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Impeach! a new battle cry

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas

Ken Paxton, Texas’ attorney general, has been acquitted of all charges brought against him in an effort to impeach the elected official.

This has been an ongoing spectacle since before the end of May, when the charges were recommended at the end of this year’s legislative session.

Regardless of whether Ken Paxton committed any offenses, the impeachment process served as the latest spectacle in the bread-and-circuses government that the state and country now enjoys.

I say that because this is the first impeachment of a Texas elected official in more than 100 years and was rushed through and handled so badly that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to change the impeachment process.

I’m not convinced that the problem lies in the process; my feeling is that the problem is the degradation of politics in general. No longer is there anything remotely like discussion, debate, or common sense. Once a side picks a position, then any and everything will be done to force opponents to comply, up to and including impeachment. The courts and political processes have now become clubs.

That sentiment was the driving force behind the impeachment efforts against former President Trump. It didn’t matter whether the charges were backed by credible evidence (they weren’t). It only mattered that the president wasn’t “on the side of the angels” and needed to be brought down.

After the first one failed to cow the president, the House doubled down on a second article of impeachment. Nancy Pelosi even alluded to the fact that they knew it wouldn’t fly but did it anyway so Trump would be the only president in the history of history to have been impeached twice.

Since then, the cry to impeach has been bandied around about every person in every level of government that doesn’t fall into line.

Don’t like how Dr. Anthony Fauci handled the COVID crisis? Impeach.

Don’t like how Merrick Garland is handling the DOJ? Impeach.

Don’t like the newly elected Supreme Court Justice? Impeach.

School superintendent making fun of librarian leads to bomb threats? Impeach.

Don’t like the brand of cookies you bought from the Girl Scouts? Impeach.

You get the idea. However, by calling for impeachment continuously over anything belittles the call when there actually is malfeasance, or high crimes and misdemeanors, which leaves the voting public numb and uninterested (which I’m sure is by design).

Even the latest inquiries into President Biden are being met with shoulder shrugs and apathy.

The impeachment process itself is pretty much the only means the people have to remove bad actors from office, and that really is by design. Most, if not all, states, have laws protecting elected officials from facing criminal or civil prosecution when performing official duties, regardless of the outcome of bad decisions. Also, not every state has recall elections, and those that do have ridiculous requirements that the effort is abandoned.

For instance, former President Nixon, facing impeachment only in connection with the Watergate scandal, resigned office and that was it. The actual actors, such as G. Gordon Liddy, were not elected and consequently were convicted of crimes.

Shield laws need to be rethought, and investigations need to be done without any interference, in order for proper consequences to be meted out. Only then will impeachments and electoral malfeasance be treated with the seriousness they deserve.

Tony Farkas is editor of the Trinity County News-Standard and 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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Throw some money at it: A novel idea

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Chris Metitations

By Chris Edwards
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A guy you might’ve heard of, name of Nelson Mandela, once said that “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

In rural East Texas, quality educators and administrators are frequently pinned against hard places and rocks as to how to best educate the next generation of Texans, a coming demographic that will be our next tide of doctors, community leaders, parents, farmers and taxpayers of various vocations.

On the “taxpayers” note, our state currently ranks 42nd in the nation on the per-student funding metric; trailing the national average by $4,000. If you thought that throwing some money at our education system was the answer, guess again.

Throughout the last legislative session, House and Senate Republicans screamed out about school vouchers and Gov. Greg Abbott made them a central plank in his vision for Texas. Simply put, vouchers hurt public schools by diverting taxpayer money away from public school funding toward private schools.

The vouchers issue is a topic I’ve meant to tackle here for some time now, however, many other commentators have weighed in on it; many of whom have actual skin in the education game.

Recently I overheard a couple of conversations on the subject of school vouchers – in both cases, where those speaking were adamantly in favor of them – but couching their support in the old and tired “Crips vs. Bloods,” er, I mean Democrats vs. Republicans language and taking our current state rep. Trent Ashby to ask for voting “against” party lines on vouchers.

First off, anyone in a rural area trying to nestle the topic of implementing a school voucher system within the culture warring context, or within a partisan framing mechanism, needs to realize: 1.) both major parties are obnoxious and 2.) there is more to life, SO much more, than political party affiliation.

Both Ashby and Sen. Robert Nichols are solid, conservative voices for our region, which is one reason I’m glad they represent us in Austin, and a big part of that is that they are both dedicated supporters of public education.

Abbott has stated that every family should have a choice when it comes to where to enroll their children, and he has vowed to call yet another special session, likely in October, so that the lege can take up his vouchers proposal after bi-partisan efforts killed a voucher bill during the regular session in the House.

If public schools are failing, then why isn’t the state legislature attempting to fix the problem? Alongside the funding issue, we have a teacher shortage, a dwindling education system and many of our children falling through the cracks.

A recent statewide poll revealed that 73% of respondents put school safety, teacher pay, curriculum content and public school financing as top priorities, and only eight percent of those polled viewed vouchers as a priority.

Funding for public schools is tied, in-part, to attendance, and diverting public school funds to voucher programs would decrease that funding. Vouchers had been a topic brought up in past legislative sessions, but this year, with all the nonsense afoot about gay characters in library books and supposed teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools, proponents of voucher systems thought their efforts would result in victory.

Those bogeymen, which are buoyed by big money scare campaigns, are nonsense. Texas educators are too busy being forced to teach the STAAR test to worry about things like indoctrination, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish to roast some other time.

Our state had a historic budget surplus. Thirty-two point seven billion smackaroos, to be exact. I’m not frowning on tax cuts, but about half of it went toward that, pay raises for state employees, border security and other allocations. None of it went toward our public education system, though.

So why not throw some money at our public schools and see what happens? We don’t know at present because it hasn’t been done.

Using taxpayer money to fund private schools at the expense of public schools is shameful and does not belong in Texas. My grandfather used to refer to children as “our future,” and he was right. Investing in our future will bode well for us all.

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Stopping the train may be harder than it looks

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FromEditorsDesk Tony CroppedBy Tony Farkas
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More and more anymore, phrases like “threat to our democracy” and “destruction of our democracy” are cropping up in the national discussion, be it in debate or social media or conversations with friends of opposing political beliefs.

It should go without saying that we’re not a democracy, but a republic, in which we elect others to represent us to our government. But democracy or republic, it’s my thought that ship already has sailed, and we’re just now waking up to that.

For instance, many school board in the country have embraced the fallacy that children are able to not only determine their gender but can demand that people address them with proper pronouns, and, with the blessing of elected board members, the parents don’t have to be informed.

Parents who confront these boards are either arrested or removed from board meetings, and many districts, including districts in Texas, have enacted policies allowing the removal of people that are deemed disruptive or threatening.

It’s been posited, and now proven, that the federal government has either through intimidation or cooperation censored dissenting viewpoints that have been posted on social media platforms. Additionally, people who have only said things during the Jan. 6 temper tantrum are facing investigation.

The convictions of people in what is being described as an insurrection (by a completely coopted media) have come in with extremely high sentences, seemingly the very definition of cruel and unusual punishment, since the rioters during the summer of discontent have yet to be charged or even investigated.

District attorneys in many states have decided not to prosecute minor crimes, police departments don’t respond or don’t investigate minor crimes, and California is trying to make it a crime for shopkeepers to defend against shoplifting.

Since our leaders have determined that we’re in a climate crisis, and that the U.S. is the only country that can fix it, oil drilling permits, which were issued by the government, were stopped by executive fiat. Also, any shipment of natural gas (in its liquefied form) by rail has been ended until the government can decide if it’s safe.

The latest example comes from my former state of residence, New Mexico. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order banning the carrying of guns in public, either openly or concealed, following a shooting death of an 11-year-old boy, citing a “health emergency.”

In signing the order, she said that constitutionally guaranteed rights, as well as her oath to protect the Constitution, are “not absolute.”

It’s not the first time things like that have been said. Biden flouted rights during the COVID crisis (and is warming up that concerto again); President Obama has said that if Congress doesn’t do what he wants, he has a phone and a pen. Republicans, too, have followed that path, since that execrable Patriot Act continues to rear its ugly head, put in place under the Bush administration in the aftermath of 9-11.

The actual threat to a democracy or a republic is unilaterally dismissing law; when a leader decides that rights no longer apply; that sworn oaths are only words and not binding; that a single person’s belief is more important than the will of the constituency. These are the things the Founding Fathers fought a war against.

What we have is a republic in name only, and to cover up that fact, monsters are created that require extraordinary powers be gifted to a few. If you hear the phrase “destroy our democracy,” think about when that actually happened.

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Prop 2 and 3 explained

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Trent Ashby BW NEWWith September now here, the school year is in full swing, football stadiums will light up the Friday night sky, and hunters across the state are chomping at the bit to get back into the field. As I’m sure many of you are aware, this year’s dove season started on September 1 and will run until the end of October just in time for the duck and deer season. That being said, here’s a friendly reminder to all of my fellow sportsmen and women to purchase a hunting license if you haven’t already done so. You can pick one up at your local gun shop or sporting goods store as you’re loading up for the season, or even purchase one online through the Texas Parks & Wildlife Outdoor Annual App or on the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s website www.tpwd.texas.gov.

With that, here’s an update from your State Capitol…

Capitol Update

In my previous column, I provided an overview of Proposition 1 and Proposition 2, which are the first two of the 14 ballot propositions that voters will consider in the upcoming November election. This week’s column will feature an overview of the next two propositions – Proposition 2 and Proposition 3.

Proposition 3 amends the Constitution to ensure the Legislature cannot impose a wealth, or income, tax on individuals or families. Though the State of Texas already prides itself on not imposing an income tax, Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution, authorizes the tax of both tangible and intangible property in unique cases. As a state that celebrates competition, even the possibility of a direct tax on an individual’s assets or property would serve as a disincentive to financial success. Proposition 3 helps ensure that the State of Texas and her people will continue to serve as a global beacon for economic growth and prosperity for future generations.

Proposition 4 offers an amendment that is long overdue to you and your family. It is the enabling legislation that will provide property owners with the largest property tax cut in our state’s history. In this proposition, a 20% cap or limit is imposed on non-homestead properties valued under $5 million for the next three years.  In addition, the existing homestead exemption ceiling of $40,000 will be increased to $100,000.

And, a “tax freeze” will be placed on the total amount of ad valorem tax that may be imposed on an elderly or disabled individual. Finally, the proposed amendment authorizes the legislature to require four-year terms for members of appraisal district boards in counties over 75,000 in population. Under current law, appraisal boards are composed of 9 appointed, voting members. Under the proposed legislation, appraisal district boards will now be composed of eight voting members – 5 appointed and 3 elected. This allows citizens to take comfort in knowing they have a voice in electing members responsible for issuing property tax values for their county. It is our goal to ensure all Texans feel a much-deserved sense of relief from skyrocketing property taxes. The Legislature has made a deliberate effort to ensure components of this bill allow Texans to see a noticeable decline in their taxes in 2024, as well as implement new accountability measures to help alleviate some of the tax burden on property owners across the state.

Reminders

The mobile office is on the road again and our District Director will look forward to seeing you on the following date, in the following locations: Sept. 6 at the San Augustine County Courthouse in San Augustine from 9-11 a.m; Sept. 13 at the Polk County Commissioner’s Courtroom in Livingston from 9-11 a.m., or the Tyler County Commissioner’s Courtroom in Woodville from 1:30-3:30 pm. Sept.20 at the Houston County Courthouse Annex in Crockett from 9-11 a.m., or the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

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 and our Capitol office at (512) 463-0508. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

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Where do you fall on the coffee spectrum?

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Tyrades GraphicI’ll never get over what the COVID-19 pandemic did to the Ollie’s discount chain.

Pre-COVID, on my way to the restroom while shopping, I always sought out the coffee pot that announced sentiments to the effect of “We’ve had a pretty good year. Treat yourself to a free cup.”

Pandemic precautions made that simple pleasure go bye-bye.

I’m sure many of you share my pain. Others won’t.

Despite coffee’s long history and the omnipresence of Starbucks, there is no monolithic way of viewing the coffee experience.

Spiritual descendants of the old temperance movement take a stubborn pride in their “lips that touch brew … will get my stink-eye through and through” philosophy.

Even among drinkers, there exists an eye-opening variety of beliefs about frequency, purpose, composition, quantity and whether Juan Valdez could give Mrs. Olson the “richest, most aromatic” butt-whupping in a cage match.

My own immediate family demonstrates the spectrum of coffee attitudes. College junior Gideon has zero interest in sampling a cup of Joe. Early bird me? I savor a morning cup for the flavor and ritual more than for any stimulant effect. My bleary-eyed wife, on the other hand, simply must have a cup before leaving for work – or to surrender at the police station. (“I think I just murdered my snooze alarm. But it was self-defense!”)

What shall we say about purists like my mother who insist that anything except black coffee is an abomination? Does straight coffee truly dance upon their taste buds, or are they just too prideful to admit that sugar and creamer might deserve to exist? (“What modernist heresy will come next? Will people start bringing bananas right into their homes instead of climbing the trees to eat them?”)

Coffee should bring us together, but elements of class warfare or generational warfare are unavoidable. Folks who keep an economical 40-ounce canister in the cupboard (or grab the cheapest generic java that the convenience market dispenses) look askance at the elitists who spend a fortune every single day on conspicuous consumption of some froufrou gourmet concoction.

The notion is that the elitists are (a) making way too much money or (b) skimping on other things to finance their caffeine addiction. (“I could’ve sprung for a nicer funeral for Mom, but I couldn’t find a single casket with the Keurig seal of approval.”)

People disagree about whether to keep their coffee cravings private or shout them to the heavens. But it’s probably not a good idea to quote the ad slogan “If I don’t get American Ace Coffee, I’m going back to bed” on a job application – unless you plan to top it off by flooding social media with pictures of yourself sharing a bong with the HR director’s underage child.
Don’t let my babbling threaten your heartfelt beliefs but consider the Big Picture.

All the memes, T-shirts, posters and Garfield cartoons about coffee mania are amusing, but what if they’re giving aid and comfort to our adversaries?

Somewhere Chinese students are fasting for a week, performing 500 pushups and solving complex quadratic equations in their heads. Americans? We’re sending the message “I can’t remember which is my right house slipper and which is my left house slipper until I’ve had my first gallon.”

Oh, it’s been a pretty good 247 years. Treat yourself to a free naval base, President Xi Jinping.

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