An Inclusive Litany


Soon after the American Civil Liberties Union defended the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), which had been accused of inspiring the rape and murder of a ten-year-old Massachusetts boy, it sued the city of San Diego for leasing a public park to the Boy Scouts.


Survivors of singer John Denver reached a settlement in their lawsuit against two companies that manufactured and sold a fuel valve that was installed on the do-it-yourself airplane he crashed off the Pacific coast. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that Denver knowingly took off with low fuel in a plane with which he was unfamiliar, and that he lost control of the aircraft when he tried to reach around and grab the fuel lever.

An Ohio appeals court cleared the way for a former clerical worker to sue a mental health agency that fired him because, unlike all other employees there, he had no mental health disability, and no history of one.

Officials in Warwick, Rhode Island, removed a six-foot-high tourist statue of Mr. Potato Head following complaints that it was racist because its skin was brown. The potato statue, one of a series placed around the city, sported a Hawaiian shirt, glasses, hat, a wide grin, and was supposed to have a suntan.

Onna Moniz-John, an East Providence affirmative action officer, complained because she thought the statue resembled antique figures depicting blacks as buffoons. She said it looked like the Little Black Sambo character because the clothes were too small. "If you look at this potato head, the only thing missing is a watermelon," Moniz-John said.

Artist Kathy Szarko of West Warwick, who designed "Tourist Tater," was surprised at the reaction. "He's a potato, that's why he's brown," she said.


Officials at Georgia's Cobb County school district suspended a girl for two weeks because the 10-inch novelty chain connecting her wallet to her Tweety Bird key ring violated the school's zero-tolerance weapons policy.


In Denver, negotiations between Italian-American Columbus Day parade organizers and a group of Native American and Latino protesters broke down after they reached a tentative compromise. In exchange for promises not to protest the event, parade organizers promised to delete any mention of Christopher Columbus.

A Minneapolis woman who took a job at a sex-toy shop filed a lawsuit against the store, claiming a hostile work environment and sexual harassment because of all the lewd talk she had to listen to each day.


In East Sussex, England, the Brighton and Hove municipal council is considering a proposal to allow blind patrons of the local Pussycats Club to touch exotic dancers as a form of handicap accommodation.


The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that many high school students from poor families are too proud to apply for free school lunch programs. To maintain current levels of state funding, schools have responded by offering five instead of three main courses and giving away free video games and CD players to students who file a school-lunch application.

Scouring its photo archives for an image of diversity to be used on a brochure cover, the University of Wisconsin wound up doctoring a 1993 photo by inserting a picture of a black student into a crowd of white football fans.

A cartoonist at the University of Minnesota's Minnesota Daily later came under fire for his lampoon of UW's self-described "error in judgement," by depicting the school president in black face.

From a New York Times editorial, July 18, 2000:
The current complication centers on the report in a new book about the Clintons' marriage, "State of the Union," by Jerry Oppenheimer, that she used an anti-Semitic slur in an argument with the manager of her husband's losing Congressional campaign in 1974. Those not present can never be absolutely certain about what was said at the campaign headquarters that day. But the circumstantial evidence inclines us strongly toward believing Mrs. Clinton when she says she never used such language. The alleged remark took place only a year after Mrs. Clinton's expansively humanistic commencement speech at Wellesley and soon after she had worked in a sophisticated legal environment for the impeachment of a president, Richard M. Nixon, who did use anti-Semitic language.


Cinemax is airing a new movie by former humorist Woody Allen, titled Picking up the Pieces. The plot of the film concerns a butcher (Allen) who carves up his wife and buries the parts in the desert. One of the hands, with a stiff middle finger, is discovered by a blind woman who is promptly cured and declares it to be the hand of the Virgin Mary. She goes to a money-grubbing priest, who is having sex with a prostitute, and he advertises the hand as a miracle-working relic that has produced such wonders as enlarged breasts for a woman and a big penis for a dwarf. Along the way, viewers are informed that Mary Magdalene was Jesus' whore and Mother Teresa had "sex slaves."

The Department of Agriculture is considering liberalizing its standard for Grade-A Swiss cheese, allowing bubbles to be as small as 3/8 of an inch rather than the current minimum of 11/16 of an inch.


The Nation, July 10, 2000:
In the wake of Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy's high-profile sexual harassment case against another Army general... the mainstream media have given a substantial amount of coverage to the appalling rates of sexual harassment of women in the armed forces. But you would be hard pressed to find in these news reports any mention of one of the principal spurs to this harassment: the policy on gays in the military, popularly known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

"You can't separate this policy from sexual harassment," says Michelle Benecke, a former captain of US Army defense artillery—and a Harvard-trained lawyer—who is the co-founder and co-director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). "A lot of the perception that women in the services are gay stems from the fact that they're not sleeping with anybody in their unit," Benecke says. "The Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy pressures young women into sexual activity with their superiors by making them subject to the threat of discharge as gay."

A Danish tax appeals board allowed a massage parlor to deduct the cost of breast implants as a legitimate business expense.

A federal court threw out Julie Hiatt Steele's 1998 lawsuit against Michael Isikoff, a Newsweek reporter who spearheaded coverage of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal. Steele contended that Isikoff had no right to report to the public that she had provided him with admittedly false information about Kathleen Willey, one of Clinton's harassment victims. That information, Steele claimed, had been delivered "off the record," and she further claimed that Isikoff had no right to reveal her identity when he discovered she had lied to him.

An account by Eric Muller, a young law professor at the University of Wyoming, originally posted to the Lawprof e-mail list, June 18, 1996:
On my very first day of teaching, in my very first class... I spent a while giving a thumbnail sketch of constitutional history, focusing for a while on the Civil War and the work of the Reconstruction Congress. In doing so, I talked about slavery.

After class, as I was gathering my notes and generally heaving a huge sigh of relief, a student approached me. She told me that I had said some things that had so deeply offended her that she'd been unable to concentrate for the rest of the class, and warned me that I was going to have to be a lot more careful about what I said. Naturally I was mortified that I'd blundered so badly on my very first day, and so apologized profusely. I told her that I'd appreciate knowing what it was I'd said, so that I could be more careful the next time. She told me, and I am essentially quoting, "Slavery was not bad. There were a lot of individual slaveholders who mistreated their slaves, and that gave slavery a bad name. My family were slaveholders, and our slaves loved us. What you gave us was the Union version of the War, but the victors always get to write the history."

I was speechless. I know we live in a relativist world, but I thought it safe to work from the premise that a couple of things, say slavery and the Holocaust, were evil. I guess I was wrong.


While in New York to address the UN summit of world leaders, Fidel Castro, 74, donned battle fatigues to address a rally of cheering supporters in Riverside Church. Reverend Bernard Wilson said he was pleased to host the event. "Riverside has always been on the cutting edge of what is happening in the world," he said.


Ten years after he named a dolphin as a plaintiff in a civil suit, Harvard University appointed Steven M. Wise, author of Rattling the Cage, to teach "animal-rights law," a field that as yet does not exist. Wise is also founder and president of Harvard's "Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights."

By a slim margin, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a 7-year-old girl, suffering from spina bifida and believing a prenatal test may have led to her abortion, may not sue her parents for "wrongful life."


Many New Zealand children are now being required by their schools to apply for a quasi-official license to own toy guns. Children must answer questions and learn rules before they can play gun games, and must carry their licenses while playing.

From "Violence in G-Rated Animated Films," a study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association May 24-31, 2000:

Anastasia (1997)
3 injuries, 2 fatalities
weapons used: body, gun, magic, other

Bambi (1942)
2 injuries, 1 fatality
weapons used: body, gun, other

Beauty and the Beast (1991)
3 injuries, 1 fatality
weapons used: body, sword, gun, other

Duck Tales: The Movie (1990)
1 injury, 1 fatality
weapons used: body, sword, magic, other

Peter Pan (1953)
2 injuries, 1 fatality
weapons used: body, sword, gun, explosive, other

Pocahontas (1995)
3 injuries, 1 fatality
weapons used: body, sword, gun, other

Sleeping Beauty (1959)
1 injury, 1 fatality
weapons used: body, sword, magic, other

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
2 injuries, 1 fatality
weapons used: body, sword, poison, other

The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
2 injuries, 2 fatalities
weapons used: body, sword, gun, other

The Last Unicorn (1982)
5 injuries, 3 fatalities
weapons used: body, sword, magic, other

The Nutcracker Prince (1990)
5 injuries, 2 fatalities
weapons used: body, sword, gun, magic, other

The Swan Princess (1994)
9 injuries, 2 fatalities
weapons used: body, sword, magic, other

[Ed.: Another JAMA study from March, 1999 pointed out that many animated characters in G-rated movies use tobacco and alcohol products, needlessly exposing children to temptation.]