An Inclusive Litany


Canadian men expressed outrage at a television ad that aired across the country in which a young couple are depicted walking down the street past a Chrysler Neon, and the woman slaps the man because she thinks he has turned to gawk at another woman rather than the car behind her. After men complained that they became upset at the sight of a woman slapping a man, Chrysler re-edited the ad so that she gave him a dirty look instead.

Massachusetts gun owners challenged a new law banning the practice of shooting at targets with human images, claiming the ban abridged their First Amendment right to free speech because many targets featured the image of Adolph Hitler, and shooters were thus expressing their disapproval.


Susan and Thomas Klebold filed suit against the Jefferson County, Colorado, school district and sheriff's department, claiming that had they not mishandled a complaint about violent threats against their son Dylan's friend Eric Harris, the pair would not have been killed along with thirteen other people in a shootout they initiated at Columbine High School. The Klebolds seek damages equal to the claims made against them by victims' families, who contend that had the Klebolds been better parents, they would have forestalled their son's violent rampage.

Two 9-year-olds from Merrick, New York, are joining two San Diego children in a federal class-action lawsuit against Nintendo, invoking RICO laws to charge the company with operating an "illegal gambling enterprise." The children claim the company's popular Pokémon trading cards taught them how to gamble, and that the practice of placing rare cards in selected packages caused them to spend thousands of dollars trying to obtain them.

In Washington, D.C., ground was broken on a $10 million monument that will honor the Japanese-American victims of internment during the Second World War. Veterans who fought in that war are still waiting for their own memorial.

[Ed.: More than a quarter of the permanent exhibit on World War II at the Smithsonian is devoted to the policy of internment.]

In Wisconsin, officials at Winneconne High School issued a ban on T-shirts sporting the "Billabong" brand name, which they said was too suggestive of a "bong" used to smoke marijuana. The company, which branched out from surfboards into beachwear, takes its name from an Australian aborigine word meaning lagoon.

Adam Szadkowski, a student who had been ordered to go into a school restroom and turn his shirt inside-out to conceal the offending logo, found the rule "ridiculous," wondering, "are they going to ban us from wearing a shirt that says 'potato' just because it has the word 'pot' in it?"

"I realize Billabong is a surfing company," said Principal Ed Dombrowski. "If we were in California or Florida where they do a lot of surfing, I would understand. But we don't surf here, so where do we draw the line?"


A high school in Amherst, Massachusetts, dropped plans to stage a production of "West Side Story" after some students and parents complained it negatively stereotyped Puerto Ricans.

From a set of suggestions published in the National Middle Schools Association's publication, Middle Ground, August 1999:

  • The easiest way to bring more physical activity into the classroom is to give students opportunities to work with partners or rearrange their desks for discussions. Students can also create and maintain bulletin boards. They can stand up at regular intervals to briefly summarize what they remember from the lesson.

  • Let your students place their papers in a basket in the back of the room. Make it a hard-to-reach basket to induce stretching. If you don't mind wrinkled papers, let students crumple their papers into balls and "shoot" their homework into a basketball net above the turn-in tray. Or let them fold their papers into airplanes they can glide into a homework box. One student can straighten the papers after everyone has had a turn.

Of the 27 candidates who entered Baltimore's Democratic mayoral primary, six turned out to have arrest records, and three had filed for bankruptcy. One was arrested for burglary after a policeman recognized her during an appearance on a TV news broadcast, and another has been convicted of larceny, shoplifting, and impersonating a police officer. One former city councilman falsely claimed to have a college degree, while the sitting Council president had his car repossessed and was sued by unpaid creditors. When the primary was eventually won by one of the candidates not under some cloud, the Washington Post's headline read, "White Man Gets Mayoral Nomination in Baltimore."

Terry McAuliffe, who previously helped the Clinton administration raise campaign contributions by renting out the Lincoln Bedroom, made a $1.35 million cash deposit as security for the mortgage Hillary Clinton needed to establish residency in Chappaqua, New York, in order to run for a senate seat in that state. Contacted by the American Enterprise, various non-partisan government watchdog groups devoted to campaign finance reform had no opinion on the transfer. Public Campaign, a group "dedicated to sweeping reform... to dramatically reduce... the influence of big contributors in American politics," had "no official comment." Common Cause, which "represents the unified voice of the people against corruption in government and big money special interests," had "nothing issued in writing." The Center for Responsive Politics, which "tracks money in politics, and its effect on elections and public policy," offered no public comment, saying the matter was "outside our area of expertise." (Public outcry eventually overturned the arrangement.)

On a related note, Frank Greve of the Knight-Ridder news service reports that Bill Moyers, producer of many documentaries exposing the corrupting influence of money on politics, violated some basic journalistic ethics in his reporting. In one PBS show, "Free Speech for Sale," Moyers interviewed three "experts" on campaign finance reform, all of whom represent organizations that received $2.6 million from the Florence & John Schumann Foundation, whose president is none other than Moyers himself, at a salary of $200,000. In a Frontline special titled "Washington's Other Scandal," Moyers announced that "the arms race in campaign money is undermining the very soul of our democracy," referring viewers to the web sites of reform groups, most bankrolled by Moyers.


From Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction, by Rachel P. Maines, published as part of the "Studies in the History of Technology" series at Johns Hopkins University Press:
I intend to sketch here the contours of male medical and technological response to discontinuities between male and female experiences of sexuality through the social construction of disease paradigms. Situated in the vulnerable center of every past and present heterosexual relationship, the potentially destabilizing issues of orgasmic mutuality have historically been shifted to a neutral and sanitized ground on which female sexuality was represented as a pathology and female orgasm, redefined as the crisis of a disease, was produced clinically as legitimate therapy. This interpretation obviated the need to question either the exalted status of the penis or the efficacy of coitus as a stimulus to female orgasm. Furthermore, it required no adjustment of attitude or skills by male sex partners. What Foucault calls the "hystericization of women's bodies" protected and reinforced androcentric definitions of sexual fulfillment.

The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is defending the state of Alabama against a black student who was denied a state scholarship to a historically black college. The state wants to use the scholarships to encourage more white students to attend the school, even those with inferior academic records.

In Bakersville, California, attorney Timothy Liebaert was shocked and angered to learn of a policy by the developer of the Fairway Oaks community not to sell houses to attorneys because it considered them overly litigious, so he sued them.

A judge rejected Liebaert's original claim, ruling that California discrimination law does not protect occupational status, but he filed an appeal and vowed to advance an alternate theory: that the developers were obliged to announce their no-lawyer policy in their advertisements.


In the wake of recent school shootings, the Chicago public school system dropped riflery training and competition that is offered as part of the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.

Canada's Global Television company successfully defended itself before the Canadian Broadcasting Standard Council against a viewer complaint that in its broadcast of a 45-year-old cartoon, Bugs Bunny uttered sarcastic remarks demeaning to women.


After the government of France instituted a "civil solidarity pact," designed to bestow all the legal privileges of marriage on homosexual couples, political pressure led to widen eligibility requirements to include cohabiting heterosexual couples, widowed sisters living together, and priests and their housekeepers.

John Carter, a New Jersey man, sued McDonald's for injuries he sustained in an auto accident with one of its customers, who spilled a chocolate shake onto his lap while reaching for his fries. Carter alleges McDonald's sold him food knowing he would consume it while driving and failed to provide a warning to the effect of "Don't eat and drive."

The court concluded that McDonald's had no duty to warn customers of obvious hazards, but refused the company's request for attorney's fees, saying the plaintiff's attorney was "creative, imaginative, and he shouldn't be penalized for that." The case was in litigation for three years, underwent appellate-court review, and cost McDonald's more than $100,000.

After O.J. Simpson called Miami police to report that a female acquaintance was strung out on cocaine, police arrived to find him and his girlfriend in the midst of a heated verbal dispute. The two officers handed the admitted wife-beater a brochure on domestic violence, as required by state law, then asked for autographs and posed for pictures with Simpson. Showing off their memorabilia later in the station, the two were immediately placed on desk duty and an investigation commenced.

A New York appeals court rejected a woman's lawsuit against manufacturers of "The Clapper," which activates appliances at the sound of a clap. She claims she had to clap so hard, "I couldn't peel potatoes... I was in pain." The judge, however, pointed out that she merely had failed to adjust the device's sensitivity controls.

When 85-year-old Kate Cheney was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she sought to end her life, as allowed under Oregon's assisted-suicide laws. A problem, however, arose because she suffered from dementia, raising questions of mental competence to make such a decision. Rather than prescribe lethal drugs, her doctor referred her to a psychiatrist, as required by law.

Cheney was accompanied to the consultation by her daughter, Erika Goldstein. The psychiatrist found that Cheney had a loss of short-term memory. It also appeared that Ms. Goldstein was more interested in her mother's assisted suicide than Ms. Cheney herself. The psychiatrist concluded that while the assisted suicide seemed consistent with Ms. Cheney's values, "she does not seem to be explicitly pushing for this." Accordingly, he nixed the assisted suicide, as part of a safeguard included in the law.

While Cheney seemed to accept the psychiatrist's verdict, Ms. Goldstein viewed it as an obstacle to her mother's right to die. Goldstein petitioned Kaiser Permanente, her mother's HMO, for a second opinion, and they acceded.

The psychologist who examined Ms. Cheney also found that she had memory problems—an inability to remember when she had been diagnosed with cancer, for example. The psychologist also worried that Cheney's decision to die "may be influenced by her family's wishes." But despite these reservations, the psychologist determined that Cheney was competent to kill herself and approved the writing of the lethal prescription.

Before killing herself, Cheney had to be interviewed by an ethicist/administrator at Kaiser, a group that stood to save thousands of dollars in health care costs. Cheney told Dr. Robert Richardson that she wanted the pills not so much because she was in terrible pain, but because she feared not being able to attend to her personal hygiene. Dr. Richardson okayed prescribing the suicide pills.

Ms. Cheney did not take the pills right away. At one point, she asked to die after her daughter had to help her shower following an accident with her colostomy bag, but she quickly changed her mind. Then Cheney went into a nursing home for a week so that her family could have some respite from care giving.

As soon as Ms. Cheney returned from the nursing home, she declared her desire to take the pills immediately. After grandchildren were called to say goodbye, Cheney took the poison and died with her daughter at her side.

To control truancy as well as juvenile crime, the town of Monrovia, California, enacted a daytime teen curfew, providing only a brief window during which young people are allowed to be out alone during the day, even to walk the family dog. This led a 16-year-old en route to a fast food restaurant to be stopped and questioned five different times, by five different police officers. Two homeschooled brothers were stopped twenty times as they walked to special classes and back. A 22-year-old woman was questioned twice as she tried to use a public telephone, and a young-looking high school graduate was stopped and questioned ten times.

After Boston's top federal law enforcement official launched a widely publicized crackdown on shops and bed-and-breakfasts that lacked proper ramps and wide doors for wheelchair access on historic Nantucket Island, the Boston Globe reported that if the complaints went to trial, it would be in a brand new courthouse that itself massively violates handicap-access standards: its jury boxes and witness stands can only be reached by way of steps.

"We looked at the possibility of building in permanent ramps that were retractable, but it was such a burden on the budget we just couldn't do it," said General Services Administration project manager Paul Curley. The courthouse does, however, feature English oak paneling, a 45,000-square-foot glass wall overlooking the harbor, "spacious waterfront chambers for judges, and a five-story Great Hall."

In Abington, Massachusetts, Michael Hyde was pulled over by police because his license plate wasn't properly illuminated and because his exhaust was too loud. Hyde suspected he was being targeted because he had long hair and drove a Porsche, so he surreptitiously taped the officers, who didn't charge him with any traffic violations but did ask whether he had drugs. Hyde was later charged under wiretap laws for violating the officers' privacy by failing to inform them they were being taped. "Police officers have the same rights as other citizens," said prosecutor Paul Dawley, adding that if police secretly taped others, it would be considered outrageous.

Traffic stops are routinely videotaped from police cruisers, of course, and people who are stopped are rarely informed of this fact. That's because wiretap laws were written before the advent of video technology, and only cover recorded voices. Typically, voyeurs are convicted not for filming their victims, but for forgetting to unplug the microphone. In fact, police videotapes do not feature an audio track. If Mr. Hyde had secretly videotaped the officer, he would have been well within the law.


In Faking It: U.S. Hegemony in a "Post-Phallic" Era, Purdue political science professor Synthia Weber writes: "This is the United States as I see it today-a white headless body of indecipherable sex and gender cloaked in the flag and daggered with a queer dildo harnessed to its midsection."

In Syracuse, New York, kindergartner Antonio Peck was told by his teacher to create a poster on what he thought people could do to save the environment. He drew a picture of Jesus praying, along with the slogan, "The only way to save our world!" His teacher told him it wouldn't be displayed because of its religious content, so he drew a new poster showing people picking up garbage. Off to one side of the picture was a man in a flowing robe kneeling down with both hands outstretched to the clouds above. School officials displayed the poster, but folded it so that the robed man, whom they construed as Jesus, was not visible. His mother responded by suing the school on First Amendment grounds.