Hey, catch the specs on Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. While toilet paper and toothpaste are being rationed back home in Sandinistaville, the Marxist president was splurging on designer glasses that make him look just like every other yuppie on Wall Street. He ordered his 17-car motorcade to make a slight detour on the way to the United Nations' 40th-anniversary bash in New York last October. He visited Cohen's Fashion Optical store on the Upper East Side to buy six pairs of sophisticated yet simple, lightweight yet bulletproof eyeglass frames—at $300 apiece. Rosario Murillo, Ortega's wife, chose three pairs of Gucci frames, as well as three Fiorucci frames for the couple's daughter back home on the front lines. The bill came to $3,500, which Ortega paid with a Diner's Club card. As Fernando might say, the glasses look absolutely mahvelous in the trenches.
Passengers on Amtrash,…er, Amtrak, the nation's socialized railroad system, spent an hour in the Twilight Zone last October when the trains suddenly stopped in the middle of their trips. No, it wasn't engine failure, track trouble, or even a union-mandated coffee break. The delay was for the 2:00 A.M. changeover from daylight-saving to standard time. Rather than allow passengers to arrive at their destinations an hour early (perish the thought!), the central planners in the front office decreed a one-hour systemwide stop so that the timetable would jibe with the clock. Amtrak is the best advertisement for air travel.
Richard J. Stiene of Morris County, New Jersey, holds the unique distinction of being the first motorist to be convicted of drunk driving when his car was mechanically inoperable, had no gas, and the key hadn't even been put in the ignition. A state appeals court upheld the conviction and 10-year license suspension, ruling that if an intoxicated person sits behind the wheel of a vehicle with the intention of driving, that person is guilty of drunk driving—even if the car never moves. With some legal gymnastics that would make Mary Lou Retton redden with jealousy, the court said the mere fact that the car could have moved meant that it would have been under the control of an intoxicated driver. Wonder what's in the water pitchers at the appeals court?
A Northampton, Massachusetts, man was jailed on charges of failing to pay a $3 license fee and get a rabies shot for a pet dog that he said died three months before his arrest. Bruce Davidson says he was so distraught over the dog's death he forgot to call the city dog officer who had filed a charge against him. Davidson was taken to police headquarters, given a body search, and put in a cell. City Dog Officer Willette White says she wouldn't have brought Davidson to court had she known the dog was dead. But "I hope this reminds people that they have to register their dogs every year," barked the bureaucrat.
Dead men collect no taxes. Or do they? Thomas Eckart, the long-time incumbent tax collector of Hayfield Township in Pennsylvania, died a week before last November's election. But he made a macabre comeback of sorts by winning reelection, 2 to 1, over his Democratic opponent. If the only certainties in life are death and taxes, Eckart has his bets covered.
Poor Donald Duck. He's played second fiddle to Mickey Mouse for over 50 years. The irascible mallard with the world's best-known speech impediment has failed once again to win a seat in Sweden's parliament. Donald won 291 votes in the general election, up 37 percent from his 1982 tally, but he still trailed most other candidates badly. Prime Minister Olaf Palme's Social Democrats (sort of a cross between Goofy and Lenin) won the most seats.
Preserving the historic character of downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is so important to the city council that a state legislator has been ordered to remove windows he recently installed in an apartment building he owns. The modern single-pane, heat-saving windows violate the zoning ordinance. In his appeal to Dauphin County Court, state Sen. Edward Early says the city has no right to bar him from replacing old rotted windows. The whole battle is a real pane.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".