“Auto writers and readers alike have grown accustomed to road tests that fail to reflect the kind of driving that most automobiles endure regularly,” writes James Flammang in Tirekicking Today (July), a newsletter published on West Foster. “Let’s face it, the only person who might truly need blastoff acceleration from a standstill is the guy who’s trying to escape from the police. For everyone else, the only acceleration that counts is the kind needed when entering an expressway, or when trying to pass another vehicle on a two-lane road. Yet, how often do we see figures for 30-55 mph acceleration, or 50-65 mph?”

A conservation strategy that no Republican Congress can take away–or even criticize. Gretchen Bonfert of the downstate consulting firm Green Strategies, quoted in Illinois Issues (July): “For a willing landowner who is committed to his or her property, a conservation easement can keep it in the family or in the business and ensure that its natural resources remain forever. It’s not feasible, nor is it practical, to expect public agencies to acquire all properties that contribute to the conservation of the natural landscape. Typically, the consumer’s action in the marketplace makes a statement.”

Carry Nation comes to mind. Promotional contest question, announced in a recent press release: “If you could share a Bass [ale] with anyone from past or present history…who would it be and why?”

The disaster that wasn’t: what happened to the northern Illinois muskrats? In 1991 Southern Illinois University researchers verified a steep decline in this valuable wetland mammal in downstate Henry County, where the best muskrat catch was only 17 per 100 traps set (in southern Illinois, the average catch was 36 per 100). “Everybody had a notion about what was wrong,” SIU’s Alan Woolf, who studied the decline, says in a university press release. “Some thought it was agrichemicals–people really liked that one–or changes in land use. Some thought environmental regulations that protected muskrat predators such as hawks and coyotes were killing the muskrats. Some thought the trappers were just taking too many.” Final results: it just hadn’t been raining enough in Henry County. “In the second year of the study,…it started to rain, and muskrat abundance started to pick up….We more than doubled our catch that year, and by the third year of the study, the trappers were getting record catches.”

There are more than 300 commercial banks in the Chicago area, but don’t blink. According to a U. of I. press release citing a recent study by MBA students at the University of Illinois, the number “could conceivably shrink to fewer than 50” by 1999, because of the natural geographic advantages of Chicago, lenient state regulations on bank mergers, and a strong midwest economy.

“The Bears should get the [former Maxwell Street Market site just south of UIC] because it is a convenient commercial site,” economists Steve Balkin (Roosevelt University) and Joe Persky (UIC) write in a press release. “It would do for the Bears the same as it did for the Maxwell Street Market: bring customers in droves. Since the cost for this new site ultimately was the economic harm to the vendors and shoppers of the old Maxwell Street Market, it is only fair that the Bears should provide an annual payment of $600,000 to a not-for-profit Maxwell Street Market Development Corporation to keep the Canal Street Market safe and clean and to roll back vendor fees to the old Maxwell Street Market level. Make the vendors whole again. Surely a large conglomerate of poor Hispanic and African American vendors struggling in an entrepreneurial vein to improve themselves and their families is worth as much as one hot rookie.”

The bad news we understand: according to a Metro Chicago Information Center poll, about 10 percent of Illinois residents–and 20 percent of Chicagoans–lack health insurance. The (relatively) good news: more than half of them were insured within the past two years. The news reformers don’t want to hear: about half of the uninsured household heads say they could get health insurance if they wanted it.

Free trade in organizing! “Labor is stirring finally from its lengthy doldrums,” writes Adolph Reed Jr. in the Progressive (August). “The United Electrical Workers and the Teamsters each have developed joint organizing campaigns with fraternal unions in Mexico.”

Conservatives–or just arrogant social engineers of a different persuasion? “No one has the foggiest notion of whether [proposals like cutting welfare benefits to mothers who have another child on welfare] would do anything at all to reduce single motherhood,” according to U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, as paraphrased by E.J. Dionne Jr. in the Washington Post Weekly (August 7-13). Adds Dionne, “Moynihan’s arguments raise the intriguing question of whether those who these days proudly declare themselves ‘conservative’ are in fact conservative in any meaningful sense of the term, particularly on welfare. The core ‘conservative’ social policy principles–(1) to beware of unintended consequences, (2) to oppose changes that might do harm and (3) to proceed cautiously in large endeavors–are all violated by the Republicans’ radical welfare plans.”

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