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Dirty deeds done dirt cheap
by Andrew Barbano
Aug 28, 2010 | 782 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Iconoclastic film director Oliver Stone is producing a sequel to “Wall Street,” the film that brought Michael Douglas a best actor Oscar and ensconced “greed is good” in our national archive of useless clichés.

One over-used aphorism from the 1960s remains instructive today: You are what you eat.

And you are eating a lot of greed. Back in the Stone Age Sixties when we used to have adequate government food inspection, you could use a raw egg in Caesar salad because you had faith in the system. People could even season fresh hamburger to make steak tartare.

As a kid growing up in an Italian family, I remember tasting both of the above while my mother and grandmother prepared meatballs for Sunday dinner. The heavily and heavenly spiced ingredients included raw eggs and raw beef. Nobody ever got sick.

Nowadays, you should not eat beef at all. The United States Department of Agriculture simply will not test for Mad Cow Disease. A few years back, an American rancher offered to screen each critter in his own herd so he could resume exporting to the Far East, which has much tighter standards. Doing the bidding of Congress and the industry and threatening severe penalties, the USDA stopped the poor lout.

Brain-eating Mad Cow will only be sufficiently addressed after a major outbreak and lots of American burger eaters have been infected. Mad Cow is so insidious that burning meat down to the level of shoe leather doesn’t kill the prions that cause the malady.

All the recent reports about salmonella-tainted chicken eggs present another instance in point. As with labor and workplace safety laws, American food and drug regulations can be ignored with impunity. Getting busted is just part of the cost of doing business and you can always get the fines reduced on appeal. If you get away with it, you’ve won the game. Such are the ethics of Enron, Exxon, British Petroleum/ARCO, Massey Energy, Barrick and Newmont mining. Likewise for most of the multi-national money machine.

I got sick just reading news stories that the tainted eggs are still going to be used in a wide range of other products after heating them up to kill most — repeat, most — of the salmonella bacteria. Aaargh.

Adding insult to injury, now comes Eureka Assemblycritter Pete Goicoechea, R-19th century, wanting to reimpose the sales tax on groceries.

To use a Yogi Berra-ism, if state Sen. Mary Gojack was alive, she’d be rolling over in her grave.

The late, great Gojack, D-Reno, made the repeal of the sales tax on food a centerpiece of her upset 1974 election win. The Legislature can do whatever it wants with sales taxes above the 2 percent floor mandated in the voter-approved Sales and Use Tax Act of 1955. Getting rid of the remainder took a 1979 special election. Only Humboldt and Mineral counties voted against it. I can’t imagine why.

And I can’t imagine why the Democrats have failed to use the issue as a campaign club. Pansies.

If Goicoechea gets his way, we will again be taxed for purchasing food that is increasingly likely to kill us.

Which brings out the conservative in me.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: Companies that knowingly kill people deserve the death penalty. Superstar Brad Pitt last week called for capital punishment for BP executives.

“I was never for the death penalty before. I am willing to look at it again,” he stated.

At least he got people thinking about the punishment fitting the crime. But Mr. Pitt also showed tremendous naiveté. All workers in a predatory corporation are considered disposable and replaceable, including the fat cats in the executive tower.

If you want justice and a deterrent, kill the company. If an outfit knowingly causes a worker’s death after being forewarned, the company should die. That means liquidation, corporate assets auctioned off to the highest bidder. Money remaining after a handsome settlement for survivors should go to a trust fund to help future injured workers. The stockholders, including top executives with all their bonuses and stock options, would lose everything.

A strong public policy that greed is not always good is the only thing that will get the bastards’ attention.


Last week, I erroneously placed KTVN TV-2 boss Lawson Fox in a retro rock band called the Smokin’ Bulldogs. Actually, he’s a member of The Bad Neighbors, a slightly countrified outfit that shares two members with the aforementioned canine corps.

Buzzard Bulletin

The liquidation auction of Sierra Nevada Community Access TV will probably happen in a few days. One kink might delay matters: Sparks and Reno city halls fighting over missing equipment. Sparks looted the place in late June by sending a crew of six to eight guys “like a plague of locusts,” according to an eyewitness. Reno officials claim a lot of their expensive hardware is missing. Complicating all this is a serious legal question: Does equipment paid for by cable ratepayers and given to the public station become the station’s property? That’s why God made lawyers.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 41-year Nevadan and editor of E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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