An Inclusive Litany


USAirways admitted it allowed a Vietnamese potbellied pig to ride in first class on a flight from Philadelphia to Seattle after a female passenger produced a doctor's note saying that she needed to be with her "therapeutic companion pet" to relieve her stress. While the note specified a 13-pound pig, it turned out to be closer to 300 pounds. Passengers complained that on landing the animal become unruly and attempted to enter the cockpit until one quick-thinking passenger threw food at it.


It its retraction of a story claiming that global warming was causing ice around the North Pole to melt, the New York Times noted that "about 10 percent of the Arctic Ocean is clear of ice in a typical summer" and "the lack of ice at the pole is not necessarily due to global warming."

[Ed.: Soon after, the Times had to retract another story claiming widespread withdrawal of nationwide community support for the Boy Scouts for their ban on homosexual scout leaders.]

From "Banana Republicans," an MSNBC essay by Democratic strategist Paul Begala, November 13, 2000. Mr. Begala refers to a map showing the disproportionate number of counties won by Gore (blue) and Bush (red) across the nation: 677 and 2,434, respectively.
If you look closely at that map you see a more complex picture. You see the state where James Byrd was lynched—dragged behind a pickup truck until his body came apart—it's red. You see the state where Matthew Shepard was crucified on a split-rail fence for the crime of being gay—it's red. You see the state where right-wing extremists blew up a federal office building and murdered scores of federal employees: red. The state where an Army private who was thought to be gay was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat, and the state where neo-Nazi skinheads murdered two African Americans because of their skin color, and the state where Bob Jones University spews its anti-Catholic bigotry: they're all red too.

A Maryland inmate serving a 45-year sentence for kidnapping and assault sued a typewriter company for $29,000, claiming he would have won parole if his typewriter ribbon hadn't broken while typing his brief.


When rapper Ja Rule was told by his record company that he and his band, the Murderers, would have to remove lyrics about violence against police officers and gays from their album, he accused it of racism because it didn't say anything about the band's equally derogatory lyrics concerning African Americans.

Catalog description for Reading and Writing the Ambiente: Queer Sexualities in Latino, Latin American, and Spanish Culture, edited by Susana Chávez-Silverman and Librada Hernández and published by the University of Wisconsin Press:
In this dynamic collection of essays, many leading literary scholars trace gay and lesbian themes in Latin American, Hispanic, and U.S. Latino literary and cultural texts. Reading and Writing the Ambiente is consciously ambitious and far-ranging, historically as well as geographically. It includes discussions of texts from as early as the seventeenth century to writings of the late twentieth century.

Reading and Writing the Ambiente also underscores the ways in which lesbian and gay self-representation in Hispanic texts differs from representations in Anglo-American texts. The contributors demonstrate that—unlike the emphasis on the individual in Anglo-American sexual identity—Latino, Spanish, and Latin American sexual identity is produced in the surrounding culture and community, in the ambiente. As one of the first collections of its kind, Reading and Writing the Ambiente is expressive of the next wave of gay Hispanic and Latin scholarship.

"North American and European queers have assigned themselves the roles of 'universal' queer subjects. Reading and Writing the Ambiente insightfully challenges that bias. This volume joins and significantly contributes to an emergent wave of queer critique that is calibrated to look beyond the borders that queer theory has set up for itself."

—José Esteban Muñoz, author of Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics

Lucia Love won San Francisco's sixth annual Faux Queen Pageant, which is eligible only to women who impersonate male drag queens.


From a decision by the New Hampshire Supreme Court, August 23, 2000:
The petitioner, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, appeals a decision of the New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (board) awarding workers' compensation benefits to the respondent, Gail Sirviris-Allen, for the disability of major depression. The board found her disability compensable under the workers' compensation statute because it was caused by employment-related stress arising from her supervisor's legitimate criticism of her work performance. We affirm....


Mayor Vera Katz of Portland, Oregon, is leading an effort to modify the city's 1991 ordinance against "transgender" discrimination so that employees could be required to present a "consistent" gender identity. Employees would not have the right, for example, to work dressed as a man one day and a woman the next.

Letter to the editor, the San Diego Union-Tribune, June 8, 2000:
Even though the phrase "political correctness" is ridiculed in some quarters, I'm in favor of the concept. It's frequently nothing more than exercising some kindness, consideration or sensitivity. Perhaps the most common and logical example is the use of "person" in place of the gender-limited "man."

Using "developmentally challenged" to describe some children previously called "slow" probably was a good idea, although it spawned an unbelievable variety of joke spinoffs, such as "vertically challenged" for short people.

I particularly like two fairly recent examples. "The Hebrew Bible" and "The Christian Bible" are better names for the Old and New Testaments for obvious reasons. And historians and anthropologists are leading the way in replacing A.D. and B.C. with C.E. (the Common Era) and B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). This eliminates the unnecessarily narrow, religiously sectarian implications while maintaining the long-established time frames.

—Rocky Velgos

After 73-year-old Dennis Heiner splashed white paint on Chris Ofili's dung- and pornography-laden depiction of the Virgin Mary at the Brooklyn Museum's infamous "Sensation" exhibit, his lawyers argued that he had a First Amendment right to deface the artwork.

But District Attorney Noel Downey countered with another novel argument: that the vandalism wasn't protected as speech because he went after only one of the paintings rather than the exhibit as a whole. "He might have had an argument if he emptied the shark tank or kicked the bloody head across the floor," said Downey.

The painting has been mostly restored, and the museum provided no damage estimate to the court, perhaps because the controversy triggered by the vandalism caused its value to increase.

Letter to the editor, the Boston Globe, November 20, 2000:
Barry Barnett's Nov. 15 letter ("Equal Access to education for men") points out that men are underrepresented in universities and underachieving in elementary and secondary schools. Males, he says, get lower grades and score worse on standardized tests than females. According to him, "the gender gap has reversed."

So how come males still get paid more in the workplace? According to the Census Bureau, in 1998 the average male earned over $36,252 a year, while the average female earned $26,855.

If males are experiencing little success compared to females in school, why is there such a dramatic change outside school?

—Justin Antos


A Connecticut woman filed a $60 million lawsuit against Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford for making her drive around for two months in fear of imminent tire failure, even though no problem actually occurred.

Topless members of the Boobie Liberation Organization gathered in the November chill of Northamption, Massachusetts, to protest laws preventing women from baring their breasts in public. One woman made a "Sacred Mother Earth costume" consisting of "wooden bowls glued to a painted earth to represent the nourishment that breasts, like the earth, provide for all people."


At a Christie's auction, Felix Gonzalez-Torres's "Untitled (Blood)" sold for $1.6 million. The artwork consists of a curtain of red and clear plastic beads hung from a metal rod. The New York Times reports that the curtain was a "metaphor for human existence, with meanings ranging from hope for luminosity to blood as a lifeline and its relationship to mortality." A Manhattan art dealer commented that "great property from the 1980s is becoming scarce, so when something like the Felix Gonzalez-Torres curtain comes along, it fetches a great price."

[Ed.: Either call it 'Untitled' or call it 'Blood,' but don't go around calling the damned thing 'Untitled (Blood)!']

Letter to the editor, the Springfield, Massachusetts, Union-News, July 5, 2000:
On June 22, an innocent man, Shaka Sankofa, better known to the public as Gary Graham, was a victim of murder in the first degree by Texas Governor George W. Bush.

Does Shaka's death arouse our outrage and sorrow as if he were our son or brother? Do we seek the death penalty for Bush? I certainly do not. Rather, he should receive a life sentence. There is some possibility that time on death row might move him toward change from a power-hungry politician toward becoming an informed and genuinely compassionate human being.

It took far less than 19 years to change Gary Graham from a poor, thoughtless 17-year-old into a mature Shaka Sankofa, devoted to truth and justice for himself and others. But this change was brought about by profound thought, extensive study and communication with others inside and outside of prison—and was based on a native intelligence that seems to be lacking in Bush.

There is a haunting question about the Nazi Holocaust: How much did the German people know about what was happening?

How much do we, the American people, know about our candidate (candidates) for president?

—Margaret G. Holt


Reporting on the inspirational-speaker industry, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel noted that virgins made $150 an hour telling other virgins how to remain pure, aided by a $50 million federal program.

Inspired by a book by Inga Muscio, titled Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, Penn State feminists sponsored an all-day "Cuntfest" devoted to the idea that the word used to be a respectable term referring to witches, priestesses, and goddesses, and should be reclaimed by women so that it wouldn't hurt when someone used it. Junior Michelle Yates, who initiated the festival, said: "It would be a beautiful day for a woman to be able to say, 'Thank you. Thank you for calling me a cunt.' " Senior Tarah Ausburn added: "Vagina comes from a word meaning 'sheath for a sword,' and I find that offensive and heterosexist."

[Ed.: 'Idiot,' 'moron,' and 'imbecile' were originally non-pejorative medical terms, and should be reclaimed. In February, Penn State's second annual "Sex Faire" featured amusements such as "orgasm bingo" and "pin the clitoris on the vulva."]


Having spent 78 hours stuck in a swampy, 40-foot ravine after her car was forced off the road by a hit-and-run driver, 84-year-old Tillie Tooter announced her intention to sue the Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Department and Florida Highway Patrol for not rescuing her sooner.

The Florida Highway Patrol had been in the area, but found only the other car, whose driver said he thought he had crashed into the barrier wall. Rescue crews searched the area with floodlights, but failed to spot Ms. Tooter's car amidst the dense thicket. A follow-up 911 call from a witness who saw a car going over the barrier was miscommunicated to the officers on the scene.

Tooter survived by capturing rainwater in a steering wheel cover and was discovered three days later by a road worker, with only minor injuries such as numerous mosquito bites. It took search and rescue officers another hour to retrieve her from the thicket. The other driver was arrested for a felony and two misdemeanors.

"We're not seeking revenge here against any state agency," said Tooter's lawyer in bringing the suit. "I feel they do a commendable job, especially Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue that did an outstanding job in her rescue. It's about Grandma Tillie and doing what's in her best interests to protect her legal rights."


From the newsletter of the Monterey County AIDS Project, July-September 2000:
Liquid Latex went off without a hitch on Sunday, April 30. This was the AIDS Awareness Week youth kick-off at the Window to the Bay park in Monterey. The sky was blue, the sun was warm, and the wind kept things exciting. We attracted a diverse segment of the peninsula populous [sic], from toddlers to seniors, homeless to executives, gay teens to Hell's Angels, breakdancers to the rhythmically challenged. It was a wonderful day.

Eight DJs spun house, techno, and trance from noon until eight o'clock. Big Sur Bottled Water, Inc. donated 144 bottles of water, Wholefoods donated a box each of organically grown oranges, pears, and apples. These donations were distributed freely to all those in attendance at the event along with condoms, female condoms, dental dams, lubrication, testing coupons, and informational resources at a booth manned by volunteers from Seaside High School. The Food Not Bombs crew of Monterey County set up a table and distributed information and promotional materials as well.

Thank you Big Sur Bottled Water, Inc., Wholefoods, Food Not Bombs, The City of Monterey Department of Recreation, Positive Theory, and all who made this event possible.


—Donovan Ventresca
Youth Outreach Coordinator

From the instructions distributed to voters in Palm Beach County, Florida, November 7, 2000. This was the only bold, capitalized text to appear there:

The Washington Post, November 10, 2000:

Faced with a cliffhanger election, the Democratic Party directed a telemarketing firm on Election Night to begin calling thousands of voters in Palm Beach, Fla., to raise questions about a disputed ballot and urge them to contact local election officials.

The Democratic National Committee paid Texas-based TeleQuest to make the calls Tuesday night—while polls were still open—alerting voters in the heavily Democratic enclave in Florida of possible confusion with the ballots they cast.

"Some voters have encountered a problem today with punch card ballots in Palm Beach County," the script for the call said. "These voters have said that they believe that they accidentally punched the wrong hole for the incorrect candidate."

"If you have already voted and think you may have punched the wrong hole for the incorrect candidate, you should return to the polls and request that the election officials write down your name so that this problem can be fixed," the script said.

If voters were about to go to the polls, the script called for the caller to instruct them to "be sure to punch Number 5 for Gore-Lieberman" and "do not punch any other number as you might end up voting for someone else by mistake."...

"I think those kinds of calls make perfect sense," Nelson said. "In terms of people getting riled up, it would be a tactic that might energize voters who might otherwise not have realized they may have mistakenly voted for the wrong candidate."...

[Ed.: "I don't think we have 3,000 Nazis in Palm Beach County," said County Commissioner Bert Aaronson of the Buchanan votes. However, Alex T. Tabarrok, an economist at the Independent Institute, noted that widely published statistics suggesting a disproportionate number of people voting for Pat Buchanan in Palm Beach County, presumably in error, were a statistical illusion. The statistics compared the total number of people who voted for Buchanan in Palm Beach County with the number who voted for him in other counties, expressing that as an alarmingly skewed percentage. But Palm Beach is an unusually populous county, so one would expect there to be a higher total of Buchanan voters as a result. When comparing the number of Palm Beach residents who voted for Buchanan with the number who voted for other candidates, it turns out that Buchanan received .78 percent of the vote, compared with an average of .46 percent in other counties. Even that averaged share can be misleading, since Buchanan's share of the votes varied widely from one county to the next. In many other counties where there was no question of voter confusion, Buchanan received a much larger share of the vote than in Palm Beach.

In one regard, however, Palm Beach County was statistically anomalous. Gore initially won the county by a 63.8 to 36.2 percent margin. But the state-mandated electronic recount not only added to Gore's totals as can be expected, but added votes to Gore's benefit at the rate of 88.2 to 11.8 percent. An unbiased machine recount should have shown roughly the same ratio of votes, 1.75-to-1, as the initial count. The far more dramatic 7.5-to-1 ratio suggests that chads fell from ballot cards selectively for Gore. Recounts in Dade and Brower counties, on the other hand, revealed the expected proportional additions to the original count. In Duval county, the recount revealed many ballots that were written on rather than punched. This added 184 votes for Gore but only 16 for Bush, suggesting that Gore supporters were less likely to be able to follow simple instructions.]