An Inclusive Litany


The upcoming Whitney Biennial art exhibit will be devoted to the theme "Invisible in the Girls' Locker Room: Postmodern Visions."

A new mandate by the FCC requires phone companies to make a $2.2 billion contribution to connect schools and libraries to the Internet, with the cost of the regulation passed along to consumers in the form of higher telephone charges. Nearly half of American classrooms now receive Internet access through contributions from private-sector software companies, for whom the new mandate may be a significant entry barrier when competing with telephone companies for the Internet market. It is also debatable why students should be surfing the Web.

[Ed.: The General Accounting Office later found that the firm charged with hooked up the nation's schools to "below cost" Internet connections had spent $18.8 million without yet hooking up anybody to the Internet.]

To protect local consumers from fraudulent impostors, the witches and seers of Bucharest, Rumania, are forming their own labor union. Only those who can really see the future and lift evil spells will be allowed to join, explains Madame Lucretia, clairvoyant.

After the University of Connecticut athletics department was accused of wrongfully favoring petite cheerleaders, school authorities announced plans to abandon a popular "human toss" routine and decreed that pyramid formations would henceforth be limited to two levels high.


In Belgium, a previously unknown group called the Association for Consciously Single Mothers claimed responsibility for the theft of several statues of Joseph from Christmas nativity installations. A note left behind in some of the nativity cribs called for the right of "self-determination (for women), to artificial insemination, to voluntary single motherhood and to... immaculate conception."


In conjunction with Rupert Murdoch's Fox Television, film stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are working to make Howard Zinn's 1980 book, A People's History of the United States, into a ten-part miniseries. Zinn's most popular work was identified by Matt Damon's savant character as especially intelligent in the film Good Will Hunting, whose viewers may have also recognized Zinn's influence on two of Damon's speeches: a highly intellectual barroom put-down of a Harvard student, and a rage about the military-industrial complex during a job interview.

A caption accompanying an unusual AP photograph that appeared in the Detroit Free Press, December 28, 1998:
Colombian dance students perform inside a giant condom Sunday in Cali. The kilometer-long replica was the idea of drug rehabilitation workers and doctors who treat sexually transmitted diseases.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson in Newsday, December 28, 1998:
The faster the southern Republicans rush to dump Clinton, the greater his popularity will be among blacks. Many blacks see impeachment as a thinly disguised attempt to hammer the president for acting and speaking out on black causes, and as a backdoor power grab for the White House in the year 2000—and they're right.

But as long as southern Republicans control such a huge bloc of congressional votes, they believe that impeachment is the civil war they can win.

It took the city of Philadelphia ten years to dismiss a school employee who was late to work nearly every day, and who had spent the entire time undergoing psychiatric treatment aimed at remedying his "neurotic compulsion for lateness." The city failed to dismiss another employee who was chronically absent because he went off to play pinball and video games. His union argued in its grievance that he suffered from a gambling addiction, a protected handicap.

Arthur Miller, the playwright, in the New York Times, October 15, 1998:
In any case, those who think it trivial that Mr. Clinton lied about a mere affair are missing the point; it is precisely his imperious need of the female that has unnerved a lot of men, the mullahs especially, just as it has through the ages. This may also help to account for the support he still gets from women. He may be a bit kinky, but at least he's not the usual suit for whom the woman is a vase, decorative and unused.


Angry parents hounded Ruth Sherman from her job as a third-grade teacher at Brooklyn's P.S. 75, leaving death threats and calling the white teacher a bigot and a "cracker," because she used a book called Nappy Hair in class. The book, a critically praised children's story designed to promote black self-esteem, features a young girl's hard-to-comb hair as a metaphor for racial pride and the girl's independent spirit, but some students and parents interpreted it as a racial slur. The author, Caroliva Herron, who is black, rallied to Sherman's defense, but Sherman says she no longer feels safe teaching at P.S. 75.

A memorandum, from White House Chief of Staff Harold Ickes to Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, regarding the "Announcement of the Arkansas Sex Education Program," October 10, 1998:
The President was somewhat mystified as to why there was no mention of him in the 3 October 1998 article in the Arkansas Democratic Gazette entitled "Sex Can Wait plan gets $200,000 grant: Federal Aid to benefit 16 school districts." Apparently the program is called "Sex Can Wait" and will receive some $200,000 this fiscal year for teacher training, implementation, classrooms and evaluation. According to the article, to quote, the money comes from the federal office of Adolescent Pregnancy Programs, which apparently is within the HHS.

Obviously, not every announcement will specifically refer to the President, but all federal departments are being urged to make sure that announcements of grants and other programs refer to the President.


Following the death of a child by strangulation, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of more than 10 million toy basketball sets. The product's mortality rate (one) since its introduction in 1976 is less than a thousandth of that the average American faces each time he gets into an automobile.

After being turned down for a job as a police officer in Salem, Massachusetts, Charles Brown was awarded $100,000 by the state Commission Against Discrimination for emotional distress. Mr. Brown reported that he burst into tears when he so much as saw a cop on the street, leading a few local residents to wonder how he would behave when confronted with a criminal.


Diane McWhorter in Newsday, December 21, 1998:
Bill Clinton, obviously, is no Jesus Christ.... But indulge me in a political parable. A besieged conservative establishment that claims absolute custodianship of a nation's laws furiously defends its dwindling power base against a charismatic upstart from the sticks. Showing a certain blithe contempt for those laws, the new guy challenges the whole concept of what that nation is. Where his opponents have thrived on division and exclusion, he lays hands on just about everyone, rich and poor, sinners and saints, hipsters and squares, red and yellow, black and white, even women. In return, they reward him with a mysteriously enduring faith....

These right-wing Republicans are like the Sadducees of the Jewish nation, the reactionary vested interests who carried out their narrow agenda through a strict interpretation of Jewish law—a code in which God's law was inseparable from the nation's law. The Republican's impeachment mantra—"the rule of law"—ostensibly referred to the Constitution. But their conflation of American law and the absolutist word of a fundamentalist's God was made sensationally clear on Saturday, when Speaker-elect Robert Livingston stood in the well of the House and declared himself a sinner, urging his fellow adulterer in the White House to follow his example in abdicating his post.... Clinton's arch-enemies, meanwhile, flog the pieties of their "born again" doctrine, even as their most obvious secular icon is the country's corporate grim reaper, the tobacco industry. Theirs is a static vision of humankind as debased and shameful, condemned before a punitive God....

That is Clinton's other blasphemy in the eyes of his enemies. By disgracing the sacrosanct office of the presidency, he also demystified the patriarchy that has run the country for its share of the closing millennium.

After the President's dog, Buddy, bit the hand of a marine escort, the White House issued a statement blaming the hand.

John P. Siegel of San Jose, California, in a letter to the Editor, the Wall Street Journal, September 11, 1998:
In response to Martha Ackermann's Sept. 3 editorial-page commentary "Bill Clinton, Sexist": Like Ackermann, I have pondered the apparent inconstancies in Bill Clinton's record on women's issues but I have come to an entirely different conclusion. I believe that Mr. Clinton supports women, respects women, is not threatened by women and want to promote women to positions of power and responsibility because he acknowledges intelligence and talent regardless of the sex of the individual.

I also believe that the Clintons, perhaps because of their experience during the 1960s' so-called "sexual revolution," have learned guilt-free separation of sex and intimacy. A sexual act is not about domination or submission, nor is it about making love or an expression of intimacy, nor even a fleeting moment of passion or overwhelming animal attraction. It is simply fun, another individual-performance sport in which one casually engages one's friends and acquaintances, like golf, tennis, jogging or shooting baskets.


Russian legislators considered a motion that would appeal to Monica Lewinsky "to restrain the emotions of Bill Clinton" and halt the latest American attack on Iraq.

After researchers noted an increase in the number of French people who no longer ate breakfast, Jacques Puisais, founder of the French Institute of Taste, followed stereotype closely and managed to find a way to blame this trend on America. Puisais told the Scripps Howard News Service that French families once enjoyed a communal breakfast followed by a trip by a family member to pick up croissants at the local baker's shop. But then Kellogg's began advertising corn flakes as a breakfast alternative, which Puisais calls a "miserable" and "inhumane" food fit only to be consumed shamefully in solitude. As a result, Americans were also responsible for a marked increase in loneliness, isolation, and existential angst among the French.

[Ed.: To combat foul odors pervading the Paris Metro, officials have developed a new "perfume," titled "Madeleine" after the worst-offending station, which they plan to apply throughout the system. The plan's developer, Pierre Pichat, research director at France's National Centre for Scientific Research, said the product is based on titanium dioxide, a chemical used in suntan creams that freshens the air when exposed to ultraviolet light. "The search for the right product has lasted years," commented Pichat. Perhaps they can also look into another brand-new technology—it's called washing with soap.]

Daniel Shapiro, a professor of philosophy at West Virginia University, was reported to the campus Office of Social Justice for using the word "wife" in the classroom. There he learned that the word "wife" is sexist and that he should instead use nonsexist terms such as "friend" or "partner."


A disgusting mess was discovered at Swarthmore College's Intercultural Center that turned out to be vomit and what appeared to be excrement but was later determined to be chocolate cake with sprinkles mixed in. The identity of the perpetrator was unknown, and the motivation was unclear at best since the room where the mess was found was used for any number of student support groups. College officials were nevertheless quick to label the act an expression of hate, and an anti-hate rally soon drew 500 people, with cries of "respect, safety, unity" echoing through the campus.

Speakers described the mess as the work of "a handful of people who are hateful and scared," and said the act "had the symbolic effect of a hate crime." One speaker equated a general feeling of security with personal space, saying, "when you violate that space, you violate me." Another said he had cried all night: "I was overcome by tears and mucous.... It wasn't a good cry; it was a bad cry." But because of the rally, he now felt "tears of hope." The director of the Intercultural Center drew tears from the crowd as she spoke about the long, painful healing process the college would have to undergo. A list of ten years' worth of harassing incidents was read, one of which was criticism that one student incurred because her boyfriend wore a dress.

The Washington Post:
The Pentagon estimates it will spend around $50 million in the coming year to provide the impotence drug Viagra for American troops and military retirees. The cost—roughly the price of two new Marine Corps Harrier jets or forty-five Tomahawk cruise missiles—is among the unexpected military expenses that Pentagon officials recently told Congress have come up since they made their original 1999 budget requests. "Viagra sort of burst on the scene," Pentagon spokesman Jim Turner said.

[Ed.: In another case of Viagra-induced price inflation, French chef Jean-Louis Galland of Le Basilic served patrons beef in a crushed Viagra sauce with fig vinegar and fine herbs. Viagra is illegal in France, and authorities arrested the chef after discovering his plan to conceal the drug.]

The New York Times, November 25, 1998:
The Dutch Health Ministry said it would extend an experiment to distribute free heroin to hard-core drug addicts after a three-month pilot scheme showed no serious, undesired side-effects. However, some heroin users complained about the quality of the heroin offered.


The Washington Post, December 12, 1998:
Efforts by Virginia and other states to sharply curtail college remedial courses are misguided and often based on inaccurate information, a new study says.

The study, by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, ... argues that remedial education is a core function of colleges.


Following the arrest, in England, of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet on charges brought by a Spanish judge, the Cuban American National Foundation, an exile group, asked a Spanish court to seek the arrest and prosecution of Cuban President Fidel Castro. At the time of Pinochet's arrest, Castro was an honored guest at a conference of Latin American presidents that was being held in a Spanish castle.

CANF says Castro, along with his brother Raul and several associates, should be tried on charges of genocide, torture, and terror. The group says its confirmed list of 300 cases of victimization by the Cuban dictator likely will be expanded to include 18,000 cases, including 12 U.S. citizens and five Spaniards. Asked by a reporter from the Spanish daily El Mundo if he feared that an extradition order would be filed against him, too, Castro replied, "I belong to a species which is above arrest. You cannot compare our two cases."

Following the Cubans' lead, a group of Haitian exiles have now called for the extradition of former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, who, along with his father, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, they charge with some 60,000 political executions during their combined 29-year regime. Following popular upheaval leading to his ouster in 1986, the younger Duvalier led an extravagant life in exile on the French Riviera. But after his wife divorced him, he gradually ran out of money and was briefly employed by a neighbor as a gardener. Duvalier, whose exact whereabouts are unknown, is reportedly amused at the effort to extradite him.

From an Associated Press item about Monica Lewinsky's deal to publish her memoir with Michael O'Mara Books and use Andrew Morton as a ghostwriter:
O'Mara said there was a "strong personal chemistry" between the former White House intern and Morton. "We put the two of them together in a New York hotel room last week, and she said yes immediately."

The City Council of Birmingham, England, inspired protests by renaming the Christmas season "Winterval."

Leonard Pitts, Jr., in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, October 2, 1998:
One hesitates... to distract from what Sosa and McGwire have accomplished. They are said to be good guys—decent, caring and humble in welcome contrast to the swaggering malcontents we've seen too much of in sports lately.

On the other hand it is, perhaps, useful to remind ourselves that even in our oldest and noblest major sport as played by men we like and respect, there is in the national psyche something small and un-evolved that gravitates towards a white man for no better reason than that he is white.

In a very real sense, Mark McGwire had Sammy Sosa beaten before either of them ever picked up a bat.

This, too, is as American as it gets.

The Washington Post echoed the sentiment:

For all that is inspiring and wholesome about the home run derby, it also illuminates the eternal American dilemma of race. It is McGwire who has the overwhelming advantage over Sosa in the competition for the public's heart. (Internet search engines find McGwire's name more than twice as often as Sosa's.) Is that because the Cardinal is the better slugger, or is it a matter of color, ethnicity and language?
Sosa, a native of the Dominican Republic, has expressed gratefulness for his success and love for the country that made it possible. He later beat out McGwire for National League MVP status.


Letter to the editor, the Boston Globe, December 3, 1998:
I found your characterization of Rita Hester ("Stabbing victim a mystery to many," Metro/Region, Nov. 30) degrading and potentially misleading.

Throughout your coverage of the incident you refer to Hester as "he" and a transvestite. If Hester was known socially and to neighbors only as a woman, it is not likely that she was a transvestite but rather was probably a transsexual and should have been referred to using female pronouns.

A significant number of people live as the opposite gender and are socially perceived by all they meet as that gender. To reduce Rita Hester's life and dignity to the level of "a man in women's clothes" is disingenuous and disappointing.

A little more sensitivity to the hardships these people face would have reflected far better upon your journalistic integrity than the rather voyeuristic portrayal that did appear.

—George Kierstein


After Howard Stern decided to spank the backside of one of the guests on his CBS television show with a dead fish, Dawn Carr, campaign coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, publicly condemned the action, commenting that it "shows a sad disrespect for life, certainly for the lives of those fish."