An Inclusive Litany

12/30/01

A tiny note that appeared at the bottom of the December 30 panel of "Beakman & Jax," a Sunday comics feature that introduces children to scientific concepts, in this case the reason why the World Trade Center towers collapsed the way they did:
P.S. from Jax: A lot of people say this fight is about good against evil. But both sides say that, so that can't be it. It's really about hate, and hatred is a powerful force that we have to be careful not to be a part of.

[Ed.: That first observation should be especially useful to children developing the ability to evaluate seemingly contradictory data.]

12/24/01

In the Independent, December 10, 2001, Robert Fisk relates the problematic, violent encounter he experienced after his car broke down in Afghanistan:
They started by shaking hands. We said "Salaam aleikum"—peace be upon you—then the first pebbles flew past my face. A small boy tried to grab my bag. Then another. Then someone punched me in the back. Then young men broke my glasses, began smashing stones into my face and head. I couldn't see for the blood pouring down my forehead and swamping my eyes. And even then, I understood. I couldn't blame them for what they were doing. In fact, if I were the Afghan refugees of Kila Abdullah, close to the Afghan-Pakistan border, I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other westerner I could find.... And—I realized—there were all the Afghan men and boys who had attacked me who should never have done so but whose brutality was entirely the product of others, of us—of we who had armed their struggle against the Russians and ignored their pain and laughed at their civil war and then armed and paid them again for the "War for Civilisation" just a few miles away and then bombed their homes and ripped up their families and called them "collateral damage".... I'll say it again. If I was an Afghan refugee in Kila Abdullah, I would have done just what they did. I would have attacked Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released a report concluding that Irish students ranked second highest for reading and fifth for math among 32 industrial nations. "But the OECD sounded a disapproving note," reports the Irish Times, "pointing out that education spending in the Republic [of Ireland] is significantly lower than in many developed states. It suggests that students here are forced to work harder to achieve their grades because of lack of investment."

In a sympathetic profile of a homeless couple, John Heitman and Amy Robson, who are engaged to be married, Nick Coleman of the St. Paul Pioneer Press penned the following sentence: " 'I've got to behave out here,' Heitman says, explaining that he has cut down on his drinking, limiting himself to eight beers a day."

12/21/01

The National Endowment for the Arts rejected a $42,000 grant proposal from the Maine College of Art in Portland for an exhibit by performance artist William Pope.L, titled "Pope.L: eRacism." In an earlier performance, the artist walked around New York City with a 14-foot white cardboard penis, calling it a commentary on "the supremacy of white phalluses." Two years prior, the artist won a grant for an exhibition in which, the New York Times reports, "he spent several days eating and regurgitating copies of The Wall Street Journal."

Five protestors appeared at a city council meeting in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, clad in burkas as a protest against the group's Taliban-like behavior. The Torrance Daily Breeze reports that the protestors were angry at "what they portrayed as a sexist decision not to elect the panel's only woman as deputy mayor."

The Environmental Protection Agency approved a proposal that would compel General Electric to pay $460 million to fund a project to dredge a 40-mile stretch of New York's Hudson River above Albany for PCBs, which were long used in the manufacture of electrical equipment.

GE produced an estimated 1.1 million pounds of the chemical over three decades, allowing PCB-contaminated waste to drain into the river until 1977, when the chemical was declared a "probable human carcinogen" and banned. After that, GE spent nearly $200 million on remediation efforts that reduced the river's PCB levels by 90 percent. The remaining ten percent of tainted sediment is now buried under layers of mud. Dredging the river will take an estimated five years, and another twenty years for the mud to settle again. The EPA's PCB reduction goals will likely not be met until the year 2031, at which point pregnant women would theoretically be able to eat fish caught in the river more than once a month.

Local residents overwhelmingly oppose the dredging project. Locals currently swim freely and safely in the river, and two towns even tap the river for drinking water. Both the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Geological Survey have pointed out the danger of disturbing the tainted sediments, which would bring them up to the top layer of the river floor. The project also requires constructing two 30-acre hazardous waste plants on the river banks, and ten miles of underwater pipeline, and a set of landfill sites in which to dump an estimated 45,000 tons of waste a day.

And while PCBs supposedly cause cancer, there is much evidence that even this basic assumption is unfounded. Studies of workers exposed to high levels of PCBs and of people who regularly eat PCB-contaminated fish show no increased risk of developing cancer. One study showed GE workers with higher levels of PCBs in their blood to have lower rates of cancer incidence. Dr. Susan Sieber of the National Cancer Institute has stated that her agency knew of "no evidence" that eating fish from the Hudson River poses a cancer risk.

[Ed.: Interestingly, environmental advocates have opposed a similar river-dredging project that would allow commercial navigation along the Delaware.]

12/20/01

In Missouri, a student at North Kirkwood Middle School was questioned by school officials and threatening with punishment after she uttered the word "anthrax" in a non-threatening context.

12/17/01

Having mistaken an installation by artist Damien Hirst for rubbish, a cleaner cleared away the pile of beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays that had been left in London's Eyestorm Gallery. Shocked gallery owners, possibly motivated by the six-figure sum that the work was expected to fetch, immediately set about to put it back together again based on "records of how it had looked."

In Plainfield, Illinois, elementary school principal Sandy Niemiera announced that due to diversity concerns, students would no longer be allowed to celebrate any holidays at all.

A Reuters dispatch from Helsinki, Finland, December 17, 2001:
A fishmonger has been fined almost $200 (125 pounds) by a court in Helsinki for allowing his fish to suffer while on sale at a local market, a Finnish newspaper has reported.

A 27-year-old veterinarian took fisherman Magnus Ekstrom to court, complaining that his burbots at the Helsinki market hall were still moving their gills and wiggling around on the shop counter, suffering from unnecessary pain.

Ekstrom whacked his fish to prove they were dead, but when the fish continued to flop around the dissatisfied vet called in the police who arrived on the scene with wailing sirens, Kauppalehti said.

"I think I am the only fisherman in Europe... no, in the entire world, that has been convicted with a thing like this. Usually people want fish to be as fresh as possible when it's sold," Ekstrom was quoted as telling the daily on Monday.

A Forest Service investigation found that a group of seven federal and state wildlife biologists planted false evidence of a rare cat species in two national forests in the state of Washington. The group introduced conspicuous samples of lynx hair into the wild that DNA tests later determined were from two lynxes who did not live in the wild. Had the hoax gone undiscovered, many forms of recreation and natural resource usage would likely have been banned. As for punishment, the employees have all been counseled for their actions and banned from participating in the three-year study of the lynx.

Kathy Wilson, columnist for the Cincinnati City Beat, provides commentary on NPR's "All Things Considered," December 17, 2001:
I have never been patriotic. I have never thought about not being patriotic. As an American, I enjoy my rights just like the next American. As a negro, I enjoy my rights just like the next negro. About blind patriotism, I am judgemental, critical, cynical, distrustful, and paranoid, and especially now.

Just as surely as some Americans profile brown people with wrapped heads, long beards, and alphabet-soup last names, we are now profiling one another. Flag owners and the flagless alike are eyeballing each other as if to say: "How big is yours?" Where is it and why isn't your house red, white and blue? Yeah, Old Glory has taken on a new mutated symbology.

Everybody's profiling. And it's paranoia at white noise levels born from our mistrust of each other based on external assumptions. Flags in every shape, incarnation, derivation and size are everywhere. Flags are to patriotic profiling what SUVs are to class status: the bigger, the better.

If you don't have a flag and you don't regularly and publicly display it, then, well, something's wrong with you. That means something's wrong with me....

I know there exist true-blue blue-black negroes. I see them waving, wearing and holding Old Glory just like their white counterparts. And they're every kind of negro, from war vets and the workaday blunt-smoking grunts to the white-collar business class black Ken and Barbie, all the way up to the ultra-successful faux Huxtables. They're rockin' the flag.

Yet just as many negroes aren't piling onto the red, white, and blue-stained bandwagon. We're waiting instead for the bus that will take us to an America where affirmative action isn't a dirty word, where crosses signify the crucifixion of Jesus and not racial hatred, and where Confederate flags aren't allowed to fly anywhere. As for me and mine, we're still waiting for our forty acres and a mule.

I have been repeatedly chastized for not busting a move to get a flag since September 11. I sense... no, I know there are other negroes who feel like me because we talk about it in hushed tones....

[Ed.: The next day, the program ran another piece of commentary with the following on-line synopsis: "Commentator Guillermo Gomez Peña has had a series of nasty incidents at airports since Sept. 11. Besides looking Arab, his intense look as a performance artist makes him a candidate for profiling."]

12/15/01

From Anthony Lewis's final column for the New York Times, December 15, 2001, after 32 years of observations such as these:
No one can miss the reality of that challenge after Sept. 11. Islamic fundamentalism, rejecting the rational processes of modernity, menaces the peace and security of many societies.

But the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism is not to be found in Islam alone. Fundamentalist Christians in America, believing that the Bible's story of creation is the literal truth, question not only Darwin but the scientific method that has made contemporary civilization possible.

Religion and extreme nationalism have formed deadly combinations in these decades, impervious to reason. Serbs in the grip of religion and mystical nationalist history killed thousands and expelled millions in their "ethnic cleansing" of Bosnia. Fundamentalist Judaism and extreme Israeli nationalism have fed the movement to plant settlements in Palestinian territory, fueling Islamic militancy among Palestinians....

[Ed.: Lewis draws a similar parallel in an interview published the following day, when asked if he had drawn any big conclusions over the years: "Certainty is the enemy of decency and humanity in people who are sure they are right, like Osama bin Laden and John Ashcroft."]

12/14/01

In a "Mad on the Street" poll of December 14, the Village Voice asked eight New Yorkers whether John Walker was a traitor. Five said no, two said yes, and one said maybe. Some responses:
No. I think he made his own choices and ultimately he's responsible for that.... I might not break bread with him, but I give him credit for living by his own standards.

I think he's a mixed-up kid. I've been trying to filter through the news to get the real story, but I think he's being used as a symbol. On the one hand you have this CIA operative who died for his country and is a "hero"; on the other hand you have the "screwed-up weirdo" John Walker who fought for the Taliban and is a traitor.

How can he be a traitor? In America, we practice freedom of speech and of religion. John Walker is expressing his opinions, and we only care about him because of the events of September 11.

I think it's ridiculous for us to call him a traitor. He joined the Taliban when the U.S. was not at war in Afghanistan.

I think he was caught practicing his beliefs at the wrong time. He's just unlucky. Maybe he was brainwashed. He shouldn't be targeted because of what he believes. He's now in a lot of trouble because the government is going to work to affiliate him with the terrorists.

The following are responses to the question, "What should the U.S. do with him?"
He needs psychological help, not a prison sentence.

Why would they want to try him? What did he do? I didn't vote for Bush, but I think he's doing a great job. At the same time, I don't think we should have dropped bombs on Afghanistan. Not one of those suicide bombers was Afghan. Most of them were from Saudi Arabia.

We don't know that he killed any Americans. If he killed soldiers from the Northern Alliance, they should put him on trial in Afghanistan. Americans are easily swayed by the news they read. If they dug a little deeper, they'd respond with the open-mindedness they're rightly famous for. Get in a cab in New York and the Tunisian or Bengali drivers are listening to the BBC. That's where the real information is.

He should be questioned and released. The government should warn him that because of the current military situation, he's going to be watched very carefully. I think the whole thing is bananas. John Walker hasn't broken any laws, so he shouldn't stand trial for anything. I also don't think Osama bin Laden should be tried in the U.S. The E.U. countries won't extradite suspects to countries who practice capital punishment.

Maybe he was just there. If that's true, they shouldn't go after him. If they can prove he actually killed Americans, maybe that's something else. I think they will "find" evidence even if it isn't there. This reminds me of the Red Scare of the 1950s. [The interviewee is 32 years old.]

The following are responses to the question, "Have you ever been attracted to an unorthodox ideology?"
When I saw the movie The Mission, it put me off Catholicism, but I'm still a spiritual person. My wisdom has grown as I've grown older. Lately, Scientology has piqued my interest because of their ideas on health. They promote saunas and niacin for total cleansing of the body.

No, but when you're young, you experiment. I'm religion-free right now, although I believe in God. I never obsess about anything. Whatever's cool is cool.

On September 19, four Muslim students complained that in a lecture the previous day, Orange Coast College political science professor Ken Hearlson called them "terrorists," "Nazis," and "murderers." One claimed Hearlson pointed at him and said, "You drove two planes into the World Trade Center. You were the cause of what happened September 11." Hearlson was immediately placed on administrative leave and barred from campus, with no hearing, and the incident was widely publicized as part of a broad backlash against Muslims.

However, an investigation later revealed, based on students' tape recordings of his lecture, that Hearlson was talking about Muslim extremism in general, with no references to anybody in attendance. But while its report exonerated Hearlson, a letter was placed in his personnel file that he interpreted as a reprimand. A university press release announcing that Hearlson was returning to teaching detailed the recent charges against him and the fact that a report was filed on the incident, but did not reveal the report's conclusions. As for the students who filed the false complaints, no action is being taken against them.

Some faculty members later circulated a petition in support of the four students, placing blame on Hearlson's freewheeling, iconoclastic style of teaching for creating a "hostile environment." Hearlson's strong religious beliefs and extensive military background do not seem to have helped, either. Kevin Parker, an English professor who signed the petition, commented that "the four students who raised complaints were factually wrong in their accusations. However, they were inferentially correct."

12/13/01

Three months after terrorist attacks shook America, Time magazine included Antonio Negri, co-author of the neo-Marxist tome Empire, in its series of seven influential "thinkers exploring new ideas." Time notes that Negri is "living under house arrest in Rome," but does not explain why. In fact, Negri was associated with the Red Brigade terrorist group in the 1970s, and is believed to have had a hand in the kidnapping and murder of Italian prime minister Aldo Moro—by calling Moro's wife to taunt her just before Moro was shot dead.

[Ed.: A sample from the book: "In the passage from disciplinary society to society of control, a new paradigm of power is realized which is defined by the technologies that recognize society as the realm of biopower. In disciplinary society the effects of biopolitical technologies were still partial in the sense that disciplining developed according to closed, geometrical, and quantitative logics. Disciplinarity fixed individuals within institutions but did not succeed in consuming them completely in the rhythm of productive practices and productive socialization; it did not reach the point of permeating entirely the consciousness and bodies of individuals."]

12/12/01

Louis Freedberg, in a column titled "A product of Bay Area culture" in the San Francisco Chronicle, December 7, 2001, defends John Walker, a United States citizen who took up arms with the Taliban against American-allied forces.
[B]efore rushing off to charge him with treason, let's consider how the 20-year-old Walker found himself in his bizarre predicament....

Until his latest detour, his journey for self-discovery had not been that different from those of many other young people in the Bay Area....

[W]hen he came up with a plan to go to Yemen to study Arabic, [his parents] didn't tell him to get a life (or a job). "He was really into this thing, but he was an 18-year-old then, so we just sort of smiled and accepted where he was going," a family friend said....

The Bay Area is also a place that encourages critical thinking about the U.S. role in the world. That may have played a part in his vulnerability to the Taliban's extreme propaganda.

Walker's misfortune is that his search for identity intersected precisely with the World Trade Center attacks, and the U.S. declaration of war against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

With a slightly different turn of events, Walker might have become the idealistic doctor he once talked about, in order to help the poor in developing countries. Then we would have been celebrating his achievements, instead of wondering what went wrong.

Charging Walker with treason would mean showing him less compassion than Taliban fighters who are being welcomed with open arms by Northern Alliance fighters, or Pakistani fighters who were flown back to their villages with tacit U.S. approval.

Instead of labeling him a traitor, as we did to Aaron Burr, Tokyo Rose and Ezra Pound, President Bush should allow Walker's parents to fly him back to Fairfax, and let him get his life back on track. We'd want nothing less for our own children, who could easily have found themselves in a similar mess.

Glenn Sacks in the Chronicle, December 9:
Those willing to sacrifice for their beliefs deserve respect—even if what they believe in is foolish. As a teenager, American Taliban fighter John Phillip Walker gave up a comfortable life in Marin County and traveled halfway around the world to put his life on the line for his religious convictions. How many of us are that courageous?
More from the Las Vegas Sun, December 12, 2001:
Others [in his hometown] say they are understanding—even proud—of the boy whose path of personal growth eventually led him to Afghanistan. And they reject the notion that ideals of tolerance and open-mindedness caused the boy to roam too far afield.

"I don't think it's a big deal for young people to have weird ideas," said Nahshon Nahumi, who repairs hot tubs in the hills above the home of Walker's mother. "My concern is more for his well-being, to help him recover."

Soon after Nashville television news reporter Rob Manning showed how alarmingly easy it was to crawl under a wire fence and get close enough to the city's supply of drinking water to infect it with biological agents, the Nashville Scene reported that "instead of cracking security at one of Metro's water collection facilities, located miles away, Manning had only managed to break into the sewage treatment plant."

An Associated Press dispatch from Roanoke, Virginia:
The Roanoke Planned Parenthood office has started to offer red, white, and blue condoms "to raise money for those affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks." Said David Nova, president of the area office: "Offering patriotic condoms will hopefully stem the increase of unintended pregnancies while letting Americans display their colors proudly."

12/11/01

London's Tate Gallery awarded this year's prestigious Turner art prize to 33-year-old Martin Creed for an installation consisting of an empty room with lights that turn on and off every five seconds. In a joint statement, the prize judges said: "The lights going on and off add qualities of strength, rigor, wit and sensitivity to the site." Simon Wilson, the gallery's communications curator, called the piece "pure and spiritual," adding that Creed "is a very pure extreme kind of artist. The fact that many people find his work so baffling indicates that he's working on the edge."

Asked why the lights flicker, Creed explained: "It activates the whole of the space it occupies without anything physically being added and I like that because in a way it's a really big work with nothing being there... It's like, if I can't decide whether to have the lights on or off, then I have them both on and off and I feel better about it."

12/9/01

A caption for a photo by the Reuters news agency, again, December 9, 2001:
Members of Hamas pray during a rally held at Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near the port-city of Sidon in south Lebanon, December 9, 2001. Palestinians poured into the streets in Lebanon on Sunday to mark the 14th anniversary of the founding of the militant Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
A caption from the Associated Press, describing a photo of the same scene:
A group of Hamas suicide bombers, with fake dynamite strapped around their chests, parade at the el-Hilweh refugee camp near the southern Lebanese city of Sidon on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2001, during an anti-Israel demonstration organized by Hamas to mark the 14th anniversary of its founding. The group said they hoped to join their Hamas colleagues in Palestinian areas to carry out suicide attacks against Israel.

[Ed.: Reuters, which announced that in order to be thoroughly even-handed it would not use the word "terrorist" to characterize the September 11 hijackers, later reported—after Israelis intercepted a large hidden cache of weapons destined for Palestinian militants—that a State Department official "said the United States, which gives Israel about $2 billion a year in weaponry used to kill Palestinians, objected to the $100 million shipment to the Palestinians on the grounds that it contributed to the escalation of violence." (Emphasis added.) Another dispatch from Kabul refers to Osama bin Laden as the American forces' "bogeyman."]

A Swedish court ruled that a man who donated sperm so that a lesbian couple could have three children must pay child support after the two women separated.

12/7/01

A French appeals court ruled that children born with Down syndrome have a legal right never to have been born, and can sue their mothers' doctors for failing to detect their handicap on prenatal scans.

[Ed.: Obstetricians responded alternately by raising prices or discontinuing services.]

Officials in Ramsey County, Minnesota, banned red poinsettias from holiday celebrations following complaints that they were a symbol of Christianity. Instead, white poinsettias are to be used. An unknown dissident responded by placing red poinsettias in the St. Paul City Hall sometime after business hours.

12/6/01

From an otherwise enlightening interview by The American Lawyer's Douglas McCollum with UCLA law professor Khaled Abou el Fadl, a leading expert on Islamic law, December 6, 2001:
Q: What was [Osama bin Laden's] training?

A: He took courses in Islamic law in the school in Medina, though he didn't complete training. He was instructed only in positive law. All the courses that deal with the purposes or objects of law, all the courses about equity in law, none of that is taught anymore. It's contrary to the fundamentalists' insistence on textual literalism. That is the standard. Anything not in the text is illegitimate. Of course, in a literalist paradigm all you end up doing is projecting your own prejudice on to the text.

Q: Kind of like when you read Scalia.

A: Exactly! (laughs) In fact, if you look at Scalia his jurisprudence is remarkably myopic. It's very much like the jurisprudence that comes out of this literalist Islamic school.

[Ed.: In the same interview, he notes that Islamic law is highly decentralized, which makes the comparison with American constitutional law somewhat less compelling.]

Despite their generally progressive outlook, parents of students at Toronto's Frankland school are starting to get upset at the quality of the "equity education" their children are receiving. A first grader came home waving a gay pride flag, saying "Mom, I want to be in the parade!" even though he had no idea what it was about. Another confused child went home and said, "Mom, I don't think I'm gay." One elementary school student brought home a Vegan Food Pyramid and an application to the Toronto Vegetarian Society. A guest speaker had told students that meat eaters were ruining the environment and causing other children to go hungry. Another parent relates that during Black History Month, her children "spent the whole month talking about American slavery [and] would come home and say things like, 'Go get my meal! You're my slave!' "

"In the first two months of school, my 10-year-old studied no history at all," complained one parent. "He can tell you all about Portuguese harvest customs, vegetarianism, Filipino child labourers and children's rights. But he doesn't know the difference between the Parliament and the Senate." Another parent noted that the latest initiative, designed to teach equity, consisted of an exhibition basketball game between the school's teachers and a team of midgets.

12/5/01

When Colgate University professor Barry Shain was asked to appear as a guest on a student-run television program that would address the question "Are Students At Colgate Too Sensitive About Race?" he replied in e-mail that he would like to address the seemingly more relevant question of whether some minority and female students were being "invited to offer opinions about their 'feelings' rather than advance reasoned opinions derived from careful examination of the written materials encountered in class." Shain also expressed his concern "that too many students of color are seduced into taking exotic courses that make few demands on them rather than those courses that force them to grow emotionally and intellectually." These comments were interpreted as "racially insensitive" and led 70 students to occupy the school's admission office for over seven hours.

12/3/01

After the Town Council of Kensington, Maryland voted to ban Santa Claus from the town's tree-lighting ceremony because it made two Jewish families feel excluded, dozens of men showed up at the ceremony in protest dressed in Santa costumes.

James Ridgeway in the Village Voice, November 20, 2001:
U.S. propaganda portrays Al Qaeda and the Taliban as one and the same—a gang of dark-skinned subhuman monsters who must be squashed like cockroaches, by any means necessary. This is exactly how American propaganda depicted the Japanese in World War II—little yellow guys who lost their equilibrium at night. The white Germans, on the other hand, were viewed as just like us: clearheaded, tough, clean fighters. To get rid of these nasty tan bugs, we're hitting them with everything we've got.

The cartoon figure Ted Rall, yet again, in an op-ed posted on Yahoo News, December 3, 2001:
As you read this, you're thinking that Americans also help each other in a pinch. But we don't. If we lived like Afghans, you'd stop the instant you saw a broken-down vehicle on the side of the road. So would the car behind you. Afghans don't need an auto club; they have each other.

The tribal system, so detrimental to building an effective multiethnic state, offers tremendous support to people struggling to survive in impossibly difficult times....

While different kinds of Americans live in strictly segregated, monochromatic cities and neighborhoods and can't even stand to hear each other's music, Afghans of all ethnic stripes live side by side in a truly blended nation. This partly explains why yesterday's Taliban can shave, trade his turban for a Hindustani cap, and become Northern Alliance—to jump from a Pashtun- to a Tajik-dominant culture isn't that hard. Afghans make war all the time—it's what they do best—but they fight out of loyalty to a commander or a warlord. They don't shoot each other merely because of the color of their skin. We Americans, who most assuredly know better, do.

11/29/01

On November 27, 2001, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Owasso Independent School District v. Falvo, a case that will decide whether it is unconstitutional for students to be compelled to call out their grades in class, and thus be embarrassed.

From the lead news item on the front page of the University of Pittsburgh's daily newspaper, the Pitt News, November 29, 2001:
Wearing a three-foot, five-pound double dong around his neck, Todd Wonders, a representative from Dvdadultempire.com, advised students to start small when it comes to anal penetration.

If you've never put anything in your ass before, you don't want to start with this, Wonders said, gesturing to the two gigantic members hanging from his shoulders.

Sex Toys 101, sponsored by Rainbow Alliance as part of World Aids Week, sought to inform students of some of the dangers of sex toys. Wonders, along with co-worker Lauren Calloway, informed students about the different kinds of sex toys and how to use them safely....

According to Calloway the best kind of dildo to use is one made out of silicone.

You can hand it down from generation to generation, she said. And it's dishwasher safe.

Silicone tends to warm up to body temperature with use, Calloway said, plus it's very flexible and transmits vibrations well. According to Calloway, they are also ideal for anal penetration as they are flared out at the bottom and cannot get lost in the rectum....

Wonders talked extensively about anal penetration. According to him, the most appropriate object for beginners to place in their anus is a finger—preferably their own.

If you're really inexperienced with anything anal, start small, Wonders said. Also, you can never use enough lube, especially when it comes to putting things in your ass....

Many students turned out for the event, most of them curious about the different kids of sex toys.

"I'm very interested in sex toys," said freshman Crystal Sickles. "I've never experienced any type of sex toy, so I wanted to come and try it out."

Above all, Calloway and Wonders stressed the importance of safe sex. Because this event was a part of World Aids Week, they urged students to know the sexual history of their partner and to always use some sort of protection even when it comes to sex toys.

11/28/01

Ann Karpf in the Guardian, once more with feeling, November 28, 2001:
They say death is a great leveller. They're wrong. Inequality pursues us after life too. Consider Ground Zero. While international attention has shifted to Afghanistan, the vast project of body-part retrieval in Lower Manhattan is probably the most exorbitant expenditure on the dead in our lifetime, and yet remains almost entirely exempt from criticism or debate. Ground Zero has been cordoned off, not only physically, but also politically and financially, though it's a provocative message to the rest of the world, where death comes cheaper.

This is the largest attempt to identify the dead through DNA sampling. In the application of technology to grief, up to a million tissue samples will be examined by forensic pathologists, radiologists, anthropologists and dentists trying to match DNA material from victims' toothbrushes or relatives' mouths with fragments recovered from the twin towers. It's as if the scale of the operation has had to mirror the heft and girth of those buildings. Since this folly is in its early stages (projected time-scale: two years), it's impossible to say what it will cost. At some point a courageous person may call a halt, but there may be further costs, as the many professionals involved will need post-traumatic stress counselling....

Here's a consumer's guide to our hierarchy of death. If you want yours to signify in the media and public debate, and your relatives to be decently compensated, make sure you a) are white, and b) a westerner, c) die quickly, dramatically, and spectacularly (not slowly of a disease of poverty or occupational illness), and that d) your death is witnessed by millions, preferably on television; e) if possible, own a mobile [phone].

11/26/01

Naomi Klein in the Guardian, yet again, November 8, 2001:
What do you call someone who believes so firmly in the promise of salvation through a set of rigid rules that they are willing to risk their own life to spread those rules? A religious fanatic? A holy warrior? How about a US trade negotiator? Tomorrow, the World Trade Organisation begins its meeting in Doha, Qatar. According to US security briefings, there is reason to believe that al-Qaida, which has plenty of fans in the Gulf state, has managed to get some of its operatives into the country, including an explosives specialist. Given these threats, you might think that the US and WTO would have canceled their meeting. But not these true believers.... Trade negotiations are all about power and opportunity and for kamikaze capitalists, terrorism is just another opportunity for leverage.

Having been corrected by an alert reader, the Minneapolis Star Tribune will once again refer to the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, a nickname that as it turns out does not refer to Native Americans, but to the color of the player's socks.

Norman Mailer addresses the Cross Border Festival in Amsterdam, October 29, 2001:
The WTC was not just an architectural monstrosity, but also terrible for people who didn't work there, for it said to all those people: "If you can't work up here, boy, you're out of it." That's why I'm sure that if those towers had been destroyed without loss of life, a lot of people would have cheered. Everything wrong with America led to the point where the country built that tower of Babel, which consequently had to be destroyed.

And then came the next shock. We had to realize that the people that did this were brilliant. It showed that the ego we could hold up until September 10 was inadequate.

Americans can't admit that you need courage to do such a thing. For that might be misunderstood. The key thing is that we in America are convinced that it was blind, mad fanatics who didn't know what they were doing. But what if those perpetrators were right and we were not? We have long ago lost the capability to take a calm look at the enormity of our enemy's position.

[Ed.: In a letter to the Boston Globe the following March, Mailer criticized columnist George Will for comparing President Bush's speech patterns to Ernest Hemingway's often terse writing style. "You can't stop people who are never embarassed by themselves," wrote Mailer, who of course has never written or uttered anything that might cause him embarrassment.]

In response to a five-year lobbying effort, the Postal Service released a stamp with Arabic writing commemorating Islam's two most important festivals, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The stamp must be reissued three times for it to earn a permanent place in the United States Holiday Collection. But it was unfortunately released a few days before the attacks on New York and Washington, at which point it became very unpopular, not least among postal workers threatened with anthrax exposure. Things got so bad that Aly Abuzaakouk of the American Muslim Council said that September 11 "has become a catastrophe for the stamps, too."

[Ed.: During the stamp's unveiling ceremony, Rep. Tom Davis (D-VA) announced: "This stamp is an appropriate symbol of the values American Muslims represent. I look forward to buying a whole sheet of them and sending them on my Christmas cards."]

Michelangelo Signorile in the New York Press, again, Vol. 14, No. 47:
Flash! This just in: All the while that Afghanistan's ruling Taliban has been protecting Osama bin Laden, Italy has been harboring another omnipotent religious zealot, one who equally condemns us Western sinners and incites violence with his incendiary rhetoric. Yes, right there on the European mainland! Meet John Paul II, Christian fundamentalist extraordinaire and a man who inspires thugs across the globe who commit hate crimes against homosexuals, a form of terrorism if ever there was one.

11/23/01

The Harvard Crimson reports that in a Kennedy School lecture, professor Cornel West said that "America has been 'niggerized' by the terrorist attacks," comparing subsequent national anxieties to African Americans' long history of coping with terror and death. "West drew some of his strongest crowd reaction when he expressed a slight indignation over politicians' sudden infatuation with spending in the wake of the attacks," reports the Crimson. " 'Sounds an awful lot like reparations to me,' West said to shouts of 'Amen!' from the crowd. 'I didn't think America was into reparations.' "

Professor West was originally scheduled to talk about hip-hop culture, about which he presumably has much to say since he released his very own... unusual rap album called "Sketches of My Culture," which he identifies on his website as "in all modesty... a watershed moment in musical history." On one of that album's tracks, he calls for a moratorium on the N-word, advice he obviously fails to heed. A sample rap from the album: "Time gets interwoven to refrig and / or oven with variance coming after centuries of scientific observation. Heliocentric puts specific comprehension to circular flow with mass bind of mind velocity."

Mr. West later made the news when he complained bitterly of being criticized in a private meeting with Lawrence Summers, Harvard's incoming president. Summers chided West for his involvement in extra-academic pursuits, not only the rap CD but also for his involvement heading up Al Sharpton's exploratory effort to run for president. Summers encouraged West—one of the most highest-paid Harvard professors despite his growing reputation as an intellectual lightweight—to produce a major academic work, one that would be more likely to be reviewed in academic journals than in the popular press. Also, Summers took West to task for giving out too many A's in his introductory class in African-American studies, an inflationary trend for which Harvard is well known. Naturally, these criticisms were interpreted to have racial overtones, with most of the members of the African-American studies department threatening to move to Princeton, and it was not long before Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton offered their special assistance in resolving the dispute. Sharpton, in particular, threatened to sue Harvard for damaging his presidential hopes. As often happens in these situations, Summers apologized for offending West, also offering a long-awaited-for ritual endorsement of affirmative action.

Humera Khan in the Guardian, again, November 21, 2001:
The issue of the burka in Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the Muslim world, is not about the garment itself. Women wore such clothing even before Islam and will continue to do so as a matter of choice.

Those western women like Mrs Bush and Mrs Blair, ostensibly offended by the sight of such attire, must learn to accept that the sight of scantily clad women has the same effect on many in the world. In both extreme cases one must understand the notion of choice.

While the Taliban were imposing their beliefs and reducing freedom on one side, the same can be said of the male-dominated and often misogynistic fashion industry on the other. The question of which is the more ruthless form of persuasion, the lashes of the Taliban or the multimillion-pound advertising flashes of the fashion industry, remains a moot point.

A similar sentiment, from an op-ed by Joan Jacobs Brumberg and Jacquelyn Jackson in the Boston Globe, November 23, 2001:
Now that the Taliban's horrific treatment of women is common knowledge, dieting and working out to wear a string bikini might seem to be a patriotic act. The war on terrorism has certainly raised our awareness of the ways in which women's bodies are controlled by a repressive regime in a far away land, but what about the constraints on women's bodies here at home, right here in America? ...

Whether it's the dark, sad eyes of a woman in purdah or the anxious darkly circled eyes of a girl with anorexia nervosa, the woman trapped inside needs to be liberated from cultural confines in whatever form they take. The burka and the bikini represent opposite ends of the political spectrum but each can exert a noose-like grip on the psyche and physical health of girls and women.

[Ed.: That last article also featured the following sentence: "The unrealistic body images that we see and admire every day in the media are literally eating away at the female backbone of our nation."]

11/21/01

With spectacularly bad timing, the New York Times ran a sympathetic profile on September 11 of Bill Ayers, a former leader of the terrorist Weather Underground and now author of his exculpatory memoirs, Fugitive Days. Justifying his past actions, Ayers told the Times, "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough."

After the September 11 attacks, the Barnes & Noble book chain, which regularly hosts book signings, received numerous complaints from people who thought appearances by unrepentant terrorists should be canceled. But the company's Vice President, Mary Ellen Keating, denounced these complaints as "censorship" and said that to drop Ayers "would be to give in to our fears, and ultimately to validate the position of our enemies."

[Ed.: Ayers's book starts with the words, "Memory is a motherf***er," which, as Slate's Timothy Noah observes, "establish[es] the book's literary tone and unreliability in one compact sentence."]

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance protested the movie "Shallow Hal" for its often humorous portrayal of fat women, despite the movie's ultimately sympathetic message that beauty is not determined by outer appearance. (In the movie, which itself is shallow, Jack Black plays a character who only lusts after supermodel-thin women, but he is hypnotized by a motivational speaker into seeing a morbidly obese women as if she were Gwyneth Paltrow.) NAAFA spokeswoman Maryanne Bodolay said: "Putting thin performers in fat suits is no different than putting white performers in blackface."

11/19/01

Katha Pollitt, again, in the Nation, November 19, 2001:
9/11 and its sequelae have definitely rehabilitated such traditional masculine values as physical courage, upper-body strength, toughness, resolve. The WTC attack is men vs. men—firefighters v. fanatics. (It would seem positively ungrateful to ask why, in a city half black and brown, the "heroes" were still mostly white, and, for that matter, still mostly male.) You can see the gender skew everywhere—in the absence of female bylines in Op-Eds about the war, in the booing of Hillary Clinton during the Concert for New York at Madison Square Garden, in the slavish eagerness of the media to promote the callow and inadequate Dubya as a strong leader whose "cockiness" (interesting word) and swagger are just what Americans need in the hour of crisis.

According to Ellen T. Harris, Professor of Music at MIT, the composer George Frederick Handel was gay. Harris reaches this conclusion based not on any new revelations into Handel's personal life, about which little is known, but on "the clear homosexual subtext" she detects in his operatic works. As evidence, Harris notes that much of Handel's music is punctuated by long silences. "It is quite striking and very emotional," she declares. "It denotes something that cannot be said—love that dare not speak its name, if you like."

Gloria Steinem reacts to the presidential radio address being delivered for the first time in history by the First Lady in her husband's stead. The New York Times, November 11, 2001:
"I can't think of any motive other than the gender gap," she said last week. "But they should understand that the gender gap is smart, and can tell the difference between rhetoric and reality."

Women might also remember back 20 years, she said, when the United States was supplying arms to the mujahedeen, or the "freedom fighters" trying to rid Afghanistan of its Soviet invaders. The Soviets built schools and educated women, actions that the fundamentalist mujahedeen despised. Many of those mujahedeen now make up large parts of the Northern Alliance, America's current ally, and the Taliban.

11/15/01

In order to prevent racial backlash, the Muslim Council of Britain demanded that the BBC stop referring to Osama bin Laden as an "Islamic Fundamentalist" rather than an otherwise motiveless "terrorist."

The BBC actually stopped using the word "terrorist" to describe the attackers, a policy already in place at Reuters. "However appalling and disgusting it was, there will nevertheless be a constituency of your listeners who don't regard it as terrorism," says Mark Damazer, BBC's deputy director of news. "Describing it as such could downgrade your status as an impartial and independent broadcaster."

11/14/01

In Germany, a 47-year-old judge sued the Coca-Cola company after developing diabetes, having convinced himself his consuming two bottles of the soft drink a day for many years, induced the disease. The judge plans to file a similar lawsuit against the manufacturer of Snickers, Milky Way, and Mars Bars.

Families of five Columbine High School shooting victims filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of an antidepressant drug one of the perpetrators, Eric Harris, was taking at the time of the massacre, and which is used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder.

A federal judge denied the city of Houston's request to throw out a lawsuit from a former ambulance driver who was fired after he stopped for donuts while transporting an injured patient to the hospital. He claims that had he been white rather than black, he would not have been disciplined as severely for the lapse.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of a man who was denied a job at an oil refinery after company doctors warned that since he had a chronic case of hepatitis C, he was especially susceptible to liver injury and even death following exposure to chemicals.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, while not allowed conjugal visits, male prison inmates serving life sentences in California have a "fundamental" right to procreate aided by artificial insemination and overnight delivery services, but that female inmates do not—yet. Also left unclear is the question of whether inmates may exercise the right to inseminate women to whom they are not married. (Note that of 90 Ninth Circuit rulings reviewed from 1996 to 2000, the Supreme Court reversed 77 of them.)

The National Labor Relations Board ruled that, contrary to years of employment harassment law, "abusive language, vulgar expletives, and racial epithets" on the part of union representatives are protected by federal law and should not be viewed by employers as grounds for discipline, because they are "part and parcel of the vigorous exchange that often accompanies labor relations." At issue was a case in which a union representative who, in a communication with management, grabbed his crotch and said, "suck my d***, you b****."

A class-action lawsuit against the producers of the ABC game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" that had previously been dismissed may get a new hearing following nonambulatory golfer Casey Martin's disability-rights victory over the PGA Tour. To qualify for the show, would-be contestants must answer questions within 10 seconds, using the keys on their push-button telephones. Plaintiffs allege that's not enough time for people with disabilities to react. (Qualifications have already been relaxed so that more female contestants would appear on the show.)

After a California woman plunged to her death from an amusement ride, her family sued the manufacturer, which claimed she was too large to be belted properly but that any restriction based on girth would have been met with lawsuits.

11/13/01

Marcelee Gralapp, director of the Boulder, Colorado Public Library, refused staff requests to hang an American flag from the library's entrance because "It could compromise our objectivity. We have people of every faith and culture walking into this building, and we want everybody to feel welcome."

At the same time, the Boulder Daily Camera reports that the library was displaying a work of art, as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, called "Hung Out to Dry" that "features colorful ceramic penises hanging from knitted cozies clothes-pinned to a cord strung between a wall and a column. One end of the cord is tied as a noose."

The sculpture was later stolen by an angry local resident named Bob Rowan, who left an anonymous note attributing the theft to "El Dildo Bandito." Since Rowan later turned himself in and told police he intended to return the penises to the artist, Susanne Walker, it was unclear whether police would charge him for a crime if the artist was unwilling to press charges.

Barry Satlow of the American Civil Liberties Union insisted that since he violated Walker's First Amendment rights, Rowan be charged regardless, observing that "this is the way domestic violence has historically been treated, with police declining to arrest or charge unless the victim chose to press charges." While Walker said she was not sure whether she should redisplay the work and thus invite more backlash, Satlow said he hoped the penises would be put back on display. "If not, the self-appointed censor and vigilante, like the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center, will have achieved more than he could on his own."

11/12/01

Reporting that California Latinos have shown more hostility towards Arabs and Muslims than other groups, here is Yvette Cabrera in the Orange County Register, November 12, 2001:
Psychotherapist Mayra Prado believes the root of the problem is precisely our historical experiences.... If anybody has been at the receiving end of hatred, it has been Latinos, Prado says.

"People who tend to be on the receiving end of ostracism, it's almost like when the next group is identified, it's a relief," Prado says. "It's, 'Now I'm part of the American mainstream; now I'm part of the group that's hating that other group.' Of course this creates more hatred and more chaos in the world. It doesn't help."

On September 26, in an effort to display solidarity with Muslim- and Arab-Americans who might be victimized by reprisals, President Bush met publicly with prominent Muslim and Arab leaders, proclaiming that "the teachings of Islam are teachings of peace and good." But somebody apparently forgot to perform a background check first.

To the president's left sat Dr. Yahya Basha, president of the American Muslim Council, whose leaders have repeatedly referred to Hamas as "freedom fighters." To the president's right sat Muzammil Siddiqi, president of the Islamic Society of North America, who the previous fall had told a crowd chanting pro-Hezbollah slogans that "America has to learn if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come." Also in attendance was Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. On the afternoon of September 11, Al-Marayati told a Los Angeles radio station that "we should put the State of Israel on the suspect list."

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, November 12, 2001:
A Pennsylvania legislator has announced she will seek a second term next year even though she claims in a $7.5 million lawsuit that she "needs help with reading and understanding material and carrying on conversations" due to brain and other injuries she suffered in a car wreck.

Rep. Jane Baker, a 56-year-old Republican, says in her lawsuit that the injuries make her "virtually unemployable" outside the Legislature.

11/11/01

Letter to the editor, the Boston Globe, November 11, 2001:
According to William J. Bennett, the nation's leftward-leaning colleges and universities are "imprecating American history and our founding." In his eagerness to prove his accusations, he takes to task one of the nation's most eminent American historians, Eric Foner of Columbia University, for questioning the apocalyptic rhetoric of the White House.

Bennett errs even more greatly by castigating Foner and others for participating in a public debate over the recent tragic events and in impugning their patriotism. Need one remind him that there is nothing more American and democratic than free speech?

—Manisha Sinha
Associate Professor
University of Massachusetts
Amherst

You decide. Here is the quote that Bennett reproduced, the very first sentence of Eric Foner's essay in the London Review of Books, October 4, 2001:

I'm not sure which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House.

Writing in the Spectator, British therapist Theodore Dalrymple said that a misguided sense of multicultural tolerance led most of the nation's health officials to ignore widespread physical abuse of women when those women happened to be Muslim immigrants. Dalrymple writes that he has known of many cases in which young girls are taken on holiday by their families to Pakistan and forced to marry men they have never met. Girls who refuse are beaten and starved into submission, and sometimes killed.

If all goes to plan, the girl is pregnant by the time she returns to Britain so as to make it easier for her husband to obtain a visa. "When the husband arrives," says Dalrymple, "he behaves himself well for a year; that is to say, the year in which his wife has the legal right to object to his permanent leave to stay." After that, he starts to beat her, often savagely, and the beatings do not stop. If she tries to leave, her parents disown her, and community members refer to her as a prostitute. Since she has not been allowed an education or a chance to form friendships with non-Muslims, she typically endures her fate.

11/10/01

At a city council meeting in Sacramento, California, council member Lauren Hammond castigated Robert Pacuinas, a Sacramento lawyer, for emphasizing a point by saying "I think we should call a spade a spade." Hammond responded: "You made an ethnically and racially derogatory remark and I hope you think about what you said. It is not appreciated. It is no longer a part of modern English. The phrase just isn't used in good company anymore." But in fact, the phrase is at least 500 years old, and refers to a digging implement. The Greek biographer Plutarch used a similar expression.

11/9/01

At an "Emergency Town Hall Meeting" broadcast on C-SPAN on October 31, members of the New Black Panther Party—unaffiliated with the original, defunct Black Panther Party—held a rather interesting "Forum on U.S. Anti-Terrorism Efforts and Muslims" that received scant attention from the press despite the fact that it was held at the National Press Club.

Imaam Abdul Alim Musa, an ex-con and former cocaine dealer, said the 19 hijackers deserve praise for rising "to the level of martyrdom, which is the highest level in Islam." But he also declared that the United States, who supposedly "sunk their own battleship, the Maine" to start the Spanish-American War and staged the Gulf of Tonkin incident to start the Vietnam War, similarly falsified the terrorist attacks as part of a conspiracy to justify a war on Islam.

International party chairman Malik Zulu Shabazz declared that "September 11th was America reaping the results of her worldwide crimes." According to Shabazz, Muslims were being made scapegoats: "World Trade Center blows up, blame it on Osama bin Laden. Pentagon attacked, blame it on Osama bin Laden. Bush... slips on some soap in the shower, blame it on Osama bin Laden. Mr. Bush's wife won't sleep with him at night, blame it on Osama bin Laden." Shabazz identified a different set of culprits responsible for the attack: "Since Bush got in office the whole world has gone awry.... We don't blame it on bin Laden, we blame it on Bush. We blame it on Bush senior, who was a dope dealer.... We blame it on camel-breath honky from Texas Lyndon Baines Johnson.... The world needs to know George Washington was a terrorist. Thomas Jefferson was a terrorist.... I bear witness to Ho Chi Minh. I bear witness to Mao Zedong... Che Guevara... Ayatollah Khomeini... Fidel Castro... I know these names will get me in trouble."

Marilyn Killingham, a "Human Rights Activist" with the Republic of New Africa, explained the attacks as a result of people whose sufferings were ignored: "Sometimes you have to do something when people ignore your suffering, you have to use the politics of visibility... that was nine-eleven-oh-one, the politics of visibility." Amir Muhammad asked, "How long can a nation that refuses to deal with reparations... go on?"

For his part, Mohammed Asi of the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C. (which President Bush visited soon after the attacks in order to demonstrate solidarity with American Muslims) didn't blame America, but rather, the "Israeli Zionist Jews." Shabazz concurred: "Israeli agents committed sabotage and blame it on the Muslims... that's what happened in (the embassy bombing in) Kenya."

As the event neared its end, Shabazz even said there were several trecherous spies in the audience, all white: "We have the enemy in here as well, with your stone faces... sent in here... They have assassins out there... it's no joke... they even did it to one of their own: John F. Kennedy."

Canada's Kitchener-Waterloo Record reports: "Oktoberfest revelers say attending Kitchener-Waterloo's annual beer blowout seems more important than ever after the terrorist attacks that killed thousands in the U.S. last month." According to Dorothy Hillgartner, who attended the nine-day Bavarian beer festival, "If we don't go out, the terrorists will have won."

Douglas Valentine on CounterPunch.com, again, November 8, 2001:
This ability to commit the most horrific acts of terror, and successfully blame them on its enemies through black propaganda, is what makes the CIA's inclusion in the OHS [Office of Homeland Security] so dangerous. This one-two punch, in conjunction with the CIA's expertise at "provoked responses" and "false flag recruitments," also makes the CIA itself a prime suspect in the terror attacks of 11 September, and the current propaganda campaign being waged in America now, as a pretext to threaten terror against the Bush Administration's domestic political opponents, as well as to win support from the terrified middle class for the illegitimate Bush regime.

Amanda Williams, an eighth-grader at Five Forks Middle School in Lawrenceville, Georgia, was suspended for nine days after she was served grape juice and subsequently joked that she was drinking wine. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that county policy prohibits students not only from possessing drugs and alcohol, but "any substance under the pretense that it is in fact a prohibited substance."

11/8/01

The Campus Chronicle of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, reports on education faculty member Barbara Love, who attended the United Nations Conference on Racism in South Africa, November 2, 2001:
Love was disappointed that the United States pulled its official delegation out of the eight-day conference on the fourth day over language about Israel that U.S. officials called "hateful." ...

She also has been disappointed that she hasn't seen links in the media between the United States' behavior and the recent use of airplanes as bombs and dissemination of anthrax.

"I have been waiting to hear whether any news commentator would make a connection between the refusal of the U.S. government to sit at the table to talk and these acts of terrorism," she said. "If you won't sit down at the table, what is left is to fight. Our refusal to sit at the table and talk in the world community about racism and oppression should be reexamined on many levels."

Norah Vincent in the Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2001. (Ms. Vincent responds to a Wall Street Journal column in which Gregg Easterbrook examines the concept of prior restraint.)
Yanking advertisements from network television shows should also be unconstitutional. This happened recently to Bill Maher, host of the late-night talk show "Politically Incorrect," after he said a few politically incorrect things about the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack.

Why do I believe that rescinding ad revenue constitute censorship? Don't advertisers have the right to advertise when and where they please?

Because Maher's show depends on advertising money for its survival, the advertisers were not just registering their discontent (they could have done that in a written statement), they were knowingly jeopardizing the show and thereby attempting to silence the speaker by forcing him off the air.

Of course, there is no law that prevents advertisers from revoking their support for shows. But if we are going to remain true to the spirit of the 1st Amendment, we should pass one.

11/7/01

The women's studies department at California State University at Hayward will now offer a course on "The Sexuality of Terrorism."

11/6/01

Sharon Lerner in the Village Voice, October 31-November 6, 2001:
A year ago, when women's rights and peace advocate Hibaaq Osman was giving a speech at the United Nations, she cited only one cause for which the use of military force might be justified: to oust the oppressive Taliban regime from Afghanistan. Now that the bloody effort is under way, however, Osman, who heads the Center for Strategic Initiatives in Washington, feels differently.

"I said it, but I was just making a point," a distraught Osman recalls. "This predicament is a test for feminists. We have seen our worst nightmare—women being dehumanized and shot in public—and it makes us more radical. It makes us angry enough to entertain the idea of war. But do I support war?" Osman pauses to consider her own country, Somalia, with its brutal history, before bursting out with an emotional "No. No. No. War is not OK under any circumstances," and then concluding, "The whole thing simply breaks my heart."

11/5/01

A department store in Cornwall, England, was prevented from posting a job ad for an in-store Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, because to do so would discriminate against women.

A spokeswoman for Woolworths says the retailer is stocking a "Mother Christmas" outfit in addition to "Father Christmas" to avoid sex discrimination lawsuits based on EU regulations.

England's Luton Borough Council removed references to Christmas in its end-of-year festival, renaming the Christmas lights ceremony "Luminos" after a word in the Harry Potter book series. And in Glasgow, Scotland, the end-of-year gathering formerly renamed "Shine On" has once again been renamed "Winter Festival."

[Ed.: To avoid any mention of Christmas, the city of Pittsburgh now refers to its end-of-year celebration as "Sparkle Days."]

11/4/01

Letter to the editor, the Boston Globe, November 4, 2001:
We the people of the United States have suffered a terrible wound with the injuries and death of many thousands of our people, as well as hundreds from many other countries.

Now that we have treated the injured and mourned the dead, and while we attempt to bring to justice the perpetrators of this crime against humanity on Sept. 11, it is imperative that we rethink how we have looked at the new world order and reevaluate the way in which we have been rushing toward corporate globalization, seemingly without regard for its negative, even disastrous, effect on many millions of people in other parts of the world.

Corporate globalization as it is being pursued now, along with its attendant free trade policy, will lead to further unrest among the exploited working populations and to further degradation of the environment.

Unless we reorder our priorities, I fear we are destined to experience more than one catastrophic event. We cannot continue indefinitely to use a disproportionate share of the world's natural resources without generating more hatred from the dispossessed and poverty-stricken people (many of whom live in countries from which we have extracted valuable resources) of the rest of the world. Nor can we expect that our quick resort to war will solve these basic problems; it will, rather, more likely exacerbate them.

So let us bind up the wounds we have suffered and move forward, resolving to use some of our wealth, technical abilities, and the goodwill of our people to improve the lives of those billions who have not yet shared in what we consider the basic necessities of life. The alternative could be that this war will be a "war to end all peace" for many years to come.

The United States, its economic entities, and its people need to be benefactors, rather than exploiters, of the impoverished people of the world. If we help them to achieve better living and social conditions, we will be doing more for peace and stability than we can hope to accomplish by waging war. Let us join together with other nations to create a more just world irrespective of our differing cultures.

—Dana Snyder
Amherst

[Ed.: At a Washington news conference, Ralph Nader said that as a result of the terrorist attacks, "There is a whole range of power grabs going on. There is an escalation of the corporate takeover of the United States. The ground and soil are ripe for a revolt by the American people."]

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Philadelphia law firm Sheller, Ludwig & Badey has been involved with about two dozen cases relating to well-known side effects from taking Cipro to supposedly ward off anthrax infection.

11/3/01

Having banished any further threat of bioterrorist attack along with all forms of infectious disease, and having addressed the "epidemics" of gun ownership, tobacco use and domestic violence, the Centers for Disease Control has now released a report in conjunction with the Sierra Club, concluding that suburban sprawl is a public health hazard. According to the report, automobile-driving suburbanites don't get enough exercise walking to shops or work the way many city dwellers do. The conclusion runs counter to another CDC finding that suburban areas boast better public health indicators than either urban or rural areas. Writing in the Rocky Mountain News, Vincent Carroll also notes that Colorado has the country's lowest rate of obesity despite having some of the most sprawling suburbs.

[Ed.: The British Medical Journal later devoted one of its issues to the subject of war, identifying its origin as inequality and poverty.]

11/2/01

United Press International reports that the Afghan Defense Council, a pro-Taliban group based in Pakistan, "has pledged to 'provide lifetime financial support to those who die fighting the Americans.' "

After the Postal Service took the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control to buy nearly 5 million face masks to prevent postal workers from contracting anthrax, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration blocked their use. The Washington Times reports: "According to OSHA officials and regulations, the workers must undergo hours of training and pass a 'fit test' before they can be allowed to use the protective masks, which are like those worn by construction workers who install drywall and can be purchased at hardware stores."

From a mile-long essay by Jean Baudrillard in Le Monde, November 2, 2001:
Because with its unbearable power [the West] has fomented this violence pervading the world, along with the terrorist imagination that inhabits all of us, without our knowing. That we dreamed of this event, that everyone without exception dreamed of it, because no one can fail to dream of the destruction of any power become so hegemonic—that is unacceptable for the Western moral conscience. And yet it's a fact, which can be measured by the pathetic violence of all the discourses that want to cover it up. To put it in the most extreme terms, they did it, but we wanted it.

[Ed.: Baudrillard earlier wrote a book with the interesting premise that The Gulf War Did Not Take Place.]

11/1/01

Asked on a radio show whether he was "pro-choice or anti-choice," Illinois Republican Senate candidate James Oberweis said: "That's obviously a tough question, but the honest answer is I've been a lifelong Catholic, still am. Obviously I have concerns about that particular issue. However, I think that right now we're getting a very, very strong symbol in the Taliban of what can happen if we try to impose our religious beliefs on others."

Aaron Sorkin, producer of NBC's "The West Wing," speaking at a forum at Occidental College, October 22, 2001. (Bill Maher, host of ABC's "Politically Incorrect," aroused great anger when he insisted that "We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly.")
Bill Maher has been getting a pounding because on his television program he said something that some found controversial.... [S]ponsors began removing their advertising from the show, and now ABC, the network that he's on, is saying that they may not do the show. We've heard this song before, right? In the fifties there was a blacklist, and it ruined lives.... Well, we're there, right now. It's happening all over again.

San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit system approved payment of over $1 million to compensate a construction firm working on an airport extension project, where work was stopped for almost three weeks for an investigation after an endangered garter snake was found flattened at the site.

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, seventeen-year-old Christian Silbereis earned a top prize at a Community High School costume contest as well as a two-and-a-half-day suspension when he showed up dressed as a giant vagina. More than a simple adolescent prank, however, Silbereis said his mother, midwife Rosalyn Tulip, created the costume the previous year and wore it to a party. When he asked if he could borrow it, Tulip warned that it might make people feel uncomfortable, but she would support his decision because it encourages people to talk positively about their bodies. But in fact, many staff members said they felt demeaned by the costume. "It's just another body part," Silberis said. "They teach us about it in school.... I just don't see what the big deal is. I mean, what if I was wearing an elbow costume? That's part of the body. Would they suspend me then?"

Jeanette Winterson in the Guardian, October 16, 2001:
My friend Ruth Rendell was in conversation at the Cheltenham Literary Festival last weekend. Her sell-out audience was conservative and over-50. Someone asked a question about pure evil, citing the terrorist attacks on America as an example. With great presence, Rendell replied that we could not categorise such attacks as evil, since they were carried out from the highest motives and in the name of freedom. The audience hated this reply—there was a collective and audible shudder. Yet who reading Bin Laden's speeches can doubt it? There is no cynicism in the man—he has never heard of a spin doctor.... We need not sympathise with him to recognise a gulf between the pragmatic concerns of the west and the fervent beliefs of the east. How to bridge east and west is the question—and bombs are not the answer.
Arundhati Roy, again, in the Guardian, again, October 23, 2001:
Enduring Freedom for some means Enduring Subjugation for others. The International Coalition Against Terror is a largely [sic] cabal of the richest countries in the world. Between them, they manufacture and sell almost all of the world's weapons, they possess the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction—chemical, biological and nuclear. They have fought the most wars, account for most of the genocide, subjection, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations in modern history, and have sponsored, armed and financed untold numbers of dictators and despots. Between them, they have worshipped, almost deified, the cult of violence and war. For all its appalling sins, the Taliban just isn't in the same league.

10/31/01

At the all-star Concert for New York City on October 20, actor Richard Gere was loudly booed when he got onto the stage to proclaim: "the horrendous energy that we're all feeling, and the possibility of turning it into more violence and revenge, we can stop that. We can take that energy and turn it into something else. We can turn it into compassion, and... love, and... understanding."

Ten days earlier, Gere told ABC NewsRadio: "In a situation like this, of course you identify with everyone who's suffering." Gere went on to say that people also should consider "the terrorists who are creating such horrible future lives for themselves because of the negativity of this karma. It's all of our jobs to keep our minds as expansive as possible. If you can see [the terrorists] as a relative who's dangerously sick and we have to give them medicine, and the medicine is love and compassion. There's nothing better."

[Ed.: Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was also booed at the concert, though to achieve this she did not have to open her mouth.]

Letter to the editor, the Boston Globe, October 31, 2001:
The Globe has proclaimed (Page A1, Oct 28) that the recent anthrax attacks are "the deadliest bioterrorist attack in US history," but let us remember that bioterrorism is not new to this soil. European settlers in pre-US North America are known to have intentionally used smallpox as a weapon to eliminate Native Americans from land that they coveted.

—W.D. Stefanowicz
Waltham

10/30/01

The complete text of a letter from Congresswomen Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) to His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, October 12, 2001. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani returned the prince's check for $10 million in disaster aid immediately after the prince started using the publicity it generated as an opportunity to criticize U.S. foreign policy. McKinney's pitch begins in the sixth paragraph:
Dear Prince Alwaleed bin Talal:

I would like to take just a moment to thank you for your recent demonstration of empathy with those suffering from the devastating and heinous September 11 attacks on the United States Pentagon and the World Trade Center. I would especially like to thank you for your most generous offer of $10 million to assist those Americans in need as a result of those attacks.

I was disappointed that Mayor Giuliani chose to decline your generous offer and instead criticize you for your observations of events in the Middle East. Whether he agreed with you or not I think he should have recognized your right to speak and make observations about a part of the world which you know so well. I think Mayor Giuliani would do well to listen to the words of one of our greatest Americans, former Senator Robert Kennedy. In 1968 he said that America "is a great nation and a strong people. Any who seek to comfort rather than to speak plainly, reassure rather than instruct, promise satisfaction rather than reveal frustration—they deny that greatness and drain that strength. For today as it was in the beginning, it is the truth that makes us free." I believe Senator Robert Kennedy's remarks remain as inspirational and true today as when he first spoke them over 30 years ago.

Let me say that there are a growing number of people in the United States who recognize, like you, that US policy in the Middle East needs serious examination. Indeed, on the same day that you made your remarks about US policy in the Middle East, the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, The Honorable Henry Hyde, spoke on National Public Radio and said, "There's no question in my mind that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most important issue in dispute, and has generated a lot of the animosity towards us because of our unwavering support for Israel, which will remain in place." At the same time, CNN played an interview with former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski who stated that America must "deal with some of the issues that animate the hostility" against us, like "the treatment of the population of Iraq" and that "the Israelis are stronger, so they're naturally inflicting much more casualties than the Palestinians on the Israelis and that produces frustration and rage."

Your Royal Highness, many of us here in the United States have long been concerned about reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that reveal a pattern of excessive, and often indiscriminate, use of lethal force by Israeli security forces in situations where Palestinian demonstrators were unarmed and posed no threat of death or serious injury to the security forces or to others. Israeli peace organizations like B'Tselem accuse the Israeli Defense Forces of violating the most fundamental rules of international law in committing atrocities against Palestinians.

The Israeli Gush Shalom boldly states that "Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is the root cause of the violence and hatred. As long as the occupation continues, bloodshed will continue and increase." Indeed, Your Royal Highness, all people of good conscience understand that this kind of mistreatment breeds a hotbed of anger and despair that destabilizes peace in the Middle East and elsewhere. Until we confront the realities of events in the Middle East our nation and the nations of the Middle East will be at risk.

Your Royal Highness, there are many people in America who desperately need your generosity. People who have been locked out, marginalized from America's mainstream. All of those people are poor and too many of them are people of color. A black baby boy born in Harlem today has less chance of reaching age 65 than a baby born in Bangladesh. Your Royal Highness, the state of black America is not good.

It is painfully visible in Washington D.C., where, just a few hundred yards from the White House, one can find black man after black man huddled in bus shelters, doorways, over subway ventilation shafts, sleeping on the street, thrown away like trash. Ironically, many of them are Vietnam veterans who, having served this nation with distinction in Vietnam, now find themselves without adequate care and accommodation. Unfortunately, this same scene is repeated in each and every one of our major cities here in the United States.

I am ashamed to say that my home city of Atlanta is no exception. Just last night my son was out with members of Atlanta's Muslim community who, for years, have been feeding Atlanta's homeless. Sadly, no one in mainstream Atlanta knows about the tireless and generous work of the local Muslim community. But the poor know, and I guess at one level that's all that matters. But on a broader view mainstream America should know.

The Justice Department admits that blacks are more likely than whites to be pulled over by police, imprisoned, and put to death. And, though blacks and whites have about the same rate of drug use, blacks are more likely to be arrested than whites and are more likely to receive longer prison sentences than whites. Incredibly, 80% of people in prison in the United States are people of color.

Twenty-six black men were executed last year, some probably innocent; America began 2001 by executing a retarded black woman.

Government studies on health disparities confirm that blacks are less likely to receive surgery, transplants, and prescription drugs than whites. Physicians are less likely to prescribe appropriate treatment for blacks than for whites and black scientists, physicians, and institutions are shut out of the funding stream to prevent all this. I serve in Congress where the Black Caucus is shrinking. Yet, sections of the Voting Rights Act will soon expire, and quite frankly, after crippling Court decisions, there is not much left of affirmative action to mend.

In the FBI's own words, its counterintelligence program (COINTELPRO) had as a goal, "to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" the activities of black organizations and to prevent black "leaders from gaining respectability."

And instead of real leaders, COINTELPRO offers us hand-picked "court priests" who are more loyal to the plan than to the people. Court priests who preach peace, peace when there is no peace.

As you can see, the statistics are very grim for Black America. Although your offer was not accepted by Mayor Giuliani, I would like to ask you to consider assisting Americans who are in dire need right now. I believe we can guide your generosity to help improve the state of Black America and build better lives. My office can provide you with a list of charities who labor under the most difficult circumstances to try and improve the lives of the people they serve. I hope you will consider reaching out to our charities and to our people who are in need. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have.

Sincerely,
Cynthia McKinney
Member of Congress

[Ed.: After being criticized for writing this letter, Rep. McKinney said she was being "attacked for speaking," and that furthermore, "when it comes to major foreign policy issues, many prefer to have black people seen and not heard." And on a Berkeley radio program the following April, McKinney called for an investigation into whether the Bush administration had advance warning of the September attacks while doing nothing to prevent them, alleging that "persons close to this administration are poised to make huge profits off America's new war." After once again being attacked for speaking, McKinney admitted she had no evidence to support such a charge. "I am not aware of any evidence showing that President Bush or members of his administration have personally profited from the attacks of 9-11," she said. "A complete investigation might reveal that to be the case."]