An Inclusive Litany


The New York Daily News discovered that a steadily rising subsidy formula for low-income tenants targeted by HUD's Section 8 housing program had caused rents in some of New York City's poorest neighborhoods to skyrocket. A four-bedroom apartment in one Harlem building cost $2,210 a month compared with a fair-market rate of $1,174. Three-bedroom apartments in at least three Manhattan and Bronx buildings topped $2,000. In 185 HUD-subsidized New York City apartment buildings, rents were at least 140% above average fair-market citywide rates and 25 buildings were more than 180% above market. Under the Section 8 program, tenants pay no more than 30 percent of income for rent, with the remainder picked up by taxpayers.

During an art show in Monroe, Louisiana, a Fish and Wildlife Service agent confiscated Kirby Atan's "An Unchaste Vessel" because it used blue-jay feathers found in the artist's back yard. A 1918 law makes it illegal to possess any part of a protected migratory non-game bird or its nest, which includes picking it up and taking it into your house. The punishment for violating the act includes a fine of $500 or six months in prison or both.


Eight months after TV Guide reported that Ellen Morgan, the character played by Ellen DeGeneres on the ABC sitcom aptly titled "Ellen," would reveal herself as a lesbian, and two weeks after Ms. DeGeneres herself appeared on the cover of Time magazine, announcing "Yep, I'm Gay," the coming-out episode of the troubled 39th-place show finally appeared. At the same time, Ms. DeGeneres's girlfriend in real life, actress Anne Heche, also took the opportunity to come out as a lesbian. Newsweek even reported that Jill Lessard, an ABC network publicist who helped cultivate the event, came out on the set after "getting swept up in the moment."

After the show was finally canceled, executive producer Tim Doyle commented, "Episode by episode, scene by scene, 'Ellen' was the smartest, funniest show on network television, and anybody who says otherwise is a bigot reaching for an excuse to condemn her. Period. Case closed."

[Ed.: Ms. Heche later became engaged to marry Coleman Laffoon, a cameraman she met while filming a documentary on Ms. DeGeneres. No more details on when the coming-in party is scheduled.]

The Library of Congress spent $60,000 to create a braille edition of Playboy magazine. Also, the state of Vermont now publishes its fishing and hunting regulations in braille.


The Idaho Falls Post Register, April 27, 1997:
Nathan Zohner, a grand prize winner at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair Saturday, has at least 43 people urging the ban of dihydrogen monoxide.

And for plenty of good reasons: it can cause excessive sweating and vomiting, it is a major component in acid rain, accidental inhalation of it can kill you, it can cause severe burns when in gaseous form, it contributes to erosion of the natural landscape, it decreases the effectiveness of automobile brakes and it has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients.

Zohner, a freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High, asked 50 people attending the science fair if they supported a ban of the chemical. Forty-three said yes, six didn't know and only one knew what the chemical is: water.

The title of Zohner's prize-winning project was, "How Gullible Are We?" His conclusion is obvious when he considers 43 of 50 respondents elected to ban water.

"I'd say they're extremely gullible. They need to pay more attention," said Zohner, 14, who wants to be a nuclear engineer or physicist.

[Ed.: Tainting Zohner's data is the fact that most of his respondents were also children, but the European Science and Environment Forum successfully repeated the experiment by presenting the same scary scenario to 167 Londoners. Of the 123 who responded, three quarters said dihydrogen monoxide should be "strictly regulated or even banned," and only five percent realized the chemical was water.]


The University of California at Berkeley played host to a national academic conference on "whiteness studies," an offshoot of ethnic studies that focuses on Caucasians. Some participants specialized in the culture of underprivileged poor whites (e.g., Spam diets, chainsaw art, gun shows), while others with a more pronounced political viewpoint sought to break up the dominance of "white privilege."

A doctoral student in attendance rejected the suggestion that whiteness studies lacks seriousness, commenting: "They said that about ... 'Madonna studies,' too."


Clifford May, associate editor of the Rocky Mountain News, in a 1994 exchange with acclaimed American poet Allen Ginsberg, which was joined by fellow beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti:
Allen, you still advocate some pretty radical ideas.


NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association. In other words, you say it's OK for adult men to have sex with kids.

You said that.

All right, you tell me how to say it.

NAMBLA is a discussion group, not an assignation group. It was attacked by the FBI and they're constantly trying to set them up after the sleazy Meese Commission decided that pornography increased rather than decreased crime. Actually, people masturbate over pornography. They don't go out and rape people. So they got this guy who organized Citizens for Decency Law. He was the main homophobe on the Meese Commission, which set up a series of police state units which go around to places like Boulder and try to entrap and bust people. And NAMBLA is partly a legal defense and social defense organization.

OK, but let's get this straight. Are you advocating sex between adults and children?

Well, how do you define children, sir?

You tell me how to define children.

I would say anyone above puberty is OK. As long as it's consensual and nobody complains. But usually it's the cops who rape the kids by brainwashing them and intimidating them so they'll turn against their older friends.

Larry [Ferlinghetti], you've got kids. Do you agree with Allen on this?

I agree with him.

At what age do kids start getting laid on their own?

But they can be influenced by an adult in a way they might not be by one of their own.

Sure, yes, and so could a citizen be influenced by Rush Limbaugh. That mind rape is worse.
[Ed.: Ginsberg succumbed to cancer in April, 1997. As a 15-year-old in 1980, I called on an acquaintance—an occasional columnist for the Village Voice who often bragged that he knew Mr. Ginsberg personally—to try to get the world-famous poet to do a reading at my high school in New York. After a few weeks, he responded sheepishly to my request, saying that Ginsberg may be willing to do the reading—but only in return for unspecified sexual favors. Well, so much for that bright idea! Since I regarded this man as fairly disreputable in the first place, I wasn't sure if he was relaying the request or initiating it himself. I pass along the account for what it is worth.]

The Associated Press, April 21, 1997:
The book is "Focus on Algebra: An Integrated Approach" ... In an effort to make formulas and numbers more accessible, the publishers have filled the 843-page text with color graphics, reproductions of paintings, biographical sketches and problems that supposedly represent real-life situations—a lot dealing with food and a lot with the environment....

One problem, dealing with a chili cookoff, asks students to describe ways that organizers could raise money. Students are asked to say what is the hottest kind of pepper they have eaten, and how they would set up a hotness scale.

In another, a zoo sponsors a creative-writing contest on endangered species. Students are asked what criteria would be used to judge the essay. In another problem, students are asked "what other kinds of pollution besides air pollution might threaten our planet?"


Citing mysterious price increases each April and a seemingly inexplicable variance among prices in different regions of the country, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) asked for an investigation of various manufacturers and distributors of matzoh bread.

Former New York Times Executive Editor Max Frankel in the New York Times Magazine, March 30, 1997:
The market way to fairness is to impose a hefty tax on political TV advertising. Paul Taylor, an energetic reformer, urges a tax of 50 percent. He would use the proceeds to underwrite vouchers, to be distributed among political parties and candidates for the purchase of TV time in any market. That's a halfway measure. Better yet, in my view, would be a 100 percent surcharge on every political TV and radio commercial to pay for an opponent's immediate response in the same market, to the same audience. A stiff tax would assure that the more a candidate spent on TV, the greater the subsidy for his or her rivals.


The Wall Street Journal, April 15, 1997:
The Clinton Administration unveiled more details about a package of about 60 measures aimed at simplifying the tax code. Many of the proposals would cost the government money. To make up for the lost revenue, the administration would raise a combined $2.7 billion in new business taxes over the next five years.


Citing the nearly 600 additives that mainstream tobacco companies use to improve the taste and freshness of their cigarettes, many health food stores are now doing a brisk business selling—get this—organic cigarettes. Containing 100 percent tobacco, all-natural brands still contain dangerous pathogens such as tar and nicotine at levels at least as high as mainstream brands.

The owner of one firm that manufactures a brand of all-natural cigarettes attributes his success in part to advertising in such "higher consciousness" magazines such as Mother Earth News and Mind Body Spirit.

Many states now interpret federal "motor voter" laws broadly to require mental health agencies to help all their clients register and vote in national elections, even those with mental ages down to 5 or 6. The Chicago Tribune reports that one newly qualified Illinois voter took 20 minutes to write her first name at the registration desk. Another was registered despite the fact that repeating the last words he heard seemed to be his only ability to communicate. Relatives fear the clients will be ridiculed at the polls and that agencies' personnel, while supposedly assisting them to vote, will simply complete the ballots as they wish.

No country has done more to eliminate trash than Germany, and that's why they are desperately looking for some. Reduction and recycling laws have cut waste dramatically, but that leaves government-built incinerators and landfills idle. To remedy this wasteful situation, Germany is importing trash. The city of Dusseldorf tried to order one firm to stop shipping waste to a Belgian cement factory, which paid for it, and send it to a local disposal plant, which charges to take it. The factory got a temporary injunction, and the Belgians have petitioned the European Union to bar "garbage protectionism."

A screening of Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 film "Weekend" at the University of California at Santa Cruz was advertised as "a never-ending nightmare of traffic jams, revolution, cannibalism, and murder as French bourgeois society starts to collapse under the weight of its own consumer preoccupations." It was accompanied by a lecture by Kaja Silverman and Harun Farocki, titled "Anal Capitalism," which promised to deal with the film as "a meditation on late-twentieth century capitalism, one which proves the truth of Marx's claim that the ultimate form of class struggle is that between commodities and gold. The speakers will argue that in this class struggle the phallus will sooner or later lose its position of privilege, giving way to an anal libidinal economy. However, as 'Weekend' shows, this is no cause for celebration: it will level not only sexual difference, but difference as such."

From a Milwaukee newspaper, a somewhat illiterate advertisement for the city's school system:

  • Rigourous Graduation Requirements

  • Mathematics and Writing Proficiencey Exams

  • School To Work


A Wisconsin woman is suing her former psychiatrist for malpractice. Nadean Cool alleges her doctor convinced her she had 120 personalities. Dr. Kenneth Olson reportedly billed Ms. Cool's insurance company for group therapy since he had to deal with some of the personalities individually. Cool charges that her $300,000 treatment left her suicidal and haunted by false memories. Among the myriad personalities Olson detected were Satan and a duck.

An unusual report by "60 minutes" detailed a successful effort by plaintiff lawyers to milk a large settlement out of a chemical company. An accidental release of sulfuric acid near Richmond, California, harmed very few people according to local doctors, yet emergency rooms were jammed with complaining patients, often holding children. Most, it turned out, were sent there by squads of lawyers who had worked the neighborhood signing up clients. Fearing an adverse local jury verdict would be worse, the company settled out of court and paid out $150 million to an incredible 65,000 claimants. Plaintiff's attorneys took away almost $50 million.

A Fort Worth, Texas, court awarded $8.4 million to Jeannie Warren, a patient who received "rage-reduction" therapy. The patient was to experience rage "in a controlled and loving environment," which turned out to mean being held down by therapists, punched, and asked what she was angry about. "You," she replied.

From the University of California at Berkeley's Human Resources web site:
The tables below present, by job group, the number of female and ethnic minority career staff employees expected to be in the work force based on current availability proportions. The numbers of female employees expected and the numbers of minorities, by ethnic category, expected are derived by multiplying the total incumbent work force of each job group (see pages 12 and 13) by current availability proportions applicable to each job group (see page 16), and the resulting totals rounded up to a whole number at .5 or more. The number of total minority employees expected, by job group, is the sum of expected employees by ethnic minority category.
[Ed. What follows is a breakdown of targeted numbers (by gender and ethnicity) for various departments and occupations at the university, including executives, senior managers, staff specialists, physicians and allied practitioners, architects, engineers, managers and supervisors (levels 1-2), analysts (levels 1-2), maintenance, health professionals, student services, craftspersons, nurses, entry-level professionals, police officers, health care technicians, scientists, research support staff, facilities maintenance supervisors, clerical supervisors, security and parking services, library assistants, administrative/clerical support (levels 1-4), store clerks, mailroom, and food services.]


According to a report in the New York Times, on the shelf of the nurse's office at Manhattan's Hunter High School is a box of condoms, to help students avoid pregnancy and protect themselves against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Next to it is a box of mint-flavored condoms with no spermicide, labeled, "ONLY for oral sex."

A Wenatchee, Washington locksmith filed a $250,000 lawsuit against the city, saying that friendly police officers who help motorists when they lock themselves out of their cars cut into his business and bestow an "unconstitutional gift of public funds."

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has announced, according to the Washington Post's Spencer Rich, "that for the first time it will start considering a facility's success rate in curing patients, and not just the quality of its staff and equipment, when deciding which hospitals to approve."

A memo from the Personnel Appeals Board of the State of New Hampshire, December 19, 1996:
The New Hampshire Personnel Appeals Board, will meet in public session under the authority of NH RSA 21-1:58, on Wednesday, January 8, 1997, at 9:00 a.m. in Room 411, State House Annex, 25 Capitol Street, Concord, New Hampshire, to hear the following appeals. The appeals will be made by OFFERS OF PROOF by the representatives of the parties (or the party).

Phyllis Dobe—Docket #97-D-5
Department of Labor

For the Appellant:
State Employees' Association, Field Representative
For the State:
Diane M. Symonds, Commissioner
Ms. Dobe, an employee of the Labor Department, is appealing a May 22, 1996, written warning issued to her for sleeping at her desk. Ms. Dobe alleged that she had not been given sufficient time since her first warning to correct her problem of sleeping at work. She also alleges that the Department of Labor had an obligation to be more proactive in assisting her with overcoming her "sleeping problem."


The San Francisco Examiner reports from Oakland, April 3, 1997:
Ten women and a 300-pound ball of mud added up to a new contribution to the world of performance art.

The mud ball was crafted by Mills College senior art major Mollie Lounibos. It made its debut Tuesday as 10 women pushed it about 50 yards and up a few steps to the Jane Baerwald Aron Art Center.

"This (event) is about taking control of who you are," the 22-year-old Lounibos said.

When Carmen Mistich was rear-ended by a large pickup truck traveling at least 40 m.p.h. faster than her Volkswagen on a highway just outside New Orleans, her car rolled over and she was hurled through the rear window because she wasn't wearing a seat belt. Two months later she died as a result of her injuries. Mistich's heirs presented Volkswagen with a product liability suit, and found no fewer than three "expert witnesses" willing to testify that Mistich died because the design of her car's seat anchorage system was flawed.

Despite the fact that the Volkswagen performed better that most cars in its class in a federal study of seat anchorage systems, the plaintiff's star witness, a self-proclaimed automobile design expert named Byron Bloch, testified that the Volkswagen seat represented "a unique aberration in design ... the weakest, minimalist seat anchorage ever put in a production car ... the worst seat anchorage system ever." And what were Byron Bloch's qualifications to offer an expert opinion? According to court records, Bloch had been dismissed from one college engineering program, was placed on academic probation by the electrical engineering and industrial design departments at a second college, then ended up getting a B.A. from a third school. He was laid off from his first job after three months, fired from his second after six months, fired from his third after less than a year and released from his fourth after two years. When he embarked on a career as a consultant, often testifying against Volkswagen, he hadn't worked on a single job involving automobiles, much less engineering.

Partly on the strength of Bloch's testimony, the family won its lawsuit and was awarded over $2 million in damages.

[Ed.: Preston Lerner of the Washington Monthly reports: "[The] Technical Advisory Service for Attorneys... has 24,000 experts on its rolls, up from 10,000 in 1987. Within the 758 pages of California's The Legal Expert Pages, browsers can find experts on everything from cemeteries and garage doors to theater and termites, not to mention William M. Jones, who bills himself as 'Mr. Truck.' 'There's an expert testifying in every field you can possibly imagine,' says Steven Babitsky, editor of The Expert Witness Journal. 'I remember one case in which a prison inmate who claimed he was no longer using drugs tried to get another prison inmate who was a drug addict qualified as an expert on drug addiction.' "]

The Gary Post-Tribune of Gary, Indiana:
Mitch Friedman has spent most of two decades on the front lines protesting logging in national forests. This time, he decided on a new tack: Buy the trees for $15,000 and set them aside in his own little public forest preserve. He never dreamed Forest Service rules wouldn't allow it. Regulations prohibit the sale of the publicly owned timber to anyone who does not intend to cut the trees.
[Ed.: The federal government lost $14.7 million on below-market timber sales in 1997.]


After five Americans, apparently members of the Animal Liberation Front, liberated about 1,500 minks from Ebert's Fur Farm in southwest Ontario, about 100 of the animals subsequently died from exposure, others were killed fighting with each other and another 30 were hit by cars on nearby roads.

Farm owner Bill McLellan said most of the animals, raised in captivity for their fur, were recaptured during a wild, early morning chase, with 200 still unaccounted for. "They don't understand what they've done," McLellan said. "They thought they'd live happily ever after in the wild, but these are very domesticated."

Mink are indigenous to parts of northern Ontario but would likely be in hibernation in late March, he said. McLellan added that this was the second such incident at the farm in two weeks.

The New York Post, April 1, 1997:
Rev. Chris Korda and his bizarre Church of Euthanasia are heartily applauding the mass suicide of the Heaven's Gate cultists. The "church"—which advocates cannibalism, abortion, and suicide to reduce population and restore the earth's ecology—will honor the 39 dead on April 13 on the Boston Common. At the service, the Heaven's Gate victims will be made honorary members of the self-styled church and Korda ... will release 39 earthworms into the grass to commemorate them. The male Heaven's Gaters will receive special honors for having undergone surgical castration to avoid procreation.

The Washington Times, March 30, 1997:
The National Park Service has been forced to suspend all hiring of seasonal workers for the summer—not for lack of money or resources, but because the Interior Department is concerned about the workers' diversity.

A March 4 memo to all Park Service regional directors said the Interior Department asked for a breakdown on prospective summer hires "because concern has been expressed about the diversity composition of our seasonal work force."

"Therefore, effective immediately, no hiring for seasonal positions (including rehires) may be done for the 1997 summer season until the information requested by the department has been received ... and reviewed by the department," the memo said.

"Park officials throughout the country have been ordered to compile data on the "race/national origin and gender composition" of all applicants. In addition, they are required to submit a description of their seasonal recruiting program, "including efforts to achieve diversity in the candidates."

[Ed.: A form distributed to all Interior Department employees adds: "Your furnishing [racial] information is voluntary. Your failure to do so will have no effect on you or your federal employment. If you fail to provide the information, however, then the employing agency will attempt to identify your race and national origin by visual perception."]

From Love Your Looks: How to Stop Criticizing and Start Appreciating Your Appearance, by Carolynn Hillman:
If you have trouble identifying positives about your weight, have a dialogue with your fat. Ask your fat what it does to help you and what positive image it projects. Whatever it says, listen to it nonjudgmentally and empathetically, so that you can really learn more about its role in your life.

If you are doing this in writing, first write out your question, then your fat's answer, your response, its response, and so on, the way a script for a play is written out. Write as fast as you comfortably can, and let whatever comes out come out, even if it doesn't make sense to you or you don't agree with it.

If you're doing this out loud, place two seats facing each other. Start by sitting in one of them, as you, and ask your question. Then shift seats and be your fat and answer. Again, just let it flow, as if you're an actress in character, feeling the part. When you're done, thank your fat for talking to you. Here's a sample dialogue:

FREDA: Fat, what do you do for me?

FAT: I protect you.

FREDA: How? And from what?

FAT: I protect you from being sexually harassed by projecting an image that says, "I'm big and you'd better not mess with me."

FREDA: But why do you do that? I'm not so afraid of being harassed.

FAT: Sure you are. Think about it.

FREDA: (thinks about it) You're right. I really do hate and dread the comments, leers, and touching or grabbing that some men do. I've always known that I can't stand it, but I never realized the extent to which it intimidates me. Thanks for helping me.

FAT: No problem.