An Inclusive Litany
Recently the Pulitzer Prize, the Obie, and the New York Drama Circle award were bestowed on a play, How I Learned to Drive, which portrays a sexual relationship between a 40-year-old man and his 11-year-old niece. The director of the Los Angeles production, Mark Brokaw, says "it's not about pedophilia as much as it's about a very special, very singular relationship between these two individuals." Meanwhile, free speech enthusiasts are fighting community efforts to keep photo books such as David Hamilton's The Age of Innocence out of bookstores. Reviewing the book, Time writer Bruce Handy described its photos of nude children carrying captions like "Not unless—or until—I say so!" as "creepy," especially considering that Hamilton freely admits his intent to arouse. The book, Handy concludes, "portrays real girls as ripening, imminently deflowerable teases. Doesn't that make them fair game, and isn't that what children are never supposed to be?"
Finally, Insight reports that in several divorce cases in California and Utah, custody of children has been awarded to fathers accused of abusing them. Under the theory of "parental alienation syndrome," estranged wives may be prone to make spousal or child abuse accusations against their husbands during contentious custody cases that their children then believe. The theory's critics cite a lack of supporting research that would help determine the validity of these abuse accounts—other than whether a child demonstrates negative feelings towards the father.
As James Bovard reports in the American Spectator, of the three pairs who visited Columbia National offices, the first two found no problems, but the third uncovered evidence of discrimination: the white tester spent an hour with a female loan officer, while a male Hispanic loan tester spent only 20 minutes with a male loan officer. According to the commission's report, the loan officer who saw the Hispanic shook his hand, then "excused himself to use the restroom. About two minutes later, he returned from the restroom and the interview began." The report concluded that there were no "extenuating circumstances" to justify such an interruption, even though the white male tester had to wait a full five minutes to see his loan officer, and the Hispanic's loan officer did seek to pre-qualify him for a loan. HUD later admitted that the two testers even gave different information, the Hispanic tester claiming less personal savings than the white tester. Neither would provide his Social Security number or an address, nor did either allow the loan officer to pull his credit report, unusual behavior for any legitimate loan applicant. The essence of the settlement hinged on the 40-minute differential, the result being that the company was penalized over $150 million per minute.
Columbia National CEO Dave Gallitano said he had received threats from a HUD "equal opportunity conciliator" that if his company did not sign the settlement, "the alternative was [for HUD] to come in and audit us to death." In the agreement itself, the firm did not have to admit to any actual wrongdoing, and the Human Relations Commission waived the right to take any further action against the company. The only direct payment consisted of a $5,000 pledge to the commission to "further fair housing initiatives through education, outreach and testing." While the firm made an annual commitment to make certain levels of loans to minority applicants, the agreement contained no penalty clause if they didn't. Gallitano insists his company was being villainized for reasons of political advantage. "Clinton gets on national TV and makes us sound like bigots. This is the kind of statement from a person in his position that could put us out of business." Indeed, the White House/HUD press release announcing the settlement made much of the fact that the company made no loans to blacks or Hispanics in ten states—states in which the firm had no offices and did almost no business at all.
In another case, HUD funded a Richmond, Virginia activist group, Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), to send testers to prove that the Nationwide Insurance Co. quoted different rates to homeowners in black and white neighborhoods. A jury convicted Nationwide and ordered the company to pay $100 million in damages, even though the trial revealed that the testers asked for rate quotes on homes of much different age, overall value, and neighborhood crime rate, which are all relevant variables. Nevertheless, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo hailed the verdict and warned that it sent companies a message "loud and clear that it is now their turn to pay a terrible price if they continue to discriminate."
But an Urban Institute study found no evidence of racial bias in the insurance markets of New York and Phoenix. Though HUD granted $650,000 for the study up until 1995, it declined to release the report, and the Urban Institute later had to publish it on its own. Many insurance executives believe the report was suppressed because its conclusions were not politically useful. A 1995 Federal Reserve Board study of over 200,000 mortgage loans also found no evidence of bias, with apparent racial disparities in lending rates easily explained by corresponding disparities in default rates.
[Ed.: During the proposal's public comment period, there were 72 favorable comments, with 254,000 opposed—over 3,500 times as many.]
[Ed.: Milosevic originally invited UNFPS in to help reduce Kosovo's population, but appears to have become impatient. Milosevic's minister for family concerns described Kosovar women as "baby machines" because they gave birth at four times the rate of Serbians' much lower and unsustainable rate of 1.7.]
[Ed.: Another package for a Rowenta iron warns: "Do not iron clothes on body." A package of bread pudding warns: "Product will be hot after heating." With some of these labels, it's unclear just who is being stupid. A bar of Dial soap advises: "Use like regular soap." A Japanese food processor warns: "Not to be used for the other use." A hotel shower cap: "Fits one head." A bag of Fritos declares: "You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside." And a box of Christmas lights specifies: "For indoor or outdoor use only."]
Storekeeper Sharon Kempler-Jones claims Amiad failed to explain her disabled status, and that her concern at the time was that the small, shaggy animal would damage her merchandise. The Seattle Office of Civil Rights disagreed, ordering Kempler-Jones to pay Amiad $250 and attend sensitivity training. In another case investigated by the Washington state Human Rights Commission, a man received $800 and an apology from a motel that refused him a room because of the dog on which he depended.
And at Virginia Tech, an "Act Like Bill Clinton" dance ended badly when four fraternity brothers were arrested for holding an exotic dancer against her will, and a fifth was charged with indecent exposure.
Another lobbying group, the Families USA Foundation, claimed that 13 percent of senior citizens were forced to choose between buying food and medicine. That led Rep. Tom Allen to propose the Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act, a broad entitlement program projected to cost $40 billion a year, and a key component of the failed 1993 Clinton health care plan. But the government's Consumer Expenditure Survey found that seniors, on average, spent less than half on prescription drugs than what they spent on restaurants, home furnishings, clothing, or entertainment, and about a third what they spent on health insurance—about 2 percent of their disposable income. Even the poorest senior citizens were spending less on drugs than dining out.
It is not the managers' fault that the country itself has enough residual sexism that the very appearance of a woman who has been "outed" for enjoying oral sex (as though there were no others) will kick off a new round of salaciousness.
Nor is it their fault that women bring on the sex—even though men are also involved. Bill Clinton remains a lucky guy; she becomes a Hester, with an A-plus on her breast.
It was, however, the managers' responsibility to call or not to call her to testify.
They could have let this option go—but apparently, they just couldn't. It was too juicy. Too punitive. Too mean.
Learn how sexism works. Once it gets going, it can't stop itself.
It can't help itself. Such is the defense of many convicted rapists.
Some Jews, citing the temporary halt to pressure on Israel on peace-process-related issues, invoked the story of Purim. They called [Monica] Lewinsky a modern-day Queen Esther, referring to the Jewish woman in biblical times who brought herself to the king to save her people from destruction.
Given the distances between houses due to generous dimensions of their lawns, homeowners often fail to become acquainted with people on their own street. Parents with young children travel across multiple zip codes to arrange play dates with friends from day care. Teenagers imprisoned behind family lawn "moats" wait patiently for the day when they may escape by obtaining drivers' licenses. In many suburban areas the institutions that define a healthy civic life—churches, bookstores, post offices—are absent. We are in danger of becoming a virtual community, composed of citizens who see each other only when we go outside to mow our lawns...
Given this, what can be done to encourage a greater sense of community life on Long Island? Sidewalks and public flower gardens would help, but little substantive change can occur until we alter the ground rules controlling the size, shape, and configuration of residential properties. We need to stop producing conventional housing developments with jumbo lawn spreads and start again to build places where people can walk to bakeries and barbershops. This has already begun to happen in other parts of the country, where new towns like Kentlands, Md., and Harbortown, Tenn., have rejected suburban lawn designs. The front walk leads to sidewalk; the front door leads to the street. In Seaside, Fla., turf grass lawns have been outlawed altogether in favor of compact magnolia and beach rosemary.
The Kiki Smith "Pee Body"... is the masterpiece of the exhibition. It's in a long tradition of depictions of women being watched while engaged in highly private activities: David and Bathsheba, Susanna and the Elders, Bonnard's and Degas's bathers. Smith's crouching, life-size wax figure urinates gleaming golden beads: The magical quality of bodily fluids is an ongoing fascination of the artist's. The woman's posture and the sense of her weight, all on her heels, ring very true and make her seem all the more vulnerable to our gaze. Yet the gold streams emanating from her, pooling in Art Nouveau swirls, act for her as a halo does for a saint: They give her power.
I was riveted by the announcement in "Around Town Hall" (Bulletin, Jan. 15) that a new town team, the Emergency Management Team, is being formed. The team will concern itself with "planning for the Y2K as well as other emergencies."...
The team consists of seven white middle-aged home owners drawn from the upper echelons of town departments, primarily hardware intensive departments like Fire, Police, Maintenance and Public Works. There's no one from the university on the team and no planners.
There are also no old people, no poor people, no people in wheelchairs, no people in business, no black people, no Hispanics, no Cambodians, no students, no tenants, no landlords, no clergymen, and no women. No mothers, no teachers, no nurses. Not even Amherst's talented finance director, Nancy Maglione....
[Ed.: At least they're doing something about this terrible crisis. In Kenya, the official government committee investigating the Y2K problem is scheduled to release its report in April, 2000.]
For some farmers, the best crop is the one they don't harvest.
In west Texas last year, 200 farmers obtained federally subsidized insurance on a type of cotton that wasn't feasible to grow in their arid region. They paid $4.4 million in premiums and then claimed nearly $15 million in benefits when most of the crop failed.
Farmers in North Dakota and surrounding states recently rushed out and bought seed for durum wheat, even in areas not suited for the crop, to take advantage of a new insurance policy offering benefits far higher than they could earn if they grew and sold ordinary wheat.
Crop insurance provides a vital safety net for farmers, especially when prices are low and the government has been trying to phase out its role in agriculture. But government auditors say the insurance system is riddled with abuse, conflicts of interest and errors because taxpayers bear most of the risk for losses, not the private companies that sell and service the policies.
The companies "have little reason to effectively monitor risky policy holders, little reason to deny claims of questionable losses, and no cause to find fault with their own practices," said an internal report by the Agriculture Department's inspector general.
The companies "are supposed to ensure compliance, but they also have an aggressive sales function.... The two don't mix well," said Scott Stofferahn, who oversees USDA's farm programs in North Dakota.
Stephen Frerichs, a spokesman for the companies, dismissed the inspector general's report this week, saying it was merely "rehashing a bunch of old" allegations.
Besides assuming most of the risk for losses, the government subsidizes the premiums farmers pay for the insurance and pays the companies a fee for handling the policies. The program has been costing the government more than $1.5 billion a year, and Congress is considering doubling that to improve the coverage and make it less costly to producers.