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Luke (rt) and his good friend Larry Weishuhn are both in their mid seventies and still enjoying the great outdoors, maybe more now than ever! Photo by Luke Clayton
April 16, 2024


Category: Outdoor Life Author: Super User
Luke (rt) and his good friend Larry Weishuhn are both in their mid seventies and still enjoying the great outdoors, maybe more now than ever! Photo by Luke ClaytonThere was a time back when I was in my twenties and thirties that I thought I would be hanging…
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April 13, 2024

Close-to-home fun

Category: Outdoor Life Author: Super User
As an outdoors writer for the past 39 years, I’ve become accustomed to “gallavanting” around the country fishing, hunting and collecting material for my articles. Lately though, I’ve been sticking pretty close to home. Kenneth Shephard with a good “eater…


The coming battle that really isn’t


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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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I’ve never really been a fan of country music.

Don’t get me wrong; there are quite a lot of songs I really like, and having been in a band, anyone who gets up in front of an audience, even if they’re not top quality, deserves respect, because that ain’t an easy gig.

Along those lines, I don’t like hip hop, rap, screamo, death metal or yodeling, and there’s probably a lot more, but you get the point. Since I don’t like it, I do the unimaginable and not listen to it.

I read a lot of information out there that the Jason Aldean song “Try That in a Small Town” is evil and must be destroyed by the caring, warm-hearted and loving individuals who feel it necessary to protect the people and the planet from whatever currently is considered evil.

The complaints cover the spectrum you’d expect: it inspires fear in people, particularly residents of large cities; inspires violence against said city dwellers; exhorts small-town residents to resort to gun violence; and seeks to get the small towners to rise up and practice vigilantism and mistrust against outsiders.

Having read the lyrics, I can come to a simple conclusion: the Karens and pearl-clutchers who condemn the song are continuing the apparently accepted trend of disparaging anything that makes people feel proud or even safe. As an added bonus, there is the belief that the song comes from a genre of music that is predominantly made by white people for white people, and it is so OK to hate on white people these days.

My takeaway is a bit different, but not because I have a greater understanding of the intention of the song or because I use words as a means of communication. The events mentioned specifically in the song, such as spitting on police officers, robbery, and even governmental overreach, are anathema to the morals and beliefs of the small-town people, and that they wouldn’t stand for it as it seems has been done in the big cities.

See, folks like those in East Texas believe in law and order, believe in the Bible and caring for our neighbors, respect others and their beliefs, are patriotic and generally behave with manners. We’ll even welcome newcomers with a smile.

The naysayers and whiners, though, seem to think that people protecting and taking care of themselves is the bad thing here, and not one has made mention of the criminal activity, cruelty, selfishness and disrespect that fictitious perpetrators exhibited.

That is probably the most egregious miss, which is the kind of thinking that leads to arguments about gun control, no bail legislation and the refusal to prosecute minor crimes that are prevalent in the societies of big cities. Every criminal is a victim, and every victim is either a criminal or deserving of their fate.

Since dealing with crime and criminals has waned, society has become either violent or fearful. Schools are now armed camps, new subdivisions have become gated communities, neighbors sometimes never even meet, doorbells and lightbulbs are cameras capturing whatever shenanigans are in the area, and there’s a growing market for dashboard cameras for vehicles.

Many if not most of you growing up remember being outside all day or running down to the store by yourself to get a soda, or helping your neighbors move in or haul in groceries and leaving the doors to your car and house unlocked at night. These are the things that are emblematic of small towns, yet for some reason, they’re bad, and singing about them is inciting violence.

Plus, country music and songs by Aldean, or Toby Keith or Lee Greenwood are treated as anti-American or something, yet rap lyrics that are misogynistic or glorify street violence or books that teach first-graders about sex should not only be required listening and reading, but are lauded as culturally and socially significant.

Excuse us down here, but we would rather follow a moral code than be subject to the whims of people who are angry but don’t know why. But we can help you, if you come over and set a spell with some of our homemade sweet tea.

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From the ridiculous to the sublime

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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I’ve been a patron of the internet since its virtual infancy as a means of information transfer medium. I’ve even been a computer nerd since the days of the Commodore Pet.

I’ve done Fortran and Basic coding on TRS-80s, messed with Windows and its attendant apps from version 3 on up, and even built my own computers starting with 486 machines through modern-day Pentiums.

When the Internet became a big thing, particularly as a purveyor of news articles, I became my newspaper’s first webmaster, and learned the ins and outs of the medium, even how to program in HTML.

All of this is to say that I’ve seen the trends in the computer age, from personal computers being little more than large solitaire machines to the world at your fingertips with smartphones.

There is a trend the industry is galloping madly toward that as someone who values truth and trust should be very afraid of, and that is artificial intelligence.

Current estimates show that about half, or 50 percent, of the content generated on the internet is AI, and in the not-too-distant future, it’s expected to go over 90 percent.

In the beginning, as an editor, it became apparent that the information being found on the web was suspect; we quickly came up with rules and expectations that the internet could not be the source of stories, and any story that would, say, cite anything from Wikipedia was immediately tossed back at the writer, since Wikipedia is user-edited and is extremely questionable.

As the AI grows and matures, there could be possibilities that AI could take information, such as news stories from a media outlet, rewrite them and post them on a competing site, effectively creating competition that is managed by software. News outlets would not be the only segment of the internet that would be affected by this, either, since developments may begin affecting photographs, sales pitches, even website and software creation (a la Mr. Smith in “The Matrix”).

If there’s additional and wrong facts introduced into an article, who bears the blame? The original creator? The owner of the new AI-driven site? Who can you sue for libel if a piece of software prints a fabrication?

There’s the idea that AI can be used in teaching and homework applications. How do you grade a book report written by ChatGTP, even if it could be spotted? If teachers use it to share resources, as some people suggest, who’s to say that the AI doesn’t introduce erroneous values into the search?

(As an aside, an article in the New York Times claims that the benefits of AI-assisted homework outweighs the risks.}

Moreover, the AI could have military applications, being the driving force behind security like ballistic missiles, and anyone has seen cautionary tales from “Colossus: The Forbin Project” or “The Terminator” will feel that little chill of fear running up their spine.

Knowledge is available from many sources, but it requires effort in order gain wisdom. To take away the search in favor of convenience will cheapen any advances that can be made, and failure will be met with shrugs.

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You have something the world needs

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Jim Opionin By Jim Powers
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My wife and I both love music, but we come to music from a very different place. I will sit down and stream an entire album while doing nothing but listening to the album. She listens to music as a background to whatever else she is doing. The different approaches derive from the way each of us came to music. It’s not so much the style of music that highlights that difference as it is a fundamental distinction in the source of that love for the art.

I’ve noted before that I started learning to play guitar when I was 10. It was the dawn of the 1960s. Blues and Rock were quickly replacing other genres of music, so all the cool kids wanted to play guitar. I decided that if I just learned guitar, I could play all that soulful Blues that I loved to listen to. So, I spent way too many hours each day listening to records (yeah, when vinyl was all we had, not the $30 cult object vinyl albums of today), figuring out the best I could what chords the artists were playing, and producing some semblance of the same sound. Played in a couple of teenage garage bands, the usual thing at the time.

Over 60 years later, I still play guitar. Technically I would be considered an intermediate level player, which is a pretty low bar in the guitar player pantheon. It means that the average person could hear me playing and would comment that I was a pretty good player, but a more sophisticated listener would be kind and not point out that I suck at guitar.

My wife came at music from a different perspective of simply a love of singing. She studied voice and ultimately performed as a soprano with a choral group that toured Europe for a month when she was in college. She sang from the time she was a small child and ultimately could have pursued it professionally had she chosen to.

So, what’s the difference that finds me sitting and listening exclusively to music and it being the background of her life? It’s simple, really. I love music. She is music.

I studied guitar because I believed if I did so, I could internalize the music I loved. She studied singing to let the out music already inside her.

So many of us spend our lives chasing what our society tells us is most important. It is, after all, the pervasive myth of the American dream promoted by giant corporations that we should spend our lives working to acquire progressively more expensive stuff, only to grow old, die and leave it to family members who don’t want it.

You may be surprised (or not) to learn that this country is littered with abandoned homes, full of furniture and a lifetime of personal memories, that the families cared so little about that they never returned and simply didn’t want the hassle of selling and stopped paying taxes on them.

Now, I’m a realist. Because capitalism is the religion of the U.S., we all must make a living. If a robot or AI hasn’t taken your job yet, then by all means keep the electricity on as long as possible. We are all part of the money game.

But as we face a very uncertain future, every one of us has something unique to offer the rest of us. My thing is writing. My wife ultimately pursued her dream of educating deaf children. We are incredibly fortunate that we could keep a roof over our heads doing things we wanted most to do.

But even if you are just marking time to retirement (something I would suggest you reconsider), you know inside your head what it is that the world needs from you to add real value to all our lives. Perhaps if we combine all our talents, we can overcome the existential threat of the technological monster we have unleashed upon ourselves. Even if we fail, we will have given our best and not been just a participant in our own destruction.

Jim Powers writes opinion columns. The opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarliy reflect those of this publication.

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Despite losses, attempts to limit freedom persist

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedIt really hasn’t been a good time lately for the Illuminaticrats currently in power in the country.

Things started sliding when the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down Roe v. Wade, calling it an example of the abuse of judicial authority.

While many decried the decision as killing abortion rights, it only put the decision back in the hands of the states, ending a federal involvement that existed for close to 50 years.

Then, more recently, the court struck down a plan by the Biden administration to cancel student loan debt, saying it was out of the scope of the executive branch’s powers to do something that more properly done by the legislative branch.

This decision was called heartless and mean because 43 million Americans would be forced to repay loans, which have been on hold for two years anyway, to the tune of $400 billion.

Not too long after that, the court struck down Affirmative Action, which gave special preference to groups of people, such as minorities or women, who applied for college entrance or jobs.

Of course, and right on cue, people were up in arms about the return to slavery and discrimination.

Wending its way through the courts now is a case where the federal government was found to have been in cahoots with social media platforms to censor certain speech, particularly when it came to the disaster that was COVID. A federal judge in Louisiana issued an injunction, meaning that federal agencies cannot have groups like Twitter and Facebook “moderate” content, or in other words, remove information the feds don’t like.

This one is still a hot-button issue, and the Biden administration has filed a measure to reject the injunction. This one most likely will end up in the Supreme Court’s lap as well.

As with the emergency stay the feds are seeking for the censorship, the government also is looking for ways to circumvent the court’s rulings in all these cases.

For instance, the government started holding discussions with universities regarding “legacy admissions”; it started working the Department of Education to possibly regulate loan reduction/forgiveness instead of having to work with Congress; laws were being ginned up regarding abortion on a national scale.

There has been calls as well to either impeach the Supreme Court, or at least certain justices, or to change the makeup of the Supreme Court, either by limiting terms of service or adding seats, because the powers that be cannot fathom being denied in their efforts to control all aspects of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The framers of the Constitution set up the three branches of government to institute checks and balances, and for good or bad, that is what has happened in these cases. The government worked like it should have.

What is most worrisome here, though, is the efforts on the part of the people who supposedly represent us to force their ideals and programs on us, regardless of how we feel, basically using the Constitution as a placemat for a crab boil.

The idea for our country can be summed up in the phrase “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Ignoring that for politics of the immediate, or to force a program down our throats despite overwhelming opposition, is the very definition of a dictatorship.

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

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July 4 now the definition of irony

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedJuly 4 now the definition of irony

The rockets red-glared, the bombs burst and Old Glory was saluted as we honored the 247th birthday of our great and vaunted nation.

Independence Day, though, is not carrying the meaning it once did, because based on our own apathy and a government that desires more and more power, freedom isn’t what’s actually being practiced.

We wanted to be captains of our own fates individually; it’s even in our mission statement — “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” etc.

While no one will dispute the need for a governing body for any nation, as anarchy only leads to upheaval, that very same mission statement, as well as the legal framework for our nation, set forth that individual rights and state’s rights were the cornerstone to a free society.

Somewhere along the way, that sentiment was usurped by seemingly well-meaning people.

See, at just about every level, our government has taken what should have been our responsibilities on to itself, all in the name of liberty, equality and improving the quality of life (the phrase “general welfare” is used as the basis for pretty much all laws), while simultaneously teaching us that what we have is the best kind of freedom, better than all the other freedom in the world combined.

There is no portion of our lives, though, that do not suffer from the control of elites, and I defy anyone who can name something that doesn’t have the touch of government about it.

For instance, one of the hallmarks of liberty is private property rights, yet while you can own property, it will be subject to laws and regulations from the neighborhood to the federal level, laws that dictate how far a structure can be from the property lines, how much the property is worth (which is used to determine how much money you will pay to the government), and if it’s deemed necessary for the “public good,” it can be taken.

When you’re born, the government takes note, including blood samples, and issues you a number, which is then used to track just about everything you do for the rest of your life.

Everyone was granted a set of rights by the Bill of Rights, yet self-professed cognoscenti was to abridge or even remove those rights, particularly free speech and gun ownership, in the name of safety.

Due process in most cases has been usurped; if a government tells you you’re wrong, it is up to you to prove your innocence (Don’t believe me? Look at the IRS.) Think your property value is too high? You have to dispute it.

Any bank transaction that is more than $10,000 must be reported. Businesses are required to report activities in a manner that is prescribed by the feds (you’ve heard of Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley).

You’re required to have a license to drive, to fish, to hunt, to carry a weapon. You can only use approved drugs, fertilizers, weed control, clothing material. Everything you eat must have nutrition information and an ingredient list. Every job you do must be done in a safe manner or there will be massive fines, and everything you buy must come with safety instructions and have warnings of any environmental concern.

Every federal agency, including and especially the Department of Education, has a quasi-police force and a budget for weapons and ammunition. Most laws passed in the past 15-20 years have expanded the scope of oversight of all lives that there isn’t one segment of our lives that is not scrutinized.

Still and all, if you look at the output of information from news down to social media, the sentiment exists that we are super free and have all the liberty anyone could ever ask for.

Perhaps next year we can take back the rights we’ve let lapse or we have lost, and celebrate a true Independence Day.

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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