Lies, damn lies, and the CHA. “Phillip Jackson and his team came into the agency in Spring 1999 promising to reform and improve the conditions throughout CHA,” writes Ethan Michaeli in the Residents’ Journal (August). “Their first move, however, was to lie to the general public in an effort to appear like reformers. They collected all of the laptop computers used by agency employees, including the 2 laptops we used at RJ, under the guise of conducting an ‘inventory.’ Those laptops–along with hundreds of bicycles, a Sports Utility Vehicle and other items–then appeared at CHA’s warehouse during a press conference organized to make it seem as if the items were ordered but never used. Phillip Jackson declared his ‘discovery’ evidence that the federal officials who ran CHA before him were wasting taxpayer money at a time when residents lived in crime-ridden, roach-infested, under-maintained developments.”

Family time. Out of 1,550 commercials aired during the 1998 baseball championship series, 137 contained “violent interactions,” according to a study recently published in the American Academy of Pediatrics’s Pediatrics Electronic Pages (October). Of the 137, “86 commercials involved the use of a gun, 10 of the commercials clearly contained blood and an additional 20 contained visible blood if the video was slowed or paused. Sixty-three commercials used fire and explosions.”

“The real swing voter is more likely to be a woman who drives an old Chevy Malibu and goes bowling, assuming she can find the time after a hard day as an office worker, airline clerk, or nurse’s aide,” writes David Moberg in the Progressive (September), reviewing two new books on the American working class. He also notes that Michael Zweig, author of The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret, “carefully calculates that 62 percent of the work force is ‘working class,’ which he defines not on the basis of income or occupation but on the power and authority at work–which working class people don’t have.”

Why is youth violence down as media violence goes up? Writing in the New Republic (October 2), Andrew Sullivan speculates that “the rise of a bawdy, violent popular culture is actually linked to the decline in crime and dysfunction among the young. The key to controlling teenagers, after all, is not repression but distraction. A 14-year-old consumed with murdering mythic gods on his Playstation is not on a street corner making trouble.”

When gangs really ran Chicago. Writing in Illinois Issues (September), James Merriner describes “a Chicago election so violent, with so many bombs (61) thrown, that it became known as the ‘Pineapple Primary.’ On March 21, 1928, 19th Ward Republican committeeman Guiseppe ‘Diamond Joe’ Esposito, boulevardier and bootlegger, was shot down on the sidewalk between two bodyguards in view of his wife and daughter. Esposito was a lieutenant of U.S. Sen. Charles S. Deneen….After he voted on primary election day, April 10, black candidate Octavius C. Grandy, who was challenging the mob’s candidate for Republican committeeman of the ‘Bloody 20th’ Ward, was chased in his car, curbed and shot. Four policemen and three mobsters were acquitted of the crime.”

“Large and systematic economic inequalities (acceptable in a free society) must not be turned into large and systematic political inequalities (unacceptable in a free society),” writes University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, making the case for campaign finance reform in the American Prospect (September 25-October 9). He favors clean-money reforms (public campaign financing for candidates who agree not to take private funds), compulsory full disclosure, and a general toning down of the rhetoric: “Too much attention is being paid to nonscandal scandals and to sensationalistic, false claims about how officials are in the ‘pocket’ of special interests. Consider George W. Bush’s truly disgraceful decision to run campaign advertisements about Gore’s Buddhist temple visit. Bush himself receives a huge amount of corporate money, but the best guess is that he gets the money because he agrees with the donors, not the other way around. While American government needs campaign finance reform, the level of actual corruption is happily low.”