Bureaucracy reduction, Chicago style. George Schmidt writes in Substance (September-October), “The Chicago Board of Education now has at least 456 individual employees on its payroll who are being paid salaries of $100,000 or more a year. This is an increase from 405 one year ago (in September 2002) and from 120 at the time [schools CEO Arne] Duncan was appointed in June 2001.”

By the numbers. Justice Seymour Simon, recently honored by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, dissented on every death-penalty sentence heard by the Illinois Supreme Court during his seven-and-a-half-year term on the court during the 1980s. According to an October JCUA press release, “He wrote more dissents than any Justice who preceded him, no matter how long their tenures.”

No self-serving contradictory argument left behind. The Progressive Policy Institute, in its October 21 “Bulletin,” notes the complaints about the No Child Left Behind Act requirement that schools make “adequate yearly progress” among subgroups of students as well as overall, and says it’s “struck by the disconnect between this and other education debates. On the one hand, a legitimate concern often raised about voucher programs is that the public schools are required to serve all students, while private schools can pick and choose not to accept students that might be more difficult to educate. Yet, many of the same individuals and interest groups making this case essentially negate it when they protest NCLB’s requirements that public schools be held accountable for the achievement of underserved student subgroups. [Adequate yearly progress] is not perfect, but there isn’t a better idea on the table right now about how to ensure equity for poor and minority students on any scale.”

We’re number seven! The University of Chicago made the Mother Jones (September/October) list of the top ten activist campuses in the world. U. of C. students were applauded for their success last fall in the national “Boot the Bell” campaign. “Because Taco Bell’s tomato suppliers are said to exploit migrant farmworkers, Chicago students lobbied the university to sever ties with the chain. On Halloween, 60 students, many dressed as tomatoes, marched on the administration offices. In November, U of C’s food-services manager declined to renew the Taco Bell contract.” It had been the most popular vendor in the food court.

Lest we forget. The recently published The Ark in the Park: The Story of Lincoln Park Zoo, by Mark Rosenthal, Carol Tauber, and Edward Uhlir, retells the story of the day in 1891 when the zoo’s elephant Duchess went on a rampage: “While Duchess was being moved from her winter quarters to a covered summer shelter, she decided to take a stroll in another direction. Cy [manager Cyrus DeVry], the zookeepers, and the entire North Side police force followed in hot pursuit. Duchess headed westward, splashing through the lagoon and trampling through flowerbeds, fences, and backyards. On North Avenue, she demolished a summer home, destroyed the gate of a brewery, and, upon entering a saloon, began smashing its fixtures, glasses, and mirrors. In the melee, a horse was killed….Her keepers were finally able to rope Duchess and tie her to a telegraph pole until she calmed down. Cy and his crew then loaded Duchess onto a truck pulled by a four-horse hitch and returned her to the zoo.”

The empire to end all empires. Writing in the Boston Review (October/November), Noam Chomsky reviews a May 2002 Pentagon planning document, “partially leaked, which called for a strategy of ‘forward deterrence’ in which missiles launched from space platforms would be able to carry out almost instant ‘unwarned attacks.’ Military analyst William Arkin comments that ‘no target on the planet or in space would be immune to American attack. The U.S. could strike without warning whenever and wherever a threat was perceived, and it would be protected by missile defenses.’…Surveillance systems would provide the ability ‘to track, record and analyze the movement of every vehicle in a foreign city.’ The world is to be left at the mercy of U.S. attack at will, without warning or credible pretext. The plans have no remote historical parallel.”