An Inclusive Litany


Elizabeth Vargas, previewing an upcoming story template on ABC's "World News Tonight," July 31, 2001:
More trouble at the nation's amusement parks, two dozen people injured. Why won't Congress let the government regulate those parks?


The San Diego City Council banned use of the objectionable word "minority" from city documents and discussions, leaving unclear how to refer to council members who voted against the measure.

The Dutch Health Ministry published a 32-page glossy magazine called Mainline Lady in order to help drug-addicted women feel better about their appearance. The magazine includes tips on how to deal with heroin-ravaged dry skin, how to put on weight, and how to cover over tell-tale needle marks with makeup.


A British court ruled that 21-year-old Christina Coles, who suffered memory loss as a result of a car crash, was entitled to special compensation from the other driver to help raise her baby daughter. Coles successfully argued that her daughter would not have been born had it not been for the crash, because she would have normally remembered to take her birth control pills. The judge issued the ruling despite finding that Coles was 75 percent at fault for the collision.

Bill Maher, host of ABC's inappropriately named late-night show, "Politically Incorrect," interviewed on CNN's "Larry King Live," July 27, 2001.

Maher: I do think, if it turns out that this beautiful young girl is gone, I think, and he [Condit] is responsible in some way, you have to look to Ken Starr for a little bit of guilt.

Larry King: Why?

Maher: Because, you know, Ken Starr made it so that you, in the old days, you had an affair with somebody, and you know, okay, you had an affair. The press didn't report it. They didn't make a political criminal case of it. Now, its almost like you have to get rid of them.

[Ed.: Maher's comment is included here because, by his own design, one cannot be certain when he's being serious.]


Adel Smith, head of the Union of Italian Muslims, wrote to Pope John Paul II requesting the removal or destruction of a fresco from Bologna cathedral, Giovanni da Modena's Last Judgement, painted in 1415. The painting depicts the prophet Muhammad in a corner of Hell, naked and condemned to burn eternally as a heretic. In its letter, the union said the painting "constitutes an even graver offense to the religion than that caused by Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses," for which Islamic religious authorities called for the author's death. The union also called for the teaching of Dante to be suspended, for much the same reason.

A note on the subscription card now included with the Abercrombie & Fitch quarterly catalog reads, "To subscribe: Fill out this card and head to the nearest A&F store with a valid photo ID."

An invitation for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to speak in Hawaii at an event for the American Civil Liberties Union was rescinded after board members protested, calling Thomas an "anti-Christ" and "a Hitler," and arguing that having him speak was "like having a serial murderer debate the value of life."


Rodney Stevenson of the University of Wisconsin's Diversity Climate Committee, in the Wisconsin State Journal, May 4, 2001:
Racial profiling has resulted in prison color ratios that are seriously out of sync with the general population. Doing away with profiling will bring parity to the pen (or would, if justice were really blind).

Racial preference moves student ratios closer to general population proportions. Doing away with preference will perpetuate the effects of centuries of discrimination. And since grade point averages and standardized tests are culturally biased, color-blind admission lets less-qualified whites into the lecture hall while more-qualified people of color are left out on the street, where they have a greater chance of being picked up by the police.

[Ed.: Note that faith-based initiatives are only a bad thing when religion is involved.]

The highest-ranking African-American in Boston's transit police, John J. Mahoney, has become the target of resentment from both white and black officers because of the way he was promoted to sergeant.

Originally hired in 1983 and assumed by fellow officers to be white man, he twice took the sergeant's promotional exam without success. But in 1992, Mahoney successfully petitioned to change his racial designation to African-American because his birth certificate described his mother as "colored," in the argot of the day. A department memo noted that his promotion to sergeant a year later was based solely on his minority status, to make the police command "more representative of the community we serve."

Many black officers now consider it a sham that Mahoney, who appears white, should be taken to represent them in a major command position. Many white officers consider Mahoney a white guy who took advantage of an uneven playing field.

In defense of racial preferences in hiring and promotions, Harvard's Gary Orfield notes that "every social policy has its logical absurdities," adding that, to come to terms with multiracial identity, policy makers must "build new complexities into the law."

In Berlin, Wolfgang Flatz performed a piece called "Meat" in which he suspended himself from a crane, crucifixion-style under a bloody sheet. A helicopter then lifted a decapitated cow onto an abandoned building. The animal, packed with fireworks, was then exploded.


From "The Culture Wars of the 1960s and the Assault on the Presidency: The Meaning of the Clinton Impeachment," by Eli Zaretsky. Along with "Monica Dreyfus" and "The President's Penis," his is one of the essays collected in a new volume published by New York University Press, entitled Our Monica, Ourselves:
At the same time, both his need for public life and his sometimes confused explanations for his actions drew attention to his vulnerability. Clinton's enemies sensed his weakness, and it aroused them.
In Her Way, another book examining Lewinsky's legacy, Paula Kamen argues that Monica fulfilled the new feminist ideal by being "brazen, relentless and self-centered in her quest for sex and power; in other words, she acted like a man." (Recall that Lewinsky, no doubt empowered, managed to convince herself Clinton would leave his wife for her, would fantasize about their subsequent wedding, and would even wait by the phone for him to call.)

After Princeton English professor Elaine Showalter and a couple of dozen of her students talked with Lewinsky as part of a forthcoming HBO special on the cultural meaning of her life story, Showalter hinted to the Chronicle of Higher Education that Lewinsky did not always seem entirely in tune with her new batch of academic admirers. "Was the Lewinsky I saw at Cooper Union aware of this range of cultural nuance and allusive complexity? Without violating the terms of the confidentiality agreement, I think I can say that her intellectual journey has not included exposure to cultural studies."

The Clinton/Lewinsky relationship has itself come under increased scrutiny from academic "queer theorists" for its less obvious transgressive aspects. Tyler Curtain of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill notes the significance of the book Clinton bestowed on Lewinsky as a gift, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass: "Something about the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship is definitely queer.... Whitman has been used as a shibboleth for nonnormative sexuality since his first writings..."

Ann Cvetkovich, English professor at the University of Texas at Austin, notes that the hallway where the couple engaged in their tryst "is not unlike the bathrooms and parks where gay men have public sex." Cvetkovich also sees the narrow hallway as reminiscent of the crawl space where escaped slaves were obliged to hide while fleeing north, and so "demonstrates the constraints of the presidency." While the "differences between the slave girl and the president are vast," Cvetkovich insists that "in both narratives, spatial confinement makes the impact of the social systems material."


From a letter sent via e-mail to the editors of the New York Post by Sunny Liang, a Chinese immigrant who has been teaching "socail studies" at Brooklyn's Fort Hamilton High School for ten years:
Only if our society realize that there are so many factors contributing to a student's test score, then teachers will be willing to take the blam game. Who is to blam when students don't do homeworks? who is to blam when pareants don't care to come to the teacher pareant conference?

Asked whether Congressman Gary Condit (D-CA) might have had a role in the disappearance of his intern Chandra Levy, with whom police learned he was having an affair after lying about it for weeks, one of his constituents said, "That's his personal life. It's none of our business."

[Ed.: In a subsequent letter to his constituents, Condit said: "I hope you will understand that I am not perfect and have made my share of mistakes." Leaving out the words "promptly" and "truthfully," Condit insisted: "I have not been silent with those in charge of finding Chandra. I have answered every single question asked by the police and FBI."]


Several members of the British parliament denounced a restriction by the European Union requiring peaches sold from July 1 to October 31 to be at least 56 millimeters in diameter. They were joined in protest by producers of organic fruit, which tend to be smaller on average, and full of bugs.

A California appellate court ruled that Catholic Charities must provide its employees with birth control as part of its prescription drug coverage, despite the church's position that birth control is sinful. The charity would be exempt from the requirement, and thus remain true to church doctrine, only if they employed or served an overwhelming preponderance of Catholics, which would decrease their effectiveness.

[Ed.: This decision failed to get a rise out of critics of the Bush administration's proposal to direct public funds to faith-based charities, widely regarded as an erosion of church/state separation.]

To increase "visitability," the city of Santa Monica, California, is considering a measure requiring all new and newly renovated private homes to be wheelchair-accessible, complete with ramp entries, extra-wide halls, and at least one handicapped-accessible bathroom.


A bill before the California legislature would require pediatricians to question children about family gun ownership, counseling patients on the alleged harmful effects of owning a gun. The bill is based on a recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that "except in the hands of law enforcement officers or others specifically authorized by law, handguns serve no legitimate or lawful purpose, and constitute a hazard to the public health and welfare of the people, and especially of the children, of this State."

But a study by Frederick Paola in the January 2001 edition of the Southern Medical Journal concludes that such a measure would substantially increase doctors' liability insurance premiums to account for bad advice dispensed to patients' families who, after disarming, subsequently become crime victims. Research by criminologist Gary Kleck reveals some 2.5 million incidents in the United States between 1988 and 1993 in which guns were successfully used to ward off criminals and prevent injury. The Centers for Disease Control reported that in 1997 the firearm-related deaths for children age fourteen and under was 630, a number that unfortunately would be greater the more parents disarmed.

[Ed.: More inflated estimates of gun-related fatalities among children include adolescent gang members in the category.]

The Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2001:
Los Angeles County officials, realizing that there is no tax collector in outer space, hope to fill the void.

Reaching 22,300 miles above the equator, boldly going where no tax collector has gone before, Los Angeles County Assessor Rick Auerbach is angling to impose property taxes on several satellites.

Though never done before in California, the move is legal, say state and county tax attorneys. That's because, they say, nobody else is taxing the satellites....

Attorneys for the state Board of Equalization, consulted by Auerbach, came down on the county assessor's side.

"While the satellites are in Earth orbit," wrote the Board of Equalization attorneys in a background paper, "they nonetheless have a situs for tax purposes in Los Angeles County, California."


The Pentagon investigated a mandatory training run for officers of the U.S. Southern Command after a female officer complained that slower runners were subject to taunting and ridicule.

As part of a three-hour paper on tragedy during final-year exams at Cambridge University, students were asked to write about the following lines from a pop song by the Bee Gees: "It's tragedy... Tragedy when you lose control and you got no soul, it's tragedy."

"There are elements to the Bee Gees songs that could have directed you to the great central canonical texts," explained John Kerrigan, chairman of the English finals examination board. "The line in the Bee Gees song where he sings 'the feeling's gone and you can't go on' is a fair summary of the end of King Lear."


The Astrological Institute of Scottsdale, Arizona, won accreditation from the U.S. Department of Education, from whom the school may now seek federal grants and loans for its students. Only one program is offered: a diploma in astrology and psychology. Courses include a "master class on the asteroid goddesses" and "how to write an astrological column."


Letter to the editor, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 25, 2001:
I saw the picture of the new baby dolphin in your July 17 paper. I have one question: Every time a dolphin is born at The Mirage, will they be enlarging the pool the mammals are kept in? Every new baby grows up and takes up living space—making the area they have smaller and smaller. Dolphins in a cement fish bowl. Shame.

—Cindy Sautter
Las Vegas

After changing its name in 1973 from the American Association on Mental Deficiency, the American Association on Mental Retardation has now voted to change its name to avoid using the word "retarded." Still, members of the organization were unable to agree on a nonpejorative alternative. The American Psychological Association's panel on Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities is also set to change its name. Many psychologists prefer the term "intellectual disability," but some object to the word "disability."