The socialists who rule France have finally gone too far. It wasn't enough for them to nationalize nearly everything that moved. Now they're pestering the aging but still ooh-la-la Brigitte Bardot with some egalitarian mumbo-jumbo about how the beaches belong to the people. The government intends to tear down a wall at BB's beachfront St. Tropez home, and never you mind any bourgeois nonsense about privacy or private property. The film star is so upset that she's threatened to move to Mexico. The government's attitude is: Let her go—beaches are for everyone, and walls will not be tolerated. Ironically, that rule also applies to militant Communist Party member Lucette Thomazo. Her wall, too, was ordered demolished so that her unwashed brothers and sisters of the proletariat could take a refreshing dip, to which she remarked, "This is a grave injustice." C'est la guerre.
How are you gonna keep 'em down on the collective farm after they've eaten Swiss chocolates? That's the question facing the Kremlin about three Soviet soldiers who were taken prisoner by Afghan freedom fighters. The soldiers are waiting out the war at Switzerland's most modern prison, in-between television watching, swimming in the indoor pool, and earning about twice as much money for their farm labor as their "noncaptive" comrades back in Mother Russia. Why Switzerland? Well, Red Cross efforts to transfer the men were stalled by Moscow's insistence that Soviet forces are "not engaged in any combat action" in Afghanistan, corpses all over the place to the contrary. Finally, a guerrilla group agreed to a Red Cross proposal that the three Soviet captives be interned in a neutral country until the end of hostilities. But will they ever return? The thought of eternal winters in Minsk might spark a person to ask for a life term in a Swiss prison.
Ireland's $17-million national embarrassment is Knock International Airport, a project pushed by the politicos and the clergy but scorned by all airlines. Nestled in the midst of Ireland's most desolate area—about a three-hour drive from perfectly acceptable Shannon Airport—Knock will be shrouded with mist and fog much of the time and will end up serving fewer than 250 passengers a week, say its critics. So why build it? A feisty and politically connected priest has built a 10,000-seat shrine and needs the airport to bring him pilgrims. You see, only about 450 people live in Knock, and most of them work for the shrine. Sense prevailed briefly when former Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald killed the project. But when his government fell, the new PM, Charles J. Haughey, reinstated the boondoggle. Ireland's weary taxpayers ought to call it Hard Knock Airport.
Ben Johnson is a man after my own heart. The 46-year-old freedom lover from Reader, Arkansas, got tired of waiting for the city council to vote on a measure to lower its new speed breakers, those nefarious bumps in the road designed to slow down traffic. So Johnson rode his forklift into town and leveled the hated asphalt mounds as the townspeople cheered. Johnson was arrested, but it may be tough to convict him. The council voted to flatten the bumps just moments before Johnson did it. For free.
Marxist principles haven't stopped East Germany from engaging in a lucrative deal in human flesh with West Germany. Who says Communists don't believe in capitalism? Since 1973, West Germany has "purchased" 8,300 political prisoners from workers' paradise in the East. Prices paid for prisoners range from $12,000 for a laborer to $60,000 for a physician. At first, the West German government paid with unroasted coffee beans, butter, citrus fruits, and machinery. But lately, the East German government has demanded West German marks. Cold cash says it best, even for "classless" societies.
Canada's Foreign Investment Review Agency has struck a telling blow for Canadianism, and the result is that 12 Canadians are unemployed. After four years of paperwork, a tiny American-owned and Toronto-based distributor of medical texts has been told that its continued operation under its American parent, Harper & Row, "was not in the best interest of Canada." This kind of protectionism is necessary, agency supporters say, for Canada to preserve its cultural identity from adulteration by vulgarians south of the border. Of course, the immediate effect of the decision has been to throw 12 people—all Canadians—out of work and to deprive Canadian medical and nursing schools of the books they need. But cultural identity comes first, even if it's an identity of poverty, unemployment, and provincialism.