Keeping track of public opinion, if any. Joseph Schwieterman and Brian Maddox of DePaul University on the results of their national survey on railroad policy ("Railgram," February): "Don't expect citizens to have even a rudimentary knowledge of historical events shaping today's industry. When asked when Amtrak established service, more than a third responded with dates before the end of World War II. One in 12 responded that Amtrak was created during the 1800s (Amtrak ran its first train in 1971)."
Of course, they could go outside and sniff. Illinois State University agribusiness professor Cheryl Wachenheim, quoted in an Illinois Pork Producers Association press release, on why downstate county boards shouldn't be allowed to decide on where mega hog farms can locate: "It would be unrealistic to expect county boards to have the information to accurately assess the environmental and economic impact of hog farm expansion."
Isn't it great? We're shuffling fewer papers faster! "Newspaper Acquisitions" (February), a newsletter published by a company in the business of buying and selling daily papers, hailed 1997 as a record year for mergers and acquisitions, in both dollar volume and numbers of newspapers. Not until the end of the story do we learn the underlying facts: "In 1990, there were 1,611 daily newspapers in existence with a total weekday circulation of 62.3 million....At the end of 1997, there were 1,520 daily newspapers with a weekday circulation of 57.0 million."
"Reducing the economic insecurity of families headed by single mothers is probably the most effective tool for protecting children," writes Sara S. MacLanahan in the book Consequences of Growing Up Poor, summarized in the Chicago Reporter (February). "If single mothers were more economically secure, they might take more time in selecting a new partner, which, in turn, might make remarriage more beneficial for children."
"You may not have heard about the MAI [Multilateral Agreement on Investment] before," writes David Moberg in the Progressive (March). It would confer an extra bundle of rights on multinational corporations. "Its beneficiaries prefer it that way." Strangely oblivious to its own preference,
the local establishment media have failed to keep the secret. The MAI was featured on the front page of the December 4, 1997, Chicago Tribune.
No atheists in foxholes, and no fundamentalists in the trauma center. "The following creationist ideas from the Bible...are totally irreconcilable with extant scientific data," according to an on-line Science-Week summary (February 27) of an article in American Scientist (March/April): "1) the Earth came into existence before the sun and stars; 2) the land plants came into existence before the Sun; 3) the first life forms were plants; 4) fruit trees appeared before fish; 5) fish appeared before insects; 6) birds appeared before land reptiles. Indeed, the acceptance of any of these ideas with a restraint of consistency results in the tearing down of the entire fabric of modern science (and the tearing down of all its applications, including modern medicine)."
"Far too typical of the black and mainstream media alike, is the sacrifice of journalistic standards for the sake of 'what sells,'" writes Jarrette Fellows Jr. of the L.A. Watts Times in the Washington Monthly (January/February). "Much of the blame for this tendency among black newspapers can be laid at the door of Chicago Defender founder Robert Sengstacks Abbott, who set a new standard in the early 1920s when he abandoned the moral tone common to black newspapers of the day and patterned the Defender after William Randolph Hearst's sensationalist tabloids, smearing his front pages with accounts of crime and scandal. To be sure, the formula was commercially successful, attracting a voracious readership. By 1935, the Defender's circulation was 230,000. However, the new approach also diminished the service these black newspapers were providing to the black community."
So let's build another airport! Jack Saporito, of the Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare, which opposes O'Hare expansion and favors a new, south-suburban airport instead, recently wrote in a statement to the Arlington Heights Advisory Committee on O'Hare Noise: "A plane taking off is akin to setting gas station on fire & flying it over your head, according to a quote from a physicist of the Boeing Aircraft Company. Only it's much worse!"