Lady, who said that at her age she didn't...


November 25, 1991

A LITTLE OLD lady, who said that at her age she didn't care "who diddled who," had the William Kennedy Smith courtroom -- including the judge -- dissolving into giggles recently. "Who cares who diddled who?" she said in a strong New York accent, as the judge choked on laughter and even defendant Smith chuckled.

"I don't think it's world-shattering."

Florence Orbach, almost 79, offered the country a lesson it badly needs to learn: so long as it happens between consenting adults behind closed doors, the question of "who diddled who[m]" shouldn't be world-shattering.

Even if the alleged "diddler" is a public figure. People in other countries focus more on what those figures do with their public clout. "Diddling" might be worth some gossip, or even cause family troubles for the individuals involved -- it should -- but making it a litmus test is as juvenile as the behavior we so aggressively investigate. Unlike the Smith case, no crime is usually involved. Remembering that seems healthier for everyone.

* * *

ALAS, POOR bayman! Shellfish harvesters working the East End bay bottoms off Long Island, N.Y., had hoped for a bumper crop of scallops this year. They were watching an estimated 60 million scallops growing plump and could hardly wait for harvesting season, their first since algae blooms killed off the beds in 1985.

It never came. Worms riddled the scallops' shells, leaving them vulnerable to crabs and starfish. A new "brown tide" at breeding season killed off shellfish that escaped the worms, choking off the larvae for subsequent crops.

The baymen -- cousins to Maryland's shoremen -- sent to Maine for more scallops to re-seed, divvying up 314,000 seed scallops and dropping them in areas where eel grass and other bottom-growing plants could provide anchors. Re-seeding can be tricky, as Chesapeake Bay oystermen can testify. May the next two years bring a healthy harvest.

* * *

MARYLAND'S Barbara A. Mikulski brings a homey touch to Senate debate.

Arguing for a $300 tax deduction for middle-class families, she said recently: "Three hundred dollars might not sound like a lot of money. But when you are out there cruising the beltway looking for bargains, $300 would mean an awful lot to be able to buy little Buster Brown shoes (and) kids' coats for winter."

Then, backing proposals to help long-term savers, she talked about "a mom or a dad" saving for a student loan "when Johnny or Jane gets ready for college" and "good guys who buy an asset and hold it because they want to have something. . . for their old age."

Compared to the usual Senate oratory, it's different and refreshing.

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