Who you gonna believe — me or your own eyes?
(Chico Marx dressed as Groucho Marx in Duck Soup, 1933)
Expanded from the 2-10-2002 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Abandon hope all ye who enter here. That's the message transmitted to us, the great unwashed, from Nevada's corporate overlords over the past couple of weeks.

If cyborgs from the Wal-Mart mother ship want to drop an aircraft carrier in your neighborhood, resistance is futile.

Despite substantial evidence presented by the peons, the collective's earthly servitors will brainwash a judge into believing that what he sees is really not evidence at all — kind of like a videotape of LAPD officers beating the snot out of some poor lout during a traffic stop.

As Groucho Marx once said, "who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?"

All of us can see that Wal-Mart will continue to be a good corporate citizen as evidenced by all those expensive TV commercials telling us what great corporate citizens they are.

Last week, Wal-Mart was certified as the king of the hill, the top of the Fortune 500 (which ranks companies by sales). Wally World is now bigger than Exxon or General Motors.

There is no worse example of Americans eating the seed corn than the success of predatory Wal-Mart. As Reno Gazette-Journal columnist Cory Farley noted last week, much of the paraphernalia sold at the Super Bowl was made in China. So were two gifts I got last week — a San Francisco Giants cap and a Willie McCovey/San Francisco Chronicle bobblehead.

Wal-Mart doesn't make anything but money and exploits those who serve the company.

Last Tuesday on its front page, the Wall Street Journal reported the latest Wal-Mart ripoff: "PENSION PETTINESS...After raising employee payments for health insurance 30% this year from 2001, to $100 biweekly for family coverage, Wal-Mart stores is offering workers the 'opportunity' to dip into their 401(k) accounts to ofFset the increase...A recent company announcement hails the new policy but doesn't mention that using such (retirement) assets carries tax liabilities," the WSJ noted.

Nice to know that the company continues to discount employee respect right along with the merchandise.

SIERRA PACIFIC POWERFUL. Disrespect was the order of the evening last Monday night at Mendive Middle School deep in the heart of darkest Sparks.

I showed up for the Public Utilities Commission sop show along with 220 of my closest friends. We were given a seminar worth at least a thousand bucks apiece. You'd be out at least that much if you enrolled in a corporate communications class on how to provide non-answers to an angry public while taking three hours to do so.

Sierra Pacific Power CEO Jeff Ceccarelli was asked three times to state his salary. After ignoring the question, Mr. Ceccarelli finally said that he would give "our standard answer" and told the ratepayers to look it up on the company website.

That's a great example of a corporate PR policy to treat the public with contempt. Ceccarelli's salary appears nowhere at

I called the PR department which responded that Mr. Ceccarelli's salary would only be disclosed when the required 2001 Securities and Exchange Commission Form 10K is filed later this year.

"So you're refusing to disclose?"

"We're saying that the information will be included on the 10K," said the PR guy.

SPP's 2000 10K sheds little light on the issue, as two of Mr. Ceccarelli's predecessors were awarded golden parachutes worth over $3 million each while the company played merger and acquisition shell games with Nevada Power and Enron.

Back in 1999, various forms of compensation brought SPP's then-CEO exactly $1,198,553. Mr. Ceccarelli undoubtedly makes much more. An executive of his caliber would be insulted with such low pay today. After all, look how the cost of living has gone up around here. Just open up your power bill.

TORCHES AND PITCHFORKS. The smell tar and feathers wafted through the Mendive cafeteria. People are circulating protest petitions all over the state. (See the Energy Crisis War Room at for locations.)

Longtime Sparks utility activist Rosalie Beasley once again took the role of Cassandra warning the city of Troy about the barbarians at the gate.

She advised ratepayer takeover as the only viable course of action, a position echoed by angry Las Vegas consumers. Ms. Beasley grew up in Elko and told the town fathers the same thing in 1980 when they had the opportunity to buy the local power system and avoid an SPP takeover. Elko residents today are quite sorry they ignored her advice.

I have asked that Mr. Ceccarelli or his boss, SPR CEO Walt Higgins, appear with state consumer advocate Tim Hay on my TV show later this month. Monday night, I was informed by a PR person that neither could make it. I personally asked Mr. Ceccarelli to review his schedule. I noted that I can be flexible on the time. He said he'd let me know.

Maybe he will. Perhaps after the 2001 10K is filed later this year. Or after the northwest Reno Wal-Mart aircraft carrier is launched.

Resistance is futile.

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Copyright © 1982-2004, 2011 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 33-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.

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