Brickbats

Alice Drefchinski has been penalized $500 by the feds for exercising her right of free speech. The Louisiana registered nurse was accused of filing a "frivolous income tax return" because she let the IRS know about her religious convictions against war. Her crime was to include a letter with her tax return to protest defense spending and ask that part of her taxes, which she called a "war tax deduction," go to a humanitarian organization. Miss Drefchinski hadn't failed to ante up any of what the IRS says she owed. In fact, the government owes her $719 in overpayments. An IRS spokesman defended the penalty because protest letters attached to tax returns make them difficult to process. "There is no such thing in the tax code as a war tax deduction," he says. "The government doesn't recognize a philosophical or moral argument."

From the Why Can't Johnny Read Dept.: A janitor taught two social-studies classes in a Detroit high school, and nobody was the wiser until he confessed to the deed. Andrew Ranson, on a temporary janitorial assignment, reported to the main office at Redford High School instead of to the head custodian. When he told the educrats he was a substitute, they gave him a lesson plan and sent him forth to educate- which he did. Either teaching doesn't really require all those fancy education courses, or teaching standards have slipped so low that nobody could tell the difference.

It's a dog's life all over, but nowhere worse than in Peking. The Chinese have denounced "running dogs" for years, and now they've done something about it. They've banned all pet dogs from the capital city, with two exceptions: guide dogs and dogs bred for the wok. Even the strictest revolutionary won't outlaw such a delicacy.

Edward J. Brown was pulled over a few years ago by a New Jersey state trooper because of a loose license plate on the Corvette he had lovingly restored from spare parts. The car, the cop noticed, had a 1966 body but a 1964 registration. Then he found different serial numbers on various parts. The trooper was convinced that Brown had received stolen property. After Brown explained to a judge that he was just a Corvette buff, the charges were dropped. But that wasn't the end of Ed Brown's troubles.

State officials refused to release his car, citing a statute that allows a car to be seized when it's operated under "suspicious circumstances." A state appeals court finally ordered the car returned, chiding the officials for ignoring the sworn testimony of the auto wrecker who had sold Brown most of the parts.

Happy ending? Nope. When Brown went to the towing shop where the car had been impounded these past six years, his beloved Corvette was nowhere to be found. Seems there was a dispute between the tow shop and state police about storage fees, so the tow shop sold the sports car.

Why on earth did the US Navy buy 57,600 softballs? The House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee said the softball purchase was only part of a gigantic spending spree made last September 30 by all military services to rid their coffers of appropriations for the 1982-83 fiscal year. So the answer is simple. The Navy spent the money because it was there.

New York Mayor Ed Koch is many things, but subtle he ain't. Hizzoner is 100 percent in favor of the United Nations remaining in his city. Why? "Because every country needs a cesspool. And the UN is always interesting as a theater of the absurd."

Rosemary Furman of Jacksonville, Florida, runs a legal-forms business and, for nominal fees, helps poor people fill out routine court papers. "Every time I make $50, some lawyer loses $500 or $5,000," she says. Which probably helps explain why the Florida Bar Association got a court order against her for practicing law without a license. "I was accused by lawyers, tried by lawyers, and will be sentenced by lawyers," she says, adding that her only real crime is exposing lawyers who practice without a conscience.

When you need to send a message fast, do you rely on the US Postal Service or on a private delivery company? The answer is obvious-even to the federal government. Sometimes the feds need to tell that nationalized enterprise called the Postal Service not to deliver a retirement check to a recipient who's been found ineligible. In this case, haste saves waste, and so local post offices are advised via a Western Union mailgram to send the errant checks back to the Treasury. Why not use the Postal Service to send a message to the post office? Why send a tortoise on a hare's mission?

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