Can you teach foundation officers new tricks? The journal of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Responsive Philanthropy, seems to have some doubts. An article in the fall issue reiterates findings of a 1997 study by the group, since confirmed in a follow-up analysis: “Conservative foundations often work in a similar and well-coordinated fashion. For example, they often provide general operating support to their grantees, expecting no specific outcomes for their investment. Usually, lengthy and costly evaluations are also not required, as they often are by progressive and centrist grantmakers. Conservative grantmakers also tend to support their grantees for the long haul; they do not withdraw support after two or three years, trying to fund the next big idea. They realize that it takes years to build a sustainable, effective organization and movement.”

Where’s mommy? The number of children in Illinois whose mother went to state prison in 1990, according to the August “Incarcerated Mothers and Their Children” newsletter from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago: 2,084. In 2000: 7,527.

Do gun laws reduce violence? We don’t know, according to the report of a nine-member task force published by the Centers for Disease Control (“MMWR,” October 3). “Results of studies of firearms and ammunition bans were inconsistent…. Evaluations of the effects of acquisition restrictions on violent outcomes have produced inconsistent findings…. Studies of the effects of waiting periods on violent outcomes yielded inconsistent results….[Studies of concealed-carry laws exhibited] critical problems, including misclassification of laws, unreliable county-level crime data, and failure to use appropriate denominators for the available numerator crime data…. Too few studies of CAP [child-access prevention] law effects have been done, and the findings of existing studies were inconsistent…. No study reviewed attempted to evaluate the effects of zero tolerance laws on violence in schools.” Worse yet, “available evidence was insufficient to determine whether the degree of firearms regulation was associated with decreased (or increased) violence. The findings were inconsistent and most studies were methodologically inadequate.”

“Terrorists are, in the president’s words, ‘enemies of the civilized world,'” writes Benjamin Barber in the Washington Post national weekly edition (September 22-28). “But what makes the world civilized is its adherence to the rule of law, its insistence that it will not attack adversaries, however evil, unless first attacked by them, its reliance on multilateral cooperation and international courts rather than unilateral military force and the right of the strongest.”

We’ve only just begun? “For more than 80 years, geologists’ estimates of the world’s endowment of oil have risen faster than developers can pump it out of the ground,” argues University of Oklahoma geologist David Deming in the Heartland Institute’s “Environment & Climate News” (October). “In 1920, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated just 20 billion barrels of oil remained in the world. By the year 2000, the estimate had grown to 3,000 billion barrels. Every year, technological advances make it possible to draw upon petroleum resources whose extraction was once unthinkable….Worldwide, the amount of oil that can be extracted from oil shales could be as much as 14,000 billion barrels–enough to supply the world for 500 years.” Maybe longer, as global warming reduces demand for heating fuel.

The rich got lots richer and the poor got a little bit richer–up until the current recession. Congressional Budget Office data, quoted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (“Poverty Increases and Median Income Declines for Second Consecutive Year,” September 26), show that between 1979 and 2000, “the average after-tax income of the top one percent of the population rose by $576,000–or 201 percent…after adjusting for inflation, while the average income of the middle fifth of households rose $5,500, or 15 percent. The average income of the bottom fifth rose $1,100, or 9 percent, over the 21-year period.”