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op frThe swearing in of new Gov. Pat McCrory this past weekend brought to mind a conversation at a recent holiday party. I was sequestered with a few political types and several issues came up that had been covered in The Smoky Mountain News and other media outlets. Several of these discussion points are going to fall into the lap of the new governor and the General Assembly.

op frIt all started with a simple book fair at the middle school. My daughter, inspired perhaps by viewing the trailer for the movie about 12,000 times during the past few weeks, bought a paperback of J.R.R Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit. She couldn’t wait to see the movie, but as the daughter of an English teacher, she naturally wanted to read the book first. Bless her.

op frBy Bob Scott • Guest Columnist

After the killing of 26 children and adults by a young man using a semi-automatic gun best used for combat, the knee-jerk reactions have begun.

Politicians on the Democrat side of the aisle are calling for assault weapon bans. Some Republicans are saying we need more guns. Others are claiming that if we arm more people, they will stop a shooter. If more people carry guns, there will be less crime. Schools should have armed guards. All of these solutions are inconclusive. However, 19 mass killings in the past five years have produced no reasonable answer to this terrible national problem. Stronger gun control will probably have no effect as there are more than 300 million guns in our society. It would be impossible to round up these guns or even attempt to register them.

Gary Peebles • Guest Columnist

In an entirely predictable way, the Connecticut shootings have touched off another round in the debate about gun control in America. Both sides have valid points. The left is correct; guns are exceptionally efficient killing machines that seem to carry a mystique about them, after all you don’t read stories of 20 children being bludgeoned the death by a baseball-bat wielding loner.

op frThe recently announced plans for a Blueways Trail focusing on the recreational uses of Western North Carolina’s waterways is one of the better recent ideas for promoting our region. Its focus on the unique natural wonders of our mountains will make for a broad appeal that will speak directly to those who love the outdoors.

Officially dubbed the N.C. Smokies Blueways Trail, the concept is to develop tools that will help locals and tourists make better use of our rivers, creeks and lakes. That includes just getting to waterways to picnic or swim, improved access for canoeing and kayaking, and more information on fishing.

Since the publication of Wiley Cash’s debut novel A Land More Kind Than Home earlier this year, I have been listening to the buzz of conversation about this “remarkable new book” written by a Western North Carolina native. The book seems to be on everyone’s lips. Finally unable to resist my own curiosity, I bought a copy so I could see for myself what all the fuss was about. It only took the first few pages until I was hooked.

op frWe had been dreading it all week, and now, as we stood there on a brisk Friday morning waiting on the school bus in front of our mailbox, my seven-year-old son and I had time to confront the reality of it: a weekend without the women.

Mother and daughter were leaving for the weekend to go on a Girl Scout camping trip, leaving the boys to fend for ourselves for approximately 48 hours. What would we do without them? Would we remember to eat? Keep the house in reasonable order? Attend to basic hygiene?

op frMy father is retired Navy, and I lived on military bases until I was 10. My stepfather is retired Army Special Forces with several tours of Vietnam under his belt. My wife’s dad served in the Army and did duty in Vietnam and elsewhere. My brother served and has spent his career working as a civilian on a military base. I have a nephew in the Navy and my own son, 14 years old, right now says he wants to go into one of the military academies.

The U.S. military has been a part of my life since I can remember. Every Veteran’s Day and every Memorial Day that passes drags up some strong emotions, especially since my father passed away a few years ago.

op frI’m a late-blooming entrepreneur from a lower middle-class upbringing. My parents came from farming and mill-town childhoods, and they bought wholesale into the part of the American dream that told them their children, through education and hard work, will do better. But their faith in my ability to move up in the world stands in stark contrast to what many Americans can expect for their own children today. In fact, since the 1970s real income for the bottom 80 percent of American families has declined. Eighty percent. That sounds preposterous, but it’s the sad truth.

op frKen Jacobine • Guest Columnist

As students of the Austrian School of Economics understand, financial bubbles are caused by central bank monetary policy and government intervention in the economy.  The housing boom and subsequent crash in the first decade of this century is an excellent example of the Austrian Business Cycle Theory (the Austrian School’s explanation for booms and busts in the economy).  

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