Wal-Mart walloped by butterfly wings in Reno

Expanded from the 12-3-00 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

For some strange reason, I've lately read a lot of literary allusion based on poetic interpretation of chaos physics. Here's one more, which, if successful, will tie together God, St. Thomas Aquinas, the nature of the physical universe and Wal-Mart in northwest Reno.

Buckle your seat belts, we're in for a bumpy ride.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) came up with five intuitive proofs for the existence of God. One of them involved recognizing that there is order in the universe. Someone or something created this order, and this we call God.

Later, the French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) said "God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."

I think both the saint and the philosopher are proving correct. Recent revelations in astrophysics reveal a huge formation of impenetrable mass and energy taking up some 90 percent of the known universe. It validates a theory Albert Einstein (1879-1955) once discarded and basically balances the books of the cosmos.

The huge unknown dark sector cross-cuts the entirety of everything we are and know. It can be argued that the scientists have formed a picture of what some, including perhaps St. Thomas, would call God — some entity bringing order to the universe, balancing the matter and energy equation first pointed out by Sir Isaac Newton. (1642-1727)

And it also appears that Voltaire was right about God's sense of humor. Some time ago, physicists identified that the order of the universe proceeds from chaos, a miraculous and unlikely set of chances which produced all that you know and are. So the joke's on Aquinas. The order he used as "proof" is really chaos which by happy happenstance brings the order we witness.

Physics, philosophy and theology thus share one common thread allowing everything to be viewed as inter-related to everything else. Christians will recognize the idea when it's termed "oneness with the Father."

Buddhists use butterflies. If all is inter-related, the beating of a butterfly's wings in China is not an isolated event. Its vibrations, however weak and imperceptible, send out a wave. Some have made a literary leap that an earthquake in California starts out as a metaphoric beat of butterfly wings thousands of miles to the east.

Who am I to disagree? Which brings me to last week's Reno City Council denial of a Wal-Mart big box store in northwest Reno.

Minions of the world's largest retailer disclaim such occurrences as rare, only three or so per year. Actually, it's more like 30, but considering that the Arkansas Razorback annually builds hundreds of new stores worldwide, even that's not many losses.

Unless you consider butterfly wings. In that sense, what the good citizens of northwest Reno accomplished last Wednesday morning becomes an event of worldwide significance.

In the Nov. 20 edition of The Nation magazine, muckraking author William Greider contributed a splendid article entitled "The Last Farm Crisis — The New Politics of Food."

Greider is as good as investigative journalists get. His most recent bestseller, "Secrets of the Temple," revealed the inner-workings and machinations of the U.S. federal reserve banking system and how it impacts the daily lives of just about everyone on the planet. Kind of an iron butterfly.

"Here in the United States, we're doing exactly what the Russians are undoing in their agriculture. They're decentralizing and we're centralizing," Greider notes.

"A few far-flung firms are positioned on many sides of the market at once and, indeed, are incestuously connected through a dizzying galaxy of 'strategic alliances' and cross-ownership...Sector by sector, four firms control 82 percent of beefpacking, 75 percent of hogs and sheep, and half of chickens. Major supermarket chains are now concentrated regionally, though not nationally. Four firms hold 74 percent of market control in 94 large cities," Greider writes.

"Experts anticipate a new merger wave that could swiftly increase that percentage while doubling the four firms' overall national concentration up to 60 percent," Greider states.

And who are the big time retail end-sellers in this particular Monopoly game? Kroger, Albertson's Safeway, AHOLD (Giant), Winn-Dixie and (surprise!) Wal-Mart.

"The spread between prices paid for livestock and the wholesale price of meat has widened in the past few years by 52 percent for pork and 24 percent for beef," Greider reports.

"Yet these extraordinary levels of concentration unfolded without government opposition," Greider laments, tracing uninterrupted apathy from Reagan through Clinton.

"Consumers may judge for themselves whether they have benefited at the meat counter," Greider grouses, then checks off a list of price-manipulating abuses by the monopolists.

Under recent "deregulation," taxpayer subsidy to the farm industry almost tripled to $23 billion last year.

"If this nexus of collaborating corporations acquires the market power to control the total farm output and stabilizes prices, then it will also have the power to inflate food prices on behalf of greater profit. In the last act, cheap food disappears right along with the free market," Greider concludes in a summation which perfectly describes the marketing strategy of Wal-Mart.

Which is why the butterfly wings beating Wal-Mart in northwest Reno were so important. Those vibrations have already made news nationally that little guys have awakened, organized, fought back and have started to win.

For the latest, updated as it happens from around Nevada, the nation and, alas, the world (Wal-Mart has established itself in England and just announced it's going to Japan), go to the Wal-Mart War Room. It includes a complete analysis of the dynamics of the Reno City Council vote.

If you have AT&T Cable, you may watch six-plus hours of the city council hearing beginning at 10:00 this morning on Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT). I promise that a goodly portion is much more dramatic than any competing programming.

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Copyright © 2000, 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 31-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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