Brickbats

Here are a few gems from a recent symposium on presidential humor. Comedian Pat Paulsen says all important documents from the Gerald R. Ford administration are stored in a museum in Michigan-"in a Dixie cup." Political cartoonist Jeff MacNelly faces a moral dilemma when he votes: "You have one guy who is good for your country and one guy who is good for your business." And prominent attorney Edward Bennett Williams succinctly defines politics as "the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and money from the rich by promising to protect each from the other."

"Just a little off the top, please." Builder Albert Ginsburg went through the required rigamarole of securing permits on top of licenses on top of certificates in order to construct a 31-story apartment building in New York City. His plans were approved ad nauseam by the Buildings Department. But then a local community group pointed out that the building violates a 1973 zoning regulation limiting new construction in the neighborhood to 19 stories. What's the solution? The city Board of Standards and Appeals says the top 12 floors must be removed. Ginsburg vows a court fight, but he won't be able to collect any rents until the dispute is resolved. And city officials wonder why there's an apartment shortage in New York!

So you thought the U.S. Postal Service was on an austerity program? Not in Beverly Hills. The newly opened post office provides valet parking. Private employees wearing white shirts, black pants, and bow ties will park your car and retrieve it for a 50-cent fee. Valet parking is included in the Postal Service's $20,000 monthly rent. But that's only one of several classy touches. The building exterior boasts lots of smoked glass, with an emblem of an eagle embedded in plush gray carpet outside the front doors. A sight to behold, but does a letter get delivered any faster? One simply doesn't ask such questions in Beverly Hills.

President Reagan is doing a wonderful job of promising simultaneously to bring farmers into the free market and to protect them from it. His supposedly reformed farm subsidy program cost $35 billion in fiscal 1986. That's double the estimates he made earlier in the year and eight times the average annual cost during the administration of peanut farmer Jimmy Carter. A Government Accounting Office survey of farmers' income-tax returns disclosed that three quarters of them had underreported their subsidy payments by an average of 80 percent. Yet the farmers continue to whine. Is Willie Nelson listening?

The city of Yuma, Arizona, has no buses or subways. A private bus system was launched last year, but the venture flopped for low rider ship. So naturally, the federal Urban Mass Transit Administration has awarded the community a $264,000 grant, which Yuma neither requested nor needs. But the bureaucrats say use it or lose it. So Yuma is swapping the funds for lottery money collected by the city of Phoenix. Yuma's money will probably be spent on highway improvements. Wouldn't it have been easier if the federal government bought bicycles for everyone?

Is there any endeavor or human activity that isn't subject to foolish litigation or demands that the government become even more meddlesome than it already is? Apparently not. Complaining that the pricing policy at a California nudist camp takes the shirt off men's backs, a Pasadena man is suing the camp for sex discrimination. Alejandro Crespi alleges that Elysium Fields violates the state's civil-rights law by charging men more than women to cavort in the nude on its secluded grounds. The camp defends its sliding scale of fees in the hopes of getting a better balance between the sexes. About 60 percent of the facility's members are men. This cheeky lawsuit ought to be dropped in a flash.

New Mexico has been part of the United States since 1912, but that's apparently news to the U.S. Treasury Department. Former New Mexico Gov. David Cargo received a letter from the department that said he will have 30 percent interest deducted from his Treasury notes because he is a citizen of New Mexico and not the United States. The letter was signed by William Weatherall, a securities analyst employed by the feds. "The thing that worries me is that Weatherall handles millions of dollars in notes," says Cargo. The former governor finally got it straightened out. But he wrote to Weatherall, "I can only suggest that you acknowledge the existence of life west of the Potomac. We are right here on the Rio Grande."

-Mark Edward Crane

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