• And it grows long, green, revisionist hairs on your palm: Newsweek (January 16, 1978) reports that in China, "Masturbation is still condemned as a practice that 'saps the revolutionary will and excites the cerebellum'."
• The Canal Watch: Those who scoff at warnings that the Panama Canal treaty would result in America's military impotence should hearken to Rep. Philip Crane (R-IL). He fears that the pact would set a precedent imperiling that linchpin of our naval might: the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "A massive effort to get us out," Crane warns, "would begin the moment the treaties are signed." (He means ratified.) Crane is no armchair patriot, by the way; according to a usually reliable source he has been known to urge the atom-bombing of Washington, D.C., as the only cure for the nation's ills. Asked if that were conditional on his absence he supposedly replied (having had a few) that he was more than willing to die for his country. If only Ronald Reagan loved his country so well.…
• "Not many years ago," William F. Buckley wrote in a recent column, the Buckley family's Cuban cook told him that her sister in Havana was dying of cancer, in "miserable pain," because Castro had seized all the morphine for the army. After getting some advice on what it should look like, he forged a prescription for a 60-day supply of morphine (using the name of a doctor friend who was out of town), got it filled, and had the drugs smuggled into Cuba for the dying woman's use. Of course, there was one small detail: "Back from his fishing trip [Buckley writes], the doctor telephoned me…I note from records that have come in from the pharmacy that I authorized you to pick up morphine worth about $50,000 on the black market. Are you enjoying it?'" Everything was swept under the rug, however, and so ended the career of Bill Buckley, International Drug Dealer (unless it was he who scored the hash Buckley fils smoked at the 10th Annual YAF Reunion, as recounted in the National Review, January 7, 1977.) This anecdote was the preface to an eloquent plea that doctors be allowed to prescribe heroin for terminally ill patients, perhaps to assure the reader that some of the nicest people can be pushers—although only a few years ago Buckley was advocating capital punishment for them. (Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi, as he would say, or (very) freely translated: you can get away with anything with the right connections.) It only remains for Mr. Buckley to endorse letting us po' folks sell smack to the terminally ill too, and to note that life itself is a disease, and always terminal.
• A footnote to "The Imperial Valley Ripoff": perhaps you've seen the ad, with a woebegone family who might be the Snopeses but are really Larry and Cassie Gilbert and their four kids, crying that "They are going to take our land." Not quite. The proposal is to shut off the free government irrigation water to those farm families owning more than 160 acres per family member, or leasing more than 160 acres per family member, so the Gilberts could cultivate up to 1920 acres—three square miles—with free water; not exactly grinding the faces of the poor. In fact, one Ehud Yonay, writing in New West magazine (January 16, 1978), discovered that the Gilberts only own 140 acres and lease another 560, well within the limits. Only those farms larger than about 1000 acres would have to sell (repeat, sell) their excess land, which is 150 farms out of about 900 in the Imperial Valley. They average around 2000 acres. Now hear this: Yonay reports that "Federal water raises land values by an estimated $1000 an acre and more," so each of those 150 hardscrabble dirt farmers is the recipient of at least a $1 million subsidy from thee and me; and half of them got more than twice that. So much for the "attack on private property." And in 1976, gross Imperial Valley farm production was $521 million; the 150 accounted for about $300 million of that. But since they have almost two-thirds of the land, they hardly deserve the accolade of "the most productive." Nor are they more efficient; in that area farm equipment reaches its peak efficiency on from 700 to 1400 acres, and total costs of production are minimized on farms of between 200 and 400 acres. The Department of Agriculture says a 320 acre farm (one man owning and leasing the limit) should net its owner-operator $15,000 a year. So much for "creat[ing] a new class of welfare dependents," nor need we fear a shortage of food or fiber as a result. On top of that, Yonay claims that the large landowners were usually the instigators of socialized irrigation in the first place, as we might have expected. So what appears to the uninformed as a heroic band of Galtian Ubermenschen beset by whinning rotters and altruists, turns out to be the usual swine in danger of nothing worse than losing their privileged place at the public trough. Moral: get the facts first, and let the ideology look out for itself. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.
• Great Moments in Political Philosophy, No. 7: "Persons who rely on the Supreme Court test that something is obscene only if it has no redeeming value are 'depraved, mentally-deficient, mind-warped queers' the Utah Supreme Court said in upholding a Salt Lake City obscenity ordinance." (Los Angeles Times, October 30,1977.)
• In an Interview with New York Times correspondent John Burns South African Minister of Justice James T. "Jimmy" Kruger claimed: "I'm very, very sincerely for press freedom, and so is my Prime Minister. We are adherents of press freedom in its full sense." This appeared October 23, 1977, four days after Pretoria shut down The World, South Africa's largest black newspaper. Burns goes on: "From outside South Africa such formulations read suspiciously like Orwellian doublespeak. Yet to those familiar with this confused and troubled land, there is little doubt that the Afrikaaners of the Nationalist Party who hold a monopoly of political power believe what they say. The problem is that their concept of freedom, whether in press matters or anything else, is subordinate to their reverence for the State." Their concept of freedom is subordinate to their reverence for the State. Exactly! And can't you just think of so many self-described "libertarians" whom that phrase describes to the life?
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".