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The wrong things are being deemed important

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FromEditorsDesk TonyNow that we’ve successfully navigated Whamaggeddon and the Christmas season, were in the all-important New Year’s season (which incidentally coincides with the all-important birthday season, but that’s a different story).

The most renowned thing that accompanies New Year’s is not hangovers, or fireworks and gunfire, or the plethora of different things that must be eaten to ensure good luck throughout the coming year (the last few years have put lie to that little wives’ tale, I’m thinking), but is resolutions.

You know, those promises we make on Jan. 1 that are immediately broken on Jan 1 ½. We’re going to lose weight, or stop drinking so much, or quite whining, or embrace some adventure — none of that lasts the first month, and possibly will be taken up the next Lenten season, but more often than not will be the subject of regret come Valentine’s Day.

I believe the reason for this is hidden in our own beliefs that we’ve progressed as a society. Wokeism, as it were. The problem with that as I see it is that wokeism is rooted in selfishness, or at least a grand sense of self-importance.

Bear with me on this.

I came to this conclusion watching, as I always do, those old movies that talk about Christmas spirit, the joy of giving, care for your fellow man and the like. (I’m also a big fan of “The Good Witch,” but that’s another tale.)

If you watch them closely, you’ll notice that people observe certain proprieties in dealing with each other. They have manners. They are generous, deferential, and genuinely interested in listening, helping, and even just being connected.

Nowadays, folks might say that since the people of that time held different views that those of today, and judge the people of bygone eras by today’s standards, that the courtesies and niceties are to be dismissed.

If you watch what passes for social interactions these days, you’ll see what wokeism has wrought in the name of values. The dialogue in current movies is rife with insults and invectives and full of expletives. It reeks of self-centered idealism, and the people involved tend to be followers instead of leaders. Further, any manner of behavior is acceptable and approved, as long as it is done in service of whatever deep-seated belief is being challenged or discussed.

Children behave horribly and are blessed for their passion; adults can scream, or berated, or even breastfeed cats because they are serving their own beliefs and that of whatever central pillar of “understanding” is being upheld.

The latest example of the downfall of civility can be seen in the video of a woman viciously berating a fellow passenger on a plane for not wearing a mask (done, of course, while her own mask is below her chin). Her profanity-laden, holier-than-thou attack, complete with physical assault and expectoration, was born of her belief that she was more important than the man, who was committing the egregious sin of eating a meal.

This was unnecessary, and nothing more than virtue signaling. And there’s the difference: nowadays, it’s more important to look as though you’re principled than actually to be principled.

Several things to consider, here. Just because something is old-fashioned doesn’t make it wrong or unnecessary.

There is nothing wrong with forgiveness and civility. There is nothing wrong with manners and care for your fellow man, as long as it’s done for their sake, and not for yours.

So this year, let’s skip the weight loss and smoking promises that will fade. Let’s instead resolve to become a better society, one that focuses on others and not ourselves.

Tony Farkas is editor of 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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What more could we ask for than living a life of service?

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From The Editors Desk Emily WootenEarly Sunday morning, the day after Christmas, when I read online that Archbishop Desmond Tutu had died, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad. I’d had the opportunity to meet him one spring day in March of 2004 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate had come to Livingston to visit an inmate on Texas Death Row and to express his opposition to the death penalty in a press conference afterward. The eloquent South African anti-apartheid and social rights activist spoke passionately that day about injustices.

Tutu had just come from the Polunsky Unit where he visited Dominique Green who was serving time for the 1992 robbery and shooting death of a Houston man. Green first learned of Tutu after reading “No Future Without Forgiveness,” the archbishop’s book regarding his experience as chairman of South Africa’s unique experiment, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated past human rights abuses. During the commission’s sessions, perpetrators of political violence were encouraged to tell the truth about what they’d done during the apartheid era and the victims of that violence, and their families, were encouraged to forgive those who repented their violence. According to those that knew Green, he felt his life had been changed for the better by the other inmates on death row and by reading Tutu’s book.

Learning of the 90-year-old’s death, I reflected fondly on the tiny little man who was slight in stature, yet larger than life with his big smile, twinkling eyes and passionate beliefs. What a life of service he had lived.

My thoughts then turned to the family of Yancy Williams who’d just spent their first Christmas without their husband and father. Yancy died Oct. 5 after a lengthy battle with COVID-19. Yancy, too, truly lived a life of service. My friend and former schoolmate had proudly served his country in both the U.S. Marine Corp and the U.S. Army Reserves. He served his community for many years as a line technician with Sam Houston Electric Cooperative and as a firefighter with the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department.

I know that Yancy was human like the rest of us but I don’t know anyone that didn’t like him and I’ve never heard a single negative remark uttered about the man. He was so loved and well-respected in our community that close to 200 units from law enforcement agencies, area fire departments and Sam Houston Electric Cooperative showed their respect for the hometown hero in what was the longest processional I’ve ever witnessed as Yancy’s body was escorted home from a Houston hospital the morning of Oct. 6. I stood there watching as a tear rolled down my cheek.

Just the prior week, our community was devastated by the death of Cole Overstreet, a Livingston High School senior who was killed by a drunk driver in a hit and run accident that occurred following the Homecoming football game. I didn’t know Cole personally, but in the days and weeks that followed, I heard story after story from youth and adults alike about a magnanimous, bright young man who was a good kid, friends with everyone, smart, nice, polite – just the quintessential boy next door. Numerous people shared stories of the impact that Cole had had on them. On the cusp of adulthood, it was clearly evident that although his life was tragically cut short, Cole was already on a path toward living a life of service.

It’s been a rough couple of years. 2020 was unprecedented and 2021—while a little different—was hardly an improvement. As a result of the upheaval, I have lots of questions and concerns and I assume others do too. I find myself trying to live with intention and be present in the moment. But I also think about the big picture too. What’s important? What matters? How do I want to spend my time? What’s best for me and my family? What are my contributions to my community? There’s a sense of urgency to do the right thing and make everything count.

On the evening of Dec. 23, I was in the kitchen cooking supper for my family when I heard my phone “ding” with a text message. It was a friend of mine, apologizing profusely for contacting me during the holiday but inquiring if I knew any place she could get a COVID test first thing the following morning. She was to celebrate Christmas with her great grandchildren the following day at 11 a.m. but had just discovered that someone she had hugged a few days prior had tested positive. I went to the website for the Polk County Office of Emergency Management and saw where the county had contracted with a firm that conducted drive-thru testing daily behind the county annex. I texted this information to my friend and resumed cooking supper.

I heard the familiar “ding” of a text on my phone shortly thereafter. I checked and it was another friend inquiring if there were any overnight accommodations at my brother’s ranch outside of Waco. I texted her that he and my nephews have several Airbnb properties and that I would look up the links and forward them to her. It took a little longer than I expected, but I found them and emailed them to her. I returned to my cooking.

I heard my phone “ding” again with a text. It was a friend of mine asking if I knew the name of a certain attorney in town and if I had the attorney’s phone number. While I knew the attorney’s name and relayed it to my friend, I texted her that I didn’t have the attorney’s phone number. I finished fixing dinner and we sat down to eat. Hubby teased me a little for being so “in demand.”

And no, I’m not comparing myself to Archbishop Tutu, Yancy or Cole. I’m simply illustrating that sometimes it takes very little to help someone or answer them or make them happy or just be there—and that if we can, we should. When I think of the times when others have been there for me, or helped me out of a jam, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. These days, I find that I often feel happiest when doing little things for others. And what could be a better feeling than that?!

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Private forest landowners and carbon credits: An emerging East Texas partnership

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These young Tyler County pines can remove almost 10 tons of CO2 per acre per year and continue to accumulate carbon until they reach maturity.  (Photo courtesy of Keelin Parker, Parker Forestry Consulting.)These young Tyler County pines can remove almost 10 tons of CO2 per acre per year and continue to accumulate carbon until they reach maturity. (Photo courtesy of Keelin Parker, Parker Forestry Consulting.)By Col. S. Edward Boxx, USAF (ret)

President, Tyler County Forest Landowners Association

Time Magazine recently announced Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, as “Person of the Year.” Interestingly, one of his business practices is becoming more prevalent in Tyler County. Private forest landowners (small and large holdings) can sell “carbon credits” through virtual markets. These chits function as permits for a business to release a specific amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) or other greenhouse gases. One carbon credit equals the emission of one ton of CO2.

Surprisingly, Mr. Musk’s company Tesla does not profit from selling its popular electric cars but from selling carbon credits to other car manufacturers. Last year, Tesla earned over $1.6 billion from carbon credits alone. So how do local forest landowners make and sell carbon credits? Per the Texas A&M Forest Service, “Forests accumulate carbon when trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere during photosynthesis, becoming a carbon sink. The carbon from CO2 is then stored for a long time as woody biomass, leaf litter, deadwood and soil organic carbon.” Thus, an East Texas timber landowner can offset carbon producers by maintaining a healthy and sustainable forest. Furthermore, owners can create an additional income by deferring their timber harvest for a specific amount of time (one year, for example) and selling their carbon credits. Harvest Deferral Credits (HDCs) are simply units that express the carbon content of the landowner’s trees instead of, for example, their bulk (like green tons). It is much like weighing timber on the way to the mill, but instead of wood tonnage, they represent the environmental benefit of a delayed cutting. These forest HDCs are then converted to business carbon credits.

Companies specializing in carbon credits conduct a remote, google earth-like assessment using satellite imagery. Based on a sophisticated algorithm, they will determine the HDCs on a property (for example, a 50-acre tract in southern Tyler County may show 100 HDCs). If landowners choose to defer a timber harvest, they can enroll and bid their HDCs on an open exchange. Say, for example, bids started at $5 - $8 per HDC, the landowner can choose to enter some, all, or none of their acreage. (The bidding process helps determine the private landowner’s motivation and price point for deferring a harvest. For example, a landowner may delay harvesting at $8.00 per HDC but not at $5.00). So in the illustration above, the fictional southern Tyler County 50-acre landowner would earn at least $500.00 (100 HDCs X $5.00) or potentially $800.00 (100 HDCs x $8.00) if they agree to not harvest for one year. Some common questions are, “Does a non-merchantable thinning (as outlined in a management plan) or a natural disaster (hurricane) count against a landowner?” It, of course, all depends on the contract and the company, but as a rule of thumb, property owners are not penalized.

Another frequent question, “Can I get HDCs on the 200 acres of seedlings I just planted? Unfortunately, “usually, no,” because it is – as you probably already surmised - not harvestable (they are seedlings). While selling carbon credits may not be for every landowner, they offer potential advantages. First, they allow the Jeffersonian-inspired tree farmer the option to participate or not participate. Private forest owners can sometimes feel powerless to the ebbs and flows of macroeconomic forces out of their control, such as lumber prices, mill capacity, and logger availability.

Here the landowner stewards can make their own decisions on their forest fiefdoms, empowering the independent property owner. Secondly, besides the additional cash influx - a good thing when a landowner needs to convince the IRS their acreage is indeed a “business” and not a “hobby,” – the income shows it is a working farm. Even though a Form 1099 must be filed with the IRS, the annual earned income, while not life-changing, can help offset taxes and other fixed expenses. Carbon credits allow for a more diversified timber business portfolio combined with other aspects of forest stewardship such as hunting, pond management, beekeeping, eco-tourism, or timber harvesting. Thirdly, going on the record (tax return and in practice) as a “net-zero” entity (meaning you are absorbing carbon instead of producing it) makes the role of the Tyler County private landowner even more significant. Besides owning most of the timber in Texas, individual landowners can develop an Elon Musk-like approach to their enterprises.

Currently, Texas manufacturers are in search of Texas-produced carbon credits – so not only are the landowners maintaining healthy and sustainable forests, but they are also supporting Lone Star businesses and entrepreneurs. 

The carbon credit marketplace continues to evolve rapidly and may involve more agribusinesses. Mr. Rob Hughes, Texas Forestry Association (TFA) representative, recently informed Tyler County landowners, “Other carbon initiatives include carbon sequestration in the soil under rangeland (grassland) and efforts to restore the open pine canopy with bluestem understory.” So, if you want to know more about carbon credits, please “save the date” and join us Saturday, 19 March at the Tyler County Forest Landowners’ Association’s Spring 2022 General Meeting. You can check our website for updated venues and times (https://tcforest.org/events.htm). We hope to feature a professional carbon credit speaker with other forestry experts. The event includes lunch and a chance to network with other timber professionals and Tyler County landowners. 

Disclaimer: the carbon credit information provided above is for illustration and educational purposes only and is not intended as professional, forestry, or legal advice.   

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It’s appropriate, but probably not welcome

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FromEditorsDesk TonySitting in a car for hours listening to Christmas tunes can leave a person nostalgic for Andy Williams, Perry Como and Guy Lombardo …

“Welcome, welcome, welcome to the Christmas Carol Cavalcade, this year specifically geared with loving, regional acceptable truisms for the area.

This year’s offerings are presented by the “We’re Not Gettin’ Paid, So Back Off” singers, culled from your hometowns and forced, er, assembled here for your listening pleasure.

No, this concert is free, but a love donation will be taken in the form of not rioting.

OK. Here’s our first offering: 

Oh, the weather outside is spiteful

But the AC is so delightful

Keep the electricity on, you know

So don’t let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

The drivers can’t stay on the road

Even in a little rain

Then they slide off to the side

And in the ditch they remain …

Thank you, fan, tomatoes are a fine source of iron. Next up is a favorite of the tenors, and I hope it’s one of yours.

I really can’t go (baby it’s hot outside)

It’s humid, you know (baby it’s hot outside)

It’s 80 degrees (waddaya want from me)

Turn on the AC (geez, the bills) …

We appreciate all the support, and lettuce is a good source for fiber in a diet. The horn section likes this one.

O Holy Christ, this bike won’t go together

There’s all these parts, and instructions are in Chinese.

I’ve had too much beer, and my vision is kinda blurry

The dollhouse broke, and the tree just fell over …

All we need is bacon and we’ve got sandwiches for the road! Our next piece is a personal favorite of the bus driver.

Last Christmas … NOOOO OOOOOOOOOO!

OK! Looks like someone is playing Whamaggeddon, so we’ll just move on. This one goes out to all the folks at PETA.

We fish ewe a mare egrets moose

panda hippo gnu deer.

For those of you left, please remember to buy our CD, which will be out on 8-track sometime in the next decade.”

Just a little levity for a holiday that is all about the love and gift of giving. All of us at easttexasnews.com wish you marey marey egrets moose and a hippo new deer.

Tony Farkas is editor of 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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The best Christmas gift is time

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Columnist Tom PurcellOur time is the best gift we can give to our friends and family this Christmas. 

Nobody knows how much time we have on Earth — nobody knows when our time will end. We all have friends and loved ones who were claimed way too early.

Hopefully, you are blessed, as my family has been, to have loved ones who have lived long and fruitful lives.

Such family members have an abundance of wisdom to share — wisdom cultivated over time. I particularly enjoy the pearls of humorous wisdom my 88-year-old father has shared:

“Getting old ain’t for cowards!”

“At my age, never buy green bananas.”

“When life serves you a lemon, make lemonade — but crack open a Pabst Blue Ribbon first.”

My mother has long been a source of positive energy, hope and inspiration. She is forever forging ahead, forever looking for a silver lining.

So many times as a child — and later as an adult — she corrected me when I got lost in the moodiness of my self-perceived failures and pushed me to keep on going.

Life is hard for everyone at times. It is not easy to maintain my mother’s stubbornly positive mindset, but she powers on, demanding the rest of us to do likewise.

Hopefully, your extended family is also as equally blessed as mine is by young family members who offer their own kind of innocent wisdom.

Children are filled with a natural sense of wonder, joy and hope. They especially love visiting Grandma and Grandpa — my Mom and Dad.

That makes perfect sense to me. Kids and old folks have a natural connection. It’s those of us in the middle of time — from our teens up through middle age — who are caught up in the seriousness of a worldly world.

It’s easy to fall into the trap so many of us are stuck in. We seek success, praise, financial security, nicer houses and more and more stuff.

What we don’t see is that while the youngest and the oldest members of our families spend their time on wonder, hope and laughter we are wasting too much of our precious time on acquiring worldly things.

Nobody ever said on his deathbed, as the old humorous saying goes, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office!”

According to Lifehack, here are some other common deathbed regrets:

- “I wish I had kept on going.”  Refer to my mother’s guidance, above, on how to avoid having this regret.

- “I wish I told others how much I love them.” Add to this, “I wish I’d spent more time with those I love.”

- “I wish I had laughed it off.” This third regret is particularly helpful now, as so many of us are so angry constantly about politics and other matters that, in the end, are not deserving of the high importance we have granted them.

The Christmas season is upon us and time is the very best gift we can give.

Rather than material goods or money, why not write up a series of IOUTs (I owe you time) to give to others:

- I’ll make you your favorite dinner.

- I’ll help you clean your gutters twice a year, then join you for tea.

- I’ll go walking with you once every week.

Our time is priceless. This Christmas let’s share it like the fleeting treasure that it is.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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