Thought crime is everywhere. According to the Washington Post (January 18), the improbably named Brag Bowling, central Virginia commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, demanded that the burning of a Robert E. Lee banner in Richmond, Virginia, be treated by police as a hate crime against southerners.

News you won’t hear from conservatives. Kenneth Chay and Michael Greenstone, economists with the University of California at Berkeley, have come up with the most convincing demonstration yet that particulate air pollution kills–by using infant-mortality data for 1980-’82, when a severe recession drastically reduced pollution in some areas of the country, particularly cities with lots of heavy industry. They find that a one-milligram-per-cubic-meter reduction in particulates led to 4 to 8 fewer infant deaths per 100,000 at the county level. Previous studies of adult mortality had been vulnerable to the criticism that researchers didn’t know the subjects’ lifetime exposures to pollution and that those dying in air-pollution episodes were already sick and would have died soon anyway (National Bureau of Economic Research working paper 7442, December).

Don’t get to the bottom of it, advises University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein in an essay titled “Preventing Holy Wars,” his contribution to the university’s “Reflections 2000” series ( “South Africa, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have faced, and still face, enormous social disagreement about the most basic matters….Yet in each of these nations, there has been a peaceful transition to democracy….This astonishing feat has been accomplished through reaching incompletely theorized agreements,” agreements that focus either on abstract principles (to avoid disagreements on the details), or on practical courses of action (to avoid disagreements on abstract principles). Such agreements, Sunstein says, “use silence constructively…as a device for producing convergence despite disagreement, uncertainty, limits of time and capacity, and heterogeneity. Through the constructive use of silence, they help prevent holy wars, serving as an important source of social stability and an important way for people to demonstrate mutual respect.”

We’re number one! Or number five! According to “Chicago Connections” (January/February), published by the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, Chicago led Atlanta, New York, and Dallas as the number one city for business travel, and it was fifth in domestic leisure travel, behind Orlando, Las Vegas, New York, and Atlantic City.

Now, kids, this is the way we want you to run things when you grow up. “The average citizen has been led to believe that what is broadcast on Channel 21 is the complete gavel-to-gavel meeting of Chicago’s school board,” writes Sharon Schmidt in Substance (January). “In fact, it is a highly selective version of what actually takes place at the meetings themselves. The edited-for-television version of the December 15, 1999, meeting of the Chicago Board of Education did not include several heated exchanges that occurred between local school council members, on the one hand, and board president Gery Chico and schools CEO Paul Vallas, on the other….In most of the sections excised from the televised version of the meeting, the anonymous editors cut out political threats, sarcasm, and other types of bullying which Vallas, Chico and their staffs regularly mete out to those who criticize their policies in the public forum.”