WIUM Tristates Public Radio

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.

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.

The tax code has eroded over the years so it’s no longer progressive – in the sense that more affluent citizens and profitable businesses pay more (what they have left is still a fortune). Now, tax law is filled with loopholes, exemptions and allowances that let some successful corporations pay less to the treasury than they pay their own CEOs.

From guest commentator Byron Oden Shabazz:

As the US Supreme Court deals with President Obama's health care plan, here in western Illinois we are celebrating Minority Health Month as a reminder of our community's -- and the nation's -- commitment to educate all people about the need for comprehensive health care.

 Recording artist Bruce Springsteen talks about his new album, “Wrecking Ball,” in a conversation with The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine, describing the record as featuring characters who are regular people who “just want a job.” In cuts such as “Jack of All Trades” and “Death to My Hometown,” Springsteen’s newest record depicts the country at odds with itself.

 “The banker man grows fat,” he sings, “Working man grows thin.”

The mere title of Larry Bloom’s decent trade paperback – The Cure for Corporate Stupidity: Avoid the Mind-Bugs that Cause Smart People to Make Bad Decisions – might attract anti-corporate types tempted to accumulate more ammunition to bolster existing attitudes against the powerful business structure. But its contents would most benefit business managers who want to prevail and do good work while avoiding mine fields. Or, “mind” fields, with a “D.”

The term “collateral damage” seems insidious, somehow making less meaningful the notion of “innocent bystanders.” However, some say that Americans may prefer the impersonal reference, which also could be why remote-controlled planes provide a level of comfort to a nation at war.

 If so, it’s time for us all to shake ourselves awake, and perhaps the recent tragedy of an Army sergeant apparently killing 16 unarmed Afghan civilians is a horrific alarm to stir us to consciousness.

Bill Knight - March 15

Mar 14, 2012

Most journalists occasionally are confronted by angry newsmakers (usually powerful ones). Some journalists get threatening calls or emails, rude posted comments or letters to the editor, and that’s about it. But this week, as the seventh annual Sunshine Week is underway, it’s appropriate to also note that some journalists are killed for being part of the handful of human beings whose job – whose calling – is to run toward danger.

As gas prices ignited, a visit to New Orleans raised almost as many questions as Republican presidential contenders’ accusations against President Obama. (“Stop,” they scream of the far-from-perfect chief executive, or, “Start”, apparently willing to blame Obama for everything from Gary Oldman not winning an Oscar and tornados hitting downstate Illinois to Google’s new privacy policy and Los Angeles acquiring a “nuke” – Albert Pujols.)

Bill Knight - March 1

Feb 29, 2012

General Motors in mid-February announced its highest annual profits ever -- $7.6 billion in 2011 profits on revenues of $105 billion. That’s not only an increase of 62% from the year before, it’s just two years since GM reorganized under federal bankruptcy law – helped by $82 billion in taxpayer money.

Churches help people worship God, not institutions. States help people serve communities, not bureaucracies.

More than 100,000 people in all 50 states already have signed an online petition as part of a grassroots campaign on Change.org that demands Sallie Mae stop charging unemployed college graduates or other student borrowers a $50 fee for forbearance on their student loans.

Borrowers who can’t pay the extra $50 fee are put into default.

If people are in need - starving, say, or in a burning home - it’s crazy to check IDs of those trying to help. And if you want to assist the rescue, you aid the rescuers, whether they’re Klan members or Sierra Clubbers. If you want to hurt the rescuers, you attack them - especially in the pocketbook - and ignore the people who need help.

Until leaders at Susan G. Komen reversed course last Friday, they’d planned to ignore women benefiting from Planned Parenthood exams they help underwrite because they’d rather hurt Planned Parenthood.

Unexpected alliances are possible when people look beyond “bi-partisan” confines and seek common ground, and this winter, unlikely allies re-formed to help save the Internet.

Conservative and liberal interests unified against Congress’s bills to regulate the Internet, reminiscent of an effective trend that grew out of the same dispute a few years ago.

 A large and growing number of Americans are poor or at risk of becoming poor as a consequence of the Great Recession, and many will struggle during a recovery, according to a white paper released last week by the national broadcaster whose appearance last week at the 20th annual Martin Luther King luncheon in Peoria was cancelled after some people complained that he’d criticized President Obama.

Occupy Peoria protestors were starting to assemble on Main Street one Saturday in October, when I was reading a magazine, eating an omelet and drinking coffee at a nearby café. A dad at an adjacent table looked out the window at the dozens of demonstrators, turned to his daughter, and said, “What are they complaining about? Half of the country pays no taxes at all!”

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