An Inclusive Litany


A British Columbia human rights tribunal ordered a lodge owner to compensate a couple with three children after he suggested they eat in his cafeteria rather than the more formal dining room, where they might disturb other guests. The family took their kids there, then decided they didn't like it after all.

Following a three-year vacancy that saw record-high life expectancy and plummeting mortality rates, the Clinton administration appointed David Satchter as Surgeon General of the United States.

The Associated Press reports on the grim determination of Danish workers, April 29, 1998:
"Sold out" signs appeared on a growing number of Denmark's gas stations yesterday and store shelves had been emptied of bread after two days of a nationwide general strike.

The government stood firm in its refusal to intervene in the strike by 550,000 workers.

Strikers gathered by the thousands in rallies to press their demand for a sixth week of paid vacation—the main issue in dispute.

"Families and children have a stressed life," said Connie Rasmussen, a mother of two and one of about 5,000 strikers who rallied in Copenhagen. "We want a sixth week of holiday to be with our kids."

"Employers have plenty of money. There is enough money to pay compensation to the working class," said Hardy Hansen, a former union leader and ex-lawmaker.

[Ed.: A German lobbying group called the Working Group for the Unemployed called a series of rallies to demand six weeks of annual paid vacation for people out of work, reasoning that since those looking for work are often under more stress than those with jobs, they need a longer holiday.


The Boston Globe reports that Lynelle Lee of Dorchester was easily able to secure free and then heavily subsidized day care for her first child, who was born while she was on welfare, but has been on a two-year waiting list and can only afford an unlicensed family friend to care for her second child, who was born while she held a job. Seeking to redress this imbalance by offering more subsidized child-care services to working mothers, Massachusetts Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham said, "I don't know anybody who is against child care." Commenting favorably on early education and the good example working parents set for their children, Wheelock College child care specialist Gwen Morgan added: "If the government would subsidize to the point where people could afford to pay on their own, there would be a more productive workforce, more taxes paid, and more goods and services."


Arizona State University's theater department dismissed Jared Sakren from his position as head of the Graduate Acting Program for teaching a "selection of works from a sexist European canon"—Shakespeare, Aeschylus, and Ibsen. The same department requires drama students to read Betty the Yeti: An Eco-Fable, which contains a scene in which a man copulates with an abominable snow-woman. Sakren, who was set to become head of the Masters in Fine Arts program, has extensive experience in theater. His former students include Kelly McGillis, Val Kilmer, Oscar-winner Francis McDormand, and Annette Bening, who blasted Arizona State's decision.

The advertisement reads "You already know his name; now read his book!" Alain Stanké, a Montreal publisher devoted to "bring out new literary talents," has published a book by Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Titled Escape to Hell and Other Stories, the volume features an introduction by Pierre Salinger, referred to by the New York Times as "the former J.F.K. press secretary and air-disaster theorist." Stanké calls Qaddafi "an original thinker whose ideas flow from the ever-developing and conflicting reality of what is best and most beautiful," and promises that "three films based on the short stories will soon be in the movie theaters." A spokesman for the publisher also hints of future projects including other "world leaders," including Fidel Castro.

The Supreme Court will hear an appeal of a Pennsylvania inmate who was denied admission to a strenuous "motivational boot camp program" because of a history of high blood pressure. The inmate sued the state prison system for violating his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Vice President Al Gore ordered the Small Business Administration to double its loan guarantees to African American applicants by the year 2000. The SBA has already pledged to triple loan guarantees to Latinos over the same period. These loans are guaranteed by taxpayers and are available to applicants who can't get ordinary loans from a bank.

In a related development following the Asian monetary crisis, the Clinton Administration requested a $17 billion increase in the capital base of the International Monetary Fund, a financial body that owes its continued existence to its willingness to extend loans to developing countries, not to any particular success in doing so.

Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger addresses the National Press Club, February 10, 1998:
"[Cuban president Fidel] Castro is a very interesting boss, one of the most interesting in the entire history of the world. In many ways, he doesn't make decisions, he delegates much more. And when he was younger, he would hop into a helicopter and fly unannounced to a factory somewhere that was in trouble, and all of a sudden the factory just came to a stop, everybody was standing around. He'd stand up in the helicopter and say, "What's gone wrong here?" And rank-and-file people would speak out.

And an hour later, they'd set up some subcommittees somewhere to try to straighten what was going wrong—an extraordinary way of governing.

But I am worried about, as everybody who is concerned for the future of Cuba is, [is] what's going to happen when this extraordinary man is no longer around?

[Ed.: Castro is also notorious for his excursions into fields well beyond the realm of his expertise. Following his suggestions for improvement, Cuban geneticists crossed two varieties of cow—one of which produced tasty beef and the other of which produced abundant milk—only to produce cows that yielded neither.]

For over a year, Canadian sawmills have drilled a few holes in each board of lumber they produce, which ostensibly allows homebuilders to easily loop electrical wiring through them but which also allowed the Canadians to call them a "finished product," and thus exempt from U.S. tariffs on raw lumber. Siding with U.S. lumber interests, customs officials subsequently closed the loophole. The homebuilders lobby says the change could cost the average U.S. homebuyer $500.

Archeologists and Native Americans are at odds over what to do with the skeletal remains of the 9,200-year-old "Kennewick Man" that was discovered alongside a river bank in southeastern Washington state. Archeologists have come to the startling conclusion the skeleton may be that of a Caucasian, possibly representing the group's first known migration into the Americas, but Native Americans claim him as one of their own distant relatives, his burial ground thus deserving of protection against further study. Regardless of his ethnicity, archeologists determined that Kennewick Man died from a spear wound to the pelvis.

Among the groups participating in the ensuing legal battle over the remains was the Northern California-based Asatru Folk Assembly, which is dedicated to inculcating a quasi-Norse tribal identity similar to that of Native Americans. According to Stephen McNallen, the group's founder, "our way of living was much like that of the American Indians whom you admire. The Earth was our mother, Thor rattled in the thunder, Odin led the Wild Hunt, Freyja showed us that women can be both beautiful and strong." The group claims Kennewick Man as one of their own, and deserving of a proper burial according to ancient European customs.


In an event that was apparently funded by mainstream Christian denominations, over a thousand members of a religious faction known as the "re-imagining movement" met in April in St. Paul, Minnesota. Attendees at a similar 1993 conference offered a substitute milk and honey Eucharist while worshipping pagan goddesses such as Sophia.

Opening ceremonies took place in a darkened room with lampstands of flame, beating drums, and dancing women. Mary Farrell Bednarowski, one of the keynote speakers, announced one of the themes of the meeting: "To ask about someone's story is theology." Later she told the crowd, "I don't think anyone here thinks she is God or Goddess, not with a capital 'G' anyway." Rita Nakashima Brock, another speaker, congratulated Re-Imagineers on opposing rape, violence, Western imperialism, multi-national corporations, structural adjustment and welfare "deform." Another speaker, Carter Heyward, commented, "Listening week after week to the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer is likely to be more damaging to women and girls than a sexy come-on by a sleazy priest." The final ceremony of the weekend was the ritual biting of the apple to symbolize a woman's solidarity with Eve in her rebellion against male authority and phallocentric knowledge.

The Washington Post, September 28, 1997:
New York state [has launched] an ambitious initiative that has rescued 160,000 children from the ranks of the [medically] uninsured....

As lawmakers have added money each year, an opposite problem has emerged: The program can't find enough children to use up the money.

From the beginning, the state had hired outside workers to ferret out children—an effort that the new federal program also encourages. But many believe those workers did not look hard enough....

State health officials now are working on a new way to guide families into the program.

The opening of a front-page article in the Washington Post, April 7, 1998. Expect similar commentary on the inequitable losses suffered when the market goes soft.
The millions of American investors who climbed aboard the Starship Dow before its takeoff in the 1990s have watched their net worth soar to dizzying heights. But many more have missed the ride. While Americans are piling into the market in record numbers, the most recent data suggest that six of ever 10 households still do not own stocks—and thus have reaped no direct benefit from the current boom in share prices. That troubles many analysts, who warn that the bull market on Wall Street is aggravating other disturbing economic trends and pushing disparities in wealth and income to proportions not seen since the Gilded Age.

The New Yorker, April 20, 1998, quotes Sean Lennon on the circumstances surrounding his father's death:
He was a countercultural revolutionary, and the government takes that kind of s*** really seriously historically. He was dangerous to the government. If he had said, "Bomb the White House tomorrow," there would have been ten thousand people who would have done it. These pacifist revolutionaries are historically killed by the government, and anyone who thinks that Mark Chapman was just some crazy guy who killed my dad for his personal interests is insane, I think, or very naïve, or hasn't thought about it clearly. It was in the best interests of the United States to have my dad killed, definitely. And, you know, that worked against them, to be honest, because once he died his powers grew. So, I mean, f*** them. They didn't get what they wanted.

[Ed.: In a parallel too striking to be dismissed as mere coincidence, a similarly skeptical Dexter King, son of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., publicly stated his belief that James Earl Ray was not responsible for his father's assassination, either. Instead, Mr. King blames a conspiracy that includes Army intelligence, the CIA, the FBI, and the indispensable Lyndon Baines Johnson. Ray also alluded to a mysterious South American mastermind named "Raul," whom Ray indentified in a photograph but who turned out to be a New Yorker who had never been to Memphis, where King was murdered.]

While touring in Africa, President Clinton apologized to the entire continent for the legacy of slavery, for having engaged in Cold War realpolitik in the region, and in general for the way Americans have stereotyped and mistreated the continent's residents over the years. While in Rwanda, the president also apologized for failing to intercede in recent intertribal violence that left hundreds of thousands of people dead.

Clinton made some of these apologies in Uganda, where during the 1970s hundreds of thousands of its citizens were likewise killed under the regime of Moscow-backed Idi Amin, followed by yet more deaths under the lesser-known autocrat Milton Obote. Uganda was also never affected in any significant way by the coastal slave trade with Europeans, and the country's current president—the somewhat more benevolent dictator Yoweri Museveni—dismissed Clinton's apology for the slave trade as "rubbish." Museveni commented, "African chiefs were the ones waging war on each other, and capturing their own people and selling them. If anyone should apologize it should be the African chiefs. We still have those traitors here today. And doubtless there remain pockets of slavery in the world."

The New Yorker noted some other recent apologies of note: the Internal Revenue Service apologized for being insensitive to taxpayers; journalist David Brock apologized to President Clinton for his "Troopergate" article that led to Paula Jones's harassment charge; Japan apologized for its treatment of British prisoners of war during World War II; Great Britain apologized for seizing the assets of Holocaust victims during the war; the Vatican apologized for ignoring the Holocaust while it was happening; the producers of "Air Force One" apologized to Kazakhstan for being portrayed in the film as a fictional rogue nation; Newt Gingrich apologized, in book form, for his political misjudgments; Australia's government apologized to its once-oppressed aborigines; New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani apologized for the previous administration's handling of the race riot in Crown Heights in which Yankel Rosenbaum was murdered; a French newspaper apologized for its position on the Dreyfus Affair; and British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologized for the Irish potato famine, which took place almost 150 years prior. Concerning more recent matters, President Clinton is expected to apologize to Chile for first saying it could buy high-tech weapons, then saying it could not, then changing his position yet again.

[Ed.: While in Uganda, Clinton also promised to deliver $120 million to help provide Internet access for schools that, as it turns out, lack electricity.]


After a Maryland judge ruled that the state had to present a series of individual victims rather than broad statistical evidence in its case against tobacco firms, the legislature passed a law that would directly assist the state's case, overturning the judge's ruling. The new legislation also barred tobacco companies from arguing that smokers caused their own illnesses by choosing to smoke. Some other states, such as Vermont, have passed similar laws.

In Minnesota, Judge Kenneth J. Fitzpatrick instructed a jury that the state did not even have to show that Medicaid expenses it was blaming on the tobacco industry were actually caused by smoking. A statistician had testified that the state's $1.8 billion damage estimate included costs for treating hemorrhoids, schizophrenia, bone fractures, and other conditions not commonly associated with tobacco use.

[Ed.: It is widely stated in advertisements and public service announcements that secondhand smoke kills 50,000 Americans each year. If, on the other hand, a firm were to claim similarly fraudulent benefits for that number of people on behalf of its product, it would be subject to truth-in-advertising laws.]

Ted Turner, perhaps publicly drunk again, accepts the Leadership Award from Zero Population Growth. Quoted in the Population Research Institute Review, January/February 1998:
I really believe that there are huge forces arrayed against us. The forces of ignorance, lack of education and prejudice and hate and fear. The forces of darkness in general....

How can we not win? We're smarter than they are....

I'll put my money on the smart people against the dummies. If the smarts can't beat the dumbs, we're really not that smart, are we?

[Ed.: Speaking to a meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association the following year, Turner criticized the Catholic church's opposition to population-control measures, saying the pope should "get with it. Welcome to the 20th century." Lifting his foot towards the audience, Turner joked: "Ever seen a Polish mine detector?" This prompted the Catholic League to petition Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to suspend Turner, who owns the Atlanta Braves franchise, comparing Turner to Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott, who in 1993 was suspended from baseball for one year and fined $25,000 for making remarks disparaging blacks and Jews. At a meeting of CNN staffers on Ash Wednesday in 2001, Turner noticed a number of employees had ashes on their foreheads. "What are you," Turner asked, "a bunch of Jesus freaks? You ought to be working for Fox." Again the Catholic League protested, this time comparing Turner with Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker, who received widespread opprobrium and had to attend sensitivity training for making insensitive remarks against preferred groups.]

Liz Tilberis, editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar, credits Diana, Princess of Wales, for using magical healing powers during a phone conversation to lift the editor's platelet count and cure her of ovarian cancer—at least temporarily. Tilberis described the power as a "white light" that miraculously emanated from Princess Diana prior to her death. Tilberis is similarly convinced her cancer was caused by fertility drugs.

A New Jersey appellate court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America is a "public accommodation" much like restaurants and parks, and thus could not deny homosexuals posts as scoutmasters, the group's policy to date. The court admitted the group was not much like a public accommodation as defined by the law, but that such a limited definition "would frustrate our goal of eradicating 'the cancer of discrimination' in New Jersey." Earlier, the Boy Scouts suffered another legal defeat when an Illinois court reinstated a gay scoutmaster on the grounds of employment discrimination, even though the position is voluntary and unpaid. In California, a pair of twins sued to retain their membership after they refused to recite the Scout's loyalty oath, which acknowledges the existence of God. Also in California, a teenage girl sued because she was excluded on the basis of her sex, claiming Girl Scouts activities weren't as much fun anyway.

[Ed.: No wonder. A news story headlined "Girl Scouts of the '90s tout tomboy agenda" says that badges like "Housekeeper" are out, while ones like "My Self Esteem" (a badge with a large "No. 1") are in.]


Letter to the editor, Michigan's Kalamazoo Gazette, February 13, 1998:
Monica Lewinsky has become world famous, and I frankly do not care to have millions spent to find out what she has done that is acceptable or not acceptable.

What Monica has done for women is prove you can be chubby and still be beautiful and desirable. We have all had to look at malnourished bodies and feel guilty if we had a good meal. Billions have been made by proclaiming a product fat free. Children and women have died of anorexia.

I'm for Monica and anything from a size 12 on up.

I love butter—it's good for you—and chocolates. Now we can enjoy.

—Jeannette D. Edwards

The Sierra Club is in considerable turmoil, with outrage and resignations mounting over an unusual question for the 106-year-old organization. As a pollution-control measure, prominent environmentalists such as Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute and Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson have come out in favor of net reductions in United States immigration quotas.


The University of California's Daily Californian, in an article reporting on a rash of vandalized and looted parking meters throughout the city of Berkeley, April 7, 1998:
Berkeley police Capt. Bobby Miller said thieves generally use a tool to knock the meter head off or they saw it off. "Apparently people have figured out a way to get a tool to pry the heads off," Miller said. He added that if caught, a parking meter thief could face felony charges.

But it is exactly those charges that has upset L.A. Wood, a self-described Berkeley activist, whose son was arrested on Telegraph Avenue in June for attempting to steal the head of a meter. He said the parking meters present an easy target for juveniles who "do not know any better." "I think that one of the unfortunate legacies of Berkeley is the public meters' impact on Berkeley youth," Wood said. Wood suggested that juvenile meter thieves should receive citations when they are caught. "We shouldn't be traumatizing children," Wood said.

The New York Post, October 10, 1997:
[City University of New York] schools must have more stringent admissions policies in order to turn out better-equipped students and return the system to its glory days, Baruch College President Matthew Goldstein said yesterday....

Edith Everett, a CUNY board trustee, challenged Goldstein's proposal, noting that students now need to go to college to land many good jobs.

"And we say, 'Sorry, guys. We got standards so we're not going to take you,' " she said.

A furor ensued when Boston magazine published a profile of Harvard Afro-American Studies chairman Henry Louis Gates with a headline describing him as the "Head Negro in Charge." Critics said the term was disrespectful and referred to the head slave on a plantation, but editors at the magazine said the phrase was commonly used to describe prominent black figures, and indeed had been used by friends of Gates to describe him. Editors also cited the term's current use by Harvard professor Cornel West and Columbia professor Michael Dyson. Gates, who was shown the article prior to its publication, including the headline, and who registered no complaint at the time, maintained a low profile concerning the issue.


Robert Armstrong's column in the Contra Costa Sunday Times, February 1, 1998:
Do we need a leader who is as perfect as King David with the blessing of God?

Remember, he was one of the greatest leaders in history. With many concubines and wives, he covets another man's wife, "knows" her, then sends her husband off to war to be killed. God is unhappy with him and slaps him on the wrist by taking his first born of Bathsheba but gives him a pat on the back by giving him a second son (Solomon), by Bathsheba.

Well, the worst President Clinton may have done is break two of the Ten Commandments. But King David without a doubt broke at least four (coveting, adultery, killing, and lying). By comparison, President Clinton looks pretty good.

[Ed.: The Paula Jones case was thrown out of court in April. Supporters of the President cheered the decision, noting that it would probably discourage other women from coming forward with their own harassment charges. The President's conservative critics denounced the decision using similar reasoning.]

Harvard salutes one of its own. Last term in Lit 129, "Reading the 18th Century Through 20th Century Eyes," the reading list featured such distinguished thinkers as Beaumarchais, Diderot, Kant, Rousseau, Foucault, Kundera, and "Unabomber." Ted Kaczynski's goal in initiating his murderous terror-bombing campaign was, of course, to draw attention to his ideas about technology. Thank you, Harvard.

Prior to the publication of his later book, ambivalently titled Truth Versus Lies, an interviewer for Time magazine said that the Unabomber was marked "by a satisfaction that the world, at long last, is treating him like a valuable human being." Kaczynski also penned a short story for a literary magazine in upstate New York, and accepted a request from a major university library that he donate his personal papers to its archive on anarchist literature.


To maintain separation of church and state, a superior court judge ruled against Edward De Laretto, a Downey, California man who bought advertising space on the outfield fences of two high school baseball fields to display the Ten Commandments as an inspiration to the players. Signs had already been in place advertising a psychic phone line and the Masonic Order.

A letter from Dean Ellen O'Neill to the students, faculty, and staff at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, February 24, 1998:
It is very fitting that my letter comes to you on the eve of the penitential season of lent in my church, as I am offering an apology to you for my behavior, behavior for which I am truly sorry.

Please let me explain what happened. On Wednesday, January 21st at a meeting of the Long-Range Planning Committee, Lucille Hawkins and I joined four other members in a small breakout group. As the discussion circle formed, I noticed that Lucille's chair was not aligned with the rest of the chairs. She seemed to be sitting in the center of the circle. In an attempt at humor I said, "Lucille, you are the monkey in the middle of the group!" I was alluding to "monkey in the middle," a schoolyard game we played as children growing up in Elmira, New York. Lucille aligned her chair with the others and we proceeded with our discussion agenda.

It was not until Monday, January 26th that I understood the significance of what I had done. President Perez called me into his office for an early morning meeting and confronted me with my words and how deeply they hurt Lucille. He then asked Lucille to join us. We engaged in a very frank exchange that helped me see that the remark that I made in an attempt at humor—one that I would have made to any one else in the group who was sitting where Lucille was—was so insensitive and hurtful.

Later that morning I wrote Lucille a letter of apology and sent copies to each member of our discussion group. In the month since the incident occurred, Lucille and I have had a number of in-depth discussions about the incident, the pain she has suffered because of me, my own pain at being labeled a racist, and how we can rebuild our relationship.

Lucille and I had a relationship of mutual trust and respect before the incident, and we have had a positive work relationship since the incident. I am pleased she continues to be a part of our staff.

I made a mistake—a big one. But I have learned from it. I know I must be more sensitive to the ethnicity and racial differences represented here and I will be. I am proud to be a part of such a diverse and culturally rich community.

And so to Lucille, and to anyone else who was offended or hurt by my comment, let me say again—I am very sorry for the pain I caused and I hope you can forgive me.

I believe that some good can come of all of this, in the form of a heightened awareness of the sensitivity we all should have to the feelings of others.

I am told, lent comes from the old English word for "springtime"—a time of new birth, new life and growth. I hope all of us at BMCC can welcome this spring with renewed mutual understanding and respect.