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The Chicago appellate judge you don't want to face in your free-speech appeal. Seventh Circuit judge and prolific author Richard Posner stunned a roomful of ardent libertarians with his after-dinner remarks at a March 28 Cato Institute meeting at the Ritz-Carlton: "Civil liberties have an accordion-like structure, expanding and contracting according to the degree of safety....As perceptions of danger change, the scope of civil liberties must change."

"More is spent per patient on AIDS than on any other disease, though it does not even currently rank among the top 15 causes of death in the United States," complains Citizens Against Government Waste in a February 14 paper ("AIDS Programs: An Epidemic of Waste"). "In 1996, NIH [the National Institutes of Health] spent an average of $1,160 for every heart disease death, $4,700 for every cancer death, and a whopping $43,000 for every AIDS death." In the last 20 years 462,766 Americans have died of AIDS. "During that same period, 14 million Americans--30 times more--have died of heart disease."

Hindsight and foresight from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In an April 1 press release the school highlighted law professor Richard Kaplan's 1987 statement in the Journal of Accounting and Public Policy that "far too many accountants seem to shun the unglamorous role of skeptical guardian of the public for the more charismatic posture of business adviser and confidante." It also took note of law professor Ronald Rotunda's recent opinion that the Daley-Durbin-Lipinski plan to cement O'Hare expansion plans in federal law is unconstitutional because it would subvert the provisions of the Illinois Aeronautics Act. Under a 1997 Supreme Court ruling, he says, "Congress lacks the power...to regulate the state's regulation of interstate commerce." Mark your calendar: we'll see if he looks good in 2017.

"Environmental sustainability can be measured," say the authors of the 2002 Environmental Sustainability Index, published by the Global Leaders of Tomorrow Environment Task Force of the World Economic Forum (www.ciesin.columbia.edu/indicators/ESI). They rank the U.S. 45th out of 142 countries--behind Bolivia, Bhutan, Laos, Gabon, Congo, and the Central African Republic--in environmental sustainability. These countries, it turns out, got "superior scores on global stewardship," which reflects their low levels of consumption "induced by economic underdevelopment and poverty."

The continuing tragedy of the tight state budget. "Illinois is one of only a few states that subsidizes each county and state fair's [tractor] pull prize money," writes Nancy Nixon in Illinois Country Living (April), a magazine of rural electric cooperatives. (The sport is not for those short of cash. According to Nixon, it's easy to spend $10,000 to get even a garden tractor ready to compete in a tractor pull.) "For the past several years, Illinois has paid out expense money plus two-thirds of the prize money awarded at most pulls. The state's shaky budget could endanger the subsidy for the 2002 pulls."

A globalization tale of two industries, from University of Chicago economics professor D. Gale Johnson in the University of Chicago's Chronicle (February 21): "The auto industry responded by improving the quality of their autos and increasing their efficiency of production while still paying nearly the highest wages in the United States. But, the steel firms did not improve their production efficiency enough and now find themselves bankrupt."

Are you sure it's a war on drugs? Alden Loury in the Chicago Reporter (March): "In the seven police districts where whites outnumber blacks and Latinos, there were 4,243 drug arrests, or 12 percent of the citywide total. But 63 percent of the drug arrestees in those areas were black."

Remember when the Republicans were the party without a heart? Now they're missing a brain. From the April 8 issue of New Democrats Online, published by the Democratic Leadership Council: "As [California representative Bill] Thomas' memo indicates, Republicans are united around a wildly contradictory set of propositions about tax cuts and the economy: (1) that they have already revived the economy, even though most of them have yet to be implemented and there is little evidence that they played any significant role in the recovery; and (2) that they must be made permanent, even though their proponents are unwilling to write budgets that would show the long-term consequences of that step."

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