An Inclusive Litany


The Toronto Sun, February 27, 1998:
A criminal who went on to murder three men after being paroled was released in part because board members didn't think his history of armed robberies counted as violence.

Corrections Canada commissioner Ole Ingstrup told the Commons justice committee yesterday that two board members who granted day parole to Michael Hector, and two who gave him full parole, felt he did not qualify as violent because he never fired his gun during the robberies.

The laws and sentencing statutes all define armed robbery as a serious crime of violence, and Ingstrup said parole board members have now been "instructed" on this point.


Jo Ann Bass, owner of Joe's Stone Crab restaurant in Miami Beach, was stunned to receive a letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging her with employment discrimination. A locally prominent women's advocate, Bass employs women in most of the restaurant's management positions, has served and employed blacks at a time when others wouldn't, and always boasted that her staff of 280 was so diverse it looked like a "mini United Nations."

But the EEOC charged that while the restaurant is owned by a woman and managed mostly by women, it had a tradition of hiring only men as waiters. The agency said that between 1986 and 1991 the restaurant hired 108 male waiters, and no women, a record that may have discouraged women from even applying. A federal judge agreed with the EEOC, finding the restaurant guilty of "unintentional" sex discrimination, and is set to hear testimony on potential damages of up to $1 million. The case, however, was not initiated in response to any woman's complaint, but rather as a "commissioner's charge," a device that allows the EEOC itself to accuse a business of discrimination.

Bass does not dispute the fact that the vast majority of waiters have been men, but she claims that was simply because most of the qualified applicants turned out to be men. "I didn't think it was my responsibility to beat the bushes looking for female servers," Bass said. "We hired who was qualified and came through the door." According to Bass, food servers are required to be deft in carrying trays that could weigh as much as 40 pounds, and that in the first year servers could work only a lunch shift, which may have discouraged women from applying.


Indiana University's Residential Programs and Services department sponsored a panel of bondage practitioners and advocates, led by student organizer Keith Potter, also known by his campus nickname, "Bondage Boy." Imploring the public to "give it a chance," Potter told the Indiana Daily Student, "After a while sex can get old. Rather than cut off the relationship, you might as well try new things." The panel introduced 150 students to practices such as burning a partner with hot wax, branding or puncturing skin with needles, using rope, chains, or leather to subdue or tease, and enhancing sexual arousal with whips or biting.

John Robinson, president of Headspace, a student group that promotes sadomasochism and bondage, touted S&M's religious benefits, contending that pain serves "as a method of transcendentalism" and allows participants "to either become a god or to become closer to their god." He added, "It is a tool that, properly used, can build trust." Potter maintained the workshop was "educational" and redressed historical discrimination against bondage practitioners, an assessment shared by the university's assistant chancellor for residential programs and services, Bruce Jacobs. Potter admitted Headspace often sponsors off-campus "dungeon parties" in which students are initiated into S&M or invited to watch, but stressed that parties always occur at non-alcoholic venues.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now requires that "low-speed vehicles" (golf carts) be equipped with windshields, seat belts, turn signals, and rear-view mirrors.

bell hooks, in the on-line magazine Salon. With friends like these...
Nobody understands that women can feel relieved sometimes when their husband is f***ing someone else. It's hard to satisfy men with big egos. But there's no way that Hillary could come out and say, "I don't care that Bill is f***ing someone else. Sex is not the way we prove our commitment." In terms of their relationship, they are the most progressive couple we've ever had in the White House. People want to make them pay for that. It would be the most positive thing for our culture if we respected the love between Hillary and her man. We need a love ethic at the seat of power. And these two people do seem to deeply care about one another. So in that way they are better role models than any previous couple in the White House. Their relationship is based on respect and love. Not necessarily on sex. People hate that.

The European Union denied Swedish farmers permission to sell their straight cucumbers in Europe. Regulations require the vegetables to bend at least one centimeter for every 20 centimeters of their length.

The Oregon state Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a white man who was punched by a black co-worker for making repeated racist remarks is entitled to worker's compensation for his injuries. The court identified colleagues sensitive to such remarks as just one of the "myriad of risks" workers face.


Andy Ross found his storefront smashed, with swastikas painted on the sidewalk, and received postcards calling him a "cancerous Jew." No, this is not Nazi Germany. It's Berkeley, California, ostensibly one of the most liberal cities in the nation. Ross has been leading an effort among the city's store owners to keep homeless people from loitering outside their shops.


The Vancouver Sun reports that British Columbia's Langara College removed a Valentine's Day decoration of a man and woman puckering up for a kiss, following complaints that the image was "homophobic." The college suggested that a "more encompassing, more neutral" decoration, such as a pair of hands in a heart, would be appropriate.

Student union representative Donavin Thompson commented, "I think the LSU would stand behind the decision ... that it was probably discriminatory." Thompson said the union would prefer the college's suggested alternative, although he agreed that a pair of hands in a heart might be offensive to a person with no hands.

A letter from the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, October 24, 1997:
Dr. David J. Garrow
Emory University Law School
Atlanta, GA 30322-2770

Dear Dr. Garrow:

This is in further response to your June 28, 1979 and March 9, 1980 Freedom of Information Act requests seeking access to and copies of specific microfilm housed in the John F. Kennedy Library. We apologize for the long delay in responding to you.

In partial response to your request, please find the enclosed documents of the Civil Rights Division dated January, 1961, through December, 1963 of Reel Six (6). We regret the poor quality of some of the copies printed from the microfilm, but these are the best copies available from our files.


Isabelle Katz Pinzler
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division


Nelson D. Hermilla, Chief
Freedom of Information/Privacy Acts Branch
Civil Rights Division

Letter to the editor, the Portland, Oregon, Willamette Week, September 3, 1997:

Please retract the following errors from your May 14 article:

  1. In the third sentence of the fourth paragraph, you imply that Jack Hessel is the "owner of Portland's Hessel Tractor." Please retract. He is the chairman of the board.

  2. In the same sentence you state that I "killed Heidi Dozler in 1988." I actually did this in October of 1989. Please retract.

  3. Also in the same sentence you state that I killed her "after the pair smoked a few rocks of crack cocaine." We actually smoked one small $10 rock of cocaine, not a "few rocks." This also implies that I killed her as a result of drug use when the state's own expert on crack said this was impossible. As you well know, but have failed to say in any of the four articles about me printed in the last seven and a half years, I killed Ms. Dozler after she bit my penis. Please retract and clarify.

Brian Hessel
Oregon Department of Corrections

The school board of Hillsborough, New Jersey, replaced "Saint" Valentine's Day with a new holiday called Special Person Day. But while children are still allowed to give cards, there must be a card for everyone in the class, and no suggestion that they have any special person in mind, despite the new holiday's name.


Despite complaints from students, a Fullerton, California, junior high school principal says she will continue to enforce a ban on hugging. "Can students give each other high-fives? Yes. Can students pat each other on the back? Yes. Can they be friendly with one another? Yes," says principal Tammy Brown, who has told staff and faculty to "redirect and refocus" students caught in an embrace. School board president Robert Fisler says the rule helps prevent allegations of sexual harassment, which, under state regulations, can be grounds for expulsion.

A federal judge has ordered Domino's to make pizza deliveries to American Beach, Florida, all but four of whose 75 full-time residents are black. There is no Domino's franchise in the neighborhood, but a nearby outlet had refused to deliver there because of security concerns, prompting a federal lawsuit alleging violation of residents' civil rights. Prior to the order, residents were asked to meet Domino's drivers at a local convenience store. However, other restaurants such as Pizza Hut and Papa John's Pizza make regular deliveries to the community.

Dr. Arnold Nurenberg, a California psychologist, is trying to get "road rage" recognized as a psychiatric disorder through inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the sourcebook of the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Nurenberg claims that more than half of all Americans suffer from the disorder, which is characterized by displays of loud, rude, and aggressive behavior towards other drivers. Presumably, once road rage is recognized as a psychological disorder, pharmaceutical companies can market drugs to reduce its symptoms, sufferers will be eligible for special consideration by their employers under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Dr. Nurenberg will be reimbursed by insurance companies for treating its victims.

The DSM already catalogues such maladies as "disorder of written expression," "childhood conduct disorder," "pathological gambling," "self-defeating personality disorder," "adjustment disorder with anxiety," "avoidant personality disorder," along with nicotine dependence, nicotine withdrawal, jet lag, snoring, and inability to sleep after drinking coffee. Boston University psychology professor Margaret Hagen notes several areas that the APA has targeted for "'further study" in future versions of the manual: caffeine withdrawal, binge eating, and PMS.

Veterinary student Beate Broese-Quinn sued Foothill College in San Jose, California, after the school flunked her for refusing to dissect a fetal pig. Her lawyer said that requiring her to perform the class assignment is "antithetical to everything this country is founded on" because her love of animals is equivalent to other people's belief in God.

The day after Christmas, the New York Times reported that even though the new Puerto Rican Barbie doll "has been received enthusiastically in Puerto Rico," it has "caused a heated debate among Puerto Ricans on the United States mainland," because Barbie's skin is too light, and because she wears a white cotton dress with lace ruffles. The Times quoted a "school art director" in Arlington, Virginia, who said "Barbie looks very, very Anglo." It also quoted Aurora Levins Morales, who teaches at UC-Berkeley, and her nine-year-old daughter. Ms. Morales criticized the doll's "Anglocized image" while her daughter, the Times said, "offered a different critique," that as a budding feminist she thought Barbie was too skinny. "It's a start that they have a person-of-color Barbie," she said, "but still, they should make it look like the person's eaten in the last millennium." The daughter, the Times noted, "refuses to own any Barbies." All this made the front page of perhaps the most respected newspaper in America.


From Locked in the Cabinet, the political memoirs of former labor secretary Robert Reich. The following item is dated December 24, 1992, just prior to Clinton's inauguration as President:
Hopefulness everywhere, and not just because it's the season to be jolly.

The copilot of the plane back to Boston, as I exit: "Good luck to you and Mr. Clinton!"

The cabdriver from the airport: "We're counting on you guys!"

A fast-food worker at a McDonald's drive-thru: "You're gonna make a big difference, you and Clinton, for the ordinary people like me."

Shopping for gifts at Copley Plaza, a half-dozen or so well-wishes from the anonymous crowds: "Good luck!" "We're on your side!" "Stick up for the little guy, Mr. Secretary!" Smiles. Handshakes. A few fists in the air.

It's both comforting and alarming. How can we possibly fail with so much goodwill behind us? But how can we possibly succeed with expectations so high?

Tonight, as I tuck Sam in, he stares up at me and asks, "You're really going to help people, aren't you, Dad?"

"I hope so, Sam."

"You're going to help people get good jobs. That's what Mommy says."

"I'll try."

"I'm glad you're in Bill Clinton's cabinet, Dad."

Reporting in Slate, Jonathan Rauch noted that Reich's book contained numerous misquotations and entire scenes that bore little resemblance to the easily verifiable public events they described—including a press conference on the baseball strike, questions about the minimum wage by Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ) before the Joint Economic Committee, and a speech before the National Association of Manufacturers. Representatives Martin Olav Sabo (D-MN) and David Obey (D-WI), former congressional minority leader Robert Michel, and AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland, all insist Reich misquoted them. Rauch noted that Reich's account often made his political opponents seem exceedingly belligerant and hostile, with the protagonist portrayed in a far more flattering light.

Responding to Rauch's column, Reich countered that the book was intended as memoir, not as a strict "historical reportage," and as such was based more on his impressions of events as detailed in his notes and diaries. But in their exchange Rauch complained that Reich repeatedly misquoted him and got facts wrong—even when recounting the telephone conversation they had only the week before as part of his research for the article.

Reich has dismissed Rauch's efforts to verify the book's factual content as "investigative journalism." Still, the later paperback edition contained numerous corrections that make the scenes described more accurate, while often preserving Reich's hallucinatory impressions. For example, Rep. Saxton is no longer depicted as jumping up and down in his chair "like a schoolboy" while berating Reich at the minimum wage hearings, but Reich still exaggerates the hostility displayed at the dully decorous event, claiming that Saxton "won't let me answer" when in fact Reich is later allowed time to deliver a lecture-length reply.

Rauch concludes that the book "makes some shrewd and unflattering comments about the Washington games of spinning and posturing; Reich portrays himself as an innocent who knows little of such things. But in fact, both as labor secretary and as memoirist, he plays the game as well as the next fellow."

In a brief filed on behalf of an HIV-positive Maine woman whose dentist refused to fill her cavity in his office (offering to perform the procedure in a more sanitary hospital instead), the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court to rule that people who are infected with the AIDS virus should be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law covers anyone who has "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities," which the government argues covers pregnancy and reproduction, since the virus poses a danger to infants born of infected mothers. The Justice Department has long considered the HIV infection a disability not only because of its affect on reproduction but also "because the reactions of others to infected individuals cause such individuals to be treated as though they are disabled."

The White House is pushing to make seat belt laws tougher by withholding highway funds from states that refuse to set up random checkpoints or that fail to treat seat belt violations as misdemeanors rather than simple traffic offenses.

Facing an effort, led by New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, to banish establishments that feature nude entertainment and "exclude minors by reason of age" from Manhattan, Ten's World Class Cabaret changed its policy, deciding to welcome minors as long as a parent accompanies them. A trial court agreed that this means the restaurant is no longer covered by the law regulating adult establishments, even though nobody expects parents to actually take their children to nude shows. Giuliani responded, "This is like, nuts." Already rehearsing for the city's expected appeal, Mark Alonso, the restaurant's attorney, notes that the city itself sponsored a free Shakespeare production open to all ages that featured considerable nudity.


A Cumberland, Maryland, jail inmate sued an olive oil manufacturer because, due to a misprint, a ten-ounce bottle of olive oil did not contain the advertised amount of 128 tablespoon servings.

A Milwaukee lawyer sued Nivea Sun for $5,000, the cost of his vacation. The company manufactures a Sun protection factor 2 sunscreen that the injured lawyer claims "provided no prevention of sun burning," even though the label notes the relative weakness of the protection, recommending it only for people who rarely burn or who have deep-based tans.

And a Nashua, New Hampshire woman sued a doughnut shop for negligence and emotional distress after she and co-workers opened a box of baked goods that allegedly included a dozen or so in the shape of male genitals.


The Department of Justice warned a group of gastroenterologists in eastern Pennsylvania who wanted to merge their practices that it may take action against the merger. The twelve doctors noted that there were 21 other gastroenterologists in the Greater Lehigh Valley. But Joel Klein, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, cited the Lehigh River as an insurmountable "psychological barrier," thus restricting the observed market to include only Allentown and boosting their supposed share of that market to 92 percent.

Previously, the Federal Trade Commission had blocked the proposed merger between Staples and Office Depot, even though the new office supply superstore would only constitute six percent of the market.

Dr. David Ransel, director of Indiana University's Russian and East European Institute, in REEIfication, December, 1997:
A conference, "Inventing the Soviet Union: Language, Power, and Representation, 1917-1945," was held November 7-9 at REEI. The conference was built on an original proposal by a recent IU history Ph.D., Choitali Chatterjee, who is now teaching at Cal State University, Los Angeles. Choi (as everyone here knows her) got help in directing the project from Karen Petrone, a young Russian History professor at the University of Kentucky. REEI mobilized funding from IREX and the Kennan Institute, plus added some resources of our own.

Twenty scholars from throughout the United States and Canada contributed papers that laid the groundwork for an intense and two and a half day series of discussions on the formation of the Bolshevik culture and identity. Topics covered a wide spectrum, beginning Fran Bernstein's "Making Sex Soviet," which discussed health workers' notions of proper Soviet hygiene and eugenics, and Paula Michaels' exploration of the cultural mission that accompanied health delivery to non-Russian nationalities....

Several contributors chose as their subject literary and photographic representations of the "Soviet body." A central issue for the builders of Soviet culture was the proper communist expression of the body in sport. Should the body be deployed in peaceful, collective activities or in competitive sports? Should the USSR compete with the Western world in international sporting contests or stay clear of them and promote a different ethic? There were problems addressed by Barbara Keys. Anna Krylova analyzed representation of the Soviet (male) body mutilated by war and the effect that this had on identity/personality both for the mutilated person and those who loved him.

Quebec officials have been busying themselves by cracking down on signs in languages other than French that are displayed in Montreal's Chinatown district. Also, a brochure from Boston Latin High School now refers to Chinese New Year's Day as "Asian New Year's," even though other Asian cultures celebrate the new year on different days.

A city council in Tennessee passed an ordinance prohibiting employees of an "adult bookstore" from engaging in sex on the premises, but left out the words "on the premises."


A fifth-grade honor roll student in Longmont, Colorado, was expelled after she picked up her mother's lunch box by mistake and brought a paring knife to school. Shanon Borchardt Coslett, 10, reported the knife to a teacher at Twin Peaks Charter Academy immediately after she found it, but administrators said the law still required them to expel the girl.

The National Park Service spent $2.5 million to restore a train station in Thurmond, West Virginia. The site is only a few miles from the home of Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), who was chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee at the time the money was budgeted. Thurmond itself has a population of eight.

A chemist at Sweden's Uppsala University received a 2-kilogram shipment of fine sand for use in experiments by first-year students. The sand was shipped along with a five-page Product Description Leaflet that advised use of protective equipment such as a mask and goggles when handling it, recommending the following procedure in case of a spill: "Sweep up and place the substance in a bag, for transport to garbage collection and disposal. Ventilate the area and clean the site after all material has been removed.... Bury in site designated for disposal of chemical and dangerous substances." The toxicological report identified crystalline quartz (sand) as "carcinogenic or potentially carcinogenic by IARC Monographies, the American National Toxicology Program," and it was the supplier's duty to report that "According to California Proposition 65: this product is or contains substance(s) known within the state of California to cause cancer."

[Ed.: Similar warnings accompany shipments of purified dihydrogen monoxide, a common industrial solvent.]

Another journalistic mishap recounted by John Corry in the American Spectator, February 1998:

Linn Washington, Jr., a journalism professor at Temple University, wrote a column for the Progressive Media Project in Madison, Wisconsin, that was distributed by Knight-Ridder/Tribune. Washington wrote that when he was a freshman at a "Midwestern university, an anthropology professor in her first lecture declared that black people have the remnants of monkey-like tails," and that she "matter-of-factly told the class that she would have ordered me to drop my pants to display my anthropoid anatomy," but she thought it might make the female students uncomfortable. Washington also wrote that he got "the top scores on both the midterm and final," but that the professor had failed him in the course because she "couldn't hide her racism." He said he had protested this to the "head of the anthropology department, a Kenyan," but that the Kenyan declined to intervene: He wanted to avoid the appearance of "siding with me because we both were black."

After the column was published, Balint Vazsonyi, a senior fellow at the Potomac Foundation, wrote to the author and asked him for the names of the Midwestern university, and of the professor who said that blacks had vestigial tails, and of the department head from Kenya. Professor Washington did not reply at first, but Vazsonyi persisted, and finally got an answer. He wrote about it in a column in the Washington Times:

Professor Washington did not provide any details. He wrote that the offending professor would be very old, the Kenyan department head's name he did not remember, and both the Midwestern university and his grade were "moot."