– Ask yourself this: In our Space-Age Epoch, what could be a more revered and honorable occupation than that of "exotic animal breeder?" Just think of it. Someone who takes endangered species and mates them back into the pink of reproductive bliss! Meet Robert Baudy, who "has spent the last 28 years breeding some of the most exotic animals on earth…and is one of the few men in the world who is able to supply such rare and valuable animals to the world's zoos and animal trainers." He specializes in the rarest species of "big cats," expending the greatest efforts on those closest to extinction, such as "snow leopards from China and Russia, clouded leopards from North Vietnam, amur leopards from North Korea, black jaguars from Brazil and the Florida panther." This is hot enough for People magazine or a two-week summer film hit, huh? Well, they had better roll those cameras real quick, 'cause good 'ol Mr. Baudy is on his way out himself. What's his trouble? "He blames well-intentioned but poorly directed government laws, including the 1973 Endangered Species Act, that virtually have stopped the worldwide trade of exotic animals.…In some cases the law has actually led to the demise of animals because breeders could not obtain the stock they needed, either for their own businesses or for special projects to reintroduce rare animals into the wilds." According to Baudy, "Not only must you be an expert in the field, you need to be an expert bureaucrat." But Mr. Baudy is not an expert bureaucrat and may soon be entirely removed from his heroic social niche by the power of enlightened, far-sighted public policy.
– In the sort of social experiment that loses its funny side with the feds real quick, a Minneapolis bank decided to see just how useful a particular government program was. The Washington brainstorm in question was a campaign requiring banks to mail to their customers a 4,500-word booklet outlining the fascinating implications of the ever-popular "Regulation E" (?). This requirement was met with big smiles by executives at the Northwestern National Bank, who immediately saw the opportunity to delight their 115,000 customers with this Big News (concerning the legalities of electronic funds transfer), at a bargain price of only $69,000. But just to make sure that everyone was reading along line for line, they took a random group of 100 pamphlets and inserted the innocuous offer: "Any customer who receives a disclosure that includes this paragraph can get $10 simply by writing 'Regulation E' and the customer's name and address on a card and sending it" to the bank. Well, they were gambling with $1,000 of the bank's money, of course'"they didn't lose a cent. Not one of the hundred read the damn thing!
– New York City's progressive people's state suffered yet another cruel setback when it was disclosed that Bess Meyerson's Consumer Credit Counseling Service has been ripping off the consumers. Not only did the group, from which Ms. Meyerson has escaped (to run in the Democrats' Senate Preliminaries), screw up by not delivering good service to their clients, they generally "overcharged" them as well. The nonprofit agency, set up to counsel consumers drowning in debt, established an unbelievably poor record on this score, with the overwhelming percentage of their clients never surfacing to financial safety. The agency was apparently making some money on the deal, however.
– Another new breakthrough for the state of New York is the new, tough anti-gun law just on the books. And they've already snared their first customer: a 31-year-old Ohio trucker, William Jordan, Jr., who went to the aid of a woman being assaulted by a man near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. The criminal gun-toter admitted, "I was in my truck and I heard a woman screaming, so I got out with my gun and I screamed at the guy to release her." He should have known better'"this is 1980. "I committed the sin of trying to assist someone in distress and now I am involved in something I knew nothing about.…It looked like a man was strangling a woman and was trying to kill her." In fact, it was a plainclothes policeman arresting a 21-year-old femme fatale on a morals rap. The alleged prostitute, incidentally, escaped. Mr. Jordan faces charges of "menacing, obstructing governmental administration [really], and gun possession."
– Not nearly so concerned about the long arm of the law are those lively little rascals we call "congressmen." A few are up on charges right now, but they have little fear. They've got attorneys. And do they have good ones! At the start of the Abscam criminal proceedings for four "politically powerful defendants," lawyers argued that, Sure our clients took the $50,000 cash, but they didn't do anything for it. "The only thing done by these defendants was to take the fat Arabs' money," explained mouthpiece Richard Ben-Veniste. "They never did anything (to earn a bribe)." Now that has got to be some high-price legal help. No way will they lose. Arguing that congressmen take money and make promises but never make good on them.…And they've got 220 million character witnesses in this country alone!
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".