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Bill Linneman

March 26 2015

The NCAA’s geographic confusion
When Bloomington was incorporated as a city in 1850, its population was 1200. Although small, we must have been unruly because New Yorker magazine Diagones hys Lanterne called us a “city of rowdies.” I suspect the writer had us confused with Bloomington, Indiana.
New Yorkers have a poor grasp of American geography, especially that portion of the country west of the Hudson River. When a naval officer from New York asked seaman Linneman where I was from, I replied proudly “Bloomington, Illinois, Sir.”
“Oh, yes,” he acknowledged smugly in that superior New York manner, “That’s where the University of Indiana is.” Actually, that was rather good for a New Yorker just to be one state away.
Once when Betsy and I were having lunch in Greenwich Village, our waiter grew excited when he found out we were from Illinois. He just had to introduce us to the people in the booth behind us, who, it turned out, were from Alabama. He thought we must have a lot in common since neither of us were from New York.
Californians seem as geographically insecure as New Yorkers. I knew a San Franciscan who lumped the rest of America as being “across the Sierras, back of Lake Tahoe.” It made no difference if it was South Dakota or South Carolina.
Columnist Dave Barry who lives in Miami once described a Midwestern state whose name he couldn’t recall as being “one of those rectangular protestant states where they grow a lot of wheat.”
It is easy to blame this ignorance on schools. But kids when they now study what used to be called geography have to learn more than the names of states and their capitals. Now they also study geology, demography, natural resources and climate. They learn to fit states into regional brackets.
Then something like the NCAA basketball tourney comes along to disrupt all learning.
Suppose a young boy from Iowa tries to pursue the path to the Final Four. He examines the Midwest bracket looking for his native state but instead he encounters teams like Texas, Northeastern and Maryland. Perhaps Maryland has some claim to be Midwestern since it has been admitted to the Big Ten.
Our student then studies the West bracket where he finds Wisconsin, Ohio State, Arkansas, North Carolina, Coastal Carolina, Xavier and Georgia State.
He begins to wonder if Iowa has even been included among the top 64 or is like Illinois relegated to the garbage heap. Frustrated he looks East. Where he finds Wyoming, University of California at Irvine, Oklahoma and Dayton. However, he gets a glimmer of hope in discovering Iowa Northern, so he continues.
South is his last opportunity. There’s a Civil War Monument in his home town, so he has never considered himself a Southerner. But here, indeed, he finds Iowa clustered among such fine old Dixie states as Utah, UCLA, North Dakota State, San Diego State, and Gonzaga which is in Spokane.
The Distin family once drew their Final Four names from a hat. Seven year old Casey said his team was “Ucklah” UCLA. This year Morgans tried it and eight year old Anna said hers was SMOO. SMU.

Capitol Facts
by Rich Miller

March 26 2015
Who are Illinoisans for Growth and Opportunity?
A newly formed group of self-described “center-left” Democrats claims to have secured $20 million in commitments to spend on state legislative races here.
But that $20 million apparently isn’t meant to counter Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s $20 million campaign fund, which he says will be used to support his allies and punish his enemies.  Indeed, the Democratic group appears to be promoting what could be seen as a neo-liberal version of Raunerism.
Illinoisans for Growth and Opportunity is not a traditional Democratic group, as its name more than implies. The press release announcing the group’s launch blasted Democratic leadership, including former Gov. Pat Quinn and both legislative leaders, for passing a budget last year “that they knew would create a financial crisis.”
The group also bemoans the lack of manufacturing employment, the state’s horrible credit rating and its poor business climate ratings, without specifically endorsing any real world fixes like workers’ compensation reform.
The ILGO blames all these problems on unspecified “special interests” which have had “far too much influence with legislative majorities in setting public policy.”
In interviews last week, the leaders of the group refused to specify which Democratic-allied special interests they were talking about, but they did point to the ultra-liberal Chicago Teachers Union as an organization which takes hardline stances without regard to “reality.”
The idea, apparently, is to create a well-funded alternate path for Democrats who may fear upsetting organized labor and other traditional party allies this year. The group doesn’t appear to be an overtly “anti-union” organization, but they are definitely not intending to echo organized labor’s positions, claiming that they’re “not bound by the constructs” of the party and its traditional allies.
Further evidence of this is that the new organization appears mainly designed to buttress Democrats who find themselves in tough primary races. “We’re not very interested in the balance of power as relates to Democrats vs. Republicans,” said an official with the organization. The hottest Democratic primaries lately have been fought between activist union-allied candidates and business-backed candidates.
So far, though, specifics are almost completely absent. Usually, it’s pretty easy to assess where a Statehouse organization stands. They have priority lists and even lists of legislation which they support and oppose. No such list currently exists for Illinoisans for Growth and Opportunity.
The group’s leaders say they will be “communicating very clearly” and “working with the leaders and caucuses” throughout the spring session. But so far at least, they aren’t taking a stance on things like taxation. “We’re not advocating that you raise taxes, and we’re not advocating that you cut spending,” said another group leader. Instead, they say they want a “holistic” approach. They are clearly interested in protecting some state spending, claiming that there are many state programs which are “important” for Illinoisans.
Despite their harsh talk about their party’s legislative leadership, they claim that they’ve reached out to the caucus leaders to assure them that “we have their backs.”
And while they did identified a handful of board members, financing will likely be done mostly in the dark. The group has formed a not-for-profit 501(c)(4) group, which will allow contributors to remain anonymous. That money and other public contributions will then be funneled to an independent expenditure committee.
The general consensus under the Dome after news first broke about ILGO is that it’s probably little more than a Rauner front organization.
The three publicly identified board members have contributed relatively few actual campaign dollars in the past, and one of them is married to a prominent Rauner supporter. That’s leading some to believe that Rauner’s pals (many of whom have also contributed big bucks to Mayor Emanuel, who has ties to the firm which is handling the new organization’s activities) will be the real force behind the ILGO’s “dark money” fund.
The ILGO’s press release, which was so critical of the state’s Democratic leadership it purports to support, had as its main thrust fixing this fiscal year’s budget problem, which is currently the biggest Statehouse topic by far. Quite a few Senate Democrats said that it looked like the press release was aimed directly at them because they weren’t fully cooperating with Gov. Rauner on the budget fix.
It’s difficult to argue with any of that.
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com

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The Spectator
by Jim Bennet

March 26 2015

Spring Training Was Different During WWII
IT ALL STARTED with a grainy, black and white 1944 photo in “The Archives” section of the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals yearbook, which a friend gave me. In the picture, there are 20-plus Cardinals players, in full uniform, walking through a neighborhood street in March in Cairo (KAY-row), Illinois. Some in the long line are wearing jackets and coats.
The walk would be a long one; it was a little over three miles from the boarding houses where the players lodged to the practice diamond. On cold days they worked out in the high school gym. Incidentally, the Cardinals won their third consecutive pennant that season and then beat the Browns in the first (and only) all-St. Louis World Series.
The realities of wartime travel restrictions and gasoline rationing during the years 1943-45 made spring training quite the adventure for major league baseball teams. “During wartime,” according to Spring Training Online, “the trains were crammed with supplies and troops, and in that context transporting baseball players and their fans seemed to be a frivolous use of precious resources.”
During those years, most minor leagues simply closed down. But President Roosevelt felt the big leagues should carry on, as baseball was, in his opinion, good for the nation’s morale, not just on the home front, but for troops abroad as well.    
In any case, viewing the picture rocked my curiosity and sent me on a research trip; I wanted to know where other teams held spring training during those years and under what conditions. I was only three years old in ’45, so I have no memories of my own.

THE NATION was at war, of course, and domestic across-the-board adjustments were inevitable. Rationing of goods from fuel to butter was a way of life for most people.
“With the United States pouring resources into its fight against Germany and Japan, baseball offered to help conserve by imposing spring training travel restrictions. Clubs were ordered to choose sites north of the Potomac and Ohio Rivers and east of the Mississippi River,” according to RetroSimba: Cardinals History Beyond the Box Score.
“In 1943, the defending World Series champion Cards shifted their spring training site from Florida to Cairo. Compared with where other big-league clubs had to go, the Cardinals considered themselves fortunate. Cairo was the southernmost spring training site of all sixteen major league clubs.
“’We’re going farther south than any other big-league training outfit,’ Cardinals owner Sam Breadon said to The Sporting News. ‘We’ll only be a short distance from Tennessee and the weather down there is always from 12 to 15 degrees warmer than it is in St. Louis.’”
Indeed, the Cardinals most certainly would have operated in better climes than most other teams.
For example, in 1943 (the first year of the three-year stretch), the Cubs had to abandon their Catalina Island, California, paradise for the pedestrian facilities in tiny French Lick, Indiana. The White Sox trained there as well, giving up the warmth of Pasadena. One can only imagine what kind of sandlot “ball diamond” the two teams had to share on the days of frozen fingers and snow flurries.
The Dodgers had to give up the Havana, Cuba, experience and try their luck in Bear Mountain, New York. The Red Sox? A college field in Medford, Mass., instead of the sun and fun of Sarasota, Florida.
Even the haughty Yankees had to knuckle down somehow in Asbury Park, New Jersey, leaving behind their traditional spring home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL spring training history is fascinating stuff, and practically a course in U.S. geography all by itself. Take that Cubs/Catalina Island connection for example. The Island was the Cubs exotic spring training home from 1921 through 1951. In 1919, Cubs owner William Wrigley Jr. had purchased the island for $3 million, sight unseen, or so the story goes.
Apparently the economic downturn during the years of World War I didn’t have much impact on the chewing gum industry.
Going as far back as 1900, the Cubs have also trained in Champaign-Urbana, Selma, Alabama, New Orleans, Vicksburg, Mississippi, Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Avalon, California.
Cardinals spring training history (again, going back to 1900), includes stops in Hot Springs, Dallas, Little Rock, West Baden, Indiana, and Mineral Wells, San Antonio, Brownsville, Orange, and Marlin Springs, all in Texas.
But in the war years from ’43-’45, it was all about Cairo and French Lick, for the Cubs, Cards and Sox.

Helen Leake's Gardeners Tips
by Helen J. Leake

March 26 2015

Ease up on the pesticide use in your garden

We keep telling people not to use so much pesticides and insecticides in the garden. Here are some things you might do to lessen their use. Pests usually prey on weak plants, so try to buy healthy plants. The best way to keep them healthy is to start with good soil. Load it with as much compost or organic matter as you can. By doing that, you can eliminate insects and disease in the garden and the healthy soil will have beneficial microbes and contain a balance of minerals. The organic mulch will provide a place for the beneficial predators like beetles, centipedes and spiders to live. Also choose plants that are disease resistant, native to the area, and will fit into your growing conditions.
Less than 1 percent of the insect population in the garden are considered pests. Most of them are ready to take on the bad bugs. We need the pollinators to fertilize the female flowers, so fruit and seed can develop. The bugs, such as ladybugs, ants, beetles, spiders, and many others, feed on the garden pests.
To encourage the helpful insects to visit your garden, you have to stop using pesticides. They kill the good bugs as well as the bad ones. Also you need a variety of different size and color of plants. Don’t be too tidy with your garden design. A natural garden will provide shelter and nesting place for the birds and other beneficial insects. Allow some plants to go to seed. Leave some debris under the shrubs and perennials. Robins and other birds need insects to feed their babies and a lot of birds need the protein from the insects.
  The birds also need nesting material from our garden For example, some birds use the dandelion seed for their nest.
  Some common and true sayings “ Often, all you need to do is spend time in your garden”, and ‘The best fertilizer is the shadow of the gardener”. You might need to pull some weeds or hand pick some bugs, but that is good time well spent.

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Classic Colcalsure
The Rest is Still Unrwritten
by John Colclasure of Lexington
March 26 2015
Will Winter Ever Be Over
“Will winter ever be over Mr. C?” said he. Well Calvin, it was supposed to be over on March 20th at 5:45 pm. (CDT) But lately, I just don’t know if it will ever be over, save for a blind groundhog every other leap year. It has been somewhat different these last two winters. Boston has been literally buried beneath record-setting snowfalls and snow falling in parts of our country that rarely sees any snow. Even our grandchildren down in the Dallas, Texas area built a snowman and schools were closed for several days. I don’t know if they will have to make up those days deemed snow days or not.
Traditionally, spring begins on March 21st, but astronomers and calendar manufacturers alike now say that the spring season starts one day earlier, March 20, in all time zones in North America. All I know is that since spring is here, whether it be the 20th or the 21st, and the weather outside is being called a “wintry mix.” That’s rain, sleet, snow and cold forecast for most of today and tomorrow. Sure, a couple of nice days in the upper 60s and even 70s and back to the “new normal!”
How nice it was for a couple of days to get out the spring equipment, mowers, garden tiller, rakes, planting boards and actually getting some outside work done after this miserably cold winter. Even got the grill out and grilled some brats and the grill actually worked! Tried a total of five times over the winter and never could get it to work. Either too windy or too cold or just plain frozen. Now were back to this “wintry mix.” I guess the old proverb that we can complain about the weather, but there is little that we can do about it is still sound advice.
Hopefully, it will not be long until we begin to see crocuses emerging through the ground or snow, as the case may be. And there will be a myriad of colors and species of spring flowers like daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths that bloom late but will begin rising from bulbs planted just beneath the surface in past years. There will be daises, irises, marigolds and pansies to plant. And of course some with the more delectable roots, enjoyed over the winter by our furry friends along the waterway, will need to be replaced and draped with rabbit fence. But today is not one of those days. But hey look, outside of our front window, I can see the purple buds of crocuses standing proud and tall with their natural umbrella to withstand this “wintry mix.”

Till next time…john
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