Immemorial Day: The hazards
of jingo-patriotism and Olyaphrodisia


Expanded from the 5-25-2003 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune

I'm worried about America. Great civilizations often degenerate rapidly after they peak. They usually do so after exhausting their resources and thus finding it necessary to conquer weaker nations to make up for their profligacy. The United States is now on an artificial high induced by government-friendly media after easy military victories have brought us two new states.

Anyone who criticizes the extravagance of a $400 billion military budget while schools collapse and citizens suffer is trashed as a traitor. Does no one remember the $7 trillion in wealth drained from our future by government-sanctioned stock market manipulation?

Our inland empire was blessed with great natural resources. Some argue that all we've done for more than two centuries is spend our inheritance. We did bring one important new wrinkle to the game of empire — we invested in public education. Now, we seem to be going in another direction.

If we continue on our current path of military conquest abroad and erosion of civil liberties and social justice at home, we will become that which we have always despised.

If we do, our fallen heroes will have all died in vain. From time immemorial, war has always cost more than it paid. We seem well on our way to proving just another case in point, which is a sobering thought for Memorial Day. Say a prayer for America the beautiful. Then come out swinging.

BEWARE THE JOCKOCRACY. A new wave of sports gaga now afflicts the body politic. The California State Water Resources Board is blackmailing the Truckee Meadows Water Authority into building a $1.5 million kayak course through downtown Reno. TMWA must do so in order to get permission to rebuild a small power dam on the mucky Truckee just over the state line.

A freakin' kayak course!

What megalomaniacal athletic supporter is behind this ego trip?

Late last week came word that Nevada State Senate Majority Leader and juice lawyer Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, want to raise car rental rates to pay for a Sparks sports palace. Bernie's a teacher whose beleaguered colleagues could undoubtedly find better use for the money.

This comes hot on the winged heels of the latest local outbreak of Five Ring Fever, an entrepreneurial disease which periodically breaks out among true believers desirous of supping from the cup of intangible cathode ray ambrosia brewed on Mt. Olympus.

Proceed cautiously in pursuit of goldenly goosing the traveler. Last year, Sparks and Reno car rental agencies stated that their one area of increase has been renting to locals. The fabled 1981 tax shaft was supposed to forevermore solve Silver State fiscal problems by hitting tourists harder and providing property tax relief to Nevadans. It didn't turn out that way. Sales taxes were increased, 75 percent of which are paid by locals.

Mindful of the grassroots opposition which rose up against this area's 1988-89 Winter Olympic bid (led by this writer's opposition to sales tax funding), the latter day Olyholics have said they want no public money. It will never happen that way. The vaunted success of Salt Lake City's games came courtesy of huge taxpayer expenditures.

The downtown Reno National Bowling Stadium, which remains unfinished despite a 100 percent cost overrun, provides a cautionary tale of the hazards of succumbing to the seductive promise of Olyaphrodisia. The white elephant straddling the railroad trench is currently slated for a multi-million dollar remodeling into an auxiliary convention center.
A $20 million pledge from the nearby casinos which stand to profit has now evaporated in favor of more corporate welfare at taxpayer expense.

CABLE CAPERS. A few days ago, Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, reintroduced a proposal to tax satellite television ratepayers, a replay of Senate Bill 492 which died for lack of support earlier in the legislative session. The only justification for the satellite levy is a tired cliche — that it will "level the playing field" with the cable monopolies which pay franchise fees to municipalities in exchange for using public rights of way. However, programming delivered through the air places no such burden on municipal services.

This is merely the latest blatant power grab by the deregulated cable monopolies to use government authority to wound competitors. It comes concurrent with Charter Communications raising northern Nevada basic cable rates by 13 percent, more than four times the rate of inflation. [UPDATE — The committee killed Sen. Townsend's proposal, but the tax can still be added as a senate floor amendment, among other skulduggery.]

Notwithstanding what you may have read in other publications, ratepayers do not have to roll over and play dead. The "stingy basic" tier is the one area where the disastrous Telecommunications Act of 1996 (thank you Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Newt Gingrich) allows municipalities rate regulatory authority. Local governments across the country have successfully challenged the creative accounting which the cable bandidos have used to justify similar outrages.

UPDATE — The special City of Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee meeting scheduled for May 29 to review the Charter rate hike has been canceled. The special meeting of June 10 will have the rate increase as one of the agenda items. It will start at 6:30 p.m. at Reno City Hall and may not be cablecast via SNCAT. Watch

Sorry for any inconvenience.

This Thursday, the City of Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee, which I chair, will hold a special meeting exclusively to review what may be done. I will gavel it to order at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at Reno City Hall. It may or may not be cablecast live via SNCAT on Charter Channel 13. Show up to make your feelings known or e-mail your comments. Watch for updates and sign up for our mailing list.

I apologize to readers who tuned in to last Thursday night's regular cable panel meeting. They got to watch only the first half-hour or so before SNCAT broke away to the live City of Sparks candidate forum. If anyone had asked me, and no one did, I would have agreed that informing potential voters represented the higher use of the access television system. However, common courtesy dictates that the public be informed of the change in a timely manner. I have requested proper notice in the future.

Last Thursday's cable meeting will be rebroadcast in Sparks and Reno on Charter Channel 13 tomorrow (May 26) beginning at 5:00 p.m. Viewers who tuned in a previous re-run notified me of serious audio problems. I have let SNCAT know and hope matters are corrected. If not, perhaps the poor transmission quality provides hard evidence of SNCAT's need for a major facilities upgrade.

The committee has scheduled another special meeting at city hall on June 10, one day ahead of the June 11 Reno City Council meeting. Among the items which may be discussed are the Charter rate hike, the need for the city to appoint a full-time cable television manager, the distribution of franchise fees and the draft of a new master cable ordinance. The latter will become the controlling document in the ongoing negotiation of a new charter franchise.

On June 11, the Reno City Council will fill two vacancies on the cable panel. If you reside within the Reno city limits or know someone who might be interested, contact the Reno city clerk (775-334-2030) for an application. But be prepared to put in the time to take a bite out of crime.

Happy Memorial Day.

Be well. Raise hell. | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
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Copyright © 1982-2003 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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