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Friday, July 22, 2005

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

School finance?
Who cares?

Is anybody else having trouble caring about the so-called school finance problem?

I certainly am. The hot wind blowing out of Austin interests me just about as much as our usually weather forecast.

“Gee, you think it will be hot and dry again tomorrow?”

No kidding huh.

I wish I could land a job as a weatherman out here.

This year, the wind out of Austin blows the same as it has for decades.

“Texas kids won’t get a good education if we don’t pass a new finance bill.”

Whatever. Texas kids haven’t been getting a good education for decades and money is not the problem.

How we spend the money is the problem. We pay schoolteachers like we pay ditch diggers.

Worse, probably.

Most teachers would make more money flipping burgers, and without the stress of riding herd on a bunch of ill-mannered kids who they no longer have the ability to discipline.

At the same time we pay administrators, principals and coaches like we pay doctors and lawyers.

Wonder which of these groups has more influence on our kids’ education - the folks doing the teaching or the folks playing administration and drawing X’s and O’s on chalkboards?

We build new buildings, big stadiums, manicure our playing fields, and then set teacher salaries at levels that should embarrass the hell out of us.

We would do far better paying teachers $50,000 a year and letting them teach in a leaky barn with worn out books and no air conditioning.

So, who cares how much money we spend on education? We will not spend it on what matters.

And who cares how the dipsticks in Austin structure the taxes that fund our foolish educational spending?

It will all work out the same.

The amount of money we spend on education will be the same. The money will be raised by taxes of some sort.

And, in the final equation, taxes come out of the pockets of working stiffs. I don’t care how you structure it; the cost of taxation eventually gets handed down to the regular guy working for a living.

Want to tax the rich and help the poor?

Cannot be done. The so-called rich will always pass that cost down the pike. The cost of your groceries will eventually go up, along with the cost of the gasoline that goes in your car and the cost of everything else you consume.

You may not write the check to the state but it is your money that funds it.

Tax cigarettes?

Yeah right. And so, people who buy cigarettes pay more taxes. But these folks do not have money machines. If they pay more for their smokes they will buy less of something else. That means fewer sales of something else, less taxes generated by those sales….

It just does not work. Eventually, we all pay for state spending.

This current plan in Austin is to shift taxes away from property tax - a supposed gift to the “rich” who own property and a knife into the back of the “poor” who do not own property.

Come on. Does anyone really think that “rich” property owners do not already shift the cost of property tax onto the people that buy their products, or rent the houses and apartments they own?

Of course they do. The property tax this newspaper pays is part of our budget. The price of the newspaper and the cost of advertising are adjusted to cover that cost just like we cover the cost of newsprint and payroll. It is simply one more expense that figures in to the bottom line.

All businesses and all investments work the same way.

Eventually, Joe the Regular Guy is going to pay.

So, what is going on in Austin is just one big shell game.

The money will eventually come out of the pockets of the working folks and it will be misspent anyway.

Public education will continue to fail in its primary mission and two years from now a very similar hot wind will be blowing out of Austin.

Hard to get excited about it.

Internet hunting

By Ned Cantwell

New Mexico has the darker side of the wild, wild west in a headlock with her stubborn refusal to outlaw the barbarian practice of drugging chickens, strapping razors to their claws and letting them fight to death under the guise of sport. Cockfighting it’s called.

Could anything be dumber? Well, maybe. Texas is trying to out dumb us. Our neighbor to the east and south is the birthplace of something called internet hunting.

Here’s how it works. You are crunching numbers, say, in your Los Alamos office and you get this manly urge to get out into those wilds and track yourself a blackbuck antelope, to wait patiently in the chilling dawn for your chance to shoot that sucker. Then you cut that baby up and take the meat home to momma who rewards you with an adoring gaze and otherwise melts in your macho presence.

The problem with that scenario is you’ve got all those numbers to crunch, it can be nasty out in those wilds, and who needs it? A Texas entrepreneur wants you to shoot game without leaving the office.

Yep. Just swivel your chair to the computer, take aim at that wild hog wandering in the Texas hill country brush, click, BANG. A Remington .30.06 rifle blasts the unsuspecting quarry. Don’t worry about the meat. They’ll send it to you, along with any “trophy” involved. You won’t even have to shower afterwards, unless, perhaps, out of pure shame. According to one report, this virtual hunting service is operational. The website seems to suggest “target practice” is online and actual internet hunting will follow.

One of the fun website activities is designed for only the most discerning customers. It is an “I shot OSAMA T-Shirt” for $14.95. Here’s the promo copy: “Purchase one along with your membership and shooting session. Put up to 10 holes into a target printed on the shirt and wear it with pride.” Oh, please. The brain is taking a nap and pride went on vacation.

But there is more. For another $10 you can send the company “your own image of something you’d like to shoot, and we’ll make a custom” t-shirt. Friends, that has ugly written all over it.

Lots of folks are rushing to do something about this whole business of internet hunting. Writes West Texas newsman Smokey Briggs, who dislikes internet hunting but hates government regulation, “…the self-righteous of the hunting/sporting community have joined forces with the anti-hunting tree huggers, and the anti-property rights statists of the world.”

Much to Smokey’s chagrin, states all over the place are rushing to outlaw the practice in their jurisdictions. Six states have already banned it and lawmakers in another 19 are sponsoring bills to do the same.

If Texas Governor Rick Perry signs a bill this summer, as expected, virtual hunting will die in the state where it was born. We can still kill Osama, of course.

New Mexico has yet to deal with this issue. We should, and quickly, before someone discovers internet hunting is important to ethnic cultural heritage, the spurious argument used to embrace cockfighting.

The idea of shooting game over a computer is akin to a guy bringing home a string of trout from the fish market after his “fishing trip.” That only makes your hands slimy. Internet hunting makes you feel stinky inside and out.

Ned Cantwell is a syndicated New Mexico columnist. He can be

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