An Inclusive Litany


A survey of 1,000 black churchgoers conducted by a University of North Carolina researcher revealed that fully one-third believe AIDS was produced in a germ warfare lab to get rid of blacks. Another third said they were "unsure" whether AIDS was deliberately created to kill blacks.

In a new interpretation of the works of Dr. Seuss, Religion Professor Naomi Goldberg asserts that Seuss wrote children's books that were cleverly concealed sacred texts "handed down by a supernatural male figure in order to obscure female functions and appropriate them for men." Goldberg also argues that the famous Dr. Seuss book The Cat in the Hat Comes Back concerns menstrual taboos and male dominance.

An advertisement for a CD-ROM product in the MacWarehouse computer catalog:
New! Supermodels in the Rainforest. Explore the beauty and wonder of the Costa Rican rainforest with eight supermodels as your guides. Learn about the wondrous plants, animals, and insects through beautiful images, moving music, and insightful narratives from the models themselves. You can even interact with supermodel photo-sessions by controlling the camera and selecting from a variety of sequences. Snap the photos yourself as you build your personal photo album!

After Tracy Seckler graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in 1992, she decided to become a teacher and enrolled in the master's program at Teacher's College at Columbia University. While working on her degree, she set out to obtain a license to work as a substitute teacher.

She called the New York City licensing office four times to find out what papers she needed to bring in and received four different answers. When she arrived in person, she told the clerk who reviewed her application that she wanted to teach English. But the clerk said that was impossible: On Seckler's Harvard transcript, her course codes began with "hist," the abbreviation for an interdisciplinary honors program called History and Literature. Even though Seckler wrote her thesis on American literature, she was told she could substitute teach only in history classes because she lacked sufficient credits to teach English.

Seckler decided to teach in suburban Scarsdale instead.


Various commemorations celebrated throughout February, 1996:

  • African American History Month
  • American Heart Month
  • American History Month
  • Canned Food Month
  • Creative Romance Month
  • Great American Pies Month
  • Humpback Whale Awareness Month
  • International Boost Your Self-Esteem Month
  • National Cherry Month
  • National Children's Dental Health Month
  • National Fiber Focus Month
  • National Snack Food Month
  • National Weddings Month
  • National Wild Bird Feeding Month
  • Responsible Pet Owner Month
  • Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month

When Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Bill Albers staged a cross-burning in Modesto, California, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District brought a civil suit against him because the diesel-soaked cross-burning violates local air pollution laws.

In the last statement given before his execution in California for the murder and sexual mutilation of 14 teenage boys, William George Bonin said the death penalty "sends the wrong message" to America's youth.


The chairmanship of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was left vacant for 21 months while the Clinton administration searched for a nominee who, as the Washington Post described it, was "not just Hispanic," but specifically of "Puerto Rican descent."

Contributing editor Mim Udovitch interviews aging Rolling Stones guitarist and unlikely traditionalist Keith Richards in Details, December 1995:
Mim Udovitch:
Are there any drugs you haven't done?

Keith Richards:
Oh yeah, there's loads of the new ones. I have no time for the modern drugs, because they've gone to all this trouble to take the high out. What's the point of taking those drugs? And they're bad for you! Quite honestly, if you want to go to sleep, you're better off with a good old barbiturate like Tuinal or Numbutal or Secanol. It works straight on your heart and it'll be flushed out of your body the next day. But nooooo. They're going to make you a drug that they don't know what it does to you. They'd rather kill you than have you get a buzz. I've studied this s***. I'm a walking laboratory.

Mim Udovitch:
You know, I believe a few people may have died taking barbiturates.

Keith Richards:
Yeah, they sure have, but a lot more have died on your Xanaxes and Halcions and goddamn Quaaludes and all that other stuff they've been giving you all since. This is what makes people drive into restaurants and post offices and blow people away. You find out afterward they're into this newfangled nonsense. I mean, with barbiturates, if you want to overdo it and take ten, you're not going to kill yourself. I mean, maybe. Maybe not.

Barbara Ehrenreich comments on William Bennett's criticisms of daytime talk shows in Time magazine, December 4, 1995:
What the talks are about, in large part, is poverty and the distortions it visits on the human spirit. You'll never find investment bankers bickering on Rolanda or the host of Gabrielle recommending therapy to sobbing professors. With few exceptions the guests are drawn from trailer parks and tenements, from bleak streets and narrow, crowded rooms. Listen long enough, and you'll hear references to unpaid bills, to welfare, to 12-hour workdays and double shifts. And this is the real shame of the talks: that they take lives bent out of shape by poverty and hold them up as entertaining exhibits. An announcement appearing between segments of Montel says it all: the show is looking for "pregnant women who sell their bodies to make ends meet."

This is class exploitation, pure and simple. What next—"homeless people so hungry they eat their own scabs"? Or would the next step be to pay people outright to submit to public humiliation? For $50 would you confess to adultery in your wife's presence? For $500 would you reveal your 13-year-old's girlish secrets on Ricki Lake? If you were poor enough, you might.

It is easy for those who can afford spacious homes and private therapy to sneer at their financial inferiors and label their pathetic moments of stardom vulgar. But if I had a talk show, it would feature a whole different cast of characters and category of crimes than you'll ever find on the talks: "CEOs who rake in millions while their employees get downsized" would be an obvious theme, along with "Senators who voted for welfare and Medicaid cuts"—and, if he'll agree to appear, "well-fed Republicans who dithered about talk shows while trailer-park residents slipped into madness and despair."

Douglas Albert has spent thousands of dollars of his own money to create a sanctuary for the bog turtle, which is listed by the government as an endangered species. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection told him that he needed a permit to raise the turtles. Albert spent five years and a lot of money trying to get one, but still came up empty-handed. In the meantime, the state sent a dozen armed troopers to seize his turtles, followed by threats of thousands of dollars in fines.

In a lawsuit seeking to force Ibaraki prefecture Governor Masaru Hashimoto to earmark conservation funds to protect wildlife from encroaching development, a Japanese court ruled that a flock of geese was not qualified to serve as plaintiffs.

In Leesburg, Florida, a woman interested in joining the military talked to recruiters from both the Army and the Navy. The Army representative told her that the Navy couldn't provide the sort of training that she wanted. The Navy recruiter overheard, and went over to tell her that they could indeed provide that training. About an hour later, three Army sergeants, one armed with a crowbar, tried to trash the Navy recruiting office. Two Marines heard the ruckus from their own office, and a brawl ensued.


From a press release issued by the San Diego Wild Animal Park to promote the zoo's "Night Moves" tour. The three-hour tour, offered on Saturday nights, cost $150 per couple.
This summer the park premieres the Night Moves tour, focusing on the wild courtship and mating rituals of the facility's exotic—and erotic—residents. Did you know that lions can mate fifty times a day, and that the gorilla who's smitten gets bitten if he tries to force his affections? These are just a few of the examples of what goes on "behind closed gates" at the San Diego Wild Animal Park.

A unique dating experience, the Night Moves tour includes a romantic evening drive into the park's huge field enclosures, where inquisitive giraffes and rhinos wander within inches of the open safari truck. Safari guides share anecdotes, show some of the gadgets and techniques used by matchmaking zookeepers, and take momento photos of tour participants.

After sunset, the truck stops at romantic Amani Point, a secluded spot offering panoramic, moonlit views of the Eastern and South African waterholes. Here guests can snuggle with their sweeties as they enjoy liqueur-spiked coffee and choose from a selection of sinful desserts. A Wild Animal Park expert is on hand to talk about reproductive behavior in the animal kingdom.

The tour is tasteful but guaranteed to put one in the mood.

Letter to the editor, the Washington Times, December 19, 1995:
It hurts me to see trees cut down for Christmas. I know that the trees are grown specifically for Christmas, used for a few weeks and then discarded. Think of how hard our earth has worked to grow that tree, the many years of nourishment that the earth has invested in that tree. And then think about our ozone layer and how it is being depleted. You may think that a few Christmas trees may not make a difference, but it was not long ago that people thought a few soda cans or newspapers would not make a difference either.

I know that in a lot of families it is a big tradition to have a live tree, and some people feel that artificial trees are not as good. But with today's technology, artificial trees sometimes look better than the real ones. And pine sachets are readily available so that you have that pine smell throughout your home.

When Anthony Torcasio was incarcerated in the Virginia prison system in 1991, prison officials had to make special accommodations for the 450-pound man. They provided a private cell, a hospital bed, reinforced chairs for both his cell and the prison dining hall and special mats and handrails in the shower. But in 1992, Torcasio sued, saying that his rights were being violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He demanded toilet handrails, a wider door on his cell, mats in the lobby and extra time to travel between prison buildings.

Torcasio was released in 1994, and his suit was dismissed by a federal judge. But the ex-con, who also sought financial compensation from prison authorities, took his case to the Supreme Court, which dismissed it without comment.

When Dr. Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan delivered Wellesley College's 1993 Martin Luther King Jr. memorial lecture, he told his audience that Aristotle had gone to Egypt and robbed his philosophy from African writers in the library at Alexandria.

During the question period, Mary Lefkowitz, a Wellesley classicist, asked how Aristotle could have stolen his philosophy from the library at Alexandria when Aristotle had died before the library was even built. Mr. ben-Jochannan replied that he resented the "tone" of her question, while her colleagues maintained an embarrassed silence. After the lecture, several students came up to Ms. Lefkowitz to accuse her of racism. When she went to the dean to describe the lecture, he replied that everyone had a different but "equally valid" view of history. At a faculty meeting, one of her colleagues told her: "I don't care who stole what from whom."


A social-service inspector in England censured a vicar who operates a day-care center, because there were no black dolls available for the children (though there were a couple of yellow dolls for the Asian community). Even though there were no black children at the center, the inspector reminded the vicar, there were black children elsewhere.

Also in Great Britain, a church ceremony was held in Coventry to honor the automobile. An 1897 Daimler sputtered its way down the aisle, but its exhaust nearly asphyxiated the congregation. Later in the service a woman stripped naked to protest automobile technology.

Tim Russert of CNBC interviews journalist Maria Shriver, February 4, 1996, questioning her about her own interview with Hillary Clinton that occurred two weeks prior:
Tim Russert:
How long did you take to prepare for that interview?

Maria Shriver:
A couple of weeks, about two or three weeks, and I read everything. I memorized that book up and down. I memorized everything that was written about Whitewater, about Travelgate, about Hillary Clinton, about First Ladies.... You want to admire her, and yet you're a journalist and you have to ask her these tough questions, you have to be skeptical, and you can't just come on and do this like "Oh, you're so wonderful" interview.
The following are some of Ms. Shriver's tough questions to Ms. Clinton on the "Today" show, January 16, 1996:

  • What's this week been like for you personally?

  • In the book, you write about preparing your daughter Chelsea for the negative things people might say to her about her father, but you don't say in the book about preparing her for the negative things people might say about her mom. What's this past week, two weeks been like for her?

  • But this is beyond the territory, I mean, this is tough. This is your mom someone's talking about. Is she upset about this? What have you said to her?

  • Whitewater. I know you've been answering questions on this subject for four years. Thousands of documents have been handed over, but they still want even more. As you look back on this, do you wish you'd never worked for Madison Guaranty?

  • You also quote a letter in there that Nelson Mandela wrote to one of his daughters while he was in prison, and I'm paraphrasing a bit, but he wrote that there is no personal misfortune that one cannot turn into a personal triumph if one has the iron will and the necessary skills. You clearly have an iron will, you clearly are skilled. How are you going to turn this personal misfortune into a personal triumph?

  • You think government should do a lot more than it's doing in terms of making children a priority, doing things for kids. We're clearly living in an age where people are anti-government. How do you get across the message that we all need to see everybody's kids as our own, we need to have more programs, the government needs to be more involved?
[Ed.: In the course of the interview, Ms. Shriver called the book both "terrific" and "really terrific."]

In Great Britain, a $30,000 avant-garde art prize was awarded to Damien Hirst for floating the split carcasses of a cow and a calf in formaldehyde. (The artist edged out another strong contender who created a two-minute video exploring her various body orifices.) A second work by Hirst, a rotting sculpture of a dead bull and a dead cow copulating with the aid of a hydraulic machine, was barred from a New York gallery for fear that its smell—as opposed to its content—would cause art lovers to vomit.

When he later exhibited at the Gagosian gallery in SoHo, fear of intervention by the Environmental Protection Agency caused Hirst to abandon plans to display his copulating cows in a tank that did not contain formaldehyde. (According to London art dealer Jay Jopling, Hirst "wanted a piece that decayed in front of your eyes.") When Hirst attempted to bring his material into the United States, the Customs Service needed to be persuaded that it was artwork, and therefore not subject to USDA regulations of foodstuffs—especially meat tainted with "mad cow disease."

One of Hirst's works, "Away from the Flock," consists of a sheep which had been saved from slaughter, only to be disemboweled and placed in formaldehyde by a contemporary artist. But when fellow artist Mark Bridger attended a preview of the exhibit, he decided that something was missing from that piece, so he poured black ink in the formaldehyde and renamed the exhibit "Black Sheep." The sheep was cleaned and the formaldehyde replaced prior to public exhibition. Mr. Bridger was conviced of vandalism and sentenced to two years of probation, though he insisted he improved the piece, and despite an interview in which Mr. Hirst said that getting spectators involved was of the utmost importance. A few years later, Mr. Hirst published an art book featuring an image of the piece. When the reader pulled a tab, the tank and sheep appeared to be covered with blackness, as if ink had been poured into the container. This led Mr. Bridger to sue for copyright infringement.

[Ed.: On October 16, 2001, Emmanuel Asare, a janitor at a London gallery, inadvertently disposed of an expensive art installation by Damien Hirst that consisted of used cups, dirty ashtrays, candy wrappers, and newspapers spread across the floor.]

From a book review by Aldrich Ames of Sleeper Spy, an espionage novel published by columnist William Safire, in the November 29, 1995 issue of The Hill, a Washington, D.C., weekly. Ames is serving a life sentence for passing secrets to the Soviet Union while working for the CIA.
Bill Safire told USA Today last summer that his main reason for writing Sleeper Spy was to have a good time. Since the preposterous plot is not meant to be taken seriously, even by the characters who struggle in its contradictory meshes, Safire concentrates his considerable energies on stuffing their mouths with knowing references to journalism, high finance, the CIA, the KGB, and Russia.

One hinge of the plot involves the workings of presidential covert-action findings—not a very mysterious process but one that Safire is determined to get wrong. He also picked up from somewhere the odd idea that Alexsandr Shelpin (a party hack from the Khrushchev era who once headed the KGB) was the last and greatest of the Soviet spy masters, and he drapes a lot of his plot around this notion.

Safire uses heavy-duty cardboard for his characters; they all sound alike, busily and knowingly one-upping each other, passing on inside information, and making inane and transparent deals with one another. Safire has a tin ear for dialogue and makes his characters bound to their feet, hearts sinking, as their lives hang by a thread—luckily, for most of them, not a slender one. His ignorance might serve an op-ed man well, but it's of no help to a novelist.

An August 1995 notice in the Federal Register detailed efforts by the Office of Management and Budget to revise 1977's Statistical Directive No. 15, which standardized federal record-keeping on matters of race and ethnicity. The existing directive set up the now-familiar categories of Black, White, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander, and American Indian or Alaskan Native, but complaints were made on behalf of "multiracial persons" that these categories did not adequately represent them, since the 1990 Census counted at least 4 million children of mixed-race couples.

The options discussed for referring to members of this often mislabeled group ranged from the questionable "mulatto" to the newly invented "TIRAH," which stands for "Tan InterRacial American Humankind." Another proposal favored scrapping such categories altogether in favor of a "Skin-Color Gradient Chart," a comprehensive color wheel of numerically identified skin tones against which each Census respondent's flesh might be compared.

Despite these new proposals, the OMB admits that agencies keeping track of racial and ethnic data oppose any alterations of the existing categories, since it might damage the historical continuity of government data. The skin-tone chart, in particular, might produce future statistical difficulties, since "individuals could change skin colors over a lifetime as a result of exposure to sunlight or disease." What's more, the chart "requires precise, multi-color printing" of government forms, which would be "expensive."

Another concern is that traditional categories would become fragmented when members of each category would likely opt for a new category. But as the OMB sees it, "the perception of others is more valid for evaluating discrimination than individual self-identification."

Nigeria has suffered military rule for the better part of 36 years, most recently under General Sano Abacha, a situation that troubles many international observers as well as Nigerians themselves. Outrage grew when Abacha's henchmen executed activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who had protested against the dictatorship.

On Martin Luther King Day, a group of demonstrators calling themselves the Coalition of Nigerians in the United States protested at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington. There was a counterdemonstration, too; about 100 people carrying placards that read "Hands off Nigeria" and "Nigeria for the Nigerians" paraded in support of the military regime.

Just one troublesome detail: the counterdemonstrators actually were homeless men hired from the Community for Creative Non-Violence shelter. That became apparent when one of the homeless men asked an opposing demonstrator if he had "signed up for his meal yet."

The man who hired the homeless, the Rev. Cleveland B. Sparrow, was unapologetic, telling the Washington Times that he was "deeply committed to employing people," that the homeless men were paid $6 an hour for three hours' work and that his intent was to show "the unity of black Americans with black people the world over."

[Ed.: Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL) met with General Abacha, who had executed or jailed hundreds of his political opponents, in a meeting also attended by Kgosie Matthews, Moseley-Braun's former fiance and ex-campaign manager who had also worked as a paid lobbyist for the Nigerian regime. The Senator returned to her native Chicago with a letter from Abacha in support of President Clinton, much to his embarrassment.]

In a Virginia school, a gang of five students assaulted a lone teenager in a hallway, one of the attackers using a meat hook. Three of the gang were kicked out of school, but not the other two, who were in special education.

At another Virginia school, six students showed up with a loaded .357 Magnum. Five were suspended, but the sixth, who had a "writing disability," was able to stay in school.

In New Hampshire, a 17-year-old pushed a fellow student up against the wall outside the school cafeteria, pressed a starter pistol into the boy's stomach, and said, "I'm going to kill you." The 17-year-old later told the principal that he was "just playing around." The principal did not expel him "because he was in special education."

Incoming Yale student Heather Larson was surprised by her university's weeklong Freshman Outdoor Orientation Trip in the Berkshire mountains. Leaders confiscated her leg razor, criticized her for combing her hair daily, and discouraged the use of soap. "If we all smell bad, we won't notice each other," one said. Out of respect for the environment, the freshman hikers were warned not to spit out toothpaste or throw apple cores into the woods. After the group ate some corn donated by a nearby farmer, a crisis developed over whether the cobs should be packed up and brought back to Yale. When asked about this, the farmer "looked at us as if we were crazy and told us simply, 'throw 'em back in the field.' "

From A Call to Character: A Family Treasury, edited by Herbert Kohl and Colin Greer. The book is designed to guide "the development of values for you and your children" in a way that is "more progressive" than William J. Bennett's bestselling The Book of Virtues. In the following passage, Kohl and Greer describe the best way for parents to read to youngsters:
Be careful, however, not to shape your conversations about literature in ways that demand definite conclusions for each session or lead to your children feeling manipulated. Trust is crucial for critical family reading. Children will use their own judgement, make up their own minds about the issues at stake, and often understand the messages of what they read in ways that are surprising to adults. The personal closeness provided by serious, non-judgmental discussion, based on shared stories, is as valuable as any specific conclusions you or your children come to.

In one of his previous books, Should We Burn Babar? Mr. Kohl describes his own teaching style:

I defined colonialism and pointed out that the costume of the hunter gave him away as a colonist. Next I gave them some history of French colonialism in Africa, and we discussed the meaning of clothes in the story. There is no reason why a discussion like this shouldn't be part of the critical literature program as early as the third grade, if not earlier.... Finally the issue of what Babar learned from people came up, and to the group it seemed that he no longer liked being an elephant. Thus, not only was he not trying to avenge the death of his mother; in a way he became a friend of his mother's murderers. Franz Fanon described this internalization of the colonists' culture as one of the deepest forms of dehumanization experienced by the victims of colonialism.... The third-graders must have sensed some of this, because most of them expressed anger at the hunter and no longer thought the story was cute or charming.

In the same book, Kohl criticizes the Little House on the Prairie series (offensive to Native Americans) and Pinocchio (sanctions male violence).


Letter to the editor, the Daily Hampshire Gazette of Northampton, Massachusetts, November 22, 1995:
I do not find the "Blondie" cartoon of Nov. 8 comic.

Dagwood perceives the government is being unfair to his family. So he uses violence against an innocent government employee—the mail deliverer—by, as the mail deliverer understood, lying in wait to run into him.

Far from the humor shown through the years as Dagwood inadvertently collides with the mail deliverer, this premeditated violence is exactly like the Oklahoma City bombing in intent if not in scale. Why are you encouraging such actions?

—Janet Gillis

Judith Brand, a 20-year-old student at the San Francisco Bay area's College of Marin, is wheelchair-bound and suffers from speech, visual, and motor impairment as a result of cerebral palsy. She sued the college because she was denied "full participation" in a theater dance class. The teacher in the class, who paired students and asked them to work together as partners, routinely paired Brand with her aide, whose job was to help Brand get to and from class and to assist in communication and some manual tasks. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, this led Oakland attorney Jean Hyams to file suit. "This was an opportunity for the College of Marin to expand the understanding of dance," Hyams said.

The Disability Rights Center in Concord, New Hampshire, filed a legal brief supporting the appeal of Joel Frost, who was convicted of raping a mentally retarded woman. At his trial, Frost tried to prove that the woman was capable of giving consent to sex, but state law prohibits that, and the Center supported Frost in his claim that the law discriminates against the mentally retarded by assuming they all lack the ability to decide whether to have sex.

Translated excerpts of a poem, from the Spanish-language edition of the collected works of Pablo Neruda, written on the occasion of Joseph Stalin's death in 1953. The character of Neruda was portrayed with great deference in Il Postino (The Postman), a film that garnered critical praise as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture of 1995.
To be men! That is
the Stalinist law!
...We must learn from Stalin
his sincere intensity
his concrete clarity
...Stalin is the noon,
the maturity of man and the peoples.
Stalinists, Let us bear this title with pride.
...Stalinist workers, clerks, women
take care of this day! The light has not vanished.
the fire has not disappeared,
there is only the growth of
light, bread, fire and hope
in Stalin's invincible time!
...In recent years the dove,
Peace, the wandering persecuted rose,
found herself in his shoulders
and Stalin, the giant one,
carried her at the heights of his forehead.
...A wave beats against the stones of the shore.
But Malenkov will continue his work.

[Ed.: In May 1940, on Joseph Stalin's orders, Mexican Communist muralist David A. Siqueiros led a massed attack on exiled Russian Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky's residence in which Trotsky's grandson was shot and a young guard was kidnapped and murdered. (Trotsky would be assassinated three months later, also on Stalin's orders.) Siqueiros, who faced nine separate criminal charges, was mysteriously released on bail. Neruda used his position as Chilean consul in Mexico City to convey a Chilean passport to Siqueiros, who subsequently fled the country, thus squelching a major part of the Trotsky murder investigation. For the rest of his life, Neruda expressed great pride in this action.]