"We need some pep in discussion of the Presidential dimness," writes Molly Ivins in the Progressive (May 1987). "Nick Von Hoffman was fired by CBS during Watergate for observing, 'The President is the dead mouse on the floor of American politics, and the only question left is who is going to pick him up and carry him out of the room.' The time has come once more. . . ."
Dept. of careerism. The AFTA Flyer (Spring 1987), published by the Aerospace Flight Training Academy of Schaumburg, lists average annual salaries of white-collar professionals--from airline pilot ($86,000) to doctor in general practice ($76,000) down to teacher ($20,000)--and comments: "The above table is of course indicative of typical average pay, not top pay. Some doctors and lawyers make significantly more than even the top-paid airline pilots; but they have to work much harder. The highest-paid doctors and lawyers are working fourteen-to-twenty hours a day, six-to-seven days a week. The typical senior airline pilot works less than ten days a month on average."
"There were 744 murders in Chicago in 1986," according to Neighborhoods (April/May 1987), newsletter of the Chicago Alliance for Neighborhood Safety. "This represents an 11.7% jump from 1985"--but the yearly average, 1965-1981, was 757, and from 1976 to 1985 it was 782--"38 more than in 1986. While even a single loss of life to murder is serious, the 1986 homicide rate clearly does not represent some new and terrifying high."
What do you call a tourist? In New England in the fall, they're "leaf peepers"; in Florida in winter, they're "sun soakers"; and on Mackinac Island in the summer they're--"fudgies"? Veteran Mackinac fudge purveyor Harry Ryba tells the Great Lakes Reporter (Summer/Fall 1986), "A fudgie is a person who arrives by ferry in the morning, takes a horse carriage tour, rides a bike around the island, visits the fort, buys half a pound of fudge and goes home." If you don't like the name, you could spend the night or buy a couple more pounds.
Caseworkers do the darndest things: Rosa Cole, separated from her husband for four years and not receiving child support, applied for welfare and food stamps in July 1986. She brought her Illinois Department of Public Aid caseworker affidavits from her landlord and a neighbor saying that her husband lived elsewhere, plus his (January) voter registration card. That wasn't enough, according to the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago News (April 1987). "IDPA sent her another notice stating that she must provide at least four additional forms of verification of her husband's address within six days. Three days later, Ms. Cole brought in an affidavit from her husband. . . . She also submitted two letters from creditors and one letter from the Board of Elections addressed to her husband at a different address than her own. A few days later, IDPA sent her another notice stating that her application was denied because her husband's separation from the household could not be verified." (PS: LAFC helped get the decision reversed.)
Press releases we couldn't stop reading: "Celebrate May Day and the advent of the bawdy spring months with a performance by the Wind Forest Consort, a Renaissance quartet . . . at Moraine Valley Community College. . . . Preceding the concert will be a reading of bawdy prose and poetry. . . . A variety of bawdy songs will highlight the event--the group will also explain the origin and use of each of their instruments."
Physician, heal someone else. How would you choose whom to treat and whom to let die in the aftermath of a nuclear war? Science for the People (January/February 1987) notes that the British Medical Association is approaching this ultimate triage question with candor: "Physicians probably wouldn't be included among those who would merit treatment because they would not contribute to the survival of the community. Doctors, [a BMA official] pointed out, tend to know little about first-aid and be helpless without their equipment."
"We don't side with the gangs, the police, or the City," says Loyola University philosophy graduate student Peter Bisson. He and Bill Tomes, a consultant to Catholic Charities, spend eight to ten hours a week visiting gang-ridden housing projects, talking with gang members, and sometimes intervening in potentially violent situations. "I once had the leader of a gang give me a short sermonette," Bisson says without apparent irony. "He told me to be careful. He said he really was glad I was there in the projects and that we make a difference. He said that while Bill and I use the 'weapons' of God, he and his fellow gang members use other weapons for peace." Just like those other gang leaders we call presidents and premiers.
Reform the schools by enlarging classes, suggests Herbert Walberg, research professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "In the United States, we have reduced class sizes from about 33 students in 1930 to approximately 17 today, but that has not been found to improve learning," he says. "If we were willing to make classes larger, say double class sizes, then we could perhaps triple teachers' salaries and attract better teachers."