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MEGAN MCARDLE: What do the states get out of pushing sin taxes?

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, R, has put his state in a bit of a pickle. The governor pushed through massive cuts to the state’s income taxes, which, in one of the least surprising developments in recent U.S. history, left the state hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole. Even the conservative citizenry of Kansas was not pleased, and Brownback barely squeaked to a re-election victory. Now he’s finally having to do something to close the budget gap, and the answer is: sin taxes. Levies on alcohol and cigarettes will rise substantially.

LETTER: Tired of all the trash

I suppose there are many Sherman-Denison residents like myself, that are ashamed at the sheer amount of trash that lines almost every intersection, roadside and gully. I get disgusted that there are not any posted fines for littering. Or public information commercials informing the public where to report abuses.

LET’S REMINISCE: A vacation on the high seas

Recently my wife and I did something that would have surprised and perhaps even shocked our grandparents: We took a week-long Caribbean cruise. Our grandparents’ concept of a vacation cruise was something that only rich people could afford. Remember the 1997 film “Titanic”? So how did a luxury cruise become affordable and attractive to the middle class?

LARRY PHILLIPS: Lt., gov. take state’s helm

On Tuesday Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick were sworn in to office. The governor and lieutenant governor each delivered speeches to the public after taking the oath of office. (Both of the speeches are available online at http://gov.texas.gov/ and http://www.ltgov.state.tx.us .) Following the inauguration, barbecue was served on the south lawn to an estimated 17,000 people and a parade marched down Congress Avenue. All of the events were paid for by private funds and not at state expense.

Syriza’s triumph shows the power of big ideas

It may seem ironic that Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s extreme right Front National, rooted for the extreme left Syriza in yesterday’s Greek election and rejoiced at its landslide victory. Yet there’s nothing unusual about it: Syriza, Front National and other European anti- establishment parties are partners in a political revolution that appears to be about to sweep the continent, giving back the original meaning to political terms such as “left” and “right” - - and helping Russian President Vladimir Putin in the process.

GOP abortion bill: right ends, wrong means

As thousands descended on Washington last week for the annual “March for Life,” the Republican House of Representatives was busy watering down an antiabortion bill that restricted abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape or incest, with exemptions allowed only after a police report had been filed. This after a small group of moderate Republican female lawmakers challenged the bill and lobbied for a less restrictive measure.

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STOP SIGNS ARE FOREVER: American gripers

When I was a kid just past the age of enjoying G.I. Joes, I stumbled upon a great book called “Marine Sniper,” a 1988 nonfiction tome about the Vietnam War career of Carlos Hathcock — at the time considered the deadliest sniper in American history. That title would eventually be taken by SEAL marksman Chris Kyle, who recounted his time in Iraq in his best-selling memoir-turned-movie, “American Sniper”.

JAY AMBROSE: President’s cutesy speech omitted looming entitlement crisis

Unbelievable. President Obama, among the most divisive presidents in our recent history, gives an also divisive State of the Union speech, taking credit for things he did not do, producing a laundry list of mostly bad things he plans and at the end sounding oh, so nice. This country of ours? We’re a “tight-knit family.” Republicans? He wants to get along with them. To repeat a question he asked, really?

Reviving vinyl

My wife and I have reached back several decades and joined a growing number of modern music lovers using old technology to listen to current tunes. For Christmas we received a record player.