Ah, Sweden. That progressive land where a father can be jailed for spanking his son but officials happily condone his sleeping with his daughter. Now a Swedish court has ruled that a woman who stole clothes and sold them must be taxed as a business. She can, however, deduct any expenses she incurred on her shoplifting sprees. The court in Linkoping ruled that the woman, ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment for kleptomania, has to pay taxes on the $55,000 worth of goods she was convicted of shoplifting and selling. But she can deduct any money she spent on traveling to and from stores, as well as storage and telephone costs at home. Not only does crime pay, but it's deductible!
Remember how Ronald Reagan loved to blast bureaucratic drones who'd spend gobs of taxpayers' money on formal studies to prove what anyone with an IQ higher than a carrot already knew? Well, there he goes again! A $120,000 government study released last winter concludes that students who do their homework do better in school and that "children improve their reading ability by reading a lot." The 65-page Department of Education (the cabinet agency Ronnie vowed to abolish a few years ago) study was a response to the "dopeyness that we saw in educational theory and practice in the sixties and seventies," says Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. "Research sometimes appears to confirm the self-evident," adds assistant secretary Chester E. Finn, Jr. "But sometimes it raises important doubts about conventional wisdom." Yeah, like the idea that you don't have to be a Mondale Democrat to squander public funds.
The state of Florida says a company offering burials in outer space is operating an unlicensed cemetery. Celestic Group Inc. must own at least 15 acres of land in outer space with a paved road before it can get a permit. That's the rule for earthly graveyards, and the space cadets in the comptroller's office say it applies to the Milky Way as well. "The fact is they are using space for the permanent interment of human remains and they are operating out of Florida," says an official. The company advertises it will launch cremated remains in a gold-plated, lipstick-sized capsule. For $3,900, the capsule will be placed in orbit around the Earth. For $4,600, it will be sent into distant space.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II knows that monarchy has its price. A woman bared her breasts in a Godiva-like protest just as Her Majesty was about to enter the Opera House in Sydney, Australia. The dissident attempted to give the Queen a white flower and came within 10 yards of the royal couple before police hustled her away as spectators jeered "Tart!" and "Harlot!" Godiva bared it all to protest high taxes. Just what was this young Aussie's complaint? "It was Queen Victoria who made us wear clothes up to our neck," she complained. "I am trying to reverse the situation."
That little doggie in the window has Randall Forselius in a biting and scratching fit. When he opened his tie shop in Denver last year, he had his three-year-old Airedale, Mustikka, modeling ties in the window. Cute gimmick, right? But then US Agriculture Department veterinarian Dr. John Gray told him that animals used to merchandise products must be licensed under a federal animal-welfare law. Forselius told the busybody to mind his own business. Gray later realized that Mustikka seemed to be well-cared-for and didn't complain about sitting in the window with an ugly tie around his neck. So the bureaucrat magnanimously told Forselius he didn't need a license after all. But by then it was too late. In a true case of the tail wagging the dog, Forselius got so angry at Gray's meddling that he closed his shop rather than get the license. How about a leash law for pesky functionaries?
Sen. John C. Danforth (R–Mo.) deserves a medal for his blunt proposal to stop his colleagues from mailing sugar-coated newsletters to constituents. "This year, a newsletter moratorium could save at least $40 million in the Senate alone, and perhaps more in the House," says Danforth. "Most newsletters," he adds, "are self-serving efforts to enhance the author's chances on election day." The betting is 534-to-1 that his bill will never get out of committee.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".