An Inclusive Litany


A University of Florida art student, intent on conveying "the process of struggle throughout life," dipped mice into orange polyester resin and cut the hardened result into 50 two-inch pieces to form a sculpture. University officials confiscated the project and said they would decide whether to take action against him.

Various special observances for the month of September, 1996:

  • Baby Safety Month
  • Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month
  • Children's Eye and Safety Month
  • International Gay Square Dance Month
  • Library Card Sign-Up Month
  • Marriage Health Month
  • National Chicken Month
  • National Cholesterol Awareness Month
  • National Honey Month
  • National Gum Care Month

During the same month, the following week-long observances are heralded:

  • National Religious Reference Books Week
  • National Financial Services Week
  • Subliminal Marketing Awareness Week
  • Saving Tigers Week

In response to parents' protests, New York City is ending the automatic testing of children with Spanish names for placement in bilingual-education classes. Under the policy, Hispanic children who scored below the 40th percentile in a standardized English exam (40 percent of all the students taking the test) were automatically placed in Spanish-language programs, even if they did not speak Spanish.

In Los Angeles, parents of 80 Latin-American students arranged a boycott of the Ninth Street School because they had asked for classes to be conducted in English and did not get it.


Anita Cragg is owner and president of Space Coast Management Services, Inc. In 1992, she bought an existing subdivision in Country Cove, Florida, with plans to expand and build new homes adjacent to the previously developed site. Cragg's permits were in order and some buyers were waiting to build and settle in.

But while surveying for waterline extensions in 1993, officials from the Fish and Wildlife Service noted two endangered scrub jays flying onto Cragg's lots. The officials claimed that Cragg's planned development posed a potential hazard to land "suitable for occupation by scrub jays" and suspended construction on the site. Cragg insists that neither the Fish and Wildlife Service, nor an independent environmental engineer hired by Cragg, could locate any scrub-jay nests on her property. Her four-person company fought with officials for 18 months. Construction was frozen in the meantime, while Cragg's buyers had to continue paying real-estate taxes on the land.

Forcing her into a corner, the agency had her purchase four acres off-site for every one on-site to compensate for the loss of potential scrub-jay habitat. This cost Cragg's company $100,000.

Letter to the editor, the Evansville Courier, May 2, 1996:
As a viewer of CNN and a concerned citizen, I was watching CNN on April 24 and saw the latest poll about the voting record of the news media. According to that poll, 87 percent of the journalists in America voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Republicans are perceiving this as proof that the media are liberal-biased. Leading the attack is our illustrious speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

I think we should take a second look. Media people are professional and are accountable for their coverage of the facts, figures and everything they report in the political arena. It seems to me that therefore they would be the most informed and objective people in America.

If 87 percent of these people voted for President Clinton, I think it proves the right man got the job and should be re-elected.

Producers of a movie based on the life of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, a flamboyant bisexual who died of a drug overdose at age 27, have decided to change some facts. For example, they said, they will make Basquiat a pure heterosexual "to mainstream the movie," and will eliminate any references to drugs. "We tried to make Jean-Michel Basquiat into an upbeat story," one of the producers said, "so we left out his death from choking on his own vomit."

Terry L. Greenberg, a federal prison inmate incarcerated in Florida, sued the U.S. Government, alleging that it owed him an extra $20,000 for working in a prison factory in 1991 and 1992. Mr. Greenberg sought redress based on the theory that minimum wage laws apply to prisoners, and indeed there seems to be nothing in the current law to suggest that they don't. Inmates earn, on average, about 40 cents an hour.


A report by the non-profit Contributions Watch found that trial lawyers have contributed at least $100.4 million to politicians at the state and federal level from 1990 through 1995, more than any other profession. Particularly disturbing, state attorneys general have, in effect, deputized trial lawyers to litigate costly tort cases for them on a contingency basis—primarily in suits involving tobacco companies and the health-care costs incurred by smokers. In a blatant conflict of interest, some state prosecutors are handing out these contracts—in which tort lawyers can share in huge personal rewards—without competitive bidding, and the lawyers then contribute large amounts of money to various politicians' campaigns.

[Ed.: There has been considerable debate among economists and policy analysts over one of the central assumptions behind many of these lawsuits—that tobacco users constitute a drain on the Medicare system. The argument revolves around the contention that smokers tend to die early before being able to take full advantage of their medical benefits, effectively subsidizing nonsmokers' health care.]


Responding to complaints by a disgruntled employee, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration held a three-hour inspection of Judy's Bakery in Evanston, Illinois, a small enterprise that employs 30 people.

OSHA's report cited owner Judy Hooper, for, among other things, failing to have a written "Material Safety Data Sheet" for "hazardous" chemicals used at the bakery. The only chemicals used at the bakery were ordinary household bleach and pink dishwashing liquid, which both feature clearly marked warning labels.

Ms. Hooper was also cited for failing to have a written plan for emergencies such as a fire. The shop, which is on the first floor and has four clearly marked exits, is inspected twice a year by the Evanston Fire Department with no problem.

Hooper also failed to post an accident log on the shop's wall, even though her company had never had an accident requiring a worker's compensation claim. OSHA responded that this was irrelevant and argued that the log must hang on the wall even if it contained all zeroes, one for each accident-free day.

At her informal settlement hearing with OSHA officials, Hooper was able to negotiate the resulting fines down from $13,000 to $5,450, but Hooper was still required to spend the balance on safety and health programs for her employees and to present proof she had complied.

Ironically, none of the citations was related to the employee's complaints, which were found to be baseless.

The Darien Times of Darien, Connecticut, June 27, 1996:
Markham Sherwood of Norwalk, 19, was charged with sixth-degree larceny after allegedly stealing a pack of condoms from CVS, 964 Post Road, at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Markham was detained by store personnel after setting off the anti-theft alarm.

Markham reportedly told police he took the $3.99 pack of Trojans because condoms are given away free at college.

After Miami police officer Jesus Bencomo was caught having sex with a woman in an unmarked police car, he was charged with using a county vehicle for personal business and conduct unbecoming an officer, and subsequently demoted. However, Dade County Commissioners later accepted a deal in which, in return for his early retirement, Bencomo would receive $180,000 and an annual pension of almost $60,000. This came only after Bencomo threatened to charge the department with anti-Hispanic discrimination. Police commissioners said the settlement was cheaper than litigation and keeping him on the payroll.

From a memo to EPA "division directors" signed by William H. Sanders, III, Director, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, Environmental Protection Agency, August 23, 1996:
It is time once again to start thinking about the performance evaluation process. I understand that the schedule for conducting 1996 performance evaluations will be similar to last year. Attached is a calendar of events for your use in starting to schedule the necessary discussions/meetings. Also, attached to the calendar is an [sic] rating sheet on which you need to record tentative employee evaluation scores by gender, ethnicity and job category (professional/administrative, clerical secretary).

Another memo, this one from the Department of Agriculture, titled "Policy on Selecting Employees from Under Represented Groups":

All selecting officials must justify, in writing, the non-selection of candidates on the best qualified list who are from under-represented, protected groups. This policy is designed to encourage support for diversity in the work force and increase opportunities for all candidates.


Letter to the editor, the Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1996, concerning a column by Charles Krauthammer, who is paraplegic:
As a woman sculptor who has a disability and uses a wheelchair, I would like to respond to Charles Krauthammer's commentary headlined "Defining the image of FDR" (Op-Ed, June 17).

Whether Krauthammer is disabled or non-disabled, his usage of able-ist (disability prejudice) descriptors such as "afflicted" and "wheelchair-bound" may reflect his own fear and negative attitude toward disability.

Krauthammer questioned the portrayal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his wheelchair by saying, "Does it justify violating the self-image, the pride, the intentions of the man whom we are ostensibly honoring?" He further suggests that any chair but a wheelchair for FDR is acceptable. But a person uses a wheelchair for mobility purposes, similar to a person who uses an automobile. The FDR memorial sculpture wheelchair controversy illuminates how deeply societal disability stereotypes are symbolically embedded within the wheelchair.

Differences such as gender, race, ethnicity or disability are not value judgements. These differences are integral aspects of one's identity and experience of the world, and do not need to be overcome, hidden or silenced. An FDR portrayed without his wheelchair in his memorial sculpture will justifiably reflect historical and contemporary societal ableism.

Letter to the editor, The Progressive:
Ken Silverstein, in the process of lambasting those heralds of feudalism recently elected to Congress—perhaps taking a stab at humor—chooses to tag some of them with the epithet "dim-witted." As the parent of a retarded person and as a pediatrician trying to look after retarded children, I have assumed that intellectually impaired people have rights and needs no less pressing than those of the intelligentsia.

The throwing of demeaning labels at people we look down upon diminishes their humanity and individuality, adding to their vulnerability.

[Ed.: What a moron!]

MSNBC InterNight host Ed Gordon to activist Joe Madison on a San Jose Mercury News report alleging that the CIA sold crack cocaine to fund the Nicaraguan Contras, September 19, 1996:
As Dick [Gregory] was saying, a conspiratorial thing, something that is genocidal that many African-Americans whisper and talk about that, or was it simply an economic situation that they thought this was a quick way to make money to send to the Contras?
Jack E. White in Time, September 30, 1996:
[ CIA Director John] Deutch reiterated last week that he has asked the agency's inspector general to review the Mercury's charges. The Justice Department has also launched a probe. But if Deutch thinks anyone in black America is going to take the word of those two organizations, he's mistaken. Black Americans have been the targets of so much hostility that many of them would not put it past their own government to finance the war against communism by addicting thousands of people.

Regina Austin, in her 1995 essay, "Beyond Black Demons & White Devils: Antiblack Conspiracy Theorizing & The Black Public Sphere," reviews empirical evidence suggesting that blacks are more likely to believe race-related conspiracy theories than are whites:

Even though conspiracy theorizing is far from an ideal form of discourse and leaves much to be desired as a manifestation of black critical judgement, it has its usefulness. Because I respected the speakers, I felt compelled to investigate the speech. What I found leads me to believe that antiblack conspiracy theorizing is not all bad. Whether the theories are true or not, I would argue that the theories themselves reveal much about the concerns of contemporary blacks regarding law, medicine, economics, politics, and the media, and warrant serious consideration on that account. The theories represent critiques of major institutions and social systems by a people who are and have been foreclosed from full participation in them. Antiblack conspiracy theorizing generates a counter-response to exclusion and discrimination by mobilizing collective black self-interest in a way that contributes to the growth and the strength of the black public sphere.
[Ed.: In an open letter to readers, San Jose Mercury News executive editor Jerry Ceppos later commented that while he stood by the main thrust of the series, "we fell short at every step in our process—in writing, editing and production of our work." He then admitted that the story omitted important available information, created impressions open to misrepresentation, and should have asked the CIA to comment on the allegations. After being forced from his job as reporter, Gary Webb later published a book repeating his allegations.]


When Columbus, Ohio, tattoo artist Adam Gray asked a customer to fill out a standard health form that asked whether he had hepatitis, AIDS, heart problems, or any other condition which could make getting a tattoo risky, the customer answered "no" to all of the questions. However, the customer eventually revealed to Gray that he did in fact have AIDS. Gray then declined to tattoo the man and offered him a bloodless alternative, such as a painting of his desired design.

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission then got into the act, offering a settlement in which Gray would pay the customer $150 to get his tattoo at another parlor, post a sign in his shop notifying the public that he had been guilty of an act of discrimination, and then sign a gag order promising not to speak about the case. When Gray refused, the OCRC ordered Gray to give a tattoo to the man or to someone else with AIDS, while stipulating that Gray must never again refuse service to anyone with AIDS or any other ailment.

Gray, who has already spent $50,000 in legal fees, plans to appeal the decision.

Dale Washam, who has been unsuccessful four times in running for public office in Puyallup, Washington, sued House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Washington State Republican Party, and its former chairman, Ken Eikenberry, for stealing from him the idea of the "Republican Contract with Washington State," which was soon followed by the national "Contract with America." Mr. Washam contends that as early as 1991, he drafted a "Political Employment Contract," in his bid for school board membership, that guaranteed his constituents a legally binding mechanism for removing him from office if he failed to fulfill his promises. Washam again distributed a contract in 1993 when running for county auditor, which he says came to the attention of Mr. Eikenberry. Washam complained not only that he was not given credit for the idea, but that since the state and national versions of the contract did not specify a device outside of elections for removing office-holders, it was a sham document that, according to Washam, "severely damaged my credibility and will make it difficult for me to use my contract in future attempts at public office."

In a stunning victory for the animal rights movement, the tiny Brazilian town of Pilar recognized the right of "Frederico," a goat, to be placed on the ballot as a protest candidate against an unpopular mayor. Unfortunately, the goat died before the election.

As a result of the 1990 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, prisoners have demanded to be supplied with candles and masks for Wiccan, Luciferian, and Satanist services, while Native Americans demand bear claws, porcupine quills, coyote feet and sweat lodges.

Florida inmate Ian Deco Lightbourne sued the prison system for compensatory and punitive damages, claiming his right as a Rastafarian to wear dreadlocks and possess a cassette tape player and audio cassettes of his reggae music, a portable keyboard for composing and reciting spiritual songs, and a poster of his "spiritual mentor," the late reggae singer Bob Marley.

James Robert Kalway, another Florida inmate, claimed that he must masturbate in front of female correctional officers as part of his religion—which he calls Shrat Shabt Squt Mats—and that a disciplinary report he received after he practiced his religion violated his rights under the new law.


James Bovard in the American Spectator, September 1996:
More than 400,000 southern Californians received [Federal Emergency Management Agency] checks averaging $2,800 [following the January 1994 Northridge earthquake]. Thousands of unsuspecting homeowners received checks for $3,450 out of the blue. When the Los Angeles Times broke the story of these unsolicited "accelerated disaster housing" payments on February 3, 1994, FEMA announced that same day that it would stop sending money to people who had not requested aid. However, FEMA spokesman Morrie Goodman denied any mistakes were made: "Anyone who says an error was made doesn't know what they are talking about. We received very, very few calls from people who felt they didn't need the aid." He defended the policy: "We felt, as an agency, it was better to send the check than to wait until we had inspectors out there." Forbes reported last year that of these unsolicited checks, "6,590 went to families whose homes weren't even damaged enough to be covered." Although FEMA eventually asked for the checks to be sent back, a spokesman says the agency can't say how many were returned.

FEMA also permitted many homeowners to double-dip—that is, to collect both insurance payments for home damage as well as a hefty federal grant for the same costs. Investor's Business Daily reported in May 1994: "FEMA shelter checks, which subsidize rent for alternative housing and cover up to $10,000 for minor household repairs, have been cut with no questions asked about the resident's property insurance or income."

[Ed.: Questioned about the giveaways two years later in a follow-up by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Mr. Goodman suggested that they could still be put to good use, perhaps subsidizing "crisis counseling" for the untouched Southern Californians who had to recover from the distressing sight of their neighbors' cracked driveways and drooping decks. Southern California, Mr. Bovard astutely points out, is "vote-rich."]

The Chicago Tribune:
[Former Illinois Congressman] Rostenkowski is scheduled Monday to enter the federal facility in Rochester, Minnesota, to begin a seventeen-month sentence for corruption. It is a stint he must serve to near-entirety, thanks to HJR 648 [which Rostenkowski voted for]. Before its passage, he could have been sprung in as little as six months.

The New York Post, September 16, 1996:
Over a dozen Tinseltown producers, directors, and actors have vowed to "shun Pennsylvania as a film location" until the state bans shooting contests which use live pigeons as targets. The list of "Producers Against Pennsylvania's Violent Pigeon Shoots," or PAPVIPS, includes Alec Baldwin, Alicia Silverstone, and Dennis Leary, along with a host of un-notables. Since the Keystone state doesn't exactly top the prime-locations list, the embargo isn't exactly expected to cripple its economy.


To comply with federal election regulations, California's Yuba county is preparing to spend $12,000 in November on Spanish-language election materials that nobody will use. The county has already spent $17,411 during the March primaries, even though, according to Yuba County registrar of voters Frances Fairey, "In my 16 years on this job I have received only one request for Spanish literature from any of my constituents."

New York magazine, July 8, 1996:
"You know what—dancing and nudity was not what this movie was about," Bruce Willis was saying last week at the New York premiere of Striptease, the movie in which his wife dances naked for men but you don't really get to see her new breasts until she takes a shower about 36 minutes into the film. "It's not really about taking your clothes off," Demi Moore, whose savagely tanned behind is available for viewing throughout, had said earlier. "It's a comedy about a woman fighting for her 7-year-old daughter." ...

Time was, men went to strip clubs because they liked watching naked women. But as Demi says, "It's about time that people forget that image of strip clubs as seedy places..." Rather, today's strip clubs are capital-intensive female-empowerment zones.... And the strippers, "they're heroes," Demi says. "They struggle to give their kids a decent life."

"One women I met," says Demi, who did gobs of research for her role, "was a single mother with two children, both attending private Catholic school.... She worked at nights so she could spend time with her kids."

Movie critic David Sterritt in the Christian Science Monitor, July 2, 1996:
Seen in this context, "Independence Day" is a great leap backward to '50's-style paranoia. Supporters will argue that it's just for fun, but fun can be revealing. Is it mere coincidence that Hollywood's current idea of a good time is cooking up a vicious and conspicuous enemy—literally an "evil empire," to use an '80's catch phrase—and then whipping up our emotions with enough military hardware, us-against-them rhetoric, and explosive nuclear destruction to win a dozen wars? Surely this is food for thought.

[Ed.: Scholars vary in their estimates of the number of people killed by the Soviet regime from 1917 to 1987 through deportation, slave labor, deliberate starvation, freezing, terror and quota killings, but it is at least 30 million. Such estimates typically do not include combat deaths from the Russian Civil War, various peasant insurrections, World War II, or deaths from famines and epidemics that accompanied dramatic declines in productivity and living standards.]

The Los Angeles Times, Ventura County edition, September 14, 1996:
Just four weeks before a dozen Ventura County Fire Department cadets were to start training, department officials have tossed them out and reopened the academy to new applicants so the class will be more ethnically diverse.

The class of 12 cadets and six alternates contained a disproportionate number of whites and did not match the ethnic and gender makeup of the county, said Fire Chief James Sewell.

"As you know, the policy of the Board of Supervisors and the board of directors of the Fire Department is that the work force reflect the makeup of the community," Sewell said.

"The mix we had available to us would not have helped us in our goals."

So, Sewell said, the department decided earlier this week to pull the plug on the academy class—which had been culled from 1,600 applicants who entered the process back in 1994 and was scheduled to start training Oct. 7—and to start a fresh search.


USA Today, September 10, 1996:
Dickinson, N.D.—Residents torn over the school board's move to change the name and logo of the high school's "Midget" mascot met today to debate the issue. School board President Earl Abrahamson said there were few complaints, but "die-hard fans" of the 80-year-old mascot—a short, squat, mean-looking character—were outraged.


Bill Turque in Newsweek, September 2, 1996:
Though Al Gore relishes politics almost as much as his boss does, tonight he is next door in the Old Executive Office Building, doing what he really loves: thinking about complexity theory, open systems, Goethe and the absence of scientific metaphors in modern society. He's writing a speech, and the elegant Ceremonial Office is strewn with pizza cartons and Diet Coke cans.... Clinton may lead the country into the millennium, but it is Gore who truly embodies the new century's possibilities and anxieties.

To ensure diversity, the Democratic National Committee has mandated that the racial, ethnic, and sexual composition of each state's delegation to the national convention be proportional to that of the Democratic voters in each state. To make sure these quotas are filled, a pool of reserve delegates is on call in case any group's representation needs to be boosted.

The Florida state Democratic party even put out a press release with a handy breakdown of each delegate's religion, age, race, occupation, and sexual orientation. One delegate, whom the press release named, is "retired, but works with underprivileged kids, gay and in a 20-year relationship." The man, who had told only a few people he was gay, was shocked and displeased to learn that his own political party had outed him.