Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, September 4, 2015



The DUNER BLOG mailbox has been stuffed with letters regarding President Obama's decision to rename the tallest peak in the USA. Let's get started:

Didn't they already change the name to Denali? Ted, Oakland. Good question, Ted. Back in 1980, the National Park Service did, in fact, rename the land surrounding Mount McKinley. So the National Park has been called Denali for 35 years. However, the mountain itself remained named after the 25th US President.

Is McKinley really worthy of such an honor? Scott, Cincinnati. Let's review the highlights of his life. As a teenager, he volunteered to serve in the Union Army, surviving the bloody the Battle of Antietam. Returning home, he married, had a family, became a congressman and then Governor of Ohio. He is best known for defeating William Jennings Bryan in the pivotal gold/silver debate of the 1896 Presidential election. Suddenly, he was gunned down in 1901 Leon Czolgosz. Hmm. I don't know what more Bill McKinley could have done for his country.

What does the world 'Denali' mean? Helen, Houston. The folks who live around the 20,310 foot peak are the Athabaskans. The word "Denali" translates as "The Tall One." George Vancouver was the first non-Inuit to view the mountain in 1794, but he just called it "Stupendous!" During the Alaska Gold Rush, a miner named Frank Densmore named it after himself. A decade later, a "McKinley for President" supporter audaciously slapped the moniker on the peak and it stuck. In 1917, it officially became a national park.

Does Obama have the authority to rename a mountain? Bill, Baltimore. That depends on who you ask. A Congressman from Ohio will tell you the answer is a solid NO. House Speaker John Boehner called it "a constitutional overreach." He feels only an act of Congress can can change a geographic name. Nonetheless, the Executive Branch is confident. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell issued the change "immediately."

Shouldn't everyone be fighting the wildfires instead? Walter, Memphis. Good point! But basically, the whole point of the trip to Alaska is a desperate attempt for the President to get tepid American attention span back on Global Warming. Sure...one such fire scorched an area the size of Connecticut...but US media attention is still focused intently on Kylie Jenner's 18th birthday party. Tomorrow, Barack will become the first US President to cross the Arctic Circle. It's unlikely to receive much news coverage either.

How does Mount Denali compare to tallest mountains worldwide? Elaine, Duluth. Well, the highest 188 mountains are all in the Himalayas, so let's just talk Western Hemisphere. Here, Argentina's Mount Aconcagua in tops. In North America, Denali is the tallest, besting Canada's Mt. Logan by 769 feet and Mexico's Orizaba Volcano by 1,914 feet.

What will the punishment be for using the old name? Carl, Colorado Springs. Hmm. The President did not specify that fact, Carl. But you do make a great point. All around the world, there have been initiatives to revert back to 'native' names with mixed results. Maps still have Australia's Uluru labeled as Ayers Rock. Bombay has been Mumbai for decades, but Bollywood hasn't become Mollywood. People will still call Pluto a planet as well. Let's just hope the Feds don't spend too much money re-doing all the signage..

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