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The difference between belief and mandate

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Columnist Tony FarkasBy Tony Farkas
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History teaches us that belief is a powerful thing, and that people holding a belief can be forces for change.

Take Christianity for instance. The Apostles died as martyrs for their faith, practicing their belief and preaching love and tolerance. While not perfect, Christianity in its many forms still exists today.

It’s the prime example of what happens when a belief is shared. You win converts, or at least people who see your point, with the passionate defense of anything.

The other side of that coin is mandates, which by definition is a forced policy. It’s also based on belief, but instead of winning compliance, there is the understood threat of retaliation if compliance is not willingly given.

That normally applies to governments, such as the recent mask and vaccination mandates put in place to combat COVID-19, but it also extends to other areas, particularly the area of equality.

Recently in Dallas, there were a group of children subjected to what was described as a Drag Your Kid to Pride Drag Show. Drag queens danced while children were giving them money and even the children were dragged onstage and made to participate.

There also are numerous examples of libraries hosting Drag Queen Story Hour.

This isn’t about being gay; I’m not qualified to discuss any of that. I can, however, tell you what I believe. And therein lies the difference.
With Christianity, or with politics, or with lifestyles, or with anything that is a passion, if it will stand on its merits, it will not require indoctrination. Further, it will not require force of any kind because it will resonate with the individual. Frog-marching children into drag bars is tantamount to forcing a lifestyle acceptance on them. Sure, churches require attendance, but that’s a matter for parents to deal with, based on what they see as acceptable for their children.

From there, they either come to their belief, or not. I can walk away from a church and they will pray for my soul. I walk away from anything else and I’m branded a bigot, or a racist, or a hater, or some such nonsense, even though I have expressed no sentiment. I’m an adult, and I can make those decisions. Kids can’t, but that’s another column.

The thing for me about mandates is the coercion. Any time force is part of the equation, there always will be a faction that will come out in opposition, leading to conflict. However, there is another issue that I see, and that is whatever is mandated may have issues or is only partially beneficial.

Sure, there was a time in Christianity, for argument’s sake, where force was a major part of the equation. History shows, though, that was about power, not about the message. As churches let the proof be in the pudding, as it were, the community grew.

While it may seem that I’m purposely contrasting the alphabet crowd with Christians, this isn’t the point. The point remains simple in that if people are treated with respect and allowed the dignity of making their own decisions — you know, using honey instead of vinegar — combined with a powerful and compelling belief, then there will be change and there will be acceptance.

That goes for politics, social issues, relationships of every stripe.

All mandates accomplish is setting groups apart, sowing division and rancor.

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Texas Republicans abandon democracy

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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The Texas Republican Party during their annual convention, passed a resolution.

"We reject the certified results of the 2020 presidential election, and we hold that acting President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected by the people of the United States,"

Words matter, and the specific wording here is significant.

It is the “certified results” of the election they reject. Which would indicate a belief that the entire democratic process of voting was fraudulent in the 2020 election. And that, of course, has been the contention of the Republican Party since before the election, that huge numbers of people voted illegally, that the voting machines were rigged, that the people counting the votes were corrupt, and that the national process of certification of the results was illegitimate. If you are unwilling to accept the certified results of an election because your guy lost, then you have given up on democracy. You think this resolution would have been presented had Trump won?

But the resolution attempts to narrow the scope of their rejection by including the words “presidential election.” If there was fraud in the presidential election, there was fraud up and down the ballot, in all states, because it was the same ballot, entered into the same machines and counted by the same people. If there was fraud, then nobody on the ballot was “legitimately elected by the people of the United States.” They should all pack up their offices and go home.

I’m left wandering what form of government Texas Republicans would prefer? Theocracy, autocracy, plutocracy? Perhaps an autocratic head of the country appointed by corporations and billionaires.

How is it that a democratic election process that has worked for us throughout most of our history suddenly failed when Donald Trump lost an election? And that would have been deemed the most successful in history had he won?

We critically need to answer those questions of we are to avoid the collapse of our republic.

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Let’s unleash the entrepreneur

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Lets unleash the entrepreneur

By Tom Purcell

I started my first business in the 5th grade when I convinced a neighbor to allow me to cut her grass with her electric lawn mower.

That project ended in immediate failure.

The mower was powered by a long extension cord — a cord I ran over and sliced in two shortly after I began mowing.

Such is the life of the entrepreneur, a life typically filled with lots more failure than success.

According to The Balance Small Business, an entrepreneur is someone who develops an enterprise around an innovation, manages the new enterprise and assumes the financial risk for its success or failure.

My definition of an entrepreneur is an independent business person who creates a service or solution that the world didn’t know it needed — and who has the passion and drive to continuously perfect that service or solution.

Walt Disney was a failed animator whose never-give-up creative vision filled my childhood with wonderful stories.

Columnist Tom Purcell Tom Purcell Steve Jobs established an inventive approach to computer technology that now makes it incredibly easy for novices like me to shoot and edit funny videos of my dog (#ThurbersTail) and have a blast doing it.

My favorite entrepreneurs, though, are the millions of restless Americans who can’t stand to report to a “boss” and simply want to create their own products or services and rise or fall financially based on their quality and salability.

People like my beloved carpet cleaner, who has refined his technology and technique to get spots out of rental property carpets and furniture nobody else can remove — all while doing zero harm to the environment.

People like the daughter of a fellow I know who, as a high school sophomore, started a business in her basement creating custom protective phone cases for smartphones — a business she turned into a successful career.

The entrepreneurial bug has captivated me for many years.

When I was 17 I decided I was a stonemason and was soon making a significant chunk of money by rebuilding stone and block walls all over hilly western PA.

I got a great offer to join the corporate world after college, but at 27 I jumped at a chance to start an advertising business with a long-time pro.

We risked it all to start an IT support business with a few others, but that entrepreneurial digital dream sent me to the poor house.

For many years now I’ve been self-employed providing communication services.

But I’ve also had solid success with a venture in real estate rentals and, since I got my puppy, Thurber, I’ve had several ideas for pet-related innovations.

Much to my surprise, nobody has invented a solution to end the annoying problem of pet hair. So am decided to find a solution. I expect to soon launch a clever innovation that will help me and a few million others dog and cat owners.

I’ve long believed — and the data backs me up — that the entrepreneur is the lifeblood not only of our economy but of our quality of life (dishwasher, automatic transmission and on and on).

So why aren’t we doing all we can to support our entrepreneurs? Why are patents still so hard and costly to get?

Why do we impose so many unnecessary rules that make business startups harder and costlier?

The United States ranked 6th among 190 economies in the ease of doing business in 2019, but we should be No. 1.

We must remove the regulatory roadblocks to unleash the creativity and innovation of entrepreneurs, because in the end we all benefit from their dreams.

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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Sex, gender, and why we shouldn’t care

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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We all like a story about the triumph of good over evil. A favorite trope is the story of a schoolyard bully who someone finally finds the courage to punch in the face, the bully collapsing in tears. “He cried like a little girl,” we tell our friends.

What do we mean by that? That suddenly his chromosomes switched from XY to XX? Do we mean that his sex organs changed, that his body hair become lighter, that he suddenly became more curvaceous? Of course not. We are ascribing to his behavior a cultural stereotype that little girls cry when they are hurt, and little boys don’t. We all know that isn’t true, everyone cries sometimes.

Our culture is full of stereotypes that make no sense. Girls wear skirts, boys wear pants. Girls wear makeup and most boys don’t. Those are cultural norms, though.

There are two definitions we need to get out of the way, because most people seem to believe they refer to the same thing, and that’s not the case.

“Sex” is the categories humans are divided into based on their reproductive functions. If we define someone by their sex, we define a man as someone who fertilizes an egg in a woman, who then hosts the fetus until birth.

Gender can describe either of the two sexes and refers to social and cultural differences in contrast to biological ones. Something tha affects people of both genders.

Our identification with one gender or another is only tangentially related to the number of X chromosomes we are born with. Many factors during our development in the womb ultimately affect who we understand ourselves to be. Everyone is familiar with the hormone testosterone, so I’ll focus on how much it affects our view of ourselves.

As I have written before, my father and I are very different people. He had high testosterone levels. He was a boys boy growing up. Constantly getting into fights, playing every sport, spending the rest of his time hunting and fishing…doing what we culturally consider “man stuff.”

But high levels of testosterone are not always a good thing. He was aggressive, easily angered, was bald in his mid 20s and suffered from maladies related to high testosterone as he aged. He died at age 69.

I’m much more like my mother. She was peaceful, even tempered (I never saw her angry (seriously)), enjoyed reading, sewing, and doing things around the house.

My testosterone level is in the normal range. I never got into fights growing up, am generally very laid back (my wife and I have argued only five times that we can remember is our 45 years of marriage). I also enjoy reading, writing, various forms of art, etc.  I still have all the hair on my head, and other than an aortic value replacement in 2019 (a congenital defect) I’m very healthy at age 71.

I grew up with both parents, so could have been influenced equally by either. But as far as my gender is concerned, I’m closer on a spectrum to mom than dad.

There are people born with XX or XY chromosomes that as they are growing up, relate far more to the gender identity of people of the opposite sex. This usually is because of factors during their development in the womb beyond their control. Hormone imbalances, brain development, health of the mother, all can affect fetal development. This experience is very confusing for a maturing child. They feel and think like a girl, but they have the sex organs of a boy. As they reach puberty, the conflict becomes unbearable. Society tells them that they should be attracted to girls (if they have boy sex organs), or vice-versa, but that’s not the case.

Social pressure from other teens, parents’ refusal to accept what is happening, can ultimately become more than they can handle. The result is often suicide.

Sexual reassignment can be lifesaving for these young people. They can finally be physically what they are mentally and emotionally.

Attacking trans-sexual people and sexual reassignment is cruel and irrational. The existence of trans-sexual people does not diminish the rest of us in any way. The idea that they are more likely pedophiles or will engage in sexual assault is nonsense. 

Most child sex crimes and assaults are by members of the child’s own family. The idea that they are using their status to sneak into bathrooms and leer at naked people is silly. 

Our separate public bathrooms are a cultural thing. Other cultures are different. If folks want to look at naked people, three clicks on the Internet will get you XXX porn. Why pretend to be a woman in the hope of getting a quick look at naked flesh through a crack in a stall?

I don’t know what has happened to our society. Why have we become so obsessed with how other people look, think, or live their lives. Maybe TikTok has turned us all into other obsessed voyeurs, believing we have the right to pry into the lives of and control others.

Unless someone’s behavior is directly affecting your life, leave people alone.

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Ashby sends condolences to grieving Uvalde community

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Trent Ashby in HouseBy Trent Ashby

District 57 Repsentative

The tragedy and senseless act of violence that took the precious lives of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde leaves us all with heavy hearts.

As Texans grieve over this unspeakable loss, we grapple with the unfortunate reality that something this catastrophic can take place in our own backyard. In a place where children are meant to prosper and feel protected, no parent should ever have to carry the inescapable concern of losing their child at school.

As a father, I send my deepest condolences and heartfelt prayers to the families of the twenty-one people who lost their lives. As Texans and as Americans, it is my sincere hope that we come together to find sensible and thoughtful solutions to address the all-to-common occurrence of mass shootings that currently plague our society.

As we mourn the loss of life and grieve alongside our fellow Texans, I'd like to share a verse in scripture that I hope will resonate in the hearts and minds of all those affected by this tragedy:

"Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:17-18;21.

In the wake of our most recent primary runoff elections, I thought it would be appropriate to cover the House Committee on Elections for this week’s examination of House Interim Committees and charges.

The House Committee on Elections has the important duty of overseeing the Texas Ethics Commission and the Texas Secretary of State. This nine-member committee has jurisdiction over voting rights, state elections, election code, and campaign finances.

Over the interim, this Committee will spend time keeping an eye on relevant legislation passed in the 87th Legislature and study recent changes to election procedures.

If you're a Texan who is eligible to vote by mail, you can now track the status of your ballot with a digital tool on the Texas Secretary of State's website. Enacted under HB 1382, the Committee will examine this new tool to ensure it is working as intended.

Allowing voters to check their mail-in status eliminates the uncertainty that your vote didn't get counted, thus increasing accessibility transparency, and turnout. The Committee on Elections will also review the implementation of HB 1622, which seeks to increase transparency and efficiency in the elections process by allowing voters to file a complaint with the Secretary of State if early voting turnout numbers are not posted in a timely manner.

Current law requires early voting clerks to maintain a roster listing the number of people who voted during each day of early voting. The daily roster must be submitted to the Secretary of State and posted publicly on the Secretary of State's website.

Ensuring these posting requirements are met in a timely manner helps both administrators and the Secretary of State monitor vote totals for accuracy to identify any problems or irregularities, which helps maintain the integrity of our electoral process.

This Committee is also charged with studying laws related to local ballot initiatives and propositions to assess whether reforms are needed to ensure ballot language is clear, consistent, and easy to understand.

When Texans have an opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment or a local proposition, at times, the wording may be difficult to comprehend, leaving voters unsure as to whether they support the measure.

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 be posting regular updates on what's happening in your State Capitol and sharing information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

Trent Ashby represents District 57, soon to be District 9, which includes Trinity County, in the Texas Legislature.

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