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Not sure why this is a problem

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FromEditorsDesk Tony$2.97. $3.18. $3.45. $3.86. $3.99 and counting …

And let’s not forget the 9/10th of a cent, cause that adds up real quick.

I’m one of those guys that personifies the word commute, and watching the gas prices heading upward at a pace that reminds me of Bugs Bunny cartoons has gotten me more than a little concerned.

Thinking back just a little over two years ago when I was paying less that $2 a gallon, I’m wondering how things got out of control so fast. Actually, we all pretty much know the answer to that — Trump lost the election.

In a previous job I had during the Trump administration, I remember seeing gas at $1.19 a gallon at a couple of places. Not only are those days gone, but there is a certain lack of concern on the part of a whole lot of people, especially current President Joe Biden.

If you haven’t seen it yet, look up any saved video where Biden blames Russia and its aggressions toward the Ukraine as the reason for American gas prices. It’s even being referred to as the Russian price hike at many levels of federal government.

More to my point, and even more concerning, is that quite a lot of the fine people of this country are buying that swill.

The first question people need to ask is how is $4 to $8 per gallon gas in any way building back better, as is this president’s credo? He did say that he was going to hold oil companies accountable for prices, yet now the line is Russia Russia Russia, and we’re supposed to pretend that the last two years’ worth of rising gas prices didn’t exist?

The second question is why the president is so cavalier about what this government is or is not prepared to do to solve the problem. If whatever it was worked under a president so reviled was successful, it should work again. 

Yet what I hear, and what I read, and what is being reported, is not only an abdication of responsibility by a sitting president and his administration, but an acquiescence from a population that has abdicated its liberty.

Seriously. One conversation said that gas prices in the Czech Republic are the U.S. equivalent of more than $8 per gallon, and that everybody has to suck it up, and so should we, and that poor Unca Joe really isn’t at fault here.

I’m not an economist. I’m a writer, and as one I read and research and compile my information. Having done that, there’s a simple explanation for how things work: more demand, less supply, costs go up. More supply, less demand, costs go down.

Granted, that’s probably a simplistic view, and I’m sure there are other factors I’m not considering. We did, though, cap our oil reserves, and one of the first things Biden did was kill the Keystone Pipeline. So we stopped relying on ourselves for oil, and started back relying on other countries, and now things got out of control.

If we were producing and consuming our own output, as well as selling any surplus, these prices wouldn’t be skyrocketing, cause we could charge whatever we saw fit. 

I’m sure there’s also a connection to the prices and the government’s push of a climate agenda and the use of electric cars (which are even more harmful to the ecology, according to my research), but that would mark me as a conspiracy theorist, right?

In any case, if you take an apathetic population and match it with an equally apathetic leadership, you  have a recipe for disaster.

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..

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Another Brick in the Wall

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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“We don't need no education

We don't need no thought control

No dark sarcasm in the classroom

Teacher, leave them kids alone

Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone

All in all it's just another brick in the wall

All in all you're just another brick in the wall”

Pink Floyd – Another Brick in the Wall

 


Have you ever encountered a situation for the tenth time, say kids leaving bicycles on the sidewalk creating a walking hazard and said to yourself (or anyone who would listen), “There ought to be a law against that.”? In fact, there probably is, but it is being ignored. As are speeding laws, stop signs, seat belts, child safety seats in cars, and on and on and on.

Every time you say the words, “There ought to be a law,” you lay another brick in the prison of laws you are building around yourself. Which brings us to Texas S.B. 8. 

S.B. 8 is a clearly unconstitutional law (Roe V Wade is still in effect at this time) that authorizes any person to sue any person who performs an abortion after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, facilitates it, or “intends” to do so. The person doing the suing can live in any state and doesn’t have to have been personally injured to sue. Texas’ novel twist here is that no state or local officials can enforce the law, an effort to get around the constitution.

I’m not arguing here whether abortion is right or wrong. My opinion (because this is an opinion column) is that I have no standing to tell another human being what they can do with their body. I can find no instance of a comparable effort to exercise control over men’s bodies, so something else must be at hand when primarily male politicians pass laws controlling women’s choices.

Misogyny is a word that was coined in the 17th Century and was rarely used until the 1970’s in America. It came into common use in the ‘70’s with the rise of the women’s movement. It means hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against women.

If you were born after 1980, when equal treatment for women had finally started to move forward, you need to know that it was not always as it is now (even though there is still a lot more improvement needed). Even in the 1960’s and 1970’s, women were still very much second-class citizens when compared to men. Just a couple of examples.

In 1969, when I was 18, if I had a steady job and good credit, I could walk into Knapp Ford in Woodville by myself, sign my name to a loan, and drive out with a new Mustang.

In 1996, I bought a used 1969 Mustang from a woman who was selling her late mother’s. Her mother was 25 years old, a teacher, and had been living on her own for several years. But her experience with buying a car would be very different than mine. The lady I bought the car from had all the paperwork from when her mother bought the car and pointed out to me the signatures on the loan, her’s and her father’s.

Back in ’69, a woman usually was unable to get a loan without either her father (if she was single) or her husband co-signing the loan. Even if she had a good job. The assumption was that a woman was eventually going to marry, get pregnant, quit her job, and spend the rest of her life keeping house and raising kids, so was a credit risk.

In 1979, my wife needed surgery that was not optional. The issue was life threatening. But fixing the problem would mean she would never have children. This wasn’t a concern for us. We choose not to have children, so no big deal. My wife was 31 years old, had been a teacher for years, and owned her own home when we married.

Just before they took her to surgery, someone came into the room with a form for me to sign. The form gave my permission for the surgeon to do a procedure that would leave her unable to conceive. I was baffled by it and noted that SHE was the one being operated on, and the decision was completely hers. But it wasn’t. I was told that without my written permission, they could not do the surgery. If I hadn’t signed, would they have let her die? Scary, huh?

That was the world for women for much of the 20th century.

And now a lot of politicians appear bent on taking us back to those days. If you think these folks are concerned with the rights of fetuses when they pass unconstitutional laws that restrict the rights of women to control their own bodies, what they really seem to want is to take us back to the bad old days of the 1950’s through 1970’s when they really did control every aspect of a woman’s life. And the word for what is happening here is misogyny.

Nobody that I’ve ever met is pro-abortion. I would like to live in a perfect world where every child was born into a loving family, was well nurtured, well fed and well educated and went on to live a wonder life. But that is not the real world. Too many children are born into poverty, abuse, and abandonment. 

And too many women are forced to make choices that are bad for themselves by people whose motives are extremely suspect. We don’t need more laws restricting people’s right to control their own lives and bodies. And we sure don’t won’t to go back to the middle of the 20th century. I lived there. If you were a white male, it was a time of great privilege. If you were black or female, not so much.

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Social Insecurity

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Tom Purcell HeadA quarter of a million dollars.

That’s the amount that I’ve paid in FICA payroll taxes during my working career, according to my recent Social Security statement.

FICA, which stands for “Federal Insurance Contributions Act,” “is a payroll tax that helps fund both Social Security and Medicare programs, which provide benefits for retirees, the disabled and children,” says the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The FICA tax also will partially fund — at least I hope it will — my retirement years.

My statement says I am eligible to begin receiving Social Security payments of $1,851 a month when I hit age 62.

If I wait until I am 70, I’ll receive $3,370 a month — which is a nice little chunk of dough.

However, if I had invested the $250,000 FICA deducted from my earnings on my own, I’d have, according to my money manager, more than $1.5 million socked away.

If I drew a conservative 4 percent of that $1.5 million every year, I’d be collecting a $5,000 retirement check every month right away.

Of course, that is assuming I would have saved and invested all the money that FICA took from my weekly paychecks.

More likely, me knowing me, I would have blown most of it on nicer cars and more vacations.

Saving money for your future is hard, even for more-disciplined people.

My parents raised six kids on one income and had a lot of big bills along the way, so saving money for the future was not always possible.

They now rely on the Social Security payments they receive every month to help them cover their basic expenses.

Millions of elderly Americans are in the same precarious financial boat.

The Social Security Administration reports that about 40 percent of Americans 65 and older receive half of their retirement income from Social Security — and about 13 percent rely on it for 90 percent or more of their income.

It takes some of the sting out of the 15.3 percent FICA tax that is imposed on my self-employed earnings to know that my contributions are helping others get by in their old age.

But will Social Security be around to help me in my old age?

Social Security is now paying out more than it is taking in and the funds working taxpayers contribute now go directly to Social Security recipients.

But what about the Social Security “trust fund,” which saved trillions of the surplus tax contributions that had rolled in for years?

The partially good news is that it will not run out of money until 2034 — at which time Social Security payments will have to be reduced, taxes will have to be raised or more money will have to be borrowed.

The bad news is that its funds were “invested” in government bonds, which the federal government happily spent on day-to-day budget expenses, such as foreign wars, food stamps and the national debt.

As the great columnist Charles Krauthammer explained in 2011, the Social Security trust fund is filled not with money but with special-issue government IOUs that can only be repaid by raising taxes or borrowing even more money.

In any event, it’s anybody’s guess how much my monthly Social Security checks will be, so let me make the guys at the Social Security Administration an offer.

How about you give me back my 250 large in return for removing me from your rolls?

What do you say, SSA?

Hello?

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Post-Election Day musings

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Chris MetitationsAnother Election Day has come and gone.

In the news media sector, elections are both a big business and a fun spectator sport. 

For those of us tasked with reporting on the elections, it can be quite a thrill to watch results trickle in from various polling locations, and to see how certain races evolve through the course of the night’s tallying.

If, like me, you’re a reporter/media person who lives in the county you’re reporting on, it can also be a bit of a let-down at times, if your choice candidate did not win, or if a race your eyes are upon ended up in a runoff, after you’d hoped it go in a more decisive direction.

Speaking of, I imagined one, maybe two, of the primary elections in Tyler County possibly going to runoffs, but I could have never imagined four out of five contested countywide races going that way.

So, there’s another stop on the train ride that is the mid-terms here, prior to November’s general election. Whoever wins the Republican runoff for County Judge, and wins in November, it will be strange to see a different face at the head of county government, after Judge Jacques Blanchette has served for so many terms, but encouraging that so many folks have stepped up with willingness to serve.

The same goes for the other contested races in our county, and it’s encouraging, as well, to see so many younger folks with that heart of service appearing on the ballots.

As I alluded to earlier in this scrawling, some of the elections didn’t go the way I’d hoped. Case in point: Texas has missed out on having a true statesman in a powerful office (Ag Commissioner) this go round. Also: I’d really hoped for better picks going to the general election for the gubernatorial and Guv Lite races, but that’s just how those things work. Abbott, Beto and Dan Patrick have the name recognition, and most importantly, the serious coin to get on that ballot.

In terms of statewide legislative action, next year will see another legislative session, and hopefully, if there’s a good deal of new leadership in Austin, there will be less focus on inane folderol. In other words, personally, I’d like to see some real, meaningful diving into the school finance issue as well as the monolithic property tax issue. There are others, to be certain, but those are at the top of mine (and many’s) lists.

I think what most Texans would like to see is a tackling of actual issues, and a cease-and-desist on the nothingburger that is Critical Race Theory, as well as a moratorium on bigotry dictating policy, i.e. the recent Transgender law. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Hopefully we’ll get some folks into office in Austin who value public education and trust teachers to be experts on curriculum and instruction. 

For those who notice the little quotes appearing on the front page of this newspaper, there’s a reason why the bit from Plato appeared on last week’s edition about the measure of a man and power. 

A similar quote comes by way of Stan Lee, who scripted the eternal line “With great power, comes great responsibility,” which is actually a paraphrase of a sentiment expressed in classical texts and in some sacred texts, but most know it phrased the way Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben said it. 

Another quote that seems applicable is attributed to George Van Valkenburg: “Leadership is doing what is right when no one is watching.”

Getting things done for the people will take working together and healthy discourse/debate. The toxic model of political wargames doesn’t bode well anywhere, not in Austin, not in Tyler County. 

For all those who find themselves with titles in November, courtesy of the electorate, it boils down to three words: service above self.

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Peaceable – but not harmless

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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Back in September of 2021 a new Texas law went into effect allowing permit less carry of handguns. At its must basic definition, permit less carry means that, with certain restrictions, anyone who can legally buy and own a handgun, can carry it, openly or concealed, within the state.

This column isn’t about gun control. Or about whether it is a good idea to carry a handgun. The decision to carry a handgun is a very personal one. The most fundamental right a human being has is the right to defend their life or their family’s lives against someone trying to take it. Similarly, no one has a legal obligation to defend either themselves or others, including third parties (unless you are a law enforcement officer). Whether you have a moral obligation to do so is, again, a personal decision.

If you decide to carry a gun, though, you need to decide before something happens if you are really willing to use it. Self-defense situations usually happen and are resolved within seconds, at very close distance, with three rounds fired.

When someone is trying to kill you, there is no time to sort out the moral or legal details of defending yourself with deadly force. As my dad drilled into me from age 7 when he gave me my first rifle, never point a gun at anyone or anything you do not intend to kill or destroy. There are two old saws related to this: You can’t recall a bullet, and there is a lawyer attached to every round you fire. If you are not certain that you are willing to draw and kill with that weapon, please do not carry it.

Now, I don’t recommend strapping on a gun and putting yourself in sketchy situations. That kind of aggression is going to get you in trouble. Even if you get what you are looking for, a confrontation, you aren’t going to like the legal firestorm you will have to endure. Ask Kyle Rittenhouse. Even if you win, you and your family will go through hell.

Most of us though, are peaceable. We don’t go out looking for a fight. We interact peaceably with others. We avoid sketchy situations. We are, in appearance, exactly the kind of people bad guys decide to steal from, or carjack, or assault.

Bad guys often believe that because someone is peaceable, they are also harmless. The perfect mark for a crime. And they are often right. And if you carry a gun but are unwilling to use it to save yourself or other innocent people, I contend you are morally wrong, regardless of the legal implications.

We should be peaceable, but not harmless.

All of this is to try once again to make a point.

The U.S. carries a very big gun. Every day thousands more innocent people die in Ukraine because of the atrocities committed by Putin and his army.

If we don’t have the courage to use that big gun to defend innocent people, why spend $700 billion a year to keep it loaded? Because we fear Putin’s nuclear weapons? Then he can blackmail us into retreat and invade any country he wants knowing we will never attack him militarily (as the Biden administration keeps reminding him via the media).

The U.S. clearly needs to be a peaceable country. But it cannot remain harmless.

 

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