4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 20, 2001
I e £irttiwgntt & g
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Indulgences return, courtesy of the 'justice' system.i
NICK WOOMER BACK T.O TiiE WOOM
EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STUDENTS AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
Editor in Chief
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necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily
n Finland, speeding is
f always expensive, no
matter how much
you're worth. Wealthy
$ Internet entrepreneur
Jaakko Rytsola knows -
when Finnish cops pulled
him over for going 43 mph
in a 25 mph zone late last
year, he got nailed with a
The Finns use two factors to assess penalties
for traffic violations - the severity of the
offense and the size of the offender's income.
The more you make the more you pay.
No doubt such an egalitarian approach to
law enforcement will come as a surprise to
many Americans - but should it really? Even
my esteemed capitalist colleagues at The Michi-
gan Review would probably agree that getting a
speeding ticket should not be anything like pick-
ing up a mocha at Starbucks. Societies fine peo-
ple for breaking the law to discourage everyone
- rich and poor alike - from breaking it, not
to sell the privilege of violating the law to those
who can afford it.
There are striking similarities between the
medieval Catholic Church and the modern
American legal system. As everyone knows,
wealthy aristocrats used to be able to annul their
sins by purchasing "indulgences" from the
Church. Today, if Bill Gates gets pulled over for
speeding on his way to work, the state might
fine him $85. If the same thing happens to the
custodian who vacuums Gates' office at night,
he'll also be paying $85 for his transgression.
The difference, of course, is that in the former
case that $85 is (probably not even) pocket
change whereas in the latter case, his kids might
spend the rest of the week eating ramen noodles
When the state fines every lawbreaker a
fixed rate for the same crime, it is, in effect, sell-
ing the ability to commit that crime for the price
of the fine; breaking the tw becomes commodi-
fied. Want a pack of cigarettes? Hand the ven-
dor $3.95. Want to go 15 over? Hand the state
$85. What's the relevant difference?
The way the cost of speeding tickets is cal-
culated underscores a more fundamental prob-
lem with criminal "justice" in the United States.
This situation has probably been articulated best
by comedian Chris Rock, who has, as of yet,
been the only person to say anything remotely
insightful about the O.J. Simpson murder case:
"If O.J. drove a bus, he wouldn't even be 'O.J.'
He'd be 'Orenthal the bus driving murderer!'".
Any honest person must admit that -
regardless of whether he is actually guilty or
not - the only reason O.J. is free today is
because he had the financial resources to hire
some of the nation's most successful lawyers.
If O.J. drove a bus, he would not be playing
golf in Florida; he'd be waiting for the state of
California to kill him with a potassium chlo-
While hiring Johnnie Cochran doesn't
always necessarily constitute a "get out of jail
free" card, it is certainly the case that having a
top-notch lawyer is going to have a significant
impact on one's chance of getting convicted.
And even if one does get convicted, a well rest-
ed and well paid lawyer is far more likely to
effectively argue for a more lenient sentence
than an overworked and underpaid public
Anyone skeptical of this claim ought to ask
himself or herself: "If I was facing a criminal
charge, would I be just as comfortable being
represented by a public defender as I would if
Alan Dershowitz was representing me?" Of
course not -- it would be counter-intuitive to
suppose otherwise. The reason people hire pri-
vate attorneys in criminal cases in the first
place is because they think that doing so will
improve their chances of getting the best possi-
Admitting this puts the proponent of the sta-
tus quo in an impossible position since there
cannot possibly be "equal justice for all" if
spending a lot of money on a renowned attorney
is usually going to increase one's chance of
acquittal or leniency in sentencing.
So if we are going to regard a crime as it
ought to be regarded - not as a product sold t":
the wealthy fbr the price of an across-the-boa-d
fine or a good'lawyer, but as a practice everyone
ought to have an equal incentive not to do, then"
the American j'ustice system has to undergo rad-
ical reforms. Nbt only do fines need to be deter-
mined by the size of the offender's income, buth
even the lowliest drug offender needs to have ;
equal access to'the same lawyers O.J. does.
Justice cannot be blind unless the United
States abolished a system that lets the wealthy
purchase the ability to break the law.
Nick Woower's column runs every
other Tuesday. Give him feedback at
via e-mail at email@example.com.
Wild animals are
TO THE DAILY:
Emily Achenbaum's column ("Hunting:
Wasteful, cruel and definitely not a sport,"
2/19/01) was unbelievably ridiculous. It
wasn't ridiculous simply because she has a
view that's different than mine but because of
her logic. From the column it appears that she
formulated her anti-hunting opinion based on
what she saw while babysitting in an' out-
doorsman's home. She saw mounted animals.
From that she concluded that hunting is
"wasteful, cruel and definitely not a sport."
The Michigan deer population is so high
that it causes an unbelievable number of traf-
fic accidents. Sometimes the deer cause peo-
ple to swerve off the road into trees or other
cars. As a result of these accidents, a lot of
cars are wrecked and a lot of people are
bruised, paralyzed and killed. I think that's a
The truth is that population control is
paramount to managing our wildlife and
hunting is an operation of population control.
Nothing is wasted, the animals are eaten
and/or their fur is used.
Bottom line, wild animals are natural
resources just like trees, oil and coal. When
these animals are harvested for human benefit,
it is justified along the same lines as forestry.
There is nothing cruel about harvesting an ani-
mal. The shot of a 12-gauge feels no different
to a pheasant than the teeth of a hungry bobcat.
When our forefathers (especially the
French and English) came to the new land
they hunted, fished and trapped. It is part of
American heritage to participate in these
activities. To deny people of this would be
denying them of their heritage.
A'iT1S1;A ~U CL alGTOO
W94T TO IMAt4K WM W '4.lTO A E.0
To be in the outdoors participating in fact that the rest of the country was observing "
these activities is to spit in the face of drug President's Day, a federal holiday. I am writing
and alcohol abuse. Young people involved in to question the University's policy toward the
hunting and fishing are less likely to abuse observance of federal holidays.s
substances and go to jail. Achenbaum needs I am wondering what authority the Unie4
to look beyond the concrete jungles of our versity has to pick and choose which holi-
cities and beyond the residence of her days to observe. Federal holidays are.
babysitting job to form a fair and educated designated by the government not only to"
opinion on hunting. Judging people and their allow hard working Americans to take a day'
activities is not wise without thinking it off to enjoy time with family and friends buty
through first. also as a means to honor the commitments
U needs to observe
all federal holidays
TO THE DAILY:
Yesterday, Feb. 19, was another usual day
for the people associated with the University.
We went about our business oblivious to the
and dedication of others.
Michigan's academic calendar chooses to
observe a few federal holidays but ignores
President's Day and Veterans Day. Is it right
for the University to pick and choose which
holidays to observe based on a matter of con-
venience because it fits into the semester's
schedule? And does the University have the
right to choose which holidays have political
implications worth observing on campus? A4
so, that is a bold assumption.
Do you keep it 'real?' Methinks not.
DUSTIN J. SEIBERT ENTER THE MANIFESTo
eah, it's our par-
ents' fault. They
were the first to
distort our reality. More
than likely, they were the
first ones who ever whis-
pered a lie to our tender
ears. They were the ones
who told .us that Santa
Claus brought us toys in his
big red sleigh on Christmas. They told us that
we came special delivery as babies from the
stork. They told us that the kids at school made
fun of us because they were jealous of our
accomplishments. Despite the fact that, as
adults, we all recognize these childhood "com-
forts" as pure dingo shit, these aberrations of
the truth have nonetheless left the impression in
our minds that real-life problems can be solved
through such pleasing distortions of reality..
Sure, it was harmless back then, but some of us
simply don't want to let go of the easy answer.
And so we haven't been quite right since
childhood. We fabricate in our minds little half-
truths and justifications to help us feel better
about a given situation. Unfortunately, as we
grow older, it gets so out of hand with some
people that they formulate complete realities
exclusive to their minds that are separate from
the real world. Kinda like "The Matrix," only
without bad actors and a confusing plot.
doors that we would rather keep from the God
Allow me to formulate a simple hypothesis:
To stay completely and wholeheartedly true to
oneself is unarguably impossible. Every man,
woman, and child has some inhibitions to their
credit. This is quite a shame because even so-
called "ideal" citizens have skeletons in their
closets that may otherwise ruin their credibility.
Look at Bill Clinton - standout President and
cool mo-fo to boot, except he gets brain from
some lady that wasn't the "First" one, and now
he is such an awful human being not worthy
enough to remain in the Oval Office. Spare me.
I don't even want to imagine how many card-
carrying members of NAMBLA are in the
Republican Party. With so many organizations,
religions and people in existence to condemn
you for the things that you do, is it any surprise
that folks are scared to express themselves? I
feel that it is my duty to allow certain examples
of everyday bullshit that is often taken for
People get the impression that the Universi-
ty enrolls only the best of the best, cream of the
crop, super-geniuses who are absolutely guam-
anteed success with that diploma in hand. The
reality is, there are a lot of stupid muthafuckas
in this school. And I don't mean "freshmen liv-
ing in Markley" stupid; I mean stupid to the
point where they can hardly function in social
always be. I mean, do you really wanther toe
know how broke and nasty your ass really is?
Finally, I can't help btmt identify the fact that
so many people today dge religion as nothingw
more than a limited set df values that they were
born into. So many folks who claim that they.
are "devout" make it a point to violate every
rule and stipulation of their religion that they
feel can be broken without losing that ultimate
salvation. I grow tired of those who feel the
need to distort or alter the ideas of religion for
personal benefit; doing so effectively eliminates
the point. The concept of "God is forgiving" is.
so overrated that people use it as an excuse for
their malevolent actions and a comfort zone for
the accompanying consequences. Religion
made easy for all!o
I would hate for people to gather from this
column that I am o high and mighty and above-
all the issues that I speak of. There are many
things that I would not do or say for benefit df
my greater interest. It took me years to open my
eyes to the reality of the world around me, and
there are still some things that I have yet to
accept (ask my mother). Forgive my arrogance,
but I feel that there are many people whose
eyes are still wide shut, and that's why I am'
here. That's why I am The Manifesto.
For the benefit of confused 12-year-olds
and residents of the state of Connecticut, allow
me to clear up those aforementioned aberra-
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