Mad as Hell...

John J. Hopkins Jul. 23, 2006, 6:37am

This week's column returns to form, with the 1976 classic "Network," as its theme. The winner of multiple Oscars, the film was nosed out for Best Picture by sentimental favorite, "Rocky."

Without a doubt the most memorable lines from the most unforgettable character, the "mad prophet of the airways, Howard Beale," played by Oscar winner Peter Finch.

Beale, an anchorman recently laid off by corporate hierarchy, announces that since he has nothing in his life but the work, he intends to "blow my brains out on this broadcast."

Beale's date with destiny is sidetracked by an epiphany engineered by the network boss.

He comes back energized, dripping wet from walking in the rain, begins his now famous rant. Imploring his audience to "turn the TVs off, get off the couch and go to the window, stick out your head and yell 'I'm mad as Hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore'..." The movie progresses to its inevitable cynical conclusion, but Beale's rant passes on into movie legend.

I have been thinking about old Howard, his therapeutic yell, and how good it would be to just scream out against the inequities. So, with thanks for the bully pulpit provided by The Record, here's a half dozen items about which "I'm mad as Hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore."

1. Don't Feed the Trial Lawyers Campaign

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce continues with its systematic deception, blaming all of society's woes on trial lawyers. With highway billboards, and a radio ad with a trip through a fake animal preserve with a crocodile hunter wannabe complete with phony Aussie accent, the public is encouraged to "Not Feed the Trial Lawyers."

Enough! The reality of the contributions of the trial bar, for the injured, the accused and accursed, the powerless and the helpless, CANNOT be denied. If the Chamber had a conscience it would be embarrassed.

The ads are nothing more than a blatant attempt to taint irrevocably the prospective jury pool, and should not only be met with rejections, should be the subject of jury tampering charges.

2. The Attack on Judge Lloyd Cueto

Judge Lloyd Cueto of St. Clair County is one of the best on the bench. He is smart, hard working and fair. But that's not enough for Ed Murnane, mouthpiece for the Illinois Civil Justice League (got it right this time, Mr Murnane). Judge Cueto is engaged in a contested political race, choosing to run for election rather than to stand for retention.

During the course of the campaign, he committed a very technical violation of the complex financing regulations, a mistake he has both admitted and corrected.

Not satisfied, Murnane and the boys have continued to impugn his integrity, even to the point of proposing an amendment to the state constitution to prohibit the heretofore unknown tactic employed by Judge Cueto in this election, gathering support from low places, the ethics expert for John Simmons.

Stop! If the so-called Justice League has a legitimate complaint, then bring it on. But stop the smear campaign designed to help favored GOP challenger Paul Evans.

Lloyd Cueto has been my friend since Assumption High School, some 40 years ago. He is a good and decent family man who deserves much better. The way he is being treated is the reason why good people shy away from the bench. I hope he gets the peace his outstanding career merits.

3. Judge Moran in the Sombrero

Judge George Moran Jr. is gone. Yet, the Record continues to show his picture in a Mexican sombrero. While the on-duty Spanish classes were a part of the story, it is now old news. Making sport of Judge Moran no longer serves any purpose, at this point in time. It was cute once, but now it's over.

Get Over It! The Judicial Inquiry Board has no jurisdiction over Moran, so they cannot be still investigating. More importantly, the Moran family has served the people of Illinois well and true. Whatever mistakes George Jr. made, they are over. Move on.

The Lakin Saga

Speaking of family dramas, the Lakin family is repeatedly in every issue of The Record. The case will go on, the truth will come out and justice will be served. It is time to Give It A Rest!

Taking the Lakins out of the news does not mean that the story is cold, case closed. Nor does it mean that you turn the blind eye to a scandal, that if true, should bring the full force of bankruptcy, prison, and the fires of eternal damnation as the price of power driven arrogance.

It simply recognizes that to the egomaniac, there is no such thing as bad publicity, no such concept as shame.

5. The Medical Malpractice Myth

I know. I said after that cold, rainy day in August when Blow-hard-gevich signed the "Reform" bill, that I would have no further comment.
But in the almost 12 months since Gov. Rod sold out in Alton, much has transpired. The rates of doctors have lowered, without the reforms in place, as they do not affect cases arising before August of 2005.

Yet the drumbeats of the lobby for total medical immunity from mistakes still sound. Again, without empirical evidence in support, the medical community cries out for more, and more, and more...Halt!

The publication of the scholarly treatise, "The Medical Malpractice Myth" in November by Thomas Baker of the University of Connecticut -a little late, but welcome nevertheless - sets forth several points, all based on data from the Harvard Medical School.

First, over 90 percent of the cases filed showed evidence of significant injury, 25 percent involving death...hardly frivolous.

Secondly, in the cases of baseless suits, the courts, the yet un-reformed courts, threw the cases out.

Finally, adjusting properly for inflation, the size of an average award has not increased over the last 30 years, and has in terms of real money, actually dropped. The truth shall be told, and it shall set ye free.

6. The Hellhole

Judicial Hell Hole Number One, a phrase coined by Victor Schwartz of the American Tort Reform Association, an industry shell organization, was never appropriate, and even less so now.

The reforms initiated by Chief Judge Callis, the beginning of the Mental Health Court and the continuation of the Drug Court, and the start up of the Child Custody Mediation program, all belie such a tarnished reputation.

Yet, facts notwithstanding, the slander continues.

Cease and Desist! The statistics on recent filings clearly show major changes in the wind, changes yet to be fully and properly credited.

With asbestos filings down to a 10-year low and new class action cases virtually non-existent, the twin peaks of Hellhole Number One have faded from view. It is time that credit is given where owed.

The Post, in praising the new custody program, said it best, " .. only fair to give the judges their due when they do something right."

Amen, brother.

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