An Inclusive Litany


San Francisco now officially recognizes Arab Americans as a minority eligible for affirmative action benefits.


In Westchester County, New York, a group of parents filed a lawsuit to protest a quasi-religious "Earth pledge" required of students, and classes involving a yogi, a telepathic psychic, a game involving witchcraft, crystal power masquerading as geology, "satanism and occultism, pagan religions and New Age spirituality." A thirteen-year-old daughter of one of the plaintiffs testified that the only thing she clearly remembered from third grade was a series of ceremonies in which students prayed to the Hindu deity Lord Ganesha with dots stuck to their foreheads.

Dying of Lou Gehrig's disease, Patrick Matheny had trouble self-administering the lethal drugs allowed to him under Oregon's assisted suicide law, so his brother-in-law helped him to do so. Following a brief investigation of the killing, deputy attorney general David Schuman concluded that the Death With Dignity Act may discriminate against disabled persons either under the state constitution or the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that the state may have to provide "reasonable accommodation that would enable the disabled to avail themselves of the Act's provisions."

Jack Kevorkian was convicted in Michigan of second-degree murder for directly administering lethal drugs to Thomas Youk, a clearly premeditated killing that was staged for CBS's "60 Minutes" program. What primarily prompted Youk, who suffered from the same disease, to consent to his own killing was the fear that he would choke to death as a result of one of the disease's debilitating effects, but doctors insist that drugs are available to prevent that from happening. Maintaining a strange consistency, Kevorkian himself vowed to commit suicide if convicted.

Lee Williams of Roseville, Michigan, sued a tattoo parlor for $25,000 for damages and humiliation he suffered after the misspelled word "villian" was etched onto his right forearm. Williams, a 23-year-old Wayne State University student and ex-Marine, did not realize a mistake had been made until a friend made fun of his new tattoo. Oddly enough, Williams and employees at the tattoo parlor debated how the word ought to be spelled prior to its application, but the customer somehow prevailed in the argument.

Over a dozen large people picketed outside a 24 Hour Fitness gymnasium in San Francisco, protesting a billboard featuring extraterrestrial aliens and the slogan, "When they come, they will eat the fat ones first." The protests led the city's Human Rights Commission to modify its anti-discrimination ordinance to include body size.

An audit of the Internal Revenue Service by the General Accounting Office found that 68 percent of claims filed in 1998 for the earned-income tax credit, which benefits lower-income families, were invalid.

Under pressure from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, the school district of Florida's Palm Beach County passed a rule that all teachers with ten or more poor or minority students in a class must nominate three of them as gifted.

Speaking of his humble upbringing in Tennessee prior to creating the Internet, Vice President Al Gore had this to say to the Des Moines Register:
I'll tell you something else [my father] taught me. He taught me how to clean out hog waste with a shovel and a hose. He taught me how to clear land with a double-bladed ax. He taught me how to plow a steep hillside with a team of mules. He taught me how to take up hay all day long in the hot sun.
Yes, he sure can shovel it. The Weekly Standard notes that even the poorest farmers have been using bulldozers and chainsaws to clear land since before Gore was born, and that only the most foolish among them would plow a steep hillside, thus allowing precious topsoil to wash away.

A profile of Gore in the New Yorker from a few years back revealed a much different facet to this complex man:

Gore was a son of politics, a child of Washington, where his father served for thirty-two years as a congressman and a senator. The family residence was an apartment in the elegant Fairfax Hotel, which was owned by a Gore cousin; young Al walked across the street every morning to the Cosmos Club, where a bus picked him up for the ride to Washington's most elite prep school, St. Albans, on the grounds of the Washington Cathedral.


The Centers for Disease Control warn that so-called "organic" foods are eight times more likely to pass on deadly E. coli bacteria, because of the "natural" fertilizer (manure) used to grow them and the relative lack of modern sanitizing technology used to process them.


Under a proposal put before San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, homeless beggars would be equipped with machines to allow donations from major credit cards or bank ATM cards. "It's more than a Band-Aid solution," commented Karen Gatter, who formulated the idea. "What we're looking at is creating a means for homeless people to sustain themselves." Under the proposal, 80 percent of credit card donations would go to community homeless programs, and the rest to the individual solicitor. Mayor Brown said he was "excited by this innovative plan, which empowers homeless persons to take responsibility for their own lives." But Terry Hill, the city's coordinator for homeless issues, noted that for the plan to work, there would have to be some way to guarantee the security of credit card numbers.

Later, following an order by Mayor Brown to reclaim homeless persons' shopping carts, activists declared the carts to be works of art, and thus protected from confiscation under the First Amendment. Efforts to combat alcohol consumption in public parks also came under fire as a form of discrimination. "If you had just drunk a glass of Corbett Canyon [wine] and they came into your living room, wouldn't you think it's an invasion of your privacy?" asked Benny Joyner of the Coalition on Homelessness. "These [parks] are homes to the homeless."


While Kathy Brown was ordering a meal from a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Redondo Beach, California, an armed robber entered the store, pressed his gun to her back, and lifted her wallet. He then demanded that the KFC employee give him the cash in the register as well, shoving his gun harder into Ms. Brown's back and threatening to shoot. The frightened cashier told the robber she would have to get the key from the back of the store. Brown screamed for the cashier to turn over the money, the cashier complied, and seconds later the robber fled with the loot. He was never apprehended.

A year later, Brown sued KFC for severe emotional distress. Ruling in her favor, a California appellate court accepted her hypothesis that a company has a duty to comply with a robber's demands and is liable to tort action from injured or frightened patrons if it fails to do so quickly enough.


In a September speech, Vice President Al Gore took a stand on an issue that will no doubt establish him as 2000's leading presidential contender—suburban "sprawl." Gore declared: "Acre upon acre of asphalt have transformed what were once mountain clearings and congenial villages into little more than massive parking lots. The ill-thought-out sprawl hastily developed around our nation's cities has turned what used to be friendly, easy suburbs into lonely cul-de-sacs, so distant from the city center that if a family wants to buy an affordable house they have to drive so far that a parent gets home too late to read a bedtime story."

Gore deplores the tendency to build "flat, not tall," instead endorsing "smart-growth" plans calling for denser city-like enclaves with strict building restrictions on outlying areas, preferring multi-family townhouses to single-family homes, and rail transit to automobiles—all the things suburbanites apparently want to get away from. But by reducing commuting costs, Gore insists suburbanites would have more money to send their children to college.

[Ed.: The average automobile commute time runs less than half an hour, less than by rail. Roads are cheaper to build than rail systems, and are far more flexible in their use, as exemplified by the recent trend towards inter-suburban commuting. Steven Hayward, of the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute, also notes that "sprawl" is a sign of economic health, and many of the metropolitan areas now leading campaigns against it—St. Louis, Chicago, and Pittsburgh—would have begged for growth of any kind twenty years earlier.]

Following controversy over whether New Jersey state police used "racial profiling" in stopping minority motorists, governor Christine Todd Whitman fired state police superintendent Carl Williams when he told a reporter that Jamaicans dominate heroin traffic, white bikers were mostly responsible for methamphetamine traffic, and Russians and Eastern Europeans ran most of the state's organized crime.

[Ed.: To address racial-profiling allegations, the Clinton Justice Department called for a study on whether state troopers were pulling over a disproportionate percentage of African American drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike. Released two years later, the study determined that blacks were nearly twice as likely to speed (driving at least 80 mph in a 65 mph zone) than whites. The study relied on data supplied by an independent contractor, the Public Services Research Institute, which over a three-month period photographed tens of thousands of motorists while clocking them with radar guns.]

From an item in Lawyer's Weekly USA, March 22, 1999, on new guidelines issued by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission seeking to clarify the concept of "Reasonable Accommodation" under the Americans with Disabilities Act:
The Guidance says that unpaid leave may be a reasonable accommodation after paid leave has been exhausted. This means that employers may need to provide indefinite leave to an employee, as long as this isn't an "undue hardship." This is true even if the employer already has a generous unpaid leave policy.

[National Employment Law Institute Director of ADA Training David] Fram says that the Guidance conflicts with circuit opinions on the indefinite leave issue.

The result is that it will be more difficult for employers to apply their leave policies, says Minneapolis defense attorney Christopher Bell, one of the principal drafters of the ADA.

"How does an employer apply a policy with a limit if the EEOC says that wherever you draw the line, the ADA means more?" he asks.

He suggests that lawyers advise their clients to reduce the amount of leave that's available in the first place, because "if you have a generous floor, the ceiling is going to be higher."

In Ohio, racist and anti-homosexual flyers appeared at Miami University's Center for Black Culture and Learning, sparking two days of demonstrations protesting a lack of diversity on campus. Seven students were arrested for disorderly conduct, leading to the sale of "Miami 7" T-shirts and a conciliatory meeting between university president James Garland and Nathaniel Snow, head of the Black Student Action Association. But police fingerprint tests concluded that the flyers had been posted by Snow and one of the arrested protesters.


Washington, D.C. school superintendent Arlene Ackerman proposed a plan to give an 11 percent pay boost for entry-level teachers, to make their starting salaries $30,000 and presumably to improve the miserable quality of the city's schools. But the city's teachers union killed the proposal on the grounds that the raise was unfair to existing teachers, who started for less.

A similar plan to give new teachers a $5,000 signing bonus in Richmond, Virginia, was nixed because, as union president Robert Gray said, it "sends a signal that... inexperienced teachers are more valuable than [experienced] teachers."

And the United Educators of San Francisco filed a grievance with the school district because the Edison Charter Academy paid $2,800 to $3,600 more in annual salary than other public schools. Aside from the salary difference, the union was also disturbed that Edison's teachers worked 8 hours a day and 190 days a year, compared with 7 hours a day over 181 days a year as in other schools.


Civil rights officials at the Department of Justice compelled an Illinois bar not to refuse drinks to customers who walk unsteadily, after a customer with Parkinson's disease sued the establishment.


From an interview with rap artist Killah Priest in the Fall 1998 issue of Transition, a journal published jointly by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard University and by Duke University Press. The interview was conducted by Kelefa Sanneh, the journal's assistant editor:

Kelefa Sanneh:
Why do you rap so much about outer space?

Killah Priest:
Because that's where we're from! Black people come from space. When you look at the sky, it's black. Without sunlight, forget it: it's black. In the beginning, there was darkness.

Elijah Muhammad wrote that Earth was created when the moon was deported from this planet 66 trillion years ago. Is that "the beginning" you're talking about?

I ain't talking about that. I'm talking about pure facts. In the beginning, "darkness was upon the face of the deep." Man was made on a certain day, he went and got corrupt, and he's been corrupt ever since. He's been destroying the world, he's been hiding identities, he's been lying, stealing—all of that. But space travel is real. When they speak of unidentified flying objects, a lot of people don't understand what that means. Ezekiel saw UFOs back then, only they were IFOs, because he identified them. He knew what they were. They were chariots of fire. They call them spaceships now. That's where the old Negro song comes from: "Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home."

Are these spaceships different from the Mothership that the Nation of Islam preaches about—the craft that abducted Louis Farrakhan in Mexico in 1985?

No, it's the same. People call it Mothership, chariot, UFO, but it's all the same thing.

Fard Muhammad taught that despite the Mothership, the true home of the Original People was Earth. Do you believe that this spaceship is going to take African-American people someplace else?

That's what's been predicated. Christians talk about the rapture, Christ coming back and the sky cracking up. The American government says that if anything comes out of space, we should all help fight it. The whole world has gone mad: one group of people is waiting for a spaceship, while another group is waiting to shoot it down. Isaiah 66:15: "the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind." He's going to come and wreak vengeance, because there are a lot of lies out there.

Are you talking about movies like Independence Day? The Nation of Islam's newspaper The Final Call attacked that movie as a racist perversion of the Day of Judgment.

Word. Like the movie Independence Day. There are people who know what's going to happen. They are part of the elite 10 percent of society, the ones that know truth and hide it. When you talk about religion, there's always a righteous 5 percent and a devious 10 percent—the other 85 percent of people are ignorant.

The government—that's the 10 percent, right?

Yeah. And I have to watch myself, too. When Christ spoke out like this, they came against him.


The Washington Post reports that after Kellie Smith became pregnant, the man she was living with, Peter Wallis, sued her for becoming pregnant against his will, for violating an agreement to take birth-control pills, and for "intentionally acquiring and misusing" his semen.

Smith counters that she was on the pill at the time but that it was an accident, and that she could not have stolen his sperm because "he surrendered any right of possession to his semen when he transferred it during voluntary sexual intercourse."

Smith gave birth to a baby girl, by the way.


In June, the New York Times Magazine profiled an anonymous gay Marine who criticized the military's policy of "don't ask, don't tell," emphasizing the clean-cut image he and his gay colleagues sought to project. The Marine said that he knew "very little about the gay culture," adding that he found its hedonistic component "wearying and empty." He also said that he and his friends "monitor themselves obsessively" so that nobody can possibly find out they're gay. But The Advocate, a gay magazine, noted that the Marine in question (Rich Merritt) actually had starred in pornographic homosexual films while on active duty, a revelation that Times Magazine editor Adam Moss insisted "doesn't alter the story's truths." Merritt does not appear to have been persecuted, having received an honorable discharge.


Alex Beam in the Boston Globe, March 12, 1999:
With all respect due to a man of phenomenal ability and achievement, isn't it apparent that much of the public mourning for Joe DiMaggio is really keening for the bygone era of the white athlete? I had my ear cocked to the radio on Tuesday and Wednesday, and I couldn't help hearing racial code words pouring out of the ether. Caller after caller decried today's greedy, money-grubbing athlete, who immodestly brags about his or her accomplishments and publicly taunts opponents, talks trash, etc. Inevitably, callers and commentators alike contrasted today's unsportsmanlike behavior with the quiet dignity of DiMaggio, who supposedly never squawked about contracts (he did) or poor-mouthed his adversaries.

Well, OK. But aren't we really talking about stereotypical "white" behavior, contrasted with stereotypical "black" behavior? ...

Kansas state legislators are considering a proposal that would make it illegal to buy more than two packages at one time of cold or flu medicines, which contain chemicals used in illegal methamphetamine production.


John Hart in the San Francisco Examiner, November 18, 1999:
The president could not have committed perjury because truth is subjective. What one person believes to be the truth may not be what another person believes. Case in point: five people witness a crime, yet the statements they give to the police aren't always the same. Why not? Because their beliefs, personalities, etc. cause them to interpret the events differently. This does not make them liars.

We Americans and Congress should be ashamed at ourselves for pointing our collective finger at him and chanting "liar, liar, pants on fire" just because we disagree with his interpretation of what the truth is.


The New York Times, March 9, 1999:
A Federal District Court in Philadelphia discarded the National Collegiate Athletic Association's minimum test score requirement for athletic scholarships yesterday, throwing into disarray the principal criterion for establishing eligibility for student-athletes.

In a 54-page decision, Judge Ronald I. Buckwalter held that the NCAA's SAT and ACT minimum score requirement, as outlined in Proposition 16, "has an unjustified disparate impact against African-Americans."

The Health Care Weekly Review (Southfield, Michigan), November 18, 1999:
Two Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered that sexual intercourse can cause temporary amnesia in elderly men, Reuters Health reported recently.

"We report two patients who presented with transient global amnesia immediately after sexual intercourse," said Chi V. Dang, MD, and Lawrence B. Gardner, MD, in a letter to The Lancet.

The researchers believe the phenomenon may be due to the "Valsalva maneuver" that occurs during sexual intercourse. During the Valsalva movement, a withholding of the breath and a concurrent tightening of the muscles puts pressure on the chest and neck. This stops drainage of blood from the head. This cerebrovascular movement may affect memory and other intellectual functions.

The researchers conclude that their findings may help to explain President Bill Clinton's recent behavior.

"...a presidential Valsalva maneuver during each of his recent escapades may have legally allowed him to not recall specific events." A medical explanation for Clinton's faulty memory "may thereby help maintain international stability during the recent transient global economic fluctuation."

[Ed.: White House aide Sidney Blumenthal testified to a grand jury that President Clinton's power of recall was beginning to falter now that he was in his fifties. One one occasion, the president was working on a crossword puzzle and could not remember the name of Porky Pig's wife. "I reminded him it was Petunia," Blumenthal testified.]


An unprecedented statement of agnosticism from an American cabinet secretary, as reported in the Washington Post:
Asked about Juanita Broaddrick's recent allegations that Clinton assaulted her 21 years ago in an Arkansas hotel room, [Health and Human Services Secretary Donna] Shalala said she has reached no conclusion about whether she believes Broaddrick or the terse denial issued by Clinton's lawyer—and said she doesn't need to in order to do her job.

"I take all of this very seriously," Shalala said of Broaddrick's allegations, adding that "I do not compartmentalize" by making separate judgments about personal conduct and public performance. At the same time, Shalala said, "I'm both a patriot and a professional; I serve the nation and the president."

This conviction, she said, allows her to pursue what she considers important issues on Clinton's behalf without knowing for sure what to believe about his past.

[Ed.: Broaddrick's rape allegation came just as Vice President Gore announced $223 million in "grants to help detect and stop violence against women," an effort that he said would "hold abusers accountable." Also, concerning potential corroborative evidence backing up Broaddrick's account, presidential flak-catcher Lanny Davis wondered aloud, "How do we know she didn't lie to all her friends?" Good question, Lanny!]

The National Organization for Women has released a cookbook. "NOW has always encouraged the nourishment of women's minds and souls," writes President Patricia Ireland in a press release, "so it seems natural for us to write a book about nourishing the body as well." But perhaps owing to the group's often reflexively confrontational stance, the book is titled Don't Assume I Don't Cook.

And after authoring a diet book, former Dukakis campaign manager and Harvard Law Review president Susan Estrich defended its content, declaring: "Dieting for me is an act of feminism."

Faced with the possibility of losing his team in an effort by the California State University-Bakersfield to comply with Title IX civil-rights law, wrestling coach T.J. Kerr launched a corresponding effort to make the men's team coed.

[Ed.: The Wall Street Journal reports that about 1,900 girls participated in high-school wrestling in 1998. In one incident, a boy apologized to his female opponent when putting a hold on her, and another boy—weighing in at 119 pounds and able to bench-press 300—was compelled by his coach to forfeit a match because his coach feared he would "tear the girl apart."]

April Hixson filed suit against Eastern Illinois University, claiming $364.33 in tuition because much of the material covered in an ethnomusicology class she completed bore little resemblance to its course description. While the course was supposed to expose students to Asian, African and South American music, Hixson says professor Doug DiBianco devoted much of the class time to examples of "controversial artistic expression," including images of two men drinking enemas, a man who had supposedly amputated his penis, and Annie Sprinkle's performance art featuring her inserting a tube to display the inside of her vagina. "They're part of my discussion of aesthetics," responded DiBianco. "What are the boundaries of art? Does it always have to be pretty, or can it be raunchy, ugly and disgusting?"


From "The Psychological Challenges of Y2K," part of the Y2K Citizen's Action Guide, a supplement included with the January/February 1999 issue of the Utne Reader. The booklet includes community-activism resources such as prepared letters to send to public officials inquiring into Y2K preparedness, as well as "personal preparedness" items evaluating the competing need for non-perishable food, clean water, first aid supplies, ham radios, portable power generators, cash—even self-armament.

The following is part of the section on "inner preparedness," which also includes tips on how to "freeze-frame" turbulent situations through mental focusing and deep breathing, as well as a list of the five psychological stages people go through when confronted with the Y2K issue: Denial, Anger, Fear, Depression/Panic, and finally Acceptance/Cooperation. Those communicating about the Y2K issue are advised to Achieve Understanding First, Listen Nonjudgmentally, Listen for the Essence, and Be Authentic. They must do so in an environment of Contribution, Recognition, Clarity, Self-expression, Challenge, and Supportive Management.

This section was written by Corrine McLaughlin and Gordon Davidson, coauthors of Spiritual Politics: Changing the World from the Inside Out and Builders of the Dawn. The pair is also credited as cofounders of The Center for Visionary Leadership in Washington, D.C., and Sirius, an "ecological village and educational community" in Massachusetts.

Some are seeing the Y2K crisis as a social change opportunity. People who have been working their entire lives for political, social and cultural change immediately see its transformational potential. A common response among this group is, "This is what I came here for," or "I've been waiting my entire life for this." They immediately see the systemic implications of the issue, and use their carefully developed prototype projects as seed examples of how we can meet some of the real human needs in this new situation.

What many people are realizing is that if there are breakdowns in the infrastructure of the modern world, the seeds that have been planted by all these movements are likely to see exponential growth. Previously uninvolved members of the public will see them as practical solutions they can use in neighborhoods and communities to meet real-life needs. Using well-developed dialoguing and visioning processes involving the entire community, people could develop new ways to organize themselves with community-supported agriculture, barter and alternative currencies, solar and wind energy, wholistic and complementary medicine, and co-ops of all kinds. As people realize they can mobilize their personal resources and contribute to community-preparedness efforts, they feel more confident and empowered that they can get through this Y2K crisis.

[Ed.: Note that millenarians on the far right tend to stress the enduring value of gold over that of solar power. A fascinating digest of often marginal periodicals, The Utne Reader defies easy categorization, but soft-left communitarian concerns seem to form a common thread. While it is said one cannot judge a book by its cover, one can definitely learn a lot about a magazine's readers by scanning its advertisements. Enthusiasms displayed include yoga instruction, hot tubs, the Esalen Institute, ethical investment firms, Working Assets credit cards (a.k.a., "plastic with a purpose"), personal coaches, affirmation alarm clocks, Birkenstocks, non-vinyl shower curtains, recycling, "predator-friendly" wool products (wolves are scared from herds of sheep by llamas rather than shot), teepee kits, adult education, soy milk, vitamin supplements, "Tantric, Taoist and sacred sex" instruction (featuring Kabbazah and Karezza techniques and yogic ejaculatory control), "fairly traded gourmet coffee," natural toothpaste, the intellectual fraudulence of "Dilbert," Windham Hill Records, Tuvan throat singers, nudist travel magazines, improving your Spanish, and "enlightened" dog training methods from the Monks of New Skete.]


For years, William Stanley has bilked numerous elderly ladies out of their money in what law enforcement officials refer to as the "paving scam." (The perpetrator unexpectedly arrives with a truckload of asphalt, offers to patch the driveway at an attractive rate, then dramatically increases the price after the job is done.) After being arrested again in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Stanley pleaded guilty to the charges of larceny from a person over 60, attempted larceny, and bail jumping in connection with a previous larceny charge in Oregon.

Rejecting the prosecutor's recommendation of six to eight years in prison, Suffolk County Judge Maria I. Lopez gave Stanley a three-year sentence that took into account his Gypsy background. Johns Hopkins-educated psychiatrist Keith Ablow testified that Stanley's Gypsy upbringing contributed to his criminal behavior. "This is a culture for which deception and lying is a survival strategy," said Ablow, adding that "it's probably not fair to hold him to the same standards you would an average individual." Ablow noted that Czech playwright Vaclav Havel once said that the way a society treats its Gypsies defines its level of civility, adding that punishing a man for culturally learned actions would create a "Dante-esque" and "Kafka-esque" situation.


After North Korea attempted to launch its first satellite, the Korean News Agency spent several months attacking anyone who pointed out that the launch was less than a success. Rocket scientists reportedly thanked General Kim Jong Il for his wise guidance, while the news agency attempted to finesse the issue by referring to Korea simply as a "satellite-possessing nation."

After the Reverend Henry J. Lyons was accused of stealing massive amounts of cash from the National Baptist Convention, a large black religious organization of which he is president, to finance a life of luxury and mistresses, his lawyer argued in his opening statement that this habit represented a "cultural difference" that the all-white jury needed to recognize. "The customs, the practices, the traditions of the National Baptist Convention allowed him to do what he did." said the lawyer.

[Ed.: Lyons's misdeeds included selling a fraudulent mailing list that supposedly contained members of the National Baptist Convention, but that turned out to be picked out from the telephone book based on whether the names sounded black. One of the names on the list was that of an imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. A good deal of the money in question flooded into the organization following the media hoax alleging widespread arson of black churches.]