YOU KNOW HOW I would have cracked the Rosenberg case? Not with the threat of electrocution, but with the offer of a book contract. Nothing in recent history has been so effective in getting people to talk. Instead of more prosecutors, we need more publishers and literary agents.
Richard Freeman, a U.S. District Court judge in Atlanta, has struck a blow against exorbitant legal fees by reducing the attorneys' bill in an antitrust suit from the $300 an hour they requested to less than $80 an hour. Freeman found that the lawyers had devoted more time and energy to justify their fees then to representing their clients -- for instance, filing a 21-page memorandum on behalf of their clients and one of 200 pages "neatly bound and carefully indexed" in support of their petition for fees.
You may recall Jimmy Carter's 1977 Christmas party for the White House staff, which was notable for the absence of food and drink. There wasn't even a Coke or a potato chip. Now we know why. Of his $50,000 expense allowance for 1977, Carter spent only $1,108.52. He pocketed the rest.
Why, at the end of World War II, didn't we take land from Germany -- from its loveliest and least damaged areas -- move the Germans out and make it into the homeland for the Jews, instead of assisting in the taking of land from the Arabs, whose crimes toward the Jews were tiny compared to those of the Germans?
A study by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress shows that productivity increases in the federal government have lagged 25 percent behind those in the private sector for the past 10 years. And that's not saying much, since the rate of increase in private sector productivity was only 1.7 percent in the last four years and now has turned into a decrease .
One way the government has continued to play its proud role in the productivity story is through, its purchase of word-processing systems. Word processing is costing the government $80 million a year, ranging from $5,000 for electronic typewriters to $200,000-for shared-logic, minicomputer-based textediting systems. The General Accounting Office has found that "most agencies can neither demonstrate that they have increased their productivity or that their word processing systems are in fact cost effective."
The Commerce Department, for example, spent $900,000 in one year for the rental of automatic typewriters but "no bureau had reduced staff by their use."
If you want to understand how it is that Robert Strauss has survived so well in the Carter administration, consider this comment he made at a breakfast meeting of reporters during Carter's rearranging of his staff and Cabinet: "Helen and I were talking over drinks. If there's one person in the country we'd pick as a son, it's Hamilton Jordan."
As part of the State Department's examination for Foreign Service officers, applicants are given a hypothetical in-box and asked to "prioritize" the contents.
A friend who once practiced law with one of the large Washington firms told me a revealing anedote the other day.
It seems that a major corporate client came to his firm with an antitrust problem. The firm's advice was that the problem was hopeless, in the sense that the client would ultimately lose, but that the case could be stretched out for as long as 10 years. Would the client be prepared to pay the $500,000 to $1 million in annual legal fees that the delay would require?
Here is a client who knows he's wrong and whose law firm knows he's wrong. Yet they are both willing to make the government spend millions over 10 years to win a case that they know it deserves to win now. This may be bad for the government and for the public, but what about the $5 to $10 million it will cost the company? Won't that hurt it?
Hardly -- legal fees, remember, are deductible.
The Volkswagen plant in New Stanton, Pa., has been turning out Rabbits for more than a year now, and, according to Car and Driver magazine, the "U.S.-built car . . . seems to be the equal of the German original in almost every respect."
How did VW do it? Well, they started with a small plant and an eager work force. Still, they had to overcome their "early experiences with American suppliers, many of which weren't used to meeting production tolerances as tight as Volkswagen's.
But "after a number of prototype pieces were shipped back and forth from supplier to VW to supplier, the suppliers tightened up their quality control."
T,e inescapable conclusion is that inexpensive, high-quality American cars are quite possible -- it's just that the three (really two) big U.S. manufacturers think the American buyer cares not about quality, but only about getting enough velour to convince him, if he squints his eyes and doesn't twist any of the knobs too hard, that he's in a Cadillac.
The theory seems to be that Americans have now been buying junk for so many years that they don't know the difference.
But they do. Ford and GM didn't get the message back in 1960 when the imports began creeping onto the highways, and they haven't gotten the message now that foreign makers have captured a record 22 percent of our market. The only way the situation seems likely to improve is if a new domestic manufacturer comes along who, like VW, believes in quality. Any takers?