– In the tropical peasants' paradise of Cuba, the travel season has arrived. Thousands of eager overseas turistas readied themselves for their voyages by crowding the Peruvian Embassy the very instant the Communist guards were recalled (a move by Castro to punish the Peruvians for embarrassing his progressive regime). So enthusiastic were the holiday-goers that one onlooker exclaimed: "There are people in the branches of the trees, on top of the destroyed iron grating and even on the roof of the embassy.…there is virtually not enough room for a single other person in our embassy." The festive mood was accented by cheers of "Liberty! Liberty!" and "Down with Communism!"'"a popular Cuban folk-saying. Of the 10,385 Peruvian travel customers, 80 percent were under 30 years of age. Said one of the more serious vacationers: "I feel like it is a new day. I have left the hell of Cuba." And an English student at the University of Havana rejoiced: "I came alive today. I was dead. I was like a robot, but now I am a man again. I don't want Castro's government telling me what to do." (You know how students are on the first day of vacation.)
Castro is expected to stay in Cuba. As a matter of fact, a major new push is on for what he deems the "voluntary" nature of "the fight for socialism and communism." Such "voluntarism" is belied by the sort of capitalist-roaders who, previous to the latest exodus, held several Cuban ships at bay, forcing them to provide safe passage to America. That insidious gang numbered 110. But now thousands upon thousands make a mad dash for the United States, Spain, Canada, Ecuador, Belgium, Argentina, Brazil, West Germany, Costa Rica, Sweden, and Peru. Those fleeing the Cuban SS by way of Florida were, of course, met by armed agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
– Even greater experiments in applied Marxism were being conducted in the Soviet Union, where People's Technology and Organization sweep the red State even now, despite some 63 consecutive bad-weather harvests. News from Newsweek is: "Kremlin leaders want to pump a larger share of state investment and resources into the private farms that manage to outproduce big collectives. By law, no Soviet citizen can farm a private plot larger than 1 acre. Nevertheless, private farmers working 1.4% of the country's arable land produce 61% of its potatoes, 34% of the eggs and 29% of the meat, milk and vegetable output. Communist critics are admittedly unhappy with the incentive for such production: profits. Some private farmers earn up to ten times the $4,500-a-year maximum for collective-farm work."
The problems with the Soviet State super-farms escape even further into the bounds of the inexplicable when one considers the superior leadership available to them. To wit, the poetic Mr. President Leonid I. ("Leo") Brezhnev, just awarded the coveted Lenin Prize for Literature. (The citation is perhaps the most esteemed award in all the USSR in that it carries no prison sentence.) The subject of acclaim was the well-known Brezhnev trilogy'"Little Land, Rebirth, and Virgin Land, personal memoirs published in 1978 (check your local bookstore). The gracious recipient proclaimed: "I believe we are obliged to pass on to the new generation all of value from our experience. I continue thinking of this, and if I find time, if I manage, I shall continue these notes. So please consider that I regard the award presented to me today as an assignment for the future."
Yet he underestimates his past works. Consider: "As you know, I am not a writer but a party functionary. But as every Communist, I consider myself mobilized by party propaganda and see my duty in actively participating in the work of our press." Such dedication must have proven the motive force behind this literary gem: "Time is passing quickly. It cannot be stopped. This imposes on us a special responsibility for the growing generation." To which only the master himself could adequately respond: "The most fearful enemy here is thoughtlessness, and heartless formalism, the inclination to clichÃ©s and twaddle."
– Not reaching to nearly such thin-aired cultural heights was, naturally, the "heartless formalism" of the US government. As brought to public attention by the testy Alfred Kahn, bureaucratese continues to make impressive gains on the other national tongue (English). From a federal guidebook on the prevention of fires comes this enlightenment: "Prevention is the avoidance of fire occurrence. To the degree that prevention efforts are successful, the problems related to fire are completely avoided." (Is the Pulitzer committee listening?) The General Accounting Office entered the contest with this outstanding effort: "It is important to understand the various aspects relating to all factors in order to achieve a general feel for the classification mode of thinking as well as to be able to explain to staff why factors addressed on a position description have not necessarily been addressed on an assignment complexity evaluation." (Apparently neither team had any time-outs remaining.) But let's credit precision when we see it, as in this Department of Energy pearl: "The ad hoc transition team is temporary in nature."
– The oppressed members of the New York City municipal transit unions got their chance to partake in the true spirit of American unionism before their strike succeeded in sucking the next to last drop from the taxpayers' necks. As reported by the Associated Press: "In Brooklyn, tires were slashed and windows smashed on 15 private buses parked in a motel lot. They had been chartered by private businesses to haul their employees to work during the strike. In the Bronx, police reported that strikers or their sympathizers stopped several private buses carrying passengers into the city and disabled them by removing their ignition coils. Also in the Bronx, a carload of strikers forced a private bus to the side of the street and broke its windshield wipers, making it unable to proceed in the foul weather." Then they broke other buses, tied up bridges into the city by parking their cars on them…oh, you know.
– The United States, you may have heard, entered into military action for the first time in five years by sending eight helicopters on a top-secret Iranian rescue mission. The crack all-armed forces team was not even to its rescue destination, however, when three of the eight airlift units went dead. The government, which spends in excess of $120 billion annually on such military items, called off the caper.
Not surprisingly, helicopters quartered in the private sector perform far more reliably, particularly the one commanded by the popular Hollywood heart-throb Robert Redford. Robert the Handsome was just coptering into the Mt. Timpanogos Scenic Area in Utah, which is "closed to all types of motorized vehicles, including helicopters," when busted by the US Forest Service. An avid ecologist, Redford will no doubt use the incident as anecdotal material when next lecturing on the environmental evils of all development occurring within a 100-mile radius of the exclusive Redford ranch-style estate in the Utah wilds.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".