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The [Friday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

1. Barack Obama's approval ratings are below those of George W. Bush at a similar point in their presidencies.

That's gotta hurt.

2. Did the Civic Federation's analysis of Chicago's Olympic bid really conclude that the financials were sound and reasonable?

That's what the stenographers reported, but Tribune business writer David Greising reports that "a close read of the Civic Federation report reinforces [opponents'] skepticism of all this Olympics hoopla."

And the gung-ho rhetoric of Civic Federation President Lawrence Msall?

"Take a careful look at Msall's report," Greising writes, "and one can only wonder: Did he read the darn thing?"

Anyone can construct a perfect scenario to achieve the outcome they desire on paper. That's what Jim Hendry did in his own mind when he signed Milton Bradley.

And when he conveyed that perfect scenario to reporters last winter, they bit.

The same with Msall.

But you'd have to believe that every single piece of the puzzle - from a raft of construction projects to the national economy - will fall into place to believe the bid committee's projections.

Just one piece gone astray - as Greising shows - and the whole financial picture falls apart.

And history shows - along with the powerful forces of reality here in Chicago - that many pieces will go astray. They always do.

Just consider that Msall's review states that aldermanic oversight is crucial to keeping the plan on track.

In what parallel universe is that going to happen?

It's all theater. Just like those mysterious insurance policies that have yet to show up.

3. I have to say I was awfully disappointed with Carol Marin's interview of Scott Fawell and Andrea Coutretsis on Chicago Tonight earlier this week.

Both were speaking for the first time in six years, and Marin spent most of the interview asking about prison life and how hard the whole ordeal must have been for them.


People go to prison every day. You can get that interview any time you want.

And there's plenty to ask Fawell. He was George Ryan's chief of staff and star prosecutorial witness, for godsakes! Ask everything we've always wanted to know . . . how was it decided to quash the investigation into Willis crash; what was Ryan's role; what discussions took place with Ryan about the crash, particularly as Election Day approached in 1998; how did the favors list work; does Ryan truly think he did no wrong; etc., etc.

Instead there was a lot of "How did you tell your kids?"


Marin said the interview came about when Fawell sent a letter requesting it about a month ago asserting he had something to say about corruption Illinois.

"What is it you wanted to say?" should have been the first question.

Marin never asked it.

She did, however, ask if there was a wedding in the future.


My suspicion is that Fawell - a skilled political strategist - planned the interview as an advertisement for himself. (And Andrea, who complained that she couldn't even get a job at a retail store in a mall because she's a convicted felon.)

What is he doing for money these days?

"I've got a few clients, I'm trying to help them open up some opportunties," he said without exactly explaining what that means. "You're almost like radioactive . . . in the old days, when guys went away, they came back and plugged back in the system."

He thought he'd be able to do the same. When he learned otherwise, he got himself some airtime.


Chicago magazine has been gracious enough to post on its website my 2004 story called "The Fawell Affair." I'm pretty sure if you read it you'll have a whole set of questions you wish had been asked.

4. "Former CEO Arne Duncan often said that a key to creating the best urban school district in the country was to improve long-failing high schools," Catalyst reports. "But Duncan's broadest, most expensive effort, called High School Transformation, sputtered in implementation and has failed to spark significant improvement, according to an evaluation released Thursday."

5. Are the White Sox planning to acquire a Japanese player?

6. Governor Gumby.

7. Todd Stroger Gets a Boo-Boo.

8. Did the Clintons blow health care in 1993? Is Obama blowing health care now?

Doesn't that question presume that the reforms proposed by the Clintons and Obama are the right outcomes?

I'm in favor of health-care reform. But as a journalist I find it odd that the media has built into its assumptions the notion that the Clinton plan ought to have passed and the Obama plan, as it were, ought to pass and that a rejection of those plans somehow reflects their strategic mistakes rather than the possibility that democracy and even reason has prevailed.


At any rate, it's deja vu all over again in the messaging department.


Remember Obama's primary campaign vows that a vote for him was a vote to leave the fights of the 90s behind? Well, as someone pointed out at the time, the issues haven't gone away and political opponents don't obey other people's abstract ideas of "turning the page."

9. Patrick Kane is sorry for "being in a regrettable situation."

Or does he regret being in a sorry situation?

At any rate, I'm going to continue assuming he beat the shit out of a cabbie for 20 cents until he explains otherwise.


"When asked whether Patrick Kane struck the 62-year-old cabbie, [defense lawyer Paul] Cambria said, 'I absolutely have no basis to say that he struck Mr. Radecki. I wasn't there. You weren't there.'"

And you don't know nothin' 'bout defense lawyerin' if you think I actually asked my client what happened.


A judge ordered Kane to write a letter of apology to the cabbie. If Kane didn't do anything wrong, what will he apologize for?

Oh yeah . . . "Dear Mr. Cab Driver, I'm sorry I was in a regrettable situation . . . "


Reminder: Kane was indicted on charges of third-degree assault, harassment and theft of services.

10. "I chuckle because I don't care about Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, and Jay Cutler," our man on the rail Thomas Chambers writes. "The names alone send chills, and not the good kind. I'll never feel the embarrassment of having a closet full of Favre or Urlacher or Cutler jerseys, because I will invest nothing of my soul to these guys. And I will never reach for a ball or throw beer on a player, first reason being that I won't even be there.

"I gravitate towards the greatest game, Thoroughbred horse racing . . . These are truly noble, honest animals."

11. I take it the mystery buyer of the old post office isn't any of these folks.

12. The return of former Beachwood Inn neighbors Moonshine Willy.

13. The Cubs are only three games out of fourth-place.

14. "Hoffman said he did not think using Axelrod's former firm, now known as AKPD Message and Media, would undermine his anti-establishment message that he is running against 'insiders and special interests'."

Funny how being associated with Team Obama would now be considered antithetical to that message.

15. "I mentioned a co-worker, 'Chad,' a few weeks ago (the one who loves the feet of large hairy men)," writes Patty Hunter in At Your Service. "He refers to these large hairy hunks of his as 'bears.' The other day as he walked by me, I heard him singing this under his breath: 'I'm a bear-watcher, yeah, I'm a bear-watcher'."

16. Digital Sheraton Chicago.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Bearable.


Posted on August 28, 2009

MUSIC - Madonna vs. Moderna.
TV - Sundays With The Military-Industrial Complex.
POLITICS - Private Equity In The ER.
SPORTS - Suspicious Betting Trends In Soccer.

BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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