An Inclusive Litany

6/30/03

Writing in the National Review, Jay Nordlinger reports on the resurgence of efforts against the fluoridation of water. Often thought of as a defining characteristic of fringe right-wing groups such as the John Birch Society, opposition to fluoridation has increasingly taken hold among leftist environmentalists.

The founding members of the Fluoride Action Network—a clearinghouse for anti-fluoride efforts—include the founder of Friends of the Earth, the editor of Coyote Nation, the publisher of The Ecologist, the co-founders of GreenWatch, and even a past president of the Secular Franciscan Order. Anti-fluoridation articles have appeared in magazines such as The Progressive and CovertAction Quarterly, the latter of which identified fluoridation as a capitalist plot. The Berkeley-based Environmental News Network has served as a hub of anti-fluoride activity. The National Resources Defense Council is also against it, along with many Sierra Club chapters.

These groups argue that fluoride is a pollutant, that there is currently too much of it in various food products, that fluoride is superfluous in fighting cavities (given that people practice good hygiene and a adopt a good diet), and that it is an undemocratic assault on individual preferences. While some have no objection to the presence of fluoride in toothpaste, others blame fluoridation for cancer, brittle bones, Alzheimer's disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and hypothyroidism, with leads to weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Supporters of fluoridation include the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control, and the office of Surgeon General. They argue that adding fluoride to drinking water is safe in small amounts, and yields substantial benefits in dental health.

Efforts to discontinue or prevent fluoridation have been successful in both Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, California; Ithaca, New York; Worcester, Massachusetts; and much of the Pacific Northwest. An anti-fluoridation referendum is to be voted on in Palo Alto, California.

6/26/03

Joel Brinkely of the New York Times reports on the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of a Texas state anti-sodomy law, June 26, 2003:
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent and took the unusual step of reading it aloud from the bench this morning, saying "the court has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda," while adding that he personally has "nothing against homosexuals."
Here are the words Scalia actually used:
Let me be clear that I have nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means.

6/25/03

Despite the city's enormous deficit, New York's city council allocated $75,000 to organize city residents in support of rent control, $27,900 of which was used to bus supporters to a rally in Albany.

6/24/03

New York Newsday, June 24, 2003:
Snoop Dogg isn't wild about "Girls Gone Wild" anymore.

The rapper, who appeared as the host on one of the raunchy strip videos, told The Associated Press he's done with the series because it doesn't feature women of color.

"If you notice, there hasn't been no girls of [ethnicity] at all on none of those tapes," Snoop Dogg complained during a recent interview. "No black girls, no Spanish girls—all white girls, and that [stuff] ain't cool, because white girls ain't the only ho's that get wild."

Along with an accomplice, Deshon Rene Odom was arrested outside a California bank they had just robbed carrying a loaded revolver. The U.S. Ninth Court of Appeals reversed Odom's armed robbery conviction because he "never intentionally displayed the gun." In his ruling, Judge Richard R. Clifton inquires: "Can a bank robber with a concealed gun who never mentions or insinuates having one, but who displays it inadvertently, be convicted of armed bank robbery? We believe the answer is no."

6/23/03

Former Vermont governor and current presidential candidate Howard Dean, speaks with Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press" about his position on the death penalty, June 22, 2003:
I think there may be one instance where just possibly it could be [a deterrent] and that's the shooting of a police officer. If you're about to pull a trigger on a guy who's in uniform and you know that you're going to get the death penalty and if you don't pull the trigger something different will happen, maybe that might save the police officer's life.

6/22/03

After Florida's Manatee County school district added "sexual preference" to the list of the school's forbidden discrimination targets, gay groups complained that using the word "preference" implies a choice or a potentially curable disorder.

6/19/03

Two years after the "CBS Evening News" reported on how Eva Baer-Schenkein couldn't afford to buy drugs for her osteoporosis due to shortcomings of the Medicare program, ABC's "World News Tonight" used the same woman in much the same story, this time suffering from "hypertension and other health problems."

6/18/03

Jim Fitzgerald of the Associated Press reports on the 50th anniversary of the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, June 18, 2003:
[T]he 50th anniversary has spiked interest. On Thursday night [Pete] Seeger, Susan Sarandon, Harry Belafonte and other show business activists... will appear at a benefit for the Rosenberg Fund for Children. [The Rosenberg's son Robert] Meeropol runs the fund, which assists the children of people imprisoned, harassed, attacked or fired for taking a public stand.

Meeropol calls the foundation his "constructive revenge."

His memoir, "An Execution in the Family" is being published on the anniversary. In it, he recounts his admittedly vague memories of Rosenberg family life; his and his brother's adoption by Abel and Anne Meeropol; his own studies of his parents' case, which opened him to the possibility they may have been spies; and his difficulty in understanding why parents of small children would engage in such risk.

But Meeropol is also suspicious that recently released evidence may be government "disinformation."

"What a horror story it would be for me to accept it and then later find out that I've spread their propaganda for them," he said. "I couldn't live with myself."

6/17/03

The Chicago Tribune reports on the difficulties faced by one of the death row inmates, a double murderer, whose sentence was commuted by Governor George Ryan, June 17, 2003:
Now, [Andre] Jones and the other inmates face the new reality of life in the general prison population.

It is a far different world from a condemned unit and the certainty of a date with execution: a place where increased freedom of movement brings greater danger; where the camaraderie among the condemned is shattered; where creature comforts such as almost-daily showers and easy access to telephones are gone.

In the midst of a series of lengthy strikes protesting a French pension reform plan, Marseille city cleaners dealt with the stench from piles of sun-baked garbage by applying lemon grass perfume.

6/13/03

The Sacramento Bee reports that, in the midst of a multibillion-dollar deficit, the California legislature wrangled over the wording of a resolution honoring Father's Day. Some legislators pushed for language so expansive as to specify "single fathers, foster fathers, adoptive fathers, biological fathers, stepfathers, families headed by two fathers, grandfathers raising grandchildren, fathers in blended households, and other non-traditional fathers."

6/12/03

A group of Louisiana cockfighters have sued to block a federal law banning interstate commerce in fowls because they say it discriminates against Cajuns and Hispanics, for whom they say the sport is integral to their cultures.

Two schools in Mill Creek, Washington were locked down after a parent spotted a 14-year-old boy carrying what turned out to be a prop gun used in a Civil War presentation. The Associated Press reports: "What the parent thought was a gun had a barrel made from two broomsticks painted black with foil at the end and a block of wood covered in wood-grain paper to resemble the butt." The boy is facing suspension.

Tinamarie Nicolo Dorfner of Moorestown, New Jersey, wrote an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer explaining that during the seven months of her first pregnancy thus far, she has had to change her obstetricians four times. The first decided to stop delivering babies due to soaring malpractice insurance costs. The second had to move his practice to Maine for the same reason. She couldn't even get an appointment with the third because he was forced to see so many patients to pay for his malpractice premiums. The fourth is in a group practice, in which only three of the six physicians continue to deliver babies because they can't afford malpractice premiums for all of them.

6/11/03

Fiachra Gibbons reports on the latest artistic forays of Damien Hirst in the Guardian June 11, 2003:

In a series of sculptures inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper, which will be seen in London this autumn, Hirst will depict Jesus and the apostles as 13 pingpong balls bobbing on spurting fountains of red wine. A washing bowl to bathe Christ's feet will sit beneath their Formica table.

Hirst had wanted the balls to bob on blood but opted for wine, with all its symbolic echoes of the mass, in which Catholics believe wine is turned into the blood of Christ.

If that were not strong enough meat for many Christians, it will sit alongside a cow with six legs called In His Infinite Wisdom.

The fourth major piece in his next show at the White Cube gallery in London in September will be The Death of the Saints and the Ascension of Jesus, a sequence of "metaphorical" cabinets showing how Christ and the disciples met their ends. A pickled bull's head will sit in front of each cabinet.

[Ed.: This exhibit of seemingly more spiritual material represents the return of Hirst after a long bout of drunkedness, during which he admitted to have assembled many of his earlier works. Looking back, said Hirst, "I was a lunatic... there are things I have done which I now think, 'What the hell was I thinking?' ... I remember once I wanted to cover a pig in vibrators like a hedgehog. It was going to be called Pork-u-pine. Thank God, I didn't do it. But some things like that do get made."]

6/9/03

Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "Late Edition," June 8, 2003:
A frenzied anticipation about New York Democratic senator and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's new book, "Living History." That's out in bookstores tomorrow.

Some details already have been made public. She recounts how she discovered the truth about her husband's affair with Monica Lewinsky, saying, and I'm quoting now, "I was dumbfounded, heartbroken and outraged that I had believed him at all. As a wife, I wanted to wring Bill's neck."

[I]s this a prelude to a presidential run at 2008?

6/8/03

The New York Times, June 8, 2003:
On a chilly and sodden afternoon last week, Christina Vrachnos braced herself against the wind on Madison Avenue, and cast her eyes toward the skies. "Is it global warming?" she wailed. "What is it? What have we done to deserve this wretched weather?"

Ms. Vrachnos, who works in the marketing department of a financial publishing company, had suited up to brave temperatures that had dipped into the low 50's.

6/5/03

After both Time and Newsweek magazines ran cover photos of Caucasian women in surgical masks to illustrate the threat of SARS, Time's editor admitted he did not use a photo of a Chinese woman in order to avoid stigmatizing Asians unfairly.

The Highlander, student newspaper at the University of California, Riverside, reports on a meeting of the student senate, June 5, 2003:
After some deliberation, and the decision to make it a closed ballot, the senate voted to allocate $3,025 to Que onda Queers.

At the meeting, the senate also voted to approve a mural to be placed in the Commons. There was some concern voiced by the senate about the contents of the mural.

"I see some pilgrim invaders here," said Elisa Haro, academic affairs director. "It kind of reminds me of my colonization, and I don't like that."

The artist of the mural said that the pilgrim invaders were meant to be Shakespearean actors and that he would try to make that more clear.

Other concerns with the mural included the depiction of white cranes, which the senate demanded be changed to color cranes.

They were also concerned with the lack of a same sex couple depicted, which the artist agreed to add. The senate voted to approve the mural in light of the adjustments being made.

[Ed.: At the same meeting, some demanded a safe house and a special security detachment to protect "women of color" from harassment by campus police and members of "the Greek community." The amount demanded exceeded the entire budget available to the student senate.]

6/3/03

A New Zealand lesbian who won a gay beauty contest she entered as a way to shatter stereotypes was booed because she looked too straight.

After the Interior Department announced a $317,000 grant to help preserve Boston's historic Old North Church, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State objected that since the site is still "an active church," the grant represents a violation of church/state separation.

5/30/03

Two student groups at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts were denied permission to roast a pig on campus because it may offend vegetarians.

5/29/03

At a school in Inverness, Florida, twelve-year-old Kyle Fredrikson was handcuffed and jailed after he stomped in a puddle and splashed classmates and school officials. He was charged with misdemeanor disruption of school activities.

5/22/03

Following an attack that left two girls injured, John Watkins, Police Minister of New South Wales, Australia, called for a national ban on crossbows. "Crossbows are killing machines—nothing else," said Watkins. "Trafficking in these weapons is as deadly as drugs or guns." Crossbows are already banned in New South Wales. Australia also bans many types of firearm, with strict gun registration and licensure laws.

5/21/03

A Reuters dispatch, May 7, 2003:
Entertainer Ed McMahon reaped a $7 million settlement from several companies he sued for allowing toxic mold to overrun his Los Angeles home and kill his beloved dog, a national mold litigation magazine reported.

5/20/03

A British plan to offer financial incentives for minority police recruit referrals was put on hold following complaints that the practice resembled the "bounties" once offered for escaped slaves.

5/18/03

Connecticut's Wesleyan University announced plans to institute a gender-blind dormitory for incoming students who aren't sure what sex they are.

For much the same reason, the term "co-ed" has been falling out of use on campus. "We don't really use the word 'co-ed,' because 'co-ed' implies one of two genders and a lot of people don't identify with either gender," one transgender student told the Hartford Courant.

5/15/03

Leo Standora, in the New York Daily News, May 15, 2003, demonstrates the perils of a socially constructed reality:
Here's a new study that's bound to send your blood pressure up—and that's the problem.

Updated federal guidelines mean that 45 million more Americans are now considered at risk for high blood pressure because the longtime standard for a healthy reading—120 over 80—has been lowered.

The new guidelines mean a much larger group has a greater chance of heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, blindness and dementia....

5/14/03

The University of Arizona has been warning students that the practice of tossing tortillas into the air at graduation ceremonies might be interpreted as racist.

5/12/03

MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield, in a speech at Kansas State University, quoted by Matt Moline of the Topeka Capital-Journal, April 24, 2003:
It was a grand and glorious picture that had a lot of people watching, and a lot of advertisers excited about cable TV news, but it wasn't journalism, because I'm not sure Americans are hesitant to do this again—to fight another war, because it looked to them like a courageous and terrific endeavor.

Amarnath Yadav was removed from office as mayor of Gorakhpur, India, after a court ruled that, as an effeminate male eunuch, he was ineligible to run as a female under a preference system for electoral office seekers. This represents the second time someone has been removed from office in India for this reason.

5/7/03

When six-year-old Kevin Long took a plastic butter knife from the lunchroom of Ohio's Struthers Elementary School, officials suspended him for violating the school's weapons ban, and even threatened expulsion. To have the suspension lifted, the boy's parents responded by threatening to have school officials brought up on charges of providing a weapon to a minor.

5/6/03

A Pakistani couple who worked around the clock at their Montreal convenience store were ordered to speak better French to their customers as required by Quebec law. An Anglo-Canadian computer consultant was ordered to post a French version of the website advertising his services even though he knows no French. A Greek immigrant had his truck seized because it said "Bill's Plumbing" on the side, an illegal use of language since he pursued his trade only in Quebec. A mason cutting gravestones was also cited because the epitaphs were not bilingual.

In the midst of California's multibillion-dollar budget deficit, a state and federal task force offered grief therapy to Riverside poultry farmers whose birds were killed in order to halt the spread of Exotic Newcastle Disease.

5/4/03

The Rent Stabilization Board of Berkeley, California, which administers that city's scarce rental housing stock, sponsored a "poetry slam" allowing the city's tenants to rant about their landlords. The winner of the $100 first prize denounced the "platonic master/slave relationship" between landlord and tenant and recalled how his last landlord was so bad that he "chose to be homeless for nine months just to escape the memory."

5/2/03

A workshop organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN, pronounced "glisten") focused on injecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) issues into math and science courses in the nation's public schools—not just English, history, and health education courses. As an example of how to "queer" geometry, GLSEN recommends using gay symbols such as the pink triangle to study shapes.

All-female Smith College is removing the words "she" and "her" from its constitution to avoid offending transgendered students.

In her new book, The Language Police, education historian Diane Ravitch examines the process by which potentially offensive ideas are removed from school books and test questions in a process largely determined by a few committees in the disproportionately influential states of California and Texas.

A "bias and sensitivity" panel removed a test essay about patchwork quilts made by 19th-century frontier women because they "objected to the portrayal of women as people who stitch and sew, and who were concerned about preparing for marriage."

A story that featured two young African-American girls—one an athlete and the other a math whiz, who help each other learn new skills—was cited for stereotyping blacks as athletic.

A story about a heroic blind youth who climbed to the top of Mt. McKinley was rejected, both for the implication that blindness is a disability that would that feat more difficult, and because some students from non-mountainous areas might not be able to comprehend a story about the dangers involved. For the same reason, stories with dolphins have been rejected because most students don't live near the sea.

An essay about the varieties of life dwelling in a rotting tree stump was rejected because it compared the stump to an apartment building, which might cause special offense to residents of public housing.

Jews are not depicted as diamond cutters, jewelers, doctors, dentists, lawyers, classical musicians, tailors, or shopkeepers, but perhaps as baseball players.

A story about an Asian-American girl, whose mother is a professor, who plays checkers with her grandfather and brings him pizza was also rejected for three reasons: making the mother a professor perpetuates the "model minority" myth that stereotypes Asians; older people may not be depicted playing checkers; and pizza is junk food.

A passage on the uses and nutritional values of peanuts was removed because some students are allergic to peanuts. Mentions of cakes, candy, doughnuts, french fries, and coffee are replaced with references to more healthful foods such as whole-grain breads, yogurt, and beans.

Even owls are frowned on because Navajos don't like them. Mt. Rushmore doesn't make the cut either, because Lakotas might be offended. While often symbols of pride among African Americans, mentioning the palaces of ancient Egypt is frowned on because they suggest elitism. And of course dinosaurs imply evolution, which offends creationists.

5/1/03

Accepting his Academy Award for best documentary, Michael Moore—director of Bowling for Columbine, an examination of American gun culture using the Littleton, Colorado, school massacre as a launching point—invited his fellow nominees to join him onstage.

"They are here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction," Moore explained, "and we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it's the fictition [sic] of duct tape or the fictitious [sic] of orange alerts. We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you." By the end of Moore's presentation, the audience was loudly booing.

Despite Moore's professed fondness for nonfiction, Daniel Lyons of Forbes notes numerous errors and misrepresentations in the film for which he won the best documentary award:

  • The film depicts Moore walking out of a bank in Traverse City, Michigan, with a gun supposedly provided as a gift for opening an account there. Moore jokes as he walks out, "Here's my first question: do you think it's a little dangerous handing out guns at a bank?" But the entire scene must have been staged, because it's only by purchasing a long-term CD that the gift applies, and even then customers must go to a gun store to pick out the weapon following a required background check conducted through the local sheriff's office.
  • Moore suggests that the two teenagers who perpetuated the Columbine massacre in Littleton, Colorado, were partly influenced by the manufacture of "weapons of mass destruction" at a nearby Lockheed Martin plant. The plant actually makes space-launch vehicles for television satellites.
  • In a survey of American foreign policy, Moore claims the U.S. gave $245 million in aid to Afghanistan's Taliban regime in 2000 and 2001. But the aid actually consisted of food assistance programs administered by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations to relieve an impending famine.
  • Moore recounts a 2000 school shooting in which a six-year old boy found a gun in his uncle's house, brought it to a Flint, Michigan school, and shot and killed a six-year-old girl. Moore surmises that the shooting happened because the boy's mother, Tamarla Owens, had to work 40 miles away at two minimum wage jobs, and had to leave her son in the care of her brother. That is, if it were not for the stringency of the state's welfare-to-work laws, she would have been able to adequately supervise her son and thus prevent the shooting.

    But in fact, the uncle's house at which Owens dropped off her son was a crack house, filled with guns that were often traded for drugs. Tamarla herself was a drug addict who admitted she held down her oldest son so he could be beaten with a belt by two male friends. She also admitted she beat the boy with a belt while sitting on him, after first duct-taping his hands, feet and mouth. So it's unclear what benefit her parental supervision would have provided the boy.

  • Even the film's title, Bowling for Columbine, represents an error. According to initial news reports, the two teenagers who perpetrated the attack had gone to a bowling class the morning of the massacre. But Littleton police say the two students skipped the class the day of their rampage.

A notice that appeared in Massachusetts' Concord Journal, May 1, 2003:
The Musketaquid Earth Day Celebration this Saturday, May 3 is a day to raise our voices for the Earth. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. with the River Ceremony at the Lowell Road Bridge. Music, dance, voice and visual delights introduce the theme Make Way for Wildness and launch the riverbound sculptures called Earth Floats.

Again this year, Turtle, an eight-foot floating sculpture, will speak through the voice of artist C.C. King. Joining King will be a liturgical singer, dancer and actor Ellen Oak. Choreographer Alice Heller will lead a group of dancers representing Musketaquid—the place where the water flows through the grasses—with rhythms by Morwen and Jimi Two Feathers of Earth Drum Council.

King and Oak will offer the words of River and Shore, Water and Land. Musical participants include Dillon Bustin and Voices for the Earth chorus. All are invited to come to the Concord River at 10 a.m., to get grounded with song, performance and water and air, and then bring the spirit of the river up to the boisterous Parade through Concord Center to the Festival at the Emerson Umbrella.

Following the river ceremony join the Giant Puppets Parade. The participatory procession steps off from Lowell Road. Hundreds of giant critters, colorful banners, musicians, and dancers take to the streets of Concord Center to celebrate our place on the planet.

After the parade the festivities continue at the Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts.... During the Arts & Environment Festival enjoy good food, earthy entertainment and express yourself through art activities....

[Ed.: Amazingly, the piece doesn't mention Henry David Thoreau even once.]

4/25/03

In a ruling that angered some Marvel Comics fans, the U.S. Court of International Trade declared the X-Men characters to be "nonhuman creatures" rather than humans with special mutant powers. The classification was sought by a Marvel affiliate that imported X-Men action figures. Customs law specifies that imports of human "dolls" are taxed at 12 percent while nonhuman "toys" are taxed at 6.8 percent.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is challenging the speech code of Pennsylvania's Shippensburg University as overly broad and vague. The code restricts "unconscious attitudes toward individuals which surface through the use of discriminatory semantics" as well as "presumptive statements" that may "annoy" others.

Comments by Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum on the constitutionality of anti-sodomy laws aroused outrage among gays and lesbians, who saw them as equating homosexuality with polygamy and other practices still considered taboo. "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything," said Santorum.

It turns out even polygamists are angry at Santorum. "I think he's an insult to Christianity," said 89-year-old Owen Allred, head of the United Apostolic Brethren in Bluffdale, Utah, the nation's largest pro-polygamy sect. "It makes me so mad I want to swear." Followers of the sect believe that Abraham and other biblical figures engaged in polygamy, and that the practice is blessed by God as a way to multiply the human race, not, as Allred says, "for satisfying the lust of the flesh." Allred said he believes that homosexuality is immoral. "The United States is fast becoming another Sodom and Gomorrah," he said.

4/24/03

A message printed on boxes of Green Tea manufactured by the Republic of Tea:
A simple cup of green tea is imbued with a wisdom beyond wisdom, capable of enlightening both mind and body. We invite you to heat the water, brew the tea and sip its greatness, taking in its teachings.
A similar message on the box of a British Breakfast blend:
Life is impossible and so what? It is in its very impossibility that we find our joy. Tea Mind allows life to live us. It frees us from the hubris of trying to control what cannot be controlled. The life of tea is the life of the moment. We have only Now, and we each sip it in our own cups.

After the city of Boston eliminated free golfing privileges for "duly ordained ministers" at a city-owned golf course, some interpreted the move as racist. "The majority of the people [affected] are black, and we do feel it's unfair," the Rev. James Allen told the Boston Globe. "I don't want to use the race card, but let's be honest. I don't want to make it a racial thing, but it seemed like that's what it was."

4/22/03

To celebrate the 30-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a Johns Hopkins organization called Medical Students for Choice threw a party. The invitation read: "Come learn about what's being done to train new providers and ensure that a woman's right to choose is both safe and accessible! Come and eat birthday cake!"

The last time Laci Peterson was seen alive was Christmas 2002, when she was eight months pregnant. Her husband, Scott, was arrested after her body washed up onto the shore of San Francisco Bay in April, along with a separate body, with umbilical cord still attached, that the Associated Press at various points referred to as her "infant son," her "fetus," her "biological child," a "male fetus," and "the couple's baby."

4/18/03

Troubled by the unsafe appearance of parts of the city of Oakland, a city council committee advocated a plan that would prohibit barbed wire fences around commercial establishments. Aside from unsightliness, "It gives a sense that our community is not a very safe city," said City Manager Robert Bobb. The committee also considered a ban on burglar bars, roll-down doors, and retractable security gates.

The New Haven Register reports on a disability-discrimination lawsuit against McDonald's by Joseph Connor, who applied for a job as a cook there at a job fair. When asked by the franchises' manager what his measurements were so that he could have a uniform fit for him, he replied that he had a 54-inch waist and a 22-inch neck. In fact, he weighs 420 pounds. Management did not call him again, and did not return his phone calls.

ABC's Terry Moran, in a question to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, March 21, 2003:
Have you heard [Bush] talk about the other responsibility which may weigh on him heavily today, and that is the death of innocents, for Iraqi moms and dads and children who may, despite our best efforts, be killed?
Four days later, Moran questions Fleischer about the administration's decision to bypass populated areas to prevent civilian casualties:
Obviously, the Iraqi regime has mined [Basra's] harbor, and that is a wicked thing to do, but the coalition battle plan was to bypass Basra and leave the more than half million citizens there essentially to fend for themselves. Does the administration take any responsibility for the plight of the people of Basra?

The Tallahassee Democrat reports that graphic references to women's body parts that were plastered all over an inside wall of the Women's Center at Florida State University and intended to provide a feeling of empowerment among women, were instead widely found offensive. Fearing lawsuits over a hostile work environment, university officials said they would remove the posters.

While much of the world's attention was drawn to the war in Iraq, the Castro regime rounded up over 75 dissidents responsible for circulating a petition demanding human rights in Cuba, a crime for which many received 27-year prison sentences. Also, three men who attempted to hijack a ferry to the United States were executed immediately following summary trials. (The men were given several days to appeal their sentences, but they were executed first.)

In response to these affronts, HBO decided to remove "Comandante," Oliver Stone's adulatory "documentary" about Fidel Castro, from its May schedule. "In light of recent alarming events in Cuba," an HBO spokesman explained, the network decided "not to air Oliver Stone's film in May as scheduled. Had we aired the film in March, I don't think we would have had an issue with it. But now, the arrests and trials are an important piece of what's going on in Cuba, and the film's incomplete."

[Ed.: And what do you know? Cuba just won another three-year term on the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which appears to value alternative viewpoints.]

4/17/03

In Massachusetts, thousands of fourth-graders will retake the state's standardized assessment test because it asked students to write a story about a snow day spent away from school, which put those from warmer climates at a particular disadvantage.

4/15/03

On April 15, the Seattle City Council issued a statement of support for U.S. troops fighting in Iraq. This came just as U.S. Marines, encountering unexpectedly light resistance, entered the city of Tikrit, their last major military objective in the war. The Seattle Times reports that "it took the council over a month to craft the resolution," somewhat longer than it took the armed forces to defeat Iraq's military forces.

4/14/03

The Des Moines Register, April 14, 2003:
"It looks now like this was just a Third World country—there were people fighting with tennis shoes on, on the Iraqi side," [Iowa Senator Tom] Harkin told reporters. "I don't know what else we're going to find, but they didn't fly even one airplane in the air. They had almost nothing."

"So if they were that weak, where we could just roll over them like that, tell me again how [Hussein] was such a big threat in the past?" the senator added.

4/9/03

Robert Fisk reports from Iraq in the Independent, April 9, 2003:
On my way back past the Ahrar Bridge, I found a crowd of spectators standing on the parapet, watching the American tanks with a mixture of amusement and fear. Did they not know what was happening in their city, or—an idea that has possessed me in recent days—are the poor of Baghdad kept in such ignorance of events that they simply do not realise that the Americans are about to occupy their city? Could it be that the cigarette sellers and the bakery queues and the bus drivers just don't know what lies down on the banks of the Tigris?

From an editorial in the New York Times, April 9, 2003:
When violent crime rates were higher, many politicians were afraid to be seen as soft on crime. But now that crime has receded and the public is more worried about taxes and budget deficits, it would not require extraordinary courage for elected officials to do the right thing and scale back our overuse of jails and prison cells.

4/7/03

The National Park Service complained about a television advertisement in which an actor dressed as a park ranger is asked how Old Faithful's eruptions are kept so regular, and he is shown pouring Metamucil into the geyser. A Park Service spokesman warned of the dangers of approaching hot springs and geysers and said the ad "suggests that it's okay to pour some substance into a thermal feature." As a result, the ad will henceforth appear with the following caption: "Dramatization—please obey Park Service rules."

4/4/03

According to various complaints, Larry Jester, principal of Clarkston High School in DeKalb County, Georgia, threatened to kill staffers and himself, blared gospel music and sermons from his office, spoke about ridding the school of demons, and bragged of having a cache of stolen weapons. Jester was fired, but only after being allowed to stay on the job while undergoing a psychological evaluation. Teachers note that if the allegations had been made against a student, that student would have been removed from school immediately.

4/1/03

The El Paso Times reports that twelve-year-old Sal Santana II was suspended from Magoffin Middle School for three days after he "stuck his tongue out at a girl who declined his invitation to be his girlfriend," a gesture that school officials viewed as sexual harassment.

3/27/03

Partly because he feels unwelcome under the new Afghanistan government, Former Taliban member Wali Khan Ahmadzai applied for asylum in the United Kingdom. "I wanted to come to Britain because I knew that it was a good place to be, that here I would have a good life," he adds. Still, he tells the Daily Telegraph that he "still think[s] America and Britain are enemies of the Afghanistan people and Muslim people."

Nolan Thompson, community and employee outreach coordinator at the University of Southern Maine, in the Portland Press-Herald, March 27, 2003:
There are differences in how other people live and how they want to live. There are differences in how people see work and their workday. Between noon and 3 p.m., most shops are closed in Venice. That just fits the Italian way of living their day.

There is not an edict from the Supreme Being that one must work a full day every day, Monday through Friday, from 8 until 4:30. However, many people feel OK living life and working that way. True multiculturalism, though, is about accommodating lives that do not fit that way of living. True multiculturalism is about adopting other ways of living and being....

The workplace, as it has been essentially developed by straight white men in this country, has to change if it is to be multicultural.

It was designed to fit how they live in the world. It is not a place that was originally "designed" for people, especially African-Americans or other people of color, who value family and who have a somewhat different perspective on time than the originators of the workplace have.

A correction in the Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2003:
A "Counter Intelligence" review in the Food section March 19 quoted the owner of Mr. Pickles Deli in Los Angeles recalling a radio comment by talk show host Laura Schlessinger about the restaurant's brisket. Schlessinger said that the brisket does not need to be adulterated by ketchup, not that the brisket is the first step before adultery.

3/21/03

An Australian netball star won a an award of $6,750 after she was banned from playing because she was pregnant, a measure instituted due to fears of legal action over injuries to mothers and unborn children.

British Conservative Parliament member Boris Johnson writes in the London Spectator of his odd experience being solicited for a New York Times op-ed piece on the subject of British-American relations in the period leading up to the Iraq war.

After being told by the op-ed editor of several unobjectionable copy edits that represented minor variations between British and American terminology, Johnson writes that he started to get a "floaty, out-of-body sensation" when asked to change a sentence criticizing diplomatic maneuvering in the United Nations Security Council. "I had said something to the effect that you don't make international law by giving new squash courts to the President of Guinea," says Johnson. Instead, "Guinea" was changed to "Chile," another country currently occupying one of the rotating chairs in the Security Council. Johnson was told it would be "easier in principle if we don't say anything deprecatory about a black African country" if it didn't affect his overall point. Fine, Johnson said, South America it is.

Next, the editor insisted on removing a passage asserting that many people influenced by the anti-war cause had developed a psychological need for a disastrous outcome. "To illustrate the point, I noted that the last Gulf war had been so amazingly free of casualties that Gulf war syndrome (a stochastically unexceptional ragbag of symptoms) had been invented to fill the void, and to satisfy the yearning of the anti-war brigade for catastrophe." The editor said the passage would have to be removed because the Times took Gulf war syndrome very seriously. Johnson was incredulous. While he conceded it was a bit provocative, wasn't that the point of journalism? And since it was in an op-ed, could anyone mistake it for an opinion of the editorial board? But the editor was inflexible on this point, and the passage came out.

Finally, after an hour on the phone discussing the article, the editor took issue with the first sentence: "Gee, thanks, guys," a sarcastic reference to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's undiplomatic offer to proceed with the war without Britain's help should Prime Minister Tony Blair's support suddenly collapse. "All right, it was a bit colloquial," admits Johnson, but the sentence was also snappy and "for the life of me, I couldn't see why" it would have to be removed. Eventually, he got his answer: "Gee" is supposedly an abbreviation for Jesus. Johnson paraphrases the editor: "For a century this has been a Jewish-owned paper, and we have to be extremely sensitive about anything that might offend Christian sensibilities. We can say God, God is fine, but we have to be very careful about anything that involves the name of the Lord and Saviour."

Johnson describes his reaction: "Jesus H. Christ... this is insane. This is utterly insane. I really think we ought to try to get that one in...." Later, after consulting with his superiors, the editor allowed the word "Gee" to stay in the article.

3/17/03

Asked by an "Access Hollywood" television reporter what he thought of the Iraq war, actor Peter Boyle demurred. "I've made a commitment not to make any anti-war statements," said Boyle, "because I'm afraid of ... Bush."

3/16/03

A nursery school teacher in Yorkshire, England, banned her students from singing "Three Little Pigs" out of a concern that it might offend Muslims. Local Muslims responded that while the Koran clearly prohibits them from eating a pig's meat, they have no problem reading or talking about them. Indeed, the Koran itself mentions pigs, and Muslims are often obliged to read and recite the Koran.

And, following criticism over its decision to serve pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, one London school district removed hot cross buns from menus this Easter season because of the characteristic white cross on top. While the change was enacted to avoid offending Muslims, among others, one Muslim group calls the decision "very, very bizarre." "I wish they would leave us alone," said a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain. "We are quite capable of articulating our own concerns and if we find something offensive, we will say so. We do not need to rely on other people to do it for us."

3/14/03

Autoweek magazine reports on controversy over an advertising campaign by Nissan. The ad shows the words "Black History Month," with "History" crossed out and replaced by "Future." "Replacing history with future sometimes can rest in the philosophy of those opposing the leveling of the playing field for African-Americans," said Glenda Gill, a representative of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH coalition. "I would have felt better had it said 'Black History is our past and our future.' "

Lawyers for 18-year-old beltway sniper suspect Lee Malvo challenged a recent change in the jury selection process of Fairfax County, Virginia, where he will be tried for murder in November. The county's new system selects potential jurors from voter registration lists only and not from motor vehicle records, a change intended to reduce the number of felons and non-citizens in the jury pool. This, Malvo's lawyers argue, is likely to result in a pool of jurors with higher levels of income and education than Malvo.

3/12/03

New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission gave the Guggenheim Museum permission to build a temporary wooden enclosure on its roof to store a ton of frozen Vaseline used by artist Matthew Barney. The New York Times reports that the Vaseline "will be seen running down the interior of the Guggenheim's rotunda in specially designed troughs. Frozen Vaseline will cover the front of an Art Deco bar.... [A] hidden hose, fed from the roof enclosure through the museum's lighting system, would keep the Vaseline on the bar at 17 degrees so it holds its shape."

Barney was the subject of a long, thoughtful profile in The New Yorker. The Times' chief art critic Michael Kimmelman describes Barney as "the greatest American artist of his generation." In one of the artist's videos, he is depicted "climbing naked up a pole and cables and applying dollops of Vaseline to his orifices." Barney's Guggenheim exhibit, running through June 11, will also feature daily screenings of "Cremaster," a five-part film cycle inspired by the muscle that raises and lowers the testicles.

In London, Ontario, a lesbian couple asked a court to recognize a group consisting of the biological mother, her partner, and the biological father as legal parents of a young boy.

3/9/03

In Bradenton, Florida, the apartment of Grant Griffin has been taken over by a colony of bats. During the day, bats can often be found in his sink or other areas throughout his home. At night, the bats make so much noise that he is often kept awake. Griffin and his girlfriend have even awoken to discover small bites on their bodies.

"I'm about as freaked out as I can get," Griffin told the Sarasota Herald Tribune. "I feel like there are things crawling all over me." But since the state of Florida considers the bats "native wildlife" and since they have not been found to be rabid, Griffin is forbidden from having them exterminated.

Griffin's landlord offered to put screens over the holes where the bats enter and exit the house to collect food, but during the summer mating season this would cause an unbearable stench from babies who died for lack of food.

After spending many nights at friends' homes to avoid the bats, Griffin has made plans to move.

The New York Daily News reports that the U.S. Postal Service spent at least $3.6 million on conferences featuring therapeutic exercises designed to improve job performance and work environments. These exercises included wrapping each other in toilet paper and aluminum foil, building sand castles at the beach, making animal noises, dressing in cat costumes, and asking make-believe wizards for advice.

3/5/03

A pamphlet distributed by the Student Health Service of the University of California at Berkeley advises students upset at the prospect of war in Iraq to "allow for emotions—crying, frustration, verbal expressions of anger. Avoid potentially trite remarks like 'everything will be OK.' Make room for people to have their feelings, even as you try to reassure them. Simply acknowledging feelings is important, as is being together."

From a set of guidelines provided by The Princeton Review to writers preparing practice versions of standardized tests:
Topics to Avoid in Passages, Items, and Art

  • Violence (including guns, other weapons, and graphic animal violence)
  • Natural disasters
  • National tragedies (terrorist attacks, death of a president, etc.)
  • War, dying, death, disease
  • Drugs (including prescription drugs)
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco and smoking
  • Individuals who may be associated with drug use or with advertising of substances such as cigarettes and alcohol
  • Name brands, trademarked names
  • Junk food
  • Fad diets
  • Abuse, poverty, running away
  • Divorce
  • Socioeconomic advantages (e.g., video games, swimming pools, computers in the home, expensive vacations)
  • Sex, including age-inappropriate stories about marriage, engagement, and having children
  • Belching/burping, farting, spitting, etc.
  • Religion
  • Slavery (We can include slavery in history/social-studies material if the state curriculum standards cover slavery. Avoid it in reading passages. The term "enslaved people" is preferable to "slaves.")
  • Rap music, rock concerts
  • Complex discussions of esoteric topics
  • Extrasensory perception, witchcraft
  • Fortune-telling, superstition
  • Dice and games involving dice (For math questions, use the term "number cubes" instead of "dice.")
  • Halloween, religious holidays
  • Aliens and UFOs
  • Anything disrespectful, demeaning, moralistic, chauvinistic
  • Anything depicting racial or cultural stereotypes (e.g., Native American in headdress and war paint)
  • Anything depicting sexual stereotypes (e.g., girls shopping, a mother cooking dinner for a working father, girls overly concerned with dating or what boys think of them, anything accepting of a boy's aggressive behavior)
  • Children coping with adult situations or decisions; young people challenging or questioning authority
  • Losing a job, being fired
  • Rats, roaches, lice, spiders
  • Dieting, other concerns with self-image
  • Evolution, prehistoric times, age of solar system, dinosaurs (We can include these topics in history and science materials if the state curriculum standards cover them. Avoid them in reading passages.)
  • Any topic that is likely to upset students and affect their performance on the rest of the test

Topics to Avoid Because of Overuse

People:

  • Johnny Appleseed
  • James Smithson (Smithsonian Institution)
  • John Muir
  • John James Audubon
  • Phillis Wheatley
  • Roberto Clemente
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Helen Keller
  • Harriet Tubman
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Jane Goodall
  • Marie Curie
  • Jacques Cousteau
  • Amelia Earhart
Places and Things:
  • cardiovascular exercise
  • sports
  • fad or extreme diets
  • Galápagos Islands
  • Inca civilization, Machu Picchu
  • NASA
Themes:
  • Child moves to new town
  • Child starts a new school
  • Child gets new pet
  • Child ends story by saying, "That wasn't so bad after all!"

2/24/03

Elementary schools in Nashville, Tennessee, are considering a grading plan in which the minimum possible grade would be a 50.

2/21/03

In El Dorado Hills, California, the El Dorado Hills Design Review Committee ruled that the house of Joe and Melinda Bula, which was painted yellow when they bought it six years ago, does not comply with regulations that only allow beige and tan houses. The Bulas appealed the committee's decision to the city board, which assigned a "task force" to review the rules. City manager Wayne Lowery told the New York Times, "If you allow yellow, then when a guy comes in and says he likes purple, where do you draw the line?"

The Bulas may also have another fight on their hands. The committee also cited their white picket fence, which is made of plastic rather than wood.

The London Times, February 21, 2002:
A government-backed course is encouraging pupils under 16 to experiment with oral sex, as part of a drive to cut rates of teenage pregnancy....

The scheme, which has been pioneered by Exeter University and is backed by the Departments of Health and Education, trains teachers to discuss various pre-sex "stopping points" with under-age teenagers.

It aims to reduce promiscuity by encouraging pupils to discover "levels of intimacy," including oral sex, instead of full sexual intercourse.

More than 100,000 children are now taking the course at one in every thirty secondary schools. It forms part of efforts to tackle Britain's teenage pregnancy rate, which is the highest in Western Europe.

North Miami City Councilman Jacques Despinosse asked the police department to eliminate its swimming requirement for recruits because, he alleged, it eliminated many black candidates. "We can't swim," said Despinosse, a Haitian American. "Most of us didn't come on the Mayflower. We came on slave ships."

[Ed.: As someone with some Cuban blood in him, I find this unfathomable. If anybody could swim, it would be a Haitian.]

2/19/03

Men who marched naked in Toronto's Gay Pride Day were cleared of public nudity charges because they were wearing shoes.

The New York Times, February 19, 2003:
It began as a modest idea: a series of small seminars by Democratic Party lawyers for elected officials, political consultants and Congressional aides on the intricacies of the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance law....

"We sometimes leave our audiences in a state of complete shock" at what they hear, said Robert F. Bauer, a lawyer for the Democrats' House and Senate campaign committees. "A sort of slack-jawed amazement at how far this thing reached" is not uncommon at the seminars, Mr. Bauer said. Nor are "a lot of very anxious questions."

Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a Republican Party lawyer who has conducted seminars for the other side of the aisle, said lawmakers were startled to hear that once-standard practices like acting as host at a fund-raiser for a home-state governor might now be illegal. "There's an initial stage where the reaction is, 'This can't be true,' " Mr. Ginsberg said. "And then there's the actual anger stage."...

The new chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Representative Robert T. Matsui of California, who voted for McCain-Feingold, says he has been surprised by its fine print.

"I didn't realize what all was in it," Mr. Matsui said....

"I think it was a total surprise to people who don't read C.Q. with a yellow pen," said Bill Knapp, a Democratic media consultant, referring to Congressional Quarterly, which keeps close tabs on legislative maneuverings here....

Finally, members of both parties have been startled to learn the law's penalties. A violation of McCain-Feingold—be it a national party official's soft-money raising, or a senator's acting as a host at a fund-raiser on behalf of a governor—is a felony carrying a prison sentence of as much as five years....

2/17/03

From a letter sent by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to Yasir Arafat, in response to a January 26 attack in which a donkey that had been strapped with explosives detonated prematurely before wandering into a crowd, resulting in no human injuries:
All nations behave abominably in many ways when they are fighting their enemies, and animals are always caught in the crossfire.... We watched on television as stray cats in your own compound fled as best they could from the Israeli bulldozers.... If you have the opportunity, will you please add to your burdens my request that you appeal to all those who listen to you to leave the animals out of this conflict?

[Ed.: In another apparent effort to arouse the hostility of Jews, PETA initiated an advertising campaign juxtaposing images of chicken farms with images of the Holocaust.]

2/16/03

A New York appeals court ruled that the state agriculture department's Kosher Law Enforcement Division constitutes an unconstitutional establishment of religion.

The Spanish newspaper El Pais reports on the findings of art historian Jose Milicua, that avant-garde architectural and painting techniques were used by leftist forces during the Spanish Civil War as a deliberate form of torture. In the midst of the conflict, the French painter Alphonse Laurencic accepted a commission from an anarchist group to create prison cells with steeply slanted benches and curved walls with painted patterns designed to disorient the prisoner's perspective and cause mental distress.

2/11/03

After a 50-year-old Australian Aborigine named Jackie Pascoe Jamilmira traded a portion of his government checks to a couple for their 14-year-old daughter, the girl resisted his advances. He punched her, put his foot on her neck, raped her, and fired a gun into the air when she complained about it.

Following his arrest, the man received a nominal 24-hour sentence. The judge ruled that the girl "knew what was expected of her" and that the rape was part of a 40,000-year-old aboriginal custom. An anthropologist submitted expert testimony calling the arranged marriage "traditional" and therefore "morally correct."

The man was later revealed to have been convicted of slaughtering his former wife.

Wired News, February 11, 2003:
Taking an aggressive stance on the issue of the digital divide, the Kentucky Housing Corporation, or KHC, has listed broadband Internet access among the inalienable rights of its low-income housing residents.
And the Associated Press reports on a program offering free high-speed Internet access to residents of a low-income housing project in Boston, February 24, 2003:
[The program] has given residents free computers to connect to the Internet using high-speed cable lines wired into every home....

Residents can buy wireless cards for their desktops or laptops. The cards, which can cost up to $100 retail, will be given away to the elderly and sold for $60 to others. After that, residents will be able to log on—for free—from anywhere within Camfield [Estates].

2/10/03

A set of slogans collected at an October 26 peace rally in San Francisco by Josh Harkinson, a journalist in Berkeley, California:

  • Puppies for Peace
  • Smoke Iraqi Pot, Not Iraqi People
  • Beat L.A., Not Iraq! Go Giants!
  • SOCCER MOMS FOR PEACE
  • Make Doughnuts Not War
  • This Quaker Says No War
  • ANOTHER QUEER YOGIC JEW AGAINST WAR
  • ENGINEERS FOR PEACE
  • Unreasonable Women for Peace
  • Make sticks not war!
  • Real Men Work for Peace
  • Bombshells Not Bombs
  • Telluride, Colorado, 8,750 feet—2,400 miles for Peace
  • FUTURE LIBRARIAN AGAINST WAR—INFORMATION NOT DECIMATION
  • Baseball Not War
  • PRETZELS FOR PEACE
  • Transsexual Lesbian Vegan Epidemiologist Punk for Peace
  • Republicans for Peace
  • Eat Bush, Not Crawfish
  • Tango for Protest
  • Make Cookies Not War
  • Grannies Against Dead Children

In a Kansas City federal court, two African American women filed a discrimination lawsuit against Southwest Airlines after one of its flight attendants, trying to get passengers to sit down, recited over the intercom a version of a rhyme with a racist history: "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go."

According to boundary 2 editor William V. Spanos, not only is it necessary to call attention to "America's tenacious historical privileging of the imperial metaphysic perspective as the agent of knowledge production, that perspective, synchronous with the founding of the idea and practices of Europe, which, in perceiving time from after or above its disseminations, enables the spacialization of being and subjugation or accommodation of the differences it disseminates to the identical, self-present, and plenary (global/planetary) whole," it is also necessary to consider "America's obsessive and systematic refinement and fulfillment of the panoptic logic of this old world perspective in an indissolubly related array of worldly imperial practices, the intrinsic goal of which is not simply the domination of global space but also of thinking itself."

2/7/03

The European Commission issued a directive requiring farmers to label—with a costly ink-jet printing process—every egg they produce with their home address, the egg's method of production, the code for the producer-packer, a sell-by date, and details on the hen that laid the egg. A delegation of farmers from the southwest of England, concerned about the costs of the requirement to small producers, was told by a Brussels official that the task of labelling the eggs "would be a nice job for farmers' wives."

2/5/03

After nearly 100 people died and many others were seriously injured in a nightclub fire in Warwick, Rhode Island, the Paris edition of the New York Times ran an article with the following headline: "U.S. Is Behind European Nations on Crowd Safety, Experts Say."

Columbia University rescinded the Bancroft Prize it had awarded to Michael Bellesiles, author of Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, and asked Bellesiles to return its $4,000 cash award. In the book, Bellesiles claimed that private gun ownership was rare at the time of America's founding, that most firearms were in a state of disrepair, and that few people were skilled in their use, suggesting a radically more restrictive interpretation of the Second Amendment.

The prestigious prize, for outstanding works of original historical research, was awarded in April 2001, before the author's sources were properly verified. Other scholars soon discovered that much of the data cited in the book was fabricated or otherwise could not be reproduced. In one instance, Bellesiles claimed to have consulted public records that had actually been destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake of 1903. In another, he claimed that an office flood had wiped out a vital legal pad of research notes.

Bellesiles earlier lost his tenured position at Emory University. An investigative panel there found "evidence of falsification" and "serious failures of and carelessness in the gathering and presentation of archival records and the use of quantitative analysis." In withdrawing its prize, Columbia declared that Bellesiles "had violated basic norms of acceptable scholarly conduct."

For its part, Knopf announced plans to continue publishing the book, but later reversed the decision.

[Ed.: The gun issue appears to attract all types. Economist John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime, was unable to reproduce details of a national survey he says he conducted, which concluded that 98 percent of defensive gun use involved the mere brandishing of a weapon. Lott claims he lost all the raw data due to a computer crash, kept no financial record of the study's costs, and forgot the names of the students who conducted telephone interviews. Lott also invented a female persona with which to defend his work in Internet discussions.]

2/4/03

People sending e-mail to the Centers for Disease Control to protest the questionable content of a "Great Sex" AIDS prevention workshop discovered that their messages were never received. CDC computers blocked the messages because they contained obscene materials that violated government decency standards.

A similar e-mail filter prevented members of the British Parliament from discussing a bill on sexual offenses. The software marked parts of the bill itself as pornography, along with a Liberal Democrat consultation paper on censorship.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that efforts by campus police at various universities to crack down on non-students who use public restrooms for random gay sex encounters is being called homophobic by members of the "Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (GLBTQ)" community.

"Heterosexual couples exploring sex on lovers' lane is romanticized, but same-sex sex is treated differently," says Luke Jensen of the University of Maryland. "The question of public versus private can be a shifting paradigm. Why is a bathroom stall considered a private space except when it comes to sex?"

Some say bathroom sex is an integral part of gay identity and the coming-out process. "For some men, their whole connection with gay life stemmed from their experiences in bathrooms," says William L. Leap, American University anthropology professor and editor of Public Sex/Gay Space. "Tearooms became the basis for social interactions, a way of getting into a friendship network."

The California Patriot reports that the university-sponsored website of the UC Berkeley Queer Alliance/Queer Resource Center publishes the best locations for anonymous bathroom sex. One solicitation reads, "Find that special someone (or three)!" along with a picture of three naked men embracing. Many partitions between stalls are vandalized with "glory holes" that are used "to peer into the stall next door to see if it is occupied by a man interested in sex. If it is, the student will cross into the stall and engage with him sexually, usually without any mutual acquaintance." Indeed, the holes themselves often figure into the sex act.

[Ed.: A UC police spokesman commented that they usually respond to reported glory holes by "trying to deconstruct" them, apparently unaware of what that word has come to mean.

Some years back I went into Harvard's science building to go to the bathroom, and noticed that all the stall doors had been removed, unfortunately eliminating any hope of privacy. Upon leaving, I complained to a staff member, who replied that the doors had been removed as an "AIDS-prevention" measure. I must have had a puzzled look on my face, because he simply repeated what he had just told me—no doubt what he was told to pass along to anyone who asked—with no elaboration possible. There was a weariness in his voice.]

2/1/03

The latest application form for Miss Universe contestants asks aspiring beauty queens to indicate their "gender."

In Norwich, England, officials at Fairway Middle School banned students from throwing snowballs at anyone without permission of the target.

1/31/03

Two Immigration and Naturalization Service supervisors were indicted for allegedly ordering subordinates to shred the office's entire 90,000-document backlog, and to continue shredding incoming documents to stay nominally up to date.

A proposed New Hampshire bill would require "shampoo assistants" to obtain state licenses.

A third grade boy was suspended from Pauline O'Rourke Elementary School in Mobile, Alabama, for five days after he ingested a green multivitamin along with his lunch.

Iraq is scheduled to chair the United Nations Disarmament Conference, held from May 12 to June 27, with Iran as co-chair.

1/29/03

After arresting nine students on various drug charges in August 2002, police in Dover, New Hampshire, invoked civil asset forfeiture laws to seize an entire dormitory at McIntosh College. College President David McGuire responded that the school had taken reasonable measures to provide tips to the police on illegal drug activity, increase residential supervision, and expel drug offenders.

In California, the Santa Clara County Human Relations Commission voted unanimously to condemn the use of a racial slur used to denigrate blacks, but later disagreed over whether the word itself should appear in the text of the resolution. Advocates praised the vote as a first step towards banning any use of the word in the state of California as a hate crime.

1/24/03

From a report by the National Organization for Women Foundation on its first annual "Feminist Super Bowl AdWatch," in a section titled, "What We Found: Few Surprises," January 24, 2003:
Men were again the big winners in the Super Bowl ad extravaganza—many more men than women were employed to act in the commercials, and much of the content of the ads was directed at the male viewer.

The humor was clearly aimed at young men, with women being the butt of many jokes. A number of ads featured exclusively male casts, while others had only one or two female characters. The large majority of movies advertised were violent, male-oriented action flicks. The ads did not feature or appeal to a wide age range, starring mostly young, thin and able-bodied actors.

No female sports stars appeared in any of the ads, compared with at least six male athletes. And male celebrity spokespeople outnumbered females as well, though by a smaller margin. Exploitative promos for ABC programs came under fire from viewers, as did several of the "message" ads, which our feminist monitors felt were manipulative and misleading.

On the positive side, monitors noted that a significant number of people of color appeared in the commercials this year, and that racial diversity was prominent in several ads.

Recent prints of the famous 1969 photo of the Beatles crossing London's Abbey Road have been altered to remove the cigarette from Paul McCartney's hand. London's Sun reports that the cigarette may be soon also be removed from the Abbey Road album cover.

1/23/03

A British primary school banned the use of red pens to mark comments in children's work because of the color's negative connotations. Teachers will now use green pens.

1/22/03

After the city of Vienna, Austria, proposed putting diapers on carriage-drawing horses as a sanitary measure, animal rights activists protested the plan by holding demonstrations clad in diapers.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) joined Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) in calling for a return to military conscription, ostensibly to spread a war's casualties across different racial and socioeconomic groups, and perhaps pressure political leaders to be less hawkish. But the previous March, Conyers co-sponsored a resolution opposing any effort to bring back the draft on the grounds that it would degrade the quality of the military and violate individual liberties.

[Ed.: USA Today reports that while African Americans are disproportionately represented in the military, they're actually underrepresented among combat units. One theory for this distribution is that blacks are more attracted to support roles that provide educational benefits, while another blames "lingering racism." Conyers later led five other congressional Democrats in a lawsuit that claimed President Bush had no constitutional authority to wage war against Iraq, despite an earlier 296 to 133 vote (77 to 23 in the Senate) that seemed to settle the question.]

1/19/03

Responding to a ruling by the European Union, Great Britain enacted a law requiring farmers to provide pigs "environmental enrichment" in the form of "manipulable material"—namely a toy ball—in each pigsty, or face up to three months in jail. Otherwise, bored pigs tend to chew on each other. Farmers are told they may also need to change the balls often so the pigs don't experience further boredom.

[Ed.: I get bored just thinking about how this was decided.]

1/16/03

In England, a hearing is to be held over a family doctor's refusal to consider screening a 34-year-old patient for cervical cancer. The doctor insists that the patient is a man, and thus has no cervix to examine. The patient believes he is a hermaphrodite, despite having fathered a child.

1/13/03

In a 6-1 ruling, the California Supreme Court upheld the conviction of John Z., a 17-year-old who served six months in a juvenile detention facility for raping Laura T., then also 17.

According to her testimony, Laura went to a party in which she was alone with four boys drinking beer. She told two of the boys that she didn't want to have sex with them, but nevertheless engaged in heated foreplay with both, to the point of undress, which she said she enjoyed very much.

The second boy left the room, and the first boy had intercourse with Laura. He stopped after his condom kept coming off, which Laura said was a sign they "shouldn't be doing this." After the first boy left, the second, John, re-entered the room and initiated intercourse. She did not say anything at this point, or push him away.

Laura testified that the two rolled over so that she was on top for about five minutes, but that he forced her to continue by grabbing her waist—with one hand, since the other was in a cast. After they rolled over again so that he was on top, Laura told John that if he cared for her, he would have waited.

Soon afterwards, she said "I should be going now," and "I need to go home." Because it took John Z. an estimated minute and a half to cease after hearing these words, he was convicted of rape.

Patricia Wen reports in the Boston Globe, January 13, 2002, on a study linking environmental degradation with the proliferation of smaller households.
[The study's lead author, Jianguo Liu of Michigan State, said] the government should consider offering tax incentives for empty-nesters to share their homes, or penalties for people who choose to live alone. Government policy should also discourage urban sprawl, he said, which disrupts the natural habitat of animals and plants. "This can be a wake-up call for people to realize how their lifestyle impacts the environment," he said. "Each household can make a difference." ...

[Former Green Party candidate for governor of Massachusetts Jill] Stein said some novel solutions might include cohousing developments in which people retain privacy, but also share some common spaces. Cohousing is not only better for the environment, she said, but offers emotional advantages of a village-like atmosphere for young and old. Too often, she said, people fail to see the social benefits of living in closer quarters or enjoying communal spaces.

Stein, who has one child in college and another still at home, said she and her husband plan to evaluate their single-family living situation when they become empty-nesters.

[Ed.: Note that in the old days, couples would stick together merely for the sake of the children.]

1/9/03

The Englewood, Florida, Herald-Tribune reports on progress achieved at a series of diversity seminars partly funded by the state. In a meeting attended only by women, some objected to one attendee who used "Hey guys" as a greeting. She has since banished the phrase from her vocabulary.

1/8/03

The winner of this year's Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch's Wacky Warning Label contest is a label on a robotic massage chair that warns: "Do not use massage chair without clothing" along with "Never force any body part into the backrest area while the rollers are moving." Second place went to a snowblower with a label that read: "Do not use snowthrower on roof." Third place went to a label that read: "Do not allow children to play in the dishwasher."

Johnnie Cochran, famous for defending O.J. Simpson, has now filed a lawsuit against the city of Baltimore, alleging the city's anti-drug "Baltimore Believe" campaign encouraged citizens to speak out against dealers, inviting reprisals in one case in which a family was killed when drug dealers burned down their house.

In Colorado, a seventh-grade boy was expelled from school for a year after he played with a friend's laser pointer, shining the red dot around the classroom for a few minutes. The school characterized the pointer as a "firearm facsimile."

1/7/03

Northeastern University law professor Libby Adler in a Boston Globe op-ed piece, commenting on a new Boston ordinance outlawing discrimination on the basis of "gender identity and expression," December 21, 2002:
Even non-transgender people may be victims of discrimination because they defy commonly held expectations about masculinity and femininity, such as the man who is fired because he is "effeminate" or the woman denied a promotion because she is "too masculine."

A District Court Judge in Helena, Montana, ruled that Miranda rights apply to all of a person's multiple personalities.

A pair of Monarch High School students are suing the Louisville, Colorado, school district because their school refused to allow them to start a club that would "teach students biblical principles that will help them in life." When told that school policy limited clubs to subjects related to the curriculum, they objected that some existing clubs did not relate to the curriculum, either. But Superintendent George Garcia explained that the Multicultural Club related to a class on diversity, and the Gay/Straight Alliance is "a product of our health education."

1/5/03

A brutal observation from a long profile of Sen. Edward Kennedy by Charles Pierce in the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine, January 5, 2003:
If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be sixty-two years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.

Louis Menand comments on Dr. Seuss's The Cat in the Hat Comes Back in the New Yorker, December 23-30, 2002. While we all hope and pray this was intended as parody, a brief survey of online commentary on the article reveals some confusion on this point. And as deconstructionists are fond of pointing out, an author's intent is largely irrelevant anyway.
These semiotic felines do exactly what a deconstructionist would predict: rather than containing the stain, they disseminate it. Everything turns pink. The chain of signification is interminable and, being interminable, indeterminate. The semantic hygiene fetishized by the children is rudely violated; the "system" they imagined is revealed to have no inside and no outside. It is revealed to be, in fact, just another bricolage. The only way to end the spreading stain of semiosis is to unleash what, since it cannot be named, must be termed "that which is not a sign." This is the Voom, the final agent in the cat's arsenal. The Voom eradicates the pink queerness of a textuality without boundaries; whiteness is back, though it is now the purity of absence—one wants to say... of abstinence. The association with nuclear holocaust and its sterilizing fallout, wiping the planet clean of pinkness and pinkos, is impossible to ignore. It is a strange story for teaching people how to read.