Tired of all the tedium of going through airport security? Then set your laptop up so that when they ask you to open it, it shows this.
P.S. For God’s sake, don’t really do this. You will be charged with a crime.
The story of Julia Diaco is bouncing around the legal blogosphere. She’s an attractive young white college girl who was caught dealing drugs on the NYU campus. She could have been sentenced to as much as 25 years, but instead received a slap-on-the-wrist sentence of 5-years probation.
A New York Post story, “Pot Hottie Breathes Freedom” (really), contrasts that sentence with another case:
News of the deal frustrated Anthony Papa, 51, who, like Diaco, was once a first-time, non-violent offender. Instead of probation, he was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for delivering four ounces of cocaine for a police informant to an undercover cop for a $500 fee.
The owner of a struggling auto repair business in The Bronx, Papa was desperate for cash and couldn’t afford a pricey lawyer.
“I get angry with a case like this because the laws are not applied equally. Because she had money and the right lawyers, she didn’t go to jail. Others should have that same opportunity,” he said. “All people should be treated like this woman – with compassion.”
Virginia prosecutor Tom McKenna responds in his blog:
[Anthony] Papa, however, draws the exactly 180-degree wrong conclusion…How ’bout instead we treat like cases alike and put the drug-dealing pretty rich girl in jail for 15 years?
Well, I think it’s Tom that’s drawing the wrong conclusion. The War On Drugs is a pointless communist-empire-sized waste of resources that has eroded our civil liberties far more than the PATRIOT act ever has, all in the name of stopping a victimless crime. As far as I’m concerned, Julia Diaco got justice (or pretty close to it). The injustice here is not the light sentence given to a rich white babe, but the crushing sentences routinely handed out to everyone else.
Tom’s response is chilling. A 15-year prison sentence is life-shattering. It would destroy all her hopes and plans. Her friends would leave her and move away. Family members would grow sick and die. Everything she did, all the plans she made, all the dreams she had…it would all be wiped out, made meaningless by the passage of a decade and a half. When she got out, she’d have to start her life over from scratch.
Some criminals, of course, deserve that. But Julia Diaco is a college student who sold a little drugs to other college students. A slap on the wrist sounds about right.
Lenny Kravitz’s album 5 has been out for a few years now. I remember especially enjoying its hit single “Fly Away” which had an energetic video to go with it. You can hear “Fly Away” on Lenny Kravitz’s MySpace page (you’ll have to click the song yourself, I can’t figure out how to link to it).
Meanwhile, however, I’d like to discuss these lyrics:
Oh I want to get away.
I want to fly away.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Let’s go and see the stars,
The milky way, or even Mars.
Where it could just be ours.
Is anybody else bothered by the cosmology implied by those lyrics?
For one thing, the Sun is a star. It’s just really, really close. The next nearest star is called Alpha Centauri, and it’s about 265,000 times further away. That isn’t what bothers me about the song, though. After all, Lenny obviously means he wants to go and see the other stars. Let’s talk about those.
All the stars we can see in the sky, including Alpha Centauri, are part of a large group of about 100 billion stars that are organized into a thin disk called a galaxy. It’s a big disk: From one edge to the other is about 24 thousand times greater than the distance between the Earth and Alpha Centauri, or 6.3 billion times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Our Sun, and therefore our planet, is also in this disk, somewhere around half way between the center and the rim.
If you go out at night someplace far enough from a big city so that the sky is truly black, you can see this disk. You’ll have to wait for your eyes to adapt. We’re embedded in the disk, so we see it edge-on. It appears as a faint uneven band of light stretching across the night sky.
If you travel the earth following that band, you’d see that it stretches around the entire sky of our planet. We’re in the middle of a glowing ring of light. The ring is patchy and uneven, and appears to wander around between the stars. Our ancestors staring up at the sky during the late hours gave it a descriptive name: The Milky Way.
The stars are part of the Milky Way, and so are we. So Welcome to the Milky Way, Lenny. Make sure you try some of the food here, it’s really good.
Actually, that’s not what really bothers me either. I’m bothered by the reference to Mars, specifically to the implication that Mars is something special. It’s not.
With apologies to all those who study Mars, it’s a cold, nearly-airless jerkwater little planet that’s practically right next door. Many nearby stars will have planets just like it, or far more interesting.
So when Lenny Kravitz sings
Let’s go and see the stars,
The milky way, or even Mars.
it’s a lot like someone earthbound in Chicago singing
Let’s go and see Paris,
The World, or even Joliet.
Addendum: Actually, if you do the math, if the nearest star is as far as Paris, then Mars is the corner bar. On the other hand, if the Milky Way is the size of the Earth, then Mars is like a speck of dust on your skin.
I know, I know, some of you are thinking George Bush. But I think it’s Captain David Alexander of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. He’s having his officers arrest people for getting drunk in bars. He justifies it this way:
“Going to a bar is not an opportunity to go get drunk,” TABC Capt. David Alexander said. “It’s to have a good time but not to get drunk.”
I don’t think Captain Alexander understands why we have bars.
This is not the first we’ve heard of this sort of thing.
This is not quite what I was hoping for in Afghanistan:
Abdul Rahman, 41, has been charged with rejecting Islam, a crime under this country’s Islamic laws. His trial started last week and he confessed to becoming a Christian 16 years ago. If convicted, he could be executed.
I have nothing against Islam, but what I’ve seen of Islamic law seems intolerant and dangerous.