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Posted Feb. 28: 

I was taken aback by a Dec. 7 CNN story about a woman who had valuables in a bank deposit box, stored in a vault at 5 World Trade Center, and is now suing the bank for negligence, for failure to uncover her valuables after the terrorist attacks.  Years ago when I worked in a bank we made it clear to renters that the bank assumed no liability and provided no insurance for any of the contents of the boxes.  In fact, we didn't even want to know what was in them.  If customers wanted to insure the contents of the box, they had to obtain insurance themselves.  Naturally, customers should expect a bank to take adequate security precautions to guard the valuables, but who could have foreseen the terrible actions of Sept. 11? -- Nick DiCiaccio, Mass.

On "Federal judge rules high school sports schedules unlawful" (Dec. 24-27): Judge Robert E. Enslen's 99-page opinion in the Michigan high school sports scheduling case is available here in PDF format.  Most schools had supported the current staggering schedule, largely based on logistical concerns: with staggered seasons coaches and officials familiar with a sport can handle both boys' and girls' teams.  Teams can use facilities more freely instead of doubling up on rinks or courts during the same season.  Alas, in Enslen's view the Michigan High School Athletic Association provided only anecdotal evidence here.  Absent twelve days of witnesses and numerous exhibits, how could a judge reasonably buy the idea that one basketball team could more easily practice in a gym than two?  And finding 1,000 qualified basketball referees or coaches for overlapping winter seasons is obviously just as easy as finding 500.  Why would any judge accept speculative theories to the contrary? 

Among Enslen's findings of "fact" on the psychological and generalized harms of scheduling girls' and boys' sports in different seasons (pp. 52-57):  it "deprives girls of contemporaneous role models, skills development, and team-building opportunities", has "a negative effect on the gender role socialization of Michigan's girls".  "Treating boys and girls differently and inequitably in athletics can contribute to or cause girls and boys to have dramatically different perceptions of self-worth and to cause girls to have lower expectations for themselves." The resulting "'second-class' status message," he says, "teaches [girls] to expect discrimination, so that they may not even recognize discrimination when it occurs."  In fact, "girls may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to rationalize away the unfair treatment." 

We see the significance of this line of thought when Enslen's opinion "wholly rejects" MHSAA's argument that the majority of girls surveyed, as well as of boys, indicated a preference for current seasons.  Of course, they expect this treatment so they don't even recognize it as discrimination.  Can't you feel the unhealthy coping? 

How lucky we are to live in a country where unelected judges can correct our misguided opinions and endeavor to make the proper decisions for us. -- John Gnodtke, Lansing, Mich.

On "New frontiers in discrimination law: Harleys among the cyclamens" (Nov. 19-20): Not only are some states considering laws banning discrimination against bikers, Minnesota already has a law that bans such discrimination in public accommodations.  Indeed, the law in question appears to specifically ban discrimination against members of motorcycle gangs.  See Minn. Stat. Ann. § 604.12, subd. 2(a) (West 2000) ("A place of public accommodation may not restrict access, admission, or usage to a person solely because the person operates a motorcycle or is wearing clothing that displays the name of an organization or association.") -- David Bernstein, George Mason U. School of Law

I am a mild mannered computer geek and the only way I resemble a Hells Angel type is the fact that I am on a motorcycle.  In some peoples' mind, that's all it takes.  Twice I have been refused a room at motels because "We don't take (whatevers -- bikers, your type, etc...)" .  One was in Bend, Oregon. I stopped at a motel.  Chad and Muffy were unloading their BMW when I rolled into the parking lot.  Muffy jumped into the Beamer and hit the door lock button, leaving Chad stranded outside to face big ol' nasty me all by himself.  I saw this and the look on her face as I pulled up to the curb and got off the bike. I took off my helmet and rain gear, all the time watching her watch me. I don't know what kind of fantasies these people have in regards to motorcycles and riders, but theirs must be something wild.  I was checking in when the manager came over and told the clerk that he couldn't give me a room. When I asked why, he told me I had threatened a guest.  Turns out Muffy/Chad had told him some wild story.  Who did I threaten and how? The lady in the BMW.  How?  You were looking at her. She was looking at me.  You laughed at her. Yeah. So what?  Short discussion later,  I told him to call the cops if he actually thought I threatened someone.  This guy was incredulous that I would actually ask him to call the cops, as though I should be terrified of the law.   It was after dark and I really didn't feel like looking for another motel, but after the stupidity continued for a while I did. 

I did not trash anyone's car, lobby, or face.  I just wanted a room.  So tell me, what are my options in a case like this? Just leave and let it go? NO! Never again! We shall overcome!  My only other options are physical violence or the courts.  So yes. I am in favor of anti-discrimination laws aimed at morons who won't let motorcycles and motorcycle riders into whatever public business they operate.  But instead of fines, they should have to host a convention of Hells Angels or Gypsy Jokers for a weekend.   -- Matt in Vancouver, Wash.

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