Understanding Illinois: We Need A New Major Political Party

•February 22, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Talking politics over coffee with a former student this past week, the two of us came up with the same thought: We need a new major political party.

Dauntingly difficult, but not impossible.

The Democratic Party is adrift, at best. Its base of African-Americans, government unions and a thin sliver of intellectual liberals doesn’t add up to enough to win national elections.

On the other side, there hasn’t been a place in the GOP for old Eisenhower Republicans like me, who believe in public works, public education and public universities, for many years.

The free-trading, budget-balancing Establishment GOPers have been thrown over by small government Tea Partiers, and all is now confounded by the big spending, big debt populism of President Trump. Who knows where lies the heart of the party, or if it has a heart? Read More

How Our Railroad System has Changed: Folklore-Mostly Steam Engine Era

 

•February 22, 2017•

By Jerry L. Ginther
NP Columnist

Volumes have been written on this topic, not to mention hundreds of ballads. To appreciate the latter, one only needs to remember a few of the old songs praising the brave engineers of steam engine days. Who hasn’t heard the words to “Casey Jones”, “The Wreck of Old 97” and “The Wabash Cannonball” just to mention a few. The engine man was the hero of the rails, and train wrecks were the subjects of much folklore.

The sentiments of crackling caldrons and hobos around a fire in a train yard tugs at our hearts. Some nights the sound of a lonesome train whistle in the distance brings on such heartbreaking loneliness to a fellow pining for a lost love that he wonders if he will survive until the dawn. Oh, if railroad engineers only knew the role they have played in the lives of lonely, hearbroken lovers. The fireman shoveled the coal, the engineer kept his hand on the throttle, his eye on the rail and America moved forward to the age of diesel locomotives.

The rest of the story – Operations - Men who Worked On The Train. Read More

Understanding Illinois: We Live In A Dicey Cyber World

•February 15, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

I was at a desktop computer in a public library recently when the internet went down. The distraught looks of my fellow library patrons stimulated me to wonder how they (and I) would react if a real digital disaster struck.

That same afternoon my New Yorker arrived, carrying a disturbing article about how so many Silicon Valley centi-millionaires and above are making plans for the apocalypse (“Survival of the Richest,” Evan Osnos, Jan. 30).

Osnos reports that as many as half of these entrepreneurs are preparing, for example, by having laser eye surgery (to anticipate loss of access to glasses and contacts). They are also buying luxury condos in underground bunkers in Kansas (I kid you not) as well as whole islands offshore and retreats in New Zealand.

What do these mostly young, very smart, tech-savvy, to say the least, people know that I don’t?

According to Osnos, some worry that their advances in artificial intelligence will result in even fewer jobs for those further down the economic food chain. This might in turn cause the hoi-polloi to bring out their pitchforks and someday storm the redoubts of the one-percenters. Read More

Letter to the Editor: 2-15-2017

Show Choir Needs Greater Community Support 

In my opinion, there are a handful of community pillars which draw people to the Sullivan Community – Lake Shelbyville, The Little Theater, Agri-Fab and Hydro-Gear, and our school district and community involvement to name a few.  With that said, I am addressing this letter to the Sullivan Community Unit School District #300 School Administration and the Sullivan Community Parents in order to express my observations as a deeply concerned community citizen, parent and fellow Sullivan Redskin Alumnus.

To start off, and in choosing my words carefully, I went on the school district’s website to read their mission statement.  It reads:  “Preparing students for successful lives by inspiring and expecting excellence in ourselves, our community, and in every student, every day!”  This is a great mission statement; however, the words are only as good as the action behind them! Read More

Understanding Illinois: Intense Minority Trumps Ho-hum Majority Every Time

•February 8, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

How many children are home-schooled in Illinois, I asked a school official, to answer an inquiry made of me from a reader?

“We don’t know,” she responded.

“You don’t know?” I said, surprised.

The school official explained that our state is one of maybe a dozen that do not require parents who educate their children at home to let the state know as much.

So we don’t know who is being home-schooled or, much worse, maybe not being schooled at all.

I called an education expert. He said a few years ago a new state senator in Illinois introduced a bill that would have required home schooling parents to register, so there could be some way of telling a home-schooler from a truant. Read More

Two Against One is Too Much Fun! Oh Brother…

•February 1, 2017•

By Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

Ready. Set. Go!

This is the way every visit with grand twins Lyla and Landon begins.

It is a great race game Papa Flower has played with them since they learned to walk. And usually ends up with me crashed on the ground with both kids wrestling to keep me down.

That was during warm weather and while they were younger and slower.

Now they are pushing four years old, and the days of pretending to run after them have turned into the reality of chasing after them. Trouble is they are very quick and definitely the two on one ratio leaves Papa Flower wilted at the end of each stay.

Read More

Understanding Illinois: Can Illinois Put The Bounce Back In Our Step?

•February 1, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

I decided to “get outta’ Dodge” for a couple of weeks. I have landed in Thomasville, Georgia (pop. 19,000), just north of the Florida panhandle.

Each morning I have coffee out front of a shop in the upscale, 1880s-vintage downtown. I have been struck by the smiling, friendly and upbeat nature of folks here.

I swear they have a lively bounce in their step as they head out to start their day. Why so, I wondered?

I visited with Tom Hill, a native and the retired curator of the city’s history museum. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Barbell Society is Worrisome For Future

•January 25, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

President Donald Trump faces a real conundrum in trying to meet the expectations of his white, high school-educated supporters. They want a bigger slice of the economic pie while Trump’s fellow one percenters want to see their taxes cut.

The incoming chief executive cannot satisfy both aspirations in our very slow-growth economy where wealth re-allocation is almost a zero-sum game. That is, to provide more for the low-skilled means taking something away from the wealthy to do it.

I am fascinated by this age-old conflict between labor and capital. That is, who should have how much of our overall wealth, and why?

Since the 1970s, more wealth has been going to the one percenters who control the capital and relatively less to those who catapulted Trump’s campaign to the presidency.

As a result, the 16 percent of us with $100,000 or more in income pay 80 percent of income taxes, according to the Pew Research Center. Read More

Understanding Illinois: “Rome is Burning”

•January 18, 2017•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

Reader alert/warning—another state budget impasse column!

There are reports that Illinois State Senate leaders from both political parties are close to unveiling a tax increase proposal that would raise about $5 billion a year to address the lack of a balanced state budget.

Unfortunately, this alone will not get the job done. Bitter medicine, probably undrinkable to most, is required to rescue the state.

Our lawmakers have never contemplated actions—all politically painful—of the magnitude the economists suggest will be necessary.

I recently wrote a piece for the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois, a business group, in which I review a paper by state budget experts David Merriman and Dick Dye.

The two economists say the state has a $13 billion gap between $73 billion in annual expenditures and $60 billion in revenue. Read More

Growing Up In Sullivan: Spending Time Waiting on Party Line News

•January 18, 2017•

By Jerry L. Ginther
NP Columnist

Most of my class of ’64 would be approaching their seventh decade of life at this time. That is to say that we’ve lived quite a long time and are still participating in the game. We have our eyes and ears open and still learning.

Solomon said that the eyes are never full of seeing and the ears never full of hearing; however, the instruments by which we see and hear things have considerably modified.

Most of the news today is seen in vivid, high definition color on TV. However, there was a time in our lives when some of it didn’t arrive via television and none of it by social media.

Back in our day there was the party line telephone system which we all shared with equal contempt. The contempt we shared was for the lack of privacy and ready accessibility to the phone line when we needed it, not for what we gleaned from our neighbor’s conversations.  Read More