Friday, December 17, 2010

More about the American Tort Reform Association

According to its website, the American Tort Reform Organization "was founded in 1986 by the American Council of Engineering Companies. Shortly thereafter, the American Medical Association joined them. Since that time, ATRA has been working to bring greater fairness, predictability and efficiency to America's civil justice system."

The ATRA website says it supports "aggressive civil justice reform agenda that includes:
  • Health care liability reform
  • Class action reform
  • Promotion of jury service
  • Abolition of the rule of joint and several liability
  • Abolition of the collateral source rule
  • Limits on punitive damages
  • Limits on noneconomic damages
  • Production liability reform
  • Appeal bond reform
  • Sound science in the courtroom
  • Stopping regulation through litigation
Here is a "sample list" of ATRA members:
  • 3M
  • Advance Medical Technology Association
  • Altria Corporate Services
  • ASFE
  • American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists
  • American Council of Engineering Companies
  • American Furniture Association
  • American Institute of Architects
  • American Legislative Exchange Council
  • American Medical Association
  • American Petroleum Institute
  • American Trucking Associations
  • America's Blood Centers
  • Anheuser-Busch Companies
  • Associated Wire Rope Fabricators
  • Boeing
  • CNA Financial Corporation
  • Caterpillar
  • Coca-Cola Bottlers' Association
  • DaimlerChrysler Corporation
  • Doctors' Company
  • Erickson Retirement Communities
  • General Aviation Manufacturers Association
  • Helicopter Association International
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Juvenile Products Manufacturers
  • Koch Industries, Inc.
  • Lovell Safety Management Co.
  • Medical Mutual
  • National Association of Home Builders
  • National Association of Mutual Insurance Co.
  • National Association of Shell Marketers
  • National Federation of Independent Business
  • National Fuel Gas Distribution Corporation
  • National Lumber & Building Material Dealers Association
  • New York Blood Center
  • PPM Services
  • Pennsylvania Medical Society
  • Pfizer
  • Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America
  • Physician Insurers Association of America
  • Rio Grande Valley Chamber
  • Scandia Family Fun Center
  • SeamCraft, Inc.
  • State Farm
  • Taussig Corporation
  • Universal Health Services
  • Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America
  • Wyeth

Referring article: Cook County a "Judicial Hellhole"? Looking into the claims.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Illinois Judges Association Statement on Justice Kilbride's retention

The special interest groups trying to oust incoming Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court Tom Kilbride in his retention election pose a direct threat to fairness and impartiality of all Illinois judges. Through the use of deceptive and slick marketing, those sullying Justice Tom Kilbride are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for their own ideological and political ends at the expense of the touchstone of the American legal system – a judiciary independent of all influences and interests.

The Illinois Judges Association opposes any effort to “get” judges for doing their jobs. It undermines the ability of judges to carry out their judicial functions. It constitutes a dangerous intrusion upon independent judicial decision-making. And it is a blatant affront to everyone that the judiciary serves.

The public rightly demands that judges decide cases based on the law, not policy, popularity, or political views. As John Adams declared in the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution, "It is the right of every citizen to be tried by judges as free, impartial and independent as the lot of humanity will admit." Yet, the incendiary attacks on Justice Kilbride seek nothing of the sort. To achieve their ends, special interest groups have resorted to ugly misrepresentations and falsehood of Justice Kilbride’s opinions. What political motive do they have? Playing politics with a judge's record, distorting it for political reasons, is unfair and dishonest.

Get the truth about Justice Tom Kilbride. Look at the ratings and evaluations by the major newspapers in Illinois and the Illinois State Bar Association, a non-partisan group. Ask a friend who is a lawyer or a judge. Vote on the basis of facts, not propaganda or an orchestrated disinformation media barrage. Once we allow judges to become intimidated or become mere tools of individuals or groups wanting to assert their own interests, to paraphrase Alexander Hamilton, the constitution is a dead letter. And, it might be said, so are our American values of justice.

The Illinois Judges Association is the statewide organization for members of the Illinois judiciary. It is made up of about 1,000 active and retired judges. It can be reached at 312.431.1283 or visited on the web at

Releated: Illinois Judges Association weighs in on Kilbride retention

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rooting for Nolan Ryan's Rangers -- despite this

I still maintain that Mr. Ryan need not have clobbered Ventura quite so hard: I always thought Ventura was reconsidering just what he was doing right before he reached the mound. It doesn't look as if Ventura ever even tried to throw a punch.

Seeing this again gives me a new quest: I'm now looking for a video of Craig "the Little Hurt" Grebeck and Ozzie Guillen taking Ryan deep back to back. That turned out to be Ozzie's one and only home run in 1990. (The next time the Sox faced Ryan, Ryan plunked Grebeck. That still seems excessive to me....)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I thought this was just at our house...

Of course, we live just a couple of blocks from the Kennedy Expressway. Why should we expect good cell reception here?

Zits comic obtained from the Houston Chronicle website, although I read it daily in the Chicago Tribune.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sometimes saying "I'm sorry" isn't enough

But it's all we can say or do.

William Cook, 57, defense lawyer who was well loved, dies suddenly (Chicago Daily Law Bulletin coverage; subscription required)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Strange suburban crime blotter

My guess is that this first case involves a really disgruntled former employee. Matt Kiefer reports on the Chicago Sun-Times website:
At 6:23 a.m. [on September 13], rooftop surveillance cameras recorded an unidentified woman drive into the front parking lot of the [Takeda Pharmaceuticals property in Deerfield], then get out of her car and then defecate and urinate on company property.

Two security guards who responded said they parked their vehicle behind the woman's car, but that she put the car into reverse and struck their car before driving to the Lake-Cook Road exit. Company security reported she disobeyed two red lights on her way to the Interstate 294 tollway southbound entrance.
And, courtesy of Overheard in Cook County, we have a link to Dennis Sullivan's story in the Orland Park edition of Triblocal about an Orland Park woman who thought that a field sobriety test administered in the course of a traffic stop was a "fashion show." Sullivan quotes the police report as saying, "She walked up and down the line with hands on her hips three additional times." The report also notes that the woman demanded that she be read her "Amanda rights."

She has been charged with DUI.

Daddy's Home comic tackles jury duty dodging

A lot of people aren't thrilled to receive a jury summons -- my daughter Brigid was a recent exception -- which is why I found these recent comics particularly good. (Click either strip to enlarge.)

The comic "Daddy's Home," by Tony Rubino and Gary Markstein, runs in the Chicago Sun-Times, but I obtained these images from GoComics.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Are the antibiotics of the future in cockroach guts?

That, as I understand it, is the claim made in this story posted September 7 by Katie Drummond on AOL News.

The sad truth is that wee beasties that once were completely vanquished by antibiotics have adapted and are no longer so well controlled. Scary acronyms like MRSA have crept into the common vocabulary. The once futuristic-sounding word "penicillin" has taken on a rather quaint, lace doily, cloth-wrapped-electrical-cord tone.

Researchers are looking with growing desperation at any possible replacements for increasingly obsolete antibiotics. The operative word here is "any." Thus, brave British researchers at the University of Nottingham's School of Veterinary Medicine and Science have been reduced to probing into the interiors of everyone's least favorite insects.

And yet it turns out that this seeming longest of long shots may yield miraculous returns. Writes Drummond:
[P]otent chemicals, found in the brain and central nervous tissues of the critters, are able to kill 90 percent of E. coli and MRSA in lab-based tests.
According to the researchers, the unsanitary and unhygenic environments in which these bugs flourish has spurred them to develop toxins against the bacteria that we can no longer kill on our own.

If scientists can really develop something from cockroach innards, though, there will have to be some rather heroic efforts from somebody's marketing department before the potentially life-saving advantages of cockroach-gut medicine can really catch on.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Forget about the Asian Carp -- watch out for giant French Carp!

This photograph was featured tonight on Yahoo! News and it really wasn't taken in Lake Michigan or even along the Illinois River.

If the photo is real (Yahoo! reports that skeptics are suggesting the picture is faked, but the UK's Daily Mail presents it as legit) the fish in question still lives in a lake in the south of France. (The angler in the photo, Raphael Biagini, released the monster. Assuming, of course, that he caught it at all.)

Anyway, if leviathans like this are really flourishing in France, why are our neighbors so worried about the piscatorial pygmies at large in the Illinois River? Even the skeptical Yahoo! article notes that koi carp (i.e., goldfish) have been caught weighing 90 pounds. Might not any discarded feeder fish expand to these dimensions?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Juror tips vote on Facebook, removed from jury

Maybe what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But anything on Facebook is there for the whole world to see.

Today's illustration of how Facebook isn't as-private-as-everyone-thinks comes from Macomb County, Michigan. Hadley Jons, a juror in a criminal case was removed after she posted this message on her Facebook page:
actually excited for jury duty tomorrow. It’s gonna be fun to tell the defendant they’re GUILTY. :P.
The trial started on August 10 but court was in recess on August 11 when the juror made that post.

Talk about prejudging the case: Jameson Cook's article for The Macomb Daily notes that the prosecution hadn't even rested when the juror announced her views to the world at large.
When jurors returned Aug. 12 for the resumption of the trial, Jons was brought into the courtroom alone by the presiding judge, Diane Druzinski, and asked about making a comment. Jons initially denied making a comment. But when the judge recited her words to her, she “put her head down” and didn’t respond, according to a court observer.

“You don’t know how disturbing this is,” Druzinski told her.

“Nobody could believe how cavalier she was about it,” said Saleema Sheikh, the defense attorney for the woman on trial.
And how was the juror found out?

My kids would call it "Facebook stalking": Defense counsel's teenage son (who just graduated from high school and was helping out in his mother's office to gain practical experience) was "surfing the Internet and plugging in jurors’ names," just to see what he could see.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Technology may be the ruin of baseball

And don't get me started on video games... you haven't lived until you've been to one of your kids' games and the kids refuse to adjust to the umpire's strike zone -- because the umpire's strike zone that day isn't the one defined in the rulebook -- and built into the microchips.

And instant replay would not be any better.

In my opinion.

Pardon My Planet appears in the Chicago Sun-Times. This image is from the Houston Chronicle.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jon Miller enters Cooperstown today

It was 1988. The Orioles had started the season 0-21.

Cal Ripken, Sr. had already been fired. Fortunately for baseball history, Cal Ripken, Jr. decided not to sit out a game in protest.

Then the O's came to Chicago. New Orioles GM (and former Sox GM) Roland Hemond persuaded Jerry Reinsdorf to let him have the suit he'd worn in the clubhouse in 1983 when the Sox clinched their first post-season appearance since 1959. The suit had been soaked with champagne and beer and kept under glass, in a display case, ever since.

I can't imagine who wanted to sit next to Hemond that night.

Anyway, Jon Miller was a guest on the White Sox pregame show. He did a spot-on imitation of Edward R. Murrow reporting 'from the rooftops of London' to show how desperately the situation was viewed in Baltimore.

That was the night the Orioles broke the streak.

Despite that, I've always liked Jon Miller. I seem to recall a night when he and former White Sox broadcaster John Rooney traded impersonations. They're both quite gifted. If I recall correctly, Miller did a great Bob Elson, too.

All the Cub fans will be going on and on today about Handy-Dandy-Andy Dawson who will be entering the Hall of Fame today... as a Montreal Expo. But I'm cheering especially today for Jon Miller.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

List of members of the Judicial Performance Commission of Cook County

Here is a list of the members of the Judicial Performance Commission of Cook County. The affiliations for each member are shown for identification purposes only. For more on the JPC, see "Voter resources for retention judges are coming" on page one of this blog.

Leonard Jay Schrager, Professor, The John Marshall Law School

Enrique Abraham, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office

Fay Lomax Cook, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Jan Czarnik, League of Women Voters of Illinois

Stephen Daniels, American Bar Foundation

Susana Darwin, American Bar Association

Vivien C. Gross, Professor, Chicago-Kent College of Law

Roy E. Hofer, Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione

Jonathan D. King, DLA Piper

Michelle K. Jordan, League of Women Voters

Edward O. Laumann, The University of Chicago, Department of Sociology

James H. Lewis, Chicago Community Trust

Virginia Martinez, MALDEF Chicago Regional Office

Travis Richardson, Richardson & Mackoff

Wesley G. Skogan, Professor, Northwestern University, Department of Political Science

Ada Skyles, Chapin Hall Research Center for Children, at the University of Chicago

Randolph N. Stone, Professor, Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, at the University of Chicago Law School

Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice
Malcolm C. Rich, Executive Director

Elizabeth Monkus, Project Manager

This would be funny -- if it weren't so true

From the webcomic xkcd, by Randall Munroe.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Money laundering legal in Zimbabwe

Indeed, according to this AP story (from Yahoo! News), it is recommended because, in parts of Zimbabwe, where American currency is legal tender, some greenbacks are "almost too smelly to handle."

Household hint: Money laundering is best done "with gentle hand-washing in warm water." Machine washing can work as well, but dry-cleaning is not recommended: The chemicals cause the bills to fade.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Is America lost in space?

(The final planned launch of Shuttle Atlantis,
May 14, 2010. From NASA.)

After STS-132, now in orbit, there are just two more planned American civilian spaceflights left. (The Air Force still has the unmanned X-37B program; a successful launch of the new vehicle was made on April 23.)

There will still be Americans in space, for a time at least, after the Shuttle is retired: American astronauts will continue to rotate to the International Space Station as passengers on board Russian vehicles. And President Obama says our outer space goals should be reconfigured: Instead of returning to the Moon and going next to Mars, as President Bush had proposed (and Congress had approved), we should head straight to Mars. Future flights in Low Earth Orbit should be privatized, with NASA becoming more FAA than the owner-developer-operator of all American space technology.

But this is a cloudy vision. While Mr. Obama's plan has some support among space scientists, many of our surviving lunar explorers are strongly opposed. (Here is a link to Neil Armstrong's written testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation this past week.)

The problem with Mr. Obama's vision -- aside from the fact that it flushes billions of dollars already spent on developing vehicles and logistics for the now-scrapped return to the Moon -- is that it comes with no guarantees whatsoever. The Mars program is off in the distant future. The only upcoming tangible goal is for a new 'heavy lift' rocket to come on line in 2015 -- and that's because the development of this vehicle was part of the lunar program. Eugene A. Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon, who testified with Armstrong before the Senate this week, said, "Nowhere do we find a commitment in dollars to support this national endeavor.... [T]his budget proposal presents no challenges, has no focus, and in fact is a blueprint for a mission to nowhere."

And then there's the question of privatizing LEO flights. In theory, this is a fabulous, long overdue idea. But... who will be allowed to fly? Low Earth Orbit is a crowded place; it's not just Hubble Telescope and the International Space Station up there, there are lots of satellites and lots of debris, too. Traffic has to be regulated to prevent collisions. Also... there's no place to go in LEO. There's up... and there's down. Entrepreneurs aren't being invited to hook up their own modules to the ISS... which would be the outer space equivalent of building a trading post outside the fort.

If you follow all the links here, you'll read that Mr. Obama's plan proposes an increase in NASA funding. But politicians do weird and wonderful things with budgetary numbers. Mr. Armstrong says the prior plans were never funded as they should have been, so comparisons are unfair. And who's to say whether Congress, in a time of soaring national debt, will supply the dollars Mr. Obama has requested.

By the way, this is not a Republicans vs. Democrats issue -- at least not for me. I think it just has to do with rotation in office: It was Richard Nixon who scrapped the last several moon flights. I suspect that each administration comes into office determined to undo everything its predecessor has done. Kennedy wanted to go to the Moon, so Nixon wanted to stop going (at least after he'd milked the PR value of Apollo XI). Bush II wanted to return to the Moon, so Obama was against it.

There is an attitude in this country that our manned spaceflight program is simply an obsolete relic of the Cold War. That's the attitude taken by Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg yesterday. He concluded:
Will it sting us to see Chinese astronauts joyously waving streamers attached to sticks, doing that running dance of theirs on the surface of the moon? Absolutely. Does that mean we must be square dancing one crater over? No way.
As an old history major, all I know is that, in the 1490s, the Pope divided the whole unknown world between the Spanish and the Portuguese. These were the major world powers then, and the leaders of global exploration. They quibbled over the Pope's line of demarcation, eventually moving one of the lines west, which may... or may not... have given Portugal its claim on Brazil.

Meanwhile the Dutch and, soon after, the English, were ramping up exploration programs of their own. And England set up shop in North America where our forefathers brought forth a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Portugal regrouped. It consolidated. Bottom line: Portugal stopped exploring; England did not. We are -- America is -- the result. Today, Portugal is a lovely place that exports cork and wine and constitutes the next biggest threat to the euro after Greece.

America may not control space. No terrestrial nation will, not in the long term, because all of us here are at the bottom of a big gravity well and space is the ultimate 'high ground.' But we can choose whether we want to be England... or Portugal.

I vote for England.

Friday, May 14, 2010

A possible explanation for this Louisiana oil mess?

Click to enlarge.

From Fake Science ("for when the facts are too confusing"). Hat tip to Popehat for the link to the site.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Almost certainly not a real sign...

...but doesn't some small part of you wish it were really posted somewhere?

Image source.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A very funny take on the census form

For your reading pleasure, this post by Mark Draughn on Windypundit: Census Form! Entrapment! Beware!

An excerpt:
I just got my 2010 Census form in the mail. I assume some of you got one too. You may have noticed that the cover letter includes the following paragraph:

This is your official 2010 Census form. We need your help to count everyone in the United States by providing basic information about all the people living in this house or apartment. Please complete and mail back the enclosed census form today.

Today, huh? So, you take a look at the form, which seems otherwise well designed, and this is the first question you see:

How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010?

Uh, that's just over two weeks in the future, so what should you put down? At first, you're tempted to guess, but a piece of the federal Census law in 13 U.S.C. 221 says:

(b) Whoever, when answering questions described in subsection (a) of this section, and under the conditions or circumstances described in such subsection, willfully gives any answer that is false, shall be fined not more than $500.

And it goes on from there....

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More pictures from the Northwest Side Irish Parade

(Continued from page one)

Spectators found it warmer and dryer along Northwest Highway Sunday than at the big parade downtown on Saturday.

The Norwood Park Historical Society had a horse-drawn carriage.

Somebody else brought an Irish wolfhound, a dog as big as a horse.

The Northwest Side Irish Parade organizers paid tribute today to Illinois Wounded Warriors. According to the March 9 edition of the Edison-Norwood Times-Review, the NWSI honored "U.S. Marine Corp. veteran Chad Watson will be honored as the 2010 NWSI Humanitarian of the Year 'for his courage and bravery in returning home from Iraq. A U.S. Marine Corps Veteran who lost his leg while serving his country in Fallujah. His dedication and commitment to the Wounded Warrior Project is a story of inspiration.'"

A Marine Corps group participated in the parade as did junior ROTC groups from Taft High School (Navy) and Foreman High School (Army):

And, of course, there were more Irish dancers. This was the Trinity Academy of Irish Dance float.

Here are the Mullane-Healy-O'Brien Irish dancers:

The Notre Dame-Resurrection High School marching band participated:
A group of athletes from Notre Dame College Prep, accompanied by Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Mike Hennessey, followed close behind:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Facebook posts get kids -- and teachers -- in trouble

A University of Oregon wide receiver has been booted from the school's football team, apparently because of "an expletive-filled statement on Facebook," according to a story posted Monday on While Ducks Coach Chip Kelly did not explicitly say that the Facebook rant was reason why Jamere Holland was "dismissed from the team," according to the posted story, that is what he hinted.

Closer to home, Justin Bird, a 16 year-old sophomore at south suburban Oak Forest High School, is fighting a suspension, according to Kevin Roy's story on ABC 7 News, because Bird "created a Facebook fan page on which he called a teacher a derogatory name." The page promptly attracted nearly 50 fans, according to Roy's story, but Bird took the page down the next day. ABC 7 reports that "High School District 228 Superintendent Bill Kendall says what Bird wrote was 'disrespectful, inappropriate and lewd.'" Exactly what Bird wrote has not been reported. While Bird wrote whatever he wrote on his home computer, the school administration considered it so "disruptive" that a suspension was warranted.

Bird's parents are contemplating legal action.

This is understandable in one sense: Students have complained about teachers since time immemorial. It's almost a sacred tradition. What right do school administrators have to interfere? Of course, there is another equally ancient tradition that may be applicable here: Students are usually careful to grumble in places where they can't be overheard by the teacher in question -- or the teacher's colleagues -- lest they get in trouble.

The ACLU has expressed sympathy with Bird's plight, according to the linked story. An ACLU spokesperson, Ed Yohnka, is quoted in Roy's story as saying, "We don't need a sort of governmental agent in the form of the school reaching into that household and correcting that behavior simply because the school thinks it somehow involves them."

With Facebook, though, kids like Justin Bird aren't merely griping in someone's household; they're making derogatory statements about unpopular teachers right in the middle of the electronic public square, in front of the persons they think they're criticizing only among themselves. Perhaps merely by posting on Facebook -- and almost certainly in creating a fan page -- a student like Bird may have made it impossible for him not to be overheard. There is as yet no consensus on the etiquette of this situation.

There is consensus among the experts only that threatening harm on a site like Facebook is never appropriate and will -- and should -- get the poster in trouble.

Thus, 18 year-old Joshua Walker is in trouble in downstate Benton, Illinois, "arrested and taken to jail after he posted some threatening and harassing remarks on his ex-girlfriend's Facebook page," according to a story posted tonight on Adriana Correa's story, originally for, says Walker allegedly "began posting death threats on the social networking site shortly after the girl ended their relationship." The girl's family called the police -- which is pursuing felony harassment charges, according to the story. Correa quotes Franklin County Sheriff's Police Captain Don Jones as saying that what Walker is alleged to have done is "just another form of domestic violence."

But it's not just students who can get in trouble on account of their Facebook musings.

Meet 24 year-old Ashley Payne.

Until last fall, Ms. Payne was a teacher at Apalachee High School in Barrow County, Georgia. She lost her job, though, after an anonymous email was sent to school administrators complaining about pictures like this one, taken on a European vacation. In the picture -- and in nine other pictures of the roughly 700 vacation pictures she posted -- Payne appears to be drinking an alcoholic beverage. *Gasp!* She was also accused of using the word "bitch" on her Facebook page.

Maureen Downey wrote about Payne's case in a November 10 article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and again on November 13.

Downey's articles make clear that, although she did "friend" some of her teaching colleagues, Ms. Payne did not "friend" any of her students. Nevertheless, the writer of the anonymous email that cost Payne her job claimed to be the mother of a student who had access to Payne's Facebook page. (Downey's November 13 article suggests, persuasively, I think, that the anonymous email came, not from a student's parent, but from a fellow teacher.)

A February 19 story in the Barrow Journal updates the saga: Payne is suing the school district -- but settlement negotiations have recently broken down.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Up all night with a sick computer

We were watching The Quiet Man at home the other night, minding our own business, and the question came up about which roles were played by Maureen O'Hara's brothers.

This being the modern age, I fired up the computer and went to, which has all the information about seemingly every movie or television program ever made.

And... the other night, at least... it apparently had something else, which explains why I've provided no link in the preceding paragraph.

One question led to another, and I jumped from page to page within the movie website, looking up Maureen O'Hara's daughter and then her grandson. I clicked on no ads.

And, yet, suddenly, on my screen appeared a dire warning: Security Alert! My computer, the screen said, was unprotected against viruses and worms and did I want the latest protection?

Well, I pay for an anti-virus program, thank you, and I am not going to say "yes" to any pop-up that appears on my desktop uninvited.

I knew that much, but still made a near-fatal mistake: I "x"ed out the pop-up. It turns out that saying "yes" would have launched the virus. But so, too, would saying "no" -- or even trying to "x" the window out.

Now all sorts of boxes began popping up: Another security warning, this one saying that a scan revealed 34 separate infections on my computer. I saw an unfamiliar icon in the tray in the lower right hand corner of the computer screen. It was a sickly green shield. I brought it up on my screen and saw it was running a scan of my system as part of an install routine. I tried to "x" that out, too.

The boxes became more threatening. Did I want to proceed "unprotected"?

Oh, yes I did, I said to myself through gritted teeth. I don't want this sort of "protection" at all. I realized almost immediately that I was under attack.

I tried "x"ing out of each box in turn. I launched my Norton program and ran the recommended quick scan -- but, despite the evidence of my own eyes -- it claimed to find nothing amiss.

It found nothing wrong even though I could open no program without getting a stern warning that it was infected. The computer even claimed that Solitaire was infected... and it would not allow the program to be activated.

I closed out of Firefox and erased all temporary files as I did so. I thought that, since I had terminated the install program, I might by this method halt the invasion.

I was wrong. The virus began opening windows in Internet Explorer. First it started to open up -- then, when I "x"ed that out, it started to open up something called "" (I immediately suspected that this was not a site that dispenses parenting advice.) When I "x"ed that out, the virus tried to launch something called "" I kept "x"ing and the virus kept launching.

After receiving negative results from the Norton scan, I opened up the Norton Security Center which claimed that my virus protection was out of date. I happen to have a current, paid-up subscription, so I knew that was wrong. But there was a link below the message which promised more information and I clicked on it.

I was whisked to a site called "Antivirus Soft" where, for something like $50, I could get three months of protection against these sorts of dastardly attacks.

That's when I unplugged the Internet.

I learned later that this was the first reasonably bright move I'd made.

Once I disconnected, I tried running another scan. I hoped that the antivirus program would now realize the situation and take corrective measures. But it again reported that nothing was wrong. It also claimed to have looked at a significantly different number of files than it did on the first scan.

Einstein said that madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I was angry, alright, but I was not mad. I resolved to try something different. Alright, I thought to myself, the quick scan found nothing. So the virus may be too deeply embedded. I should choose the comprehensive scan option this time.

I went ahead and clicked. This scan, at least, was obviously searching the entire hard drive -- I could see by the numbers of files searched and the locations being examined that this was the case.

But it was taking a long time.

Meanwhile, the virus, though no longer able to bring up the scary websites, kept trying. There is apparently a limit to the number of tabs that may be opened up in IE. I don't know what that limit is, but we exceeded it the other night by a factor of more than three -- by the time the comprehensive scan was concluded, a fourth IE window was open, trying vainly to launch,, or There was a security warning box in the middle of my screen I could not "x" out. But I could move the Norton window to one side so I could see most of it.

And I and my son Jim (we took turns monitoring) saw quite a bit of that Norton screen in the six hours it took to run the comprehensive scan. Perhaps it was the glut of IE tabs that slowed the scan down. But at this point, I was -- belatedly -- not "x"ing anything out because it seemed to merely encourage the invader.

By 4:00 or 4:30am, the comprehensive scan concluded. And it concluded that nothing was wrong at all.

Alright, I thought, trying to project the calm demeanor of the test pilots immortalized in Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff: I tried A; it did not work. I tried B; it did not work. Switching now to plan C....

This time, I tried shutting the computer off. After all, if I had prevented the install, all these problems were coming from something operating in a temporary buffer... and shutting down the machine would close that out, right?

Well... wrong.

At least this failure did not waste six hours.

I had to plug the Internet back in for a moment, at this stage, as I worked on Plan D. Since Norton was obviously compromised, I would have to go to the hardware manufacturer and see if I could obtain assistance from that quarter. I needed to look up and print out my warranty information. In so doing, I found out that Dell would not be available to talk to me until 8:00am. I also got to "x" out some more launches of, and I disconnected the Internet again and got a couple of hours of sleep.

Moments after 8:00am I was on the phone with "Frank" from Dell. I don't know why so many computer companies insist on having their customer service people assume Anglo-sounding names -- but I'm pretty sure "Frank" was from well out of town -- and sure, too, that no one in his family calls him by that name.

"Frank" solved the problem by having me do a "system restore." First, we tried to launch this from the regular Accessories tab in the XP programs menu.

The virus would have none of this.

So "Frank" guided me through the process of rebooting the computer in "safe mode." To do this, one hits the "F8" key as the machine begins its boot cycle. Eventually, I did this correctly. From there, we could launch the System Restore program. We asked the computer to restore itself to a status a week before these unhappy events occurred -- figuring that, even if the virus was not attached to an page but had instead been incubating for awhile, we'd probably get to a time before the remora latched on.

This seems to have worked.

I later spoke with Vinkesh at Norton (I'm guessing that this may actually be the name by which he is known to his friends and family) to find out why the antivirus did not "see" the virus while the attack was on.

Vinkesh explained that the first thing a trojan horse virus does is identify and disable real security software. Neither "Frank" nor Vinkesh professed any knowledge of the fake product "Antivirus Soft" -- but both confirmed that I was the victim of a trojan horse attack. Vinkesh also recommended that, in the event of a future attack, the computer be immediately rebooted in safe mode and a virus scan launched then. But the key is never, never, never respond to the pop-up. Even trying to "x" the pop-out out would allow the virus to take hold.

I do not recount these adventures merely as conclusive proof of my lack of computer skills. Rather, I post this in the hopes that someone else may profit from my experience.

My wife pointed out that it would be particularly ingenious for the creators of this "Antivirus Soft" scam to embed their virus in old movie pages on Twenty-somethings who have grown up around computers are not likely to investigate whether Maureen O'Hara had children. But straitlaced old fogies like me, the sort who might look up old movie facts, might be so terrified at the prospect of the uninvited launches of, and that they could be stampeded into clicking a "yes" button and providing their credit card information -- and at least $50 -- to make it stop.

But now you know that this would be a very bad idea.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Acknowledgments and archives

The 2010 judicial primary campaign is over now and, before moving on, it's time for me to gratefully acknowledge those who helped me to get the word out about Cook County Circuit Court candidates.

I have to begin by thanking the candidates themselves. I was able to dig out a fair amount of stuff on my own -- but I could never have obtained and organized as much information as I did without the active cooperation of many of the candidates and their supporters. I suppose there may have been some stealth judicial candidates this time out -- people hoping to sneak by on the basis of a euphonious appellation or felicitous ballot position -- but, having looked closely, it is my opinion that most of the men and women who sought election to the Circuit Court in Cook County were trying their darndest to get word out about their campaigns and their credentials. I had regular email communications from several candidates about fundraisers and endorsements -- and when I got something wrong, as happened from time to time, oh my did I hear about it.

(Fine print on a sample ballot? Who ever heard of such a thing?)

I'm also grateful for all the assistance of Joyce Williams, who coordinates candidate evaluations for the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening. Thanks to Ms. Williams, I was able to put up the evaluations by Alliance members as soon as they were released. Allen Adomite of the Illinois Civil Justice League was quick to share information he received; I hope I was able to reciprocate at least occasionally. Avy Meyers of North Town News Magazine allowed me to post candidate interviews he conducted. Albert J. Klumpp, PhD, a Research Analyst with the Chicago firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP, has been generous with his comments and his suggestions. CBA members will recall Klumpp's article in the January 2010 issue of the CBA Record, "What Influences the Voters?" Klumpp has written on the subject of judicial elections before. See, "Voter Information and Judicial Retention Elections in Illinois," 94 Ill. B.J. 538 (October 2006), and "Cook County Judicial Elections: Partisanship, Campaign Spending, & Voter Information," CBA Record, January 2007. Dr. Klumpp's 2005 Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Illinois (Chicago) was entitled, "Judicial Retention Elections in Cook County: Exercise of Democracy, or Exercise in Futility."

Steve Levinthal, who started a Facebook page called Cook County - Know Your Judicial Candidates, was one of many people whose acquaintance I made during the course of this primary season. Actually, Facebook was a new acquaintance for me this primary season -- Judge William H. Hooks was one who nudged me in that direction -- and, thank heavens, all of my kids actually friended me.

This blog may actually have helped some voters make informed choices in judicial elections. There were over 8,000 hits on Page One of this blog in January -- and nearly 19,000 page views. People were stopping by -- and looking around. (Since I started tracking visits to Page One of this blog, over 71,000 visitors have viewed nearly 150,000 pages.) A lot of visitors seem to have emailed posts to others, increasing the 'reach' of this effort.

Anyway, it's time now to mothball the candidates' websites. I'll keep them here, on Page Two, for archival purposes. Some of these will still be 'live' in 2012; some are probably already gone. The only sites I'll leave up on Page One are those of the only two candidates who still have an election to worry about -- Daniel J. Gallagher and Maureen Masterson Pulia -- who will face each other in November in the race for the countywide McCarthy vacancy.

2010 Cook County Circuit Court candidate websites:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What Cook County Circuit Court race are you looking for?

This post is a duplicate of the top post on Page One. Itwill stay on top of the page until after the February 2 primary. Scroll down the page to look for new posts.
Click on the vacancy and get information about all the candidates in that race.

Countywide races:

Subcircuit races:

This map will give you a rough idea of which subcircuit you're in. If you're still uncertain, check your voter registration card or use a site like the "Ballot Builder" on the Chicago Tribune website.

First Subcircuit
Coleman vacancy, Steele vacancy,
"A" vacancy

Third Subcircuit
Carmody vacancy, Darcy vacancy,
"A" vacancy

Ninth Subcircuit
Otaka vacancy, "A" vacancy

Eleventh Subcircuit
Riley vacancy

Fourteenth Subcircuit
"A" vacancy (uncontested)

Fifteenth Subcircuit
Lipinski vacancy, Panichi vacancy,
Phelan vacancy

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mary S. Trew appearance on NTNM "extras"

Mary S. Trew's appearance on North Town News Magazine is provided courtesy of Avy Meyers. Trew is a candidate for the "A" vacancy in Cook County's 9th Judicial Circuit.

For more on Cook County judicial races, see page one of this blog.

William Burnett Raines' second appearance on NTNM

William Burnett Raines' second appearance on North Town News Magazine is provided courtesy of Avy Meyers. Raines is a candidate for the countywide Berland vacancy.

For more on Cook County judicial races, see page one of this blog.

William J. Luby appearance on NTNM "extras"

William J. Luby's appearance on North Town News Magazine is provided courtesy of Avy Meyers. Luby is a candidate for the "A" vacancy in Cook County's 9th Judicial Subcircuit.

For more on Cook County judicial races, see page one of this blog.

Deidre Baumann appearance on NTNM "extras"

Deidre Baumann's appearance on North Town News Magazine is provided courtesy of Avy Meyers. Baumann is a candidate for the countywide Berland vacancy.

For more on Cook County judicial races, see page one of this blog.

Joanne Fehn appearance on NTNM "extras"

Joanne Fehn's appearance on North Town News Magazine is provided courtesy of Avy Meyers. Fehn is a candidate for the countywide Kelley vacancy.

For more on Cook County judicial races, see page one of this blog.

What I've learned... or what I think I've learned... from the 2010 judicial campaign

Taking a Republican ballot on Groundhog's Day effectively deprives a voter of the opportunity to vote for judges in Cook County. There are only two Republicans who filed for any Cook County judicial vacancy (both in the countywide McCarthy vacancy, in case you want to look). That means, with that sole exception, the winners of the Democratic primary races on February 2 are effectively elected. (There are no Green candidates either.) I think that this situation strongly indicates the need to make judicial primaries non-partisan -- so that anyone voting in the primary can vote for any judicial candidate.

Voters who do take the time to investigate the credentials of Cook County judicial candidates will, on balance, be pleasantly surprised at the overall quality of the people offering to serve. In some races, voters may find it genuinely difficult to choose from among several good candidates. While this year, as always, there are some candidates who have shunned the bar evaluation process, the trend seems to be toward participation. That's a good thing.

Even in uncontested races, candidates have submitted to bar association screening. That hasn't always been the case: In prior elections, some candidates who knew they'd be uncontested didn't bother to seek evaluations. In three of the four uncontested judicial races this year, though, the candidates not only participated, they were found recommended or qualified by each of the investigating bar groups. These candidates are Daniel Gallagher in the Democratic primary for the McCarthy vacancy and Judges Thomas V. Lyons (countywide O'Malley vacancy) and Daniel J. Pierce (14th Subcircuit "A" vacancy). The fourth uncontested candidate, Bonita Coleman-John (1st Subcircuit "A" vacancy), also participated in the bar screening process and was found recommended by the Cook County Bar Association and the Black Women Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago.

This is the second time I've tried to cover a Cook County judicial primary on For What It's Worth. I undertook this project because I did not think that most Cook County Circuit Court candidates had the opportunity to get their messages out to the voters and most voters did not have anywhere to look for information about Cook County Circuit Court candidates as a whole.

This landscape has changed -- for the better -- since 2008. In 2008, there was and For What's It's Worth. We're both still at it this year. But there's a lot more available this time around. This year, the Tribune not only collected questionnaires from judicial candidates seeking the paper's endorsement, it published these online. And a new service, has sprung up this year. The site compiles a list of all the candidates in all the races. For a fee, candidates can post all their information right there on the eVoter sample ballot. In December, when I first wrote about it, only one Cook County judicial candidate had signed up for eVoter. By the time I finished compiling my Organizing the Data posts this weekend, several more candidates had jumped in. I wouldn't be surprised if more do between now and the primary next week. I'll predict right now that, if eVoter survives, most judicial candidates in 2012 will participate.

Related posts:
Endorsements versus Evaluations
What Circuit Court race are you looking for?

See also:
Alliance of Bar Associations - updated grids
Chicago Bar Association 2010 Green Guide
Chicago Council of Lawyers Report on Judicial Candidates in the February 2, 2010 Primary

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sharon Finegan Patterson campaign video

Sharon Finegan Patterson is a candidate for the countywide Bronstein vacancy.

For more on Cook County Circuit Court elections, visit page one of For What It's Worth.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

John Patrick Callahan, Jr. appearance on NTNM

John Patrick Callahan Jr.'s appearance on North Town News Magazine is provided courtesy of Avy Meyers. Callahan is a candidate for the countywide Kelley vacancy.

For more on Cook County judicial races, see page one of this blog.

Michael Ian Bender appearance on NTNM

Michael Ian Bender's appearance on North Town News Magazine is provided courtesy of Avy Meyers. Bender is a candidate for the "A" vacancy in the 9th Judicial Subcircuit.

For more on Cook County judicial races, see page one of this blog.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thomas David Bilyk appearance on NTNM

Thomas David Bilyk's appearance on North Town News Magazine is provided courtesy of Avy Meyers. Bilyk is a candidate for the Riley vacancy in the 11th Judicial Subcircuit.

For more on Cook County judicial races, see page one of this blog.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Linda J. Pauel appearance on NTNM

Linda J. Pauel's appearance on North Town News Magazine is provided courtesy of Avy Meyers. Pauel is a candidate for the countywide Dolan vacancy.

For more on Cook County judicial races, see page one of this blog.