Friday, August 31, 2007

Bad acts and consequences

Larry Craig trolled for sex in bathrooms. Michael Vick ran a business built around torturing and killing dogs. Both have lost their livelihood. Bad acts have consequences. Often serious ones.

And that's fine.

Former Sen. Craig (he may resign as early as today, according to CNN -- UPDATE) took specific actions such as lurking around a bathroom stall and repeatedly peeking into an occupied stall to look at its user. His foot tap dance when he went into a neighboring stall seems insignificant, but Jonah Goldberg notes that it could not be innocent:

If Craig didn't know this code he would be appalled by the insinuations of this cop. Imagine if John McCain or Jim Webb were in that stall and accidentally did what Craig claims to have done by accident as well. It would take them fifteen minutes to even understand what the cop was talking about. "You think I'm what?!?!" "You're saying I wanted to do what!?!?!" "Because I touched your #$%^*&@ foot with my foot!?"

And then McCain/Webb would become a helicopter of fists.

Craig understood entirely that he was caught and he was trying to be both indignant and reasonable. You can't do both, which is why he's unconvincing. Add in the fact h's been dogged by rumors for 20 years [even longer -- TKM]. If he was innocently going to bathroom, he's simply the unluckiest man in the world.

Vick lost tens of millions of dollars (don't go by his contract value, NFL contracts are not guaranteed), at least a year of his life in a Federal penitentiary, probably three prime years of his career (if any team ever decides to sign him later) and his reputation for acts that are illegal, reprehensible and quite stupid. Is his punishment too harsh, as Gregg Easterbrook indicates on ESPN's TMQ column?


Equating training and modifying (filing teeth, affecting diet so the dogs would be meaner, etc.) dogs for killing each other to provide sport to random onlookers with slaughtering cows, chickens and lamb (Easterbrook's argument) is off-base. There is direct one-on-one personal interaction with the dogs that creates these canine fighters. Psychological data indicates that people who treat domestic animals with extreme cruelty exhibit psychotic and psychopathic tendencies towards humans. In other words, the lack of compassion and humanity required to drown, electrocute, whip and beat the dogs also manifests in interpersonal relationships.

What about Vick's losses -- the money, prestige and employment on top of the jail time? Criminal sentences are designed to punish the criminal and exact a price upon him in exchange for the harm he caused society. Rehabilitation is secondary. Consideration of the civil consequences (loss of job, loss of endorsements, etc.) entails balancing Vick's personal harm or his merits as a human being (he tithes to charity or somesuch) against society's harm. That's not the criminal justice system's job. Instead, that's the argument in favor of allowing a Pablo Escobar to run a vast criminal enterprise in Eastern Colombia unfettered by the government because his narco-dollars raise the standard of living for the families he uses as servants in cocaine preparation. It's a moral equivalence argument that lacks morality.

Vick chose to engage in clearly illegal activity while concurrently holding a job that would pay him preposterous amounts of money to showcase his significant physical talents. He chose to squander his opportunity. Craig chose to seek out illegal sexual relations (and this is not a gay/straight issue -- if Bill Clinton had been hunting around a women's bathroom, he too would be wrong) despite holding a prestigious governmental position that only 100 Americans can obtain at any one time. He chose to squander his career to have kinky fun.

No tears from The Monk.

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