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Historians rank James K. Polk as 11th best president

January 20, 2016
Historians rank James K. Polk as 11th best president
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I have just finished reading a complete biography of the eleventh president of the U.S., James K. Polk.
Twelve academic polls since 1948 have ranked him from eighth to fourteenth, but with the real average of eleventh best president. That’s pretty high out of 44 presidents.
Other “forceful and persuasive presidents” ranking that high in the polls include Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.
Just who was James K. Polk anyway, a president who served only four years from 1845 to 1849? Historian Robert W. Merry has researched his life thoroughly and has presented Polk’s accomplishments in his book A Country of Vast Designs James K.Read the rest

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Attorney Paxton files brief supporting religious non-profits

January 20, 2016
Attorney Paxton files brief supporting religious non-profits
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Texas joined by 19 other states

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Jan. 11 filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 20 states supporting the right of religious nonprofits to exercise religious beliefs.
A news release from Paxton said the brief filed in regards to the case, Zubik v. Burwell, results from a consolidation of several cases before the court. The Texas attorney general’s office previously had filed briefs in two of those cases. Paxton argues that the contraceptive mandate in the U.S. Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as Obamacare, infringes upon the right of religious nonprofits to exercise their sincerely held beliefs.… Read the rest

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When does paradise stop becoming paradise?

January 13, 2016
When does paradise stop becoming paradise?
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I still think about those two young women, months past the last and only time I ever saw them or ever would.
We were enjoying that incredibly rare time when on a vacation so long, you didn’t even know what day it was – only that several more days remained and you’d already enjoyed a slew of them. (It was only the third time in my 59 years that I’d splurged for a two-week vacation.)
The Bride and I were in Hawaii – Kauai to be exact – with another couple and staying on the exotic North Shore.… Read the rest

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Has the FORCE awakened in you?

January 13, 2016
Has the FORCE awakened in you?

Where were you on December 18, 2015? Were you in line with costumed nerds waiting for The Force to awaken? Do you have any idea what I’m talking about?
Yes, I am a Star Wars fan. No, I did not dress in costume. No, I did not wait in line. In fact, I didn’t even see the new movie until December 29, 11 whole days after it came out!
I even have to admit that I slept through part of the movie, not because it was boring, but because it’s what I do if I’m in a dark room and a semi-reclined chair at 4:00 in the afternoon.… Read the rest

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Personalities, plot, bring New Mexico into U.S. hands

January 13, 2016
Personalities, plot, bring New Mexico into U.S. hands

Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836 with its revolution. California began a revolt against Mexico in 1846 with its Bear Flag Republic, and became a part of the U.S. war with Mexico (1846-48). Although New Mexico became a part of the larger war against Mexico as well, the story of its break with Mexico is a bit unique.
Frequent readers of this column may remember a love triangle a few months back between William Clark’s step-daughter Mary, his own son Lewis and Stephen Kearny. Mary left Kearny standing at the altar, then married him the next day. President James K.… Read the rest

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Gov. proposes slate of amendments to Constitution

January 13, 2016
Gov. proposes slate of amendments to Constitution

Gov. Greg Abbott on Jan. 8 unveiled his “Texas Plan,” a document promoting the passage of nine constitutional amendments “to rein in the federal government and restore the balance of power between the States and the United States,” he said.
The amendments Abbott is proposing include:
• Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one state.
• Require Congress to balance its budget;
• Prohibit administrative agencies, and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them, from creating federal law;
• Prohibit administrative agencies, and the unelected bureaucrats that staff them, from preempting state law.
• Allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a U.S.… Read the rest

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On beginning the New Year on a high note

January 6, 2016
On beginning the New Year on a high note

In one of those weird incidences that occurs maybe once every 10 years, I heard an old song three times in one day on the radio.
It was Randy Newman’s “Short People” – a song that caused a hubbub back in 1977. (It reached No. 2, kept at bay from the top spot by the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.”)
Another deal about Newman back then – still decades from earning Oscars for songs from Pixar movies – was that he was a singer who couldn’t sing worth a dang.
Pop music history is full of guys like that, singers whose voices drive some folks crazy.… Read the rest

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This is your moment

January 6, 2016
This is your moment

What are you going to do right now, today – just as soon as you finish reading this column – that you will look back on and celebrate 365 days from now?
That, my friends, is what is known as the “moment of truth.”
I recently spoke at a church and mentioned the ineffectiveness of New Year’s resolutions for the average person. According to research:
• About 150 million Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions and another 50 million sometimes make them
• 25 percent of people punt their resolutions after only one week
• 60 percent give up within 6 months
• The average person makes the same resolution 10 separate times without success
So, the conclusion is that, if you have had success with a New Year’s resolution, you are either: (a) part of a very small, but successful minority or (b) you’ve made easy and, probably, insignificant resolutions (like the guy who told me he succeeded in last year’s resolution to eat more chocolate).… Read the rest

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Runaway kid does well later as a Big Bend rancher

January 6, 2016
Runaway kid does well later as a Big Bend rancher

Sometimes the story of the life of a real person is more exciting than some fiction stories we read about the West. Just the fact that it is true makes it more interesting, I think.
Some say the true story of Milton Faver fits that description and actually inspired a Western character on TV. The problem is, sometimes not much information has been recorded about these real folks who traveled west.
Apparently Faver was born about 1822 in Virginia and later moved to Missouri. There he got into trouble as a teenager when fighting a duel, which had come to be looked on very unfavorably by the time Faver engaged in it.… Read the rest

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Texas sues EPA over new ozone standards

January 6, 2016
Texas sues EPA over new ozone standards

The State of Texas and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on Dec. 23 filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its new ozone standards rule.
Eight other states have filed separate lawsuits against the new rule: Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin.
On Dec. 28, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton explained his reasoning for state’s taking legal action, saying the EPA “has lowered the ozone standard placed on states to a level that is inappropriate and unrealistic and is based on flawed science” and the changes to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard would impose a serious financial burden on the Texas economy for dubious public health benefit.… Read the rest

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