It is not a crime not to admit your crimes. It is not a crime not to beg for mercy. Yet until the day that Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to prison for 14 years he had done neither of these things and the press had hammered him for it. The last-minute conversion mattered to Judge James Zagel, who said he gave the former governor credit for facing up to his sins.

Far down the tracks, farther than he might ever travel, atonement and redemption await Blagojevich. Well, it is pretty to think so. And because at the last moment he reached the way station of repentance, Zagel apparently extended him a dollop of mercy. The state had asked for a sentence of at least 15 years.