be effective. First of all, such a ban would prove difficult to ensure, as Internet services can be accessed via all sorts of different technologies, some of which don’t require much in the way of identification. Second, such notifications will surely result in a number of identification mistakes. What happens when you cut off service to someone whose name happens to match another on the banned list? How does that person manage to get his access restored? Besides, using commercial services to enforce such a ban sounds iffy at best, especially when all incentives for the business point to delivering service, not denying it.
Even beyond the identification issues, which don’t carry as much emotional weight in Britain as it does in the US, why use precious law-enforcement resources on maintaining a no-access-allowed list for thousands of access points? The Home Office understands that investigators should be tracking actual crimes in progress rather than spending its time pushing paper to all of the possible access points. Focusing on access rather than actual oversight of released offenders — or better yet, keeping them incarcerated — seems to me to provide a false sense of security.

Sistani Signs Off On New Iraqi Gov’t

The Coalition garnered a qualified endorsement from Ayatollah Ali Sistani today, the most influential Shi’ite cleric in Iraq, for the new transitional government. Sistani issued a rare written statement indicating his modest, if unenthusiastic, approval:

Iraq’s new interim government Thursday won crucial recognition Thursday from Iraq’s most revered cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Iraqi Shiites’ supreme religious leader. Sistani, in a written statement issued by his office in the holy city of Najaf, shied away from a formal endorsement of the new government. But he said it could make itself worthy by improving life for Iraqis and by erasing “the consequences” of the U.S. occupation. …
Sistani’s rare comments were considered highly significant. He holds considerable sway among Iraq’s majority Shiite population, so much so that he was able to force the United States to significantly modify its timetable for Iraqi self-government earlier this year.
While his words were not enthusiastic, they were far more welcoming than anything he had said about the now-dissolved Iraqi Governing Council.

No one doubts that Sistani disapproves of infidel Americans, Brits, and their allies holding control over Iraq and especially over Najaf and Kufa and the holiest of Shi’a shrines. However, Sistani has managed to separate his distaste for the occupation from the urgent necessity of getting an effective and sovereign Iraqi government in place, because Sistani sees that as the most direct route to get rid of the CPA. At the same time, he needs to establish his primacy over upstarts like Moqtada al-Sadr and maintain his political influence on all sides. So far, Sistani has been nothing short of brilliant at managing all of these efforts.
The CPA deserves credit for keeping Sistani engaged in the process, a feat that had to be extremely difficult to do successfully. We could bemoan the involvement of Islamic mullahs in the ‘new Iraq’, but anyone who thought that Iraq would become scrupulously secular had to be fooling themselves. During Saddam’s long reign of terror, the mosques provided a central focus for resistance, which is the reason Saddam targeted the Shi’a after 1991. After liberation, especially in the aftermath of the invasion, it was only natural that Iraqis look to the mosques again for guidance.
In a bit of good analysis, the CPA identified Sistani as not only a highly-respected mullah but also flexible enough to involve in building a new government. I suspect that the cleric Sadr murdered may have been another; perhaps the CPA finally went after Sadr (far too late) to demonstrate that the Coalition would not allow radicals to assassinate moderates working with them, even if at arm’s length like Sistani.
Their work with Sistani may wind up being the single biggest non-combat victory in Iraq. Hopefully we can continue to make the most of this relationship to leverage Sistani’s influence in establishing civil order and government by the Iraqis, for Iraqis.

Tenet Exits

CIA Director George Tenet resigned today, according to President George Bush and reported by USA Today (via Instapundit):

George Tenet has resigned as CIA director, President Bush announced Thursday, ending the increasingly stormy tenure of a man under fire for the department’s intelligence before the Iraq war.
In a brief appearance before leaving for Europe, Bush told reporters he had met Wednesday night at the White House with Tenet. “He told he me was resigning for personal reasons. I told him I was sorry he was leaving,” Bush said.
Tenet will serve until mid-July and will be temporarily replaced by Deputy Director John McLaughlin, Bush said.

Glenn Reynolds says, “It’s about time,” and it’s difficult to argue with that assessment. Whatever the reasons, our intelligence services failed to gather a comprehensive look at the gathering threat of Islamofascism. It would be terribly unfair to lay the blame entirely at Tenet’s feet. however. Plenty of politicians eager to gut the CIA for long-held personal motives or simply out of a mistaken belief in the “end of history” share the blame for our substandard intelligence performance. Most of that predated Tenet’s tenure as DCI anyway.
However, in the slow reaction and the ready, smooth, and meaningless responses to the various CIA crises that Tenet regularly provided, he demonstrated that he just was not the man to lead our intelligence services in an era that demands accountability and daring, and less of the bureaucratic outlook that characterized Tenet. In the months following 9/11, I found myself looking for an acerbic and no-nonsense approach to winning the war through superior intelligence work, like a James Jesus Angleton or even a Bill Casey, someone who irritates all the right people but gets the job done. In my admittedly pedestrian opinion, Tenet managed to hang around because he shmoozed the right people, not because of any particular effectiveness, and that’s no recipe for success under fire. Maybe Al Pacino said it best in The Godfather: “You’re not a wartime consigliere.”
Up to now he has been incredibly loyal, willing to fall on his sword time and again, and that loyalty has been returned by the current administration. Kathryn Jean Lopez expects that to change now that he’s leaving government service:

I can picture it all now. The Tenet press conference with Howard Dean’s group and MoveOn were he announces that Bush is a failed leader. The October surprise book where he blames everything wrong with intel on W., Condi & the Pentagon.

Let’s hope not. Quite frankly, anything he says only reminds people who was in charge during the worst intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor, and while that may be (somewhat) unfair to Tenet personally, it has to inform everything he says from this point forward.
Addendum: The Washington Post’s CIA sources, unnamed but apparently on the record, claim that Tenet really resigned for personal reasons and was not forced out by the Administration — at least for now.
UPDATE: Michele Catalano has found many other reasons for Tenet’s resignation around the blogosphere. I like the one that said Elvis made him do it. (via Instapundit)

This Sounds Depressingly Familiar

When I lived in California, the Democrat-controlled Legislature could never produce a budget on time. The situation got so bad that Californians debated referenda cutting off salaries and per-diem payments to the state Assembly and Senate from the start of the new fiscal year (July 1) until a bugget was passed and signed into law. Their continuing failure to pass budgets brought the state Democratic party much-deserved scorn, inasmuch as they controlled both houses of the Legislature.
Now, however, the shoe resides firmly on the other foot at the federal level, and Republicans not only don’t think they can pass a budget on time, they’re debating on whether to pass one at all:

They have tried sweet-talk and dire warnings, insults and bluffing tactics. None of it has worked, which is why a growing number of Republicans are beginning to despair about agreeing on a budget plan for next year.
Embarrassing as that would be for the party that controls both houses of Congress, many Republicans are concluding they would be better off with no budget plan than with one that would require them to pay the cost of permanently extending last year’s tax cuts. Senate Republican leaders, back from their Memorial Day recess, showed little sign on Wednesday of persuading a small band of rebels within their own party to drop their insistence on “pay as you go” rules.

In this case, Republicans not only have majorities in both houses but also control the executive branch. The problem isn’t compromise between the parties, but compromising two very Republican instincts that have become opposing forces: cutting taxes and curbing deficit spending. These motives shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, but the natural solution — cutting spending — won’t fly in an election year.
John McCain leads a small group of Senate Republicans who oppose extending the tax cuts due to the increasing deficit that war spending has created at the federal level, as well as pork-barrel projects unrelated to anything except getting elected. This small group relies on a study done by two liberal think tanks that warn the price of the deficit will be borne by lower-income families. How do I know they’re liberal? Listen to how they describe tax cuts:

On Wednesday, two liberal policy research groups released a study estimating that the ultimate cost of the tax cuts would fall overwhelmingly on middle- and lower-income families. According to the study, by the Tax Policy Center and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, more than three-quarters of all households would end up net losers if the government actually paid for the tax cuts by either spending cuts or other tax increases.
But the wealthiest one-fifth of families, who are by far the biggest beneficiaries of the tax cuts, would end up big winners. “We should think of tax cuts as loans, not as grants [emph mine — Ed.], and in particular as loans that are not paid back by the same people who get them,” said William G. Gale, a senior economist at the Tax Policy Center.

I don’t see tax cuts as either loans or grants — I see them as not confiscating money that belongs to me in the first place. I’m no tax protestor; I understand that the government needs funds to operate in the manner our elected representatives have chosen. However, I resent the notion that when government allows me to keep some of what I’ve earned, it somehow equates to a loan, or a grant. Too many people in Washington (and at the state level as well) think this way, which is why we get lectured on being too greedy to pay “our fair share” of taxes on a regular basis by the likes of Howell Raines.
On the other hand, I don’t think that the government should be allowed to continually spend more than it takes in, either. I agree with the dissidents on this point, at least narrowly. This argument is the same we Reaganites made in the 1980s, to sime degree futilely, and which finally got picked up by the Clintons after the disastrous 1994 elections. I disagree with the McCain contingent, though, on how to achieve solvency. Total revenues to the federal government are close to post-WWII lows in terms of percentage of GDP, at least according to this survey. In order to balance the budget, then, Congress must decrease the size of government or increase revenues. I favor the former, obviously, but just as clearly some Republicans lack the political will to fight for what used to be a cornerstone of Republican philosophy.
Since it appears we can’t get either side to agree totally on which approach to take, I suggest that Republicans put their heads together and agree to do something to get a budget passed. This election will be difficult enough without adding GOP instransigence as another excuse to go Democrat. We can hardly fault Tom Daschle and his gang for obstructionist maneuvering on judicial nominations when the Republicans practice the same techniques on themselves in failing to produce on the most elementary of all Congressional tasks. Skipping it and making excuses won’t cut it in November.
Updated for clarification — I favor decreasing the size of government, and I inadvertently wrote the opposite.

Telegraph: Fallujah Nightmare

The London Telegraph, normally pro-American and somewhat supportive of the war in Iraq, writes a tough article on the result of the Fallujah truce, where it appears that we will eventually need to face an undiminished insurgency in the heart of the Sunni Triangle:

The town is currently a no-go area for US troops, and by extension, any westerner. Despite lucrative rebuilding contracts, none has entered the city since four contractors were killed and their bodies mutilated in March, prompting the American incursion. … My escort, a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which negotiated the peace deal with the marines, warned me that he would not be able to guarantee my safety if I set foot outside the car.
The reason for such caution was obvious. Brown-shirted members of the Fallujah Brigade, most of them former resistance fighters, manned checkpoints across the city. The few residents who agreed to talk were hastily smuggled into the back of the car. “Welcome to the free republic of Fallujah,” said one resident, who would not give his name. “We run this city now and no American will ever enter here again.”

While I understand the need to negotiate with Iraqis of all stripes — after all, they will be there after we’ve left — Fallujah still looks like a mistake. As reporter Jack Fairweather notes, the fact that we allowed the insurgents to outlast us will present us with problems in the future, as it already has in the South. We did better at negotiation with the Shi’a clerics trying desperately to protect the two sacred mosques in Najaf and Kufa; even while the fighting still goes on, we still patrol the cities, and no one’s under the impression we ran away. Fallujah looks a lot different, and caving in to the Sunnis (or appearing to do so) did nothing for our credentials with the majority Shi’a population.
If the Telegraph article reports the Fallujah situation accurately, we will find ourselves once again having to combat insurgents in that area, only this time they will have the confidence they may have lacked the first time around. They will not be easily beaten. Perhaps we may get lucky and pawn the problem off to Iraqi security forces, but from the state of the city, even Iraqi federals will have a tough time freeing Fallujah from its radical grip.
UPDATE: The Commissar at the Politburo Diktat wants me to buck up a bit here and take the long view, as well as some of CQ’s readers. All I can say is that I hope you are all right and I’m incorrect on this point.
MORE OPTIMISM: See Hugh Hewitt’s post of an e-mail from the Fallujah contingent of Marines. The e-mail is dated yesterday — and it sounds a lot better than the Telegraph, although to be fair it refers to surrounding territory and not Fallujah proper. It also indicates that the insurgents are using heroin and other drugs before going into battle … an interesting and significant bit of decadent behavior.

LA Coliseum? You Have To Be Kidding Me

Mayor James Hahn announced today that he now supports using the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the venue to attract a new NFL team to the nation’s #2 market. LA has been without any pro football team since the early 1990s, when the Rams left for Saint Louis, leaving La-La land in the lurch. However, Hahn’s proposal will likely wind up chasing off the NFL rather than attracting them back, regardless of the TV revenues:

Mayor James Hahn said he now thinks a modified Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum would be the appropriate home for the possible return of an NFL team to the city.
Hahn had previously backed a proposal to build a new stadium, but said the progress the Coliseum has made in preparing environmental impact documents has given it the edge over other possible sites. …
A $400 million renovation to prepare it for a pro team would reduce the Coliseum’s seating capacity from 92,500 to 78,000 seats and add 200 luxury boxes. It also would add new locker rooms and a press box.

I spent most of my first thirty-five years living in the greater LA area, and have been to the Coliseum on a number of occasions. I saw the great Walter “Sweetness” Payton’s last NFL game there against the Raiders during their nomadic period, and I’ve been to a number of other concerts and events staged there as well. The Coliseum consists of hard, steel benches and stone steps, and that’s it. Not only that, but the structure itself looks old and tired, and the neighborhood in which it resides is frightening, even in daylight. It’s not South Central, but it’s close.
The Rams couldn’t draw fans there in the 1970s when they fielded some pretty good teams, which is why they bolted for Anaheim. The Raiders drew passably good attendance, but if you ever went to a Raiders game there, you’d understand it was because they actively marketed to the thug demographic (mostly wanna-be thugs). One Pittsburgh fan was beaten nearly to death there for rooting for the Steelers; he spent time in the local ICU. Gang fights and drunken brawls happened with depressing regularity, something notably lacking at Rams games in Anaheim, or even Dodger games in LA, just north of the Colisem in the hills.
In fact, LA screwed Peter O’Malley out of his shot at owning an expansion NFL team and building a new stadium at Chavez Ravine, next to Dodger Stadium. O’Malley needed to get some land with which to expand, but otherwise planned on building the stadium himself with his own money. The city played him along, encouraging him to work with the NFL and draw plans up for the crown jewel such a facility would have become:

In August 1995, [Mayor Richard Riordan] phoned Peter O’Malley and asked the Dodgers owner if he would research building a football facility adjacent to Dodger Stadium. Or as O’Malley later told friends, “I was sitting in my office, minding my own damn business, when the mayor called and told me I could be a big help.”
For more than a year, O’Malley and then Dodgers vice president of finance Bob Graziano worked almost exclusively to produce a viable stadium blue-print, largely leaving the day-to-day running of the Dodgers to then executive vice president Fred Claire. …
At the same time, according to one source, the mayor was privately urging R.D. Hubbard, CEO of Hollywood Park in Inglewood, to put a stadium next to the track while nudging others to develop a plan for South Park. Problem was, the mayor soon realized he needed Ridley-Thomas’s support to get the proposed downtown Staples Center approved by the city council. Ridley-Thomas, belatedly recognizing the value of the Coliseum in his own backyard–and with an eye on hizzoner’s job–told Riordan he could have his vote if Riordan would back a Coliseum-renovation plan. The mayor agreed. Shortly thereafter, in August 1996, O’Malley received a visitor–Ridley-Thomas.

After wasting 18 months of O’Malley’s time and effort, the city instead told the NFL that the Coliseum would have to be the venue for any new team. Since all of what happened with O’Malley and his efforts to land a football team had taken place discreetly, most Angelenos were unaware of this stab in the back. Frustrated, O’Malley decided to sell the Dodgers and walk away from Los Angeles altogether; with his typical class, he walked away silent about the NFL bid. This article doesn’t mention his sense of betrayal, but the story found its way into the local media eventually.
I understand the long, glorious history of the Coliseum and why Angelenos want to see the venue brought back to its former heights of fame. But unless Hahn spends that $400 million razing it to the ground and building something completely new in its place, with a phalanx of National Guard troops surrounding it, then they’re wasting their time and money. They had a golden opportunity to bring back the NFL with a privately-financed, first-class facility run by one of the most storied families in professional sports. Instead, now as then, they’re pitching an old and unattractive facility while promising to spend almost half a billion dollars of public money to fix it.
And you wonder why I moved to Minnesota.

A Memorial Series You Should See

I think all of us in the blogosphere wanted to do something special for the veterans, both living and those who gave the last, full measure, for this Memorial Day. Quite a few posted touching stories, and of course I put the story of Captain Ben Salomon on my site, who died saving dozens of wounded Americans on Saipan.
However, I think one of the best I’ve seen are at INDC Journal, where Bill went out with his digital camera and got wonderful pictures and stories from the veterans themselves. Bill’s post turned out to be so large that he had to break it into two parts. Make sure you read them both. Bill has a personal story to tell in the second part, so make sure you read it all the way through. I dare you to do it without tears.

More Perspective On The Gray Lady

Thanks to reader Bipin Pathak, who read my post from last night discussing the ludicrous Howell Raines article in today’s London Guardian, and to which Glenn Reynolds and Neal Boortz kindly linked. Bipin brought a letter from Albert Einstein to my attention which notes that Raines may indeed have followed a long and storied tradition in his stewardship of the New York Times. This letter currently stands for auction at Christie’s, but an excerpt is posted on line:

“You see that I have retained my black humor despite Palestine, corrupt American politics and daily reading of the N.Y. Times which doesn’t even lie honestly but distorts the truth with malicious intent.”

So, as my intrepid reader points out, I keep pretty good company. (Mom will be proud of me!) The more things change, unfortunately, the more they stay the same — which Einstein’s work might also address …

Caption Contest #12 Winners!

The judges have returned with the winners of the special Global Warming edition of the weekly Captain’s Caption Contest! Edward Yee did the honors this week, and did he have his work cut out for him. We received a near-record 107 entries this week from the blogosphere’s most creative readership. In fact, Al Gore was so stunned by the response that he had the breath knocked out of him:
Why didn't the Captain do Kerry again??
Here are the winners:
Captain’s Award (Most Original) — Donald S. Crankshaw:
Fighting to contain a violent yawn at his own words, Al Gore is mistaken for a raving lunatic.
You Have The Conn #1 (Great Minds Think Alike) — Wacky Hermit:
“wh- wh- heeeeee– wh- wh- heeeeee…”
“We can see the head! Now push! That’s it, push with the contractions!”
You Have The Conn #2 (Where One Man Had Gone Before) — Scotty:
In a certain epiphany for the ex-vice president, Al Gore finds out why then-President Clinton always stashed an intern or two under the podium. [Also for his other posts regarding bananas and leashes.]
You Have The Conn #3 (Squirrels In Space) — JBlake:
Naturally territorial squirrels, having seen trailors of disaster movie, once again mistake Algore for a tree full of nuts. Squirrelly Algore reacts, …naturally.
Report To Sick Bay, Along With Just About Everyone Else — Paul B:
Ladies and gentleman welcome to the freak show. This is the amazing Alzilla, watch as this stiff as a borad man inserts a lump of coal in is rectum and expells a diamond! Kids don’t try this at home.
Thanks to everyone who entered, and congratulations to the winners! Remember, here at CQ, everyone’s a winner — just some of us have higher winning percentages than others. Comments on this post will remain open, as usual, in order for the winners to gloat, the others to disparage Edward Yee’s intellect and/or my parentage, and for any other entries submitted just for the sheer enjoyment of amazing your friends and confounding your enemies. Don’t forget to check out Edward’s blog!
Send me a photograph or an e-mail with a link to a great picture you think should be the subject of our next Caption Contest, and let me know if you’d like to be the guest judge! I’ll have another picture for Friday — so be sure to come back then for the next contest.

Minnesota Makes Sure Drivers Don’t Gouge Oil Companies

In this period of rapidly rising gasoline prices, you may feel relieved to hear that the state of Minnesota has focused on the pump prices to make sure that there are no shenanigans going on. However, that feeling might be fleeting when you find out that they’re keeping prices up:

With gasoline prices painfully high, it may be surprising for some to learn that state regulators are penalizing retailers for, well, for not charging Minnesota motorists enough for gasoline.
The Commerce Department snagged its first offenders last week under a 2001 law that aims to prevent predatory pricing by requiring gas merchants to charge 8 cents more per gallon than they pay for fuel.
Arkansas-based Murphy Oil was penalized $70,000 for violating the law prohibiting below-cost sales. The company operates 10 service stations in Minnesota on property it leases from retail giant Wal-Mart.

If the oil companies got together and decided to set a bottom limit to pump pricing at eight cents over cost, both the federal and state governments would immediately file charges for price-fixing, and possibly RICO violations at the federal level. We would hear about the evil oil companies keeping their profit margins high at the expense of the poor working stiffs just trying to get to their jobs.
However, if the state does it (especially in Minnesota), it somehow ceases to be bad for consumers. Suddenly, price-fixing protects consumers, even though the mechanism and the result is the same. State officials claim that the law allows small operators to compete with big (evil) oil (evil) corporations (evil) by restraining loss-leader prices that might drive Mom & Pop Petroleum out of business. Minnesota state officials must live in a time warp, though; when I drive across the metro every day, all I see are Super America, Holiday, Phillips/Conoco, BP, and Fina fuel stations, every single one of them outlets of the biggest players in the oil market. Occasionally I see a Mobil or Texaco station, but Mom & Pop seem to have retired and moved to the Caymans.
The most ludicrous part of the story is that the operator receiving the largest fine is Murphy’s Oil, which comes a lot closer to the small-company outfit that the law supposedly protects than any of the other companies I just mentioned. Murphy’s, however, committed the (evil) sin of winning a contract from (evil) Wal-Mart, known for its competitive pricing. The other repentant was a Kwik-Trip convenience store, another small fry in the business. So Minnesota claims to be protecting the small operator by fining them into insolvency, allowing the largest companies to continue to charge artificially-floated margins and forcing Minnesota consumers to pay more at the pump.
What a great program!