Archive for March, 2008

Podcast Appalachia: “Early Appalachian Settlers and Explorers”

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

The second episode of Podcast Appalachia is now available. In this episode, I discuss the first explorers and settlers to enter the Appalachian region. You can listen here or view a transcript here. You can also find it on iTunes.

Good News for Obama

Monday, March 17th, 2008

No one is claiming he’s a Muslim anymore!

He’d Buy a Hundred Pounds of Yeast and Some Copper Line…

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Legendary mountain moonshiner Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton has been arrested:

ATF Agent Gregory E. Moore wrote in a federal complaint unsealed Friday that an undercover agent has in less than two months bought from Sutton some 300 gallons of the untaxed liquor and was poised to buy another 500 gallons in a single transaction. Authorities instead opted to raid Sutton’s three properties, including a barn and an old school bus he allegedly used to store his ’shine, Moore wrote.

In those Thursday raids, authorities seized more than 850 gallons of moonshine and three stills with capacities of 1,000 gallons each. They also discovered “hundreds of gallons” of mash and other moonshine-making ingredients, according to a release by U.S. Attorney Russ Dedrick.

If court records and Internet accounts are correct, Sutton is an old-school moonshine man willing to do just about anything to outsmart the revenuers and protect his meal ticket. He has a list of prior convictions, including one for assaulting someone with a gun with the intent to kill, and a nasty reputation. The ATF alleged in the complaint that he went armed during his transactions with the undercover agent.

Although Sutton’s reputation as a moonshiner was well-known, he hasn’t racked up charges for making the booze since the 1970s. That changed when a still exploded at his home on Upper Road last April.

“Several local fire departments responded,” Moore wrote. “The fire was extinguished and (Sutton) was interviewed. During the interview, Sutton admitted his knowledge of the presence of approximately 650 gallons of untaxed alcohol, commonly referred to as moonshine, and further admitted to knowingly and willingly manufacturing the moonshine with the operable moonshine still that was on his property.”

Why is the ATF wasting time harassing this harmless old man?* So he makes moonshine. Why should anyone care? It’s in his blood. It’s what he does. His daddy and granddaddy probably did also. And his ancestors for centuries before, all the way back to Scotland. It was a way of life for Appalachian folks for many years. Heck, I’m sure some of my ancestors did it. The government isn’t prosecuting him because they care about safety, but because he isn’t paying taxes on it.

Moonshining a dangerous, unsavory work–but no one is forced to do it. Moonshine is fading away now, with the liberalization of liquor laws and such. Sutton is part of a dying breed. The government wants to bury his ilk for good. I say leave him be.

*No, I don’t doubt that he could be dangerous, but only to those who threaten his way of life. Leave him alone and I suspect he’ll leave you alone.

Cross posted at Tennesseefree

Bon Voyage, Volunteer Voters

Saturday, March 15th, 2008

Volunteer Voters is no more. AC Kleinheider, it seems, has fallen victim to budget cuts at WKRN. VV was one of my favorite blogs, so I’m sad to see it go. On the bright side, as Sean Braisted points out, AC is now free to let his opinions fly over at

That Old Time Religion

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Cherokee, NC

Partisan Prostitution Prosecution

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Michael Barone has some interesting thoughts on Eliot Spitzer and his prostitution charges. Barone points out that prostitution openly exists in our society and we seem pretty selective in how we enforce the laws against it. But this raises a bigger question: Should there be laws against it?

That Spitzer is a scumbag is undeniable. He should resign if for no other reason than sheer stupidity. Prostitution is a moral scourge, and we should expect more from our elected officials. But should it be illegal? I think not.

Prostitution is exploitative, but only to those who choose to be exploited. I feel great sympathy for many of the women involved as I think most do not actually want to be prostitutes. But I don’t believe putting them is jail is going to save them. Only they can do that, through choices or faith. We can (and should) certainly try to point them in right direction, but only they can change their lives.

In the meantime, forcing them underground and under the “protection” of pimps and gangsters is not beneficial to anyone. Prostitution should be legalized, with some regulation to prevent the spread of STDs and to remove the criminal element (as much as possible).

We should certainly make moral judgments about leaders who would involve themselves in such debasing behavior, but it doesn’t follow that such behavior should be illegal.

Cross posted at Tennesseefree

Primary Picks

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

I think it’s safe to predict an Obama victory in the Mississippi primary tonight. The victory should be a landslide; I will be surprised if Obama gets less than 60% of the vote.

Roaming Gnomes

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

I’m glad I don’t live here:

A TOWN in South America is living in fear after several sightings of a ‘creepy gnome’ that locals claim stalks the streets at night.

The midget – which wears a pointy hat and has a distinctive sideways walk – was caught on video last week by a terrified group of youngsters.

The Cult of Rand

Monday, March 10th, 2008

There is much I admire about the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Sure, it’s one dimensional, but her emphasis on individual liberty was worthy of respect. It’s not necessarily pro-virtue, but it is pro-liberty.

However, personally Ayn Rand was a rather bizarre and contradictory figure. For a philosopher who espoused such radical notions of individualism, she sure demanded conformity from her followers. This predictably created a quasi-religion around Rand in which she is seen as something of a messianic figure.

A good example of this cult can be seen in this editorial by Harry Binswanger rejoicing at the death of William F. Buckley:

Buckley, more than anyone else, is responsible for subverting the “conservative movement,” turning it into its current, depraved status as the anti-reason, anti-man, welfare-statist “religious right.” The world is well rid of him.

Arguments aside about the proper role of religion in the conservative moment, it takes a certain kind of zealot to take such pleasure (He beings the editorial with “William F. Buckley, Jr. is finally dead.”) in the death of what was a decent man. It appears that Buckley didn’t grant the proper reverence to the messiah of “Objectivism”, and Biswanger responded emotionally, much as a fundamentalist Christian might to an attack on his faith. So much for reason.

Trouble for Spitzer

Monday, March 10th, 2008

New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, best known for his crackdown on Wall Street and plans to allow illegal immigrants to receive driver’s licenses, is apparently involved in a prostitution ring:

The criminal complaint involved an alleged high-end prostitution ring run out of New York. Four individuals were charged last week with allegedly running it.

Prosecutors say the ring provided prostitutes costing as much as $3,100 an hour. The criminal complaint did not name any customers, but authorities did intercept text messages, e-mails and telephone calls.

Spitzer on Monday said he “acted in way that violates his obligation to his family,” without elaborating or taking questions.

His statement came hours after the New York Times reported he told senior administration officials he had been involved in a prostitution ring.

“I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, to whom I promised better,” he said.

“I am disappointed that I failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself,” he said.

Spitzer has not resigned, but if these allegations are anywhere close to being accurate (and he seems to all but admit they are), it’s hard to envision a way for him to hold onto his position. Once considered a rising star in the Democratic party, Spitzer is finished at this point. Republicans will have a field day with this, much as Democrats had a field day with Larry Craig.

Also, be ready for the inevitable $3,100 an hour prostitute jokes.