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Ben Garrett

Write. Hike. Eat. Repeat.

I am a 30-something journalist from East Tennessee. My wife and I (and our twins, and dog, and 3 hermit crabs) reside on the eastern boundary of the Big South Fork, where I am editor-publisher of the hometown newspaper and she is an elementary school teacher.

This isn’t ISIS

Football fans, you can all rest easier about the New England Patriots and their role in Deflategate. Quarterback Tom Brady says it’s no big deal.

Because, you know, this isn’t ISIS:

“This isn’t ISIS, this isn’t, you know, no one’s dying,” Brady said. “But you know, we’ll get through this and hopefully we can really start preparing for Seattle and, you know, get our mind focused there, because they’re going to take, you know, all my mental energy for the next 10 days.”

You see, Brady has his head screwed on straight. He has his priorities in order. He knows that sports aren’t life. There are more important things to worry about. 

So as long as an NFL player isn’t pulling a gun out of his sock and gunning down his competition on the field, the rest of us should just get over it. 

Sports are just sports.

That probably explains why NFL commish Roger Goodell went so easy on Ray Rice for punching out his girlfriend in an elevator. It wasn’t ISIS. No one died.

Maybe that’s why the NCAA is considering a deal that would give back all of Joe Paterno’s vacated wins as a result of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, which would posthumously return Paterno to his pedestal as college football’s all-time winningest coach. I mean, sure, Paterno knew that Sandusky was raping boys and did nothing about it . . . but, hell, it isn’t like he hung somebody. Nobody died.

Perhaps Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll should call the NCAA and tell them they want their Heisman and national championship trophies back. It isn’t like anybody died.

While we’re at it, University of Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart needs to get on the horn with the NCAA and inform them that Donnie Tyndall isn’t ISIS, either, so they can back off those alleged infractions that occurred under Tyndall’s watch at Southern Miss. 

Nobody died at Southern Miss, did they? 

This explains why Urban Meyer is treated with kid gloves by the media for overseeing one of the most lawless teams in modern NCAA football history, including former NFL player (from the Patriots, incidentally) Aaron Hernandez. It wasn’t ISIS. No one died.

Oh, wait. Hernandez did kill two people. Never mind.

In the same press conference, Brady bemoaned the fact that Deflategate is tainting the Patriots’ AFC championship, saying he hates that the incident is taking away from the Patriots’ accomplishments.

Here’s a newsflash for ya, Tom: Don’t cheat, and your accomplishments won’t be tainted. 

Seems pretty simple to me.

Update: Snow chances incoming

UPDATE: Today’s 18z run of the GFS continues to hammer the state of Tennessee on Super Bowl Sunday. A verbatim take-away from this particular run would be more than a foot of snow for the northern Cumberland Plateau, followed by plunging temperatures (in the teens on Monday and Tuesday after the Super Bowl, bottoming out at 1 degree Tuesday morning). That just seems unlikely, if for no reason than storms like that are very rare in this part of the world (plenty of other reasons why it seems unlikely, too, but that’s a post for another day). Still, the GFS has been pretty darned consistent with this storm. I’m not going to be surprised when the model loses the storm, but it bears watching.

The original post follows . . .

Two chances for accumulating snow present themselves to the northern Cumberland Plateau over the next four days. The more detailed previous post is here.

There is still a lot about the system that will impact our region tomorrow that is left to speculation, and even more about the clipper system that will follow on Sunday. It’s still possible that we could see accumulating snow with both of these systems, but the chances of significant accumulation — which were low to begin with — are gradually decreasing.

A winter weather advisory has been issued for the North Carolina side of the mountains, but there are no advisories for East Tennessee . . . at least not yet. The National Weather Service’s Morristown weather field office is currently forecasting around an inch of snow for the Plateau tomorrow night as colder air filters in behind the departing storm system and changes rain over to snow. That forecast comes in the form of a special weather statement. The zone forecast from NWS doesn’t call for the rain-to-snow transition to take place tomorrow night until 4 a.m. Precipitation could start as snow tomorrow morning before transitioning to rain, but accumulation shouldn’t be an issue.

Bottom line: an inch or two of wet, slushy snow is possible tomorrow night. It shouldn’t create much in the way of road hazards. Ground temperatures are warm after a week of mild temps, and temperatures won’t drop much below freezing — if at all — Friday night.

The next system moves in for the weekend, and temperatures are again an issue. The NWS is currently forecasting rain Sunday night, followed by rain and snow Monday and finally transitioning to all snow Monday night as colder temperatures filter in. This is a clipper system, coming from the northwest, and northern stream systems are notoriously moisture-starved. This is a rather robust system, as clipper systems go, but it’ll be interesting to see if enough moisture can be squeezed out for accumulating snow before the system departs. Models have generally been trending further north and weaker with this system, which decreases the chances for accumulating snow.

So the easiest way to sum it up is that confidence is lower that snow will accumulate along the northern Cumberland Plateau than it was 24 hours ago. These types of systems do well when there is a good cold air source to tap, but in this case there isn’t. With a stronger pool of arctic air lurking just to our north, we could have seen a solid thump of snow tomorrow, followed by colder temperatures and another thump of snow on top of that from the clipper system on Monday. As it stands, any snow accumulation Friday night should be meager, and temperatures on Saturday will guarantee that it’s quickly gone, followed by more marginal temps as the next system moves in Sunday night into Monday.

Beyond that, there’s nothing showing up next week to get excited about if you like winter weather, and there’s a possibility that our snowless stretch (as far as accumulating snow is concerned) may continue into Super Bowl weekend. That’s when things could get interesting. Models have for days been depicting a fairly major winter storm for the Mid-South the first couple of days of February, and it’s still there on the latest model runs. Today’s 12z run of the GFS model depicts a major snowstorm for almost all of Tennessee, with a half-foot of snow for the northern plateau. I wouldn’t bank on that, but there is a chance of a winter storm impacting the region as we head into Super Bowl weekend. It’s something to keep an eye on, anyway.


Why shouldn’t Belichick be banned?

There are a few reasonable pundits out there, but for the most part, any suggestion that the New England Patriots should be banned from Super Bowl XLIX for their role in Deflategate is met with mockery and scorn. (Case in point: ESPN’s Skip Bayless.)

But why shouldn’t the Patriots be banned?

Let’s make a couple of things clear: One, the use of the under-inflated footballs did not affect the outcome of the game. Two, the NFL is clearly not going to ban the Patriots from the Super Bowl. So everything I’m about to say is rhetorical. But bear with me.

First,  the Patriots led Indianapolis 17-7 at halftime. That’s when the Colts notified NFL officials with allegations that New England’s balls were under-inflated. The issue was seemingly corrected at halftime . . . and then the Patriots outscored the Colts 28-0. And as someone who is certainly not a fan of Colts owner Jim Irsay, I loved every minute of it. Make no mistake: A simple football does not make a difference in the outcome of a 45-7 game. That’s like saying officials were the reason your team lost its basketball game by 30 points.

Second, there’s no way the NFL is going to boot the Patriots from the Super Bowl. It would be a logistical nightmare. Exactly who do you put in their place? The Colts team who was beaten by the Pats by 38 points? Let the Colts and the Broncos play a losers’ bracket game to see who gets in, as USA Today’s Chris Chase jokingly suggests? NFL guidelines for rules-breaking are clear, and they don’t include game forfeits. It’s likely that the franchise, and perhaps Bill Belichick, will be fined, and the Patriots could lose a draft pick.

But why shouldn’t the sanctions be much harder-hitting than that? Why shouldn’t the Patriots be banned from the Super Bowl? I think it’s hard to make a compelling argument that the idea is as stupid and preposterous as commentators like Skip Bayless would have us believe.

It’s been a tough 18 months for the NFL. The league’s reputation is sullied, and it just keeps getting worse. If commissioner Roger Goodell really wanted to send a message that the NFL is trying to clean up its image, he could come down hard on its most visible coach and franchise — and most notorious cheater.

You see, that is the crux of the issue. Not the fact that the Patriots cheated in a game they won 45-7. They didn’t have to cheat to beat the Colts. But they cheated anyway. Why? Because they’re the Patriots. And that’s what they do.

It’s a running topic of discussion in the NFL that the once-dominant Patriots, who won three Super Bowls between 2002 and 2005, have not won the big game since they were busted for spying on opposing teams’ play signals (they went back to the Super Bowl in 2008 and 2012, losing both). Did Spygate help the Patriots win any of those three Super Bowls? It would be tough to make a convincing argument that it did. But the simple fact is that the Patriots cheated.

They didn’t do it because they needed to. They did it because they could.

Fast-forward seven years, and the Patriots are again caught cheating. Not because they needed to, but because they could.

If the balls are proven to have been purposely deflated — and with 11 of 12 being deflated, it’s just about impossible to come to any other conclusion — it paints a picture of the Patriots and Belichick as repeat offenders.

It also paints a picture of arrogance; a picture of the Patriots and Belichick thumbing their noses at the NFL and every other franchise in the league.

ESPN’s Brian Dawkins asked an interesting question on the network’s “First Take” program: If we find out they’re doing these two things (Spygate and Deflategate), what else are they doing that we don’t know about?

Good question.

ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan calls for the Patriots’ arrogance to be met with stern consequences from the NFL.

And it should be. When Belichick was fined the league-maximum $500,000 but avoided suspension, while the Patriots lost a first round draft pick, in the aftermath of Spygate, pundits declared the penalty much too light.

And it was.

But back then the Patriots were first-time offenders. Now they have a record. And they don’t care. (Consider this fairly damning opinion piece by Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg.)

Belichick has long been the NFL’s black sheep. He doesn’t care. Other coaches and players hate him. He relishes that role.

And his legacy is already tainted (hence the nickname, Belicheat).  That doesn’t bother him, either. If he can pick up a fourth Super Bowl ring one week from Sunday, he’s going to be the last person to care if it has an asterisk by it and is considered tainted in the court of public opinion.

But this isn’t just about Belichick and the Patriots being tainted. This is about the NFL being tainted. Goodell’s spinelessness have threatened the integrity of the game before, and its integrity is again being threatened by Belichick’s persistent arrogance. As MacMullan said: this deserves a tough stance by Goodell and the NFL.

No, the Patriots aren’t going to be banned from the Super Bowl. That just isn’t feasible. But Bill Belichick can be. Deny him an opportunity to earn that fourth ring. Force the Patriots to play the Super Bowl with a coordinator standing in as interim head coach. A lot of people agree that Deflategate should result in a suspension for Belichick — the suspension he deserved but avoided in Spygate. So suspend him.

And start the suspension with Super Bowl XLIX.

The cost of dry

During a discussion about whether his county should increase its hotel-motel tax last night, hotel owner Don Stansberry III pointed out that he lost $18,000 from a single customer due to the county being “dry” (no liquor sales permitted).

Grand Vista Hotel is in Huntsville, Tenn. (pop. 1,237). Despite several attempts, its residents have rejected liquor-by-the-drink referendums, with the last such effort coming in November.

Addressing Scott County Commission, Stansberry said pointed out that a group of Japanese businessmen who were in town on business last year needed a place to stay — 15 rooms per night for two weeks. But, he said, “They flat-out told us that they would not stay in a community where they couldn’t get a drink with their supper. So they went to Knoxville. Every night.” 

That single lodging bill would have amounted to nearly $18,000, Stansberry said. And it would have generated more than $1,000 in hotel-motel tax revenue for Scott County.

Obviously that’s an extreme situation, and not one that is likely to repeat itself very often. Arguments that legalized liquor will result in a business boom are overstated, just as arguments that legalized liquor will lead to an increase in drunken driving and the moral decline of the community are overstated. Liquor availability is a factor for many full-service restaurant franchises, but only a small one. Potential customer traffic is by far the largest factor, and obviously a town of less than 1,300 in a county of just 22,000 isn’t going to provide that traffic. (On the other hand, many of those same restaurant chains that typically serve alcohol located stores in Pigeon Forge before that town voted to go “wet.”) In fact, if Scott County were big enough for a full-service restaurant chain, it would be one of the ones that do not serve alcohol. The lower-end chains, which typically move into smaller communities first, do not serve liquor: Shoney’s, Cracker Barrel, etc.

Winfield, Tenn. — another tiny town in Scott County — legalized both package stores and liquor-by-the-drink two years ago. Its economy hasn’t benefited, and the tax revenue impact has been hardly noticeable. 

Of course, by the same token, Winfield hasn’t seen an increase in traffic accidents due to drunk driving, its crime rate hasn’t decreased, and its people are no more or less moral than they were before.

I suppose the bottom line is this: Is legalized liquor going to bring an economic boon to the tiny town of Huntsville, Tenn.? No. But would legalized liquor in 2014 have made the town’s only motel at least $18,000 richer and put a little extra money in the county’s tax coffers. Yes.

I’ll be honest: if liquor stores relied on me for business, they would go broke in a hurry. But I’ll also be honest and say that I, by definition, drink socially . . . not because of the settings in which I have alcoholic beverages but because of the amount I drink. On average, I have no more than a glass of wine a week, but I do keep a few bottles of wine, along with a bottle or two of bourbon, on hand.

I said that in the interest of full disclosure before saying this: Typically, we vote against liquor based upon our Christian values. And that is another example of hypocrisy in politics. Conservatives — a group that encompasses most Christians — are quick to say that they want limited government, and that they want government out of people’s lives, and they’re equally quick to pull the lever against alcohol sales whenever it appears on the ballot.

I’ve never had the opportunity to vote in a liquor referendum; I live in the beautiful, unincorporated countryside. But I’m as big of a political hypocrite as anyone. I’m a teetotaler on abortion, and while my ballot is typically split between Republicans and Democrats, views on that particular issue play a fairly large role in how I vote. If I truly favor limited government (I do), should I be voting for constitutional amendments increasing the government’s role by giving it the authority to regulate who can and cannot abort a pregnancy? 

Of course, if that were the main subject of this post, I would write a lengthy argument about why it is completely necessary, from my point-of-view, to vote against abortion. But it just goes to show that few things are black and white — especially in politics.

And especially in religion. I saw a Facebook post recently by someone decrying the parental values of someone who had a child in their shopping cart while purchasing wine at a grocery store. (In other words, you shouldn’t have your children with you in the grocery if you’re going to be purchasing alcohol.) Somewhere around the time of prohibition in the U.S., Baptists and other protestant denominations took a hard-line stance on alcohol. It was a political stance as much as any other (interestingly, Baptists in Europe are largely unopposed to alcohol). But it stuck. Today, we — as protestants — continue to toe a hard line on alcohol. There was once a time when I would have been completely opposed to alcoholic drink of any sort. That’s just the world I was raised in. In my adult years, however, I’ve studied my Bible and related commentaries and I cannot make a convincing argument that the Bible demands that we, as Christians, abstain from alcoholic drink.

But that’s a post for a different day.

Who knew?

Pope Francis is backtracking from his controversial “breed like rabbits” remark, saying now that large families are “a blessing from God.” 

So he makes a dumb statement, gets called on it, then wants to back peddle and save face? 

Yeah, I see the similarities: 


Who says Baptists and Catholic have nothing in common?


Cover TN: A political quagmire?

When Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced Cover Tennessee in mid December, he became the third Republican governor since the midterm elections to endorse Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion plan.

That expansion plan, mandated in the original legislation but struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court and made optional, calls for Medicaid coverage to be expanded to 138 percent of the poverty level. In Tennessee, that means another 142,000 people would become eligible for government-sponsored health care coverage.

Here’s the interesting question, though, posed by someone during a lull in last night’s high school basketball game action: who is going to be willing to carry Haslam’s Cover Tennessee bill in the General Assembly?

As has been well noted, Tennessee is a deeply red state. At no point in its history has Tennessee been as Republican as it is right now, with only five Democrats left in the State Senate. It’s a swift change for a state that hadn’t seen Republicans control its legislature since reconstruction, and it’s a big part of why Barack Obama has chosen Tennessee twice in the last couple of months to tout major policy reforms (first his executive action on immigration in Nashville, then the free-community-college-for-all plan that he modeled after Haslam’s Tennessee Promise initiative while in Knoxville earlier this month).

But Haslam poses a bit of a problem for conservative Republicans. He’s a moderate who has moved even more towards the center since his re-election (with ease) in November. That part hasn’t been much of a problem for the state GOP in the past, but it could be now. As the conservative-minded Washington Times editorialized last month, Haslam’s Cover Tennessee initiative “undercuts the Republican argument that Obamacare is a bad thing.”

Moderates and liberals will be quick to say, “So?” But that concern might not be so easily dismissed. Haslam has already indicated that he feels he’ll need the undivided support of the waning Democrat representation in the legislature — 26 in the House along with the five in the Senate — to get Tennessee Promise through, which means he expects opposition from his own party.

And the question is quickly centering around just who in the Senate will want to be tagged as being the Republican who will carry the bill. For many Republicans, that isn’t a title they’ll be eager to carry back to their deeply-red districts, where opposition to Obamacare remains high amongst voters. Mark Norris is the Republican leader in the Senate, and as such, he’s the fellow who would ordinarily carry the governor’s legislative agenda. But he has not committed to doing that. In fact, he went so far as to tell the Associated Press earlier this month that he doesn’t think there’s “much appetite” for the governor’s proposal.

House Republican leader Gerald McCormick has already agreed to carry the bill there, but he is reluctant about doing so, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey is in a wait-and-see mode — in other words, he’s putting the ball in the House’s court.

Haslam’s Cover Tennessee initiative is a bit different than the straight Medicaid expansion plans that have been adopted in other states. Although it does expand TennCare in one sense, it uses much of the federal money to issue vouchers for private insurance — an effort to quell fears of “government-run” healthcare. It also includes a stipulation that the plan will be axed should the federal dollars ever stop rolling in — an effort to quell his own party’s concerns that the Medicaid expansion could end up costing Tennessee millions of dollars somewhere down the road.

But, again, it isn’t that simple. It’s easy to argue that Tennessee shouldn’t turn down “free money” — although it is simply a larger chunk of our own tax dollars being returned to our state by the federal government — and few people are going to disagree with that, except for the extreme right-wing arm of the Republican Party who objects to Obamacare merely as a matter of principle. On the other hand, there will eventually be cuts to Obamacare’s funding for state Medicaid expansions. It’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.” The federal government — Republican administrations and Democrat administrations alike — have already proven that they cannot be counted on to keep their promises on long-term funding matters, and you don’t have to look any further than the original Medicaid program to find a perfect example.

What then? While Haslam’s plan supposedly includes an out for the state for when the federal government cuts back its funding, that will prove to be much easier said than done. If the current legislature approves Cover Tennessee, and in 10 years the funding is rolled back, can you imagine being an elected representative or state senator in Tennessee voting to cut off health care coverage for nearly 200,000 people? You can’t do it; it would be political suicide.

In other words: Once Cover Tennessee passes, Cover Tennessee is permanent.

So questions of future cost certainly are — and should be — a concern.

The question that was posed to me last night by someone whose political views I respect was this: “Why not, for once, put politics aside and stop worrying about the political ramifications down the road and do what’s right by the people?”

Ordinarily, I would agree. And there’s no doubt that Medicaid expansion would benefit Tennesseans. I’ve said many times that in the world’s most prosperous nation, we should be able to extend affordable health care coverage to every citizen.

But an expansion of Medicaid isn’t just about political ramifications down the road. It’s about cost. The political ramifications are what they are, and no one is going to vote sometime in the future to cut Cover Tennessee . . . it doesn’t matter whether it’s Republicans or Democrats in control of the state legislature when that time comes.

What then? TennCare is already an out-of-control goblin in the state’s annual budget. If Tennessee expands coverage, and then the federal money stops coming, how is it paid for? A state income tax? Program cuts elsewhere?

It’s an interesting situation for current legislators. On the one hand, it is free money, and their party’s governor is asking for their support. On the other hand, there are future costs to worry about.

Of course, I dare say most Republicans in the legislature who are hesitant about Haslam’s bill aren’t thinking so much about the future cost. You won’t find many politicians — no matter which letter they wear after their name — who worry about things like that. Most of them are doubtlessly worried about the ramifications come next election; worried about being the guy who voted to support Obamacare. In that case, I do agree with the question quoted above: it’s time to set aside politics and do what’s right for a change. As up-and-coming politico Weston Wamp tweeted during last night’s State of the Union (in regards to sick leave for workers), everything doesn’t have to be a 100% Republican issue or a 100% Democrat issue. Unfortunately, ,most of our elected representatives at both the state and federal level have forgotten that.

Accumulating snow possible Friday

For the first time since November, there’s enough evidence to say that accumulating snow is possible for the northern Cumberland Plateau in a couple of days. 

Weird, huh? We’ve been plenty cold for the month of January, with no snow to be found — at least nothing more than token snow flurries. But, now, as we’re enjoying our fifth consecutive day of sunshine and mild (some would even go so far as to say “warm”) temperatures, there’s a potential snowfall to talk about. 

Such is winter in the Mid-South.

So here’s the setup: a disturbance is developing over the southern Rockies today that will push eastward as we go into the end of the week. By Friday, a low pressure system is riding the Gulf of Mexico, pulling in colder air as it lays down a swath of precipitation to its north. The major models — the GFS and NAM models that are employed by the U.S.’s National Weather Service, the ECMWF in Europe and the Canadian GGEM model — all depict a scenario where rain changes over to snow across parts of Middle and West Tennessee as the colder air moves in during the day on Friday.

But it’s going to be close.

A verbatim takeaway from the 0z run of the GFS model puts the freezing mark at the 850mb level of the atmosphere — a very rough guesstimate of where temperatures will become cold enough to support snow — right along the northern plateau, with colder 850 temps to our west and warmer 850 temps to our east. The higher elevation of the Cumberland Plateau will help a bit in this scenario, prompting a switchover to snow faster than if the location here were the same as, say, Knoxville. But that’s assuming the temperatures in the mid-levels of the atmosphere play out as depicted by that particular run of the GFS.

850mb temperatures aren’t the only issue. Surface temperatures are also marginal. In fact, temperatures will more than likely be just above freezing for the duration of the precipitation. As we all know, accumulating snow can and does occur with above-freezing temperatures . . . but only if the rate of precipitation is high enough. Light snow in air that is 33 or 34 degrees is basically worthless. Throw in the fact that this will be occurring during the day — and while the sun angle is still low relative to where it will be in another month or so, it’s a lot higher than it was at the first of January — and the ground temperatures that have warmed considerably under nearly a week of mild weather, and there’s certainly no guarantee that this will be enough to cause any significant issues.

Another caveat is that most of the precipitation along the main part of the system will be rain, and the snow will come with a deformation band that sits up a little further to the west. In these scenarios, locations under the deformation band typically receive moderate accumulation, but that area of moderate accumulation can be somewhat restricted. For an illustration, here’s a frame from the 12z NAM model, and you can se the deformation band of snow back between Clarksville and Nashville:

Nam4km ref frzn seus 20

Winter storms in the South typically are akin to threading a needle, and this one will certainly be no exception. If temperatures were 2-3 degrees colder throughout the atmosphere, this could have been a fairly significant winter storm. If the system were to be just a bit further south and east, it could be a moderate snowfall event for the northern plateau. If the timing were a bit delayed, with the bulk of the precipitation coming during the nighttime hours Friday into Saturday, it could be a moderate snowfall event. As it currently stands, though, temperatures may prove to be a significant issue. It’s going to be oh-so-close between nothing more than a glorified dusting with wet streets and a couple or three inches of snow with a few travel problems developing as temperatures drop slightly below freezing Friday night.

With all that said, here’s the 24-hour snow potential for Friday from NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center. As you can see, the northern plateau is more or less in the bullseye of the probabilities for at least an inch of snow, currently at 50 percent according to the WPC’s meteorologists. I suspect this is a bit far east and it might be adjusted westward as we go through the next 18 to 24 hours.


For now, the NWS’s Morristown field office is playing it safe in its forecast for Oneida, forecasting a rain-snow mix Friday and Friday night with a high temperature on Friday of 41 degrees.The text forecast calls for “snow likely,” changing to rain after 10 a.m. Friday, then changing back to snow after 10 p.m. Friday night. In its forecast discussion, NWS-Morristown predicts a “couple of inches” of snow across the plateau.

The Cobb algorithm — a textual take-away from the models’ raw data — shows 1.7 inches of snow for the northern plateau Friday morning before a changeover to rain, using the NAM model. Using data from the GFS model, the Cobb isn’t nearly as boisterous on the plateau’s snow chances.

Snow-lovers will be happy to note that the Friday event isn’t the only potential snow-producer for this region in the coming days. A clipper system will move in late in the weekend and that, too, will bring the potential for at least some minor accumulations Sunday night into Monday. The GFS model has been locked onto this system for the better part of a week, and shows a quite robust system, as northern-stream clipper systems go. NWS-Morristown is fairly blunt in its forecast discussion this morning, saying that this system has the potential to lay down “several inches” of accumulation in the valley, with “significantly” more accumulation in higher elevations. Look for a hazardous weather outlook to be issued by the NWS soon to address the potential. Again, though, models show surface temperatures as questionable.

Michael Moore: Wrong so often

As Michael Moore stirs his latest pot of stink, calling “American Sniper” Chris Kyle a “coward,” you can’t help but wonder: how is it possible for one man to be on the wrong side of so many issues?

Moore may be the only person this side of televangelist Pat Robertson who can manage to create controversy by merely opening his mouth. And, like Robertson, most of what he says is garbage.

But at least Robertson is only mildly offensive. We tend to treat Robertson like our black sheep uncle — the family member who we’ve always been convinced is slightly senile, but who is mostly harmless as he sits to the side of the room at family get-togethers and blabbers incessantly about things no one else in the room cares about.

Moore, on the other hand, spews vile every time he opens his mouth. From his treatment of an ailing Charlton Heston while filming his anti-gun documentary to one of a half-dozen other highly-publicized incidents, Moore has already proven that he has no scruples as a “filmmaker.” And while I hate seeing the term “unAmerican” bandied about, sometimes the shoe fits . . . and Moore wears it proudly.

I have no problem with Moore having opinions. I know I have opinions that some people would view offensive. But why is Michael Moore still considered “mainstream”? 

ATVs on the highway?

A hot topic of debate in Huntsville, Tenn., in recent months has been what should be done about ATV traffic on the state highway that serves as the main (and only) drag through town.

Huntsville is a popular — and still growing — destination for off-road enthusiasts, with Brimstone Recreation’s 20,000 acres of private ATV resort land in the Cumberland Mountains called by some publications the nation’s No. 1 destination for riders, and a competing business, Trails End Campground, offering access to the adjacent 140,000-acre North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area.

Nearly a decade ago, Brimstone began hosting twice-a-year festivals. The Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend events attract thousands from across the eastern United States, mixing music and trail-riding in what Brimstone bills as the ATV world’s Woodstock. More recently, Trails End has been offering festivals on the same weekends. It all adds up to a huge crowd in town. For the first several years of those festivals, it was well known among ATV riders that local law enforcement would turn a blind eye to ATV riders on the roadways during those weekends, allowing them to get from Point A to Point B with relatively little problem. 

Two years ago, the Tennessee Highway Patrol began strict enforcement of the state’s laws prohibiting ATVs on highways. Hundreds of citations have been written to ATV riders, and business owners along the highway through Huntsville say their business has been hurt drastically during those event weekends.

The Tennessee attorney general last year opined that the state’s new adventure tourism statute would permit ATV riders to on the highway so long as their ATV was properly registered as a low-speed vehicle. The Town of Huntsville had already received approval from the state as an adventure tourism district under that statute, and had used provisions of the statute to legalize ATV traffic on all town-owned streets. But THP opines that few — perhaps no — ATV can be legally registered as a low-speed vehicle. And THP is right. State law clearly states that low-speed vehicles that are registered as street-legal must have a minimum speed of 30 mph and a maximum speed of 35 mph . . . which makes it impossible for ATVs to comply.

State Senator Ken Yager has proposed a solution: just legalize ATV traffic on S.R. 63 completely. His legislation has been filed in the Senate, amending an existing statute that legalizes ATV traffic on a portion of S.R. 116 in Anderson County.

The Department of Safety is said to be opposed to the bill, and in a recent meeting with the Scott County Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, THP Sgt. Johnny McDonald opined that the federal government might withhold funding from Tennessee if it permits ATVs on state- or federally-owned highways. However, a portion of S.R. 116 west of Lake City has been legal for ATV traffic for several years, and state highways in popular ATV areas in Kentucky and West Virginia have been legalized for ATV traffic without federal opposition as well.

The battle should be an interesting one as it plays out this spring.

OSSD lunch policy an unfortunate necessity

An editorial in this week’s newspaper:

A move by the Oneida Special School District to provide “alternative lunches” to students with unpaid meal debt is an unfortunate necessity.

And it is a necessity that is being adopted by many school systems across the United States as a method of combatting growing school cafeteria debt. In fact, while many don’t realize it, the Scott County School System has had a similar policy in place for several years.

Federal guidelines require schools to serve meals to students that meet certain nutritional guidelines. Schools cannot, for example, provide students something as simple as bread and water. But there is leeway within those guidelines, and that’s where schools across the country are combatting unpaid lunches. The alternate lunches are bare-bones meals — a sandwich instead of a hot meal, for example — that still meet the federal guidelines while costing the cafeteria less to prepare.

The problem at Oneida, and at many other places where schools have adopted alternate lunch policies in recent years, is a clear one. At Oneida, the cafeterias’ debt from unpaid student lunches climbed to $8,000 by the end of December, according to director of schools Ann Sexton. Cafeterias are not allowed to operate in the red. State guidelines prevent that — which means that funds must be pulled from other programs to correct those debts.

The solution is less clear. As a general rule, there are only two solutions to solving a debt problem: raise taxes on everyone, which is clearly not a preferable solution, or make cuts in other areas to divert funding. Either way, someone must pay.

Should schools cut programs such as band or music to reroute that funding to unpaid student lunches? Athletics programs? Classroom technology?

Continue reading . . .

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  • Update: Snow chances incoming
  • Why shouldn't Belichick be banned?
  • The cost of dry
  • Who knew?
  • Cover TN: A political quagmire?
  • Accumulating snow possible Friday
  • Michael Moore: Wrong so often
  • ATVs on the highway?
  • OSSD lunch policy an unfortunate necessity
Posts on this page
  • This isn't ISIS
  • Update: Snow chances incoming
  • Why shouldn't Belichick be banned?
  • The cost of dry
  • Who knew?
  • Cover TN: A political quagmire?
  • Accumulating snow possible Friday
  • Michael Moore: Wrong so often
  • ATVs on the highway?
  • OSSD lunch policy an unfortunate necessity