Gratuitous insults on tax returns—otherwise known as freedom of speech—won't be tolerated by the IRS. Donna Todd of Georgia had a $35 tax debt on earnings of less than $3,000. She filled out her 1040 Form and sent it in with a check. Beneath her signature, she typed: "Signed involuntarily under penalty of statutory punishment." For those seven words, the IRS fined her more than $500, seized the $140 in her bank account, and filed a lien against her house. An Ohio woman was fined $500 for writing on her return that she didn't agree with military-spending policies. The women are two of the 5,528 taxpayers who have been hit with fines for filing "frivolous" income-tax returns. The IRS won't comment specifically on these cases, but it concedes that some prosecutors may be "overzealous" in interpreting the law. Sounds like the bloodsuckers are getting soft.
"Help stop communism. Support the free-enterprise system," James R. Lawson told the throng outside New York Police Headquarters. A right-wing rally of little old ladies in tennis sneakers? Hardly. Lawson is president of the Harlem Council for Economic Development, and he was talking about the state's monopoly on lottery numbers games. He estimated that 100,000 workers have lost their jobs as numbers runners because of a city crackdown on illegal (that is, privately sponsored) games. "No government agency can match this employment record," he said. Referring to the New York State Lottery, Lawson said, "If Governor Cuomo's people can write numbers, why can't the people of Harlem?"
Richard John Longstaff, a British-born resident of Dallas, was denied US citizenship by the Supreme Court. When he applied for a visa almost two decades ago, Longstaff "concealed" his homosexuality, according to court papers, by saying he did not have a psychopathic personality. At the time, a definition of that term included homosexuality. Rather than strike down this lunacy, Warren Burger and his pals upheld lower courts that ruled Longstaff failed to show good moral character, because he entered the country illegally. The only illegality was that it never occurred to Longstaff that a law-abiding person who prefers the company of men could be labeled a psychopath.
Life in Khartoum, Sudan, is no bowl of cherries for violators of Islamic law. An Italian monk was publicly flogged for possessing a bottle of whiskey, 16 bottles of wine, and a six-pack of beer. Then, applying the principle of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, a Sudanese court ordered teeth to be removed from the mouths of two people because they smashed a third person's tooth. Novacaine won't be allowed. In May alone, 14 amputations were ordered by the courts to convince thieves of the errors of their ways. Shangri-La it ain't.
When is a fascist not a fascist? When he's a member of the British Parliament. Fascist joined the list of words banned in the House of Commons. After a Labour legislator called a Tory member a fascist in a debate on South African Prime Minister Pieter Botha's recent visit to Britain, speaker Bernard Weatherill ruled that the word was taboo. A rose by any other name…
It only took 20 years and $1.2 billion for Congress to realize that the Garrison irrigation project in North Dakota might be a dumb idea. The huge project would ravage thousands of acres of prairie and wildlife refuges so that a few hundred farmers could get the extra water needed to grow corn and potatoes. These are crops the Department of Agriculture is paying farmers everywhere else not to produce because they're in surplus. And North Dakota already has the highest per-capita rate of participation in the pay-not-to-grow program. Rather than just kill the plan and hang their heads in shame, the solons of Capitol Hill have appropriated another $53 million so that a blue-ribbon commission can develop ideas for a more efficient water project. We shudder to think of how they can top this one.
A block on the lower East Side of New York City was intentionally covered with garbage for the benefit of a film crew making a public-service TV commercial. The staged event depicts Mayor Edward Koch showing his outrage at the filth and urging citizens to keep the streets clean.
One of the Watergate "plumbers," G. Gordon Liddy, will deliver the keynote address at the convention of the National Association of Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors in Atlanta. An association spokesman says, "I know we're going to generate some laughs, but what the hell—that's part of public relations."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".