Savage choice. “I don’t understand being more afraid of John Ashcroft than Osama bin Laden,” advice columnist Dan Savage tells Reason’s Sara Rimensnyder (January). “Personally, I prefer Christian fundamentalists to Islamic fundamentalists.”

“Existing laws already prohibit the very acts the [Chicago gang] loitering ordinance seeks to prevent,” writes Ernesto Palomo in a recent issue of the University of Illinois Law Review. “By aggressively enforcing laws prohibiting mob action, gang recruitment, disorderly conduct, intimidation, aggravated intimidation, and drug selling the police will be able to effectively thwart criminal street gangs.”

Now will you pay attention? Johannesburg, South Africa, is considering turning its old gold-mine shafts into catacombs. “This year we will bury about 20,000 people,” cemetery official Alan Buff told (December 3). “In 2010, unless someone develops a cure for AIDS, we expect that figure to be 70,000.” The mines would be converted into underground streets lined with tombs, reached from above by elevator.

Is “sound science” in environmental regulations a good idea–or conservative-libertarian code for “rev up the bulldozers”? In their September report “Paybacks,” Earthjustice and Public Campaign present evidence for the second. “Before a new federal regulation can be finalized, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must approve it. Under the Bush administration, OMB has proclaimed that it requires agencies to meet high standards for data quality and sound science before it will approve new rules.” Nevertheless, “OMB gave the Bush administration’s sweeping Clean Water Act rule change their stamp of approval in record time–less than 48 hours, even though not one study was conducted to measure the impacts of the new rule, though it applies to every body of water nationwide.”

From another city’s file. “Forty-three years of totalitarian dictatorship have left the city of Havana–one of the most beautiful in the world–suspended in a peculiar state halfway between preservation and destruction,” writes Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal (Summer). “I found the absence of the most grating aspects of commercialism aesthetically pleasing: McDonald’s restaurants (and their like) would ruin Havana as a townscape as comprehensively as time and neglect. And the comparative lack of traffic in Havana demonstrates how mixed a blessing the inexorable spread of the automobile has been for the quality of city life. Had Havana developed ‘normally,’ its narrow grid-pattern streets would by now be choking with traffic and pollution, a suffocating inferno like Guatemala City or San Jose, Costa Rica….The air is clean, and there is no honking of horns. You can hear yourself think and talk.”

Of course, teachers may reach quite a different conclusion. Vanderbilt University political scientist Kenneth Wong concludes that the Chicago public schools’ increased test scores, steady dropout rate, and increasing number of high school graduates is especially good news because it was accomplished “without increasing the relative cost per teacher” (Education Next, Winter). “The average salary for a teacher in Chicago was 27 percent higher than the state average in 1990. By 2000, Chicago teachers were earning 15 percent more than the state average. In other words, Chicago schools seemed to have become more cost-effective during the Vallas years.”

“Both logic and historical evidence suggest a policy of vigilant containment would work, both now and in the event Iraq acquires a nuclear arsenal,”

write John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard in Foreign Policy (January/February). “Why? Because the United States and its regional allies are far stronger than Iraq. And because it does not take a genius to figure out what would happen if Iraq tried to use WMD [weapons of mass destruction] to blackmail its neighbors, expand its territory, or attack another state directly. It only takes a leader who wants to stay alive and who wants to remain in power. Throughout his lengthy and brutal career, Saddam Hussein has repeatedly shown that these two goals are absolutely paramount. That is why deterrence and containment would work….This war would be one the Bush administration chose to fight but did not have to fight.”