This seems like a good time to rate the various U.S. Senate candidates. Let's start with the Republicans.

• Jack Ryan - A handsome multi-millionaire with three Ivy League degrees, quit his investment-banking career and went to work as a teacher in an inner-city school.

The media missed the mark on Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka's press conference not long ago.

Topinka summoned reporters to issue a public demand that the governor call a special session to deal with the budget problem.

Editor's note: River Cities' Reader political columnist and Chicago-based journalist Rich Miller is spending a month in Iraq. This is the first in a series of articles he's filing presenting an alternative viewpoint on the postwar effort there.

I generally sympathize with the pro-hunting folks, but the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance is engaging in either deliberate lies or abject incompetence these days.

The alliance's Web site (http://www.ussportsmen.

A costly mistake by the parents of a 4-H club member has turned into some bad publicity for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Representative Shane Cultra (an Onarga Republican) wants an apology from the governor over his remarks last week about the State Fair animal-doping controversy.

Pharmacists and road-builders have to wait months for their state-government reimbursements, but Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has managed to find the cash to green-light $200 million worth of pork-barrel projects.

In yet another example of how obsessed Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is about his public image, even during "the worst fiscal crisis in the state's history," the governor is requiring state employees to videotape and review local TV-news broadcasts about him seven days a week on state time.

A $6-million annual state program to help at-risk high-school students graduate and find jobs has been vetoed out of existence by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The program appears to be worthwhile, and the governor has never really explained why he wanted to kill it, other than he wants to "streamline" and "consolidate" the state's job-training efforts.

Talk about a week filled with heavy-duty irony. Christian conservatives rallying for lower casino taxes and Governor Rod Blagojevich doling out George Ryan's pork money.

Early last week, a coalition of conservative groups held a press conference.

"We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals - and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship," Grover Norquist recently told the Denver Post.

Norquist runs a group called Americans for Tax Reform, and his organization was scheduled to participate in a Chicago press conference last week that was called to attack Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for his anti-business proposals.

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