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Traveling salesman syndrome
by Andrew Barbano
Mar 08, 2008 | 1107 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Joan Galt
Tribune/Joan Galt
Bye bye, Buckle Billy

The elite, erudite and easily led effused with emotion at the passing of conservative icon William F. Buckley a few days ago. He was a sly cat who could charm his adversaries and amaze the masses because, well, dammit, he used such dang big words and never resorted to shouting matches on TV. Or did he?

Does calling author Gore Vidal a “pink queer” and threatening him with physical violence count?

Buckley provided proof positive that just about any gruesome philosophy can sell well if packaged properly. Witness the fact that fully a third of the American electorate still digs Dubya and his buddy riding shotgun.

My heavens, who wouldn’t be impressed by a guy who could accuse Nelson Rockefeller of “tergiversation”?

Ain’t there laws agin’ it with minors? Sounds damned impressive. He musta known somethin’. Look it up for yourself to find out how you’ve been had.

Alas and alack, compared to today’s shoutfests, his old PBS shows were at least civilized and often balanced debates, notwithstanding the fact that their very presence on the air helped legitimize a piratical and tyrannical point of view that still infects the body politic. Let us end this conversation with a 180-degree tergiversation toward something simpler, like ...

Gov. Jim the Dim

Last week, he told Sam Shad on Nevada Newsmakers that he wants to establish a state-level version of Ronald Reagan’s Grace Commission to weed out government waste.

The statement immediately blew up in the square-jawed face of the guy who was elected governor largely because he looked like one on TV. Turns out he opposed hiring a bunch of desperately needed health inspectors who might have avoided some of the damage caused by various Nevada medical providers accused of improper procedures and spreading contagious diseases.

On the same Shad show, activist Martha Gould noted that the Grace Commission report is on a shelf somewhere gathering dust. She’s right. It’s on my bookshelf. Named for its chairman, the late shipping magnate J. Peter Grace, it’s chock full of “remedies” that Jim the Dim and Buckle Billy might applaud and which Dubya has saluted. How about cutting food stamps for the hungry, raising the minimum retirement age, cutting cost-of-living formulas, reducing vacation and sick leave for federal workers and, of course, repealing the federal prevailing wage law?

Screwing the less fortunate topped with a heaping helping of union-busting is always par for the course on any conservative agenda. Ducking for cover, Grace trumpeted that he was a Democrat, a flimsy and tergiversational defense.

Goes to underscore the fact that like the Nevada Gaming Party, the Corporate Party knows no philosophical allegiance other than to money and power. If they use big words, they can readily seduce the local hicks.

Legendarily RED

Speaking of wages, contrary to the impressions of some readers, I’m by no means alone in the union movement in questioning the profligacy of Sparks city fathers in the very shaky financing of the Legends at Sparks Marina project.

“Most impressive of all is how they have convinced Councilman Mayer that the commitment to fund any shortfall of the $157 million in STAR (Sales Tax Anticipation Revenue) bonds, up to the maximum income of the (Sparks) Redevelopment Agency, is no more than 16.9 percent of the total risk in the funding mechanism,” commented one union guy.

“God bless John, but if the maximum projected income of the Redevelopment Agency is $51 million and the city can be held liable for shortfalls up to that amount, I see that as about a 33 percent risk,” he noted.

Working people are properly concerned that the city is placing taxpayers in too much financial jeopardy. They live here, too. If it gets built, the project will largely be done with skilled union labor at prevailing area-standard wages. If there’s any problem with proper pay, it won’t be the first Rail City picket line I’ve walked. But nobody wants to see the taxpayers burned on another corporate welfare deal.

Most people don’t know that the skilled trades provide the benchmark for all paychecks in a community. Every 10 percent increase in a region’s unionization results in a 5 percent hike in the general wage scale.

Nonetheless, the unenlightened at Sparks City Hall are trying to hang the jacket of the marina’s financing woes on the backs of skilled workers. Paying local skilled trades rates uplifts the entire community, which is supposed to be the purpose of corporate welfare subsidies in the first place. Paying Nevada rates as opposed to Utah or Mississippi rates means better pay for the whole area. Conservative trickle-down theory, anyone?

I never cease to be amazed by how state and local officials are so easily seduced by traveling salesmen who sell the dumb farmer an overpriced bill of goods, ask his daughter for a tour of the barn and then steal the horses before she wakes up in the morning.

And the taxpayers usually don’t even get kissed afterwards.

Salesman busted

A complaint has been filed with the state ethics commission alleging conflicts of interest on the part of State. Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Gomorrah South. In his day job, he heads a consortium of union-busting construction companies. I will link the accusatory documents to the Web edition of this column at, where you will also find info about the Youth Legislative Issues Forum. Each of our 21 state senators can appoint one student. Deadline for application is this Saturday.

I’ll also post a letter to send to the congresscritters asking them to fight potentially humongous cuts in Nevada’s Medicare budget: $262 million over five years in services to seniors, families and people with disabilities.

Court watch

The civil rights lawsuit against the Washoe County School District protesting the expulsion of two Hug High students goes before Federal District Judge Larry Hicks this Friday at 9 a.m.

Culinary Union Local 226 is asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for an injunction against the actions of the ownership of the Reno Grand Sierra Resort. The company has been forcing employees to accept drastically increased health care costs despite operating under an extension of a long-expired union contract. Workers complain about being forced to sign documents allowing them to be docked for higher charges in violation of the union contract.

On the air

I’ll join Sam Shad and the usual suspects on tomorrow’s installment of Nevada Newsmakers at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4, rerunning at 9:30 p.m. on Charter cable channel 3. Check the Web site for statewide rebroadcast schedules.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan and editor of E-mail barbano@frontpage. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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