An Inclusive Litany

12/27/96

After Vice President Al Gore invoked the memory of his deceased sister, who died in "nearly unbearable pain," in a passionate speech at the Democratic Convention against the dangers of smoking, the Washington Post (among others) pointed out that Gore had been a strong supporter of the tobacco lobby well after her death in 1984. Gore later said it was "numbness" from his sister's death that allowed him to continue to grow tobacco on his family farm in Tennessee and to accept political contributions from tobacco companies as late as six years after his sister's death.

A six-year-old boy in Durham, North Carolina, sued his mother for a car accident that caused him to lose a baby tooth. The judge awarded him $7,500.

In Racine County, Wisconsin, Deborah Zimmerman was charged with attempted homicide because, two days before her baby was to be induced, she went out and got completely drop-dead drunk. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes that had she given birth to a stillborn baby, she could not have been charged with homicide because it would have considered an abortion of sorts, so it was her legal misfortune to give birth to a healthy baby.

12/23/96

Microsoft chose the translation we ruan for its Japanese operation. Translated literally as "small and soft," it has not been well received by Japanese men.

Under pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the National Park Service has removed nine deer from the Pageant of Peace on the Washington Mall's Ellipse, behind the White House. For years each Christmas the deer have been tucked away to graze in a 20-by-30-foot pen as a tribute to Santa's reindeer. But as one animal rights activist told the Washington Post, the deer looked "sad."

An Associated Press dispatch from Albany, New York, November 22, 1996:
If released, the results of newborn AIDS testing could give fathers ammunition in child custody battles and could mean an increase in domestic violence, AIDS activists claim.

The state will soon require mothers be told whether tests indicate their newborn has been exposed to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The results of that test will go into a baby's medical records, making the results available to the baby's father.

This will give the father information on the mother's condition, activists said, since a positive antibodies test for the newborn means the mother is infected with the AIDS virus.

"There's a lot of documented domestic violence that has occurred in response to positive HIV test results for women," said Virginia Shubert, an attorney with Housing Works, which helps homeless AIDS victims.

Fathers could use that information against the mother in a custody battle, Shubert told Friday's Albany Times Union.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a bill giving the Health Department authority to require the test results be made available to new mothers. The new regulation, proposed last month, hasn't been enacted yet.

Shubert said the law amounts to forced AIDS testing for mothers, who will lose the confidentiality of their own medical condition when the infant's father reads the test results, Shubert said.

Health Department spokesman Robert Hinckley confirmed that fathers would have the right to see their children's test results.

"We're not looking to deny fathers' access to their children's medical records," Hinckley said.

HIV-infected mothers transmit the virus to their babies in about one in four cases.

Butte County, California, Sheriff Mick Grey discovered that nearly 9 percent of the prisoners under his watch were receiving Supplemental Security Income, a payment from the Social Security Administration designed to help those with disabilities, despite a law that bans the incarcerated from receiving such checks. The vast majority of these disability claims stemmed from alcohol and drug abuse.

Following recommendations from the Task Force on the Education of African-American Students, the Oakland, California, Board of Education voted to classify "Ebonics" as a separate language. (The term stands for "Ebony Phonics," also known as "Black English.")

Advocates of the new policy insist that Ebonics will not be taught as a second language to students, but rather to teachers so that they will understand what their students are saying—without alienating them by holding their unique language patterns up to scorn. Critics point out that the new language would make the city's schools eligible for additional federal bilingual education funds.

[Ed.: Prior to its extensive backpedaling when the issue of "Ebonics" received withering national media exposure, the Oakland school board's original statement recognizing the alternate language suggested that it had a basis in the genetic makeup of African-Americans. Charles Murray, co-author of The Bell Curve, got into trouble for a whole lot less.]

Penn State withdrew its invitation to senior Paul Saito to provide a valedictory address at graduation ceremonies when he refused to remove a sentence from his speech thanking God for getting him through school. President Clinton also spoke at the ceremonies, and thanked God.

By law, children in New York State will henceforth be taught that the mid-19th century Irish potato famine is the equivalent of genocide, having supposedly been engineered by the British.

The cover of the November, 1996 issue of Emerge, which calls itself "black America's newsmagazine," depicts Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, referred to as "Uncle Thomas," as a "Lawn Jockey of the Far Right." As Emerge editor George Curry explains, "The lawn jockeys on plantations were used to let other owners know when a slave had escaped." Another illustration inside the magazine features Thomas grinning as he shines the shoes of Justice Antonin Scalia, who relaxes in a leather chair. Three years prior, the magazine's cover depicted Justice Thomas with an Aunt Jemima handkerchief wrapped around his head.

12/20/96

A USA Today report from Charleston, West Virginia, December 10, 1996:
The state Supreme Court said the state can't enforce a smoking ban at regional jails because the rule was adopted without inmates' input.

An invitation received by students at Harvard University:
Stephen Mitchell and Kristene Forsgard
Co-masters of Eliot House
And Nancy Goldstein and James Lin
Designated Sexual Orientation Tutors for Eliot House

Invite

the Residents of Eliot House
and all
First-Year Students at Harvard/Radcliffe to an

Evening Tea
for
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and
Transgendered
People and their Friends

Eliot House Masters' Residence (M Entry)
Thursday, 14 November 1996
7:30-9:30 pm

The Pleasure of a Reply is Requested by Tuesday 12 November
617.495.2275
(and please let us know if you are bringing a friend)

In Stuart, Florida, Pamela Harrison sued her former employer, the Kat Tales Club, alleging wrongful termination from her job as an exotic dancer. Harrison had undergone surgery that required her to wear an ostomy bag tucked into her G-string, into which body waste could flow during her performance. Harrison was fired following complaints from fellow dancers, who feared a health hazard. Harrison's complaint alleges that she was discriminated against based on her disability. An expert cited by the Associated Press said there was no health threat to others.

Fifth-graders in Alexandria, Virginia, tore up the words to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and instead sang about "the twelve days of the holidays," which included "Kwanzaa."

[Ed.: It sounds as if they missed a golden opportunity to make that particular song less annoying.]

12/16/96

Professor Louis F. Markert of California State University in the Fresno Bee, October 12, 1996:
Rock, rap, alternative rock, gangsta rap, grunge—these are tribes. They have their own lyricists, choruses, followers, and sounds.

Snoop Doggy Dog, Hootie and the Blowfish, Bjork, Blues Traveler, Shakur, Madonna, R.E.M., U2, Pearl Jam and Soul Asylum—the names are distinctive. The music is rebellious, tender, harsh, and compassionate, more emotional than spiritual, more brazen than inspiring.

It documents the experience of youth growing up in worlds created and managed by adults: families, schools, churches, neighborhoods, stores, courts, corporations, economies, industries, political parties, poverty, racism, alcoholism, abuse, and unemployment—worlds that are often harsh and uninviting. The young must make sense of them, define themselves against them, and find their way in them. Their music tells the story.

Unfortunately, their story is partly an indictment of us...

After New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's workfare program got 30,000 former welfare recipients to clean up parks, assist in hospitals, and do clerical work in city offices, local communications and transportation unions spearheaded an effort to unionize them. "They are workers now," local Communications Workers of America political director Ed Ott told the New York Times. "They want the full protections any worker is entitled to."

A regular recipient of federal and state affirmative action contracts is officially classified as Native American because he claims to have 1/64th Cherokee Indian ancestry.

After California voters passed Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative, which prohibited state racial preferences, a federal judge put the new law on hold, claiming it probably violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Perhaps enticed by lucrative gambling rights available only to Native Americans, Hawaiian groups have demanded that ethnic Hawaiians be removed from the Census Bureau's Asian/Pacific Islander racial category and reclassified as American Indians.

12/9/96

Prior to his inauspicious involvement with the O.J. Simpson murder case, Los Angeles police officer Mark Fuhrman attempted to obtain a disability pension on the grounds that he was a hopeless racist.

From the course description for "Disney: Uncle Walt and the FBI," an undergraduate offering from the Brown University Modern Culture Program:
Live action feature films, animation, Uncle Walt and the FBI, late monopoly capitalism, HUAC, theme parks, children's television, convention centers, nature documentaries, Eurodisney, postmodern architecture, the production of family life. Theory by Benjamin, Debord, Marin Baudrillard, Jameson, and others.

Letter to the editor, the New York Times, December 10, 1996:
Your Dec. 6 front-page article on the nomination of Madeleine K. Albright to be the next Secretary of State correctly notes that the holder of that office is fourth in line for the Presidency. But Ms. Albright, as you suggest, is a naturalized citizen, having been born in Czechoslovakia. Accordingly, she cannot become President because she does not meet the eligibility requirement of Article II, Section I of the Constitution that "no person except a natural born citizen" can hold the office of President.

Clearly, this constitutional provision has lingered way beyond any purpose it was designed to serve in 1787. While amending the Constitution should always be approached warily, Ms. Albright's likely accession to the position of Secretary of State provides an opportunity to cleanse our supreme statute of a provision that is now discriminatory.

—Nicholas W. Puner
Chappaqua, N.Y.

Following a sexual harassment scandal that rocked the U.S. Army, in which drill instructors and officers faced charges ranging from rape to sexual harassment perpetrated on their female trainees, Janice East Grant of the Hartford County branch of the NAACP told the Washington Post that the Army was focusing on the wrong set of victims. "I definitely think it's racial, and they're looking for a scapegoat... Historically, when black men are involved intimately or sexually with white women, the black people have been wrongly accused."

[Ed.: Indeed, many of the women involved later recanted their allegations, noting that they had been pressured to come forward.]

In her self-published classic, The Blackman's Guide to Understanding the Blackwoman, Shahrazad Ali urges black men to slap black women across the mouth when they are disrespectful, in order to reestablish the patriarchal authority that centuries of racism has disrupted.

12/3/96

58-year-old millionaire American Restaurant Group Holdings CEO Anwar Soliman was awarded $24.5 million in his suit against American Airlines. Mr. Soliman and his driver were injured in a three-car crash on a busy entrance road to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Mr. Soliman's lawyers argued successfully that two of the three drivers involved in the crash, including his own, had been distracted by the large signs American had set up to direct drivers to various gates.

In response to growing public alarm over the risks posed by air bags to children and short adults, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed maintaining the current air bag mandate—which adds about $750 to final sticker prices—while allowing dealers to disconnect the mechanism at the owner's request.

Joan Claybrook, former NHTSA administrator during 1977-81, issued the first series of air bag mandates. Later, as head of Naderite group Public Citizen, she pressured Congress to require air bags on all new cars. A Public Citizen press release now claims that she, along with other auto safety advocates, "today revealed documents dating back to the 1970s which showed that the current ... child injury problems with air bags were foreseen by auto industry tests." Yet Ms. Claybrook was instrumental in suppressing and dismissing any studies suggesting that air bags were less than completely safe, insisting that the auto companies' concerns represented a spurious and irresponsible effort to undermine public confidence in air bag safety. She recently complained to the Washington Monthly of Detroit's failure to "see the human cost of not implementing the airbag." Now, in a Washington Post op-ed, the subject of her outrage has shifted: "Despite the knowledge of the performance of the air bags they designed, promoted and are selling to the public, the auto companies until now have not explicitly warned occupants with an obvious and unequivocal label on the dashboard."

To date, more than 30 children have been killed by air-bag deployment, many of them in low-speed accidents—twice as many as the number of children saved. In addition, the estimated number of adult lives saved by air bag mandates—2,500 to 3,000—is about one quarter of the originally projected number, and is offset by a similar number of lives lost annually due to the downsizing effect of fuel-efficiency mandates.

[Ed.: Fearing lawsuits, many dealers later refused to deactivate the airbags. Later, in 1998, an Ohio man was jailed for not deactivating the bag following a crash that killed his two-month-old son.]

From a memo distributed in September, 1996, to conservative radio talk-show hosts by Rich Galen, director of political communications for Newt Gingrich. Aside from his dabblings in nonlinear dynamics, the House Speaker is otherwise well known for his rather breathless recommendations for Alvin Toffler's book of generalist prognostications, The Third Wave, among other objects of his erudition.
There is a relatively new branch of science called Chaos Theory. A common illustration of this theory is the phenomenon of a butterfly that flutters its wings in Argentina and ultimately causes a thunderstorm in New Jersey.

But another part of the theory holds that a complex system will change, well, chaotically. To take the butterfly-to-storm example, you will not be able to predict, with any degree of precision, when lightning will form and strike within that storm. One second there will be no lightning, and the next second the sky is bright. Chaos.

Or suppose you take a wineglass and begin to squeeze its upper rim. If you continue to apply pressure, at some point the glass will break. The system will collapse entirely and instantaneously. A half hour prior to the glass breaking, an observer would say that he was looking at a glass. He would not be able to tell you he was looking at a potential pile of shards.

What does this have to do with the presidential campaign? My strong impression is that there will come a time, sometime between now and November 5, when the Clinton campaign, like the glass, will entirely and instantaneously collapse. One moment it will be a campaign, the next moment it will be unrecognizable.

That's why we don't have to be frightened by the current Dole-Clinton poll numbers. At some point the poll numbers are going to shift entirely and instantaneously. After that happens, every observer will realize that the Clinton campaign is no more. Reporters constantly ask me how Dole can come back. I tell them that no amount of polling about the status of that glass half an hour before it collapsed changed the fact that it did, indeed, collapse.

Noting that Bob Dole was twenty-three points behind in the polls, Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson correspondingly told his group, "In my personal opinion, there's got to be a miracle from Almighty God to pull it out, and that could happen." As for himself, the night before his defeat Mr. Dole made a hopeful appeal to the memory of Harry Truman's 1948 surprise victory and left it at that.

On June 3, 1996, the New Yorker published a similarly reasoned appeal to nonlinearity. Malcolm Gladwell posited that the recent and unexpected free-fall decline in New York City's crime rate was not necessarily due to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's aggressive policy of punishing petty crime—using James Q. Wilson's "broken-window" theory of community breakdown as a model—but rather to a new theory that used epidemiology as a metaphor. Under this theory, crime is viewed as analogous to a medical epidemic that disappears suddenly and unpredictably only after it has run its course, seemingly impervious to direct treatment. Social pathologies may be determined by seemingly unrelated "tipping points"—plausibly relevant variables often referred to sarcastically by critics as "root causes." If social programs designed to affect these tipping points produce unsatisfactory results, Gladwell suggests that spending just a bit more may "tip" the variables the other way to produce excellent results—because the results can be expected to be nonlinear. Gladwell suggests parenthetically that this may rescue the tarnished image of modern liberalism, also remarking cattily that Gingrich, along with the rest of the new Republican congressional majority, could not be expected to possess the intellectual resources to appreciate the implications of such an advanced, innovative idea.

And finally, Boston Globe staff entertainment writer Jim Sullivan profiles rock legend David Bowie, February 9, 1997. In the article, Sullivan gently chides Bowie for a pretentious comment he made in an interview the previous year, in which he described himself as "a populist and a postmodern Buddhist surfing my way through the chaos of the 20th century." But apparently, Mr. Sullivan couldn't help sharing some deep thoughts of his own about chaos:

A mathematician might look at Bowie as a musical equivalent of fractal mathematics, where chaos is created through something called "amplification via interation," in which the outcome of a system is fed back to the system itself.

11/22/96

From a "Troubleshooter" segment reported by Judd McIlvain on the KCBS 11 o'clock news, Los Angeles, November 22, 1996:
Los Angeles is facing a $100 million city revenue shortfall, and the City Department of Transportation, Office of Parking Management, was requested to increase ticket-writing performance by 10-13%. Its administrator, Michael Inouye, estimated that the office could increase revenues by $30 million over last year. That would mean writing 227,815 tickets per month for the next 9 months to meet that revenue goal. Inouye disputes that this is a quota.

11/19/96

The Washington Post, August 18, 1996:
The telephone tree started ringing near Grant Tocher's place, warning bootleggers to dump their stocks because government officials were raiding the Fraser valley. The quick response saved most of them that day, although the G-men did haul away more than 1,000 gallons.

Of milk....

The seized and wasted milk was produced illicitly, outside the centralized "supply management" structure under which the [Canadian] government assigns quotas for dairy, poultry and some other farms to keep prices up.

The Washington Post:
Shuttle Endeavor astronauts Daniel Bursch and Marc Garneau spent nearly two hours fixing the new Coca-Cola soda fountain, which had not been cooling properly, resulting in too much fizz. For two days the machine—which cost NASA $1.75 million to fly and Coke $750,000 to build—mixed carbonated water and syrup, but wouldn't pour the finished product.

The lawyer for a Winnipeg, Manitoba, man accused of murdering his wife argued that routine pre-trial psychiatric tests of the accused might actually cure him and thus compromise his insanity defense.

Cokie Roberts discusses Democratic convention speeches on "Good Morning America":
But with these guys [Jesse Jackson and Mario Cuomo] coming, it was kind of like your young love coming back and oh, I remember when I was, you know, young and in love with this guy who was totally unacceptable, and I did the right thing by marrying the right guy—but gee, he was kind of cute.

To gauge bureaucratic stasis, members of the New York City Council staff drafted 173 letters with hypothetical complaints, questions or offers of help which they then asked citizens to sign and send to 21 different city agencies. After six weeks 120 of the letters had not been answered. Two agencies—the Human Resources Administration was one—ignored every single letter they received, including offers to donate items such as books and Little League uniforms.

An Associated Press dispatch from St. Louis, November 19, 1996:
A high school teacher fired for letting her students use profanity in skits and poems was awarded $750,000 after a federal trial.

Cissy Lacks, a 25-year teaching veteran, called Monday's decision against the Ferguson-Florissant School District "a really important statement." The district plans to appeal.

Lacks was fired from her job at Berkeley High School after the school board found out she had allowed 11th-graders to use street language in a creative writing assignment. A federal judge reinstated her in August.

Some of the student skits were videotaped in October 1994 and shown to school officials. District lawyers said students uttered a profanity every 12 seconds on average.

Jurors awarded Lacks $500,000 for the claim that she didn't get reasonable notice of her dismissal and that a ban on classroom profanity served no legitimate academic purpose.

They awarded her $250,000 on a race discrimination claim. Lacks, who is white, said black school officials objected to black students using profanity on videotape. She contended race was a motivation in the way she was treated.

11/14/96

A New York Times report from Le Mars, Iowa, November 7, 1996:
Karin A. Beitelspacher has been bringing home blue ribbons for years from 4-H club competitions at the state farm is Des Moines. But this year, even her well-received homemade salsa did not win first place.

The 16-year-old was disappointed, but then so were thousands of other children who belong to 4-H, a rite of passage in rural America. In an experiment this fall, 4-H gave 3,500 Iowa State Fair competitors the same multicolored ribbons recognizing participation, rather than awarding the traditional first, second, and third place ribbons.

An Associated Press report from Wausau, Wisconsin, October 30, 1996:
A golfer had 13 drinks before he tripped on his golf spikes and fell face first onto a brick path outside a clubhouse, breaking his jaw and shattering his teeth. But an appeals court Tuesday said the course was mostly at fault, for leaving gaps in the bricks.

Dale L. Larson—who needed nine root canals, 23 crowns and had his jaw wired shut for months—was awarded $41,540 in damages even though his own lawyer said it was rare for a drunk person to win a negligence case.

The appeals court upheld a trial judge's ruling that Indianhead Golf and Recreation Inc. of Mosinee was 51 percent negligent because of its terra-lock brick ramp that led from the clubhouse bar.

Circuit Judge Vincent Howard said gaps in the bricks could have caused even a sober person to fall. The appeals court agreed the gaps were an initiating factor, especially since the ramp was built in 1976 to save $1,440 over a recommended 4-inch thick concrete slab....

A doctor testified Larson was in a stupor, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.28 percent 90 minutes after the accident. But Larson said he was not significantly impaired by the eight beers and five mixed drinks he had over a period of six hours before the accident.

A customer at a pet shop in Quebec threatened to report the store's owner to the French-language monitoring office because she was shown a parrot that spoke only English.

The New Yorker:
Sinedu Tadesse, a junior at Harvard, stabbed her roommate of two years, Trang Ho, 45 times while Trang lay sleeping in her bed. After the murder, a fierce debate erupted over whether Harvard should establish a scholarship in the name of both girls or only in Trang's.

The previous year, Harvard rescinded its admission offer to a student who turned out to have murdered her mother. Five years before applying, Gina Grant bludgeoned her mother to death, stuck a knife through her throat and twisted her lifeless hand around it to make it look like a suicide. Grant later implicated her boyfriend in the murder, served a mere six months in a juvenile detention center, and never publicly confessed to the crime or expressed remorse. Her later application to Harvard stressed that she was an orphan, her father having died of cancer when she was eleven years old. She answered no to the question whether she had ever been disciplined or put on probation, and when a Harvard interviewer asked about her mother's death, she said it was an accident.

Nevertheless, Derek Ho, a junior at Harvard, criticized his school's decision: "If they are serious about recognizing different life stories, then she is an exemplary story we don't often see at Harvard," he told the Harvard Crimson. "Harvard has lost the opportunity to admit someone who would have added to the class of 1999." Other commentators pronounced her doubly victimized, first by her allegedly abusive mother, then by Harvard. "In exchange for her dignified silence," wrote New York Times columnist Frank Rich, "she got no rewards, only a smear campaign by Harvard." Boston Globe columnist Patricia Smith caricatured Harvard's response to Grant's past: " 'Ick. Yuck. Phooey. She's tainted. She doesn't deserve to walk our musty, hallowed halls because she's not 100 percent pure, honest, and upstanding.' " Smith concludes: "Meanwhile, here on earth we realize that human beings are fallible."

Susan Crabtree in Insight, November 11, 1996:
When Michael Parick Flanagan managed to unseat former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, he vowed he would end pork-barrel spending and reportedly wore a pig pin with a red slash through it on his lapel to demonstrate his commitment.

But since Flanagan, an Illinois Republican, has been in the House of Representatives, he has become accustomed to the ways of Washington. He has secured nearly $50 million in special-project spending for his district, including $22.5 million for the Chicago Transit Authority and $8 million to replenish the sand on the Chicago shoreline ...

Needless to say, Flanagan no longer wears the crossed-out pig on his chest. Flannagan's spokesman, Bob Manewirth, denies that his boss ever wore the symbol, but he maintains that Flanagan is still against pork-barrel spending "in a general sense. That doesn't mean that every dollar the government is spending is pork."

11/11/96

A Louisiana jury found Dow Chemical guilty of failing to adequately warn about the dangers of their silicon breast implants. Not until the next phase of the trial, however, will the jury consider what those dangers might be.

[Ed.: Leading epidemiologists have found no link between silicone-gel breast implants and rates at which women contract such diseases as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.]

Barbara Coe, a leader of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform and an architect of California's Proposition 187, is being threatened with legal action by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, California's Secretary of State, the Orange County Registrar's Office, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Her apparent offense was "intimidating voters" by posting and distributing flyers clearly stating the law: "Only Citizens Can Vote! Violators Will Be Prosecuted!"

CIA director John Deutch has been pushing for a $10 million "fitness and wellness center" to boost agency morale. According to Citizens Against Government Waste, Deutch has also advocated, among other things, "bridge and yoga rooms," and "lunchtime square dances."

The Washington Post, July 26, 1996:
Sandra and Tom Prather ... learned when they tried to enroll their 5-year-old son, T.J., in kindergarten [in Montgomery County, Maryland.] that, under state and federal regulations, they would have to decide whether the boy was white, African American, Latino, Asian or Native American. The form made no provision for the fact that T.J.'s mother is white and his father is black....

Under county regulations, the Prathers' refusal to designate a single racial or ethnic category means the school system will decide for them, and that could have significance to T.J. when school administrators assign students to classrooms or weigh transfer requests.

USA Today reports from Charleston, West Virginia, November 4, 1996:
The United Mine Workers union called a one-day walkout for Election Day so members can vote for the Democratic candidate for governor.

Time magazine, July 8, 1996:
Two dozen theater lovers—who happen to be deaf—had eagerly plunked down $10 each for a live reading of Lolita at 40 by film star Jeremy Irons in New York City. It was to be delivered with the help of a sign-language interpreter. But the group walked out en masse before a word was spoken. As the New York Daily News reported, Irons insisted that the interpreter move to one side so as not to distract the 300 hearing audience members. Then he lost his cool. "Why would deaf people attend a reading?" he snapped. "It's like a blind person wanting to attend ballet."

The Washington Post, August 9, 1996:
Look at the images on a box of Nabisco's Ritz Ark Animals, animal-shaped Ritz Crackers.... If you think the Ritz Camel looks suspiciously like cigarette spokes-toon Joe Camel, then you are not alone. Hubert H. Humphrey III, Minnesota's attorney general, ... is more than a little suspicious of the cartoon characters, and notes that Nabisco and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco are both subsidiaries of giant RJR Nabisco.

"Maybe I'm just paranoid," Humphrey said, but "that guy"—he points to the cracker box—"and that guy"—and he points to a Joe Camel advertisement in his office—"look an awful lot alike."

An article on dentistry in the Health section of the Albuquerque Journal featured dentist Leah Lauren's comments on the psychology of some of her patients: "A lot of times, if someone has been sexually abused, I can tell by how they hold their tongue."

The United Church of Christ revised its official hymnal to reflect the language of the '90s. The gender of the baby Jesus is no longer mentioned in "Silent Night." Military language has been removed from some songs. God is referred to as "Her" on occasion. Words that might offend minorities have also been taken out. "Just As I Am" no longer contains a reference to the "poor, wretched blind." And the phrase "right hand of God" in one song has been changed to the "mighty" hand of God, lest left-handed persons be offended.

The National Review, November 11th, 1996:
Under the 1990 Hate Crime Statistics Act, the FBI classifies victims of hate crimes by race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation, but identifies perpetrators only by race. Hispanics, therefore, are recognized as victims, but not as perpetrators. Since most Hispanics are officially identified as "white," if a Hispanic attacks a black, it is typically counted as a white-on-black hate crime. Similarly, if a Hispanic attacks an Asian, it is a white-on-Asian hate crime. And if a Hispanic attacks a Hispanic, it is a white-on-Hispanic hate crime.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health concluded that the well-documented prevalence of hypertension among African Americans is largely caused by racial discrimination. The article, "Racial Discrimination and Blood Pressure," was written by Nancy Krieger of the Harvard School of Public Health, and its conclusions were reported in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and on news broadcasts nationwide, thanks to a strategically timed press release faxed to various media outlets by the American Public Health Association's public-relations department.

The study was based on blood pressure readings taken from 831 black men and 1,143 black women between the ages of 25 and 37. The participants were asked questions designed to categorize them by income, occupation, education, and marital status. Factors known to raise blood pressure, such as obesity and smoking, were identified and weighted to eliminate them as variables. Participants were also asked if they experienced racism in any of seven situations: "at school," "getting a job," "at work," "getting housing," "getting medical care," "on the street or in a public setting," and "from the police or in the courts."

Though Krieger concluded that the stress of experiencing racism is a significant cause of high blood pressure among African Americans, some of her results did not fit that thesis. For example, professional-class blacks had significantly lower blood pressure than working-class blacks, even though the study's data showed that professional-class blacks claim to encounter more racism than their blue-collar counterparts. But according to Krieger it doesn't drive their blood pressure up as much because of "their greater social and economic resources and, thus, perhaps greater willingness to name and challenge discriminatory treatment."

Krieger also used her interpretive skills to explain other anomalies as well. While the average blood pressure of those reporting multiple instances of racism was higher than that of those who said they experienced less racism, the highest average blood pressure was found in working-class black men who reported no discrimination at all. Krieger explained the deficiency thus: "Individuals who have experienced but feel unable to challenge discrimination may find it painful to admit that they have experienced discrimination, either to themselves or another person."

The study's data also showed that professional-class black men who report no discrimination suffer less hypertension than professional-class black men who do. While this fits with Krieger's overall thesis, it does not square with her previous contention that those reporting no discrimination were effectively in denial and presumably suffering even greater discrimination. As a result, Krieger asserted that because of their greater resources, professional-class black men do not lie to themselves about racism, but instead confront it when it happens. They can thus be trusted to report their experiences accurately, whereas working-class black men cannot.

Also, working-class black women who presumably accept discrimination and keep it to themselves have higher blood pressure than those who talk about it, but working-class black men who talk about it have higher blood pressure than those who remain silent. Krieger explains: "These patterns may reflect gender differences in how working-class black women and men respond to and talk about discrimination."

Krieger's previous articles on related subjects include "The influence of social class, race, and gender on the etiology of hypertension among women in the United States" and "Racism, sexism, and social class: implications for studies of health, disease, and well-being."

On October 26, the Washington Post reported on a woman's abduction from a garage at Tysons II Galleria mall near Washington, describing the rape suspect as follows: "Police describe the suspect as muscular, about six feet one inch tall and about 190 pounds, with short dark hair and dark eyes." However, the original police report described the suspect as "muscular and dark-skinned, about six feet one inch tall," etc., which is also what the warning posters at the mall said the next day.

11/4/96

The Washington Post, July 22, 1996:
The National Endowment for the Arts ... helps support dozens of small cultural organizations in Utah, from dance ensembles and string quartets to folk ballets and repertory theaters. [Sen. Robert F.] Bennett, a Mormon with strong conservative values, told members of an Appropriations subcommittee that he would fight to add $10 million to the $82.7 million allowed for the agency as the bill moved through the Senate.

Then came conservative Mississippi Republican Thad Cochran, lamenting the shortage of funds for Choctaw Indian schools and the fiscal plight of Vicksburg, Miss., National Military Park. "They can't even keep the grass mowed. It's sad," he complained.

Finally, Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-NM), the Budget Committee chairman who has led the fight for a balanced budget, spoke his piece. After going on record in support of the NEA, he added a general comment: "We are shortchanging investments.... This can't continue. We've got to find some way to increase appropriations."

An investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer found that some of the Department of Energy's recent activities included developing suntan lotion, maintaining the assembly line for Dove ice cream bars, and improving the fireworks at Walt Disney World.

An Associated Press dispatch from Washington, Connecticut, November 22, 1996:
Feathers will likely fly this weekend if animal rights activists crash the annual Turkey Olympics at the Inn at Lake Waramaug.

The games planned for Sunday feature a turkey high jump, slalom run and even a contest for the most beautiful or best-dressed bird. The event has drawn up to 2,000 spectators.

This year, it has also drawn the wrath of protesters.

"It's a cruel thing to force these animals to do stupid things," said Pam Ferdin, of the Connecticut-based Animal Defense League. The group plans to protest the turkey games.

From a staff-written memo published in Z magazine:
Yes, some people, for whatever reason, are "good" at writing and are a joy to read. But a political magazine needs to present a wider range of thought and activism from a more representative group of people, not only those with the time, money, connections, skill, and/or confidence to do it.

The Internal Revenue Service's plan to allow taxpayers to file returns directly from their personal computers to IRS centers via the Internet has been shelved for the foreseeable future, reports the Los Angeles Times. The decision came after the General Accounting Office found the Cyberfile system had 49 physical and electronic security weaknesses. Among them, "the central computer for Cyberfile was located in a dusty sub-basement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that is subject to flooding." In addition, "the computer room had doors with locks installed backwards, meaning they could be easily breached, and sprinkler pipes hung so low that workers had to squat."

USA Today reports from Seattle, Washington, November 4, 1996:
Helen Sanwell, a King County parks manager who worked overtime without pay, has been suspended for six days for insubordination, beginning Wednesday. Officials said she'd been warned about overtime work, which they say violates federal law.

The following expenditures were submitted to the federal Medicare program for partial reimbursement by administrators at three Philadelphia hospitals. The list appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and comes from a series of audit reports, completed in 1994 by the Department of Health and Human Services, of 21 randomly selected hospitals throughout the country. The report found $50 million in expenditures that "were not related to patient care" and thus had been improperly charged to Medicare.
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
  • $46,354 for the president's housing allowance
  • $45,441 for a corporate triathalon
  • $27,209 for executive automobile allowances
  • $23,584 for local meals and luncheons
  • $14,743 for renovation of a physician's office
  • $10,082 for insurance on fine art and the former president's automobile
  • $1,061 for plant rentals for a cocktail reception
  • $602 for seventy small desk clocks
  • $466 for twenty-four 10-karat-gold-filled pen and pencil sets
Medical College of Pennsylvania
  • $10,215 for clocks, watches, bowls, and other gifts for employees and friends of the hospital
  • $7,230 for paperweights given to employees and friends of the hospital on Founder's Day
  • $4,697 for sponsorship of a bike race
  • $3,613 for retreats at a local hotel
  • $2,588 for flowers and fruit baskets for employees and friends of the hospital
  • $2,433 for a trip to Italy to inspect a sculpture
  • $1,581 for an employee holiday party
  • $for a golf and tennis outing
  • $798 for coffee service at holiday and Secretary's Day luncheons
Moss Rehabilitation Hospital
  • $3,524 for holiday gifts to physicians
  • $2,386 for entertainment and cocktails at an open house
  • $1,833 for gifts to physicians who had referred patients to Moss
  • $325 for imprinted mugs and sunglasses
  • $263 for musical statues
  • $140 for an executive to have his car washed
  • $67 for the vice president's lunch on a Saturday when he worked

10/21/96

Water Department officials in Denver, eager to improve the river backdrop for photographs during a visit by Vice President Al Gore, released 96 million gallons of water into the South Platte River at a cost to taxpayers of $58,000. "When you have the river being showcased, you want it to look good," explained one official.

In the interest of good taste, France's sports minister ordered the French synchronized swimming team not to perform the routine it had planned for the 1996 Olympics. The team wanted to aquatically recreate the herding of Jewish women into Nazi death camps and their deaths in gas chambers. The team's trainer defended the routine as anti-racist art.

If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, and one New Yorker has found a particularly unusual way to make a living. "Joseph," a methadone addict who might be found in the Madison Square area on 23rd Street around the Flatiron Building, has for four years sold his urine to heroin addicts who need methadone-laced, but otherwise drug-free, urine samples to pass weekly drug tests at methadone clinics. His buyers include recovering addicts who lapse into drug use sometimes, taking Valium, Xanax, Klonopin or even crack cocaine, but who don't want to wind up in rehab.

The New York Observer quotes Joseph: "Once people found out that I didn't take pills, the people here in the park says, Hey, we know that you're clean, so could you sell me some of your urine? ... I do smoke weed, O.K., and weed is against the rules, but the programs are too cheap to test for it. Anyway, I said, sure, no problem. But I was kind of shocked by the aspect of selling someone's bodily fluids."

Following what appeared to be a wave of arsons directed against black churches, the National Council of Churches asked the United Nations to monitor racism in America. However, the Justice Department and various journalists concluded that burnings of black churches comprise a relatively small part of church arson in America, which is on the decline; that a brief increase in the number of reported black church arsons over the previous two years was due to more efficient reporting and statistics kept on the crimes; that many of the "arsons" turned out to be accidental fires; that many of the congregations labeled "black" were mixed-race and sometimes overwhelmingly white; that about one third of the arsonists involved were black; and that arsonists' motives were often unclear—sometimes including concealment of theft and insurance fraud. Investigators also noted a large number of copycat crimes stemming from close media attention paid to the story.

[Ed.: As a result of publicity surrounding the church arson story, the NCC received donations of $9 million. While some of that money will go towards rebuilding churches, over a third will go towards "advocacy" projects to reduce racism. Conservative evangelicals joined the leftist NCC in its crusade.]

10/14/96

As part of a Federal Aviation Administration program designed to explore sexual harassment issues, a female employee was reportedly told to strip to her underwear and was then bound to a similarly attired male employee for 24 hours, including bathroom visits.

Also at the FAA, a seminar was led by Gregory May, who reportedly maintained contact via channeling with a 35,000-year-old spirit named Ramtha. Employees were required to sit motionless on the floor for hours, visualizing their spirit flowing between two candles.

Maryland police officers attended a daylong seminar to sensitize them to various religious practices, including voodoo, Satanism and paganism. They were warned that, if they ask a witch to step out of a ceremonial circle, she may use a real sword to cut an imaginary exit.

A spokesman for the environmental-activist group Greenpeace urged calm in response to news that the group kept oil drums full of radioactive sand at its London headquarters. The sand had been collected around a nuclear power plant and the group had neglected to dispose of it. The spokesman announced: "There is absolutely no health risk or danger to the public."

Excerpts from an interview with President Clinton in the Wall Street Journal, August 1, 1996:
"Sen. Fulbright had a profound impact on the way I now view the world," the president told me. "He ... cautioned against the arrogance of power."

. . .

"The most significant accomplishment in the last four years is that I have largely succeeded in changing the way we think about ourselves and our future."

Following the example of Sweden, the Italian government has outlawed the spanking of children who misbehave. Italy's highest court handed down the ruling in the case of a girl who had been slapped by her father at age ten and then complained to the police. "Italian parents can no longer hit their children even if they think a smack is of educational value," Reuters reported.

Also, Italy's highest appeals court ruled that it is not a crime to beat your wife from time to time, reversing a jail sentence of a Sicilian husband because he did not hit his wife habitually but occasionally, "only because of jealousy."

In an analysis of "ethical mutual funds," which invest in "socially responsible" companies and control about $639 billion worth of investments, Fortune magazine reported that these funds produced an 18.2 percent return over the previous year, compared with the S&P average rate of 27.2 percent—a total loss of $57.5 billion to their investors.

While the funds no doubt perform poorly due to the relatively unprofitable nature of the companies targeted for investment, they are also the focus of an unusual amount of litigation. Vigilant, progressive-minded investors apparently have a strong tendency to sue whenever they discover their money is directed towards companies they consider irresponsible by some measure—such as their percentage of women and minority board members or whether they do business with repressive regimes—even those firms the presumably idealistic money managers consider socially responsible by other measures.

[Ed.: Mutual funds that earn nine percent under average are, by definition, socially irresponsible.]

After six-year-old first grader Johnathan Prevette was caught kissing a girl on the cheek, he was suspended for a day from Southwestern Elementary School in Lexington, North Carolina, for sexual harassment. As school district spokeswoman Jane Martin commented, "A six-year-old kissing another six-year-old is inappropriate behavior. Unwelcome is unwelcome at any age." Confronted with a hailstorm of criticism and negative publicity, school officials soon backpedaled, arguing that the boy was punished under "the general school rule which prohibits unwarranted and unwelcome touching of one student by another." But Johnathan insisted that the girl, whose name was not disclosed, requested the peck.

Ten days later, De'Andre Dearinge, a seven-year-old New York City boy was suspended for five days as a sexual harasser for kissing a classmate because "I like her" and then impulsively pulling a button off her skirt. When asked about the button, the boy alluded to Corduroy, the bear with the missing button in the famous children's story. School officials later knocked two days off the boy's sentence after it became clear that he had no idea what sex was.

10/11/96

In Bedford, Virginia, an elementary school teacher confiscated a book a fourth-grader brought to class. The teacher felt the book, which contained a chapter on condoms and sexual disease, wasn't appropriate for a school setting. The book was Rush Limbaugh's The Way Things Ought to Be.

The Wall Street Journal reports that since 1987, the Centers for Disease Control has knowingly misled the public about the otherwise low risk of contracting AIDS through vaginal intercourse, diverting attention and resources from the actual high-risk groups: homosexual men and intravenous drug users or their sexual partners.

Portraying AIDS as an equal-opportunity disease that does not discriminate, the CDC regularly released misleading reports suggesting that women were, as the New York Times put it, "the new face of AIDS." Later, backed not only by AIDS advocacy groups but by prominment social conservatives eager to combat promiscuity, the CDC also conducted a campaign to convince teenagers and college students that they, too, were at great risk of contracting the disease. But the risk of contracting AIDS has always been low for people outside the high-risk groups—comparable with getting struck by lightning, drowning in a bathtub, or being killed by a malfunctioning automatic garage door.

The CDC justified its disinformation campaign on the grounds that the Reagan administration was unlikely to fund initiatives aimed at high-risk groups, and that the public was less likely to support its efforts if marginal groups were the perceived beneficiaries. For its part, the press was also eager to hype the threat of heterosexual AIDS, perhaps to better relate the story to their audiences, perhaps out of squeamishness at the prospect of detailing anal sex. A 1987 study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that heterosexuals were eight times more likely to appear as AIDS victims on television than they were to actually contract the disease.

New Hampshire's Manchester Union Leader, October 11, 1996:
Citing the violent nature of many Halloween costumes, officials at Maple Avenue and Bartlett Elementary schools have discontinued the annual Halloween parade, a 30-year tradition for children in first through third grades.

"So many Halloween costumes are based on themes of gore and violence," said Maple Avenue Principal Marc Boyd. "We have to wonder if that's something we really want the children involved in."

With that idea in mind, Boyd said staff at the school have planned a Harvest Day celebration as a way of bringing students in touch with fall-related themes.

As part of the Harvest Day celebration, Boyd said children will create scarecrows in the image of New Hampshire historical figures, write stories and skits about the harvest, make apple cider, carve pumpkins and study pumpkin-related literature such as Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

10/9/96

Serving a 25-year-to-life sentence for murder, Colin Fearon has filed at least 544 lawsuits against the New York State prison system since his incarceration in 1974. These suits deal with issues such as cold coffee, a cell sprayed for roaches, being awakened by a guard delivering throat lozenges, and having his copy of the Village Voice delivered to the wrong cell. Now 41 years old and known as Chaka Zulu, he has sued for $2 million for being lacerated by a plastic spoon, $4.2 million for an eye injury because of ceiling construction, $4 million because prison officials lost his allergy medicine, and $3.2 million because prison officials failed to allow him time to file a claim.

Officials at Klingwood Middle School north of Houston, Texas, suspended junior high-school student Brooke Olson for a day for having a bottle of Advil, a non-prescription painkiller, in her backpack.

The painkiller was found by a drug-sniffing dog going through students' belongings during gym class. School district policy requires students to give all drugs, prescription or non-prescription, to the school nurse who then dispenses them.

Olson, an honor student and student-council member, told reporters that she knew about the district policy, but had forgotten she was carrying the Advil.

10/7/96

As part of his "Teaming with Wildlife" proposal, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt proposed taxes on all outdoor recreation equipment, which included birdseed, backpacks, cameras (and film), compasses, canoes, Chevy Blazers, skis, snorkels, and sleeping bags. Babbitt told the Associated Press the $350 in tax increases—"a great win-win situation for everyone"—would fund conservation projects for more than 1,800 species not classified as either endangered or game animals.

The following day, President Clinton compelled Babbitt to release a statement saying the President "did not support" the proposal.

Paul Castaldo in the alumni newsletter of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Spring 1996:
The genius of the 95/96 Sculpture department brings forth crickets, guinea pigs, cow guts, cake icing, Jello, potatoes, asphalt, honey dipped babies, liquid nitrogen, and a giant tampon box to the apex of the amalgamated mountain of material possibilities. Busy hands are rolling these materials into a visual vocabulary which speaks of issues such as gender positions, cultural sarcasm, the body, and the beautiful. Amy O'Neill physically shoved a full-sized wrecked car into the sculpture courtyard, combining the physical material possibilities of the car with computer generated postcards, Mark Rowland sweetens and brings to life minimalism by encasing work boots in a cube of jello. The cube's boundaries are being broken apart even further by the newly acquired video projector, allowing a multitude of projection sizes, surfaces, and most importantly the ability of video to encompass or interact with a three dimensional space.

Ann Messner, Daniel Oates, Matthew McLaslin and Rirkrit Tiranvaniji are a few of the visiting artists who are helping to define individual art practices. Personal, public, and cultural boundaries are being questioned in lively visual and verbal languages which this year's sculpture department takes on fervently.

A review by the Inspector General of the Federal Emergency Management Agency found that $268 million in disaster funds went to low-priority items that benefit a relatively small, elite segment of the public. These include repairs to an archery range, the storm-damaged scoreboard at Anaheim Stadium, cart paths at a California golf course (which charges $120 for a round of golf), trees blown down at another golf course in Florida, tree and shrub damage at the opulent Vizcaya Mansion Museum and Gardens in Miami, and restoration of yachting marinas and horse trails. Following congressional criticism, FEMA spokeswoman Deborah Hunt replied that such expenditures were authorized in 1974 when Congress said any publicly owned park or recreation facility could qualify for disaster relief funds.

10/3/96

If you've been using terms like Chicano, Latino, Raza, Mestizo, or Hispanic to refer to certain inhabitants of Mexico and Central America or their descendants, then you've been woefully wrong. The correct appellation is "Mexica," according to the Chicano Mexicano Mexica Empowerment Committee (CMMEC) of Huntington Park, California, publisher of the Mexica Handbook: The Mexica Guide to the 21st Century and Beyond.

"We, the people of Mexica Original Inhabitant (Indigenous) descent have been branded "Hispanic" and "Latino," comments the author, Olin Tezcatlipoca. "We are the descendents of the ancient so-called 'Mesoamerican' civilizations that covered an area from Aztlan (the so-called U.S. Southwest) to the area called Costa Rica in Central America."

The author urges the aspiring "Mexica Warrior" to learn Nahuatl, "the language of our people," not to marry outside the race, and to tell blondes how "ridiculous" they look.

From the February/March 1996 issue of Mass RAIL, a publication of the Massachusetts Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist League (RAIL), a part of the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM). The article, which concerns a date rape case at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, may be interpreted as a bewildered attempt by the traditional, "hard" Marxist Left to come to terms with young turks.
Popular pseudo-feminist Katie Koestner spoke about her date rape to a packed room of several hundred. In 1990, after she had dated a man for a week and a half, he raped her in her college dorm room. The District Attorney wouldn't prosecute the man. Koestner then asked her college to take disciplinary action; the man was banned from Koestner's dorm for the semester.

Now Koestner is on a tour of college campuses, lecturing about date rape: what it is, and how to avoid it. Her lectures are a confused but deliberate attempt to separate rape from sex. MIM believes that no meaningful distinction between the two is possible under patriarchy; women never consented to being born into a system in which men have more power than they do, so how can women ever give coercion-free consent to individual sex acts?

While MIM acknowledges that under patriarchy, all sex is rape, we know that First World women do not need sexual relationships for survival. MIM upholds asexuality as the most advanced sexual practice if done correctly. [!] We also do have policies regarding divorce for spousal abuse. As the next best thing to asexuality, we require forever monogamy of our members and advocate it for the masses, because a commitment to working through problems in a relationship is a closest thing to a guarantee of increasing equality in a relationship. We work to abolish patriarchy which is the only way to end rape. Feminists need to focus on building independent institutions of the oppressed to overthrow patriarchy, not on how to distinguish between good sex and bad sex within the confines of patriarchy....

Koestner is pro-pig, encouraging women to file rape charges in criminal courts, and to pressure college judicial systems to give stronger punishments....

On a related note, the following are highlights from 'Prison Awareness Week, 1995':
Dr. Allyn Rickett spoke about his experience in a Chinese prison undergoing a process of thought reform through criticism and self-criticism. Dr. Rickett and his wife were American students in revolutionary China. He was justly arrested as an Amerikan spy. Many members of the audience remarked on the differences between Dr. Rickett's treatment—as a serious objective enemy of the people—and the treatment of Amerika's prisoners.

RAIL and MIM held a panel discussion of why all prisoners are political prisoners. One anarchist thought calling all prisoners political prisoners was detracting from the importance of those incarcerated for their openly political acts. While MIM agreed with the importance of defending revolutionary leaders, we do not think recognizing the political nature of all incarceration takes away from the sacrifices made by individuals in the revolutionary struggle. While many in attendance thought MIM was right about the political nature of incarceration, others were outright reactionary and thought the solution to "racial" disparities in arrest and conviction was incarcerating more white people—and they weren't talking about Bill Clinton.

Perhaps due to the success of affirmative action hiring policies, women and certain minorities have become over-represented in much of California's public sector—that is, disproportionate to their numbers in the general population. The solution? Many state agencies have now established "goals" and timetables to encourage the hiring of whites and men.

The Wall Street Journal reports: "The Franchise Tax Board plans to hire 45 whites and 95 male typists over the next 10 years. The state Department of Education has set goals for men in staff services, information systems, and janitorial positions. The Department of Social Services has goals for men in legal services, staff services, information systems, and investigative positions. The Department of Corrections has goals for white correctional officers and parole agents." U.S. News & World Report quotes European American Correctional Workers Association founder John Blackwell: "If they want to play the game with racial quotas, then we will also play the game."

10/2/96

Course description for "Asian-American Texts: Racial Castration," an English and Comparative Literature graduate course offering from Columbia University:
If, as Norma Alarcon suggests, people of color are multiply interpellated, then the traditional ways in which feminism and queer studies have taught us to read psychoanalysis is as a naturalizing discourse of sexual and, in particular, heterosexual difference must necessarily be expanded to include a viable account of race as well. This seminar investigates the intersection of sexual and racial difference in psychoanalytic theory, with a particular focus on masculinity in Asian American and African American literatures. Reading from Freud and Lacan, as well as from feminist, postcolonial, critical race, and queer studies, the course provides a theoretical grounding in several key psychoanalytic concepts (narcissism, the mirror stage, aggressivity, paranoia, hysteria, the Oedipus complex, fetishism, and the primal scene), while exploring how these identificatory paradigms socially institute a system of compulsory heterosexuality and whiteness. In addition to psychoanalytic readings, we will discuss how Asian American and African American male subjectivity work both with and against the theoretical models we develop. We will end by addressing the ethics of psychoanalysis and the question of naming.

Sheila A. Mahoney in Policy Review, September/October 1996:
Karla Hauk and her husband and business partner, Richard Hauk, opened a 32-room Days Inn franchise in Wall, South Dakota. That was on July 1, 1994, about six months after the Americans with Disabilities Act went into effect. They thought they were ready: Following their franchiser-approved plans, they made two of their 32 rooms accessible to handicapped patrons and made the entrance of their motel accessible to wheelchairs. When they opened their doors, they became the first hotel in Wall to provide rooms with accommodations for the handicapped.

Their reward? Karla, Richard, their architect, their contractor, and their franchiser are all being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for failure to comply with ADA regulations. They are charged with "unlawful discrimination" toward individuals with disabilities.

It all started with a whirlpool. According to the Justice Department's suit, the Hauks' two-story motel became a three-story facility when they installed a whirlpool in the basement. ADA regulations require that their motel have an elevator so that handicapped customers can reach every floor, as well as a ramp leading to the whirlpool. According to Karla Hauk, installing the elevator alone would cost more than $100,000, not including the increase in property taxes. Even if the owners removed the whirlpool and left the basement empty, they would still be required to build an elevator for handicapped access, because the Justice Department has declared the basement "occupiable space." In addition to the elevator, the ADA requires the Hauks to widen all of the bathroom doors in the non-handicapped rooms. "If someone who uses a wheelchair ... visits another guest in a non-accessible guest room, he or she will not be able even to enter the bathroom in that room," according to the suit....

Karla Hauk says ... if they had known then what they know now, they never would have built the motel. "We wish to God we never had. They will bankrupt us."

"Today" co-host Bryant Gumbel converses with O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran in a three-day series of interviews, September 30-October 2, 1996:

  • Comments that he has made to others would seem to indicate a certain degree of, and not unjustifiably, a certain degree of anger, bitterness. Has he expressed that to you?

  • Why do you suppose it is that one year after his acquittal, most white Americans at least, cannot accept the idea that he's out walking around free, refuse to let him live his life?

  • Most white Americans still charge that O.J.'s jurors didn't do their job. You talk about a rush to judgment. They would claim the same. They would claim the verdict was race-based. Do you think their judgment of those jurors is race-based?

  • Do you think O.J. will ever get a fair shake in this country? Will people ever let him live out his life and accept the fact that he was acquitted?
Gumbel:
Do you think if those two victims had been, say, Marguerite, his first wife, and Al Cowlings, his best friend, that there would have been the same amount [of media attention]?
Cochran:
Absolutely not. And I think any person who wants to be honest about it would say the same thing.
Gumbel:
Why? Because America doesn't care about black victims?
...and another comment from Gumbel on October 16:
Two weeks after his acquittal, we'll see how O.J. Simpson is still being treated as if he were guilty.

9/30/96

A University of Florida art student, intent on conveying "the process of struggle throughout life," dipped mice into orange polyester resin and cut the hardened result into 50 two-inch pieces to form a sculpture. University officials confiscated the project and said they would decide whether to take action against him.

Various special observances for the month of September, 1996:

  • Baby Safety Month
  • Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month
  • Children's Eye and Safety Month
  • International Gay Square Dance Month
  • Library Card Sign-Up Month
  • Marriage Health Month
  • National Chicken Month
  • National Cholesterol Awareness Month
  • National Honey Month
  • National Gum Care Month

During the same month, the following week-long observances are heralded:

  • National Religious Reference Books Week
  • National Financial Services Week
  • Subliminal Marketing Awareness Week
  • Saving Tigers Week

In response to parents' protests, New York City is ending the automatic testing of children with Spanish names for placement in bilingual-education classes. Under the policy, Hispanic children who scored below the 40th percentile in a standardized English exam (40 percent of all the students taking the test) were automatically placed in Spanish-language programs, even if they did not speak Spanish.

In Los Angeles, parents of 80 Latin-American students arranged a boycott of the Ninth Street School because they had asked for classes to be conducted in English and did not get it.

9/24/96

Anita Cragg is owner and president of Space Coast Management Services, Inc. In 1992, she bought an existing subdivision in Country Cove, Florida, with plans to expand and build new homes adjacent to the previously developed site. Cragg's permits were in order and some buyers were waiting to build and settle in.

But while surveying for waterline extensions in 1993, officials from the Fish and Wildlife Service noted two endangered scrub jays flying onto Cragg's lots. The officials claimed that Cragg's planned development posed a potential hazard to land "suitable for occupation by scrub jays" and suspended construction on the site. Cragg insists that neither the Fish and Wildlife Service, nor an independent environmental engineer hired by Cragg, could locate any scrub-jay nests on her property. Her four-person company fought with officials for 18 months. Construction was frozen in the meantime, while Cragg's buyers had to continue paying real-estate taxes on the land.

Forcing her into a corner, the agency had her purchase four acres off-site for every one on-site to compensate for the loss of potential scrub-jay habitat. This cost Cragg's company $100,000.

Letter to the editor, the Evansville Courier, May 2, 1996:
As a viewer of CNN and a concerned citizen, I was watching CNN on April 24 and saw the latest poll about the voting record of the news media. According to that poll, 87 percent of the journalists in America voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Republicans are perceiving this as proof that the media are liberal-biased. Leading the attack is our illustrious speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

I think we should take a second look. Media people are professional and are accountable for their coverage of the facts, figures and everything they report in the political arena. It seems to me that therefore they would be the most informed and objective people in America.

If 87 percent of these people voted for President Clinton, I think it proves the right man got the job and should be re-elected.

Producers of a movie based on the life of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, a flamboyant bisexual who died of a drug overdose at age 27, have decided to change some facts. For example, they said, they will make Basquiat a pure heterosexual "to mainstream the movie," and will eliminate any references to drugs. "We tried to make Jean-Michel Basquiat into an upbeat story," one of the producers said, "so we left out his death from choking on his own vomit."

Terry L. Greenberg, a federal prison inmate incarcerated in Florida, sued the U.S. Government, alleging that it owed him an extra $20,000 for working in a prison factory in 1991 and 1992. Mr. Greenberg sought redress based on the theory that minimum wage laws apply to prisoners, and indeed there seems to be nothing in the current law to suggest that they don't. Inmates earn, on average, about 40 cents an hour.

9/23/96

A report by the non-profit Contributions Watch found that trial lawyers have contributed at least $100.4 million to politicians at the state and federal level from 1990 through 1995, more than any other profession. Particularly disturbing, state attorneys general have, in effect, deputized trial lawyers to litigate costly tort cases for them on a contingency basis—primarily in suits involving tobacco companies and the health-care costs incurred by smokers. In a blatant conflict of interest, some state prosecutors are handing out these contracts—in which tort lawyers can share in huge personal rewards—without competitive bidding, and the lawyers then contribute large amounts of money to various politicians' campaigns.

[Ed.: There has been considerable debate among economists and policy analysts over one of the central assumptions behind many of these lawsuits—that tobacco users constitute a drain on the Medicare system. The argument revolves around the contention that smokers tend to die early before being able to take full advantage of their medical benefits, effectively subsidizing nonsmokers' health care.]

9/22/96

Responding to complaints by a disgruntled employee, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration held a three-hour inspection of Judy's Bakery in Evanston, Illinois, a small enterprise that employs 30 people.

OSHA's report cited owner Judy Hooper, for, among other things, failing to have a written "Material Safety Data Sheet" for "hazardous" chemicals used at the bakery. The only chemicals used at the bakery were ordinary household bleach and pink dishwashing liquid, which both feature clearly marked warning labels.

Ms. Hooper was also cited for failing to have a written plan for emergencies such as a fire. The shop, which is on the first floor and has four clearly marked exits, is inspected twice a year by the Evanston Fire Department with no problem.

Hooper also failed to post an accident log on the shop's wall, even though her company had never had an accident requiring a worker's compensation claim. OSHA responded that this was irrelevant and argued that the log must hang on the wall even if it contained all zeroes, one for each accident-free day.

At her informal settlement hearing with OSHA officials, Hooper was able to negotiate the resulting fines down from $13,000 to $5,450, but Hooper was still required to spend the balance on safety and health programs for her employees and to present proof she had complied.

Ironically, none of the citations was related to the employee's complaints, which were found to be baseless.

The Darien Times of Darien, Connecticut, June 27, 1996:
Markham Sherwood of Norwalk, 19, was charged with sixth-degree larceny after allegedly stealing a pack of condoms from CVS, 964 Post Road, at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Markham was detained by store personnel after setting off the anti-theft alarm.

Markham reportedly told police he took the $3.99 pack of Trojans because condoms are given away free at college.

After Miami police officer Jesus Bencomo was caught having sex with a woman in an unmarked police car, he was charged with using a county vehicle for personal business and conduct unbecoming an officer, and subsequently demoted. However, Dade County Commissioners later accepted a deal in which, in return for his early retirement, Bencomo would receive $180,000 and an annual pension of almost $60,000. This came only after Bencomo threatened to charge the department with anti-Hispanic discrimination. Police commissioners said the settlement was cheaper than litigation and keeping him on the payroll.

From a memo to EPA "division directors" signed by William H. Sanders, III, Director, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, Environmental Protection Agency, August 23, 1996:
It is time once again to start thinking about the performance evaluation process. I understand that the schedule for conducting 1996 performance evaluations will be similar to last year. Attached is a calendar of events for your use in starting to schedule the necessary discussions/meetings. Also, attached to the calendar is an [sic] rating sheet on which you need to record tentative employee evaluation scores by gender, ethnicity and job category (professional/administrative, clerical secretary).

Another memo, this one from the Department of Agriculture, titled "Policy on Selecting Employees from Under Represented Groups":

All selecting officials must justify, in writing, the non-selection of candidates on the best qualified list who are from under-represented, protected groups. This policy is designed to encourage support for diversity in the work force and increase opportunities for all candidates.

9/19/96

Letter to the editor, the Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1996, concerning a column by Charles Krauthammer, who is paraplegic:
As a woman sculptor who has a disability and uses a wheelchair, I would like to respond to Charles Krauthammer's commentary headlined "Defining the image of FDR" (Op-Ed, June 17).

Whether Krauthammer is disabled or non-disabled, his usage of able-ist (disability prejudice) descriptors such as "afflicted" and "wheelchair-bound" may reflect his own fear and negative attitude toward disability.

Krauthammer questioned the portrayal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his wheelchair by saying, "Does it justify violating the self-image, the pride, the intentions of the man whom we are ostensibly honoring?" He further suggests that any chair but a wheelchair for FDR is acceptable. But a person uses a wheelchair for mobility purposes, similar to a person who uses an automobile. The FDR memorial sculpture wheelchair controversy illuminates how deeply societal disability stereotypes are symbolically embedded within the wheelchair.

Differences such as gender, race, ethnicity or disability are not value judgements. These differences are integral aspects of one's identity and experience of the world, and do not need to be overcome, hidden or silenced. An FDR portrayed without his wheelchair in his memorial sculpture will justifiably reflect historical and contemporary societal ableism.