Al Gunderson: Thunder of the court silenced
Expanded from the 5-16-2010 Daily Sparks Tribune
Updated 5-23-2010, 6-17-2012
Barbwire wins second straight Nevada Press Association first-place award

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The program premiers were available to every television set in the region because of a high-mileage media hybrid.

The shows appeared on both commercial and community stations. The non-corporate entity produced the events, commercial TV greatly expanded distribution.

Thus began an ongoing series of sane public interest programs which generate both entertaining heat and more than a little light.

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Be well. Raise hell.


Barbwire column on the depredations of Charter Communications and the Reno City Council wins 2009 Nevada Press Association first-place award

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Longtime Nevadan John A. Riggs sent this response to the Sparks Tribune on May 20:

Former Chief Justice E. M. Al Gunderson has left not just his family, Nevada, Las Vegas and Carson City, but the Nevada Jaycees, his extended family.

He was a great Las Vegas Jaycee and mentor to all Nevada Jaycees.

He received our highest world honor during his lifetime of being made a Jaycees International Senator.

When I was president of the Sparks Jaycees and the Nevada Jaycees, he helped me and all of Nevada Jaycees.

We all loved him - goodbye Al.

Former Nevada Chief Justice Al Gunderson passed away Thursday at his Las Vegas home after suffering a stroke.

Father Time has thinned the ranks of that magnificent small group of good people who in the 1970's made this region's Multiple Sclerosis Society the top per-capita dollar producer in the United States. A few weeks ago, I reported the passing of Bette Drakulich.

Bette's husband, Steve, a former Golden Gloves boxer from McGill stricken with the disease during World War II service, took over the chapter in 1969 when it had five bucks in the bank.

"Then Steve went out and got himself a governor elected," one admirer told me long ago.

Mike O'Callaghan allowed use of the governor's mansion for an annual Sunday barbecue which became the political event of the year.

I first met Al Gunderson in 1970.

My boss, former Las Vegas Review-Journal editor and future North Las Vegas Valley Times publisher Bob Brown, came rushing in to my office at the LV ad agency where I was a copywriter.

"Andy, Al Gunderson is due to tape a campaign commercial at Channel 3 and I can't make it. You handle it."

"I don't know anything about his campaign," I protested.

"Don't worry about it. Just go hold his hand."

That was the beginning of a 40-year friendship with Al and Lupe Gunderson.

Love him or hate him, and many did with equal passion, Elmer Millard Gunderson was one magnificent bastard.

In a front page story, one Nevada Appeal reporter intentionally got his name wrong, calling him "Chief Justice Elmer Thunderson" in the lead line. Thunder he could and did.

In January, 1971, Mr. Brown transferred me to Reno against my will. He told me to cut my hair and leased a corner office on the 13th floor of what is now Reno City Hall.

I had just ordered dinner at the old Eddie Mays Restaurant at Park Lane Mall when in walked newly-elected Justice Gunderson. Al asked if I had plans for the evening. Fortunately, the answer was no.

I followed him to Steve and Bette's house for an MS meeting in Steve's living room. Thus began some of the best times of my life. We would dispose of business in an hour or less, then the fun began when we could talk politics.

Participants included former State Sen. Jim Slattery, R-Storey County, Reno City Attorney Bob Van Wagoner and former Nevada Assembly Majority Leader Gene Evans, D-Elko.

All are gone and now Big Al has joined them at the neverending board meeting at Steve's place in the sky.

A lot of what you have seen in the Barbwire over the past three decades was informed by the basics I learned from Al Gunderson.

In his court days, he and Lupe invited a lot of us younger types to Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner at their lovely home in Kings Canyon west of Carson City.

Al shared masterful insight on how to analyze the politically powerful in terms of "their servitors — the law firms that do their bidding."

He showed me how the game was played from the inside. He was not afraid of investigating corruption. He once let me review a scathing report that still curls what's left of my hair.

Al Gunderson had the wisest political mind I ever dealt with. He was a master at forming the optimum solution to whatever problem was at hand. In politics, law and life, the perfect is rarely possible. Al's mind went to the practical and did it with clarity and dispatch.

There were times when we disagreed, but there were far more when we laughed heartily.

A compliment from Gunderson would warm your heart. One night, we wrangled on the phone for two hours. Finally agreeing with my position, the judge conceded with a fatherly pat on the head: "Andy, you should have been an economist."

Al's monograph on judicial temperament, published by Southwestern University law school, became the basis for my 1992 analysis of Clarence Thomas which was reprinted by the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Legal Journals.

That column accurately predicted what kind of justice Thomas would become.

I applied Gunderson's analysis to Barack Obama several months ago.

Al Gunderson may be dead, but his writings and strong personality abide and thrive.

Adios, your honor.

WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION. The Reno-Sparks NAACP holds its 65th Annual Freedom Fund Awards Banquet next Saturday, May 22, at the Peppermill.

The keynote speaker will be Bob Butler, veteran multimedia investigative reporter at KCBS radio in San Francisco. His father lives here. 

Butler serves as vice-president on the board of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists/AFL-CIO and was part of the team which won a Peabody Award for coverage of the huge 1989 California Loma Prieta World Series-stopping earthquake. For ticket and sponsorship information, go to or call (775) 323-3677.

HELP WANTED. Regular readers know that I have been raising money to help Sierra Nevada Community Access Television fully benefit from a matching foundation grant of $40,000. If you can help with a tax-deductible donation, give me a holler at (775) 882-TALK or drop me a line.

BARBWIRE STINGER. From a reader named Clancy: "I was driving down Rock Blvd. and noticed a Legends SUV security vehicle with KANSAS plates. We give them STAR bonds and they don't even register their vehicles in our state!"

Corporate welfare is obviously not just in Kansas anymore, Toto.

Be well. Raise hell.


Andrew Barbano is a 41-year Nevadan, chair of the Nevada César Chávez Committee, producer of Nevada's annual César Chávez Day celebration, second vice-president and political action chair of the Reno-Sparks NAACP, labor/consumer/civil rights advocate, member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO and editor of As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Check local listings for other Nevada cable systems. E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks Tribune since 1988.

Smoking Guns...

Al Gunderson:
Hang 'em high and watch 'em swing

Barbwire by Barbano / Expanded from the 5-23-2010 Daily Sparks Tribune

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The Dean's List

   The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.
RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006

The 2009 first-place Nevada Press Association award winners
Tony the Tiger & the flaky NFL
Barbwire / 11-30-2008
Deregulation is never having to say you're sorry
Barbwire / 8-3-2008
Nevada: A good place to visit, but do you want to live here?
Barbwire / 6-15-2008

...and more ammo

BARBWIRE Nevada Corporate Welfare Archive

Propaganda fuels gasoline price fixing
Barbwire 8-14-2005

Donate to the cable ratepayer legal defense fund at our PayPal-enabled ReSurge.TV Consumer War Room

Phillips, Kevin; Numbers Racket: Why the economy is worse than we know

Harper's Magazine; May 2008; page 43
Phillips has authored numerous books on history and politics over the past 40 years. His most recent, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, was published by Viking on April 15, 2008.

NAOMI WOLF: Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps
There are some things common to every state that's made the transition to fascism. Author Naomi Wolf argues that all of them are present in America today.
Alternet 5-20-2007

Johnson, Chalmers; REPUBLIC OR EMPIRE? A National Intelligence Estimate on the United States; Harper's magazine; January, 2007. I love it when heavy hitters validate what I've been saying for years in the tiny Sparks Tribune.

Barlett, Donald L. and Steele, James B.; America: What Went Wrong? (1992); America: Who Really Pays the Taxes? (1994); America: Who Stole the Dream? (1996) ; Andrews & McMeel/Universal Press Syndicate.

Review of Alex Carey's Taking the Risk Out of Democracy:
Propaganda in the US and Australia

The Orwell Diversion by Alex Carey
Excerpted from the book available below

ORDER Taking the Risk Out of Democracy
Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty
By Alex Carey
Edited by Andrew Lohrey
Foreword by Noam Chomsky
University of Illinois Press

     SEE ALSO: Lapham, Lewis H.; Tentacles of Rage: The Republican Propaganda Mill, A Brief History; Harper's Magazine cover article; September, 2004, page 32.

     By one conservative estimate, the corporate right has spent about $3 billion over the past three decades manufacturing public opinion to suit big business goals. Lapham's number covered the early 1970's to the present day. Alex Carey noted that by 1948, anti- New Deal corporate propaganda expenditures had already reached $100 million per year, not adjusted for inflation, for advertising alone. (Carey, ibid; page 79)

     Adjusted for inflation, that 1948 $100 million becomes $801,659,751.04 in 2005 dollars.

Conservatives Help Wal-Mart, and Vice Versa
As Wal-Mart struggles to rebut growing criticism, it has discovered a reliable ally: conservative research groups.
New York Times 9-8-2006; Free registration may be required.

      BARBWIRE: Labor Day '94: People vs. corporate con job, 9-4-94
Chilling forecasts from Alex Carey

      BARBWIRE: The Nevada Republican Party Becomes Communist, 3-30-97
A prescient Plato on the dangers of oligarchy

The sands of time do not cloud the long memories of the sheiks of Araby
Barbwire 9-10-2006

      Rinfret, Pierre A.; Peace is Bullish; Look magazine, 5-31-1966 | U-News | Bulletins + Almanac
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Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors
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Barbwire Nevada Corporate Welfare Archive
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Copyright © 1982-2010 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 41-year Nevadan, editor of and; and former chair of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee, He is producer of Nevada's annual César Chávez Day celebration and serves as second vice-president, political action chair and webmaster of the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. E-mail

Barbwire by Barbano premiered in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988, and has originated in those parts ever since. Tempus fugit.

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