? Pity the poor hogsucker, a fish so ugly and so "underutilized" that the federal government wants to give it a new name and then cram it, along with a few tons of ratfish and other delectable-sounding fruits de la mer, down the throats of the American public. And pity the taxpayers, who have had to cough up a half-million dollars (so far) to help sell seafood with image problems.
The National Marine Fisheries Service, you see, discovered that people aren't exactly breaking down the doors of their fish markets begging and screaming for more stumpknockers and crappies. It took an eight-year study to find out that Americans have a prejudice against any fish that looks like it wants to swallow Cleveland and sounds like something you'd call the exterminator for.
So if the people won't eat their hog-suckers, we'll just have to change the names of the little ugly beasts. Butterfish sounds so much more appetizing than dogfish, according to the "bureaucratis nincompoopis" at the service. True to the bureaucratic method, the grunts, gags, viperfish, et al. are being grouped according to "edibility profiles" and are rated on a scale to describe flavor, odor, color, etc. Then all species with similar profiles will be lumped into groups and renamed.
Fisheries service spokesman James Brooker says that after eight years of work, no new names have been chosen, and generic or individual naming is still a year off. A stumpknocker is still a stumpknocker, but only for a moment. Pass the monkfish, please.
? From that haven of tolerance and religious freedom, we learn that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has finally identified the true culprit of his nation's woes. It isn't Yankee imperialism, counterrevolutionaries still dedicated to the monarchy, or even evil Iraqi influence. The true heretics are grade-school children who bring felt-tipped pens to class. The government of Iran, which has made firing squads the new growth industry and is exhorting little children to inform on fellow pupils who harbor thoughts harmful to Khomeini's theocracy, announced that students possessing the felt-tipped devices of terror would be expelled. The pens are often used to write slogans on walls. Like, "Big Mullah Is Watching You."
? Capitalism continues to flourish in China and the Soviet Union. Yang Xiaoyun, an energetic young peasant, sold five tons of grain last summer for about $2,800. Recent agricultural policies have made it worthwhile for the Chinese peasant to work harder. Instead of earning work points for time on the job, most peasants are now being paid for what they produce. But when Mr. Yang decided to treat himself to a new bicycle with his windfall, he could not find one in any of the stores in Hubei Province. Factory workers at the bicycle plant in Shanghai still only get work points.
Meanwhile, ticket scalping for seats in the Bolshoi and other leading Moscow theaters has become such a lucrative business that gangs are going to war against one another to corner the market, according to a Soviet newspaper. "Enterprising people realized that the only way to get hold of tickets to popular shows was to set up unofficial firms at each of the leading theaters," the newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya said. The newspaper said the companies were generally made up of youngsters out to take advantage of the "inefficient distribution system" for the tickets. Perhaps theater-goers should trade stories with Mr. Yang.
? The "Don't Hold Your Breath" Department: Eleven American claimants have filed with an international tribunal at The Hague seeking hundreds of millions of dollars ripped off after the Iranian revolution. American individuals and companies have until January 19 to file claims, but a tribunal official has said there is no stampede expected. Why would there be? A nation that thumbs its nose at the World Court, rubs American noses in the dirt for 444 days, and executes its own citizens at a pace that makes Murder, Inc., look like a Boy Scout troop isn't likely to be too concerned about an unpaid debt to Joe's Widget Co. of Newark, N.J.
? The beat goes on: Lawrence A. Kudlow, installed by the Reagan administration as chief economist of the Office of Management and Budget, has coined the term "revenue enhancement." And what could that be? Us ordinary folks call it a tax increase. One euphemism, though, apparently won't do the trick. Kudlow also uses the phrase "receipts strengthening." Kudlow says he started talking this roundabout way while drafting the fact sheet the White House issued to reporters to explain its request for $3 billion more in tax revenues and $13 billion more in budget cuts. Why didn't the White House call a tax increase by its proper name? "There's no better way to sell economic theory than by the euphemistic route," Kudlow says.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".