By Harold Henderson

An economist to the end. Reviewer Marc Arkin, writing in Commentary (February), quotes one of the “truly peculiar claims” made in the new book Aging and Old Age by chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Richard Posner. Posner writes that a terminally ill patient contemplating suicide “must choose between two courses of action: one in which he commits suicide now, at a cost (in dread of death, pain, moral compunctions, whatever) of c; the other in which he postpones the decision to a time when, if he still wants to commit suicide, he will be unable to do so. The question is which course will confer greater utility on him. If he commits suicide now, he will have utility of -c. He will experience neither positive nor expected utility from living, because he will be dead, but he will incur the cost of getting from the state of being alive to the state of being dead.” Bring on the hemlock!

Not everyone has settled their beef with Com Ed. The Challenger (January), newsletter of the Labor Coalition on Public Utilities, says that “according to Standard & Poor’s ratings, if Edison were to sell power on the open market today [rather than in a market regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission], its annual revenues would fall by $600 million, or more than 26%. This is what Edison customers are being overcharged every year. This is the result of Edison’s spendthrift construction of unneeded nuclear plants.”

Will the 1996 campaign be waged on fraudulent issues? “Our budget choices transcend class conflict,” insists Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post National Weekly (January 22-28). “In general, Americans don’t want steep cuts in social spending, especially for the elderly. But they also reject higher taxes.” Unfortunately, “what Clinton craves is a campaign in which he runs as the defender of middle-class social programs–Social Security, Medicare, long-term care under Medicaid–against callous Republicans who would plunder these programs to cut taxes for the rich….Clinton knows these statements are lies. [The Republican budget would raise Medicare spending from $178 billion in 1995 to $294 billion in 2002, according to Samuelson.] A campaign based on them will retard public understanding.”

Wanted: smaller, smarter audiences. “If I had to conduct my career according to what managers advise me is the ‘best idea’ to stimulate publicity and increase audiences, I would go crazy,” pianist Radu Lupu tells Dennis Bade in the Chicago Symphonic Times (Winter). “‘Do an interview,’ they tell me, ‘you will have 3,000 instead of 300.’ Well, I would rather have the 300 who come to hear the music than a crowd of 3,000 who come to hear some sort of ‘stage personality’ and have to be seduced by publicity to come.'”

Why do some kids rise out of poverty? According to a paper by the University of Chicago’s P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, presented at the conference “Families, Poverty, and Welfare Reform” late last year, children with the best chance have an easy temperament, average intelligence, and a sense of self-efficacy; a good relationship with at least one family member; and a close relationship with an outside adult involved in helpful or volunteer activities.

Gender-determined art. “I have a certain kind of Midwest Exoticism,” Chicago-based painter Judy Ledgerwood tells Kathryn Hixson of the New Art Examiner (January). “I manifest this difference in the surface and the mark, and the desire to make a mark that is different from that male, exclamatory, ejaculatory mark. It wasn’t in my body to make those gestural marks with a paintbrush, so I made these huge paintings with lots of little marks. The paint would be initially applied with a brush, then moved around with my hands. The presence of the mark was lost and the paint was wedded together through my touch. The mark as sign, as phallic, was removed, and no one part of the surface was privileged over another.”

Complaints about overcrowding may not be racially motivated, if you go by the January report from Roosevelt University’s Pierre deVise: “In my own study of changes in housing quality in midcentury Chicago, I found crowding in 1950 a better predictor of neighborhood decay in 1960 than Census-designated dilapidated and deteriorating zones.” Similarly, “the most overcrowded neighborhoods in 1970 decayed into the neighborhoods with the largest losses in income and housing in the 1980 decade.”

“If more prisons and surer sentences were the solutions to crime and delinquency, California should be a haven where citizens leave doors unlocked and stroll midnight streets unmenaced,” write Mike Males and Faye Docuyanan in the Progressive (February). “California inaugurated the new era of imprisoning juvenile offenders in Ronald Reagan’s second term as governor in 1971, and since then the state has incarcerated a higher percentage of its youths than any other state.”

The horror of traffic congestion (not). From the new book The Geography of Urban Transportation: “In 1975, average travel distance to work was about 9 miles and the average travel time was approximately 20 minutes. In 1990, the average work trip covered 10.7 miles and took 19.7 minutes.”

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