Nevada la vida loca: Tailhookers and Dudley Do-Right

From the 8-15-99 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Ya gotta love this freakin' place. The week after the feds shut Mustang down, Tailhook comes to town.

The official rap on the infamous paramilitary outfit is that the tomcats have been neutered. The past couple of Tailhook conventions at John Ascuaga's Nugget have been about as sexy as, well...John Ascuaga in that bizarre TV commercial wherein he stands, fully business-suited and cowboy-booted, in a hot tub with a confused tourist couple.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that "the Navy is taking tentative steps to restore official ties with the Tailhook Association, the naval aviator's booster organization whose sordid 1991 Las Vegas (Hilton) convention produced a major sex-harassment scandal...Navy Secretary Richard Danzig on Tuesday announced that he is sending a three-member Navy delegation to this year's convention, scheduled for Aug. 19-20 in Reno, Nev."

Actually, the Nugget has scheduled Tailhook for August 17-23 in Sparks, better known as East Reno in the Ascuaga advertising department.

Danzig "held out the offer of 'possible resumption of support' for the organization," according to AP.

"Over the past eight years, the association has taken a number of constructive steps that warrant a review of its status," Danzig wrote.

Tailhook's annual conventions were drunken frat orgies where women proceeded at considerable risk.

"The Defense Department inspector general implicated 117 officers for sexual assault, indecent exposure and other acts, and faulted the Navy's leaders for failing to stop the behavior,"AP noted.

"The (Las Vegas Hilton) episode triggered the resignation of Navy Secretary H. Lawrence Garrett and the early retirement of Adm. Frank B. Kelso, then chief of naval operations. It also led to lawsuits, multiple investigations and changes in the Navy - including more emphasis on ethics and sexual harassment awareness and an opening of more aviation opportunities for women," the wire report asserted.

Given the recent beating death of a rumored gay soldier in Kentucky by his comrades in arms, I dispute that the military has changed at all. You and I directly suffer because of these anachronistic bigotries.

Read More About It:

How the Tailhook Law will affect the Sherrice Iverson casino murder case

Baby rape: coming soon to a casino near you

Hilton puts a contract out on Reno

Wherever you go in Nevada today, you proceed at greater risk thanks to Tailhook.

Hilton and the gambling-industrial complex hired fixer lawyer Harvey Whittemore to get the 1995 Nevada Legislature to grant the industry protection from Tailhook-style lawsuits.

Darth Harvey's strategy was brilliant. He inserted a shill provision into the industry bill which would have nullified the $5 million judgment former Navy Lt. Paula Coughlin had won against Hilton.

When opposition to the bill materialized, myself included, Whittemore flamboyantly announced that the industry would generously compromise by taking the Coughlin reversal out of the bill.

Whittemore had set up the poor abused woman as a stalking horse to get the industry bill passed. Preserving her court win provided political cover allowing the casino pimps on the Assembly Judiciary Committee to support the legislation.

In reality, the new law made Nevada hotels a lot less safe for future Paula Coughlins. She was effectively gang-molested again by lawmakers and lobbyists. Nevadans and tourists alike were permanently endangered as a result.

In late 1996, a woman was raped at gunpoint in front of her family in a Reno Hilton room. Her husband avoided death only because the thug's gun misfired when he put it to the man's head.

The family sued Hilton. I think a jury would have been generous, especially when presented with evidence that Hilton had reduced its security staff by well over half.

Alas, the case was quietly settled and the record sealed last May. No one has seen fit to report it till now.

Because of the Tailhook bill, punitive damage awards now require that a managing agent be involved in "conscious disregard."

Nevada lawyers call it the two-bites rule. If a dog bites you once, the owner is not responsible. Once you're bitten again, the previous instance constitutes evidence of the owner's conscious disregard.

Applied in a hotel situation, it borders on the ludicrous. Testimony before the legislature in 1995 noted that security lapses resulting in a rape or murder could only be actionable if a previous rape had occurred on the same floor. A rape on another floor would not qualify as evidence of conscious disregard.

The rape victim's complaint against the Reno Hilton did not seek high-dollar punitive damages because of that nearly impossible standard. Lack of punitive damage potential means a lot of lawyers won't take cases against abusive companies and the family probably settled for peanuts against the Reno Hilton.

Which is exactly what Whittemore's perverted Tailhook Bill was written to accomplish.

DUDLEY DOES IT AGAIN. Gov. Dudley Do-Right last week made two major appointments, labor commissioner and health care ombudsman. The latter has no experience in labor matters, but is supposed to be the workers' advocate against employers who beat people out of their pay. The woman now supposed to represent health care consumers was the principal lobbyist opposing creation of the position she will now hold at a fat $92,000 a year plus benefits. Should either fall down on the job, a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision (Alden v. Maine) says citizens now have no right to sue the state to make lax officials enforce the law.

ARETHA FRANKLIN, CALL YOUR OFFICE. If Nevada workers didn't get disrespected, they'd get no respect at all. In the Barbwire of July 11, I reported that convicted felons, city workers and casino execs get priority for work card processing at the Reno police station. Regular workers are forced to wait in line forever.

Alliance for Workers Rights President Tom Stoneburner goes before the Reno City Council at noon on Tuesday to ask them to give workers equal treatment. Please show up to support him and call or write Reno's mayor and councilmembers.

OBSCENE WEBSITES. What do the National Rifle Association, Greenpeace, the AFL-CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have in common? All their websites were blocked to students of the Lyon County School District. Of course, it was no one's fault. More on this soon.

In the meantime, try a web search on Tailhook and see what you get.

Be well. Raise hell.


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Copyright © 1999-2004 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor
of U-News. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks Tribune since 1988.

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