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Waking up to the classic sounds of George Orwell

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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I read something extremely ridiculous on Sunday, which was a tough thing to do after reading something equally as ridiculous on Thursday, and it spurred a question in my brain, “When did the rug get pulled out from under us?”

Sunday’s missive was about, of all things, McDonald’s “infamously unreliable” ice cream machines. Seems an online how-to group, combined with something strangely called Public Knowledge, petitioned the government, through the Librarian of Congress, to be allowed to hack into the machines to repair them.

If you think about that for just a minute, you’ll come up with some obvious questions, such as, “Isn’t hacking a crime?” and “What does Congress have to do with McDonald’s ice cream?”

A little more thought drums up, “Why is this a thing? Isn’t there something better to be focused on?” Imagine the chutzpah required to use the might of Congress to be allowed to force-fix a nonsensical problem.

Society, being so used to getting what it wants when it wants, calls upon higher powers to grant wishes, when all along, capitalism has provided an answer. Not the capitalism we have today, which suffers from so many intrusions from a government hell-bent on forcing “equality,” but a capitalism that provides competition and choice.

See, most every other burger joint has some sort of ice cream (Dairy Queen, anyone?). What should happen, as the old saw goes, is people vote with their feet and do business with the company that provides. That lesson was handed down recently via the fiasco with Bud Light.

That’s all it takes. If the Golden Arches can’t supply, go to DQ or Sonic. I’m sure they’d be happy to provide, and the Librarian of Congress doesn’t have to be involved in the transaction.

That same kind of thinking is at the heart of Thursday’s missive, which gave us the recent bout of Stella Awards.

These awards were named after Stella Liebeck, who famously (I promise I’m not picking on them) went to McDonald’s, got coffee, got scalded, sued and won $2.9 million for a scalded crotch. Details of the incident notwithstanding, it showed the idiocy of a jury giving out huge judgments for people’s lack of common sense.

Included in this batch of awards: a woman bought a Winnebago and drove it to the OU game. She set the cruise control, then GOT UP to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home crashed and overturned. The jury, though, felt the woman’s pain; they awarded $1.75 million because the owner’s manual didn’t explain that cruise control was not the same as autopilot.

Then there’s this: A woman in a restaurant, having an argument with her boyfriend, throws a drink at him and storms off. She then slips on the spilled drink and breaks her tailbone. Instead of calling it karma, the restaurant was ordered to pay $113,500.

How about the man who broke into a house while the owners were away, got locked into the garage, and had to spend eight days surviving on Pepsi and dry dog food. He sued the homeowners’ insurance company, which was forced to pay $500,000 for his “anguish.”

I posted that on my timeline after reading it because I was amazed at not only the foolishness of people and the lack of common sense of empaneled juries, but in looking at the details, you’ll notice that most of these issues stem from people ignoring governmentally mandated rules and regulations. The juries also sympathized with people because of the societal belief in victimhood — if only there was some warning keeping these people from acting foolish.

This is the kind of stuff that leads to warning labels on clothes and baby items cautioning people to remove children before folding or washing; that the contents of a hot coffee cup that you knowingly purchase will be hot; or that if you are in a neighbor’s yard without permission and get bit by a dog, it’s not the neighbor’s fault.

As a poor analogy, anyone growing up in my day and age has heard the phrase, “That’ll teach you.” Whether you were playing with matches and got burned or had stuck a fork in a light socket, you found out real quick that wasn’t a good idea, and you’d be lucky not to get your bottom smacked. You certainly didn’t sue your parents for causing emotional distress.

As an aside, I was chided by several people, not for highlighting the jury awards, but for not siding with Stella since she required surgery for her injuries, and told I was all for genital mutilation.

My actual feelings are these: You pays your money and you takes your chances, and it’s all on you. The government has no part in this.

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Dogs and Cats also facing tough times

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TomPurcellBy Tom Purcell

There’s a lot of sad news to go around, but this Vox story really breaks my heart: animal shelters are overflowing with abandoned dogs and cats again.

A few years ago, during COVID isolation, there was a surge of people rescuing pets from shelters to fill their homes with lovable furry creatures.

It was the heyday of abandoned animals finding homes, with more animals leaving shelters than coming in.

As people went back to work, however, some people decided they didn’t have the time or desire to care for a pet and sent it back to the shelter — something they should have thought through before they disrupted the pet’s life.

But there is another force that is driving people to abandon their pets: it has got way too expensive to feed and care for them.

High inflation drove up the cost of pet food 20% year over year — for the simple reason that the ingredients to make pet food were also at record highs, as everything has been the past three years.

The inflation rate is down some in 2023, but the cost of services is not. That includes the cost of having a pet get regular checkups and care at the veterinarian, as well as the proper shots pets need annually.

CNN reports that a high percentage of the abandoned pets have serious medical issues, which can be very costly to treat.

My 2½ year old Labrador, Thurber, is healthy and fit as can be — but when he began having seizures, we discovered he suffers from epilepsy.

That required trips to more than one veterinarian, including a skilled neurologist who specializes in pets, and also some costly lab work.

Fortunately, I have a pet-insurance policy that made the roughly $800 vet bill bearable. Thurber got excellent care and the medication is working perfectly.

However, if I were struggling to feed my children and pay my mortgage and car payment, as many middle-class people are, would I have given my dog to a shelter to hopefully get it the care I could not afford?

The answer is no, never, for me — I’d take a second job or sell my truck first. I’m not kidding when I say if reincarnation was real, my dream would be to come back as my own dog!

But I feel sorry for people who are really struggling to pay their bills right now and the painful decisions they are being forced to make.

I wonder: Are we heading back to the pre-WWII era, when the only people who could enjoy pets were the well-to-do?

Today’s pet-abandonment trend illustrates well what happens in the daily lives of everyday Americans because of the reckless government policies and spending that the Wall Street Journal reports have made the cost of everything, including our ability to care for our pets, unbearable.

But if you have the means and the commitment and love in your heart, remember that wonderful pets are waiting in shelters for you to bring them home — and if you cannot adopt, your donations are always welcome.

If you are in financial straits and your pet needs basic supplies or even costly medical care, the Humane Society and other organizations may be able to offer financial assistance to help you keep your beloved pet in your home.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my pup is dropping his ball at my feet. It’s time to go outside for some exercise!

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This month we remember LBJ

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My Five CentsThis month we remember President Lyndon B. Johnson on what would have been his 115th birthday. President Johnson was born in Stonewall, Texas in 1908 and was elected as a congressman, senator and later president of the United States. His birthday is an official state holiday in Texas.

Here are five things happening around your state:

TxDOT urges drivers to be mindful in school zones

School is back in session for most Texas students and the Texas Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to be extra cautious in school zones and around school buses to keep kids safe. Last year, there were 746 traffic accidents in Texas school zones, resulting in 23 serious injuries. The most common factors were driver inattention, speeding and failure to yield the right of way. Also last year, there were 2,305 accidents involving a Texas school bus, resulting in seven deaths and 51 serious injuries. Speeding and driver inattention were major factors in those accidents as well. Be sure to slow down, pay attention and follow all traffic laws to keep children safe as they head back to school this fall.

Texas Windstorm Insurance Association announces no rate increases

This month the TWIA Board of Directors met and voted not to increase rates for residential and commercial policies in 2024. TWIA then filed a 0% rate change for its annual required rate filing with the Texas Department of Insurance. The Actuarial and Underwriting Committee had recommended a 5% increase for residential properties and an 8% increase for commercial policies. An increase would require a two-thirds vote of the board, which it was unable to obtain. The board’s decision was made after receiving public comment from coastal community members, policy holders and elected officials.

East Texas schools receive $2.8 million in grants

This month the Texas Workforce Commission and Governor Abbott announced nine Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) grants totally over $2.8 million for five Southeast Texas schools.

JET grants are aimed at supporting career and technical education training programs by providing funding to purchase and install equipment. These programs will educate more than 890 students in high-demand occupations in the region. The JET grants include:

• Angelina College - over $348,000 to purchase and install equipment to train 76 students as electricians;

• Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD - over $377,000 grant to train 119 students as registered nurses in partnership with Angelina College;

• Diboll ISD - received three grants totaling over $1 million to train students in production occupations, industrial engineering and nursing in partnership with Angelina College;

• Nacogdoches ISD - over $130,000 for equipment to train 205 students as emergency medical technicians in partnership with Angelina College;

• Windham School District - received three grants totaling just under $850,000 for equipment to train students as production workers, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers and industrial truck and tractor operators.

New laws go into effect September 1

Many new laws go into effect on September 1 after a legislative session to line up with the new fiscal year. After the 88th Legislative Session, there are over 750 bills that go into effect this week. Some interesting new laws include:

• House Bill 25 – creates the “Wholesale Prescription Drug Importation Program” which allows the Health and Human Services Commission to contract with Canadian drug wholesalers and suppliers to bring safe eligible prescription drugs to Texas consumers at lower costs than U.S. wholesalers.

• House Bill 1885 – allows TxDOT engineers to temporarily adjust speed limits for sections of roads or highways during road construction or inclement weather conditions, like heavy fog, ice or rain.

• Senate Bill 379 – an exemption from sales tax for family care products, such as feminine hygiene products, adult and children’s diapers, baby wipes, maternity wear, breast milk pumps and baby bottles.

• Senate Bill 490 – requires medical providers send patients an itemized bill prior to attempting to collect any money from the patient.


General Land Office announces $10 billion for students from carbon capture storage leases

This month the Texas General Land Office announced it awarded six carbon capture and sequestration leases that will provide $130 million in signing bonus payments for the Permanent School Fund (PSF) and over $10 billion over the length of the 30-year lease term. The PSF is a constitutionally created fund that supports public education. The leases on state-owned land will allow these private entities to store carbon over half a million acres off the Texas coast.


Sen. Robert Nichols represents Senate District 9, which includes Polk County, in the Texas Legislature.

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Passionate about our passions

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Barnes Summer Mug for ColumnPUBLISHER POINTS #11 by Kelli Barnes

An election year beginning in 18 weeks is lingering in the back of many minds, and for some, is already more consuming than thoughts of cooler weather, rain, football, pumpkins, and Santa.

Those individuals who are thinking about politics 24/7 no matter the year, are either “called” to politics as an elected official or “called” to be a watchdog of elected officials. They could also be someone who likes (or thrives on) a good political argument.  In general, the rest of society either stays informed and votes, or decides to ignore it all. For this group, thinking about it all the time is unthinkable. Where do you fit in?

Before we get too hard on the politicians, watchdogs, lobbyists, etc. it is good to be reminded it is healthy to have a passion in this life. The most passionate of people are the makers of change. We should never suggest someone called to teaching, is an idiot for being in that career. We would never consider someone who runs a soup kitchen or backpack program feeding the poor week after week, year after year, crazy. If someone spends all their free time gardening, or fishing, or traveling, or with grandchildren, or volunteering … they are allowed, without prejudice.

The point is, we should acknowledge some in our society are called to politics, are passionate about it, and it is their hope to help create a better life for generations to come. They consider it a community service, even a labor of love.

I believe many people desire to have civility in politics. Friends, family, co-workers, and community members should be able to agree to disagree, to express their opinions to one another without being ostracized. Quality discussions need to replace cutdowns. And every citizen needs to vote. 

We may not be able to do anything about the toxic division politics is creating and feeding on a national or even a state level, but we can start at home. Let’s agree to be passionate about preserving conversation and relationships. This simple yet profound action can change things for good … even politics.

Our news organization has active social media pages on Facebook (Polk County Enterprise, San Jacinto News-Times, Trinity County News-Standard, Tyler County Booster) and we are interested in engaging with you, our readers, about happenings in the community. Also watch for our message board on easttexasnews.com beginning Oct. 1. This will provide another opportunity to share information, photos, and have discussions with your community.

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Don’t forget to purchase your hunting license

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Trent AshbyBy Rep. Trent Ashby
Representing District 9

With September just around the corner, the school year is in full swing, football stadiums will light up the Friday night sky, and hunters across the state are chomping at the bit to get back into the field. As I’m sure many of you are aware, this year’s dove season starts on September 1 and will run until the end of October just in time for the duck and deer season. That being said, here’s a friendly reminder to all of my fellow sportsmen and women to purchase a hunting license if you haven’t already done so. You can pick one up at your local gun shop or sporting goods store as you’re loading up for the season, or even purchase one online through the Texas Parks & Wildlife Outdoor Annual App or on the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s website www.tpwd.texas.gov.

With that, here’s an update from your State Capitol…

In my previous column, I provided an overview of Proposition 1 and Proposition 2, which are the first two of the 14 ballot propositions that voters will consider in the upcoming November election. This week’s column will feature an overview of the next two propositions – Proposition 2 and Proposition 3.

Proposition 3 amends the Constitution to ensure the legislature cannot impose a wealth, or income, tax on individuals or families. Though the State of Texas already prides itself on not imposing an income tax, Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution, authorizes the tax of both tangible and intangible property in unique cases. As a state that celebrates competition, even the possibility of a direct tax on an individual’s assets or property would serve as a disincentive to financial success. Proposition 3 helps ensure that the State of Texas and her people will continue to serve as a global beacon for economic growth and prosperity for future generations.

Proposition 4 offers an amendment that is long overdue to you and your family. It is the enabling legislation that will provide property owners with the largest property tax cut in our state’s history. In this proposition, a 20% cap or limit is imposed on non-homestead properties valued under $5 million for the next three years. In addition, the existing homestead exemption ceiling of $40,000 will be increased to $100,000. And, a “tax freeze” will be placed on the total amount of ad valorem tax that may be imposed on an elderly or disabled individual. Finally, the proposed amendment authorizes the legislature to require four-year terms for members of appraisal district boards in counties over 75,000 in population. Under current law, appraisal boards are composed of 9 appointed, voting members. Under the proposed legislation, appraisal district boards will now be composed of eight voting members – 5 appointed and 3 elected. This allows citizens to take comfort in knowing they have a voice in electing members responsible for issuing property tax values for their county. It is our goal to ensure all Texans feel a much-deserved sense of relief from skyrocketing property taxes. The Legislature has made a deliberate effort to ensure components of this bill allow Texans to see a noticeable decline in their taxes in 2024, as well as implement new accountability measures to help alleviate some of the tax burden on property owners across the state.

The mobile office is on the road again and our district director will look forward to seeing you on the following date, in the following locations: September 6 at the San Augustine County Courthouse in San Augustine from 9-11 a.m., September 13 at the Polk County Commissioners Courtroom in Livingston from 9-11 a.m., or the Tyler County Commissioners Courtroom in Woodville from 1:30-3:30 p.m., September 20 at the Houston County Courthouse Annex in Crockett from 9-11 a.m. or the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

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 and our Capitol office at 512-463-0508. 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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