The Talking Dog

March 28, 2009, The lack of a national outrage is deafening

Unfortunately, Americans have long cared about money (and the things money can buy, such as guns, SUVs, flatscreen t.v.'s, McMansions, et al.) more--far more-- than just about anything else. Certainly, despite our national fetishization of both children and avoiding death, we care about money more than either of them (though we are willing to throw a wildly disproportionate share of our immense national health care costs at the futile attempt to belay death). Anyway, let's just say that "the outrage" (faux or otherwise) over the AIG bonuses is an interesting phenomenon... but for what people should be outraged about... read on.

The case in point is the relatively contained outrage about the case of two Pennsylvania judges literally selling children into imprisonment for profit. From the Grey Lady:

Last month, the law caught up with Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., 58, who ran that juvenile court for 12 years, and Judge Michael T. Conahan, 56, a colleague on the county’s Court of Common Pleas.

In what authorities are calling the biggest legal scandal in state history, the two judges pleaded guilty to tax evasion and wire fraud in a scheme that involved sending thousands of juveniles to two private detention centers in exchange for $2.6 million in kickbacks.

On Thursday, the State Supreme Court ordered that the records be cleaned for hundreds of the 2,500 or so juveniles sentenced by Judge Ciavarella, and in the coming weeks, the two judges will be sentenced, under a plea agreement, to more than seven years in prison.

While the scandal continues to ripple nationally as legal experts debate whether juvenile courts have sufficient oversight, here in Luzerne County people are grappling with more immediate questions: How did two native sons, elected twice to the bench to protect children and serve justice, decide to do the opposite? And why did no one stop them?

Among infractions for which young kids were sent to jail included the case of a then 15-year old girl who posted a disparaging remark about a school administrator on Myspace, or getting into family fights...

Let me make it easy: while I have no brief for AIG's bonus-babies, their "crimes" weren't crimes... these two "judges" should face a firing squad (or at a minimum, at least one day for every day they wrongly sentenced juveniles to, with no possibility of parole).

I realize they won't, of course, because in the end, they are powerful white men with a lot of money, and for crimes that really do warrant nothing short of a firing squad, their plea agreement will result in seven years in federal prison. One can only hope they encounter at least a couple of the kids whose lives they turned upside down inside... I'm not usually a fan of jailhouse justice, but what we are looking at in these two bastards (and in the case of their co-conspirators, many of whom will doubtless escape justice altogether) is every bit as bad as the conduct of the callous torturers of the Bush Administration and its "war council":
nothing more than the arrogance of power at its worst, in the case of Messrs. Ciavarella and Conahan, even more craven, because, in the end, it was just about money.

But what is most galling is that I don't hear senators calling for ritual suicides nor am I receiving blast e-mails telling me I should be outraged, because in the end, it wasn't that much money. It seems our sense of national outrage only involves what we can pitch as "a lot of money." Sadly, the couple of million in bribes and kickbacks (notwithstanding the fact that literally thousands of children were needlessly imprisoned)... just isn't enough to get our attention. Sorry about that, kids. But it's not as if you warranted AIG (or A-Rod) money, now is it?

In the wake of a school shooting, I have often said that we Americans loves our guns more than we loves our children. Well, I think I can safely add that we loves our money more than we loves our children too. The lack of a national outrage is deafening. Just deafening.


Yes, I just read today that one of the judges nominally admits wrongdoing, but claims that he has a form of legal immunity because judges can't be prosecuted for the decisions they make on the bench (?) Not sure if that holds any water, but what astonishes is the lack of any remorse for turning the lives of thousands of families upside down. Sociopathy -has it ever been quite so acceptable?

Posted by Bob Hopeless at April 1, 2009 6:02 PM