The case for reform


Don't worry about the fact that the audio stinks here. But if you're prone to audible gasps, you may want to check your surroundings.

You're forgiven if you missed this video of New Mexico University's Elizabeth Lambert being perhaps a bit too rough in a 1-0 loss to Brigham Young. Her play earned her an indefinite suspension, as you might have imagined.

You can take her "OMG I can't believe that was me!" for what it's worth, but did she deserve the

[You] should be taken to a state prison, raped and left for dead in a ditch

Email that she says she got? Emm, no.

She's doing what she needs to do to get back in the good graces of the NMU powers, including seeing a psychiatrist and talking to youth soccer players about sportsmanship (it occurs to me that might be a little like Jayson Blair giving a journalism ethics talk or Eliot Spitzer talking on ethics, but at least she's still a college student and learning her way through life).

At least NMU is giving her a shot. One thing that's coming up a lot these days in minimum sentencing laws – particularly as regards sentencing juveniles to life in prison (this is often the result of three-strike laws and that sort of thing).

Tell a 16-year-old he's going to prison for the rest of his life, not only have you removed just about all hope of him bothering to be a decent human being ever (he's not likely to see a need for reform if he's not getting out of jail), but you've also told him you're not interested in helping him out.

The Atlantic Monthly has a good roundup of news and commentary about the topic, and they got a good response on Facebook to the piece.

THe way I figure it, you've got two strong arguments you can make. One, this kid has either done something so bad he should be in prison for life, or he's shown after two prior crimes he's not going to shape up Or, two, you might say that the line between a juvenile and not a juvenile is arbitrary.

Let's look at the second one first. Yes, that line is arbitrary, but it's already been drawn. And we draw other arbitrary lines all the time. In most states you can start driving legally sometime around 16 years and six months. You can begin voting at 18. Drinking alcoholic beverages at 21. Run for president at 35.

The reason for these otherwise arbitrary lines is somewhere along the line, someone decided these were the ages we were mature enough to take on the responsibility. To understand the consequences of our actions. So if we're old enough to understand something is wrong at 18, why, if you do it when you're 16, are you treated as if you were 18? The idea of juvenile sentencing laws is we don't think you're mature enough to recognize the consequences of your actions – and then if you carry out an action, we decide that particular action, well, you really should have known better? Weird. If a 16-year-old tried to vote, would we count it, because she displays the initiative to want to vote? Of course not. Also weird.

And, as for three-strike laws, give me a break. You get caught shoplifting three times, you should be in prison for life? You can't be serious.

Thoughts on Michael Vick

Michael Vick, the quarterback you want on your team if you can't figure out how to get rid of your coach, has finished serving his 23-month federal sentence for running a dog-fighting ring. And now he gets his NFL sentence.

It's not as though he's been out on the field these past two years, but commissioner Roger Goodell has decided that, if he turns out to be the fine, upstanding young man rehabilitated criminals are supposed to turn into, he can start playing long about Week 6 this year.

To put that in perspective, Donte' Stallworth got in a car drunk at 7:00 one morning and hit a construction worker who darted out in the middle of the street, killing him. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and served 24 days of a 30-day sentence. Technically, he's suspended from football, but he's expected to play most of the year.

The thinking goes, Vick was running an interstate gambling ring, while Stallworth wasn't really to blame, he probably would have hit the worker even if he was sober. Stallworth is only a few years younger than I am; I'm guessing he had pretty much the same driving instruction I did, which means he spent a lot of time with people yelling, "don't drink and drive!" at him.

Drinking and then getting behind the wheel is pretty close to the worst thing you can do as a human, we were more or less told in driver's ed, high school, youth groups, college, you name it.

I'm not saying Vick's a good guy for fighting pitbulls and killing the weak and the old ones. That's despicable, too. But he's paid a debt to society and to his career. This additional suspension is going to damn this season for him, too.

Anybody willing to spend Michael Vick money probably needs a quarterback now, not in Week 6. Sure, he can practice now, which means a team could sign him and start working with him, but he'd miss the first few games. Enough games to put a team out of it, if they have to go with their second- or third-choice quarterback.

Now that Brett Favre has actually retired (we think), maybe the Vikings would be willing to live with Tarvaris Jackson for a few weeks and then look at Vick to bail them out the rest of the way. I can't see him going anywhere else.

Any team willing to take him would, of course, have to deal with the protests from animal rights groups, who always turn out in force when they're angry. Personally, that's a headache I'm willing to deal with as an owner—sure they're loud, but it's not like they're football fans. Ticket sales aren't going to suffer.

Fighting pitbulls? Bad. Spending 18 months at Leavenworth and another 5 under house arrest? Adequate punishment. Further keeping him out of the career he has made for himself? Really, you're just giving him a month and a half to get back into trouble.