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Hug a veteran

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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Way back in the day, something along the lines of 30-ish years ago, I was a pup learning the editor trade at a small Eastern New Mexico daily.

After a meeting with my boss one day, he tasks me to write an editorial about Veterans Day. Since I had never written such a thing before, I countered with my best puzzled/frightened look.

My editor saw this and offered a bit of advice: “If it helps, we’re for it.”

It didn’t help, mostly because I already was for it. I plugged away and was able to toss out a respectable piece, and that ended up running in the three newspapers that were part of the group.

Flash-forward 30-some-odd years, and I’m still for it, and I’m betting most if not all of you are as well.

My father, who still lives in Eastern New Mexico, is a veteran, having served 20 years in the Air Force. His brother served in the Navy, and currently is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

My mother worked in numerous capacities with the military, and even became the first civilian leader of a Social Actions office at the air base. Myself, I was 17 years a dependent, meaning I followed a lot of the same rules (I actually told my dad that because of that, I already served, and didn’t want to enlist. There were other reasons, but that’s not important right now).

One of the things our government mostly gets right is creating a military to protect us from enemies. I say mostly, since one of the government’s enumerated powers is to raise and maintain a military force, but most would agree that not every one of their uses in the last 246 years has been sensible (again, an argument for another time).

The making of the military as one that is for the most part all voluntary is an exceptional development, and even though when the need arose, our fearless leaders (RE**s, as the lingo was) instituted a draft, and to this day, 18-year-old males still are required to register with Selective Service.

But that is for dire circumstances. The volunteers, and even those who were drafted, that served our nation right or wrong deserve all respect.

Imagine the dedication and even love of family and country that was necessary to enter military service. While the idea of free or mostly free food, lodging and later education, retirement, life insurance and medical care may have been the motivating factor, it was a decision born of love, since at any time the military will be called in to conflict.

Even today, deployments overseas into Asia, the Middle East, and Europe have these heroes away from family and country, serving the country despite the risks — death, pain, maiming, PTSD, all manner of maladies notwithstanding.

I have been enchanted to see that in the last few years appreciation for the military has grown, given that after Vietnam, the military was vilified. Even then, though, they served.

Now that they’re home, they continue to serve their communities through charitable endeavors. So on Friday, raise a flag, salute your friends who served, and be thankful they sacrificed to keep our way of life safe.

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House Committee focuses on legal matters

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Trent AshbyAs the month of October comes to a close, sportsmen and women across the state are counting down the days until the upcoming hunting season.

With white-tailed deer and duck season just around the corner, I want to remind all of my fellow hunters to make sure you’ve purchased your hunting license and federal duck stamp before heading to the field.

I’d also like to encourage you to consider downloading the Texas Outdoor Annual App, where you can access information about hunting season dates and bag limits for your county, find public hunting lands nearby, and review various hunting regulations, even without internet service.

You can also access your hunting and fishing license on your device and even purchase your hunting license through the app. For more information, visit www.tpwd.texas.gov.

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

The next stop on our tour of House Committees is the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. With nine members, the Committee has legislative jurisdiction over all matters pertaining to criminal law, penalties, criminal procedure in the courts of Texas, and revisions or amendments to the penal code. The Committee also oversees two state agencies, the Office of State Prosecuting Attorney and the Texas State Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision.

During the interim, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will monitor the implementation of policies enacted during the 87th Legislative Session and ensure the measures and outcomes are working as intended.

For instance, HB 1540 made much-needed changes to human trafficking laws by strengthening protections for victims and adding additional investigatory resources for prosecutors. While the Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force has made significant progress in combatting human trafficking offenders, this bill serves to bolster our efforts by providing additional resources to the ongoing fight against human trafficking.

The Committee will also study reentry and integration programs and make recommendations for reducing employment barriers for certain people with a criminal record. Reentry programs are designed to assist returning citizens who have served their time and are motivated to “reenter” society by competing for a job, attaining stable housing, supporting their families, and contributing to their communities.

The study also reviews the length of time certain criminal offenses remain on a defendant’s record and considers the impact of expanding the offenses that qualify for an order of non-disclosure.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will also study the availability of victim services, including community-based trauma recovery, housing and relocation assistance, employment protections, and other services that enhance recovery and safety for victims of violent crimes.

Additionally, committee members are charged with making recommendations for streamlining the grant administration process and improving access to community-based services in neighborhoods with the highest crime rates and for victims of violent crimes.

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/.

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

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Fake Meats Are A Bust!

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Horace McQueen ColumnBy Horace McQueen

After spending millions of dollars trying to convince folks that fake meats are the way to go, those efforts have come to naught. Not long ago the burger chains got into the action with all sorts of plant-based burger look-a-likes. Their efforts failed to convince beef lovers their product makes a real burger.  That’s good news for beef producers!

Those East Texans raising pine timber as a source of income are still awaiting a bonanza. The housing boom is proving a bust and the interest rates are running many would-be homeowners to cover. With interest rates at 6%--and probably more soon—the price of home ownership is just too risky for some. Also some timberland owners are disappointed with the glowing returns they thought to achieve when planting pine seedling 15-20 years ago. That never came to pass and in our area, timber offers little in the way of a decent return on the investment. Rob Hughes, Lufkin-based head of the Texas Forestry Assn. says we have an oversupply of timber and landowners are questioning their future plans. He said some timber owners are converting their timber tracts into pasture and hay meadows.

Though times look bleak for the next few years, timber production still is an amazing dollar generator in east Texas. Bill Oates, Associate Director of the Texas Forest Service, says last year the Texas forestry sector had a total economic impact of $41.6 billion while supporting 170,000 jobs. The forest-based industry was one of the top ten manufacturing sectors in Texas and timber ranked seventh among our agricultural commodities.

Combine Texas beef with Texas wines and you have a winner. This Friday, October 28th it’s a beef and wine tasting program coming to Flint (South of Tyler). Dr. Davey Griffin, professor and Extension Meat Specialist at Texas A & M will discuss grilling of different beef cuts. Plenty of wine will be available, from the nearby Kiepersol Winery. And for those interested in starting a winery—the what, how and how much--Fran Pontasch, vitriculture program specialist, will answer those, and other questions. It all takes place at Kims #47 in Flint. The program takes place from 2-4 p.m. and all are invited!  That’s –30—This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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A great American ‘Voice’

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Kim with her parents, Rev. Bobby and Ramona Cruse. Photo by Chris Edwards|TCB

By Chris Edwards

As many of you who have read my scrawlings here can probably deduce, I despise, or at the very least, have strong contempt for, most mainstream, mass-market contemporary consumer culture.

I could go on a James Ellroy-style rant about how out of step I feel with the current pop culture milieu, but I won’t.
Chalk it up to my artistic temperament, but I just feel an affinity for entertaining artforms, and other consumables, that have a handmade, “soulful” feel. I yearn for something real – the “stuff that works,” as Guy Clark once poetically put it.

If all that ain’t enough, I don’t even identify with either of the country’s major street gangs—er, I mean, political parties. Actually, I despise both of them, too.

Every once in a blue moon the mainstream gets it right, though. There have been some excellent films that don’t insult their audiences’ intelligence that have gone on to big-time box office success, and every once in a while, a really good book finds its way through all the poorly written “50 Shades of Bad Taste” drek on the best-seller lists.

In music, although, I’m not familiar with most popular sounds of the modern age, I think the mainstream’s embrace of Jason Isbell and my favorite current band, the Turnpike Troubadours, is a huge win for real art, and decades ago, Alice in Chains sold gazillions of records, and that was another cultural victory for great art.

So, every once in a blue moon, the masses get the privilege of having something/someone who is real before their eyes. Kim Cruse, Woodville’s own songbird, is one such instance.

Kim, of course, is a standout on the current season of NBC’s “The Voice.” Her acceptance by mainstream culture, by and large, represents something many of us in Tyler County already knew – she is the real deal, a charismatic, soulful artist who owns and inhabits the songs she sings and writes.

There are artists who sing a song, and it stays sung.

In this rarefied class of vocalist, he or she communicates a song effortlessly, regardless if he or she had a hand in composing said song or not. In other words: they live inside the song.
Among these timeless voices, I’d include the late great hillbilly Shakespeare Hank Williams; Texas’s own blues-belter Janis Joplin; the sweet and charismatic Southern chanteuse Emmylou Harris; the unimpeachable, soulful Nina Simone; the Man in Black Johnny Cash and the powerful, yet tormented, soul of Alice in Chains, Layne Staley.

Kim Cruse deserves to be among that realm of artist, and that is a hill I’d die on. Her sound, and her way of owning and living inside of a song, put her in a class that is far removed from most people who would mark “singer” or “musician” as a job title.

I’m not terribly familiar with shows like The Voice or its rival American Idol (again, I don’t really follow much in the way of mainstream culture totems). However, from what I can see, the former seems to value and award overall musicianship over fads, and if that is the case, then Kim’s ticket is written in stone, but she still needs the votes of you, the public, to pull it off. My old pal Dave Fenley was on the show a few seasons ago and came close to winning it but couldn’t get the required majority of votes to seal the deal.

Creating art, whether the medium is music, photography, writing or fine crafts, with passion and for the sake of the art itself, is an endeavor where indifference does not exist and where the inconveniences of the world around the creator cease to be as nagging. Conversely, for those who enjoy the fruits of such labors, they are a welcome reprieve from what can often be a nasty world around them.

There are passionate creatives all around who deserve to be nurtured and supported in what they do. Whether Kim Cruse wins the Voice or not is irrelevant in her overall trajectory. She is already a star and has the God-gifted talents to inspire and entertain folks, as well as make them think.

The other day I overheard someone talking about a singer of local origin who “could’ve gone professional.” Although I did not interject into the conversation this person was immersed in, I wanted to tell him, “Brother, any time someone gets paid for playing music, they are a professional.”

There are many deserving talents who may not have record deals or mass-media presence to share their souls with the world, but they are no less deserving of attention, nor are they less “professional” with their absence in record bins.

Support artists like Kim Cruse. Buy her records, go to her shows when you can and vote for her on The Voice. Support those efforts however you can and help insure that there’ll be something real for the public to consume in the marketplace of ideas and art.

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Shadows on a wall

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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On October 28, David DePape, a 42-year-old Canadian citizen, was arrested after breaking into the home of Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul and attacking her husband with a hammer. Nancy was in Washington, DC at the time of the home invasion. Paul was seriously injured, undergoing surgery for a fractured skull.

Depape’s social media presence revealed his embrace of far-right political conspiracy theories. He had also made racist, sexist, and antisemitic posts, and also pushed Holocaust Denial and Covid 19 disinformation.

He confessed to authorities that he had broken into the Pelosi home to take Nancy Pelosi hostage and break her knees. He was charged with a host of crimes.

It has been reported that security camera video shows DePape using the hammer to smash in the back door and break into the house at around 2 a.m. Paul Pelosi was upstairs asleep in his bed when the break-in occurred.

Let me share an ancient allegory with you.

The philosopher Plato lived during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC and died at approximately 80 years old. During that long life, he produced an allegory usually referred to as Plato’s Cave where he sought to compare the effect of education and the lack of it on our nature.”

The premise of the allegory, if you aren’t familiar with it, is that a group of people have been chained to the wall of a cave all their lives, facing a blank wall. The have spent their entire lives watching shadows that are projected on the wall from objects that pass in front of a fire behind them. They give names to these shadows.

These shadows are the only reality these prisoners know, but they are not accurate projections of the real world. I’ll not get into the deeper philosophy that Plato explored because it’s not necessary to the discussion here. Basically, the idea is that the philosopher in the group is like a prisoner freed from the cave who comes to understand that the shadows on the wall are not the direct source of the images he sees, and wants to understand, while every other prisoner of the cave has no desire to leave their prison.

But one prisoner is freed. He would look around and a see the fire. And as his eyes adjusted to the light, he would gradually come to see the reality surrounding him. And he would return to the cave, wanting to share the truth with the other prisoners. But now, accustomed to the bright light outside the cave, he was temporarily unable to see in the darkness, leaving the other prisoners to conclude that his journey outside the cave had harmed him and they must remain in the cave.

Plato’s conclusion was that as a result, the prisoners would kill anyone who attempted to drag them out of the cave.

What has been the response by far-right media and politicians to the attack on Pelosi? As I’m writing this on November 2, they are still promoting a conspiracy theory that the 82-year-old Pelosi wasn’t the victim of the crime, but that he had known DePape for some time, had let him into the house, that DePape was a Gay prostitute, and while or after engaging in sex, they had an altercation. Some versions of the story have them having returned at 2:30 a.m. from a night at a Gay bar.

To be clear, there has never been any suggestion that Paul Pelosi is Gay. He and Nancy have been married since 1963 and have five children. He is a businessman with degrees from Georgetown University and New York University. Everything the far-right media has suggested, hinted at, and alleged about this incident is baseless conspiracy mongering. None of the salacious nonsense they have been spewing nonstop since the attack is true.

Even though the lies they are telling have been debunked for days, they still spread their nonsense to their viewers, who appear to be accepting it uncritically as fact.

And with that we return to Plato’s Cave.

There are millions of people in this country who have purposely chained themselves facing a blank wall in a rightwing Republican cave filled with flickering shadows. They believe those shadows are representations of reality, but instead are only shadows of the lies far-right media constantly feed them. Because they never see anything but those lies, and in fact seem willing to fight to the death to remain chained in that cave, they are under the complete control of people determined to destroy this country. They cannot be freed because they do not want to be freed. And Mr. DePape has shown very clearly that they are willing to kill to maintain their delusions.

Powerful people have weaponized these prisoners they have chained in this cave and have turned the switch that has loosed their shackles. They have convinced them that everyone outside their cave is the enemy and a threat to their remaining in their safe little prison. I fear there isn’t a way back that doesn’t involve violence.

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