My Take on Hillary

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[Caption to photo above: “Hillary in a Panic.” Did she break a nail? Did she find out that the FBI was on their way over and is desperately trying to delete emails? Did Bill just tell her about his latest tryst? You decide.]

I have nothing against Hillary Clinton, personally. I do think she is married to a man that lacks integrity. Why he wasn’t kicked out of office, after being impeached, is beyond me. A man of integrity would have resigned, as Richard Nixon did. Yet, the Democrats want to reward him by putting him back in the White House as a First Spouse. Unbelievable.

People forget, and most millennials have never known, that the prosperity enjoyed under Bill Clinton was left over from the Reagan years. When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, we had endured the failed presidency of Jimmy Carter. During those four years, we sat in long lines waiting to buy gasoline because there was an oil crisis. No one but rich people could afford to buy a house because there was both an economic crisis and a housing crisis. And Americans were ashamed and humiliated abroad because there was an Iranian hostage crisis which, apparently, our President could do nothing about. Everything then was a crisis.

Reagan came in and turned things around economically, internationally and politically. People went back to work with salaries that were the highest in history, so there was prosperity at home. The Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended, so there was the spread of democracy abroad. And, remarkably, Republicans and Democrats in Washington began working together and getting things done because Reagan knew how to bring people together. Americans felt good about being Americans.

Both George H. Bush and Bill Clinton enjoyed the benefits of Reaganomics during their terms as President. But it was amazing how quickly Republicans, and especially George W. Bush, forgot the lessons we had learned under Reagan. Now, Hillary and the Democrats want to go back to those depressing Carter years. Reagan taught us that when it comes to government, less is more – yet, Hillary wants to increase the size of government. He taught us that lowering taxes stimulates the economy – yet, Hillary wants to raise taxes. He taught us that America is a shining city on a hill, spreading the principles of freedom and democracy to the rest of the world – yet, Hillary wants us to believe that America is just another nation among the rest.

Look at Hillary’s record. She was Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. During that time, the world became a much more dangerous place. We’ve seen the rise of ISIS, civil war in Syria where hundreds of thousands of civilians including children have been slaughtered, the breakdown of the entire Middle East including our allied nations, the flooding of refugees into Europe, the rise of Russian and Chinese aggression, continued threats from Iran and North Korea – in short, the setting of the stage for World War 3. This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton and her successor, John Kerry, both part of the Obama administration.

How much more evidence do we need? Do we need to talk about Benghazi? The Clinton email scandal? Her conflict of interest with the Clinton Foundation? Her campaign finances as a senator? The fact that the Secret Service hates her? Clinton’s reputation as a lawyer? What is it going to take for people to realize that the Clintons are not good for this country? And that a Clinton presidency would be even more crisis-ridden, even more disastrous than Carter’s?

Just let a thinking person bring up any of the multitude of logical objections to a Clinton presidency, and all the Democrats can do is cry, “Racist!” or “Sexist!” or “Hater!” or “Bigot!” My, my, isn’t a one-word vocabulary marvelous?

Waitsel Smith

 

 

Waitsel Smith

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My Take on Trump

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Last month I watched the Republican National Convention, and I have to say, I was very encouraged by not only the speakers, who were outstanding, but also the direction in which the Republican party is moving, as well as the ideas that Trump put forth in his acceptance speech. I was also amazed at what a terrible job the Media did in covering the event. The fact that they obsessed for two days over Melania Trump’s faux pas of copying some of Michelle Obama’s previous speech is absurd. But the Media are looking for things they can pick at, not for things that are right. No wonder the American people are so ignorant of the basic facts of what is good about America.

My take on Donald Trump is this:  his running mate, Mike Pence, is a very good man. And Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, is a very, very good man. As second and third in command, that is two good men that can step in if anything happens to Trump. It is also two good men that can help keep Trump honest, and will. But Trump is also surrounding himself with some very smart people, like Dr. Ben Carson and Newt Gingrich, plus a host of good women and his own children, who are leaders in their own right. I also like the fact that he is surrounding himself with men and women of every ethnicity and race, of every religion and lifestyle, but men and women who are more interested in honesty and truth than being politically correct. What they all say about Trump is that he listens and that is one of the things that makes him a great leader. Also, that he is kind and compassionate. Of course, Ted Cruz wouldn’t agree with that, but I think he is in the minority.

I liked the themes of the different nights: “Make America Safe Again,” “Make America Work Again,” “Make America First Again,” “Make America One Again,” and of course the theme for the whole convention, “Make America Great Again.” After listening to Trump’s acceptance speech, I really believe he can do it. He strikes me as being at a place not dissimilar to Franklin Roosevelt’s when he took office back in the 1930s, when he faced the problems of the Great Depression and the threat of Nazi Germany. I think our problems today, both at home and abroad, are similar to the ones back then, and I think that Trump is enough of a larger-than-life, nuts-and-bolts leader like Roosevelt that he will tackle them effectively. But, at the same time, he is a constitutionalist, like Reagan, who believes that people can solve their own problems far better than government. It’s a nice balance.

And, yes, he is flamboyant. But we asked for someone outside the system, someone that wasn’t part of the status quo. Did we really think he would sound and act like every other politician? Thank God that he doesn’t. If you want that, Hillary and the Democrats will give you that in spades.

Waitsel Smith

 

 

Waitsel Smith

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Have we all lost our minds?

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Based on recent news events, how could anyone think otherwise? Yet, just because politicians or the News Media say something is so, doesn’t make it so. For example…

1) Just because Bruce Jenner wants to be a woman doesn’t make him one. I may want to be an Olympic athlete. If I suddenly started dressing like one and appearing on talk shows declaring to the world that I was an Olympic athlete, would that make me one? Hardly. Bruce Jenner is a deeply disturbed man, not a woman. But we have lost our ability to judge the genuine from the fake.

2) Just because two people of the same sex say they’re married doesn’t make it so. Nor does it necessarily hold true that someone who is against gay marriage dislikes gay people. A gay person can be against gay marriage if he or she believes the Bible is true. Marriage is an institution – some would say a covenant – established by God, not the State. Therefore, shouldn’t God be the one to define it? He has, but the State, along with some very misinformed Christians, have decided they know better.

3) Just because some folks have decided the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate doesn’t make it so. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson would never have fought for a flag that represented hate. They were deeply loving, Christian men that believed in treating all men fairly. Now, flying the Confederate flag may be in bad taste, even unfeeling. But that is hardly hate. What gets me is that Dylann Roof, who murdered nine people in a Charleston church because he hates black people, and who appears in a photo on a web site waving a Confederate flag, is also wearing a Gold’s Gym shirt in the same photo. Yet, no one has called Gold’s Gym a symbol of hate and demanded that Gold’s Gyms be torn down across the country. Wouldn’t the same logic that makes the flag a hate symbol make that well-known gym a hate symbol, too?

4) Just because some people say that the proliferation of guns in this country has led to an increase in violence or crime doesn’t make it so. Over half of all gun-related deaths are suicides, and suicides rank around #10 on the list of causes of death in this country. Accidental deaths, which include auto accidents, rank #5. Last year, Great Britain, who all but prohibits private ownership of firearms, had 14 murders involving firearms, as compared to 9,369 in this country. Yet, their total crime rate was over half ours, even though their population is less than one-sixth ours. That’s over three times the crime, per capita. So, has eliminating guns really helped the Brits curb violence? I don’t think so. If someone really wants to commit a crime, or even suicide, they can find many other means of doing so besides guns. Thinking people understand this, but we are no longer thinking people.

I could go on, but you get the point: we have become people that are driven by emotions and the Media rather than logic and God. We need to get back to what made America great in the first place: ordinary people thinking extraordinary thoughts. Think about it.

Waitsel Smith

 

 

Waitsel Smith

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Saint Patrick and How The Irish Saved Civilization

Perhaps the greatest missionary since St. Paul gets little more than green beer from most of us. There’s not even a major motion picture about him. He deserves better.

Saint Patrick was a very simple man. Most of the artwork of him makes him look like a typical bishop from the period. He was anything but.

Nitium Page from the Book of Durrow

The Irish didn’t just copy books, they illuminated them, creating fabulous works of original art. The Irish imagination was given full vent on the pages of these codices. This one is from the Book of Durrow.

Like the landscape of Ireland, the Irish people can be both harsh and fanciful, stark and idyllic.

The Irish landscape is both harsh and fanciful, stark and idyllic. These contrasting qualities show themselves in the Irish people as well.

There are far more Irish living outside Ireland than inside.

There are far more Irish living outside Ireland than inside. Many came to the United States in the 19th Century and settled in cities like New York, Boston and Chicago. This is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, an excellent example of the Gothic style of architecture. (Photo used courtesy of A Day Not Wasted. See link at end of article.)

Once again, the rivers are running green (at least in Chicago), the parades are being held, green beer is being dispensed in Irish pubs, people are wearing shamrocks, Irish jokes and limericks are being recited, and idiotic artwork is being sent back and forth across the Web. But does any of this have anything to do with Saint Patrick? Very little.

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BEST MOVIES OF 2014

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Grab your popcorn and drink and let’s talk.

by Waitsel Smith

I used to struggle with how to rate a film. Do I love it or merely like it? Is it a good film and maybe I just don’t like it because of the lead actor? Am I just having a bad day or is it really a bad film? You can over-think it and movie watching should be about feeling.

Then I came up with this system, which takes some of the subjectivity out of it:

5 Stars means I would own it.

4 Stars means I would see it multiple times.

3 Stars means I would see it once but no more.

2 Stars means I wouldn’t see it the first time, and if I did, I’m sorry I did.

1 Star means it’s trash and the filmmakers need their heads examined.

Occasionally, I’ll see a film that I think is a masterpiece, and I’ll give it 6 Stars, even though I call it a “5-Star Masterpiece.” Those are films that I believe are significant enough to move the movie industry in a new and positive direction, and which will be remembered by film historians as “classics,” or at least should be.

This year, there weren’t any masterpieces, but there were some very good films – not great, but very good: dramas about soldiers, comedies about chefs, super hero action flicks, the usual offering of sci-fi thrillers and some very unlikely little films that are worth remembering. See if you agree with my picks and my ratings.

So, without further ado, roll the films.

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Let me know what you think and get a chance to win a $1,000 gift certificate, plus your comments will be published on the site!

Waitsel

Copyright © 2015 Waitsel Smith. All rights reserved.

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The False Promise of Technology

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In his recent column in the News Topic, Brent Tomberlin talks about “Making the important connections,” and how technology undermines our ability to do that, so that we have to make a special effort to connect with people in our technology-crazed culture. I agree with that; but I would like to take Brent’s point a step further: technology undermines our ability to be happy and makes us more vulnerable to weakness. And even further: technology destroys our happiness and our security.

Sociologists have “proven” that the happiest people today are the Amish, and that the happiest people in all of history lived during the Middle Ages. What do those two groups of people have in common? 1) They had simple lifestyles, 2) they were agrarian societies, 3) they were family-oriented and lived in close-knit communities, 4) they were connected to nature, and 5) they were spiritually focused. Technology, on the other hand, 1) makes life more complicated, 2) is more prevalent in industrialized societies, 3) disconnects people, as Brent pointed out, 4) tends to keep people inside, away from nature, and 5) tends to make people self-focused rather than God- and others- focused.

For every advantage you can name that technology has brought us, I can name at least three disadvantages. But technology is a Pandora’s box: it cannot simply be brushed aside once it has been unleashed. Every technological advancement requires more technology to deal with the negative side affects, so that technology tends to feed upon itself and multiply ad infinitum. Eventually the negative affects will so outweigh the positive that it will be impossible to keep up. At that point, our society will collapse the way the Roman Empire fell; only, our collapse will be greater and more far-reaching.

Most sci-fi novels and movies that envision a post-apocalyptic future in which technology has failed show the people living in squalor, unhappy and disconnected. I think just the opposite will happen. The fall of the Roman Empire ushered in the Middle Ages, in which people were the happiest they’ve ever been. There were still problems, like wars, but they were localized: not the grand scale affairs that technology makes possible.

I’m not advocating getting rid of technology – that, as I’ve said, is impossible. What I do advocate is that we learn to live as low-tech as possible. To do that, we can 1) simplify our lives, 2) learn to grow, preserve and prepare our own food, 3) learn to live as caring neighbors and family members again, 4) connect with nature as often and in as many ways as possible, and 5) realize that life is a spiritual journey, not a race to see how many high-tech gadgets we can own. The happiest people I know are low-tech. I pray we can all learn to live that way one day.

If you like this, you’ll love Technology Meltdown.

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LA Times Quote of the Day – Priceless

Actually, two quotes. First, Dianne Feinstein’s mindless quote before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Then, columnist Burt Prelutsky’s take on it in the Los Angeles Times.

Senator Dianne Feinstein: “All vets are mentally ill in some way, and government should prevent them from owning firearms.”

Columnist Burt Prelutsky: “Frankly, I don’t know what it is about California, but we seem to have a strange urge to elect really obnoxious women to high office. I’m not bragging, you understand, but no other state, including Maine, even comes close. When it comes to sending left-wing dingbats to Washington, we’re Number One. There’s no getting around the fact that the last time anyone saw the likes of Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi, they were stirring a cauldron when the curtain went up on Macbeth. The four of them are like jackasses who happen to possess the gift of blab. You don’t know if you should condemn them for their stupidity or simply marvel at their ability to form words.”

Amen

Thanks to Norm Grey, Atlanta

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The Issue is Crime, Not Race

In all the discussions about Ferguson and the relationship between black communities and law enforcement, I believe the real issue is being swept under the carpet, as it always is when politicians and the Media are involved. The problem, for the most part, doesn’t seem to be racial prejudice, but the crime and violence that exist in this country today.

White people don’t avoid certain neighborhoods in Atlanta and other big cities because of the color of the skin of the people living there – they avoid them because of the crime. Because most of those neighborhoods happen to be black, and because of the way the Media highlights those crimes on the news every night, white people connect the crime with the people living there. They don’t feel safe in those places, and they transfer that fear to the people.

When I was in college, I had a black friend here in Lenoir named Herbie Dula. He was one of the finest men I’ve ever known and I think about him almost every day. One night, his neighbor, who was also black, was fighting with his wife and Herbie went over to see if he could break it up. He was shot and killed by the husband. What a tragedy, and what a waste of a good man! This kind of violence seems to exist more in black communities than in white. I’ve never personally known a white person that was shot and killed in a domestic dispute; but, if the nightly news is to be believed, it seems almost commonplace in certain black communities.

My point is, why aren’t we focusing on the crime and violence that exists in our communities instead of chasing this red herring of race?

We’ve done the same thing with the mass shootings in this country. All of them have been committed by mentally ill people. So why are we talking about guns instead of mental illness? Another red herring.

Race and guns are emotionally charged issues that politicians, with the help of the Media, know will distract people, so they can continue doing nothing about the real problems and focus on their careers. That’s the coward’s way out.

What we need today are people with courage and honesty, who will address the real issues facing us – not posers waiting for the next photo op. We have men and women like that in uniform. We need more of them in public office.

Waitsel Smith

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Our Lowered Standards

I’ve voted in a lot of elections in my lifetime, but I’ve never had a more disappointing experience voting than the one I had this past election in North Carolina. It shows just how far our standards have dropped, and how far we have come from what the founding fathers envisioned as “our most sacred privilege.”

When I walked into the polling place, it was dark and dingy. There weren’t enough voting booths, so people were scattered around the walls at tables and pretty much anywhere they could find a seat: except that the chairs were child-size, which were too low for my 88-year-old mother to use. I had never seen people voting en masse outside voting booths before, so I said something to the polling place officials to the effect that I thought that was illegal. I had also never seen people sharing booths before, which they were.

Once a voting booth became available, I was in there filling out my ballot, when one of the officials suddenly appeared IN the booth with me and started explaining something to me. I said, “I don’t know about that, but I KNOW that you are not supposed to be in here with me, looking at my ballot!” She sheepishly excused herself.

This level of “looseness” in a polling place is unacceptable. Voting is our most sacred privilege, and it deserves a certain level of discipline and honor. In this polling place, it was being treated like a chore or an everyday event. In our nation’s past, voting day was considered a time of celebration and holiday. Have we sunk so low that it is now just another day? Can we waste $100 million on a campaign for Senate but cannot spend the time and money to make our polling places right? For the first time in a long time, I was ashamed of my state and town.

When we lower our standards, we open the door to corruption. Can anyone honestly tell me that there is not a connection between our lowered standards and the corruption we read about in the newspaper every day? I think there is. In a time when there are so many things that are not working, why don’t we make sure that our voting process IS working right. Why don’t we treat our voting privilege with the dignity it deserves?

Waitsel Smith

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Newspapers Need to Be More Relevant

In a recent newspaper editorial, the editor titled his piece, “News has to go digital or go home.” I think he needed to change that to “Newspapers have to become more relevant or expect a well-deserved death.”

Going digital, while a necessary step, is certainly not the answer to what’s wrong with newspapers. The digital era has offered an additional means of delivery for papers, but it is their look and content, which haven’t changed in over 85 years, that is presently killing them. Newspapers, like everything else, have to change with the times.

I was at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the early seventies, studying Radio-Television-and-Motion Pictures, when everyone was predicting the death of Hollywood and the film industry because television was having such a heyday. Theaters were closing, studios that had been producing theatrical films switched to television, unemployment in the film industry was at an all-time high. Then George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, two independent filmmakers, came along and re-taught the industry how to make movies.

The newspaper industry just needs to re-learn how to do newspapers. Comics, horoscopes, crossword puzzles, “Dear Abby” and columnists with homespun humor may have worked in the 1930s; but in the age of graphic novels, 3D movies and video games, readers expect more.

When I was editor of my high school newspaper, I wanted it to be more than just a four-page cheering section for the athletic teams and student council. I wanted it to be a news magazine that was relevant to kids who were also reading Playboy and Seventeen. So I expanded the format to eight pages, filled it with photo essays and columnists, and increased our readership and advertising, with the help of my advertising manager. For one brief year, the Lenoir High Mountaineer was something more than just your typical high school newspaper.

Don’t get me wrong: I think the current editorial staff of the News Topic is doing a terrific job. But I hope they don’t think that the next level is simply going digital. I hope they envision a paper whose very look and content is different from what my grandparents read. We’re not just living in a digital age. We’re living in an age where, if you’re not relevant in your look and content, you’re yesterday’s news.

Waitsel Smith

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Owen And Haatchi

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South Dakota sculptor John Lopez creates life-size scrap metal sculptures with a uniquely American look. In his hands, old discarded farm equipment is recycled into sculptures of iconic creatures from the American West, such as bison, a horse plowing a field and a Texas Longhorn. Lopez already had a career as a bronze sculptor; but after creating a memorial for a deceased aunt using scrap metal, he began creating sculptures out of found objects.

“My favorite part about these pieces is the texture,” says Lopez. “I just start grabbin’ stuff from the pile and welding it in, and, if you weld together enough of the same thing over and over, it creates this really cool texture that I’ve never seen in these kinds of pieces before. I think that’s what draws people in.”

Lopez’s pieces are unique in many ways. In addition to the textures, there is a nostalgic, sci-fi feel to them that harkens back to the TV show, The Wild Wild West. It would not be hard to imagine Artemus Gordon or Jules Verne inventing such creatures. It would also not be difficult to imagine them moving. Three things are certain: they are very creative, they are very well made, and the anatomy is impeccable. Obviously Lopez is a student of the wildlife of the American plains.

Lopez is a fascinating artist with an interesting story. I encourage you to visit his web site and read his bio. The link is at the end of this article.

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