Quickies

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Gene McCarthy summed up the campaign just right. Accused of being a "spoiler" the independent candidate said: "If there was ever a year where it didn't matter if you spoiled things, this is it."

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Worried about that drop in SAT scores? Don't be. According to the National Observer, today's kids are "at least as good, and at some ages much better, at literal comprehension of simple statements" as kids were four years ago. But they've gotten worse at "inferential comprehension"—using what they read to "form generalizations, reach conclusions, make comparisons, form judgments and create new ideas"—which is what the SATs (and adult society) stress. Johnny can so read; he's just stupid.

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VOICES OF MODERATION: "Capitalism is a vicious system that enslaved my people. Anyone who supports it is either a sick man or an agent of the government." —Stokely Carmichael.

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When Haywood Burns was director of the National Center of Black Lawyers, he campaigned vigorously against the underrepresentation of minorities. But when the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of capital punishment, guess who was complaining that "in a country with a minority population of less than 20 percent, the overwhelming majority of those facing death [he means execution, not murder] at the time of the Supreme Court decision were black (58 percent), Chicano (3 percent), and American Indian (2 percent)?" Some people are never satisfied.

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The Horrors of Our Sexist Age, from McCall's: "America's four million divorcees are the new poor.…They are at the mercy of male judges whose known sympathies for the husband's side (!) is now matched by a new cynicism that says to divorcing women 'Go get a job'."

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When a bomb in his car sent ex-Chilean Ambassador Orlando Letelier to that great social democracy in the sky, the Chile-haters were all set to have themselves a real ball ranting about how the Chilean secret police murdered him for his opposition to the junta. But those party-poopers at the FBI (with the help of the CIA) "virtually ruled out" that idea, calling the blast the work of amateurs, such as one of the Cuban-exile groups who reportedly had it in for Letelier. And the Venezuelan police say that one Orlando Bosch, head of the Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations (an exile group claiming responsibility for several other bombings), has confessed that his group "ordered two of its US-based agents to carry out the Letelier 'hit'." To add insult to injury, the junta announced that the US can keep its economic aid from now on because the Chilean economy no longer needs it. And Milton Friedman, who caught all kinds of flack for advising the Pinochet regime on its economic problems, won the Nobel Prize. Thank God they can still hate South Africa.

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Have you heard of Missile X? This is the successor to the Minuteman III land-based ICBM; a legacy of ex-Defense Secretary James Schlesinger's desire for a "counter-force capability" to improve the United States' chances of "winning" a "limited nuclear war." Unlike Minuteman, Missile X will be mobile—one proposal is to deploy the missile "in an underground trench, perhaps ten to twenty miles long, and moving the missile in a random fashion up and down the trench" to make it harder to find—and harder to count for any arms limitation agreement. Air Force chief of research and development Lt. General Alton G. Slay (!) estimates the cost of Missile X at between 15 and 30 billion dollars, not counting overruns. The Air Force is already buying the first hardware and digging experimental trenches. Disarmament, anyone?

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Great Moments in Political Philosophy, No. 1: Peter Camejo, Presidential candidate of the Socialist Workers Party, telling the New York Times, "Socialism would mean a lot less government than we have today."

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Say you're a conservative U.S. Senator, see, and you're trailing your opponent by better than 10 percent with a month to go until the election and next to no money for TV ads. Now someone points out to you that under the Federal Communications Act, a public educational TV station must provide "reasonable access' to political candidates or lose its license. So that means you can tell eight public TV stations to either run your five-minute ad (even though they may "have never run political commercials of any kind") or you'll sic the FCC on them. And if you get nasty enough, maybe they'll run it for "the relatively low cost of $1000″—or even "without charge"—although "such prime time on commercial stations would cost $3000 to $10,000." All you have to do is forget all your campaign rhetoric about free speech, private property and the evils of Big Government, and…What? You say you wouldn't junk your principles, not even to win an election? Then, obviously, you're not Senator James L. Buckley of New York, who made just such a demand of eight New York stations, and filed a complaint with the FCC when five of them wouldn't knuckle under. Federal bureaucrats, it would seem, are his kind of people.

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Every so often you hear some anti-tax guru claim that since Federal Reserve notes aren't backed by gold or silver they aren't "really" money—and so you don't have to report them as income. We regret to report that one man who tried that on the IRS, a Mr. John Noehl Schmitz, was convicted in district court of failing to file a return. On top of that, the appeals court refused to give him a new trial, saying Schmitz "just has no defense" and "no jury could fail to find him guilty," which would seem to kill the ultramontanist definition of money utterly dead. Perhaps the court had heard free-market economist Benjamin Rogge's views on what constitutes "real" money. Said Rogge: "If the dog eats it, it's dog food."

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