An Inclusive Litany


A federal appeals court overturned the expulsion of a Little Rock junior high school student who wrote a provocative rap that described plans to rape, sodomize and kill a seventh-grade classmate who broke up with him. The court ruled that the boy's rap was not a "true threat," and was thus protected by the First Amendment. An official for the school district said that if necessary, they'd make the same decision again in order to prevent "another Columbine."

Rodney King was arrested again, this time for being under the influence of PCP.

A New York Times editorial criticized President Bush for operating his chainsaw while on vacation in Texas without using the protective helmet and Kevlar logging chaps required for forestry workers by the Forest Service Health and Safety Handbook. Editors of the Times, skilled outdoorsmen all, also advised using a "wraparound mesh face-mask and... aggressive hearing protection."

The Times cited a statistic from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, that 44,000 chainsaw users require hospitalization annually. But the appropriately named notes that the agency's actual figure from 1999 was 26,711. Despite the illusion of precision, that figure was determined by extrapolating from a survey of 100 emergency rooms from a total of 546 emergency room visits. Of those visits, only 2.6 percent required actual hospitalization. The statistic also includes any injury that involved a chainsaw but was not directly caused by it, such as having a tree fall on you.


Repelled by harshly critical language focused on Israel, the Bush administration announced that Secretary of State Colin Powell would not be attending the upcoming United Nations Conference on Racism, to be held in South Africa.

Disappointed by Powell's decision, Gerald LeMelle of Amnesty International said: "There has been no serious thought as to the role the United States could play. Who is going to start leading us away from racial strife in Rwanda, Burundi, Kosovo, Cincinnati?"

In Great Britain, John Dixon, a 54-year-old supervisor who worked for 11 years at Parkside Flexible Packaging at Stourton, Leeds, a firm that provides printed wrapping material for tobacco products, was fired for violating the company's strict no-smoking policy. At the end of a night shift, a video camera recorded a flash of light in his car just before he left the parking lot.


An inexplicable Reuters dispatch, August 14, 2001:
Red Hot Chili Peppers have canceled their late-August concert in Israel, despite the urging of former President Bill Clinton that their presence is needed there.


A letter to the Wall Street Journal's online editorial website,, from Amy Wheeler of San Francisco, August 23, 2001. Ms. Wheeler comments on guidelines issued by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for how to refer to a proposed transsexual character on the television series "The Education of Max Bickford" (in brief, use female pronouns without quotation marks). In response to GLAAD, editors had asked the rhetorical question: "How is it that we are supposed to believe 'sexual orientation' is immutable and genetically determined, while sex itself can be altered by a surgeon's scalpel?"
As a transsexual who is definitely not a part of the "homosexual-transgender community," I was amused at your comments comparing the claims of homosexuals regarding their own aberrant condition with the concept that gender can be changed by surgically altering physical characteristics. I could have been reading you incorrectly, but I detected some skepticism about the legitimacy of a homosexual group purporting to represent transsexuals, who, as a group, have the same generally heterosexual perspective on sexual behavior that most of the world's people share.

If my interpretation is right, you're entirely justified in raising the question. For the past decade or so, homosexuals have been claiming to speak for or otherwise represent transsexuals. This has occurred primarily to add numbers to the community of weirdos that homosexuals try to represent as politically formidable. Most transsexuals strongly reject this attempt to "grandfather" us into their socio-political paradigm.

The truth is that homosexuals are no less likely than right-wing Christians to discriminate against transsexuals.

Another truth is that transsexuals, unlike homosexuals, acknowledge that the condition that affects us is, indeed, abnormal, to the point where radical treatment prescribed by medical and mental health professionals is required to ameliorate the condition's negative effects. Transsexuals, also unlike homosexuals, do not hope that tomorrow there will be even more people like us, so as to create a wonderful new world full of... people who genuinely believe they have the "birth defect" of incorrect gender characteristics. That would be a crazy new world, wouldn't it?

I hope you and your cohorts at The Wall Street Journal don't associate transsexuals too closely with homosexuals, regardless of claims made by homosexual organizations or individuals. The advice given by GLAAD seems to incorporate no special knowledge of transsexualism, just some common sense about how to treat others with respect. Do you really need a group of homosexuals, who routinely refer even to their supporters as "fag hags," to lecture you on respecting others? I don't think so. I hope you don't, either.


America Online shut down a wildly controversial chat group promoting the view that anorexia is not a deadly disease but rather a lifestyle choice deserving of understanding, much like... well... obesity.

[Ed.: Reporting on the controversy, ABC News notes that 10 percent of those with anorexia nervosa die from it. Simply put, this number is made up. At this point, one could even make a case that any time 10 percent is quoted as a statistic on the news, it is false.]

Letter to the editor, the Boston Globe, August 21, 2001:
I read with interest yesterday's front-page article, "Porn is hot course on campus." As an English major in college, I took courses similar to those described in the article, and suffered the derision of many classmates and others who were enrolled in "real" education.

What courses such as "Cross-Dressing in Literature and Film" taught me went way beyond writing a paper for a grade or classroom theorization. I learned to examine daily events—riding in a subway train, eating in a crowded cafeteria—for lessons in cultural, societal, sexual, and gender identity. I learned to look beyond the surface of what is being said or done to establish intent.

These lessons I have continued to use throughout my life, in job interviews, dealing with colleagues, even the dating world. I've never identified an igneous rock or debated Dickens [sic] imagery in my daily life. Pornography and sexuality are part of our everyday—every moment—lives.

—Kelsey Miller

[Ed.: The cross-dressing class has Harvard's Marjorie Garber written all over it.]


Peter Lehman, a humanities professor at Arizona State University who has run workshops on teaching pornography, had a printing shop refuse to copy his course packet. He now requires all students taking his class on "Sexuality in the Media" to sign a consent form.

PBS President and CEO Pat Mitchell, after being asked to name the most under-reported news story of the week, on CNN's "Greenfield at Large," August 10, 2001:
Well, certainly the weather has been the headline, but what's troubled me is that the press hasn't gone beyond the headline very much. This was such a great opportunity to talk about global warming and climate change. I mean, it couldn't have been on our minds more as we were perspiring through the heat.... That would have been the starting point to talk about why we are in this place, why do we have 100 degree temperatures and what can we do about it?

Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) advocated an amendment seeking $5 million "to address mold problems on the Turtle Mountain Indian reservation."

David Gregory on the NBC Nightly News, July 23, 2001:
In front of reporters, the Pontiff called the creation of embryos for research a symbol of a, quote, "tragic coarsening of consciences"... Determining the right thing to do on stem cell research has not been so easy for Mr. Bush, and today the Pope only made it harder.

Bob Schieffer's closing commentary on CBS's "Face the Nation," August 5, 2001:

Some thoughts as the President decides whether or not the government should back stem cell research. History's longest argument has been over what to do about the mountain. One group has always wanted to cross the mountain, to explore and see what is on the other side. The other group, no less sincere, has always been willing to let well enough alone. That group worries there might be things on the other side of the mountain we didn't want to know. They were the ones who refused to look through Galileo's telescope. They already knew all they needed to know about the moon and the sun and the stars.... The President says it is the hardest decision he will ever make, but if he reads history, he will know that history remembers those who climbed the mountain, not those who stayed home in fear of the unknown.

[Ed.: As it turns out, adult 'stem' cells do just as good a job of taking on the function of other cells as embryonic cells, perhaps even better, largely obviating the issue.]


Ivy Meeropol, granddaughter of communist spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, describes her experiences during the late 1970's at Kinderland, a politically progressive children's camp in Tolland, Massachusetts, in the New York Times August 19, 2001:
Taking Kinderland's ideals into the world at large was never something we thought of doing. For me, the place was a sanctuary. The rare, delicate beliefs we held were reserved for camp.

If we already had a sense that almost anywhere outside was enemy territory, it was only reinforced by some of the Kinderland cultural programs. Many of our heroes had suffered or died for their beliefs. The persecution of Jews, African-Americans, unionists and Communists was often laid out in graphic detail. In their enthusiasm to impart this knowledge, the Kinderland staff designed some hair-raising activities. To bring home the horrors of the Holocaust, counselors locked children in their bunks, led them into communal showers or had them hide in an attic and read excerpts from "The Diary of Anne Frank."

One summer, some counselors wanted to set fire to the lake for Hiroshima Day, Aug. 6, and decided not to only after a long debate.


A man whose blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit and who crashed his Jeep in a sand pit in Londonderry, New Hampshire, killing a friend, is now suing the couple who threw the party at which he was served alcohol, along with the owner of the sand pit for failure to keep drunken fools with four-wheel-drive vehicles off the property.


Canadians are debating whether to alter their national anthem, "O Canada," because it contains the sexist line: "True patriot love in all thy sons command."


A Connecticut bill that would ban talking on cell phones while driving also makes eating or tuning the radio while driving an offense. But let's not forget talking to passengers or allowing children in the vehicle.

Following a class-action settlement in which the Clinton administration agreed to pay $50,000 to each black farmer who had suffered discrimination when applying for federal loans, 40,000 people applied for the award. But according to the Census Bureau, there are only 18,000 black farmers nationwide.


Oklahoma's Muskogee High School removed To Kill a Mockingbird from its required reading list because it contains racially charged language and, in the words of principal Terry Saul, an educator, "we didn't want to put any kids in an uncomfortable situation."

The Interior Department is refusing an emergency listing of three insects because to do so would threaten construction of the District of Columbia's Woodrow Wilson Bridge project.

The department's stance angered western lawmakers, whose constituents often face enormous restrictions on land where similar wildlife is found. "It appears Washington, D.C., gets a special exemption when it comes to species protection," said Senator Larry E. Craig (R-ID). "In Washington 'nimby' means: no endangered species in my backyard."

The University of California has had to relocate its proposed Merced campus two miles away from its original site and is spending millions of dollars on lawyers and environmental consultants to avoid harming fairy shrimp in vernal pools.


A group of Rhode Island state legislators want to change the August 13 celebration of Victory Day to "World Peace Day" or "Governor's Day." Bob Leddy, a local columnist who supports the effort, says celebrating VJ Day "has the potential for keeping hatred alive by stirring the embers of racism."


Syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer in the Newark Star-Ledger, August 7, 2001:
IQ tests are notoriously unreliable, and we all know that "IQ" does not correspond very closely to executive ability. But the Lovenstein Institute's conclusions about George W. Bush are nevertheless illuminating.

The Lovenstein Institute, based in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has long published an IQ for each new president, based on his academic performance, writings "achieved without aid of staff," linguistic clarity, and so on.

It's rough and ready stuff, but it awarded Bill Clinton an astonishing IQ of 182 (the average in the U.S. today is around 104), which largely conforms to one's previous impression that the man was useless but brilliant....

At the other end are the Bushes. Even the father only scored 98, but he did seem in charge of his White House. He was, after all, a man with long service in bureaucratic wars and much foreign experience as well. But George W. Bush has no such background, and the Lovenstein Institute estimates his IQ at 91.... It is a harsh and an early verdict, but maybe things are spinning out of control just because they are smarter than he is.

A correction printed on August 11, 2001:
A column by Gwynne Dyer on Tuesday's op-ed page contained incorrect information. The column cited a study by the Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, Pa., that concluded President Bush had the lowest IQ of any recent president. There is no Lovenstein Institute in Scranton, Pa., and no such study was conducted.


After a German utility slashed electricity prices by a third, one of its customers was awarded $2,200 in a lawsuit based on his idea that for the utility to be able to afford such a price cut, it must have overcharged him in the past. German law requires electricity to be sold as cheaply as possible.

In Northampton, England, Ruby Barber was ordered to remove a barbed wire fence from around her property because it might possibly injure someone who might "foolishly" try to climb it. Just before she put up the fence two years earlier, she had been burglarized three times; since then, none.


A Washington Post editorial, August 6, 2001:
The Virginia gubernatorial campaign has been distinguished thus far by an almost total lack of relevance to the serious problems facing the state. The most important of these may be an antiquated and regressive tax system. Virginia is a relatively wealthy state, but much of the wealth is untaxed.

Swarthmore College agreed to allow ostensibly gay students to live in dorm rooms with members of the opposite sex, based on the potential for same-sex "attraction and homophobia," as one gay student leader put it.

[Ed.: Note that problems stemming from "attraction and homophobia" have been widely dismissed as cause for concern when accommodating gays in the military.]

Surgeon General David Satcher released a report about sex in America that put forth at least two demonstrably false claims: first, that "an estimated 22 percent of [American] women have been victims of rape," and second, that "[w]e have created an environment where there's almost a conspiracy of silence when it comes to sexuality."


The London Times reports that, to help repay $5.5 billion in Soviet-era debt, the government of North Korea is sending thousands of slave laborers to work in closed logging camps in eastern Siberia.

And the London Telegraph reports that anarchists who had earlier disrupted free-trade meetings across the world from Seattle to Genoa are refusing to demonstrate at a summit in Shanghai, China, out of fear they might be imprisoned or shot.


After declaring Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be "fragile as a snowflake," former tour guide John Balzar describes the actual terrain in the Los Angeles Times, August 3, 2001:
I remember the vista. From the 1,000-foot summit of the last foothill of this continent: a shocking landscape. Plains, uninterrupted from horizon to horizon. Hundreds of miles and 180 degrees of Nothing.

There is nothing like Nothing when there is almost none of it left. There is nothing like Nothing for imagining everything. There is nothing so profoundly humbling as beholding the last of Nothing.

Now the House of Representatives has voted to kill it....

[Ed.: It's all very... Seinfeld, isn't it?]