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Stolen ruling stirs panic, adulation in nation

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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John Roberts and the Supremes are going to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the lesser-known Planned Parenthood v. Casey, according to a draft opinion leaked last week from the U.S. Supreme Court.

In and of itself, the leak is a pretty egregious flouting of federal law, and should be investigated and prosecuted, surely. 

More important, though, is that it reverses long-held involvement of the federal government and, if the writing holds, kicks the matters to the states.

In perusing just about every news site and social media site, you would get the sense that women have been relegated back into the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, and will have to birth children, wanted or not, like a Pez dispenser.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” dresses are out everywhere, and the Supreme Court has taken the extreme measure of erecting  fences around the court to ensure “insurrections” or some other shenanigans are kept at bay.

As I mentioned last week, I think it has begun — there a literal reading of the laws of the land going. Rulings such as this show that there are limits to the power the federal government has, and that it’s up to us and the checks and balances built into our system of government to enforce those limits.

Despite the doomsaying, the court did not ban abortions, and no reading of the decision will change that fact. That hasn’t stopped the squadrons of people claiming the sky is falling.

What the ruling does, however, is place the matter in the hands of the individual states as was intended and codified into the U.S. Constitution. It will be up to governors and their respective legislative bodies — elected by their constituents — to determine what happens next.

The people who are decrying this development would have you believe that a legal term I learned from my father — but for — will lead states to ban all abortions, returning the entire country to the bad old days of back-alley D&Cs or to medical trips abroad (but for the actions of the Supreme Court, these protections would not be lost). They would also have you believe that yet again, stodgy old white dudes have made decisions that affect women’s bodies. 

Aside from the fact that the court has people of color, as well as three women, the court is not responsible to bend the laws to fit the needs of whomever, but to determine if the laws dovetail with the Constitution as written. It’s long been held, since the 70s when Roe was decided, that the justices hearing the case created the right out of thin air — the trimester framework.

Interestingly enough, the original Roe v. Wade decision was published — leaked — before being released  by the court.

The arguments surrounding all of this seem to be oxymoronic to other stances, and even to itself, which makes it puzzling. I saw several astute things, each worth the exploration of thought. (I say thought, because accepting what is said at face value, especially on the internet.)

If it’s not a human being, then why can it be harvested for organs or DNA?

No one should have the right to tell you what to do with your body, no question. But seriously, it’s not just one body anymore. It’s two.

It’s come up countless times regarding free speech is that, yes, you have the right to free speech. You also have the right to face those consequences. That same logic should apply here, since ultimately, pregnancy isn’t accidental, nor cosmic, nor an illness, but a condition born out of decision. It could have just as easily been decided to not take the chance of creating a baby.

If “my body, my choice” is being honest, then it seems to me that the government being pushed out of the abortion argument is a step in the right direction.

At least, a step away from government. 

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Four Walls Around Me

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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I rarely drink alcohol, not because I’m opposed to folks drinking alcohol, but because I don’t like the taste of alcoholic drinks. If you want to ruin good grape juice, ferment it. As a result of that dislike of alcohol, you will rarely find me hanging out in bars…unless there’s a good live band. 

And, coincidentally, one of my top 10 favorite songs is James Taylor’s “Bartenders Blues.” Even though George Jones’ cover of the song is the most popular (George Jones and drinking just seem to go together), I’ve always preferred Taylor’s own version best. The chorus to the song goes like this:

But I need four walls around me, to hold my life
To Keep me from going astray
And a honkytonk angel, to hold me tight
To Keep me from slipping away

Minus the honkytonk angel, this chorus is the anthem of my life. I’m happiest when I have clearly defined structure in my life. I’ve chosen careers that involve structure and deadlines. For me, it makes life simpler and less confusing. The fewer choices I must make, the more time I can devote to creating and innovating. 

While that kind of structure is clearly not for everyone, I find that most people don’t thrive on constant drama. We don’t want uncertainty. And we generally like simple solutions to complex problems. That’s a problem, though, because few things in life are simple. 

A lot of what happens to us in life happens randomly, suddenly, without warning and we are uncomfortable with that randomness. We want to find a reason for everything that happens. We want to blame someone or something for our bad luck or pain. We want four walls that force everything into a box we can understand. And if there is no answer, only randomness, we are susceptible to grasping at any answer that resolves our uncertainty, whether it has any basis in reality. Too often, folks choose conspiracy theories to resolve the uncertainty.

There are numerous new conspiracy theories launched every day in modern times. So, I’ll use two examples from videos I saw last week to illustrate this.

Tucker Carlson highlighted on his show on Fox News a couple of recent accidents at food processing plants, expanded that to a dozen accidents over a longer period, and posited that these weren’t just accidents, but a conspiracy by the Biden administration to create chaos in the food processing industry. He offered no evidence that would support that conclusion.

The other was a video on a right-wing talk show where the gentlemen was saying unequivocally that the Covid vaccines cause AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), all concocted by (pick one) Anthony Fauci, the Chinese, the Democrats, etc.

Carlson, in advancing his conspiracy theory, failed to note that these dozen incidents he pointed out occurred over several years, or that there are 25,000 food processing plants in the United States. Accidents happen regularly in every large industry, so there is nothing sinister in the fact that they happen. In this case, this is a simple answer to these incidents; but, that answer didn’t fit into his agenda.

As for the guy promoting the Covid Vaccine causing AIDS conspiracy theory, he offered no explanation for the fact that 220 million Americans are fully vaccinated, yet there has been no new outbreak of AIDS in the U.S. Again, this bogus theory is easily debunked, but the facts don’t fit his agenda.

Some conspiracies are real. People get together and conspire to commit crimes. And if law enforcement can develop the evidence to prove they conspired to commit a crime, they are prosecuted. But Carlson’s theory and the vaccines cause AIDS theory are fact free. And that’s the point I want to make in this column.

When anyone suggests to you that there is a conspiracy afoot, don’t just accept what they are telling you. Demand that they prove it. Ask them for verifiable facts. And then follow up and see if you can find multiple sources for the “facts” they offer you. If they can’t provide these facts, then ignore what they are saying. If a conspiracy is so deeply hidden that even supporting facts are not available, then how does the teller know about it?

Mike Lindell, the My Pillow guy, has said, dozens of times with absolute conviction, that he has facts, voting machines, etc. that prove the 2020 election was fraudulently stolen from Donald Trump. He has repeatedly organized events where he said he would lay all those facts out, yet he has failed to do so. Almost every week lately he has promised a new release of those “facts,” yet he has never produced them. He has billion-dollar libel lawsuits against him for making false statements about several companies involved in the election. The absolute defense against libel is the truth. Yet, even with his own fortune on the line, he fails to produce facts.

Trump’s lawyers lost 60 court cases alleging the 2020 election was fraudulent because they failed to offer any evidence when the cases got before a judge.

What’s the common thread with all these Conspiracy Theories? They are all fact free. Facts are alleged, but never produced. A theory must be backed up with facts, or it is just pie in the sky, by and by.

Demand facts.

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Work begins on next batch of legislation

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Trent Ashbyby State Representative Trent Ashby

After a welcome reprieve from the Capital City, this past week I made my way down to Austin to begin laying the groundwork for the next legislative session by attending my first interim committee hearing. 

While there have been a number of House committee hearings over the last week or two, I thought it would be appropriate to feature a committee on which I serve — House Transportation — to provide an overview of the issues we discussed at our interim committee hearing, as well as those we will discuss at a future hearing. 

With that, here’s the latest update from your Texas Capitol.

The House Committee on Transportation has jurisdiction over all matters relating to commercial motor vehicles, our state’s roads and bridges, traffic control, and many other areas. While most people associate “transportation” with cars and trucks, the committee also oversees policy on railroads, airports, and the transmission of water in Texas. 

This 13-member committee has purview over a number of state agencies, including the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Transportation Commission. 

Like many other committees, the House Committee on Transportation has been charged with studying the intended outcome of legislation passed relating to several key issues our state is currently facing. Last week, the Committee held a public hearing to begin the discussion on transportation infrastructure, roadway safety, and fraudulent paper tags.

With nearly 1,000 new Texans moving here every day, the state must take action to improve our transportation infrastructure to keep pace with our rapid population growth. To support the growing transportation needs of Texas, the 87th Legislature passed HB 2219, which reauthorizes the Texas Transportation Commission to access additional funding from vehicle title, inspection, and driver license fees to fund critical transportation projects. 

My colleagues and I also heard testimony from TxDOT representatives discussing how the State of Texas can meet the infrastructure needs of a growing population while improving roadway safety. 

Another issue the committee has been charged with is examining is the use of fraudulent paper tags. As I’ve discussed in previous columns, the state has seen a dramatic increase in the illegal use of fraudulent paper license plates, which are often linked to criminal activity. 

The committee has been charged with monitoring the implementation of HB 3927, which requires the Department of Motor Vehicles to create a system by which the Department can verify, monitor, and limit the number of temporary tags issued throughout the State. 

Though this bill has successfully reduced the use of illegal tags, members of this committee will work over the interim to develop additional safeguards to help put a stop to this practice. 

Though we covered a lot of ground in our recent hearing, we still have a number of charges to address in future interim hearings. In the months to come, the House Transportation Committee will meet again to discuss issues related to truck transportation and its impact on the supply chain, the impact of increased federal infrastructure funding on Texas projects, and the impact of increased migration across our border at ports and other points of entry. 

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will be posting regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and sharing information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

Trent Ashby represents District 57, soon to be District 9, which includes Trinity County, in the Texas Legislature.

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Time for a literal reading of the law of the land

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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I remember an old saw about prayer in school, saying that it never left because anyone taking a test still prays.

This stems from the 1962 (!) ruling by the Supreme Court that school-sponsored prayer in public schools violated the establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution, which reads that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

More on that in a minute.

Back in the day, there was prayer time in schools across the nation, along with the Pledge of Allegiance. Steven Engel got his nose out of joint, and sued, and lost each case and appeal, with judges saying that the prayer offered by the Union Free School District and said by teachers and students each morning was not anything like the government establishing a religion.

Then the case got to the U.S. Supreme Court, which said it did, cause the framers of the Constitution were aware of the religious persecution in England and sought to keep the same from happening here.

Since that time, there were attempts to offer quiet time or some sort of way to allow everyone to be happy and pray or not.

Fast forward to 2022, and here we are once more.

Coach Joseph Kennedy was fired from his job at Bremerton (Wash.) High School for praying on the 50-yard line after games. The school board said it was policy to not promote religion to students, and when Kennedy kept up the practice, they placed him on leave.

Now, we do the conga line through court after court, each one putting their spin on this admittedly convoluted issue. 

Throughout the decades following the 1962 case, there have been other noteworthy cases of a similar stripe, and this one is no different, but I can’t help wondering why it’s even an issue. In all of these matters, the people involved have just wanted to send thanks, praise and maybe ask a little help from the Almighty. In no case, as I’m aware, was it a specific god, but even if it was, why does it matter?

As I read the actual text of the amendment, it says specifically that government shall make no laws establishing a religion, so insisting that a coach kneeling at midfield and thanking God for a good game where everyone played well and weren’t hurt doesn’t track as being a government creating a law establishing a religion.

Moreover, telling a coach he can’t pray because of policy seems more like a government actually prohibiting the free exercise thereof, if you take my meaning, and reading that part literally says to me that the government, in this case the school board, is way in the wrong here.

It’s also necessary to note here that there were no complaints filed with the School Board, it was just the board got wind of it and laid the smack down. The coach sued, and here we are.

I can’t see any ulterior motive here regarding the text of the amendment, which incidentally includes speech, the press, assembly and redress of grievances. Imaging the stretch the courts would have to make to rule those unconstitutional.

Opponents of the Second Amendment have long used the literal, specific text of the gun law as the argument against allowing U.S. citizens in good standing to own handguns. That same interpretation, however, doesn’t seem to be in play here, and I’m thinking that it should.

One part I see as well is that the amendment states that Congress shall make no law …; at what point did Congress legislate, and the president approve, a coach in a high school in Washington be the standard bearer for a state religion? There is no law that exists that I know of. Federal government has no business being directly involved in local school matters, and in this case, it isn’t, so the whole fuss about prayer is a non-starter.

This case should never have existed, and here’s hoping that the Supreme Court reads the amendment as it was written, and thereby tossing the whole thing out and telling the interested parties to concern themselves with real problem.

Prayer is not now, nor has it ever been, a problem, certainly not one for the courts.

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The Supreme Court is going to overturn Roe V Wade – But that’s no surprise

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Jim Opionin by Jim Powers
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As you have probably seen by now, a draft judgement from the Supreme Court overturning Roe V Wade, the decision that legalized abortion in the U.S. almost 50 years ago, was leaked to the press. I’ll not go into the details of the decision because it is, of course, a draft copy and could change, and with a majority of right-wing justices dominating the court, it was inevitable that it would be overturned.

Overturning Roe will make abortion illegal in many states. Eventually, legislation will pass in the U.S. Congress that makes abortion illegal everywhere in the U.S. That will take a while, but it is coming if the republicans take over the house, senate, and presidency again.

We’ve been here before, of course, pre-Roe V Wade. I was an adult, then, so can remember what it was like. The next expressed target after abortion is making birth control illegal. I was a teenager when birth control was illegal, even between married couples, in many states.

So, when both were illegal, what happened? Well, the same thing happened as when the highway department puts up those 70 mph speed limit signs on IH 10. Everyone drives 80 mph.

Most Americans, in poll after poll, decade after decade, support safe, legal abortions in the United States. And a minority can’t oppress a majority for very long. Unpopular laws get ignored.

It won’t be any surprise to you that back in the 1960’s, when abortion and birth control were illegal, abortion was common and most married couples used birth control. The laws didn’t stop most folks. It wasn’t the state that was having to support a dozen kids if you didn’t use birth control.

And don’t ask, don’t tell works well when dealing with unpopular laws. Of course, Texas is effectively dangling $10,000 dollars in front of its citizens to rat out their neighbors who get abortions; but most folks aren’t going to do that.

So, what was the effect of most folks ignoring these two unpopular laws? In the case of birth control, far fewer pregnant teenagers, and married couples who could afford to support their self-limited family. Abortion is more complicated.

There were still abortions; but many of them were carried out, literally in dirty backrooms and abandoned buildings by unqualified people using the most brutal of tools. The result were women who could never again have children when they were better prepared financially and socially to have them.

The other concern I have is that many people who favor making abortion illegal are consumed by magical thinking. There are almost a million abortions a year in the United States. Do you really think that just because women are forced by the state to carry to term children they don’t want, that they will suddenly decide once the child is born to keep them? 

In the days before Roe V Wade, newborns were often abandoned in front of hospitals, churches, and charitable institutions. And those were the lucky ones. The others ended up in trash cans, fire pits, in gas station toilets and along the side of country roads. Will the state accept the financial burden of a million orphans?

Perhaps we should start an ASPCB (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Babies) organization, to take in the million stray babies left in dumpsters and on the steps of hospitals and charities each year once abortion is illegal.  

We can dress them up real cute, give them cute names and run their pictures in newspaper ads, "Please adopt Samantha. She was found alone and hungry and cold near a dumpster. Would you give her a forever home? Only $20 donation will help us save these forgotten babies!"

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