Brickbats

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• Animals, animals…the government never tires when it comes to protecting the furry critters from uncaring humans.

Take the case of the loggerhead turtleâ€"if you can find one. The city of Danville, Virginia, in 1979 reluctantly agreed to the choice given it by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Either pay a stiff fine for polluting the air from its coal-burning power plant or sponsor a $10,000 study of the sex life of loggerhead turtles. You see, in lieu of the fine, the EPA said the city must finance an "environmentally significant study of general relevance." The study is now finished, and the conclusion is that there probably are no loggerhead turtles in Virginia.

Danville's city manager says the coal-burning plant has been abandoned and the city now buys its electricity at higher prices. On the turtle study he says: "It enlightens our understanding of the Federal government process."

Danville's mayor was more succinct: "This is the most asinine thing ever to come before this city."

• It's really tough to raise a family on $60,662.50 a year, bemoan our overworked and underpaid members of Congress. Rather than vote themselves an out-and-out pay raise in an election year, our statesmen used the back door to lift a 30-year-old $3,000 limitation on living expenses that can be deducted in connection with their work, for having to maintain a residence in the capital and one back home. The net effect of the action pretty well assures that most members of the House and Senate will pay little, if any, federal income taxes this year. And to top that off, the Internal Revenue Service announced it will no longer make out returns for individual taxpayers unless they are blind, illiterateâ€"or members of Congress. Well, as H.L. Mencken observed long ago: "Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it." Or even better, "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

• A major pharmaceutical company has finally realized that bureaucracy is only a game, albeit an expensive and stupid game. To help its employees learn how to comply with Food and Drug Administration rules on manufacturing new drugs, A.H. Robins Co. of Georgia developed a board game, something akin to Monopoly. The device works so well that Robins plans to sell kits to other firms at $180 a copy. The goal is to move your piece around the board within seven years, roughly half the average time it takes the FDA to make a decision on approving a new drug for the American market.

• After sucking the lifeblood of the ailing American taxpayer for years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has decided to finally nail Count Dracula in his coffin. Until only a few years ago, the EEOC was seriously reviewing 150 cases in which people claimed they were vampires and were being discriminated against because they were born in Transylvania. Former EEOC vice-chairman Dan Leach says agency staff members were "so mindless and overzealous that instead of immediately tossing the vampires' charges out, they let them get as far as preliminary examinations." But what's going to happen now to all the unemployed living dead? The freeze on civil service hiring has locked them out of the job market.

• The theory is that being struck by a car with a chrome bumper is likely to hurt a lot more than being run over by a car with a soft plastic bumper. To prove this compelling hypothesis, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is spending $380,000 for a study to see what happens to corpses which are creamed at speeds ranging from 5 to 30 miles an hourâ€""to simulate the typical pedestrian accident."

Sixteen cadavers, all bequeathed for scientific research, will first be run over and then X-rayed so their injuries can be evaluated. Uncle Jim left his body to science so the government can get the evidence it needs to ban chrome bumpers. If he knew, he'd be spinning in his Edsel.

• A dollar isn't worth what it used to be. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has started offering sixteen one-dollar bills for sale at $20.25. Thirty-two dollar bills go for $38. The bureau hopes to raise funds to refurbish its visitors' display by selling uncut sheets of currency at a profit of about a quarter on each dollar.

The bills in each sheet are genuine currency, so if a collector later becomes hard-pressed for cash he can cut the bills apart and spend them. But smart investors are using the sheets as wallpaper for business offices. As inflation shrinks the value of the dollar, just think of the fortune that can be saved in tax depreciation.