…where everyone is above average. According to a report issued by Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies (“2002 Report on the Illinois Policy Survey”), 54 percent of Illinoisans believe that the financial condition of state residents is worse than it was last year, but only 23 percent report that their own personal financial condition is worse. Likewise, only 44 percent believe that Illinois public schools overall are good or excellent, but 63 percent believe that their own community’s schools are.

Open government, Chicago style. “It seems that there’s a sincere desire to set a new tone” now that Arne Duncan heads the Chicago Public Schools, says Jacqueline Leavy, director of the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group. “But we’re waiting to see.” Indeed she is. The schools have yet to issue a capital spending plan for the current fiscal year, which is nearly over. “We’ve asked and asked and asked,” she says (Catalyst Chicago, May).

One more reason to stay in school and become a professor. The catalog of books from the State University of New York Press includes this new title: After the Orgy: Toward a Politics of Exhaustion.

A river in recovery. “In the 1970s, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s (MWRD) fish surveys in the North Branch below the West River Park Dam typically found only 10 fish species, and on average, just one fish was found for every 30 minutes of surveying,” reports the newsletter of the Friends of the Chicago River, the “River Reporter” (Spring). “In the 1990s, surveying typically found 22 species and averaged 53 fish per 30 minutes of surveying.”

Saint Jane of the Middle Ground. University of Chicago professor Jean Bethke Elshtain tells the U. of C. Chronicle (May 9) that Jane Addams “transcends so many boundaries and categories. She’s a combination of pragmatism with commitment to Christian social gospel, deeply indebted to Abraham Lincoln and the Lincolnian vision of democracy….Some feminists find her too maternal or traditional, while The Wall Street Journal saw her, wrongly, as a precursor of big government and the welfare state. If conservatives place someone on the left and liberals place them on the right, then that’s a clue that that person may have captured a complicated middle ground, which I think, indeed, Jane Addams has done.”

A Head Start–for some. From a March-April research summary issued by the Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research (“Poverty Research News”): “When controlling for observable characteristics, whites who attended Head Start are 20 percentage points more likely to complete high school than siblings who did not attend. Among whites whose mothers did not complete high school, the longer-term benefits of Head Start are even greater; whites in this group are 30 percentage points more likely to complete high school than their siblings. However, there is no statistically significant effect for African Americans.”

Are you ready to pay the price of American empire? Pat Buchanan isn’t either. “Fifteen of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia,” he wrote in the on-line WorldNetDaily (May 29). “They did not fly into those twin towers to protest universal suffrage or to advance self-determination for the Palestinian people. As Osama bin Laden said, they want us to stop propping up the Saudi regime they hate, and to get off the sacred Saudi soil on which sit the holiest shrines of Islam. They want our troops out of Saudi Arabia–and if we don’t get out, they are coming over here to kill us any way they can….We must address the central issue: Terror on American soil, and eventual cataclysmic and atomic terror on American soil, is the price of American empire. Is the empire worth it? French, Brits, even Soviets said no. They went home. And nothing over there–not oil, not bases in Saudi Arabia, not global hegemony–is worth risking nuclear terror over here.”