Back in April 1921 when George Huff, the director of athletics at the University of Illinois, announced plans for a 75,000-seat stadium, there had to have been a few doubters.
There were only about 9,000 students at the university. Its alumni association had but 34,000 members, 13,000 of whom lived out of state. The entire population of largely rural Champaign County – 56,959 – could have fit comfortably in the proposed stadium. Football was growing in popularity, but there was little reason to believe that someday as many as 75,000 people would want to watch a game.
The Web site of the Citizens Flag Alliance, a group dedicating to protecting the American flag, reports that nationwide there have been just 33 incidents of flag desecration since 2000.
And yet the U.S. Senate, if Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has his way, will vote next month – again – on a proposal to forward a constitutional amendment to the states to make it a crime to desecrate the flag. A vote on the flag amendment has been almost an annual occurrence in Congress since 1989 when the Supreme Court ruled that flag desecration amounts to free speech protected by the First Amendment. In order to pander to some key constituencies, several senators again want to revise a document that has been amended only 27 times in the history of the republic.
You've just got to love those crazy kids who attend the University of Illinois. They just do one silly thing after another.
But when their behavior goes beyond good-natured fun, understandable foolishness or clever criticism, they deserve a lecture.
Phase two of the corruption trial of former Gov. George Ryan has been completed: that is the investigation of the jurors who heard the lengthy trial and found Ryan and his co-defendant guilty on all charges.
Sentencing for Ryan and Lawrence Warner is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 4. But emphasis should be placed on the word "tentative" because defense lawyers are moving heaven and earth to try to drag out the proceedings.
Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican candidate for governor, served 14 years in the General Assembly and as far as we recall, never publicly complained about being left out of the budget process. Until recently, that process was left to just five men – the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate and the governor. (This year, the club got more exclusive as neither Republican leader was invited, and only Gov. Blagojevich, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones did the budgeting).
Nor did we hear a peep from Topinka, who has been state treasurer for more than 11 years, about this secretive practice until now that she's running for governor.
Opponents of gay marriage in Illinois, operating under the broad banner of the Illinois Family Institute, have worked hard enough to gather more than 345,000 signatures on petitions that apparently will put an advisory referendum on the ballot this fall. We say "apparently" because it's possible that if enough signatures are ruled invalid, the advisory referendum would be thwarted.
But what is the harm in asking the electorate its opinion on this or virtually any other public policy issue?
A disturbing trend on college campuses continues this month at the New School, in New York's Greenwich Village, where students, staff and faculty not only are protesting a commencement speaker but also are demanding that the invitation be revoked. Those who value free speech and, especially, the traditions of academic freedom and open dialogue on college campuses should be mortified.
At the New School, where former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey is president, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., will be the commencement speaker on May 19. But more than 9,000 people have signed an online petition demanding that the invitation be revoked. Protesters seem most upset that McCain also is scheduled to speak at Liberty University (founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell) and because the senator has supported a ban on gay marriage in Arizona.
One of the great mysteries of East Central Illinois is the Mahomet aquifer, a network of underground rivers and streams far below the earth's surface. It's a mystery not only because no one has ever seen it but also because no one is quite sure where it goes or how big it is.
Scientists have a fairly good idea how much water is taken from the aquifer on a normal day – 23 million gallons a day for Champaign-Urbana, 1 million for the local Kraft plant, 1.6 million gallons for the village of Rantoul, more than 4 million gallons to the town of Normal, and millions more to other factories, dairy farms, cities and villages. But no one is certain how the aquifer is recharged, from where it is recharged and how long the process takes.
It's been quiet for months on the front lines of the fight over federal judicial nominations in the U.S. Senate. But hostilities between President Bush and filibuster-supporting Democrats appear imminent as the Senate prepares to vote on two nominees to federal appeals court positions.
Of course, a filibuster, which is a procedural ploy to prevent a vote, could be averted if the so-called Gang of Fourteen, a bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic senators, agrees that extreme measure is inappropriate. But the Gang, driven by partisan pressures, could split apart and push the Senate once again to the brink of a more serious vote on whether to permanently ban judicial filibusters.
Would-be Islamic terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui escaped a federal courtroom last week with his life, if you call it that. Jurors rejected the prosecution's request for a death sentence, so there will be no 72 virgins for him.
Instead, he'll be confined to a cell 23 hours a day in a federal prison in Colorado that's known as a "supermax." Moussaoui will have minimal human contact, rarely see the sky and, if the words of U.S. Judge Leonie Brinkema come true, "will die with a whimper" instead of as the great martyr he aspired to be.