Brickbats

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• They Debated! They Debated! Those guys really got up there and acted like they were discussing the Real Issues and everything! Honest. It was on all the wire services. And one of them was elected president! So help me God!

• The People's Republic of San Francisco has banned the popular children's novel Mary Poppins. According to the S.F. public library's Joan Dillon, "It's written from the old English view of the 'white man's burden.'…That is naturally offensive." The 1934 fantasy by P.L. Travers, an elderly lady who scratched out all the jive-talk she could find for a new edition issued in 1977, is but the tip of the censor-berg, of course. Next in line are Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, books that gained notoriety on the strength of their unromanticized, honest touch me-feel me portrayals. It is not surprising that such masterpieces, by such a giant (particularly in the area of the now all but debauched "human rights"), should be at the head of the line for the firing squad. So brace yourself, for here come the 'Frisco fanatics, shot full of "consciousness-raising" (their euphemism for censorship) zeal, on an idiotic crusade against books "representing a kind of outmoded colonialist, imperialist viewpoint." Mary Poppins? Tom Sawyer? Don't these Nazis even read what they censor…or have they, too, cut out the middleman?

• Government housing projects have led from one success to…yes, you got it!â€"another (success). In New York City, for example, federal, state, and local slum projects have been so successful (in creating slums just everywhere) that a new breakthrough has been achieved: "The city is spending $50,000 to stick vinyl decals shaped like shutters, shades and flowerpots on the windows of abandoned buildings in a new program aimed at giving vacant eyesores 'the occupied look.'" This is a great solution in neighborhoods where government housing policy is just beginning to work its special magic, but not for others. In the South Bronx, Jimmy Carter's favorite slum and extra special client of federal aid, the new window stickers are not even a possibility. As a spokesperson for the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development noted, "We'd go through our budget fast."

• The Polish Potentate has really done it this time, attacking that look of lust…for the li'l wife. While most American women of the married genus only fantasized about such luck, Pope John Paul, Jr., stuck his two-hands distance right in there between 'em, forbidding feelings of "lust" any old gutter-rat filth-bag may harbor for his dearly wed. That sort of thing only turns people into "objects," means to an end, so to speak. The big Catholic ward-heeler from Rome was rudely rebuked, however, from an unlikely source: the women's movement. The very folks who spend 94.3 percent of their waking hours attacking the very same evil of S-E-X (and do more, undoubtedly, by their very physical presence to smash the curse of XX-lust than a thousand papal encyclicals could ever hope to do) sprang into action immediately. They bellowed, why did he not choose to also attack the idea of female lust? Sexism! Pig! Macho chump! Jockstrap featherhead! (The women's group issuing this plea on behalf of females who look lustily at men resides in Italy. Do not worry about their names or where, specifically, they are located. Your loyal Brickbats columnist is on his way at this very instant to check out the tense situation. I have no doubt I can calm everything down. Will report soon…)

• From Social Sciences Quarterly, er, ah-hum, Oui magazine (they're easy to confuse if you read the Braille edition), the following from an interview with your hero and mine, National Lampoon editor P.J. O'Rourke:
Oui: Do you have any pet peeves?
O'Rourke: Just safety Nazis.
Oui: What are they?
O'Rourke: Joseph Califano (former Secretary of HEW) was one. Safety Nazis are people who say "safe at any cost." They are today's equivalent of superpatriots. There is no such thing as a safe lifeâ€"death is going to come regardless. Safety Nazis are the people who are adamantly against nuclear power and cigarette smoking and drinking too much. They're the guys who force themselves to jog thirty miles in the morning and want everybody else to do the same thing. I think it's a loathsome attitude, even if they're right. I mean, I know we shouldn't eat off the floor or subsist on nothing but beef fat. But the safety Nazi has a real coward's attitude…"Oh, you lit a cigarette!"â€"that sort of thing. I like to think that Califano was thrown out on my advice.
Oui: But doesn't everyone have a creeping safety Nazi in him somewhere?
O'Rourke: Not me. I like to lead a real dangerous life, which is easy for me because I'm a tremendous coward. It doesn't take very much for me to feel threatened. The beginners' ski slopeâ€"that's a real thrill.

• In yet another blow to the ideal of democracy, former Sen. J. William Fulbright has endorsed the concept of selecting the nation's president by congressional vote. "Congress should elect the chief executive from among its functioning members," Fulbright said. And just whom would that leave?

NEXT: The Necks and Minds of the People

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