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  • The jihad against the truth continues unabated

    tony farkasFILE PHOTO Tony Farkas

    “It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grams a week. And only yesterday (…) it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grams a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it. …” — George Orwell, “1984”

    It’s long been understood by tinpot dictators, socialists and pretty much everybody that if you control information, you control society.

    Propaganda was a key ingredient in Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. He even had a director that made sure the precise message was delivered.

    I’m not at this point equating this country to pre-World War II Germany, nor am I calling anyone fascists.

    I am, however, expressing my dismay at the state of the news media, especially at the national level. There are many times, and it’s growing in frequency, that I lament my chosen profession has become a parody of itself, choosing to embrace access instead of objectivity and celebrity instead of credibility.

    But I led off with the Orwell quote because something alarming came across my radar last week, and it frankly chilled me. I wouldn’t even deny being gobsmacked.

    According to numerous outlets, as well as the paper itself, the Boston Globe is starting what it calls the Fresh Start Initiative. It will allow people to petition the paper to have stories published by the newspaper and placed on the website edited to remove names, add updated information or have it removed from Google searches.

    The reasoning is to allow people to craft a future without the baggage of the past interfering.

    Other outlets, such as the Washington Post and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, are doing the very same things.

    Now let’s be clear here. It’s not like the newspapers are changing the events — yet. What’s happening is supposedly designed to help people move on without the baggage of a past arrest. Yet that’s not what happened in the case of Vice President Kamala Harris.

    The Post heavily edited a story in which Harris made a quote — which was not incorrect or wrongly reported — that portrayed the then-candidate for president in a bad light. The Post waved its magic wand and changed the story.

    It wasn’t until it was noticed and written about in Reason Magazine that the Post put the original story back up. However, the edited version remained, and the reader was given a choice of which way to go.

    As with the stories and posts about arrests, what Harris did was news, and was reported correctly. That is not up for dispute. But much as Winston Smith was changing headlines to make a news piece about chocolate rations positive, so is this trend.

    In the cases of arrests, I fully believe that finishing the story is right, and if a suspect is exonerated, it should be written about. That’s just good, responsible journalism, and that’s following the story to its conclusion.

    But changing the original should never be done, for one simple reason — it’s still the truth.

    This profession, or trade if you will, at its core is about the truth. We present the information, and it’s up to the reader to decide what to think about it. Sure, we have opinion pages (like where this column is), but that is clearly marked and its clearly understood that a column is the opinion of the writer.

    When that creeps into a story, or when stories and events in those stories are erased or changed based on nothing more than it hurts someone’s feelings, that’s really not how journalism works.

    Most parents will agree that children are taught that actions have consequences. If the action is egregious enough, it’s a distinct possibility it will end up in a news report, and that is assuredly a consequence.

    But whitewashing a truth is no benefit. And it’s not journalism.

    Tony Farkas is editor of the Trinity County News-Standard. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • The liberal agenda has nothing to do with liberty

    tony farkasFILE PHOTO Tony Farkas

    By Tony Farkas

    I remember with pride the first time I was able to vote.

    Like most first-timers, I was pretty scared going into the booth, as back then, it was the old-timey lever models that looked like a mad scientist’s workstation. (Although it wasn’t too awful long before they were replaced by fill-in-the-blank style cards.)

    It wasn’t so much that I was powerful, but that I was actually participating in a process that truly made our country unique. I wasn’t too naïve to believe that my one vote made all that much difference, but I did believe that mine, along with a whole lot of others, sent a message to our officials.

    There actually wasn’t any resemblance to “Swing Vote,” a silly little movie starring Kevin Costner. (I’m fond of this movie it because it was set in a town that was 8 miles from where I lived — Texico, N.M.)

    In that movie, the future of the presidency came down to one vote needing to be recast, and the hilarity that ensues when the press, the candidates and the world turns its attention to this sleepy little border town.

    While dumb in the extreme, and incredibly implausible, it did serve to highlight the importance of voting.

    Our republic was founded on a principle: of the people, by the people, for the people. We get that from the ballots we cast. Somewhere along the way, though, our officials, particularly at the federal level (as well as plenty of states), have determined that we are governed by consent, not ruled by edict, fiat, or executive order.

    That’s what the vote protects, and serves, and now, it’s coming under fire — wrapped up in the guise of making elections safe and fair and wholesome and puppies and such.

    H.R. 1, which has been passed by the House and is being considered in the Senate, and is monumentally misnamed the For the People Act, is supposed to correct voting irregularities and make things uniform across the country.

    Instead, it will for all intents and purposes give the federal government control of what is enshrined in the constitution as something that belongs to the states. This is accomplished by oversight committees, and require states to comply with regulations designed to allow more people to vote.

    Certain things, like not requiring signatures, same-day voter registration, internet registration, curbside voting, and other ridiculous ideas will be required. Given the federal government’s history, once it gets its claws into something, it never lets it go. Ever.

    And since the government thinks that it is entitled to all the money, it also thinks that money is a club, and so states will lose funding for things because the government will hold up payments unless its edicts are followed.

    This has happened with just about everything; the one that sticks out in my mind is during the Clinton administration. States had to adopt a .08 BAC presumption of intoxication or risk losing highway construction funds.

    These are our rights , and this is our money, and our government threatens them regularly and with gusto, and it is done under the guise of doing what’s right (or, if you prefer, what’s best for us).

    Whether there was any immediate and glaring proof of election fraud or inequality, there was enough credible, albeit anecdotal, evidence that a full-scale investigation should have been done. Only now is one of many states reporting irregularities conducting an audit — Arizona — which is facing stiff opposition by the feds to leave things be.

    By extension, if that turns out to be the case, then it is imperative that signatures and ID be required during elections, since, as Scotty says, the more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain (meaning, technology is easy to tamper with.)

    The upshot is, the government needs to follow, not lead, and not try to rig the game in its favor, and there’s only one way to correct the ship.

    Vote.

    Tony Farkas is editor of the Trinity County News-Standard. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • The Tao of Billy Joe Shaver

    billy joe shaverBilly Joe Shaver, legendary singer/songwriter/poet/Texan. 1939-2020. IMAGE COURTESY OF BILLY JOE SHAVER.COM

    Country music legend Billy Joe Shaver died Oct. 28, 2020, at the age of 81. This column, by Chris Edwards was originally published in the Oct. 16, 2014 edition of the Tyler County Booster. It celebrates the earthy quality of Shaver and the need for heartfelt artistic expression in contemporary culture.
     
    By Chris Edwards

    Sing it with me, for I know you know the tune: “I’m just an old chunk of coal…”

    The man who wrote that famous line (and countless others) just released a new record. Some say it’s his best work yet in a career that’s spanned several decades of highs, lows, in-betweens and episodes in which common sense would’ve dictated his demise several times. Drugs couldn’t kill the man. Financial ruin couldn’t kill him. He survived things the music industry did to him and of all things, a sawmill accident in which he lost parts of several fingers gave him the gusto to play guitar and become a songwriter.

    Billy Joe Shaver may not be a household name, but those with household names sold boatloads of records by singing his songs. He’s outlived many of his “outlaw” peers, and like his fellow Texan and songwriting colleague/country music survivor Guy Clark, he only gets better with age. Sure, there’s the tired adage about fine wine, but do me a favor and check out Shaver’s new record and see if you can’t add his name to the list of things that fit that description.

    He is anything but his album title suggests (“Long in the Tooth”). He’s an outsider in the world of what they call “country music” for reasons owing only to style and politics, instead of substance and life experience. Even at age 70-something, Billy Joe Shaver could probably out-play and out-fight 99% of the wusses who win CMA Awards and pack stadiums these days.

    In a time when so-called “country” music singers wear their $500 blue jeans and blindingly bleached teeth like some sort of crown and badge, Billy Joe is a breath of fresh air. The self-proclaimed “wacko from Waco” with his denim-on-denim atop well-worn workboots reminds me of another Lone Star maverick in his mode of dress, the late poet of the piney deep, Cyd Adams.

    Like the improbably brilliant Adams, Shaver is certainly one who, beyond his appearance, is infinitely “more than the measure of what…others [think he] could be,” to paraphrase a line from his classic “Old Five and Dimers Like Me.” The man who looks all the world like a redneck who wouldn’t know Shakespeare from Schlitz is also the man capable of penning a beautiful anthem like “Live Forever” and making such an endeavor look effortless in the process.

    His lyrics do a rare thing in the world of popular song, like those of his deceased close friend, Townes Van Zandt: hold up as pure poetry. There’s soul, there’s grit, grace and the joys and pains that come with this life we’re given within his words.

    Billy Joe Shaver’s music is art. It’s incredible work that makes the listener think, as well as jump for joy to be alive. In a world full of facsimile, Shaver is the real deal and real people “get” Billy Joe Shaver. If only there were more Billy Joe Shavers in the world and fewer Jason Aldeans, then there just might be hope for those of us who enjoy food for thought along with a scoot across a sawdust-strewn floor, but then again if that were the case, the very thing making Billy Joe Shaver special (as well as Guy Clark, Townes, Robert Earl Keen, Turnpike Troubadours, Walt Wilkins, etc.) wouldn’t come across as special.

    That “it” which separates real art from product, whatever “it” is, allows artists like those mentioned in the same breath as Shaver to make their profundity all seem so easy. Shaver himself is famous for saying “simplicity don’t need to be greased.”

    Billy Joe’s appeal brings me mind of a shirt I owned (well, still own, but has been relegated to the pile of oil change/car wash rags). I found said shirt, a plain, powder-blue T-shirt, in the laundry room of an old house I once lived in. The very thing that a previous tenant had left behind quickly became one of my favorite belongings; its comfort remains unmatched to this day. As the years moved on, my shirt sprouted a pretty impressive array of holes, which earned stares of derision from some and outright comments from more outspoken folks I encountered, including a highly fashion-conscious neighbor.

    Some saw a different thing in that ragged old shirt. One friend of mine remarked as to how comfortable the shirt looked and how his own workshirts, full of holes themselves, were the bane of his well-to-do ex-fiance’s parents at obligatory “family time” appearances.

    Like an old shirt, full of holes, but comfortable and like silk on the skin, Billy Joe Shaver’s music provides a layer of comfort for those of us willing to see the beauty in imperfection and to accept the wisdom of life lessons gleaned from outside of the tried-and-true standard existence.

     

     
  • Turning ‘Time in Texas’ into Country Gold

    tyler dozier 2COURTESY PHOTO Tyler Dozier

    By Caleb Fortenberry and Chris Edwards

    The pandemic that seized the entire planet last year made for a drastic change in how humans live, work, worship and play. In the “blessings in disguise” category, many who had to re-invent their lives found new passions or re-discovered old hobbies.

    Spurger native Tyler Dozier is one such young man who managed to turn bad news into something positive. “As bad as the coronavirus is, I got laid-off from the plant, and jobs are slow,” he explained. “So, I decided to do something that I enjoyed.”

    Dozier took his God-given talent in music, which he’d honed through his young life, and blaze the trail that many talented Texans before him had taken. So far, he has gone gung-ho into his fresh start, with two singles already under his belt and a full-length album in the works.

    The young singer/songwriter has music in his genes. His father, Donald Dozier, is still known in the region for his prowess as a guitarist and played with many bands and artists through the years, including a pre-superstar Mark Chesnutt. Tyler said his father is his primary influence in chasing a musical career, although he did not get to see him onstage in his glory days.

    “I never got to see him play, because I was too young at the time that he quit playing out,” he said.

    Some other influences came by way of artists like Josh Ward and Cody Johnson, both of whom Tyler began following before they were huge regional acts.

    The young artist said he pretty much taught himself to sing and started playing music when he was eight years old, beginning with piano. Eventually, he also took to playing guitar and drums. His father helped him get started on the guitar when he was 12, and he added the elder Dozier will also play with him live. “I do have plans of getting a band together,” he said. “I have some guys right now that I’ve played with for a long time just around my house and stuff. The only thing I’m missing is a bass player right now but if everything goes as I hope then I will have a band to play out in the next couple of months.”

    Until he gets a band solidified for live work, though, he said he is content to play as a solo act, which he said is a good way for the audience to really hear him and his songs “as I am.”

    At present, even though the continuing efforts to curb the pandemic have slowed down consistent live performance opportunities for musicians, Tyler has been able to take to the road and play some solo acoustic shows in such venues as Conroe’s Red Brick Tavern. “It’s a blast to get out and play in front of live audiences,” he said.

    Before he even started getting into venues, he began laying down some of his material in the studio. His first single, “Doing Time in Texas,” a classic-sounding country tune detailing the heartbreak of a man’s willingness to wait for the woman he loves, went out to radio stations during last summer, when he was the tender age of 19.

    The song was co-written between three songwriters, one of whom was Tyler’s cousin David Reed. “First time I heard it, I was like, ‘Man, I really got to cut this song’,” he said.

    The song made enough of a splash in the Texas regional market that Dozier was able to score a management deal with Salter-Gann Universal Promotions and Management, LLC.

    A second single, “How Can I Get You Off My Mind,” also penned by his cousin Reed, is currently making its rounds in the radio markets, and to add to that excitement, Tyler said he has plans to journey to Nashville soon to record some songs he has co-written with Reed.

    Dozier’s performance of his new single, which is orchestrated by traditional country instrumentation, such as the whine of a pedal steel guitar and acoustic guitars, bares the influence of his dad’s old running buddy/bandmate, Chesnutt, but still sounds uniquely Tyler Dozier.

    Whatever happens for the young East Texan singer and writer of pure country songs, one thing is certain to anyone who meets him: he will remain the same grounded, yet talented, young man he has always been.

    “Man, it’s crazy how people have responded to my music. Especially when I play live. Man! People come up and talk to me and that’s just what this is all about. I’m just an ol’ country boy out here doing what I love and for people to enjoy listening to it as much as I do, it means a lot and it’s really inspiring.”

    Tyler Dozier’s singles “Doing Time in Texas” and “How Can I Get You Off My Mind” can be downloaded from all digital music retail platforms and can be streamed on Spotify or requested from radiofreetexas.com.

    Video interview with Tyler

  • Willie Nelson: A look back in 10 songs

    Willie Nelson at Farm Aid 2009 CroppedWillie_Nelson_at_Farm_Aid_2009.jpg: Larry Philpot from Indianapolisderivative work: GDuwenTell me!, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

    By Chris Edwards

    Texas original and national treasure Willie Nelson just turned 88 years young and hasn’t showed many signs of slowing down.

    Musical movement s come and go, but one thing most folks (well, folks with any degree of good sense) can agree on is the greatness of Mr. Nelson. Actually, scrap that “Mr. Nelson” business – Willie is “Willie.” If Madonna is cool enough to be a mononym, then so is our native son, for he is infinite number of degrees cooler than Madonna, Cher, Beyonce (and any more recent singer or showbiz personality choosing to use just one name.)

    Aside from being a genuinely great human being, Nelson is one of the classic songsmiths of the great American songbook, and a stellar interpreter of the music of others.

    In no particular order, to celebrate the greatness of the red-headed troubadour, here are 10 songs that I believe to be among the top of the list in a career filled with incredible songs.

    #1 Always on My Mind – This song, which features one of Nelson’s most emotionally charged vocal performances, was originally intended for inclusion on the Pancho and Lefty album as a duet with Merle Haggard. When Haggard passed on the tune, Nelson saved it for his next project. Even in a lush arrangement of strings and brass, Nelson’s vocal still cuts through and deftly communicates an earnest, heartfelt plea of another chance at a romance that has soured.

    #2 Pretty Paper – A Christmas song from Nelson’s pen, this lovely melody frames a lyric about a man selling pencils and the titular stationery on the street. The song is a great snapshot of a type of person who is likely forgotten by many, and also a look at the way love is expressed among people during the holiday season.

    #3 Angel Flying too Close to the Ground – One of Nelson’s most incredible lyrics, this song, which came from the same album as “On the Road Again,” is one of the best meditations on love and loss ever committed to tape.

    #4 Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain – In an era when country music that was acceptable to the masses was drenched in strings and keyboards, Nelson made this Roy Acuff cover a certifiable classic from his stripped-down monumental LP Red-Headed Stranger. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” contains not much, arrangement-wise, outside of Nelson’s trusty old guitar “Trigger,” his vocals, a bass and Mickey Raphael’s harmonica.

    #5 On the Road Again – This song, which was reportedly written on a barf bag while Nelson was on a plane, is one of those classics that, like Nelson himself, is loved by just about everyone. The song, which chronicles the narrator’s love of being on the road and playing music with friends, is also one of Nelson’s biggest commercial successes.

    #6 Pancho and Lefty – This song was already a classic by the time Nelson and duet partner Merle Haggard cut it for an album of the same name. Songwriter Townes Van Zandt was one of the original outlaws of Texas country music and managed to write this tune while on the road in the early 1970s. It is, without a doubt, one of the most lyrically complex standards of the American songbook.

    #7 Crazy – This song, as well as the next one on this list, was one of Nelson’s early triumphs as a songwriter. Although it is best associated with the late, great Patsy Cline, Nelson’s own stripped-down version of it is magical in of itself.

    #8 Night Life – Another early Nelson-penned classic, he sold the publishing rights to this song and a couple of others for peanuts when he was trying to eke out a living playing music. “Night Life,” with its jazzy phrasing, is one of the best odes to the late-night existence of musicians – it “ain’t no good life,” as the lyric goes – and has been covered by everyone from Ray Price to Aretha Franklin.

    #9 Whiskey River – Like he did with “Pancho and Lefty” a few years later, Nelson turned another one of his buddies’ songs into a bona-fide classic and a signature for his life shows.

    The Johnny Bush-penned ode to the power of distilled spirits for erasing heartache has been used as a show opener for Nelson for eons. The studio version off 1973’s Shotgun Willie is just a stone-cold classic.

    The undeniable power of this Texas anthem is so strong that there’s probably not a single musician in any genre who doesn’t love it. The East Texas-based psych-metal merchants the Beef Masters used to close out their shows with a cover of it.

    #10 Funny How Time Slips Away – Reportedly written the same week as “Crazy” and “Night Life,” this song, which was written about a short-lived courtship, opens up into a universal complaint and makes for a song that sounds like it has always been a part of our universal, collective consciousness.