Let's put Richard Adams's face on a postage stamp, a commemorative issue honoring economy in government. Adams, a Democrat running for a seat in the Arizona legislature, has cleverly saved postage for years by keeping the envelopes his letters come in, inserting his responses, and writing "Return to sender, please" on the outside. "It saves postage, saves envelopes, which are trees, and saves processing time," says Adams. But finicky postal officials say the practice is illegal. Adams's mailing practice came to light when he returned two completed questionnaires, with some campaign literature thrown in, to the Arizona Republic newspaper. Oops…
Who was the Israeli prime minister until November, and who is it now? Who is the leader of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa? If you know the answers, you're a lot more informed than the candidates running for U.S. Senate in Maryland. During a TV debate, the moderator shocked the politicians with a pop quiz. And they both flunked. Rep. Barbara Mikulski, who asked if the cameras could be turned off before she answered, said Jonas Savimbi heads the ANC. Rep. Michael Barnes, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wouldn't even venture a guess. The politicians' excuses were more pathetic than their answers. "Some days, you just can't even remember your wife's birthday," said Barnes. In case you're thinking of running for office, the answers are: Shimon Peres until November, when Yitzhak Shamir took over. As for the ANC, either Nelson Mandela or Oliver Tambo is an acceptable answer.
We can all rest easier now that the Government Accounting Office (GAO) has rendered its decision. If you're a federal employee and you use your own pen at work, Uncle Sam will buy you a refill. Although the government buys 32 million retractable black ballpoints each year, not all the 2.8 million federal workers choose to use them. So the Office of Personnel Management sought the GAO's opinion as the government's court of last fiscal resort. In a three-page decision, the GAO ruled that the government can buy refills for employees' private pens, but only if the pen is used solely on government business. And of course, requests for pen refills must be submitted in triplicate and should be typewritten or in ink. A grateful nation breathes a collective sigh of relief.
They don't like rock 'n' roll in Westfield, Indiana. And they're not all that fond of classical, gospel, jazz, or pop either. The town planning commission rejected a music promotion company's proposal to build a $7-million performing arts center. The reason? The facility might attract drug users, cultural dropouts, and devil worshippers. The town's youth think the adults' reaction is naive. "Drugs won't move in just because of a concert," says 19-year-old Kim Loller. "I go to church. But I see nothing wrong with rock music. I don't think the Lord condemns us for listening."
As if you didn't know it, here's proof that Washington is the paper-pushing capital of the world. A new study confirms with statistics that much of the paper produced in Washington is just garbage. Environmental analysts studied the city's trash and found that 46 percent of it was paper, compared with a national average of 30 percent. Because of the paper glut, Washingtonians throw away 4.5 pounds of waste a day, a third above the national average. So many reports, memos, letters, and newspapers are being thrown away that the city has had to resort to landfill sights in nearby Virginia to find space to dump it all. You know what they say: "Garbage in, garbage out."
The farm-subsidy program keeps rolling along. Not content with taking tax dollars for not growing crops, some farmers are finding curious ways to evade a law that limits them to a maximum of $50,000 in annual income subsidies. Federal audits show that a lawyer in Great Bend, Kansas, is fighting to make three "farmers" eligible for $50,000 each. The "farmers" are two brothers and their sister, ages 10 to 14. And in Arkansas, a farmer was able to triple his payments last year by reorganizing into three separate corporations. The reorganization was approved by the local Agriculture Department board, of which the farmer himself was chairman. Another farmer and his son received $50,000 each in subsidies, even though the son owned no farming equipment and was away from home all year attending college. The federal government says it's only just become aware of the chicanery and has no idea how much it's costing taxpayers. So what else is new?
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".