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Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 10:33 pm

Looking back

Updates and addenda to recent columns


Attendance for the Field Museum in Chicago spiked in 2006 because of the King Tut exhibit.

Satchel Paige wisely advised us, “Don’t look back: Something may be gaining on you.” He’s right.

I addressed the time and energy costs of daily commuting to jobs in Springfield in “Stuck in Carlinville with the Springfield blues again” (Aug. 25). Hillsboro reader Jean Mehochko reminds me that alternatives exist. She is a regular on the “state worker bus” that Cavallo Bus Lines runs daily between Gillespie and Springfield. It offers drop-offs anywhere along Sixth Street inbound and pick-ups anywhere along Fifth outbound at a cost of $64 for 10 round trips. Ms. Mehochko estimates that the service saves her a little money, plus “you can read, chat, nap and leave the driving to them.” For more information, call the folks at Cavallo at 800-527-5675.

In “I’m all right, Jack,” March 24, I noted that the very rich in the U.S. pay less of what they owe than ordinary workers because of economically dubious exemptions that allow them to “structure their income.” One source of that income is the capital gains in the form of stock profits from options granted big-company CEOs, profits that are taxed at a much lower rate than wages.

A recent report from the leftish Institute for Policy Studies listed 25 corporate CEOs who were paid more in total compensation in 2010 than their company paid in federal corporate income taxes. Among them were the bosses of such Illinois firms as Aon (CEO pay $20,783,301, company taxes paid $16 million), Boeing (CEO pay $13,768,019, company taxes paid $13 million) and Motorola Mobility (CEO pay $13,016,126, company taxes paid $12 million).

The report did not demonstrate that CEOs who reduce their company’s taxes get paid more, and the firms involved insist they actually paid much more in federal taxes than alleged. Nonetheless, what is clear is that corporate bureaucrats get paid an awful lot of money because of a rigged compensation system, and that large companies pay much too little in U.S. taxes. Both facts are damning enough.

In “Unscientific methods” (Sept.1) I noted that the Field Museum in Chicago has experienced declining attendance since 2006. Nancy O’Shea, the Field’s public relations director, replies that attendance spiked in 2006 because of the blockbuster King Tut exhibition, after which annual attendance returned to its more normal level of approximately 1.3 million, which it has been maintaining. She is correct that the comparison was misleading.

I further stated that the Field has been slow to translate knowledge into language the public can understand. This is not a gripe about the Field’s translation skills but about the public’s ability to understand. I regard the Field as one of the great science museums in the world, and said so in my column; it is also one of Illinois’s premium educational institutions.

In “Chicagoland, Chicagoland” (March 17) I wrote, “Chicagoland today has hugely more in common in every way with the mega-region of which it is a part than it does with the rest of Illinois.” Here is confirmation from an interesting and unexpected source. MIT’s Senseable City Lab has mapped hoards of data about who talks to whom and for how long.

The results show that bits of northwestern Illinois talks most with Iowa, and a sliver of far eastern Illinois talks with Indiana much more than with rest of Illinois. The northern half of Illinois – north, that is, of a line running from Quincy east to about Bloomington-Normal, then south to take in Champaign-Urbana and Charleston – talks most not with the rest of Downstate but with Chicagoland, Wisconsin and northwest Indiana.

The creators of the map note the obvious, which is that common culture and business ties affect the ways people connect more than do political boundaries. Communications connections suggest social connections, in short, and social connections define natural communities. See for more.

The media are sometimes accused of wielding too much power. Little do people realize. We have the power to kill anyone we like, and bring them back to life.

Everyone who works against deadline has been embarrassed in print by carelessly announcing as dead someone who isn’t, quite. One of Mark Twain’s best-known wisecracks (“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”) was delivered after his obituary was prematurely published in a New York newspaper.

I managed to do it to Toby McDaniel, the longtime columnist for the SJ-R in “Architectural dreams” (Aug. 4). The very much alive Toby let us know that it was not the first time he’s been killed; a local radio announcer did him in once as well. I don’t know how many lives columnists get, but he’s spent two and will, we hope, keep working on the third for some years to come.

Contact James Krohe Jr. at

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