Thank you, 20th century. “The latter part of the 19th century was an era of tuberculosis, typhoid, sanitariums, child labor, child death, horses, horse manure, candles, 12-hour work days, Jim Crow laws, tenements, slaughterhouses, and outhouses,” write Stephen Moore and Julian Simon in a Cato Institute report, “The Greatest Century That Ever Was” (December 15). “Lynchings–not just of blacks–were common. (In the South 11 Italians were lynched in one month.) To live to 50 was to count one’s blessings. For a mother to have all four of her children live to adulthood was to beat the odds of nature….Industrial cities were typically enveloped in clouds of black soot and smoke….Streets were smelly and filled with garbage before modern sewerage systems and plumbing were put in place. Leading killers of the day included pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhea, and violence….In 1900 black incomes were less than 40 percent of those of whites; in 1979 they were about 58 percent of those of whites; and today they are more than 75 percent of those of whites.”

Not that I would want to. Joel Alfassa in StreetWise (January 4): “I have never met a person who hunts ducks or deer with an assault rifle.”

Do you need more evidence that Republicans are hypocrites? Just in case, the Springfield-based Sunshine Project and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform point out in a January press release that Illinois now requires candidates make a good faith effort to report employer and occupation information of individuals who give their campaigns more than $500 over six months. Republicans are among those who insist that the only campaign finance reform needed is full and prompt disclosure, then the voters can decide. Yet between January 1 and June 30, 1999, two people gave the state Republican Party more than $500, and the party didn’t disclose the required information. One of the donors was former party chairman Harold Smith of Glenview ($25,000), and the other was Molex Corporation CEO Frederick Krehbiel of Hinsdale ($20,000). It’s hard to believe they would have had trouble disclosing the required information if they’d made a good faith effort.

Environmental journalism as fiction. “Chicago’s City Hall is being surrounded with grass, ivy, and oak trees to help cool the city and cut smog,” according to a one-sentence report in Audubon (November-December).

“There will be a new pope, sooner rather than later,” writes Paul Varnell in the Chicago Free Press (January 19). “Gay Catholics may hope he will be more moderate on gay issues than John Paul II, but that will not happen….Too many other doctrines would be destabilized by any change on homosexuality. However, the new confirmation of the rigidity of Catholic doctrine will accelerate the trend for Catholics to treat Catholicism more as many Jews view Judaism–that is, a cultural tradition rather than a set of doctrinal demands.”

News transit advocates don’t want to hear. “It seems that the availability of mass transit options just won’t get people out of their cars,” write Peter Gordon and Harry Richardson, professors of economics and planning at the University of Southern California, in a January 24 Cato Institute report, “Critiquing Sprawl’s Critics.” “The steepest losses in transit ridership in recent years have been in transit’s strongest markets, the 10 U.S. cities with considerable rail transit capacity and relatively strong and high-density employment centers,” namely New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey.

On a date in their Saturn with his dog Pluto, they ran into a Mercury. A January news release from the Mars Venus Institute of Chicago on North Michigan invites singles and couples “to learn the concepts in Mars and Venus on a Date in an all-day four part interactive workshop. Participants will learn to navigate through the five stages of dating.” No word on whether the fifth stage involves Uranus.