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Thoughts about fuel prices, foolish politics

Some weeks, a part-time columnist doesn’t have time to write.

Other times, there seems to be nothing to write about.

So, he makes the time – at the last minute.

And with nothing to write about, he writes about everything.

That’s a columnist’s secret. Don’t tell anybody.

THIS EDITOR ROLLED out of Woodstock on Friday morning with gasoline there selling for $3.95/9 a gallon.

When he got to Marengo, it was $3.88/9.

That Mobil station off U.S. 20 in Belvidere had it for $3.59/9.

By the time he hit Byron, it was $3.67/9.

In Oregon, and in Grand Detour, motorists were paying $3.69/9.

Finally, you could get a gallon in Dixon for $3.39/9.

And Sterling stations were charging $3.62/9.

So, wherever you are in the Sauk Valley, remember: It could be worse.

SOMETHING THAT could not be worse: The ability of the Illinois General Assembly to reform public pension programs.

We’re told that negotiations are taking place – finally – to resolve the differences between the House plan and the Senate plan.

In the meantime, Gov. Pat Quinn has suspended legislators’ pay until they fix the pension mess as a key step in solving the state’s budget crisis.

House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton – the only two legislators who seem to matter – responded by filing a lawsuit on the separation-of-powers principle that the executive shouldn’t be able to hold legislative pay as hostage in a political dispute.

But, for some reason, the legislators don’t simply override the governor’s action, which is the separation-of-powers remedy provided by the state’s Constitution.

Are we missing something here – other than pension reform?

LOCAL LEGISLATORS, in an article published Tuesday in this newspaper, called the governor’s paycheck veto a political stunt.

Well, of course it’s a political stunt!

But it’s the kind of stunt that plays well with frustrated voters in the year before a struggling governor plans to ask them to re-elect him.

In another time and another place where reality lives, Quinn would be a political dead man walking.

But this is Illinois.

Although Quinn is a nice guy, he’s not a popular governor – largely because he presides in a politically dysfunctional state.

In 2014, a year that promises not to be especially kind to Democrats, Quinn should have no chance of winning another term.

But this is Illinois.

WHILE WE CAN appreciate that sensible people would be bothered by seeing a Hitler-like mustache drawn on the picture of a U.S. president, we understand that expression is a part of free speech that we enjoy in this country.

The First Amendment protects the right of people to express themselves in mean, nasty and repugnant ways. The Supreme Court has upheld the right to be offensive.

You might have read in this newspaper about the Dixon citizens who called police to complain about a couple of Chicago folks who recently set up a protest in front of the post office. To call attention to themselves, they adorned a photo of President Obama with the ’stache made infamous by a 20th century German madman.

Shortly after he arrived 5 years ago at Sauk Valley Media, this editor instituted a strict “no kooks” policy in the newsroom.

We do write about some of the kooky things people do, and we even print kooky letters as long as they don’t try to pass off opinions as facts.

But we don’t suffer kooks gladly.

And that’s the great thing about people who say and do outrageous things. They let you know immediately that they are not interested in honest dialogue and they are not to be taken seriously.

That usually simplifies the process of sorting through today’s political noise.

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