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Sticks, stones, and irresponsible moral equivocation

Despite insisting that we won't dwell on the Vick story, mostly because the tangential Redskins association with it isn't worth expatiating, it is important that strong distinctions be made between what Clinton Portis said about dog fighting and what Mike Vick was alleged to have done criminally to dogs in this 18 page indictment, which I simultaneously encourage and warn reader(s) to look at.

It is especially important to draw that distinction when others fail to do so. Scroll down to the aptly titled section "Guilt by association, at least" which is apparently what the author is trying to create, emphasis mine:

The league didn't much need to hear from the Washington Redskins' Clinton Portis a few weeks ago, either, when he told WAVY-TV in Virginia, ''I don't know if he was fighting dogs or not, but it's his property, it's his dog.

''If that's what he wants to do, do it. I think people should mind their own business.''

Portis' comment is almost as disturbing as Vick's indictment. These guys are both examples of this thug culture. Well, it's worse than thug. It's outrageous that anyone would try to defend this.

Merely from a writing standpoint, an expression of ideas standpoint, I think it's ill-advised to meekly qualify the association of activities with "almost" immediately followed by "worse". That's confusing to a fault.

But even that qualification doesn't even begin to address the reality of the situation, which is that matters of degree separate what Clinton Portis stupidly said to what Mike Vick and others allegedly did. Even a cursory reading of the indictment should tell you that throwing water on a dog (that had, incidentally, just cost you 13,000 dollars, were there any doubt about why they decided to torture it to death) and electrocuting it is much worse than saying one does not have a high opinion of dog rights. The former is a horrible, criminal act. The latter is merely a statement, a deplorable, hopelessly stupid one in my opinion, but just words nonetheless.

That's not to defend CP's statement. But a person is entitled to their beliefs in a free society. Of note, CP has since softened his statement, admitting that:

"A couple of weeks ago, when I made those comments, I didn't understand the seriousness behind it," the Washington Redskins running back said. "I didn't know it would affect that many people, didn't think what I said was that offensive. But after doing research and seeing how serious people take this, I shouldn't have made the comments."
That's going to fall on a lot of deaf ears, particularly for dog lovers, but even had he never issued this semi-apology then we're still talking about two different classes of offensive action. Portis is entitled to his opinion either way. Mike Vick is as well. Neither is entitled, in a society with laws, to criminal behavior.

The indictment alleges that Vick and others "did knowingly and willfully combine, conspire, confederate and agree with each other, and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to commit... offenses against the United State..." starting in 2001. If Greg Couch and the Sun-Times really believe that 6 years of (alleged) nearly uninterrupted criminal activity and animal brutality is even remotely comparable to mere statements of indifference towards animals, then I'm forced to respond: Sticks and stones, guys.