Incorporation means never having to say you're sorry


If baseball reflects America, I'm going to stop looking in the mirror. Last week, Australian robber baron Rupert Murdoch bought the L.A. Dodgers, the last family-owned major league baseball team.

This guy renounced British citizenship as a business decision. His ego demanded that he dominate American media and politics just as he rules those of Great Britain and Australia. With foreigners barred from owning TV stations here, he simply put profit before patriotism and pledged allegiance to our flag.

Would you believe him? What would it take for you to renounce your citizenship?

Former Texas agriculture commissioner and now oft-censored populist talk show host Jim Hightower just wrote a book excerpted in the current Utne Reader magazine.

He tells the story of how a beleaguered stockholder got up at a 1996 General Motors meeting. Noting that GM had eliminated 73,000 U.S. jobs, he asked if the assembled board of directors would stand and join him in pledging allegiance to the flag. They refused. Lord Rupert the Rude would have fit right in.

The story never made the news.

Hightower notes Abraham Lincoln's baleful prediction of the future of America.

"As a result of the (Civil) war," Pres. Lincoln wrote in 1864, "corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow...until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

Only the populists of the Progressive Era kept Lincoln's prediction from coming true. Political activism, community organizing, the muckraker press and the formation of labor unions (over a lot of dead workers' bodies) saved the country.

We've come full circle. More wealth is now concentrated in fewer hands than at any time in our history. Adjusted for inflation, the American worker basically labors for mid-1970's wages.

Baseball has always moved glacially, providing a living echo of an America which went by 20 or 30 years before.

Fans were ready for integrated games long before Jackie Robinson in 1947. U.S. workers won rights under the law in 1935. Baseball players had none until the 1970s.

American life became totally dominated by corporations about 25 years ago. Last week, baseball caught up when a multi-national swallowed up the boys from Flatbush. You can never go home again.

Murdoch even got the game's legend wrong, calling it "America's pastime," not "the national pastime."

Everything is getting corporatized, Hightower notes. Cost accountants decide who your doctor will be and whether or not you will receive care.

"The true symbol of America is no longer Old Glory," Hightower adds, "but the corporate logo."

Joe Camel, call your office. As with tobacco addiction, some people think it alright to indoctrinate kids into the wonders of casino life.

In a letter to a constituent in 1984, Rep. Barbara Vucanovich (R-Nev.) endorsed military base slot machines as a way to entertain youthful recruits who may never have seen them before. Mrs. Vucanovich had obtained substantial campaign money from her husband's employer, Bally, maker of slots for military bases.

In response to a Nevada mother who had written of her concern about teen recruits doing on military bases what was illegal back home, the now-retired congresswoman stated: "Slot machines have proven to be very popular with the troops and certainly keeps them off the streets and away from drugs and other illegal activities. I believe it is a healthy recreational activity which is cost effective and enjoyed by our troops."

The Pentagon has always been a great marketing tool. After WWI, millions of young Americans came home addicted after cigarette companies sent tons of "quality American tobacco products" to the troops. Before that, cigarette smoking was frowned upon and not nearly as widespread.

The wire service slot machine story crept into the rural Nevada run of the Reno Gazette-Journal, but was pulled from the Reno-Carson edition. Most of the paper's readers never read what their congresswoman wrote although I tried my best to get the story out in my campaign against her.

Now comes Aaron Highe of Carson City. In a recent letter to the Nevada Appeal, he wrote "gaming in all its forms should be out front for all to see and enjoy. Don't hide it, don't be ashamed of it. It's our heritage, our identity," he stated.

"Since the number of people coming to Nevada for recreation of any kind is dwindling, we must look to our children for survival. Their allowances and later, their paychecks, will be the gold that sustains Nevada in the decades to come. They should be encouraged to gamble, but in a responsible manner.

"The state should license dealers and pit bosses to teach safe wagering in our schools. Also, it should commission IGT to design penny and nickel slots specifically for elementary schools," he noted.

Then came the Barbara Vucanovich finish: "Gambling is a natural and healthy sport if practiced responsibly and with proper instruction children can learn to enjoy it. Pulling a handle or rolling dice are far better activities than joining a gang. In Nevada, more than anywhere else, our children are our future."

This guy undoubtedly voted for Vucanovich. If he sends that letter to Rupert Murdoch, he can probably get a job.

Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a Reno-based syndicated columnist, a 29-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and campaign manager for Democratic candidate for Governor, State Senator Joe Neal.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 and parts of this column were originally published 3/22/98.