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There are some battles worth the fight

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas

Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Whatever happened to consequences, and whatever happened to the rule of law?

Recent events have me puzzled about what it actually means to the phrase actions have consequences.

Growing up, my dad gave me a pretty simple rule about my behavior, particularly as I grew older: Do what you want, just don’t get caught.

I didn’t take that as a challenge, mind you; I did have my moments, but when I did, I suffered the penalties.

Even when I didn’t do anything wrong, I suffered the penalties. Being as how I was the son of a cop, there were certain lessons I was taught that were meant to be object lessons. For instance, I was with some friends in a store, and one of them felt the need to shoplift. Since I was around, I was scooped up.

Although I insisted loudly and continually about my innocence, I was still given the full arrest treatment, and later told that it was for my own good. Turned out it might have been since I’m not a master thief.

News reports indicate that society today has tacked differently, offering leniency for crime, or outright refusing to prosecute for some misdemeanors (most if you live in California). In certain major cities, stores of major chains are being shuttered because shoplifters are not arrested or prosecuted.

The Securities and Exchange Commission cracks down on certain hedge fund managers for insider trading, but legislators in Washington, D.C., who make just over $200,000 a year, leave office as millionaires because of their inside knowledge, and no one makes a peep.

Brittney Griner, who was convicted for violating the laws of Russia and was sentenced to a Russian prison, was released last week in a prisoner swap for a Russian arms dealer who sells arms to terrorists. Seems our government bowed to pressure toward the swap, and a woman who violated the law has escaped serving her 9-year sentence.

Maybe it’s me, but I was under the impression that prisoner exchanges were done for high-dollar political reasons for high-profile prisoners. Maybe it’s also me, but it seems that a prison sentence is something to be served, not something to be bartered.

Certain prosecutors have been put in place that have vowed to ignore certain laws and events for budgetary and personnel reasons.

Celebrity status or political connections, a la Hunter Biden or Ghislaine Maxwell, leads to little or no prosecution.

All of these are symptoms leading to one fairly obvious conclusion, and that is we have a burgeoning problem in this country. For instance, look at the days of rage. Weeks of riots, property damage, looting and arson followed police shootings. People claiming injury over some slight took over private property to demand justice, then demanded they be given anything they need.

Bullying has become such a problem in schools. School violence itself has grown, and that includes shootings.

In short, these are consequences.

If you remove the moral center of laws, such as religion, and couple that with reduced or ignored penalties for criminal acts, it stands to reason that more and more heinous acts will follow. Plus, the sad byproduct of this is that good, law-abiding and decent people are forced to guard themselves.

That’s backwards, and could lead to collapse, so it’s time for us to face our own music.

Tony Farkas is editor of the Trinity County News-Standard and the San Jacinto News-Times. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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SFASU to join University of Texas system

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My Five CentsI hope your Thanksgiving was filled with family, friends, and wonderful food. We all have much to be thankful for. Now, the holiday season is upon us!

Here are five things happening around your state:

1. Stephen F. Austin State University votes to joinUniversity of Texas System

During a special called Board of Regents meeting on Tuesday, November 29, the SFA Board of Regents voted to affiliate with the University of Texas System. The vote came after a months long process during which four university systems made proposals to SFA. Other systems that made offers included Texas A&M University System, Texas State University System, and Texas Tech University System. The system affiliation evaluation subcommittee met with each system, collected public comment, and reviewed written proposals from each system. The subcommittee focused on five areas while evaluating their options: SFA’s ability to remain autonomous, culture and fit, transition, financial impact, and intangibles. The UT System made a strong financial pitch, committing $80 million in Permanent University Fund (PUF) bond proceeds in year one to capital projects at SFA. UT System also committed to $1 million in annual student scholarship and $5.5 million to increase faculty salaries. Overall, UT System estimated it would provide $124 million in additional value over the first four years. One key aspect of affiliating with a system for SFA was maintaining their name, mascot, and colors. UT System has assured the Board of Regents that the university will maintain their identity, including the name, mascot, and colors.

2. TEA announces newfacilities requirements for school safety, $400M in safety grants

This month, the Texas Education Agency announced their new facilities standards to improve school safety. In conjunction, Governor Abbott announced an additional $400 million in grant funding to help school districts replace and upgrade doors, windows, fencing, communications, and other measures outlined in the facilities requirements. The new facilities standards included requirements that exterior doors, exterior classroom doors, and portable building doors must be closed, latched, and locked unless actively monitored or in a secured area. Any windowed doors on the ground level or windows adjacent to doors must be reinforced with entry-resistant film unless within a secured area. Campuses must have exterior door numbering, radio signal repeaters, and exterior secure master key lock boxes. Schools will also be required to conduct weekly exterior door sweeps and provide an exterior door numbering site plan to local law enforcement entities.

The $400 million in grant funding is allocated on a per-pupil basis, however small and rural districts will receive a base allocation of $200,000. The grant will allow for spending on security-related items, but schools must first spend on items necessary to comply with the new rules. Once those standards are met, remaining funds can be spent on other eligible security-related costs as defined by the grant program.

3. Bill filing for 88thLegislative Session begins

Legislators are ready and gearing up for next session. As of November 14, bill filing for the 88th Legislative Session has begun. Over a thousand bills have already been filed with many more to come before the Legislature convenes on January 10 next year. I’ve filed two bills already, one regarding maternity leave for state employees and the other relating to continuing transportation funding. This is an important time of year for policymakers to begin to set the agenda for the next session and find out what our colleagues are interested in as well.

4. AT&T unveils new cell tower in Jasper to boost connectivity

This month, AT&T announced an expansion of its network in the Jasper area, boosting wireless connectivity. The new tower brings Band 14 spectrum to the area. Band 14 is nationwide, high-quality spectrum for FirstNet, which can be used to enhance public safety.

5. Over $300M grantapproved for UT-TylerMedical Education Building

Earlier this month, the University of Texas Board of Regents gave final authorization for UT-Tyler School of Medicine’s new Medical Education Building. The total project cost of the building is $308 million. The building will support interdisciplinary education for graduate medical students, resident training, and nursing training for students. It will also play a role in the medical education program expansion through the UT Health East Texas Health System. It will provide outpatient and specialty clinical services with exam rooms, specimen collection and processing, and imaging facilities. The project is expected to be completed in March 2025.

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Tips For Successful Ranching

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Horace McQueen ColumnBy Horace McQueen

The simplest way to becoming a successful rancher is to start with a large fortune. That said the big wad of cash will diminish to a much smaller fortune in record time.

One livestock economist says his studies show that a 160-cow ranch is lucky to make a profit each year. If that is a realistic projection, why do so many folks want to start a ranch from scratch?  First of all, it takes capital and plenty of it. For starters there is the land to run the cattle on. Purchasing the land would be impossible unless it was inherited, or a big oil discovery was made. Even then, the cost to equip operate a ranch is sky high.

Here are a few purchases that are generally a prelude to becoming a rancher. Having land available comes first. If purchased, leased or rented, it takes a big bite out of available funds. Then there’s the cost of buying cattle to stock the ranch. At $1,500 per head, a 100-cow operation needs $150,000 to buy cattle. Then there are the added expenses.  Fencing at $10,000 a mile, providing water sources and electricity takes more and more dollars from the depleting bank account.

And that’s just a start. A good set of corrals, a chute to work the animals plus hay barns, tractor and loader add more costs. Then add in feeding troughs, mineral feeders and other needs like trailers and pickups.  Once all the outgo is totaled up becoming a rancher doesn’t look as promising! But somebody has to raise our food and fiber---and they do it willingly, even at a loss. Thank God for these folks! And for those with a fortune to spend, take a trip to Las Vegas. The odds there beat losing it all to become a rancher!

That’s –30—This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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There are some battles worth the fight

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas

A phrase has crept into the American patois that fully encapsulates the desire to fight to the bitter end over principle.

If someone asks you “Is that the hill you want to die on,” it’s meant to check your resolve and your belief in your convictions.

It probably came from some war film, like “Heartbreak Ridge,” “Hamburger Hill,” “The Boys in Company C” or some such, but it’s a turn of a phrase that really packs a punch.

With that in mind, I’m going to wade into a fight that I have heretofore stayed mostly silent on, but one that needs the clarity of common sense, nonetheless. So here goes.

“Die Hard” is a Christmas movie.

Before there’s any pitchfork sharpening or torch preparation, read me out on this.

The traditional Christmas movie has events that occur during the Christmas season, seemingly brought on by the festivities, and the strength of belief helps people get through whatever the plot might be.

Even some of the best “traditional” Christmas movies have plots that are pretty dark, so a yuletide attack on Nakatomi Plaza shouldn’t be any less confusing. Take “It’s a Wonderful Life,” for instance. A man, overwrought by the cavalcade of catastrophe that has befallen his life, wishes he was never born. An angel, of all beings, grants that wish, and George Bailey gets to see what his absence has wrought.

Another favorite, with many many many iterations, is “A Christmas Carol,” the Dickensian melodrama that has a lifelong jerk undertake a redemption journey. This one is full of ghosts, and poverty, and class warfare, oppression, illness and death.

Here are a few others: “White Christmas” deals with saving a beloved man’s livelihood from economic disaster; “Bells of St. Mary’s” deals with the struggle to save a church and Catholic school; “The Bishop’s Wife” deals with obsession and marital strife; and “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” is pretty rough even in its title. “Elf” has child abandonment, “Miracle on 34th Street” has a child with problems dealing with a single parent, and “Home Alone” is like “Die Hard” for children.

There’s even quite a bit of Christmas swag that is out now for “Die Hard,” including an Advent calendar that has Hans Gruber taking his fateful fall.

All of these movies have roughly the same structure, all of them end well, and Christmas is the seasonal feel-good champion. That structure includes the holiday being the reason for events, not events being cobbled onto the season, like “Cobra.”

Another movie that needs the consideration of common sense, or at least some discussion, is “Lethal Weapon.” I agree the connection is a little more tenuous here than with “Die Hard,” but it still has its roots in the holiday, has holiday-connected events that go sour, and end with redemption, reconciliation and warm fuzzies.

In structure, emotion and end game, I find that “Die Hard” indeed is a Christmas movie. May it forever

Tony Farkas is editor of the Trinity County News-Standard and the San Jacinto News-Times. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Meetings with superintendents

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My Five Cents1. Nichols completes meetings with district superintendents

I spent the past several weeks travelling around the district meeting with school district leaders to discuss issues relating to education ahead of the next legislative session. My biennial superintendent tour takes me to most counties in the district to meet with most of the almost 100 superintendents in Senate District 3. Superintendents were encouraged to attend the meetings and bring whomever they wished to join the discussion. While each district is unique, there were common issues across districts that were discussed in most of the meetings. Some of those issues include school funding, school safety measures, issues with truancy and discipline, teacher shortages, and mental health supports for students. Superintendents also mentioned their concern over the growing push for a school voucher system. Education is the most important issue that the Legislature works on, and it’s imperative to get input from our school leaders on the education agenda. I would like to thank all of the superintendents and other staff who attended and participated in these meetings. You all do incredible work every day and we appreciate you!

2. Stephen F. Austin State University receives responses from four university systems on affiliation

This month, the SFA Board of Regents published responses from four university systems interested in potential affiliation between SFA and one of the systems. Texas A&M University System, Texas State University System, Texas Tech University System, and The University of Texas System all have made contact with the Board of Regents expressing a desire to have SFA join their systems. As part of the ongoing discussions, each of the four systems submitted responses to a list of questions developed by representative campus groups. These groups then evaluated each system’s response and submitted a report reflecting their perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of each system. The Board of Regents Subcommittee tasked with evaluating affiliation is also reviewing the responses. The Board of Regents will hear presentations of these reports at a board meeting at the end of the month and anticipate making a decision about affiliation before the end of the fall semester. If you would like to read the responses from each system, they are available at https://www.sfasu.edu/about-sfa/board-of-regents/university-system.

3. Three East Texas schools receive school safety grant

Diboll ISD, Westwood ISD, and White Oak ISD have all received a total of over $920,000 to improve school safety measures. The funding stems from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law earlier this year. The law allocated $100 million to the Department of Justice grant program for school districts to invest in security programs and technology. The aid in the bill goes toward investments in children and family mental health services, protections for victims of domestic violence, funding for school-based mental health and supportive services, and telehealth investments meant to increase access to mental and behavioral health services. The bill also allocated an additional $200 million to help schools with training for students and faculty and other violence-prevention efforts.

4. T.L.L. Temple Foundation awards $2 million grant to Texas Association of Community Colleges

The Texas Association of Community Colleges’ Texas Success Center is the beneficiary of The T.L.L. Temple Foundation’s $200 million grant to help align education to workforce needs in East Texas. The grant will be distributed over five years and will enable TACC to strengthen, scale, and expand guided pathways into a regional talent pipeline for postsecondary degrees and credentials in high demand, high wage career fields. This grant funding will increase alignment between industry needs and educational opportunities, as well as access to educational opportunities for rural East Texans.

5. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department announces new executive director

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently named David Yoskowitz as the new Executive Director. He previously served as the senior executive director and Endowed Chair for Socioeconomics at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Yoskowitz spent much of his career as a leader at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but his research also took him to other places in North and Central America, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Belize, El Salvador, and Mexico. He earned a Ph.D. in Economics and an M.A. in Economics from Texas Tech University and a B.S. in Economics and Finance from Bentley College.

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