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Culture, Values, Politics and Crime

A commenter recently took me to task, disturbed that I criticized the Administration for its tepid response to the Russian-sponsored mass murder of 298 people in the Ukraine.  The commenter thought my remarks went too far in the direction of a strictly political attack.

Let me say that reasonable minds could differ about that post.  My own view is that (1) the episode was indeed mass murder, (2) our government's response was, and is, feckless, both for moral and practical purposes, and (3) fecklessness in the face of murder, and of crime generally, is a huge problem just now, and I'm going to continue to talk about it when it rears its head.

I am reminded of this today by Kent's post about the breathtaking plagiarism of Sen. John Walsh of Montana, currently in a difficult race to hold his seat.  Now plagiarism is not a crime.  And Walsh did it years ago in college.  So why is it relevant on this blog?

For several reasons.  First, as Kent notes, what to make of it depends in large measure on an issue often at stake in criminal cases, to wit, intent.  Second, Walsh has invoked what is becoming the all-purpose excuse of PTSD, thus partaking of exactly the "I'm-a-victim" narrative now seen so often in criminal defense.  Third, also as in criminal defense, the facts allegedly behind the narrative are themselves false, even if PTSD were an authentic defense (which most often, and I strongly suspect in Walsh's case, it is not).  Fourth, if Walsh were to win the seat and serve more years in the Senate, how do you think he would vote on "let's-not-be-such-Puritans" measures like proposals to dumb down sentencing?  How do you think he'd vote on judgeship appointments?  How would he vote to confirm an Attorney General nominee? 

And yet with all that, it's the fifth reason that's most important.  To elect someone to a position of honor, and power, knowing in advance that he's a cheater, is to take another step down the road of decay.  As I've noted, in part because we have already begun the descent, crime has started back up after at least twenty years of decline. 

The notion that a blog with its eyes open can ignore warning signs in the culture, government and politics is wrong, and dangerously so.  Whether we get a lot of crime or not so much depends to an enormous degree on the moral environment around us.  Whether it's aimless tongue-clucking about mass murder, chewing gum at D-Day ceremonies, plagiarism combined with the excuse-du-jour, or (on the other side), Rep. Paul Ryan's going all warm and fuzzy about inmates, there's a great deal we need to pay attention to.  I, for one, intend to keep looking over my shoulder. 

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