An Inclusive Litany


Governor William Weld declared August, 1996, to be "Hummus Month in Massachusetts."

An Associated Press dispatch from Kingsville, Texas:
In this friendly little ranching town, "Hello" is wearing out its welcome.

And Leonso Canales Jr. is happy as heck.

At his urging, the Kleberg County commissioners on Monday unanimously designated "Heaven-o" as the county's official greeting.

The reason: "Hello" contains the word "Hell."

"When you go to school and church, they tell you 'hell' is negative and 'heaven' is positive," said the 56-year-old Canales, who owns the Kingsville Flea Market. "I think it's time that we set a new precedent, to tell our kids that we are positive adults."

The new salutation, according to the county resolution is a "symbol of peace, friendship and welcome" in this "age of anxiety."

Course description for "Women's Artmaking," an undergraduate seminar offered by the Department of Women Studies at the State University of New York, Buffalo, 1995-96:
This is a general art lab course specifically aimed at women who are not majoring in art. Its purpose will be to encourage women to experiment and investigate the possibilities of art—to discover how to use and to enrich their own lives. We will try to avoid evaluations, especially those based on current male-identified values of what is "good" and "bad" art. It will be one more attempt to demystify "great art" and to prove that all art is a combination of ideas, inventions, practice, correction, inspiration, accommodation, destruction, boredom, hard work, anticipation, skill, and whatever else the artist must use to explain what he/she wants to express. Materials are extra.

KABC Channel 7 11 o'clock Eyewitness News, Los Angeles, January 30, 1997:
A Bakersfield, California, man is appealing a 26-year prison sentence for robbery, assault, and car-jacking on the basis of misunderstood testimony due to his use of Ebonics. When asked about his criminal record, Frederick Clayton had responded "I always be... a sneak thief type." to convey that he had never [up until then] been convicted of a violent crime. Clayton's attorney claims that if the judge had understood Ebonics, his client would be a free man.


The American Civil Liberties Union announced that it may file a lawsuit to keep the state motto of Ohio, "With God, All Things Are Possible," from being carved onto a plaza near the state's capitol building.

The Food and Drug Administration proposed classifying a home testing kit for the HIV virus as a Class 3 medical device—in the same class with artificial heart valves and like devices—even though the kit essentially consisted of a cup for holding a urine specimen that would then be sent to a lab. After the classification scheme was shot down by a federal appeals court, the FDA announced its intention to classify as a medical device the envelope used for mailing hair samples to a lab for drug testing. The manufacturer of the envelopes successfully challenged the FDA in court, noting that the agency's rationale had nothing to do with safety and plenty to do with their stated intention to prevent the kind of "family discord" use of a home drug testing kit may entail.

The Miami Herald reported that nearly one out of three city employees has filed a worker's compensation claim. Workers received settlements for breaking teeth while eating candy bars, suffering paper cuts, falling from office chairs, being bitten by a firehouse dog, and for kicking a body bag. In one case, police officer Lori Nadelman was given compensation when she said she developed a neurosis after tripping over a chair and hurting her nose.

The Herald also documented hundreds of recreational injuries suffered by firefighters since 1979, including 109 while playing basketball, 92 while weight training, 82 while playing volleyball, 63 while jogging, 63 during other physical training, 26 while playing softball, 23 while playing tennis, 17 while playing football, and one during an aggressive game of badminton.

At the latest meeting of the Domestic Names Committee of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, activists demanded that a Texas stream known as Cripple Creek be renamed, despite the wishes of a local judge.

Echoing a peculiar double standard regarding sexual harassment charges made by Arkansas state worker Paula Jones against President Clinton—compared to earlier charges made by Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill against conservative Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas—Gloria Steinem was quoted as saying she believed then-governor Clinton had asked Jones for sex but wasn't forceful or punitive when she said no—even though his alleged actions fit harassment law's main requirement of implicit coercion by employer against employee. "It wasn't wonderful behavior [by Clinton]," commented Ms. Steinem, "but we're not the Ayatollah here."

Pat Schroeder, congresswoman from Colorado, commented on Anita Hill's skeptics: "They treated her like we treated rape victims in the 1950s." Schroeder recommended that Hill, a law professor, be nominated for attorney general after Zoe Baird's nomination faltered. Ms. Schroeder later commented on Paula Jones: "The charges are not considered very credible." And, "the issue just makes me want to throw up."

Anne Conners, president of the National Organization for Women, also frowned on Jones's accusations. "The way I understand it, she [Jones] agreed to come to his room, he asked for oral sex, she said 'I'm not that kind of girl,' and he said, 'Okay.' That's not sexual harassment. It may be inappropriate behavior, but he didn't punish her for refusing him—if in fact that's what happened."

Feminist matriarch Betty Friedan echoed this skepticism. "According to what she said, one could say that if the President actually did proposition her, one could disapprove, it's boorish, one could hope Hillary could do something about it. But [Jones] said 'no.' She wasn't killed. She wasn't harassed. She wasn't fired. Her boss wasn't told to get rid of her."

Al Gore hosted a series of dinner discussions at the vice presidential mansion centering on the declining role of metaphor in American life. The U.S. News & World Report described the talks as "peculiar."


Taiwan has enacted strict new import quotas on foreign wives. Taiwanese men apparently find their countrywomen to be disobedient and too independent minded, so marriages between Taiwanese men and foreign women have come to outpace marriages between Taiwanese. To improve the situation, the government has imposed strict quotas on the number of spouses who can immigrate each year: 1,080 from China, 360 from Indonesia, 420 from Burma, and so on.

An Italian-American contractor won an $11 million construction contract at Denver Airport after he realized that since his father, also Italian, had actually been born in Brazil, that qualified him as a "Hispanic."

A New York State Supreme Court Justice has ordered a seven-year-old Akita that mauled a two-year-old child to undergo psychiatric examination.

The Los Angeles Times, January 23, 1997:
Alicia Silverstone unveiled her latest video Wednesday afternoon at Beverly Hills High, but instead of donning stretch suede for the rock band Aerosmith, she was shunning scalpels—as part of an effort to persuade high-school students and their biology teachers to give up dissecting frogs.

And cats and pigs. And even worms. But especially frogs.

The 30-second video is dominated by close-ups of Silverstone caressing and even licking a frog.

"When it comes to animals, there's no need to be a classroom cutup," says the 20-year-old actress....

At the same news conference, Silverstone claimed she received an F in middle school for refusing to dissect a frog. However, the San Francisco Chronicle tracked down her science teacher at Crocker Middle School in the Bay Area. The teacher said that not only did Silverstone not receive an F, but that students in the class were not required to dissect animals. As the Los Angeles Times observed, "Silverstone is the first actress we can recall who exaggerated her educational accomplishments downward."


Diana Nagy of Charleston, West Virginia, filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the golf cart her husband was riding in when he fell and died after drinking during a golf tournament. Mrs. Nagy, who claimed the cart ought to have had seat belts and doors, also sued her son, who was driving.

"Washington Diarist" Jeffrey Rosen in the New Republic, November 11, 1996:
Given the contradictions at the heart of Clinton's presidency, what is it, precisely, that I admire about him? The answer, I suppose, is his character. Clinton's defining impulse, after all, is not insincerity but a surfeit of empathy: he earnestly does believe in the possibility of reconciling contradictions that can't be logically reconciled: Reagan with Roosevelt, racialism with color-blindedness, family values with civil liberties. But, as Clinton demonstrates in his moving speeches to black churches, a Whitmanesque capacity to embrace contradictions isn't always a vice in a balkanized age. I suppose, in the end, that I also admire Clinton's intelligence and his passion for argument, which vindicates the Madisonian premises that Ronald Reagan's success called into question. Clinton ... reassures us that a first-rate education isn't necessarily a disqualification for leadership in American democracy.

In Hamden, Connecticut, Mayor Lillian D. Clayman demanded that the license number that accompanied her new official car be changed from HN-69, a pairing of digits she regarded as sexually suggestive. When police chief John P. Ambrogio told her the number had been assigned to the city by the Department of Motor Vehicles years ago, but the mayor rejected that explanation, calling the number a "deliberate, vulgar, and sexist" attack by the police. The police chief replaced the plate, but said the mayor's behavior made no sense.

Howard Rosenberg, a television writer, reviews President Clinton's second Inaugural address in the Los Angeles Times, January 22, 1997:
His sturdy jaw precedes him. He smiles from sea to shining sea. Is this President a candidate for Mt. Rushmore or what?... In fact, when it comes to influencing the public, a single medley of expressions from Clinton may be worth much more, to much of America, than every ugly accusation Paula Jones can muster.

Venice Beach, California, police are trying to find out who defaced a large piece of public art. The art was actually a series of anonymous graffiti adorning an area known as "the pit," and one day workers in unmarked vans came and scrubbed it off with whitewash.


The New York Times, December 26, 1996:
When a plaintiff wins a malpractice lawsuit, the size of the award has less to do with whether a doctor has done something wrong than with whether the patient is permanently disabled, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine ...

The study, by Dr. Troyen A. Brennan and his colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health, evaluated 46 New York State malpractice suits resolved after 10 years and found that the actions of the doctor did little to influence the outcome.

In 13 of the cases, where records showed that the doctor was not responsible for the injury that led to the lawsuit, the patients won 6 of the cases and were awarded an average settlement of $98,192.

In contrast, there were nine cases where the records showed the doctor was negligent. In five of those cases, the settlements averaged $66,944—nearly one-third less than when the doctor was not to blame.

The remaining 24 cases involved injuries that were caused by the underlying disease, not by the medical treatment the patient received. Nonetheless, the patients won 10 of those 24 cases and received a typical award of $28,760, often from an insurance company trying to avoid a costly trial.

Citing discriminatory housing rules that favor homosexual students, members of the heterosexual community at Ohio's Oberlin College are demanding the right to share dormitory rooms with roommates of the opposite sex. At Antioch College, another progressive Ohio school, coed room-sharing is already practiced.

As much of America prepared to celebrate Christmas, Vice President Al Gore donned religious vestments and gave a special sermon in honor of Winter Solstice at New York's Cathedral of St. John of the Divine. The festivity, which celebrated the pagan Earth Mother "Gaia," included the blessing of various creatures, including a live elephant and a basketful of earthworms.


The Orange County Register, January 7, 1997:
On Thursday, Disneyland officials announced they would close Pirates of the Caribbean for two months for refurbishment, including replacing a scene of amorous pirates chasing frightened wenches.

The new scene will depict a lesser pirate vice: gluttony. [Pirates chase after food rather than women.]

Yet a tour of the park Friday suggests that Disneyland—its stabs at cultural sensitivity aside—remains vulnerable to the PC police....

On the Jungle Cruise, for example, a fake hippopotamus rears out of the water and is promptly blown away by a pistol-wielding riverboat pilot....

Jenny Woods, a representative of People for the Ethical treatment of Animals, says the exhibit is sadly outdated—especially for a corporation that has done so much to engender a love of animals.

She suggested altering the scene to: "Hippos freed from the zoo by animal liberationists."


In order to ward off crank callers, a single Boston lawyer named Susan von Struensee added a fictitious man's name to her phone book listing. But when junk mail started arriving that was addressed to her fictitious husband "Wilhelm," she filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, charging three solicitors with gender discrimination.

An outdoor display by the Penn State art department included a statue of the Virgin Mary resting within what appeared to be a grotto setting but which was actually female genitals complete with surrounding pubic hair, emanating blood. When a priest from the Catholic campus ministry complained, he was told the work was intended to bring attention to "oppressed women in the church."

While giving its blessing to "vaginal" art, Penn State discourages nativity scenes as being contrary to the spirit of multiculturalism. The university banned a Christmas tree from its Old Main Hall.

The Milwaukee branch of the NAACP joined in a lawsuit to block implementation of Wisconsin's new school-choice program, which would give up to 15,000 poor children educational vouchers to spend at a wide array of private schools. Ninety-six percent of the students participating in the program are minorities, and the Milwaukee Community Journal finds that 90 percent of the black community supports the program.

Nevertheless, the NAACP argued that school choice violates the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, comparing the voucher program to efforts of southern whites to thumb their noses at desegregation efforts by sending their kids to private schools. According to the NAACP, some of the parents using vouchers choose to send their children to "virtually one-race schools," and "racially separate schools are inherently unequal."

[Ed.: Only 35 percent of the freshmen who entered public high schools in 1992 graduated in four years—in one school, only 13 percent did so. But for two predominantly black private schools in Milwaukee—Messmer High School, an independent Catholic school, and Urban Day, a K-8 independent school—the graduation rate is 98 percent.]