Thursday, October 27, 2005

Eric Zorn's online Month in Review Panel/Watch Podcasts

Revised on Friday, 11:15 am.

Welcome to my regular readers and a special welcome to newcomers and readers from Eric Zorn's Chicago Tribune web log [Change of Subject]. Eric Zorn has recruited, or should I say drafted [Zorn being first and foremost of the liberal persuasion] me to participate in his online Month in Review panel.

Zorn’s blog tells you my choices, as well as those of my competitor bloggers, for the Most Significant story of the month, Winner of the month, Loser of the month, Over and Underreported and story to watch for Next Month predictions.

I have repeated, below, my choices, followed by my explanations, reasons, facts, arguments and rants in support of my choices, as well as some runner-ups. Significant revisions and updates of this post are noted at the top of the post, with a revised at ____ notation.


Obama, Filan, Salvi, Cegelis and McSweeney Podcasts available on this site.

In addition to reading at this site, you can watch podcasts of our show, "Public Affairs," by going to "Four Easy Pieces." That post, at the bottom, has a link to the "Public Affairs Cinema," Complex, which lists four podcasts from which you can choose shows with (1) Senator Barack Obama [D-IL], (2)Christine Cegelis [D-Rolling Meadows, 6th CD], (3) John Filan, Director of OMB under Gov. Rod Blagojevich [D-IL]. Additional information about these shows is included in that post. The screening with Cook County Commissioner and Democratic Primary County Board President Candidate Forrest Claypool is listed on the post but is no longer airing at the Complex. Not included in the post but now available on the Show Choice Page are our separate shows with two 8th CD Republican Primary candidates David McSweeney [R-Barrington Hills] and Kathy Salvi [R-Mundelein]. The Salvi choice is not listed on the page as a podcast, but is available by clicking on the link with her name at the top of the page.

Most Important Story— Governor Rod Blagojevich’s soap opera rendition of “All my children,” aka Governor Press Release’s “All kids,” healthcare insurance program.

Winner of the Month- Former Governor George Ryan. With more than a little help at his RICO trial in the form of favorable and erratic testimony from his “son,” Scott Fawell, George may walk out of court a free man.

Loser of the Month- Andrea Coutretsis, aka Scott Fawell’s fiancee and her kids. Testifying like he loved George Ryan more than his girlfriend and her kids, who Scott said he “loved like his own,” he gave better testimony for George than an honest man would give. Essentially, Scott appeared to lie, or at least paint a glowing, self –serving picture of the nature of some of George’s and Scott’s activities, while George was Secretary of State and Scott was his Chief of Staff and campaign manager. Fawell’s girlfriend, Andrea Coutretsis, will do some prison time and her kids will suffer. Scott’s pending additional sentence will be reduced, but not as much as it could have been. As usual, 71 year old George Ryan has the last laugh. Somebody ought to put a black hat on George, put him on a horse and put him in a Western. He is a natural [bad guy].

Most Over-Reported Story- The Chicago White Sox. Showing itself to be the hic town that I always knew it was, Sox mania changed WTTW’s Chicago Tonight [and Chicago Week in Review], probably forever, to Sports Tonight. The Sun-Times immersed itself in ridiculous ten page, or more, Sox wrap-around news coverage over each daily newspaper; the Tribune splashed the Sox on the front page and the evening local TV newscasts were even worse. Folks, its grown men hitting, chasing and throwing a little ball. Meanwhile, almost six out of every ten kids in the CPS can’t read at grade level and no-one is discussing School Vouchers/School Choice, but by all means, let’s have more coverage of sports, and especially on our public TV station, whose mission would be to close the gap in commercial sports coverage? What a travesty public affairs programming on public TV in Chicago has become.

Most Under-Reported Story- The emerging Hot Republican Gubernatorial Primary [Also, my pick in June, July, August and September].

Story to Watch next month— The U. S. Attorney’s investigation of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s hiring practices at IDOT and DCFS explodes through-out Blago’s administration.
Explanations and Runners-up

Most Significant Story: The Governor’s “All kids,” healthcare insurance program for kids is an important story in that Blago caught the attention of the press in a positive way for a change. With his approval rating in the upper 30s, this is exactly what the doctor ordered, so to speak. Of course, there are obvious structural flaws in the whole idea.

If it is just for kids, is it the presumption that the parents have an insurance program for themselves. If so, why don’t we find out why they don’t have the kids on their program and if is something like they can’t afford the additional payments, why not subsidize the additional payments to the parent's program. Why expand the involvement of the government as an insurer of healthcare. In short, why not use the government to finance supplemental payments to private sector insurers? Is it the whole idea of Blago that the government can provide insurance, in the form of an expanded medicaid program, more efficiently than the private sector? If so, they got that wrong.

As usual, the Republicans seem to have been caught flatfooted and either don’t know what to say [other than Sen. Rauschenberger, and even he got a little shaky this week on Chicago Tonight and perhaps in the state senate] or supported the above. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Hospital Association seemed to buckle under to pressure, threats and intimidation—and endorsed the above expansion of the inefficient Medicaid program.

This is an important story, but one about a program that ultimately will not improve consumer welfare and the public well-being.

Runner-up: The barrage of investigations opened by the U. S. Attorney’s office involving the Governor’s hiring and patronage practices, including IDOT, DCFS and IGA. The only reason this isn’t the most significant story is that, publicly, it is just getting started and it could combine and dovetail with the investigations and indictments in the Pension board area to bring the Apocalypse to Gov. Blagojevich in the next few months.
Winner of the Month: As Eric Zorn points out in his month in review comments, former Gov. George Ryan had some downs during his continuing RICO trial, but when the government’s star witness, Scott Fawell [See above] helps the defense as much as the prosecution, that is not a good sign. George could still become a “deadman walking,” so to speak, but score this month for the man who, in a truly shameful act, commuted the sentences of dozens of clearly guilty, heinous, murderers from execution to a life sentences. This was a cynical attempt to win the undying gratitude of the anti-capital punishment lobby, which George thought would help him with the editorial boards and public opinion. George Ryan thought that improved standing with the media and public might raise the cost of a prosecutor indicting him, but he was wrong. George might have also thought his commutations of the death sentences would be a way of tampering with his jury pool. On that, of course, the jury is still out.

Runner-up: Possibly Mayor Daley. With U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald [N.D., IL] probably moving ahead with indictments today of major national Republican Party figures Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, the affection for him in the Republican Party could diminish rapidly, and he therefore might be “promoted,” by the President out of the U. S. Attorney’s office, removing Mayor Daley’s No. 1 nemesis, which might then clear the field in 2007 of any credible opponents to Daley’s re-election, e.g., Cong. Jesse Jackson [D- Chicago].
Loser of the Month: Andrea Coutretsis [See above discussion of Loser of the month for explanation].

Runner-up: Ron Gidwitz. This Republican Gubernatorial candidate is spending millions on ads, but getting no traction in the polls
. He has held such important appointed positions as Chairman of the State Board of Education and Chairman of the Board of the City Colleges of Chicago. However, he just isn’t ready to run for Governor. Ron clearly needs some seasoning as a candidate for office. Because he is an unknown and unproven moderate in the Republican Primary for Governor, he has virtually no chance, especially if the other potential moderate in the race, Judy Baar Topinka, continues to hover in the wings. If Topinka were to declare she is not running, Gidwitz might be able to pick up a large chunk of Topinka’s moderate support, but not enough to win.
Most over-reported Story: The Chicago White Sox [See above]

Runner-up: Jim Edgar’s indecision about running for Governor. Edgar would have made the Republican Primary more interesting and perhaps, if he won the primary, he would have made the general election more interesting, too. But, the long run-up to Edgar’s decision not to run was quite boring. Almost all the pundits correctly anticipated that he would not run, but each journalist had to keep her oars in the water, just in case she was wrong.

2nd Runner-up: Judy Baar Topinka. More Hamlet, More indecision: To run or not to Run, that is the question. This is even less interesting with Topinka replacing Edgar as Hamlet. And, of course, the media ignore the baggage a Judy run for Governor would highlight and how she would deal with same. And, other than being pro-Choice and pro-Gay Rights, what do the media know about Topinka's stands on issues?
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at