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Shouting into the darkness

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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Writing an opinion column is often the equivalent of shouting into the darkness, hoping there is someone there listening. Occasionally someone does respond, assuring you that you are an idiot. Mostly, though, there is only silence. If I had wanted to get a lot of feedback from my writing, though, I would have become an infectious disease expert. Or perhaps another expert in pandemics, a federal judge.

When I was a kid in the 1950s, there weren’t a lot of vaccines around. Kids were infected with pretty much every virus that came around. And because my sister and I picked up everything, my parents were exposed as well. Wanting to get all those childhood viruses out of the way as quickly as possible, parents would deliberately expose their kids. One kid in the neighborhood gets the measles? All the parents would get their kids together and expose them. They had no idea how dangerous measles could be, so why not.

Somehow, I avoided mumps. The rest of my family had a bad case, and my dad, who was in his early 20s at the time, almost died from the virus.

The flu was another matter. Even though a flu vaccine has been around since the early 1940s, it was most often administered to folks in the military, becoming more commonly available to the civilian population in the late 1950s. 

And I did get the flu. Every year. And it wasn’t until 1985, when I decided I didn’t want to spend a week or so of absolute misery every year that I finally gave in and started getting the flu vaccine annually. And it has worked. I haven’t had the flu since.

When a vaccine was finally available for Covid 19, I was all in. I’ve had numerous vaccines in my lifetime, and I couldn’t see a downside. If it wasn’t effective, I lost nothing (it was free). Nothing to lose, everything to gain. First dose 1/13/21, second 2/10/21, first booster 10/24/21, second booster 3/30/22. No significant side effects. Combined with wearing a mask in indoor crowded places, I’ve so far not been infected. I’m 71. My wife is 76, and she too has not been infected.

Why have I been so docile about following CDC recommendations since I’m politically Libertarian? Because I’ve never considered health issues to be political. Following CDC guidelines seems the least I can do to protect others. Over a million people have died in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic. How many more would have died had the lockdowns not occurred? If many more people had not worn masks? How many lives were saved will remain unknowable.

What I fear, though, because the response to this pandemic became so politized by folks determined to let a million people die if necessary to gain political power, is that there will be no country wide effort made to stop future pandemics. That another politician will corruptly resort to demagoguery at the cost of the lives of millions of Americans.

For years I have had taped to the bottom of my computer monitor a meme that informs my entire ethical philosophy. It reads, “Don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff.” Despite our differences, we depend on the choices others make for our survival. If you don’t care about your own health, don’t hurt other people by your choices. 

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Does math have a liberal bias?

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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Florida has decided to further elevate its right-wing slant by taking its book banning beyond school and public libraries to math books, rejecting 41 percent of proposed new math books, citing critical race theory (CRT) and elements of Common Core as reasons for the rejection. Since they haven’t been very clear about naming the rejected books, or specific passages in the books that they have a problem with, it’s hard to analyze their objections.

It is certainly hard to understand how math could be used to indoctrinate students with CRT. And Common Core (an Obama era plan to standardize education across the nation) was championed by Florida when it was first proposed. The way math is taught has changed dramatically over time, primarily because it is difficult for many students.

When I was learning math in the 1950s and 1960s, we learned by rote. We memorized addition, multiplication, and division tables, with teachers and parents holding up Flash Cards to drill those tables into our young minds. And, if you were good at memorizing, you could get a good grade by regurgitating those tables when called on by the teacher. Because we didn’t learn the concepts behind those tables, though, we would run into trouble when confronted with real-world calculations in our daily lives.

My sister, two years younger than me, was the victim of the supposed solution to that problem, a method called “New Math.” The idea was to eliminate the rote memorization and teach the concepts behind the math. Once you understood the concepts, the thinking was, you could solve any math problem by reasoning it out. My sister became skilled with grouping, etc. She was, in fact, a straight “A” student (and ultimately Valedictorian of her high school class). But, she couldn’t solve simple multiplication and division problems without working through the concepts.

Over the years since then, educators have worked to refine math teaching methods to make math more relevant to the students lives. For example, most of us rarely need to deal with pure math problems. And even if we do, Texas Instruments in 1971 introduced the pocket calculator (now incorporated into smart phones), that puts any calculation in the palm of our hands. What we need to solve are practical problems that involve math. For example, if I invite 36 people to my child’s sixth birthday party, and I have 7 games they can play, how do I divide them so they can all play each game in the time I’ve set for the party.

The best way to teach this kind of abstract situation in a math class is to have the students solve that kind of problem. And there is the place that culture must enter education. O.K., there are girls and boys among those invited. Six-year-old girls and boys might not want to play with the other sex, they might not like to play the same kind of games. Now the students need to work that into their solution.

Critical Race Theory is a framework taught at the graduate level in universities. If you are suggesting it is being incorporated deliberately and explicitly in elementary level math, you are engaged in some aspect of culture war that sees parts of our society you choose to ignore as bad, and that if you can hide the people you do not like from your kids, they will never encounter them.

Common Core was proposed so that as you moved from city to city, and state to state, your kids would have a uniform educational experience. As a teenager, I moved from a district that was one of the most advanced in Texas, to a poor district that had many fewer resources. I took biology, chemistry, drafting courses, and speech courses in Jr. High that were only offered in High School in the district I moved to. Which means I was forced to repeat numerous courses I had already had. Common Core was promoted to prevent that kind of thing.

Both of these things have been turned into something evil by those who are using them as a wedge issue to tear the country apart.

Look, if you want to indoctrinate your kids to think exactly as you do, then take the time to indoctrinate them. As their parent, you have far more power to influence them than overworked teachers. But they will be far better off if you work to teach them to think independently, so they can survive in a world that will continue to change long after they are out of your direct control.

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Men are dying from a lack of attention

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Christine FlowersChristine FlowersRecently, a friend showed me a sobering graphic depicting the gender disparity in suicide rates between men and women. While females tend to attempt suicide more often than men (and experience suicidal thoughts more frequently,) males are more “successful” in completing the act.

There are a lot of reasons for the striking difference along gender lines, but one thing is clear: men are in crisis mode, and that crisis starts from early adolescence and carries all the way through to old age.

Years ago, Christina Hoff Somers wrote a book called “The War On Boys.” It was a welcome response to the volumes devoted to exposing the horrible state of girls in society, the Ophelias who were drowning in their own despair. Years of the second and third feminist waves were devoted to examining the particular problems facing females at school, at work, in love and at every level of their lives. Men were either ignored, ridiculed or in the worst case, demonized.

I remember the disturbing trend of sitcoms in the 70s and 80s that depicted the father figure not as a dependable and honored head of the family, but as a barely-tolerated buffoon. It was as if Hollywood needed to completely dismantle the solid, respectable role models from the Golden Age of Television shown in “Father Knows Best,” “Leave It To Beaver,” “My Three Sons” and similar beloved programs.

I can only imagine the impact it had on young men, who saw themselves portrayed as fools, or on the other end, manipulative predators. Virtually every episode of “Law and Order: SVU” shows male villains stalking their innocent female victims. And while Elliot was usually on the side of the angels, he was saddled with a violent temper while his partner Olivia was basically canonized. The fact that she was the product of a rape herself was not a coincidence.

The guys I knew generally swallowed the media malpractice with as much grace as they could muster. But as Christina Hoff Somers demonstrated, the “kids were not all right.” Statistics showed over two decades ago that boys were having problems in school while girls were flourishing. Part of this has to do with the fact that females are more able to articulate their feelings of anger or upset, and are taught that it’s okay to talk while boys were taught to just be quiet and suck it up. If they dared to express any sort of anger or upset, they were saddled with the label of “toxic masculinity.”

All of this came to a head with the Supreme Court hearings of Brett Kavanaugh. I think that those of us who watched those hearings in real time are still traumatized by what was done to that man. The fact that he was ultimately confirmed doesn’t change the fact that a man was set up for destruction, based entirely on fabrications. He was attacked, vilified, defamed and abused in a way that no nominee before, or since, has experienced. His reputation was drawn-and-quartered, and he became less than human.

When I saw the statistics on male suicide, I realized that the pendulum has swung too far in the wrong direction. I’ve often dealt with victims of abuse in my immigration practice, and while many have been women, a sizeable number have been men. The very first Battered Spouse Petition I ever filed was on behalf of a man who had been threatened with deportation by his U.S. citizen spouse, a woman who joked about how she could lie about him abusing her, and no one would believe him if he defended himself.

I thought of that man when I watched the Kavanaugh hearings, and I thought of that man when I read that graphic which, to be honest, scared me. A society that doesn’t provide safety nets for all of its troubled children, regardless of gender, is a society headed for extinction.

March 31 was dubbed “International Trans Visibility” Day. We say that Black Lives Matter. The entire month of March was devoted to Women’s History. June is Gay Pride Month. There are lists of people we want to honor, and protect.

Judging from the disturbing statistics on suicide, there’s an even larger group of people dying, literally, for some attention.

Copyright 2022 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Explanations often are quite simple

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FromEditorsDesk TonyI came close to unfriending someone who I have been friends with for a couple of decades, becoming one of those people who walk away from someone who says something I disagree with.

I vehemently disagreed with his take on the immigration crisis on our border (my friend lives in Missouri), in which he tied allowing our border to be wide open to the current 40-year-high inflation numbers.

I thought that not only was it a stretch that strained incredulity, but it was a blatant sop to the current administration’s foundering economy.

His point: Gov. Greg Abbott’s rules slowing vehicle traffic over bridges from Mexico from 3,000 to 100 is causing the price of tomatoes to skyrocket.

The governor ordered DPS to do additional inspections on trucks coming in from Mexico, citing safety concerns. 

Those inspections, in turn, caused delays, which governments on both sides of the border claim is adversely affecting their respective economies. 

It’s like the old argument who will do the jobs no one wants to do if we don’t let the border be as porous as it usually is, combined with the Putin is causing our gas prices to go up. It’s cynical, and designed to be a dig against conservatives.

Another friend posited that inflation is caused by corporate greed, and that corporations and big businesses are charging more than they “need,” just like Ebenezer Scrooge.

Two axioms in business are pretty much unassailable — the first being that when supply is greater than demand, prices are low, and if supply is less than demand, prices are high. The second being that corporations pass down costs to consumers. The points my friends are trying to make are squarely rooted in this. And that’s OK.

There’s a third one that we seem to be forgetting about, though, and that’s consumers vote with their feet. 

Let’s take that one and combine it with a little American exceptionalism and ingenuity. Let’s not allow outside forces to dictate our misery, because that way lies madness.

Tomatoes cost too much? Let’s grow them ourselves. Gas prices too high? We have the means, resources and determination to become energy independent and not rely on Putin or Saudi oil sheiks for oil.

If tomatoes only are available in Mexico, which I seriously doubt, then why don’t we go get them?

First and foremost, let’s stop the government from dictating every little piece of our lives, making the costs of things skyrocket from unfunded mandates, unnecessary safety requirements and ridiculous regulations.

See, the government produces nothing. It has, however, put itself into the equation of just about everything, which adds a layer of cost that really is unnecessary. Sure, it has the ability to regulate interstate commerce and stop monopolies, but that doesn’t mean it gets to essentially place itself at the top of the ladder.

Which is another way of saying that during election season, vote with your feet and against anyone who makes matters worse in the name of protecting the people.

Tony Farkas can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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I got my peaches down at Walmart

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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I got my peaches out in Georgia [Oh, yeah, ****
I get my weed from California [That’s that ****
I took my chick up to the North, yeah [Bad that *****
I get my light right from the source, yeah [Yeah, that’s it]

Justin Bieber “Peaches”

Justin Bieber may have got his peaches out in Georgia, but I get mine at Walmart. In fact, I get most of the fresh vegetables I can get year-round at Walmart. But I’m also old enough to remember when only seasonal fruits and vegetables were available at the local grocery store. Modern distribution systems enable us to ignore growing seasons, as we import whatever we need from wherever the produce is growing.

Take the humble tomato for example. The U.S. is a major producer of tomatoes while at the same time being the largest importer of tomatoes from Mexico. But produce isn’t the only thing to move both ways across the border between Mexico and the U.S. Automobile parts, electronic components and a whole list of other goods make that trip daily.

As I hope you are aware, there is a kerfuffle along the U.S. border with Mexico going on right now that has brought the finely tuned distribution of goods between the U.S. and Mexico to a stop. Governor Abbott has ordered a safety inspection of every commercial truck moving over the border to the United States. The result is predictable. Trucks are lined up for miles at the border, many loaded with produce that will spoil without refrigeration.

Because these big, refrigerated trucks carry only enough fuel to run their refrigeration units for seven days, and many of those trucks have been stuck in the border traffic jam for four days already, a lot of produce will be useless. Even if the truck’s loads survive, the snarled distribution system has already resulted in empty shelves and produce bins.

Gov. Abbott’s actions created this problem, and for days I tried to understand how tangling up well-oiled distribution systems benefited him politically. Making folks mad at you for what appears to be an unforced error just didn’t make sense to me. Until today, when the clear outline of a strawman appeared, followed by announcements from the Governor’s office that Abbott has negotiated deals at the time this article was written with two Mexican states to allow movement between two of the border crossing sites again.

The strawman argument, in this case, has Abbott creating a problem then bragging about solving it. Setting up the strawman and knocking it down. Putting out press releases celebrating his political astuteness.

The distribution system was moving normally before Abbott suddenly ordered these “safety checks.” Then, when they brought truck border crossings to a halt, he leaned on the relevant Mexican states to become the hero by solving the problem he created. At tremendous financial cost in lost products, lost productivity to workers who have been idled at loading docks around the country.

If you are left with any doubt this is all about politics, Abbott at the same time has engaged in another political stunt that will end up costing Texas taxpayers a lot of money. He has started sending immigrants who have crossed the border to Washington, DC. Now, because he has no constitutional authority to force these people onto a bus and move them across state lines (that would be human trafficking and kidnapping), he asks for “volunteers.”

Whatever deniability he might have had for his motive in this action was blown up when he had the first busload to DC let out in front of the building housing Fox News offices, where a reporter was ready to do an interview. Interviewers asked those who disembarked where they were going to go from there, and several said they were headed to Miami, Florida. I’m certain Gov. DeSantis has called Abbott to thank him.

As a lifelong Texan, I sure wish my state government would spend my tax dollars actually helping people instead of playing political games.

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