lapsed on the floor, became dysfunctional,rnand was unable to care for herrnchildren. A New Jersey lawyer has sued arncoffee shop for causing his heart palpitations.rnIt seems a waitress served himrndouble espresso when he ordered decaf.rnA McDonald’s in Albany has been suedrnfor $600,000 by a woman who allegedlyrnfell off a shifting toilet. And the juryrnthat awarded $2.9 million to the ladyrnwho spilled hot coffee on herselfrnwhile bounding along in her grandson’srnsportscar, and the judge who later reducedrnit to a mere $640,000, makernrestaurant owners think it’s time to movernsomewhere business-friendly, like RedrnChina or Iran.rnLike people who never bother bendingrnover to pick up a penny, those whornrun the legal system can’t be botheredrnwith nuisance lawsuits. Lawyers thinkrnthat anything under six figures is jelly-jarrnchange. In the funny-money world ofrnthe legal scam, where serious moneyrnflows like water and the plundering andrnpillaging of businesses occurs on a dailyrnbasis, $300,000 is viewed by these silvertonguedrnrobber barons as a trivial sum.rnEllen Vargyas, senior counsel at the NationalrnWomen’s Law Center, says thern$300,000 damages awarded per incidentrnto victims of sexual harassment as specifiedrnin the 1991 Civil Rights Act “arc notrnexactly what I could call a pot of gold.”rnWhile businesspeople were runningrntheir businesses, the law schools ofrnAmerica were teaching lawyers like Ms.rnVargyas how to stack a deck while drippingrnwith moral sanctimony. Her scornfulrnattitude reminds me of an old pokerrnbuddy of mine who would call a big potrnby tossing his money on the table, contemptuouslyrnannouncing, “I’d pay $300rnto watch a dog pee!”rnTo me, $300,000 is not only a pot ofrngold, but ecjuals the dollar bottom-linernvalue of approximately 480,000 grapernleaves, stuffed and rolled. When you rollrnand stuff grape leaves for a living, moneyrnhas a way of taking on a new meaning.rn”Let’s see, you mean if I lose this lawsuit,rnI will have to roll and stuff grape leaves,rnnonstop, from now until I’m 68?” It’srnlike some diabolical punishment fromrnDante’s Divine Comedy, one of thosernparables about the stages of hell wherernyou’re stuck doing for eternity thatrnwhich you hate.rnTo protect ourselves from a sexual harassmentrnlawsuit like the recent one at anrnEat n’ Park in Pittsburgh, where an impoliterncustomer asked a waitress out toornmany times, we are planning to inscribernour bar stools with a warning to patrons:rn”Caution: Anyone sitting here too longrnmay be subject to unwanted sexual advances.”rnSo far, no one in our bar crowdrnis taking the discussion seriously. Everyonernlaughs and says that’s why they sitrnthere in the first place. They just hopernthe harassment will come from someonernthey like. The problem is that whatrnsounds funny to a bunch of barroom dartrnplayers at 2 A.M. is no laughing matter to arncourtroom full of serious litigants and arnkook-show jury. They have no sense ofrnhumor in criminal court.rnI attended the sexual harassment trialrnof the Pittsburgh Sports Bar, where songsrnlike “If I Only Had A Brain” from thernWizard of Oz were thought by the bartenderrnto be all in fun. In CommonrnPleas Court, the singing of that song inrnfront of a waitress was offered as evidencernof a hostile environment, and nornone, including the jury, thought it wasrnfunny. In fact, such songs can be actionablernat $300,000 a pop. This bartenderrnalso thought it was OK to serve a tray ofrncheese to a waitress who had reportedrnhim for harassment. “Here, Debbie,” hernsaid, “have some cheese. Rat finks likerncheese.” This sentence became evidencernof “retaliation” in court, also actionablernat up to $300,000. The allegedrnharassment, which the owner knewrnnothing about, resulted in legal costs andrnhues of over $500,000. The owner wasrnguilty by what is called the “should havernknown” standard, which states that anrnemployer should know about everythingrnthat’s occurred in his business. In thernend, the Pittsburgh Sports Bar closedrnand 80 people lost their jobs, whichrnmany testified were the best jobs theyrnever had.rnA legal system that is soft on crimernand tough on business will produce fewerrnjobs and more crime. John J. Dilulio,rnprofessor of public affairs at Princeton,rnwrites in the Wall Street Journal that NormarnL. Shapiro, a Philadelphia judge isrn”one of the worst offenders among thatrninfluential cadre of federal judges whornhas trifled with public safety concerns.rnSome 67 percent of all defendants releasedrnbecause of her prison cap simplyrnfail to appear in court. And in the pastrn18 months alone, 9,732 arrestees out onrnthe streets on pretrial release because ofrnthe prison cap were arrested on secondrncharges, including 79 murders, 90 rapes,rn701 burglaries, 959 robberies, 1,113 assaults,rn2,215 drug offenses, and 2,748rnthefts.”rnSuch mayhem is more dangerous tornsociety than McDonald’s coffee, but it’srnMcDonald’s that gets hit with jackpotrndamages. The prosecuting attorney saidrnMcDonald’s had “known about these injuriesrnfor 15 years.” The streets of Americarnhave been a hostile environment forrnat least that long, but who in the criminalrnjustice system can citizens sue for inadequaternsecurity?rnI wish I could offer some words ofrncheer to my fellow restaurant owners, relieverntheir fears, and reassure them thatrnthis is America and that good citizensrnhave rights and aren’t hauled off in thernnight and destroyed by their government,rnbut it would be a lie. The onlyrnphrase that has meaning for us now, I’mrnafraid, is “Just because you’re paranoidrndoesn’t mean they’re not out to get vou.”rnSarah /. McCarthy is a freelance writerrnand co-owner ofAmel’s Restaurant inrnPittsburgh.rnHomo SovieticusrnLives Onrnby Tomislav SunicrnTo the old popular proverb, “Thernonly good communist is a deadrncommunist,” we should perhaps nowrnadd: “Once a communist, forever a communist.”rnAlthough as a muscled ideologyrncommunism is dead, as a way of life itrnis still very much alive. Similar to anyrnother past and present mass belief or theology,rncommunism in Eastern Europernand Russia also managed to create distinctrnsocial species whose behavior radicallyrndiffers from liberal species in thernWest. History may tell us soon whetherrnhomo sovieticus has been a more durablernspecies than his mollified Western counterpart,rnknown as homo economicus.rnAlthough the communist monolithrnhas been replaced in Eastern Europe andrnRussia by democratic legal structures,rnand despite incessant anticommunistrn42/CHRONICLESrnrnrn