Odds & Ends: Gus Hall–Revolutionary, Duffer, Angler; Orwell in the Apple; Wacky Patacki; Bubble-Headed Cher

From the October/November issue of CEI UpDate



Legendary Communist Party USA leader Gus Hall expired at the age of 90 in October, bringing to an end a lifetime of fighting for an ideology that led to the extermination of millions of people worldwide in the 20th Century (Sickle cell anemia, as it has cynically been called). A flowery quarter-page Washington Post obituary recounted Hall’s various exploits: his start as a teenage red, his study in Moscow during Stalin’s regime, his 1948 Smith Act conviction for advocating the violent overthrow of the United States government, his boosterism for the the Soviet Union’s rolling of tanks into Czechoslovakia in 1968, and his quadrennial runs for president at the head of the Communist Party ticket. What caught our eye was the Post’s penultimate sentence: “His hobbies included hunting, fishing, and golf.”



Pike has his Peak, Halley has his Comet. Even Dean Smith has his Dome. So what does Rep. Floyd Spence (R-SC) have? His very own law officially named after him. The Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001 passed Congress and became law this fall. Quite a tribute to the veteran lawmaker. But guess who got the ball rolling? That’s right, Floyd D. Spence himself. Spence was the original sponsor of the bill.



“Airlines should be free to fly when and where consumers want. Today, airlines can spend years paying high-priced Washington lawyers to negotiate for a single new international route. Even worse, antiquated laws forbid foreign airlines to operate within our borders. The US should lead the world toward a market in which airlines and their customers–not regulators–decide who flies where and when.”

~James Glassman, TechCentralStation.com



Iceland is green, and Greenland is icy, right? If that always confused you, then don’t even consider the government in Greenland. The premier is named Jonathan Motzfeldt. The deputy premier is named Josef Motzfeldt. They’re not related.



Could Anne Frank have hidden safely in Birmingham, Alabama? Good question, considering the recent brouhaha that developed over restrictions on watering lawns. The Birmingham News reported in early October that the most reliable weapon police had in cracking down on illicit sprinkling was none other than offenders’ neighbors.



The latest outrage in the Big Apple was revealed in September when the New York Post reported city Parks Commissioner Henry Stern’s alarming habit of “demanding donations from organizations that seek permits for large-scale events.” Seems you can’t get a permit unless you pony up to one of Sterns’ pet causes. The usual beneficiary is the City Parks Foundation. Organizers for an event to benefit the National Museum of Catholic Art and History, for instance, were told by Stern’s office that they could not have a permit unless they gave $20,000. Stern denied any quid pro quo, telling the Post in language that would make George Orwell proud, “Nobody has to make a donation. It’s a voluntary donation….Some donations are more voluntary than others.”



Speaking of New York, the state’s chief executive confirmed he is not quite the bookish type with his attempt to pillory Senatorial aspirant Hillary Rodham Clinton as a carpetbagger. In one of the debates with opponent Rick Lazio, Clinton said that writer EB White, author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, was among those who have come to define New Yorkers over the years. According to the Associated Press, Gov. George Pataki, a native of Peekskill, lit into Clinton–and White–afterward: “Rick Lazio looks, sounds, and talks like a New Yorker. Mrs. Clinton quoted some guy, Wyatt or somebody–I don’t think he was from Brooklyn–with some definition of a New Yorker that she must have read somewhere….I don’t know who that guy was. I don’t know what he wrote. I don’t know where he was from. But it sure doesn’t sound to me like that guy was a New Yorker or understood New York the way we do.” When told that White had written for The New Yorker for years, Pataki replied: “Maybe the average member of the media who lives in Manhattan, when they’re quoting New York, would use EB White, or whatever his name is. I don’t think people from Brooklyn or Peekskill would have quoted that person.” For the record, White hailed from Mount Vernon, NY, near Pataki’s Peekskill hometown.



No, Joel Klein hasn’t been knighted, but his ideological cousins in England  have been taking their lead from him. A 16-month investigation into anti-competitive practices in the supermarket industry recently concluded. A number of supermarket companies, including Safeway, Sainsbury’s, and Tesco, stood accused of persistent selling below cost and a practice called “price flexing,” a move intended to drive smaller local stores out of business. Luckily, there appears to be no Thomas Penfield Jackson equivalent in the UK. The stores were cleared of charges of profiteering, and the Trade Secretary declared that “the industry is currently broadly competitive.”



It’s a taste of Brussels, Belgium, in the Old Dominion, addressing problems that don’t exist. Health regulators in Loudon County, Virginia, fear the potential damage from homemade pies and jams at small-town fairs. According to the Washington Post, the county is insisting that all bakers and canners take a food safety course before selling their wares at the fairs. “Most people think acidic canned goods like pickles are safe,” said one regulator, “but they may contain bacteria and botulism that would kill you dead.” Of course, county officials concede that this has never happened, though they say it’s better to be safe than to be sorry. Objects the director of the Lucketts Fair: “They’re taking the country out of country.”



According to the London newspaper The Guardian, what’s the latest weapon Parisian youth gangs have added to their arsenal to intimidate rivals? Attack monkeys. “Removed from their natural habitat, they can become highly aggressive,” said one expert. “They bite, and their favored method of attack is to hurl themselves at people’s heads.”



Cruel autocrats? Or warm-and-fuzzy traffic cops? You be the judge. Bangkok authorities have come up with a novel way to combat the stresses that spring from traffic. They have hired a cadre of singing and dancing police who perform for stranded motorists. According to official statistics, incidents of road rage are down by nearly half.



Environmental activists looking to garner attention for their crusade against clear cut logging in Northern California decided upon a time-honored protest: They bared their breasts.  The AP reports the whole thing began when one activist stood topless “on a roadside by herself with some flowers, chanting poetry to any of the loggers who would listen and occasionally screaming ‘rape’ when she heard the sound of falling trees in the background.” Inspired legions–well, three others, really–followed suit the next day. “The loggers will have to drive through a gauntlet of bare-breasted women,” said a spokesman for the activists. “They are burning sage, saying prayers, and invoking the names of the goddess and reminding the men of the god within each one of them.” That last statement, sadly, appears to have knocked the quartet out of the running for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.



“Al Gore says he and his mother-in-law use the same arthritis medicine. I know that the reason his dog’s is cheaper is because veterinary medicine is controlled by the free market while human medicine is run by people who think like Al Gore but look like they eat Elmer’s glue all day.”

~Jonah Goldberg, “These Things I Know,” National Review Online



A well-known scientist influential in the green community is blasting green groups for their opposition to nuclear power and genetically-modified foods. James Lovelock, whose Gaia theory about the interaction of living creatures, rocks, air, and water contributing to a stable environment has made him a revered figure among environmentalists, says that greens are mistaken on some of the day’s biggest issues. The way to combat global warming, he told London’s Daily Telegraph, is to embrace nuclear energy. “Too many greens are not just ignorant of science, they hate science,” he said.



Among the more amusing aspects of the 2000 presidential campaign has been the number of celebrities predicting catastrophe if George W. Bush were to be elected. Robert Altman and Alec Baldwin, for instance, promised to leave the United States if that were to come to pass. Then there’s Cher, who one news service quoted as ranting, “Has everyone lost their f*cking minds? Doesn’t anyone remember the illustrious Reagan-Bush years when people had no money and no jobs?” But it seems Cher herself has a faulty memory, since it was during Ronald Reagan’s administration that this fabulous economic boom kicked off. By the time Reagan left office, roughly 18 million new jobs had been created.