By Harold Henderson

A lifetime of phobias, only $39.95. Offered in Hammacher Schlemmer’s late winter catalog: a dinosaur alarm clock that “lets out an enthusiastic roar…when it’s time.”

The licentious city; or, some things never change. A UIC survey conducted last summer showed that in rural Illinois 39 percent of retailers were willing to sell cigarettes to minors. In the suburbs about 42 percent would do so. But in Chicago 67 percent of the vendors surveyed were willing to break the law.

Remind me now–wasn’t this the guy who was too good to run for president? Writing in Extra! (January/February), Robert Parry and Norman Solomon quote from page 144 of Colin Powell’s autobiography: “If a helo spotted a [Vietnamese] peasant in black pajamas who looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM [military-age male], the pilot would circle and fire in front of him. If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him. Brutal? Maybe so….The kill-or-be-killed nature of combat tends to dull fine perceptions of right and wrong.” Note Parry and Solomon: “It is not only ‘brutal’–no need for a question mark–to murder an unarmed civilian in the manner Powell described; it is a war crime.”

The sand foundations of Republican social policy, part II. University of Chicago professor Evelyn Brodkin, quoted in SSA Magazine (Spring 1995): “A recent poll indicated that 40 percent of Americans believe that welfare costs more than either social security or defense, each of which costs about $300 billion a year. In fact, at about $16 billion, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) constitutes only about 1 percent of the federal budget.”

Five signs of “consensus abuse,” according to Beatrice Briggs and Shari Leyshon in the Chicago-based Conscious Choice (January/February):

“policy makers and their hired hands hold meetings designed to sell people on a plan that has already been decided.”

“much effort is made to get ‘input’ without any commitment to implementation.”

“meetings held during the normal work day, meetings held in Washington, DC to discuss policies affecting residents of Idaho, and meetings called at the last minute.”

“one or more of the participants views consensus as a game to be won.”

a group tries to function “without any structure, focus or clear process guidelines.”

Fire up the gas-powered radio, dear, there’s a storm coming. From the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s pamphlet “Severe Weather Preparedness,” offering advice on what to do during thunderstorms: “Monitor the radio or television for the latest weather information. Avoid using the telephone or other electrical appliances until the storm passes.”

When Near North News defamed gays and lesbians last fall, just one advertiser contacted the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation/Chicago to say they would definitely not renew their advertising contract with the paper: DeAngelo’s Deli at 808 N. State (GLAAD Monitor, Winter).

Academics who need to get out more. Governors State political scientist Paul Green, on the importance of the south suburbs in determining party control of the state legislature this fall: “The south suburbs will resemble Bosnia” (Illinois Issues, March).

Nothing so rare as a rare burger. From a state health department news release detailing new regulations on restaurants and food stores: “The internal cooking temperature of ground beef must reach 155 degrees for 15 seconds, up from a previous requirement of 140 degrees…[ensuring that the] meat is cooked until gray or brown throughout.”

“If protecting the unborn, caring for the poor, welcoming newcomers, and defending the weak is our Catholic agenda, there’s no political party or ideology where we ‘fit,'” Washington, D.C., lobbyist John Carr tells the Chicago-based Salt of the Earth (March/April). “When you stand up for human life in the abortion mills of America and on death row and in the villages of Africa, you’ve pulled yourself out of the constraints of the American political context….We’re not going to turn away from the unborn because liberals don’t like that, and we’re not going to walk away from poor kids because conservatives are in the ascendancy. We are going to be who we are.”

I give that one six feelers up! “We’re not looking for Academy Award winners,” University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum is quoted in a university press release as saying of movies like The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) shown at her annual Insect Fear Film Festival in downstate Champaign. “For our purposes, the more twisted the biology, the better they are. The more inaccurate the depictions, the more we can say about the movie. Most people aren’t interested in what entomologists have to say about movies, but here we can speak with some authority.”

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