"Mankind" is out and "humankind" in under an amendment approved by voters in New York Tuesday that will make the state's 244-year-old constitution gender-neutral.

The amendment, already approved by the state Legislature, will change the 46-page document in 170 places, adding a "she" where there had previously been only a "he," substituting the word "fireman" with "firefighter" and the word "workman" with "worker."

Supporters of the measure praised the vote as a win that will bring New York out of the dark ages, but opponents called it a case of political correctness run amok. "In a time when our state is facing serious problems ... it seems frivolous to change our constitution to make it gender-neutral," said state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long.

Etymology Lessons

A speaker addressing the Sacramento City Council on the subject of red-light cameras used the phrase "call a spade a spade" and is being labeled racially insensitive because of it, reports The Sacramento Bee.

City Councilwoman Lauren Hammond, who is African-American, publicly admonished Robert Pacuinas for using what she called an "ethnically and racially derogatory remark." Now, she wants an apology.

But Pacuinas says he is the one who deserves the apology. "You would have to take it completely out of context to think that it referred to anything racial," he said. "How she connected the two, it just blew my mind."

The phrase in question is nearly 500 years old and refers to the garden implement. A variation of it has even been traced to the Greek biographer Plutarch, who died in A.D. 125. To call a spade a spade means to call something by its proper name, to speak bluntly or precisely.

But Hammond says that doesn't matter. She is known for being sensitive about perceived racial slurs. She once took a fellow council member to task for uttering the same phrase, got worked up another time over someone's use of the word "niggardly" and still another time demanded that a word be removed from the 2000 census for Russian-speaking residents of Sacramento because it sounded too much like the N-word.

Policing the Cartoonists

Animators meeting at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh last week said they must avoid the mistake of using ethnic stereotypes in their work like they did during World War II and earlier conflicts, reports The Associated Press.

Animation historian and journalist John Culhane said during the Second World War cartoonists caricatured whole groups, and "the result was it might have been uplifting to some people, but it wasn't uplifting to other people." He cited a Bugs Bunny cartoon that portrayed Japanese people as "slant-eyed, bucktoothed, treacherous people."

Culhane said the industry is insensitive even in peacetime, so must be especially vigilant during wartime. Presumably as an example of the sort of stuff to avoid, he cited a song in the Disney film Aladdin that says: "Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place, where the caravan camels roam. Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face. It's barbaric. But hey, it's home."

The line was included in the movie when it played in theaters, but was removed when it was released on home video, he said.

X-ing Out Xmas

England's Luton Borough Council removed Christmas references from its seasonal festival to broaden its cultural appeal and make the event more multicultural, reports The Times of London.

Locals and Christian groups expressed dismay over the move, calling the decision to rebrand the Christmas lights ceremony "Luminos," a word from the Harry Potter books, so as not to make people of non-Christian faiths feel excluded, a "ridiculous overreaction."

"It is political correctness gone mad," said Iain Bainbridge, a spokesman for the Christian Institute. "We are renowned as a country of religious tolerance but it now appears as if the Christian faith is respected the least."

Even local Muslims said the irritation was understandable.

"We do live in a predominantly Christian society and people from other faiths have accepted that," said Akhbar Dad Khan, the former general secretary of Luton's Islamic Cultural Society. "Each faith has its own characteristics and the celebration of any particular faith would not offend anyone else. We are all grown up."

But in Glasgow, Scotland, where Christmas festivities have been renamed "Shine On" and then "Winter Festival" in recent years, a council spokeswoman defended such changes. "We are very aware as a community of other faiths and traditions, which is why we have adopted a generic name. We are making a conscious effort to include everyone. Even the Christmas cards we now send out all say 'Seasonal Greetings' rather than 'Happy Christmas' so that we don't offend."

That Word

The Confederate Air Force, a group of vintage aircraft enthusiasts who have been performing at shows across the country, are voting on a new name because the old one has become too controversial, reports The Dallas Morning News.

The group, which restores and flies World War II-era planes, has nothing to do with the Civil War but adopted the name in the 1950s as a jest after it was jokingly painted on the side of one of the vintage airplanes. The name started becoming a liability in recent years, though, to the point that some locals refused to host them and member wings across the country reported having trouble raising money.

The CAF will announce the results of an election to come up with a new name on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day, at its headquarters in Midland, Texas. Among the top contenders are "Ghost Squadron" and "Commemorative Air Force."

Adventures in Dorm Life, Part III

Students living in the dormitories at Central Michigan University say they were forced to remove almost all references to the Sept. 11 attacks from their doors because resident assistants feared some of the material might make people uncomfortable, reports Central Michigan Life.

Don Pasco, a sophomore in the Emmons Hall, said he and his roommates had to remove pictures and items related to the terrorist attacks because they offended people.

"We had an American eagle, a picture of the World Trade Center exploding and a column. We had to take everything down except a CMU basketball schedule," he said. "It was the whole hall. American flags or pictures that were pro-American had to be taken down because they were offending to people."

Al Nowak, director of the dormitory, said more than one student came to him to voice displeasure about offensive materials on the doors, so he had hall staff tell students to remove the materials.

"We look to make sure people feel comfortable. CMU has people with different ethnic and diverse backgrounds, and we want them all to feel comfortable going down the hall," he said.

From the Central Servers:

Steve B. writes:

I recently received a catalog in the mail (the front was decked out in patriotic style) and on the back there was a great picture of the Lincoln Memorial. A quote was printed under it that contained the last few lines from the Gettysburg Address. However, the words "under God" were missing from the last sentence. It's a sad state of affairs when famous, historical speeches are altered and misquoted for the sake of being PC and not offending anyone.

Kyle T. writes:

I wonder if those protesting the use of Native American mascots such as perhaps the Cleveland Indians know that Cleveland's Baseball club is named after a player who died in 1913 who was the first American Indian to play in the Major Leagues?

Michael S. of Carlisle, Pa., writes:

How ironic is it that the organizers of an event called the Country Freedom Concert chose to censor the lyrics of a performer. Where's the freedom?

Melyssa G. writes:

How can someone say "Kill 'em all" does not advocate violence? You should really think about these items before you put them up. Some are valid examples of excess. Others are just examples of the changing levels of courtesy and awareness of rights in our culture. But then, conservatives do not want things to change (from Webster's dictionary).

Kim T. writes:

Okay, now that you have found a group of stupid liberals, show me some of examples of stupid conservatives. Basically, if you look for stupidty you will find it wherever you look. Dumbass. See how easy that was?

John H. writes:

So entire languages are intellectual property now? Is Great Britain going to start charging royalties to Americans for the use of their language?

Kenneth H. writes:

After reading the course description from Cal State San Marcos, I wonder if we should be criticizing the Saudis for financing Madrassas all over the Islamic world that teach hatred of the U.S. and Western values without taking a closer look at what our home-grown Wahabis are teaching in our schools.

Susan C. in Springfield, Tenn., writes:

Wouldn't you think that the Boulder, Colorado library receives at least some Federal funding? If Ms. Gralapp finds flying the U.S. flag offensive and improper, maybe she should seek funding from the countries of those persons whose cultures and faiths she doesn't want to "offend."

Chris M. writes:

Our freedom of speech does not require that we provide a forum for our intellectual enemies to speak. Microsoft in this case is not involved in censorship since it is not a government legislating ideas. Microsoft has every right and even an obligation to protect itself from those that would hurt it, especially given that so many people want to punish Microsoft for its success. Microsoft is recognizing in their licensing agreement that it would be an hypocrisy on the part of anyone that seeks to damage the company's reputation and business to use Microsoft tools such as FrontPage in the endeavor.