A couple of things happened this past week that warrant a mention. First, though the lesser impact of the two—Girl Scout cookies are back in season, but you can read about this a few paragraphs hence.
The second thing—and it definitely warrants top billing by comparison—is that a Pennsylvania judge, Mark Ciavarella, is now on his way to sentencing on multiple counts of racketeering and myriad other felonious goodies. Click here for the hideous details.
The man was a Family Court judge who betrayed his trust and all that goes with it by taking mega-buck kickbacks in a “kids for cash” scheme that, according to officials, ranks among the biggest courtroom frauds in U.S. history.
I’m what most people would call a pragmatist. At least those in tolerant moods do; others call me a prick. Regardless, though, whenever it comes to human behavior, not much surprises me. Does some of it disgust me? YES. Does it anger me? ABSOLUTELY! And, judicial festering sores like this creep make it into my TOP 10 list.
This kind of behavior provides tempting fodder for the public to lump all judges and lawyers as members of a warped fraternity. But we need to resist the temptation because the Mark Ciavarella’s comprise less than half a percentage of America’s judicial population.
But nevertheless, I get tired of hearing judges and lawyers bemoan the fact that people often question their logic AND integrity.
This defendant conducted himself throughout the trial as being ABOVE it ALL, while projecting an air of detachment bordering on outright contempt for his federal accusers as well as for his child victims and their families.
There was no question that what he did to these kids was criminal and screamed for some significant jail time. But the U. S. Attorney went after him on 12-counts involving racketeering, money laundering, and conspiracy. He didn’t even consider the crimes against the kids.
Per the prosecuting U. S. Attorney, “We're very sympathetic to the pain to the community that was caused here … and we're fully aware of the deep anguish that many parents and many juveniles feel. But the federal criminal courts are not the appropriate venue to resolve that issue fully.”
Really! Well, just where IS the appropriate venue? And, even if we find it, I’ll bet it will take years to get proper justice while the lawyers and judges spend months sorting out the proper definition of “is.”
The judge in this case can send this man to prison for a maximum of 157-years. But he WON’T. Federal sentencing guidelines call for a sentence of between 12 and 15-years. Bernie Madoff received 150-years! What’s so mitigating about THIS creep?
A major problem with our criminal justice system is the fact that personal responsibility has become virtually non-existent. Juries blame the lawyers for obfuscating the facts, judges for confusing them with their instructions, and other jurors for intimidation tactics during deliberation.
Lawyers are too often more concerned with a “win” than justice. Too many judges hide safely and snugly behind jury verdicts. Appellate courts often affirm trial judges using no more than a couple of sentences loaded with legal babble that only legal minds can understand. And, if the U. S. Supreme Court does not wish to get involved, they just hang out a “Gone fishin’” sign.
Beyond a reasonable DOUBT notwithstanding, we have to develop a way to elevate a reasonable CERTAINTY to a level of concern that’s more than a mere passing thought whenever all parties “know” that an accused is or isn’t guilty of a crime.
But, this will remain an impossibility as long as we’re content with a criminal justice system that seems content to treat criminal proceedings as if they’re nothing more than expensive and time-consuming games of legal “Simon Says.”
OK, now let’s move on to the issue of Girl Scout cookies. It’s THAT time of the year… you know, when the girls and their mommies—sometimes a daddy will tag along, too—begin showing up outside of virtually every Wawa store in Delaware.
The Wawa that I most frequent—about 5-times a day—is a gas-dispenser with BOTH front-lot and back-lot entrances. And, while Wawa management prefers restricting cookie sales to just a single entrance, I’ve witnessed a time or two when the girls had gained strategic control of BOTH entrances.
For the record, I purchase between 50 and 75 boxes of these things a year. Yes, I’m somewhat addicted to them, but I also give about 95% of them away either to center city elementary schools for use in their lunch programs or to charitable facilities like the Sunday Breakfast Mission.
I’m not much on religion and I’d prefer daily root canals, sans anesthesia, than attend weekly church services of any denomination. This, along with a few other things, is the way I flip the bird to those who imply only God people can be charitable.
Anyway, I’m sure you get the point that I’m an avid supporter of the Girl Scouts of America. And, in case you haven’t gotten it, I AM! And, this includes my defending the girls’ right to sell their cookies in front of—or in back of—any establishment for which the managing authorities have granted them permission.
Last weekend—it was nice and balmy—a troop set up shop in the front of my usual Wawa. They were located at only one of two front entrance doors. And, like a moth drawn to a flame, I bought 5-boxes to start my season off on the right track. However, NOT everyone was happy to see the girls set up shop.
One woman—she reminded me of that bicycle-pedaling officious old fart in the Wizard of Oz—was raising hell with one of the clerks inside the store. And, she was NOT happy. “You should NOT let them bother the customers like this” seemed to be her main complaint.
Of course, with me being a retired and cantankerous old fart myself, I tried to explain to her that all she had to do was take about a second of her time and say to the girls, “No thank you” and continue into the store. They’d simply stop the sales pitch.
And, if she left the store through the same door, she might have to say it again. These ARE children and sometimes their attention spans are short-lived.
Unfortunately, this woman was in NO mood for reason. While she did eventually stomp off in frustration, the temptation to tell her to “be fruitful and multiply,” only not in those precise words, did cross my mind. But, I just couldn’t do it in front of those youngsters.
Folks, if you don’t want to buy cookies from the Girl Scouts in front of Wawa or anywhere else, for that matter, simply tell them, “No thank you.” It won’t ruin their lives or make them put a contract out on your life.
But, I suspect that the reason you raise hell with Wawa management—less than 1% of their customers complain—is that you want Wawa to be the DIRECT heavy because you lack the guts for it.
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.