An Inclusive Litany


Responding to a directive from its owner, AOL Time Warner vice president Ted Turner, the Cartoon Network banned Speedy Gonzales cartoons due to concerns over racial stereotyping because they feature references to drinking, laziness, drug use, and womanizing. However, according to HispanicOnline Speedy can still be seen on the Latin American Cartoon Network, where his character is hugely popular. Hundreds of fans—including many Mexicans—have organized to try to get Speedy back onto American television.


Ten-year-old Hallie Whatley was suspended from the Webster Elementary School in Webster, Florida, following an otherwise playful Civil War reenactment in which, according to the Lake City Daily Commercial, she "designating herself a Confederate soldier, ... picked up an Oak leaf and pointed it like a gun at the other girl, the so-called 'Yankee soldier,' " and threatened to kill her.


Promotional text for Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex, by Judith Levine, with a foreword by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn M. Elders. The book, published in April by the University of Minnesota Press, immediately went into a second printing:
A radical, refreshing, and long overdue reassessment of how we think and act about children's and teens' sexuality. Sex is a wonderful, crucial part of growing up, and children and teens can enjoy the pleasures of the body and be safe, too. In this important and controversial book, Judith Levine makes this argument and goes further, asserting that America's attempts to protect children from sex are worse than ineffectual. It is the assumption of danger and the exclusive focus on protection—what Levine terms "the sexual politics of fear"—that are themselves harmful to minors.

Through interviews with young people and their parents, stories drawn from today's headlines, visits to classrooms and clinics, and a look back at the ways sex among children and teenagers has been viewed throughout history, Judith Levine debunks some of the dominant myths of our society. She examines and challenges widespread anxieties (pedophilia, stranger kidnapping, Internet pornography) and sacred cows (abstinence-based sex education, statutory rape laws). Levine investigates the policies and practices that affect kids' sex lives—censorship, psychology, sex and AIDS education, family, criminal, and reproductive law, and the journalism that begs for "solutions" while inciting more fear.

Harmful to Minors offers fresh alternatives to fear and silence, describing sex-positive approaches that are ethically based and focus on common sense. Levine provides optimistic, though realistic, prescriptions for how we might do better in guiding children toward loving well—that is, safely, pleasurably, and with respect for others and themselves.

"Sharp, extraordinarily informed, and wittily incisive ... This is a major book, far and away the most wide-ranging, well-informed, and judicious we have on the subject. Levine's wisdom is compelling, and she offers the best kind of sophisticated and skeptical analysis. Each chapter is full of surprises, yet offers sensitive and gentle pointers to all of us, kids and adults, who are looking for ways out of these crushing dilemmas. It's a crusading book that is also kind, a very rare phenomenon, and it comes down always on the side of trusting not only our kids and their pleasures but our own."

—James Kincaid, author of Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting

[Ed.: In case you were wondering, Levine commented in response to widespread outrage that "yes, conceivably, absolutely," a boy's sexual relationship with a priest could be positive.]


For her performance in the women's bobsled event, Vonetta Flowers was the first black person ever to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. But of course commentators could not phrase it that way, so at least one declared that Flowers was "the first African American from any country to win gold at the Winter Olympics."

[Ed.: A commentator at the subsequent World Figure Skating Championships described the members of an American pairs team, one raised in Russia, and the other a "native American." My wife and I had to talk that one over for a little while.]

In a new New York production of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, the role of stage manager is played by a ninth-grade girl. The director, Jack Cummings III, explained, "I do not believe that audiences would welcome—the way they did [before]—an older white man lecturing to them on the ways of the world with a nod and a wink. The New York Times critic, Anita Gates, added, "That may be true for some audiences, but an older black man or an older black woman could have made that point while maintaining the weight of hard-earned wisdom."

West Virginia University, a publicly funded institution, has for a long time maintained two outdoor "free-speech zones," each roughly the size of a classroom. Various people have been punished for engaging in free speech outside the prescribed zones, including a Christian preacher during Gay Pride Week, an anti-Disney protestor during a Disney recruitment seminar, and College Republicans during the school's badly named "Festival of Ideas." Collectively, the zones can accommodate about 150 of the university's 22,000 undergraduates at any time.

[Ed.: After an anti-abortion group successfully sued the University of Houston for the right to demonstrate on campus, the university set up free speech zones that require a ten-day advance registration for any protest.]

Backed by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Deirdre Alden, a city councilor in Birmingham, England, is calling for a ban on admitting children to the city's Ikon Gallery due to its exhibit of a piece of video art with the self-explanatory title: Ten People Remunerated to Masturbate. Gallery owner Jonathan Watkins defended the piece, saying it "is not about exciting people ... it's making a serious point about the exploitation of people in the sex industry in the Third World."

The artist, Santiago Sierra [no relation!], regularly features refugees and prostitutes accepting meager sums to perform "repetitive, and often pointless" tasks. Previous works include Person Remunerated to Remain Tied Down to a Wooden Block (2001), 68 People Remunerated to Block a Museum's Entrance (2000), and 133 People Remunerated to Have Their Hair Dyed Blond (2001).

The New York Times Magazine published an article on new in utero surgical techniques that can correct many congenital defects that may otherwise lead parents to abort. The article featured a dramatic photograph of a surgeon's gloved fingers holding the hand of then-24-week-old Abigail Hasten as it protruded from the womb of her mother, Kelly. The caption read simply, "Dr. Joseph Bruner with Kelly Hasten's uterus."

Marta Sanchez, a first-year student at the University of Virginia School of Law, filed a $35,000 lawsuit against professor Kenneth Abraham for assault and battery. Sanchez's complaint alleges that while teaching a class "covering an area of torts law regarding offensive touching," Professor Abraham demonstrated a point by touching her shoulder "in a caressing manner" without her consent. Sanchez, a prior victim of rape and sexual abuse in her native Panama, said the incident put her "in reasonable fear of physical injury," and resulted in emotional stress, upset stomach, and migranes. Abraham characterized the touch as a "tap."

"She brought a lot of baggage with her," said Steven Rosenfield, Sanchez's lawyer. "She had been terrorized and victimized as a child, and although we don't hold Abraham responsible for what happened to her as a child, what he did is exacerbate and bring to the surface once again her vulnerability to men with authority and power." The complaint thus relies on the same legal principle that Professor Abraham was teaching at the time. According to the "egg-shell skull rule," if a court decides that a wrongful act has occurred, the defendant is responsible for the damage caused by the act, even if the damage is far greater than normally expected.


The Glasgow, Scotland, city council voted to give about $1,700 worth of computer equipment to each of 30 habitually truant schoolkids, in the hope that they would begin to study at home.


University of Toronto professor Steve Mann filed a $1 million lawsuit against Air Canada for subjecting him to an extensive search when he tried to board a plane "wearing his computerized glasses, headgear and electronic body suit," according to the National Post.

Mann alleges he was so traumatized by the incident that he had to check himself into a hospital upon landing. Furthermore, his lawsuit alleges the airline discriminated against him because he is a cyborg. "I know there are a lot of people out there who will read this and say 'This doesn't affect me, I'm not a cyborg,' " said Mann, "But the way I was treated by Air Canada, it could happen to anyone."


Fearing liability stemming from food stored by patrons at improper temperatures, the Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, which runs 142 hotel restaurants across the country, banned patrons from taking home leftovers in doggie bags.

A new PBS documentary, "Sound and Fury," examines the continuing controversy over cochlear implants, which allow deaf people—primarily children—to hear. Many deaf people view the technology as a threat to their identity and their belief in the distinctive value of deaf culture. The documentary focuses on a deaf Long Island couple who refuse to allow their five-year-old daughter to have the implant.

Deaf people used to be discouraged from using sign language and were often dogmatically forced to read lips, severely reducing their ability to communicate with others. Yet, as Cathy Young reports in Reason, many schools for the deaf now regard American Sign Language as the only acceptable form of communication, even for children who have some hearing and would benefit from learning auditory and speaking skills. Deaf schools that promote "oralism" have even been the target of protests and pickets. Heather Whitestone, a deaf woman who won the 1995 Miss America contest, was denounced by some militants as unfit to represent the deaf because she speaks. The Washington Post profiled a deaf lesbian couple who even sought out a sperm donor who would increase the chances that their baby would also be deaf. Their five-year-old daughter, conceived by the same sperm donor, is also deaf.

Such "Deaf Pride" has received approval in some quarters. In his book The Mask of Benevolence, Northeastern University psychologist and MacArthur Foundation "genius" award winner Harlan Lane argues that deaf people have been oppressed and "colonized" by an "audist establishment" bent on "the medicalization of cultural deafness." According to Lane, defining deaf people as hearing-impaired is like defining women as "non-men." And in a 1994 essay in the New York Times Magazine, Andrew Solomon declared: "Perhaps, like the search for a cure for gayness, the search for a cure for the deaf will be dropped by respectable institutions—which would be both a bad and a good thing."


In Massachusetts, Rhonda Hennessy and Andy Williams filed a lawsuit against the Wakefield Basketball Association for refusing to allow their son, eight-year-old Colm Williams, to play because he is confined to a wheelchair. The WBA actually has a Challenger League geared for children with mental and physical handicaps, but according to the Boston Globe, the parents "said their son doesn't want to play in that league because the children are much older and he would miss the camaraderie of being on a team with his classmates."

Saudi Arabia's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Evil declared its intention to conduct round-the-clock patrols to prevent celebration of Valentine's Day. Citizens have even been cautioned against wearing the color red.

This is the same group, the "mutaween," that locked gates and prevented firemen in Mecca from rescuing schoolgirls from a burning building, all in order to keep the girls from being seen in public without their robes and scarves. Fifteen girls died in the ensuing stampede, and some of the survivors were subsequently beaten by members of the religious police. Men who tried to help the girls were warned that "it is sinful to approach them."


In Florida, Huffman Aviation International received notice from the Immigration and Naturalization Service that it had approved student visas for two Saudi men to attend flight school there, exactly six months after the men had participated in the terrorist hijacking that destroyed the World Trade Center.

The New York Times also reports that "nearly seven months after Ziad al-Jarrah seized United Airlines Flight 93 and crashed it into a field in southwestern Pennsylvania, the Federal Aviation Administration continues to include Mr. Jarrah on its mailing list and has been sending pilot correspondence to him at an apartment in southern Florida that he rented last summer."

[Ed.: A full year after the terrorist attacks, the home page of the INS's New York offices, which boasts the most up-to-date information available, prominently featured a banner graphic of lower Manhattan with the World Trade Center towers still standing.]


University of Illinois law professor Francis Boyle said that he was considering filing a complaint with the Justice Department's Office of Civil Rights due to hostile reactions to his effort to end a local student-run event called the Pre-St. Patrick's Day Bar Crawl, a tradition he called "anti-Irish, anti-Catholic and racist."


In November, two members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, driving in a Honda Civic on the New Jersey Turnpike at 1:00 a.m. on their way back from an anti-hunting campaigning tour, struck and killed a negligent deer, resulting in a $6,000 repair bill and loss of the car's use for two months. PETA sued the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, which it alleged contributed to the accident because of its deer management program, which sometimes includes efforts to increase deer populations. PETA legal counsel Matthew Penzer alleges the state's policy is driven by hunting license revenues rather than concern for the deers' well-being, and that the unfortunate animal darted onto the road "near the start of New Jersey's hunting season" while presumably "fleeing hunters' guns."

[Ed.: November is when deers rut.]

As part of a delegation that included California congressmen bearing samples of the state's wines as a gift, singer Carole King serenaded Cuban president Fidel Castro with her 1971 hit song, "You've Got a Friend." Indeed, he does.

To make a point about ethnic stereotyping in sports team names, a Native American-dominated intramural basketball team at the University of Northern Colorado decided to rename itself the "Fightin' Whites." The team marketed a line of Fightin' Whites T-shirts, which features an image of the team's mascot, a 1950s-style caricature of a middle-aged white man wearing a sport coat and a diagonally striped necktie, along with the phrase "Every thang's gonna be all white!"

The company that handles Internet sales for the product says that thousands of orders have poured in from around the country, greatly exceeding expectations, with no reports yet of complaints from Caucasians. While sales profits will go to an as-yet undetermined American Indian organization, Solomon Little Owl, the player who came up with the idea, complained of the product's success: "Some people don't realize what we're trying to do."

A 2001 study conducted by the American Conservative Union by election-law attorney Cleta Mitchell found that groups dedicated to promoting campaign finance legislation—often depicted as underfunded grass-roots organizations—spent over $73 million from 1997 to 1999 to promote their cause. In comparison, the Center for Responsive Politics, which supports a campaign finance overhaul, lists total spending by the "mortgage banking" industry at under $12 million, by "Health Services and HMOs" at under $14 million, and by drug manufacturers at $28 million in the four years from 1997 through 2000.

Writing in the National Review, Federal Election Commission member Bradley A. Smith notes that Mitchell's study actually understates spending by campaign finance reform groups because it doesn't include spending by affiliated tax-exempt 501(c)(4) committees, and misses significant groups such as the National Voting Rights Institute, which describes itself as "a prominent legal and public education center in the campaign finance reform field," and which widely promotes the view that private campaign contributions are unconstitutional.

Similarly, the CRP's figures overstate industry contributions, since they include individual contributions made by company employees or their non-working spouses. Most recently, congressmen said to have received "Enron" contributions often simply received funds from its employees or its stockholders, which may arguably qualify as healthy participation in the democratic political process.

Polls consistently show that voters regard campaign finance reform as a relatively unimportant issue, a stubborn fact that is reflected in reform groups' small membership base. Many groups are little more than glorified lobbying firms that rely on six- and even seven-figure grants from large foundations such as Ford, Carnegie, Joyce, and Pew Charitable Trusts, or on a handful of politically liberal multi-millionaires such as George Soros, Jerome Kohlberg, and Steven Kirsch. Common Cause, by far the largest, has 200,000 members. (In contrast, the National Rifle Association, which it routinely describes as a "special interest," has 4.2 million members.)

In many ways, campaign finance reform groups resemble the special interests whose malignant political influence they seek to curtail. Campaign for America, a creation of Jerome Kohlberg, helped get the recent Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill through Congress by directing an extensive "issue advertising" and phone bank campaign in wavering congressmen's districts, all paid for with (relatively) unregulated soft money. In fact, much of the bill was even drafted by campaign-finance lobbyists rather than by congressional staffers. Press reports revealed that a group consisting of former McCain 2000 counsel Trevor Potter, Democracy 21's Fred Wertheimer, and Don Simon of Common Cause drafted key portions of the complex 86-page bill, at times working out of offices in the Capitol the evening before House debate was to begin and part of the day on which the bill was being debated. They released the final version a few minutes before midnight, virtually guaranteeing that nobody would be able to read it in time to vote on it.


When a Pennsylvania gun-shop owner ordered a Dell laptop computer, the company refused to sell it to him, explaining that handguns imply terrorism, and that Dell is prohibited under U.S. law from exporting computers to terrorists.

In Goldsboro, North Carolina, four men broke into the home of Ronald Biggs and assaulted him with a baseball bat. Biggs broke up the attack by shooting one of the assailants. Biggs was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, while his assailants were all charged with misdemeanors. Don Campbell of Port Huron, Michigan, shot the assailant who broke into his store and attacked him. He was later charged with felonious use of a firearm, for which the prosecutor plea bargained with the assailant in exchange for testimony against Campbell.

And in Maryland, Donald Arnold, a Vietnam veteran who was voted the state's "Citizen of the Year," lost his gun permit after it was revealed that 33 years ago he got into a scuffle with a war protestor who called him a baby-killer.


The London Daily Telegraph, March 5, 2002, reports on a decision by editors of the New Statesman, a British leftist magazine, not to publish pro-American articles:
[Editor Peter] Wilby said he had taken a policy decision that the magazine would vigorously oppose the "war on terrorism", partly to make itself distinctive in a crowded media market. He said there was also a clear commercial logic to his magazine's editorial line, as circulation had surged by almost 25 per cent since September 11.