An Inclusive Litany


A 240-pound fitness buff filed a discrimination complaint against a San Francisco health club that didn't allow her to work there as an aerobics teacher.

The London Daily Telegraph describes a fashion show featuring the works of Natasha and Tamara Surguladze:
Graphic prints were based on original propaganda motifs from the "industrial art" movement championed by Lenin and Trotsky. Others featured the Cyrillic letters CCCP, which represented the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Sweeping cloaks and knitted sweaters in "Red Square red" were emblazoned with the symbol of the Russian revolution, the hammer and sickle, while glittering Russian stars clasped the edges of jackets and dresses... The "Mother Russia" theme was reflected in the invitations, based on the old USSR passports... and in the music, a garage mix of Shostakovich, Red Army chants and folk songs, overlaid with Led Zeppelin.


Peter Odighizuwa opened fire at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia, killing a dean, a professor, and a student before being "tackled" (New York Times), "pounced on" (Washington Post), and "wrestled to the floor" (London Guardian) by four male students, no doubt preventing further deaths.

Actually, two of the student rescuers, Mikael Gross and Tracy Bridges, were armed at the time with guns they had kept in their cars. "I aimed my gun at him," Bridges says, "and Peter [the assailant] tossed his gun down. Ted [Besen] approached Peter, and Peter hit Ted in the jaw. Ted pushed him back and we all jumped on."

Writing in the New York Post, John R. Lott Jr. notes that only four news accounts mentioned that any of the rescuers were armed with guns. In 72 accounts, the confrontation is described simply as some form of tackling, pouncing, or wrestling. However, reporters were all scrupulous in describing the assailant's weapon, a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun, without detailing the specifications of guns used to subdue him.

The Washington Post reports that the German left-wing author Günter Grass has formed a coalition with right-wing Austrian politician Jörg Haider to raise consciousness over the suffering and victimization of the "13 million Germans who were expelled from Eastern Europe in 1945 and 1946" for some reason or another.

The spirit of feminism has apparently taken root in the Arab world, as exemplified by the following passage from Samiya Sa'as Al-Din in the Egyptian government daily Al-Akhbar (translation supplied by the Middle East Research Institute) in response to a January 27 suicide bombing—the first perpetrated by a woman, Wafa Idris:
Palestinian women have torn the gender classification out of their birth certificates, declaring that sacrifice for the Palestinian homeland would not be for men alone; on the contrary, all Palestinian women will write the history of the liberation with their blood, and will become time bombs in the face of the Israeli enemy.
Adel Sadeq, head of the psychiatry department at Ein Shams University in Cairo, likewise praised the woman's murderous and suicidal impulses:
If it was the Holy Spirit that placed a child in Mary's womb, perhaps that same holy spirit placed the bomb in the heart of Wafa, and enveloped her pure body with dynamite.
And Reuters reported from Beirut that in an interview with al-Jazeera, Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, "one of Lebanon's most prominent Shiite Muslim cleric[s] has given his blessing to female suicide bombers... calling them authors of a 'new, glorious history for Arab and Muslim women.' "


The Seattle Times, February 21, 2002:
Almost half of Washington children from infants to age 12—nearly a half-million total—are regularly in the care of extended family, friends or neighbors, says a University of Washington study released today.

A majority of those informal care providers—nearly 300,000 people who are unregulated by the state—have no specific training in child-care, child-development or parenting skills and tend to be less affluent and educated than the state's general population, the study found.

"There's this whole group of people out there caring for kids, and nobody is watching them, and nobody is helping them," said Nina Auerbach, chief executive officer of Child Care Resources, a King County information and referral service. "We can't just ignore this whole segment of care anymore."

Officers of London's Scotland Yard have been told not to refer to gays and lesbians as homosexuals because the word "criminalizes" them.


Students at Indiana University are leading an effort to remove a mural by Thomas Hart Benton from a room used to hold classes. The mural, commissioned by the governor of Indiana and exhibited at the 1933 Chicago World Fair, depicts various episodes in Indiana history. The offending panel depicts a particularly sordid period in which the Ku Klux Klan wielded enormous political control over Indiana a decade before the mural was commissioned. Klan members are depicted as agents of darkness and terror, burning a cross in front of a church. Despite the artist's clear expression of revulsion at what the Klan represented, many of the mural's critics found the issue immaterial, since some students found the image disturbing. "The University's mission is to educate," wrote one student, "and perhaps this controversial artwork is educational. But education shouldn't come at the expense of someone's feelings."

[Ed.: While IU administrators did not move the mural, they did require anybody who might use the room to view a half-hour diversity video followed by a discussion in which participants break out into groups.]


David Baugh, a lawyer who has previously defended al Qaeda members, quoted in the Des Moines Register, February 19, 2002:
"[W]hen the American press talks about suicide bombers, Muslims become upset for the same reason you would be upset if your son died trying to save a drowning child," Baugh said. "Your son sacrificed his life for another. If someone walked up to you and said, 'I'm sorry about your son committing suicide,' you'd probably want to punch them."

An unsympathetic Jan Wong relates her encounter with silenced dissident and drug addict Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of "absurdly narcissistic books" such as Prozac Nation and Bitch, in the Toronto Globe & Mail, February 16, 2002:
On Sept. 11, Wurtzel, who usually gets up at the crack of noon, was asleep when her mother called to say a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center. "My main thought was: What a pain in the ass."

Her apartment was at ground zero, on Greenwich Street, south of Chambers. She could see the twin towers from her window. Or she could have, if she had bothered to get out of bed.

Then the second plane hit, and more people called. Wurtzel finally hauled herself up in time to watch one tower collapse. "I had not the slightest emotional reaction," she recalls. "I thought: 'This is a really strange art project.' "

Wurtzel takes a tiny bite of monkfish and ponders the worst terrorist attack in New York's history. "It was a most amazing sight in terms of sheer elegance. It fell like water. It just slid, like a turtleneck going over someone's head."

She takes another bite of monkfish. "It was just beautiful. You can't tell people this. I'm talking to you because you're Canadian."

Then her windows blew in. Airplane chunks landed on her roof. Wurtzel crawled into the basement and was later removed from the building. To this day, she can't understand why everyone else was so upset. "I just felt, like, everyone was overreacting. People were going on about it. That part really annoyed me."

Wurtzel became hysterical only when she realized she wouldn't be allowed back to fetch her cat. She used her psychiatrist's husband, who is head of the New York City hospital association, to get her past police lines.

"I cried about all the animals left there in the neighbourhood," Wurtzel says. But she has remained dry-eyed about all the human victims. "I think I have some kind of emotional block. I think I should join some support group for people who were there."

Asked if she has written about her eyewitness account of the World Trade Center attack, Wurtzel tosses her blond mane. "You know what was really funny? After the fact, like, all these different writers were writing these things about what it was like, and nobody bothered to call me."


In the wake of the sudden collapse of Enron, America's largest energy futures firm, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) told NBC's Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" that "if there was any, any [government] involvement because of the incredible help the Bush campaign got from Enron here, it will be... devastating."

Both Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said that they were contacted by Enron chairman and CEO, Kenneth Lay, as part of an effort on Enron's part to keep its fraudulently inflated stock price from collapsing, but both officials refused to intervene. Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT), who chairs a Senate committee investigating Enron, called O'Neill's comments pledging not to prop up Enron "outrageous," and warned the Bush administration may be investigated in the matter.

Bill Allison of the Center for Public Integrity, an ethics watchdog group, said that administration officials "were tied at the hip to Enron," and that Enron's campaign contributions made it hard for the administration to subsequently intervene on their behalf. "The appearance would have looked terrible," Allison observed. "They felt that they couldn't act on behalf of Enron because of the political fallout."

Absurdly, the Enron scandal fortified efforts to pass sweeping "campaign finance reform" legislation prohibiting certain kinds of "soft money" contributions directly to political parties—a provision that favors incumbents—and banning much political "issue" advertising on television within two months of an election. (Even its supporters admit some of its provisions may be unconstitutional, and few honestly believe that it will do any more than divert the flow of political funds.) Various politicians such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) came forth to ritually confess that they had also accepted Enron contributions and thus had been "tainted." And of course, proposals to tighten accounting standards came long after the market pummeled other companies suspected of similarly dubious practices.

What's more, critics simultaneously denounced fraudulent accounting practices that inflated the company's worth, while expressing concern over the economic effects of the nation's supposedly largest bankruptcy (not adjusted for inflation, that is). This, despite the fact that Enron had only 19,000 employees—less than one quarter that of Arthur Andersen, its accounting firm, and far less than that of K-Mart, which went bankrupt under less remarkable circumstances at about the same time.

The hardest-hit Enron investors engaged in one of two fundamental errors: failure to diversify (investing no more than 10 percent or so in any one company), and failure to invest for short-term needs more conservatively, typically by buying bonds rather than stocks. Employee stockholders—intoxicated by prior high returns and enjoying generous company stock-matching rates (50% up to 6% of earnings) as part of their 401(k) plans—loudly complained that they were not apprised of Enron's dire financial status in time to unload their stocks onto other suckers. Such a private disclosure would be morally questionable, perhaps even qualifying as insider trading. And if such a damaging disclosure were widely publicized, it would have violated the executives' fiduciary responsibility to company stockholders, inevitably bringing forth lawsuits. Employees also complained that they were not able to unload their stocks while their 401(k) plan was being transferred, even though this "lock-down" period had been announced the previous year, long before any doubts were raised over Enron's future. By the time the lock-down commenced, Enron's stock had already lost most of its value prior to its final nosedive.

Lastly, many critics took the collapse of Enron as evidence of the folly of Social Security reform, which would presumably lead more people to play the stock market. Social Security is, of course, a case study in questionable accounting practices that by its continued existence has destroyed immeasurably more wealth than Enron ever did by collapsing. Although its defenders compare the program to a conventional private pension fund, Social Security taxes are not invested, but rather are directed towards various government commitments as part of general revenue, on a pay-as-you-go basis. This is why it subsequently becomes a problem when too many baby-boomer retirees are supported by too few younger baby-bust workers, leading to calls to increase the payroll tax or the retirement age, both of which further cheat taxpayers or retirees. What's more, tax dollars are simultaneously counted as a decrease in the government's deficit and an increase in the Social Security "Trust Fund," even though the mythical fund's "assets" are merely paper notes backed by the promise of future tax dollars, and money owed from one government agency to another is not counted as "debt." Aside from the fact that Social Security has all the fiscal soundness of a chain letter and a criminally low yield, its accounting practices alone would land its administrators in jail if it weren't a government program.


The University of California at Berkeley suspended a student-run course on "Male Sexuality" after the Daily Californian reported that class activities included a spirited outing to a topless bar followed by a post-class party featuring a group orgy and a game in which students snap Polaroid pictures of their genitals so that others can try to match the picture with the person. The suspension put on hold planned guest lectures by porn star Nina Hartley, a spokesperson from an anti-circumcision group, and the proprietor of a Bay Area sex shop.

Caren Kaplan, who chairs the Women's Studies department that offered the course for credit, defended the course, telling the Cal, "I don't police the content." In fact, it was her responsibility to approve and supervise the class. "In the class we don't say anything is right or wrong," added Morgan Janssen, a student who taught the course. "The majority of the class is just talking," said Ian Bach, another student instructor. "The class is superemotional."

Other student-run courses include "Body Dissatisfaction," the description for which explains: "Whether you have a diagnosed eating disorder or just hate your body, we will deconstruct our feelings and come to the root of the problem." In "Copwatch," students "learn how to safely and effectively assert [their] rights when interacting with the police." And in "Dialogue," students attempt "to create a collectively conscious group of people that can explore the world creatively together without antagonism. All disciplines welcome. No exams."


Florida's Lakeland Register reports on a campaign against a fundraising event held by Florida Southern College called "cow bingo." Participants in the game buy squares on a grid laid out in a field, and the winner is the first one on whose square a cow leaves a deposit. Confronted with accusations of "demeaning cattle" from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the college released a statement: "To our knowledge, no laxatives were used on the cow."

The "National Ceramics 2000" show, held in Syracuse, New York, featured exhibits of a human head with a steering wheel attached; a piece of rotten fruit covered with maggots; the severed lower torsos of a man and a woman topped with steak and chicken dinners on plates; a Bozo the Clown mural adorned with a toilet plunger, mousetrap, and other objects; a portrait of a bloody, cut-up woman with lizards skittering over her body; a confrontation between Jesus and an Indian medicine man; a pair of amputated feet hanging from an industrial chain; and a mother getting her throat cut by her baby.


In an effort to protect workers' hearing, the European Parliament is considering a regulation that would ban noise in the workplace that exceeds 83 decibels. But critics say the rule makes no exception for professional musicians, effectively making it illegal to perform the EU's anthem, the finale from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Scottish bagpipe aficionados are especially incensed.

From an editorial in the New York Times, February 12, 2002:
Millions of Iranians marched with unusual vigor and anti-American defiance yesterday to mark the 23rd anniversary of their Islamic revolution. Staged rallies on official anniversaries are not an accurate measure of the mood of a country, but in this case the turnout partly reflects a genuine popular backlash against President Bush's description of Iran as a member of the "axis of evil." His comment has clearly strengthened the hand of the hard-liners and forced reformers to prove their patriotism by denouncing the United States.

In "Today's New International Version" of the New Testament, sponsored by the International Bible Society, translators have attempted to remove gender-specific language as much as possible. Thus, a line from the Gospel of Mark in the unrevised New International Version reads: " 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.' " The revised translation reads: " 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will send you out to catch people.' "


Retired Marine Corps general Joseph J. Foss, 86, was delayed for three quarters of an hour at the Phoenix International Airport while security officials evaluated a potentially dangerous item in his possession: a Congressional Medal of Honor, one he received from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 for exceptional valor in the Pacific. General Foss was carrying the medal because he had recently spoken to a group of West Point cadets, whom he had shown the medal in order to make a point.

Mary LeBlanc of Houston, Texas, filed a $3 million lawsuit against a local Unitarian Fellowship that promised to welcome members of all religious beliefs. The Fellowship allegedly reneged on that promise once members discovered Ms. LeBlanc was a witch, subjecting her to indignant comments and close scrutiny. Originally encountering acceptance over her differences, Ms. LeBlanc ran afoul of the group after she refused to teach other members how to perform Wiccan rituals that she regards as sacred to Wiccans and closed to outsiders.

And a jury in Salt Lake City, Utah, awarded $290,000 to two women who were bilked of their savings by a fundamentalist church—the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of the Saints of the Last Days—whose leaders promised to produce Jesus Christ in the flesh. Voicing disappointment with the verdict, the wife of the church's founder said, "God's people have always been persecuted and right now is no different."


Dan Eggen of the Washington Post, February 8, 2002, reports on a law-enforcement effort to arrest illegal immigrants who have ignored deportation orders. There are an estimated 314,000 such "absconders," and federal officials said they would initially focus on the approximately 6,000 who come from countries that are known to be al Qaeda strongholds, with imminent arrests of fewer than 1,000 from the Middle East and Pakistan, "who are believed to be the most dangerous because they are convicted felons."
The absconder program's initial focus on Middle Eastern nationals has renewed complaints from Arab American and civil liberties groups that the Bush administration is practicing racial profiling in its war on terrorism.

Khalil E. Jahshan, vice president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee here, said yesterday that information in the special terrorism database could be used to unfairly smear the reputations of innocent individuals.

"This whole path the government is taking is clearly a case of racial profiling," Jahshan said. "It's clearly a case of selective enforcement.... These half-baked methods seem totally isolated from a whole tradition of respect for civil liberties and civil rights in this country."


An Associated Press item that appeared in the "National Briefing" section of the New York Times, February 7, 2002:
The Los Angeles school district has halted distribution of a book about the Koran because its foreword calls Jews illiterates who reject knowledge. Nearly 300 copies of the book, "The Meaning of the Holy Quran," donated by the Omar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation, were removed on Tuesday for further review. "We're going to talk to the foundation members and determine exactly why the commentary's there and whether there is research to support it," said Jim Konantz, a district official.


Giant Food Stores of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, issued an apology after a customer complained about an advertised sale that read: "In honor of Black History Month, we at Giant are offering a special savings on fried chicken."

A bill before the Virginia House of Delegates proposing to make sense of zero-tolerance drug and weapons policies by restoring discretion over their enforcement to educational officials failed in a 13-to-8 vote.

Bradley Marrs, a delegate, proposed the bill after he heard that a boy at his children's middle school was suspended after being caught with a plastic knife that his mother, a teacher herself, had packed with some cake so that he could celebrate his birthday at school.

Dwight Jones, another delegate, co-sponsored the legislation when he learned that children caught with nonprescription medication their parents had given them were "being treated as if they were carrying a gun."

An honor student from another high school was suspended for five days for fighting off an attacker. And an eighth-grader was suspended for four months because he took a knife away from a schoolmate who told him she was considering suicide.


In what has come to be a much-anticipated event, Fox Butterfield of the New York Times once again repeated his astonishment at the latest set of crime statistics, writing in a January 21 news article that "since the early 1970s, the number of state prisoners has increased 500 percent, growing each year in the 1990s even as crime fell."

Rick Weiss in the Washington Post, January 17, 2002:
The [bioethics] council will be navigating a scientific and ethical landscape significantly more complex than the one that existed... last summer. In November, researchers announced that they had made the first human embryo clones, giving immediacy to warnings by religious conservatives and others that science is no longer serving the nation's moral will. At the same time, the United States was fighting a war to free a faraway nation from the grip of religious conservatives who were denounced for imposing their moral code on others.