The 2001 Bare Buns Madonna Whassup?Awards
Expanded from the 6-17-2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
How to put the 2001 Nevada Legislature into proper context? The answer came to me during a recent visit to Del Taco.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I stood in line behind a teenage couple. She looked like a cross between Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera (don't they all?), save for showing no midriff. The boy was bagged out head to toe, a typical white guy trying to look hip-hop cool.
Somehow, I knew that no matter how he tried to say "whassup?", it would come out wrong.
When he got up to retrieve his burritos, I noticed that his pants were about to fall off. Buckled at the crotch, his belt fell below his buns, which were mercifully cloaked in navy blue jockey shorts without any visible holes.
Teen mating behavior has apparently devolved to flashing one's ass to impress your date.
At least when Madonna started wearing her underwear outside her outerwear, it had...er...backup. I don't think there was anything between this guy's briefs and his buns.
I guess his attire can be interpreted as a show of both sexual potency and self defense. With his privates already in high dudgeon, he could quickly strip for action. If confronted by hostility, he could moon the offender one-handed while finishing his burrito with the other.
Which brings me back to the ledge, where lawmakers rarely have time for Taco Bell between committee meetings. So they make laws with their mouths full, eating during hearings. No wonder the place has lost any pretense of propriety.
Rich lobbyists gloated in total control in the waning days of the session, acting as unelected lawmakers, ordering assembly and senate leaders to move client bills up the agenda, drawing legislative and congressional districts.
The fat cats literally had their dirty hands on the law of the land, physically running original bills from one house to the next to beat the midnight adjournment deadline.
Gov. Dudley Do-Right was ridiculed on the senate floor for his omnipresence, turning himself into just another backbench lobbyist compared to the money suits. Previous governors, sensitive to the constitutional separation of powers, have long observed a tradition of rarely showing up in legislative halls.
Democrat Mike O'Callaghan (1971-79), arguably the most popular and powerful governor of the 20th Century, would generally call lawmakers to his office.
This year, lobbyists openly ran the place. The most notorious prior abuse occurred in 1991 when casino fixer Harvey Whittemore was allowed to address the senate from the floor. Lord Vader dictated the terms of a new business license tax and informed lawmakers that the gambling industry was giving itself a 25 percent "volume discount," a loophole enjoyed by no other business.
That took brass buns. In honor of this year's most dishonorably blatant displays of political corruption, herewith the extremely hip 2001 Bronze Bare Buns Awards. Read on if you can stomach the butt-ugly truth. And the winners are..
GOV. DUDLEY DO-RIGHT, for deftly hoisting himself on his own petard. It seems that Guinn's first chief of staff, former Assemblyman Peter Ernaut, R-Reno, is still fulfilling the role of Snidely Whiplash for the guv. Ernaut reportedly acted as a direct conduit to the CEO all session, circumventing the current holder of his old job in the Guinn administration. If Snidely was doing the work of chief of staff Marybel Batjer for no extra charge, perhaps she should resign and save the taxpayers her salary.
HARVEY AND THE WALLBANGERS. Lawyer, juice lobbyist and land developer Whittemore is so scary to most wimps that only this writer and Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, dared to criticize him on the record in a front page Reno Gazette-Journal article a few weeks ago.
On the senate floor last week, Neal bashed "The Fat Boys" lobbying corps: Lard Vader, Ernaut, Billy "Vaseline" Vassiliadis and Sam McMullen.
"Neal lashed out against the encroachment of lobbyists on the Legislature, as lobbyists lined the back wall, some snickering," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
"He said in his more than 29 years in office, it was the worst lobbyist conduct he'd seen. Although he didn't name them by name, observers understood that he was referring to high-profile lobbyists such as Harvey Whittemore, Billy Vassiliadis, Sam McMullen and Pete Ernaut.
"Senator Neal was right," the guv told the paper in a rare moment of clarity and complete sentence structure.
"There's certainly a few lobbyists who have more knowledge and know-how than others, and sometimes they use that to their advantage, and sometimes they use it to the advantage of the state. On the other hand, it's incumbent on the individual who gets elected to study and learn the process," Guinn said.
BILL RAGGIO AND RICHARD PERKINS, the Republican Senate Majority Leader from Reno and the Democratic Assembly Speaker from Henderson. Gelded leaders who let lobbyists run wild. And right over themselves and their dignity.
THE RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL, for failing to report that Whittemore took utility deregulation to the Nevada Supreme Court last Friday. Harvey wants the Supremes to act where the legislature failed and judicially re-impose utility deregulation.
Assembly Bill 661 died in the waning hours. It would have allowed mines and casinos to shop for power while small ratepayers get stuck with utility fixed costs. Carson City and Las Vegas papers printed the story yesterday. (The Sparks Tribune does not publish on Saturdays.) [Barbwire Online Update: As of the Sunday, June 24, edition, the story remains unreported by the Reno paper. NevadaLabor.com will follow the issue until the Gannett-Journal does its job. Click here for updates.]
Harvey himself, however, did not go unnoticed. Without saying anything about who he is or what he does, the RGJ on Saturday editorially praised the multi-millionaire for making tax-deductible charitable contributions. Even ran a nice photo.
BOB FULKERSON, director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, for a sin-of-omission guest editorial in the current Reno News & Review. Fulkerson checked off what he considered legislative victories without mentioning the heavy costs to the public of the crumbs dispensed.
LEGISLATORS THEMSELVES. I expect most to lie and sell us out, but did they have to bend over in public like a teen stud at Del Taco?
Be well. Raise hell.
© Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988 .
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