Reentry problems. “The most established job-placement agency for ex-offenders in the state, the Safer Foundation, places only about one-third of the more than 4,500 ex-offenders it serves each year, said Kathy Woods, the organization’s associate vice president for workforce strategies,” writes Sarah Karp in the Chicago Reporter (November). “Of those who get jobs, a third of them get fired or quit within 30 days.”

By the numbers. According to a December press release from the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of custodial parents who got all the child support due them in 2001: 45. In 1993: 37.

History lesson. Statehouse columnist Rich Miller (Illinois Times, December 25-31) sees the allegations against former governor George Ryan as “small-time stuff” compared to his 1920s predecessor Len Small. “Small was a close political ally of Chicago Mayor ‘Big’ Bill Thompson, who was the Mafia’s chief enabler in this state. Small was also closely affiliated with Johnny Torrio, the guy who united the city’s innumerable rackets and gangsters under one umbrella during the beginning of Prohibition….In 1922, a group of Torrio’s bootleggers were on their way to Chicago when they shot and killed a motorcycle cop who was in full pursuit. Small pardoned the whole bunch….Compared to Len Small, George Ryan was a saint.”

God is in the suburbs. “I sometimes drop in at Willow Creek’s very popular Saturday evening service for ‘seekers,'” writes Dave Mulcahey in In These Times (January 2), referring to the mega church in suburban Barrington. “One seeker service I attended began with a A Prairie Home Companion-style skit. A fully amplified pop band was on hand to provide music, which turned out to be a click or two higher on the brow than the usual charismatic Christian repertoire. A sermon followed, in which sin was not mentioned.” At the heart of the building is “a large food court that, even if it lacks the familiar brands we’d expect at a real mall, does a good job of looking the part. In a lofted concourse overlooking the food court is a Borders-like book and music store showcasing an impressive range of Christian literature….On one visit I bought a book of prayers for managers,” one of which began, “Lord, help me to understand that I can be replaced at any moment.”

More evidence that Republicans aren’t conservative. In an op-ed published in the Washington Times on November 7, Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute described 2003 as “one of the worst years for fiscal conservatives,” because the federal budget grew “by more than $150 billion–more than twice as much as any year that Bill Clinton was in the White House.”

Is globalization the problem or the solution? Doug Henwood offers some new thoughts in the Nation (December 1): “Those who identify globalization as the major force behind the production of inequality frequently point to an alleged ‘race to the bottom,’ driven by multinational corporations (MNCs), which constantly ransack the globe searching for low costs and high returns.” But he says the evidence doesn’t back up the claim. “First, such investments are overwhelmingly located in rich countries. Over half is accounted for by Western Europe, Canada adds another 10 percent and the richer countries of Asia, 8 percent. So more than two-thirds of the total stock of US foreign direct investment is in countries with incomes roughly comparable to ours….The poorer countries aren’t the profit gushers one might expect either. Rates of return in Mexico are high, but Switzerland’s are higher, and Latin America’s overall figure is below Canada’s and Western Europe’s.” Nor does he understand some antiglobalization activists’ “strange nostalgia for the nation-state, as if it’s one of the innocent structures that globalization is undermining.” His suggestion? “This might be a good time to junk local self-reliance as an ideal and embrace a deeply global perspective.”