• That explains a lot: "General Abu Walid, [PLO leader Yassir] Arafat's military chief of staff…is a graduate of the United States Army Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which he attended as a Jordanian Army officer." (New York Times, May 2, 1978)
• Egyptian President Anwar Sadat has new powers to protect Egypt from the Red Menace. Adherents of "any ideology incompatible with religion" (how coy!) are barred from the press and other areas, and journalists are required to support "socialist democracy." A bit harsh, you might say, but harsh measures may well be necessary. Otherwise, the Commies might destroy Egypt's freedom of the press, and institute fake "elections" which they would always win by preposterous margins.…Sadat's new powers were supposedly endorsed in a referendum by 98.3 percent of the Egyptian voters.
• Dr. Barry Commoner and his Center for the Biology of Natural Systems reveal that hamburgers may cause cancer. The evidence, however, is more subtle than a handful of tumor-prone rats bloated with Big Macs. It seems that ground beef, when fried on a hot metal surface until well-done, contains some substances that can cause mutations in Salmonella bacteria—and what can cause mutations can perhaps cause cancer. Surprisingly, the socialist ideologue Commoner did not call on the National Guard to occupy every Jack in the Box in the land, but declared himself a staunch friend of the hamburger, advised us to order our Quarter Pounders medium rare, and claimed that "The risk can be reduced to zero" by broiling one's hamburger instead of frying it. That last claim is at odds with the last decade's warning against charcoal-broiled steaks (remember those?) which the public laughed to scorn. Commoner probably fears that it might do the same to him.
• The puling and moaning in the media over the late Aldo Moro was nearly as vomit-making as the blubbering over Hubert Humphrey, who seems to have had a lot in common with the Christian- Democratic "statesman." Supposedly Moro's pre-eminent virtue was his ability to "compromise," and his crowning achievement was bringing the Communist Party into Italy's ruling coalition. Clearly, there were no depths so low that Moro wouldn't stoop to them in the sacred cause of clutching after political power—just like the Hump. (Among the mourners at Christian-Democrat headquarters was a contingent of Chilean emigres, led by the widow of the late Marxist bungler Salvador Allende.) We can take comfort in the Washington Post's puzzled observation (just a few days before Moro's death) that "Few Italians seem to be deeply affected by the influential politician's lengthy captivity or by the prospect of his possible death.…More people were affected by the death of the live policemen [guarding him] than by the kidnap of Moro," and that "[Most Italians] believe that Italy's 'political class' consists almost entirely of men who are either dishonest or unconcerned about their country's welfare." (Hear, hear!)
• Something called The Catholic Defense League has launched a tax strike, announcing that its members "will refuse to pay all or part of our federal income tax, and in appropriate cases, of state and municipal taxes as well, until the blight of abortion is lifted from our land." The CDL is particularly exercised over Medicaid-funded abortions. True, in 1974 they saved the long-suffering taxpayers an estimated $9 billion in future welfare payments, but the CDL brands this "godless social engineering" (the very worst kind), as opposed to "an equitable redistribution of wealth and a rational management of our country's human and material resources." The strike is until Congress passes the CDL's beloved "Human Life Amendment," to guarantee every fetus a free lunch "from the moment of conception," after which the IRS may plunder ad libitum in the name of "godly social engineering," presumably with the full blessing of the Catholic Defense League. The CDL is nothing if not consistent.
• The Peanut's Progress: Jimmy Carter is now the Democrats' second choice for President. A Gallup Poll in May found that 36 percent of the Democrats surveyed want to nominate Teddy Kennedy in 1980, 29 percent chose Carter, and 12 percent picked California Governor Jerry Brown. In a one-to-one contest, Dread Ted beats Jimmy 53 percent to 40 percent. In the 43-year history of the Gallup Poll, an incumbent President has come in second only once before: in 1967 Democrats chose Robert Kennedy over LBJ 51 to 39 percent. And if the election were held today Jerry Ford (the Republicans' choice) would beat Carter almost as badly, and even Wretched Ronald Reagan would tie him. With such a collection of tired old hacks to run against, how do you suppose the Libertarian Party will do in 1980?
• The Swiss Social Democratic Party has voted to support a referendum that would relax that country's bank secrecy laws: specifically, the banks could be required to cooperate in tax-evasion cases involving the Swiss or foreign governments. The Swiss Bankers' Association warns that such relaxation could end Switzerland's role as an international financial center and cripple her economy. We'll have to wait and see just how suicidal the Swiss electorate is, but it looks like there may be a few bugs in what Murray Rothbard calls the "dropping out and stashing away" strategy. If so, D.O.&S.A. guru Harry Browne's loss may be libertarian activism's gain.
• The Gay Rights Committee of the San Francisco Bar Association has looked upon that city's gay rights ordinance and found it good, but is not about to disband. Instead, it will find some other problem to research, such as "the extent to which homosexual bars and discos discriminate against heterosexuals and other minorities." (San Francisco Chronicle, May 22, 1978)
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".