For those of us who hate hate-crime laws, the (London) Spectator’s Matthew Parris, a stalwart member of Stonewall, the gay lobbying group, has a piece critical of England’s version of such laws:

“First the difficulties of implementation. When seeking to identify proposed legislation of doubtful practical use, it is a useful rule of thumb to watch out for ministers and lobbyists claiming its virtue to be that it will ‘send out a message’ that this or that is socially unacceptable. It is as though the criminal law was really just a branch of public service advertising – another way, alongside radio, television and the newspapers, or perhaps direct leafleting, of signalling a recommended set of values to the citizenry.”

“Sending a message,” by the way is becoming my new most hated cliché (it used to be closure). I note that the judge or somebody said that Michael Vick’s going to jail would “send a message.” He was sent to jail-that’s fine with me, whether he gets his message or not.