An Inclusive Litany


Basketball all-star Charles Barkley of the Phoenix Suns charged that he was misquoted in a new book about him. The book was his autobiography.

Haywood Burns, a dean and professor at CUNY School of Queens College, from the Empire State Report, April 1994:
In meeting the challenge of diversity, New Yorkers must neither accentuate nor submerge our differences. We need to learn to accept and respect them, with an acceptance and respect that goes beyond mere tolerance, to an appreciation and even a celebration of both the riches and strength we all bring to another, and of the great unity that is possible in diversity.

In Women, Celibacy, and Passion, Sally Cline condemns "restaurant tables automatically laid for two" as a symbol of "society's onerous insistence on coupledom."

In Florida, Hillsborough Country Judge Dan Perry threw out charges of cruelty to animals against Manuel Machin for shooting a possum he treed in his backyard. Assistant State Attorney Jan McDonald had attempted to portray Machin in a very bad light, telling the court, "he raises his rifle into the air and fires a shot—a possum falls. This is a very, very serious case." The judge, though, dismissed the cruelty charge against Machin, agreeing with the defense's claim that "we're not talking about a fuzzy little dog here, we're talking about a varmint, we're talking about a nasty, filthy creature."


Twenty percent of French women, according to a survey reported in the newsmagazine Le Point, do not think an interviewer should be censured for asking a job applicant to disrobe.

Promotional material for Shannon Bell's Reading, Writing and Rewriting the Prostitute Body, published by Indiana University Press:
Bell shows how the flesh-and-blood sexual female body engaged in sexual interaction for payment has no inherent meaning and is signified differently in different cultures or discourses. The author contends that modernity has produced "the prostitute" as the other within the categorical other woman.

A Maine professor who was fired when he kissed a female student filed a court suit, arguing that the incident was the result of "sexual obsessiveness" that amounted to a disability under the Federal Rehabilitation Act.

Garrett Redmond, a school board trustee in Half Moon Bay, California, has proposed to eliminate homework in the Cabrillo Unified School District because it's "inherently unfair." Some kids, apparently, have more time than others to spend on homework, plus not everyone has a computer or a good place in which to work. Redmond explained:
"We have students who can tap into the Internet and CD-ROMs in their own bedroom, and have a vast array of information at their fingertips. But the unfortunate people who live in hovels with the entire family sharing one or two rooms—how is that kid supposed to do their [sic] homework?"

To bolster his case, Redmond has even claimed that homework is contrary to "family values": since kids can spend up to five or six hours on their schoolwork, it means "goodbye to any time to spend with their parents."


When a Los Angeles city agency proposed allocating $175,000 for three street paintings on Hollywood Boulevard, critics attacked the move as wasteful. They noted that the artworks, which would be painted directly onto the road bed, would fade under the tire treads within a couple of days.

The Kentucky Commission on Women rejected South Central Bell's plan to gradually phase out discriminatory "Men Working" signs, insisting instead that there be immediate and remedial change. Furthermore, even if the telephone company decided to abandon written signs in favor of a symbol of a person working, the commission would still object. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokeswoman Laura White declared that the symbol would be gender-biased because "it looks like it has pants on," a statement that is itself biased.

After serving a six-month prison sentence for cocaine possession, Marion Barry sought re-election for the office of mayor of Washington, D.C. Barry was assisted in this endeavor by the 75-member Coalition of Ex-Offenders, a group of felons who went door to door campaigning for him. According to organizer Rhozier "Roach" Brown, a convicted murderer, drug dealer, and thief, the Coalition members were especially helpful because they went into the toughest neighborhoods to register the District's substantial criminal population, most of whom were unaware of a 1976 law that gave them voting rights.

Following Mayor Barry's successful re-election campaign, a federal judge transferred parole supervision of Mr. Brown from the D.C. parole board to a federal board. This was because Mr. Brown, who was now serving as an assistant to the mayor, had inexplicably been released early by the D.C. board from his prison sentence and, due to a "clerical error," freed of his obligation to repay $45,000 to an orphanage he was convicted of swindling.


In "Toward a Feminist Algebra," a paper presented at a 1993 meeting of the Mathematical Association of America, Maryanne Campbell and Randall K. Campbell-Wright concluded that women are discouraged from studying math because word problems used to test students' grasp of mathematical concepts refer to situations fraught with sexist stereotypes.

The authors noted their disapproval of a particular problem in which a girl and her boyfriend run toward each other—even though the girl's slower speed is explained by the fact that she is carrying luggage—because it described exclusively heterosexual involvement. They objected to another problem about a contractor and the contractor's workers—worded so as not to specify their sex—because students would supposedly envision the workers as male. However, they approved of a problem about Sue and Debbie, "a couple financing their $70,000 home."

In conclusion, the authors called for problems "presenting female heroes and breaking gender stereotypes," "analyzing sex similarities and differences intentionally," and "affirming women's experiences."

Colorado federal prison inmate James Howard, who is serving a 10-year sentence for car theft, has brought a lawsuit against the prison for not allowing him to practice his "religion," which is Satanism.

A federal court agreed, with U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham ruling that "we ought to give the devil his due," quoting from another case dealing with Satanism. Prison officials had warned that the materials which Howard said he needed for his devotions—candles, incense, a gong, a black robe, a chalice, and a wooden staff—could threaten prison security, but the judge said the inmate's religious rights had to take precedence.

Howard said he plans to practice "destruction rituals," which he described as a way to visualize people's death, purging anger towards them without doing them any harm. However, Dr. Carl Raschke, an author of a book on Satanism and teacher of religious studies at the University of Denver, said that such rituals are commonly intended to kill people, and he called the judge's decision "reprehensible."


When Carol Bentz of Manchester, Maryland, wanted to have her dying pet, a blue heron named Steve, stuffed and donated to a local high school, she discovered that transporting a dead heron, which is a protected bird, is punishable by a federal fine of up to $5,000 and six months in jail and a state fine of $1,000 and one year in jail. While looking for someone with a permit to transport a dead heron, she also discovered that a special permit was required to "salvage" a dead heron. Once the dead heron is "salvaged," a private citizen is not allowed to possess a stuffed heron. When Bentz finally located a law enforcement agent of the Fish and Wildlife Service, he told her that she should freeze the bird while he started the paperwork moving on her permits. Once he discovered the location of the high school the dead bird would be donated to, that meant more permits. Finally the bird was moved and prepared by a taxidermist specially licensed for preparing protected birds. Said Bentz of the ordeal: "The government made me angry. I thought it was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard in my life."

Course description for "Sex Work: The Labor of Pornography," an art history course offered by Kelly Dennis at the University of California at Santa Cruz:
Examines pornography not only as a representational genre but as the representation of class-based labor largely unaccounted for by contemporary pornography debates. Is pornography simply a gender issue?

...and this is from another course from Ms. Dennis, "State of the Art: Aesthetics of Government Patronage and Censorship in the 20th Century":

While Hagel [sic] claimed that the State is founded on Art, U.S. government policy locates the keystone of the nation state in the family, despite the latter's social and economic obsolescence since the nineteenth century. Course examines the moral and political substance and subtext of contemporary arts censorship up to and including recent NEA controversies.

Sentenced to be hanged for murdering two bank tellers during a robbery, Washington state death-row inmate Mitchell Rupe told the court that the state shouldn't hang him because he is too fat. The inmate claimed that because of his 409-pound weight, it was possible that he would be decapitated in the process, thus violating the constitutional ban against "cruel and unusual punishment." Although Washington state law permits the alternative of lethal injection, Rupe said he didn't like that form of execution because it is "morally repugnant."

After three Berkeley residents voiced concern that a proposed subsidized housing project would attract drug abusers, alcoholics and crime (as had several such projects in the past), they were accused of "housing discrimination" against the handicapped and threatened by lawsuits by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD investigators demanded every article, flier and letter to the editor they had written, as well as minutes from every public meeting at which any of the three spoke, or face a $100,000 fine or jail time.

In New York City, HUD launched a similar investigation of the Irving Place Community Coalition, a group opposed to placing another home for the mentally ill in a neighborhood already saturated with such homes. HUD demanded to see membership lists, memos, and even the diaries of the plan's opponents.


Issues debated at the national convention of the National Education Association included abortion, nuclear waste, pesticides, and the economic embargo of Haiti. A motion to limit debate to subjects directly related to education was defeated.

A North Carolina man imprisoned on bank-robbery charges has filed suit against the bank, claiming that it overstated the loss from one of his robberies. In the suit, the bank robber complained that the bank's estimate of $272,000 taken was overstated and caused the judge in his case to sentence him more severely than if the smaller, more accurate figure had been entered into evidence.

Guns sold in Fulton County, Georgia, will now be required to bear warning labels, thanks to an initiative sponsored by county commissioner John O'Callaghan. The ordinance mandates that gun dealers affix labels on all weapons, informing would-be purchasers that guns are a leading cause of murder and suicide; dealers must also post notices to this effect in their stores.


MacArthur Foundation "genius grant"-winner Susan McClary, from Getting Down Off the Beanstalk: The Presence of a Woman's Voice in Janika Vandervelde's Genesis II:
Beethoven's symphonies add two other dimensions to the history of style: assaultive pelvic pounding ... and sexual violence. The point of recapitulation in the first movement of the Ninth is one of the most horrifying moments in music, as the carefully prepared cadence is frustrated, damming up energy which finally explodes in the throttling, murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release.

[Ed.: McClary comments that the works of Gustave Mahler and Richard Strauss are likewise "filled with themes of male masturbation."]

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) tried to impress visiting constituents with his commitment to the environment by telling them how he had helped dig channels for bull trout at a Montana ranch. When asked by the visitors if he had obtained the needed federal wetlands permit, Baucus admitted that he didn't know. Baucus is the principal sponsor of the bill that reauthorizes federal regulation of wetlands.

Two ex-GIs brought a suit against the Veterans' Administration before the Supreme Court, arguing that they had missed the entire ten-year eligibility period for veteran's educational benefits because they were too drunk to notice the time slipping by.

A Meridian, Mississippi man has filed a lawsuit against "God," claiming that the Bible discriminates against blacks and homosexuals. Joel Ford filed the suit on September 14th and not only wants the Bible changed to eliminate such "racist" and "homophobic" references, but he wants Oxford University Press to pay him $45 million in damages.


To improve safety standards at the Rocky Flats, Colorado, nuclear weapons plant, managers of the facility revised the procedure for changing a light bulb in a criticality beacon, which warns workers of spontaneous nuclear accidents. Replacing the bulb, which used to be a 12-step process that took 12 workers 4.15 hours to complete, became a 33-step procedure that takes at least 43 people 1,087.1 hours to complete.

The steps call for a lead planner to meet with six other people at a work-control meeting; talk with other workers who have done the job before; meet again; get signatures from five people at the work-control meeting; get the project plans approved by separate officials overseeing safety, logistics, environmental, maintenance, operations, waste management, and plant scheduling; wait for a monthly criticality beacon test; direct electricians to replace the bulb; and then test and verify the repair.

After Torrington Hide and Metal of Wyoming was found to be contaminated under the federal Superfund law, the company promptly declared bankruptcy to protect itself from creditors. Searching for a liable party, the Environmental Protection Agency then sued the five largest companies that contributed to the toxic site. To deflect part of the $1.25 million cleanup fine the EPA was demanding, four of these five companies turned around and sued 54 third parties identified as potential contributors to the mess. Since Russ Zimmer's name appeared on two cancelled checks, he was named among the smaller entities and forced to pay $3,500 as part of the court settlement. One bill was for a bag of dog chow, and the other was for a $4.85 bag of seed he sold to the company. Other defendants included the St. Joseph's Children's Home and a South Dakota volunteer fire department.

Men who were carrying refrigerators on their backs during "refrigerator races" sued the manufacturer because the appliances carried insufficient warnings of possible injury from such activity.

A New York man who deliberately leapt in front of a moving subway train was awarded $650,000 because the train had failed to stop in time to avoid mangling him.

The San Francisco Giants were sued for giving away Father's Day gifts to men only.

Two Marines alleged discrimination because the Marine Corps had discharged them for "being chronically overweight."

The Salvation Army has been sued on the grounds that it violated an employee's right to freedom of religion after it dismissed a woman for using agency equipment to copy materials describing Satanic rituals.

A psychic won $986,000 in a suit against her doctor, claiming that undergoing a CAT scan procedure had led to the suppression of her psychic powers, and thus her ability to make a living.

A left-handed postal clerk accused the Postal Service of discriminatory bias in setting up filing cases "for the convenience of right-handed clerks."

A psychology professor complained that she had been the victim of sexual harassment by the presence of mistletoe at a Christmas party. Presumably, the mistletoe constitutes an implied threat of being kissed.

A Michigan man was awarded worker's compensation benefits because he had become an alcoholic while working for the Stroh's Brewery Company. Stroh's did not, of course, require the man to drink, but he nonetheless charged that his drinking problem was aggravated by the job-site availability of free beer, a benefit that had been demanded and won by his union.

In Florida, a man filed a lawsuit as a result of a haircut that he claimed was so bad that it induced a panic-anxiety attack and interfered with his "right to enjoy life."

Douglas Hartman, an air traffic controller from Aurora, Illinois, brought suit against the federal government for sexual harassment after he and other controllers attended a series of "diversity workshops" sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration. Attendance wasn't required, but according to Joseph Bellino, former executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, they were told they would be considered racist or sexist if they didn't attend.

According to accounts by participants, men were subjected to a "sexual harassment gauntlet" in which they were required to walk past a line of women who fondled them and made obscene remarks about their sexual prowess. Female employees were prompted to talk about being raped and abused, and to recall their first sexual experiences. Minorities were directed to describe humiliating experiences of racism, and white employees had to sit in on sessions in which black employees verbally attacked them. According to the controllers, employees who refused to play along were coerced by groups of five or six "facilitators" to take part.

Hartman said that many employees were disturbed by the sessions, some seeking professional help, and that after the sexual harassment gauntlet, several women apologized to him.

According to a report issued by the inspector general of the Department of Energy, guards at DOE laboratories earn overtime pay for using exercise equipment as part of union requirements.

Anita Roddick, owner and founder of The Body Shop, comments on her time spent in Cuba in Tatler, October 1993. The Body Shop, which has several hundred retail outlets world-wide, specializes in a variety of natural skin-care products. Company policy forbids the marketing of products that involve animal testing.

In Cuba, on the other hand, a simple bar of soap is bound to be quite scarce. One woman told a foreign journalist that she hadn't been able to wash her daughter properly for over two and a half months. As for animal rights, there are also reports that due to chronic food shortages, the number of cats and dogs in Havana has been dwindling.

Since the "special period" when Soviet investment was suddenly withdrawn, Cubans have lost an average of 20 pounds each. The fact itself reads like the stuff of propaganda. The reality was altogether different. What amazed me was how quickly you could fall in love with the economics of less. There are no ads, no billboards, no graffiti, no shops, no cars. People perch on the sea wall in couples, in groups, and talk. They are affectionate and caring, with a real sense of unity and an honest reverence for Fidel Castro.

Everybody seems to be working for public good rather than private greed. In the morning, I would see clusters of volunteers—government ministers, white- and blue-collar workers—heading out into the countryside to work in the fields. They all do it for 10 days each month.

The threat that Cuba poses to Western business interests is that it is a society that knows how to live without excess, without consumerism or commercialism. That is the revolution America fears. It has the best healthcare system in the world, with one doctor to every 196 citizens (the States manages a 1:405 ratio). It has almost 100-per-cent literacy. If a system that exists under such severe economic restraints can manage such achievements, there is surely a lot it can teach us.

One thing that really struck me was the enthusiasm of the foreign diplomats I encountered. One went so far as to mention Utopia. For myself, I felt there was no horizon I could not get above or beyond in Cuba. I remember with such affection waking up and thinking, "Here I am where I ought to be, because here I could belong."

[Ed.: Note that when people are impoverished in a capitalist economy, it is a vice, but in a socialist economy it is a virtue. Also ask yourself: if we had a 1:1 ratio of doctors to patients, what would that suggest about the quality of our health?]