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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.

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.

Eventually, employers will have to abide by health-care reform, but President Obama last month said he was giving an extra year to comply to health-care requirements for business, which said it needed more time to comply with the overhaul. U.S. businesses that had been looking at possible penalties if they didn’t provide health insurance to their employees by January are getting another year before they must comply with the law. The requirement affects companies with at least 50 employees.

The Obama administration listened. Labor leaders wonder: Did anyone listen to them?

Tax collectors were so unpopular for so long it took the Son of God to demonstrate that it was alright to forgive them, and who knows whether some modern St. Matthew works at the Internal Revenue Service.

The war against Americans’ voting heated up this summer when the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision struck down a formula to ensure access to polls – even as it affirmed the 1965 Voting Rights Act’s goal.

Labor is leading the fight to keep the Chicago Tribune newspapers free from overt partisan control, using their financial clout as well as their street presence.

When the statue of Frederick Douglass was unveiled in the U.S. Capitol on June 19, Vice President Joe Biden quipped that Douglass was “one of my favorite Republicans.”

DC Comics

When “Man of Steel” opened, the latest re-booting of the Superman story was met by indifference, relief or scorn, but change is one of the few constants in the universe of heroes, especially the comic-book variety.

Illinois’ legislature on May 31 signaled that fracking can begin, overwhelmingly approving a plan to regulate the high-volume gas and oil drilling despite considerable testimony in opposition, hundreds of people rallying and protesting at the Capitol and Gov. Quinn’s office, and five southern-Illinois counties and four cities, including Carbondale, voting to wait.

This month – the 125th anniversary of the publication of Ernest Thayer’s poem “Casey at the Bat” in the San Francisco Examiner, and mere weeks after the Cubs “swept” the White Sox in interleague play – is a perfect time to recall Garrison Keillor’s alternate perspective, first produced for “A Prairie Home Companion” in 1994: “Casey at the Bat (Road Game)” –

In the last year progressives such as Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders from Vermont and Tea Party-endorsed U.S. Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky have blasted the Federal Reserve, the United States’ central banking system. If Tea Party and progressive types are truly independent and populist, they should support the new bill by Massachusetts’ Democratic U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren that would ensure that college students get equal treatment under the law for borrowing and make the Federal Reserve contribute to society, not just the rich and powerful.

Your Lyin’ Eyes

May 29, 2013

More and more, so many media so deftly defy logic, the smooth-talking liars on radio and cable seem like the man in the old joke by the late, great comic Richard Pryor. His wife catches him betraying her and he coos, “Who you gonna believe: me or your lyin’ eyes?”

Adventures with Jake

May 22, 2013

A handsome two-year-old British lab barreled his way into my heart after I resisted our getting another dog. It was a relationship made in heaven.

The April explosion at the West, Texas, fertilizer plant that killed 14 people, injured about 200 others and destroyed dozens of homes was so powerful it could be felt 50 miles away, registering as a 2.1-magnitude earthquake. The blast should continue to rumble throughout the country since its owner apparently didn’t disclose the dangers there, and the government agencies responsible for protecting the area also failed.

In the last 30 years, CEOs have gone from being well-paid (more than 40 times the pay of everyday workers) to being ridiculously enriched. CEO compensation now averages hundreds of times the pay of regular working people.  

Is it worth it? To their companies and shareholders? To their industry and the economy?  To the country?

I was a youngster when the first funeral I ever attended was a schoolmate who’d died in a grain storage bin, where he’d slipped and suffocated. I went to the open-casket services with buddies, and we were shocked and silenced by the appearance of a kid like us who’d essentially drowned in corn.

Rich Egger

In their 2004 article in the journal Nature, Bramble and Lieberman write “Striding bipedalism is a key behavior of hominids that possibly originated soon after the divergence of the chimpanzee and human lineages .” Dr. Daniel Leiberman, a biology professor from Harvard also known as “The Barefoot Professor” suggests that a massive environmental change that took place on the African continent coinciding with the rise of running among humans.

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