The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 24, 1998 · Page 4
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 4

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Sunday, May 24, 1998
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A4 SUNPAY, MAY 24, 1998 THE SALINA JOURNAL George B. Pyle editorial page editor Opinions expressed on this page are those of the identified writers. To join the conversation, write a letter to the Journal at: P.O. Box 740 Salina, KS 67402 Fax: (785) 827-6363 E-mail: SJLetters® saljournal.com Quote of the day "Tliewillofthe people has spoken. Tliey, the .people, have said, | 'There has to be a better way.'" David Ervine leader of the pro-British Progressive ' Unionist Party, on the approval by •• 'Protestants anc Catholics alike of a peace plai , : designed to end •'. : 30 years o violence in Ireland By GEORGE B. PYLE / The Salina Journal Lord of the rifles THE ISSUE Violence in our schools THEARGUMBVT Children seek what adults want — control W ednesday, 15-year-old Kip Kinkel was caught with a gun at school, so they expelled him. Well. That certainly fixed his little red wagon, didn't it? Offense was given, retribution was meted out, and peace was restored. Right? Nothing could be more simple. It was simple for a day. Then Kinkel came back to school loaded down with more weapons and opened fire on his classmates. Two of them died. Kip had already removed any parental authority that might have been brought to bear on the situation, by killing his parents. Offense was given, retribution was meted out, and peace was restored. Right? Of course not. Violence solves nothing. The child who liked to build bombs and dream of mass murder found no peace. But he may have succeeded in sharing his pain with a school, a community and, for a moment, with a nation. And when peace does not seem an option, attention will do. The school officials who sent Kip home the day before his murderous rampage cannot be blamed for the crime that followed. But those seemingly reasonable actions have much in common with the violence that came so quickly after. The primary cause of madness is the belief that one should be in control. The primary symptom of madness is the belief that one is in control. Administrators at Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore., believed they were in control of the situation Wednesday when they discovered the stolen handgun in Kinkel's locker, suspended him, had him arrested and released to the custody of his parents. Certainly, such steps would impress upon any rational person that his behavior was unacceptable and that future violations would carry consequences. To which Kip apparently replied, in "the manner of most adolescents since tune began: "Oh, yeah? You and what army?" After the tragedy in Oregon, as after the tragedy in Arkansas, as after the tragedy in Kentucky, as after the tragedy in Mississippi, people seek to deal with the madness through more madness. More laws. More metal detectors. More time in jail for youthful offenders. More gun bans. Control. If we could just regain control, then everything would be all right. We never had control. We never will. It is just that, until recently, it didn't matter so much because the most out- of-control teen-agers did no more than drive too fast in other people's cars, steal beer they were too young to buy or peek in windows hoping to catch a glimpse of, well, they weren't sure. Now children with guns seek the very thing sought by their elders — control. They want to be in charge. They want to make it clear that what they say goes. They want there to be no question that nobody messes with them without consequences. We cannot live like this. Nor can we wave a wand, or a metal detector, and make it go away. Threats of punishment can inspire violence as much as deter it, as those who feel abused seek not peace but the opportunity to get off the first shot. There are far too many guns in this country. And too many TV shows and video games that are little more than choreographed violence. But infinitely more important than what we have is what we lack — a generation that feels valued, respected, protected, safe and, in some small measure, in control of their own lives. Until our children feel safe, we will not be safe from them, or they from each other. And we have no right to expect it to be otherwise. Let them know - Washington, D.C. • SEN. SAM BROWNBACK: 141 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510; Phone: (202) 224-6521; Fax: (202) 228-1265; E-mail: sam_brownback@ brownback.senate.gov • SEN. PAT ROBERTS: 302 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510; Phone: (202) 224-4774; Fax: (202) 224-3514; E-mail: pat_roberts@roberts.senate.gov • REP. JERRY MORAN: 1217 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515; Phone: (202) 225-2715; Fax: (202) 225-5124; E-mail: jerry.moran@mail.house.gov • PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 20500; Phone: (202) 456-1414; Fax: (202) 456-2883; E-mail: president@whitehouse.gov Owners and developers of ^| casinos are trea^cl queens. leave the pbyers? T BY GEORGE Timmer makes budgets for a rainy day Smoke and mirrors don't do the taxpayers any favors, outgoing state budget director says T OPEKA — Gloria Timmer apologizes for all the cliches. But after 15 years of carefully examining the entrails of the state's _, budget, she. finds she cannot "^ get away from a few old truths. There is no free lunch. Never lose sight of the big picture. Save some money for a rainy day. And, most important of all, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Friday was Timmer's last day as the budget director for Gov. Bill Graves. That's a position she also held through most 1> of the Joan Finney administration, after many years as a budget analyst in different parts of state government. Now that her youngest daughter has finished high school, Timmer, 47, is moving to Washington, B.C., to a place where she can focus even more on the big picture, as executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers. There she will help all 50 states, plus some districts and territories, face those pages and pages of cold, hard numbers with some understanding of what they mean in the real world. All those numbers represent real things. Classrooms and teachers. Highways and highway patrolmen. Welfare reform and child care. Timmer insists you can't write good school budgets without some knowledge of curricu- T SUNDAY FUNNIES GEORGE B. PYLE The Salina Journal lum, can't make proper law enforcement budgets without some understanding of how highway patrolmen are trained. Real budgeting, as opposed to the smoke and mirrors some use to pretend they can give us all we want while taking nothing from us, requires facing facts. Taxes cut now, or programs added now, obligate the state beyond the current budget year. It is wrong to make a single-year decision on, say, school finance or highway funding because actions taken, or deferred, will only come back to haunt us in the future in the form of reduced services, higher taxes, or both. "You have to know enough to anticipate," Timmer said. "You can't be caught off guard. What we need to keep in mind is that there are long-term implications^ everything we do." One example that Timmer sites is welfare reform. Right now, with the economy good and unemployment low ft the transition to a kind of welfare that stresses work is going relatively smoothly, and cheaply. The state has money to put into the kinds of things that are needed to get people off welfare and stay off— child care and job training — and have a few bucks left over. But Timmer resists any temptation to either sweeten the pot for welfare clients making the transition work or to shift the money into other programs or to tax cuts. Economic booms do not last forever so, Timmer says, we had better sock some of this surplus money away for the inevitable day when the economy goes down, more people are out of work and there are no jobs to train them for. Tinker with one thing in one area, and it ripples through to other parts of the state, years into the future. People can decide what- ever they want through their elected officials. It is the budget director's job to make sure everyone knows what they are really doing, not what they would like to believe they have done. "My personal opinions are irrelevant," Timmer said. "Nobody's elected me to anything and, I can safely say, nobody will have the opportunity to." But, as she packs her bags, Timmer does have some opinions for those who stay behind: • Kansas should stick to a budget process that gives everyone a voice, including those who spend the money, those on whom it is spent and those who want to limit spending. If the process is open and fair, even the people who don't get what they want will understand the policy choices that Were made. "A budget is a policy.implementation tool," Timmer said. "It shouldn't be used as a weapon. It shouldn't be used as a goody bag." • People want to be able to see'where their tax money has gone. "If you talk to Kansas people, they want certain things. They want the Highway Patrol to be there when you need them. At the same time, they want to pay as little in taxes as possible." • Kansas needs to deal with its transportation needs. That means a new round of highway improvements, as well as some stajte action to ensure rail and air service"-as economic lifelines throughout the state. ';'i "They say our gas tax is already higher thin Missouri's," Timmer said. "Well, our roafls are better, too." ! -• ••( . i • George B. Pyle is the editorial page editor\of the Salina Journal, P.O. Box 740, Salina,'KS 67402, e-mail: gpyle@saljournal.com. 'fi What will they think of next? The Constitution protects our right to keep and bear exploding golf clubs E very now and then somebody thinks up a new idea that is so totally revolutionary that it just totally revolutionizes everything. For example, in 1905, Albert Einstein stunned the scientific community when he announced that "e" is equal to "me squared." Until that point, scientists had no idea what "e" was equal to. Oh, sure, they had known since the days of the ancient Egyptians that "e" came after "i," except when both letters were preceded by a "c." But nobody had ever even considered the possibility that "e" might have anything to do with "m." DAVE We will never know what BARRY other amazing things would rite Miami i-iemid have been revealed about the '—^ alphabet if Einstein had lived longer. We do know that, just before he died, he told friends that he was working on "something really big involving 'k.' " Albert is gone, but fortunately for humanity in general there are still great minds at work, coming up with breakthrough ideas that a normal person could never even imagine without ingesting fantastic quantities of gin. One such idea was brought to my attention recently by an alert reader named (really) Dwain Vanderhoof, who sent me a brochure for a new type of golf club, which I absolutely swear I am not making up, called the Ballistic Driver. The Ballistic Driver is a "swing-less" golf club. You grip it as usual, and you position the head of the club next to the golf ball. But instead of swinging the club, you press an "Activator Button" on the grip; this detonates a small explosive charge inside the club head, which causes a metal plate to shoot out the side of the club a distance of 1.5 inches at a speed of 200 mph. The plate hits the golf ball, which then, according to the brochure, goes "250 yards, every time ... down the middle, exactly where you aimed it, drive after drive." Is that a great idea, or what? Now you can play golf without having to manually hit the balll Talk about a breakthrough! I mean, for me, the worst part of playing golf, by far, has always been hitting the ball. I love standing around on the golf course; I love driving the golf cart; I love saying the word "bogey." But I hate swinging the club at the stupid ball, and, on those rare occasions when I actually hit the ball, I hate watching it take off in some totally random direction and disappear, usually forever, into a lake, or the woods, or the body of an innocent bystander. So I called the company that makes the Ballistic Driver, GPower Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif. I spoke with one of the partners, Elizabeth Poggi, a serious person who confirmed that the Ballistic Driver is a serious product aimed at people who, for various reasons, cannot swing golf clubs, as well as for people like me who would simply prefer not to. Poggi stressed that the Ballistic Driver, which will sell for around $800, has safety features that prevent it from going off accidentally, as well as (I am still not making this up) a silencer. These features are important: Just imagine what it would be like if golf clubs were randomly detonating with loud bangs on golf courses, not to mention in airports, hotel elevators, etc. It would be a lot of fun! But it would also be wrong, which is why I am urging everybody to remember this basic rule of golf: Always assume your club is loaded. I think the Ballistic Driver could transform the game. Poggi told me that if the club were fitted with a titanium strike plate, "it could theoretically propel the ball 500 yards." This means that a pathetic schlump like me could propel the ball farther than Tiger Woods Inc. hits it on those rare occasions when he is not filming American Express commercials. ' And who knows what lies down the road? I mean, if we can make a club that can hit the ball 500 yards, why not 1,000? Why not 1,500? Why not a mile? We have the technology, darn it! Maybe we will see the day, in our lifetimes, when golfers using a descendant of the Ballistic Driver, perhaps powered by a small quantity of plutonium, are stepping up to the tee and driving the ball into another time zone. Of course, we'll need to develop a technologically advanced golf ball that contained some kind of transmitter, so it could radio its position back to the golfer ("Your tee shot landed 18 yards from the hole. In Pakistan.") Wouldn't that be great? Of course, as with any technology, there's always the danger that it will fall into the wrong hands. You could have street gangs converting these clubs to Fully Automatic mode and driving in their low-rider carts to rival golf courses, where they'd spray out hundreds of balls per minute in vicious "drive-by" tee-offs. Or you could turn on the TV news one morning to see S,ad- dam Hussein wearing lime-green pants and standing next to a golf club the size of the Washington Monument, threatening to hit a massive chemical and/or biological Golf Ball Of Doom smack into the fairway of middle America. So there will be those who will try to ban the Ballistic Driver. To them I say: Forget it. The U.S. Constitution guarantees us — not in so many words, but the intent is clear — the right to keep and bear golf clubs. This precious right was fought for in the Revolutionary War by our courageous foreparents, the Minuteper- sons, who stood up for it on the green at Lexington. Although they did bogey that particular hole. • Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o Tropic Magazine, The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami FL 33132.

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