Rock and Roll
Expanded from the 10-8-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Updated 10-22-2006

Awhile back, I noticed a lament by a writer that when the current age of exploitation begins to lose steam, we will have to start rolling the rock back up the hill again.

That's a reference to an unlucky man named Sisyphus, a character in Greek mythology who made the big mistake of ticking off Zeus, the patron saint of corporations and a few horny members of congress. Zeus, the Wal-Mart of all the gods, had a nasty habit of carrying off and raping any earthly wench who caught his fancy. Kinda like the relationship of the U.S. government and weaker countries over the past 100-plus years.

Sisyphus encountered the river god Asopus, who was frantically searching for his daughter, suspecting that dirty ole Zeus had abducted her. Sisyphus told the father what he had witnessed – which really pissed off the uberlord, who condemned Sisyphus to hell. As his punishment for honesty, he was condemned to forever roll a rock uphill, a boulder which would always roll back over him, forcing him to do it all over again and again and again.

That's not quite as bad as Prometheus, chained to a stationary rock with a buzzard pecking at his liver, Zeus' punishment for giving mankind the secret of fire.( When the feds get to the lowest depths of their Yucca Mountain nuclear dumpsite construction site, they’ll probably find poor ole Prometheus down there in serious need of a transplant.)

I bring up this digression into ancient myth because the past week has brought a barrage of current myths from those who would become our new demigods.

In other words, politicians.

First and foremost is Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., poised to succeed Gov. Dudley Do-Right, R-Fresno State, as the futsiest chief exec this state's ever had. (Robert List was a worse governor, but at least he could talk right.)

Jim Gibbons is as dumb as any rock Sisyphus ever rolled, examples of which I've been documenting in this here newspaper for more than a decade. Just do a search at for laughs.

His latest depredation involves the pensions of Nevada workers. Employees at every level of Nevada government participate in the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). Gibbons, emulating his Social Security-hating idol in the White House, wants to destroy it.

The Gomorrah South Chamber of Commerce recently put out a statement endorsing Gibbons' advocacy, on Sam Shad's Nevada Newsmakers, in favor of turning PERS into a "defined contribution" plan.

That basically means the employees pay for everything and end up with far less retirement income. The Gomorrah South shills also like Gov. Dudley Do-Right's idea of eliminating health care benefits for new hires.

The state's low pay already makes it a training ground for other governments. As soon as workers can find a job at a city or county, they’re gone. That's how Sparks ended up with the estimable Bill Isaeff as deputy city manager. He was qualified to be attorney general, but Sparks paid better than the state, so the Rail City had the benefit of his wisdom until he retired. (As a sidenote, I don’t think Sparks would have seen current City Atty. Chet Adams running wild like today if Mr. Isaeff were still around.)

Nevada public employees do not participate in Social Security, so Gibbons' threat on the state level is as bad as Dubya's on the rest of us.

But he's still the favorite for governor for two very bad reasons. First, like Warren G. Harding, the most corrupt president of the 20th Century, Gibbons has one qualification to be governor: he looks like one. Second, he has run statewide 13 times. His opponent, State Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, has done so only once, last August's primary.

With Nevada increasingly becoming a state of retirees, threats to retirement income become a truly huge danger to our future economic viability.

THE KID, AGAIN. Good news and bad news from the family of terminally ill William Albiniano, age 8. His father has found employment, but no health insurance came with the job. So they still must come out of pocket for about $1,400 a month in prescriptions plus visits to Cal-Davis physicians. The latest gambit is to apply to Supplemental Security Income, part of Social Security. They will probably be turned down for being too rich, which will allow them to them apply for money from charitable foundations.

Little William wants to be a firefighter but the odds of him even living to his teenage years are slim. His immune system is destroying his kidneys and he will someday need a transplant if he lives that long and can find a hundred grand or so to pay for the surgery. You may contribute to the William Albiniano Medical Fund at any branch of Wells Fargo Bank. Complete details will be linked to the web edition of this column.

MINIMUM WAGE, MAXIMUM EFFORT. This Tuesday, Nevada State AFL-CIO leader Danny Thompson and I will both be Sam Shad's guests on Nevada Newsmakers. Brother Thompson will debate the minimum wage initiative with Paul Hartgen, President & CEO of the Nevada Restaurant Assn.

Nevada Newsmakers premieres at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4, then repeats at 9:30 p.m. for Charter cable sufferers in Washoe-Carson-Douglas. (Click here for the complete statewide rerun schedule and webcasts.)

I'll be on Tuesday's pundit panel with Washoe D.A. Dick Gammick and Robert Uithoven, Mr. Gibbons' campaign manager.

BUY 'EM THE BOOK AND THEY CHEW ON THE CORNERS was one of my late wife's favorite sayings. It took about a month for Sparks Police Chief John Dotson to get a copy of one of my columns noting that the Reno-Sparks NAACP was awaiting a response to a request of city staff for a meeting with the chief. We had a polite conversation earlier this week and I think such a meeting will happen sometime soon for the first time in more than a decade. Chief, I suggest you subscribe to the paper. We’re cheap.

ADIOS, LADY. Eileen Wiley died Thursday at age 45. A memorial service is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. tomorrow at Ross, Burke and Knobel on Kietzke Lane. Her dad was the estimable William C. Branch, a top exec with Sierra Pacific Power and a formidable adversary of myself and Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, in the utility controversies of a quarter-century ago. Mr. Branch died of a heart attack just before he was due to become SPP's CEO. It was my honor to work with Eileen and her fellow members of Teamsters Local 533 for better wages and working conditions at RTC/Citifare. A great warrior has passed from among us.

HONORING THE WARRIORS. This Friday, Sparks-based Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 350 celebrates its centennial at the Peppermill. International President William Hite will attend along with a bevy of local heavyweights. The true guest of honor will be Neal Ballard of Sparks, the second-oldest member of the union who turns 90 next month. The senior member, Melvin Maitoza of Reno, has not confirmed so far, but we're working to convince him. After all, such a chance won't come around again for quite some time.

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns

View and judge for yourself Rep. Gibbons' Nevada Newsmakers statement regarding the Nevada Public Employees Retirement System:

Download Windows Media Video Hi-quality (300 Kbps/56 MB)
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MP3 Audio (13MB) | M4V Video (177 MB)


PLUMBING THE DEPTHS OF LABOR HISTORY. Sparks-based Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 350 will celebrate the centennial of its founding exactly 100 years to the day this Oct. 13. I'm gathering historical items for a commemorative publication and I need your help. Anything having to do with construction of Sparks and Reno, organized labor in general and plumbing and pipefitting in particular, especially including photos, will be most welcome for consideration. But don't wait. We go to press very soon. Call me.

State of Nevada
Secretary of State

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Copyright © 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, NAACP member, editor of and As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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