How to shrink and get fat at the same time

Expanded from the 5-3-1998
Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
UPDATED 10-22-2006

Behold ever-adolescent America, well on her way toward Frankensteinian utopia. We will soon make full body transplants available to whomever can pay.

Spare parts present no challenge to an increasingly capitalistic and hedonistic society. Can the franchised human chop shop be far away?

Immortality is within our grasp, price and principle be damned. Can it get any better than this?

Alas, yes.

Mother Nature has decided it's payback time. Figuratively and literally, Americans are shrinking.

We used to rank as the tallest people in the world. Now comes this obviously misinformed pinko-commie-liberal college professor named Barry Bogin. Writing in last February's Discover, the University of Michigan anthropologist says we have dwindled to fourth.


The Dutch rank first. Holland's adult males were once the shortest in Europe, averaging 5 feet 4 inches in 1850. They now measure 5-foot-10. The Swedes and Danes lie close behind at 5-foot-9. The land of Michael Jordan and Wilt-the-Stilt stares up from 5-foot-8.

American men are taller than they were in 1850, when we averaged 5-foot-6, "but poor health and undernourishment of American children have literally stunted our growth as a nation," the Utne Reader noted in its current edition.

We simultaneously shrink and grow fatter. You might call it doing squat.

The land where once all were created equal now boasts the greatest inequality in a century. Over the past 25 years, the rich have gotten much richer, the middle class has shrunk, the poor shrivel.

The stock market rises while people's paychecks plummet. Inflation (price increases) lies pretty much brain-dead since the recession of the early Reagan years. American workers have been too scared to fight back for better pay and benefits. The UPS strike of last summer was an aberration.

In fire-at-will America, some 85 percent of American workers have no contract, union or otherwise. Reduced to taking what they're given while working for a living, they accept less and less while jobs are moved out of the country with full government cooperation.

Our top ten percent do exceedingly well. The highest one percent have seen their wealth skyrocket. Soon, they will control half the assets of the country.

The vast majority of Americans who do the work own no stock at all. Their hopes for the future are tied up in their homes, pension funds and Social Security. All of the above are under assault.

Fewer and fewer can afford to buy houses. Government and private pension plans stand besieged. Newt and the Reaganauts want to privatize Social Security, selling the idea that the stock market will never go down. Perhaps it won't if we continue our headlong slide toward third world wage levels.

Sooner or later, every pyramid scheme collapses. Want to bet on who'll get left holding the empty bag?

Your health care is also up for sale. The Republican right wants to privatize it a little piece at a time. They started with something called the medical savings account, a scheme to skim the healthiest out of Medicare, forcing the system to collapse on the sicker and needier. (See "Medikill" in the January-February 1996 edition of Mother Jones.)

UPDATE 6-12-2005: Washoe Health System begins to offer medical savings accounts.

UPDATE 10-22-2006: Health Savings Accounts infect the race for governor

The father of the medical savings account is one J. Patrick Rooney, boss of the mis-named Golden Rule Insurance Company of Indiana. Rooney provided the seed money to kick off the controversial union-busting petition on California's June ballot, a nastier strain of which now circulates in Nevada. The idea is to get unions out of politics so that only big business can bankroll elected officials. Corporate interests already outspend little labor between 11 and 19 to one, but apparently that's not lopsided enough.

Mr. Rooney was the keynote speaker at last month's Nevada Republican state convention in Gomorrah South. A Reno hate radio station (KKKOH) broadcasted from the GOP conclave and featured Rooney as an honored guest.

Shortly thereafter, the station disinvited Democratic gubernatorial frontrunner Joe Neal. Representing Sen. Neal's campaign, I had personally responded to the station's interview request several times but never got a return call.

Then, in the April 26 Daily Sparks Tribune, I committed the crime of concurring with Tribune columnist Susan Severt's criticism of the station's shock jock. The man had mercilessly demeaned Ms. Severt's Sun Valley community and she rightly took him to task.

In a letter to the Tribune editor, he expressed his love for freedom of speech while trashing Ms. Severt as somehow opposing it. Then he sent me an e-mail blackballing Sen. Neal because of what I wrote. Go figure.

Perhaps it had something to do with my recent refusal to be bullied by the station's sales staff. In my day job as a media buyer, I would not purchase overpriced spot time from the same outfit. I told a pushy radio salesman that my clients are not in the business of subsidizing those who trample the rights of women, workers and minorities. I added that I get prime time television cheaper.

That did not play well in the halls of hate radio where skins are stretched thin covering massive and expanding egos.

I'll leave it up to the readers and the voters to judge who's getting fatter at the expense of those getting shorter.

Be well. Raise hell.



Smoking Guns

J. Patrick Rooney haunts not only the 2006 Nevada governor's race, but like a white-sheeted ghost from America's racist past and still-bigoted present, he's back with a new burning cross:

In naming three candidates for his nightly "Worst Person in the World" feature on, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann stated:

"Our runner-up tonight, J. Patrick Rooney, the principal funder of America’s PAC which creates and pays for race-baiting TV commercials for Republicans. One new one, trying to convince African-Americans that abortion is a Democratic plot to kill minority children. One actor refers to making a little mistake 'with one of your ho’s' and suggests abortion as the solution, another responds 'that’s too cold. I don’t snuff my own seed,' but first then answers, 'Maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican.'

"Surprisingly Mr. Rooney employed two actual African-American actors rather than white minstrel show veterans wearing blackface."

Transcript: The Countdown with Keith Olbermann
MSNBC, 10-19-2006

Titus and Gibbons on the Issues
Las Vegas Review-Journal 10-22-2006

Q: Should public employee unions have the right of collective bargaining? What should be done about the liability posed by the public employee retirement and retirement health care systems?

GIBBONS: "I've always supported collective bargaining for first responders. Other state employees don't need that sort of protection." The Public Employees Retirement System of Nevada "is a very viable system that should not be touched." The state workers' health care program, however, poses a problem. Gibbons would not change what current employees get but supports reducing future hires' benefits along the lines of what Gov. Kenny Guinn proposed unsuccessfully in 2005. "Kenny Guinn was correct to be proactive. I want to be proactive on this. I want to sit down with the unions and listen to their ideas to keep it (the system) viable."

TITUS: "All state employees should have the right to collective bargaining." The retirement system is sound, but the health care system is a liability. "I don't believe you should cut off the subsidy (for retirement health care), because then you'll never hire anybody decent." Would consider phasing in health savings accounts or changing the technical provisions that prevent state employees being eligible for Social Security and Medicare.


BARBWIRE: Alas and alack, Sen. Titus has been misled about "health savings accounts," formerly known as "medical savings accounts." She would be further revolted if she realized the facts about the greedy lowlife whose idea this originally was. See above.

BARBWIRE 10-8-2006: Rock and Roll
Includes audio/video links to GOP gubernatorial nominee Jim Gibbons' statement on the Nevada Public Employee Retirement System (PERS)

BARBWIRE 10-22-2006: Questions and Answers
The present and wannabe GOP governors practice cruelly compassionate conservatism in smothering their employees' health care coverage while leaving future generations to suffer the consequences of their shortsightedness. Dubya would be proud that his style is catching on here at the High Desert Plantation.

State of Nevada
Secretary of State




Copyright © 1998, 2004, 2006 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 originated in the Daily Sparks Tribune since 1988.


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