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Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

I miss my


I learned to type on a World War II-era, surplus, cast iron behemoth of a typewriter that had "Remington" emblazoned across the front and a little tag that said "U.S. Navy Property" on the back.

No doubt some enterprising sailor had turned it into a few days beer money at a San Diego pawnshop at some point and eventually it came into my possession.

It was a relic from the days when men were men and women were tough. It required fingers of steel to pound sentences onto paper with that baby.

Typing on the old girl was an act of stress relief.

There was no delete key. No backup and fix the boo-boo with the correction key. Heck, there was not even a number one key - you just used the lower case 'l' key instead.

The one thing it was, though, was reliable.

Smack a key with the requisite amount of force and by gosh, you got an inky impression on your paper providing you had inked the ribbon in the past couple of months.

I pounded my way all the way through college with that baby.

Yeah, it was the dawn of the computer age and while my classmates were key stroking reports and themes on self-correcting typewriters and computers, I was pounding ink into paper with steel.

Best of all I was not spending any money on self-correcting gadgets and that left me with a little extra dough to do important stuff like buy parts for trucks and guns.

And, somehow, it fit my personality - kind of the last caveman in the tribe holding out against that new-fangled fire.

Eventually, though, it happened. I went to buy some ammunition for my Remington only to have a geeky guy at the office supply tell me that I could not buy ribbons for an "antique" typewriter.

So, kicking and screaming, I was thrown into the computer age.

That was about 15 years ago. Despite all the cool things computers do, I really miss my Remington.

You know why?

Because it worked! (That was a written scream, by the way).

It always worked. If the power went out, it worked. If the century changed, it worked. If Bill Gates wrote new software, it worked. Or, if Bill Gates did not write new software, it worked.

It only locked up when you smashed three or more keys at the same time, and then you could fix it with a flick of a finger.

Being the intelligent creatures that we are, however, we decided to improve on the old girl.

So we invented computers and replaced adding machines, typewriters, pictures printed on paper, ledgers, and numerous types of human interaction with them.

Twenty years into this revolution and you would think that we would be reaping the benefits of this revolution, right? You would think that our lives would be ever so much better now that my clunky, 500-pound tiger tank of a typewriter has been replaced by the sleek, electronic machines of the future.


Yes, the gadget I am typing this on can do amazing things far beyond what my old typewriter could do.

If it feels like it. If the power is on, and the gods of volts, amplitudes, dc's, ac's and ohms are all having a good hair day.


Yet, we accept this as the status quo.

If my Remington had arbitrarily failed to type "junk" on a random basis I would have sold it for scrap the next day (and been about $2 richer at the going rate of 50-cents a ton for scrap).

If your truck quit running intermittently driving down I-20 and you had to stop, get out, get back in, and re-start it, you would be down at the dealership tomorrow and you would trade it for a good 6-year-old trotting horse with a nice road-eating gate.

If matches were as unreliable as computers we would all carry flint and steel in our pockets (not that I do not - it is hard to beat flint and steel for starting a fire in a hurricane).

If guns were as unreliable as computers we would still arm soldiers with a shield and a stout axe.

If spouses were this unreliable you can bet someone would have invented more reliable guns.

Think about it - the most unreliable thing in your life is probably a computer.

Any other tool in the inventory that was half as unreliable as your computer would get tossed tomorrow - irons, hammers, calculators, can openers.

But we put up with this from a computer.

I want to know why.

Computers are time savers you say?

Obviously you have not used one of the things. Yes they are advertised as the machine that will make tough jobs easy, but the promise is a lie.

By the time you make enough money to pay for it, learn how to use it, learn how to troubleshoot it, learn how to hook up your printer, learn how to hook up your email, pay for your internet access, and then learn how to make your programs actually print to your printer, what have you got?

A piece of paper with ink on it.

How many letters could you have written on old reliable? How many journal entries could you have made? How much money could you have saved to spend on important things like trucks and guns?

Lots, I answer, to all of the above.

As an added bonus you would add years to your life that are currently being sucked away by computational life forms in the form of stress and frustration.

All of this we sacrifice to do what essentially my big, heavy Remington did - day in and day out for about 50 years.

I wonder if I could learn to use the 'l' key when I want to type number one again?

EDITORS'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher of the Pecos Enterprise whose column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed at:

Our View

The winners of the stupid laws contest are...

Our state legislature was busy this past year.

Recently the Pecos Enterprise received a document from the Texas Press Association with a sampling of about 150 of the bills actually signed into law this past session.

After reading the entire list one thought comes to mind - "Thank goodness we only let these yahoo's meet once every two years."

For the most part you can divide the laws we paid good money to create into three categories.

Category 1: Laws that have no business being laws because they are simply the codification of good sense and are the product of a nanny state full of do-gooders who would serve the world better by minding their own business rather than everyone else's.

Category 2: Laws that address the obvious and are already well covered by a swarm of other laws.

Category 3: Laws that serve no purpose except to complicate our already complicated lives and maybe make one crusader feel nice about themselves.

Although the number of contestants was many, we picked a winner for each category.

The winner in the Nanny-state category is SB 236, which makes it legal for you to shoot wild hogs when they are tearing up your garden.

Just think about a society that feels the need to create a law to allow someone to do something he or she so obviously has a natural right to do.

It is scary.

The winner in the "We already covered that topic" category is HB 1326 that makes it illegal to race cars on public streets.

Did our legislature really think that our volume of traffic safety and criminal laws did not somehow cover this topic?

The winner in the "We are going to make somebody feel good about them self even though this is a stupid reason to add paperwork to our already cluttered lives," is SB 741.

This piece of work makes it a legal requirement for the director of a school marching band to maintain and submit to the school district proof of current certification in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

No, it is not a bad thing for a band director to have this training, but it is ridiculous to add another state-required brick to the already monstrous wall of state regulations that clutter our lives for this. It is just not worth it.

The world was ticking along for centuries without these laws, but now we need them?

We do not think so.

For the most part, it is not the content of these laws and most of their brethren that is frightening. Rather, it is the mentality of a society that feels the need to pass such laws in the first place.

Application of little common sense is a better solution.

A good start might be at the voting booth.

Your View

Texas deserves the rest of the story

In recent months, the Texas media have focused on political struggles, run-away legislators, and budgetary challenges. I don't disagree with the judgment that political disputes and disagreements are often news, but sometimes the coverage of negative news obscures the whole picture. So to borrow a line from Paul Harvey, it's time for Texans to hear the "rest of the story."

Texas is creating jobs. Since September of last year, more than 44,000 new net jobs have been created in Texas despite the national economic slowdown. While Michigan, California, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York have lost more than 300,000 net jobs in the last year, our tax and business climate has brought about modest, but encouraging, job growth.

Recently announced business expansions by Toyota, Texas Instruments and Samsung will mean billions of new dollars invested into our economy and more than 3,000 new jobs. More than 4,000 customer service jobs are being created in South Texas because of 'investments made by T Mobile, Info-NXX, Merkafon and EchoStar Communications. Just this week the Tasus Corporation announced it will expand its automotive supply business by building a new facility in Central Texas that will add one hundred jobs. This represents one of many economic expansions we expect as a direct result of Toyota's investment 'in Texas.

Family Dollar's new distribution center will bring 500 jobs to West Texas. A new trade terminal in the Coastal Bend will soon help agriculture producers sell their goods directly to global markets.

And Hewlett Packard is adding 475 jobs in Houston - jobs that arc migrating from California because of our better business climate.

Clearly Texas is on track to economic recovery, and our common sense conservative philosophy is paying off for Texas families and taxpayers.

Texas schools are better. Since Texas education reforms began in earnest 1994, passing rates have risen exponentially. And passing rates on the tougher new TAKS test still exceeded the expectations of many, though clearly they showed we still have much progress to make - especially in the upper grades.

Despite tight budgetary times, we 'increased public education funding by $1.2 billion, and increased funding for the popular TEXAS Grant college scholarship program by $56 million. And Hispanic enrollment in our institutions of higher learning is at an all-time high.

Texas is fiscally sound and healthy. So far- this year, 20 other states have raised taxes by a combined $13.8 billion. Despite a $10 billion budget gap, Texas bucked that trend by setting clear priorities, imposing fiscal discipline and closely examining every agency. We balanced our budget by reducing state general revenue spending by $2.6 billion and not raising taxes.

We increased health and human services spending by $1 billion, and set aside about $1 billion in additional funding for trauma centers, and better roads, through tougher penalties and fees on drunk and dangerous drivers.

Texas lawsuit reforms are taking effect. Lawsuit reforms passed by legislators and approved by -voters will keep doctors and nurses practicing in our hospitals and clinics. The Austin Business Journal recently reported, "a bevy of insurers are adjusting malpractice rates in response to last month's voter approval of a state referendum that places caps on jury awards. Passage could also prompt some out-of-state carriers to start writing claims again in Texas."

The tort reforms we passed will save jobs, lower consumer costs and protect consumers from an increase in the lawsuit abuse tax - the cost of lawsuit abuse hidden in the products we buy and services we receive.

Texas homeowners are poised to save money. Using new power authorized by the Legislature to crackdown on unfair insurance practices, the Texas Department of Insurance recently ordered most of the top 32 homeowners insurance companies to lower their rates up to 31%, meaning consumers can expect to save more than $500 million.

Texas has a tremendous story to tell. We are the nation's top exporting state, sending about $ 100 billion in products and innovations to foreign markets. We have our own power grid and excess capacity because we have been building power plants while other states have been mired 'in red tape.

We have a diverse workforce, with the nation's 3rd largest pool of graduate scientists and 2nd largest pool of graduate engineers. We have outstanding public schools to go along with a low cost-of-living. And Texans pay 32 percent less in taxes than the national average.

Texas is one of few states with no personal 'income tax. And like me, most Texans want to keep it that way.

In the coming months, I'll be talking about job creation and opportunity for Texas families, and new education initiatives that will benefit our children.

Those who don't like our achievements tend to ignore them, or cast them 'in a different light. But if Texas had pursued the approach of higher taxes, more spending and bigger government, we would likely be experiencing California-sized budgetary problems.

Just remember: as you read the state's news headlines, there is a "rest of the story." It's the story of a Texas of unlimited opportunity, better jobs and a brighter future.

Commissioners should refrain from spending money

Dear Editor:
I missed Monday's Enterprise. I'm grateful. Tuesday's Enterprise made me ill. At least I don't have Reeves County health insurance.

The fiscal follies continue. The commissioners have met the newly revealed challenge posed by escalating insurance costs by bravely shouting "BOHICA!" to their employees. BOHICA is an acronym meaning "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again." As I predicted, county employees are making sacrifices because our commissioners (Or, is it Komisars?) won't.

Making a rough calculation of the expenses of people hired and raise given, our fiscally broke county spent $72,000 at their meeting (about 18% of the $412,000 paid out in excess medical claims). About $30,000 of this will be covered by "the state" and will eventually need feeding by Reeves County taxpayers. The commissioners think that "the state" is a big machine in Austin that cranks out dollars from thin air. Spend, spend, spend! I know, let's build some racquetball courts.

Precinct 1 Commissioner, Felipe (Let-'em-eat-cake) Arredondo advises ailing county employees to "refrain from going to the doctor." Commissioner, cut out the following and carry it:


A most intelligent discussion caused; detailing reasons fro soaking county employees an additional $22.66 per day period for health insurance with a $1500 deductible (yikes!). Reeves County Auditor, Lynn Owens out of the blue proclaimed that insurance problems would be solved when the government did "something about pharmaceuticals." Owens may have well stood up and suddenly shouted, "I like fire trucks." Owens looks to Washington where, according to the liberal Doxology, "from where all blessing flow." Owens evokes the liberal delusion that cancer can be cured 100% of the time with a medication that works 50% of the time, given at a single doctor visit, costing $5. Next time, Lynn, trot out the old class envy routine about "rich doctors." Maybe Judge Galindo can "get" local doctors to donate their services, as he suggested for local attorneys.

I was once prison guard. It's a really nasty job not many people would like to do. Guards make about $21,000 a year. A $1500 deductible essentially means they have no health insurance. It represents a whoping 9% of a guard's net income. Taking an extra $22.68 per pay period means they'll bring home about $590 less a year (about 4% of their net income). An MSA (Medical Savings Account) might help if they could afford it. They can't afford it.

The best answer is not "refrain from going to the doctor." The answer is to cut the county budget, freeze hiring and raises and live within an Austere budget. Don't ask your employees to do something that you are unwilling to do. Commissioners should refrain from spending money.

I'll stop writing letters when the commissioners stop saying silly stuff.

Dr. John Libbie

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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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