From the city that gave us Frank Sinatra and On the Waterfront, we now have real fireworks at city hall. Hoboken, New Jersey, Mayor Steve Cappiello thinks that Councilman Thomas Vezzetti is a disgracefully sloppy dresser. So during a council meeting, the mayor tossed a lighted firecracker in Vezzetti's direction. "I wasn't trying to hurt him," Cappiello says. "I threw it so he would become more alert and realize that the seam on his orange pants was torn." Vezzetti was outraged. "What the firecracker incident shows about the mayor is that he is an idiot," the councilman says. "Can you imagine a grown man throwing firecrackers? And where did he get them anyway? Firecrackers are illegal in Hoboken."
Doreen Schifano was lucky to get off with a $35 fine. Her next violation could result in a six-month jail term. What nefarious crime did the young woman commit? She violated Borough Ordinance 403 which prohibits office and retail work on Sundays. She received permission from her boss at IBM in Paramus, New Jersey, to use the office on a Sunday to work on her application for a master's degree program. Judge Martin Burger ruled that Sunday use of business facilities is prohibited regardless of purpose. But Burger doesn't believe the ordinance should apply to his legal brethren. He also ruled that an attorney can work in his own office on Sundays as long as he doesn't consult with clients. Paramus justice is blind. Also deaf and dumb.
Roger Pilcher may chain himself to his barber pole unless the village idiots who run West Dundee, Illinois, leave him alone. Pilcher's spinning barber pole—the historic symbol for a shave and haircut—violates a local ordinance against moving signs. Pilcher had to stop his twisting pole at his tonsorial parlor last winter. "I'm against big, gaudy flashing signs myself," he says. "But they keep talking about opening up some kind of Pandora's box as though there's going to be an epidemic of barbers flooding into West Dundee carrying spinning poles." Where else would they go?
Bureaucrats are having fits because genetic engineering companies don't fit under old regulatory definitions and no one knows who's responsible for telling them how to run their businesses. Genentech, Inc., of San Francisco says the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration argued for more than a year over which agency should regulate a new company product designed to kill viruses that infect farm animals. Government isn't the only villain in this story. A Genentech lawyer says that large companies favor additional regulation as a way to drive up costs for small companies, hoping that it will "cause the small, more specialized firms to fail before any of their products can traverse the regulatory morass."
If you think American justice is loony, take a look at what's going on in England. A 31-year-old man who's serving a life sentence for rape has been awarded $60,000 in damages because of an auto accident the judge said had turned him into a rapist. Sir Harry Woolf ruled in the High Court of Justice that had it not been for a 1978 car crash that damaged the frontal lobes of Christopher Meah's brain, "he would have probably resisted his inclinations to embark upon sexual attacks." The judge said that Meah, who was no angel when it came to sex and violence before the collision, "was the worst possible person to sustain injuries of this kind." So who are the best possible persons to sustain brain damage? English judges, perhaps?
Gerry Clevenger has Monroe, New Jersey, officials nipping at her heels because of her roadside hot dog stand. Officials want to close the stand because Clevenger is "an attractive girl who is distracting motorists and could cause traffic accidents," says a municipal drone. So far, there haven't been any accidents, but the town fathers aren't taking any chances. If Clevenger were ugly as sin, there'd be no problem, they say. Good looks are a curse.
It was the epizootics that finally convinced Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D–S.C.) to vote against appropriating $31.3 million for the National Endowment for Democracy. Hollings read off a list of agencies numbering in the hundreds that the Endowment would help fund. But the International Office for Epizootics was the final straw. "I am having the staff look that thing up," he says. "It is something about animals. I could probably put in an amendment to get rid of epizootics in Washington. I would run for re-election on that one down home in South Carolina. You know what they would think epizootics was? Them fuzzy liberals up there." Despite Hollings's eloquence, epizootics are now being funded.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".