An Inclusive Litany


Newsweek reporter Eleanor Clift commenting on the Malibu wildfires on "The McLaughlin Group," October 30, 1993. The temperature the night the fire started reached a low of 58 degrees:
If you step back and you get away from the very dramatic pictures on television, there is really no loss of life, [and] most of the communities that have been hit are wealthier and there is going to be insurance recovery... One of the fires was started by a homeless man trying to keep warm. It represents the strains in our society, from neglect to the nihilism, the 'burn, baby' nihilism of people who actually go and start fires like this.

A TV game show in the Netherlands, "A Matter of Life and Death," allows the studio audience to vote for which of two guest patients is worthier of treatment under the country's rationed health care system. Producers announce that only doctors make the real decisions, but patients hope that a favorable audience reaction will persuade health authorities. On one show, two cancer patients vied to see which is more deserving of an expensive drug.


In Dallas, Texas, an appellate court has ruled that Ann Marie Lindsay's suit against the Cabaret Royale can go forward. Lindsay, 40, filed an age-discrimination suit against the men's club when, she claims, management refused to promote her from waitress to topless dancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency has declared that the cedar chips sold in some "green" shops as moth repellents are pesticides and must meet all the appropriate regulatory requirements. Until the needed tests are completed, it has banned the sale of cedar as a moth repellent.

Proposition BB, from the November 1993 election in San Francisco:
Shall it be the policy of the people of San Francisco to allow Police Officer Bob Geary to decide when he may use his puppet Brendan O'Smarty while on duty? [YES/NO]


Description for a course offered at Bard College, "The Meaning of Music: An Inquiry, Part II: Hearing Music Through the Filters of Contemporary Radical Thought—Political, Critical, Philosophical, Musical":
How is the actual experience of hearing the actual music described or implicated in these texts impacted by the adoption of the perspectives they propose and advocate, or even just by the experience of reading and being confronted by their contents? To find out we read texts (in realtime, together) and then listen to the relevant music (in realtime, together)—different texts with same musics, different musics with same texts—and we perceive and describe the contents of our listening experiences.

Following a lawsuit in which several black Secret Service agents claimed discrimination after receiving slow service in a Denny's restaurant in Annapolis, a black woman brought a federal discrimination charge against a Denny's in Glen Burnie, Maryland, because she found a foreign object in her hash browns.

[Ed.: Over five years later, a group of Muslims sued Denny's, claiming restaurant workers intentionally put pork in their meals after having been asked to use a separate skillet.]

In Idaho, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration leveled a $7,875 fine against the construction firm DeBest Inc. The company's troubles began when a dirt wall collapsed on a worker. Two other workers immediately jumped in to help him. But they neglected to put on hard hats and take precautions against other side walls collapsing or against water flowing into the trenches. That was a violation of OSHA rules, and it got the company fined.

Kevin Gill, one of the rescuers who was honored for bravery by the town of Garden City, pointed out that if they had taken all the necessary precautions, the man would probably be dead. "We could hear muffled screams," Gill said. "There was a good-sized chuck of dirt on him. You could see just about one inch of the back of his head."

Ryan Kuemichel, the local OSHA director, said that it would be "selective enforcement" not to fine DeBest. "We're supposed to look at a hazard and resulting injury, not at employees' or employers' belief as to whether it was a hazard."


From the classifieds of the Washington Post, August 9, 1993:
ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY CASKET—Swiss engineered, recycled cardboard, no trees must die when you do. Mahog. type fin. No tool assembly. Use for storage or Halloween while alive. $199, while supplies last. 1-800-253-2460.

The Prince George Citizen, July 19, 1993:
People and companies accused of racism should be deemed guilty until proven innocent, says a private report prepared for the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The report says the presumption of innocence—guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms—should be tossed out the window, the Toronto Sun, which obtained a copy of the document, reported today.

Instead, the commission should presume "the complainant has a legitimate complaint and oblige the respondent to demonstrate otherwise," says author Donna Young.

Young says commission investigations are different from legal proceedings "where and accused's right" must be protected. She also maintains that "racism is, in fact, the norm," and so the legal tendency to assume the accused isn't racist skews the process...

The report also states:

  • The commission should stop demanding corroborating evidence from witnesses before adopting a complaint as genuine.

  • The commission should learn to tell the difference between racist name-calling by minorities—which Young describes as understandable—and racist name-calling by whites, which Young says is far more serious.

  • The commission should also develop "novel investigative techniques" to uncover workplace discrimination.

The Nevada State Senate has approved a measure that would ban barbers and beauticians from wearing frilly lingerie. "Can you even imagine somebody dressed like that washing your hair? It's just one of the most repulsive things I can even imagine," said Sen. Ann O'Connell. The bill will prevent the "A Little Off the Top" barber shop from opening, but the women who were planning to work there may be able to get a job at the "G-String Car Wash" just across the street.

Three years after a tornado hit Plainfield, Illinois, a lawsuit has been filed against the National Weather Service, seeking almost $75 million in damages on behalf of 14 people, 12 of whom died in the storm. The suit alleges that the weather service, which had issued a severe thunderstorm watch that day, failed to predict the severity of the storm.


During the first session of the 103rd Congress 210 public laws were produced. Of that total, four dozen were commemorative resolutions such as the establishment of "National Good Teen Day" (January 16, 1994), "Education and Sharing Day, USA" (April 2, 1993), "National Parents Day" (July 28, 1994—"to adopt policy that helps families stay together by strengthening and sustaining fathers and mothers in fulfilling their parental roles"), as well as the recognition of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, as the "World Capital of Aerobatics." These resolutions have to be printed just like other laws, and staffers actually spend time to get cosignatures of as many other congressmen as possible on each bill. These plus other delays cause many of the commemorations to be retroactive. The bill that set aside August 1993 as "National Scleroderma Awareness Month" was signed into law in October of that year. Likewise, "Education and Sharing Day, USA," on April 2, wasn't signed until April 12.

Course description for "Elvis as Anthology," offered at the University of Iowa:
Although it is the fashion for critics to dismiss Elvis movies, in fact Elvis was versatile and made some good movies while inventing strategies to dodge the control of the power structure in others.

In the spring of '93, 26-year-old Martin Baker, a homeless man recruited to the University of California at Berkeley to increase their representation there, disrupted a Sociology class taking its final exam and, when asked to leave, removed his clothes and urinated in the room. Baker was detained in a psychiatric facility. He told the Daily Californian he'd wished to distinguish himself from the world of clothed men: "I wanted to be a metaphor of man just as I am, and as a naturally functioning body." Many students complained that the incident had disrupted their concentration. They were given extra time.

Students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst spent Columbus Day protesting the use of the "Minuteman" as the school mascot. Martin Jones, organizer of the protests, says it is racist, sexist, and offensive to Native Americans since it portrays "a white man with a gun." The University's former mascot, the "Red Man," was discarded in 1972 because it was considered to be offensive to the Native American community.


Denver City Councilwoman Cathy Reynolds has proposed legislation that would make it illegal for teenagers to so much as touch a weapon, even with a parent's permission. It would forbid parents to take their kids hunting or teach them how to handle a gun. The definition of "weapon" is so broad that it also includes BB guns, slingshots, paint guns, water guns, baseball bats, and heavy boots.

Hawaii prosecutor Maurice Arrisgado was sanctioned by circuit judge Marie Milks for "sexist and racist" remarks he made during a murder trial earlier this year. Milks apparently objected to Arrisgado's statement that it was not unusual for the defendant in this case to have been driving in his underwear. Arrisgado, who is half-Filipino, had said in his closing argument, "What's so odd about that? It's the Filipino bathing suit... Big deal." Milks also called Arrisgado sexist for assuming a female postal service worker was a man: during jury selection he had used the term "mailman" when referring to a female coworker of a member of the jury pool. Arrisgado was fined $125 for his offenses.

Following severe flooding in the Mississippi River basin, Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen said the flood "may stimulate the economy." "A lot of concrete will be poured," he said. "You have to look at all the jobs that will be created to repair the damage."

[Ed.: This is a variation on the classic economic fallacy identified by Frederic Bastiat in 1850: Someone breaks a window, and the politician points out what a good thing this is for the community, since it gives the glassmaker a job.]

From a memo sent by Darlene Lieblich, the head of Fox Television's Broadcast Standards & Practices department, to Sheldon Bull, the producer of Satellite News, a Fox sitcom in development. As a result of this memo, a line in the show's pilot that read "Dammit!! Stupid, idiot, moron, jerks!!" was changed to "Dammit!! Stupid, mallet-head, brain-dead, jerks!!"
Dear Mr. Bull:

This will confirm that I have received and read the 5/3/93 draft of the Satellite News pilot and have the following comment:

"Idiot" and "moron" (page 3) are clinical terms which can cause great pain to the families of those afflicted with mental illness. Please find alternatives; words such as "wuss," "wimp," "bozo," "yahoo," and the like come to mind.

Yours truly,
Darlene Lieblich

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms now distinguishes between vodka and "flavored vodka" that contains added citric acid, and has developed a method for telling the difference. "During the comment period, ATF secured an outside testing firm, Odor Science and Engineering (OS&E), to conduct independent testing on sensory threshold levels for citric acid addition to vodka." The taste panel was made up of "ten experienced sensory panelists," under a methodology known as "Standard Practice for Determination of Odor and Taste Thresholds By a Forced-Choice Ascending Concentration Series Method of Limits" (ASTM Procedure E-679).

The code of conduct in the Katy, Texas, school district, required reading for students in grades 1-12 and their parents, prohibits sexual conduct, sexual intercourse and deviate sexual behavior in public, as well as "any act involving contact between the person's mouth or genitals and the anus or genitals of an animal or fowl." Facing criticisms from parents, school district officials explained that they reproduced the wording of the Texas Penal Code's provision on public lewdness to make sure that it would not be liable in cases of sexual lewdness, no matter how depraved the behavior.


Reacting to complaints from animal-rights activists, the city of Los Angeles has announced that it will no longer trap coyotes—even with harmless "live capture" traps and even if the animal is suspected of having rabies. "I've been waiting for this moment for 23 years," said Lila Brooks, director of the California Wildlife Defenders. Next on her agenda, no doubt, is protection of the cats and dogs routinely preyed upon by the coyotes.

Nine female students at the College Park campus of the University of Maryland took the names of male students from the student telephone directory and listed them under the headline "Notice: These Men Are Potential Rapists." They then tacked up 86 of these fliers on campus to increase awareness of sexual abuse of women.

Many of the male students were angry. But one female student told the campus newspaper: "I don't think we've done anything wrong. The word 'potential' was used. That's not accusatory at all."

In the trial of the four youths accused of beating truck driver Reginald Denny at the outset of the Los Angeles riots, defense attorney Earl Broady said that his client was, in reality, trying to protect Denny. According to Broady, when the videotape is closely examined, one can see that his client "put (his) foot gingerly on the neck... and he was doing something to protect Denny from further assault." Broady continues by saying that his client was not at the intersection that day to "harm or rob people," rather he was merely upset with the injustice linked with the Rodney King case.

In California, the wife of a man paralyzed in an accident caused largely by the fact that he had been drinking was awarded $1.6 million from the maker of her husband's car for "loss of consortium," or conjugal relations.

In Alabama, high school students were paid $4.25 an hour to attend school. With 360 hours of class, that made out to $1,530 annually per student. "One of the problems many of these teenagers will face is the flashy money to be made from drugs," teacher Chris Lampley told the Dothan Eagle in explaining the reasons for the Stay in School program, funded with a grant from the Job Training Partnership Act. "How can you compete with that lifestyle?"

On MTV's "The Week in Rock," Snapple co-founder Arnold Greenberg denied two rumors plaguing the beverage company: "One [rumor] is that we support the KKK, [but] the most vicious rumor... is that we donate money to right-to-life causes."

The less vicious of the two rumors started when someone thought a graphic of a ship pictured on Snapple's ice tea labels was a nefarious depiction of a slave ship, while in fact it represented the Boston Tea Party. Also, the small letter "K" enclosed in a small circle that appears next to the graphic supposedly represented a shorthand code for "Ku Klux Klan." In fact, it indicates that the product has been approved as kosher.

The rumors may have started because of Snapple's distinctive strategy of advertising on radio talk shows, which often feature stridently conservative hosts.


After construction of the 17-ton Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory satellite went 15 percent—or $40 million—overbudget, NASA sent a $5 million bonus check to the contractor. NASA has also sent a bonus check to a contractor that has run a project 142 percent overbudget.

Course description for "Problems in the History of Food in America," offered at Yale University:
Examination of food in its many contexts—environmental, social, political, economic, moral—in order to explore the complex underpinnings of an everyday meal. Topics include food production, household labor, dieting, dining manners, food stamps, and global hunger.

William Horton interviewed by Jeffrey M. Elliott in The Nation, August 23-30, 1993:
JE: When you finally did speak out, you took strong exception to being referred to as "Willie" Horton. Why?

WH: The fact is, my name is not "Willie." It's part of the myth of the case. The name irks me. It was created to play on racial stereotypes: big, ugly, dumb, violent, black—"Willie." I resent that. They created a fictional character—who seemed believable, but who did not exist. They stripped me of my identity, distorted the facts and robbed me of my constitutional rights. No one deserves that.

The public does not know the real William Horton. I think I'm intelligent, sensitive, caring, and honest. I'm certainly more mature than when I was originally incarcerated. I understand myself better. I know who I am. I'm certainly wiser today. I read more, care more, feel more.

[Ed.: In the same hard-hitting interview, Horton denies having committed the murder that originally landed him in prison in Massachusetts, admits using a weekend furlough program as an opportunity to escape, denies having thereafter committed rape and assault on a young couple in Maryland, but admits he "flipped out" and stole the car in which he was eventually found.

After Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis released Horton on furlough, Tennessee Senator and future Vice President Albert Gore, a rival contender for the 1988 Democratic Presidential nomination, was the first politician to raise prison furloughs as a political issue. Thereafter the story was picked up by Republicans in what many considered to be a racially charged campaign ploy.]