The Barbwire MayDay Y2K Golden Screwup Awards


From the 4-30-00 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Tomorrow is May Day, an ancient excuse to play hooky and debauch, so let's party. Over a century ago, the annual rite of springtime frolicking around the May Pole was co-opted as a day for celebrating workers.

May 1 remains Labor Day just about everywhere in the world but the U.S. and Canada. Most people think of Red Scare as post-WW2 paranoia, but fear of them dirty commies goes way back. In the 1880s, Labor Day was moved to September, as far away from May Day as possible without risking early snow.

After President Grover Cleveland busted the legendary Pullman Strike in 1894, he looked for way to appease incensed American workers.

A bill formally establishing a September Labor Day arrived on Cleveland's desk just six days after his troops had broken the walkout in Pullman, Illinois (1894 was an election year). Sometimes, there is justice in the world. He was not reelected.

Red Scare lived on and continues to make this country do some really goofy things. Just look at recent events in Miami, Florida.

Last Tuesday, major league baseball players of Cuban ancestry were excused from competition in order to protest against Fidel Castro in the Elian Gonzales affair.

Like today's Florida Marlins and San Francisco Giants, back in the 1950s, Red Scare also affected baseball. The venerable Cincinnati Reds became the Cincinnati Red Legs. Given the team's home town, I think Red Necks would have been a better handle. Witness the fact that the racist Marge Schott was only blown out of Reds' ownership a couple of years ago.

GET SOCIAL, IF NOT SOCIALIST. If you feel like frolicking today, get thee down to Idlewild Park for Earth Day 31, appropriately held in the same place Reno celebrated Earth Day 2 in 1971. (I was there.)

Afterward, you can attend the Progessive Leadership Alliance open house, barbecue and potluck (that means food, not hemp) at 1101 Riverside Drive, across the mucky Truckee from Idlewild Park. It starts at 5:00 p.m. with a blessing for the organization's new HQ by Western Shoshone spiritual leader Corbin Harney.

Tomorrow, the employees of Reno's V.A. medical center celebrate the 1962 founding of their union with a lunchtime birthday party. This Saturday, you can cavort with Sparks assembly candidate Debbie Smith, who hosts a picnic at Deer Park starting at noon.

MAYDAY! ON MAYDAY. When the Titanic or the ship of state are about to go down, "mayday!" is often the last thing on the flight recorder. Herewith, the May Day Y2K Golden Screwup Awards.

THE OH POOR ME TROPHY will be split between Microsoft boss Bill Gates and defrocked Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Phil Keene. Dishonorable mention to another Phil, Knight of Nike, for cutting off contributions to his alma mater, the University of Oregon, for joining in protest of Nike's sweatshop shoemaking.

THE AL GORE MEMORIAL REWRITE OF HISTORY AWARD goes to Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., for a big, full-color postcard, printed and mailed at taxpayer expense, hogging credit for ending the Social Security earnings penalty for recipients aged 65 to 70 who continue to work. Maybe it was Gibbons who invented the Internet. (In all fairness, many years ago, Gore was the prime sponsor of a senate bill which funded the transition of the military Arpanet into today's Internet.)

THE BIG BUST BUST. Grand Golden Screws to Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, Sen. Ray Rawson, R-Las Vegas, KRNV TV-4 owner James Rogers, Gov. Kenny Guinn and Hooterville Mythical University President Richard Moore. Rawson and Moore shunted over $100,000 in university system equipment, staff time and subcontracts to make bronze busts of Raggio, Guinn and Rogers, a mega-donor. The Las Vegas lawyer and TV exec is also point man for Moore trying to bring into existence the wholly unnecessary and duplicative Henderson State College.

Veteran Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Natalie Patton recently revealed that the busts were lost, then miraculously found.

Gov. Dudley Do-Right said he never received his, but it turned up at his office after all.

All three statues were supposed to be displayed at the Community College of Southern Nevada, whose students picked up the tab.

The busts may be bronze, but deserve the golden screw.

THE SPARKS CITY COUNCIL gets the Golden Calf for bowing down and worshipping downtown welfare queen John Ascuaga's Golden Banty Rooster. The Sparks Nugget again cashed its influence at city hall by stopping introduction of legislation to raise the city's tourist room tax by one percent. The hike would have brought it to parity with Reno and Washoe County. Net loss to a city government facing a $1.6 million deficit: $300,000 per year.

THE COMEDY AND TRAGEDY GOLDEN MASKS go to the Reno and Sparks police departments. A woman complains of wholesale sexual misconduct on the part of Reno cops. RPD turns her case over to those credible defenders of womens' rights at Sparks PD. Somewhere, the Internet Rapist is having a good laugh.

UNINTENTIONAL TRUTH AWARD goes to the Reno Gazette-Journal, which printed the following about Reno redevelopment: "(Baltimore-based consultant Blake) Cordish wants to repeat past mistakes by centering on the strengh of downtown." The paper later printed a retraction.

Be well. Raise hell.

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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of U-News, where the past four years of columns may be accessed. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 where an earlier version of this column appeared on 4/30/00.

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