Where else but in Fun City would a judge rule that New York zoning laws can be used to ban videogame parlors—but not peep shows or live sex acts? Porn is a constitutionally protected form of freedom of expression, but dot-eating electronic monsters are merely commerce, according to a New York Supreme Court judge. The solution for video game operators is simple: find a girlfriend for lonely Pac-Man. If he and Pac-Woman (or Mrs. Pac-Man for the Puritans among us) do naughty things on the tube, then it's legal under the First Amendment.
More than 2,600 New York City school teachers came down with the seven-year itch—paid sabbaticals—and it's costing taxpayers $26 million this year alone. At least one-fifth of the teachers will never return to the blackboard jungle, and that means each will have received a $20,000 preretirement award. Sabbaticals were intended to let educators study and travel to recharge their batteries and become better instructors. But "study" often means trips to China, the Bahamas, and Hawaii. New York is the only city in America to grant sabbaticals to secretaries. One recently went to Jamaica to study how other schools handle record-keeping. She could have studied it in Jersey City, but then Jamaica has a beach and Jersey City doesn't. School employees receive 70 percent of their salaries and 100 percent of their fringe benefits while on leave. The teachers' union vows to fight to the death to keep sabbaticals in the contract. Why kill the golden goose?
For 10 days, the beach at Tropea, Italy, was a sight to behold. But what constitutes beauty in the eye of the beholder had a lot to do with making the scenic view a little less panoramic. To avoid discouraging tourists who like to take nude strolls on the beach, the city council passed a law allowing full exposure only by "young women capable of exalting the beauty of the female body." Some do-gooders squawked about the law violating Italy's antidiscrimination statutes. City officials blushed and decided to reserve a small strip of beach for naturalists of all ages, shapes, and sizes. The tourists will simply have to grin and bare it, exalted or not.
Congress routinely passes laws cramming closed shops ("If you want to work here, join the union") down the throats of workers and employers who don't want them. The average Joe needs to be protected from mercenary capitalism or so the logic goes. But lo and behold, look what group is fighting hard against such coercion and has been successful in keeping the union out: the US Senate refuses to recognize a union representing 200 workers who sling hash in the Senate's cafeterias. As employees of the Senate, the restaurant workers don't enjoy the "protection" of labor laws that cover identical jobs everywhere else in the United States except on Capitol Hill. The fledgling union has appealed to the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors compliance with the Helsinki accords on individual freedom. Good luck—12 of the 15 commission members are also members of Congress. The Senate may decide what's good for General Motors, but when it comes to its own hallowed hall, the attitude is slightly different.
Hand-wringing environmentalists and Watt-haters are simply aghast at the Interior Department's plan to unload a minuscule portion of the land owned by the government. Watt wants to sell a tiny chunk of the 700 million acres (roughly one-third of all the land in the country) of federally owned land to help reduce the trillion-dollar national debt. The Sierra Club would have us believe that Watt is going to auction off Old Faithful and the Statue of Liberty. Not so. But one piece of property destined to go on the block is the Mint Assay Office in lower Manhattan. The office processes and refines gold and silver bullion and reclaims the metal content of coins withdrawn from circulation. But why does such an office need to be located on prime commercial property in Manhattan when private groups would gladly pay $10 million or so for it? So much for the "rape of the wilderness" charge that some nature-lovers keep throwing at the land-sales idea.
"Slanderers in the bourgeois press" are making such a stink about the planeloads of Vietnamese being transported to Soviet factories to work off Hanoi's debt to Moscow. Government newspaper Izvestia dares anyone to challenge the altruistic motives of Mother Russia. Some counterrevolutionaries reported the Vietnamese were forced to work in northern Siberia. Not true, says Izvestia. The Vietnamese had "all rights and freedoms provided by Soviet law." Like the right never to question authority, the right to have a party thug tell you when and where to eat, sleep, and work, and the right not to practice the religion of one's choice. Take that, Western imperialistic dogs!
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".