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
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
"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
"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.