An Inclusive Litany


A study presented to the European Parliament estimates that as much as 15 percent of the earth's greenhouse gases are the consequence of "methane from enteric fermentation of livestock."

When a heat wave hit Indiana in 1995, road construction crews were prevented from cooling off by wearing shorts because the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration required anyone working with hot tar to wear long pants. The requirement caused some workers to pass out from heat exhaustion, leading employers to send workers home as a safety precaution. Workers eventually told their congressman they would rather be earning money, and that they knew how to stay away from hot asphalt while wearing shorts.

Mike Perkins of Charlotte, North Carolina, has an unusual problem: he wants to mow his lawn, but his neighbors don't want him to and have vowed to take him to court if he continues. The Pullengreen Neighborhood Association hires landscaping companies to care for the front lawns of the 52 homes it represents, and the group's stated goal is to have every yard look exactly the same. Perkins told the Associated Press that he plans to uphold his right to care for his own lawn, claiming to do a better job than the professionals and that he also derives great enjoyment from pushing his lawnmower across the yard.

Objecting to the "hypocrisy" of tobacco-industry semantics during debate over the tobacco bill, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) makes an excellent case that tobacco use is governed by individual choice rather than by addiction or advertising campaigns:
To use the word "tax" is to use the word that has been the centerpiece of a billion-dollar advertising campaign. If this is a tax, this is the one tax in America that nobody has to pay—nobody—unless you buy a pack of cigarettes. This is a tax that is purely voluntary.
Explaining why cigarette taxes should be raised, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) wrote in the Wall Street Journal that "an increase in the price of cigarettes would discourage smoking among the young." A few paragraphs later, he bemoaned the fact that the tobacco industry "will pass on every penny of the judgments, settlements and legal fees to their consumers."

Letter to the editor, the Boston Globe, June 29, 1998. Patricia Smith had been fired from her position as columnist after her editors discovered she had been fabricating sources and writing entire columns containing pure fiction. Given its numerous errors of syntax, there's the distinct chance that this letter, too, is a hoax.
Tonight is hot and humid. I cannot sleep. Instead, I lie awake and think about Patricia Smith. As a no-name, underpaid, small-town New Hampshire columnist, and teacher of writing for the past nine years, I should, perhaps, feel like gloating. Aha, I should sneer, look what happened to the famous writer in the big newspaper.

Instead, I feel a tremendous sense of sadness and loss.

Patricia Smith is a gifted writer. I frequently brought her columns to my college writing class as examples of beautiful and clear writing. To my students, I pointed out her brilliant introductions, stressed her use of vivid examples, acknowledged her poignant metaphors and word choices.

But in the end, as I know as a teacher and as a writer, it is the truth that is most difficult for writers to write. Why? I'm not sure. In this day and age, we have this sense that our individual opinions and our personal thoughts are the truth. However, as the old masters of literature—those like Chaucer and Shakespeare—have taught us it is through the stories we see and the voices we hear that we can get a glimpse of the truth.

For nine years I have only retold the stories I've seen in small towns. I've only remembered the voices that held on to my heart and written about those. No, I will never be famous, nor now do I want to be. As I've learned from Patricia Smith's errors, I only want to seek the truth. That, I believe, is more valuable than anything fame can offer us. And it is more than enough.

—Lorraine Lordi
Londonderry, N.H.


Years after a David Reynard went on the "Larry King Show" to accuse cellular phone manufacturers of causing his wife's fatal brain tumor, a product is now available to protect cell phone users against electromagnetic waves. "Consumers have been bombarded with a wide range of conflicting reports, studies and news coverage concerning the potential health risks of cellular phone usage," says Bradley Davidson, president and CEO of a company called Waveguard. "Our new Waveguard device offers cell phone users a simple attachment that absorbs the potentially harmful radiation, and helps provide piece of mind about concerns for brain cancer and other medical problems."

A bill sponsored by Senator Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY) would reclassify imported Halloween costumes as "wearing apparel," subjecting them to high tariffs and offering a near-monopoly to Long Island-based Rubie Costumes Co., the nation's largest maker of under-$15 costumes.

The New Yorker, March 30, 1998. British performance artist Leigh Bowery died on New Year's Eve, 1994, not from injuries described here, but from complications arising from AIDS.
Many of his performance pieces—first with his gender-bending trio, the Quality Street Wrappers, and then with the art-rock group Minty—involved not only nudity but vomiting, urinating, or defecating. During one notorious performance at an AIDS benefit in Brixton, [Leigh] Bowery, who had given himself an enema before going onstage, lost control of his bowels when his corset poked him, and accidentally sprayed the audience. In a piece he performed in Japan, with Nicola, he pretended to be a store mannequin in a red knit dress; she pulled a thread from the dress and unraveled it until he was completely naked. In Holland, Bowery hung upside down and naked, with clothespins pinching his penis and nipples, and exclaimed, "No embarrassment at all! Oh my God, this fantastic feeling!" Then a fellow band member, Richard Torry, pushed him through a large piece of plate glass.

The Massachusetts Youth Soccer Association has changed the rules for tournament games involving players under 10 so that no score is kept, yielding no winners or losers. Trophies are not allowed unless everyone on every team gets one. Head Coach Dean Conway calls this a "non-results-oriented initiative," but some of the kids have apparently been keeping score in their heads, contrary to the spirit of the game. Paige Beauregard of Belchertown explained, "I'd like to know the score so I can get better." A coach commented on the association's informal score policy, "In non-results-oriented tourneys, score is not kept for all to see, but only for tourney officials to view, to make sure games aren't too one-sided."


The University of California, Santa Cruz hosted a conference titled "Exposed!" at which performance artist Annie Sprinkle showed excerpts from her X-rated videos, one of which was called "Why Whores Are My Heroes." Another workshop featured Berkeley researcher P. N. Fucella advocating his practice of anonymous bathroom ("tea room") sex.

University of Southern California student Annabel Chong and two other women performed sex acts for a class project, prompting disapproval from another student: "The bottom line is a girl got penetrated with two dildos for a grade."

And a "World Pornography Conference" is scheduled to be hosted by California State University, Northridge in August. Topics include: "Visual and Carnal Pleasures in Hard-Core Pornography; Class Struggles: Pornography on Campus; No Limits: Necessary Danger in Male Porn; Beyond 'Looking for my Penis': Asian Queer Porn; Porn 101: Assimilating Pornographic Material into the College Classroom; Cyberspace and Interactive Sex; How a Family Planning Experiment Became a Sex Products Business; Bikini Science; Apes, Our Species, and Pornography; Child Pornography: Forbidden Thoughts and Images in an Erotic Landscape; Bathhouse 101 as a General Education Requirement; and My Buddha, My Love Guide: Kundalini Handballing in the New Age Sex Underground."

A racist graffito discovered on the gym walls of the predominantly black First Colonial High School basketball team in Virginia Beach, Virginia, turned out to have been produced by the team's black coach, Glenn Veasy, in an unusual attempt to make his players more competitive. According to local investigators, Veasy was undone by his neat handwriting and an attempt to correct a misspelling that no real vandal would notice. He had repeatedly claimed in the past to have been the victim of racial crimes.

In 1987, a leaky tank car carrying butadiene, a petroleum byproduct, caught fire while standing on a railroad track near New Orleans. The fire burned for 36 hours, and about 1000 residents were evacuated. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported no serious injuries, and there was no significant property damage. However, that did not prevent lawsuits from being filed before the fire had even been doused. 8,047 people eventually joined in a class-action suit seeking compensation for displacement, mental anguish, and fear of future suffering that has so far not materialized.

After eleven years of litigation, a jury decided that CSX Transportation—owners of the track on which the tank car was sitting—must pay a whopping $2.5 billion in damages. The NTSB had already determined that CSX bore no responsibility for the accident, which was caused by a faulty gasket, and liability for which was admitted by the owner of the tank car.

The Louisiana Supreme Court set aside the jury's verdict pending assessment of the plaintiff's claims.

USA Today reports from San Francisco, June 19, 1998:
Retail giant Macy's is being sued by two shoppers who want the department store's aisles widened to accommodate their electric wheelchairs. Glen Vinton and Ellen Lieber claim state and federal laws require that Macy's make its sprawling downtown store more accessible. Macy's contends that it needs every inch of available floor space to display its wares and remain competitive.


Attorney General Janet Reno has appointed yet another independent counsel, this time to investigate whether Labor Secretary Alexis Herman participated in a deal to receive a ten percent kickback on a $250,000 campaign contribution from a firm co-owned by a close friend.

The Nation, April 27, 1998:
Anyone remember when caffeine was off-limits for children? ("It'll stunt your growth!") These days constraints on caffeine consumption for kids and young teens are nonexistent. Kids are having caffeine early and often—high-octane Mountain Dew is the preferred soda of the under-6 set—and in much bigger doses than before. Caffeine Inc. is raking it in, often targeting teens and younger kids, and while Coca-Cola's polar bears get the attention, studies showing the negative consequences of child caffeination are virtually ignored.

Look at fast-food joints, convenience stores and restaurants, where many kids get up to 40 percent of their meals. It's common to see young children and teens downing "big gulp"-size caffeinated sodas or lining up for seconds and thirds at refillable soda stations. These megadrinks can pack a wallop...

[Ed.: The Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report that found the average U.S. teenager drinks 1,000 cans of soft drinks a year, three times higher than government sugar-consumption guidelines recommend. The same institute has called caffeine a "mildly addictive drug" linked to miscarriages and osteoporosis, recommending the FDA require food package labels disclosing caffeine amounts. The institute has also attacked Chinese take-out food as full of fat and oil, criticized buttered movie popcorn, come out against Mexican food, and called fettucine alfredo a "heart attack on a plate."]

Responding to pressure to reduce costs of the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, Cheerios manufacturer General Mills is lobbying in Capitol Hill against efforts to require users of the state-administered grocery vouchers to buy only lower-priced house-brand toasted oat cereal. Oklahoma WIC officials who instituted such a requirement say it is now saving their state $147,000 a month.

The WIC program accounts for three percent of General Mills' $5.6 billion annual sales, but spokesman David Dix framed the issue as a fundamental matter of consumer choice: "We don't think WIC should substitute a cereal kids have never heard of and force them to eat it." Both Massachusetts and Texas have removed Cheerios from their lists of WIC-approved products in the past, but both soon put them back following public outcry.


After Latrena Pixley was convicted in 1992 of second-degree murder for smothering her crying infant and tossing the corpse into the trash, her 5-to-15 year sentence was reduced to three years of jail on the weekends, plus five years of probation. Pixley then gave birth to a son shortly before doing time for credit card fraud and violating her probation, and the boy's caretaker petitioned to adopt him. A Maryland judge ruled, however, that due to overarching concerns of "family preservation," the boy must be returned to the mother who had killed his sister. In his ruling, Judge Michael Mason also discussed the value of racial uniformity, since the boy's caretaker was from a different racial background.

Andrew Hwang, who ran a janitorial-service business in Chicago, finally threw in the towel following an eight-year battle with the federal government that cost him $200,000 in legal fees and that arose because he had too many Koreans working for him. Hwang could not have been happy to read a USA Today report on diversity in the Supreme Court, the top of the legal system that destroyed his business. Of the 48 law clerks that Justice Antonin Scalia hired during his term, none were African-American or Hispanic, and all were white. Similarly, William H. Rehnquist's clerks were 99 percent white, and David Souter's were 94 percent white.

The New York City Board of Education's HIV/AIDS Curriculum Guide recommends for ninth-grade sexual education instuctors a game informally known among teachers as "Condom Line-Up." According to the guidelines, the teacher is supposed to shuffle 13 index cards, pass them out, and tell students to arrange them in their proper order:

  • Buy a latex condom
  • Buy a contraceptive foam or lubricant ...
  • Check to make sure condom package is not torn ...
  • Check condom expiration date
  • Remove condom from package
  • Check to see which way the condom unrolls
  • Squeeze the tip of the condom to press out air
  • Place the condom on the erect penis
  • Unroll the condom onto the penis ...
  • Apply the foam/lubricant
  • After ejaculation, hold onto the base of the condom
  • Carefully withdraw penis
  • Wrap the condom in a tissue or piece of paper and discard.

When demonstrating how to use a condom, the teacher is advised to stretch it out, explain that "one size fits all," then unroll it onto two outstretched fingers.

The book of guidelines also includes a sidebar that warns, "Teacher Note: Make sure that learning-disabled and all students understand that a condom goes on the erect penis, and not on the fingers as demonstrated."

The Food and Drug Administration's Equal Employment Opportunity Handbook states: "The common requirement for 'knowledge of the rules of grammar' and 'ability to spell accurately' in secretarial job descriptions," should be eliminated because it may impede the hiring of "underrepresented groups." Also, job interviews that "judge highly subjective traits such as motivation, ambition, maturity, personality and neatness" should be eliminated.


From an open letter by the crew of the HMS Brave that appeared in the British Navy News, April 1998:
As members of the ship's company of the only frigate in the fleet to have a remotely hard-as-nails name, we would like to protest the current ship-naming policy. At present, all escorts in the fleet, with the exception of Brave, Boxer, and Iron Duke, are named after fluffy animals (Beaver) or picked at random from the road atlas of Britain. In this age of political correctness, are we to continue the trend toward inoffensive, soft and cuddly, and occasionally downright dull ship naming?

This has got to stop. It is bad for morale and presents a poor impression on overseas visits. You cannot maintain the credibility of the service by turning up in a foreign country in a ship that sounds like it's named after a shopping center (HMS St. Albans).

The introduction of the Type 42 replacement is an ideal opportunity to reverse this damaging trend. Apparently, this will be the Daring class, which is a good start. It will go downhill if this is followed by Delight, Dainty, and Duchess, which are traditional but completely soft. We recommend Dreadnaught, Dauntless, Dominant, Devastation, Defender, and Dragon, to be followed by the second batch of E class: Excalibur, Enforcer, Emperor, Endeavor, Exultant, and Extreme, as opposed to the suggested Empress, and Emerald.

While many would like to avoid the fact that the Navy actually has anything to do with fighting, we feel that if we are required to go to war, the least we can expect is that we head off sounding "well hard."

The National Wilderness Institute charged the Interior Department with failure to remove several plant and wildlife species from their endangered list despite the common knowledge that they don't exist. The Department resists the change because it says it costs $37,000 to remove nonexistent species (such as the "Maguire daisy") from the list but meanwhile has added hundreds of new ones in recent years.

Of 29 plant and animal species Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt later removed from the endangered list, it turns out that five had become extinct since being listed, eight because of listing errors, and four because the species never existed in the first place. "We can now finally prove one thing conclusively," Babbitt declared, "the Endangered Species Act works. Period."

Anthony Mason reports on the looming budget surplus on the "CBS Evening News," May 26, 1998:
The smart thing to do with the money, says Adam Pozen of the Institute for International Economics? Save it.... A tax cut, Pozen says, is simply not what the economy needs right now. While the federal government may be getting better at saving money, Americans are not. Our savings rate recently hit a record low.

A report from the Chicago Fair Housing Alliance determined that the Federal Housing Authority's mortgage insurance program, which extends subsidized credit for people who might not otherwise qualify for loans, has led to a much higher foreclosure rate in the blighted neighborhoods the program is supposed to help. Lenders face zero risk and enjoy twice the profits on FHA-guaranteed loans, creating a strong incentive to make bad loans on shabby properties. Such loans are also based on the size of the mortgage rather than the applicant's income. Altogether, FHA-insured loans are three times more likely to default as conventional loans.

An FHA spokeswoman told the New York Times that the program may simply "require additional improvement and reform." But HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo is proposing to expand the program, raising the qualifying mortgage limit from $170,362 to a $227,150 maximum. Writing in the New Republic, Jessica Korn comments that this expansion may be partly motivated by FHA's dire financial crisis. The agency paid out an additional $5.3 billion in claims in 1997 to mortgage bankers who foreclosed on 71,599 borrowers, an 18 percent jump over the previous year. The fees paid by borrowers on FHA-backed loans will temporarily boost revenues, but the loans themselves will lead to unknown future liability.

It appears that whoever planned the Dalai Lama's recent trip to New York didn't ask him what he liked to eat. The New Yorker reported that the vegetarian restaurant Zen Palate delivered hundreds of lunchboxes containing meals of rice fettuccine and brown rice to a teaching led by the Tibetan Buddhist leader. But while many East Asian Buddhist monks adhere to a vegetarian diet, Tibet's cold mountainous climate makes greens scarce and a diet without meat regionally unpopular.

Tenzin Thokme, one of the disappointed monks in attendance, grumbled, "This food tastes very good, but I would prefer a little more salt." Fellow monk Salden Kunda added, "It's not to my taste, but since somebody offered it to me with honor, I try to like it. I make myself enjoy it. I use my mind to enjoy the food." The Dalai Lama himself tried a vegetarian diet for several years, but resumed eating meat following declining health and his doctor's stern orders. The spiritual leader now alternates vegetarian and meat-eating days. Since the teaching was held on a meat-eating day, he did not partake of Zen Palate's offering, instead returning to his suite at the Waldorf Astoria and ordering room service to deliver a steak, well done.

As reported in the New York Times on May 14, following India's nuclear tests President Clinton "sounded a note of understanding, suggesting that India, which he called 'a perfectly wonderful country,' may have been motivated by a lack of self-esteem."

Yet more offerings from the State University of New York Press, Summer/Fall 1998 catalog:

Object Lessons: How to Do Things With Fetishism, by E.L. McCallum

Object Lessons begins with the question, What can fetishism teach us? One answer, as this book makes clear, is that fetishism is a form of subject-object relation that informs us about basic strategies of defining, desiring, and knowing subjects and objects in Western culture. More importantly, in the way that it brings together peculiarly modern anxieties—especially those about sexuality, gender, belief, and knowledge—fetishism reveals how our basic categories for interpreting the world have been reduced to binary and mutually exclusive terms. By foregrounding concerns about sexual differences in examining fetishism's unique intersection of desire and knowledge, Object Lessons seizes on the promises fetishism offers to those who want to call into question the resurgence of conservative and even reactionary drives to lock down absolute definitions of sexual differences through either biological or cultural essentialism.

Hemingway's Fetishism: Psychoanalysis and the Mirror of Manhood, by Carl P. Eby

Demonstrates in painstaking detail and with reference to stunning new archival evidence how fetishism was crucial to the construction and negotiation of identity and gender in Hemingway's life and fiction.

Critics have long acknowledged Hemingway's lifelong erotic obsession with hair, but this book is the first to explain in a theoretically coherent manner why Hemingway was a fetishist and why we should care. Without reducing Hemingway's art to his psychosexuality, Eby demonstrates that when the fetish appears in Hemingway's fiction, it always does so with a retinue of attendant fantasies, themes, and symbols that are among the most prominent and important in Hemingway's work.

Organizing Silence: A World of Possibilities, by Robin Patric Clair

Organizing Silence is a thought-provoking look at how silence is embedded in our language, society, and institutions. It provides an overview of the varied philosophical approaches to understanding the role of silence and communication. One particular view of silence/communication, as grounded in political and patriarchal frameworks, is given special attention. The author questions now only how dominant groups silence marginalized members of society, but also how marginalized groups privilege and abandon each other. Sexual harassment is given as an example of material and discursive practices that articulate both a micro and macro level of silence, and accounts of both women and men who have been sexually harassed are provided. The book provides an alternative aesthetic perspective as a way of understanding the realities we create, encouraging alternative ways to listen to the silence, and presenting novel possibilities for future research.

Secret Journeys: The Trope of Women's Travel in American Literature, by Marilyn C. Wesley

Travel is the root metaphor for Western progress, a fact particularly evident in a colonizing and immigrant nation like the United States. Despite changing historical circumstances from one American epoch to another, men have generally been associated with adventurous movement and women with domestic stasis, a bias that has obscured recognition of a significant trope: the woman traveler throughout American literature.

Secret Journeys examines the subversive and constructive narrative of female journey from the seventeenth century to the present in such works as John Greenleaf Whittier's Snowbound, Mary Rowlandson's A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mary Rowlandson, Harriet Jacob's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs, Edith Wharton's Summer, Willa Cather's The Professor's House, Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, Eudora Welty's short fiction, and Elizabeth Bishop's poetry. In recognizing the figure of the woman traveler, Wesley produces new readings of canonical texts that subvert social and political assumptions in texts by men and construct alternative arrangements in texts by women.

Eating Culture, Ron Scapp and Brian Seitz, editors

Explores the relationship between eating and culture from a variety of perspectives, including anthropology, sociology, philosophy, gender studies, race studies, architecture, and AIDS discourse.

Eating has never been simple, and contemporary eating practices seem more complicated than ever, demanding a multidimensional analysis that strives not for a reductive overview but for a complex understanding. Eating Culture offers a number of diverse outlooks on some of the prominent practices and issues associated with the domain of eating.

Afrikan Mothers: Bearers of Culture, Makers of Social Change, by Nah Dove

This book highlights the integrity of some Afrikan mothers who, under European domination within the United States and the United Kingdom, have used their own experience as a foundation for understanding the impact of cultural imposition on their children's lives. Most of these mothers have chosen to place their children in school environments that will educate their children about their cultural roots, in order that their cultural memory and knowledge of Afrikan people will be handed down intergenerationally. This book looks sensitively at the herstories of women who are undergoing their own process of transformation and offers insights into the historical and continuing struggle of Afrikan people as a cultural entity living within European-oriented societies.

Sport and Postmodern Times, Geneviéve Rail, editor

This book provides critical insight into the questions of race, gender, sexuality, and locality in sport and society. Topics discussed include postmodern sport writing; sport and the postmodern deconstruction of gender and sexuality; virtual sport and the postmodern mediascape; discipline, normalization, rationalization, surveillance, panopticism, and other forms of power used to "invest" postmodern sporting bodies; and new perspectives on sport and physical culture, consumer culture, and postmodern geography.