An Inclusive Litany


Having legalized prostitution, the government of New South Wales, Australia, will soon release a set of workplace-safety guidelines for the world's oldest profession. The report, titled "Getting on Top of Health and Safety," will feature advice on how to avoid Repetitive Stress Disorder.

An Arizona couple was jailed over charges stemming from their failure to remove Christmas decorations from their home 19 days after the holiday. They claim they were unable to take down the decorations in time because one had been injured at work, and the other was afraid of heights.


Collin Neal and Jessamy Benington, two eight-grade students in Tempe, Arizona, were put on three days of in-school intervention and ten days' probation after they were witnessed briefly embracing before running off to basketball and cheerleading practice.


From a set of instructions enabling employees of Oregon's Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Department to identify driver's license applicants:
An applicant who is homeless may use a descriptive address of the location where he/she actually resides, e.g., "under the west end of the Burnside Bridge." The applicant must present a written statement from a social service agency verifying the descriptive address. The applicant must also provide a mailing address.


The first-place winner of the Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch's fifth annual Wacky Warning Label contest was a CD player with the following warning: "Do not use the Ultradisc2000 as a projectile in a catapult." Second place was a manufactured fireplace log with a warning: "Caution—Risk of Fire." Third prize went to the label on a box of birthday candles: "DO NOT use soft wax as ear plugs or for any other function that involves insertion into a body cavity."


Bill Keller wrote a column in January for the New York Times hailing the departure of three lame-duck Republican senators, Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, and Phil Gramm. According to Keller, the three "harnessed their collective century of seniority to the Taliban wing of the America right."

Prior to September 11, the term was used far more extensively. Newsweek's Eleanor Clift warned of the "Taliban wing... who are willing to sit in a cold firehouse all weekend to make sure they get their person on the school board." The Boston Globe's David Warsh used the label to apply to most of the GOP's social conservatives as well as its economic libertarians. Along the same lines, Dana Milbank in the New Republic warned of "Jihad Republicans" in Congress who would lead the country toward "military theocracy."

And in a speech to the NAACP's annual convention soon after President Bush took office, chairman Julian Bond said: "Instead of uniting us, the new administration almost daily separates and divides. They selected nominees from the Taliban wing of American politics, appeased the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing and chose Cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection."

Some California parents became angry upon learning that courses on Islam are being taught in public middle schools where similar courses on other religions would not be allowed. Students are encouraged to wear Muslim robes, adopt Islamic names, read from the Koran and stage make-believe pilgrimages to Mecca to learn more about the faith. "From the beginning, you and your classmates will become Muslims," a course description reads. "Dressing as a Muslim and trying to be involved will increase your learning and enjoyment." One parent lodged a complaint against a San Luis Obispo school in which students pretended to be warriors fighting for Islam.

From the introduction to the 2002 edition of the State of the World, an annual report published by the Worldwatch Institute:
It is now clear in a way that it never was before that the world of the early twenty-first century is far from stable. At a time when we are still adding a billion people to the human population every 15 years, many societies are struggling with the difficult transition from traditional rural societies to modern, urban, middle-class ones. In many of these societies, basic human needs for food, water, health care, and education are not being met, with over a billion people living on less than a dollar a day. Moreover, the lack of democratic political representation and the concentration of economic and political power in a few hands has created a fundamental instability in many nations—an instability that echoes around the world in the form of large-scale human migration, illegal drug exports, and, increasingly, terrorism. If the lofty social and ecological goals of the Rio Earth Summit had been achieved, it is possible that the crisis of the last year would not have occurred.

[Ed.: The 19th edition of this report, marked by the departure of Institute founder Lester Brown, is the first not to predict imminent global famine. The Institute still advocates many other questionable policy prescriptions such as promotion of organic agriculture, which is about two-thirds as productive as modern agriculture (thus requiring the conversion of 50 percent more land to grow crops on), entails far more soil erosion due to the proscription against using genetic strains that allow "no-till" farming, and would require six times more organic fertilizer (animal manure) than is currently available.]


Following a similar action in San Diego, the Boston City Council voted unanimously to stop using the word "minority" in city documents. City Councilor Charles Yancey hopes the term "people of color" will be used instead.

[Ed.: Since we have traveled full circle, note that the term "people of color" is inferior to the otherwise unacceptable term "colored people" since it subordinates "people" to their "color" rather than the other way around.]

The New York City Fire Department requested that a proposed statue based on the famous photograph of firemen raising the American flag, Iwo Jima-style, over the wreckage at the World Trade Center depict the three firemen, all of whom were white, as one white, one black, and one Hispanic.

The Department of Learning in the Canadian province of Alberta released a report recommending that teenage underachievers should not be referred to as high school "dropouts" but rather as "early school leavers" because the former term causes self-esteem problems that makes children feel victimized and thus more likely to drop out... er... leave early.

From a congressional press release, December 4, 2001:
Rep. Capps Secures Funding for San Luis Obispo County Tattoo Removal Program

Washington, D.C.—Congresswoman Lois Capps today announced that she secured $50,000 for the Liberty Tattoo Removal Program of San Luis Obispo County in the final Justice Department Appropriations bill. Capps requested the funding in an April letter to the Subcommittee's Chairman.

"People with tattoos often find themselves being unfairly stereotyped in a way that makes it difficult to find employment or be promoted to higher, better paying positions. The Liberty Tattoo Program works with people in our community to help erase this social stigma. I'm proud to work with this excellent local program to expand the services it can provide with the help of federal funds," said Rep. Capps.

The funding will be used to hire a full-time program coordinator and for education to deter students from getting tattoos. The Economic Opportunity Commission runs the program with support from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office and Probation Department, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, Sierra Vista Hospital, General Hospital, Santa Lucia Bank, the Rotary Club of Nipomo and others. In order to be eligible, a person's tattoo must be gang-related or anti-social and prevent someone from finding employment or otherwise interfere with the person's daily life. In addition, participants must agree not to get any additional tattoos and must complete a minimum of 16 hours of public service.

'San Luis Obispo County appreciates the efforts of Representative Lois Capps to secure funding for EOC Health Services' Liberty Tattoo Removal Program. People with visible, inappropriate tattoos often encounter negative attitudes, stereotyping and discrimination, resulting in unemployment, underemployment or the inability to move forward in their careers. This program supports people who are trying to make a change in their lives by removing these negative marks of distinction, as well as the physical and psychological barriers they create," said Economic Opportunity Commission of San Luis Obispo County Executive Director Elizabeth "Biz" Steinberg after hearing about the funding.

The program was modeled after and mentored by the Liberty Tattoo Removal Program of Santa Barbara.

In Seattle, a fourteen-year-old judo champion filed a lawsuit that claimed a requirement to bow at the start of a tournament is a submissive rather than a respectful act, one that should not be required in a public arena. What's more, the gesture is rooted in Japanese Shinto customs, and the contestant's mother, a Buddhist, does not want her son practicing Shintoism.

Among the papers delivered at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association were "Bike Lust—Harleys, Women, and American Society," "Picture Novels and Canned Peas in Urban Cameroon," "Queer Zionism: Nationalism and Sexuality in Popular Israeli Television," and "Contrasting Cultural Styles in U.S. Garage Sale Bargaining."


The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is demanding that Northwest Airlines apologize for allegedly forcing a Muslim high school student to remove her head scarf at an airport security checkpoint, an action the group characterizes as equivalent to a public strip search and a violation of her religious beliefs. As a sign of modesty, unmarried Muslim women are not supposed to show their heads to men outside their families.

And in Florida, a Muslim woman sued the state for suspending her driver's license after she refused to remove her full-face veil for her photograph. Prior to the September 11 attacks, Florida had allowed the woman a driver's license photo that showed only her eyes, even though state law requires a "full-face photograph." But civil rights lawyer Howard Marks said the law is vague. He cited another presumably less vague Florida law stating that the "government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion." CAIR is championing the cause of another Muslim woman in Florida who also doesn't want her face on her license.

[Ed.: In a letter to the Boston Globe, An orthodox Jewish man wrote that when going through airport security, his wife simply asks to be examined in a private room by a female security officer, a commonsense request airlines have had no problem accommodating. As for the Florida woman, may I suggest another simple alternative? Since there's also a Muslim law requiring women to be accompanied in public by male family members, why doesn't he drive? At least he'll have more than a slit of fabric through which to see the road! And in a somewhat related matter, a University of Manitoba political science professor fought a $40 traffic ticket by questioning the very constitutionality of stop signs, claiming they are "vague."]

The London Times reports that a European Union committee was to meet "to decide just how many lumps a sauce can contain before it ceases to be classified as a sauce and is regarded officially as a vegetable." According to the Times, the current "lump limit" of 20 percent "was originated to stop importers avoiding high tariffs on vegetables by disguising them as sauces." "Just to add to the problem," the Times explains, "even a sauce containing meat can be classed as a vegetable if the meat content is less than about 18 per cent."


An amusing exchange on CNN's "NewsNight," December 18, 2001:
Aaron Brown: Some conservatives jumped on [Taliban fighter John] Walker, saying he is a product of cultural liberalism—the California kind—helping to turn an impressionable kid against his own country. Joining us from Salinas, California, one of those conservatives, Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institution. Mr. Steele wrote a provocative article the other day in the Wall Street Journal. And here in New York, a columnist who thinks Mr. Steele is making an awfully broad generalization: Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. It's nice to have both of you here. Mr. Steele.

Shelby Steele: First of all, let me interrupt you just a minute. Is Richard Cohen a liberal?

Brown: Yeah, Richard Cohen's a liberal. I think he would say that, wouldn't he?

Richard Cohen: On this issue.

Brown: Okay. Everyone is now branded, I guess.

Steele: Great. If I'm going to be, everybody's going to be.


A backhanded compliment, and the re-emergence of a popular theme, from Jacob Weisberg in Slate, January 4, 2002:
Bush continues to exhibit the same lack of curiosity, thoughtfulness, and engagement with ideas that made him a C student. Nuance, complexity, subtlety, and contradiction are not part of the mental universe he inhabits. And curiously enough, it is these very qualities of mind—or lack thereof—that seem to be making him such a good war president.

[Ed.: Little-known fact: Al Gore was also a C student.]


The Canadian Correctional Service and the National Parole Board are the target of a $1.6 million lawsuit from prison inmate Mark Turner, who claims these agencies negligently granted him parole, thus enabling him to commit more crimes. In doing so, Turner is building on the success of similar lawsuits against the government filed by victim's rights groups.

Carol Lloyd, in an article on patterns of home ownership in the San Francisco Chronicle, January 2, 2002:
Harvard Professor John Stilgoe, whose specialty is visual and environmental studies, believes the current war on terror will intensify the desire for home ownership.

"Owning the real estate is going to become much more important," he says, "but the kind of real estate may be different." Instead of high-priced urban properties, he says, places off the beaten track are going to become increasingly attractive.

Why? He predicts that if there's another major terrorist attack in a metropolitan area, residents will no longer value urban real estate in the same way. "People are going to want to move out of the big cities and nest in a community where they feel safe," Stilgoe adds. "Then urban real estate values are going to collapse, and a lot of very rich people are going to lose their riches."

Stilgoe thinks that not only has such a scenario occurred to the powers that be, but the possibility has actually influenced our current foreign policy.

"The federal government was badly shocked after Sept. 11," he told me. "The elites thought they had to get the American people focused on something else. And so we're bombing the hell out of Afghanistan. I'm sorry to say this, but I think that's what this whole war on terrorism is all about: It's about maintaining urban property values. It is necessary to do whatever they can to keep people willing to pay exorbitant prices for a small apartment in Manhattan or San Francisco or Los Angeles."