Clean your room! Fix that dripping faucet! Put the screens up! And for the sake of all that's decent, scrape that peeling paint from the window frame! Blondie telling Dagwood how she expects him to spend his day off? Nope. It's the Montgomery (Md.) County Council telling its subjects they had better shape up—or else.
Montgomery County is the home of $50,000-a-year government executives, foreign diplomats, and the elite of suburban Washington. So it's understandable that county leaders are a little miffed about certain dowdy, if not outright slobbish, tendencies among some of the populace. So the "Great Slob Law of 1982″ was introduced. The edict says faucets are not allowed to drip, children must not walk through a parent's bedroom to get to the bathroom, and no one, but no one, is allowed to live, sleep, cook, or eat in the cellar of his own home. County inspectors were anxious to swoop down and issue summonses, but jeering householders hooted the 74-page law out of a hearing room while the sponsors retreated and withdrew the measure. Freedom lovers partied and threw peanut shells on the floor, but the forces for neatness and propriety are regrouping for another round.
March was officially declared Socialist Ethics Month" in the People's Republic of China, and that means no more spitting on the sidewalk, dropping litter, honking car horns, or being surly in public places. This is quite a turnaround for China, where young people had been encouraged during the Cultural Revolution to be rude to older people. "The ruder they acted, the more revolutionary they were considered," said an elderly Peking intellectual. But now a new enlightenment has taken place, and the regulations specify that cars can emit only three toots at a time, with no longer than half a second per honk; and it is illegal for Chinese motorists to eat, drink, smoke, or talk while driving. Offenders will really find out what rudeness means at reeducation camps.
John Nolan, Jr., campaigned for the post of welfare director in Burrillville, Rhode Island, on the promise that he'd take a 90-percent cut in salary if elected. But the town's treasurer feared that Nolan's decision to return $9,000 every year would mess up the bookkeeping. The town had to formally reduce Nolan's salary to $1,000 a year to placate the "rules are rules" treasurer. Undaunted, Nolan says he's going to ask for another $500 cut in salary. "There's nothing to do in this job," he says, noting that a state takeover of all local welfare in 1970 has left local welfare directors with a lot of time on their hands. He says that many Rhode Island local welfare directors make as much as $22,000 a year, and "actually they don't have any more to do than I do."
Soviet railroad worker L. Shevchenko and his wife came across a herd of wild boars crossing the road. "The huge leader of the pack rushed to their car. With its tusks, he tore apart the auto's left fender, buckled the door and bent the grille. The boar then smugly returned to its herd," says the government newspaper Izvestia. As a cute comment on the momentous event, Izvestia editorialized: "Well, one can hardly expect wild animals to behave like gentlemen. Those who find themselves in their habitat should keep this in mind." Yup, just ask anyone in the Gulag or any Solidarity supporter in Poland.
Cheap imports made with the sweat of exploited laborers who are paid coolie wages are threatening to destroy American industry. At least that's what the US automobile and footwear industries have been wailing and gnashing teeth about. The latest "industry" to whine that President Reagan simply must extend import quotas is the clothespin manufacturers of the state of Maine, where 427 people are employed making the devices that keep towels on the clothesline. Imports from Taiwan and Poland accounted for almost half of the clothespins sold in America during the late 1970s, and Jimmy Carter obligingly ordered quotas. So, the Maine congressional delegation, prominent clothespin mavens, and hired-gun Washington lobbyists set about cornering anyone who would listen about the virtues of higher-priced but American-made clothespins. On February 22, Reagan agreed to this rope trick. So grab a clothespin. You'll need it over your nose to stop the stink sure to be raised by anyone who believed campaign rhetoric about knocking down economic barriers and the glories of free trade.
No wonder kids don't know how to read anymore. When a Washington reporter called the US Department of Education's public affairs division, the pleasant voice on the other end of the phone told him: "Sorry, our people is in a meeting right now."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".