Maybe there aren’t any Catholic senators. That’s one lesson an objective observer might draw from Senator Dick Durbin’s 14-page June 2 press release, which lists the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ positions on legislation and compares them to the votes of the 14 Democratic and 10 Republican senators who are Catholics. Votes are divided into three categories: domestic issues (such as deconcentrating media ownership, controlling guns, and increasing the minimum wage), international issues (such as opposing the Iraq war and favoring funds to fight global AIDS), and pro-life issues (banning partial-birth abortion, prohibiting human cloning, and abolishing the death penalty). No senator voted with the bishops more than half the time. Democrats were strongly “Catholic” on domestic and international issues but not on pro-life issues. Republicans were “Catholic” on pro-life issues but not on domestic or international issues.

By their ATM receipts ye shall know them. “In the garbage can beside the Automated Teller Machine at 7109 South Jeffrey Boulevard on Chicago’s South Side, one will find a preponderance of receipts…recording a $20 withdrawal–the minimum allowed–at a $2.00 fee, i.e., a rate of 10 percent,” writes Gustav Peebles in Harper’s (June). “For a resident in wealthy Lincoln Park, fourteen miles north, who withdraws $200 from an ATM with the same fee, the rate drops to a far more palatable 1 percent. This disparity is universally known but seldom discussed; we Americans seem to have accepted that it is dramatically more expensive for poor people to use cash.”

“A rare opportunity for citizens to influence local media is coming up soon,” writes Karen Young in the Community Media Workshop’s “Workshop Notes” (Spring). “All broadcast television licenses in Illinois are up for renewal in December 2005; all radio licenses are up in December 2004. They won’t be up again for eight years.” Local and regional activists are considering challenging some licenses, but no plans have been announced to undertake the arduous process of gathering data and making a case that local electronic media are making unworthy use of public property.

Wal-Mart sells cheap, but it’s no free-market success story. A May 2004 report by Good Jobs First, “Shopping for Subsidies: How Wal-Mart Uses Taxpayer Money to Finance Its Never-Ending Growth,” lists the tax dollars recently showered on suburban Wal-Marts: $3.5 million in Addison, $12.25 million in Country Club Hills, $5.25 million in Evergreen Park, $2.9 million in Niles, $3.5 million in Palatine, and $5.3 million in Rolling Meadows.

“I live in Chicago, and I’ve come to believe that it’s a little bit like living in Mussolini’s Rome,” writes Rich Miller, publisher of “Capitol Fax,” in the May 20-26 Illinois Times. “The streets are clean, the flowers are beautiful, and the trains run on time, but it ain’t no democracy.”

By the numbers. Approximately 72,000 individuals a year call the Cook County legal assistance hotline, according to the group’s newsletter, “Hotline” (Spring). The number of clients it can serve per year is only 20,000.

“There are many issues on which the West will not yield,” writes Yale’s Lamin Sanneh in a paper posted by the Ethics and Public Policy Center ( in December and quoted by Martin Marty in “Context”(May). “But the notion of religion as dispensable, or as a private option, is one of the most stubborn. Churches still exist, but their meaning has changed drastically. We do not go to church because of a summons from inside the church; we go to church for reasons of our own. By contrast, the mosque is instituted by divine mandate; you go there, alone or with others, to worship and to reclaim the world rather than, as in a church, to celebrate community. You go to the mosque because you are summoned, to the church because you are motivated. In Islam, the mosque is something God demands of you; in Christianity, church is something you ask of yourself.”