Steelworkers love Congressman Bost … but won’t take him home to meet folks

U.S. Congressman Mike Bost was all smiles last week as President Trump announced a 25 percent tariff on imported steel.


Here’s the editorial in the Belleville News-Democrat.

What Do I Owe Parents?

I daily take in and reflect on student expectations of our university. I speak with parents and guardians less frequently, though I owe them a great deal. While the step-out-of-the-nest for the student is a “big deal,” it is also a challenging transition for parents. Here is a catalog of parental ponderings.

A 2015 study by Noodle reveals a few parental preoccupations. There is considerable and justifiable heartburn over costs. Concern about whether or not a child will complete a degree, questions regarding the selection of a major, starting salaries and academic performance are all priority concerns. Parents agonize over whether or not the college is a good fit for their child. College leaders fuss and fret over the U.S. News & World Report rankings, yet only one in five parents care about rankings. Parents like the idea that their student might finish college in four years, but 40% recognize that is unlikely. Fear over a student incurring debt for the family grows. Costs to the student are one thing, but parents taking on second mortgages to send their child to college brings a completely different set of concerns. Intergenerational educational debt is particularly vexing, especially when bankruptcy courts rarely discharge student loans. A degree, or a portion thereof, cannot be repossessed.

Coupled with this lengthy list of concerns, parents want a safe environment. Eighty percent of families are worried about sexual assaults on campuses. Four decades of drastically altered views of human sexuality and what constitutes appropriate behavior between men and women have taken a toll on the public understanding and morality in relationships. Alcohol abuse is frequently present in cases of sexual assault, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Embedded in all of these concerns is a growing lack of trust regarding universities and institutional ability to provide an environment conducive to learning. I am not talking about “safe spaces” where protection from various ideas exist; that perspective is antithetical to our purpose. We strive to create spaces safe for ideas, not from ideas. Both the U.S. Constitution and effective universities share this mission.

Some of what I owe parents:

Transparency – Cardinal John Henry Newman captured the role of a university in this unpretentious statement: “Accordingly, in its simple and rudimental form, it is a school of knowledge of every kind, consisting of teachers and learners from every quarter.” I need to serve all who come calling when they demonstrate sincerity and a commitment to purpose and are prepared to work toward academic excellence.  

Honest Cost-Benefit AnalysisThe New York Times, and countless publications of every sort, provide generic assessments of the costs and benefits of university attendance. However, these overgeneralized prognostications fail individuals. Parents care about single students, not randomized data points. The value of a given degree from a particular institution to a particular student is absent. I owe every student and parent a specific assessment of individualized value to the best of our institutional ability.

Likelihood of Success – Students enter universities with a history. While history is an imperfect predictor of the future, it is available and I should use it. If a student comes from high school with a “C” average and minimally acceptable college preparation, I need to help that student and family appreciate the “odds” on the likelihood of successful degree completion—be an educational handicapper of sorts. This is essential, even if not always a “pretty picture.” It may not be encouraging. “Curve breakers” show up as the exceptions that prove the rule, but these represent a miniscule portion of the population, e.g., Gates, Zuckerberg, Turner, Pitt, Winfrey, Jobs, Disney, Lincoln…

Safety – Campus safekeeping creates anxiety for parents. There are data available from the U.S. Department of Education and those warrant study, but more importantly families must sense that an institution is committed to a safe and secure learning environment. Canyon, Texas, is rated as a very safe campus community—number 12 nationally. Ask the hard questions of a specific campus. Do not trust the data alone. Trust also your heart. Coupled with the data, trust what you see in the place.

Growth in Personal Responsibility – An institution cannot guarantee moral decision-making, nor can a church, temple or synagogue. Rather, it is a personal understanding and exercise of free will and its limits. St. Paul said it clearly in his letter to the church at Rome: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Our university should encourage thoughtful and reflective understanding of each individual’s place in the world and the role of self-determination in establishing that foundation.

I owe parents an honest expression of what our university can do. I also owe them an honest expression of what it cannot do.

Walter V. Wendler is President of West Texas A&M University. His reflections are available at

Is a fair immigration compromise possible out of failed Schumer shutdown?

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin with New Yourk Senator Chuck Schumer (Politico image)

Is there a fair, reasonable way to deal with immigration without shutting down the government as the Democrats did just recently?


A way to save the “Dreamers” and build President Donald Trump’s wall to protect the borders, and lower the anxiety of millions of Dreamer parents, those immigrants who crossed over illegally for a better life in America.

A way for Americans to accept immigration policy as fair, not just something jammed down their throats by politicians.

Please click to read the rest of the editorial from John Kass of the Chicago Tribune.


The pundits swoon over Oprah for 2020 – but running for president is brutal

Oprah Winfrey suddenly has the best of all worlds—a flood of gushing praise about the possibility of running for president without actually having to do it.

Business Insider photo.

And if she does do it, well, she’ll quickly learn that being an entertainment icon is far easier than taking positions on tough issues and dealing with a tsunami of political attacks.

What, for instance, is Oprah’s position on trade with China? Chain migration? Arming Syrian rebels? Financing infrastructure projects? It’s one thing to be a hugely successful talk show host and a pal of Barack Obama, and another to take on the world’s problems in a hyper-polarized atmosphere.

Please click on the link for the full story and video from Howard Kurtz of Fox News.





Charles Barkley blasts LaVar Ball for ‘exploiting his kids’

Charles Barkley (Getty Images)

NOTE:  I know you see a lot of sports stories in the opinion page.  This is beyond a sports story.  LaVar Ball is the ultimate helicopter parent.

Lets put it this way of my feelings about LaVar Ball.  I am not going to rush out and buy any Big Baller Brand shoes or T-shirts soon.

You are seeing LaVar pop op on news channels, since his son LiAngelo was picked up on shoplifting charges in China.

I can not keep from falling this soap opera.

Sir Charles nails it here.  Please click on the link below to read the story from Des Bieler of the Washington Post.  -sd

Hide those presents good … kids (and old guys) are nosy!

In the holiday classic “A Christmas Story” the main focus of the movie is the desire and outright obsession of young Ralphie to convince his parents, Santa Claus or anybody else that would listen that he desperately needs a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas.

As you will remember, at every turn Ralphie is met with the comment: ‘You’ll shoot your eye out.’

Substitute a gold Schwinn stingray bicycle for that Red Ryder BB gun and during the weeks leading up to Christmas in 1963 I could have very well been Ralphie (minus the horn-rimmed glasses).

About two months before Christmas that year I was with my dad at a West Frankfort business where he was getting tires put on an old truck that he used to haul coal. Along with tires the store sold a variety of items including bicycles.

As I sauntered around the story that day I spotted a bicycle that was unlike any I’d ever seen. It was a Schwinn stingray, metallic gold and it had what was called butterfly handle bars and a banana seat. The front tire was a little smaller than the knobby tire on the back. It had chrome all over it and a price tag of $39.95. In order to appreciate that price you have to think in 1963 dollars. The price tag on the bike amounted to more than my dad made in two days as a coal miner.

As I stared at the bike I learned an early lesson in life – there is such a thing as love at first sight.

Before we left I coaxed my dad over to the bicycle to show him. He casually glanced at it, obviously not nearly as impressed as I was and then quickly burst my bubble.

“That’s too much money for a bicycle,” he said matter-of-factly, and then turned and walked away.

Did his uncaring, detached attitude faze me? Of course not, in fact it spurred me on to scheme and plot my strategy.  In the following days I concocted every reason imaginable why I should have that bike and brought it up on a daily basis. And for every good reason I had my dad gave me the same stern answer.

“That’s too much money to pay for a bicycle,” and then he promptly changed the subject.

And the harder I would persist the more short and abrupt were his answers. I was in a gloomy mood two days before Christmas when I gathered with a group of fellow heathens to play basketball.  The house where we were playing was about four blocks from where I lived, but was located directly across the street from my Aunt Thelma. Shortly after I arrived at the game one of my friends told me that he had seen my parents at my aunt’s house earlier in the day.

“I couldn’t see exactly what they were doing but they were putting something in her garage,” he said.

Realizing even at that young age that curiosity killed the cat I still couldn’t stand it and had to do a little investigating. Shortly before dark that night I walked down the alley and with the help of a milk crate looked in the window of the garage.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but that gold Schwinn stingray bike. I was elated, excited, joyous … and scared to death. You see, I’ve never been able to lie about anything in my life without my eyes giving me away, so I had to pretend like the events of that afternoon never happened and then turn in an Academy Award acting performance on Christmas morning.

I’m certain I had a little extra spring in my step in the final days leading up to Christmas morning but I managed to contain my enthusiasm and keep my mouth shut (which was no small task for me even back in those days).

On Christmas morning I bounded out of bed and turned in an acting performance that was simply superb. I hooted and hollered, yelled and screamed and within a matter of minutes and still in my pajamas I was riding that spectacular bicycle down the street with the cold December air hitting me in the face. More than 50 years later I can still recall what a wonderful feeling that was and what a wonderful Christmas I had that year.

Of course, during that unforgettable Christmas in 1963 I also learned an important lesson that I filed away for future reference with my own children. Parents should never, ever hide Christmas presents in a building with a window because you can never tell when some nosy kid is lurking in the shadows.

From my little corner of the world to yours … Merry Christmas!




Franklin County Farm Bureau News

 Gay Bowlin, Manager

Monday evening, November 27 was our 98th Annual Meeting – there were over 175 in attendance. The meeting began with the FFA students from Sesser, West Frankfort, Benton and Thompsonville at the front of the room and Derek Sample from Sesser and Acelyn Nugent from Thompsonville together reciting the FFA Creed. This was followed by the entire FFA attendees leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

We are always proud when we are able to incorporate the participation of our county FFA students and Advisors in anything that we do and appreciate that they take their time to attend our various meetings.

President Leon McClerren presented a plaque to Debbie Fisher for her 12 years of service on the Farm Bureau Board of Directors, he presented a plaque to COUNTRY Financial Rep Krista Menckowski from Sesser who signed the most Farm Bureau members in the county.

Leon also presented a plaque to the Rosalee Jones family. Rosalee recently passed away and she and her husband Henry had been Farm Bureau members for well over 60 years. Until the last two years were her health was failing Rosalee had attended at least 60 County Annual Meetings – now this is something to shoot for folks.

“Elvis” was in the building last night and made the evening very entertaining. There were a lot of comments that everyone enjoyed the entertainment.

I would like to welcome Joe Heard to our Board of Directors. Joe will be taking the At-Large seated previously held by Larry Miller.

It is getting closer and closer to Christmas and we have some farmers that would like to get their Christmas Presents early and get their crops out of the fields. Most are finished but there are still a few who are harvesting as I write this with the hopes of being finished before December starts. We such a late harvest for most all farmers they will be a very short reprieve before it all starts over again.

Did anyone go out on “Black Friday” shopping? I must admit that my daughter and I did go out for a while, just not too early. Although we were not looking for anything in particular we did find several bargains and we met a few people while waiting to pay that made the long lines much more bearable. I hope that if you went out that you too were able to find some good deals and took the time to talk to and be kind to others.

Remember we are farmers working together. If we can help let us know.


Steve’s Ramblings: My experience in retail on Black Friday

By Steve Dunford 

I have stood in very few long lines to make the retail score on Black Friday.  Yes, I have went to pick up a lot of things cheap from time to time.  I only had one guy get nasty.  He thought I was trying to steal stuff out of his cart, when I was

I am going to share the other side of the coin, working on Black Friday.

I worked at Walmart in Mount Vernon for five years.  You might think I am crazy, but this was my favorite day of the year to work.

The majority of the time I spent as a cashier.  The 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. shift was always the quickest nine hours I spent in my life.  We were well fed that day.  By the time people would get to the front of the store, they were in a good mood.   The fighting was over.  I would always here about everyone’s shopping scores.

The biggest struggle was getting from the time clock to the front of the store.

One of the most memorable conversations that I had with a customer.  He was a doctor that was in Mt. Vernon visiting relatives.  He was telling his nurses and office staff, please don’t tell your patients or even, but I am doing some research on how he feels that digital cameras can be harmful to your health.  Please don’t buy one.

Digital cameras were in their inception then.  This was about ten years ago.  The reason he was telling his staff this?  He was going to buy each of them one for Christmas.  They were around two hundred bucks each,   The tab was between $5k and $6k.  He paid cash.  I remember I wanted the cash out of my drawer.

I could tell story after story but I am going to tell a few.  There was this lady that came to the front of the store to check out.  Putting it mildly, she was either an airhead, sleep deprived, or drank several Red Bulls.

She was talking 1,000 mph. talking about her scores.  She slaps four or five of the latest Barbie’s on the belt.  She told me that she had boys at home and all nephews. She said she wanted to just beat that and a few expletives about some woman who gave her a dirty look.

I was thinking to myself this chick is either really dingy, has a serious hoarding problem, has more money than sense, or she was going to sell these for triple and her conscience was bothering her.

To get a place to park, you had to get there at by 3:30 a.m.  One year Jack Bullock was sitting in the truck with me.  He was a fellow “checkout girl” with me.  There would be times that some employees would make fun of me for being one.  I would tell them I make two bucks more an hour than you do.  They would shut up immediately.

For those of you that don’t know, Jack has a website called A Baseline View, which covers high school basketball from Springfield to Cairo.

With the opening of the season that week, I think you could guess what the conversation was about.

Overnight, we we received an inch or two of snow.  We were cracking up of everyone coming in the store in matching wind-suits or pajama pants.  We were calling them their “shopping outfits.”

ABV Jack and I, were talking about how the fundamentals of basketball has slipped.  I was on a tirade about missed free throws and players not boxing out.

There was this gang of women that had on their solid white wind suits.  As I call them, “buggies” were getting scarce.  The woman with the biggest back side of them, “boxed out” a woman to get the last one.

She was in a near sprint toward the store.    She slipped on the ice.  Jack and I were jumping out of my truck to see if she was OK.  When she was, well the gal she shoved out of the way stole her cart.  When that happened, I had me a good laugh.  Icing on the cake was the one who swiped the cart, was wearing slush and salt on her pearl white “shopping suit.”  I do not like the word karma, but poetic justice was served.

Black Friday was fun to work.  I hated to work the Saturday before Christmas.  I despised working on Christmas Eve.  People were very grouchy on both days.

I am going to share one story on the Saturday before Christmas.  There was one lady that came through my line, and had some toys in her cart.  I rang it up and it was around $70.00 I believe.  She pulls out a coffee can and dumps a mound of change that consists of pennies, dimes, and nickels.

I began to choke up.  I cry way to easy for a guy.  I have a very soft heart.  I feel like people look at me and say turn in your man card.   I was thinking this was some little grandma that saved up all year to buy her kids Christmas.

I began to reach for my wallet.  The CSM Trish Ferarro (who was found dead in her apartment a few months ago in what they thought was a heart attack, I loved her dearly) said “don’t you even dare.”  I was going put my tithe money toward the toys.

Well she was about $10 short.  She pulls a wad of $100 bills out her bra, and says can you break a hundred?  The long line behind her came unglued,  I was afraid I was going to have to go get stitches in my tongue, and Trish started the conversation with this lady saying,  “there is no kids in earshot so”, and gave her a good cussing.

Trish then told me in her words “that old hag pulls that stunt every year”.  She always gets the next person in line pick up her tab.

The second was on Christmas Eve.  It was the first year Walmart was open until 8:00 p.m.  It was dead as a door nail.  There was a guy that came in right at 7:55 p.m. griping the donuts were not fresh.

He then asked if we were open in the morning.  I said no.  He just moved to Mt. Vernon and said it was his tradition to serve fresh pastries on Christmas morning.

I took him to the freezer, and I said the Rich’s frozen donuts came from the same company we get ours.  I also told him that Grand’s cinnamon rolls were very good.

When I walking back to the register to check him out, he was grumbling,  saying  “I did not realize Illinois was in the Bible Belt

There were several that used to ask whether we were open tomorrow.  It used to annoy me because I would think, Can you get this today?  Now, I realize the people were lonely, and needed a place to hide their pain.

Today is the kickoff, of a special time of year.  It is the time of year to commemorate the son of man becoming flesh, being born in a manger.  Thirty three years later, he went to a cruel rugged cross to die for all of our sins.

Keep in mind when things are out of stock, it is not the employees fault.  Most are struggling to by Christmas for their families.  Yes, I like the lights, tinsel, trees, and some of the greatest joys in my life was being Santa Claus for kids.  Seeing their eyes light up and telling me what they wanted for Christmas, was just precious moments.

As we enter into this season, from me you will not hear Happy Holidays.  You will hear me tell a lot of people over this next month Merry Christmas.







Why not celebrate Thanksgiving every day?

By Jim Muir 

I was still in bed this morning when this question crossed my mind.

I love the fourth Thursday in November as much as anybody, the turkey and dressing and all the trimmings, pumpkin pie and getting together with family. I love the four-day weekend and leftovers and the feel of autumn in the air. While I thought about the question I used for my daily offering, I couldn’t help but think of the fact that we choose one day a year to give thanks, or we do a 30-day countdown in the month of November. But, what about the other days on the calendar? Where is our thankful-meter at on those days? And let me point out that I’m asking that question and challenging myself as much as I am anybody else.

There’s a quote that I’ve used in the past that says: ‘What if you woke up today with only the things that you thanked God for yesterday?’ That’s a question that should cause all of us to do some soul-searching. And of course that’s a question that we should ask ourselves every single day, especially in all the months that don’t start with an ‘N.’

Perhaps the best way to know the answer to that question is to give thanks to God every day for all things – make every day thanksgiving. I recently read a story that pointed out that a grateful and thankful heart is one that finds the countless blessings in the seemingly mundane, everyday life – not just in November but in the other 11 months also.

In my morning ramblings I post a lot of quotes and write about the importance of ‘attitude.’ I have often pointed out that our attitude is the one thing we are in control of every single day. I’m convinced that an attitude of gratitude is the most important and by far the most life-changing we can acquire. I should point out that an attitude of gratitude does not change the scenery, it merely cleans the glass you look through daily so you can see the bright colors you’ve been missing.

In all things, give thanks … every day … even on days when you don’t have pumpkin pie with whipped cream! And by doing that, we will all know the answer to the question today’s quote asks! Certainly, every day should be Thanksgiving Day! ‘
God’s blessings to you on this day! Have a wonderful Thursday and a blessed (and thankful) day! And from my little corner of the world to yours … Happy Thanksgiving!

Town-Gown Relationships


Canyon Texas Homecoming, From the WT Archives

Click here to read the latest article from former SIU chancellor Walter Wendler.


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