An Inclusive Litany


Stan Grossfeld alerts us to the dangers of global warming in the Boston Globe, November 30, 1997. What follows is the second paragraph of the front page lead above the fold, one of a series of articles on "Broken Promises: Earth Summit Revisited":
It's high tide and Chesapeake Bay is pouring into tiny Smith Island 10 miles from the mainland. It is the kind of raw November day when cats and dogs marooned on porches forget their differences and snuggle together for warmth. Women stay inside and bake the local treat, eight-layer cakes, that stand taller than the flat land. Watermen, as the local soft shell crab fishermen call themselves, huddle in the village at Tylerton's only store, sipping only soft drinks since alcohol is not sold on the island. The sober fact is that this way of life, as rare as a pearl in an oyster shell, is dying.
The few remaining local residents seem to believe that their island, which lies about a foot about sea level, is being washed away by erosion and sinking rapidly due to groundwater depletion by about an inch every five years. One man who measured sea levels over thirty years notes no change. But Steve Leatherman of the Miami-based National Hurricane Center disagrees. While the article cites no evidence of rising sea levels, Leatherman insists that "these people are living in denial, and denial isn't just a river in Egypt."

Yet more signs of backlash. Despite Korean artist Bul Lee's insistence that New York's Museum of Modern Art present his work—a series of clear plastic bags containing a dead school of fish—in all its natural reality, curators laid in extra industrial deodorant "in deference to Western olfactory sensitivities."

The Washington Times reports that the Forest Service spent at least $500,000 on a motivational conference to help its employees explore "alternative realities." The conference, held in Sacramento, California, was designed to help workers in the Pacific Southwest Region "proactively use and create change" by using such concepts as "Everyone's truth is truth" and "Alternative realities are OK," according to literature sent to employees. Decisions should be made "as if the future were now, in effect, blurring the line between 'here' and 'there.' " About 770 of the region's 4,500 Forest Service employees attended the conference.


The Teacher's Manual, Interactive Mathematics, a textbook that advises primary school teachers how they should teach mathematics, declares: "Traditionally, mathematics tests have questions with 'right' and 'wrong' answers. These tests reinforce the misleading image of mathematics as a subject with unique correct answers.... Poor test scores often lead to students with poor self-images who believe the 'aren't good in math.' " More advice: "Because learning is created in the mind of the learner, it cannot be told to the student by the teacher. Actually, no one can teach mathematics. An effective teacher becomes a facilitator of learning and helps students learn by making connections."

Asked by Larry King whether "everyone knows" there's global warming, Ted Turner responded: "That's right. Haven't you been outside lately? It's hotter than hell out there. The polar ice caps are melting. I got an island, and I know that the ocean's rising because I watched my beach get washed away."

The city of Huntington Beach, California, has made it illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in open spaces, even on private property such as your garage if you leave the door open.


"CBS Evening News" reporter Bob McNamara on Louisiana's first case of allowing a carjacking victim to legally shoot to protect himself, November 5, 1997:
Aaron Bottoms says he wasn't out to test a law and hopes his attacker survives.... Still, driving a car with wheels valued at $700 dollars each these days may be a case of inviting trouble instead of avoiding it.

The Arizona Republic, October 25, 1997:
American media need to take a more active role in saving the planet. Reporters, editors and executives must lead the charge on protecting the environment and rally different cultures together to improve the lot of the have-nots, [CNN chief Ted] Turner said.... Population growth harms air quality and depletes the world's food supply, he said. Turner said the United States and other countries should convene a global conference and look hard at family planning, perhaps adopting China's policy of one child per family. "Voluntary, of course," he said. "I had five kids," Turner added in one of the many asides Friday that typify his speeches, "but I had them 30 years ago and I didn't know."
[Ed.: Demographers predict that world population will level off sometime during the 21st century at about 15 billion, with no sign that this increase is unsustainable. Speaking of his children, Turner added, "If I was doing it over, I wouldn't have done it, but I can't shoot them now that they're here."]

As a result of the 1994 crime law, the Colt AR-15 "assault rifle," pictured below, was banned both by name and description:

However, within months a rival gun manufacturer, Olympic Arms, started shipping a similar weapon called the PCR-1, for "politically correct rifle," that was legal under the same law:

In case you were wondering, the difference is that the second weapon lacks a bayonet mount and a flash suppressor, a device that reduces the flash of light that comes from the gun's blast.

Within a year, another manufacturer, the Eagle Arms Company, marketed its own AR-15 clones—the M15A2 and the M15A3 Predator. These weapons are hardly ever used by criminals, and are considerably less deadly or accurate than ordinary hunting rifles.

A 1995 General Accounting Office study found that much of the $8.8 billion allocated under the 1994 crime law—that boasted the addition of 100,000 police officers on the streets by the year 2000—was being directed towards communities that didn't need it. With grants from the Justice Department's new Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), 75 percent of new officers' salaries would be paid by the federal government for three years, after which local governments would have to foot the bill. But the GAO found that towns with fewer than 25 crimes per 1,000 people were just as likely to qualify for the grant as those with more than 75 crimes per 1,000.

Another audit in 1998 found nearly $20 million in fraud or otherwise questionable expenses. In a typical case, the city of Belle Glade, Florida, took a $596,104 federal grant earmarked for six new officers and instead used it to supplement the salaries and benefits of four veteran officers, diverting the rest for other purposes. In another, a clerk forged signatures and fabricated documents to receive, then pocket for personal use, a $47,000 COPS grant for a town that didn't even have a police department.

[Ed.: Well, it is called the crime bill, after all.]

A Brussels court recently clarified the legality of sadomasochistic sex. Light consensual slapping is permissible, but use of electric shocks, clamps, and weights is not.

A Singapore Appeals Court ruled that oral sex is illegal as a substitute for "natural" intercourse but permissible if it is merely foreplay leading to such intercourse.

Suzanne Levy of New Rochelle, New York, faces a 15-day jail sentence because she placed a bird feeder in her back yard without permission from the city.


The Los Angeles Police Department went on city-wide tactical alert for several hours after an officer shot and killed a man in the Watts neighborhood. Responding to an attempted-suicide call in a busy park in front of a public housing project, police ordered a man known as "Chubby" to drop his knife. LAPD Lieutenant Anthony Alba stated that the man then charged the officers, at which point they shot the man with a taser dart. The man got up and charged the officers again with the knife, so police shot him.

An outraged bystander commented, "They killed that man in cold murder." A witness, Joe Jones, stated, "They shot him for nothing. He'd lunged at him with a knife. That's it." Hundreds of police officers in riot gear were called out to try and calm an angry crowd at the housing project.

[Ed.: Recall that on another occasion, the extremely intoxicated Rodney King led LAPD officers on a wild, high-speed chase through city streets, refused to submit to orders to lie down and be searched for weapons, twice charged officers, resisted two Taser charges, and threw off police who attempted to subdue him prior to the picturesque video footage of officers beating him into submission with nightsticks. Some jurisdictions allow officers to shoot perpetrators at this point.]


The Washington Post reports on a knockoff of the Promise Keepers, August 16, 1997:

As marches to celebrate chastity, pure love and sexual fidelity go, this one was real freaky....

The enthusiastic marchers screamed, yelled and chanted loudly about family values and morality as they waited... for the featured speaker. "Respect love, respect sex, respect each other, love each other," intoned D.C. Mayor Marion Barry at Judiciary Square, where he engaged in a call-and-response session with the crowd. After reciting the "Pure Love Pledge" and reading a proclamation declaring "Pure Love Day," he was loudly adored.... Organizers hoped to give the pledge to President Clinton later in the day.

The Village Voice, November 11, 1997:
[Bob] Flanagan was all about real and shameless self-disclosure. He lived his life at death's door. A medical anomaly, he managed to survive with cystic fibrosis until the age of 43. (Most CF sufferers die as children or young adults.) Certainly Flanagan behaved like someone with no time to be untrue to himself. "This is the person I am," he once declared. "I'm not afraid of any aspect of what I am."

That included the part of him that lived as a "supermasochist"—and always had. As a boy, he'd begun inflicting pain on himself because it helped him cope with the chronic pain of CF. Flanagan used to put it this way: "I've learned to fight sickness with sickness."

In the late '80s, he began staging his pain-inducing rituals as an art form. "I never wanted to call myself a 'performance artist,' " Flanagan once said. "I just went out and did these things from an honest place." Spectators fainted on both coasts. A hopeful Jesse Helms even sniffed around for funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. (There was none.) Flanagan only did the nailed-penis act twice in his life, but something like that tends to become the defining moment in an artist's career. More routinely, he would nail his scrotum, insisting that it didn't really hurt. Obviously, he had a high tolerance for pain.

[Ed.: Flanagan is the subject of a new feature-length documentary, aptly titled Sick.]


On the eve of his execution for rape and murder, Gary Lee Davis made his last request: a smoke. The Colorado facility, which is smoke-free, denied his request. The state of California likewise refused Thomas Thompson's request to smoke cigarettes in the days leading up to his execution. He was offered nicotine patches instead.

The Communist Party USA intervened decisively in a steelworkers' strike against the WHX Corp. by pulling its multi-million-dollar investment portfolio from WHX's largest shareholder, Merrill Lynch & Co.

In Lillian, Alabama, parents of four children who played on a baseball team sued the Lillian Sports Association, claiming that their kids' civil rights had been violated when they were "forced" to wear the logo of the team's local sponsor, C&J Video, on their uniforms. The parents objected to the fact that the video store carries adult videos in addition to standard Hollywood fare.

A short exchange in the Journal of the American Medical Association, September 10, 1997:
To the Editor.—The Clinical Crossroads article discussing menstrual irregularity in a young woman displays some disturbing attitudes regarding menstruation. For example, Dr. D, the physician who cared for the patient, used words like "anxious" and "big source of aggravation and inconvenience" to refer to the menses and reflect a negative perception of women's experience of menses....

In Reply.—I completely agree with Dr. Fogarty that menstruation is a normal physiologic function and should be viewed as such. A video of Ms. K, the patient, describing her problem was played prior to the discussion of the case. Ms. K stated that her irregular cycles were a source of "aggravation." These terms were direct quotations from the patient.


The Women's Studies department of the State University of New York at New Paltz held a one-day conference on "Revolting Behavior: The Challenges of Women's Sexual Freedom." Topics included "How to Get What You Want in Bed" (an "interactive group workshop"), "Challenging Compulsory Heterosexuality From the Sixties to the Nineties," "Sex Toys for Women" (featuring demonstrations of appliances by the owner of a New York City sex boutique), and "Safe, Sane and Consensual S/M: An Alternative Way of Loving." Explaining that college officials asked them to avoid graphic descriptions of their sexual practices, S/M workshop leaders invited audience members to see them privately after the session to learn more, including how to join S/M clubs. Pamphlets advised how to dispose of razor blades and similar instruments after "blood-letting sexual activities," involving "cutting rituals, play and permanent piercings, and shavings."

Workshops were followed by a performance piece by Shelly Mars called "Whiplash: Tales of a Tomboy." A press release announced that Mars had been "working as a stripper at a bisexual bathhouse [when she] began to experiment with character development as a way to alleviate the sometimes demeaning aspects of her job." Enacting scenes from her youth in Ohio among "lots of white Christian trash," Ms. Mars and her partner provided a series of simulated sex acts, including one suggesting incest.

Responding to local criticism of the workshops, SUNY President Roger Bowen said that such conferences were "business as usual." Indeed, the School of Fine & Performing Arts later scheduled a two-day conference called "Subject to Desire: Refiguring the Body" that included an "installation" called "Vulva's School" by performance artist Carolee Schneemann, best known for an act in which she slowly unravels a scroll from her vagina while reading it aloud to the audience. One of the exhibits featured a female graduate student suspended from the ceiling while wearing a body suit, being hosed down with water by two men while a woman lying underneath her and wearing only a G-string has hot wax dripped on her body.

Thinking that Cambodian-born Phanna Xieng didn't display sufficient language skills and that his accent was difficult to understand, Seattle-based People's National Bank turned him down for a post where he'd interact with irate customers rejected for loans. Xieng sued, and his lawyers called forth testimony of medical experts who claimed the shock of not getting promoted was so psychologically traumatic that it would prevent Xieng from working for at least five years. It brought back memories, they said, of mistreatment at the hands of the murderous Khmer Rouge. Xieng was awarded $389,000.

In the Yale Law Journal, Stanford's Mari Matsuda—a leader in the Critical Race Theory movement—argues that employers should be made to accommodate shortcomings in English, or "differences of speech," just as they must accommodate the "absence of speech" of deaf employees. Matsuda suggests that employers hire supervisors conversant with the language their assistants wish to speak, or else try using "sign language" or "pictographs." To the argument that customers would have a hard time understanding dozens of accents, Matsuda replies that it is "necessary to reject customer preference arguments." Barring accent discrimination in service jobs "will admittedly impose some hardship on businesses that rely heavily on pleasing customer whims." If customers fail to understand an accent, Matsuda suggests, it may have been their own fault for having "lived a monocultural life."


The New Orleans School Board is renaming George Washington Elementary School as a result of their policy against "retaining names of schools named for former slave owners or others who did not respect equal opportunity for all."

Radio shock jock Howard Stern, who has already experienced problems with the FCC, is now being investigated by the New York state Department of Education, which licenses doctors. According to department spokesman Bill Hirschen, by performing a comedy routine in which he checks women's breasts for cancer in his studio, Stern may have "practiced a profession without a license to do so."

The California Department of Transportation (known as "Caltrans") denied permission to the proprietors of the Okie Girl Restaurant to put a sign on public property near a freeway offramp because the term "Okie" was "offensive speech" and a "slanderous slur" on Oklahomans and their numerous Californian descendants. After Oklahoma Governor David Walters sent a letter saying that "Okie" was no more offensive than "Californian," Caltrans agreed the term was acceptable, but still refused to post the sign because they disapproved of the logo, which featured a buxom country girl wearing a straw hat and overalls. The restaurant's proprietors eventually won in court.

The city of Charlotte, North Carolina, bans signs that swing, flutter, or sit on roofs. Signs that aren't forbidden must comply with 41 pages of closely printed regulations. One casualty of the requirements was the Westover Hills Presbyterian Church, whose basic wooden sign swung for over 20 years.


The General Accounting Office found that less than 45 percent, or $614 million, of the $1.4 billion spend on Superfund in 1996 went to cleaning up hazardous waste. Another $82 million was spent on planning and assessment of sites, but the remaining $703 million was spent on EPA overhead ($294 million), lawyers ($210 million), travel expenses and salaries of employees overseeing cleanups ($154 million) and developing new techniques for cleaning up hazardous waste (just $56 million). The GAO also noted that the amount of time it takes to clean up the average Superfund site has more than quadrupled over the last decade, from 2.3 years in 1986 to 10.5 years today. And in an audit of several laboratories assessing hazardous chemicals for nine Superfund sites, The EPA's Inspector General found that slipshod lab work had resulted in $11 million misspent on rejected analyses and delayed cleanups by up to two years.

At the Delaware Gap National Recreation Area in Eastern Pennsylvania, the National Park Service erected a small outhouse that cost $330,000. Bob Kirby, the park's assistant superintendent, notes that installing a flushing toilet was out of the question, because "the cost of putting in water lines would have been astronomical." Instead, enzymes in the special $24,000 toilets turn the waste into compost, which the park would like to use if it weren't prohibited from doing so by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The outhouse design features a gabled roof made of slate, cedar clapboard siding, cottage-style porches, and a cobblestone foundation to withstand Pennsylvania's frequent earthquakes.

The project was initiated in 1989, the plan finalized in 1992, the money appropriated in 1994, construction started in 1995, and the comfort station opened in 1997. $42,000 of the total bill was spent on archeological investigation of the site, as required by federal law. Nearly $95,000 more was spent on design costs, which entail seeking construction permits from nearly a dozen government agencies. In addition, a portion of the contract had to be awarded to minority-owned firms, the outhouse had to conform with size requirements mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as federal energy-conservation standards, wages paid according to Davis-Bacon Act strictures that sets wages at "prevailing" construction union levels, and procurement had to conform to Buy-American Act requirements. Such projects must also pay an average of 15 percent extra to have a supervisor from the Denver Design Center (responsible for most of the NPS's large projects) on site at all times, along with a representative of a local Native American tribe to make sure construction does not disturb culturally significant lands.

Other federal outhouse construction projects include another $322,000 comfort station in New Jersey, a $175,000 "solar-convecting vault toilet" in North Carolina, and a more conventional $70,000 outhouse in the California desert. By comparison, the median price Americans paid for a home in 1995 was $112,900. A four-hole outhouse in Montana's Glacier National Park cost a whopping $1 million. The structure features solar-powered composting units and uses propane as a backup to keep the facility functional during a freeze. Construction required excavating 14 feet of rock, and getting materials to the site required 500 helicopter flights. The National Park Service apparently agrees that the money could be better spent, but says the project was mandated and funded by Congress.

Protesters against the nuclear-powered Cassini space probe demonstrated their fear of accidental plutonium release by not demonstrating outside Florida's Kennedy Space Center. This has made it very difficult to estimate how many protesters participated in the event. "We showed them how dangerous it is. At some times, the place was as empty as a graveyard," announced Ryan Hogin, a Montana anti-Cassini activist. "The experts are saying tens of thousands protested—I'd say it was close to 100,000 that stayed home ... maybe more."

With its 72 pounds of plutonium, the Cassini probe blasted off safely for Saturn.

The National Hockey League suspended Washington Capitals left wing Chris Simon indefinitely after he yelled racial slurs against Mike Grier of the Edmonton Oilers during a game. Simon was sidelined for the rest of the game for a "gross misconduct" penalty, which is far more serious than the ordinarily felonious assaults that land players in the penalty box for up to four minutes.

Grier, an African-American, was especially distressed that the slur would come from Simon, a Native American member of the Ojibwa tribe. "That's what was strange to me, that it was someone who has his background and his race," Grier commented. "I didn't expect it to come from another minority. It's just a little more shocking."

In Jacksonville, Florida, the Rev. Dale Shaw, president of the North Florida Ministerial Alliance, is crusading to get Richard Wright's autobiography Black Boy banned from local schools and a teacher who assigned the book fired, all because the book—a description of life in pre-World War II Mississippi—contains racially derogatory words.

Sri Lanka's Sunday Observer, June 1, 1997:
"This may look mysterious, as if some invisible power is at work," declared Balaram Sharan as he removed his fungi and stood naked before a group of startled reporters at the Mumbai Press Club. "But once you get the hang of it, it is really simple. And remember, if you want to be in the pink of health, you must keep the bladder clean because that is where diseases originate."

So saying, Sharan (a yoga instructor from the Oshiwara suburb of New Delhi) dipped his penis into a beakerful of sweet oil and sucked 150ml into his bladder, retaining it for several minutes before discharging it, and (to prove it was still pure oil) using it to light five clay lamps. "I mastered these methods by living amongst the sadhus in the jungles of Uttar Pradesh for twelve years. If everyone starts practicing them, the world will become free of disease. Sadhus know the importance of keeping their bowels clean through yogic methods," he continued, inserting one end of a rubber tube into a large bucket of water and the other into his rectum, "and I shall now suck up three liters of water through my anus, and then spew it out from my mouth, back into the bucket. Kindly stand well back."

Later, to demonstrate how to clean the nasal cavities, he drank two bottles of water, then inserted a twin tube into his mouth and pulled out its two ends through his nostrils. "See how the water flows out like a babbling brook. Now I will remove the remaining cough and other impurities in my body by swallowing this piece of clean white gauze." He did so and, after several minutes of audible stomach churning, the cloth was regurgitated along with the filth. "Now I'll let out whatever air is left in my stomach," he said, raising his posterior and emitting a series of sharp reports. "And if you think this is unusual, you should see the sadhu I learned my skills from. He can blow up a balloon with his penis until it is the size of a melon, and spark off fire with his urine. But he lives in the Himalayas and he won't do television."


McElwain Elementary School of Thornton, Colorado threatened to suspend a ten-year-old girl under the school's "zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy" for repeatedly asking one boy if he liked her and her friends.

In anticipation of the Kyoto treaty reducing greenhouse gases, members of the Clinton administration and a group of approved scientists held a day-long "teach-in" on the subject of global warming at Georgetown University.

President Clinton told a group of about 110 invited television weather forecasters, "You, just in the way you comment on the events you cover, may have a real effect on the American people." White House communications director Ann Lewis said that TV meteorologists "have great local credibility—they can give the public more information and help us communicate the issue in an unexpected and likely-to-be-heard way." Lewis also wondered that since meteorologists routinely offered five-day forecasts, why not predict rising temperatures over the next decade or two? TV Weatherman Barry Finn of WYOU in Scranton, Pennsylvania, told the Washington Post that he had been "somewhat skeptical that human beings were really doing anything to affect the weather, but hearing the President and Vice President state emphatically that the scientific debate is over, well, that went a long way toward convincing me."

John Holdren, head of the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, predicted that unconstrained global warming will cause numerous heatstroke deaths. Diana Liverman, head of the Latin American Studies program at the University of Arizona, predicted "increases in diseases such as dengue fever, cholera, and malaria." (To buttress this last point, Al Gore noted that one case of malaria had recently been reported in Detroit, of all places, and Clinton claimed to have met someone fleeing mosquitoes while summering on Martha's Vineyard.) Liverman added sadly that "There are many people in the southern states who can't afford increased air conditioning."

Holdren predicted that coastlines and much of Florida would become deluged with glacial runoff. Thomas Karl, a scientist at the National Climatic Data Center, said that global warming has been responsible for an unusually high number of "catastrophic floods" over the past five years. Donald Wilhite of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln then took the microphone to blame global warming for widespread drought conditions, as well as the forest fires they cause.

Perhaps sensing the growing bewilderment about the last two statements, President Clinton stepped up to explain this "apparent contradiction." "When the temperatures warm," said the president, "they dry the soil and create the conditions for the floods simultaneously."

Meanwhile, an article in Science predicts that it would take at least another decade to be able to accurately model any link between observed climate variation and global warming. So far, the data show that land temperatures have risen slightly (far less than anticipated and well within natural variation) but, in defiance of current models, temperatures in the lower atmosphere have fallen. Overall temperatures have remained static. On top of that, the New York Times has reported on research that suggests that variation in the intensity of the sun could "account for virtually all of the global warming measured to date."

Vice President Gore has been notoriously intolerant of skeptics, repeatedly insisting that there is no longer a legitimate scientific debate over the existence and effects of global warming. This, despite a Gallup poll that found that only 17 percent of the members of the Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Society believed that greenhouse-gas emissions had caused any warming. Skeptics are not only wrong in Gore's view, they are equivalent to tobacco executives who once "said with a straight face and seemingly no embarrassment, there is no link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer."

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt likewise reacted to an advertising campaign skeptical of the Kyoto protocol, commenting, "I think that the energy companies need to be called to account because what they are doing is un-American in the most basic sense." Stanford scientist and former global cooling theory proponent Stephen Schneider, a participant at the administration's roundtable, has also said that it is "journalistically irresponsible" to present both sides of the global warming debate.

Incidentally, Gore asserted at the same White House briefing that climate change was a symptom of population growth, suggesting that people in poor nations could reduce their emissions by having fewer children. Gore proposed that through "the empowerment of women to participate in decisions about childbearing," population growth could be cut by 2 to 5 billion people over the next two decades. Gore is not alone in his concerns. Democratic Senator Timothy Wirth reportedly believes that overpopulation is also the root cause of the ethnic atrocities in Bosnia.

Gore has also long advocated increasing the corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standard for new passenger cars from 27.5 miles per gallon to 45 mpg. Yet the current standard increases the price of automobiles, and by reducing their size has also increased annual highway fatalities by 2,000 to 4,000, according to a joint study by Harvard and the Brookings Institute.