An Inclusive Litany


In response to Justice Department charges that General Electric defrauded the U.S. of at least $30 million by bribing a general in Israel to help sell jet engines there, the Pentagon barred GE from initiating or renewing engine contracts for five days.

Letter to the editor, Plastics News, June 22, 1992:
I was shocked and appalled that you would give front page coverage (May 11) to the gun-toters of I.M.S. Co., who set themselves up as arbiters of the lives of others. Sure, having one's business burned is horrifying—but executing people on the street is hardly a civilized response.

What did Messrs. Hartman and Barrett plan to do if confronted with the angry mob? Proceed to commit murder? In the name of property rights?

If I.M.S. is so concerned with its (replaceable) inventory, then a more appropriate response would be to install metal storm plates over windows and doors, and put in a sprinkler system. That plus a clay-tile roof would withstand any firebomb attack. They can follow that up with fire insurance.

I would say that executing minority people who vent their frustrations in a riot is part of a fascist mind-set and deeply offensive to the many minority people who work in our industry. We have deep social problems in our country—for I.M.S. to set themselves up as neighborhood executioners is grotesque and only further hurts the work we must do to improve as a nation.

—Jack Van Eck
Repro Plastics, East Haven, Conn.

Customs Service officials in Texas seized a $138,000 Lear jet after discovering that the owner had made a typographical error on paperwork he submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration.


New York Transit Authority officials conceded that they hire convicted criminals, but they prefer to call their ex-convict employees by such politically correct terms as "criminally challenged," "legally impaired," or "people of alternative conviction status."

A study has found that left-handed men live 10 years less than right-handers on average, and the reasons are unclear. But the author of the study, psychologist Stanley Coren, thinks it is because of all the stress of being left-handed in a right-handed world. So he wants us to declare war on (his term) "handism"—to expand civil-rights laws to forbid discrimination against lefties.

In St. Louis, Missouri, the United States Postal Service purchased a building for $12 million from a developer who had bought the building earlier the same day for $4 million.

In Virginia Beach, a jury has ordered a gun shop to pay $100,000 to the family of a teacher killed by a student with a handgun purchased at the store. The boy's uncle had purchased the gun and given it to him as a present.

First, writes New York Post columnist Mike McAlary, "there was Murphy Brown, a fictional character giving birth to a fictional baby. Then there was Dan Quayl(e), a national figure of almost fictional proportion, giving us his dreamy vision of the American family. Then came Bill Clinton, an invention of writers who cannot differentiate fact from fiction, plagerizing [sic] the works of Quayle on family values..."


In Buffalo, New York, a jury decided that Mr. Billie Lawless was not entitled to damages stemming from Mayor James Griffin's decision to dismantle a sculpture placed by Mr. Lawless on an Urban Renewal plot. The sculpture, named "Green Lightning," depicted numerous dancing penises in top hats.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus has asked the FCC to investigate a possible violation of federal regulations prohibiting characters on children's shows from selling products during the show itself. The culprit: "Sesame Street". Seems the show has been running an announcement that it is sponsored by the "Sesame Street Live" stage show. The Council contends that the announcement is nothing more than a plug for the stage show, and since the spot features Grover and Cookie Monster, it violates the ban.

Following the Los Angeles riots, a man wrote the Los Angeles Times and related his encounter with a panhandler wearing and oversized suit and a pair of Reeboks so new the price tags were still on them: "I asked him, 'Did you spend all your money on your new suit and shoes?' With a smile he said, 'No, I'm a looter, and I got this new suit and shoes looting.' I then asked, 'what do you think of the Rodney King situation?' He looked at me questioningly and said, 'I don't follow sports anymore.' "

In the 1990-91 academic year the nondiscrimination policy of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst forbade "discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sex, age, marital status, national origin, disability or handicap, veteran status, or sexual orientation, which shall not include persons whose sexual orientation includes minor children as the sex object."

To be even more nondiscriminatory for the 1991-92 statement, the last fifteen words were deleted.

Former jockey Willie Shoemaker, paralyzed in a single-car accident he had while driving drunk, has sued the state of California for negligence because there were no rubber guard rails where the crash occurred.

Two New York police officers stopped on the Manhattan Bridge to arrest a man who was throwing Molotov cocktails on homeless people who were living under the bridge. While they were dealing with him, however, another man's car broke down on the bridge. The driver got out of the car and fired four shots through his car's windshield, even as his passenger had his head under the hood in an attempt to fix the car. There were no injuries.


Objecting to a "definitional stretching" of the concept of rape to make it seem a problem "vastly larger than commonly recognized," Dr. Neil Gilbert, a professor of social welfare at the University of California at Berkeley, criticized a widely quoted study—conducted by University of Arizona researcher Dr. Mary P. Koss and published in Ms. magazine—which indicated that more than one in four college women had been victimized by at least one rape or rape attempt. Gilbert compared these findings with a U.S. national crime survey, which put the number somewhere between one in five hundred and one in a thousand. While acknowledging that government rape statistics tend to be notoriously low, Gilbert cited several problems with Koss's methodology:

  • Any woman answering "yes" to Koss's question "Have you ever had sexual intercourse when you didn't want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?' had been counted as a rape survivor.
  • 73 percent of the women classified as having been raped had initially failed to categorize their experience as such.
  • Roughly 41 percent of the women classified as having been raped subsequently chose to have sex with their rapists again.

While praising activists for the good job they had done in raising consciousness about rape, Gilbert warned that overzealous "definitional stretching" would ultimately serve to trivialize public perceptions of the true seriousness of the crime.

Despite these disclaimers, Sheila Kuehl, director of the California Women's Law Center, said that she found herself "wishing that Gilbert himself might be raped and ... be told, to his face, it had never happened." Anonymously penned placards reading "Kill Neil Gilbert" appeared throughout the campus, and demonstrators from SOAR (Students Organized Against Rape) gathered in Berkeley's Sproul Square to light candles for rape survivors while rhythmically chanting the suggestion that Gilbert should "cut it out or cut it off."

[Ed.: Koss notes that a frequent obstacle rape researchers often encounter is victims' stubborn insistence on "trying to pass as nonvictimized." "Research designs that depend for participation on a subject's self-identification as a victim," she writes, fail to take into account "the many women who have sustained harm but may not see the injury as unfair."]

Jesse Jackson, from his speech on the floor of the 1992 Democratic National Convention:
Lastly, there's a lot of talk these days about family values. Even as we spurn the homeless on the street, remember, Jesus was born to a homeless couple, outdoors... a child of a single mother. But when Mary said Joseph was not the father, she was abused and questioned. If Mary had aborted the baby, she would have been called immoral. If she had the baby, she would have been called unfit, without family values.

But Mary had family values. It was Herod, the Quayle of his day, who put no value on the family. When Dan Quayle tries to ride both sides of this private religious moral issue, he is above his potato.

Superior Court Judge Julian Houston in Middlesex, Massachusetts, has ordered Medicaid to pay for cosmetic surgery to remove the Adam's apple of a sex change patient. Houston ruled that an earlier decision to withhold Medicaid funds was "arbitrary and capricious," and declared that even though the operation would be cosmetic surgery, it was "medically necessary," as required by Massachusetts law. Houston was guided to this conclusion by the patient's psychologist, who contended that life with an Adam's apple would "lead to a deterioration" in the patient's mental and social well-being.

A 1992 agricultural appropriations bill actually contained a $1.8 million item for a "National Pork Research Center."

Nebraska Wesleyan University has rejected the term "freshman" on the grounds that it makes some students feel unwelcome. The new term is "first-year student."


An obituary in The New York Times, July 12, 1992:
BERNSTEIN—Jeffrey Alan. On Friday July 10, 1992. Beloved brother of Phillip B. Bernstein and son of the late Sidney and Jennie Bernstein. Jeffrey was a resident of Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. and the Cameron Glen Care Center, Reston, VA. Jeffrey died of complications due to AIDS and the lack of care and funding for AIDS research by the Reagan/Bush Misadministrations...

The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 24, 1992:
Malaysian officials are considering a plan to introduce strict Islamic laws.

And they mean strict.

Get caught stealing and they'll lop off a hand. And that has local doctors wondering: If a punished thief comes strolling into their office hand in hand, will they be allowed to sew it back on? The government is willing to discuss the problem with the medical association. But Abdul Hadi Awang, deputy president of the fundamentalist Islamic party, has strong ideas.

He says the purpose of chopping off hands of incorrigible thieves is to shame them and deter crime. "If doctors and surgeons start reattaching the hands, the whole purpose is defeated," he said.

An 11-year old boy in Warren, Michigan, who had been bitten on the face by the family dog, sued his parents for $10,000 in damages, claiming the parents were negligent in the attack.


Penny Flenniken, in the Sunday Oregonian July 5, 1992:
I showed [a friend] the scars on my right hand where I was branded "one of the boys" by Elijah. The scratch became infected, and it is a visible reminder that we were joined as childhood "blood brothers." I knew from then on that teaching Elijah and inner city children like him would be my work.

I took Elijah to his grandmother's house after school that day to show her what her grandson had done to me. But she was visually impaired.

She told me that Elijah's father, who died two years earlier, had loved Elijah the most. I had made the mistake that day of reading a story to the class about a father and his son. Elijah took the book and threw it across the room and then did the same with a chair he had been sitting on.

As we moved out of the room and into a safer place in the office, the "branding" took place. It didn't hurt me physically, but it touched my heart, and I knew it was a ritual that mattered to both of us.

He had torn my flesh, and I was no longer that white teacher come to do her good work among the black children. I was picked out and touched more than skin deep. He went inside of me with his rage, and I became angry for him as well. And I became his spokesman [sic]. I became his instrument for change. He had torn away at my complacency.

The Atlanta city council has considered a regulation requiring restaurants and other business that served and sold liquor to offer condoms for sale. One city councilwoman, Caroline Long Banks, said she hoped the new ordinance would "stop the spread of AIDS."


The Environmental Protection Agency now refers to lawnmowers as an "uncontrollable mobile source"—of pollution, that is—and possibly more dangerous to the environment than automobiles.

Medals given to the winners of a Los Angeles scholastic competition displayed a misspelling of the word "academic."

The Village Voice reported that race was the motivating factor in determining which members of the men's Olympic basketball team would appear on the cover of Kellogg's Raisin Bran cereal boxes.

Voice writer Mike Rubin notes that of the five Dream Teamers featured on the box—Larry Bird, John Stockton, Karl Malone, David Robinson and Chris Mullin—three are white, "a percentage considerably greater than the [National Basketball Association's] white population of 18 percent, or for that matter the '92 team's actual 25 percent [really 33 percent] breakdown of four white players out of 12."

Kellogg U.S.A. publicity manager Donna Thede responded that the company attempted negotiations with all the members of the gold medal bunch. The company was foiled, however, by the contractual obligations that are so much a part of professional sports today. Witness Michael Jordan's efforts to avoid compromising his Nike endorsement—covering the Reebok symbol on his medal ceremony outfit with a U.S. flag.

Naomi Wolf, writing in the 20th anniversary edition of Ms. magazine, tells how she often gives in to the temptation of letting the men in her life fix the television and take care of household chores.

"I have watched myself stand complacently by while my partner wrestles with a stuck window, an intractable computer printer, maps, or locks. Sisters, I am not proud of this, and I'm working on it," she writes. "It's easy to rationalize that the person with the penis is the one who should get out of a warm bed to fix the snow on the TV screen. After all, it's the very least owed to me personally in compensation for centuries of virtual enslavement."

Twelve-year-old Henry Frank III of Central Islip, N.Y. realized every red-blooded American child's dream when he got to ride on a fire truck. Unfortunately, Henry fell off the vehicle and broke his arm, prompting his mother to sue the Central Islip Fire Department for $1.1 million in damages—even though the attorney for the plaintiffs says the accident occurred through the negligence of volunteer firefighter Henry Frank II, the boy's father.

"The little boy is an innocent victim," attorney Sidney Siben told New York Newsday. Siben, who is representing the boy and his mother, added, "It was careless of the father to allow the son on the truck, but the Fire Department is responsible and they're going to have to pay. That's the purpose of being insured."


The 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro caused a serious pollution problem. Brazilian scientists and environmentalists reported that the influx of 30,000 attendees left the area around the Riocentro conference site mired in sewage after overtaxing local treatment facilities. Fernando Almeida, a scientist at Rio's Federal University, calculated that the 12-day Earth Summit added nearly 13,000 gallons of barely treated sewage to nearby streams and rivers, killing thousands of fish and boosting pollution levels on beaches nearly six miles away.

A woman sued a moving company for damaging her furniture, even though she signed a contract waiving such liability. Her lawyer argued that since the movers were tired and in a hurry to leave, and since women are socialized to be concerned about the feelings of others, signing the document without reading it was acting reasonably from the female point of view.

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education described the annual meeting of the National Women's Studies Association. It was supposed to "heal fractures that crippled the organization after a large group of minority women staged an angry walkout after the 1990 conference." The 1992 meeting's theme was "Enlarging the Circle—the Power of Feminist Education," and it started with a screening of the video "I Am Your Sister."

The organization's president then urged the association's members to find a common background. However, within a half-hour a speaker had offended a lesbian member of the audience by making "heterosexist" remarks. Other women complained that a white woman should not have been the opening speaker if the conference's goal was to welcome back minority women.

Meeting organizers also had to apologize to Jewish feminists for scheduling a meeting on the Friday night sabbath. Eco-feminists, who believed in "a feminist approach to environmental issues," were also upset that every meal served at the conference included meat. Finally, one woman asked that at future meetings, attendees should be asked to forgo hairspray and perfume which other members find bothersome and offensive, and another feminist group wanted "aroma-free" zones so as to protect one another from offensive perfumes and odors.