Brickbats

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Don't say Congress can't get serious about cutting the obscenely bloated budget. Last year our esteemed reps passed a budget amendment cutting the Library of Congress's appropriation by the exact amount it costs to produce a touchie-feelie version of Playboy—in Braille. The American Council for the Blind and Playboy Enterprises have filed suit over the matter. In their puritanical zeal, Congress made no attempt to deprive sighted library patrons of Playboy. And the Braille edition (naturally) includes no pictures, advertisements, or cartoons. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, how about silly censorship?

Some New York State dairies have been milking the public for years, thanks to a monopoly-loving agriculture commissioner exploiting an antiquated law passed during the Depression. (Lots of other states have similar laws.) New Yorkers end up paying what amounts to a 20-percent tariff on milk processed in their state. When a New Jersey-based processor was finally allowed to compete in Staten Island on a trial basis, it pushed the retail price of milk down by 40 cents a gallon. The catch is that a milk dealer must obtain a state license to operate in any local market. The agriculture commissioner has to grant the permit unless it would "lead to destructive competition in a market already adequately served." It's the monopoly-protecting bureaucrat's favorite loophole. And sure enough, the New Jersey competitor's application to expand beyond Staten Island has been stalled for six years. In the meantime, New York consumers are a great cash cow for established Empire State dairies.

The Historical Architectural Review Board of Allentown, Pennsylvania, won't let a couple install bars on the lower halves of two front windows even though their home was burglarized twice in the past two years. The bars would be "inappropriate in the downtown historic district," HARB Chairman Edward D. Reibman told the couple. "There are no architectural precedents for bars on this type of property. We had to look at it from a historical perspective." For the homeowners, that means a "window of opportunity" for thieves. But hey, that's a private-property "perspective."

Your tax dollars at work: What exactly does the US Government Office of Oversight do? A San Francisco man spotted the number for the agency in his phone book and decided to find out. After about a dozen rings, a government clerk answered. "Actually, we don't do anything," she honestly confessed. "There has been an oversight in the Department of Oversight. We've been abolished."

Why on earth would Mary Kay Cosmetics ship a few hundred packages of its goods daily from Dallas to Louisiana, only to have them shipped back to Texas via United Parcel Service to its sales force around the state? Simple. UPS is more efficient and reliable than the authorized carriers within Texas, but for 20 years UPS has been prohibited from providing delivery service between points in Texas. Local carriers say the huge shipping company would cut deeply into their business. Up until this year, the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates such things,bought the argument and used its muscle to protect the Texas carriers from market forces. But the battle isn't over yet. The carriers have vowed a court fight to keep the familiar brown delivery trucks from delivering the goods between Texas cities.

In order to beat the bureaucrats' efforts to send her two friends to a nursing home, a 51-year-old Wayne, New York, woman married a legless 72-year-old man and plans to adopt a blind 81-year-old man. The marriage of Jane Macintosh and John Coughlin, whose legs were amputated years ago because of frostbite, prevents county social workers from forcing him into a nursing home. The couple plans to adopt Theodore Collins so he can continue to live in the house they've all shared for years. The county claimed Ms. Macintosh was violating regulations that require licenses for homes where personal care is provided to nonrelatives. Neither she nor Coughlin receive welfare. "I'm kind of happy that we beat the system with a shotgun wedding," says the blushing bride. "It's not a romantic thing, but we've been friends for years."

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