STARS AND GRIPES
Many Americans have long suspected that if we had to do it all over again this country never would gain independence, and new support for that thesis is at hand. Back on May 31 rider Jerry Linker set out from Charlotte, N.C. on a special bicentennial mission. He and his Arabian stallion Sharek would reenact the colonial ride of Captain James Jack, the horseman who carried the Mecklenburg County Declaration of Independence to North Carolina's delegation at the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The trip, just like in the old days, would take 30 days.
And then came Culpepper, Va. Hardly had Linker and his horse bedded down there for the night when County Humane Agent Doris K. Ireland sent the sheriff to charge Linker, under a venerable Virginia law, with overriding a horse. "The horse had saddle sores, was exhausted and his ribs were showing," said Ireland, impounding the animal. Word of this action got back to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bicentennial Commission, sponsors of the ride. Ralph Jarrells, a spokesman for that body, said that a veterinarian examined the horse and found Mrs. Ireland's claims somewhat exaggerated.
While they were attempting to unsnarl this red tape, Linker borrowed another horse from a nearby farm, this time an Appaloosa, and set out again on his historic journey. The way things are going, by the time he gets to Philly—if he ever gets there—he'll find that the Congress has adjourned.
Just about the last thing the government needs is a hockey team, which is hardly the sort of asset that can be stashed away with the gold at Fort Knox. But NHL officials were glumly facing that prospect last week with the dead-broke Pittsburgh Penguins. Not long after the Internal Revenue Service padlocked the Penguin office and put a lien on the club for some $500,000 in unpaid taxes, banks foreclosed on more than $5 million in loans. As if that weren't enough, the club also owes the NHL more than $1 million, and League President Clarence Campbell allowed, "I'm afraid we are going to share the fate of most general creditors."
Since the Penguins' only assets are the players, most of whom have expensive, long-term contracts, one Pittsburgh official admitted, "It looks like the United States may now own a hockey team."
This is only the latest in a series of calamities for the NHL. The league lost about $11 million in the last few years in supporting the California Seals, and is in no position to bail out the Penguins. Not even half the 18 teams broke even last year, and the crunch is so bad that the NHL has permitted several ailing expansion clubs to delay their annual $850,000 franchise installment payments. "We are full of good sentiments," said Campbell, "but we're fresh out of money."
LEAVE NO STONE UNTAXED
Right now it is more ripple than ground swell, but a brand-new spread-the-taxes movement is under way on Capitol Hill, provoking what legislators like to call "a lively discussion." The proposal is to tax nonhunting and nonfishing users of public wildlife lands, the better to raise funds to protect and expand these areas, and it comes from the Wildlife Management Institute, a nonprofit conservation group. The Institute says that there has been a marked trend in recent years toward greater use of state and federal recreational lands by such folks as bird watchers and photographers (more than 12 million participate in these two activities), and skiers and campers.