April 24, 2008

Blagojevich-Rezko: Chicago Station Doesn’t Name Party in TV Report

….. and waits until the 30th paragraph of its online story to reveal it.

The feds seem to be closing in on Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich — and at least one Chicago television station seems determined to minimize exposure not only of his party affiliation, but of others who have received tainted campaign contributions.

Here are important excerpts from the report of Chicago’s CBS Channel 2, WBBM (HT Hot Air and Hot Air commenters):

Rezko Pal, Ex-Aide To Gov. Pleads Guilty

CHICAGO (CBS) ― In an explosive development reaching to the state’s highest office, a former high-ranking state official claimed Tuesday that Gov. Rod Blagojevich was on hand when he presented $25,000 in campaign money to now-indicted fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko.

Ali Ata, 56, a former executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority, said Blagojevich then asked Rezko if he had talked to Ata about a job on the state payroll.

Ata said later, after he made a second $25,000 campaign contribution, Blagojevich again brought up the subject of a job and said it should be one in which Ata “could make some money.”

….. The bombshell came in Ata’s signed guilty plea to lying to the FBI about Rezko’s role in getting him his state job. Blagojevich was not named in the plea, but it was clear from references in the agreement that Public Official A was the governor.

Ata’s plea said Rezko was “very involved” in fundraising for Public Official A. Also, before his selection as head of the Illinois Finance Authority, Ata was told by Public Official A that he, the official, understood Ata would join his administration, it said.

Public Official A has appeared in numerous court papers surrounding the Rezko trial and been identified as Blagojevich …..

….. “If I was the governor, I would not be sleeping very well tonight,” said CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller.

Blagojevich’s ability to get uninterrupted sleep may be reduced, but the state and national Democratic Party can take some comfort that WBBM seemed to go out of its way to avoid applying the Democratic label to those involved.

It’s pretty hard to do a story about campaign contributions without taking note of the political party involved, but the related one-minute, 45-second TV report at the link never mentions the Democratic affiliation of any of the story’s subjects.

Additionally, the online story waits until its final three paragraphs (the 30th, 31st, and 32nd) to tell us the following:

Ata’s ties to Blagojevich predate the Democrat’s 2002 run for governor. Although Ata has given $65,000 to Blagojevich’s state campaign fund since 2000, he also gave $3,500 to the former U.S. representative’s congressional campaign from 1997 to 2000.

Among $18,000 in contributions to federal candidates, Ata gave $5,000 to Barack Obama, the Illinois senator who is the Democrats’ front-runner for the presidential nomination. Obama donated that money to charity last summer after Ata’s indictment.

Ata also has contributed $5,000 to Chicago Alderman Richard Mell, Blagojevich’s father-in-law, or his 33rd Ward Democratic Organization, since 2002 and $1,000 in 2003 to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a Chicago Democrat.

Obama, Mell, and Jackson are not mentioned in WBBM’s TV report.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Scary Story: A ‘Talent’-Driven Hollywood Box Office Bust Now in Its Sixth Year

Filed under: Business Moves — Tom @ 8:14 am

At the end of 2007, BrandWeek noted reasons for optimism in Hollywood that 2008 might be a banner year at the box office:

With special effects-driven, superhero-laden tent poles on the schedule for summer 2008, could it be the year that breaks $10 billion at the box office?

Could the mix of franchises scattered around the schedule ….. plus another Judd Apatow comedy and a potential Blair Witch from J.J. Abrams—excite the bottom line?

But after beginning the year decently, three consecutive dismal weekends have caused Tinseltown’s comparable year-to-date totals to trail 2007:

BoxOffice042108vs042107

Of course, summer hits could save the day. But it seems at least as likely that 2008 will be the sixth consecutive year of disappointment in studio executive suites.

After excellent results in 2001 and 2002 (increases of 9.8% and 9.0%, respectively), each of the past five years — make that just over 5-1/4 — has been awful, especially after adjusting results for inflation and looking at how many tickets have been sold:

HollywoodBoxOfficeTix2002to2007

Most of this underperformance has taken place while the overall economy has been decent. The US economy as a whole grew 15% in real terms in the five years ending in 2007, while the movie industry’s box office contracted by over 9%:

HollywoodBoxOffcVsEconGrowth02to07

Additionally, according to the New York Post, DVD sales declined in 2007 for the first time.

In November, Ned Randloph at VideoBusiness.com offered this grim assessment of the industry’s overall situation and its hopes that new technologies like video on demand might bail it out (bolds are mine):

“Our analysis of the business of the Hollywood studios may come as a surprise to investors and even some people within the industry. We believe there is little chance of the negative revenue trend reversing in the coming years,” Smith said. “New technology will not deliver anything like the revenue initially predicted, and as DVD sales continue to decline and the cost of making movies increases, the message is simple: the Hollywood studios must begin a serious attempt to reign (sic) in costs ….. if they are to survive.”

….. the current cost of producing, casting and advertising movies in the present environment simply exceeds the likely returns …..

Randolph didn’t even get to the potential disruption that YouTube and other instant and/or “amateur” movie alternatives could cause.

Cue the blood-curdling horror show scream.

Focusing only on box-office results, as good as a lot of Randolph says is, he did not address an important larger question, which is this: The competition from other forms of entertainment, while it has always been intense, was surely prevalent during the boffo box-office years of 2001 and 2002. So why were they so good, and why have the years since been so bad?

Consider the resources allegedly sane people have poured into the following “antiwar” films, compared with their box office takes:

  • Stop-Loss (2008) — $10.7 million (still in theaters, but near end of run; $25 million production budget)
  • Rendition (2007) — $9.7 million (production budget not disclosed; high-priced talent included Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, and Alan Arkin).
  • In the Valley of Elah (2007) — $6.8 million (production budget not disclosed; high-priced talent included Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon, and Charlize Theron).
  • The Kingdom (2007) — $47.4 million ($70 million production budget; high-priced talent included Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner).
  • Lions for Lambs (2007) — $15 million ($35 million production budget; high-priced talent included Robert Redford, Tom Cruise, and Meryl Streep).
  • Redacted (2007) – $65 thousand (production budget not disclosed; high-priced director was Brian DePalma).
  • Home of the Brave (2006) — $52 thousand (production budget not disclosed; high-priced talent included Samuel L. Jackson and Jessica Biel).

The duds just noted didn’t have to happen, but their failure points to a readily available solution. However, that solution is going to be very difficult for free-spirited actors, actresses, directors, and producers to understand.

Nevertheless, a point needs to be made. So listen up, guys and gals.

For whatever reason, you folks have “star power.” When you’re associated with a movie that has a reasonable chance of success, your presence can mean millions, maybe tens of millions, at the box office. Employees in the film industry’s food chain — the “little guys” you like to say you care about — all benefit.

But when you let your Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) divert your precious time and attention to films that, in your heart of hearts, you must know won’t succeed, you cause your industry, its employees, and its investors to lose the value of what you might have otherwise provided.

Consider the possibility — no, the likelihood — that your BDS is what is keeping your industry down. If you are as socially responsible as you claim to be, you should get over it, and help your industry get back on its feet.

At some point — perhaps soon — your own careers may depend on it.

Underlying Data Sources for Charts: Box Office Mojo (Total Box Office and Tickets Sold); US Bureau of Labor Statistics (annual average inflation); US Bureau of Economic Analysis (GDP growth); Census Bureau (annual population estimates).

Positivity: Blind homeowner captures intruder

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

From Indianapolis:

Posted: April 21, 2008

A blind homeowner used the wrestling skills he learned more than 30 years ago to overpower an intruder and hold the man at knifepoint until police arrived this morning.

“I just kind of panicked and just kind of went crazy after that,” Allan Kieta said. “I’ve wrestled all my life. My dad’s a Marine; he taught me some stuff. You’re thinking in your head all this survival stuff.”

An Indianapolis police official called it one of the most incredible tales of citizen self-defense that he’s heard in years.

“It’s pretty remarkable for anyone that’s blind to be able to defend themselves, let alone make an apprehension,” Lt. Jeff Duhamell said. “To be able to grab this guy and hold him down until police got there is pretty remarkable.”

Kieta is typically at work on Mondays but had taken the day off from his job with the federal government. So he was home when a man entered his Eastside residence in the 3100 block of Richardt Avenue about 9 a.m.

“We have a little poodle-like dog. It was barking and barking,” Kieta said. “I opened the door and just ran into him.”

Kieta, 49, who is legally blind, said he was the Kentucky high school wrestling champ for the 145-pound division in 1976. He used his skills and other self-defense tactics learned from his father to subdue the intruder.

“I had him pinned in the laundry room and just kept pummeling,” Kieta said, describing the pounding he gave the 25-year-old arrested by police.

Kieta punched, kicked and grappled until the suspect became disoriented. Kieta said he grabbed him by the belt and dragged him into the kitchen. Kieta then found a kitchen knife and held it at the man’s throat.

Kieta fumbled to dial 911 with his other hand.

“Being visually impaired, I couldn’t get the buttons because I was using my left hand,” he said. “It took me about 20 tries.”

Police arrived minutes after dispatchers received the call at 9:47 a.m. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.