? The city of San Francisco, oft-noted as a quiet middle-American community, erupted in a "night of gay rage" following the surprisingly lenient voluntary manslaughter verdict in the Dan White case. White gunned down S.F. Mayor George Moscone and gay activist Supervisor Harvey Milk at pointblank range last November 27. White will be incarcerated just five to eight years for the multiple slayings, having convinced the jury of "diminished mental capacity." Such a plea was entered on the grounds of former County Supervisor White's "junk food binges" wherein he would "compulsively" wolf down "candy bars, cupcakes and Cokes," an obvious sign of serious mental illness. The San Francisco gay populace, many of whom have devoured sweets in quantity without ever subsequently taking a life, was unimpressed with the so-called "Twinkie Defense." An angry mob spread the war cry "out of the bars and into the streets," where the fashion was to do violence to windows on government buildings and unattended police vehicles. Order was restored (not by the cops, naturally) only by, according to Newsweek, "gay volunteers wearing white armbands and T-shirts that said, 'Please, no violence.'"
? Bill Walton, the 6'11" basketball superstar, has landed the richest contract in National Basketball Association history. "Million dollar Bill" will haul in one million per fiscal annum for a seven-year hitch with the San Diego Clippers. No cost-of-living escalator was included, however. The grinning redhead, who at last report needed approximately 45 minutes to construct a 12-word sentence, seemed unaware of any potential conflict with his outspoken collectivist philosophy. A former history scholar at UCLA, the seven-foot egalitarian gained rave reviews in past seasons for his slow but vicious denunciations of obscene profits, worker alienation, and capitalist oppression. However, a mellowing process has likely overcome the one-time SLA groupie, and Mr. Walton's dedication to the advance of socialist bliss has given way to a less ambitious worldview, to wit: "I have two goals. I want to bring the Clippers the NBA title…and I want Brent Musberger to keep from calling me Mountain Man." The priority of "workers' ownership" was conspicuous in its absence. The three-piece-suited pituitary giant even went so far as to proclaim, "I'll play and we'll all make money." Clippers' owner-exploiter Irv Levin agreed; he announced across-the-board ticket price hikes the day following Walton's signing.
? And now the Gas Crisis of 1979. Lines at Southern California gas stations have stacked up for as much as eight miles, and several persons have been killed in fires initiated by exploding gasoline cans. Yet, the entire calamity remains a deep, dark secret—a public policy black box. Somehow the fact that for the 100 years prior to 1971 Americans had no trouble securing a dependable supply of oil and gas at declining real prices, and that in the years since 1971 we have sprouted long lines, exponentially increasing prices and a $10-billion-a-year black hole called the Department of Energy seems to have left very little residue in the average American's mini-mind. Price controls were the magical potion which transformed the good ol' days into the era of the "energy crisis," and petroleum products remain the only commodities in the entire economy blessed with such controls.
Yet, take one Harold J. Haynes: chairman and chief executive officer of the behemoth Standard Oil of California, he might be expected to know something about why we see two-hour line-ups at service stations but not at supermarkets (first clue: there ain't no price controls on food). When the Los Angeles Times featured Mr. Haynes's wit and analytical insight in a front-page interview, he discussed the situation for three pages before even pronouncing the word "price," which he finally did in response to a question that interjected this forbidden term for him. His explanation of the whole mess will undoubtedly bring energy experts to their feet: "I don't think what we are going through is really a crisis. I don't characterize it as a crisis. It is inconvenient to be sure, darned inconvenient. We are just simply going to have to cut back a little. It will be inconvenient.…My wife just hates to sit in those lines. She's the one that buys gas in our family and she just hates this. She fusses at me more than you have." As for this corporate giant's grasp of why supply fails to equate with demand: "…that's very, very simple. I mean we are waiting in line simply because there's a shortage of gasoline. Now this month we are even more short of crude oil and in turn we're short of gasoline compared to what our forecast had been, and we had to reduce the allocation factor to the service stations to 80 percent." Harold J. Haynes was paid $492,000, plus bonuses, for his services last year.
? Ms. Jane Fonda, ever gracious in her acceptance of the 1978 Oscar for best actress, promptly issued a censorship call for a rival flick which snagged the coveted best-picture statue. The Barbarella sex symbol, who missed out on the casting of the classic Billy Jack due only to the worst of luck, cried that The Deer Hunter should never have been made. The part-time nuclear physicist was upset over scenes in the movie showing American POWs and the various forms of amusement which they provided for their communist hosts. Fonda is confident that such scenes are no more than CIA propaganda—so confident in fact that she is having no part of Joan Baez's current campaign to pressure the socialist liberators in Vietnam to allow Amnesty International into the country to investigate charges of mass murder, indoctrination, and relocation programs. Ms. Fonda-Hayden doesn't feel that it is necessary for Amnesty International to actually go to Vietnam to see what the truth is. After all, in responding to reporters' inquiries, the starlet conceded that she had never actually seen The Deer Hunter.
? America's esteemed public school network has instituted forceful measures to stem criticism from students, parents, and all observers not on the public school payroll. Yet teachers are incensed by a growing reliance on competency tests for instructors, chastising them as "witch hunts" and "old racism in new clothing." Little wonder the panic. During a recent teachers' strike in New Orleans, one gifted public school professor proudly paraded a picket: "We are striking for descent wages." A printed study guide for Virginia's third-graders asks, "What did the sculpture told the archologists?" But the prize for this semester must go to the conscientious civil servant in the Mobile, Alabama, learning institution who wrote a letter to the parents of a youngster in trouble: "Scott is dropping in his studies he acts as if he don't care. Scott want pass in his assignment at all, he had a poem to learn and he fell to do it." Poor Scott.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".