An Inclusive Litany


Elementary schools in Nashville, Tennessee, are considering a grading plan in which the minimum possible grade would be a 50.


In El Dorado Hills, California, the El Dorado Hills Design Review Committee ruled that the house of Joe and Melinda Bula, which was painted yellow when they bought it six years ago, does not comply with regulations that only allow beige and tan houses. The Bulas appealed the committee's decision to the city board, which assigned a "task force" to review the rules. City manager Wayne Lowery told the New York Times, "If you allow yellow, then when a guy comes in and says he likes purple, where do you draw the line?"

The Bulas may also have another fight on their hands. The committee also cited their white picket fence, which is made of plastic rather than wood.

The London Times, February 21, 2002:
A government-backed course is encouraging pupils under 16 to experiment with oral sex, as part of a drive to cut rates of teenage pregnancy....

The scheme, which has been pioneered by Exeter University and is backed by the Departments of Health and Education, trains teachers to discuss various pre-sex "stopping points" with under-age teenagers.

It aims to reduce promiscuity by encouraging pupils to discover "levels of intimacy," including oral sex, instead of full sexual intercourse.

More than 100,000 children are now taking the course at one in every thirty secondary schools. It forms part of efforts to tackle Britain's teenage pregnancy rate, which is the highest in Western Europe.

North Miami City Councilman Jacques Despinosse asked the police department to eliminate its swimming requirement for recruits because, he alleged, it eliminated many black candidates. "We can't swim," said Despinosse, a Haitian American. "Most of us didn't come on the Mayflower. We came on slave ships."

[Ed.: As someone with some Cuban blood in him, I find this unfathomable. If anybody could swim, it would be a Haitian.]


Men who marched naked in Toronto's Gay Pride Day were cleared of public nudity charges because they were wearing shoes.

The New York Times, February 19, 2003:
It began as a modest idea: a series of small seminars by Democratic Party lawyers for elected officials, political consultants and Congressional aides on the intricacies of the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance law....

"We sometimes leave our audiences in a state of complete shock" at what they hear, said Robert F. Bauer, a lawyer for the Democrats' House and Senate campaign committees. "A sort of slack-jawed amazement at how far this thing reached" is not uncommon at the seminars, Mr. Bauer said. Nor are "a lot of very anxious questions."

Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a Republican Party lawyer who has conducted seminars for the other side of the aisle, said lawmakers were startled to hear that once-standard practices like acting as host at a fund-raiser for a home-state governor might now be illegal. "There's an initial stage where the reaction is, 'This can't be true,' " Mr. Ginsberg said. "And then there's the actual anger stage."...

The new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Representative Robert T. Matsui of California, who voted for McCain-Feingold, says he has been surprised by its fine print.

"I didn't realize what all was in it," Mr. Matsui said....

"I think it was a total surprise to people who don't read C.Q. with a yellow pen," said Bill Knapp, a Democratic media consultant, referring to Congressional Quarterly, which keeps close tabs on legislative maneuverings here....

Finally, members of both parties have been startled to learn the law's penalties. A violation of McCain-Feingold—be it a national party official's soft-money raising, or a senator's acting as a host at a fund-raiser on behalf of a governor—is a felony carrying a prison sentence of as much as five years....


From a letter sent by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to Yasir Arafat, in response to a January 26 attack in which a donkey that had been strapped with explosives detonated prematurely before wandering into a crowd, resulting in no human injuries:
All nations behave abominably in many ways when they are fighting their enemies, and animals are always caught in the crossfire.... We watched on television as stray cats in your own compound fled as best they could from the Israeli bulldozers.... If you have the opportunity, will you please add to your burdens my request that you appeal to all those who listen to you to leave the animals out of this conflict?

[Ed.: In another apparent effort to arouse the hostility of Jews, PETA initiated an advertising campaign juxtaposing images of chicken farms with images of the Holocaust.]


A New York appeals court ruled that the state agriculture department's Kosher Law Enforcement Division constitutes an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais reports on the findings of art historian Jose Milicua, that avant-garde architectural and painting techniques were used by leftist forces during the Spanish Civil War as a deliberate form of torture. In the midst of the conflict, the French painter Alphonse Laurencic accepted a commission from an anarchist group to create prison cells with steeply slanted benches and curved walls with painted patterns designed to disorient the prisoner's perspective and cause mental distress.


After a 50-year-old Australian Aborigine named Jackie Pascoe Jamilmira traded a portion of his government checks to a couple for their 14-year-old daughter, the girl resisted his advances. He punched her, put his foot on her neck, raped her, and fired a gun into the air when she complained about it.

Following his arrest, the man received a nominal 24-hour sentence. The judge ruled that the girl "knew what was expected of her" and that the rape was part of a 40,000-year-old aboriginal custom. An anthropologist submitted expert testimony calling the arranged marriage "traditional" and therefore "morally correct."

The man was later revealed to have been convicted of slaughtering his former wife.

Wired News, February 11, 2003:
Taking an aggressive stance on the issue of the digital divide, the Kentucky Housing Corporation, or KHC, has listed broadband Internet access among the inalienable rights of its low-income housing residents.
And the Associated Press reports on a program offering free high-speed Internet access to residents of a low-income housing project in Boston, February 24, 2003:
[The program] has given residents free computers to connect to the Internet using high-speed cable lines wired into every home....

Residents can buy wireless cards for their desktops or laptops. The cards, which can cost up to $100 retail, will be given away to the elderly and sold for $60 to others. After that, residents will be able to log on—for free—from anywhere within Camfield [Estates].


A set of slogans collected at an October 26 peace rally in San Francisco by Josh Harkinson, a journalist in Berkeley, California:

  • Puppies for Peace
  • Smoke Iraqi Pot, Not Iraqi People
  • Beat L.A., Not Iraq! Go Giants!
  • Make Doughnuts Not War
  • This Quaker Says No War
  • Unreasonable Women for Peace
  • Make sticks not war!
  • Real Men Work for Peace
  • Bombshells Not Bombs
  • Telluride, Colorado, 8,750 feet—2,400 miles for Peace
  • Baseball Not War
  • Transsexual Lesbian Vegan Epidemiologist Punk for Peace
  • Republicans for Peace
  • Eat Bush, Not Crawfish
  • Tango for Protest
  • Make Cookies Not War
  • Grannies Against Dead Children

In a Kansas City federal court, two African American women filed a discrimination lawsuit against Southwest Airlines after one of its flight attendants, trying to get passengers to sit down, recited over the intercom a version of a rhyme with a racist history: "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go."

According to boundary 2 editor William V. Spanos, not only is it necessary to call attention to "America's tenacious historical privileging of the imperial metaphysic perspective as the agent of knowledge production, that perspective, synchronous with the founding of the idea and practices of Europe, which, in perceiving time from after or above its disseminations, enables the spacialization of being and subjugation or accommodation of the differences it disseminates to the identical, self-present, and plenary (global/planetary) whole," it is also necessary to consider "America's obsessive and systematic refinement and fulfillment of the panoptic logic of this old world perspective in an indissolubly related array of worldly imperial practices, the intrinsic goal of which is not simply the domination of global space but also of thinking itself."


The European Commission issued a directive requiring farmers to label—with a costly ink-jet printing process—every egg they produce with their home address, the egg's method of production, the code for the producer-packer, a sell-by date, and details on the hen that laid the egg. A delegation of farmers from the southwest of England, concerned about the costs of the requirement to small producers, was told by a Brussels official that the task of labelling the eggs "would be a nice job for farmers' wives."


After nearly 100 people died and many others were seriously injured in a nightclub fire in Warwick, Rhode Island, the Paris edition of the New York Times ran an article with the following headline: "U.S. Is Behind European Nations on Crowd Safety, Experts Say."

Columbia University rescinded the Bancroft Prize it had awarded to Michael Bellesiles, author of Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, and asked Bellesiles to return its $4,000 cash award. In the book, Bellesiles claimed that private gun ownership was rare at the time of America's founding, that most firearms were in a state of disrepair, and that few people were skilled in their use, suggesting a radically more restrictive interpretation of the Second Amendment.

The prestigious prize, for outstanding works of original historical research, was awarded in April 2001, before the author's sources were properly verified. Other scholars soon discovered that much of the data cited in the book was fabricated or otherwise could not be reproduced. In one instance, Bellesiles claimed to have consulted public records that had actually been destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake of 1903. In another, he claimed that an office flood had wiped out a vital legal pad of research notes.

Bellesiles earlier lost his tenured position at Emory University. An investigative panel there found "evidence of falsification" and "serious failures of and carelessness in the gathering and presentation of archival records and the use of quantitative analysis." In withdrawing its prize, Columbia declared that Bellesiles "had violated basic norms of acceptable scholarly conduct."

For its part, Knopf announced plans to continue publishing the book, but later reversed the decision.

[Ed.: The gun issue appears to attract all types. Economist John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, was unable to reproduce details of a national survey he says he conducted, which concluded that 98 percent of defensive gun use involved the mere brandishing of a weapon. Lott claims he lost all the raw data due to a computer crash, kept no financial record of the study's costs, and forgot the names of the students who conducted telephone interviews. Lott also invented a female persona with which to defend his work in Internet discussions.]


People sending e-mail to the Centers for Disease Control to protest the questionable content of a "Great Sex" AIDS prevention workshop discovered that their messages were never received. CDC computers blocked the messages because they contained obscene materials that violated government decency standards.

A similar e-mail filter prevented members of the British Parliament from discussing a bill on sexual offenses. The software marked parts of the bill itself as pornography, along with a Liberal Democrat consultation paper on censorship.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that efforts by campus police at various universities to crack down on non-students who use public restrooms for random gay sex encounters is being called homophobic by members of the "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ)" community.

"Heterosexual couples exploring sex on lovers' lane is romanticized, but same-sex sex is treated differently," says Luke Jensen of the University of Maryland. "The question of public versus private can be a shifting paradigm. Why is a bathroom stall considered a private space except when it comes to sex?"

Some say bathroom sex is an integral part of gay identity and the coming-out process. "For some men, their whole connection with gay life stemmed from their experiences in bathrooms," says William L. Leap, American University anthropology professor and editor of Public Sex/Gay Space. "Tearooms became the basis for social interactions, a way of getting into a friendship network."

The California Patriot reports that the university-sponsored website of the UC Berkeley Queer Alliance/Queer Resource Center publishes the best locations for anonymous bathroom sex. One solicitation reads, "Find that special someone (or three)!" along with a picture of three naked men embracing. Many partitions between stalls are vandalized with "glory holes" that are used "to peer into the stall next door to see if it is occupied by a man interested in sex. If it is, the student will cross into the stall and engage with him sexually, usually without any mutual acquaintance." Indeed, the holes themselves often figure into the sex act.

[Ed.: A UC police spokesman commented that they usually respond to reported glory holes by "trying to deconstruct" them, apparently unaware of what that word has come to mean.

Some years back I went into Harvard's science building to go to the bathroom, and noticed that all the stall doors had been removed, unfortunately eliminating any hope of privacy. Upon leaving, I complained to a staff member, who replied that the doors had been removed as an "AIDS-prevention" measure. I must have had a puzzled look on my face, because he simply repeated what he had just told me—no doubt what he was told to pass along to anyone who asked—with no elaboration possible. There was a weariness in his voice.]


The latest application form for Miss Universe contestants asks aspiring beauty queens to indicate their "gender."

In Norwich, England, officials at Fairway Middle School banned students from throwing snowballs at anyone without permission of the target.