? A new and inspiring Horatio Alger tale has surfaced in this bounding land of opportunity we call America. A 56-year-old retired naval hero, Robert Earl Lee, has found his way to fame and fortune the hard way in the Montgomery County, Maryland, Environmental Protection Department. Overcoming his humble Anglo origins, Mr. Lee has now become Señor Roberto Eduardo Leon by virtue of a legal name switch. The paperwork has skyrocketed the $27,857-a-year civil servant from the lowly 01-white classification to the esteemed 03-Hispanic caste. He is now eligible for promotion over less-enterprising white-male coworkers. Some remain skeptical that such overnight success could come to one of such seemingly ordinary genetic origins. Requests have come forth from fellow employees that Sr. Leon "take a blood test." And so this story of rags to riches may await the verdict of the medical lab.

? One of the wettest political boot-licking contests in the history of the Republic has ignominiously faded away. Don't ask who won the special election to fill the late Congressman (and Jonestown booster) Leo Ryan's expense account; simply be thankful that we won't have to witness further the three simpering hopefuls who made even the current batch of Washington mountebanks look dignified by comparison. Misty-eyed remembrances of the martyred statesman dripped from every speech in the campaign downpour; one press source claimed to have counted the congressman's name displayed 17 times in just one 20-minute campaign speech, and this was considered only average glad-handing. The media characterized the race as the "Leo liked me best" contest, and the contestants had no shame in hoisting out special connections to their departed hero. A "plain talking lawyer," George Corey, ran on his newspaper label as "a close family friend"; Corey had been called in by an aide to arrange Ryan's funeral and had never been friendly with Ryan until after he died. Ryan's administrative assistant, Joe Holsinger, couldn't bear to disappoint the late congressman's family, who, he insists, insisted that he "continue the job Leo was doing." But save your hanky for Ms. Jackie Speier, who raised sea level three inches with her tale of Guyana and the honorable Ryan's death-bed wish. As the slain man lay in her arms muttering his last, he thoughtfully remembered Ms. Speier's career and asked her to "take over for him." This translated, naturally, into running for his vacant seat. No witnesses were present besides the political aspirant, but I plan to check it all out with Mr. Ryan just the minute I get inside those pearly gates.

? The progressive state of Iran continues to befuddle progressives not of the Islamic denomination. In fact, the ERA seems to be faring even worse there than here. Feminist yell-king Kate Millett was so outraged over the Ayatollah Khomeini's directives that women should, in effect, be seen only somewhat and heard not at all, that she risked being strung up by her unpainted thumbnails to holler for women's rights in Iran. Ms. Millett charged tens of thousands of liberated upper-class women to march in the streets of Teheran. But the ayatollah was unmoved by the cries for equality. His predictably sexist response was to order that all revolutionary police hold their fire and take care to treat the perfumed protestors gently and with respect. No executions were ordered for organizers of the female insurgency, and flowers may even have been sent to the comelier ones. Total liberation was accordingly retarded.

? The war between the sexes took a different swish in San Francisco's famed Tenderloin district. When a 240-pound lady hold-up artist tried to pull a job on a well-populated gay bar, she was rudely bopped on the noodle by one customer with a tastefully chosen flower pot and then sat upon by four others who gleefully held her squirming pudginess until the uniformed police could take over. Gay Power!

? Only the facile mind of an accountant gone berserk could account for the Moslem rebels in the Philippines who backed down from their initial ransom offer of $68,000 to free the Rev. Lloyd Van Vactor of Spearfish, South Dakota. In lieu of the whole big sum, they offered to settle simply for "reimbursement of expenses." The rebels, who presumably saved all of their receipts, incurred the cost of several outboard motors and seven fatigue uniforms in the operation. Brickbats has asked to see an itemized bill, as it is unknown whether entertainment expenses and the notorious three-martini lunch will be included. Barring tax reform, all these costs should, at any rate, be deductible.

? Retired postal worker David Berkowitz has decided to squeal. The convicted mass murderer has startled the judicial establishment by putting the finger on his accomplices after the fact—the shrinks who declared him mentally incompetent. The psychiatric "verdict" was the result of Berkowitz's crazed hollerings about talking dogs, demonic possession, and orders from Mr. Satan. "I made it all up via my wild imagination," smiles the killer, who must remain a little surprised that the learned medicine men fell for the old "devil made me do it" scam to begin with. Not so syndicated columnist Georgie Ann Geyer: "His psychiatric report disclosed that Berkowitz, 'as a result of mental disease or defect, lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense.' He was 'so emotionally dead that the outcome of this case is totally immaterial to him.' He was 'unfit to stand trial.'

"One has to wonder how much longer we are to be taken in by the psychiatric argument in crime? Every day brings evidence of criminals knowing well how to use all the multiple 'outs' of our sieve-like criminal-justice system."

? The US House of Representatives has increased the yearly bank account of the Rules Committee from $19,500 to $519,000. The 2,500 percent budget increase was for the purpose of undertaking studies of "governmental efficiency" [sic].

? Also doing well is Police Chief Paul Arritola, 38, who earned $102,117 last fiscal year. The town employing Chief Arritola—Jordan Valley, Oregon—has only 210 residents. Yet it is located on the highway linking Boise, Idaho, and Reno, Nevada. And all speeding tickets are made payable to the Honorable Arritola, who will soon stand trial for "tampering with public records and making false statements on official documents." A more noble Oregon accomplishment was the state's landmark legislation aimed at cleaning up our human-contaminated environs. Always a leader in the effort to protect the ecology from man, woman, and child, they have now struck a blow to protect Mother Nature from rapacious infant-polluters: disposable diapers will be contraband in the state of Oregon at midnight this very New Year's Eve. Cheers!