Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Blog posts March 2009

Smokin' in the Boys' Room

One of the things that has struck me about the so-called "Cash for Kids" scandal is just how minor some of the offenses were that landed these kids in detention. I'm not saying that, in general, some sort of punishment wasn't merited. But, long periods in juvie seems over the top in a lot of these cases.

Makes you wonder what might happen to a youngster who got caught smoking on school grounds, in the boys' room, perhaps. BROWNSVILLE STATION did the original version. MOTLEY CRUE covered it. And, that cover version is used in this video put together by some high school kids somewhere.

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Kids for Cash?

As I have noted before on this blog, when Northeast PA makes national news, it's almost never for something positive. A couple years ago, we - well, Pennsylvania - made the LEAD on ABC's World News when drivers were stranded on Interstate 78 in Berks County. That incident occurred around the time of the Valentine's Day Storm, when I-81 in NEPA was shut down for the better part of 24 hours.

Of late, NEPA has made national and international news for two reasons. One is the "sexting" scandal in Wyoming County. The DA is now being sued by the ACLU because he gave kids an option of taking an educational course or facing criminal charges. The ACLU sees it more as a threat: take the class or face the charges. A tech-oriented publication in the UK printed THIS article in which it comes down squarely on the side of the ACLU.

The other - and more notorious - reason is the so-called "Cash for Kids" scandal in Luzerne County. Two (now former) judges stand accused of taking kickbacks in exchange for sending juvenile offenders to a privately-run detention center. (Former) judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan have pleaded guilty to federal charges and face seven years in prison. However, Ciavarella denies any direct "cash for kids" connection.

The New York Times has published several articles concerning the case. The most recent ARTICLE came today, and detailed how the judges managed to block various efforts to put a stop to what some people suspected was going on.

That article came on the heels of a report on ABC's 20/20 which focused largely on the speed at which Ciavarella sentenced the juveniles who came before him. The juveniles interviewed for the program said they were in the courtroom for only a few minutes at best, often had no legal representation, had practically no opportunity to speak, and were immediately hauled off to the detention center.

What struck me most about the 20/20 report (PART 1 & PART 2) was the language. The reporter used phrases including "diabolical plan," "rapid-fire justice," "absurdly swift justice," and said that the judges padded "their pockets on the backs of children."

Perhaps the most dramatic language came from a woman with the Juvenile Law Center, which is working with many of the families involved in the case. She called the events taking place in Luzerne County "probably the most egregious abuse of power in the American legal system." My love of the word "egregious" notwithstanding, that's a pretty powerful statement. It says, in essence, that Ciavarella and Conahan are/were the crookedest judges in the history of American judging.

Wow! And it ain't over yet.

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Memories of the '70s

These first couple days of spring haven't been exactly warm, but they've been sunny, which has me thinking about the John Denver classic "Sunshine on My Shoulders."

And, thinking about that song has me thinking about the time I saw him in concert. I'm guessing the year was 1976 (or maybe early 1977), so I would have been 10 years old. The concert was at Madison Square Garden in New York City. In the audience were me, my mother, our pastor, and his wife (they were young). We drove to NYC in their orange and white VW van (I said it was the '70s), had dinner at some sort of Greek pizza place, then saw the concert. The opening act was STARLAND VOCAL BAND.

I don't remember too much about the concert itself. But, I remember that our seats were very near the top. If there were any rows behind us, there weren't many. I also seem to recall that neither Starland Vocal Band nor John Denver had a backup group. They were just there, in the middle of the Garden floor, on a small stage, playing their own acoustic guitars. No fuss, no muss, just music. Simple.

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Well, Whaddaya Know?

The other night, Final Jeopardy! managed to divert the attention of some of my co-workers. The answer, as given by Alex, was something along the lines of, "This 1928 work by a French composer consists entirely of a 17-minute crescendo."

Various questions were shouted out by those in the newsroom, but only one question - mine - happened to be correct.  What is "Bolero?"  (I think only one of the three contestants got it right)

Now, here's the thing.  I didn't know for certain that "Bolero" was correct.  But, I knew enough to make that guess with a reasonable amount of certainty.  For instance, I knew that Ravel was French because I have a recording of his orchestration of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" and the liner notes mention that Ravel is French.  I also knew that Ravel's most famous work is "Bolero."  Who can forget the amazing performance by ice dancers Torvill and Dean at the 1984 OLYMPICS?  And, because the piece is included on the "PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION" CD, I knew that "Bolero" is repetetive, relatively short, and builds as it goes on.  Therefore, I guessed "Bolero," and I turned out to be right.  Everyone was amazed.

All of which reminded me of another Final Jeopardy! episode that took place sometime back in the '90s.  Again, co-workers are involved.  We had a habit of watching every night, and we had a habit of wagering obscene amounts of non-existant money.  I don't recall the answer from this particular night, but I remember four things:  1) I bet $1 billion; 2) the question was, "What is the BOER WAR?"; 3) I was right; and 4) everyone was amazed.

But, they shouldn't have been amazed because, again, I didn't really know the question to the answer.  But, what I did have was enough information to make a pretty good guess.  I remembered visiting a museum - in Leeds, I think - which had exhibits that featured British military uniforms and medals from throughout the years.  I recalled seeing a little card in one of the exhibit cases, and the card indicated that these particular medals were from the Boer War.  I think there was another line or two that listed the dates and the location of the fighting.  So, you see, I based my answer not on what I knew (which was nothing), but on a memory of what I had seen.

All of which makes me wonder how - and why - I remember such things.  Liner notes.  Notes on museum cards.  Why can I remember that stuff but can't figure out how to fold a fitted sheet?  That's one thing I definitely don't know.

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Holding Back the Years

Just got finished watching the third and fourth quarters of the movie LOVE AND BASKETBALL. Great flick with a great soundtrack.  It features ANGIE STONE doing a version of the Simply Red classic "Holding Back the Years."  It's OK, but I'm still a sucker for the original.

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Turning the Corner

We may still be mired in the throes of this economic slump, downturn, recession, depression.  But, at least the weather is finally warming up.  The sun is out, temps are in the 60s, spring is two weeks away, and Daylight Saving Time starts tomorrow.  What's not to like?

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