Brickbats

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"Just take a little off the top." Instructions to one's barber? Nope. It's just part of New York City's campaign against the private sector. Builder Ian Bruce Eichner erected a Manhattan skyscraper that's 14 feet taller than the regulations allow. The building was the correct size at first, but then Eichner went through the city's Machiavellian approval process. He discovered the building needed more reinforcement to meet the city's "unnecessary sway" requirements. More concrete was added to the floor slabs, resulting in the extra height. So naturally the city planning commission says the too-tall building violates the zoning code. Eichner was told to remove the extra height. Guess why so many former New York businesses find New Jersey so attractive?

From a newspaper in Communist Czechoslovakia comes the startling revelation that prostitution thrives despite laws prohibiting it. At present, prostitution can be prosecuted only under laws against "parasitism"—making a living by evil means or through somebody else. Oh, you mean like the way the government raises revenue? But Czech prosties have figured out a loophole. They seek menial jobs as cleaning women, then subcontract the work to someone else and pay them off with gifts or hard currency.

The Internal Revenue Service mistakenly put a tax lien on Ronald Reagan's ranch this year because of a Texas trainee's mistake. Wonder how the trainee will enjoy auditing Eskimos.

Just in the nick of time, the Department of Agriculture has stopped an evil businessman from foisting bogus pizza on an unsuspecting public. Hollywood chef Wolfgang Puck's new frozen "haute cuisine" pizza isn't really pizza. The USDA's labeling division says Puck's product doesn't contain any tomato sauce. And until it does, it can't be sold as pizza. "I think it's ridiculous that some bureaucrat in Washington thinks they are going to tell us what a pizza is," says the reactionary restaurateur. But since you can't beat the juggernaut of federal power, Puck agreed to add tomato chunks to his pizza. He'll also change the label: The USDA had complained that the "country sausage" on his "pizza" was not made in the country at all, but in an industrial city in California.

A dry sailor is a happy sailor. The U.S. Navy has finally acknowledged that when it rains, sailors get wet too. Resolving a debate nearly two decades old, the chief of naval operations decided that male sailors and officers could carry an umbrella when it rains or snows. But the umbrella must be "plain, solid black, without ornamentation," and "carried in the left hand to permit saluting." In a truly radical move, the Navy says sailors may also wear earmuffs when it's cold.

They limit the number of taxicabs, don't they? So why not belly dancers? That's the Egyptian government's solution to the belly dancer glut. "The number of licensed belly dancers still in the business is enough, and there is no need for more," says Farouk Salem, director of the Culture Ministry's artistic control (?) department. Nearly 1,000 women currently hold licenses, but only about half perform professionally. Oddly enough, belly dancers in Egypt hide their bellies. President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who overthrew the monarchy in 1952, ordered that midriffs must be covered, and the edict remains in force. Party pooper.

Shredded bananas, anyone? Fawn Hall, former secretary to Lt. Col. Oliver North, received a citation for refusing to stop eating a banana in a Washington subway station. Hall says she threw away the banana as soon as she was told to and only finished eating a piece that she already had in her mouth. It is illegal to eat in rail stations or on vehicles. The violation carries a $10 fine if paid in 15 days. Hall says that if Ollie can stand up to Congress, she can face her accusers in court. She'll fight the ticket.

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