“More than once someone has demanded of me that I explain exactly why anti-Semitic jokes are not funny,” writes University of Chicago philosophy professor Ted Cohen in his new book, Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters. “I have come to realize that if there is a problem with such jokes, the problem is compounded exactly by the fact that they are funny.”

Illinois is an average state when it comes to preventing pollution from oil refineries, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (www.edf.org/programs/ppa/cg/or/or_state_rankings.html). None of its refineries were in the top 15 percent. It’s also the worst state in the nation when it comes to sulfur dioxide emissions per barrel of oil refined. The Clark refining plant in Blue Island wasn’t included in the EDF rankings because of “unacceptable data quality.”

“Chicago’s road system capacity could probably grow by about a third with the expenditure of a few tens of millions of dollars,” contends retired Northwestern University economist Edwin Mils in the “Illinois Real Estate Letter” (Summer), “to improve traffic control (reverse direction and one way streets and lanes, timed traffic lights, enforcement of traffic rules, higher on-street parking fees, and abandonment of restrictions on private off-street parking). The benefit/cost ratio would be large. Spending billions to acquire land and build new roads would not be justified.”

November storm warning just in from the Adler Planetarium’s fall newsletter, the “Adler Star”: “The Leonid meteor shower will occur from midnight to sunrise” November 17 and 18. “A thousand meteors an hour are predicted for observers in clear, dark skies. This shower puts on a spectacular meteor storm every thirty-three years, and a possible meteor storm is predicted this year.”

Word from 5266. Writing in the August “Residents’ Journal,” Arminta Clark quotes 33-year public-housing resident Barbara Moore, president of 5266 S. State, one of the Robert Taylor Homes buildings slated for demolition: “If this property is good enough to build townhouses that would eventually cost $200,000, then it’s worth fighting for.”

OK, who’s been proofreading with the spell checker? The Newberry Library’s summer newsletter on collecting first editions: “The focal point of [C. Frederick] Kittle’s [Sir Arthur Conan] Doyle collection is the extraordinary array of manuscripts and first additions from Doyle and members of his family.” And Chicago-Kent’s new Journal of Intellectual Property (Spring) states that the mass media’s “consolidation of power has reeked havoc on how our culture creates and disseminates meaning.”

The prepositionally challenged. From a public-radio commercial repeatedly broadcast on WBEZ FM: “The Chicago Tribune offers insight, perspective, and understanding to events of Chicago and the world.”

Land of Lincoln and slavery. The Illinois Times (September 23-29) surveys the Illinois State Archives’ new index to “Illinois Servitude and Emancipation Records” and finds that the last known emancipation of a slave in Illinois occurred in Saint Clair County (near Saint Louis) in 1863, “when Marva Reed was emancipated from Aaron Shook.”

Oh yeah? Who’s the real sissy, judge? The prolific Richard Posner, chief judge of the seventh circuit court, reviewing Gaylaw in the New Republic (October 11): “It is true that there is less privacy in an army than in the ordinary workplace, leading to concerns that heterosexual males will be demoralized by being subjected to the ‘homosexual gaze’ while taking a shower; but the man who is seriously discomposed by a lascivious glance is the real sissy.”

“We struggle with two competing definitions of public education,” writes Paul Hill in Blueprint (Fall). “The first is that public education is a commitment to specific political bargains, programs, job rights, and bureaucratic oversight. The second is that public education is a commitment to use any means necessary to ensure that every child learns enough to be able to participate fully as a citizen, earner, and parent.” But when the current bureaucratic arrangements don’t educate kids we have trouble. “In many cities the bedrock support [for public schools] comes from middle-class parents who have worked the system to get the best teachers and special school assignments for their children and who then support ‘public education’ because of its commitment to equity.”