• I'd like to say something about Mr. Bernard-Henri Levy's article on terrorism ("The War Against All," The New Republic, February 11) but he already said it all by listing it under the subheading: "Every man his own State."
• Disaster movies? May is a disaster month. It was on May 3, 1802, for example, that Washington, DC was incorporated. The Lusitania sank on May 7, 1915, the Tennessee Valley Authority boondoggle was established on May 18, 1933, and Congress limited immigration to the land of the Anglo and the home of the Saxon on May 19, 1921. The first American land fraud was committed on May 24, 1626, when Peter Minuit was duped into buying Manhattan Island from the Canarsie Indians of New Jersey, and perhaps the greatest disaster of all was the US Constitutional Convention, which opened on May 25, 1787. (Patrick Henry also thought the Constitution was a disaster.) On the plus side; sometime in May (I forget exactly when; it used to be May 1) the average American stops working for the tax collectors and starts working for himself—the real Independence Day. And of course, REASON's Tenth Anniversary.
• Forced to kill by the government! Kill caterpillars, that is. Airborne caterpillar hairs and skin fragments have caused an epidemic of skin rashes in Brussels. So the city fathers passed a law requiring city residents to destroy caterpillars, their eggs and their nests. According to the Associated Press, "showing mercy to a caterpillar can result in a fine or up to a week in jail."
• Religious Freedom Dept.: Argentina has just arrested 15 Jehovah's Witnesses for practicing their religion, which was banned in 1976.…It is now a crime, in "brave little Israel," to offer anyone a "material inducement" to change his religion. If you find that vague you've got Israel's Christians for company.…The National Lampoon has dropped its annual Religion Issue in response to pressure from groups such as Citizens Against Sacrilege in Media, who objected to "Son O'God Comics" and the like. Also, the magazine had sizable legal expenses from fighting blasphemy indictments in Massachusets and New Jersey. The combination of Bible-thumpers and statists was too much, so "at the National Lampoon, " as a NatLamp editorial put it, "God remains a sacred cow."
• Praising with faint damns: "Concludes a British diplomat in Tel Aviv: 'I would say that the Israeli security police don't behave any worse than our own do in Northern Ireland.'" (Newsweek, February 20).…"There were recently the dispatches of the wire services from Philadelphia, relating the unholy experiences in Belfast of a 17-year-old American, Pearse Kerr, who was arrested without any charges, tortured, his broken wrist handcuffed behind his back, forced to sign a false confession, and left to rot for months in a Belfast gaol until the Philly papers started making embarrassing parallels between British justice and a fellow named Franz Kafka." (Warren Hinckle, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, February 14.)
• The Treasury plans to issue a new, one dollar cupronickel token coin, and some Treasury officials want a token woman on it. Many US coins featured anonymous women as personifications of "Liberty" or "Columbia," and one proposal would put an image of "Woman" on the new coin—with aviator style glasses, perhaps. Others call for Helen Keller (symbolic of our rulers, no doubt; deaf, dumb and blind to prudence), or Nellie Ross, the nation's first woman governor (1920's in Wyoming, you know. Oh, you didn't?) Nominations are still open if REASON's readers would like to suggest their candidate for Ms. Fiat Money. One requirement: she must be dead.
• Tropical Paradise Dept.: Marijuana is now the largest cash crop in Hawaii; the 1977 harvest was worth an estimated $360 to $400 million, compared to the $242 million sugar crop. With up to 100 inches of rain a year, marijuana plants routinely grow 10 feet high—and sometimes over 13 feet—in Hawaii's volcanic soil. The Hawaiian crop is also exceptionally potent; which is why some varieties, such as the renowned Kona Gold, command prices of from $2000 to $3000 a pound on the West Coast, and upwards of $3500 in New York. Some enlightened legislators suggest that legalizing the dope trade would be the economic salvation of the Aloha State; indeed, State Representative Ambercrombie calls marijuana "the only major unsubsidized crop in Hawaii.…It just goes to show how free enterprise can compete with a subsidized crop like sugar."
• Voices of Moderation: Village Voice columnist Alexander Cockburn greets the NAACP's new free-marketish energy policy by saying, "The largest black organization in the country has placed itself beneath the boot of the most merciless defenders of corporate privilege both in the United States and abroad."
• Back in 1975, Counterspy magazine revealed that one Richard Welch was the CIA station chief in Lima, Peru. The CIA objected to the revelation, but left Welch in place, blown cover and all. Sometime later Welch became station chief for Athens, and moved into the house his predecessor had used, CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, sent him a telegram warning that 1) just about everybody in Athens knew the house was the CIA chiefs and 2) anti-American and anti-CIA sentiment in the city ran so high that Welch "risked assassination if he remained in the house." Remain he did, however, and Richard Welch was assassinated on December 24, 1975. CIA official Angus Thuermer then called up several Washington reporters to tell them Counterspy had exposed Welch and now he was dead—but Thuermer did not mention the warning telegram. And to make sure everyone got the point, reporters were provided with "a US Intelligence source" to quote as saying "We've had an American gunned down by other Americans fingering him as a CIA spy." CIA critic Morton Halperin revealed all this when he testified before Congress (see the February More, for more) and summed it up as "a deliberate CIA manipulation of the American press," which is a polite way of putting it. REASON was one of those manipulated: Edith Efron regurgitated the Counterspy myth whole in February, 1978, the better to revile (sight unseen) Inquiry magazine.
• Our Doublespeak Award goes to Judge Donald T. Barbeau of Minnesota, who rejected Mr. Michael Dengler's petition to name (number?) himself "1069" on the grounds it was "an offense to basic human dignity and inherently totalitarian."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".