April is the cruelest month, breeding IRS agents out of the dead land. According to the March 30 “Chicago Events Update,” issued by Free-Market.Net, the Chicago Libertarian Seminar is sponsoring a discussion on “libertarian and economic readings of modern poetry” on April 30.

We’re #1! Oops… The American Mayor: The Best & the Worst Big-City Leaders, a new book by historian Melvin Holli of the University of Illinois at Chicago, ranks 730 mayors from 15 cities since 1820. The worst? Chicago’s William H. “Big Bill” Thompson, who ruled off and on from 1915 to 1931.

“Since 1996, 5,192 CHA tenants have left public housing without obtaining Section 8 certificates,” which would have subsidized their rent in privately owned apartments, writes Brian Rogal in the Chicago Reporter (March). “Critics say many leave because they have been threatened with eviction [by the CHA]; CHA officials say they leave to escape deteriorating conditions.” The vast majority of people who have left have come from Robert Taylor Homes, ABLA Homes, Stateway Gardens, Washington Park, and Cabrini-Green.

You’ve been warned. “Barnes & Noble is currently negotiating to acquire Ingram, one of the country’s largest wholesale book distributors,” the Seminary Co-operative Bookstore on South University recently reported in a letter to its members. “If this deal goes through, booksellers will be forced to buy books directly from one of their biggest competitors.”

“I’ve lived in two countries with strict gun laws, Japan and Great Britain, and if I could press a button and make America’s guns vanish, I would do so in a blink (and I’d repeal the Second Amendment while I was at it),” writes Jonathan Rauch in the National Journal, reprinted in the E-mail newsletter “Center-Right” (March 22). “It turns out that a country with few guns is a better place to live than a country with, say, a fifth of a billion guns. But the fact is that America is awash with guns, and this fact is not going to change in my lifetime, and criminals carry guns already. A rational country would make guns harder for criminals to get (that’s gun control) but easier for lawful citizens to carry (that’s ‘shall issue’). By contrast, the current policy in states such as California–easy to get, hard to carry–is perversity incarnate….So why in the world are liberals clinging to opposition to concealed-carry? No doubt because the gun debate has been infected by the culture wars, and people have taken up sides.”

Quit architecture and go into electric cars? Chicago architect Kevin Pierce writes in “Focus” (April), the newsletter of the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects: “Vehicles, primarily private automobiles, consume twice the energy and produce twice the pollution of all commercial buildings currently in use annually, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. In other words, if most people drive to their jobs in a green office building, they negate many of that building’s green benefits.”

How Bill Clinton reinvented government. Brookings Institution fellow Paul Light reports in “The Changing Shape of Government,” Brookings policy brief number 45 (February), that last year, for the first time in modern history, “the number of middle-level federal employees outnumbered the lower-level employees.” That is apparently a direct result of the Clinton administration’s policy to shrink the federal workforce through attrition–because the bottom is “where the pay is lowest and attrition rates the highest. The number of employees in the lower grades of the federal general employment schedule dropped by more than 170,000 between 1993 and 1997, while the number of blue-collar jobs fell an additional 90,000.” Meanwhile, the upper levels of the bureaucracy are not growing, but there are more layers of hierarchy than ever. “This administration has created as many new titles during its six short years as the past seven administrations created over the preceding thirty-three years.”