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Over-Criminalization, the "War on Women," and Politics

Some conservatives and libertarians have bemoaned what they call the criminalization of everything, with particular emphasis on the growth of federal criminal investigations.  For the most part, I have been somewhat skeptical of these concerns.  While it's true that the criminal law, like every aspect of government, seems to know nothing except how to get bigger, I have thought that the answer to this problem is for people simply to behave as they were taught by their parents: Don't steal stuff, don't lie to those with legitimate authority, don't try to get money by hardcore or softcore deceit, stay away from drugs and settle your differences without violence.  It's not that hard.

Nonetheless, many of my friends who share these values remain alarmed by the extent to which the government, and the federal government in particular, seems to want to criminalize hitherto legal conduct, and to stretch into areas traditionally, and more wisely, left to state and local measures.  Today I saw a story giving unsettling credence to their concerns.  

It seems that the Department of Justice is going to launch a probe of rapes in that hotbed of crime, the campus of the University of Montana at Missoula.   Attorney General Holder says he is disturbed by the incidence of rape and the way rape investigations have been handled (or not handled).  But

Local authorities said the incidence of rape in Missoula, a western Montana city of 86,000 people, is on par with similarly sized college towns, and the county's chief prosecutor questioned the justice department's rationale for its inquiry. 

The investigation comes in the midst of an election year in which women's issues have moved to the forefront as candidates seek to burnish their credentials among female voters.

The justice department probe will examine the inner workings of the university's public safety office, the Missoula Police Department and the Missoula County Attorney's Office.

Rape is an awful crime and, in the most extreme instances, should be death-eligible, our Supreme Court notwithstanding. But why rape in Missoula, Montana warrants federal intervention is something of a mystery  --  a mystery, that is, unless one recalls that Mr. Holder's boss is trying to make the fictitious "War on Women" a political issue for November's showdown.

Maybe DOJ should bring in another liberal huckster who wanted to enlist rape to help him win re-election.  Mike Nifong, your career's not quite over. 

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