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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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The election has come and gone, the ballots for the most part counted, and lo and behold, democracy still is intact, and there’s not pitched battles in the streets.

In this area, the voter turnout was on par with presidential elections. Statistics show that on average, turnout in presidential elections hovers around 50 percent; in midterms, such as what we just went through, typically it’s about 40 percent.

In our area, though, here are the numbers, courtesy of the Texas Secretary of State’s Office: Houston County, 53.48 percent; Polk County, 39.93; San Jacinto County, 48.14; Trinity County, 45.35; and Tyler County, 50.1. (Ahem, Polk folk, we need to see some improvement here. Come to the office.)

A cynical person such as I would credit big numbers with big issues, particularly the rotten state of our economy, head-scratching foreign policy, and party and personal division throughout the country on par with tribal hatred.

I prefer to believe that the populace is rising up and taking notice of the sorry state of affairs we’re in, and if that’s the case, to quote Initech Divisional Director Bill Lumbergh, that would be great.

It would be par for the course to sit back and watch the mayhem continue, but I would say nay nay, and exhort you to take your involvement to the next level. It’s one thing to put someone in a position, it’s quite another to, as an old boss of mine used to say, inspect what you expect.

It’s not a stretch to say that your elected official, whether you voted for them or not, works for you. The constituency puts that person in place; the office and salaries are funded by tax dollars, and that is pretty much the definition of an employer/employee dynamic.

What that means is that now that whoever is in office, they weren’t granted carte blanche with an unlimited credit card and no oversight.

The new or re-elected representatives, judges, commissioners, etc., need oversight, so come Jan. 1, or 21, whichever is the start of the new regime, become involved.

Every elected official has a way to be contacted, and in most cases multiple ways. If you feel your political person is straying from the path, remind them. Use phones, email, snail mail, semaphore, smoke signals or telegraphs.

Subscribe to any and all email lists from your politicians so you can keep up with the day-to-day shenanigans. All Polk County Publishing newspapers print contact numbers of elected officials for convenience.

If the political entity is local, then attend meetings. Go to the school boards, the city councils, the county commissioner’s courts and become familiar with the issues and the processes.

Attend as many town hall meetings as you can, because you’ll get useful information. Join a political party, and help provide everyone with information. If you’re feeling saucy, run for office yourself and learn how the sausage is made.

Fixing voter apathy is one thing, but fixing issues with politicians that tend toward megalomania is quite a different critter altogether. But as long as we stay vigilant, and continue our involvement in our own destiny, we’ll be a much better country for it.

 

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SOS to Apple: Fix this

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Peter FuntBy Peter Funt

A sheriff’s deputy roared into our driveway the other morning, rang the bell, and asked my wife if she knew my whereabouts.

Alarmed at first, then puzzled, Amy answered honestly: “He’s gone over to the Apple Store to see if they can fix his iPhone.”

Across town, I was telling a friendly clerk named Sheila how I had been walking our dog when the phone in my pants pocket made an odd sound. Finding that the screen was frozen, I tried to power it off. This action somehow triggered an SOS call to 911. Soon I heard a police dispatcher offering help, but she was unable to hear me. I tried repeatedly to shut-off the phone and each time another 911 call was triggered.

Sheila didn’t seem surprised. She said such an occurrence—a “glitch” is what she called it—happens frequently. Indeed, the deputy was telling Amy the same thing: Increased use of smartphones and watches is causing a rash of accidental emergency calls and distracting officers from legitimate missions.

Of the many mixed blessings that technology has bestowed upon us, this is a doozy. Yes, many people have been rescued by their smart devices—as commercial reenactments for Apple watches so dramatically illustrate. Yet, as I poked around local news sites I found that numerous municipalities have been struggling with time consuming false alarms.

Two summers ago, the state police in Maine noticed what Lt. Brian Harris termed “quite an uptick” in accidental emergency calls. He mentioned a local golfer who placed his phone in his cart’s cup holder as he bounced around the course, unaware that the movement was initiating calls to 911.

In Grand Traverse County, Michigan, police get about 120 emergency calls a day and about every fourth one is a misdial.

In Canada, the E-Comm emergency service says accidental calls are flooding its lines. In a news release, E-Comm said operators often hear singing in the background or cheering at sporting events during 911 calls. Still, the operators must do whatever is needed to confirm it is not an actual emergency.

There has been publicity recently about problems with the iPhone 14 Pro’s car-crash detection system. A significant number of false reports come from amusement parks, where roller coasters and other high-speed rides are fooling the devices into thinking the owner has been in a crash. The Arkansas State Fair put out a warning last month about false iPhone messaging. In Sevier County, Tennessee, dispatchers reported a 150 percent increase in bogus 911 calls, most of them from the Dollywood amusement park.

But as my experience (with an iPhone 12) confirms, the problem goes beyond crash detection. With some Apple products, simply holding the side button for several seconds can trigger an SOS. Depending on the information stored on the device, this can result in emergency messages being sent to not only police but to your personal contacts as well.

A check of Apple message boards shows that complaints go back several years. Typical was the 2019 post from “TH55” who reported making three accidental calls to 911 and wrote, “Emergency SOS is literally the stupidest feature Apple has ever implemented.”

Apple’s website provides instructions on how to end emergency calls that are triggered by mistake. “If you start an emergency call by accident, tap the End Call button, then tap Yes to confirm that you want to stop the call,” it explains. But Apple says continuing to hold the buttons down will automatically prompt an SOS call.

With police and rescue personnel stretched thin in many parts of the country, it’s unacceptable for hundreds of false alarms to be triggered needlessly. As my experience showed, simply walking with an iPhone in your pocket can lead to the dispatching of police, while the phone’s owner is unable to communicate or correct the error.

It turns out that just last month Apple issued the first beta version of its iOS 16.2 software. It doesn’t correct the problem, but it does include a new option for users to notify Apple whenever they accidentally report an emergency.

I suppose that’s a start. But it would be better to implement an actual fix that preserves the life-saving aspects of smartphone technology without sending so many police officers on wild SOS chases.

Copyright 2022 Peter Funt distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Peter Funt’s new memoir, “Self-Amused,” is now available at CandidCamera.com.

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Crypto policy should be decided by Congress

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Cyrpto Policy

By Peter Roff

We’re all going to have to adapt to the way the Internet has changed global commerce and banking eventually. We can hold out a while longer by continuing to insist on paper billing and writing checks and using cash instead of debit cards or smartphones to make transactions.

Sooner or later though, the companies we do business with are going to force us into the 21st century.

As this is happening in other parts of the industrialized world, the United States is stuck in neutral. Money is still a store of value and a medium of exchange but while Americans still use $10 and $20, the rest of the world (especially China) is on the fast track to zeroes and ones.

Cryptocurrency – “crypto” for short – is the future of global finance.

To the extent most people know anything about it, they see crypto as something that exists only in cyberspace. It’s for geeks to worry about, not normal people. That’s wrong. It’s a private mechanism for exchange that is fungible and can be used to purchase anything from legal goods to items considered extremely illicit, so long as the buyer and seller can come to terms.

Sometimes that means trading crypto, which goes by many names besides Bitcoin, for real money. Yet for centuries people have used things besides paper and coins like rare gems, precious metals, and other commodities when engaged in transactions. Crypto falls into that category, too.

The reason America is so far behind the rest of the economically developed world is the absence of clear guidelines from the government. The uncertainty that’s created has left the U.S. industry at the mercy of regulators who can’t make up their minds about what crypto is and what rules should apply.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, led by Chairman Gary Gensler, is taking a punitive approach. It wants to force companies in the cryptocurrency business to submit to an as-yet undisclosed, improvised set of rules, ostensibly for the protection of investors. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which also wants jurisdiction over crypto, believes a light regulatory touch is required so the American crypto baby survives through its infancy.

The SEC’s approach is the wrong one, the consequences of which are illustrated by a case now being heard in the courts brought by the SEC against Ripple, a software company that uses the digital token XRP to expedite international money transfers.

The agency alleges that Ripple has been selling unregistered securities for distribution. It argues that XRP is a security based on the Howey Test, an 80-year-old legal doctrine that uses a four-pronged test to determine what constitutes an investment contract.

To drive its point home, the SEC made the charges retroactive to transactions going back seven years. That’s a signal to the rest of the industry to get in line or face the consequences. In its suit, the agency is essentially arguing it is not accountable for its failure to issue reliable guidance over nearly a decade. That’s not supposed to matter. Even worse, the lawsuit caused the value of XRP to crash for hundreds of thousands of people who were using it – many of whom never heard of Ripple.

Abrupt changes in regulation and the law can, as they have in this case, wreak havoc on the markets. Businesses are supposed to be able to look to the law to know what to do and depend on it to function consistently. Ripple and other holders of XRP are now being punished economically because the SEC changed its position on how the token should be treated.

If that kind of action is going to be taken, it should be done through legislation. The United States Supreme Court has been clear on that of late. Regulatory agencies don’t get to expand their work into new areas just because the person in charge, Chairman Gensler, thinks it would be a good, even logical move.

He doesn’t get to decide. The courts shouldn’t, either. It’s up to Congress to tell the SEC what to do here.

The outcome of this case could have far-reaching consequences for the entire fin-tech industry. If Gensler and the other Democrats on the SEC can reach so far beyond the bounds of their directive when it comes to crypto, what is stopping them from going after any industry they want?

Copyright 2022 Peter Roff distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Peter Roff is a media fellow at the Trans-Atlantic Leadership Network, a former columnist for U.S. News and World Report, and senior political writer for United Press International. Contact Roff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and follow him on Twitter @TheRoffDraft.

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Down To The Wire!

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Horace McQueen Column

by Horace McQueen

Finally, an end—hopefully—to the name calling, rudeness, outright lies and plain idiocy from both Republicans and Democrats that characterized this years’ election cycle. Most of us chose candidates we felt will do their best to keep America on track. The new wrinkle in Texas voting this year was elimination of straight party voting. Agitators belly ached that it was “a violation of their rights” by doing away with straight party voting. My view is that it was high time voters had to mark their choice of a selected candidate or leave blank a vote for or against. Why vote for a candidate whose sole claim to running for office is the political party displayed on the ballot.

A frequent comment by leaders in the Democrat party calls for shutting down our oil and gas industry. The threat is real and would wreck much of Texas, Oklahoma and other states that produce the oil and gas supplying our nation. Don’t these clowns ever consider that taxpayer subsidized solar and wind energy outfits can’t generate the energy we need? If the winds don’t blow, if the sun doesn’t shine, that negates their power producing capabilities.

Meantime, the business of producing food for our citizens is in the hands of our farmers and ranchers. And those operators are facing obstacles of their own. Labor is a critical issue.  For those getting taxpayer dollars for housing, food, education and all sorts of other handouts, why should they get their hands dirty by working? Makes sense to most of us that working to put food on the table and a roof overhead should be a requirement for any freebies! That’s –30—for this go-round!  Horace McQueen, Queensdale Farm, Latexo, Texas

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Respect my art

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

Having revealed several of my personal character flaws over the course of writing these columns, I’m going all in and devote a column to an even broader listing of them.

“Great, a thousand words of self-flagellation…how exciting,” you say? Hang in there, there’s a point in this. This is a warning and a plea.

I’m a terrible poet. I became interested in reading poetry when I was a teenager, and soon started writing it myself. Over the last 60 years I’ve published some poetry, done poetry readings, taken part in poetry slams (competitive poetry, if that even makes sense), and participated in online poetry forums. I write unrhymed poetry and am often accused of not being a poet at all!

After growing up reading every book I could get my hands on, I decided as a kid that I wanted to try writing myself. Thought it would be cool to be a novelist. Well, that didn’t work out very well because I’m terrible at writing fiction. I have trouble suspending reality and I hate the kind of constant plot twists, etc. that it takes to write good fiction. So, I switched to writing op-ed stuff and sending it to the local paper. And I found non-fiction as my thing. That seems to have worked out.  I was editor/reporter of the Tyler County Booster for years. Before that, back in the 1990’s, a friend and I published a couple of newspapers as a side hobby.

I love music. Music of most any kind. In 1960's, when I was 13 years old, and guitar infused Rock and Roll was becoming a thing, I had to have an electric guitar. I’ve now been playing guitar for over 60 years, even though I have no talent for guitar. I’m an intermediate guitar player at best, even though I practice guitar an hour a day. I should be well beyond intermediate after playing for 60 years. In fact, trombone was the instrument I went farthest with, playing with symphony orchestras when in college. I haven’t picked up a trombone since I was 25. Go figure.

A family friend who was a professional photographer noticed that the 10-year-old Jim was always carrying around a little Kodak Instamatic 126 camera and taking photos. I was obsessed with the photography in National Geographic magazine. So, he gave me an older, but real camera and taught me how to develop my own negatives and print photos. That led to an actual career benefit, as I’ve used photography throughout my working life. Yet, I’m not particularly talented in photography, I’ve just worked very hard to become technically very good at it. I protest to folks who argue otherwise that I’m not an artist. I just know how to pull the rabbit out of the hat. When digital SLR cameras became capable of shooting video back in the late 2000’s, I was in with video.

When computers became available for the common man, I was all in with them. Was a member of a computer club in the mid 1970’s where we built computers from kits. We had to wire up our own keyboards and, at first, used old Type 33 teletype machines for I/O. You had to learn to program, as initially there were no out of the box programs that ran on these kit machines. That also turned into a career writing the code to convert Minicomputer accounting and inventory databases to PC’s as that transition occurred and later as a database specialist writing database software. Now, I handle IT/Websites for Polk County Publishing Company.

Also, at 10 years old, I got hooked on HAM radio, got my license along with my mom and dad, and pursued that hobby for many years. I grew up hunting, was very interested in guns, and later competed competitively with handguns. Was obsessed with cars, as most guys of my age were, and got into restoring old Mustangs.

If you are a young person and are reading this, please do not think this is a roadmap to success. While I’ve had an amazing life, I consider the impulse that led me to it as a character flaw and have seen it destroy lives. It’s o.k. as a young person to explore possibilities. As a young person you are standing in front of many doors. Some will be locked because of circumstances beyond your control. But I believe you should at least open every door that will open, turn on the light, and look around. If you aren’t interested in what you see, though, turn out the light, close the door and lock it. And don’t look back.

Capitalism, having consumed all the physical world, has now made our attention its product. It has monetized our attention and turned us all into obsessive consumers of “content.”

Whether your vice is Facebook or YouTube or Instagram or TikTok or Twitter or Twitch or any other form of social media, these platforms exist for the sole purpose of making money. And they make money by capturing attention. They do not care about free speech, social or political discourse, or connecting family and friends. Their total concern is inducing you to consume more and more of their content, so they can constantly target advertising at you.

Don’t get me wrong. We live in a capitalist economic system. For media, advertising is essential. Producing any kind of media is very expensive, and the internet has conditioned many people to think all information and content should be free, which has destroyed the ability to survive with a subscription-based model.

The advertising model isn’t the problem or my point. It is that we are driven by this model to spend every free moment consuming, rather than creating. People making stuff built this country.

Most of those YouTube videos you consume while YouTube targets you with advertising so you will spend more money? The maker, the person creating that video, is not sitting around consuming YouTube videos. They are creating something new. It takes days to shoot and edit that 12-minute video you just watched. Creation is hard, but it is so much more rewarding both personally and financially than consumption.

Those rewards are what drove me to learn to do so many things over the years. Consuming words as a reader wasn’t enough. I wanted to write, to produce those words. Listening to music wasn’t enough, I wanted to produce that music.  Running programs on computers wasn’t enough, I wanted to write those programs, looking at photos in Nat Geo wasn’t enough, I wanted to take those photos. The satisfaction wasn’t in the consumption, it was in the creation.

If you want to look at it financially, as a bottom-line item, that YouTube “Influencer” with a million subscribers, is, between ad revenue and sponsorships, pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (and for many a month) in income. And if you talk to them they will tell you they have little time to watch YouTube videos.

It is far more rewarding to be a creator than a consumer. Been there, done that.

Make something!

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