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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.

For baseball fans, even an active off-season “Hot Stove League” by itself is no substitute for action on the diamonds.

To some, five decades back seem like ancient history: “Biblical times.”

Many churches recently had a Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and the world is about to begin the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, so one once more longs to fulfill that lion-and-lamb image, that notion that the Gospel of John recounts Jesus as describing, “that all of them may be one,” or the simple idea that people can put aside their differences and work or play together.

The possibilities are inspiring.

A Wall Street Journal writer, a trade representative and a Congressman walk into a Denver pot store and the clerk says, "What is this, a joke?"

The writer says, “I know I really shouldn’t, but I just NAFTA!”

In reality, WSJ writer Mary Anastasia O'Grady wrote about the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): “A continental web of supply chains now supports production facilities and serves consumers in three countries with a combined population of 470 million.”

Differences on Capitol Hill have made recovery from the Great Recession difficult. Differences in interpreting what’s good and what’s bad in what’s happening with the economy have made recovery efforts worse.

As 2014 gets going, it’s revealing to see current public opinion and notice how Capitol Hill apparently pays more attention to Congress’ wealthy patrons than everyday Americans.

Dear Russell:

Here’s something very rarely mentioned in the same sentence: Prizefighting and parenthood.

Actually, parenting is less like prizefighting than watching boxers from a ring-side seat.

Life is not exactly a fight but it can sometimes feel like we’re on the ropes in a ring.

Alone maybe, or facing lousy odds.

Personally, I’ve been a spectator, trainer, sometimes a cutman in your life “matches.” It’s offered me a sense of pride, if not power.

I’ve always been proud of you. Conversely, I’ve never been ashamed of you.

Christmas is over, and with it, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday-shopping gimmicks.

In Support of Working to the Rule

Dec 22, 2013
Rich Egger

On December 6, 2013 I brought my daughter to the Old Dairy for lunch. While eating, members of the MHS band filed in, some in holiday garb, and under the direction of Mr. Wetmore regaled us with music. Instantly my daughter asked if we could move closer to watch. We did.

Newspaperman Heywood Broun was one of the country’s top columnists in the 1920s and ’30s, when he also founded The Newspaper Guild labor union – risking his own financial position to help reporters paid 1 percent of his salary. Broun wrote about sports and books as well as current events and social-justice issues, but for years one of his most popular themes was Christmas, the subject of this sentimental piece from the defunct New York World:

Seeing contradictions instead of complexities in attitudes and preferences by the Millennial generation is perhaps why Big Business and the elite have started focusing on 18- to 34-year-old Americans in the newest scheme to cut Social Security. But 1 percenters have misinterpreted young adults as vulnerable, dumb or both.

As the possibility of a new government shutdown appears this winter, the lack of even superficial relationships on Capitol Hill makes one long for some positive parallel in constructive interactions – even connections that may be partly illusions.

The Prophets of Profits

Nov 27, 2013

This week we give thanks for what we have, even while recognizing the work ahead to achieve and accept other graces. As we celebrate Thanksgiving, counting our blessings, we may also take comfort in the action of a man whose business is blessings. And CEOs of U.S. corporations may also take notice.

Two months after a national strike against restaurants by workers demanding a raise, there’s a lot still left out of coverage of the disagreement.

Like most Americans, I’ve worked minimum-wage jobs. As an adolescent and a young adult, I worked on a farm, in a grocery store, and for a carpenter, and co-workers weren’t all teens. A grouchy guy in his 40s who smoked unfiltered Camels and swung a hammer like it was a Stradivarius pounded nails alongside me; a single mom was head cashier, knew the supermarket better than the boss, and mothered bag boys as well as ran the register.

At each workplace, the employer would’ve paid less if they could have.

One year from this week – on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 – people will vote on all 435 Representatives in Congress, a third of the 100 U.S. Senators, and dozens of governors, and labor is choosing where to use its resources.

Pension foes have shifted public attention to accounting so retiree benefits might be shifted to protect or expand corporate subsidies, like the $24 million that Archer Daniels Midland demands from the state of Illinois, according to a new report. It says the anti-pension campaign blames state or local budget problems exclusively on public pensions – pensions that were underfunded by legislatures for years so the money could be spent elsewhere, such as on corporate subsidies or politically popular tax cuts.

When U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the first-term Texas Republican, in the run-up to the Tea Party-engineered government shutdown included in his 21-hour filibuster a reading of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” he may have been trying to show what he has in common with everyday Americans. He actually showed his ignorance.

Too many people of power in government and big business deny humanity’s influence on climate change, so the continent’s biggest progressive forces are stepping up their involvement and a best-selling author is encouraging that interaction. According to a new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – its fifth such assessment – there’s no doubt that Earth is warming at an accelerating rate, human activity caused it (with 95 percent certainty), and the last 30 years have been the hottest decades since the mid-19th century,

Rich Egger

My family and I have spent the past couple of weeks visiting our doctors. All four of us have had our annual physicals, eye and dental exams. Each time I enter a doctor’s office I am grateful that we have access to affordable health insurance. There was a time not long ago, when I was a graduate student and my husband was working full time, that we were uninsured. Like many people in this country, our monthly income barely covered the rent and groceries, let alone “luxuries” like health insurance.  

Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray recently vetoed that City Council’s passage of a living-wage ordinance -- the Large Retailer Accountability Act, which would have required District big-box retailers such as Walmart to pay workers a living wage of $12.50 an hour, but it renewed debate about at least raising the minimum wage and revived conversations about a living wage.

Timing is everything, sometimes. A couple of days after Pope Francis’ interview was published in which the pontiff stressed helping the poor instead of “obsessing” about abortion, birth control and gay issues – the same day the House voted to cut food stamps by $40 billion over 10 years – church readings seemed to address the subject in plain language.

(Were Tea Party types sitting in pews uncomfortable hearing that God notices those “who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor”? Amen.)

Mars Bars and Macaroons

Sep 25, 2013

I'm no "foodie," but I'm fond of certain treats and, even when I don't buy something regularly, they remain a favorite.

Most people know that most corporate CEOs are paid a lot -- the ratio of CEO pay to average-worker pay is 273 to 1, compared to 20 to 1 in 1965, reported the Washington Post. But what does all that money buy?

Some 25 years ago, NBC-TV’s popular “Hill Street Blues” series featured a character, Sgt. Phil Esterhaus, warning the street cops, “Hey, let's be careful out there.”

It’s crazy, the gleam in the eye and zeal that the powerful have in sending everyday people into harm’s way.

This Labor Day during the 50th anniversary year of the publication of the landmark “Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan, one wonders, “What if?”

This week’s commemoration of 1963’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom should note that on the 50th anniversary of that occasion, one of the most effective demonstrations for human rights in the planet’s history is unfinished.

As the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is celebrated, Americans increasingly are forced to surrender one of freedom’s most basic rights: the right to their day in court.

Many more Americans work for a living than are criminals or their victims, but the consideration of a new FBI director last week got much more attention than the federal agency that sets standards for 80 million workers. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) traces its history to 80 years ago this month, when the National Labor Board was established. It was dissolved the next year after the Supreme Court declared it illegal, but it became the predecessor to the NLRB founded in 1935.

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