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Do not put faith in men

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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"To the members of the survivor community, we are grieved by the findings of this investigation. We are committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches, to improve our response and our care, to remove reporting roadblocks." 

The quote above is part of a statement released by the Southern Baptist Convention following a damning report released Sunday by a third-party firm tasked with investigating the way the SBC over decades intimidated sexual abuse victims, pushed back on attempts to reform the convention and mishandled allegations of sexual abuse within the convention.

Sadly, the failure of the leadership of the SBC is the result of decades of hubris and a hard-right swing that accelerated during the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in that leadership becoming increasingly more misogynistic and paternalistic. They are only engaged in this weak mea culpa because they got caught.

The report, commissioned by messengers to the convention last year, concluded that the cover up was primarily driven by leadership and staff’s engagement in avoiding any potential liability for the SBC. Leadership also argued that there was no way to create a database of staff or pastors accused of sexual abuse to warn other congregations about these people because the Convention has no direct control over member churches, while at the same time maintaining such a database in secret.

I’m not going to go into the sordid details here. You can read the story on CNN, Washington Post, and other media outlets. But I think the point I want to stress here is that we should not put our faith in political or religious leaders, or anyone else for that matter. They are flawed human beings just like us. I’ll just leave you with this.

Psalm 146 - KJV

3 Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.

4 When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,

6 the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them-- the LORD, who remains faithful forever.

7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free,

8 the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous.

9 The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD.

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Lt. Gov. Patrick releases thirteen interim committees in Senate

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My Five CentsLast month, I was proud to co-host the Lone Star Legislative Summit in Nacogdoches with Rep. Travis Clardy in conjunction with the Nacogdoches Chamber of Commerce. 

We hosted a number of attendees from across the state including Speaker Dade Phelan and panels on immigration and border security, education, infrastructure, energy, health care, and social media and freedom of speech. It was a pleasure to have so many familiar faces in East Texas. 

Here are five things happening around your state:

Lt. Gov. Patrick releases interim charges 

Last month, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released interim charges for 13 Senate Committees to work on before next session. 

I chair the Transportation Committee and sit on four other committees including the Business and Commerce Committee, Finance Committee, Criminal Justice Committee, and Local Government Committee. The interim charges outlined by the lieutenant governor will guide our discussions and hearings between now and next session and help develop proposed legislation for the 88th Legislative Session. 

The Senate Transportation Committee recently held a hearing to address our interim charges which related to safety, driver’s license efficiency, and alternatively fueled vehicles. Other topics committees will cover this interim include broadband, electricity, property tax relief, inflation and long-term care funding, among other things. 

To find a full list of interim charges, visit https://www.ltgov.texas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/2022-Interim-Charges.pdf. 

Newton County secures $9 million grant

The Deep East Texas Council of Governments, also known as DETCOG, has obtained a $9 million grant to build a high-speed wireless broadband network in northern Newton County. The project was funded earlier this year by a grant from the Texas General Land Office. 

The project will provide more than 6,000 residents reliable internet. The project is targeted specifically at low to moderate income households. If your household qualifies under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs’ definition of low-moderate income, then you will have no upfront costs. 

The project will use existing towers and wireless connections rather than running wires long distances from home to home. The goal is to complete the project by 2023 and then allow companies to bid on the rights to operate the system. 

Specialists are already on the ground in Newton County working on environmental and historical assessments of the proposed route. 

TRS-Active Care participants will not see a premium increase 

Last week, state leadership announced $435 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds would be allocated to the Teachers Retirement System of Texas to offset healthcare costs related to COVID-19. 

This funding, in combination with appropriations made during the last legislative session, ensures that TRS-ActiveCare participants will not see an increase in insurance premiums for 2022-2023. In fact, some teachers may now see a decrease in healthcare premiums. 

Gov. Greg Abbott made the announcement last week and was joined by Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan, Senate Finance Committee Chair Joan Huffman, and House Appropriations Chair Dr. Greg Bonnen. 

Operation Lone Star to receive $495.3 million

State leadership approved a transfer of almost $500 million in additional funding for Operation Lone Star to continue engaging in critical work at the Texas border. The majority of those funds will support the continued deployment of the Texas National Guard. 

So far, the state has invested nearly $4 billion in ensuring that the border is secure and arresting illegal immigrants found violating state law. 

Recently, Abbott also announced an initiative to begin voluntarily busing illegal migrants to Washington, D.C., as a protest to the Biden Administration’s decision to end Title 42. Title 42 was a Trump-era policy that was adopted as a means of stemming the spread of COVID-19 by allowing federal authorities to deport migrants from countries where communicable diseases are present. 

The policy is set to expire on May 23 and the Department of Homeland Security warns that it could result in up to 18,000 border-crossers a day. 

Texas named best state for business for 18th year   

In a record-breaking feat, Texas has once again been named the top state for business by CEO Magazine for the 18th year in a row. The rankings are based on polling of nearly 700 CEOs and business owners who assess each state’s business climate, workforce, and quality of life. 

Those polled say the combination of a fast-growth population, low-taxes, and low-regulation business climate is what makes the Lone Star State stand out. Rounding out the top five were Florida, Tennessee, Arizona, and North Carolina. 

Texas continues to drive innovation by welcoming businesses and allowing them to thrive. 

Sen. Robert Nichols represents District 3, which includes Trinity County, in the State Legislature.

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Oil move certainly puzzling

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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The latest executive order to come out of Washington, D.C., is to me the head-scratcher of all time.

Recently, the Biden Administration (I say that because I’m not sure we have a true leader) has killed all applications for oil and gas leases in the Cook Inlet in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.

The reasons given were that in Alaska, there didn’t seem to be much interest in drilling, and in the gulf, there were conflicting court rulings regarding something, or some other thing, or basically, there were reasons, so there.

Here we are at the crux of another crisis, that being rampant inflation as well as oil prices hitting heretofore unheard of highs, and our leadership is crippling the means we have to combat this. Moreover, if, as Biden and his chorus claims, the price of gas and oil is directly related to the actions of Vladimir Putin, then as a defense for our country, shouldn’t we generate our own oil so as to, you know, bring prices down?

This isn’t good policy no matter how it’s sliced. 

When I last checked, gas prices were headed north still, approaching $4.20 a gallon for regular. Diesel has cracked the $5 mark and shows no sign of slowing down. It’s been proven that being energy independent lowered prices, but since it was under the Bad Orange Man’s Mean Tweet Show and Revue, it doesn’t really count, so we’re going to choke our own supply as a way to, uh, do what exactly?

Most of the reasons I’ve heard for cutting off or disapproving exploration and leases have been in appeasement of the environmental lobbies, who feel that any time we need energy-related items, it has to come from some other country because we’re busy saving the planet, or something. At the same time, though, we’re pushing electric cars, which sadly rely on electricity, so it essentially defeats the purpose, but hey, environmental care or something.

On the heels of this revelation, we come to find out that while U.S. children, dependent on formula for their nutrition, are having to do without. Grocery stores across the nation are reporting empty shelves, and mothers are anguished about feeding their children.

However, the U.S. government is flying pallets of formula to the southern border, where immigrants, not even legal immigrants, get to feed their children. On the face of it, it’s yet another government policy that puts Americans last while catering to other countries, or in this case, peoples.

It’s not my point to deny anyone food. It is, however, my point that to choke off a source when there is a dire need is a ridiculous way to combat the problem.

Essentially, you can’t solve a problem like a severe shortage of ice cream by taxing (or limiting, or hoarding) cream and sugar. It’s back to the axiom of suppy and demand; cutting off supply will raise demand, and consequently prices, and that’s certainly a dumb way to solve a problem.

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Give Depp credit for defending his reputation

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Screen Shot 2022 05 15 at 10.57.49 AMI was feeling a bit under the weather this past week, so I ended up spending time at home in front of the television.

The thing that really mesmerized me was the Johnny Depp trial on Court TV. I never watch Court TV. I’m pretty sure most lawyers avoid that channel because why would we want to spend our leisure hours staring at melodramatic, preening attorneys from Michigan or La Jolla when we can just head down to the Criminal Justice Center in Philly and see that up close?

And yet, the Depp trial was different. For some background, Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for defamation. Several years ago, Heard had written an oped for the Washington Post describing abuse that she’d suffered at the hands of an anonymous partner. The only problem is, everyone knew who that partner was. And he wasn’t happy about being depicted as a violent, abusive man. So Depp sued. The case has now come to trial.

There are some fascinating aspects to Depp v. Heard, and they go beyond the celebrity of the litigants. What I find fascinating is the fact that someone who has been accused of abuse decided to, pun completely unintended, fight back. And the fact that he did it through the legal system is particularly compelling, since that system has so often failed true victims of domestic violence.

We’ve been taught to “believe all women,” even when they are not especially trustworthy. And even when they are attacked in some quarters, the criticism pales in comparison to the institutional support. You only have to remember the halo placed over the head of Christine Blasey Ford, who had a dicey memory and no witnesses, as contrasted with the vilification of her target Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

That’s why this lawsuit is so interesting, and important. Johnny Depp felt that his reputation (which to be honest was already in tatters) had been irrevocably damaged, such that his career was now kaput. Putting aside the fact that Depp has done more than enough to destroy his own standing in the industry with his history of drug abuse and, he had every right to be upset that his ex-wife would have so dishonestly and unfairly hitched her wagon to the #MeToo juggernaut to elevate her profile, and rode that wagon over his body. They were divorced. Their story was over. They had allegedly signed an agreement that neither would speak badly of the other.

But Amber decided she could get some advantage of playing the victim card, especially if she played it dishonestly. Thinking, perhaps, that keeping Depp’s name out of the oped would have insulated her from any legal liability, she continued to squeeze her private life for cultural gain.

And this was no “blog” post on an obscure Facebook or Instagram page that carried Heard’s jeremiad. The venerable Washington Post, Jeff Bezos’ little baby, helped her air her dirty lingerie. Needless to say, people noticed. One of them was Depp.

What matters is that someone stood up and said, “you’re not going to do this to me and expect me to just take it.” What matters is that the victim of accusations that may or may not be true has not been intimidated into silence, but has chosen to use the legal system to try and salvage whatever intrinsic dignity he has.

Honestly, you don’t have to be a saint in order to have a right not to be lied about. Even imperfect reputations have value, and even those who haven’t lived lives of spotless virtue don’t deserve to be defined by those who find profit in sly cultural stereotypes.

Heard will defend herself by saying that the defamation suit was an attempt to punish her for speaking out about her pain, or even intimidate her into silence. But I doubt that defense will fly. No one is telling her to be silent. They are, however, making sure that she’s telling the truth.

Which, as you know, is an absolute defense to defamation. I guess we will just have to see if she’s telling it. In the meantime, anyone who has ever been the victim of lies and innuendo should be praising a flawed, washed-up actor for showing us that there is honor, even in the depths of degradation, in fighting back.

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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The Most Dangerous Word

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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While prose is my preferred form of written expression, I’ve also dabbled over the years in poetry. Once we develop an obsession with words, writers are always looking for new ways to play with words, it seems.

I write in a form of poetry called unrhymed verse. Many poets insist that unrhymed verse is not poetry at all and look down their noses at those of us who write in the form, insisting that we only write unrhymed because we are incapable of rhyming! As a response to that accusation, I wrote a poem (of course) disputing the claim. I’ll not bore you with the entire poem, but the last few lines seem relevant to this column. The poem, called “Rhyme Crimes,” ends with the following lines:

…Name it as
you like I guess, my words
are neither more nor less
than often uninvited guests
that laugh or weep at my
request then leave behind
a wretched mess.

We often use words in communication as a kind of shorthand. If you ask me to describe the house I live in, I could go into a long treatise about the inside and out architectural details, or I could tell you I live in, for example, a mid-century modern ranch style home. In southeast Texas I would have in mind the single story, three bedroom, two bath brick home that I grew up in during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Now, you may picture something slightly different, but we are probably in the same ballpark. The phrase mid-century modern evokes a connotation for me, though, beyond the physical description of a house. It brings back memories of family Christmases in the formal living room, making purple taffey (don’t ask) in the kitchen with my mom, or working in the photo darkroom I built in the garage in the beginnings of my lifelong photography obsession.

Words have both meaning and connotation. And that makes them dangerous in the hands of bad actors with suspect motives because such folks can empty the word of meaning, and use it to invoke a specific connotation, and then refill it with any meaning they like, convincing you to buy into an outcome that you may regret.

I would argue that at this inflection point in history, the word “Christian” is the most dangerous word in the English language. It is dangerous because it has been emptied of meaning and used for the connotation it holds for most people.

The word “Christian” has a fundamentally simple meaning. It denotes a follower of Christ. You’ve accepted who the writers of the New Testament claim Jesus to be, and believe He is your personal savior. Simple? Not really.

Most people who describe themselves as Christians are, when questioned (and there have been numerous studies on this over the years), what I dub social or cultural Christians. Most people who make professions of faith are younger than 18 when they do. If you become an adult without formally becoming a Christian, it is very unlikely that you will.

More problematic is that those who make these professions will likely never read the New Testament through even once, and will not, if questioned, be able to answer the simplest questions about Jesus’ life and work. They also will not attend a church with any regularity as an adult. But when asked, they will proudly declare that they are a bible believing, Jesus following Christian.

If you have never read the essential book supporting your belief, then you can’t be a “Christian,” because you don’t have any idea what that means. More dangerously, you don’t have the background to determine if someone calling himself a Christian is lying to you.  

Not everyone who claims to be a Christian is, in fact, an actual follower of Christ. There are many people today who have emptied the word “Christian” of its real meaning and filled it with very ugly things. They are using the word’s connotation rather than its content. Invoking images of your old grandma kneeing beside the bed praying is very powerful. But if what they are telling you is not consistent with the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, they are not Christians and are very dangerous people.

And this is one of the reasons it is so dangerous to mix government and religion. Governments around the world are doing very bad things in the name of religion. They are primarily Theocratic dictatorships who use God words to beat their populace into compliance.

If those who represent you in government claim to be Christians, but do not act consistently to Jesus’ teaching in the bible, they are NOT Christians. If they don’t project Jesus’ love, and instead spread hate and division, they are not Christians. They have emptied Christianity of its power, to secure power to themselves.

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