The shame of Illinois. Daniel Dighton writes in the fall issue of the “Compiler”: “In 1970, with an operating budget of $65 million, there were six adult prisons holding about 7,000 inmates in Illinois. There was optimism that a newfound emphasis on rehabilitation of the offender would control inmate population growth by cutting down on recidivism.

…Today there are more than 44,000 adult offenders housed at 26 prisons, nine work camps, three impact incarceration programs and 11 community correctional centers….The annual budget for corrections is over $1 billion.”

“A simple ‘get the state off our backs’ position may look attractive when we are thinking about the sex lives of middle-class men,” writes the University of Chicago’s Martha Nussbaum in the New Republic (January 3). “But it is clearly inadequate to deal with the situation of women and other vulnerable groups. There is no consent where there is pervasive intimidation and hierarchy. When radical feminists say that rape and ‘normal’ intercourse cannot so easily be distinguished, they mean that a pervasive asymmetry of power makes it difficult for consent to be genuine. Just how this idea should be recognized by law is the difficult matter; but surely we should recognize that many instances in which there is no ‘no’ are not instances of genuine consent.”

Consumer heaven. “How many other parts of Chicago, or in the country, offer such an array of shopping options all located within a few blocks of each other?” asks Mike Glasser, president of the Rogers Park Builders Group, in the group’s fall-winter newsletter. “Other ethnically diverse communities usually have several blocks separating one ethnic community from another. But in East Rogers Park, the diversity is reflected almost storefront to storefront.”

Least-credible press release.

A December 6 release from TeamCom states, “Earlier this year MP3 surpassed sex as the number-one term people searched for on the Internet.”

New horizons in liberal guilt. “There are gross inequities in access to paper,” according to a recent Worldwatch Institute report suggesting that global consumption of wood fiber for paper could be cut 50 percent. “The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, consumes 30 percent of the world’s paper.” People in this country use 335 kilograms of paper per person per year; in Brazil they use 39, in India 4.

“Rents in the 1990s have continued to outpace the overall rate of inflation,” according to a November Metropolitan Planning Council report, “For Rent: Housing Options in the Chicago Region,” prepared by the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Between 1991-95, rents increased 15.4 percent compared to an 11.4 increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Since 1995, we estimate rents have increased at a faster rate (about 19 percent compared to an 11 percent increase in the CPI). Between 1998 and 1999, rents increased by an average of 3.6 percent regionwide, compared with a 2.0 percent increase in the CPI.” Nevertheless, Chicago had fewer households spending 30 percent or more of their income on rent in 1995 (210,500) than it did in 1987 (260,100).

Things fundamentalists don’t want to know. “Students can have God and the Ten Commandments back into the classroom, and there’s nothing the ACLU can do about it,” says Janet Folger, director of the Center for Reclaiming America, in a recent press release touting the center’s campaign kit, which includes Ten Commandments book covers and a “Yes, I Believe in God” bracelet. Folger may not realize it, but she agrees with civil libertarians on this one. The Constitution protects students’ rights to express their beliefs in God, Krishna, or L. Ron Hubbard, but it doesn’t allow teachers and administrators to use their government-backed authority over students to evangelize for anyone’s religious beliefs. As the ACLU put it in a 1998 news release: “Individual students may bring religious books to school, wear religious symbols, say grace in the cafeteria and plead (privately) for divine help before tests. Students may perform personal religious rituals during school hours as long as they do not infringe on the rights of others or disrupt school activities. They can also discuss religion with their peers and distribute religious literature as long as they don’t harass other students.”