Sicko: workers, renters and kids
Expanded from the 7-23-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

If our governments were doing a good job in taking care of their citizens, there would have been no need for an Alliance for Workers Rights or a Nevada Renters Hotline. Both were enterprised by a couple of good men who saw a need and had too much personal integrity to walk away.

The Alliance was founded by the late Tom Stoneburner, a Circus Circus security guard and former union president. Until he died last year at 60, Stoney was a tireless advocate for the nine out of 10 workers not represented by unions in this country with the most repressive labor laws in the industrialized world. He helped a wide range of workers who had nowhere else to turn.

Marshall Schultz did the same thing in establishing the Nevada Renters Hotline out of his home more than a decade ago. It has grown to a point where it now gets over 3,000 phone calls a year statewide. Now in his late 70's, Schultz has had to expand the organization while slowly winding down his personal participation.

Without a union contract, workers in fire-at-will Nevada basically have no rights. Gov. Dudley Do-Right, re-elected in 2002 with union support, has turned the office of labor commissioner into an advocate for employers against workers. Nevada tenants are likewise just one step above indentured servitude. Witness the case of the 332-unit Southwest Village Apartments in Reno. The out-of-state owners selected the height of summer to replace their air conditioning system.

What are they doing to keep their tenants from death and dehydration? "Buying fans, movie theater tickets and swimming pool passes to ease residents' discomfort," according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Nevada law says that a landlord must provide habitable dwellings. One could argue that these are not, but what's the remedy? Tenants can pay rent into an escrow account rather than to the landlord until habitability is restored, but landlords can also evict anyone they want for no reason at all – just as employers can fire-at-will for no reason at all. Then they can get you blackballed as a troublemaker.

Now you know how Mssrs. Schultz and Stoneburner ran themselves into the ground in their quest for justice. Government offices are so inadequate that they gladly refer aggrieved citizens to freelancers in order to lighten their own overburdened caseloads. In a growing state, it soon becomes too much. Stoney probably died young as a result.

Denizens of the High Desert Plantation have come to a crossroads. Thanks to cowardly Republican state officials, the questionably legal TASC petition appears headed for the November ballot. Every poll shows that its clever labeling will make it unstoppable – cut taxes, control runaway government spending. What's not to like? Colorado's first-in-the-nation version just about bankrupted the state and destroyed its schools, but hey, they've got a Coors brewery to ease the pain.

If TASC ends up trashing the state, resulting in mass school closures and termination of many government services such as police and prisons, then Nevada will have made the decision I predicted in 1982 that we'd eventually face: Would we become a modern society or revert to boomtown mining camp where families are warned to locate elsewhere?

D-Day is upon us.

THE KID. Supporters trying to help the family of eight year-old William Albiniano will hold a yard sale on Aug. 12 at Dee's Used Furniture in Sun Valley (673-3312). His parents have been skipping house payments to pay for the $1,400 in medicine he needs every month to ease his pain. William suffers from a rare condition which will eventually require a kidney transplant or he will die.

"William has a terminal condition called MPGN, a condition in which his white blood cells are attacking his internal organs," the Tribune's Janine Kearney reported in June.

Nevada misses the boat again

Sen. Joe Neal's 2002 universal health care proposal looks visionary in retrospect

Donation jars at retail locations have thus far produced only a few hundred dollars. I'm looking for volunteers to help this family. All suggestions will be appreciated. You will find complete information about William linked to the web edition of this column at

This child could be the poster boy for Michael Moore's next film entitled Sicko, about America's killer health care system – or lack of one.

Mike just sent a progress report to the faithful which will accompany this piece online.

Meanwhile, please help me help the kid.

DOG DAY AFTERNOON. For those who still believe in this sort of thing, Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote in the August 15 statewide election. You can get a registration form at any library or post office, but you must bring it in person to the voter registrar's office at Ninth St. and North Wells Ave. (across from Motel 6) in Reno or you're out of the game. About the only thing good I can find in this low-interest early primary is that Karl Rove and his plumbers have no incentive to try to fix it through the usual Florida- and Ohio-proven techniques. November will be another story, so if you want to participate in a good old-fashioned dirty election as opposed to a rigged modern one, August 15 may be your last chance for awhile.

SIXTY MINUTES goes on the air at 7:00 this evening, probably airing reruns. I suggest a better use of your time. You can even get a free piece of cake out of it. Northwest Reno community activist Barbara Stone is producing a candidate forum tonight in the clubhouse of Vintage Hills Senior Apartments, 4195 W. 7th Street just east of McCarran (next to the 7-11 on the corner). She's got a pretty good lineup committed, including University System Regent Jill Derby, the Democratic nominee for congress in the statewide district being vacated by former Sparks schoolboy Jim Obtusenik Gibbons; state treasurer candidate Kate Marshall; northwest Reno Democratic assembly candidates David Bobzien and David Love; Reno City Attorney Patricia Lynch, now running for justice of the peace, and one of the candidates to replace her, Brett Kandt. I'm sure that the guest list will swell by showtime. (I was honored to serve with Ms. Stone and Mrs. Marshall on the now-defunct City of Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee. Ms. Stone serves on the board of the Nevada Renters Hotline.)

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns

Message from the Mahatma

Michael Moore and Crackers, the corporate crime-fighting chicken, confronting institutional obtuseness and indifference across America.


Just a quick note to let you know how things are going.

Back in February, I asked if people would send me letters describing their experiences with our health care system. I received over 19,000 of them. It was truly overwhelming as we literally took a month and read them all. To read about the misery people are put through on a daily basis by our profit-based system was both moving and revolting. That's all I will say right now.

We've spent the better part of this year shooting our next movie, "Sicko." As we've done with our other films, we don't discuss them while we are making them. If people ask, we tell them "Sicko" is "a comedy about 45 million people with no health care in the richest country on earth."

But like my other movies, what we start with (General Motors, guns, 9/11) is not always what we end with. Along the way, we discover new roads to go down, roads that often surprise us and lead us to new ideas — and challenge us to reconsider the ones we began with. That, I can say with certainty, is happening now as we shoot "Sicko." I don't think the country needs a movie that tells you that HMOs and the pharmaceutical companies suck. Everybody knows that. I'd like to show you some things you don't know. So stay tuned for where this movie has led me. I think you might enjoy it.

At this point, we've shot about 75% of "Sicko" and will soon begin putting it together. It will be released in theaters sometime in 2007. And if you don't hear much from me in the meantime, it's only 'cause I'm busy working. I realize that my silence doesn't stop the opposition with their weird obsession for me! It seems like not a week passes without my good name being worked into some nutty news story or commentary. (I have to say, though, I did enjoy Tom Delay blaming me and Ms. Streisand for why he had to resign from Congress!)

I hope all of you are enjoying your summer. If you're near the state of Michigan later this month, I'll be putting on the second annual Traverse City Film Festival in Traverse City, Michigan. I've personally selected 60 or so movies that I love, many of which did not get the notice or distribution they deserved. Others are brand new independent movies and documentaries that I hope will find a large audience when they are released.

The film festival will take place in this beautiful town in northern Michigan, from July 31st to August 6th. Appearing in person with their films will be David O. Russell ("Three Kings"), Lawrence Bender ("An Inconvenient Truth"), Terry George ("Hotel Rwanda"), Larry Charles ("Borat"), plus Jeff Garlin, Jake Kasdan and other filmmakers.

We're also going to show every feature film made by the greatest American director of all time, Stanley Kubrick. Joining us in person will be his executive producer, Jan Harlan, and actors Malcolm McDowell ("A Clockwork Orange") and Matthew Modine ("Full Metal Jacket"). We'll also be presenting a special salute to films made in Iran (a sort of "Let's get to know them first this time!" effort).

If you'd like to see the entire list of films, click here. Tickets go on sale today (July 7) at noon. To purchase your tickets (all seats $7), click here or call 231-929-1506. Last year we had 50,000 admissions, and we expect most films to sell out early this year.

Well, that's it for now. Bush has quietly closed down the special section of the CIA that was devoted solely to capturing Mr. bin Laden, so we can all rest easy now.

I wonder who his next scary evildoer will be?

A fearful nation awaits its marching orders, sir!


Michael Moore

P.S. Don't forget to visit my website which I update every day with all the news the Bush stenographers (a/k/a "Mainstream Media") fail to put on page one.

Nevada misses the boat again

Sen. Joe Neal's 2002 universal health care proposal looks visionary in retrospect

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Copyright © 1982, 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 37-year Nevadan, editor of and webmaster of His opinions are strictly his own, as always. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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