An Inclusive Litany


Al Nino of Nipomo, California, received more than a hundred telephone calls from strangers who reproached him for 1998's various storms.


A member of Washington, D.C.'s new mayoral staff was compelled to resign after he characterized his own preferred financial management style as "niggardly." Other staff members interpreted the word as a racial epithet, an impression he immediately attempted to correct. The aide, a white male, is expected to be rehabilitated and rehired, perhaps owing in part to his openly gay status.

University of Wisconsin English professor Standish Henning used the same word while teaching Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which led junior English major Amelia Rideau to question him about it after class. He defined the word and thanked her for coming to him. The next time the class met, Henning defined the word again for the entire class, noted that a student had been upset and confused about it, and asked if anyone else had thoughts on the matter. Rideau, the only black person in the class, burst into tears and fled the room, distraught that her professor had repeated the word when she had asked him not to.

Rideau later argued to the faculty senate that the incident underscored the need to revise the university's faculty speech code to punish perpetrators regardless of their intent. Wisconsin had previously adopted a strict student speech code in 1989, which promptly led to complaints about use of the words "redneck" and "primitive dinosaurs," and one student who stole his roommate's ATM card was even said to have been motivated by ethnic tension. The code was struck down as unconstitutional in 1991, revised in 1992, then finally abandoned as unworkable in 1993.


Freshman indoctrination at the State University of New York-Binghamton campus now features P.C. games such as "Cultural Pursuit" and "Wheel of Oppression."


Arriving as it did in the midst of a presidential sex scandal and just before Election Day, the timing of Nature's November issue received almost as much media attention as the lead article's content. An editorial preface declared: "The scandals involving American presidents are nothing new. In 1802 President Thomas Jefferson was accused of fathering a child by Sally Hemings, one of his slaves. A molecular genetics study in the 5 November issue of Nature finally puts the affair to rest, establishing beyond reasonable doubt Thomas Jefferson's relationship to Sally Hemings' sons." But the article's editors now acknowledge the conclusion that Jefferson was the father was "misleading."

The article, by Dr. Eugene Foster and others, was based on analysis of a distinctive genetic characteristic that is passed along only to male descendants. Since Jefferson had no legitimate sons of his own who survived to adulthood, the study focused on the male descendants of Jefferson's uncle, finding the family's genetic signature in descendants of Hemings's son, Eston. The article considered that another Jefferson may have been the father, but the authors concluded, "In the absence of historical evidence to support such possibilities, we consider them to be unlikely." Though the study fell back on speculative historical accounts, subsequent news accounts labeled Jefferson's paternity a scientific certainty, with many parallels inevitably drawn to President Clinton's present difficulties.

But Herbert Barger, an authority on Jefferson family history who provided assistance for the article's genealogical research, had sent Dr. Foster information on eight other Jefferson men who could just as easily have been the father, and Foster failed to share that information with the article's editors. In Barger's estimation, the most probable candidate was Jefferson's younger brother, Randolph, who after being widowed in 1793, was a frequent visitor to Monticello and was known to spend time playing the fiddle and dancing with Jefferson's slaves. The study did rule out Jefferson's paternity of Hemings's first son, Thomas Woodson, a claim alleged in 1802 by a Richmond newspaper and believed to be true by his descendants. But the question of whether Thomas Jefferson fathered Eston is not likely to be definitively settled any time soon.

[Ed.: Some blamed racism for the conclusion that Jefferson was not Mr. Woodson's father. Robert Golden, one of Woodson's descendents, said that whites "are not interested in proving Jefferson fathered black children." He could not be more wrong.]

An "Education Life" feature in the New York Times by Milburn, New Jersey, school principal Martin Burne warned that teachers were assigning far too much homework. "We are taking away some of the years of adolescence and childhood" from a generation, said Burne. A Los Angeles psychologist says he is sending kids to therapy for "homework-related anxieties." A study at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research determined that students spend an average of 25 anxious minutes a night on homework.

Asked about impeachment proceedings in an interview on Conan O'Brien's NBC late-night television show, actor Alec Baldwin, who is rumored to harbor political ambitions, engages in commentary that should merit the attention of the Secret Service and the Capitol Police, revealing everything he learned about the political process while in the African bush:
I was in Africa, I go to Africa. I mean, ladies and gentlemen, I am in Africa. For three months I am in the bush and I come back. I come back here, and I come back to what? I mean, what is happening right now as we speak? Right now the Judiciary Committee... the president has an approval rating of 68 percent. The president is very popular and things are going pretty good and they are voting to impeach the president. They voted on one article of impeachment already. And I come back from Africa to stained dresses and cigars and this and impeachment. I am thinking to myself, in other countries they are laughing at us 24 hours a day and I'm thinking to myself, if we were in other countries, we would all, right now all of us together, all of us together would go down to Washington and we should stone Henry Hyde to death! [Cheers break out in the audience, interrupted by Baldwin's shouts.] Wait! Shut up! Shut up! No, shut up! I'm not finished. We would stone Henry Hyde to death and would go to their homes and we'd kill their wives and children. We would kill their families! [Shouting] What is happening in this country? What is happening? UGHHH!!!
Asked whether it was appropriate to incite mob violence on television, a spokesman for Mr. Baldwin insisted that all who had raised their eyebrows "lighten up." Nevertheless, Baldwin later sent an apology to Hyde "for any comments" that may have offended him or his family, saying the segment was meant to parody "the kind of hate-mongering, crowd-baiting rhetoric that seems to prevail on television these days." NBC, for its part, says it will never air the episode again and refuses to even supply videotapes of the segment.

The Wall Street Journal reported on a plan to require companies doing business with the federal government to submit the name, age, race, sex, and salary of all their employees to Labor Department auditors enforcing compliance with affirmative-action programs.

The swanky town of Southampton, New York, already has plenty of zoning laws to keep out the riff-raff. Eastern Long Island features virtually no land zoned for multifamily rental apartments, for example, and minimum lot sizes there are three acres. But Southampton residents are now fighting a zoning battle against someone even wealthier than they are, industrialist Ira Rennert, who wants to build a 42,000-square foot single-family home, reported to cost $100 million, on a 63-acre plot.

After residents protested their obscured ocean views, the town decided to place a 20,000-square foot limit on the size of all new houses. The New Yorker notes that the area's standard 10- to 14,000-square foot house already has about six or seven large bedrooms, each with adjoining bathrooms, a great hall, a formal living room, an informal living room, a dining room, a media room, a library, at least a 500-square foot kitchen, maid's quarters, a pantry, and perhaps a three- or four-car garage. "Some houses have a squash court, and I've built a few with bowling alleys," said Kurt Andreassen, a local contractor.

A federal court ordered the National Honor Society to admit Kentucky students Somer Chipman and Chastity Glass, previously denied membership due to pregnancies.


The Fish and Wildlife Service mailed out an apology to 240 New Mexico elk hunters regarding an accusatory letter the agency had previously mailed after one of several Mexican gray wolves that were reintroduced into the region had been shot dead. The eight-page questionnaire asked hunters to recount "IN DETAIL" their activities, "beginning from the time you left home until you returned," around Luna, New Mexico, in November 1998, suggesting that a prompt and thorough response "should preclude United States Fish and Wildlife Special Agents from meeting with you in person." Among the form's questions were: Do you know who shot the wolf? Did you shoot the wolf? How do you feel now that you have completed this form? Should we believe your answers to the questions? What were your emotions while filling out this form? Did you feel afraid while filling out this form?

Perhaps inspired by the resulting political fallout, the agency decided that the best way to reintroduce the gray wolf into northern New England was to take it off the endangered species list. Endangered status carries with it severe and politically unpopular restrictions, and requires methodically reintroducing the animal into selected habitats. By downgrading the animal's status to merely "protected," there is still a ban on hunting the animals, but farmers may still shoot them if they threaten livestock. Officials hope a less legalistic approach will allow the animals to migrate down from Canada and thrive. There are currently only about 2,700 gray wolves in the lower 48 states.

Rutgers University professor Ivan Van Sertima declared his long-standing belief that when Europe was stagnating during the middle ages, Africans were refining steel, removing cataracts, perfecting astronomy, theorizing the Big Bang, sailing to America and mapping it with an accuracy comparable to that of satellite photographs.

University of California researcher Nicholas Christenfeld reported that men with good initials such as ACE, WOW, and JOY live longer than those with bad ones such as DUD, ASS, and PIG.


Maryland state delegate Cheryl Kagan filed a complaint with the Montgomery County Human Rights Commission that a sign posted at a Dryclean Depot, suggesting that husband-and-wife teams might be interested in franchising opportunities, is "probably illegal." In a fax to the business, Kagan asked, "why preclude best friends? A brother-sister team? A business partner? A gay lover?"

Ironically, the chain charges both men and women the same price for dry cleaning services, going against the industry tradition of charging women more.

In her new book, An Unconventional Family, Cornell psychology and women's studies professor Sandra Lipsitz Bem chronicles her efforts at forming a family and raising her children, Emily and Jeremy, in a "gender-liberated, anti-homophobic, and sex-positive way." When Sandra first met and later married her partner Daryl in 1965, she says what most attracted her to him was "the fact that he was male and I was female had not seemed to be part of our chemistry." Alternating daily child care responsibilities, the couple would put two pointy breast marks on a figure in the kitchen signifying "mommy's turn," and one pointy crotch mark for "daddy's turn." To maintain a strictly egalitarian household, Sandra even quashed some of Daryl's superior job offers.

To liberate the children from the tyranny of "the culture's sex-and-gender system," Bem writes, "we never allowed there to be a time... when they didn't know that some people had partners of their own sex and other people had partners of the other sex." The couple "censored" certain books and television programs that had inappropriate sexual messages, and even used white correcting fluid to change pronouns in books from male to female. Family members would often traipse around in the buff, and Sandra made a point of "putting tampons in and taking them out" in front of the children to demonstrate that women's menstrual blood was not "yucky." Children were encouraged to "experiment sexually" with members of either sex in the privacy of their bedrooms. When Jeremy showed signs of special adeptness at math, Sandra regarded it as a "nightmare. After all, mathematics is a field in which few American women have yet entered the highest levels, and that gender disparity could have easily made Jeremy even more disrespectful of women's intelligence."

The children, now in their twenties, have turned out surprisingly normal. Emily dates boys mostly, wears makeup, maintains a doll collection, and does not shave her body hair. Jeremy still occasionally wears a skirt, just as he wore barrettes to nursery school. He admits that it still bothers him that he is interested in "conventionally gendered" topics like "math and computer programming and physics." Rebuking his mother for her child-rearing practices in a later interview for the book, Jeremy says, "If you were doing it all over again, I would advise you to make it clearer to me that it's okay to have conventional desires as well as unconventional ones." Emily, for her part, complains that her mother made her feel "unnatural to be a girl." Sandra takes this to mean that she and her husband/partner must have been "much more gendered as parents than [we] had intended."

In conclusion, Bem mentions without any elaboration that she and Daryl "did split up about four years ago, and both of use became involved in relationships with people of our own sex." She describes their current relationship as "no longer close-coupled."

The New York Times relates a whole new level of spin:
So intense is Mr. Clinton's obsession with Mr. Starr that he has gone so far as to tell several members of his administration that the prosecutor was partly to blame for his affair with Lewinsky, according to an official who heard the remarks. Mr. Clinton told these associates that he was so angry about the intrusiveness of Mr. Starr's inquiries that he sought comfort in a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky.


Robert Reno, the Attorney General's brother, in the Lafayette, Indiana, Journal and Courier, January 22, 1999:
If we could get the hormone-crazed adolescents of America to behave as responsibly as the president and Lewinsky, we could wipe out the scourge of teenage pregnancy.


The Journal of the American Medical Association published an article, based on an eight-year-old Kinsey Institute study, finding that a majority of college students questioned did not consider oral sex to be real "sex," an attitude apparently shared by President Clinton. After publishing the piece, long-time editor George Lundberg was fired for lending the journal's considerable scientific prestige to transient political controversies.

Yet this report was scientifically well grounded compared to one published by Lundberg in JAMA the previous April. Authored by Devra Lee Davis, an epidemiologist at the World Resources Institute, an environmentalist group, the report compared male-female birth ratios between 1970 and 1990, found male births declining, and suggested that man-made chemicals were to blame. "Proportion of Male Births Down in U.S., Study Says; Pollution Suggested as Possible Cause," echoed the Washington Post. But government statistics on sex ratios of newborns go back much farther to 1940, and the full data set indicates that the ratio swings up and down from one decade to the next. Ms. Davis simply ignored those years she found inconvenient. The data also show the relative number of male births since 1970 has been increasing among blacks, revealing an apparent discriminatory effect on the part of synthetic chemicals against white males.


The American Federation of Government Employees Local 1897 filed a complaint on behalf of a male civilian employee who has for five years worn a bra, makeup and earrings at his job as an airfield management specialist at Florida's Eglin Air Force base. The employee, who has occasionally encountered resistance to his attire, said he wants a recent reprimand removed from his file, an apology from the officers who punished him, permission to continue dressing as he wishes, and $580,000.

A Kentucky jury decided that Wal-Mart was wrong to fire four employees for eating damaged nuts and candy that were unsuitable for sale, awarding each plaintiff $1 million for slander, $1 million for embarrassment and mental anguish, and $3 million in punitive damages—$20 million total.


Taxonomic musings from Canada's General Sales Tax News:
Tax Status of Salads: Food containing ingredients, whether mixed or not, such as chopped, shredded, diced, sliced, or pureed vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, or other food when supplied with a dressing and/or seasoning(s), whether or not the dressing is mixed with the other ingredients, is considered to be a "salad" for purposes of determining its GST/HST status. A combination of one ingredient and a dressing or seasoning(s), which is sold or represented as a salad, is also considered to be a salad.

All supplies of salads, except those that are canned or vacuum-sealed, are taxable at 7% (15% in the participating provinces). Generally, if there is no dressing of seasoning applied to the ingredients, and no dressing or seasoning is packaged separately with the ingredients, the package is not considered to be a salad and is zero-rated. However, supplies of fruit salads or gelatin salads are taxable at 7% (15% in the participating provinces), even though they generally do not contain a dressing.

Supplies of salads that are sold in cans or containers that are vacuum-sealed are zero-rated. Supplies of mixed, cut vegetables that are packaged and promoted as "stir-fry" or "chop suey mixes" are also zero-rated, since they are not considered to be salads.


The state of California is facing a legal challenge to its policy of paying lower welfare benefits to newly arrived residents. Intended as a means to discourage people from moving to the state to enjoy its higher level of benefits, critics have challenged the policy as an unconstitutional restriction of movement across state lines.


From Practical Ethics, a 1993 book its author, Peter Singer, will be assigning this autumn in his capacity as professor of "bioethics" at Princeton University's Center for Human Values:
Suppose that a newborn baby is diagnosed as a hemophiliac. The parents, daunted by the prospect of bringing up a child in this condition, are not anxious for him to live. Could euthanasia be defended here? Our first reaction may well be a firm No, for the infant can be expected to have a life worth living, even if it is not quite as good as a normal baby. The "prior existence" version of utilitarianism supports this judgment. The infant exists. His life can be expected to contain a positive balance between happiness over misery. To kill him would deprive him of this positive balance. Therefore it would be wrong.

On the "total" version of utilitarianism, however, we cannot reach a decision on the basis of this information alone. The total view makes it necessary to ask whether the death of the hemophiliac infant would lead to the creation of another being who would not otherwise have existed. In other words, if the hemophiliac child is killed, will his parents have another child whom they would not have had if the hemophiliac child lives? If they would, is the second child likely to have a better life than the one killed?

Often it will be possible to answer both these questions affirmatively.

When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed. The loss of happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second.

Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on the others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him. The main point is clear: killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all.

[Ed.: The New York Times notes that Mr. Singer is a top scholar who, before entering the field of medical ethics, already had considerable influence on the animal rights movement. A proponent of Jeremy Bentham's school of utilitarianism, which judges the morality of an action by its consequences rather than by any intrinsic qualities, Singer is concerned with the overall quality of life rather than its supposed sanctity. Arguing that the total amount of suffering in the world must be decreased (which he backs up by donating 20 percent of his income to famine relief agencies), Singer concludes that killing a disabled infant or terminally ill patient can be justified over killing a healthy animal, or at least one that displays comparable levels of emotion and rational behavior. While he believes it is never justified to kill a disabled person who expresses a wish to live, for infants or others who can't make their wills known the decision falls to parents and doctors on a case-by-case basis.

In a later interview with the Princeton alumni weekly, Singer responded to his critics' challenge that were he to follow his own principles, he would redirect the large amount of money spent caring for his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, to the poor. "Yes. In a sense, my spending money on my mother's care is in conflict with that principle," Singer said. "But so is the fact that I flew back to Australia to visit my daughters at Christmas. That money could also be better spent elsewhere. I've never claimed that I live my life perfectly in accordance with those principles of sharing my money as much as I should."

Singer has also long complained of his exclusion from German academic conferences, where scholars detected a link between his ideas and their recent unhappy experience under Nazi rule.]


While sentencing Aaron Patno to a prison term for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy, Judge George A. Thompson happened to quote Romans I: 20-27, though he didn't specify the quotation was from the Bible, and there was no more opportunity for that fact to sway the jury. Still, the Nebraska Supreme Court rescinded the sentence, declaring, "If a judge's comments during sentencing could cause a reasonable person to question the impartiality of the judge, then the defendant has been deprived of due process and the judge has abused his or her discretion." Asked what message the higher court was sending, Judge Thompson said, "I guess it's 'Don't quote the Bible.' "


The federal Correctional Services of Canada announced that, in order to comply with the nation's Privacy Act, it was prevented by law from releasing the names of 34 convicted murderers unlawfully at large after skipping parole. The agency said that any public information must come from individual police jurisdictions, even for federal arrest warrants. Victims of two such missing parolees are now suing the agency for negligence.


Judith Judd in the Independent, January 7, 1999:
Schools should allow children to be naughty and to break rules to help them become confident adults, a management guru said yesterday.

Charles Handy told the North of England education conference in Sunderland that teachers who connived at rule-breaking might be encouraging the entrepreneurs of the future. He described how a 13-year-old boy who was allowed to sell pirate videos at school became a highly successful businessman.

Mr. Handy, conference president and author of business management books, said: "Schools are protected proving zones and should let pupils get away with a bit of naughtiness. Thinking outside the box in adult life is often the equivalent of a little naughtiness in a child."

Mr. Handy said non-conformity would help people survive in the confusing world of market capitalism, and good grades should be only part of education.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, accused Mr. Handy of inciting riots in the classroom. "Heaven protect the education service from nonsense like this," he said.


California's Department of Corporations ruled that Kaiser Permanente must provide Viagra in its basic health insurance coverage, paying at least half of the $80 monthly cost of the impotence drug. The ruling specifically rejected Kaiser's bid to specify treatments relating to sexual function as supplemental benefits available at a higher premium.

From the "Curriculum for the Study of the Legacy of Mayor Marion Barry, Jr.," written by Barry's staff and distributed to all public schools in Washington, D.C. The curriculum includes a summary of Barry's accomplishments and a lesson plan for grades 1-12. It omits the fact that Barry was convicted for possession of crack cocaine in 1990 but does mention briefly that he "fell prey to the demons of alcohol and illegal substances" yet rose "like a phoenix" and was reelected mayor in 1994.
  • To acquire knowledge about the role and contributions of Marion Barry Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement.
  • To examine and develop an understanding of the political movement for Home Rule in the District of Columbia and the role of Marion Barry Jr. in this event.
  • To acquire knowledge about the significant contributions of Marion Barry Jr. to the District of Columbia during his tenure as school-board member, city-council member, and mayor.
Suggested Activities
  • Develop a time line chronicling important dates in the life of Mayor Marion Barry Jr.
  • Develop original posters on the life of Marion Barry Jr.
  • Organize a door-decorating project in honor of Mayor Marion Barry Jr.
  • Organize a bulletin-board contest highlighting the life of Mayor Marion Barry Jr.
  • Design banners to display in your school honoring the legacy of Mayor Marion Barry Jr.
  • Form research groups to obtain information on the contributions of Mayor Marion Barry Jr. as a school-board member.
  • Write letters to Mayor Barry expressing your thoughts about his tenure as mayor.
  • Research and write essays on the contributions of Mayor Marion Barry Jr.
  • Write short stories on the contributions of Mayor Marion Barry Jr. to the youth of the District of Columbia.
  • Write poems on the contributions of Mayor Marion Barry Jr.