Brickbats

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? Much has been written of the incredible popularity of the nostalgia craze, but not even the script writers on "Happy Days" could predict that we would be blessed with a return of the Vietnam war. Consequently, when Red China invaded Communist North Vietnam in mid-February, nostalgia buffs succumbed to frenzy. Word has it that not even a re-release of "Barbarella" could have touched Miss Jane Fonda so dramatically, for she is now buzzing, presumably anxious to tour America for rallies, speeches, and the oft-heard war cry, "HO-HO-HO CHI MINH, THE N.L.F. IS GONNA WIN!" The precise role of US imperialism in this latest people's struggle has not yet been identified, but the comradicide has only just begun. Give the gurus time.

? US foreign policy has scored another remarkable achievement in the Near East. In rapid succession, the kingdom of Iran has seen three rival governments play musical thrones, and the United States has miraculously managed to become bitterly hated by all three for appearing to take sides with one of the others. The administration has responded to this jumbo accomplishment by winding up James Schlesinger, the well-known energy fascist and all-around dangerous person, to threaten US military intervention in the Persian Gulf should our future "stabilizing" policies prove as diplomatically successful as our past ones. Citing "vital interests" (or was it "vile interests"?) in the oil-rich lands, the administration has made it clear that, despite doling out $12 billion per annum to the Department of Energy geniuses to "solve" our energy crisis, the government's best solution is to send the Marines into those countries that do not have a Department of Energy. This oil-boat diplomacy was dissected with characteristic acumen by the analytical Sen. Henry Jackson: "We don't have a foreign policy and we're administering it very poorly." (Call the Home, Mrs. Jackson.)

? The Carter Energy Program also got a nasty jolt from the environmental lobby. It appears that highly insulated, air-tight rooms—the kind that the Washington wizards want to hammer up all over America to conserve our nonrenewables—trap radons, derivatives of the dreaded radium. With this radioactive stuff ricocheting about our neatly sealed, energy-efficient homes and condominiums, our cancer rates will show steep progress. Moreover, we will be sitting ducks for the FDA.…imagine the implications of the Delaney Clause when they determine that sitting indoors leads to cancer.

? The "Melting Pot" theory of America has received some strong challenges lately. To wit: A Mexican-American group in Los Angeles has demanded that the public schools commence teaching US citizenship classes in the Spanish language, while the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal government's antibias agency, has been found guilty of discrimination against a Hispanic female job-holder.

? It wasn't too long ago that the wire services carried the following: "Transportation Secretary Brock Adams lauded the Bay Area Rapid Transit System as a cure-all for the nation's dependence on gas-guzzling automobiles." Yet sadly, the key BART line connecting San Francisco and Oakland via a 3.6 mile underwater tube has been inoperative since mid-January when a seven-hour fire touched off poisonous fumes killing one and hospitalizing scores. The ultramodern government transportation "cure-all," it turns out, was constructed with seats that emit a deadly toxin when lit—a fact that the transit technicians were warned about circa 1974, according to UC Berkeley fire safety expert Brady Williamson. The post-disaster response of the guilt-ridden officionados was summed up delicately by the Oakland fire chief: "Plastics are a part of American life."

? Rep. Daniel J. Flood, the noted Philadelphia statesman and perennial winner of the Snidely Whiplash look-alike contest, was spared the hangman's collar by a whisker in federal court. The able congressional leader was on trial for his most effective governing talents, including bribery and perjury. A mistrial was declared by the judge after 11 jurors failed to subdue juror number 12 in their quest for conviction. The hold-out was a 63-year-old man, and he seemed to possess uncanny abilities to reveal secret testimony related to Representative Flood but not heard by the jury. He advanced that he was only "joking" about his strangely accurate revelations, but the ever-cynical press corps did not have to look far to suspect an outbreak of juris tamperas—not past the hold-out juror's Christian name: William Cash.

? Representative Flood's colleague, the Recently Honorable Joshua Eilberg, was not so confident about his legal efforts and copped a plea on felony counts of federal conflict of interest. Mr. Eilberg, who was at least competent enough in his political craft to have Honest Jimmy bounce an overzealous federal prosecutor from his case (remember David Marston?), will now have to suffer the ignominy of checking in with his parole officer before consorting with criminals, politicians, and other undesirables. The ex-Congressperson is sure to miss his Capitol Hill glories even more now than in times past, for the Associated Press reports that, in a major piece of reform legislation, Congress will henceforth have its own Liquor Store right within burping distance of the floor of the House. Cutting out the middleman makes sense in this era of economical government, yet local booze entrepreneurs are livid over this government intrusion into the private sector. Several Capitol Hill franchises are expected to go under.

? Public servants throughout the land have been demonstrating their post-Prop. 13 anxieties in a variety of ways lately. In New York City, striking school bus drivers engaged in an innovative style of collective bargaining by physically attacking taxis and vans carrying crippled and handicapped children to classes. The city helpers "smashed windows, slashed tires, punctured radiators, and punched drivers." The violence did end abruptly, however, when the threatened taxi and van drivers stayed home quivering rather than deliver the schoolchildren. And when Wayne County employees in a Detroit morgue went on strike they absconded with the ID tags from 50 of their charges. While it was easy to analogize that these frustrated bureaucrats were resorting to the practice of stealing from the dead now that the taxpayers have drawn the line, the absence of the tags created a bona fide identification problem. One wonders how the corpses were distinguished from one another or, for that matter, from the striking government "workers."

NEXT: The New Mencken Letters

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