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.
The 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.
We 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?
My 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.
I’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.
Ken 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).
In the Sept. 19 edition of The Smoky Mountain News, there were some disturbing quotes from some of the local candidates for the N.C. legislature in regard to the importance of funding the NC Pre-K program (formerly known as More at Four). This is a program that offers a stimulating educational environment for at-risk children so that healthy brain development is encouraged and kids are ready for kindergarten. As one who has worked with some of the wreckage of this population of children for years, I can say that this is a program that is serving a critical need for our communities. It is taking some of our most fragile children and giving them opportunities to learn and play while teaching and reinforcing basic social skills at a very critical developmental age. Yes, it costs money. But it is either pay now or pay later, and I promise you the pay later option is much more expensive both in dollars and wasted lives.
The presidential debates of the 2012 election are now behind us. Barack Obama, the Democratic incumbent president running for re-election, and Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee and former governor of Massachusetts, made their pitches to the voters who watched them engage one another for almost five hours on three separate occasions.
On any given Saturday morning for the past 20 years, I would roll out of bed, crank up the coffee machine and some Rolling Stones, throw on some running shorts and a tank top, and head out to the gym, eating a chalky protein bar on the way, the Clash or Elvis Costello urging me on along Highway 209. For a certain species of human being, the gym is like that old television sitcom “Cheers,” a place where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came. Just think of treadmills as barstools and protein shakes as draft beer, and you’ll get the picture.