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Barefoot and Pregnant

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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There is a sexist expression popular in the 1950s that says that “A women’s place is barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.” Are you offended by that? Good. Because it seems that everything old is becoming new again.

“Constitutionally unsound rulings like Griswold v. Connecticut, Kelo v. City of New London, and NFIB v. Sebelius confuse Tennesseans and leave Congress wondering who gave the court permission to bypass our system of checks and balances.” U.S. Senator (Tenn.) Marsha Blackburn

“Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said Tuesday that he would be open to the Supreme Court overturning its 1967 ruling (Loving v. Virginia) that legalized interracial marriage nationwide to allow states to independently decide the issue.”From a Washington Post column.

Our country is in a political culture war. I say political because most of the country, in poll after poll, support progressive policies that move the country forward, socially, politically, and economically. Many politicians in the Republican party, in contrast, as reflected in the quotes above, seek to undo Supreme Court decisions that are decades old and move the country back to the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Before I talk about what has been settled law, and most of you consider as just common sense now that they have been in place so long, I want to share some personal history.

I was born in Woodville, TX in 1950. My dad was 17 years old, my mom 21. They were married in April of 1950; I was born in September. All you need is one hand and kindergarten level math skills to figure out that I was not conceived in April. It seems clear that when she reached the time when she could no longer hide her pregnancy, they married.

This kind of thing in a small East Texas town in 1950 was a scandal. Unmarried couples didn’t live together. Most did not have sex until marriage. So, this was a big deal.

My conception was, however, not an accident. My mother still lived at home at age 21 and had a very controlling stepfather. So much so that he determined my mom was better off if she lived under his control permanently. My dad was a 17-year-old teenager, with the usual overabundance of hormones. Because a woman usually needed either a father or husband to do all kinds of legal things, she decided a husband was the way out. Her father, though, wouldn’t have allowed her to marry.

So, they decided that her getting pregnant would force the situation and achieve both of their goals. And the plan worked. Kind of. The fact that a 17-year-old would probably not be the easiest husband to live with never occurred to my mom. It was a rocky relationship for a while.

The story has a happy ending, though. When they died a month apart in 2002, they had been married 52 years.

My point in telling the story is to drive home the fact that the U.S. was a very different place in the 1950’s and 1960’s. A lot of the personal freedoms we live with now didn’t exist. And as a result, people often ended up making bad decisions out of necessity. Things were pretty good for white men, not so good for women. It took women decades to achieve any sort of equality with men.

Now back to those quotes I used to start this column.

Marsha Blackburn referenced Griswold v. Connecticut, a Supreme Court ruling she deemed “Constitutionally unsound.” She believes it should be reversed.

Before 1965 when the Supreme Court ruled in this case, it was illegal in many states for even married couples to possess any kind of birth control. That includes condoms, pills, diaphragms, etc. You could be arrested and fined or imprisoned for having them in your home. Connecticut was one of them. And the Griswold’s were being prosecuted under that law. 

Contraceptives were made illegal under obscenity statutes. Possessing Contraceptives was considered obscene. When the case reached the Supreme Court, the Griswolds won. But it was still five years before every state had revised their laws to make the sale of contraceptives legal for married people. And 1972 before a Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for unmarried people to get access to contraceptives.

Marsha Blackburn says that the Supreme Court ruled wrongly and wants the current court to reach back 50 years and again make birth control illegal. 

Republican Senator Mike Braun last week took a swing at another 50-year-old Supreme Court ruling, Loving v. Virginia, that struck down state laws banning interracial marriage. Interracial marriage has been legal now since 1967. And he wants to undo that ruling. He’s not alone.

These are just two examples of U.S. Senators wanting to return the U.S. to the 1950s. But there are many more who share these views. Which seems a little odd, as one of the Supreme Court Justices, Justice Thomas, is in an interracial marriage, as is our Vice-President.

Now throw in the likely successful push to strike down Roe v. Wade, which had the effect of legalizing abortion, and the push back to the mid 20th century appears to be a triple-play for Republicans.

My mother at 21 was a beautiful, intelligent young women without many good choices. She became a stay-at-home mom and never held a job outside the home. Effective, legal contraception empowered women by allowing them to decide when to have children, and to take control of their lives.

Majorities of Americans support birth control, interracial marriages, and a host of other laws that empower people. But a growing number of politicians are saying out loud now what they could never say before. They want to mandate when and with whom you can have children, and who you can love and marry.

Watching old 8mm movies from the 1950s is a lot of fun. Perfect mom, dad and three kids family living in neat mid-century modern homes. But behind that façade things were not so great. 

Don’t allow politicians to undo the progress we’ve made over the last 50 years. The 1950s is a fun place to revisit, but you do not want to live there.


Declaimer – I referenced quotes from Republican politicians in this column. In the interest of full disclosure, I am politically Left-Libertarian (fiscal conservative/social liberal).

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Volunteers all around us

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Kelli PublisherPointsThe newspaper is full of stories and photos about local people who are spending part of their workdays and even some nights and weekends, volunteering for worthy organizations. These organizations are faithful to communicate with their community newspaper about positive happenings and part of our job is to share them publicly.

Because of worthy nonprofits and churches, our less fortunate are fed, clothed, have electric bills paid when needed, are provided healthcare, eyeglasses, even beds to sleep. Our churches provide much-needed mental and spiritual help, keeping all of us who take advantage of the teaching in good churches focused on the most important things in life and reminding us to count our blessings every day.

Other organizations maintain special events for all to enjoy. These include rodeos, livestock shows, festivals, student events and holiday celebrations. Then, some help preserve our history, restoring old structures and keeping the memory of our past alive.

But let me tell you about a few other volunteers we may forget are also working to help our communities. I have met or heard about so many over the years. You may not see them at Lions Club and Rotary or leading a banquet or an event for our children, but they are working all the same.

One gentleman baked pies every week and delivered them to shut-ins amongst the community. This went on for years. One lady leaves her home each Friday morning and spends the weekend with her brother who has cerebral palsy … every weekend. Another man who covered sports in East Texas for four decades secretly bought athletic shoes for every student athlete who could not afford a pair. Only the coaches involved, and a few close friends knew about this generosity. Finally, a lady who recently passed spent years mowing her church’s property (and for others less fortunate) faithfully and without pay.

What is my point? It is twofold. Just because we do not report on all volunteers, we know you are out there. You are appreciated and our community is better because of the work done behind the scenes and without recognition.

I encourage all of you to find something you can do to help. It doesn’t have to be working with one of the typical organizations … not everyone is comfortable there, or their job keeps them from committing to that type of volunteerism. Instead, do something you love, that fits into your lifestyle. Both you and the recipient of your kindness and generosity will receive a benefit — even if no one is watching.

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Time to change a few old saws

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FromEditorsDesk TonyMy wife and I were having a conversation last weekend about budgets and the rising cost of just about everything, which is normal, but this time, my 16-year-old daughter was in the room as we were watching the same television program.

We came to the elephant in everyone’s living room, which is gas prices, which of course gets our dander up. It got my daughter’s up, too, but at us.

She went where all liberals, Democrats and denizens of the internet — America’s No. 1 source of “information” — go, which was to blame Putin for the price hikes.

I know, I covered most of this last week, but I had to dredge up that same information for my daughter, while at the same time trying to determine who or what was responsible for her ignorance.

She has a TikTok account — surprise! — and to anyone of that age group, that’s the be all, end all of anything.

Once we enlightened her on the wider scheme of things, such as energy independence, pipeline and drilling permits, shale oil deposits, etc., she became very quiet, and it is my fervent hope that was the seed that will grow into a new process of information gathering.

But right now, though, that’s going to be tough, since kids today are adamant that some drag queen shuffling to some new-age hip hop spouting political has all the right stuff. That’s never going to happen, though, since our vaunted leaders have been tapping into that market for quite some time.

For instance, a couple of weeks ago the White House and the Biden Administration had an invitation-only conversation with TikTok influencers (which is a thing now, apparently) to discuss this highly sensitive national policy matter.

In actuality, the Biden Band played the standard tune of “It’s Not Our Fault” and gave these people their reasons for Putin being the problem, and of course, these influencers commenced to influencing their assembled masses, who now have even less idea about the way the world works.

I find the idea of using internet personalities to sell the lie almost diabolically clever, but ultimately sad. That the administration chose to take the path of least resistance, instead of working with people with facts and figures and reasoned arguments, as well as not trying any avenue to ameliorate the situation for the Americans, but giving us a shrug, is lazy and an abdication of the responsibilities of the office.

It’s a shame, really, that the dumbing down of America continues unabated, and the outrage that is now directed at Putin and any other macguffin should be directed squarely at Washington, D.C., and the kind of people, like Biden and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer (who are telling people that the way to cure the deficit is to spend more money).

It boggles the mind that our leaders would not only claim that other countries are responsible for our travails, but then try to get oil from other countries that are just as sketchy, and then give it all to people with little skin in the game and no reason to look harder to pass on to an already uneducated masses.

It shows yet again that our leaders have little interest in what is best — or what is wanted — by the constituents of this government.

So here’s my thinking. There’s an old saying, and I’m paraphrasing here because that there are conflicting reports about its source, that there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

I’m thinking it should be changed to there are lies, damned lies, statistics and TikTok.

Or say, a la Albert Einstein, “The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with joy are goodness, beauty, and the internet.”

I’ll go with Friedrich Nietzsche, who said “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.”

Tony Farkas is editor of 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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Are parents that stupid?

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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A story ran in the March 24 issue of the Tyler County Booster about a CISD board meeting where all members voted to sign a pledge sent by State Representative Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) stating that “they will not knowingly partner with, purchase from, or associate in any way with a vendor who has supplied pornographic materials to schools, nor allow pornographic materials to remain on campus.”

Patterson specifically referenced a graphic novel titled “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

Superintendent Eldon Franco commented that this should be “a parental issue”, and to his knowledge, “we don’t have anything of this sort” in the school’s library. He also said, “I wouldn’t want my children reading it”.

My first question to Mr. Franco would be, have you read it? If not, how do you know if it is appropriate for your children to read? My second would be, how do you define pornography, or obscene? And my third would be, why would you sign a pledge to potentially remove books from a school library if you haven’t read them and can’t even define objectively what is pornographic or obscene?

I’m not picking on Superintendent Franco. School boards are in a tough position these days, they have become a central fixture of the current culture wars in America. School boards shouldn’t be a target of political or religious agendas.

After reading the Booster article, I downloaded the Kindle edition of the book. It didn’t take long. It is 231 pages, but is a graphic novel, so it’s a quick read. I assume all the board members did the same, before signing the pledge. Just to get an idea of the kind of content Mr. Patterson was asking them to ban.

The book, in my opinion, is appropriate for teenagers. Younger children would likely have no interest in it, if for no other reason than plowing through 231 pages of something that made no sense to them.

“But, there are graphic drawings depicting sexual acts and body parts.” Yes, there are, but they are maybe 10 percent of the book. And there is certainly nothing pornographic or indecent (whatever that means culturally) in the drawings, any more than the famous paintings and sculptures that fill museums and are viewed by public school children during field trips every year.

The thing that causes me to ask the question in the title of this column is, if a parent is so fearful of their child being exposed to pornography in the school library, why do they give their children smart phones? At least with the library, the kid would have to take the book to a librarian and check it out. With a smart phone, they are three clicks away from the most violent, disgusting pornography the parent probably can’t imagine.

“Well, I’ve got parental controls set blocking all of that,” you say. I can (but won’t) tell you how to get around that in as few as four clicks, and your kid probably already knows how to do that. You cannot shield your teenager from pornography and indecency, especially if you think Gender Queer: A Memoir is pornographic or indecent.

I was exposed to pornography at age 11. Some older teens had some little booklets that had photos of adults having sex that they were sharing with us younger kids. It was forbidden fruit, so clearly it was something we were interested in. Now, this was in 1961, and teens didn’t generally have access to porn films. But there were no age restrictions then on buying Playboy magazine or any of the other soft-porn magazines.

Turns out being exposed to porn at age 11 is pretty much the norm, even today. One in 10 kids have been exposed to it by age 10. The average age for exposure to porn is 11 years. 10 percent of 7th graders are worried they are addicted to porn.

If you are over 40 years old, and were exposed to porn as a teen, but not as an adult, the pornography today is not what you remember. It’s not just sex. It is violent, degrading, dangerous sex. Kids who watch this stuff grow up with a distorted view of what real-life relationships are about. This is the pornography you should be concerned about. And odds are, your kids are being exposed to it.

The truth is that politicians sending school boards these kinds of pledges really don’t care about pornography, or indecency. They don’t care about Gay or Trans or LGBTQ. They care about ginning up wedge issues and fanning the flames of culture wars to get re-elected. It’s slight of hand, redirection. Don’t be stupid and fall for it. 

It doesn’t end with taking away the rights of these groups. They are also targeting women’s rights, reproductive rights, and rights of people of color. Lately some politicians have been arguing that people have no right to use birth control.

I don’t care if you want or don’t want your kids to read a book about sexuality. It’s your kid. Just understand that they are going to learn about all of this, despite your best efforts, and are likely to be far more accepting of it as adults than you are. Which is as it should be. The way other people live does not diminish me in any way. Leave people alone. Focus on the important stuff.

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Let’s talk transparency

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Sydney MurphySydney MurphyBy Sydney Murphy
Polk County Judge

The Polk County Commissioners Court strives to be transparent in all business decisions we make. Commissioners Court meets in open meetings every second and fourth Tuesday (unless rescheduled due to conflicts with holidays or Association Conferences). Commissioners Court agendas are typically posted at least four days in advance of a meeting and are purposefully explicit so that the public knows specifically which items will be discussed. Our agendas are posted to the county website and Facebook pages and the public is welcome to attend and may address the Court during the public comment portion of the meeting. At this time, any member of the public can speak to the Court for up to 3 minutes about any item of county business, whether it is on the agenda or not. The Court can listen, but cannot respond unless the item addressed is included on the agenda.

Since July 2018, because we know that the majority of the population cannot regularly attend our meetings, all Commissioners Court meetings have been streamed live on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7RSenHb7QBTPuqSuMzU5ZA. A link to each video is shared on the County’s website and Facebook page following the meeting and we encourage the public to follow these pages to stay abreast of county business. Every elected official is responsible for sharing pertinent information from their offices. However, we strongly encourage them and support their efforts to make documents and services more widely available online.

I encourage everyone to visit our website at www.co.polk.tx.us and browse all of the information available, as there is a trove of valuable tools and resources available from various county and district offices. Last year, we asked elected officials and department heads to provide information about their office, including their roles and responsibilities, and so far have posted several “Spotlight on Polk County” articles, which help to educate the public about the services each office provides.

A click on the county budget link, www.co.polk.tx.us/page/polk.budgets, will take you to all county budgets adopted since August 2006. The Government Finance Officers Association has presented a Distinguished Budget Presentation Award to Polk County each year since our first submission to the award program of our annual budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 1999. In order to receive this award, a governmental unit must publish a document that meets program criteria as a policy document, as an operations guide, as a financial plan and as a communications device.

Polk County also annually receives the GFOA Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for our Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports. This award program was established to encourage and assist state and local governments to go beyond the minimum requirements of generally accepted accounting principles to prepare comprehensive annual financial reports that evidence the spirit of transparency and full disclosure and then to recognize individual governments that succeed in achieving that goal.

Texas County Progress magazine featured the Polk County budget and budget process in 2016 and again in 2021 as a document that stands out for our communication of the budget and what it actually means (out of 254 Texas counties). Find the 2021 article at https://countyprogress.com/vital-communication-tool/. The members of Commissioners Court are extremely aware of their fiduciary responsibilities to Polk County taxpayers and make every effort to provide clear and understandable information.

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