You're worth $100k dead
Expanded from the 2-19-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Updated 2-24-2006, 3-5-2006, 3-19-2006

    "I willed my keepsakes, signed away what portion of me I could make assignable..."
– Emily Dickinson

Yesterday, Travis Cruz became a candidate for assignment. The Hug High graduate and father of three had has life support disconnected and died Saturday. His family had been sitting a death watch by his bedside at Washoe Medical Center.

The severely injured former track star thus became the second fatality from a trench collapse at the posh Somersett dwell-on-a-golf-course development. The only good I have ever been able to find in golf courses is the fact that they seem to be the only type of open space which the upper classes are willing to concede – and only if they're profitable.

I chuckled when I saw a news report that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent six inspectors to the site of the northwest Reno St. Valentine's Day massacre where Clayton Gregory, 20, died.

I'm surprised there are any OSHA inspectors left in this area, given a recent move by Dubya's dunces to close the Nevada office – in one of the most booming construction zones in the country – and handle everything from San Francisco.

While a report on the accident is months away, one expert did not mince words.

"If a trench is properly shored and they're following all the general requirements and doing everything right, somebody would be alive today," Jimmy Conway told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"It's just not a freak of nature that this happened," said Conway, who teaches safety at United Rentals Trench Safety in Reno.

Such is the fate of the disposable worker who labors under the scythe of a system stacked against him. If he is injured on the job, a private insurer will try to beat him out of any benefits. Why else would we need a whole taxpayer-funded state apparatus to help the injured get something close to their due?

If someone is a victim of medical negligence, the medical lobby (descendants of those same wonderful folks who killed national health insurance as a Communist plot in 1948), has made sure your compensation will be negligible, if you get anything at all.

If the family of Travis Cruz has made the hard decision to donate his vital organs, I hope they negotiate hard. Many people still labor under the myth that your body is worth $1.97 if reduced to basic chemicals.

Not any more.

There is an aftermarket for body parts that will (pardon the pun) knock your eyeballs out. Your skin and other choice cuts can bring an organ broker about $100,000 on the hallowed free market.

As a protest to this perversion of a corporal work of mercy, I have removed the organ donor permission from my driver's license. I would love to have someone benefit from my death, but not the Shylockian version of an auto chop shop.

The family of Travis Cruz will find themselves fortunate in only one regard: they don't have to pay the vampires at the Reno Gazette-Journal for an obituary. Unless you are someone newsworthy, if you die, you pay. Otherwise, your passing goes unnoticed and you unwittingly are forced to passively participate in the perversion of the first draft of history, the primary job of a newspaper.

The Gannett greedheads publish business and marriage licenses, bankruptcies and births, but have turned death into another profit center. The largest newspaper in the state, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, thinks your life is worth at least 14 lines of type for free. The Kazoo-Journal does not.

Travis T. Cruz
Paid Obituary

Reno Gazette-Journal 2-23-2006

If you see a death notice in the RGJ for Travis Cruz or Clayton Gregory, stand advised that their families have been vampirized.

There is an important moral dimension to this travesty. Every religion has requirements for burying the dead. That process cannot begin if people are uninformed about those who have died.


     Nevada's largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, still gives a few lines to local decedents. The Reno Gannett-Journal now charges for everything. If you are poor and die, your passing goes unnoticed, violating the precepts of most religions as well as the journalist's primary responsbility to accurately report the first draft of history. FIGHT BACK! Join the campaign to do something about it.

Morality is the bottom line in all this. We are one of the most religious countries in the world, if you believe what people tell pollsters. However, say what you will about Moslems, they live, breathe and practice what they preach, even if it means killing cartoonists and authors.

I've long been in favor of only one kind of death penalty: Any company which causes the death of a worker is executed, immediately put out of business, its assets seized and liquidated with a substantial portion going to the estate of the deceased.

America in the era of mature, monopolistic capitalism, has a terminal case of failing to practice what she preaches. We say we value life but manufacture the world's most efficient vehicles of death – be they armies, weapons or unsafe products.

The cancer-curing drug Taxol, a product of yew trees so ubiquitous in graveyards, was developed with taxpayer money then turned over to a profitmongering corporation for sales to the public which paid for it.

The families of Mssrs. Cruz and Clayton now face a heartbreaking labyrinth of paperwork and costs to properly bury their dead. They may find that the former employer fights claims for benefits because it will up his insurance premiums. (Ever notice ads for companies professing to "manage workers compensation costs"? Translation: "We help you beat your workers out of their benefits.")

Our surrender to the rich and powerful is again reflected by our newspapers. You still may see an occasional religion page, but business pages are fixtures. Labor pages have disappeared. The only regularly published worker news involves the likes of Mssrs. Cruz and Clayton.

As another great poet (Don Henley) wrote, "it's interesting when people die."

When will this dirty laundry be cleansed? It won't be long. The American empire is already being stirred with a big stick.

Alas and alack, many among the many will end up paying for the sins of the few.

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns

St. Valentine's Day Massacre: News Roundup of the Somersett trench fatalities

Body Parts Snatching Case Reverberates
Associated Press 2-18-2006

EDITOR'S NOTE: The above story is housed at the AP website. It may disappear in a week. By then, you will most probably be able to find a copy posted on a newspaper website via a web search for the following words: Biomedical, Tissue, Services, AIDS, hepatitis, syphilis, Pineda, Tanner.

The story is an update of how some body parts purveyors have illegally harvested organs from the dead at funeral homes, including the body of former "Omnibus" and "Masterpiece Theatre" host and BBC correspondent Alistair Cooke. Some people who have received body parts products have contracted diseases.

Don'tcha just love the initiative of the private sector?


     UPDATE 3-5-2006: Read the touching and very personal account by Alistair Cooke's daughter about what she went through and still suffers from after the theft of her father's body. (New York Times op-ed 3-5-2006; free registration required.) | U-News
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Copyright © 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 37-year Nevadan and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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