By Harold Henderson

The least of her problems. Among those prosecuted by the Illinois Department of Agriculture under animal-care regulations last fall, according to a department newsletter: a southern Illinois resident fined $100 for “possession of a tiger without a license.”

“Not one foot of track has been laid since the inception and demise of the [central area circulator] project, yet an astounding $59 million of tax dollars have been spent,” writes Dennis Constant in ITEF Comment (January 4). “According to published reports, $33 million was paid to project designers DeLeuw Cather & Co. and McDonough Associates. The project managers, Chicago Partners, a joint venture of politically-connected Stein & Co., U.S. Equities and ICF Kaiser Engineers, Inc., took $16 million for their trouble. Sasaki Associates, a Boston urban planner, took $2 million for designing the streetcar line’s stations. But it wasn’t all work and no play. Project Director Stephen E. Schlickman decided a tour of European cities was needed to check out similar trolley systems, claiming no such system was in operation in the U.S….Rather than one analyst visiting Denver, where a successful central area ‘low floor’ circulator system is in operation using buses, five persons flew to Amsterdam, Holland, Zurich, Switzerland and Grenoble, France.”

Statistical excerpt from a speech Jim Edgar will never give. Number of low-skilled, unemployed workers and welfare recipients in the Chicago metropolitan area: 253,491. Number of entry-level job openings in the area: 47,102 (Nikolas Theodore, Chicago Urban League).

“There is a sense in which anyone wishing to make a successful adult career as a violinist or pianist has to start out as a child prodigy,” writes Robert Finn in the Chicago Symphonic Times (Winter). “He/she must, after all, train fingers, arms, and other body parts to do some highly unnatural things and assume some very unorthodox positions for long periods. This must be done when the muscles are young and easily trained. If you wait until you are 10 or 11 before starting this process, most performers will tell you, it is already too late if your goal is a solo career. Such a ‘late’ start is fine for someone who simply wants to play for his own enjoyment and for the love of music; but for those intent on serious careers, an earlier start is essential.”

“Odd, isn’t it?” asks Leonard Fain in the Chicago Jewish Star (January 12-25). “The Republican freshmen in the House of Representatives, zealots almost all, are the product of colleges and universities in which, it is alleged, the radicals of the ’60s were their teachers. In theory, they’ve been exposed to political correctness, multicultural curricula, all the subversive teachings that so alarm the right. Plainly, the right can rest easy.”

In which dupes of patriarchy behave unexpectedly. Frederica Mathewes-Green in the Chicago-based Christian Century (January 3-10): “Pro-choicers tend to predict that pro-lifers prefer top-down authoritative decision-making to a more collaborative process, and are surprised to find that the reverse is true.”

“Apart from buying a monthly copy of Streetwise, I tend not to cough up,” writes Evanstonian Joseph Epstein in his new book of essays, With My Trousers Rolled. But “occasionally, I will yield to a clever approach. ‘Excuse me,’ a guy one day asked me, ‘but are you an architect?’ ‘No,’ I answered, ‘but why do you think I might be?’ ‘I dunno,’ he said, ‘something about your tie. Got any change?’ ‘For you, yes,’ I said, forking over a buck.”

New Second District U.S. representative Jesse Jackson Jr. “is more than just a chip off the old block,” according to Salim Muwakkil in In These Times (December 25). “While his father has never been known for his attention to the minutiae of political work, Jesse Jr. is a details man. The younger Jackson is well-acquainted with the information superhighway and even set up a bank of specially programmed computers in his home to aid his campaign effort.”

Crossed wires in the school biz. Importance of parental involvement to educational success, according to 610 Illinois administrators, teachers, and school board members surveyed by the Illinois Tax Foundation (Tax Facts, November): “Great” (over 4 on a scale of 0 to 5). Number of the 610 who would make “parental involvement” their number one priority for use of an extra $1,000 per student: 2. (They’d rather buy computers.)

“I think I have the underlying cause of America’s growing stupidity,” writes Rack Jite in Conservatively Incorrect (December), expressing a sentiment you can’t hear on NPR anymore. “A recent Gallup poll showed that 72% of Americans believe Angels are real and interact in our daily lives. Asexual, flying feather-winged, translucent beings from outside our atmosphere, which CNN News spent hours on recently documenting their proficiency deflecting bullets and stopping car crashes. I mean gee, is it just coincidence that as we suffer this spiritual revival in America, our kids get dumber, we move further to the Right, the majority of us are less secure in our jobs and homes, and rabid little right-wing nitwits are running the show?”

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Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration/Carl Kock.