Professional voters and picket lines

Expanded from the Sunday, 2-15-2004, Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune
2-19-2004 Comstock Chronicle

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro —

Hunter S. Thompson

Over the years, I've devoted barrels of ink to alternative methods of voting. In the 1970s, I began warning of the vulnerability of computerized balloting systems. I did so in a futile attempt to enhance participation and thus build confidence in the process. I blithely proceeded in hope that the system was fixable. It ain't.

Publicly funding political campaigns won't work. Multimillionaires like Kerry and Bush simply bypass the system.

Once you've set the parameters, you've just shown smart guys the new edge of the envelope they'll soon be pushing. The vaunted McCain-Feingold law only allows candidates and parties other ways to find gold.

People with innovative ideas are either scorned or ignored. Prof. Lani Guinere proposed proportional representation, allocating legislative and congressional seats in proportion to the number of votes won by each party. This was no more than a modification of the parliamentary system which works well in many countries rather the U.S. winner-take-all method.

For her trouble, Republicans slandered Prof. Guinere with the label "quota queen." Exhibiting typical cowardice, Bill Clinton withdrew her nomination for a high Justice Department civil rights post.

Great political thinkers as diverse as futurist Alvin Toffler and my brilliant wife independently brought forward a lottery concept. My wife wants it 100 percent random. Toffler and his wife later wrote about electing, e.g., half of public officials by the current method with the other half appointed by lot. Can either be worse than the high-stakes auction we have now?

Is not our representative democracy based on the idea that any citizen is qualified to serve, that anybody can grow up to be president? Don't we hear pols talk about the wisdom of the people as though they actually mean it?

Let's call their bluff. None of the above ideas have caught on, save for increasing sophistication in stealing computerized elections.

Things are now so corrupt that state and federal lawmakers often don't even know what the lobbyists are having them vote on. How many times have we chuckled at midnight errors which bring expressions of horror in the sober light of day when some egregious screwup is revealed? The Nevada legislature passed one of the toughest open meeting laws in the country back in the mid-1970s — by mistake in the midnight hour! Most of the time, the public loses in the dark.

What do we expect when we ask people to take at least six months out of their lives for sub-minimum wage pay? For the compensation involved, Nevada couldn't outsource its lawmaking to China or Bangladesh. Taxophobic voters break out in a rash anytime somebody suggests that public officials ought to be paid a living wage.

So how about paying voters a living wage? Just about everything else has been tried and yet we have a state government which is primarily responsive to the casino and mining industries and a national government which spies on us, undercuts our rights and sends us into needless foreign intrigues.

As Lily Tomlin once said, no matter how cynical you become, it's hard to keep up. So here's one last attempt to reverse our seething apathy marinated in a rising tide of cynicism: professional voters. No, not Jeff Greenfield's long-ago semi-tongue-in-cheek suggestion that we be allowed to sell, trade or broker our votes. This is even better.

Let's start employing professional voters. Those of us who don't want to be bothered with voting could delegate our proxies to highly trained, well paid professionals whose job it would be to research issues, pass regular testing, and cast intelligent votes.

The depredations of professional politicians can only be matched by highly skilled professional balloteers.
Crazy? Perhaps. But can this cure by any worse than the current disease?

HOT AUGUST STRIKE, PART DEUX. Remember how much fun everybody had during the national UPS strike back in 1997? Remember getting all that great exercise, dehydration and sunburn in the summer heat of the Vista Blvd. picket lines? Remember the wonderful attitudes of the Sparks cops, notwithstanding that they belong to a union themselves? Do you fondly recall the day Rail City police arrested striking drivers and one teenage family member for the crime of walking on a public street? Remember how Judge Andy Cray found a couple of Teamsters guilty notwithstanding the evidence? Remember how the voters remembered by defrocking Cray at the next election?

You can relive it all by visiting the UPS strike archive at, including a selection of Tribune stories and editorials from that magical moment which will never come again. Or can it?

If Sparks UPS management maintains its current posture in ongoing negotiations, the Teamsters Union is prepared to shut down UPS in northern Nevada and northern California by the end of this week.

As longtime Sparks labor leader Skip Daly often remarks, I love the smell of picket signs in the morning. Polish up your walking shoes and keep an eye on for bulletins.

Be well. Raise hell.


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Copyright © 1982-2004 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 35-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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