Any law that says it's okay to buy fresh tomatoes—but illegal for a store to sell canned tomatoes—on a Sunday, is pretty silly. And nowhere on earth are Blue Laws sillier than in England, the birthplace of the blues. You can buy whiskey and porno magazines on Sunday, but it's verboten to sell a copy of the Bible. Chinese take-out restaurants can sell that British favorite fish and chips, but the law says fish and chips shops must stay shut on Sundays. Had enough yet? A mother may buy a bottle of gin on Sunday, but she can't legally purchase milk for her baby's bottle. Reformers are giving it another go at abolishing these foolish regulations, but they aren't hopeful. This is the 10th time in the past 20 years they have tried to curb the curbs, going down to defeat each time because of massive lobbying campaigns waged by the Lord's Day Observance Society and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. A union spokesman says the bill to abolish the blues would "open the floodgates to a retail free-for-all which is socially and morally unnecessary." Funny, we thought England's economy could use as many free-for-alls as it can get.
Culture lovers all over the world were distraught to learn of the death of Mikhail A. Suslov, hard-line Kremlin ideologist extraordinaire. Among Suslov's "greatest hits" were the crushing of dissent under Stalin, the crushing of the Hungarian rebellion in 1956, the crushing of Czech liberalization in 1968, and—still No. 1 on the charts with a bullet—the crushing of the Solidarity movement in Poland. The free world owes Suslov a debt of gratitude, however. Without his benevolent contributions to Soviet life, Baryshnikov, Nureyev, Rostropovich, and a long list of other artists who defected to the West never would have left the workers' paradise.
Those cold-hearted budget slashers in the Reagan administration have finally gone too far. Why, they're actually questioning whether "public interest" lawyers who sue the government should be able to collect up to $110 an hour from the public trough. A few years ago, a benevolent Congress authorized judges to order "the government" (a.k.a. the taxpayers) to ante up for legal fees of private attorneys who sued the feds and won under almost 100 environmental, civil rights, and consumer laws. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency was ordered to pay $99,534.50 in legal fees to the Environmental Defense Fund, which sued about new regulations for PCBs. The payment includes $9,543.50 for "time spent in preparing the application for fees," according to the judge's ruling. Now that Reagan has suggested these liars, er, excuse me, lawyers, should receive only about $25 an hour for their do-gooding efforts, you can hear the moans echoing throughout the capital. A Budget Office spokesman says, "These guys equate the national commitment to justice with the extent to which the taxpayers subsidize them personally."
New York City housing clerk Stanley Wright made just one little mistake, and now everyone wants his head on a stick. Stanley hasn't been feeling too well lately, suffering from a variety of ailments that struck 21 times in his first 10 months on the job. Each time, he dutifully presented his supervisor with a signed doctor's note to back up his absence. None of his superiors ever questioned the validity of his claims until Stanley's 22nd illness, another outbreak of that annoying lower back pain. But this time, when Stanley was excused in a note signed by a gynecologist, crack city inspectors became suspicious. After checking it out, the officials found that all of the doctor's notes Stanley had turned in were, well, doctored. Stanley's been suspended while the district attorney prepares the fraud case. Now he's really feeling ill.
The cheapest barber shop in Washington is located in the House of Representatives. A haircut and hot comb is price-fixed at $3.50 thanks to a $90,000-a-year federal subsidy. Actually, progress has been made in the past few years. Haircuts used to be free of charge for our solons when the subsidy was $240,000 a year. But with the Reagan administration taking a bowl and shears to the federal budget, the House Services Subcommittee is surveying prices in the city's tonsorial open market to measure whether our statesmen should pay more for their hairdos.
Haircuts aren't a problem in Leningrad, but shaves are. Only clients who bring their own blades to the Leningrad barbers are shaved, according to the Soviet labor newspaper Trud. There is a shortage of razors in the Soviet city, even though a nearby factory produces 400 million blades a year. The safety-razor factory, a British-Swedish-Russian project, produces the best blades in the nation, but they're mainly for export. The Fidel Castro look-alike contest will be held next week.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".