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One Toke Over the Line

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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If you’re as ancient as I am you may remember “One Toke Over the Line,” a popular song released in 1970 by Michael Brewer and Tome Shipley.

“One toke over the line, sweet Jesus
One toke over the line
Sittin’ downtown in a railway station
One toke over the line."

Now, toke was hippie code for marijuana, so of course everyone assumed that’s what the song was talking about. But Brewer and Shipley wouldn’t say that was what they were writing about. In fact, Shipley said that “if you listen to the lyrics of that song, ‘one toke’ was just a metaphor. It’s a song about excess. Too much of anything will kill you.”

I’ve been watching a lot of coverage of the destruction Hurricane Ian caused in Florida. Its almost Cat. 5 windspeeds and subsequent surge of ocean pushed along by those winds resulted in a level of damage I’ve never seen from a hurricane, and I’ve seen a lot of them in my 72 years. The incredible destructive power of these monster storms has increased significantly over the years.

I grew up in Nederland, Tx. We were close enough to the coast that every time a hurricane threatened our area, we were warned to evacuate. The first hurricane I was old enough to remember was Audrey. I was seven years old at the time, in 1957. The storm ultimately unleashed its fury on the Southern Louisiana coast, becoming one of the deadliest tropical cyclones in history, killing at least 416 people. My dad took the family to Cameron to look at the damage after the storm. The beach that had been covered with hundreds of beach cabins before Audrey, was wiped clean. There was no evidence anything had been there. Audrey was a Category 3 hurricane.

We were warned in Nederland to evacuate, and we went where we always did when a hurricane threated the gulf coast, Woodville. My grandparents lived in Woodville, and hurricanes never made it that far north. Until 2005 and Hurricane Rita. Tyler County suffered extensive dame from the storm.

Hurricanes Rita, Katrina and a few years later Ike changed everything. Something was clearly different. Subsequent storms over the last 17 years have become more frequent and deadlier. This is the result of climate change, which is now affecting all of us, all over the world. We’ve stepped one toke over the line, off the precipice. And there doesn’t appear to be any way back.

There are two common reactions from those who find the idea of climate change uninviting. The first is to acknowledge that climate has changed, but humans had nothing to do with it. The second is to deny climate change exists. The first is open to debate, the second is being stubbornly obtuse. In fact, the climate doesn’t care what you or I believe. We see evidence that climate has changed significantly every day. And the future consequences of not planning for a very different tomorrow are catastrophic.

Average temperatures will get higher and higher, more and more coastal areas will be flooded, areas where significant populations live. Choosing to build large cities in the desert have already resulted in huge decreases in water supply to big swaths of the country, with consequences to both people and agriculture. Because it seems likely we are too late to slow down these changes, we must begin planning on how to move millions of people when where they currently live become uninhabitable.

I wish I was optimistic that we will we take those actions before disaster forces our hand, but efforts to deal with climate change over the last 40 years have been met with resistance from business and government and many individuals who want to live on the coast or in the desert, with all three working hard to slow down those trying to make a difference.

It should be obvious that our excesses are going to kill us, just like the song writers warned. Maybe we should put that toke down and make some plans for the future.

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Committee looks at public education

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Trent AshbyCAPITOL UPDATE by Rep. Trent Ashby

With the start of the Fall season right around the corner, we welcome the return of cooler weather and a few of my favorite traditions. 

Whether attending a local county fair, cheering on the hometown football team under the Friday night lights, or making your way back out to the field for an afternoon dove hunt, I hope you and your family will take advantage of this special season and give thanks to God for the opportunity to live in a state where we cherish the blessings that make the fall season in Texas so special. 

With that, we’ll dive back into our examination of House interim charges. 

House Interim Charge: 

Public Education

Our next interim committee to examine is the House Committee on Public Education. This 13-member committee has jurisdiction over the programming, financing, and overall supervision of our public schools in Texas. Additionally, this committee has purview over several agencies, including the State Board of Education and the Texas Education Agency. With an extensive list of interim charges, the House Committee on Public Education has been hard at work examining the relevant legislation passed during the most recent legislative session and evaluating the impact these policies will have on teachers and students. 

Throughout the interim, committee members have been charged with identifying ways to improve the role that parents play in their child’s education. One specific area is having the committee examine ways to enhance collaboration between school board members, administrators, and parents.  As a former school board member, I know how valuable parental engagement can be in formulating decisions on what’s best for our students.  I look forward to reviewing the recommendations from the members of this committee on this topic. 

While there are several charges related to the effects of the pandemic, perhaps the most pressing issue the House Committee on Public Education will examine is the current teacher shortage. Speaker Phelan has asked members of the Committee to evaluate the current teacher workforce and study practices to improve the recruitment, preparation, and retention of high-quality educators. Given the impact our teachers have on educating our future workforce and leaders, I believe the Legislature should make supporting our educators, who work tirelessly to serve our students, a top priority during the upcoming session. As I often say, “if we don’t get public education right, nothing else matters.” 

Additionally, the committee will examine the learning loss associated with the pandemic and monitor the implementation of state and local plans to address student achievement gaps. Importantly, the Committee will also consider how the policies enacted last session to address learning loss are working. Members will identify best practices that strike a balance to provide additional support to students without overburdening classroom teachers. And, last but certainly not least, members will evaluate student mental health, including the availability and workload of mental health professionals across the state and their role in the public school system. 

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. 

Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my official Facebook page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

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Voting In Co-op Elections—Dismal!

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McQueen Column MugBy Horace McQueen

Voting for directors of local cooperatives is often overlooked by the member-owners. The co-op is supposedly owned by the members, but a wreck can come when members don’t vote. More than 70% of our electric co-ops have less than 10% of eligible members voting in director elections. 

Then we wonder why so many of those boards seem entrenched, with few new folks elected. The same members continue to serve on many electric co-op boards—with the present directors using their positions to reelect the same board members. One blatant policy of many co-ops is the use of proxy voting. 

Here in Texas, many electric co-op boards encourage members to designate their vote to the sitting board of directors. That often leads to incumbent board members using the proxy voting scheme to protect their own seats. Some boards use their director nominating committee to simply nominate present board members—rather than offering voters choices for the positions. Another problem area is that sometimes local news media turns a blind eye to questionable practices by a co-op board. 

When a local electric co-op spends a lot of dollars advertising in local news media—radio, television and newspapers-- sometimes mismanagement problems at the co-op are overlooked. Just remember that local co-op belongs to the member owners—so exercise your vote!

Most cattle raisers have been confronted with the problem of a new calf that refuses to nurse. Sometimes it’s a cow that refuses her calf—sometimes it is the hardheaded calf that has no use for mama. Recently our son, who has a ranch near Bonham, had a newborn calf that refused any attempt to nurse his mother. 

Someone told him about a maneuver called a “Madigan Squeeze”. This simple method involves a rope in fixed loops around the neck and chest of the calf. With the calf laying down, apply gentle tension on the rope and then squeeze the calf for 20-minutes. 

Our son said it was like giving CPR to the calf. After 20-minutes, the calf bounded to his feet and headed to his first drink of milk at his mothers’ udder. I looked up the Madigan Squeeze on the internet and printed out directions for rope placement. It may not work 100% of the time, but it’s sure worth trying!

An ad in the “Livestock Weekly” publication was attention getting. “Experienced ranch hand needed. Must ride, rope, horseshoe, feed and medicate horses and cattle. Must weld, build fence, repair drinkers, operate heavy equipment and do stucco and masonry work.” Reckon how many job seekers could qualify for all the “wants” the rancher has specified? 

That’s—30—Horace McQueen, Queensdale Farm, Latexo

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A Dangerous New Religion

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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Participation in religion in general has been on the decline in the United States for decades and has rapidly declined over the last 20 years. Participation among younger generations starting with Millennials has seen the most rapid decrease. We should be encouraged then that a new religion is being born in the ashes of Christianity. I find it extremely discouraging, though, reflecting more the decline of the United States over the last decade.

Last week a writer named Helgard Muller published a new book on Amazon titled “President Donald J. Trump, The Son of Man – The Christ.” No, this is not satire. Even the Kindle version of the book is $17.76, so I read the book, so you don’t have to!

 Before I get into the meat of the message in the 326-page book, I must note that as religiously sincere as the writer seems to be, he writes with the skill of your average high school student. Despite that, he is perfectly clear that he believes Donald Trump is the Messiah for America. Let me quote him from the book’s introduction:

“PRESIDENT DONALD J. Trump is the King of Kings, And Lord of Lords! The Son of Man who will be seen seated in the place of power at God's right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven! You have read that correctly! President Donald Trump is the Christ for this age! The Son of King David! Prophecies of Jesus and all the prophets point to President Donald J. Trump as the Son of Man, the Christ. People, Christians, and Jews are not aware of how many prophecies President Donald Trump of the United States has fulfilled in his presidency as the Son of Man.”

Because I try to limit these columns to 1,000 words, I’ll just summarize that Muller attempts to make the case that Trump was sent to earth by God as “The Son of Man,” with a very specific role to play in an end of the world scenario. I’ll get back to this idea shortly.

Should you think this writer is just an outlier, not laying out the gospel of an actual new religion, let me introduce you to the high priest of this new religion. There are many other Evangelists who have adopted this some belief sysem. Shane Vaughn is the right-wing pastor of Mississippi’s First Harvest Ministries. He has a huge social media following. And he insists that Donald Trump is the Messiah and has an interesting take on America’s history to support his belief.

Vaughn says that before the founders landed on our shores, they wrote down a chorus that went, “We are going to New Israel.” He says that when they came off the ship, they didn’t plant an American Flag, they planted a Christian Flag. And then George Washington knelt and prayed near his horse where the Twin Towers used to stand and dedicated America to God. That at that point, God broke covenant with the Jews, and engaged in a new Covenant with America. And our founding fathers were all descended from the 12 tribes of Israel.

Now, let me be clear. None of what he says is true. It’s a fractured fairytale version of the founding of this country. There is a famous painting of George Washington kneeling to pray beside his horse, but it is from the imagination of the artist, not from any historical event. But this man is saying this because it must be true to support the foundational beliefs of this new religion, that Donald Troup is the new Messiah. That he is the Son of Man.

So, biblically, who is the Son of Man? Well, Jesus did you use the term, with a very specific meaning. The Son of Man is one who is coming to ultimately judge mankind at the end of history and bring about the apocalypse, ending the world as we know it and destroying all bad guys who oppose God and are oppressing God’s people. The result would be that after this judgement, this Son of Man would create heaven on earth, a new kingdom with God ruling directly.

If you are interested, this concept comes from Daniel 7:13-14 in the Hebrew bible. There is disagreement among Jewish scholars about exactly what the passage means, but Jesus’ view is not unique. And Jesus, according to the Bible, implied that he was both the Messiah and the Son of Man when he came to earth. So, most Christians believe that when Jesus comes back, he will be coming back in the role of the Son of Man, to initiate Armageddon, having already fulfilled the role of Son of God and Savior.

So, let’s tie it all together. Trump supporters, who are buying into this new religion, believe that he is Jesus returned in his capacity as Son of Man, that American is in a new covenant with God, that American is the New Israel, and that Trump is the Messiah of New Israel. The logic of this new religion is that Jesus cannot be the Son of Man because he never led the nation of Israel, which is a biblical precondition of being the Son of Man. Trump was the leader of the United States, the New Israel in their belief, so must be the Son of Man spoken of in the Bible.

This is a rapidly growing theology among Trumps supporters. And it is dangerous.

Yes, it based in utter fantasy. But if you are part of a religion that believes that your flesh and blood leader, Donald Trump, is the actual Messiah, the Son of Man come to light the fuse that kicks off the apocalypse, then you are waiting with excitement for that leader to give you the command to start the war.

It puts the events of January 6 in a whole new light.

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Better think of a new plan, quick

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FromEditorsDesk Tony Croppedby Tony Farkas
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I’ve always been a proponent of practicality, in that there’s all kind of people in this world that love to spout ideas and ideology as if that makes some sort of difference in how they are perceived.

Or, more simply, there’s quite a big difference between theory and practice.

Take, for instance, the latest developments in immigration and its effect on the country.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have done something pretty impressive, as well as unprecedented, by taking the masses of illegal aliens flooding across the border and shipping them to those areas that are bastions of liberalism and “democracy.”

Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City, Martha’s Vineyard and more have been the stopping points for busloads and planeloads of migrants that have been detained. Other than being liberal areas, they’re also sanctuary cities, you know, those places were mayors and councils have decided that federal law doesn’t apply.

In theory, those cities virtue-signaled their solidarity with the plight of the illegal aliens and tell them all they have to do is make it there and they’re safe. Of course, it’s easy to claim the moral high ground when things are happening hundreds of miles away.

So, in a move reminiscent of Joseph Welch, who hoisted Sen. Joseph McCarthy on his own petard, these governors did just that — got those illegal aliens there.

Guess what happened?

The people who claimed to want to welcome these aliens with open arms, to a one, declared states of emergency, and started demanding that the federal government do something about it. To a one, these enlightened elitists claimed their cities don’t have the infrastructure to handle the problem.

Newscasters, pundits and the sheeple who embrace that logic have begun asking the government for investigations, and even claim that these governors are guilty of kidnapping, false imprisonment and even human trafficking.

Sen. Ted Cruz has said that it took only 50 aliens being deposited in Martha’s Vineyard to make liberals lose their minds, while at the same time, they’re demanding that these border states suck it up and give the 4.2 million immigrants that have poured into the country everything they need, as if these border states actually have the infrastructure in place to handle the influx.

To show their hospitality and dedication to equity, the people of the vineyard promptly took those immigrants and shipped them to a military base.

To tie it up, the theory was that we’re kind and want everyone to never do without; the practice, however, is something decidedly more difficult, and this country is not prepared to handle the policy of open borders.

That’s not to mention the immigrants themselves, who are being kicked around like a policy soccer ball on a political field.

There are laws in place, and a process, that ensures the people coming to this country embrace its traditions, and that the country absorbs an increasing population in a sensible manner. Somehow, law has been supplanted by emotion, and perception and dogmatic belief has overcome common sense.

This isn’t someone else’s problem. This is the country’s problem, and it will take more than well-chosen words and virtue signaling to solve. Perhaps the antics of the southern governors will kickstart some honest attempts to solve this.

Tony Farkas is editor of the San Jacinto News-Times and 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..

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