An Inclusive Litany


In Newport News, Virginia, Monika and Mark Skinner filed a $35 million lawsuit after their 16-year-old son was in a car that drove off a road and plunged into a lake, resulting in his death. The defendants include the company that designed the road the car was traveling on, because it should have been further away from the lake; two engineering consulting firms that designed the lake that the car fell into; and K-Mart, which sold a computer cleaning product to the car's driver, which he and the Skinner boy inhaled to get high prior to the crash.


Norwegian tax officials have presented Halvard Stensrud with a bill for 6,825 kroners, or about $1,000. Stensrud is a carpenter, and the bill was assessed for "professional services" he rendered—to himself. The tax office decided that work he did on his own house was covered by the law and assessed him based upon the market value of his work.

Brian Choi owns a grocery shop on the tough streets of Atlanta's West End. Along with other Korean business owners, he has often been assailed for allegedly overcharging blacks and not giving enough back to the community. He has been cursed at and boycotted by customers, and in 1992 he was even shot at close range by a black assailant who was robbing his store.

Choi decided to give two poor black kids in the neighborhood a break by offering them after-school jobs bagging groceries and carrying them for customers in exchange for tips. The two had been idling around the store for some time offering to help in various ways, and Choi made sure it okay with the boys' parents. But when the Labor Department got wind of the informal arrangement, which violated child labor and minimum wage laws, they fined Choi $1,500 and required him to pay over $5,000 in back wages. Choi then had to let the kids go, and now says he is out of the business of trying to help people.


The state of Missouri passed a bill, intended to cut state-generated paperwork, that weighed five pounds and was 1012 pages long.

Schedule J, Form 1118 of the income tax form possesses the ungainly title: "Separate Limitation Loss Allocations and Other Adjustments Necessary to Determine Numerators of Limitation Fractions, Year-End Recharacterization Balances, and Overall Foreign Loss Account Balances."

The Los Angeles Times reports that Simi Valley elementary schools have replaced letter grades with evaluations of 160 academic and social skills, including "holds book upright."

After NYNEX phased in a computerized voice recognition system as part of its directory assistance service, a dee-jay at Boston's WFNX radio station ("morning-guy Ty") exhorted listeners to bark meaningless syllables when dialing for information, which would confuse the computer and force a live operator to pick up the line—thus sparing jobs that would otherwise be lost to automation.


The San Francisco Chronicle:
The cost of rebuilding a small footbridge over less than ten feet of water has skyrocketed to $413,000. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires the new bridge to be wheelchair-accessible—which, in turn, requires a total regrading of the surrounding hills.

In San Francisco, tensions erupted over the Pioneer Monument, a series of statues outside the city's new main public library. Following completion of the $138 million building, Native Americans complained about a depiction of a supine Indian at the feet of a Franciscan missionary and a triumphant vanquero. To soothe tempers, the city's Art Commission decided to install a plaque decrying the mistreatment of Native Americans, citing the Franciscans for a legacy of "56,000 converts—and 150,000 dead." Following pressure from a rather irked Catholic archdiocese, the Commission inserted a clause vaguely pinning deaths on "colonial occupation." The consul general of Spain was the next to complain, since any talk of "colonial" before 1834 would be singling out Spanish settlers for disapprobation. The Commission then appointed a task force to determine whether it would be possible to write new language to satisfy all concerned.


A Swedish couple was fined approximately $746 for naming their son Brfxxxcccxxmnnpcccclllmmnprxxvvclmnckssqlbb11116.

From Dagbladet, a Scandinavian periodical:
The leader of Norway's 9,115-member organization Justice for Losers—whose particularly strong representation in Lapland leads it to refer to that region as "Loserland"—recently met with King Harald. The group now receives about $40,000 annually in government support.

The city of Livermore, California, ordered a mother to stop selling hand-painted T-shirts from her home, in an area that is not zoned for commerce. The woman was selling the shirts to raise money to pay for the medical bills of her 16-month-old daughter, who was born with life-threatening intestinal disorders.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a group that has been fighting on behalf of legislation to increase the minimum wage to $5.75 an hour, filed a lawsuit in California in an effort to exempt itself from paying its employees the state's current $4.25-an-hour minimum wage. As the group argued in its legal brief, "the more that ACORN must pay each individual outreach worker ... the fewer outreach workers it will be able to hire."


The London Times:
At least 500 people with kidney failure are being allowed to die each year because there are too few facilities to treat them, according to a report commissioned by the British government. And the shortage of facilities will worsen over the next decade.

The National Review of Renal Services was ordered by the Health Department almost two years ago, but publication was delayed by the Treasury because of alarm at its financial implications. The Department eventually slipped it out unannounced.

The Chicago Tribune reports from Oklahoma City:
A jury recommended a 30,000-year prison sentence for a convicted child rapist because they didn't want him on the streets again. "By God we can send a message," jury forewoman Laura Bixler said.

He could be up for parole, though, in as little as 15 years.

[Ed.: An Oklahoma appeals court upheld the stiff sentence, and the only dissenting judge said he would have ordered the six 5,000-year sentences—one for each separate charge—to be served concurrently instead of consecutively.]

Lee Berton in the Wall Street Journal, July 23, 1996:
Six years ago Linda Daniels, 69 years old, went to a wedding at the Cameo Restaurant in Garfield, N.J., and was asked to do the polka by Frank Snyder, who was sitting at her table. She alleges that he dragged her to the dance floor. Then, after a quarter turn around the floor to the "Beer Barrel Polka," she says, Mr. Snyder tripped and fell on her, fracturing her left hip.

Mrs. Daniels says she hasn't danced since and walks with a limp. She sued Mr. Snyder for damages in state court and lost the first round when the case was thrown out in 1994. But last week a three-judge appeals court in Newark reinstated her lawsuit....

The appeals judges discussed at length whether the polka is an "inherently dangerous" sport, like sky diving, or simply a mild recreation. Two of them chose not to decide, ruling that the lower court must instead determine whether Mrs. Daniels was made to dance against her wishes.


The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) determined that it was illegal to "offer or purport to offer chemical-dependency treatment without a license." TCADA notified Teen Challenge of San Antonio, a faith-based substance abuse treatment program, that it had to have a license to continue to provide treatment—even though the organization had been treating addicts since 1969 and boasted a success rate of up to 70 percent among those who complete the year-long program. Teen Challenge had to meet state standards and adopt the therapeutic model of treatment, under which staff members had to be "qualified credentialed counselors" trained to treat drug and alcohol abuse as a disease from which one is never cured, and who abjure the practice of "shaming" an individual receiving treatment. This, of course, contradicted the program's spiritual orientation and its basic formula for success.

Danielle Mitterand, widow of French president François Mitterand, met in a shack deep in the Mexican jungle with Marxist guerrilla Subcomandante Marcos. The pipe-smoking rebel wore his mask throughout his meeting with the former French first lady, but as Ms. Mitterand recounts in the Sunday Times of London, she could still peer into his eyes, which are "deep brown and flecked with gold." His voice was "both powerful and soft," and the mask made Marcos "more timeless, disincarnate." He gave her a paper rose, which she now keeps in her bedroom. Clarifying her motives, Ms. Mitterand said she had come to Chiapas to escape the "dictatorship of money," which the Zapatista rebels countered with an alternative way of living.

Marcos later convened an international meeting of "humanity against neo-liberalism," held in La Realidad, Mexico, that the Associated Press called a "Woodstock for Guerrillas." Leftists from as far away as Turkey and the University of Texas at Austin came to discuss "alternatives to the world's free-market system." Ms. Mitterand also attended the event, wading through ankle-deep mud.


When journalists asked presidential candidates which federal government departments, if any, they would close, President Clinton declared, "The era of big government is over," then followed with specific items on the chopping block: "We plan to eliminate many programs, such as the Tea Taster's Board, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the Naval Academy's own dairy farm."

President Clinton's attorney, Robert Bennett, sought to delay Paula Corbin Jones's sexual harassment suit by claiming that as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Clinton is insulated from prosecution by the Soldiers' and Sailors' Relief Act of 1940.

USA Today, July 16, 1996:
Three teenagers sued the Indiana, Pa., schools, saying they were kept off the majorette squad because of their weight. The federal suit says Tarrah Armstrong, 17, and Nicole Clemons, 16, qualified for national competitions but didn't make the Indiana squad. Jen Lightcap, 17, now on the squad, sued over past rejections. Their weights weren't disclosed. The teens' lawyer, Marjorie Crist, said the school is "gender stereotyping." School officials say the process is fair and unbiased.


Men's Confidential, May 1996:
Although we don't think our boss would be too understanding if we came in an hour late on May 7 in celebration of National Masturbation Day, we applaud the basic concept. The brainchild of Good Vibrations, a sex-toy store and mail-order catalog, the holiday will give solo sex long-overdue recognition.

One professionally sound way to celebrate: Enter the Good Vibrations "Top 10 Reasons to Masturbate" contest.

After the commission charged with the job of approving a memorial to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt agreed that designs would not feature FDR's cigarette holder or Eleanor Roosevelt's customary fur piece, controversy erupted when it became clear that in none of the designs for the memorial's three statues would FDR, crippled by polio since 1921, be shown in a wheelchair.

When the monument opened, the Washington Post reported that the monument's Braille letters were too large to be legible. One blind visitor complained that "the dots are about five times normal size." Sculptor Robert Graham defended his work: "My concept of that piece was to have Braille as a kind of invitation to touch, more than anything.... Nothing is life-size in the piece, so you very much have to adjust yourself to the scale."

[Ed.: The proposed design for the World War II Memorial also received criticism for bearing too close a resemblance to the monumental plans of Nazi architect Albert Speer.]

The National Endowment for the Arts granted $31,500 to Cheryl Dunye for her film The Watermelon Woman because it "attempts to point out the lack of information about black women in history." The film boasts the "hottest dyke sex scene ever recorded on celluloid," and co-stars Brian Freeman of the Porno Afro Homos performance troupe. Dunye commented that she thought the NEA liked "the way I was making up my own history to make up for a lack of history."


Commenting on the 500-year-old South American mummy on display at the National Geographic Society in Washington, which had been determined to be a young teenage female sacrifice, President Clinton commented, "That's a good-looking mummy. You know if I were a single man, I might ask that mummy out."

Soon after, Clinton's 48-year-old wife spoke to the press of her yearning to have a another child.

The Norfolk Virginian Pilot reports that the North Carolina building code requires funeral homes to get permits each time they set up a tent for a service.

In San Francisco, William Fobbs tried to order a pepperoni and mushroom pizza, but both Domino's and Mr. Pizzaman refused to deliver to the tough, predominantly black neighborhood in which he lived. So Fobbs called up his grandmother, Willie Kennedy, a 72-year-old member of San Francisco's governing Board of Supervisors and well-known champion of minority rights. Insisting that what happened to her grandson "can only be because we are black people," Ms. Kennedy successfully sponsored a law that makes it illegal for a pizza restaurant—or any other business—to refuse to deliver in a particular neighborhood that is within its normal service range. However, the California Restaurant Association denounced the requirement to deliver to unsafe neighborhoods, citing numerous assaults and murders of delivery personnel, and claiming it violates federal occupational health and safety laws that bar employers from forcing workers into hazardous situations.


Responding to a handicap-discrimination complaint, the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) barred Kentucky's Commonwealth Aluminum Company from bidding on federal contracts. The OFCCP condemned the company for refusing to hire several individuals with serious back injuries and hernias for jobs that required heavy lifting. According to the Labor Department, one deserving applicant was "blind in the left eye, had 60 percent hearing loss in the left ear and an 18 percent permanent back disability."

The OFCCP extracted $76,749 in back wages from the Jack B. Kelley trucking firm of Amarillo, Texas, which was then distributed among five applicants who had been denied jobs at the firm. The company's drivers routinely handle hazardous waste, missile propellants, sulfuric acid, and nitric acid, and they must be able to move heavy loads while wearing respirators that make breathing significantly more difficult. The OFCCP condemned the company for not hiring two applicants who were heavy smokers and who showed signs of diminished lung capacity as well as possible signs of emphysema. Another applicant suffered from epileptic seizures that could not be fully controlled with medication; the OFCCP ruled that the man should have been hired to drive a truck full of hazardous waste. The agency also penalized the company for failing to hire a man who, because of a recent operation, lacked the strength in his hands and arms to drive a large truck. The OFCCP ruled against the company despite the fact that the Department of Transportation issues its own safety regulations prohibiting someone in that condition from driving a heavy truck; had there been an accident, the company would have likely been found guilty of negligence in hiring him. Oddly enough, none of the applicants had complained to the company or to the government about not being hired; the OFCCP located the individuals by searching the company's files. A company spokesman said that two of the individuals "called us and brought it to our attention that we may not have been treated fairly. They told me, 'We don't want any hard feelings. We didn't ask for your money.' Two of these guys said they felt bad about taking our money."

The OFCCP also audited the personnel records of Carolina Steel of North Carolina, which in fact hires a significantly higher percentage of blacks than there are in the local labor force. Carolina Steel's main office is a block and a half from the local unemployment office, so unemployment compensation recipients, who are required to submit a certain number of job applications each week, applied to Carolina Steel in large numbers as a matter of convenience. This produced a statistical disparity in the number of black applicants who were not hired, especially since the agency counted some applicants not just once, but as many times as they had applied to the company. After an extensive dispute following the hiring discrimination charge, Carolina Steel settled for $120,000, which was divided up among 264 applicants—many of whom later remained unhired because they failed drug tests. Carolina Steel CEO Len Wise said, "We don't think that we were treated fairly under the law, but we settled in order to get them off our back." A local television station also interviewed the company's black employees, none of whom said they thought Carolina Steel was racially biased.

The Wall Street Journal, July 10, 1996:
Owens Corning announced ... that it is filing a civil RICO action against three labs that test asbestos plaintiffs. The company alleges that roughly 40,000 plaintiffs were given rigged tests designed to produce false positives.

A Boston University freshman was awarded extra time and a room alone for all tests, copies of the professor's lecture notes, and an update by the professor on material missed after the student fell asleep in class, all because the student claimed disability "in the area of auditory processing." BU president Jon Westling cites other aid requests for disabilities such as "disrationalia," or "the inability to think and behave rationally, despite adequate intelligence."


A software program designed to prevent children from accessing sexually explicit sites on the Internet backfired. The program works by checking the contents of each site against a list of forbidden words, but users found that they had trouble accessing the White House's Web site because it contained the word "couples."

Terry Pristin in the New York Times, July 9, 1996:
The Pleasantville [N.J.] School Board recently voted to make the October anniversary of the Million Man March a school holiday. To make room for it on the school calendar, the board voted to eliminate the traditional Veterans Day holiday.


In New York City, one needs a license to offer a weight-reduction class, to repair videocassette recorders or install ventilation systems, to work as an usher or sell tickets at wrestling matches, to work as a security guard or remove and dump snow and ice, or to set up a parking lot or a junk shop. Cosmetologists require 1,000 hours of training to become licensed, compared with 116 hours to qualify as an emergency medical technician and 47 hours to become an armed security guard. The going rate for a taxi medallion, which authorizes drivers to pick up passengers on the streets of New York, is over $200,000.

Excerpts from the writings of Jean Houston, an advisor to Hillary Clinton who has assisted the First Lady in conducting imaginary conversations with the spirits of Eleanor Roosevelt and Mohandas Gandhi:

  • I have come to believe that humor is the next best thing to God. For me laughter is the ultimate altered state. At the peak of roaring laughter one exists as in midsneeze. Laughter under social conditions also allows the soul to be congregationalized.

  • You may also allow yourself to become very small and walk along the yardstick of time, experiencing it as a vast road. Following Mr. Jefferson, he leads you to a place that seems to be a meta-Monticello. And you realize that you are no longer in 2295. You are moving into a world which is outside of space and time.

  • The brush of angel wings stirs our souls as some long-forgotten paradisiacal memory of the future.

  • Hold the child in your arms as you are being held by your own extended being. The three of you are now together, a trinity that is a perfect oneness.

  • I have watched people die and people be born, both literally and spiritually, on every continent of the globe, and I have seen the dreams of millenia become real and the realities of the last hundred years fade away into dreams.

  • The door to the universe opened. Everything became part of a single Unity, a glorious symphonic resonance. I had awakened to a consciousness that spanned centuries and was on intimate terms with the universe. Everything mattered. Nothing was alien or irrelevant or distant. The farthest star was right next door.

  • Like Athena, who emerged fully grown and armed, according to my relatives I was also quite a full person by the time I was 5. Like Athena, I was musical and was taken up by wise old men and given an extraordinary education.

  • Below my generally benevolent nature lies a more archaic warrior. Like Athena, I seek to reweave the world. I am always rescuing people who have been cast aside. Also I seem to show up in many people's dreams.

  • Presently we are living at a time of extraordinary insight into both the microphase and macrophase of the phenomenal world. With the concomitant expansion of our ways of knowing, a new story is finally beginning to become available in its basic outline.

  • If Eve hadn't eaten the tempter's augmented fruit, we would still be featherless bipeds living on welfare in the garden instead of going out there and finding division and delectation, trauma and transcendence.

  • The inner life of this [piece of blue] cheese would make for a bestselling and slightly salacious novel. Soft and runny in your mouth, it hits the back of your throat, stunning you with its fullness. Then it becomes intellectual, philosophical.

  • I often blow to smithereens people's normal experience of clock time. Time is a juicy god.

  • The holoverse dances for your benefit in ordinary and extraordinary ways. New forms emerge as we tune into the resonant fields of an evolving reality.

  • The high actualizer I have known, the pragmatic saints and world-making mystics, have been essentially of that genre: they have allowed their body-minds to become fields of space-time from which can be harvested the formings of the Form. Their will and intentionality have become macrophase and consonant with the primary order. Of course they get the job done.
ABC reporter Jim Wooten, on "World News Tonight," June 24, 1996, explains the political fallout following revelations about Ms. Clinton's use of Ms. Houston's services:
Such role-playing conversations are traditional counseling techniques, and Ms. Houston describes Mrs. Clinton as beleaguered, in pain, and seeking help.... The unwritten subtext here, of course, is that even here at the end of the 20th century there is a political price to be paid for those in public life who seek help for their private problems.


The New Republic, July 1, 1996:
Fearing a long and costly lawsuit, the city of Belvedere, California, has agreed to a $90,000 settlement with three of its employees who were offended by "lewd, racist, and anti-gay" O.J. Simpson jokes that the police chief had posted on a department bulletin board. The gags, complained the disaffected workers, contributed to a "pervasive and hostile work environment," which entitled them to roughly $30,000 apiece.

The AIDS activist group ACT UP boycotted the Gay Freedom Festival in Washington, protesting the inclusion of fund-raising events for PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA opposes all animal experiments, even for medical research on diseases such as AIDS, for which it claims computer models are just as conclusive. Still, when asked about people with AIDS who hope for a vaccine, PETA's Dan Matthews told the Los Angeles Times: " 'Don't get diseases in the first place, schmo,' is what I tell those contemplating unsafe sex."