Sunday, August 22, 2010

Stop the Presses

Here's a sentence I never thought I'd type:  Bill Otis is right.  Not about everything, but still, he's right.
In it's editorial today bemoaning the fact that the Justice Department couldn't find a crime with which to charge Tom DeLay (but praising Congress for making some marginal strides toward cleaning up its own mess), the NY Times offered this.
But many of Mr. DeLay’s actions remain legal only because lawmakers have chosen not to criminalize them.
Otis called that a "howler," and while I'm not certain about the characterization, the Times' statement is both loaded and stupid.  Loaded because it suggests that DeLay's behavior should be criminal.  Stupid because, as Otis explains,
Actions are legal unless they're made illegal!!
(That accurate. Otis really did put two exclamation points at the end of that sentence.)
In an earlier post today, I sad that Shannon Williams was charged with serious federal crimes - conspiracy to traffic in millions of dollars worth of marijuana and laundering the proceeds of that trafficking.  John Kindley, in his righteous libertarian mode, added a comment that they weren't crimes at all.  I said that of course they were.  Crimes are, by definition, things that have been made illegal by whatever body dictates such things in a given society.
Kindley was confusing crimes (a purely legal concept) with wrongs (a philosphical/moral concept).  Lots of things are criminal that you (whoever you are) may not think wrong.  Lots of things (you, whoever you are) would think wrong but are not criminal.  
Let the Times be honest and say it thinks Tom DeLay a malevolent and corrupt SOB.  If he's immoral, call him on it.  But don't pretend that he's somehow the beneficiary of a loophole in the law.  We, through our elected representatives, found something that we decided against criminalizing.  Even if it's wrong.
Whatever you think of Tom DeLay, the fact that there's some non-criminal activity left out there is something to celebrate, not condemn.
As for Bill Otis?  Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

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