Brickbats

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• And now the nostalgia craze has even caught hold of the esteemed US Department of Labor. In an action more contemptuous of the First Amendment than anything seen in 25 years, federal agents investigating discrimination charges at the UC Berkeley Law School carried out covert operations in several classrooms to discover that the material being taught was "offensive," that criminal law courses contained "too much talk of violence," and that a particular research project was "too conservative." The secret missions were headed by government spy James Chin of the DOL's Office of Federal Contract Compliance, who patriotically offered that "anything that would be discouraging or displeasing to minority students would be within its jurisdiction to observe and correct." (In a supreme irony, the government antidiscrimination policeperson objected to the excessive "talk of violence" in criminal law discussions on the grounds that the female students could not stomach the blood and guts.)

When the undercover operation was discovered, Associate Dean Phillip Johnson exclaimed: "There is a totalitarian mentality at work here. There is a point of view that these federal agencies exist to advance a causeâ€"and that values that stand in the way of that cause just have to give way." And the top dog, Dean Sanford H. Kalish, was even juicier: "Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the '50s sent his representatives to monitor how far teachers were teaching subversion and un-Americanism. Today another governmental representative sits in as part of an investigation to see how far teachers are guilty of racism or sexism in what they say or in their approach."

• Sen. Bob Dole, the Senate's leading food-stamp champion and articulate Republican spokesman on the evils of Democratic spending programs, is having a few problems…to put it mildly. By the time the US Postal Service plops this fine issue into your mitts, chances are he won't even be in the GOP race as that well-known asterisk. But he's not taking this sitting down. According to Newsweek, "Sen. Robert Dole is growing increasingly ill-tempered over his failure to make a breakthrough in the Republican Presidential race. Dole, a 1980 long shot remembered for his hatchet-man role as Gerald Ford's running mate in 1976, has subjected staffers to epic tongue lashings. As a result, the fiery Kansan leads the field in staff turnover. One former staffer says that Dole once threw a bulky report at him." Unfortunately, that news item was probably the best press the Midwestern farm lobbyist has had during the entire slugfest.

• Politics brought much grief to Mr. Dole's fellow Republican, Wisconsin's own Douglas Cofrin. The 36-year-old panderer for the Republican nomination for US Senate verified his formidable qualifications by missing his own campaign kick-off. Hoping to skim off a slice of the fame of the legendary Robert LaFollette, candidate Cofrin took a helicopter to the very farm that harvested the late populist rabble-rouser. Or he thought he would. The man who would like to lead the nation had trouble finding his own party and landed a mere two and a half hours post hoc. "By then," AP reports, "several hundred school children and a brass band had gone home after waiting in windy, 7-degree weather." The farm's owner, evidently unappreciative of the subtleties of the democratic process, demanded $1,000 cash "for the use of his farm and the inconvenience caused by the candidate's lateness." As candidates always do before the election, Mr. Cofrin paid up.

• In a report that will stun the Federal Aviation Administration in its simplicity and directness, the Turkish Transportation Ministry has found that the cause of a Turkish Airlines crash that killed 39 was that the plane was "flying too low." And Walter T. White has been sentenced to 24 years in stripes by a Havana "court" for a Cuban flyover wherein he risked his life to air-drop religious tracts in to the Communist playground. The Glendale, California, activist departed, with his pilot, from friendly turf in Florida but was forced to land amongst the heathens in Manzanillo, Cuba. Perhaps off-shore chanting would be safer.

• A Russian economist enlightens us with an inside glimpse of the classless society: "At the May Day parade in Moscow, Leonid Brezhnev and other Russian officials as usual watched the long parade of Soviet military powerâ€"missiles, tanks, armored cars and the like. At the end of the parade there came a little truck, with three middle-aged men sitting in it. Comrade Brezhnev turned to the Defense Minister and asked, 'Who are they?'

"The Defense Minister replied, 'Those are the economists. You would not believe the destructive power they possess.'"

• And, as we go marching, we might remember Milton Friedman's close encounter with the military kind. Arguing with General Westmoreland on the merits of conscription, the Nobel economist heard his opponent claim, "I don't want to command an army of mercenaries." To which Friedman curiously prodded, "Well, General, would you prefer to command an army of slaves?"

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