An Inclusive Litany
At last I have been driven to write to you. For years I have wondered what you folks found comical about someone with authority punching out someone under their control. Every time I read Beetle in your paper and Sarge had beat him up, I was upset rather than amused. So what. "It's only a comic strip." Well, this is what it was like for some in the service 40 years ago, and I would be naive to believe it doesn't still occur.
Why not a strip about a policeman pounding a suspect, a drunk beating his wife of girlfriend? Here you show the person with the power doing what is not acceptable and we are supposed to think this is somehow humorous. Maybe something is wrong with my thinking, but this has not set well with me, and I'm glad to express my feelings.
Griffin complains that the university respects the diversity of some people but not others, pointing to celebrations of African-American Family Week, Native American Culture Days, Asian-Pacific Cultural Week, the Whole Earth Festival, and Soaring to New Heights Day. Griffin also cites the university catalog, which states: "We promote open expression of our individuality and our diversity within the bounds of courtesy, sensitivity, and respect. We confront and reject all manifestations of discrimination, including those based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, religious or political beliefs, status within or outside the community." The local branch of Clan MacLean has offered to station naked blue-painted soldiers—a Pictish custom highlighted in battle scenes from the movie "Braveheart"—in front of the campus admissions building as a lesson in diversity.
A Bell Atlantic cable technician filed suit against his employer Monday, charging that the company's refusal to grant his live-in girlfriend medical and other benefits constitutes sex discrimination.
Turning sex discrimination case law on its head, the employee, Paul Foray, charged in Manhattan Federal Court that Bell Atlantic Corp.'s refusal to allow his girlfriend to sign on to his medical plan discriminated against him solely on the basis of his sex.
Noting that the company allows employees' same-sex domestic partners to receive medical benefits, he said that if he was a woman, his partner could receive them.
In the filing, Foray said the company was essentially compelling him to get married, "thereby imposing burdens such as the need for health tests, the need for a marriage ceremony, potential lifetime obligations of support for the partner and the need for a divorce proceeding to terminate the relationship."
He is seeking what he calculates to be lost back and future benefits of $62,000, and $300,000 in punitive damages. Neither Foray, his partner nor his attorneys could be reached.
A spokesman for Bell Atlantic said the suit was without merit and that Foray had filed and then withdrawn a similar suit in state court.
A General Accounting Office report also determined that the $29 billion Supplemental Security Income program, administered by the Social Security Administration, lost $1.6 billion in overpayments attributed to computer error, recipients' failure to disclose income that would disqualify them from the means-tested program, and SSI's subsequent failure to recover overpayments it detects. The GAO also determined that fraud cost the program about $4 billion annually. HHS is preparing a bill to counter many of the problems, including trafficking in false Social Security numbers within SSA, doctors who take kickbacks for facilitating disability scams, recipients who live overseas but claim U.S. residency, and recipients who are in jail. SSA Inspector General David C. Williams told a congressional panel that cracking down on jailed SSI recipients may save the program $3.46 billion over the next seven years.
Safer sex means using latex barriers during sexual acts. Condoms have been used for vaginal and anal sex, but are oftentimes neglected for oral sex. Oral sex is one of the safer sexes, but any time fluids are coming in contact the risk factor is extremely high. When performing oral sex on a man, the only safe way to go is protected. Performing oral sex on women is slightly less risky than on men, but the fluids are still present. Using a dam when giving and/or receiving oral sex is the safer way.
When I talk to women about dental dams all they seem to recognize is that they should use them, but they aren't. Why is this?
After a three-day training course, Apland & Associates, a Chicago telemarketing firm, dismissed Robert Johnson because he mumbled into his telephone due to the absence of eighteen of his teeth. Johnson sued, and after an initial defeat an appeals court likewise ruled in his favor. "Unlike Johnson," wrote Judge Frank H. Easterbrook, "the Americans with Disabilities Act has teeth." That company also settled.
Martha Stewart is one of North America's preeminent arbiters of middle-class style and taste. In her multiple and synthesized roles as author and trademark, financial icon and cultural magnate, über-Wasp and Chief Executive Housewife, archetype of white femininity and immigrant dream, Stewart's influence extends across visual and print media and has spawned numerous parodies. It is clear that there are contradictions here that bear investigation. Our panel seeks to consider the following questions:
- How does Stewart's work serve to construct notions of whiteness and middle-class heterosexual identity?
- How is Stewart produced by the culture of late capitalism?
- What would [feminist theorist] Judith Butler make of Stewart's aggressively heterosexual performance?
- Do camp parodies of Stewart represent queer subversions of dominant discourses?
- What is the function of nostalgia in Martha Stewart? Is it an "imperialist nostalgia"?
- What is the significance of Stewart's aesthetic of cleanliness and perfection?
- Bearing in mind Anne McClintock's work in Imperial Leather, what is the connection between nineteenth-century discourses of dirt and purity and Stewart's postmodern urban aesthetic?
- What can we make of the connection between Stewart's actual life and the virtual life that is apparently the subject of Martha Stewart Living?
For example, Judy Root Aulette's Changing Families devotes almost 3 out of 14 chapters to marriage: "Battering and Marital Rape," "Divorce and Remarriage," and simply, "Marriage." The only academic debate concerning the function of marriage Aulette presents is that between feminists and Marxists over the precise source and nature of its oppressiveness. An extended discussion follows over whether, given "the problematic character of marriage," allowing gays to marry would constitute "the problem or the solution."
When developer Steve Cramer discovered an eagle nest near his five-acre plot of new homes in Kirkland, Wash., three years ago, he dutifully notified local officials. They ordered Mr. Cramer to immediately halt construction and put together an "eagle management plan." It took 18 months and $150,000 in lost time, he says.
A federal circuit court ruled that a Michigan paramedic who was fired for rudeness towards patients and colleagues was legally disabled. The man suffered from a case of diabetes that was treatable but that had been left untreated, and which he claimed caused mood swings.
Another federal court ruled that infertility would henceforth be considered a disability, suggesting that expensive treatments such as in vitro fertilization would now have to be covered under employee health plans.
The D.C. circuit court overturned precedent by ruling that someone who applies for and obtains Social Security benefits based on an employer's certification of being completely disabled and unable to work can now also sue the employer for failure to accommodate the applicant's disability.
[S]uppose that a given reduction of pollution confers on each exposed individual a decrease in mortal risk of 1/100,000. Then among 100,000 such individuals, one fewer individual can be expected to die prematurely. If each individual's WTP [willingness to pay] for that risk reduction is $50, then the implied value of statistical premature death avoided is $50 x 100,000 = $5 million.This "willingness to pay" does not mean one actually pays the sum, as one would when negotiating with an insurance agent when confronted with similar risks, but instead represents a stated willingness.
Objecting to the study's deficiencies, peer review was withheld by other federal agencies. Contradicting the EPA's self-estimation, a widely cited independent study by T.O. Tengs, et. al., published in Risk Analysis, concluded that the EPA costs $7,600,000 per life-year extended, contrasted with only $23,000 for regulations passed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
[Ed.: Note how IQ may be considered a valid measurement when gauging the impact of environmental toxins, but not when measuring the impact of educators.]
Jackson Lee: You can be assured that Kathleen Willey and others are being heard. And in fact it is tragic that her husband committed suicide. He committed suicide on the very day she left to go see the president. Many of us wonder whether or not it would have been better for her to stay at home and call the president.
Hume: Wait, wait, wait. Are you suggesting that Kathleen Willey, because she went to Washington to talk to the president about a job, is somehow responsible for her son's suicide?
Jackson Lee: No one knows the facts, Brit, not at all. No one absolutely knows the facts. What we're suggesting is that many things could have happened differently.
[Ed.: According to Aerospace Daily, the Russian space program has a different naval to gaze at, planning to land a meter-high statue of the Buddha on the moon and, in a separate spacecraft, a camera that would beam pictures of the statue back to earth.]
To win a traditional organizing drive under current labor law, [industrial labor relations expert Thomas] Kochan said, "more than 50 percent of the people in a bargaining unit have to be dissatisfied and willing to stick around long enough to do something about it."
Even though polls have shown increasing interest in unions among U.S. workers, Kochan said, not many are willing to stay with a bad employer long enough to organize.
Each year noxious weeds wreak a level of havoc on America's environment and economy that is matched only by the damage caused by floods, earthquakes, mud slides, hurricanes, and fire. Weeds infest 100 million acres in the United States and are spreading at a rate of 14 percent per year. They diminish or cause the extinction of native plants and animals. They homogenize the diversity of creation. They ignore borders and property lines. No place is immune.
Consider the damage done by purple loosestrife, a beautiful, seemingly harmless flower one might be pleased to find in a meadow. But not for long. This species, found in thirty-six states, costs $45 million to manage.
In the past it was much easier to dismiss the invasion as someone else's problem. And so the weeds—slowly, silently, almost invisibly, but steadily—spread all around us until, literally encircled, we can no longer turn our backs. The invasion is now our problem. Our battle. Our enemy.
Each day new cargo ships arrive in American ports, and new shipments of tropical plants are sold on the open market. Obviously, we cannot and should not shut down global trade in an effort to grind the weed invasion to a halt. But what we can do is prepare for the invasion early and thoroughly.
Last June the vice president asked Agriculture Secretary Daniel Glickman, Commerce Secretary William Daley, and me to draw up an action plan. It is a heavy task, but one big thing helps us: The invasion and spread of noxious alien weeds unites us. It unites across political, economic, and property boundaries. It brings solidarity among opposing groups. It compels us to share strategic responses. It calls on us to rise above our sometimes petty day-to-day concerns.
Invasive alien species will never have the power to capture the imagination, the headlines, or the nightly news in the same way El Niño has. But we can do something about it. For I have seen the spread of weeds from the Great Lakes to the Everglades to Glacier National Park. I recognize the dangers. And my resolve and determination only harden.
We must act now and act as one. We can beat a threat that erodes our soil, spreads wildfire, and damages our property values. We can beat this silent enemy.
"Not the V Word" (Feb. 11) by Josh Getlin was a delight to read. Eve Ensler has taken a path most women would be too shy to travel. That is until now.
Ensler's path reminds me of the consciousness-raising phase many women like me went through in the early 1980's, the result of which was to no longer suppress our feminine identities and to wish and well as act wholeheartedly for equality. I look forward to Ensler's Los Angeles appearance.
I remember an evening in 1961 when I was playing scrabble with several people. As the remaining letters became few and all but a male friend and I were still playing, I discovered that I had six letters left—V A G I N A—and if I used them I would win the game. I debated for a minute then decided, "Oh, what the heck," and placed them on the board after which I fled the room feeling embarrassed as well as elated. I had won but at what cost?
Norfolk, Va.—Because finding Jesus is as easy as surfing the Internet these days, PETA is hoping its new Jesus Web site, located at www.jesus-online.com, will make Christians the latest converts to vegetarianism.
Jesus-Online visitors can learn why PETA believes that Jesus was a vegetarian, find out where to read more about Jesus' vegetarianism, get the answers to popular questions about the campaign and even link to a site of essays on Judaism and vegetarianism. They can also read the letter PETA sent to all 449 U.S. Catholic bishops, archbishops, and cardinals, and find out more about PETA's efforts.
While many Christians forego meat on Fridays during Lent, PETA is calling on them to make a permanent change to a compassionate diet.
[Ed.: While all cultures practice dietary restrictions, only their subcultures are vegetarian by choice. Religious devotees often abstain from meat, but always as a sign of their piety and sacrifice, not as a recommendation for the way people should generally behave.
Terrence McNally's new play titled "Corpus Christi" generated obligatory controversy by featuring a Christ-like character who has sex with his apostles. Production of the play also benefitted from the customary indirect funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
In 2000, a Temple University student who objected to the play's portrayal of Jesus as the "king of queers" was, after being denied permission to stage his own counter-production based on traditional Christian teachings, forcibly committed to the Temple University Hospital psychiatric ward, where the doctor evaluating him "saw no reason why he was committed."
After his play opened in London in 2002, McNally was the target of a death fatwa by an group of British Muslims who objected to blasphemy against what Islam considers an important prophet.]
The recent trend in cutting-edge legal discourse has been to question the presumed neutrality of entrenched legal principles. A prior thread of inquiry, dating all the way back to Oliver Wendall Holmes, led to the finding that various judges and legal scholars might come to strikingly different conclusions based on the same set of legal assumptions, all perfectly valid and reasonable. Just as deconstructionist literary theorists have argued that language is hopelessly flawed, leaving texts wide open to interpretation aside from their authors' supposed intent, the same set of legal principles may be interpreted in different ways, all valid.
Proponents of Critical Legal Studies (CLS) extend this line of reasoning further, arguing that such indeterminacy leaves much room for latent racial and sexual bias to manifest itself in judicial rulings. As Derrick Bell of New York University provocatively puts it, law is "not a formal mechanism for determining outcomes in a neutral fashion—as traditional legal scholars maintain—but is rather a ramshackle ad hoc affair whose ill-fitting joints are soldered together by suspect rhetorical gestures, leaps of illogic, and special pleading tricked up as general rules, all in the service of a decidedly partisan agenda that wants to wrap itself in the mantle and majesty of law." Bell specifically argues that judges only rule in favor of black defendants when the interests of whites are thereby served, even in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. Jerome Culp of Duke Law School writes that "[f]acially objective and disinterested standards in fact serve the interests of the white majority." Critical Race Theorist Alex Johnson writes that "the presumed norm of neutrality actually masks the reality that the Euro-American male's perspective is the background norm or heuristic governing in the normal evaluative context."
Some argue that the very notion of static legal principles is merely a reflection of the dominant Western society that promulgates it, and thus is inherently biased against excluded groups. Gary Peller of Georgetown Law School writes that there can be "no neutral theory of knowledge," since knowledge is itself "a function of the ability of the powerful to impose their own views." One theorist writes that false notions of objectivity are an instrument of "social power" that led to the triumph of evolutionary theory, and caused creationism to become marginalized as hopelessly subjective.
Stressing subjectivity, advocates of CLS have largely dispensed with the tradition of recounting cases in their writings in order to build logical arguments. Instead, they have embraced a form of autobiographical anecdote or even fictional parable: storytelling. Part of the appeal of storytelling is its ability to present points of view that wouldn't ordinarily make their way into legal discourse.
Columbia's Patricia Williams, for example, wrote a lengthy account of a racial indignity she experienced at a Benetton store. While certainly not invalid on some level, such an anecdote would traditionally not be relied on to form an argument about the functioning of the legal system. Other writers offer accounts of similar experiences on a train or in a taxicab. A feminist law professor recounted in grisly detail her own reproductive experiences in an academic paper, with only mysterious allusions to the legal system. Derrick Bell wrote a fable of space visitors who propose to buy blacks and remove them from American society, an offer whites in the story accept.
Farber and Sherry note that "[t]oday one can open a leading law journal and find a dialogue between the author and an imaginary radical friend, or a recollection of some incident in the author's past. Often, the story recounts how the author was mistreated because of race, gender, or sexual orientation." Writing in Commentary, Heather MacDonald adds disapprovingly that emerging controversial legal issues, such as the future of copyright law and Fourth Amendment protections in the face of the Internet, are increasingly being crowded from legal journals by such discourse.
Storytelling is designed, as one advocate explicitly put it, to advance the interests of "the outsider community." As such, it is not open to criticism from members of the privileged class. One can neither deny the storyteller's experience nor ask for its logical relevance. Even sympathetically recounting stories may be interpreted as misappropriation of the storyteller's pain. Defending the role of personal experience at a CLS retreat, one white woman referred to the story told by an Inuit woman, only to be told: "Did that woman intend to appropriate my pain for her own use, stealing my very existence, as so many other White, well-meaning, middle and upper class feminists have done?" Most notoriously, Patricia Williams argued that the truthfulness of Tawana Brawley's rape accusation against several white law enforcement officers was effectively beyond question.
Farber and Sherry conclude that perhaps silence is the only permissible response to a story, but often silence can only be hoped for. Providing uncharitable interpretations of several storytelling narratives, Anne Coughlin wrote an article in the Virginia Law Review with the provocative conclusion that their autobiographical orientation relies primarily on conventional Western individualism, with all the negative connotations that entails. Jerome Culp responded with a pseudo-psychological counterattack: that Coughlin and other critics of storytelling were passing from denial into anger, as one of the standard stages of grief over the death of white hegemony. Richard Delgado, whose story was among those criticized, quoted a feminist literary critic concerned that, by applying literary theory to texts by black writers, white feminists replicate a slave owner writing a "ruthlessly reductive" account of the behavior of his slaves. Delgado wrote that Coughlin "strikes me as coming close to replicating the sin of the slave master... in her mistaken analysis of the autobiographical efforts of critical race scholars."
In another article in the Georgetown Law Review, Mark Tushnet discussed the relationship between narrative and the law. In a brief passage, he criticized a story by Patricia Williams in which she overheard anti-Semitic remarks by clerks in a store, but failed to speak up and later felt guilty about it. Tushnet notes that contrary to her usual practice, Williams does not identify the race of the clerks, and that readers would likely dwell on that ambiguity to the exclusion of whatever point Williams was trying to make. That is, if the clerks were black, readers might conclude that Williams was trying to avoid the subject of black anti-Semitism. If they were white, readers might conclude that "Williams was and at some level wanted to be complicit in the expressed antisemitism of the salespeople" because she, as a member of an excluded group, might gain temporary acceptance by demeaning another excluded group.
Gary Peller, a colleague on the Georgetown faculty, responded by denying any ambiguity in the story, finding "there is simply no reason to conclude that the salespeople were black." Instead, the story was obviously about "how participation in the prejudices of the dominant group might serve as a substitute avenue of inclusion for those who are otherwise excluded." Peller also rebuked Tushnet for failing to reveal the fact that he is Jewish, "a social fact of some import in understanding why Tushnet might read her text in such an overreaching manner." Peller dwelled on Tushnet's motivations to explain his "undertone of hostility and disrespect" towards CLS scholars. For one thing, "[n]ow that the agenda [of CLS] has begun to consider the social construction of intellectual merit itself, many likely feel threatened." For another, the attack on the idea of a neutral public space is particularly disturbing to Jews because of a "basic cultural compromise" under which "we would be permitted our Jewish identity in our private lives," while ceding the supposedly neutral public space to the white, middle class, Protestant powers that be. "Our cultural compromise requires that we suppress that perception of public space," but CLS makes it an issue again.
Tushnet replied that Peller distorted his position, citing it as an example of a white male academic "colonizing" discourses on excluded groups by incorporating them into his own discourse. In Tushnet's view, Peller also covets inclusion in excluded groups, offering a "contemporary version of a phenomenon common in the history of the white left in this country" in which whites defend positions they attribute to the minority community and then "offer those defenses as evidence that the minority communities ought to welcome them as honorary members." Finally, Tushnet says that Peller's response reflects insecurity over his own intellectual standing, what one would expect from people "who know (at some level) that their contributions as scholars... are not as substantial as they believe (or fantasize) them to have been."