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Cheers and Jeers: Giving good, vouchers bad

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Chris Editorial photoBy Chris Edwards

It’s baaaaaaaaaaack!

Although this particular cat didn’t return the very next day, this perusal through certain news topics called “Cheers and Jeers,” which looks to summarize news, in a method similar to what our esteemed colleague Gary Borders does in his Capital Highlights columns for Texas Press Assocation, albeit with a little judgment calling and some of that special sauce piled atop from your humble scrivener, is back for another round on this page.

A special note before we go further: Thursday is the day set aside to give thanks for all we have. Whether you’re a slave to tradition and are spending your turkey day catching up with an army of distant cousins and whatnot, or you’re having a meal by yourself, gratitude is something that is not limited to one designated holiday.

As for me, I’m doing as little as possible. Just resting up and catching up on some reading, but I’m thankful for all I have, and for some things I do not.

So, without further adieu...

• Cheers to the anonymous donor who gifted Woodville ISD with a new vehicle for the district’s transportation fleet to help out with the need in its “18 Plus” program.

The program is designed to keep differently abled students in school past graduation in order to better transition them into aspects of the workforce.

The 18 Plus program is a much-needed service offered by WISD, and to have someone from the community who believes in it step up and help out in such a big way is enormously commendable. Oftentimes some of us get so jaded that we forget there are good folks in the world.

• While we’re on the topic of public education, a big round of cheers goes out to the Texas House of Representatives for saying “no” to school vouchers once again. In a fourth special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott,  vouchers were part of a massive education funding bill. Vouchers, however they’re presented, are a scam that takes taxpayer funds from public schools and diverts money into private education. Not only is this fundamentally wrong, from a taxpayer’s standpoint, private schools lack the accountability of the public education system, and they can pick and choose pupils.

The measure to strip the vouchers (Abbott’s dogged legislative priority since the regular session gaveled in back in January) from the bill passed 84-63, with bi-partisan support. Most of the 21 House Republicans voting against vouchers represent rural areas, where public schools are cornerstones of the communities. If passed, however, vouchers would hurt all communities, regardless of population density.

• Jeers to the swift transition of time. It seems, for many, to be as much of an exchange of small talk to complain about the way the years fly by as it does talking about the weather, but, seriously. where did you go, 2023? Here it is Thanksgiving week already, and before we know it, it’ll be time for champagne and “Auld Lang Syne” again. Boo hiss!

• Jeers to the coming onslaught of excessive consumerism known as Black Friday.

In a few days we can look forward to national headlines chronicling violent acts committed over televisions and teddy bears, right after a day designed to express gratitude.  Again, boo hiss!

• Cheers to the Dallas Cowboys organization, and particularly Jerry Jones, for doing the right thing and enshrining legendary coach (and proud Southeast Texas boy) Jimmy Johnson in the team’s Ring of Honor. Jones made the announcement on Sunday, before the Cowboys played the Carolina Panthers. The halftime induction ceremony will take place at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 30 when Dem Boys play the Detroit Lions.

Johnson has been a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 2020, and upon his induction there, Jones said the Cowboys would honor him. Johnson steered the Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowl wins in ‘92 and ‘93.

• A toast to Rosalynn Carter. The late former first lady, who died on Sunday, is solid proof to the old saw about “behind every good man...”.

Rosalynn and former president Jimmy Carter were a team in all they did, and their 77-years of marriage lasted longer than most folks’ entire lifespans.

Say what you want about the largely unremarkable Carter presidency, but in Jimmy Carter, America undoubtedly had one of the smartest men to ever sit in the Oval Office, and the two of them were just some of the most genuinely good human beings to ever walk the White House halls.

Mrs. Carter’s commitment to mental health advocacy demonstrated a true-blue heart of service, after Jimmy’s term, and the two of them, together, represent some of the best that rural America can be.

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Kentucky’s opportunity to lead in the fight against opioid addiction

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By Morgan Luttrell,Marcus Luttrell, Rick Perry and Dakota Meyer

As the opioid epidemic continues to grip our nation, claiming lives, destroying families and burdening communities, it is imperative that we explore every viable solution.

Among these potential solutions is a powerful, natural, non-addictive substance known as ibogaine. As voices that have served in political and military capacities, we unite in our appeal to the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission: Allocate $42 million for ibogaine research.

Kentucky has a unique chance to pioneer a revolutionary approach to combat opioid addiction and pave the way for the entire country.

From our collective experiences, whether among our fellow veterans, among our friends, or among our constituents, we’ve seen the devastating impacts of addiction. And in our pursuit of solutions, all from our different perspectives, the promise of ibogaine has emerged as a beacon of hope.

Ibogaine, for those unfamiliar, is a psychoactive substance derived from the African iboga plant. Preliminary research and numerous personal accounts have shown its profound efficacy in treating opioid addiction.

Unlike opioids and many of the medications used to treat opioid dependence, ibogaine is non-addictive. Its unique ability to “reset” the brain’s neural pathways provides those struggling with addiction an opportunity to break free from their chains. Ibogaine is not without its risks, but doctors and researchers agree that those risks can be mitigated with the right medical oversight.

While skeptics may question why such a promising treatment remains obscure, the answer lies in politics, not science. Regrettably, ibogaine, like many psychoactive substances, was placed in Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act due to political motivations, sidelining its therapeutic potential. This decision, made without sound scientific backing, has been a grievous error from both a medical and public health perspective.

But where mistakes are made, rectifications can occur. The non-profit Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions is a testament to this. VETS, an organization close to our hearts, has provided grants to veterans seeking ibogaine treatment, recognizing its transformative potential. These brave men and women, having served their country, deserve every tool available to reclaim their lives from addiction. Their stories and the emerging body of research support what we’ve personally witnessed: Ibogaine holds immense promise.

Kentucky, with its allocation of $42 million, can play a pivotal role in this reclamation. By matching these funds for a comprehensive clinical trial, Kentucky won’t just be investing in research; it’ll be investing in hope, healing, and the very future of its people. Such a move would not only place the state at the forefront of innovative opioid addiction treatments but also send a powerful message to the nation: We prioritize the health and well-being of our citizens over politics.

Furthermore, this investment can have cascading benefits. By leading the charge, Kentucky can provide a jump start to the FDA clinical trials that would be needed to decide whether the benefits of ibogaine could be unlocked for millions more.

This isn’t just about Kentucky; it’s about setting a precedent for the entire nation.

From a military perspective, we’re taught to adapt, overcome, and seek out the best strategies for success. In the fight against opioid addiction, we must adopt the same mindset. If there’s a tool that offers promise, such as ibogaine, we owe it to our fellow Americans to explore it fully. It’s about making decisions based on the well-being of our constituents, even if that requires challenging established prejudgments.

We understand that diving into uncharted waters, especially in matters of public health, requires courage. The opioid epidemic is a multifaceted issue that demands a multifaceted response.

In conclusion, we appeal to the wisdom and foresight of the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission. Invest in ibogaine research. Let Kentucky be the beacon that guides the nation towards a more effective, compassionate approach to tackling opioid addiction. This is not a matter of politics or partisanship; it’s a matter of public health, of lives saved, and futures reclaimed.

May this bold step serve as a testament to Kentucky’s commitment to its people and a brighter, addiction-free future.

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The year of the possum

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By Jase Graves

According to my extensive research (approximately five minutes on Google when I should have been folding underwear), the Chinese zodiac system assigns an animal symbol to each year. It is believed that people born in a given year have the personality of that year’s animal. For example, based on the placemats at my favorite Chinese buffet, I was born in the Year of the Dog, which means I am loyal, honest and difficult to housebreak.

Although it has absolutely nothing to do with the Chinese zodiac system, I am hereby declaring this year to be the Year of the Possum! The common possum (also known as the “opossum,” “roadkill” or “hissing rat-kitty”) is actually a marsupial, meaning that when possums feel threatened, they hiss with a strong Australian accent. They vaguely resemble a small house cat who spent a drunken night on the town with a set of malfunctioning Norelco clippers.

“So why this sudden interest in possums?” you probably aren’t asking. Within the past two months, I’ve had two encounters with these repulsive, yet somehow endearing creatures.

The first occurred one evening last month while my wife and I were taking our evening geriatric power stroll. As we walked past our house, we noticed an unidentified hairy object on our front lawn. At first, we thought it might be a bunny, a kitten or even one of our family doglets who had escaped to the front yard to kill the rest of our grass.

Upon closer inspection (I made my wife go look), we discovered that it was a young possum – probably a teenager based on all of the sighing and eye rolling. Because East Texas was experiencing record heat and a drought at the time (and because I feel a kindred connection to all creatures with bad hair) I decided to prepare the possum a small dish of water and a handful of kibble dog food.

When I returned with the food and water, the possum gave me a half-hearted hiss and revealed in its clutches the carcass of a half-eaten rodent. In other words, I was like one of those restaurant servers who try to force a dessert on me after I’ve already stuffed myself. (I usually agree to the dessert.)

My next possum encounter happened a month later when my wife interrupted my slumber to inform me that there was a possum in our swimming pool/liquid cash vortex. When I asked her if she got it out, she said that she thought I should do it since she basically does everything else except breathe for me. (I’m still trying to figure out how to turn that over to her, too.)

When I went outside, the possum was sitting just inside one of the skimmer intake thingies–judging me because he didn’t like my bathrobe. There was no time to reconsider my leisurewear, though, as I sprang into action, using the pole end of my dip net to gouge the possum out of the skimmer and then skillfully twirling the pole to scoop him in the net and deposit him over the back fence – while cold possum water streamed down my arm and into my robe.

Although these experiences were not altogether pleasant, it’s nice to know that our neighborhood has a healthy ecosystem that supports the local wildlife – even if it has no taste in bathrobes.

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Rampaging down the wrong path despite warnings

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas

I think about overreach a lot. Readers probably get that.

Things like Sunday, in which we marched like lemmings to our clocks to change the flow of time, all at the behest of a government that thought by shifting the hours of the day around like chess pieces that our energy use would be less. Or something.

Then there’s the whole idea behind electric cars, which also is supposed to save energy, the ozone layer and the earth from global warming by shifting the use of fossil fuels to power plants (gotta charge them critters somehow) and scarring the landscape looking for lithium for batteries.

These are just a few examples of what people who consider themselves cognoscenti do to protect the people from themselves. Why, we can’t even be trusted with history.

Now we are going protect people by erasing pesky, unappealing history by changing the names — of birds.

According to many news reports, birds names are “problematic” because they sport names of, according to a CNN report, of “White men with ‘objectively horrible pasts.’”

One twit of an “expert” said that naming conventions of the 1800 were steeped in racism misogyny and really didn’t work by today’s standards, as if changing the names of birds will somehow right the wrongs of history.

This is just the latest of what George Orwell warned us about in his novel “1984.”

He said, “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

You’ve seen this happening before. There is a movement in the sports world to rename or replace mascots because of cultural disintegration by using the name Redskins or Indians.

There was the summer of our discontent, where statues depicting historical figures who had unsavory ideas or actions were toppled; recently, a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was melted down to make “artwork” that is more inclusive in nature.

There’s a longstanding pitched battle over the use of the Confederate flag, which many people equated to slavery, but originally only a battle flag for the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee’s home state.

Now, bird watchers around the country will no longer search for the elusive Wilson’s warbler or Wilson’s snipe, named for a naturalist who held unpalatable ideas; Hammond’s flycatcher, named for a man who looked down on Blacks as lesser peoples; or the Audubon’s shearwater, since John Audubon apparently had little use for Black people.

Other names on the chopping block are the thick-billed longspur, which refers to a Confederate general; Anna’s hummingbird; Gambel’s quail, Lewis’ woodpecker; and even the humble Bewick’s wren.

The experts will tell you that names “have power,” for good or for evil, and that inclusivity is the way to go. An agency will be formed scientists, because we always believe science (see COVID), and upwards of 80 bird species will have their names expunged from the annals of history and society, puppies and democracy will be safe again.

Me, I’ll stick with a couple of “scientists” who make sense, such as George Santayana who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” or Lt. Nyota Uhura, who told Abraham Lincoln, “In our century we’ve learned not to fear words.”

Tony Farkas is editor of the Trinity County News-Standard and the San Jacinto News-Times

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Do we really remember their sacrifice?

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By Jim Powers
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The graphic above this editorial appeared in the 11/9/2023 of the Tyler County Booster. The quote inside the graphic, addressed to a soldier in some forsaken battle in some forsaken war, says “You might not know this now, but we future generations will never forget your sacrifice…” I’m sad to say that we have, in fact, forgotten what they were sacrificing for.

We are celebrating another Veterans Day. Hard to believe that World War II ended almost 80 years ago. And it’s even harder to remember, for those of the generations following it, what the men and women engaged in that war sacrificed for.

Yes, there were many deaths among those fighting the AXIS powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan. The U.S. alone lost 418,500 people. The U.K. lost 450,700, the Soviet Union 24 million, and South Africa 11,900. But there were millions of others wounded and displaced by the battles. And many of those who survived the horror of those encounters lived with the memories the rest of their lives.

Nazi Germany under Hitler and Italy under Mussolini were clearly fascist. Mussolini’s Italy is considered the birthplace of fascism. The Nazis were extreme nationalists, racist and expansionist, and a key proponent of fascism. While not strictly fascist, the Japanese government shared many traits with fascist regimes, including extreme nationalism, expansionism, and authoritarianism.

Those who died in the fight against the AXIS in WWII were sacrificing to rid the world of fascism. But unfortunately, there is a large and growing number of Americans who are again embracing fascism. The symptoms are very clear.

 Increasing political polarization, often accompanied by extreme and sometimes authoritarian rhetoric from political leaders, is a clear warning sign. This includes the demonization of political opponents and the encouragement or tolerance of political violence.

The criticism or undermining of democratic institutions, such as the electoral process, the judiciary, and the free press, is another indication of a drift toward authoritarianism. Claims of election fraud without evidence, for instance, have eroded public trust in democratic processes.

The spread of disinformation and the use of media to propagate a specific political agenda, while discrediting independent media sources, is another tactic associated with fascist regimes.

Moves to suppress civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to privacy, are often associated with authoritarian governance.

We are seeing an increase in nationalist rhetoric, often combined with xenophobia and hostility towards immigrants and minority groups, which is a component of fascist ideology.

Efforts to undermine the balance of power between different branches of government, or between the federal and state governments, are in full swing and indicate a move away from democratic principles.

Fascistic governments are also characterized by the development of a cult of personality around a leader, where the individual's interests appear to supersede the rule of law or democratic norms, are a hallmark of fascism.

Various sources, including the Washington post in a recent story have reported that Donald Trump and his allies appear to be moving toward fascism.

In a story published on November 6 on the Washington Post website, the editorial team of  Isaac ArnsdorfJosh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett reported that “Donald Trump and his allies have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.”

Clearly, if Trump were to take these actions, there would be legal and constitutional challenges to his actions. But there would also be civil unrest, an extreme negative impact on democratic institutions, international condemnation, political instability, as well as moral and ethical dilemmas for law enforcement and military personnel. But even the fact that he and his allies are considering these actions suggests a willingness to lead Trump’s millions of followers down this path.

So, what was the point of over 400,000 Americans sacrificing their lives to crush fascism if only 80 years later we are flirting with it in America? I understand the intended message of the graphic, but the implication of our country abandoning their sacrifice makes me incredibly sad.

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