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Bill Linneman

June 15 2017

Europe 1956
I found the Irish poor but kind and London wet but jolly and theater in both places good. Paris was wet too but in a melancholy way, and the waiters in cafes so snooty you could starve if you didn’t correctly pronounce the nasalized vowels.
The Dutch were hearty laughers but without much humor. The Danes had humor and were cheerful and spoke excellent English. The Germans had no humor but were busy building gleaming new cities. Around the gaming tables of Baden Baden they jostled the pound-shy English asking: “Who won the war?”
So when I had been through these places and done my duty to monuments and museums, battlefields and cathedrals, it was August before I got to Venice. It was hot in Venice and the canals and close-built buildings made it stuffy. I took a room at the air-conditioned Bauer Grunwald and ate my dinner on the terrace watching the flaming sun drop over the Grand Canal.
For two days I walked crowded streets and crossed over little bridges or took Diritto boats to the beach at Lido. At night I sat in cafes of San Marco’s and listened to the orchestras and sipped wine. Then I took a train to Rome and changed for one to Naples. Then a bus to Sorrento.
I got to Sorrento on Sunday evening and found a hotel on a shady street that curved off the square. The hotel was cool, the rooms white-washed and clean, and underneath tall trees there was a patio that looked out over the bay.
Six waiters served me dinner there, and afterwards I walked back to the square and down the steep switch-back street with flowers hanging over the wall to the pier where boats came and went to Capri. There was a band playing and a lighted Ferris Wheel and the boat offices were crowded with people and children laughing and shouting.
I walked out on the pier and tried out of darkness to find Capri. I stared into the blackness but could see nothing. I threw my cigarette into the Bay of Naples and walked back up to the square where I sat in a sidewalk café lit by strings of little lights and sipped a bottle of Tuborg.
In the morning I took the boat to Capri. It was a warm breezy day and the boats were filled with tourists. I had met a lady in Venice who told me to skip Capri. She said tourists had ruined it for those who remembered Capri as it was before the war.
I didn’t ask what war. Capri has been under attack ever since Tiberius built his villa there. Attila and the Huns, those dreadful Goths and Vandals. This August morning I found myself in another barbarian army mustered at the funicular ready to begin the assault
A battalion in sport shirts, thirty-five millimeters strapped over shoulders, chest bandoliers with film. Like the Goths, we brought our women clutching bags to carry away the loot. The cable cars made their slow grinding climb to the top. We exploded from the cars, storming the little plaza to sack the cluttered shops. The natives put up feeble resistance.

Capitol Facts
by Rich Miller

Mar 15 2018
Independent remap will remain just a dream for Illinois residents
House Speaker Michael Madigan cares most about three House votes: The votes every two years for both the next Speaker and the House rules; and the vote every ten years on the new state legislative district maps.
But, prying control of those maps away from Speaker Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton is next to impossible, as proponents of a constitutional amendment to do so have found.  Drawing the new map is the ultimate way to reward your friends and punish your enemies.  (Keep in mind here that I am NOT talking about congressional maps.  That should be part of a national solution.)
Anyway, when I watched video of JB Pritzker pressed by reporters in Chicago about how much he really supported a truly independent remap process, it didn’t seem to me that he was willing to go to the wall for his beliefs.
We’ve seen this movie before.  Former Gov. Pat Quinn talked a good game about reforming the state legislative map-making process and then signed the remap legislation drafted by Madigan and Cullerton.
I decided to test Pritzker’s resolve by asking him and the rest of the gubernatorial candidates whether they’d veto any legislative redistricting legislation that wasn’t truly independent.  Pritzker pledged his veto while Chris Kennedy and Sen. Daniel Biss both said they wouldn’t take such a pledge.  (Gov. Bruce Rauner and Rep. Jeanne Ives also said they’d veto.)
Kennedy and Biss are just flat-out wrong here.
A governor cannot cajole the House Speaker and the Senate President into giving up control of “their” maps to people they don’t know and trust.  Quinn tried that and totally failed.  The only way the leaders will take this step is if they believe there is a credible chance that the Republicans could draw the new maps.
How could that happen? If a governor vetoes the remap bill and he’s not overridden and the resulting process winds up deadlocked (as it always has before), that will force a drawing out of Abe Lincoln’s hat to decide which party gets control.
The map-making powers aren’t completely about the leaders maintaining numerical control of their respective chambers - although building in lots of extra partisan cushion with gerrymandering is.
This is also about their own districts, particularly for Madigan.  Let somebody else draw the map and he might wind up in a district with few precincts in his beloved 13th Ward.  He lives close to Chicago’s southwestern border, so his new district could wind up being heavily suburban and more anti-Madigan.  Who really knows?  And that unanswerable question is the whole point of Madigan making sure anything independent is kept as far away as possible from drawing the next map.
Sen. Biss wrongly dismissed my question by claiming that the Illinois Constitution puts legislators, their staffs and their allies into the map-making process.  Actually, the Constitution just says the General Assembly has to pass a new redistricting bill every ten years.  The legislature can always pass a bill to set up an independent remap system, free from involvement by the powers that be.  Illinois doesn’t need a constitutional amendment to have an independent map-drawing process.
“Instead of pledging to veto,” Biss wrote, “as governor, I would advocate for a true independent redistricting process.”  Right.  Just like Pat Quinn.  You’ll get what you’ll get, and you’ll eat it and you’ll like it.
Chris Kennedy came up with the surprisingly lame excuse that taking a pledge to veto a district map which isn’t independently drawn “fails to take into account the situation which may exist at a time of passage.”
Um, huh?  What “situation” might that be?  If you believe that voters should choose their legislators and not the other way around, you gotta be willing to go to bat for them.  This isn’t like holding the budget hostage, which can actually get people killed.  This is about recognizing when you’ve got the upper hand in a purely political battle.
It just seems weird to me that the two guys who are currently strutting around the state loudly demanding that Madigan step down as party chairman are so loathe to upset the Velvet Hammer on this topic.
At the same time, a candidate who seems afraid to even utter Madigan’s name is willing to say he’ll back up his words with deeds in order to challenge one of Speaker Madigan’s most powerful weapons.  Hey, you may not trust Pritzker to actually follow through, but at least we have him on record, unlike those other two guys.
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

Mar 15 2018
The dandelions will soon be appearing
  It won’t be long until we will be seeing those pretty little yellow flowers called dandelions. As much as some people dislike them, they do have some good values. They are one of the earliest flowers to bloom and they do have a lot of pollen for the pollinators.
The weather has usually warmed up enough by the time that they bloom that there will be pollen for the honey bees when the first warm day for them to come out to go to the bathroom and get some pollen. Honey bees will not mess in their hive. If their legs are full of pollen, they are unable to sting you.  
Children enjoy picking the dandelions and the violets to give Mother as a bouquet of flowers. I remember as a child, splitting the stem and watch it curl and also making a chain out of the stem. 
The dandelion seeds will ripen about the time the gold finches and indigo buntings during their spring migration. Also the hummingbirds like to use the seeds to line their nest so it is soft for the babies.
Another good thing about the plant is that the tap root grows very deep into the ground. That loosens the soil so that the rain water can soak deeper.
To remove the plant, you can use a forked-tip weeder to pop the plant out of the ground. You can buy a dandelion digger at most garden shops. An inexpensive and pesticide free way to remove the plant is to pour scalding water on it.
You can also remove weeds between cracks in the sidewalk and dog pens by pouring boiling water on them.
Dandelions have also been used to make wine and the tender leaves are used in salads, but be very sure that no chemicals have been used anywhere near them.
You can also break off the flower when it starts to wilt. No one driving or walking by will notice the green leaves. No matter how much you try to kill them, the wind will still bring seeds to you yard.

Jim Bennett photo
The Spectator

by Jim Bennett • jwbnnt@aol.com
MAR 15 2018
She Had a Sassy Side
I DID NOT KNOW the young woman from Normal West High School who died in a traffic accident last week. I do know the pain, however.
But I have learned her name, Olivia Sonetz, the fact she was a senior, less than three months away from graduation, who played softball at a high level and was set to continue playing at Heartland Community College.
I do have a long-time relationship with some of her relatives. One of them, her Great Aunt Janet said, “Livi had many friends from all over. She had a love for life. We found out from some of her friends that she talked someone out of committing suicide. But she had a sassy side to her too, which was endearing as well.”
It’s not supposed to happen like this. Not when you’re 17, with hopes and dreams just around the bend. It’s beyond cruel. Parents are not supposed to bury their children, and when it happens that way, we are dumbstruck and numb. We ask “Why?” and often find no satisfying answer.
I know about this, and I’m betting most readers do too. I have lost friends and family members far too young, and longed for an answer. When these untimely deaths occur, we are reminded in no uncertain terms that death is final. There are no do-overs or second chances. “If only,” we mourn.
THE LONGING for answers does not relent. There are those whose grief is mitigated by Scripture. “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14: 1,2). “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11: 25, 26).
In the Old Testament, God is often a comforter rather than a promise of eternal life. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46: 1). “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34: 17,18).
Here we have no guarantees of everlasting life, but assurance that God brings comfort to those who sorrow. This moves us in the direction of Rabbi Harold Kushner’s classic “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” Kushner knew about the grief felt by all those who loved Olivia. His own son, afflicted with progeria, died at age 14.
More than all else, Kushner wondered “Why?” Why should a young child suffer and die? If only there were a reason he could understand, perhaps he might be comforted in some small way. He writes, “There is only one question which really matters: Why do bad things happen to good people? All other theological conversation is intellectually diverting. All of us are troubled by the unfair distribution of suffering in the world.”

KUSHNER DOES NOT believe God sends the cancer or the hurricane or the plane crash. Later he writes, “I have seen the wrong people get sick, the wrong people be hurt, the wrong people die young. And we wonder—again and again—why ordinary people—ourselves and people around us—should have to bear extraordinary burdens of grief and pain.”
One of the building blocks of Kushner’s theology is that God can’t stop the hurricane or the car wreck. What he can do is share our grief in a deep and profound way. It’s a position that won’t satisfy some, but (in my opinion) is stronger than so many of the other attempts to account for tragedies that seem so unfair.
In cases like this, many of us will be like Job’s wrongheaded “comforters,” bringing our own agendas to the grieving souls. “God has his reasons.” “God is bringing you this burden because He knows you are strong enough to carry it.” “God needed her more than you did.” “God is testing you.”
But we can’t really blame ourselves. We’re only human, caught in a web of bewildering confusion.
When tragedy strikes, often people close in a circle of caring support. This, Kushner contends, is God’s presence. The people may speak little, if at all. Sometimes they are simply “standing by,” maybe with a hand to hold or a shoulder to absorb the sobs. This is God revealed, and His suffering made manifest.
He cannot prevent bombing raids or vehicle accidents, but He suffers with the innocent victims and brings His powerful presence to the circle.
It’s the most bitter of pills that Livi will have to skip the prom this year and let other people turn the double play. So much grief. Like Kushner, I would ask “Why?” “What could possibly be the reason for?”
It’s the most difficult of all questions to answer. My hope (and I don’t doubt this will occur) is that our young softball player’s loved ones will be swallowed by the love of God in the forming circle.

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

Mar 15 2018
A Bucket List?
A Bucket List? I suppose there is a list of the things that you want to do before you “kick-the-bucket.” Or as Archie Bunker once put it, “Croak, Edith, Croak,” with Edith’s’ reply being she “passed away.” However one wants to put it, it stills means the same thing although the movie entitled, “The Bucket List” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman was panned by nearly all the critics. It is after all something that many folks don’t want to think about.
Just in case you’re interested, the movie was released in late 2007 and early 2008 and can still be seen on television from time to time. I have had the opportunity to see it several times, but have never sat down and watched it in its entirety. Yes, I’m a channel surfer and rarely watch a movie from start to finish. According to the advertisements, it is a hilarious flick about two terminally ill men who escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.
Now I know this illness is not a laughing matter and the subject puts off a lot of people. However, the movie did cause me to ponder lost opportunities and was an excellent mental exercise.
In researching the “bucket lists” of others, I found numerous titles such as “10,000 things to do; a 1000 things to do; and my favorite 500 things to do. It may surprise some of you to learn from this writing that I have already done a lot of those things on someone else’s wish list. I have been elected to political office (precinct committeeman), seen Mount Rushmore; visited the White House and been to Walt Disney World; met a President of the United States (Gerald Ford); made the pages of a newspaper (The Pantagraph); became a journalist and have my own column (The Lexingtonian); wrote a book (Jesus, In the Midst of My Day - yet to be published); have vacationed in exotic places ( the Hawaiian Islands’ the Bahamas and Jamaica); personally met with professional baseball players (like Don Sutton, Bob Feller and Bill Skowron); political figures (Sgt. Shriver, Vice President Dan Quayle, Governors George Ryan & George Wallace and others); movie & entertainment personalities (Tracey Morgan; Hugh O’Brien, Chuck Connors, Kathy Rigsby, Tommy Mason & others); plus a whole lot of fascinating people, places and events.
Having now exposed myself to those who might think I am tossing things about to impress you, I’m not! I have gotten to see and do a lot of things because of one simple rule that is a rule not of my own. Simply put it is: find a job that you love and you will never work a day in your life. Confucius said that, but I would add, find something in this world that you love doing and paid to do it and you will get both satisfaction and joy throughout your entire life.
Simpler yet, I have been blessed. Every job that I have had over the past 50 plus years I have loved doing. I have always said, to everyone I worked for, that the day I don’t enjoy coming to work, or the day I come across something I would like to do better than what I am currently doing is my last day there. And those that know me know that is true. So the key to a bucket list is to set realistic goals and have fun doing them. Don’t become one of those who hate every minute of their work day only to look forward to their days off. Enjoy every minute that our Lord gives you in your service to Him.
Alright, enough is enough so I will conclude that there are a couple of things I wish to do dependent upon some circumstances and financial barriers: I would like to visit the Holy Lands and Mrs. C. wants to go to Alps in Switzerland. Maybe she will settle for a week-end in a log cabin Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Till next time…john
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