An Inclusive Litany


Two Immigration and Naturalization Service supervisors were indicted for allegedly ordering subordinates to shred the office's entire 90,000-document backlog, and to continue shredding incoming documents to stay nominally up to date.

A proposed New Hampshire bill would require "shampoo assistants" to obtain state licenses.

A third grade boy was suspended from Pauline O'Rourke Elementary School in Mobile, Alabama, for five days after he ingested a green multivitamin along with his lunch.

Iraq is scheduled to chair the United Nations Disarmament Conference, held from May 12 to June 27, with Iran as co-chair.


After arresting nine students on various drug charges in August 2002, police in Dover, New Hampshire, invoked civil asset forfeiture laws to seize an entire dormitory at McIntosh College. College President David McGuire responded that the school had taken reasonable measures to provide tips to the police on illegal drug activity, increase residential supervision, and expel drug offenders.

In California, the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission voted unanimously to condemn the use of a racial slur used to denigrate blacks, but later disagreed over whether the word itself should appear in the text of the resolution. Advocates praised the vote as a first step towards banning any use of the word in the state of California as a hate crime.


From a report by the National Organization for Women Foundation on its first annual "Feminist Super Bowl AdWatch," in a section titled, "What We Found: Few Surprises," January 24, 2003:
Men were again the big winners in the Super Bowl ad extravaganza—many more men than women were employed to act in the commercials, and much of the content of the ads was directed at the male viewer.

The humor was clearly aimed at young men, with women being the butt of many jokes. A number of ads featured exclusively male casts, while others had only one or two female characters. The large majority of movies advertised were violent, male-oriented action flicks. The ads did not feature or appeal to a wide age range, starring mostly young, thin and able-bodied actors.

No female sports stars appeared in any of the ads, compared with at least six male athletes. And male celebrity spokespeople outnumbered females as well, though by a smaller margin. Exploitative promos for ABC programs came under fire from viewers, as did several of the "message" ads, which our feminist monitors felt were manipulative and misleading.

On the positive side, monitors noted that a significant number of people of color appeared in the commercials this year, and that racial diversity was prominent in several ads.

Recent prints of the famous 1969 photo of the Beatles crossing London's Abbey Road have been altered to remove the cigarette from Paul McCartney's hand. London's Sun reports that the cigarette may be soon also be removed from the Abbey Road album cover.


A British primary school banned the use of red pens to mark comments in children's work because of the color's negative connotations. Teachers will now use green pens.


After the city of Vienna, Austria, proposed putting diapers on carriage-drawing horses as a sanitary measure, animal rights activists protested the plan by holding demonstrations clad in diapers.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) joined Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) in calling for a return to military conscription, ostensibly to spread a war's casualties across different racial and socioeconomic groups, and perhaps pressure political leaders to be less hawkish. But the previous March, Conyers co-sponsored a resolution opposing any effort to bring back the draft on the grounds that it would degrade the quality of the military and violate individual liberties.

[Ed.: USA Today reports that while African Americans are disproportionately represented in the military, they're actually underrepresented among combat units. One theory for this distribution is that blacks are more attracted to support roles that provide educational benefits, while another blames "lingering racism." Conyers later led five other congressional Democrats in a lawsuit that claimed President Bush had no constitutional authority to wage war against Iraq, despite an earlier 296 to 133 vote (77 to 23 in the Senate) that seemed to settle the question.]


Responding to a ruling by the European Union, Great Britain enacted a law requiring farmers to provide pigs "environmental enrichment" in the form of "manipulable material"—namely a toy ball—in each pigsty, or face up to three months in jail. Otherwise, bored pigs tend to chew on each other. Farmers are told they may also need to change the balls often so the pigs don't experience further boredom.

[Ed.: I get bored just thinking about how this was decided.]


In England, a hearing is to be held over a family doctor's refusal to consider screening a 34-year-old patient for cervical cancer. The doctor insists that the patient is a man, and thus has no cervix to examine. The patient believes he is a hermaphrodite, despite having fathered a child.


In a 6-1 ruling, the California Supreme Court upheld the conviction of John Z., a 17-year-old who served six months in a juvenile detention facility for raping Laura T., then also 17.

According to her testimony, Laura went to a party in which she was alone with four boys drinking beer. She told two of the boys that she didn't want to have sex with them, but nevertheless engaged in heated foreplay with both, to the point of undress, which she said she enjoyed very much.

The second boy left the room, and the first boy had intercourse with Laura. He stopped after his condom kept coming off, which Laura said was a sign they "shouldn't be doing this." After the first boy left, the second, John, re-entered the room and initiated intercourse. She did not say anything at this point, or push him away.

Laura testified that the two rolled over so that she was on top for about five minutes, but that he forced her to continue by grabbing her waist—with one hand, since the other was in a cast. After they rolled over again so that he was on top, Laura told John that if he cared for her, he would have waited.

Soon afterwards, she said "I should be going now," and "I need to go home." Because it took John Z. an estimated minute and a half to cease after hearing these words, he was convicted of rape.

Patricia Wen reports in the Boston Globe, January 13, 2002, on a study linking environmental degradation with the proliferation of smaller households.
[The study's lead author, Jianguo Liu of Michigan State, said] the government should consider offering tax incentives for empty-nesters to share their homes, or penalties for people who choose to live alone. Government policy should also discourage urban sprawl, he said, which disrupts the natural habitat of animals and plants. "This can be a wake-up call for people to realize how their lifestyle impacts the environment," he said. "Each household can make a difference." ...

[Former Green Party candidate for governor of Massachusetts Jill] Stein said some novel solutions might include cohousing developments in which people retain privacy, but also share some common spaces. Cohousing is not only better for the environment, she said, but offers emotional advantages of a village-like atmosphere for young and old. Too often, she said, people fail to see the social benefits of living in closer quarters or enjoying communal spaces.

Stein, who has one child in college and another still at home, said she and her husband plan to evaluate their single-family living situation when they become empty-nesters.

[Ed.: Note that in the old days, couples would stick together merely for the sake of the children.]


The Englewood, Florida, Herald-Tribune reports on progress achieved at a series of diversity seminars partly funded by the state. In a meeting attended only by women, some objected to one attendee who used "Hey guys" as a greeting. She has since banished the phrase from her vocabulary.


The winner of this year's Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch's Wacky Warning Label contest is a label on a robotic massage chair that warns: "Do not use massage chair without clothing" along with "Never force any body part into the backrest area while the rollers are moving." Second place went to a snowblower with a label that read: "Do not use snowthrower on roof." Third place went to a label that read: "Do not allow children to play in the dishwasher."

Johnnie Cochran, famous for defending O.J. Simpson, has now filed a lawsuit against the city of Baltimore, alleging the city's anti-drug "Baltimore Believe" campaign encouraged citizens to speak out against dealers, inviting reprisals in one case in which a family was killed when drug dealers burned down their house.

In Colorado, a seventh-grade boy was expelled from school for a year after he played with a friend's laser pointer, shining the red dot around the classroom for a few minutes. The school characterized the pointer as a "firearm facsimile."


Northeastern University law professor Libby Adler in a Boston Globe op-ed piece, commenting on a new Boston ordinance outlawing discrimination on the basis of "gender identity and expression," December 21, 2002:
Even non-transgender people may be victims of discrimination because they defy commonly held expectations about masculinity and femininity, such as the man who is fired because he is "effeminate" or the woman denied a promotion because she is "too masculine."

A District Court Judge in Helena, Montana, ruled that Miranda rights apply to all of a person's multiple personalities.

A pair of Monarch High School students are suing the Louisville, Colorado, school district because their school refused to allow them to start a club that would "teach students biblical principles that will help them in life." When told that school policy limited clubs to subjects related to the curriculum, they objected that some existing clubs did not relate to the curriculum, either. But Superintendent George Garcia explained that the Multicultural Club related to a class on diversity, and the Gay/Straight Alliance is "a product of our health education."


A brutal observation from a long profile of Sen. Edward Kennedy by Charles Pierce in the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine, January 5, 2003:
If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be sixty-two years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.

Louis Menand comments on Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat Comes Back in the New Yorker, December 23-30, 2002. While we all hope and pray this was intended as parody, a brief survey of online commentary on the article reveals some confusion on this point. And as deconstructionists are fond of pointing out, an author's intent is largely irrelevant anyway.
These semiotic felines do exactly what a deconstructionist would predict: rather than containing the stain, they disseminate it. Everything turns pink. The chain of signification is interminable and, being interminable, indeterminate. The semantic hygiene fetishized by the children is rudely violated; the "system" they imagined is revealed to have no inside and no outside. It is revealed to be, in fact, just another bricolage. The only way to end the spreading stain of semiosis is to unleash what, since it cannot be named, must be termed "that which is not a sign." This is the Voom, the final agent in the cat's arsenal. The Voom eradicates the pink queerness of a textuality without boundaries; whiteness is back, though it is now the purity of absence—one wants to say... of abstinence. The association with nuclear holocaust and its sterilizing fallout, wiping the planet clean of pinkness and pinkos, is impossible to ignore. It is a strange story for teaching people how to read.