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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…


Not sure about sovereign safety anymore

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FromEditorsDesk Tony Croppedby Tony Farkas

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Sunday marked 21 years since the attack on New York City and The Pentagon by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorists.

As with most things in this life, this world, I feel that complacency has taken over, and society has forgotten the attacks and the implications of that.

More to the point, it seems that instead of investing in our country’s safety, we’re instead investing in the safety of other countries, and this at the expense of our own safety, and our own people.

The recent decision to send a little over $2 billion in U.S. tax dollars to the Ukraine to aid in their war effort is pretty astonishing, considering that there’s so much that needs attention at home. Overall, we’ve spent $12.9 billion this year, with President Biden gearing up to ask Congress to double that amount.

I say we since us hapless taxpayers are the ones footing the bills, among others (there’s been $25,000 spent to teach Samoans how to use their cell phones to find out how “climate change” affects them), and we get very little input into how the checks are written.

I’m not so much concerned about the spending in this missive, although that is a massive problem that is going to cause incredible amounts of trouble in the future. I am concerned that the safety of this country, one of the chief responsibilities of our government, is being paid lip service, and instead our government is using funds for other country’s safety while at the same time demonizing essentially half of its own people.

Last week, I lamented the fact that anyone identified as a MAGA Republican (which as far as liberals are concerned, that’s anyone who is remotely thought of as conservative) was deemed an enemy of the state. Biden later doubled down on that, saying anyone that needed to fight government needed and F-15 instead of a gun.

There are calls within the administration that defense spending is entirely too high and should be cut in favor of climate change policies and infrastructure needs (neither of which is in the government’s purview). 

We should just look around the world though, and see that we’re not really ready for the mess that is, what with wars growing in Europe and Asia (the disagreements between Taiwan and China are sure to continue to grow). 

Federal policy has turned our borders into sieves, blocking nothing (Gov. Abbott’s busing orders is just moving people through the country faster); more than 50 terrorists on the country’s watch list have been found by authorities coming through the border into Texas, and who knows how many have been missed.

For so long, the government has directed funds to numerous and unnecessary special projects, foreign aid, ridiculous experimentation and any number of failed ideas. For so long, this has been done at the expense of the real needs of the country, and essentially, the Constitution.

The money U.S. taxpayers spend first and foremost need to be spent on the needs of the U.S., and the chief need is our safety. Let’s look to home, first.

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God Hates Theys

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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In 1955 pastor Fred Phelps founded a small Primitive Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas. He named it Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), and it averages around 70 members, primarily members of his family.

WBC gained national notoriety when in 1989, and continuing through the early 2000’s, the church focused its efforts on actions against Gay people. Members of the church would disrupt military funerals, celebrity funerals and public events with their protests and signs portraying the slogan “God Hates Gays.”

Phelps died in 2014, and while the church still exists, some family members have left the group because of the hostile actions of the group.

While WBC was on society’s fringe in its heyday, hate for and attacks on Gay people have gone mainstream in current times. Groups describing themselves as Christian have browbeat school boards around the country with attacks on pronouns. Students should only be referred to by teachers with pronouns consistent with their sex. Males referred to only with the pronoun “he,” females with the pronoun “she.” Under no circumstances should a child be called by the neutral pronoun “they,” even if he child identifies with a gender different than their sex.

Since these folks claim to be Christians, I can only conclude that they believe that God hates theys. Maybe I’m a slow reader, but I can’t find anywhere in the New Testament where God or Jesus hates anyone. In fact, such a belief is anathema to Jesus’ teaching.

When I was a kid, females who preferred sports and jeans rather than dolls and frilly dresses were commonly referred to as tomboys. The term tomboy was not a pejorative term, just an observation of fact. It seems to me that in modern times, a lot of folks have confused the meaning of the words sex and gender, somehow conflating them to refer to the same thing. The words have different meanings.

Sex refers primarily to physical and biological traits. Sex is determined by chromosomes, genes, hormone levels and reproductive and sexual anatomy.

Gender refers to socially constructed roles. When I was a kid, boys played sports, hunted, and fished, built model cars, and got into fights. Girls played with dolls, wore dresses, played house, learned to sew, and cook. Boys expected when they were adults to work at a job, support the family, mow the lawn, and park in front of the TV in the evening. Girls expected as adults to work in the home, have babies, raise kids, cook the meals, clean the house.

These roles, though, were merely social constructs that changed dramatically over time as society changed. If sex and gender were the same, the roles would not have changed. Boys would always conform to the roles we assumed when we were kids.

We’ve always defined ourselves in different ways regardless of our sex. I am far more like my mother than my father. I have more her personality and share more of her interests. That is probably because my mother determined that she did not want me to grow up believing that roles were fixed. She insisted that I learned to cook, wash dishes, iron clothes (I know, what’s an iron), clean house, polish a floor. She didn’t want me to be dependent on someone else to handle the basics of life. If I chose not to marry, I would be able to take care of myself. If I did marry, I would help my wife rather than treat her as an unpaid maid. I ended up marrying a woman with a career more important than mine. I wrote software, she taught children. We have always been equals.

While the idea of a war on pronouns seems silly, such a war actually exists as folks on the Right fight to return us to a time when there were rigid gender roles, when men were boss, and women were subservient. Even to the point of demanding that school districts ban gender neutral pronouns. 

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A message from my younger self

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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The songwriter/composer Irving Berlin wrote something like 15,000 songs in his lifetime. He won four awards.

“A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.”  Napolean Bonaparte

I turn 72 this month. The average lifespan for an American in 2022 is 76, a decline over three years ago, primarily because of deaths from the Covid pandemic and the increasing violence in our country. That lifespan amounts to approximately 4000 weeks, and I’ve used up most of them.

I’ve written millions of words in my 72 years, many published, many not published. I’ve taken tens of thousands of photographs during those years, most of them published in one venue or another. I’ve won a lot of awards for both over those years. And I have no idea where the various certificates, plaques and trophies are now. I’ve stashed them in various desk drawers over the years and eventually threw them away.

As an almost 72-year-old man I have no useful advice for current and future generations. Old men looking back over their lives tend to paint themselves standing in their best light. So, I’d like to share a message from my 21-year-old self, both to me and to those who have only used up a small number of those 4,000 weeks they have to look forward to. Never do anything in life for “colored ribbons.”

Just for full disclosure, I have a lifelong character flaw. I don’t care what others think of me. So, I’ve never cared about recognition. I’m internally motivated. I have achieved whatever I’ve achieved because it was important to me. It was a conscious decision of that 21-year-old self to live my 4,000 weeks working at stuff that was meaningful to me. Clearly, other people didn’t always agree with my choices.

What advice does the 21-year-old Jim have for the current generation of 21-year olds? It is simple: Walk into dark rooms.

At 21 you are standing in the center of a large, circular hall. The walls of that hall are full of doors. Because of the accident of who you were born to, your intelligence, your parent’s socio-economic situation, education, health, etc., not all those doors will open. But at 21 you should try every one of them, and those that will open you should walk through into the dark room on the other side. Turn on the light. Look around.

Maybe what you see won’t interest you. Just turn off the light, close that door, lock it, and open the next door. When you find a door that leads to a room that interests you, go in and explore it. Sit on the furniture, gaze at the art on the walls. Raid the ‘fridge. If someone in your life tells you that spending time in that room is a waste of your time, ignore them. They are fearful and are trying to control your life. If you like that room, live there for a while. You may want to spend your life there.

It is likely, though, that at some point you’ll start wondering what is behind other doors. Don’t let fear of change prevent you from opening as many doors as will open and spending as much time there as you like. Design your life so that you don’t have to stay in one room forever. It’s a trap that captures too many lives and leads to regret. 

Every choice you make in life locks one of those doors. Want to get married? Maybe you’ll have to give up your dream of paddling around the world in a kayak. Have children? Perhaps the necessity of providing them a stable environment and security will lock a lot of those doors. A 30-year mortgage, a new car, a boat, etc. means you can’t take as many risks, and still more doors are locked.

Despite the usual ups and downs of life, I have no regrets about how I’ve lived my life. I’ve never been forced to work at anything I didn’t want to do. We chose not to have children, for example, because they would not fit into the way we wanted to live. Looking back, it was the right decision for us, despite being frequently told that we were just being selfish for not having children (as if that makes any sense at all).

I’m not saying that any of these things are wrong. Only that every choice has consequences that ripple through your 4,000 weeks. You don’t want to get to the end filled with regret.

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Where’s the love, chief?

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FromEditorsDesk Tony Croppedby Tony Farkas
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Sunday was the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death, so she already was heavy on my mind these last couple of weeks, especially when I was able to visit her grave in New Mexico recently.

My mother was something special. Everyone’s mother is, but for me, her journey was especially poignant, since she had to overcome hardships such as German and Allied bombings in World War II, Russian evil as they swept across Eastern Europe in conquest under the guise of being allied with the U.S., boat rides to Ellis Island and the subsequent citizenship process, and ridicule and hardship that comes with being right off the boat.

Even her name, Czarika, was changed because the immigration folks couldn’t pronounce it, and dubbed her Charlotte (it’s really Sarah, but hey, it’s America).

She embraced this country, though, 100 percent, and even though she was proud of her Hungarian heritage, she was more American than most Americans I knew, even serving as a civilian in the U.S. Air Force, and even became the first civilian head of Social Actions at Cannon Air Force Base.

The makeup of this country is of people with similar stories and similar circumstances, all coming together, differences and all, in the “melting pot” of American society.

It was incredibly puzzling, then, to hear our vaunted leader essentially tell half of this nation they were evil and must be destroyed, while at the same time claiming that we’re all about unity.

If you’re unaware, President Biden warned the country that MAGA (Make America Great Again) Republicans represent “an extremism that threatens the very foundation of our republic.”

He also said that Donald Trump was driving the Republican Party to that kind of platform — taking American society back to the Stone Age while completely disrespecting the Constitution by eliminating free speech, the right to choose, the right to privacy and the right (?) to contraception.

For a leader to put out that kind of divisive rhetoric, while simultaneously calling for unity (under questionable optics, such as being backed by uniformed Marines and a stage bathed in ominous red light) makes the people who became part of this country seem foolish for their beliefs, since they came here believing they would be embraced, since that’s supposed to be what we’re about.

Apparently, no longer. It’s OK to come here, as our porous border suggests, but only if you think (and donate and vote) to the powers that be. It’s no longer OK to have different beliefs, or to be what many perceive, the old guard of immigrants and leaders who regardless of color are white power brokers, eager to crush everyone under the bootheel of capitalism.

Change some of the nouns, and what  you really have is exactly what my mother, and millions of others, were fleeing when they left their homelands, and the kind of hate and rhetoric that led to Rameses, and Hitler, and Stalin, and Pol Pot, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

The old saying about the pen being mightier than the sword has been proven time and again, mostly with disastrous results. There are words and ideas out there, though, that can heal and unite. Let’s try some of those.

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How Inflation Reduction Act can help small businesses

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By Ted James, 
Region 6 South Central Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will lower prescription drug, health care, and energy costs. It will lower the deficit and no one making under $400,000 per year will pay a penny more in taxes. It will also fight climate change. This is a pretty good deal for most of us dealing with our changing climate patterns: scorching temperatures, escalating damaging storms, new monsoon seasons and all the havoc they cause.  If we can slow climate change down, we all win.

Lower healthcare costs are a win, as well, for most, for both families and small businesses. If you are a sole proprietor getting your health insurance from the Affordable Care Act marketplace or have employees who use it, health care costs will go down, by up to $800 per year.  Because the Biden/Harris Administration has been successful in tackling the climate crisis, the IRA will reduce energy bills, saving families (and small businesses) about $500 per year. With just these two measures, we could save about $1300 a year.

But it doesn’t stop there. The IRA will also lower prescription drug costs by capping out of pocket expenses on prescription drugs for people on Medicare at $2,000 per year, cap insulin for Medicare patients at $35 per month and finally allow Medicare to negotiate prices. If you are an older business owner on Medicare, these direct cost savings are for you.

The IRA creates new avenues for small businesses to make profits if they advance in environmental businesses – making and servicing solar panels and wind turbines, retrofitting buildings with energy efficient windows, doors and HVAC units, or entering the supply chain for new electric vehicles, whose components will need to be made in America. And if they want to directly join the climate fight, small businesses can receive a tax credit that covers 30% of the cost of switching over to low-cost solar power – lowering operating costs and protecting against the volatile energy prices. Additionally, small businesses can deduct up to $1.00 per square foot of their business for making high energy efficiency upgrades. The per square foot deduction is boosted if the efficiency upgrades are completed by workers who are a paid a prevailing wage – helping businesses save even more money while providing good paying jobs.

The IRA extends the qualified business income deduction, the pass-through deduction, from 2025 through 2027, providing a 20 percent deduction on business income and extends the popular research and development tax credit and increases how much can be applied to payroll taxes. The R&D credit gives businesses of all sizes the opportunity to reduce the taxes they owe based on a formula calculated using expenses they’ve incurred to develop new products. If the new products fight climate change, it’s a double win.

Rural communities, finally, are not left behind. The IRA will help up to 280,000 farmers and ranchers apply conservation to approximately 125 million acres of land, provide relief for distressed USDA borrowers whose agricultural operations are at risk through loan modifications or payments and provide financial assistance to farmers who have experienced past discrimination in USDA lending programs. We need every farmer to contribute to reducing food inflation and feeding the nation and the world.

Together with his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and American Rescue Plan, President Biden’s economic plan is showing that we have the courage to build a future where every American has a fair shot!

Ted James is the Region 6 Regional Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, overseeing SBA programs and services in the states of Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arkansas. 

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