Sexy binomial propositions
Expanded from the 6-24-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

UPDATED 6-25-2007

"Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is unethical."
Dubya, announcing his veto of a stem cell research bill

An old Paul Bunyan story told the tale of a stingy new lumber camp cook who made pancakes so thin that they only had one side. If you'd like to see such a breakfast, look no further than the current Darwinian farce.

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Moonhowling conservatives may not believe in evolution, but have been railing about the devolution of moral society since such charlatans saw political profit in the process.

Can you believe in one side of the coin while refusing to admit there's another? Only in fairy tales and follytix.

The morally obtuse, such as our commander in chief, may thus be pro-life and pro-war at the same time. Last week, in another futile gesture to prove that the earth revolves around him, Dubya devolved into a Monty Python shtick, declaring that every sperm is sacred and leaving the seriously ill without a prayer.

If your morality consists of posturing for TV cameras, anything goes. It doesn't matter what you do, only if you look good doing it. Which reduces our public debate to the level of pornography.

In today's short attention span, media-sotted age, society has devolved into an old IBM slogan. Remember "simple solutions for complex problems"?

Big Blue used that forgettable cut-line a few decades back. I remember it because it so well reflected the society we were becoming.

In the presidential campaign of 1968, the average sound byte (before the term existed) was about 42.5 seconds. By 1996, it had shrunk to 7.2.

We are increasingly susceptible to soundbyte pseudo-solutions. Smart political managers succeed when they create catchy buzz. That coin has two faces. Woebetide the public figure on the flip side.

Bill Clinton and John Edwards are razzed for expensive haircuts. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., on a single 1988 occasion failed to credit British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock for a quote and has forever been tarred as a plagiarist, even though he had attributed the words to Kinnock many times.

Barry Bonds stands perhaps second only to Babe Ruth (because Ruth could pitch) as the greatest-ever baseball player. But the steroid scandal clouds all of his achievements because Mr. Bonds has fallen victim to the binomial proposition.

"Binomial" has nothing to do with whom you may choose to sleep. It comes from the Latin for "two names" and simply means either/or. Public debates are won or lost depending on who controls the spin of a binomial proposition. If Bonds ever used a 'roid, hang him. That's easy to grasp in less than 7.2 seconds.

Nobody wants to remember what Yogi Berra said of another situation. A few years ago, on the golden anniversary of Bobby Thompson's pennant-winning 1954 "shot heard 'round the world," came news that New York Giants manager Leo Durocher stationed a guy with binoculars in the Polo Grounds scoreboard. The spotter would steal the Dodger catcher's call of the next pitch, let the Giants dugout know via phone, and the hitter would be informed before the pitch was thrown.

Wise man Yogi responded with a so-what? – "You still gotta hit it."

Drug enhanced or not, Barry Bonds still had to successfully execute the most difficult task in competitive sports, squarely contacting a non-round projectile with an elliptical cylindrical instrument. Which takes more than 7.2 seconds to explain, for which Mr. Bonds will evermore suffer.

Sparks City Hall recently found itself on the receiving end of a binomial proposition: whether or not to rename Sparks Blvd. in favor of a rich commercial enterprise.

People could understand the alternatives in less than the magic 7.2 and local government's credibility will not easily recover from it.

Any true political leader can come back from dipping an occasional fox paw into the mud if that official has built up a reservoir of good will and credibility upon which to draw. Our three local governments are in the middle of an extremely long dry spell with no sign of drought relief on the horizon.

MEA CULPA DEPT. In the shower last Sunday morning, I began to re-think my arithmetic for what $1 million is worth today vs. taking payments over the next 20 years.

Scheels sporting goods, the retailer ordering Sparks Blvd. renamed in order to score free advertising on freeway signs, has offered to grease city hall with $50,000 annually for the next 20 years.

The present day value of the $1 million as calculated in last Sunday's column was probably unduly low. To arrive at a discounted, present day value over 20 years, I recomputed, allowing $50,000 in year one.

Then, assuming a loss of five percent for every year in which the remaining money is not paid, I calculated a present day cash value for each of years two through 20.

Assuming a real (adjusted for inflation) rate of return of five percent per year, the 50 grand due in year two is worth $47,619 today ($50,000 divided by 1.05).

Year three's value is simply year number two divided again by 1.05, or $45,351, and so on. The $50,000 in year 10 is worth only $30,808.75 today. The final payment in year 20 is worth only about 19 grand today.

Totaling each annual time-adjusted payment for the next 19 years comes to $584,712.03. (Your calculations may vary a bit due to rounding.)

Added to year one's $50,000, the actual cash value of Scheels' offer comes to $634,712.03 in today's dollars, keeping in mind that this assumes a real, inflation-adjusted rate of return of five percent per year if the money were conservatively invested.

If you think this makes the Scheels deal look like the California lottery, you are entirely correct.

SAME CHARTER, DIFFERENT DAY. A few weeks ago, I printed the sad story of Lynne Black, who had been overcharged by those wonderful folks at Charter cable and simply wanted her money back. I referred her to the City of Reno's vaunted consumer complaint center.

Big mistake.

"After I spoke to you," Ms. Black writes, "the city risk manager called and told me someone from Charter would call me. Maria from the Reno office phoned and said she said she would have to ‘research it’. Two weeks later, she called back and said they can’t find out why I was charged or where the money went. She got my bank on the phone and asked them (again) for proof of the charge, but the bank said they were done wasting time on it, that it had been turned over to Visa. I had already taken copies of the debit charge to Charter but apparently they threw them away. I told Maria that I felt it was Charter’s obligation to figure out how this mistake was made and put safeguards in place to prevent it from happening again. She didn’t seem too concerned."

Binomial government inaction in action.

Be well. Raise hell.


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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


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Copyright © 1982-2007 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org; a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO,and the Reno-Sparks NAACP. 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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