Local Commentaries

The opinions expressed in these commentaries are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University. Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.

Illinois’ legislature last session failed to pass a law addressing fracking (hydraulic fracturing), and the result may be less that the state dodged a bullet and more that Illinoisans got a blindfold before the order to fire.

The House’s last-day attempt to impose a two-year moratorium and a tax on fracking scuttled SB3280, which in May sought to create fracking regulations where none exist (the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempts it from the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and other federal environmental regulations). The state Senate unanimously approved the measure in April.

Good business folks used to nurture ventures for the long haul, paying decent wages for secure jobs, offering products and services customers valued, and paying taxes that sustained communities. Their companies were built to last. Too often, today’s corporate kingpins are instead focused on short-term gains – to the detriment of workers, customers and communities. Such companies are “built to loot,” as Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies says.

Verizon is an example of such looting, according to two unions in Year 2 of bargaining with the company.

“This Land is Your Land” isn’t the country’s national anthem, but the 1940 tune by Woody Guthrie still touches many Americans’ hearts – maybe more now than ever. The 100th anniversary of Guthrie’s birth is this week, a nice time to reflect on times and tunes. Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was a skinny, angry but ultimately optimistic singer with an unrefined voice, a sophisticated appreciation for regular people, and a beat-up Martin guitar with a small sign that read, “This Machine Kills Fascists.”

A month ago today Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defeated Democrat Tom Barrett and retained his office, as did Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three of four Republican state senators.

The results were similar to 2010, when Walker beat Barrett 52-46 percent. Handing Walker a 53-46 victory, voters apparently “concluded it is not best to swap horses while crossing the river,” as Lincoln said after winning reelection in 1864.

As Independence Day is celebrated next week, it’s wise to recall that regular people were key to that victory, whether it’s called the American Revolution, the War for Independence, or the Revolutionary War. Further, while the hope for independence was achieved, the promise of revolution was only partly fulfilled.

 How about a “Fortnight for Forgiveness,” an idea stemming from a few thoughts within Catholicism. First, there was news about Catholic groups’ lawsuit about a proposed government rule ensuring that employees of Catholic schools, hospitals and other non-religious companies have access to the same health insurance benefits as other corporations’ workers – including birth control (if the individual seeks it and has a doctor’s prescription). Interestingly, 182 out of 195 U.S. Catholic dioceses have not joined the suit.

It’s easy to criticize Wal-Mart for selling outsourced merchandise made overseas, some of it by virtual slaves or kids. But as Flag Day’s marked today, it’s worth noting that some corporations, such as Peoria-based Caterpillar, see outsourcing as inefficient or undesirable, and that we can individually make a difference.

The Summer of '68

Jun 6, 2012

We’re now past Memorial Day, traditionally the first milestone of any baseball season, a time to see who are contenders or pretenders. (As this is written, the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies and Twins seem out of it.) The holiday also launches summer for most folks, and offers a chance to reflect.

My first political role model was Dwight D. Eisenhower – “Ike.” He was a peace-loving war hero, a Main Street Republican who sent troops to desegregate schools, a free-market guy who appreciated unions and launched the huge government program building the Interstates, a standup guy who stood up to GOP demagogue Joe McCarthy.

Ready for Retirement

May 23, 2012

If you want sure-fire compliments, the choices are pretty much a) retire or b) die. Highly recommended: a).

When you retire you don’t hear from people who think you’re a fool or a boob, and a party especially is nice – like a visitation only you’re there. And alive.

As this is written, it’s 50 years since arguments were made before the US Supreme Court in “Engel v. Vitale,” which a couple of months later resulted in a clarification of the “separation of church and state.”

As this is written, some Catholic Bishops, including His Excellency, Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria, continue to not-so-subtly attack government and to portray the church as victims (despite US Catholics numbering more than 68 million people and 76% of the country saying they are Christians.)

As Mothers’ Day approaches, I recall inadvertently insulting my Mom decades ago, trying to defend a girlfriend’s career goals by criticizing the lack of opportunities for women who stayed home. She said, “I chose to be a housewife and raise you boys.” She did (and did well), but it helped that Dad made decent wages as a lineman. Some women don’t have such choices.

Changes in the economy are causing a lot of hope, a little fear and a healthy measure of rage.

There’s common-sense optimism in the addition of more than 225,000 private-sector jobs in February – the 17th consecutive month of employment improvement and the third straight month that more than 200,000 jobs were added.

In USA Today, Princeton University economics professor Justin Wolfers said, “To the extent there is a debate, it’s whether the economy is recovering or recovering strongly.”

The vast area of the country between the cities has considerable strengths, recent studies show, although population growth generally has some negatives and the need for grocery stores specifically remains an unmet need. Creighton University’s Rural Mainstreet Index, which assesses rural economic health based on a scale from 0 to 100, examines about 200 communities with an average population of 1,300 in Illinois and nine other Great Plains states.

For organized labor: If the environment deteriorates, where will we work? For that matter, for environmentalists: If work is unsafe, how can society be sustained?

Single-issue activism can be focused, but it also can be ineffective, and this month that’s especially worth noting. April is when people commemorate both Earth Day and Workers Memorial Day, sensibly urging prevention as the best course against trouble – on global and personal scales.

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