Nullification Is For The Birds!

Like most teenage boys growing up, when it came to date night nothing beat a good suspense thriller with your steady girlfriend.  My favorites were always Alfred Hitchcock movies, and the best of the best was The Birds  

Mother nature runs amok and ordinary harmless creatures inexplicably go on the attack against an unsuspecting citizenry.  I can still remember the squeals and gasps as the movie’s special effects jolted primal instincts and fears throughout the audience. I’d dare say for at least a day or two after watching this film,  masses of starlings gathered on utility lines were given more than a few wary-eyed glances.

But Hitchcock is pure fiction.  This couldn’t happen in real life, right … right?  I doubt we will suddenly find ourselves under assault by a flock of winged predators,  but one specie the Black Vulture is expanding its range into rural America with an aggressive nature that is giving its timid cousin the Turkey Vulture a bad name and farmers fits!

Besides separating new born calves from their mothers and killing them, recently one Jackson County, Tennessee resident came home from a weekend trip to find over $25,000 damage done to his home and property.   Just shoot the damn things you say?  Not so fast!    252-MMS-1421818336-attachment1-PART95141851141540995PART951405993947108952014071695065748





The Black Vulture is protected by the USDA through the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  In theory, you CAN get a permit to kill them, but the average wait reportedly is six weeks.  Meanwhile, your livestock is dead, property under siege and the TWRA is bound to enforce federal law.  As a result, I have introduced SB 204 that effectively removes state and local officials from any enforcement responsibility in stopping farmers and citizens from protecting livestock, homes and property from these pests.

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An Indentured Servants View of the American Revolution and Founding of Tennessee


Richard Mynatt indenture 1749

On the 12th of February, 1749 Richard Mynatt, cook, of London, England signed a simple one page agreement.  With his signature he agreed to four years of indentured servitude to Thomas Lee, a wealthy Virginia plantation owner.  In exchange, Richard was to be paid 8 pounds Sterling per year, room and board, and his passage to America was included.  With that my 20 year old Great Great Grandfather left England behind and journeyed to America.

Thomas Lee, though prosperous and wealthy, isn’t as widely known today as his two sons, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lighthorse Lee, both signers of the Declaration of Independence.  After disastrous theft and fire destroyed his earlier mansion, Thomas Lee built Stratford Hall as a working plantation, which is equally famous as the birthplace of Robert E. Lee in 1807.

Within months of Richard’s arrival at Stratford Hall, Thomas Lee died, leaving the plantation in the hands of his son, Phillip Ludwell Lee.  Richard Mynatt’s indenture was also inherited by Phillip Lee and he remained for the next four years as a beloved cook at Stratford Hall.

Stratford Hall workplace of Ricard Mynatt 1750-54

Stratford Hall workplace of Ricard Mynatt 1750-54

Richard’s services were so valued by the family that when his indenture was completed in 1754, Phillip Lee refused his release.  Richard Mynatt, lowly indentured servant, took one of the most powerful families in Virginia to court and sued for his release.  Mynatt won, preserving his place in history as the first indentured servant in America to successfully sue for freedom.

Given the proximity of their ages, there is no doubt in my mind that Richard Mynatt followed closely the exploits of Thomas Lee’s

Court Order in favor of Richard Mynatt 1754

Court Order in favor of Richard Mynatt 1754

sons through the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  Freedom was no doubt precious to Richard, having won his own battle against involuntary servitude.  When War with England broke out, Richard Mynatt enlisted, serving as a courier for General Washington.  He is listed as having two tours of duty in the Revolutionary War.  Richard’s eldest son William also served in the Revolution.

In 1787 Richard sold his Virginia land and moved the family to Grainger County in Tennessee along the western edge of North Carolina or the “Lost State of Franklin” depending on your political point of view at the time.  There is no doubt however of his support for Tennessee statehood.  Richard served two terms in 1795 as a doorkeeper for the Southwest Territorial House of Representatives for which he was paid the princely sum of $1.75 per day with a mileage allowance of 3 cents per mile for the 7 hour horseback ride from Grainger County to Knoxville.

Richard Mynatt died in 1823 and is buried in a small family cemetery at the corners of Union, Grainger and Knox Counties.  Although he commanded no militia nor sought high political office, GG Grandfather Richard Mynatt served both country and state ably, as he occupied his front row seat to both the birth of our nation and our State.  I wonder if he ever paused to think the fateful act of signing over his freedom had setting in motion his life’s journey.




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Where’s the Big Idea? Lies, Damn Lies & Big Data

ImageI’m old enough to remember when political parties rallied around principles.  They won or lost on the quality of their ideas and how well those ideas resonated with the American people. Everyday we witness the abandonment of Big Ideas for Big Data. 

With Big Data leadership takes a back seat to pandering, and principles are replaced by pragmatics.  Political campaigns are reduced to donors and demographics.  Since tomorrow is Independence Day, take a moment with me and reflect on how our Founding Fathers would have addressed grievances with mother England in the age of Big Data. 

By any standard The Declaration of Independence was and remains a Big Idea.  A disgruntled band of lawyers, merchants and farmers gathered together to defy the most powerful nation in the world, risking life and livelihood, for the principles of liberty, freedom and self-determination.  In today’s Big Data environment proponents of this Declaration would be called “wackobirds.”  Merchants would be pitted against the farmers who dumped their shipments in the Boston Harbor.  Lawyers would weigh in on both sides. Jefferson’s masterpiece of freedom would never make it to the floor for debate!

Personally, I’m convinced that if I sponsored legislation approving the cure forImage cancer, Doctors and Undertakers would be pounding on my door complaining that I was about to put them out of business.  Welcome to the world of Big Data politics, where “in God we trust” has been replaced by “abandon hope all ye who enter.”

Living is easier in a world where someone is always there to watch over your care, feeding and shelter, just ask any farm animal.  Life is rosy, right up until dinner time!  Have we really struggled 200+ years to preserve this Republic for an America where quality of life is determined by how high you rank in the targeted demographic food chain?

ImageRunning for office on slogans like “Yes We Can” ignore the obvious retort, “but should we?” Congress has realized its ruin by treating every aggrieved group like a frustrated parent to a temper tantrum throwing child in a checkout line.  One more sugary treat will bring contentment. Turning to consultants they are told the answer is predicting which child will remain content the longest for the fewest treats, complete with graphs listing which candy makers will contribute the most for passage of the Willy Wonka Relief Act.  In the Big Data world the child’s behavior molds the parent’s response. 

King George called.  He wants his Colonies back now.  Happy Independence Day!  Enjoy it While We Can!     


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A Different Kind of Independence Day Remembered; July 5, 1899.


Cover of republished 1899 book features my Grandfather, Deputy Hugh Niceley cutting the hangman’s ropes from Tipton and Wynn.

Pleas Wynn and Catlett Tipton were publicly executed for the murders of Laura and William Whaley at the Courthouse on July 5, 1899. Theirs was the last hanging in Sevier County.  The circumstances of their crimes, as well as the chain of events bringing them to their final justice, is a darkly fascinating and defining saga, as East Tennessee crossed the threshold into the 20th Century.

Wynn and Tipton were White Caps, members of a secretive vigilante band of raiders begun to uphold virtuous community standards, but during the 1890’s seized the county in its grip, pitting neighbors against each other in a violent struggle between the rule of law and mob whim.  That July day Wynn and Catlett paid full measure for their crimes, passing on to their immortal judgment, perhaps not just for themselves, but for their community as a whole.

I doubt those lofty reflections crossed the mind of my Grandfather, Deputy Hugh Niceley, as he cut the ropes, allowing the two lifeless vessels to fall.   More likely, Hugh Niceley was intently focused from the corners of his eyes on the gathered witnesses, as wagering had been heavy whether he would live or die for his role in delivering justice.  The crowd remained peaceful, with many proceeding afterwards to the local druggist to settle their bets.

White Capping in Sevier County started simply and popularly as a means to uphold communities’ standards of conduct.  When a prostitute moved her business and three ladies from Knoxville to Emert’s Cove in 1892, late night visitors dropped bundles of switches at each woman’s door, warning them to move on or face a whipping on a later visit.

Armed Group of Blue Bills with Dr. Henderson at the Henderson Springs resort.

Armed Group of Blue Bills with Dr. Henderson at the Henderson Springs resort.

Initially, these visits were viewed favorably, as the first notes signed “White Caps” were from the wives and good ladies of the community.  It didn’t take long for the frequency and severity of White Cap actions to raise alarm.

By the mid 1890s the White Caps had escalated their violent night raids and expanded their secretive group to include prominent businessmen, as well as local magistrates who excused their offenses.  Public opinion began to turn as early as 1993, however, with the particularly brutal whipping of Mrs. Breeden and her daughters.  Mrs. Breeden’s eventual death prompted her physician, Dr. J.A. Henderson, to take charge of a rival group, the “Blue Bills,” as a citizen posse to combat the White Caps.

In the August election of 1894 Republican M.F. Maples was elected sheriff by 147 votes running on the pledge to end the White Caps vigilantism and restore order.  He brought the opposite party into his coalition, promising to appoint a Democrat deputy.  He chose farmer and former school teacher, Thomas H. Davis.  Davis was educated, methodical and led the way to restore law and order for the citizens of Sevier County.

Deputy Hugh Niceley's Model 3 Smith & Wesson revolver, handcuff and steel knuckles.

Deputy Hugh Niceley’s Model 3 Smith & Wesson revolver, handcuff and steel knuckles.

Hugh Niceley was raised in Dandridge, but upon reaching young adulthood left Tennessee, joining relatives in Oklahoma to work the Chisholm Trail for cattlemen.  While there he contracted and luckily recovered from Typhoid fever. Soon after, he decided to return home to the hills he loved.  Hugh Niceley was cutting a boundary of timber for Deputy Sheriff Tom H. Davis who approached him for help in putting down vigilante violence in Sevier County.   My Grandfather agreed, leaving logging to join the force of Sheriff M.F. Maples and bring the White Caps to justice.

The 1896 murders of the Whaley’s galvanized Sevier County in opposition to the White Caps, as their deaths exacted cold blooded revenge for testimony to the grand jury against the conspiracy.  The situation had grown so volatile that Maples and Davis brought in detective assistance from Knoxville, despite the resentment for bringing in “outsiders” fostered in the county. murder of the whaleys

Bringing Wynn and Tipton to justice took many twists and turns.  State legislation was passed providing a neutral judge to the district, as well as new criminal laws on conspiracy.  By the end of the trial Tom Davis was acting Sheriff, as M.F. Maples was being held under investigation for killing Pleas Wynn’s brother William in a confrontation outside the courtroom.

M.F. Maples with his wife, Laura

Even so, the conviction and execution of the Whaley murderers didn’t bring complete closure.  Wealthy landowner Bob Catlett, the man many thought ordered the murders, was never satisfactorily brought to justice.  While Maples and Davis brought down the White Caps, and Davis became the first Democrat sheriff of Sevier County in 1888, by 1900 it was all over.  Unable to bring in Catlett after a bungled state prosecution, Tom Davis didn’t stand for re-election in 1900 and moved on.  M.F. Maples moved to Knoxville, becoming an agent for the IRS, but killed in an ambush five years later.

After the hangings, it was as if everyone wanted to put the episode behind them.  Hugh Niceley, now married, moved to the farm where my brother still lives today.  Less than a year later in 1900, my father was born.  Initially, my Grandfather named his son Tom Davis Niceley.  But perhaps like most, my grandmother insisted on locking it all away as well, renaming my father Jake Niceley by the time he was two years old.

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KnoxNews Columnist Greg Johnson Called out by Colleague; Resorts to Internet Trolling

A rule of thumb in social media is “don’t feed the internet trolls.”  A time proven axiom in politics is “never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.” Before I violate both dictates, I’ll stipulate Columnist, GMO Zealot, Insurance salesman, Greg ImageJohnson is perfectly entitled to his opinion.  My only interest is clearing up his gross misrepresentation of mine.  A few weeks ago, he wrote a column assailing my speech to the Knoxville March on Monsanto.  One of my early blogposts pointed out how false his claims prove to be.   Greg’s column was so devoid of facts and full of dishonesty, now another columnist has called him out for his dishonesty and sloppy fact checking.

Rikki Hall, Metropulse columnist and certainly no fan of my conservative views, jumped straight to the heart of the issue:

News Sentinel columnist Greg Johnson knows how to please the powerful. He wrote an appallingly dishonest column about Niceley. Instead of criticizing Niceley’s policies, Johnson claimed Niceley wanted to ban GMO crops. The senator had only proposed labeling products containing GMO ingredients.

Rikki Hall; Metropulse; June 26, 2013.

Here’s the speech, which to this day I’m convinced Greg Johnson has never watched:

Any normal person would take the criticism to heart and either print a retraction, or simply move on.  However, that is not the case with GMO Zealot, Insurance salesman, and now Internet Troll, J. Greg Johnson.  Last night while checking my messages I noticed a request to add a comment on my rebuttal to GMO Zealot, Insurance salesman Greg Johnson’s column.  It was from Greg himself, who has now apparently moved on to troll my blogposts! Since he desired it to be published, here is his comment in full:

  So sorry I offended your credentials but when you hang out with anti-GMO crowd your position can be a bit clouded. But I’m
still waiting for some basic answers to some simple questions: Now that billions of people have eaten trillions of meals Image
containing GMOs over the decades, how many have become ill? We both know the honest answer to that question. It appears
you’ve joined with the artists, the anarchists, the socialists and anti-capitalists here, Frank, to try to ignore and deny science and return us to our agrarian past. Or to ate [sic] least benefit small farmers, of which you are one. Oh yes, and I’m not an insurance salesman nor am I a GMO zealot – I just believe in capitalism and feeding as many people as possible as cheaply as possible and don’t want people to starve because the fact-free histrionics of the uninformed or those who, like
you, have a vested interest in raising food prices.

J. Greg Johnson, GMO Zealot, Insurance salesman, Internet Troll

No Greg, you didn’t offended my credentials; you LIED about my credentials.  Zealots DO tend to label others through guilt by association.  Zealots set up straw man arguments Imageattempting to FORCE a defense of a false premise.  Unlike Zealots such as YOU, I support a two tiered system of both mass production and community based agriculture.  And Zealots have no problem LYING to cover up LIES. The purpose of capitalism is NOT an endless supply of cheap goods.  The purpose of capitalism is to provide a market structure that responds to consumer demands and desires.  An endless supply of cheap goods such as food was the purpose of every SOVIET FIVE YEAR plan from 1918 til their collapse. Finally, how DARE you say I have a “vested interest” in increased food prices? Farming is a business like any other.  I seek to fill customer demand by producing a product that meets that demand.  The market sets the price for that product, certainly not the farmer.

Asked and answered. 



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Senate Set to Double “Debt Tax” on Student Loans; But Votes to Subsidize Illegal Border Crossings

Leave it to Congress to find a way to tax the American Dream.  This week the US Senate voted to subsidize the “land of milk and honey” dreams for those crossing the border illegally. Next week, however, the interest rate is set to double on federally backed student Imageloans from 3.4% to 6.8%.  Already, the federal government is profiting $57 billion per year on the current interest spread, in effect a “debt tax” on higher education. 

Doubling this tax, along with spiraling growth in student loans ($2,853.88 per second), roughly equates to the $744 billion ($67k for each of 11 million illegals) cost over 10 years calculated for the Senate Immigration Bill. But basic economics dictates that the Amnesty / Student Loan equation will not remain balanced.  Namely, if you subsidize something (illegal crossing) you have more of it, while if you tax something (college students) you have less of them.

Wait! Aren’t guaranteed student loans subsidies too?

The easy credit of student lending have been excellent subsidies, but for colleges and universities, not students.  First, you have to pay back a loan.  And, since government is making a healthy profit on the spread, it certainly isn’t a subsidized rate.  On the other Imagehand, for years colleges have been able to charge what the market will bear based upon their abilities to draw a crowd, more often than not with marketing pitches emphasizing the sizzle over the steak.

Return on the academic investment has taken a backseat to student life and sports teams.  Go to the website of any major university and see what’s being highlighted on the front pages and what’s being soft pedaled on the back pages. 

At the same time tuition has skyrocketed at both private and public institutions.  When pressed, college officials point to the lifetime wage earning prospects for college graduates vs. non graduates.  As a result for the past Imagethirty years the cost of a college education has risen twice as fast as even medical care which was deemed at crisis level for Obamacare.  What we have learned this decade is that easy credit distorts the true market, especially when based on false assumptions. 

The housing bubble was inflated by the faulty notion that housing prices would always increase, along with an individual’s future earning power.  Sound familiar?  Unlike the housing bubble which is a capital investment.  There isn’t a secondary market for diplomas and no liquidation value.  The government has reinsured the debt by prohibiting bankrupting it off the books, even using the IRS as the collection agency until it is paid in full.

The bottom line?  In a jobless recovery, raising the cost of admission to the job market is ludicrous.  Graduates with huge debt will be priced out of the housing market, putting home ownership off and further weaking the economy.  Already evidence points to an aging population with outstanding student loans.  Government needs to get out of the student loan business and put pressure where it needs to be, reducing the cost of education for entry into the marketplace.  Less brick and mortar and more technology is needed in the information age.  Push universities and college to compete on outcomes, not input into the system.   Image        


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Bureaucrats Say the Darndest Things

“We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously….But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism” 

Sherwin Smith, TDEC, Deputy Director, Division of Water Resources

As a politician, I’m more than casually acquainted with the taste of shoe leather.  And, honestly, hope that is the case here. Troubling, however, is a recent trend seen in government Imageofficials at all levels taking every situation to the extreme worst case scenario.  People are confused by the mixed messages and veiled threats.

At the federal level, Tennesseans have been lectured by a US Attorney not to post derogatory remarks about Muslims on social media, lest they be found guilty of some  unnamed crime.  Just this week, the FBI pulled an ad showing the The Faces of Global Terrorism, bowing to pressure from Congress and Islamic groups saying the fact that most are Muslim, paints a bad picture on their religion.  At the same time the Department of Homeland Security is running an ad campaign IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.

Excuse me, if we are supposed say something about what we see, it is helpful to know what to look for.  Americans are kind, gentle and patriotic people.  Most will GIVE you the shirts off our backs, but woe to the one that decides to SNATCH it without asking.SeeSay_poster1_large  Still, we can certainly be trusted to tell the difference from our neighbor down the street and a cold blooded terrorist.  It would certainly be more efficient to admit there are specific people out to destroy our way of life, than monitoring everyone’s phone and internet like a nest of blind squirrels hunting an acorn.

It is my experience the tone of government is set from the top.  Federal agencies influence state agencies who in turn model for local agencies.  What we need at all levels of government is a little less Barney Fife and more Andy Taylor.  After all, taxpayers pay your salary, fund your pension and decide whether you are walking the beat or driving.  Last count, we had 20+ agencies at the state and local level with full or limited police power in Tennessee.  Too many?  Maybe, but certainly enough without being rude to generally law abiding taxpayers.


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