What does the Jack Kelley fabrication scandal at USA Today say about the future of white journalism? That’s what Leonard Pitts asked in the Miami Herald recently (quoted in “Undernews,” April 27): “Did USA Today advance a moderately capable journalist because he was white? Did some white editor mentor him out of racial solidarity even though Kelley was unqualified? In light of this fiasco, should we reexamine the de facto affirmative action that gives white men preferential treatment in our newsrooms?”

“I traveled to Springfield,” writes David Tanenhaus, to conduct research for his forthcoming book, Juvenile Justice in the Making. “As I entered the state archive, one of its staffers was positioning miniature soldiers on a large map spread across a table. When I asked what he was doing, he explained that he was recreating the Battle of Gettysburg to figure out a way for Pickett’s Charge to have succeeded, so that ‘our side’ could have won the war. That week I realized how Southern central Illinois really was.”

Ditching the dead past. In the March 4 In These Times David Moberg reviews William Greider’s latest book, which Moberg says calls for “the right to a job, decent housing, health care, education and a thriving natural environment” even though political action for those rights is unlikely. “Americans don’t have an alternative narrative to the corporate capitalist fairytale that is broadly accepted, even by those whose lives are damaged by it,” Moberg writes. “As independent farmers and craftspeople were pushed into working for big corporations in the late 19th Century, they understood there had been an alternative as they railed against becoming ‘wage slaves’ and dreamed of a ‘cooperative commonwealth.’ But the idea that there might be another way to organize society’s work, wealth and consumption seems incomprehensibly alien to most Americans today–and must grow out of their present conflicts, not a forgotten past.”

Indiana gets ready to undo the mistake of industrialism. According to the May 5 northwest Indiana Times, the Chicago firm JJR is drawing up preliminary plans (due in January 2005) for reclaiming 75 percent of Indiana’s Lake Michigan shoreline. A 200-foot setback would “be used for a continuous pedestrian/bicycle trail along the shore.”

Why mass transit isn’t the answer, according to Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institution (“Traffic: Why It’s Getting Worse, What Government Can Do,” January). “Public transit works best where gross residential densities are above 4,200 persons per square mile,” he writes. “But in 2000, at least two thirds of all residents of U.S. urbanized areas lived in settlements with densities of under 4,000 persons per square mile. Those densities are too low for public transit to be effective.”

Chicago school reform a century ago. Robin Bachin writes in her new book, Building the South Side: Urban Space and Civic Culture in Chicago 1890-1919, “[University of Chicago president William Rainey] Harper sought a more active role for himself and the university in coordinating all phases of education in Chicago. . . . In 1899 Harper wrote a report, commissioned by Mayor Carter Harrison Jr.,” that proposed concentrating authority in the office of the superintendent and requiring all teachers to have a college degree. “The ‘Harper Plan,’ as it came to be known, effectively removed control over the selection of teachers from local school boards and placed it in the hands of appointees in the superintendent’s office. The plan also sought to create a system of meritocracy and professionalism through testing and the college degree requirement. In addition, Harper argued that male teachers (who usually were the ones with college degrees) should receive higher salaries than female teachers, since the men were career professionals.”

Memorial Day in a sentence. Peter Beinart writes in the March 29 issue of the New Republic, “As long as conservatives cling to Bush’s tax cuts, their demands for a military capable of winning the war on terrorism will ring hollow.”