• Mashpee, Massachusetts, stands to lose 11,000 acres of land to the Wampanoag Indian tribe. At least the Wampanoag say they're a tribe. They meet four of the requirements: they have Indian ancestors, "internal politics," a chief, and a medicine man (John Peters, a general contractor and fuel-oil distributor). But to qualify as a legal tribe and win their suit against the town of Mashpee they must prove they are "united under some form of government," the mark of all civilized men. The attorney for the town says they aren't, observing that the Wampanoag chief couldn't keep his fellow Indians from selling beer at their powwow (such anarchy!) and that the Wampanoag have, among other things, "no power of taxation." Obviously savages—and as we go to press the citizens of Mashpee will probably get to treat the Indians much as their ancestors did. Incidentally, Leonard Liggio has argued that the English learned how to oppress the Indians by oppressing the Irish; who, according to Joseph Peden, didn't have any government either.
• As all but the most concrete-bound whim-worshipping second-handers and muscle mystics know, February 2nd is Ayn Rand's birthday. According to tradition, if a groundhog can see his shadow on that day the TV stations will carry six more weeks of non-Romantic programs. More seriously, one "Joseph Wilkes," in the Washington Monthly (October 1977), harks back to pre-Randian days to claim that "the words 'draft' and 'altruism' may look strange when juxtaposed, but a fair system of compulsory military service, like that of most Western European nations, would demonstrate our belief that someone besides the poor has an obligation to serve." "Joseph Wilkes," says the magazine, "is a pseudonym." Probably for Wesley Mouch.
• Having previously roasted various clods who oppose the Panama Canal treaty, fairness demands that I tell you about the Reverend J. Bazell Mull of Knoxville, Tennessee. Carter has enlisted the Reverend to argue for the treaty on his radio show, in between records like "I Went To an Old Camp Meeting With The Devil (But I Went Home With The Lord)." Mull is also a theologian of note, as evidenced by his conclusion that Jesus Christ was a Democrat because he rode a donkey into Jerusalem. "If he had been a Republican," argues Mull, "he would have ridden an elephant."
• Tote Dat Bilge: "Without some kind of Affirmative Action program, we might as well go back to before the Brown decision of 1954 [which desegregated the schools] or even back to slavery," says Edward N. Everett, Washington, DC regional director of the Black American Law Students Association.
• And according to the Knight news service, the US Supreme Court will soon rule on that burning issue: "When people flush their toilets in one state and the product winds up in another, is that interstate commerce?"
• If I were a sexist, I would mention that the New Scientist (September 22, 1977) reports that autopsies done at London Hospital show that the average man's brain weight increased from 1372 grams in 1860 to 1424 grams in 1940, while during the same period the average woman's brain weight increased only slightly, from 1242 to 1265 grams, but of course I won't mention it, because I'm not a sexist. Remember that please.
• San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen gives us what are purported to be the emergency exit instructions on a Soviet-built Polish airliner, so help us: "1) Pull handle. 2) Remove hatch by pulling. 3) Take escape rope from hat-rack. 4) Fasten rope to exit frame. 5) Throw free end of rope through exit." And "so much," Caen adds, "for advanced Soviet technology." (November 20, 1977.)
• One of the Mad Bomber's chief excuses for prolonging the Vietnamese War was the need to rescue those Americans rotting in the dungeons of Hanoi. (Of course, Tricky's "peace with honor" crap was the main reason they were in those dungeons in the first place, but that's another story.) Well the Center for Prisoner of War Studies in San Diego examined 78 Navy pilots who were POWs and found they were actually healthier than their unrotted comrades. Indeed, New Times (October 28, 1977) says the Center "found 'significant' differences in physical well-being" between the two groups, "with the POWs coming off better in every aspect." Would a stay in the Hanoi Hilton help in the treatment of, say, phlebitis? Perhaps the Center could make the obvious experiment.
• Here's an avatar of "free enterprise" we could do without; Pat Buckman, a Los Angeles private detective who makes big bucks tracking down "stolen" children. "Stolen" doesn't mean kidnapped; Buckman specializes in taking a child from his own parent—if the parent doesn't have legal custody, as in divorce cases and the like—and never mind whom the child wants to live with. In fact, Buckman explains away his occasional failures by saying "Sometimes recovery was blocked by the child itself—depending on its age and size and how much it had been brainwashed by the parent who stole it." Get that "brainwashed." In the Moonie case, a court held that a child (even an adult) who doesn't agree with his parents is "brainwashed"; now Buckman uses the term to describe a child (or adult?) who doesn't agree with his State-approved parent; how long before the State defines as "brainwashed" anyone who doesn't agree with…the State?
• What You Never Got To See Dept., or yr hmbl srvnt cleans out his notebook.…I never told you about Earl Butz's suggestion that Carter make AFL-CIO boss George Meany a cardinal: "Then he'd only have to kiss his ring." Nor about the "leftward drift" of the National Rifle Association, as perceived by Human Events.…Peter Camejo of the Socialist Workers Party told the Progressive, "Ask your economics professor how the newspaper photographers all over this country know which parties to go to, if there is no ruling class." The Progressive (January 1977) also estimated that the Libertarian Party spent about $1 million on political campaigning in 1976.…And Dr. Walter Block's controversial Defending the Undefendable, which REASON reviewer Sharon Presley called "a positive menace to the libertarian movement," may be ordered from Laissez Faire Books (206 Mercer St., New York, NY 10012; S. Presley, [until very recently], Prop.) Presley reviles Block, and his defender Murray Rothbard, as benighted adherents of "economism"; the belief in the primacy of economic motives. Which is rather droll, because whatever Block and Rothbard's other failings, I doubt very much that they would "menace" the libertarian movement to make a buck.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".