Tennessee vs. Appalachian State

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So I’m helping Hillary — big deal

If I’ve been told it once, I’ve been told it a thousand times these past few months: “If you vote third party, you’re helping Hillary Clinton win the election.” 

It’s said as if it’s an ominous threat, as if Hillary Clinton’s election as president would be a doomsday scenario for the United States.

Let’s make no mistake: Hillary Clinton is one of the most dishonest, crooked, untrustworthy candidates to ever seek the White House. Her election will be a sad day for America.

But, with that said, pardon me if I don’t see a great deal of difference between Clinton and Donald Trump. 

Trump is also one of the most unsavory candidates to ever seek the White House. His election would likewise be a sad day for America.

So am I supposed to choose? 

I think not.

I’ve said over and over that I do not vote for the lesser of two evils. I vote my conscience. It’s true that Clinton’s election — given the advanced ages of several Supreme Court justices and Clinton’s own statements in support of drastic gun control measures — would likely imperil gun rights, an issue that is near and dear to me. It’s also true that Clinton’s stance on a number of other measures conflict with my own points of view.

By the same token, Trump’s election could very well be disastrous in terms of national security, and he has vowed policies that would intrude on a number of other civil rights besides the 2nd Amendment. He’s crude, he’s crass, he’s insulted many of my friends and neighbors who don’t look like him or act like him.  And on the all-important issue of the Supreme Court, there is hardly a guarantee that Trump would nominate justices who would rule correctly on the 2nd Amendment. Gun rights is a decidedly conservative issue in America, and Trump never espoused conservative points of view until he decided to run for president. In fact, he has in the past endorsed draconian socialist measures (confiscating wealth to pay down the U.S. debt) that not even Clinton would dare mention in her run for the White House.

The truth is, America is in deep cuckoo this time around. These are the two most corrupt and undesirable candidates to ever seek to be the leader of the free world. It’s embarrassing that in a nation of 318 million people, these are the best we could prop up to run for president. But it is what it is. And one of them is going to be president. 

The truth is that we have gotten into this position because America’s two-party system has failed us. No, the Republican establishment didn’t want Trump, but the establishment was undermined by the millions of Americans who were tee’d off at inaction and double-talk by the GOP. The truth is, Americans revolted on both sides of the political spectrum; it’s just that the DNC was more effective at employing underhanded tactics to prevent Bernie Sanders from taking over than the RNC was at preventing Trump from taking over.

Trump is not a conservative, and the Republican Party has completely failed conservative Americans as a result. Judging from the millions of Sanders supporters who refuse to endorse Clinton, I think we can safely say that liberal Americans feel the Democratic Party has failed them, too.

So what’s left? 

What’s left is for the 57% of Americans who find Trump untrustworthy and the 56% of Americans who find Clinton untrustworthy to send a message to the Washington cartel. 

That can be done by voting third party.

Don’t let anyone tell you that a third party vote is a wasted vote. That is a fear tactic employed by the powers-that-be in both major parties; a way of keeping the masses feeding at the Republican and Democratic teets. Too often, Americans fall for the idea that they’re wasting their vote if they don’t choose one of the two leading candidates, no matter how many times they have to shower to get the stench off them once they’ve left the polls. And, hey, if you so despise Clinton that you think Trump is an attractive choice — or if you so despise Trump that you think Clinton is an attractive choice — then vote your conscience, by all means. As for me, I see six of one and half a dozen of the other, and I’m making my statement by voting for neither.

Gary Johnson, of the Libertarian Party, has consistently polled between 11% and 14% this summer. If he can get to 15% in the major polls by Labor Day, he earns himself a spot on the debate stage alongside Trump and Clinton, which would expose him to millions of Americans who to this point don’t even know he exists. 

That last happened in 1992, when Texas billionaire Ross Perot earned a spot on the debate stage and went on to capture 19% of the vote in the general election. By contrast, he mounted an independent campaign again in 1996, failed to get on the debate stage, and received only 8% of the vote.

If Johnson were given the opportunity to debate, and captured the same successes that Perot accomplished in ’92, all the players for a political revolt would be on the table. If one out of every five Americans said “no” to Clinton and Trump, and “yes” to a third party candidate, the two major political parties would have to sit up and take notice.

Is Johnson fit to be president? No. Is he going to be president? No. 

But this isn’t about electing a third party candidate. This is about sending a message to the two parties who have become so embedded in their own corruption that they’ve created the complete disaster that is the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Look, Trump or Clinton is going to be president (and we can say with about 90% certainty that it’s going to be Clinton). There’s no changing that. For the plurality of Americans who think they both stink to high heavens, our only hope is that Congress can hold them in check over the next four years. And that none of our sitting SCOTUS justices kick the bucket or decide to retire. 

For those of us who don’t see much difference between the two, the choice is clear: Vote neither. Make a statement.

And don’t let anyone tell you that you’re throwing your vote away if you vote for someone other than a Republican or a Democrat. Don’t fall for the tricks of the two major parties who are mostly interested in maintaining their stranglehold on American politics. A vote is an individual choice, and it’s a sacred one — a right that too many Americans shed blood to obtain and preserve for anyone to feel they have to compromise it because they’re going to be wasting it if they don’t. If every American who feels disillusioned and disenfranchised by the current state of affairs in Washington banded together, they wouldn’t be wasting their votes…they would be making a powerful statement — and one that could potentially change the course of the nation.

ATVs on roads just makes sense

Scott County’s on-again, off-again debate over ATVs on public roads is currently on again, and is centered on whether ATVs should be permitted on back roads in and around the county’s popular off-road riding areas at Brimstone and the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area.

On July 5, I presented County Commission with a recommendation from the Scott County Adventure Tourism Committee to allow ATVs only on River Road — the road that is central to both riding areas and events that are hosted by Brimstone and Trails End Campground. 

While a plurality of commissioners supported the proposal, it failed to generate the two-thirds majority it needed for approval. With two commissioners who would’ve voted in favor of it unable to attend the vote on July 18, the measure was deadlocked at 6-6.

The issue is hardly settled, though, and will be back up for discussion when County Commission’s Intergovernmental Committee next meets on Aug. 1.

ATV tourism has grown rapidly in Scott County in recent years, supporting several full-time, part-time and temporary jobs, while also generating increased customer traffic for established businesses and in some cases giving rise to new businesses, such as Cabins of Elk Run, a “mom-and-pop” cabin rental outfit adjacent to Brimstone.

That increased tourism has resulted in additional tax revenue for the local community, including sales taxes that benefit the towns of Huntsville and Oneida, along with local schools, and lodging taxes, which goes into the county’s general fund for the purpose of funding tourism promotion and economic development and industrial recruitment efforts. 

In the fiscal year just ended, Scott County’s 5% lodging tax generated $70,000, up from $50,000 last fiscal year. And the Tennessee General Assembly earlier this year cleared the way for Scott County to add that lodging tax to campground rentals, which had previously been exempt. County Commission finalized that amendment earlier this month.

It isn’t clear how much the amended lodging tax will generate in revenue. But, according to Brimstone, more than 600 “overflow” campsites are offered on event weekends that are in addition to the permanent campsites. Brimstone’s website states that those primitive sites rent for $15 per night, and Brimstone officials have said in the past that those sites are always full during events. So when Hank Williams Jr. visits for Brimstone Paragon in September, those overflow sites will generate $500 per night in lodging tax receipts for Scott County, in addition to what permanent campsites at both Brimstone and Trails End generate.

That brings us back to River Road. A relatively new state law, passed in 2011 and amended in 2012, enables county and municipal governments to regulate ATV traffic on public roads. To do so, those roads must be located within an adventure tourism district, which has to be approved both at the local level and at the state level. Establishing an adventure tourism district requires local governments to formulate a business plan for how it intends to grow tourism, a map of included properties, and other paperwork requirements. 

Scott County’s Adventure Tourism Committee was established in 2014 with the purpose of applying for adventure tourism districts. That same year, the committee proposed an adventure tourism district that incorporates the areas around Brimstone and the WMA. It was approved by County Commission and the State of Tennessee.

To date, however, Scott County has not authorized ATV traffic on any public roads. That has created a lot of confusion as other laws have changed. In 2015, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill that allows ATVs on S.R. 63 through Huntsville on two event weekends each year. That law was supported by virtually every business owner along the S.R. 63 corridor, who said it is imperative to enable ATV riders access to public roads linking the riding areas in the mountains to their businesses in town. Also, the Town of Huntsville established an adventure tourism district that encompassed its entire town, and declared every road within the town legal for ATVs. 

So, currently, an ATV rider can leave Grand Vista Motel and travel on S.R. 63, during an event weekend, and be legal. The rider can turn onto the Courthouse Mall in downtown Huntsville, and be legal. But the second the rider crosses the city limits and enters the unincorporated part of Scott County, he becomes illegal. 

That has not been an issue until now. Local law enforcement have employed a sort of “gentlemen’s agreement.” As long as riders are otherwise riding responsibly, they’ll turn a blind eye to them riding on the road. But relying on a gentlemen’s agreement creates a tremendous insecurity for business owners whose livelihood relies on the ATV traffic. Sheriff’s elections are every four years and there’s no guarantee that the next election won’t bring a new sheriff who enforces the law regarding ATVs on the roadways to the letter. There’s also no guarantee that state law enforcement won’t decide to crack down on ATV travel on those roads, since any public road falls within their jurisdiction.

That, in fact, is what prompted the tourism committee to request ATV authorization on River Road. There has been the threat of increased patrol by state troopers on the roadway during Brimstone’s September event. There’s no guarantee that troopers would write every ATV rider a ticket even if they did show up to patrol the road, but they could. And if they did, they could virtually shut down the event, costing Brimstone what has been estimated at nearly a half-million-dollar investment. Furthermore, if they decided to show up every day, they could completely shut down Brimstone and Trails End entirely.

There is no overwhelming reason to not allow ATVs on River Road, along with other roads in the vicinity of the off-road riding areas. Some residents who live on those roads are opposed to ATV traffic on the roadway, but other residents who live on those roads are supportive of ATV traffic on the roadway. There’s no evidence that ATV traffic makes those roads less safe. In fact, if every ATV rider who attends the events were to trailer his ATV to the event area, River Road would become substantially less safe, because thousands of pickups pulling trailers and toy-haulers would be traveling a narrow, winding road that isn’t intended for such heavy traffic loads.

On the other hand, there are significant reasons to allow ATVs on the roadway. Brimstone Retreats — the lodging arm of Brimstone Recreation — generates nearly $80,000 annually in sales taxes and lodging taxes. The largest percentage goes to the state, but a significant part of the state’s portion is returned to local schools. The local-option portion of the sales tax goes to the Town of Huntsville, supporting things like paved roads and fire protection. The five percent lodging tax goes to Scott County to fund efforts to enhance the local economy. The $500-per-night that the campground lodging tax could generate during event weekend (just on primitive sites; the total amount would be higher) will not be realized if campers cannot use the road to link the campground to the event area and riding area. A number of businesses benefit from ATV tourism, not the least of which are Brimstone and Trails End. According to the Yarbrough Study completed last year, ATV tourism at Brimstone alone generates $5 million in revenue each year, and 80% of that revenue is generated at businesses that are not Brimstone. 

We don’t need trucks

As I watch the news — simultaneously heartbreaking and infuriating — coming out of France, I’m saddened by Western society’s love affair with big trucks. These are trucks that are designed only for industrial use and serve only one purpose — to deliver industrial loads. Civilians don’t need a box truck to haul stuff around! These trucks have no business in the hands of civilians.

It’s a shame that it’s easier for a kindergartener to get his hands on a steering wheel than it is for him to get his hands on a book. 

The terrorist in Nice had a criminal record but was still able to rent a truck. That’s a travesty. We must enact sensible vehicle laws that keep trucks out of the hands of criminals. No one is talking about infringing upon your rights. We aren’t coming after your pickup truck. You can keep your F150. But you don’t need a box truck to move your furniture.

Too soon? Well, yes, I suppose it is. But we all know that if Mohamed Bouhlel had used an AR-15 to mow down a crowd of people, the anti-gun politicians would have already jumped on it. They would’ve blamed the “military-style assault weapons,” they would’ve blamed Americans’ love of guns and they would’ve demanded that law-abiding gunowners go to the families of the victims in Nice and explain why they should have the right to own guns. Yet they would’ve ignored the fact that yet another mass murder has been committed. 

It’s convenient to have a scapegoat to blame these senseless mass murders on, but an AR-15 has never been used to kill 80+ and injure dozens more in a single setting. In the right environment, anything is a weapon. And an evil-minded perpetrator hell-bent on inflicting as much terror and torture as possible will use whatever weapon he has at his disposal. Maybe it’s a gun like in Orlando. Maybe it’s a bomb like in Boston. Maybe it’s a truck like in Nice. Or maybe it’s a passenger jet like in New York City.

The fact that all of these tragedies were carried out in the name of Allah, the fact that innocents — including at least 10 children in Nice — are being slaughtered in the ideology of radical Islam, remains the elephant in the room. How absurd is it that the very same politicians who refuse to participate in a moment of silence for terrorism victims because they want to protest the other side’s silence on guns are likewise silent on the issue of radical Muslims who are infiltrating normal society and carrying out these deadly acts? 

Meanwhile Donald J. Trump may be the most dangerous presidential candidate to ever seek the White House, but every time one of these incidents occur — whether here or abroad — it plays into his hands because it strengthens his argument that America must tighten down on its immigration laws.

STUNNING FOOTAGE: You can put a Go Pro on just about anything. Someone put one on an eagle as it ascended from the top of the Burj kalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. That’s a drop of more than 2,700 ft.

POLITICS SPILLS INTO BASKETBALL: New York’s ban on state-sponsored travel to North Carolina due to the Tarheel State’s new law requiring people to use the bathroom of the gender that matches their birth certificate is costing Duke a basketball game.

So, you tell me if I’ve got this right: The kids who chose to play basketball at Albany are losing what might be the most anticipated game of their career — a chance to travel to one of college basketball’s most storied venues and play one of college basketball’s most elite programs, a stage most of those players would never see otherwise. They’re losing it because of a state law that doesn’t affect any of them, a state law that was not decided by anyone who plays or coaches at Duke, all because New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to make a political statement.

Remind me again which side of this issue it is that is supposedly closed-minded and intolerant? Because from where I stand it’s kinda hard to tell.

Thanks for the memories, Timmy

As a kid and a young adult, I had the privilege of rooting for two of the greatest athletes to ever play their respective positions in their respective sports. And both of them, Peyton Manning and Tim Duncan, were among the best sportsmen to ever play their respective sports. Both have retired this year following long and illustrious careers that will eventually land them in the Hall of Fame.

It wasn’t because of their character that I became fans of Manning, who retired after winning the Super Bowl in January, or Duncan, who retired yesterday. As a teenager, you don’t necessarily care about character. I suppose the away-from-the-game side of Manning and Duncan was just an added bonus.

I was a Peyton Manning fan because he played at the University of Tennessee. It was as simple as that. He endeared himself to UT fans because of the way he played the game, but especially because he made the decision to stick around for one final season before jumping to the NFL. Heath Shuler, Tennessee’s last Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback before Manning, decided to forego his senior season of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft. Few Tennessee fans seriously followed his short NFL career, which began with the Washington Redskins and ended with the New Orleans Saints. But because Manning gave his all to the school and program that all of East Tennessee loved, most of East Tennessee instantly became Indianapolis Colts fans when Manning signed in 1998, then switched their allegiance to the Denver Broncos when Manning signed there towards the end of his career. Along the way, they watched the best quarterback to ever play at the University of Tennessee go on to arguably become the best quarterback to ever play, period.

I was a Tim Duncan fan because he signed with the San Antonio Spurs. I don’t remember exactly when I became a Spurs fan, but it was sometime in the late 1980s. I found — and bought — a David Robinson t-shirt at Walmart. I had some Robinson trading cards. I started following the box scores in the Knoxville News Sentinel every day. And, on clear nights, I could just barely pick up the AM radio station out of San Antonio — WOAI 1200 — just well enough to listen to the games.

As much as I was a fan of David Robinson — his quadruple double against the Pistons in 1994 and his 71 points against the Clippers a couple of months later to wrap up that season’s scoring title over Shaquille O’Neal — it was Duncan who was the missing link that made the Spurs great.

When Robinson suffered a season-ending injury in 1996, San Antonio limped to a league-worst record of 20-62, won the lottery that gave it the rights to the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, and the rest is history.

It was no secret that Tim Duncan, who was a star at Wake Forest, was going to be the top overall pick in 1997. But no one foresaw that pick going to the Spurs when the season began. The Spurs were coming off two seasons that featured 59 and 62 wins, respectively, and had signed former All-Star Dominique Wilkins.

But Robinson missed the first 18 games of the season with an injury. Three-point specialist Chuck Person was also injured. The Spurs were just 3-15 in that stretch, and general manager Gregg Popovich fired head coach Bob Hill, naming himself as Hill’s replacement.

I was convinced that Popovich, who had coached a Division III college team to a national championship in the 1980s but had never coached a minute of NBA ball, purposely timed his firing of Hill. I remain convinced of that to this day, even though the hatred I felt for Popovich at that point has evolved into admiration.

You see, when Popovich fired Hill, Robinson was set to return to the court. It wasn’t hard to envision the storyline. The Spurs had struggled to start, mostly because of injuries. But with Robinson back, the club was almost certain to rebound, and Popovich would be regarded as a savior.

Instead, Robinson played just six games before being injured again — and this time he was out for the season. Popovich and the Spurs won just 17 games the rest of the way, losing 47. It likely wasn’t the season that he had envisioned.

But, ironically, it reversed the Spurs fortunes from that moment to this day, 19 years later.

I remember precisely where I was when the Spurs won the draft lottery in 1997: in the living room of our family home on Black Creek, a high school senior. I remember precisely my reaction: jumping onto the couch with both feet and pumping my fist. The Spurs had just landed Tim Duncan.

I haven’t watched a lot of NBA as an adult, but I never miss the Spurs games. Watching Robinson and Duncan — and, later, Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — has been a privilege and a pleasure. The Spurs have won 1,072 games since drafting Duncan and have lost only 438. It’s the best 19-year stretch in NBA history, and Duncan and Popovich have won more games together than any player-coach combination in history.

Along the way, the Spurs never failed to make the playoffs and won five championship rings. Tim Duncan was a 15-time all-star and rides off into the sunset widely regarded as the best power forward in the history of the game.

A quiet, stoic player on the court, Duncan wasn’t about accolades or individual attention. He just wanted to win championships, and he did that very well. In that regard, he was very much like Peyton Manning: he let his playing do the talking for him. One leaves as perhaps the best quarterback to ever play, the other leaves as perhaps the best power forward to ever play. Both leave champions because of the way they conducted themselves both during and away from the games.

It was just by chance that my sports fandom revolved around two athletes so gifted and so respected. But it’s safe to say that professional sports may never see another duo like those two — not at the same time, anyway.

It was already going to be a little different watching NFL games this fall. Now it’ll be a little different watching NBA games this winter. I was a sports nut as a teen and remain very much a sports enthusiast as an adult…but never in my adult life have I watched football or basketball that didn’t involve Peyton Manning and Tim Duncan.

Thanks for the memories, Timmy. Enjoy your retirement.

This is on you, Mr. President

When incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same, and that hurts, and that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue, not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about.

Those were the words of President Barack Obama after 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot to death in St. Paul, Minn., earlier this week.

Never mind that the only publicly-available video of the incident showed a dying Castile slumping in his seat after the shots were fired. Never mind that the only side of the story we’ve heard is that of Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. 

Operating with only one side of the story, with only half the facts, President Obama declared that what happened was the fault of the police officer — because Castile was a black man. And, he said, “that should trouble all of us.” 

Fast-forward to this morning. Five police officers dead in Dallas. Seven more injured. A 25-year-old black man in custody. A “black power” group taking credit and promising more execution of police officers.

The blood of Dallas is on your hands, Mr. President.

It’s on your hands and the hands of every other politician and media figure who has used officer-involved shootings to fan the flames of racial strife regardless of the facts or circumstances. 

It’s on your hands because you told your audience that black men are killed by police officers as a holdover from the racial violence of the ‘60s, saying that perhaps within your children’s lifetimes, “all the vestiges of that past will have been cured.” It’s on your hands because you told your audience that police officers — not just white officers, apparently; the officer in St. Paul was Asian — kill black men because there is “racial disparity that exists in our criminal justice system.”

Time and again, Mr. President, you have used your platform as leader of the free world to wade into the sewage of racial discord, judging police officers without being armed with the facts. Now you’ve persuaded other politicians to your side, like Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, who proclaimed that the St. Paul incident would not have occurred “if the driver were white.” 

If you want to use the video of the shooting that occurred just a few days earlier in Baton Rouge, La., to claim that officers in that situation acted wrongly, fine. The video by itself is damning, showing white officers shooting a black man multiple times in the back as he was on the ground and subdued, although struggling.

But in Minnesota, you have no clue whether the officers acted inappropriately. You’re using one woman’s story to judge the actions of the officer…the story of a woman who clearly has an agenda. 

Before Castile was dead, his girlfriend was live-streaming on Facebook. It seems . . . weird. Weird that Reynolds had the presence of mind to pull up Facebook and begin live-streaming seconds after her boyfriend was shot multiple times just a couple of feet away from her. The way she was so calm, poised and collected. 

That doesn’t mean she’s a liar, of course, but it just seems strange. As if she was expecting conflict and already had Facebook pulled up on her phone and ready to go. 

The officer who shot Castile was much more distraught than Reynolds was. His voice betrays him. He is clearly beside himself at what he felt forced to do. 

Maybe he didn’t have to. Maybe the man was simply reaching for his wallet. Maybe the officer wrongly felt threatened because the man had already told him he was a carry permit holder and was armed. Maybe he even felt threatened because the man was black. 

And if that’s the case, maybe the Asian officer just doesn’t like black people. Or maybe he fears black people because there’s a larger cultural problem that stirs fear of black suspects among police officers. That wouldn’t make it any less of a problem, but it would certainly change the narrative. It would mean that the officer wasn’t motivated by malicious racism. It would mean that this is a problem that must be addressed not by reforming police departments but by addressing issues of crime and perception.

But maybe the officer had good reason to be afraid. Maybe Castile was reaching for his gun, as the officer said. 

We don’t know. We have seen no video except the video taken by a remarkably calm and collected girlfriend as her boyfriend sat dying in the seat next to her. 

We can say that Castile doesn’t fit the profile of a wanna-be cop-killer. He was by all accounts a good man, who snuck kids extra crackers at his job as a cafeteria employee. He had no serious criminal record. He wasn’t being stopped for anything other than a busted taillight. 

But we still don’t know. We’re still armed with only half the facts. 

As an assistant D.A. in my hometown said yesterday, you don’t form conclusions until you have 99% of the facts.

But that didn’t stop the Governor of Minnesota and the President of the United States from forming their conclusions with only 50% of the facts. It didn’t stop them from driving the racial wedge by standing in front of reporters and blaming not just that cop in St. Paul but cops everywhere. 

They fanned the flames and now four police officers are dead. 

And some are saying that’s a good thing. 

And America is worse off for all this jumping to conclusions and irrational, emotional-based knee jerking. 

Race relations are being set back 50 years right before our very eyes. Where are our leaders who are interested in finding solutions rather than fanning flames? 

Why does Hillary get a free pass?

I realize this is a rhetorical question, or at least a bit of a redundant one, but why does Hillary Clinton get a free pass from the mainstream media? 

In the days since the FBI recommended no criminal charges against the presumptive Democrat nominee for president, the glee and cheerleading from America’s leading newspapers has been mind-numbing, even to those of us who are accustomed to the mainstream media’s thinly veiled biases.

We’re accustomed to seeing raw emotion on blogs and other websites that are intended to be partisan. You expect to see the Drudge Report and the Weekly Standard railing against James Comey’s decision, just as you expect to see the Huffington Post and Daily Kos applauding it. But the rush to praise the decision by the editorial boards of the Washington Post, the New York Times, the L.A. Times and others is revealing.

None of them, meanwhile, expanded on the fact that — in addition to Comey’s scathing rebuke of Clinton — he essentially revealed that she lied about the nature of the emails stored on her private servers.

For the past year, Clinton has blatantly lied about the use of private email servers during her tenure as secretary of state. Clinton has insisted on numerous occasions that she did not send or receive information on the private servers that was marked classified. Yet the FBI’s investigation found that more than 100 emails Clinton sent or received contained information that was marked classified at the time.

The editorial board of the Washington Post has been banging the drum on Donald Trump’s reckless disregard for the truth for months, yet is strangely silent when the shoe is on the other foot. In fact, the Post’s editorial today was about “Republicans attacking Mr. Comey for doing his job.” 

Seriously. That’s the best the Post can come up with. They’re blasting Republicans for criticizing the FBI’s decision to not press charges, yet they’re unwilling to hold Clinton’s feet to the flames for consistently lying to the American people for the past 12 months.

The Post has rightly told us over and over that Trump’s behavior is unbecoming of someone wanting to be president. But is Hillary Clinton’s wanton disregard for the truth not also conduct unbecoming of a presidential hopeful? 

The truth is that America is in a miserable pickle. Out of 318 million people, these two — a bigoted braggart and an amoral liar — are the best we can find to lead this nation. But why does the mainstream media insist on attempting to bury one while propping the other up? Let’s just tell it like it is and admit that they’re both terrible choices to occupy the White House.

The sad end of Steve French

 Steve french

It didn’t really generate many headlines, but former Kingdom Heirs front man Steve French died June 22 in a double-suicide in West Virginia. Authorities say he and his girlfriend, Lindsey Hudson, 29, were on the run from police when they jumped to their deaths from a bridge over the New River Gorge.

It was his relationship with Hudson that led to his departure from the band he founded and managed for more than 30 years.

The Kingdom Heirs have been a resident Southern Gospel band at Pigeon Forge’s Dollywood theme park since the park’s inception (it was formerly Silver Dollar City). Steve French founded the band with his brother, Kreis French, who still plays guitar for the group, in 1981. He sang baritone with the group and served as emcee until unexpectedly announcing that he was retiring in December 2014.

It didn’t take long, of course, for news to emerge that French had left his wife of 33 years and was in a relationship with Hudson, who reportedly also worked at Dollywood. 

Exactly what happened between that time and when Sevier County authorities issued capias warrants for the couple’s arrests — presumably for failing to appear in court — has been kept out of the public eye. But a post about French’s retirement on this blog back in 2014 generated considerable comments from people who hinted that French and Hudson were engaged in unlawful activities. Those comments did not appear on the blog, because I refuse to approve comments that levy serious accusations against someone without proof. Eventually, comments on the post were closed. None of those commenting ever specified exactly what it was that French and his new fiance were supposed to have done.

In any event, it’s a disappointing end for what was in many ways the glue that held together what I’ve long considered to be the best quartet in Southern Gospel music. 

Meanwhile, the Kingdom Heirs continue to perform at Dollywood during much of the year, and tour during the off-season. Lead singer Arthur Rice, who has been with the group since 1995 and is currently president of the Southern Gospel Music Association, has long seemed to set the tone and direction for the group. He seems sincere, in addition to being one of the most talented lead singers in Southern Gospel music.

The importance of safe ATV travel on River Road

Representing the Scott County Adventure Tourism Committee — which is appointed by Scott County Commission and of which I am a member — I appeared before County Commission’s Intergovernmental Committee Tuesday to request the county adopt a resolution authorizing ATV travel on River Road outside Huntsville.

As a journalist who covers County Commission meetings from the back of the room, it was awkward to be asked to be a part of the meeting at the front of the room by presenting the committee’s recommendation. Nevertheless, it’s an important step that Scott County needs to take to accommodate tourism. Allow me to explain why by first giving some of the background.

Continue reading…

WaPo off its meds

I get that the Washington Post is a left-leaning newspaper that caters to left-leaning readers. I get that the newspaper is newly owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and that Bezos has ample reason to both loath and fear a Donald Trump White House, given the comments Trump has made about him.

But the WaPo’s incessant editorializing against Trump have advanced from the realm of nonsensical and are simply laughable.

The Post has editorialized against Trump multiple times each week since the real estate mogul became a leading candidate for the Republican nomination, and has upped the rhetoric since he became the presumptive nominee.

But of all those editorials that the WaPo’s editorial board have penned, perhaps none are as silly as the latest one. In it, the Post claims attempts to link Trump to ISIS’s recent terror attacks in the Middle East, citing Trump’s anti-Islamic rhetoric and the series of attacks as proof that Trump shouldn’t be president.

Obviously I agree with the Washington Post that Trump should not be president, but to in a round-about way blame a man who is not president and has never been for terrorist attacks that are occurring halfway around the world is quite a reach, even for the Post.

Quite frankly, the Post should do journalism a favor and move on from its Trump obsession. It’s unhealthy. It’s unhealthy for journalism and it’s bound to be unhealthy for the editorial board.

YOU EXPECTED DIFFERENT? Conservatives are acting with disdain this afternoon because the FBI is not recommending criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. But is anyone really surprised? Frankly, I think it would have been a far greater surprise if Comey had recommended charges, which would have caused equal disdain from the left. That doesn’t mean Comey’s report isn’t damning, because it is. Expect many, many GOP ads this fall centered around the soundbites of Clinton and her staff being “extremely careless” and the “hostile players” bit. Comey’s statement makes it clear that Clinton directed the State Department in a reckless manner.

MATT DAMON WANTS GUN BAN: Matt Damon wants an Australia-style gun ban in the U.S.

“It’s wonderful what Australia did because you guys haven’t had a mass shooting since you went, ‘No, we’re going to be sensible about this.’ And nobody’s rights have been infringed, you guys are fine.

No word from the Jason Bourne actor on what role gun violence in movies plays in American crime.

‘IF THIS IS SUCCESS WE’D HATE TO SEE FAILURE’: As I read this, I’m reminded of Baghdad Bob’s denial that American troops were in Baghdad as tanks rolled nearly over the top of his press conference.

Days after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for the deadliest terrorist bombing to hit war-weary Iraq in nearly a decade and recent attacks have jolted Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Tuesday claimed that it is more evidence the terror network is on the run.

“Territory matters a great deal,” Blinken told CNN’s “New Day,” explaining the group’s territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria as an attractive pull, along with control of oil and other resources. “If you take that away from them, if you take the foundation away, the whole edifice starts to crumble. And that’s why we see them lashing out in different places.”