An Inclusive Litany


Newsweek, October 31, 1994:
In Boston, Van Nuys, Calif., and Kansas City, Mo., ... the U.S. Postal Service has removed clocks and other "non-user-friendly items" such as bulletin boards and calendars from 30 lobbies.... This is not about keeping customers from watching their lives tick away while buying stamps, says Postal Service spokesperson Sandra Harding. "Clocks look bureaucratic," she says. "They are not an imperative part of the post-office experience."

The London Times:
Two men stole a ten-foot pile of rusty scrap steel, not knowing it was a $51,000 environmentally compatible piece of art representing a heap of rusty scrap steel.

An administrator at the University of California at Santa Cruz has started a campaign against racist phrases such as "a nip in the air" and "a chink in one's armor."

In Utah, the Labor Department has barred KRT Drywall-Acoustical from working on any federal contracts because it has no female employees. The government didn't buy KRT's assertion that it was difficult to find women willing and able to lug around 120-pound drywall sheets all day.

Disappointed that the "Goods for Guns" exchange program pulled in only 313 guns one year, one-tenth the number of the previous year's gun exchange program, New York City businessman Fernando Mateo announced that he would go on a hunger strike. Mateo stated "I'm letting people know I don't have much to give them anymore but myself. I'm going to sacrifice until they come through and they deliver the guns to the precincts."


The Minnesota Department of Human Rights found that the Eden School District discriminated against a young woman because the school failed to take action on her sexual harassment complaint. The woman and her harasser are both six years old.


For ten years, Velma Williamson and Theresa Taylor have given free haircuts to people who could not afford them, including men at Duluth, Minnesota's Union Gospel Mission. But the two don't have barber's licenses, so the state Board of Barber Examiners has told them to stop, or else face 90 days in jail and a $700 fine.

The Washington Post:
Frank Georgi wants to build a theme park recreating East German totalitarianism, complete with May Day parades, an Erich Honecker look-alike, secret police, and closed-circuit TV sets showing old propaganda movies. Visitors could apply to leave, but at the risk of ostracism and petty harassment.

Rent control laws in New York have resulted in a number of creative schemes for paying less for an apartment than its actual market value.

In one, a tenant who is renting an apartment for $400, but which is actually worth $1,200, takes in a roommate who is eager to pay the fair market rent of $600 a month. The official tenant is then able to pocket the $200 difference, despite a law that allows tenants only a ten percent increase on the rent they can charge. The roommate has no incentive to report the primary tenant, since the roommate also has a great deal on an apartment. In many cases the roommate does not know how much the tenant is paying, and how much windfall profit is involved.

In another scheme, the roommate manages to pay the landlord directly with his own check, perhaps after convincing the primary tenant to withhold rent for some reason. If the landlord makes the mistake of cashing the roommate's check, rather than that of the primary tenant, the roommate legally becomes the tenant in residence and is entitled to a new lease in his name upon renewal.

In another, the tenant maintains a voter's registration card and driver's license, along with perhaps a credit card or two, at the address of the rent-controlled apartment, while moving elsewhere. This is sufficient compliance with the vague primary residence law, and usually enough to frustrate any private investigator that the landlord hires.

In another, a tenant who was otherwise planning to move out of the apartment demands a large fee from the landlord for doing so.

In another, a tenant in a building that is about to convert to co-op status refuses to buy the apartment from the landlord, instead preferring to continue his advantageous position of paying less than market rent. Another approach is to buy the apartment at the bargain basement prices the law requires of landlords, then turn around and sell it at an immense profit.

In another, a prospective tenant of a professional suite (which, along with other commercial property, are not subject to rent controls) installs a bed or sleep couch and starts living there. Even if the Certificate of Occupancy and the lease calls for professional use only, and even if the residency was achieved through deception, the apartment automatically becomes rent-regulated due to the severe housing shortage in New York, a predictable result of rent control laws.

Four women living in a Hampton, Virginia, public housing project were threatened with eviction because they cleaned up a playground without asking permission.

The Department of Health and Human Services' Public Health Service sponsored a minority AIDS conference that featured a panel titled "Is AIDS Medical Genocide?" According to a Public Health Service official, the panel was included to "address many of the AIDS theories that have gained currency over the years in both ethnic and nonethnic communities." The panel included Abdul Alim Muhammad, the health minister of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, who has some theories of his own. On a radio talk show in 1987, he speculated that AIDS was "perhaps hatched in the international banking community as a means of depopulating Africa ... so that the Europeans and perhaps even the Russians, the South Africans and the Israelis could have a depopulated continent" so they could plunder its mineral resources. "Maybe the Americans and Russians had such a plan or scheme."


When Klaus Matthiesen, environment minister of the German state of North Rhine Westphalia, condemned daily showers as a threat to the environment because they use water and heat unnecessarily, special interest groups reacted swiftly. "Not taking a shower every day in the summer would be crazy," said Hans Joachim Keller, president of the German Public Health Movement. Achim Tilmes of the German Bath Society added: "Some people even need to shower twice a day."

The First National Lesbian Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, officially banned the handing out of leaflets as "inherently coercive." Leafleting, a spokesperson for the conference explained, puts "the woman you're handing something to in a position where she has to say no, and everyone knows how difficult in this culture it is to say no."

A Long Island housing activist instructed some street people: "You are houseless but not homeless because home is wherever you are."

Some feedback from readers of Copy Editor: The National Newsletter for Professional Copy Editors. Readers were asked simply, "What has been your biggest change in style or usage this year?" The replies appeared in the December 1994/January 1995 issue.
Jack Vaughn, copy and slot editor, The Sacramento Bee:
When we had the Mexican Chiapas uprising, readers objected to the phrase peasant uprising or peasant rebellion. So we banned peasant, changing it to rural or another more specific word. The thought was that (a) peasant is a word that has a pejorative meaning as well as a literal one and that (b) it's not very specific....

Pamela Dugan, copy desk chief, The San Diego Union-Tribune:
Our official style is still to use American Indian, but we'll allow Native American when a person prefers it. We make allowances for people's stated preferences with, for example, Hispanic or Latino and black or African American, and American Indian and Native American seem to be in that category.

Kimberly Travis, copy editor, Endless Vacation magazine:
We've changed Native American to American Indian. We wanted to be accurate and correct and still get to the point.

Caesar Andrews, executive editor, Rockland Journal-News (West Nyack, N.Y.):
We're trying to clarify Hispanic and make the distinction that as a Hispanic you can be black or white. That does not always come across clearly in population and demographic-type stories. Where it's appropriate, we don't presume that there's a black and a white and a Hispanic. We're in the process of figuring out how to deal with this issue and do it in an accurate sense that is not too convoluted.

Charlotte Wiggers, managing editor, Essence:
We had been capping black and lowercasing white, and now we are uppercasing white as well. If you do it for one, you need to do it for the other.

Peter Jeffrey, copy chief, Working Woman:
Over the past years we have formalized what had already been a tendency to blend African-American with our use of black. We use African-American on first reference and black thereafter, so as to acknowledge African-American without replacing black. We felt that African-American was gaining currency and had a lot of etymological legitimacy, but since it's rather long and it can be awkward when used exclusively, we decided to mix the two forms.

Bill Fink, copy desk chief, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
We never used to allow the term African American, for most of the usual arguments. Now we have an informal policy of using black and African American pretty much interchangeably. We usually go with what the source that's covered prefers.

Darrell Turner, copy editor, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette:
We no longer use the term the disabled. We now say people with disabilities.

From an Associated Press story from Chicago:
Clarence Notree barely had time to act when a gunman burst into the elementary-school gym. As the bullets flew, the physical-education teacher spread out his arms to shield the children and pushed them out a door to safety. He got shot in the wrist. His school and community lauded Notree as a hero, but the Chicago Board of Education insisted that he wasn't entitled to worker's compensation. They said saving the children's lives was not part of his job.

NBC news analyst and former New York Times reporter Gwen Ifill on "Meet the Press" following the 1994 election:
The Democrats are being blamed more than Republicans because they ran in 1992 saying, "If you elect us we will get all of these things done. We'll have a Democratic White House; we'll have a Democratic Congress; and all of the gridlock you saw in the past will fade away." Instead, they look like the gang who couldn't shoot straight; they couldn't get anything through. Now that's not exactly true, because in fact they've gotten a lot of things through, important things like, uh, uh, I can't think of any right now.


In the interests of protecting the ozone layer, the Air Force announced plans to retrofit all its nuclear missiles with cooling systems that do not use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The ICBMs will continue to carry up to 10 nuclear warheads, each capable of wiping out an entire city.

According to the European, a "girl gang" known as the Lesbian Avengers protested the statue outside Buckingham Palace commemorating Queen Victoria, who, the Avengers believed, had never "acknowledged the existence of lesbians." Gathered around the statue, the Avengers "ate fire, banged drums," and waved placards conveying their disapproval.

A student at an English course at the University of Michigan had her grade reduced for writing "Congressman" rather than the preferred "Congressperson."

Louise Lee in the Wall Street Journal:
Many companies are quite formal about how to be casual. Southland, for example, put on a "fashion show" with employees modeling what is—and isn't—OK to wear on dress-down day. For further reference, the company has compiled a two-inch-thick binder packed with full-color catalog clippings, each pasted into sections marked "appropriate" and "inappropriate." (A photo of a woman wearing black spandex exercise shorts and a tight-fitting tank top fell into the latter category.)

In addition, the Dallas-based convenience-store chain has formed an eight-member "Employee Dress Code Committee" to resolve any future disputes over questionable dress.

Determining what is perfectly casual from what is way too casual can be tricky. At Picadilly Cafeterias Inc., of Baton Rouge, La., bluejeans are forbidden, but not black or green jeans. Shorts are prohibited, so why not the culotte-like "skort," an odd cross between shorts and a skirt? "I don't know how to answer that," confesses Scott Bozzell, a vice president who recently held a special meeting with supervisors to clarify the company's casual-dress rules. "I guess the design of skorts itself isn't distasteful."

For workers at conservative companies, the chance to break free from business suits may be just too much to handle. Houston-based American General Corp. tried a Casual Day Pilot Program, but found "the definition of casual was perceived to be broader" than intended, says John Pluhowski, company spokesman.

On dress-down day, employees of the insurance company wore Santa Claus and Easter Bunny outfits, T-shirts advertising booze and tight pants under oversized baggy shirts hanging to the knees. No one was sent home, not even the worker who dressed as a duck.

"If you came as a duck, you went home as a duck, but you were expected not to return as a duck," Mr. Pluhowski says. After a six-month trial, casual day at American General got the ax.

A spokesman for the NAACP said that a Republican proposal to raise the age of eligibility for Medicare and Social Security benefits "could exacerbate racial divisions" because black life expectancy was shorter than that of whites.


When the European community proposed a code governing sexual harassment in the workplace, a delegation of British women marched to EC headquarters in Brussels to voice their opposition. The women, all models who had posed for British tabloids, feared the measure, which specifically bans nude pinups in the workplace, would cost them work.

After University of Pennsylvania undergraduate Gregory Pavlik wrote a column in the Daily Pennsylvanian critical of affirmative action, he was told he would be investigated for racial harassment by the university's Judicial Inquiry Office. When told that charges would be dropped if he agreed to a meeting with the group of students who had accused him, he refused. In protest, a group of black students stole and destroyed a press run of the newspaper. They reiterated their racial harassment charge, and defended their own actions as an example of free expression.

Faced with First Amendment constraints, the university agreed not to prosecute Pavlik. In fact, the only people punished in the incident were the police who arrested the students who destroyed the papers. One officer was suspended, and a follow-up report by the university recommended that the campus police begin keeping race and sex information on their detainees, "to determine if [arrest policy] has an adverse impact on any groups and if the policy is applied in a consistent, non-discriminatory manner."

Lebanese-born Rashid Baz went on trial in late October 1994, accused of shooting at a van full of Hasidic Jewish students after they cut him off on New York's Brooklyn Bridge. One student was killed in the March attack; three were wounded. His lawyer argued that Baz was suffering from ethnic rage.

Defense attorney Eric Sears argued that his client grew up in Beirut amid civil war, violence and an atmosphere of hatred, all of which rendered him temporarily insane. In Baz's case, argued Sears, the violence in Beirut, "besides being constant and random, was often brutal. The house you left in the morning could be rubble that night," he declared in his opening statement at the trial. "Those years inevitably left scars on his personality."

Michael Perlman in the Valley Optimist Magazine, Northampton, Massachusetts, August 24, 1994:
A friend who recently moved to South Deerfield told me that her roommate did something a little odd while they were jogging together. They had jogged into Sunderland and paused by the monumental sycamore tree—one of New England's largest—that grows near the center of town. On an impulse, my friend's roommate embraced the tree and "gave it a big smackeroo."

Could it be that my roommate's friend's affection for the Sunderland sycamore represented a welling up of the ecological (or, more precisely, arboreal) id?

If you surmise that my question is a leading one, you're right on the money. But what it leads to is another, much larger realm of questions. Why does your average passerby think it's weird to kiss trees? Is there in his or her response to the tree-kisser an analogue to homophobia? Why is it forbidden to make love with trees? Are we (if I may coin a phrase) an ecophobic society? And if, with whatever difficulties and setbacks, American society is coming to realize that bisexuality and homosexuality are in and of themselves as healthy as heterosexuality, why do we lag in recognizing the inherent healthiness of erotic, even sexual, connections with nonhuman nature? Why are we so conflicted about—to broach a concept—our natural ecosexuality?