“We can’t hold scientific meetings here [in the United States] anymore because foreign scientists can’t get visas,” a top oceanographer at the University of San Diego recently told Richard Florida (Washington Monthly, January/February). And that isn’t the worst news. “The [foreign] graduate students I have taught at several major universities–Ohio State, Harvard, MIT, Carnegie Mellon–have always been among the first to point out the benefits of studying and doing research in the United States. But their impressions have changed dramatically over the past year. They now complain of being hounded by the immigration agencies as potential threats to security, and that America is abandoning its standing as an open society. Many are thinking of leaving for foreign schools, and they tell me that their friends and colleagues back home are no longer interested in coming to the United States for their education but are actively seeking out universities in Canada, Europe, and elsewhere.”

“I think of Chicago as a city with an exposed exoskeleton,” writes poet Reginald Shepherd in the recently published anthology In the Middle of the Middle West. “Its workings are visible on the surface, the gears and pistons apparent to the naked eye. The scaffolding is always up in Chicago; indeed, the city sometimes seems to be one ongoing construction project. Even downtown in the Loop, the aging ‘L’…reminds one of the rusting mechanics… underlying all the virtual numbers traded on the various exchanges.”

Forward into the past. “A generation of conservative young priests is on the rise in the U.S. church,” writes Andrew Greeley in the Atlantic Monthly (January/February). “Today’s young priests tend to want to restore the power that the clergy held not only before Vatican II but also before a large educated Catholic laity emerged as a powerful force in the church after World War II.” He notes that 60 percent of priests aged 56 to 65 support the ordination of women; only 36 percent of those under 46 do.

Race matters. The number of African-American men in prison in Illinois for drug offenses, per 100,000: 1,146. Number of white men in prison in Illinois for drug offenses, per 100,000: 20 (Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority research bulletin, “Disproportionate incarceration of African Americans for drug offenses in the U.S.,” by Arthur Lurigio of Loyola University).

In the name of preserving farmland they’ve reduced the price of yet another thing a farmer might be able to sell at a profit–his land. Writing on farmland-preservation policies in the greater metropolitan area (“Policy Profiles,” December), J. Dixon Esseks of Northern Illinois University applauds DeKalb County’s policy of strict agricultural zoning. The county set the minimum size of a lot in agricultural areas at 40 acres, and Esseks notes that a 1997 study found that these lots “sold for less than other parcels of farmland. In other words, the real estate market took DeKalb County’s zoning seriously.”

Hypocrites without borders. Scott Jaschik reporting in the Boston Globe (January 4) on the overwhelmingly left-wing, anti-Bush discourse at the previous week’s Modern Language Association meeting in San Diego: “The closest public challenge to the prevailing geopolitical views at the MLA came when one professor asked a panel that had derided American responses to 9/11 and Iraq what a good response would have looked like. She didn’t get much of an answer, left the session, and declined to elaborate on her question. But a young professor of English [Aaron Santesso of the University of Nevada at Reno] who followed her out the door to congratulate her did offer some thoughts on politics at the MLA….Just a few years ago, he noted, the Taliban was regularly attacked at MLA meetings for their treatment of women and likened to the American religious right. Now, there is only talk of how the United States has taken away the rights of the Afghan people.”