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/Ben Garrett

About Ben Garrett

Ben Garrett is a journalist and web designer from East Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau region. He and his wife, Melanie, reside on the edge of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area outside Oneida, where he is the editor of the local newspaper and she is a fourth grade teacher. The couple have two children, twins Toby and Rachel, and a mutt dog, Scooter, who thinks he's a pedigree. Views expressed here are the author's and none other. Contact: bengarrett at highland dot net.

Do you know what your kids are being exposed to on Snapchat?

I’ve blogged several times on the inherent dangers social media networks — like Musical.ly and Sarahah — pose for the young children who use them. The truth is, every social media network has a dark underbelly, and too many of them seem far too reluctant to take preventable measures to protect kids. Facebook enables bullying and doesn’t intervene even when it is reported, Musical.ly allows potential pedophiles to easily build fake accounts that closely resemble accounts of popular teen stars, et cetera and so on.

That brings us to Snapchat. This social media giant has 158 million users, and each user opens the app an average of 18 times each day. It’s a far cry from the other social media app that is particularly popular among teens and tweens, Instagram, which has more than 700 million users. But it’s still growing at a rapid rate.

By its very nature, Snapchat is probably the most dangerous social media app for young users. In addition to being a messaging network, its signature feature is the ability for users to send photos or short video clips that automatically delete themselves after a few seconds. This lulls some young users into a false sense of security, causing them to send photos they would never share otherwise. But there’s a catch: just because the pictures delete themselves doesn’t mean they’re gone forever. Other users who are viewing the shared photos can take a screen shot of them before they disappear. Snapchat alerts the sender that a screen shot has been taken, but by that point, the damage has been done.

Early on, it was not uncommon for high school-aged and even middle school-aged children to send nude or otherwise inappropriate photos of themselves to their friends, mistakenly believing that the photos would disappear after a short period of time. Too many times, those photos were screen-shotted and either distributed via text messaging or posted online for all the world to see.

While Snapchat users of all ages these days are aware of the dangers of having their photos screen-shotted, some of them still tend to send photos they wouldn’t otherwise send, because they disappear and their parents can’t catch them. Parents who don’t think this kind of behavior still takes place on Snapchat are kidding themselves. It happens, and as young as early middle school for a lot of kids.

That’s only the start of Snapchat’s dangers. A couple of months ago, I blogged about the dangers of a new social media network, Sarahah. (Read it here.) This app allows users to comment anonymously. It quickly gained popularity this past summer, with teens and tweens linking their Sarahah accounts to their Instagram and Snapchat accounts and sharing the messages they received. As I said at the time: “If some parents saw the things that are being anonymously said to their kids on Sarahah (and I’m talking middle school-aged kids), and that those kids are then posting publicly for all the world to see, I bet they would be shocked.”

But this post isn’t about the questionable photos kids are sending or receiving, or even Sarahah. It’s about something else entirely.

I blogged earlier this year that my wife and I strictly monitor our kids’ phone usage, including their social networking apps. I am logged in to each of their social networking apps on my phone, and I monitor their activity on a regular basis. At the time, I didn’t allow my kids to use Snapchat — because of the very dangers I mentioned above. In time, though, I relented, with some very specific rules. Foremost among those rules was that they could only add friends I approved of. And there’s an understanding that I will log in to their Snapchat accounts often. Sometimes I even open some of their unread messages to see what kind of material they’re receiving. They don’t like it, but, hey, my rules.

Snapchat has a feature called Stories, which allows users to post photos or videos for all of their friends to see. It’s a popular feature that has been adopted by many companies. (We’ve even experimented with it at the Independent Herald as a way to expand our social media presence.) When Snapchat users go to their Stories interface (think of it like a Facebook wall, where you see everything that is being posted publicly), they can see Stories that have been posted by friends. But they also see stories that Snapchat recommends for them.

Here’s the thing about Snapchat: it envisions itself, and actually bills itself, as a network for young adults. In fact, the single biggest Snapchat demographic is young adults. So Snapchat’s recommended stories are often things that are intended to be seen as hip and cool by young adults.

Let’s just say that things young adults consider hip and cool aren’t things most of us would want our kids seeing. You can use your own imagination.

When I glanced at the Stories page on my kids’ Snapchat accounts, I was continuously seeing Stories that had been recommended that looked like they were straight out of Cosmopolitan magazine. Sex, sex, alcohol, sex . . . you get the point. “How to be a good kisser,” or “How to turn on that special guy,” etc.

I didn’t click on these Stories and I knew my kids weren’t, either. But the more I saw them pop up, the more I found myself steaming about them. Let’s face it: Young adults may be Snapchat’s biggest demographic, but Snapchat knows very well that a significant portion of its users are teens and tweens. Actually, there are kids as young as second or third grade who use Snapchat. And, yet, the company is doing nothing to screen these Stories from these young, curious eyes.

So I started clicking on a few of them just to see if they were as bad as I envisioned.

They were worse.

Check out a few of these screenshots. Want your middle school student to get a quick sex ed lesson? They don’t have to wait for it at school or at home. They can get it on Snapchat.

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Hey, that’s good. Everyone wants their teenager to know how to last longer in bed, right?

It gets worse . . .

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How cool is that? About the time your teenager is starting to date, their Snapchat Stories screen is plastered with advice on how to find a date that’s “cool with sex on the first date.” Isn’t that helpful?

It isn’t just sex. It’s drugs, too. Check this out . . . and from no less a reputable media company than The Washington Post.

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After the drug Story, there’s another sex Story popping up. Apparently there is no shortage of those. . .

IMG_0011 IMG_0012Seen enough? Well, wait until you see the next one. I’m pretty sure I don’t know many parents who are cool with a social media app teaching our teens that being promiscuous is not just okay, but a good thing . . .

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But as the infomercial guy says on TV, “Wait! There’s more!!” I’ll just leave this last one without comment . . .

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So, back to the original question: Do you know what your kids are being exposed to on Snapchat?

I try not to make knee-jerk decisions. So I’ll sleep on it a few days. But then I’m pretty sure I know where my kids’ Snapchat apps are going. Back when I was their age and we were all using the Windows OS, we called it the Recycle Bin.

By | September 20th, 2017|Categories: Technology|0 Comments

Butch’s buyout

With a buyout of $7.5 million for Butch Jones, and with coaches’ salaries rising every day, it would be expensive for the Vols to fire their head coach and hire a proven winner. But they should pony up the dough if it becomes necessary.

Tennessee might find itself paying as much as $6 million or $7 million on a new coach next season, if it is truly interested in putting an end to the experiments with legacy names and up-and-comers. And, yes, it’s a bitter bullet to bite, especially for the average fan, who is being squeezed out of the stadium on gameday by rising costs. But fans like to win, even more than they like to attend games. And in college football’s arms race, loosening the purse strings is the name of the game.

It might be time for the Vols to loosen their own.

By | September 20th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

Yes, Butch, you’re right

Butch Jones blamed ‘an accumulation of plays’ for Tennessee’s loss at Florida. He’s right.

The message Tennessee’s coaches sent on Saturday was this: Junior runningback John Kelly could run all over the field. But he wasn’t good enough to touch the ball inside the 20-yard-line.

By | September 19th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

Seed ticks make late summer miserable

It’s true: Seed ticks are evil.

True seed ticks are roughly the size of a poppy seed — so small they resemble tiny flecks of dirt — and where there is one there are hundreds.

The irony of seed ticks is that they’re tick larvae . . . they’re babies. Typically, babies aren’t to be feared. Lion cubs are cuddly, cape buffalo calves scare no one. Presumably, people even crowded around the nursery window to ooh and aah over the baby Mike Tyson.

But tick babies are pure evil on six legs. In the larvae stage, their saliva causes an allergic reaction, which means we itch. Oh, boy, do we itch. There’s nothing that will make you want to douse yourself in gasoline and set yourself afire like stumbling through a mess of seed ticks.

By | September 19th, 2017|Categories: Outdoors, Writings|0 Comments

Summer-like heat will only last about another week

After the coolest start ever to a month of September in East Tennessee, summer has returned in all its glory. Temps are in the 80s with lots of sunshine and a daily shot at thunderstorms (albeit a slight one). Some people like this weather and some don’t…and if you’re one of those who don’t, take heart: it looks like fall-like weather will return pretty quickly.

Models are breaking down the heat ridge over the eastern U.S. by the middle of next week, about eight days from today. Our weather is being influenced by all the tropical action out in the Atlantic, and the tropics are still red-hot, so there’s no guarantee that we won’t see our weather influenced by what’s happening on the seas. But, for now, it appears that an upper-level trough that is currently to our west will begin to slide eastward next week, delivering a cool-down to our part of the world.

It’s too soon to say just how much cooler we’ll be as we close out the month of September in about 10 days, but we could be set for the coolest temps of the season. Several recent runs of the GFS forecast model have shown temps in the lower 40s for our area of the northern Cumberland Plateau as we get into late next week.

The next question will be how long the cool-down will last. The latest run of the GFS model, from this morning, says temps will push back to near 80 by the time we get 3-4 days into October. But other runs of the same model have shown temps in the 60s or low 70s persisting through the end of its run (the model covers 15 days).

It’s possible that the return to cooler weather will be a bit delayed from what the models are currently showing. That’s what the Climate Prediction Center is currently projecting. It’s forecasting above-average temperatures to continue in East Tennessee through the end of September, then below-average temperatures to set up over the state a few days into October.

The other side of the equation is precipitation. It’s been a wet year in East Tennessee, but we’re drying out this month, and that trend looks to continue. The same ridging feature in the atmosphere that is delivering these hot temps will also keep us drier-than-normal, even for this time of year, when we’re moving into the dry season. Above-average precipitation will likely be focused over Texas and the Plains states for the next week or two, with drier-than-average conditions across the Southeast.

Thanks to the tropical remnants earlier in the month, we’ve had above-normal precipitation for the month of September, even if we don’t receive another drop of rain. Oneida has recorded 3.76 inches of rain thus far, and the average for September is 2.08 inches of rain. But we’ve only had 0.36 inch of rain since Sept. 6, and the next two weeks look very dry, except for areas where isolated to scattered thunderstorms set up over then ext several days.

By | September 19th, 2017|Categories: Weather|0 Comments

Tennessee-Florida: the evolution of a rivalry

Tennessee vs. Florida: the evolution of a rivalry:

Tennessee fans who came of age in the 1990s know all about the Tennessee-Florida rivalry. They remember the downpour at Neyland Stadium in 1992, Florida’s 48 unanswered points in 1995, Steve Spurrier’s one-liners and how pandemonium reigned in 1998.

Forget Tennessee-Alabama. For Generation X’ers, the Third Saturday in September became more important than the Third Saturday in October. And, for many, it still is. That’s darn near gridiron heresy for old-timers who think football was invented by guys like Robert Neyland or Bear Bryant (or even Johnny Majors or Gene Stallings). But it is what it is, as another Alabama coach — the current one — likes to say. And if you poll Tennessee fans today on the Vols’ biggest football rivalry, you won’t find much distance between Florida and Alabama.

So how did this happen? Mostly, it happened because of Steve Spurrier. The Ol’ Ball Coach owned Tennessee in the ’90s. He not only beat the Vols on the field, but he never missed an opportunity to rub salt in the wound, which made UT fans revile him all the more. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it: if Spurrier had never gone back to his alma mater to coach, Tennessee-Florida would have never become the heated rivalry that it became. But there’s also no denying that the rivalry’s roots predate Spurrier.

The truth is that Tennessee and Florida have never much liked one another. You can trace the programs’ feuds all the way back to a game played 89 years ago on a muddy field in Knoxville.

By | September 13th, 2017|Categories: Football|0 Comments

September is about to turn hotter

If you’re enjoying this early start to fall, you best get over it.

But that record-cool start to September is about to go out the window, as things flip in a big way. September is a transitional month into fall; temperatures at the end of the month are typically several degrees cooler than at the first of the month. But this September is going to defy the norm, with the second half of the month being much warmer than the first half.

By | September 13th, 2017|Categories: Weather|0 Comments

Saturday update: Irma’s impact on East Tennessee

Cuba is really doing a number on Hurricane Irma this morning. The eye of the storm is over land, and that interaction is resulting in significant weakening. Officially, Irma is still a Category 4 hurricane. However, the latest indications are that her maximum sustained winds are down to 130 mph, which would technically make her a high-end Cat 3 hurricane at the next update by the National Hurricane Center, if those findings are verified.

Regardless, the NHC’s latest forecast still takes this thing to South Florida as a major hurricane by tomorrow afternoon. The latest forecast track has shifted notably west, sparing Miami and placing Irma along Florida’s Gulf Coast. That could very well be bad news for places like Tampa, where storm surge will likely be significant. All in all, Irma is still forecast to impact much of Florida, even if a worst-case-scenario is averted. From there, she’ll push north into Tennessee, but her westward shift means that her remnants will wind up west of us.

What does that mean, exactly? Not a whole lot. We’ll still very much feel her impact here along the Cumberland Plateau. The latest forecast from the NHC is no longer maintaining tropical storm strength all the way to Tennessee (not surprising). Instead, the remnant tropical depression will move into the Volunteer State by late Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning. Then it might very well stall out. But drier air will be working its way into the system at that point, which means the low pressure will begin to dissipate and fizzle.

Nevertheless, significant rain and winds are likely as the storm impacts our region. The National Weather Service’s Morristown weather field office is using Interstate 40, per usual, as its dividing line, and says the greatest winds will be experienced south of the interstate. For those of us on the north side, sustained winds of up to 30 mph are possible with gusts to 40 mph possible. This will be primarily Monday afternoon and Monday night, just before the rainfall arrives. Tuesday looks quite rainy, and the NWS is broad-brushing forecast totals of 2-4 inches of rain.

The greatest thump of rain will come near the initial onset, late Monday into early Tuesday, but off-and-on rain will continue through the day on Wednesday. The latest run of the GFS forecast model shows about 2.5 inches of rain for the northern plateau.

So, the bottom line, as it stands now: Winds will begin to increase on Monday, peaking Monday night at 25-30 mph before beginning to taper off Tuesday afternoon as they shift to the southeast. Moderate to heavy rain will arrive overnight Monday into early Tuesday, with perhaps as much as an inch of rain by daylight on Tuesday. The heaviest rain will begin to taper off by Tuesday afternoon, but rain chances will continue into early Thursday as the low pressure system slowly falls apart. No severe weather is currently anticipated, and the NWS doesn’t even have thunder in its forecast.

All in all, it looks like nasty weather on Tuesday, but nothing significant enough to warrant major concern. Isolated flooding and scattered power outages would be the greatest threat for East Tennessee as Irma takes her dying gasp in our neck of the woods.

By | September 9th, 2017|Categories: Weather|0 Comments

Hurricane Irma set to unleash fury on Florida, then it’s on to Tennessee

The National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast for Hurricane Irma slams the storm ashore in South Florida as a dangerous Category 4 hurricane on Sunday, before tracking the storm up the spine of the Florida peninsula and eventually right over the northern Cumberland Plateau.

I think I’ve mentioned on previous posts that tropical systems have a difficult time impacting East Tennessee if they don’t get into the Gulf of Mexico, but I’ve also noted that Irma is no typical tropical cyclone. This storm is a beast, and there are a few things that really jump out about this storm track: how about the fact that Irma is still a hurricane (albeit a “weak” one) by the time she gets to Georgia, despite interacting with land all the way up the peninsula? And how about the fact that the NHC is still projecting this storm to have tropical storm status by the time she gets to Tennessee?

I don’t know when the last time was that a tropical system was a certifiable tropical storm as far inland as Tennessee. Certainly it’s happened; I just haven’t taken the time to do the research.

But one thing that is noteworthy about tropical systems: they’re classified according to their wind strength. Tropical storms have sustained winds of at least 39 mph, up to 73 mph. Wind gusts in excess of 40 mph are not at all uncommon here in East Tennessee, but it certainly isn’t often that we see sustained winds in excess of 40 mph.

So what does that mean for Tennessee?

First let’s take a look at where the brunt of this storm will really be felt, Florida.

Irma’s impact on Florida

Floridians are known for their tendency to hunker down and endure tropical storms. Since no place in the U.S. experiences more of them than the Sunshine State, years of experience have taught government entities, construction companies and insurance firms the best ways to build structures that will withstand hurricane-force winds.

But hopefully folks in South Florida are taking this one seriously. Irma has weakened some over the past 24 hours, and she’ll weaken some more before making landfall this weekend, but she is still a beast. She’s packing maximum sustained winds of 170 mph, with wind gusts in excess of 200 mph. Storm surge should be significant. The current projected path and strength might not quite be a worst-case scenario for Miami, but it’s pretty darned close.

Irma’s weakening today is due to interaction with land (Hispaniola), primarily. Ultimately, that’s going to drop her to a Category 4 storm. But significant weakening beyond that seems unlikely. In a best-case scenario, the increasing wind shear that Irma will encounter just before reaching Florida on Sunday could cause further weakening, but that’s not a safe bet. And by the time she slams into the U.S. coastline, she’s going to be pushing enough water to cause storm surge anywhere between five and 10 feet — potentially record-breaking levels for large swaths of coastline.

So two things are going on: South Florida is going to experience wrath perhaps unlike it has ever experienced from a tropical storm before. It’s going to be intense. There are going to be three primary threats: the winds, the storm surge, and then flooding rains. And, secondary to that, the projected path of this storm means almost the entire state of Florida is going to be dealing with hurricane-force impacts over the weekend. There’s no way to estimate what kind of damage costs will occur from this storm, but more important than any monetary estimate is the cost of human life. And unless folks in the path of this storm take it seriously and evacuate, there will be loss of life. Consider this: the last time there was a direct hit from a hurricane on Broward County, 70 years ago, the population there was 85,000. Today the population is nearly two million people.

And for those who think this storm is being overhyped, take a look at Barbuda, which has already experienced Irma’s wrath. The island nation’s prime minister declared the island virtually uninhabitable, after 90 percent of the buildings there were damaged and 60 percent of the population were left homeless.

One thing that hasn’t been discussed is the fact that recovery resources are already stretched thin. It hasn’t been a good late summer/early fall for natural disaster preparedness teams. Federal and state agencies already have most of their manpower tied up with Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath in Texas, and with the wildfires out west. That’s undoubtedly going to slow recovery in the aftermath of Irma.

Irma’s impact on Tennessee

Obviously we won’t see significant impacts from Irma here in Tennessee. She’ll inconvenience us, but it’ll be nothing compared to the devastation to our south. As it currently stands, our primary threats will be moderate rain and winds.

First, let’s back up to a statement above: the NHC still has Irma classified as a tropical storm as she reaches Tennessee. And, by definition, tropical storms have sustained winds of at least 39 mph. However, the National Weather Service is not currently forecasting winds that strong for East Tennessee. In a briefing this afternoon, the NWS’s Morristown weather forecast office projected “a few wind gusts” in excess of 40 mph, with rainfall of two to four inches.

Winds will begin to pick up and rain chances will begin for our area Monday afternoon, continuing through the night and on through the day on Tuesday. Winds will begin to diminish on Tuesday and rain chances will begin to taper off thereafter. In a forecast discussion this afternoon, NWS-Morristown projected winds of 15-20 mph for much of East Tennessee. (This afternoon’s run of the GFS forecast model brings 25 mph winds to the northern Cumberland Plateau, so don’t bet against the forecast being “upgraded” as we get closer.)

While 2-4 inches of rain is fairly significant (this afternoon’s run of the GFS projects about 3.5 inches of rain for the northern plateau), it isn’t enough to cause widespread flash flooding or aerial flooding. And 15-20 mph winds aren’t enough to warrant serious concerns of widespread power outages.

We’re going to be in for 36 hours or so of ugly weather, but for now it doesn’t appear to be anything we don’t ordinarily experience from tropical systems. And, in fact, some tropical systems bring significantly more rain to East Tennessee. However, the NWS continues to watch the storm closely, and is issuing briefings to government agencies each afternoon with regard to what should be expected in East Tennessee.

By | September 7th, 2017|Categories: Weather|0 Comments

Wednesday morning’s latest on Irma

Models are trending eastward with the placement of Hurricane Irma, which is still a top-of-the-charts, Category 5 beast as it bears down on the north coast of Puerto Rico. Accordingly, the National Hurricane Center is shifting its forecast track eastward. Here’s the latest:

at201711_5dayIrma has maximum sustained winds of 185 mph this morning, with gusts well over 200 mph and a minimum central pressure of 918 mb. This is, simply, a monster storm. She became the strongest Atlantic storm in history, outside the Caribbean or the Gulf of Mexico, yesterday…and even when you throw in the Caribbean and the GOMEX, the only Atlantic storm in history known to have stronger winds than Irma was 1980’s Hurricane Allen, which topped out at 190 mph in the Gulf of Mexico.

This storm is historic, no matter what happens to her as she nears the U.S. mainland. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have never experienced a hurricane as strong as Irma. And though those islands may not take a direct hit from Irma, she’s close enough to cause serious damage — perhaps the worst storm for Puerto Rico since Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

It’s interesting that Irma is not an especially large hurricane, as hurricanes go…and even at 926 mb, she’s not anywhere close to setting a record for the lowest central pressure. And, yet, she’s packing incredible winds. Philippe Papin explains that this is due to high surface pressures surrounding Irma, which have increased the surface gradient. (Winds are created by contrasting surface pressure — which is why we have windy conditions in our neck of the woods as high pressure is scooting out and a storm system is approaching.)

So where does she go? 

Given the eastward shift on the models, it’s looking increasingly as though the Gulf of Mexico is off the table. That doesn’t mean folks along Florida’s west coast aren’t going to be impacted, but they can breathe somewhat easier with a lessening likelihood that they’ll experience a direct hit from Irma.

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As you can see from the latest model chart, most models now show Irma staying off the coast of Florida — though plenty close enough for lots of surge damage, wind damage and flooding rains. This trend is good news for much of Florida, even if not particularly good news for The Bahamas and, ultimately, the Carolinas. Frankly, it would not take much more of an eastward shift to spare Florida the brunt of this storm’s wrath, though folks in South Florida would be wise to continue preparing for the worst.

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This is the GFS from this morning’s 6z run, and if you compare it to the one I posted yesterday, you’ll note that an increasing number of the model’s ensemble members (in pink) are placing this storm further offshore. However, there’s far from a consensus among the ensemble members, and the operational track still has a significant impact on Florida (and ultimately places the storm’s remnants almost directly over the northern Cumberland Plateau).

It’s way too soon to know whether this storm will eventually impact us here in East Tennessee, but the chances are still very slim, and growing slimmer as the anticipated storm track shifts further east.

Other storms

It may have been a slow start to the 2017 hurricane season, but when the tropics heated up, they heated up in a hurry. Tropical Storm Jose continues to trek through the Atlantic high seas, about 1,000 miles behind Irma. We’ll know later this week whether outflow from Irma will slow Jose’s development, but in the short term he’s expected to continue strengthening, becoming a hurricane by this evening and continue strengthening through at least tomorrow. For now, this doesn’t appear to be a huge threat to the U.S. mainland. It may be primarily a fish storm.

There’s yet another tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico. This tropical depression developed yesterday, then quickly became Tropical Storm Katia after developing into a cyclone. Katia, too, is expected to reach hurricane strength, but she’s moving away from the U.S. and will make landfall in the south of Mexico.

By | September 6th, 2017|Categories: Weather|0 Comments

What should we expect from Hurricane Irma?

Hurricane Irma is all the talk as she continues to spin towards the Lesser Antilles and the Caribbean. A state of emergency has already been declared in Florida — somewhat unprecedented but perhaps not unwarranted — and residents all along the Gulf Coast and the Eastern Seaboard are watching, waiting and wondering where this powerful tropical cyclone is going to wind up.

It goes without saying that much of the hype surrounding Irma is due to the fact that the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey is still fresh on everyone’s minds. That doesn’t mean that Irma is over-hyped, necessarily. Only time will tell, but one thing we know for certain is that she’s an absolute beast at the moment.

For those of us here in East Tennessee, of course, the question is what impact Irma will have on us? As a general rule, it’s difficult for tropical depressions to cause much disruption in our region unless they get into the Gulf of Mexico. But that’s not to say it’s impossible, and Irma could well prove to be an exception to the rule. She’s going to be such a powerful storm that she could maintain her organization and trek well inland before losing steam completely.

Of course, any impact in our area will be minor compared to the coastal areas and immediate inland areas wherever Irma eventually makes landfall. Sure, we may have some minor, localized flooding and some minor winds here on the northern Cumberland Plateau, but our worst-case scenario is nothing compared to areas that are in the direct path of this tropical storm.

So, with all that in mind, what’s the latest on Irma?

A Category 5 brute

The National Hurricane Center upgraded Irma to a Category 5 storm last night. That’s a top-of-the-charts storm; the NHC’s chart doesn’t go any higher than five. In fact, she’s the fifth most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, and the strongest in 12 years, with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph. And this storm is still strengthening a bit.

When Harvey struck Texas as a Category 4 hurricane last week, he became the first major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. in 12 years. Now Irma, based on the wind speed findings by the U.S. Air Force’s hurricane hunter aircraft, has tied 2005’s Hurricane Rita as the fifth strongest hurricane in the history of Atlantic tropical storms.

No steering trough

At one point, it was hoped that the upper level trough (dips in the contour lines in the mid-levels of the atmosphere, often preceded by stormy weather and cool temperatures) that is going to deliver the first sub-50-degree temps of the fall season to our region later this week would help steer Irma away from the U.S. mainland. Under such a scenario, the steering winds associated with the trough would catch the storm and cause it to turn north and then northeast, curving back out to sea. It’s what meteorologists refer to as a “fish storm,” because it impacts nothing except the fish of the ocean.

Unfortunately, the timing isn’t going to line up. The trough that is going to be in place over the eastern U.S. later this week will be displaced by the weekend, as Irma is still bearing down on the U.S. coast. (The current forecast from the NHC indicates that the southern tip of Florida won’t begin to experience tropical storm-force winds until Saturday morning.)

The result is that the best opportunity for this storm to be steered away from the U.S. mainland will be lost. And it’s becoming increasingly likely that someone in the U.S. experiences a direct hit from a major hurricane this weekend.

South Florida under the gun

For now, the best bet for Irma’s landfall is South Florida. The NHC’s current track forecast is close to a worst-case scenario for the greater Miami area, with Irma weakening only slightly and still a Category 4 storm, with winds of 130 mph to 150 mph, as she brushes the southern tip of the Sunshine State.

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There are a lot of things that can happen, depending on the exact track. If Irma winds up just a bit further south and interacts with land over the island nations — the mountainous island of Hispaniola first, followed by Cuba — she will lose a lot of her might before she sets her sights on the U.S. If she winds up a bit further north, she delivers a maximum impact to the Bahamas before eventually striking the east coast of Florida. If she manages to steer herself between the island nations, staying over open water, she could really wreak havoc by first delivering a glancing but significant blow to South Florida before getting into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where she could regain some strength before making landfall again, likely somewhere along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

One important thing to note is that no major computer model currently takes this storm deep into the Gulf of Mexico, where it could potentially restrengthen to a top-of-the-charts hurricane before making a run at somewhere like Mobile, New Orleans or — heaven forfend — Texas. That would also potentially be a worst-case scenario for inland areas like East Tennessee.

Instead, most models have this thing turning due north sometime between early Saturday and late Sunday, which increases the likelihood that a very large swath of Florida is going to be under the gun. If that northward turn comes early enough, Irma could run parallel to Florida’s east coast, with her eye staying over the open water and maintaining much of the storm’s strength while delivering damage and flooding all the way up the coast to Georgia and the Carolinas. If that turn comes a little later, she could run parallel to the west coast — not quite as bad a scenario due to the more sparsely populated areas, but still bad news for cities like Tampa.

The GFS forecast model is currently close to a worst-case scenario for the east coast of Florida. But it’s worth noting that several of the models ensemble members keep this storm a bit further out at sea as it turns north — close enough to cause an impact on Florida, but certainly not a maximum impact. Those same ensembles would unfortunately then deliver this storm to the doorstep of the Carolinas, but that would perhaps give it time to weaken somewhat. However, it’s also worth noting that just one run earlier, almost all of the GFS’s ensembles were taking Irma into the Gulf and trekking her up Florida’s west coast, which could put East Tennessee in play of eventually experiencing the storm’s remnants.

The Bottom Line

There is still a lot of uncertainty with Irma, with a lot of potential scenarios that could play out. But Dr. Jeff Masters noted this morning that Irma is the most serious hurricane threat to Cuba and Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Master is urging Florida residents to prepare now, and to take the threat seriously.

“What is not yet certain is whether Irma will travel along Florida’s west coast or its east coast, offshore from one or the other, or along the spine of the Florida peninsula,” Masters noted. “Any of these paths could bring significant and potentially devastating impacts to large parts of the state. There remains a small chance that Irma will make a sharp enough turn to miss Florida and head north through the Bahamas, but the stakes are too high for Floridians to count on that possibility.”

For now, the chances that this storm will ultimately impact East Tennessee are very, very slim. If that should change, the chances that the storm would cause noteworthy impacts on our region would continue to be slim. Unfortunately, the scenario looks worse for Florida, which is certainly under the gun.

Masters points out the best historical comparison for Irma is 1960’s Hurricane Donna. Indeed, Irma’s track could be very, very similar. Donna killed 148 people and caused $387 million in damage, trekking up Florida’s west coast before crossing the state and re-entering the Atlantic, eventually making landfall near Wilmington, N.C. and then Long Island as a Category 2 storm. If Donna were to repeat itself today, damage estimates would be in excess of $50 billion — a stunning number.

By | September 5th, 2017|Categories: Weather|0 Comments

This is why you can’t take global warming alarmists seriously

Remember back in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina pulverized New Orleans? Katrina blossomed into a top-of-the-charts Category 5 monster as she churned through the Gulf towards the Big Easy, and made landfall as a devastating Category 3 storm — still a major hurricane.

And Katrina wasn’t the only major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. in 2005. There was Dennis, in Florida, a month earlier. And there was Rita, in Louisiana, a month later.

Three major hurricanes making landfall along the Gulf Coast in one year. Talk of global warming’s impact on tropical storm activity filled newscasts for weeks. Experts warned that major hurricanes in the U.S. were the new norm, due to man-made climate change.

And then? Eleven years and 11 months without another major hurricane striking the U.S. coast, until Hurricane Harvey broke that streak by slamming into the Texas coast as a Category 4 monster Friday evening.

Inevitably, global warming was all the talk. The usual suspects — Time magazine, the New York Times, the Washington Post — all posted stories connecting the dots between strong hurricanes and global warming, citing climate scientists who are quick to suggest that Harvey is the fault of climate change.

This is why no one takes the global warming alarmists seriously. You can’t. They can argue “settled science” all the wish, but the average American can see right through their shtick.

Twelve years ago, we were told that major hurricanes were the new norm in the U.S. because of global warming. Except we then went 12 years without a major hurricane in the U.S. Now that we have another, that old threat is being pulled out and dusted off for reuse.

Look, I’m not a global warming denier. I’m a skeptic, but I’m not going to dismiss it outright. There’s no doubt that the earth is warmer today than it was 20 years ago. Only someone who is blissfully naive would attempt to argue otherwise with a straight face. And there is no doubt that this warmth is creating havoc in the Arctics, and elsewhere. There is also no doubt that it’s influencing our weather patterns; you can look right here in Tennessee and figure that out.

But lots of questions remain unanswered. Is the warming we’re currently experiencing cyclical? If we can’t agree on whether the warming trend is continuing or has abated, how can we possible agree on whether it’s part of a centuries-long cycle in our climate? And even if we do agree that this warmth is permanent, the question of whether man caused it — much less can reverse it — is certainly not settled.

But can we please stop blaming every significant weather event on global warming? It cheapens the argument and creates more skeptics, while fueling the deniers. If climate change alarmists are hoping to make a convincing argument, they have to stop using faulty logic that can’t be taken seriously.

Here’s an example: a common refrain over the past couple of days, as it has become obvious that Hurricane Harvey was going to cause catastrophic flooding in Texas, is that global warming is to blame for that, too. One “expert” pointed out that hurricanes typically create a lot of wind or a lot of rain — but not usually both. Harvey, however, is packing both, making landfall with winds in excess of 120 mph and dumping as much as 40 inches of rain in localized areas.

The argument that has been made is that global warming is to blame because warmer air holds water better. That’s true. But what the alarmists are conveniently ignoring is that the greatest reason for Harvey’s mind-numbing rainfall totals is the steering winds over the continental U.S. Harvey has been interacting with land for almost 24 hours, and he’s still parked near the coast. Because he hasn’t been picked up by the jet stream, his north and eastward movement hasn’t yet begun. He’s meandering at a snail’s pace — two miles per hour, which is almost unheard of. And he’s expected to remain over the Texas coastal area for the next several days. As he stays parked, he’ll continue to dump lots of rain. And that’ll be ongoing until he finally gets caught up by the steering winds and ventures further inland.

That is the primary reason for the significant rains in Texas. Isn’t it convenient that the alarmists gloss over that fact?

This is why you can’t take them seriously.

By | August 26th, 2017|Categories: General|0 Comments

Where does it stop?

Those who are of the mindset that violence was only occurring on one side of the neatly-drawn battle line in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend are feeling vindicated by Donald Trump’s off-the-rails press conference on Tuesday, as if the president’s penchant for shoving his own foot deep into his mouth somehow substantiates a false narrative that has been propagated by the mainstream media.

It was no surprise that Trump stepped in front of the press and acted unpresidential on Tuesday. (It was also no surprise that the press acted unjournalistic — if that’s a word — in response. As astute observer and veteran newsman Dave Foulk of Knoxville duly noted, “I’ve never seen nor heard a presidential news conference the likes of what happened today at Trump Tower. There was more decorum in the dump trucks parked outside. On both sides of the lectern. Sheesh.”)

Trump should have left well enough alone. His comments on Saturday were not inaccurate, and his follow-up comments on Monday — strongly condemning white supremacists and neo-Nazis — were also not inaccurate. But with Trump, so long as there’s a microphone in front of him or a phone within reach to appease his twittering thumbs, well enough is never left alone. His inability to listen to his advisors, and keep his mouth shut, is largely what has driven his presidency into the sewer. And it’s what will keep it there, assuring that he’s a one-term occupant of the Oval Office and doing irreparable harm to the Republican Party in the process.

In the midst of all the nonsense on Tuesday, there was one line from Trump that wasn’t wrong. It was in poor taste, perhaps, and the timing was awful, but there was still truth to it: “This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

It’s a fair question. Where does it stop? Because the focus has already shifted from Confederate monuments to monuments for America’s founders.

Even before Trump spoke to reporters on Tuesday, CNN vice president Johnita Due penned an op-ed piece for the cable news giant, claiming that the words of Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe were “painful” and a “mistake” because he invoked the name of Thomas Jefferson as a true American patriot. Due wrote that she felt as if she had been “punched in the stomach” when she heard McAuliffe mention Jefferson and George Washington.

A day later, Chicago pastor James Dukes called on the city’s mayor to tear down a statue of Washington from a park in the Windy City.

These points-of-view aren’t new, but we’re seeing them enter the mainstream for the first time. So the president’s question, as left-leaning journalist Harry Stein sums up nicely, was on point. Where does it stop?

The fact that Americans are even discussing, presumably with straight faces and expectations of being taken seriously, that men like Washington and Jefferson should be scrubbed from history is equal parts laughable and disconcerting. Obviously both Washington and Jefferson were slave-owners, but it was a different era. Their ignorance on the importance of racial equality does not change the fact that both men were heroes of liberty, that they were among a handful of men who forged the greatest democracy the world had ever known; a democracy that offers never-before-or-since-available freedom and opportunity for all who are fortunate enough to call America home — including people like Due and Dukes.

We know now that Washington and Jefferson were on the wrong side of history with regards to their treatment of the black race. But they were very much on the right side of history with their fight against British anarchy and the establishment of a beacon of hope and liberty for all the world. To try to broadbrush their accomplishments with their shortcomings on a single issue completely flies in the face of everything America stands for, and that deserves a push-back from Americans of all walks of life who value our freedom and democracy.

Where does it stop?

It certainly doesn’t stop with Washington and Jefferson. Yes, they got it wrong. But so did every American of influence of their day. Even if you tear down the monuments, rename the streets and the parks and the public universities, even if you remove their faces from our currency, the institution of slavery — the once-held-dear belief that it’s okay to own other humans just as you’d own a dog or a horse — will have still existed. What will have changed? The argument is made by those like Due and Dukes that the notion of white supremacy was planted by men like Washington and Jefferson. That’s a ridiculous argument at its very core, but even if there were some truth to it, the overwhelming majority of Americans today will tell you in an instant that slavery was evil and that all men truly were created equal.

Where does it stop?

If it doesn’t stop with Washington and Jefferson, does it continue all the way to Abraham Lincoln? Lincoln was morally opposed to slavery, grappled with ways to end it, and helped usher in an ultimate solution. But Lincoln also regarded blacks as being a second class of citizens, undeserving of the right to vote, to serve on juries, to hold political office, or to marry white women.

Or how about Ulysses S. Grant, the son of an abolitionist? The Union counterpart to legendary Southern war general Robert E. Lee, Grant’s strategies helped win the North win the Civil War and preserve the United States as we know it — which ultimately landed him in the White House as the 18th President of the United States. But Grant married a daughter of the South, who owned slaves, lived on his father-in-law’s farm that benefited greatly from slave labor, and himself owned at least one slave prior to the war.

Where does it stop?

How about the 20th century presidents — even the great ones, like Franklin D. Roosevelt — who were well aware of institutionalized racism and segregation and did nothing to intervene? In fact, it was Roosevelt who resisted Republican efforts to enact anti-lynching legislation that would have condemned hanging as murder.

The fact is that the institution of slavery is a significant blight on America’s past; a shameful part of her history. And the mistreatment of black people did not end with the emancipation proclamation or at Appomattox Court House. Our nation’s awakening on the mistreatment of blacks as second-class citizens didn’t truly occur until Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. helped usher us into an era of enlightenment that had been long overdue.

Between Washington and Jefferson and America’s Civil Rights movement nearly two centuries later, almost every single white American of influence — and that would be almost every single American of influence — got it wrong. Do we scrub all of them from history?

Where does it stop?

If the notion is that these men must be purged from history — or at least not celebrated — because of notions of white supremacy, how do we address our nation’s treatment of Native Americans? From robbing them of their homeland to murdering them by the thousands, America’s treatment of Indians is just as much a blight on its history as slavery. And, yes, there were plenty of our nation’s early leaders who got it wrong. Do we tear down the statues of Andrew Jackson? Does Tennessee rename Sevier County or John Sevier Highway, since Sevier was one of the most notorious Indian fighters dealing out injustice against Native Americans?

Where does it stop?

We’re supposed to learn from history, not attempt to whitewash it.

By | August 17th, 2017|Categories: Politics|0 Comments

Could we be making a run at Oneida’s wettest August ever?

There’s an old saying in Oneida: when the fair comes to town, you can count on it raining.

The Scott County Fair is always held during the month of August. And, yes, it always seems to rain.

That isn’t much of a stretch, of course; August is typically a rather wet month. A subtropical influence on our weather in this part of the country can result in almost daily thunderstorm chances during August, and tropical depressions can sometimes result in much higher rain amounts.

Every few years, we see a very wet month of August here on the northern Cumberland Plateau. And this year is one of those years — at least to this point.

According to the National Weather Service, we’ve received 5.3 inches of rain in Oneida through the first half of the month. That number isn’t entirely accurate, though, because the NWS has not yet recorded rainfall for Monday (Aug. 14), and Oneida saw significant rainfall during the afternoon hours. The real total for August is likely pushing 6 inches, or perhaps a bit more. It’ll be interesting to see if the NWS’s reading for Aug. 14 is faulty, or if the data will be added later.

Since 1952, when records-keeping began in Oneida, we’ve averaged 4.1 inches of rain during the month of August. This month has been wetter this century; we’ve averaged 4.5 inches of rain in August since 2000. The rolling 30-year average, which encompasses the years of 1981-2010 and is the official number from the NWS, is 4.3 inches of rain in August.

So we’re already above-average in the rainfall department, with half the month still to go. Of course, it’s worth pointing out that just because we saw a lot of rain during the first half of the month doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to see a lot of rain in the second half of the month. There have been some indications that the wet pattern we’ve been in for the last couple of weeks may be close to breaking down, and that the second half of the month might be much drier than the first half. Yesterday’s afternoon run of the GFS computer model showed significant rain during the last 10 days of the month, but other runs of the same model have been much drier. Today’s 0z and 6z runs of the model showed 2.7 inches of rain for the remainder of the month.

Even if you go with the drier approach, we could wind up with anywhere from 8-9 inches of rain by the time August is said and done. And if that happens, we’ll be knocking on recordbook territory.

Since records-keeping began in Oneida, the wettest August was back in 1985, when Oneida recorded 8.9 inches of rain. (Since 2014, our wettest August was 2014, when 7.9 inches of rain fell in Oneida.)

For whatever it’s worth, the NWS’s Climate Prediction Center is currently forecasting below-average precipitation for all of East Tennessee for the Aug. 20-24 time frame, then above-average precipitation for the next couple of weeks after that.

By | August 15th, 2017|Categories: Weather|0 Comments

Where was this righteous indignation last summer?

Another day brings us a continued chorus from all the Trump haters, many on the left and some on the right about the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s initial response to that violence.

And I’m just as baffled by the double standard as I was yesterday, and the day before and the day before that.

As I wrote yesterday (here and here), the one-sided approach to this debate could not be more factually incorrect. Yet we continue to see a reluctance from the American right to fire back against this manufactured narrative. It’s as though the pundits and politicos on the conservative side of the equation are afraid of being labeled as racists. Perhaps that’s where years of being brow-beaten by this nation’s mainstream media has brought us.

Could Trump have more harshly condemned white supremacists who marched on Charlottesville from the outset? Of course he could’ve. But that doesn’t change the fact that the president — whom I despise and have rarely defended — was spot-on when he said that “many sides” are to blame for the violence and that Americans must unite.

For those who are having difficulty wrapping their mind around Trump’s initial statement, it’s simple enough to boil it down to one simple question: Was violence being committed by the alt-left “counter-protestors” who showed up in Charlottesville?

If the answer to that is yes — and if you can say with a straight face that it isn’t, you obviously haven’t taken a very close look at the reports and videos that came out of Charlottesville — then how can one possibly say that Trump’s response was wrong?

These are the inconvenient truths of Charlottesville: Both sides were carrying weapons. Both sides were looking for a fight. Both sides engaged in violence. Throw in a blunder by state and local authorities who knew both sides were going to converge and did nothing to keep them separate, and it’s little wonder that things ended as they did. But let’s make no mistake: the simple fact that one nutcase turned a car into a murder weapon by plunging it into a crowd does not, cannot, will not change the facts of what happened up until that moment.

I’m not sure there’s any way to discern, at least with any certainty, which side threw the first punch or the first cup of urine. But it’s easy enough to ascertain that both sides were guilty.

So why is Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe so intent on pointing out that the alt-right wackos traveled to his state from other parts of the country (the murderer was a 20-year-old from Ohio), yet reluctant to mention that the alt-left loonies did likewise?

Some of my liberal friends are arguing that the violence that occurred between the two groups cannot be equated, because the counter-protestors were pushing back against the fascists. That’s just another way of saying that violence by the counter-protestors was justified, as if the fascists deserved it because they cling to viewpoints that most of us find repugnant.

That approach is almost hysterical. Regardless of how disgusting and repugnant the white supremacists’ viewpoints may be, they’re guaranteed the freedom to express those viewpoints under the First Amendment. In America, where we’re supposed to be a democracy that is at peace with Fellow Man, since when do we respond to ignorance with violence rather than education?

In an editorial this morning, the New York Times — no stranger to condemnations against everything Trump and everything conservative — dismissed Trump’s Monday statement against “evil” groups like the KKK and the neo-Nazis as too little, too late. The Ol’ Gray Lady goes on to highlight the “continuing threat” of white supremacists and claims that a “moral awakening” is taking place in America while Trump “is still hiding under his blanket.”

Back up to July 2016, when a black sympathizer of the Black Lives Matter movement gunned down five police officers during a BLM rally in Dallas. What did we hear from the NYT editorial board on the matter?

I’ll save you the Google effort. The NYT’s response was crickets.

The Washington Post has hardly slipped as deep into the sewer as the NYT, but one of its opinion writers, Richard Cohen, also takes the president to task afresh today. Cohen wrote that he might consider denouncing his American citizenship and added: “I never thought a president of the United States would hedge his bets when it comes to denouncing racists and anti-Semites.”

Really? Following last summer’s shooting in Dallas, Barack Obama failed to condemn the BLM movement while in the very next breath blaming the easy availability of guns as part of the problem. Days later, Obama actually did mention the words “racial hatred” as the shooter’s motivation, but he spent a significant part of the same address — which just happened to be at a memorial service for the slain officers — by blasting “bigotry” within police departments. And then he blamed guns…again.

If you’re going to make an argument, with a straight face, that Trump was reluctant to call out white supremacists in Charlottesville, you have to make an argument that Obama was likewise reluctant to call out black nationalists in Dallas.

Dallas was just one example of several acts of violence carried out at the hands of black nationalists last summer — people who are every bit as racist, every bit as dangerous, as the white supremacists who marched on Charlottesville.

And, again, the response from the same talking heads who are raising hell today was silence back then.

I’ve said it once this week already, and I’ll say it again: until we trash these false narratives and ditch the approach we’re taking — which is that only one side or one political ideology is capable of violence or bigotry or hatred — we’re going to continue to push closer and closer to the brink of an all-out civil war.

A moral awakening? Not hardly. We’re still sound asleep.

By | August 15th, 2017|Categories: Politics|0 Comments

Bigotry, violence do not know racial or political bounds

You may not like what I’m about to say, but I’m bound to say it. I’ve watched with amazement as the narrative has unfolded in the aftermath of this weekend’s Charlottesville violence. As Americans, we have our heads up our collective rear-ends as race relations erode and we push closer to the brink of civil war.

I’m not a Donald Trump fan; anyone who knows me knows that. I didn’t vote for him the first time and I won’t vote for him the next time. But what he said in the aftermath of Charlottesville — condemning violence on ALL sides — was exactly what he should have said. Yet he’s being crucified for that remark by pundits and commentators who operate under the pretense that there’s only one race and one political ideology capable of hatred and bigotry.

Watch the videos that emerged from Charlottesville. Read the reports. Do it with an open mind, and there’s only one logical conclusion that can be reached: both sides were guilty. One side showed up cloaked in their racism and their ignorance, the other side showed up looking for a fight, and the racists were only too happy to oblige. Both sides engaged in the mayhem until some moron turned a car into a murder weapon and guaranteed himself a life in prison.

If you’ve watched or read the news in the aftermath of what happened in Virginia, you’ve likely heard some pundit say that this violence is thanks to Trump’s election. Those pundits are just as ignorant as the neo-Nazi white supremacists who cloak themselves in swastikas and march to the tune of a circa-1960s segregated America.

We’ve seen a lot more from the white supremacists in the aftermath of Trump’s election because his election made them feel legitimatized. Some of his ill-conceived comments have fueled that. But to suggest that this only began because he was elected is pure looniness — revisionist history that relies on Americans’ very short attention span and our penchant for rushing to judgment.

Where were these pundits and politicians as violence was being propagated by the alt-left at rallies over the past four years, both before Trump’s election and after it? Where were they during the rise of Black Lives Matter? Where were they last summer, when a black sympathizer of the BLM movement shot dead five cops in Dallas during a BLM rally? They excused BLM as “misunderstood,” took to social media to share and praise videos of people resorting to violence against those who they deemed as racists and bigots…and, ironically, they were the first to squeal when the same thing started happening on the other side during Trump campaign rallies last summer. Now they’re using the printed pages of the Washington Post and the New York Times to subject all of us to their faux outrage because Trump dared to lay blame where blame belongs instead of sticking to the false narrative that only one side is capable of such nonsense.

Fact is, I’m not sure Donald Trump has ever been more presidential than he was in the immediate aftermath of Charlottesville. Yet the editorial pages of the national newspapers are attempting to convince us that his remarks were unpresidential because he was not equivocal enough in calling out white supremacists. Make no mistake: the president called the supremacists to the mat. When he condemned violence on “all sides” and called on Americans to unite, he was throwing the neo-Nazis and the alt-right under the bus, and he was also throwing the BLM thugs and the alt-left under the bus. The only people who have a problem with that are those who think that only one of those two groups is capable of propagating bigotry or violence.

The message of the alt-right is despicable. Those people who wrap themselves in Confederate flags and swastikas don’t speak for me. I don’t identify with their message. But those folks represent just one side of a very ugly fight. As long as we keep ignoring that very basic fact — like the Baltimore councilman who is calling this morning for that city and others to immediately destroy all Confederate monuments because of the “domestic terrorism carried out by white supremacist groups” in Charlottesville — we will continue to inch closer to a complete collapse.

I don’t give a rip about Confederate monuments. I never knew anyone who wore the gray uniform and my home county seceded from Tennessee to avoid being a part of the Confederacy. The efforts of extremists on one side of the political equation to whitewash history by removing symbols of the past, as if that’s somehow going to remove the scars of our history, is one part comical and two parts disconcerting, but at the end of the day, it’s no skin off my back if someone tears down a statue of Robert E. Lee.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that there were two groups of people perpetrating violence in Charlottesville this weekend. Just because the event ended in horror, with some nut job driving a car into a crowd, intent on killing or maiming as many people as possible, doesn’t change what happened up until that moment.

The alt-left has been picking a fight for a long time. Even before BLM there was Occupy Wall Street. More recently, the Indivisible group has been showing up at politicians’ town hall meetings across the country. When some — like Knoxville’s Jimmy Duncan — responded by canceling public events, they were took to task by the same ignorant pundits and labeled as unwilling to face their constituents. Nonsense. They canceled public events because they knew it was only a matter of time before something like Charlottesville happened. The alt-left has been looking for a fight, while pundits and politicians ignored (and in several cases actually praised) the increasing violence, and they finally found a fight this weekend in Charlottesville.

Oh, let’s not act like the alt-right lunatics in Charlottesville were innocent. Far from it, in fact. I don’t know what possesses someone to spend hard-earned money on a swastika and drive halfway across the country to march in a public square under the guise that their race is superior to other races, and I sure don’t know what possesses them to toss cups of urine and trade punches with people they don’t know when they could just as easily be home with their kids and their families.

But let’s also not act like the alt-left crazies — the so-called “counter protestors” — in Charlottesville were innocent. As long as the media, the politicians and the pundits continue to push this false narrative that suggests only one race or one political subsegment is guilty of hatred and bigotry, this nation is never going to heal.

Because while I might not understand what drives the alt-right loonies or the alt-left crazies, one thing I do know: hate breeds hate. In America, we’re becoming downright hateful towards our fellow man. We’ve become increasingly intolerant of anyone’s point of view that doesn’t line up with our own, too quick to engage in wars of words with our fellow man, too willing to label dissenting opinions as “hate speech” and see those who dared to speak them stripped of their reputation, their job, and shunned by society. And that has led us to the doorsteps of Charlottesville.

Those of us who claim to be Christians — in America, that would be most of us — would be best served by refreshing ourselves on John 4:20 — “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” And we better be wise enough to realize that John 4:20 doesn’t say anything about race or political identity.

By | August 14th, 2017|Categories: Politics|0 Comments

The revisionist historians’ response to Charlottesville

The left has been quick to condemn President Donald Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence. As might have been expected, vitriol has flown from the keyboards of pundits over the past 24 hours, and the increasingly despicable New York Times predictably did its own lashing out under the guise of unbiased reporting.

Let’s be clear: I do not want to associate with any American who feels the need to march down the street holding a swastika. Those who want to protest the removal of Confederate monuments have every right to do so; the knee-jerk rush to tear down these long-lasting symbols of the American Civil War is so pathetic on so many levels that it defies words. But there’s a gargantuan gap between peacefully protesting the removal of these monuments, and marching as white supremacists who are more interested in a return to the segregated America of the 1960s than the perfectly acceptable America of the 1990s, before the nut-jobs who prescribe to theories of political correctness began to win out.

The violence in Charlottesville was despicable. It has no place in America.

But those who are lashing out at Trump are nothing more than revisionist historians, who’ve conveniently forgotten the violence that played out over the past several years.

GQ Magazine’s Jay Willis trumpeted that Charlottesville is the America that Trump promised.

Think about exactly what this means: A person lost their life because they had the audacity to join others in publicly and peacefully denouncing the myriad forms of bigotry that took to the streets of Charlottesville today. Right now, this country is stretched closer than ever to a breaking point, and it is exactly the America that Donald Trump promised.

What happened in Charlottesville is despicable and horrifying. But it’s hard to call it a surprise, really. Long before Election Day, the people who now helm this administration were gleefully signaling that theirs would be a friendly one to people defined by hatred.

That, of course, is complete and utter nonsense. To pretend as though white supremacists who voted for Donald Trump are the only ones perpetrating violence in America is to ignore the entire Black Lives Matter movement.

Andriana Cohen summed it up nicely, writing for the Boston Herald:

Violent and destructive protests spiked under the Obama administration with a slew of Black Lives Matter riots in Ferguson and beyond. Then there were the left-wing radical protestors who violently disrupted Trump rallies during the 2016 presidential campaign — when they weren’t fire-bombing Republican campaign outposts.

And more recently we’ve seen liberal thugs violently protesting conservative speakers on college campuses, causing significant damage to public property —not to mention an egregious assault on freedom of speech.

This all must come to a screeching halt.

The wailing and gnashing of teeth over Trump’s failure to explicitly call out white supremacists is faux outrage. Of course the president was correct when he said that bigotry, hatred and violence have been occurring on “many sides” in this nation. For all the stupid and hollow things he has said, kudos to the president for finally saying what so many of us have been thinking.

Guess what? It is possible to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the white supremacists who make things like Charlottesville possible while also being disgusted by not only the BLM’s same brand of hatred and bigotry but the mainstream media’s failure to call them on it.

Not only did Barack Obama fail to condemn the BLM movement, but he actually stood before an audience of thousands at a memorial service for five slain police officers in Dallas — an event that was a direct result of the bigotry preached at the BLM rallies — and condemned the “bigotry” that he said exists in police departments across the country.

There’s no doubt that some of Trump’s stupid comments have helped to foster an atmosphere of hatred and violence among the alt-right movement.

There’s also no doubt that Obama helped to foster an atmosphere of hatred and violence among the alt-left movement.

Until we start calling hatred for what it is — hatred — and stop trying to pin it on one racial or political class of people, this nation is going to continue to push towards the brink of civil war.

 

By | August 13th, 2017|Categories: Politics|0 Comments

How to recognize fake news on Facebook

It’s somewhat ironic that even as we’re seeing traditional news being labeled “fake news” at an increasing rate (thanks, 2016 election cycle), real fake news is spreading at an even faster rate.

Maybe it’s because I have more than my fair share of Facebook friends, but there isn’t a day that goes by that fake news doesn’t pop up in my feed because one or more of my friends has shared it.

It’s not always easy to discern between real news and fake news. Because news is my business, I know what signs to look for…and I’m always on alert, especially if the news site is one I don’t immediately recognize. Still, there have been times that I’ve read all the way to the end of stories before being completely convinced they were fake, so it’s easy to fall prey to these hoaxers. And as these fake stories are shared on Facebook, they spread like wildfire.

So how do you know that news is fake? Let’s take this one, about the supposed death of former The Price is Right host Bob Barker. It has been shared more than 600,000 times on Facebook this week.

Untitled-1The first thing to look for, before ever clicking on the link, is the originating website, which Facebook displays at the bottom of each external link. If it’s something that would be a major news story — and Barker’s death certainly would be — why would it come from an obscure website? A story like this would be reported by People magazine or US Weekly, in addition to the more mainstream news sources.

Of course, ActionNews3.com also sounds like a TV station — and, if you’re like me, you can’t name all the TV stations in the SoCal area right off the top of your head — so let’s click through and see where it takes us.

Untitled-1This is often the easiest way to tell that a purported news site is fake, and there are several dead giveaways here. First, fake news sites often do not have a logo, or “masthead,” because their publishers are using cheap (read: free) templates while spending their time churning out fake content. They don’t have the resources to create graphics. Most TV stations, which ActionNews3.com is attempting to portray itself as, feature photos of their on-screen news talent (their evening newscasters, or meteorologists, or a combination thereof) in their header along with their logo. Or they’ll use a panoramic skyline photo of the city they’re located in. Something, anything, to give their website an aesthetically-pleasing feel. This site has none of that, and displays its name using simple text with a little CSS coding. That screams “fake news.”

The second thing to look at is the menu. Legitimate news sites will almost always have their content divided by categories: News, sports, weather, etc. News itself will be divided by regional news, national news, and so forth. Fake news sites almost never have a menu because they almost never have separate categories. This is because, again, they aren’t putting any effort into programming their website. As you can see, this “news site” includes just one link: “CONTACT US.”  This also screams “fake news.”

Finally, look at other stories that have been published by the website. This list will usually be displayed near the top of the page. In this case, it simply reads “RECENT POSTS.” That’s a generic approach that just happens to be the default of WordPress, which is the world’s most popular content management systems for website. Few self-respecting news organizations would leave this list entitled “Recent Posts.” More importantly, look at the stories themselves. Are they all outlandish? Then you’re almost certainly looking at a fake website. In real life, the news is just as often mundane as it is dramatic. Not every story can be about rat meat being sold in grocery stores as chicken wings, or about Blac Chyna going nude.

Untitled-1This is a bit more subtle, but take a look at what websites refer to as metadata — the author’s name, the date the story was published, etc. This is usually located just above the start of the story. In this case, there is no author, which is a red flag but not necessarily a sign that it’s fake. (For example, many stories on our website, ihoneida.com, simply list “IH Staff” as the author.)

Much more importantly, there is no date. How many news stories have you seen without a date? The date of the story is important because news must always be fresh. There are two types of content on the web: dated content, like news, and what publishers refer to as evergreen content. Evergreen content is just what its name suggests: content that will be just as relevant one year from now as it is today. If you go to eHow.com or WebMD.com, you’re going to find lots of stories that are evergreen, and they won’t be dated. News stories — real news stories — will always be dated. Because if you’re looking for news, you’re looking for today’s news, not something that happened two weeks ago. For the publishers of fake news, though, every story is an evergreen story because it isn’t real news. They want it to be just as relevant in two years, when some unsuspecting reader stumbles across it and shares it to Facebook all over again, as it is today.

Untitled-2This is the most subtle clue of all, and one that won’t be recognized by most lay readers, but pay close attention to the writing style. The dateline on this particular story from ActionNews3.com indicates that the story originated in San Francisco, CA. But almost all news organizations adhere to AP style, which uses abbreviations for states rather than the two-letter postal codes. So if this story were from a legitimate news organization, the dateline would probably read, “San Francisco, Calif.”

There are other clues, as well. Often, the stories will not quote sources (it’s easier to avoid a libel lawsuit that way), or the writing will look as if it hasn’t seen the wary eye of an editor — because, in fact, it hasn’t. ActionNews3.com stories are actually fairly well written and do include source quotes, which makes them appear more legitimate. But there are other ways to tell. This story about rat meat, for example, consists of just eight paragraphs. Suffice to say, if the FDA were raising red flags about rat meat being sold to consumers in the U.S., the story would be more more in-depth. No reporter would turn in a story as brief as this one because his editors (or producers, as the case may be) would demand such a major story be more fleshed out.

There are other clues to watch for, as well. For example, the footer of the ActionNews3.com site reads that it is Copyright 2017 by . . . ? It doesn’t list a publishing company or media organization. And it displays the text that is placed by the designers of the free template it’s using — MH Purity lite WordPress Theme by MH Themes. No self-respecting news organization would allow such an author credit. They would choose a commercial theme that could be branded as their own.

Fake news may sometimes look like real news, but there are always ways to tell it apart. The best approach? Stick to trusted news organizations. And if you think those organizations are too biased, there is always an alternative. For every New York Times, there’s a New York Post. For every Washington Post, there’s a Washington Times. And for every CNN, there’s a Fox News Channel.

By | August 3rd, 2017|Categories: Technology|0 Comments

Pit bulls: Dangerous or not?

A Georgia grandmother is facing serious criminal charges after her two pit bulls attacked and killed her 20-month-old grandson yesterday.

According to a press release from the Georgia Department of Investigation, the woman was babysitting her grandson when the dogs lunged through the door of her home, knocking her to the ground and attacking the child. The woman attempted to shield the child from the dogs and was eventually able to get the dogs back inside the residence and rush the boy to an urgent care clinic, where he was pronounced dead.

But an investigation revealed that the woman had been cited by local police on multiple occasions for disorderly animals. As a result, she was arrested on charges of second degree murder, cruelty to children and involuntary manslaughter.

This case will undoubtedly rekindle an age-old debate: are pit bulls dangerous?

Pit bull lovers are passionate in their argument that pits are no more dangerous than any other dog. Instead, they say, it’s all in how the dogs are raised.

Efforts to ban specific breeds of dogs have long been opposed. Even President Barack Obama weighed in during his time in the White House, saying, “research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.”

On the other hand, court precedent is not kind to pits. Courts have consistently ruled that local municipalities can ban the ownership of the breed because of the disproportionate threat of aggression they pose. In 2012, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that pit bulls are “inherently dangerous,” making it easier for bite victims to sue the dog’s owner.

It’s hard to get a handle on just how aggressive pit bulls are, because there are so many dog bite incidents in the United States each year (about 4.5 million, on average). Further complicating statistics is that thoroughbred pit bulls are relatively rare these days. The pit bulls of folklore, which were bred first to be bull-baiters, then bred to fight each other after large animal baiting was outlawed, have long been bred with other dogs, creating a lot of bulldog mixes. (However, a 2009 study from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that 51% of all dog bites over a five-year period were perpetrated by pit bulls. The next closest breed was rottweilers, accounting for 9% of dog bites.)

One thing that’s indisputable, though, is that the larger, stronger pit bulls, with their powerful jaws, are far more deadly than other breeds of dogs. In 2016, pit bulls accounted for 71 percent of the fatal dog attacks in the United States. In all, pit bulls were responsible for 22 dog bite fatalities last year. No other individual breed accounted for more than three.

2016-dog-bite-fatality-chartAccording to the Wikipedia page that tracks reported dog fatalities, the statistics are similar across previous years. And of the two fatal attacks reported in 2017 (now three, since the Georgia case has not yet been listed), all involved pit bulls.

A recent case in McCreary County, Ky., which saw four dogs maul a 79-year-old man to death, stoked an ongoing controversy that has played out on Facebook. Investigators there have not specifically named the breed of the dogs involved in the attack but it has been widely speculated that they were pit bulls.

From the very young to the very old, no one is immune to attacks from pit bulls. While most pits may not be aggressive, any pit attack can be deadly — even for able-bodied victims — because of the breed’s size and strength. Last June, a 53-year-old Connecticut woman was mauled by several pit bulls as she walked with her friend, who owned the dogs. She was blinded by the attack, undergoing surgery to remove both eyes and a leg. But she died a week later. The dogs also turned on their owner as he attempted to intervene, and he, too, suffered life-threatening injuries. Just weeks earlier, a 43-year-old California man was killed as he helped a pit bull’s owner repair a scooter.

Pit bulls also have a reputation of being unpredictable. In April 2016, a mother was watching television with her two small children and her adopted pit bull — which had been advertised by the San Diego Humane Society as “vivacious, bubbly and cheerful” — when she coughed, causing the pit bull to react by biting the head of her three-day-old son, killing the newborn baby.

Despite all this, pit bulls were once among America’s favorite breeds. Far from being ostracized, they were welcome in just about any home. Remember the beloved Petey from The Little Rascals? Yes, Petey was a pit bull.

That’s no longer the case. Even PETA, the world’s foremost advocate for animal rights, supports breed-specific sterilization for pit bull. Daphna Nachminovitch, a high-ranking spokesperson for the organization, says that “the public is misled to believe that pit bulls are like any other dog. And they just aren’t.”

So are pit bull attacks really on the rise, or is it just that they’re more sensational, leaving them in the headlines while other dog bites go unreported? And if they are on the rise, why?

Time magazine investigated the issue in a 2014 story, entitled “The problem with pit bulls.” The story cited research that found pit pulls are responsible for 68% of dog attacks despite making up only 6% of the dog population. It reported on a medical study that called for pit bulls to be regulated “in the same way in which other dangerous species, such as leopards, are regulated.” It cited numbers from dangerous dogs being adopted from shelters: between 1858 and 2000, there were only two instances of shelter dogs killing humans. From 2000 to 2009 alone, there were three such instances. And from 2010 to 2014, there have been 35 shelter dogs who fatally attacked humans. Twenty-four of the 35 were pit bulls.

The Time story also explored the recent controversy of pit bulls, which has seen a growing backlash against claims that the breed is any more dangerous than any other. It cited two specific events. The first: Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Pit bulls are especially popular in Louisiana and Mississippi, and many were rescued during hurricane relief efforts, turning rescuers into advocates for pits. The second: The Michael Vick dogfighting scandal two years later, which prompted a growing sympathy for pit bulls.

Indeed, as Time pointed out, pit bull attacks have risen by nearly 600% since the Vick story broke. The writer pointed out that the subsequent burst of sympathy for pits led to more people adopting them and bringing them into their homes. She quoted the founder of DogBite.org, an advocate of dog safety, as saying, “If you need a marker in your head for when pit bulls got out of control, it’s 2007 with Michael Vick.”

Here’s what you need to know: regardless of side with the Maryland Court of Appeals and believe that pit bulls are inherently dangerous, or with the American Pit Bull Foundation and believe it’s people, not the dogs, that are the problem, one thing remains true — owners are responsible for their dogs.

Many rural Tennesseans mistakenly believe that allowing one’s dogs to run loose is a rite of passage as a property and pet owner. But Tennessee does have a “leash law.” If your dog attacks someone, or if your dog goes onto someone else’s property and attacks their pets or damages their property, you can be held responsible — not just in civil court, but in criminal court, as well. And that holds true whether your dog is a pit bull or a golden retriever.

Specifically, Tennessee law says that a dog must be under control of its owner at all times and cannot run at large. If your dog is running at large and damages someone else’s property, you can face fines and be guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. If your dog runs at large and causes serious bodily injury — or death — to someone, you can face both fines and imprisonment as a convicted felon. (Know the law; read it here.)

By | August 2nd, 2017|Categories: Politics|0 Comments

Duncan blazed his own trail in Congress

When U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan, R-Knoxville, retires as the 115th Congress ends next year, the end of an era will be marked.

Duncan, who announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election in 2018, will ride off into the congressional sunset with 30 years of leadership in Tennessee’s 2nd District under his belt. Voters of the greater Knoxville area sent him to Washington in 1988 after a special election to replace his father, John J. Duncan Sr., who was battling cancer. John Duncan served 23 years in Congress. Together, father and son represented the 2nd District for 52 years. The Duncans’ half-century tenure of congressional representation will end next year; Duncan’s sister, State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, R-Knoxville, has already told the Knoxville News Sentinel that she is not interested in running for her brother’s seat.

Duncan may have spent much of his life in Knoxville, but he has strong Scott County ties. John Duncan was a native Scott Countian, one of 10 children born to Flem and Cassie Duncan of Helenwood. Among his siblings was Joe Duncan, who enjoyed a highly respected career in the judiciary that began as a criminal court judge in Knoxville. Most of Jimmy Duncan’s close relatives are gone from Scott County these days (his closest is first cousin Duane Limburg, of Oneida), but several of the Duncans in Scott County have family ties with the descendants of Flem and Cassie Duncan. The Duncan family cemetery is in Huntsville, just off Baker Highway next to United Cumberland Bank.

John Duncan’s rise to stardom was well documented. From his humble start in Scott County, he hitchhiked to Knoxville with five dollars in his pocket to attend the University of Tennessee. He was elected mayor of Knoxville during tumultuous times and was credited with helping stave off race riots during the civil rights movement. In fact, the reason history books don’t contain stories of racial strife in Knoxville in the 1960s — like the violence that impacted other Southern cities, like Atlanta and Birmingham — was largely because of Duncan’s leadership. He worked to end segregation in Knoxville and was a popular figure among the city’s black population until his death.

John Duncan was elected to Congress in 1965, taking the place of Scott County’s Irene Baker. Baker had succeeded her husband, Howard H. Baker Sr., who died after 13 years in Congress. Scott County has long since been removed from the 2nd District, but the 2nd District seat has been held by someone with Scott County ties since 1951. That will change next year.

When John Duncan died in 1988, it was almost a given that his son would take his place. And in the three decades since, Jimmy Duncan has never faced a serious challenge for the seat, winning re-election every two years without much of a fight. In fact, there were several consecutive terms in the 1990s when Duncan didn’t even face opposition from a Democrat on the ballot, which spoke to his popularity — and, of course, Knoxville’s deeply red political persuasion.

In a statement on Monday, Duncan said that it is time for him to move on, and that he has contemplated retirement since before the 2016 election.

“Since then, in part, because people knew or assumed that I might be thinking about retiring, I have never had so many people urging me to run again,” Duncan said. “Also, because of the recent attacks against me from the far left, my support among the conservative base has never been more enthusiastic.”

To be fair, a great deal of the recent scrutiny facing Duncan resulted from a critical story in the Nashville Post on July 7, which examined Duncan’s use of campaign funds. The Post is a left-leaning paper and can hardly be considered without journalistic bias. After all, writer Cari Wade Gervin ended the report with this sentence: “Constituents and donors may finally decide that 54 years of all in the Duncan family is enough.” Most self-respecting journalists writing an investigative report wouldn’t even consider such a partisan statement, let alone have the audacity to think it would make it past their editors.

Still, the questions raised by the Post’s report were fair, and questions that would deserve asking of any politician, regardless of whether the letter after their name is an “R” or a “D”.

But it’s almost unthinkable that the Post’s report would have played a role in Duncan’s decision to retire; it was published little more than three weeks ago. And other aspects of the criticism Duncan has faced in recent months have been initiated by the far left — such as Indivisible East Tennessee, a branch of a national movement to introduce civil unrest at conservative politicians’ town hall-style meetings.

Those attacks seemed to take their toll on Duncan’s patience. The normally genial congressman responded with a letter that read, in part: “I do not intend to give more publicity to those on the far left who have so much hatred, anger and frustration in them. I have never seen so many sore losers as there are today.”

Duncan also feuded with the Washington Post this year. Himself a former journalist and journalism instructor, Duncan lashed out st one of the Post’s writers — Philip Rucker — by calling him a “left-wing hack” on the House floor.

While Duncan’s statements were widely criticized, they didn’t seem to be too irrational. As part of his prepared remarks, Duncan said there was a time when there was “a clear separation between the front page and the editorial page.” The Post article he was referring to appeared on the front page of the Post, bearing the headline, “Trump reacts to London terror by stoking fear and renewing feud with mayor,” hardly a nonpartisan or unbiased approach by a newspaper that has essentially been at war with the Trump administration.

Given that Duncan, who just turned 70, already seemed a bit weary when his current term started (Knoxville News Sentinel editor Jack McElroy penned a column in January speculating that this might be Duncan’s final term), it’s likely little surprise that he has decided to step aside. There had even been rumors that term-limited Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett might oppose Duncan in next year’s Republican primary. While Burchett has openly speculated that he might run for either the House of Representatives or the Senate, he said Monday — just hours before Duncan announced his retirement — that he will make a public announcement about his future plans on Saturday. The timing of that announcement seems to indicate that Burchett had advance knowledge of Duncan’s pending retirement, and perhaps that he will seek Duncan’s seat with the congressman’s blessing. In a statement Monday evening, Burchett called Duncan “a friend,” and said “few families have made a bigger impact in East Tennessee than the Duncan family.”

When Duncan bids Congress farewell next year, he will exit as a conservative stalwart. But he also blazed his own trail in some aspects, and will retire as the last of a dying breed of statesmen.

Like his father before him, Duncan was well noted for his accessibility. John Duncan kept an open-door policy for the duration of his time in Washington and was known to always attend the Knox County Fair and give away free ice water. Jimmy Duncan, too, was known for keeping in touch with his constituents, which made last winter’s attacks by the Indivisible East Tennessee group perhaps a bit ironic.

Typically a reliable “aye” vote for conservative issues, Duncan also wasn’t afraid to occasionally stand against his party. An early supporter of Donald Trump, Duncan generated headlines earlier this year when he criticized the president for calling the press an enemy of the people, and said Trump is “bringing some of his problems on himself.” He is a member of the Liberty Caucus, a small group of libertarian-minded Republicans.

Perhaps most notably, Duncan was one of just six Republicans to vote against authorizing the war in Iraq. Four years later, he again stood against the Bush administration by voting against a resolution in support of the war.

Duncan later explained the difficulty of that decision. “I have a very conservative Republican district,” he said. “My Uncle Joe is one of the most respected judges in Tennessee. When I get in a really serious bind I go to him for advice. I had breakfast with him and my two closest friends and all three told me that I had to vote for the war. It’s the only time in my life that I’ve ever gone against my Uncle Joe’s advice. When I pushed that button to vote against the war back in 2002, I thought I might be ending my political career.”

As Duncan prepares for retirement, he will be remembered by his colleagues — certainly the Republicans, and perhaps even a few Democrats — for his gentlemanly approach to politics.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said Monday, “I appreciate his no-nonsense, principled approach to public service and will sincerely miss his leadership and voice as a member of our delegation.” Added U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, “I am proud that Jimmy Duncan has served Tennessee’s 2nd District and been my congressman for nearly three decades — and has been recognized as the most conservative member of the House for about that long. No one has done a better job of staying in touch with his constituents than Jimmy has.” And, finally, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam remarked, “As governor, and as a constituent of his district, I am very grateful for his service to our state and our country.”

By | August 1st, 2017|Categories: Politics|0 Comments