Tongue Tied: A Report From the Front Line of the Culture Wars

Jewish leaders say a U.N. hurricane-naming commission's decision to name the 9th Pacific storm of 2001 “Israel” was “stupid” and “insensitive,” reports the Jerusalem Post.

Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, expressed outrage over the use of the name. "How about Jesus?" Foxman asked. "They wouldn't name a hurricane Jesus, would they? If there were a headline that said 'Jesus hits Philippines,' a lot of people would be upset.”

When contacted by the paper and informed of the ire, Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami and chairman of the U.N. naming commission, said no one on the board thought twice about the name.

"We have four billion people on the planet, and you are the only person I've ever had express a concern about the name Israel," he told a reporter.

Lion-slaying in Narnia

Fans of C.S. Lewis’ classic series of childrens’ books on Narnia are in a twit over reports that a publisher plans to produce new novels based on the same characters and setting without the Christian symbolism that suffused the original series, reports the New York Times.

A leaked memo from an executive at HarperCollins (a division of NewsCorp, parent company of Fox News), suggests that the publisher of the new books will “need to be able to give emphatic assurances that no attempt will be made to correlate the stories to Christian imagery/theology."

HarperCollins is said to be attempting to capitalize on the rising popularity of kids fantasy books since the advent of the Harry Potter phenomenon.

Lewis, one of the century’s most influential Christian writers, wrote his Chronicles of Narnia series beginning in 1950. The originals are steeped in Christian themes and imagery and many of the characters are representations of biblical figures.

Homophobia Defined

Gay rights activists in Detroit say a mayoral candidate’s comments that he would like to shield his twin five-year-old sons from public displays of homosexuality are homophobic and stoke the stereotype that gays prey on boys, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Mayoral hopeful Kwame Kilpatrick told interviewers that as a lawmaker he supports hate crimes legislation and providing benefits to domestic partners but he doesn’t want his sons exposed to the homosexual lifestyle. “There are things that my impressionable children don't need to see at this age — a man kissing a man, a woman kissing a woman," he said. "That's not hatred. It's just that I want to raise strong, proud men that love women."

The remarks upset gay-rights advocate Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation, a Detroit-based advocacy group for homosexual and trans-gender rights. "He wouldn't want his son to be exposed to gay people, which is a very homophobic attitude and we regret that," Montgomery said.

Sharing the Blame in Africa

A precursor meeting to the U.N.’s World Conference Against Racism ended in deadlock over the question of whether former colonial powers in the developed world should explicitly apologize for the historical slave trade and pay reparations to African countries for it, reports the Associated Press.

Meeting in Geneva, delegates from African countries pushed a proposed declaration that would describe the slave trade as "a unique tragedy in the history of humanity, a crime against humanity which is unparalleled." It calls for the United States, Britain and other European countries to establish an international compensation program.

African groups argue that there should be some compensation for slavery because labor was stolen from the African continent and helped the development of now-rich nations. The huge debts of the developing world can be directly linked to slavery and colonialism, they say, demanding that as a result such debts should be forgiven.

The U.S. and other countries are said to be ready to accept a statement acknowledging that slavery, even deep in the past, is among the causes of racism today and to "express regret" for past use of slaves. But they refuse to accept any suggestion in the text that countries might be financially liable today. Such a move could open them to almost endless lawsuits.

Patriotism, Memphis-style

A black state lawmaker in Tennessee has refused to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag along with the rest of state House members because the flag to her represents oppression, reports the Nashville Tennessean.

State Rep. Henri Brooks says she has not recited the pledge since third grade because her family taught her it was not something she had to do. “The flag of the United States represents those colonies that formerly enslaved our ancestors,” she says. “For me to pledge allegiance would be a slap in the face and a dishonor to them.''

Betcha Didn't Know ...

An author and sociologist meeting with public school teachers in South Carolina told the group that textbooks being used in their classrooms create racists because they are historically biased in favor of whites, reports the Charleston News and Courier.

James Loewen, author of "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American Textbook Got Wrong," was among several Carnegie Scholars from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching who met with the teachers. The textbooks are biased, he said, because they reflect the opinions of the white majority.

"We all live in a white supremacist culture, and are all reproducing children that are in some way white supremacists," he told the group. As examples, he cited textbooks stating that South Carolina seceded from the Union because of states' rights and not just slavery, and their takes on the meaning of Thanksgiving and Columbus days.

From the central servers:

Roberta S. in Hillsboro, Ore. tells us:

Oregon is a step closer to changing the name of anything that includes the word "Squaw". This is apparently offensive to "Native Americans." So, Squaw Valley, the Squawfish, Squaw Creek Squaw Butte, Squaw Gulch and on and on - all have to be renamed. The last I heard, this nonsense had been approved and is being sent to the governor for signing into law.

Christiana in Raleigh, N.C. says:

On the subject of the transgender high school student demanding that the girl’s locker room be remodeled: I am a male-to-female transsexual who is also awaiting surgery, and rather than making a spectacle of myself, I prefer to blend in as much as is possible. I think that this student will find that insisting on the right to make others uncomfortable, legal issues aside, is the surest way to gain the animosity of those around her. The school’s offer of private showering facilities is more than fair, and to make public demands of this nature is only going to turn some otherwise accepting people against her.

Bob M. writes:

It's kind of hard — make that difficult — to stand in the women's locker room with your penis hanging down and complain that you femininity is not being taken seriously.  If this line works watch for a flood of "transgender" arguments from the guys in the future.  I feel pretty oh so pretty.

Kenneth M. says:

Would someone remind Judge Michael Luttig that far more racist acts and violence have occurred under the stars and stripes than have ever been committed under the confederate flag.

Chris B. asks:

If the Jewfish has its name changed for being offensive, then why not the Mormon Cricket?  Maybe we should change the name of all creatures to Latin-only, so that none of the dumbed-down graduates of our public schools will ever know enough about what they mean to be offended.

Steven F. has a good one:

I just got off the phone. I tried to place a classified ad in the local Hillsboro, Ore. Argus. I wanted the line for an apartment I want to rent out to read, "Walk to Light rail." But I was told that I couldn't say that. The word "walk" was offensive; they had received phone calls.

David L. says:

Well, it looks like PETA is showing their true racist colors. I happened to be of Spanish descent and a bullfight is a part of my cultural heritage. PETA has no right to make such derogatory comments and implications about my culture.  The school would be better of not giving in to racist, hateful and psychopaths such as PETA members.

Darrell P. reminds us:

Someone tell Toyota the best way to get Jessie off their backs is to make a large contribution to the Rainbow-Push Coalition.  It has worked well for other companies who have been targets of his extortion.


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