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Bill Linneman

December 1 2016

Notes from Election Week
The TV blocks of blue and red on election night look like a Civil War map, only red seems to be winning this time. Blue counties were protecting Washington DC which has three electoral votes. Blue counties not inhabited by Union troops this time but by unionized government workers.
Turn-out described as robust. Exit polls said 62% of voters had made up minds before September. Electoral constituency included 70% white, 12%  black, 11% Latino, 5% Asian, 2% other. Obama has 56% approval rating, equal to Ronald Reagan when he left office.
Several people congregated at Susan B. Anthony’s grave. She worked hard for women’s suffrage. Women nation -wide could vote in 1920 election although earlier in some states like Wyoming.
Trump calls global warming a hoax. 2006 will prove hottest year on record. Paris Agreement in 2005 to reduce global warming signed by 190 nations including US. Clean energy will reduce American emissions.
Governor Rauner wants contract for workers to be more business-like. Merit raises in Illinois require showing up for work. Those who missed less than 5% of work days receive $1000 bonus. Rauner probably thinks they should be fired.
The campaign provided no oratory and no memorable quotes. Even though Hillary was born and raised in Illinois, she didn’t live up to the Illinois tradition of oratory.
The 100 square miles of central Illinois provided four of America’s greatest orators—Abraham Lincoln, Stephen  A. Douglas, William Jennings Bryan, and Adlai E. Stevenson.
Lincoln and Stevenson’s biographies are well-known locally or should be. Douglas, like Lincoln was not born in Illinois, but came here as a young man, and became involved in politics. Short and stocky, he acquired the nickname of “The Little Giant” because of his powerful oratory. His 1858 debates with Lincoln summarized the causes for the Civil War.
William Jennings Bryan was born in Salem, Illinois, and acquired an education at Illinois College in Jacksonville. He went west to Nebraska where he was elected to Congress.
By 1896 he became the spokesman for the Democrats who wanted free-coinage of silver to relieve the economic stalemate caused by the gold standard. At the Democratic convention in Chicago he electrified the audience with his speech--“You shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold.”
Bryan won the nomination but lost the election. Undaunted, he ran for president twice more and lost both times. He also became an orator attacking evolution. Cousin Earl Kaufman heard him speak in the 1920s. A large audience jammed Byan against a barn, where he mounted a manure spreader. Bryan said that he as young man had loaded many such contraptions but this was the first time he ever spoke from one. Republicans disagreed.
Everett Dirksen was born in Pekin but went to the University of Minnesota. After graduating, he came back to Pekin and was elected to Congress. In 1950 he became Senator and a leader of Republican conservatives. His most memorable performance came during the Republican convention in 1952 when he nominated Senator Robert Taft.
Dirksen said, “Shame on you, Tom Dewey” who was pushing Eisenhower. “You led us into defeat twice. Don’t do it again.”
 Mark Plummer was there.

Capitol Facts
by Rich Miller

November 24 2015
Trouble brewing for Michael Madigan?
On election night, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan started making his usual post-election calls to his Democratic members asking for their support for his own reelection as Speaker. But at least a couple said they’d like to sit down with him before providing a firm answer either way.
Reps. Will Guzzardi and Kelly Cassidy, both liberal Chicago Democrats, confirmed they want Madigan to come up with a plan that, as Guzzardi said, involves more than “just saying ‘No’” to Gov. Bruce Rauner.
“I’d like to know what his vision of the next two years is,” Rep. Cassidy said. “Doing the same thing over and over again is the definition of insanity, so I want to know what the vision is.” Rep. Cassidy refused to comment further, saying she preferred to share her thoughts with Madigan himself. But Guzzardi wasn’t quite as reticent.
“Right now,” Rep. Guzzardi said, “Rauner is the only one with a plan to fix this.” Rauner, of course, endlessly promotes his “Turnaround Agenda” reforms and blames Democrats for blocking him at every turn. He’s the one positioned as a change agent, Guzzardi said, and that, in turn, makes the Democrats look like obstructionists.
“We don’t have an agenda,” Guzzardi complained. The Democratic Party needs to show voters that “we want to change things and let people know what the party is doing for the people of this state.”
Asked about the state party’s aversion to social media and other 21st Century innovations, Guzzardi said it wouldn’t matter much now anyway. “We could hire a social media coordinator, but what would they say?”
“It starts with having a message,” Guzzardi insisted, saying he has been talking with several other members about building “a platform that we can go fight on.”
Others in Madigan’s caucus are undoubtedly nervous about January’s vote for House Speaker. Everyone who represents a district that Gov. Rauner won two years ago will be watched closely - and there are a bunch of them, although that number was reduced by five via the election.
There is no doubt that something has changed in the House Democratic caucus.
No actual “revolt” is brewing against the House Speaker. It’s just that members are worried about something that haunts all politicians: Self preservation. A vote for Madigan for Speaker next January is, for many, absolutely guaranteed to cause huge problems for them back home unless this almost two-year impasse is resolved.
Even the least active legislators go to enough events to know what’s on their constituents’ minds. And thanks to unprecedented multi-million-dollar advertising buys on Chicago, St. Louis and other broadcast television markets, a large swath of the public has been overexposed to the pettiness and ugliness of legislative politics for the first time. And about half of those ads were focused mainly on one guy: Speaker Madigan.
The last time anyone voted “Present” on a roll call for House Speaker was 30 years ago this coming January, when Rep. Dick Mautino decided to stick his neck out. He was dealt with harshly and Madigan put down a potential revolt a year later when he defeated one of the attempted coup leaders in a primary and defeated yet another plotter in 1992. It’s been mostly smooth sailing ever since.
And it’s not like public vilification is anything new to Madigan. I remember the 1988 campaign in the Kankakee area when appointed Rep. Phil Novak (D-Bradley) ran against Iroquois County Clerk John Kuntz. Novak was hammered on local radio and in the mail for his alleged ties to Madigan. But Novak shrugged it off and went on to win. Madigan just wasn’t as well-known back then and Illinois wasn’t in crisis.
But this year is different. The Republicans turned on the biggest anti-Madigan fire hose they could to shift as much blame as possible for this horrific two-year stalemate onto the House Speaker. Madigan’s job approval numbers were already very low. Actually, they’ve always been low. But at a time of crisis, people look for a scapegoat and Madigan was handed to the populace on an expensive platinum platter.
Nobody will say they are prepared to do it themselves, but plenty of House Democrats are speculating that some of their colleagues could vote “Present” when Madigan comes up for reelection in January. After Madigan lost a net of four seats on November 8th, any wavering of support by Madigan’s membership would be “proof” that the man was losing his iron grip.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com

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Helen Leake's Gardeners Tips
by Helen J. Leake

December 1 2016
Gifts for Gardeners
As we make out our Christmas shopping lists there is always someone that we have no idea what to purchase them. They are now making more tools to help make it easier for people that find it harder to garden as the years roll along.
The bench that you can sit on or turn it over and you can kneel on it, is really handy. If it hurts your knees when you kneel, place a folded bath towel on it. Use the legs when you try to stand up. The broad fork is being shown a lot now. It is a wide fork that is used to break new ground and aerate beds. It has a long handle,so you can push it into the soil, and move it back and forth to loosen the soil Then move over a little and aerate more
Another interesting new tool is a trowel with instead of the handle coming straight out, it is curved. It is much easier on your wrist. There is a leaf rake with knob half way down the handle that is easier to use. The extending handles in the loppers make it easier to reach the higher branch without a ladder, and you also don’t need to bend over so much to cut off a weed. Check out the garden center for other handy tools.
The people in the Nursing home can always enjoy the Norfolk Island pine. There are usually some that are already decorated and they are small so they don’t take a lot of space and don’t need a lot of care.
The Amaryllis kit is a good gift also. You can plant it or help them. It is amazing how fast it grows and the flowers are very attractive. The Paper Whites are also attractive and interesting to watch them grow.

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The Spectator

by Jim Bennett • jwbnnt@aol.com
December 1 2015
Dancing with Helen of Troy
YEARS AGO, I studied a good deal of poetry, and came to relish the nimble power of language it delivers. Unexpectedly, the genre came to my aid last week when an old friend from Canton sent me a newspaper obituary. Her name was Darlene. She had died in early October at age 71. The obituary said she had run a florist shop in Canton for many years. It also asked that memorial donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Foundation in her name.
The notice also spoke of her husband of 40 years who had preceded her in death, as well of her two children and four grandchildren.
Our family lived in Canton from 1956-’58, during which time I was in the ninth and tenth grades. Darlene had been a friend of my younger sister Nancy and even in seventh grade had uncommon, mature beauty. Whenever she was in our home, I made excuses to be near her and talk with her. I think I annoyed Nancy when I did. Darlene was her friend, not mine.
In any case, the obituary brought me sorrow even though I hadn’t seen or spoken to Darlene for more than 50 years. I didn’t want to think of her as an old woman, although old age is a condition with which I have been well familiar for a number of years. We all decline, if not in the same ways. Gravity works its mischief. Chins double up or triple. Blond curls turn white. And I certainly didn’t want to think of her as a victim of Alzheimer’s.

“SHALL I COMPARE thee to a Summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate”
Might as well bring Shakespeare into the mix. Charlene came to Bloomington one autumn weekend in 1962, visiting some relatives. Somehow, I ran into her. I was a junior at Illinois Wesleyan, she a senior at Canton High School. Her beauty seemed complete. Beyond compare, even.
The hair that framed her perfect features and unblemished complexion seemed more gold than blond. As we stood in downtown Bloomington chatting about Canton memories, she seemed as it were a teenage Helen of Troy, backlit by a low November sun.
Timidly, I asked her to a Saturday night dance at the university’s Memorial Student Center and she accepted the invitation (to my surprise). School dances were big back then. Even though it was the only time in my life I was actually “with” her, my memories of that evening with Darlene are still vivid and profound. She wore a royal blue satin dress with a full skirt, but the loose garment couldn’t hide her remarkable shape; the gifts that nature bestowed didn’t stop at the neck.
We danced to the band’s slow, romantic melodies. We spoke awkwardly to each other, but I recall one snippet of conversation: “This is just the same as high school, isn’t it?” I asked. “Oh no,” she said. “The people are so much more grown up.” When we stopped to talk between numbers, standing in the soft but flickering lights, she seemed to radiate a golden aura, nearly a halo effect.
Other college guys ignored their own dates to steal glances in Darlene’s direction, as if to ask, “Who is this unfamiliar beauty Bennett has brought into our midst?” I have to admit I felt important.

AFTER THAT NIGHT I never saw or spoke to her again. She went back home to Canton and we didn’t maintain contact. I can’t remember why. What I do remember clearly are details of that extraordinary night, which came flooding back as I read (and reread) Darlene’s obituary.
I didn’t want to think of her as an old woman with dementia. Poetry can save us at moments like this, when we are dumb and tongue-tied, peeling back the wrapping so we can look inside and sometimes beneath. We can even defy time and space.
Later in Shakespeare’s sonnet he writes,
“But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;….
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
I also thought of Keats and his “Ode on a Grecian Urn”:
“Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;/
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal—yet do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!”
It was only one night, but one permanently scored on my brain. I have kept the obituary. Each time I pick it up, I will feel a pang of loss. Unlikely as it might seem, I wonder if she remembered me at all. I hope in death she was at peace, without pain, surrounded by family and loved ones.
But in my reverie, perhaps while holding the death notice, Darlene will be wearing the blue, shimmering dress, standing in the magic light, the incarnation of universal moments of beauty holding fast. And, as Keats would have it, we will both be young.

Classic Colcalsure
The Rest is Still Unrwritten
by John Colclasure of Lexington

December 1 2016
O Christmas Tree
“O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, much pleasure doth thou bring me!
For every year the Christmas tree, Brings to us all both joy and glee.”
With the cold winds picking up and the fallen leaves drifting to the curb, it must be the beginning of the Christmas season and nothing says or smells more like Christmas than this weekend’s “Christmas on the Prairie” in Lexington, Illinois.
It is with joyful anticipation that I look forward to fresh Christmas trees for sale in the city park, a tree-lighting ceremony and of course barrel-aged beer and a special wine and cheese pairing event and much, much more. For more information, simply check out the city of Lexingtons website at www.Lexingtonillinois.org.
The thought of a beautiful Christmas tree in our home brings back memories of the aroma of a fresh-cut blue spruce or a Douglas fir, that simply cannot be matched by a 7-1/2 foot artificial one that once sat in front of the sliding glass door on the west side of our home.  Oh well. With advancing years and the dreaded post-Christmas clean-up of pine needles, well, it just became too much for Mrs. C.  and yours truly. 
After all, I was the only one that had to stand out in the cold many years ago and watch nearly a dozen trees be inspected, in order to pick out the “right one” that was “straight and full.”  Only to ultimately settle on the very first one!  Then you load it in the trunk of the car, lug it home and cut off the base at just the “correct height,” place it in the stand (getting it straight) and then lugging it, again, into the house, all the while depositing loads and loads of needles on the carpet.  Which by the way plugs up the vacuum cleaner, sometimes only noticed in the spring when the vacuum “doesn’t seem to pick up anything”???
Before I begin sounding more and more like Ebenezer Scrooge, I must admit that I too love the smells of Christmas.  It’s those extra blessings that are often taken for granted until a time, when for a number of reasons, have quietly slipped away.  Maybe it’s only bittersweet memories of those people, things or situations of the past that we long for. One of my fondest memories was that of going to a tree farm with our youngest and after selecting that “right tree,” actually cutting it down, loading it in the back of the truck and then sitting warmly in a building and sipping on hot cider.  That was neat.  Almost!
Makes me want to go again.  After all its Christmas time.

Till next time…john
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