An Inclusive Litany


After talk show host Rosie O'Donnell hired a bodyguard, the bodyguard applied for a concealed-gun permit. O'Donnell favors a national ban on all firearms except for police. O'Donnell has also done television ads for K-Mart, the nation's leading retail gun seller.

The City Council of Boulder, Colorado, voted unanimously to add "gender variance," defined as "a persistent sense that one's gender identity is incongruent with one's biological sex," to the city's Human Rights Ordinance. The Council did, however, allow employers to require a "reasonably consistent gender presentation," limiting workers to three gender changes for each 18-month period.

The city of Boca Raton, Florida, which already bars police and firefighters from smoking—both on the job and off—is seeking to extend the ban to its entire city labor force of 1,100. Also, the city of Athens, Georgia, is considering a ban on hiring workers with high cholesterol.


To get around rules against asking people what minority group they're a part of, the Forest Service has asked businesses operating in California's national forests to document the "perceived identity" of their patrons. District Ranger Kristy Cottini said, in a letter sent to all forest area businesses, that the survey is necessary to comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which directs businesses operating in national forests to provide services free from discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission went to court to defend a man who was denied a train dispatcher's job because of a condition that could cause him to lose consciousness. "While consciousness is obviously necessary to perform" the job, the agency conceded, "it is not itself a job function."


A woman in Sydney, Australia, was awarded $15,600 as a result of her lawsuit against the women's health center at which she was employed as a masseuse. She alleged the center failed to provide her with training as a counselor or otherwise helped her cope with the stress of listening to her clients talk about all their problems.

The State Department announced that what were previously known as "rogue states"—those sponsoring terrorism such as North Korea, Libya, Iran, and Iraq—would henceforth be referred to as "states of concern."


A Georgia man sued the manufacturer of Liquid Fire drain cleaner, packages of which feature an ominous skull and crossbones and numerous warnings. Suspecting that the bottle's spout might drip, he emptied the contents into another bottle whose spout he thought might not drip, but that bottle immediately began to disintegrate, causing the dangerous liquid to spill on his leg. He is asking for $100,000 for his injuries.

CBS received a complaint from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals after one of the members of its "Survivors" show—in which people are supposed to be stranded on an island and forced to survive—was filmed clubbing, skinning, roasting, and eating a rat.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals requested that the state of Wyoming change its license plate, removing an image of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco.

Nike, attempting to cast off its image as master of Third World sweatshops and trying its best to appear more progressive, enlisted track-and-field star Marion Jones to complain, on camera, about the disparity in pay between male and female athletes.

"Why are our sisters making less when they're busting their butts to the max?" Jones asks. "I'm speaking of pro women athletes. Are they playing any less hard than the fellas? Is their blood any less red? Whether it's tennis, track, or hoops, their sacrifice is the same. Yet women receive less. They deserve more. The more, the better.... Can you dig it?"

Yet Nike itself reportedly paid Michael Jordan $20 million per year for his endorsement deal, while it paid basketball star Chamique Holdsclaw a mere $1 million over five years, the most lucrative ever for a female athlete. A Nike executive explained that the Jones ads are not meant to represent Nike's own policy on equal pay, but to open discussion on the issue.

Speaking at a fundraiser one hour after a young gang member shot up Washington's National Zoo, injuring seven, Vice President Al Gore said the incident demonstrated that "we really have to have mandatory child safety trigger locks."

Rebecca Mead in the New Yorker, June 19-26, 2000:
It does seem that Juan Miguel Gonzalez is going to be granted the right to raise his son where and how he likes, and those who are troubled by the prospect of Elian returning to a country ruled by an unsavory head of state would do well to remember that the official observance of Father's Day was inaugurated by Richard Nixon.


A booklet titled Towards a Non-Violent Society, published by Britain's education minister, condemns the game "musical chairs" for encouraging aggression among children and allowing the biggest and strongest children to win. According to the booklet, "Musical statues is better because everybody wins."

Stockport College in Manchester, England, instituted a ban on the words "gentleman," "history," "manmade," "lady," "Mrs.," and "postman," along with over two dozen other terms. Anyone caught using the terms could be denied admission or employment at the college. Gone too are terms like "normal couple," "man on the street," "mixed race," and "bird" when not referring to creatures that actually have feathers on them. The words "crazy," "mad," and "manic" are also proscribed, since they are offensive to those suffering from mental health problems. And nobody can be referred to as "slaving over a hot stove," since that "minimizes the horror and oppression of the slave trade."

Also, Britain's National Employment Service instituted a ban on the words "hard-working," "enthusiastic," "smart," and "reliable" from a newspaper ad, claiming they violated the 1999 Disability Discrimination Act. The ban, which also covered the phrase, "commitment and a desire to succeed are vital," was later rescinded amid a hail of ridicule.


Laura Robinson, professor of English at the Royal Military College in Ontario, incited much derision when she claimed, at an Alberta academic conference, that Anne Shirley, the main character of the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables, was lesbian. Robinson notes that Anne refers to her closest female pals as "bosom friends." Anne's crush on schoolmate Gilbert Blythe, whom she eventually marries, doesn't disprove her thesis but rather represents the "triumph of compulsive heterosexuality." The complete lack of any mention of lesbian sex is taken to mean that it must be seething beneath the surface.

From the GW Hatchet, the student newspaper of George Washington University, March 2, 2000:
Jerry Harvey, a business professor, adopts an uncommon definition of cheating in his classes.

"Cheating is the failure to assist others on an exam if they request it," he tells his students....

Harvey says his policy brings out the best in his students because they are able to think creatively without the stress of working on their own....

Students think it is wrong to ask other students for help on tests and assignments because they are never presented with a different perspective on cheating, Harvey says.


The Oakland School Board rejected Mayor Jerry Brown's proposal to have a college prep charter school run by the National Guard. More than 2000 parents had asked for such a school to give their children structure and discipline, but school officials said the school would be militaristic and "a violence incubator," as opposed to the streets of Oakland.

Reacting to a failure to meet any of eleven performance standards, the Missouri State Board of Education has pulled the accreditation from the entire Kansas City School District. The district now has two years to meet accreditation requirements, or the state will assume direct control. Students may now legally attend schools in neighboring districts, and the Kansas City district must pay their tuition and transportation costs. The Kansas City Star reports that even the Kansas City school board president is now considering removing his own kids from district schools.

This may end the longest-running and most ambitious experiment in American public education, and puts into question the relationship between the quality of a school and its level of funding. Following a late-1970s desegregation suit, federal judge Russell Clark took the extraordinary step of taking the district under his direct control in 1985. Rather than instituting the sort of unpopular busing regimen that led to massive problems in cities like Boston, he ordered the district and state to raise taxes to fund a series of magnet schools that would be so well staffed and funded that they would attract large numbers of non-minority students.

The state poured $2 billion into building new educational infrastructure, including schools with lavish computer facilities, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation facilities, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and a robotics lab. The district offered taxi service to make transportation easier for suburban kids who didn't live near a bus route. The district regularly spent more per pupil than any other urban district in America, and also had the lowest student-teacher ratio, under 13 to 1.

Still, suburban students stayed away. More importantly, test scores remained well below the national average. Only 5 percent of targeted black eleventh-graders scored at a "proficient" level in reading and writing. Nearly half either didn't finish the test or failed to show up at all.

In an effort to address this poor performance, a 1994 state law raised taxes dramatically, stiffened requirements for teachers and curriculum, and included a program to objectively evaluate school performance. This led some rural school districts to lose state accreditation, either because they weren't spending enough or because their teachers lacked the proper requirements. Still, the state Department of Education was much less likely to penalize schools for poor student performance.

Since the loss of accreditation occurred, some observers noticed impressive changes, in which school administrators—faced with competition from charter schools, private schools, and neighboring districts—focused more on increasing outputs than inputs. But the Eighth District Appeals Court later overturned the state's accreditation ruling and ordered a reinstatement of federal control.

Blake Hurst, former president of Westboro School District in the northwest part of the state, reports that once that happened, "the actors in this never-ending drama began to return to type. The teacher's union is complaining about a merit pay plan. The opponents of charter schools are arguing for a five-year delay in the opening of any new ones."

The appeals court decision is now itself under appeal.


A young woman claimed to have been sexually assaulted within sight of a large antirape rally at the University of Massachusetts. She later admitted that she had made the whole thing up—cutting herself with a knife, tossing the knife under a car, and then walking across the street, where she claimed the crime took place. In a prior allegation of sexual assault, another woman said she successfully fought off three male attackers, then ran for help after being hit with "a pepper-spray-like substance."

The Toronto National Post, May 18, 2000:

WASHINGTON—The United States will train high-resolution day and night cameras on its border with Canada following the foiling of a terrorist plot to detonate bombs in the United States on New Year's Eve, Bill Clinton said yesterday.

The U.S. President announced a package of high-technology security measures yesterday while providing new details on the charges against Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian native who worked in a convenience store in Montreal.

The Algerian native was part of a terrorist conspiracy organized by Osama bin Laden to detonate the bombs in the United States, Mr. Clinton told Coast Guard graduates in New London, Conn....

Another item, directly adjacent:

Canada's newest border guards will not mind a bit if you call them chicken—because that is what they are.

Hundreds of common hens are being enlisted by the federal government to carry out sentry duty on the border with the United States.

From Harper's, March 2000, its 150th distinguished year of publication:
Matthew Barney is the Michelangelo of genital art, the supreme master of the genre, whose work so transcends the run-of-the-mill video artist masturbating in his studio that he may also be said to bring his tradition to its unsurpassable realization.... The great challenge facing each genital artist is one of visual discrimination.... After viewing a few thousand photographs or videos featuring genitalia (and their excrementa) in various poses and states of mutilation... it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish among the works of different artists.... Barney's work, as it sets about redeeming genital art, also moves beyond it, revealing it to be a style of world-historical significance....

His first major piece, Field Dressing, revealed the naked young Yale graduate sliding up and down a metal pole, carefully and repeatedly applying cooled Vaseline to all his orifices....

[In] his next major work, Blind Perineum... the artist used mountain-climbing gear to clamber about naked on the walls and ceiling of the Barbara Gladstone Gallery. Still, the public and critical establishment seemed resistant to the power of the work.... Barney replied with Radical Drill, in which he performed football blocking exercises wearing a black evening gown and high-heeled shoes.... Drawing Restraint 7, which appeared a few years later in the 1993 Whitney Biennial, featured Barney costumed as a goat-boy named Kid, along with a couple of satyrs who spend much of the video wrestling in the back of a limo, repeatedly penetrating Manhattan via the island's tunnels and bridges....

[Barney] is not burdened with a fashionable concern for "the other." What distinguishes Barney's Onanism from other varieties of genital art is its persistent self-regard; Onanism is all about the self, Barney's self....

[Ed.: Barney has been called "the most crucial artist of his generation" by the New York Times and was awarded the prestigious Hugo Boss Prize of the Guggenheim Museum.]