Character assassination's cool if bad character gets hit


Expanded from the 7-8-2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

"If you can't say anything nice about someone, sit right here by me."

— Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth

As the late House Speaker Tip O'Neill was fond of saying, "politics ain't bean bag." If you think bad attitudes rule public affairs now, you should look up what some of the founding fathers of this great nation used to call their political opponents. The insults hurled at Abraham Lincoln before and during his presidency would motivate mere mortals to fisticuffs.

Happy talk is nice, but if bad characters are exhibiting bad character, who am I not to give the exhibitionists their due.

IF THE SUIT FITS WEAR IT. Last year, Harrah's-Reno fired longtime bartender Darlene Jespersen for the sin of refusing to paint herself like a whore. Regular readers of NevadaLabor.com got the first news break on the latest development last Friday shortly after Jespersen's attorney, Jeffrey Dickerson, filed a federal civil rights suit.

HITTING THE BRICKS & HARRAH'S, TOO (Reno, 2-16-2001) — Left to right, cocktail servers Nancy Standley, Leslie Williams and Kricket Martinez, bartender Darlene Jespersen and security guard Tom Stoneburner demonstrate against debilitating high heels and other worker-brutalizing policies, such as those which cost Jespersen her job.

I have updated the progress of these issues as they have resonated around the world. Harrah's implementation of the policy in Atlantic City met very negative reactions. Anyone interested will find one-stop shopping, including Jespersen's "Personal Best" photographs, at what has become the Jespersen homepage at NevadaLabor.com/

The PB program was instituted for selected Harrah's employees last year. (See the 11 June 2000 Barbwire entitled "Bill Harrah's back and boy, is he pissed.")

After "public contact" employees got a makeover, they were photographed, measured like horses and expected to look that way and fit into the same clothing sizes for the rest of their lives. Women who gave birth were given a couple of months to squeeze back into pre-maternity shape. The only clothing size variation allowed was for women who got boob jobs!

Jespersen's court filing has already given her case a break. U.S. District Judge Edward C. Reed will sit on the case. Reed is an experienced, fair-minded jurist who pulls no punches.

When three Reno police officers executed John Paiva, Jr., by shooting him through the front door of his home in 1992, Reed delivered one of the most stinging rebukes in memory. In a 1996 decision, Judge Reed chastised Reno Police Chief Richard Kirkland's department for lack of discipline and destroying all the evidence.

The three cops in question even caucused at a nearby mini-mart after the shooting to get their stories straight. Anybody who watches Law & Order knows you're not supposed to let the perps take a meeting.

"Reed's statements create a damning indictment of this department, and that indictment must be answered in full," the Reno Gazette-Journal editorialized on 12 Sept. 1996.

The bandidos at Harrah's cannot be happy about drawing Ed Reed in Jespersen's jury trial case. They would probably feel much better about Judge Howard McKibben whose record on employee rights cases is much more...er...mixed. McKibben allowed only about $9,000 in damages against the Reno Hilton for firing cocktail waitress Ha Jenny Ngo for the sin of having a baby. Her lawyers presented smoking gun evidence of both sex and race discrimination.

She was fired for leaving during her shift to go to a hospital for childbirth. She was terminated as of the moment she went into labor and departed, which canceled her health insurance. Despite these facts, McKibben would not allow the jury to even consider punitive damages against Hilton.

Sometimes, there is justice in the world. Yesterday, when the mainstream press followed up on Jespersen's story, it also carried news of a major slump in Harrah's earnings.

The website for Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen Channel last year called for a nationwide boycott of Harrah's over the Jespersen firing. Maybe Harrah's is finding out that you can step on worker bees, but don't anger the queen bee unless you want to get stung.

KIRKLAND DOUBLE DIPS. Richard Kirkland resigned as Washoe County Sheriff to head that model of efficiency called the Nevada Dept. of Motor Vehicles. Because he was en elected official, he could collect his state pension while earning his sheriff's salary. But as an appointed state official, he can't.

He is now trying to take advantage of a Nevada law passed to encourage retired teachers back to the classroom. Kirkland wants the state board of examiners, which includes Gov. Dudley Do-Right, who appointed him, to declare a "critical labor shortage" for his position, thus allowing him to concurrently collect both his state salary and his state retirement. It will give him a $70,000 a year raise. Other bureaucratic pets have made similar filings. State workers lower on the foodchain just got their first real raises in more than a decade. I think there should be mass applications now that Kirkland has shown the way. Drive 'em nuts. (For those desirous of learning what kind of public official Mr. Kirkland has been, please search his name at this site.)

TAKE A TIP FROM THE TAXED. Last Monday, the Alliance for Workers Rights held a press conference and alleged that a June 16 secret meeting was held between the Internal Revenue Service and Nevada casino executives about increasing taxes on tips. The mainstream media largely ignored the story. I understand that there have been wholesale denials that any such thing took place. Alliance Director Tom Stoneburner says he got the information about the meeting from a congressional office.

"How can the IRS and Nevada Resort Association have a tip tax meeting that excluded tip earners?" Stoneburner asked. Stay tuned.

THE END OF GAMBLING. "When gambling is everywhere, it will be nowhere," Prof. I. Nelson Rose of Whittier College once said. Polticians love gambling as "voluntary taxation" of someone else's constituents. Rose notes that once gambling starts pirating mostly the pockets of the locals, new bans will result.

I predict that the proliferation of Internet gambling will hasten a serious reversal of the trend toward casinos coming to every streetcorner. The web facilitates family ruination right on the computer in the bedroom. The effects will resonate through every city and hamlet.

Wholesale deaths from overdose resulted in the near-eradication of cocaine use in the first third of the 20th Century. When it got to a point that almost everyone knew someone whose life had been negatively affected by the drug, societal peer pressure against its use had made cocaine usage a rarity long before congress finally made it illegal in the 1930s. Marketers, as always, were well ahead of the trend. Coca-Cola replaced cocaine with caffeine in 1903.

SPORTING STRUMPETS. Nevada's overlords not only want to control Internet wagering, they want the Silver State to remain the only place with legal sports wagering. So be it. Continuing legit sports betting will hasten the shrinkage of the legalized industry.

Legal Nevada sports books are the grease for the wheels of illegal betting all over the globe, as two-time Pulitzer Prize winners Donald Barlett and James Steele pointed out in their Time Magazine exposé awhile back. This is where the mob lays off its risk, hedges its bets. Guys with suitcases of cash come in and out of Nevada like fat homing pigeons.

By getting greedy, Nevada gambling sews the seeds of the sunsetting of the industry. Am I the only guy who's noticed?

When gambling is everywhere, it will be nowhere.

Be well. Raise hell.

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© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 32-year Nevadan, a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org/ Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988 .

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