I love this song and listen to it all year, with the volume turned up.
In mid-October President Trump abandoned Kurdish allies in Syria. This resulted in deserting American military holdings in the area, Turkish assaults on Kurds, the escape of ISIS prisoners, and Kurdish leaders looking to Russia and the Syrian government for support against Turkey. On Tuesday, January 7th, dictators Vladimir Putin (Russia) and Bashar al-Assad (Syria) met in Damascus as Syria’s ally, Iran, surely finalized plans for attacks on Iraqi bases where American forces are stationed.
Amid heightening tension with Iran last summer, when asked about the possibility of armed conflict with Iran, Trump said he “doesn’t need exit strategies.” With a lifetime of multiple bankruptcies, $2Million in court penalties for abusing Trump foundation charity funds, failing to pay cities over $1Million for campaign security costs, bilking contractors for work done on his hotels, and shuttered casinos , clearly Trump is a man who won’t be bothered with planning for a smart exit.
Before we were 72 hours into this new year, Trump put American lives at greater risk by ordering, from his Mar-a-Lago country club, the assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani. Americans who have volunteered for our country, many of whom struggle to pay bills while getting a government paycheck, who chose the military over their rural communities where jobs are scarce, and, people of color whose numbers as commissioned personnel continue to lag, are at the mercy of a man who used bone spurs as his “exit strategy” during the Vietnam War.
With a dismissed national security advisor willing to testify during his former boss’s impeachment trial, talk of additional impeachment charges, a record $22Trillion debt, oil prices already climbing, farmers beginning to squirm harder under tariff restrictions, working family budgets stretched thin despite promises from tax cuts, and a base that requires larger and louder lies to keep them fed, Trump needed a distraction. He hoped to find one in Iran, but may learn he overplayed his hand.
I’m not pinning any hopes on the spineless Trump Republican Party-controlled Senate to remove him from office. Sadly, because the November election and January 2021 inauguration are so far away, and so much is at risk, the exit strategy may not take place until the fall.
The most powerful people in The White House.
Pushback from the Speaker and V.P.
Farm raised, semi-retired businessman, and political opinionator. Columbia/Spartanburg, SC
reposted with permission from the author
With considerable admiration of her present leadership in the matter of Articles of Impeachment currently being considered against the President of the United States, I want to congratulate Madam Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, on her measured, but aggressive pushback today on James Rosen of Sinclair Broadcasting.
First, allow me to apologize for my indiscretion a few months ago in the form of my critical commentary on her position as the titular leader of the Democrat Party. I was wrong. There, it’s done. She is the most powerful and savvy speaker in modern times. Now to get to my reason for this column.
James Rosen, the columnist for Sinclair, impudently asked an insulting question of Mrs. Pelosi relating to other’s (and his) perceived “hatred” by the Speaker, of the current duly elected, but faux and unworthy President. It’s important to note that Sinclair is the second largest TV and Broadcast media company in the United States. It’s by far the most conservative, and some say, the most dangerous right wing propaganda organization as well.
Rosen was taken to task and rightly so, by the Speaker, a devout Catholic, who both earnestly and publicly declares her faith, when he questioned the Speaker’s religiosity. Pelosi would not have it. The Speaker succinctly, forcefully, and articulately, spoke to the difference in political issues, and the Constitutional role and separation of powers as it relates to the Congress and the Presidency in the matter of a functioning and representative government, our Republic.
She scolded him for questioning her religious schooling and in a lesser manner, her faith. It was questioned yesterday by the erstwhile traveling salesman, turned preacher, turned lawyer, turned fast talking but shrill, Congressman, Doug Collins of GA.
Don’t mess with the Speaker; any Speaker.
Good on her; she doesn’t have to stand in front of the podium and endure insults ad infinitum, nor does Joe Biden, former Senator, Vice President, and current candidate for President.
Biden today, pushed back against the insulting false charge of an 83 year old man at a campaign event in Iowa, who in a moment of complete cognitive dissonance, suggested Biden too old to be President, and if that were not enough, claimed that Biden inappropriately sponsored and gained his son’s ascendency to the Board of the Ukrainian gas and energy company, Burisma. In a moment of moral equivalency, let’s just remember the three privileged grifters of the Trump dynasty, specifically Ivanka, Jr., and Eric, not to mention the boy wonder, Jared.
Biden called him a “damn liar” and when the octogenarian denied the obvious, Biden leaned in again. Good for him. It’s about time that junk is called out for what it is, patent bull. No one has a right to accuse with impunity, false charges, no matter what the occasion.
For those of my Democrat contemporaries, few of whom’s longevity is as loyal and committed to the Party’s espoused beliefs as I, and who oppose the boldness of both Pelosi and Biden, let me simply say: get over it; it’s high time we push back in our battle for the hearts and minds of the nation. It’s high time we hit the bullies in the mouth where they are most sensitive. It’s high time we act with both defiance and aggression in taking back our share of the high ground of both principle and religion in today’s political discourse.
Last week a friend graciously invited me to hear author David Sedaris read from his work at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta (it truly is fabulous). Sedaris and I spent time together during the summer of 2018 while I listened to the audio version of his book Calypso ,and then Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. He was a wonderful traveling companion.
Drawing his keen observations about life to a close, he added that he likes to close with a recommended book. On Wednesday he encouraged audience members to read The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Sedaris explained that usually he suggests a book available in paperback, but that Patchett’s book is only out in hardcover, and well worth the cost.
Then he segued to how audience members should buy the book. Recently a friend called him, saying that Amazon had just delivered the recommended book. The author was a little put out with his friend. He adroitly pointed out that a local bookstore had copies of the book in the theatre lobby where the friend had attended Sedaris’s reading. Why walk past the book, right there, offered to you by a local business employing local residents, and order from Amazon?
Sedaris is right. For no more effort than perhaps standing in line for a couple of minutes, the local business put the book in the hands of every customer that night. The same could be done the next day or the next week in their store. That’s what local businesses do.
So, with that in mind, as many people map out their holiday shopping with Black Friday bargains and schematics for getting through their list, take a deep breath, and put the list down for a minute.
What happens if you buy the gift in a store, handed to you by a real person in your community? Or at a local artisan and craft fair, where you may meet the person whose work you are buying.
Or, if you can’t find something locally, maybe you could do some homework and find an artisan who is making beautiful things, one at a time, with attention to detail, who offers them online. If you go that route, read the artisan’s “About” info and see why they are offering their work to the world
Make your list. Check it twice. Then buy the hardcover book, the artwork made by a self-trained artist who works with found materials, or the knitted shawl made with yarn dyed and spun by the person who then transformed it into the gift you are buying. Make the experience of finding the right gift an opportunity to build connections in your own community.
For the past 17 months and six days, people have said that I am handling suddenly being widowed with grace. Being furious and raging wasn’t going to unwind the fact that a careless driver killed my husband while he was riding his bike. I have limited reserves of energy, and I knew that walking around being angry wasn’t going to get me very far.
Last Thursday I was both angry and sad. If David Cummings was alive, I would have put down whatever work project had my attention in Atlanta just before 2:00, gotten in my car, and driven back to Sandersville, Georgia to celebrate with him. As I have told friends before, it was David who helped me connect the dots not too long after the boondoggle Plant Washington was announced.
I didn’t know much about energy production before the end of January 2008 when Dean Alford was presented to the business leaders of Washington County in an invitation only presentation at the Washington EMC. As I learned more, I became very concerned. It’s handy to be married to a geologist who can explain the water tables and such when a coal plant is going to draw down 16Million gallons of water per day, and your household water source about eight miles from the plant site is also drawn from a well in that same geologic plain.
I’ve always credited David for helping me find my way on responding to Plant Washington. On one of the first beautiful spring days in 2008, the kind that makes you want to find any reason to go outside, I told David I wished there was someone who lived near the proposed plant site that I could talk to, because surely they would be concerned about the threats of coal ash emissions, access to water, safety, and property values. He casually said that long-time family friends Randy and Cathy Mayberry had a cabin adjacent to the site, that maybe I should talk to them.
That sunny afternoon I went out to walk, and after about an hour, sweaty and kind of worn looking, I knocked on the Mayberry’s front door. Cathy answered, and while I told her I didn’t want to interrupt their day, and I surely wasn’t fit to sit down with anyone to talk, maybe sometime we could have a conversation about the risks posed by Plant Washington. From the living room Randy called out, “Come on in.”
From there Cathy and I met on someone’s porch with Lyle Lansdell, Pat, and Sonny Daniel, Paula and John Swint. Jennette Gayer came drove down from Atlanta. Seth Gunning, a student at Valdosta State who was light years ahead of the rest of us about energy and the environment, drove up for a meeting. Larry Warthen, whose church was founded after the Civil War, where unmarked graves of enslaved and free people are just yards from the plant site perimeter, stepped up to help lead in the work. The lawyers and partner organizations came to us to teach us, guide us, and become champions for our community too.
David didn’t go to those early meetings, but he listened to me, counseled me when I thought my head would explode as I learned more about the convoluted way coal plants are developed, permitted, and financed. He signed the petitions and went to the hearings. He phone banked when volunteers across the state came together to help return Cobb EMC to the rightful control of the member-owners. He used a few vacation days to attend court proceedings and EPA public comment sessions. Later he agreed to serve on the board of the small grassroots organization, the Fall-Line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE), that came together after the first few community meetings. Because he grew up fishing, canoeing, and swimming at our family’s farm on the Ogeechee River, he became a certified stream monitor.
In the summer of 2010, when I knew to my core that quitting a job as a rural health advocate, where I excelled, instead of working nights, weekends, and burning through vacation days to fight Plant Washington, was my true calling, David supported me. When I worked 12 hours a day, he walked the dogs and cooked dinner. When I had cancer and was exhausted from radiation treatments, and the work required to fight Plant Washington totaled at least one thousand hours each week among our partners, he supported me. When Plant Washington’s funders backed out, and the truth in what FACE and our partners had said all along became clearer and clearer, David celebrated with me. And when the work of fighting Plant Washington wasn’t a full-time job any longer, because winning meant I would work my way out of a job, David supported me while I looked for work that would tap all the passion and experience I had garnered since 2008. He was always there.
Thursday evening I had plans to meet Atlanta friends who don’t know me as coal-plant fighting activist. One of them said she wanted to hear the story of my work as we began walking through the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I told her I couldn’t compress it well at the moment, as it began in 2008 and changed me forever.
So we toasted a long-awaited victory, one they know matters to the health of the small rural community where my husband and children grew up, where some of my grandchildren live now, the community that helped FACE leaders become the best and truest versions of ourselves. We toasted to doing work that matters and benefits everyone on this one planet, and to those whose bodies have been returned to it.
Earlier this afternoon the Atlanta Journal Constitution sent out a news alert concerning the resignation of Dean Alford, a member of the Georgia University System’s Board of Regents. Alford was recently reappointed to the Board by Governor Brian Kemp.
The newspaper details that the Georgia Attorney General and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation issued arrest warrants for Alford for creating a fraudulent invoice submitted to the state, and for forging the signature of a university employee.
What did Alford do?
The paper’s coverage includes, “Alford is accused of creating a fraudulent invoice acknowledgement form, dated Sept. 24, to submit to a company called Versant, state officials said. The document is alleged to have falsely asserted that the University of Georgia would pay Versant $487,982.88 to satisfy a debt owed to Alford’s own company, Allied Energy Services, LLC, located in Rockdale County.”
That’s not the biggest amount of money, according to the AJC. The article continues with, “He’s also suspected of transmitting fraudulent documents to Versant to make the company believe he had legitimate purchase agreements and accounts receivable with various entities, state officials said. Alford was attempting to sell such accounts receivable to Versant in exchange for $1,798,327.06, investigators said. ”
Alford purchased Allied Energy Services for pennies on the dollar when a judge ordered Cobb Energy holdings, a private shareholding company spun off from the nonprofit Cobb EMC, to be dissolved. Alford’s “haul” at Cobb EMC, the electric membership co-op in the north Atlanta suburbs, was close to $18Million according to 2015 news coverage.
But there’s more. Much more.
Allied Energy Services was awarded a no-bid contract to develop Plant Washington, a $6Billion proposed coal plant that soaked up millions of dollars from EMCs in Georgia under the umbrella of Power for Georgians. The electric co-op in Washington County, Washington EMC, sunk $1Million of member-owner dollars into the boondoggle plant, slated to be built just miles from my home, and the homes of a small group of local citizens who became the Fall-Line Alliance for a Clean Environment (FACE). Alford never secured financing, power purchase agreements, or customers. FACE has never wavered in its grassroots committment to protecting our natural resources and the health of our families and friends.
The adventures of FACE, and those of others in Washington County, have been detailed on this blog since Plant Washington was proposed in January 2008. The saga involves seeing fellow citizens for who they truly are, or are not. FACE leaders earned the rights to our story through hard work and selfless determination.
I’ll close here by adding that FACE and our partners have waited years to throw the biggest celebration to ever happen in Washington County. We’ve got a party to plan and invitations to send to those who stood with us.
The Republican Party, which is now Donald Trump’s Republican Party (DTRP), has long heralded itself as the party of less big government and more local control. They’ve argued that states, cities, and counties know what is best for them and they should set standards.
DTRP dislikes car emission standards set by California’s elected leaders so much so that a court battle looms over the state’s ability to set standards for vehicles, which California began doing in 1966.
In fact, the emission standards have worked so well that 13 states adopted California’s standards, meaning that car and light truck manufacturers have already designed their products and factories to meet emission standards which keep air cleaner. It also means consumers are buying these cars and trucks. Tough emission standards didn’t serve as a death-blow to auto sales in those states.
The same can be said for gas mileage standards. DTRP wants to reduce mileage standards for vehicles, but that doesn’t mean consumers will race out to buy something new to drive. Consumers expect and demand good mileage, safety features, and low emissions.
Manufacturers couldn’t, and wouldn’t, retool their factories in an afternoon to produce gas-guzzling, dirty emission spewing cars just because the DTRP says it is ok. In fact, just two months ago, four manufacturers agreed to meet continue to meet California’s vehicle standards.
A quick survey of the popularity of electric vehicles, hybrids, and high-efficiency gas fueled cars and trucks, would remind manufacturers that consumers want and expect cleaner running, higher mileage, vehicles. Both domestic and foreign car companies continue to offer best selling models with hybrid versions, and are also re-introducing retired versions of hybrids, because if they don’t, customers will drive past those dealerships on the way to others who offer what they want.
Donal Trump’s Republican Party can deny all kinds of reality and science, but car dealers won’t deny the reality of their bottom line. Profits are increasingly driven by consumers who buy cars using less or no gas, and emitting as little air pollutants as possible.
Car standards aren’t set at the White House any more; they are determined by consumers with their wallets in dealer showrooms and at gas pumps.
First posted here on September 10, 2014
How We Have Failed since September 11
Tonight President Obama will address the nation about ISIS and any actions that we may take in response to the horrific murders of Americans and innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.
Tomorrow there will be an observance in my community, and many others, to honor the thousands of lives lost to hate and terrorism, and to support the families and friends who knew someone they loved would never return home again.
Since September 11, 2001 we as a country have talked a lot about being kinder to one another and being a better country. Yet 13 years later this is what consumes us as a country:
- fighting about allowing two consenting adults of the same-sex to legally marry each
- failing to take care of the thousands of veterans who have defended our country, many of whom returned with horrible wounds from the Middle East since September 2001
- allowing private corporations to decided which forms of legal birth control they will cover for employees through company based health insurance because some corporations should have the same privileges as churches
- granting corporations the same rights as citizens so businesses can pour money into elections and our representatives’ pockets
- making it harder for citizens to exercise their right to vote
- subsidizing corporations with huge tax breaks while their employees working full-time never earn enough to break the poverty barrier
- denying the hard facts of science because profits should come before cleaning up the mess we’ve made of the entire planet
- deporting children
- complaining about failing schools while slashing teacher pay and testing our children to death
- sitting by silently while racism and sexism are displayed proudly
- being sure we can take our assault rifles into the grocery store
- we pay for and support violence on playing fields, in the movies we watch, video games we buy, music we listen to, and television shows we watch, but we react with horror when students are sprayed with bullets in their classrooms, women are drug from elevators by their hair, students are bullied, children and women are raped as well as being forced into prostitution
- too many among us are convinced that their brand of faith should be followed above all others, and if necessary the rights of other citizens should be denied because they choose to worship differently, or not at all
We absolutely should remember and honor the victims of September 11th’s violence. I’m just not convinced we are a country that is a better reflection of the democratic values and freedoms which terrorists intended to destroy 13 years ago.
Two days ago a friend described the criminal court proceedings against the careless driver who killed my bicycle-riding husband, David, as a “lite order of justice.” Why? What’s the punishment for killing a law-abiding cyclist in Georgia?
Careless driving resulting in a cyclist’s death is considered a misdemeanor, and the penalties are hardly harsh. A year’s probation, losing a driver’s license for 12 months, 40 hours of community service, and completing a driver safety course, were meted out by the judge who accepted a plea agreement reached between the defense and prosecutor.
The bar is set that low in the state of Georgia for killing a cyclist due to careless driving.
Things that serve as mere inconveniences for the driver, in my opinion, hardly balance the loss of a husband, father, grandfather, brother, nephew, cousin, friend. While making funeral arrangements, we knew the punishment could never match the loss we would experience everyday for the remainders of our lives.
On Tuesday my family arrived at the courthouse fully aware that regardless of how impassioned our victim’s statements might be, there would be no sentence close to matching the significance of the life lost. We are not the first to experience this unnecessary loss, nor, sadly, the last.
So all of us continue to grieve and mourn, both family and friends, while the punishment for the person whose carelessness caused us to gather in a courtroom this week, is measured in a very few months and hours of inconvenience. A serving of justice lite was the only thing available on the menu Tuesday.
After the death of my infant grandson in December 2016, my husband’s tragic death on April 30th of this year, followed seven weeks later by my mother’s death, my family has been the recipient of both kind and what are really thoughtless comments from people who are trying to express their sympathies. My friends shared some of the best, and worst, things said to them during times of grief, and several have asked me to compile them. This doesn’t begin to include everything that we, or others grieving, have heard. I’ve tried to categorize them.
Comments based on faith
- God needed another angel
- S/he is in a better place
- God has a plan
- You should have prayed more (said by a minister to the widow)
These comments dismiss the tremendous grief being experienced with a simple solution of faith. It also assumes that all people involved share the same set of beliefs. Don’t ever assume identical beliefs, even if the grieving person sits next to you in your place of worship. As for the angel comment, if your children/spouse/friends are all safely at home at the end of the day, who are you to say any deity needed their loved person as another angel?
To grieving parents
- You are young enough to have more children
- At least you didn’t have her/him so long that you were strongly attached (said to parents of recently adopted children)
- At least you have other children
To grieving spouses
- You are reasonably attractive and can get married again (said by a mother-in-law to the widow)
- You’ll meet someone else
- You have plenty of time to marry again
Death related to an illness
- Did s/he smoke? When did they quit?
- S/he should have gone to a different doctor
- Why didn’t s/he go to the doctor sooner?
- They should have exercised, eaten better, etc.
Death due to a tragic accident
- People shouldn’t ride bikes there
- Did s/he suffer?
- May be if they had been with you instead of……
This list could go on forever because there seems to be no limit on thoughtless things people let come out of their mouths.
There are things to say (and do) that are helpful.
- I am so very sorry. Expressing sympathy doesn’t require rocket science or an advanced degree. This simple statement is fine.
- I don’t know what you are feeling but I want to support you
- Would it help if I sleep on the sofa in case you need someone to talk to during the night?
- I will miss spending time with ______. I’d like to share some stories with you when you are ready (and then follow up, accepting responses of “Not now but later” and then checking again).
- Can I walk the dog? Cut the grass? Pick up things at the drug store? Go to the cleaners? Get your car serviced? Are there foods your family would like to have right now? Write thank you notes? Make calls? Return books to the library?
- Say the person’s name. Don’t be afraid to mention a lost loved one when you speak to someone grieving. Share or listen to a thought or story about his or her lost loved one. Take the time to really engage.
After the immediacy of the services have passed, check-in with the grieving. Ask about birthday and special family anniversaries so you can offer support or an invitation. Send a postcard or note with a simple message saying you are thinking about them. Take them a meal. Only offer to do things if you can follow up-really. And those offers don’t have to be huge-coffee, lunch, a movie. Did the grieving person go to plays, concerts, art shows, etc. with the person who has died? Find those events and invite them because you know they did those things together.
As we mark the year’s last holidays, there will be many hard firsts for my family, and hard moments (or days and weeks) for those whose grief is not immediate but still real. A college friend called and left me a message saying that she was thinking about me as we approach these firsts, and she wanted to let me know.
Her message was beautiful in its simplicity and sincerity. And it was just what I needed.
There are two things I’ve thought before the election and remain committed to as we wait for more votes to be counted.
1. Georgia needs to change our Constitution to require a Secretary of State to resign if running for a different office. Changing the Constitution shouldn’t be the path to solving every problem, but it is the only way to address the less than above-board election this year, and protect future contests.
2. Yes, Nancy Pelosi has raised lots of money for Democrats, and yes, she corralled Democrats during difficult issues (Democrats say Pelosi has eyes in the back of her head, knows who is in the room, and how they will vote at any given moment). When do we make room for a new leader like this if not now? Could Pelosi be an interim Speaker with a transition plan to pass the gavel, as suggested by my friend and former Congressional candidate Carol Miller of New Mexico? With a wave of newly elected “firsts” across the country, it is time to pass the role of Speaker to someone with solid knowledge of the House and Congress. There is a role for Pelosi, but it shouldn’t be as Speaker of the House.
Last month I made a change to my FaceBook account I really never imagined possible.
It is one of the hard realities I have lived with since April 30th, when a series of phone calls, the last from my friend, and deputy coroner in Washington County, told me that my husband David had been hit from behind while riding his bike, and he didn’t survive the injuries.
The accident report includes that David’s vehicle was an A. Holmer Hilsen. It doesn’t include that the Carolina blue bike was a custom ordered Rivendell, one he almost wore the internet out admiring over and over again. He even tucked in a visit to the Rivendell shop during a business trip in California to confirm it would be the right bike for him.
On a Friday in November, 2014, David called me and said he had survived another downsizing where he had built his career, and that he was going to order the Rivendell. I encouraged him to get the jersey and anything else he wanted for this long-admired bike. I don’t know how many thousands of miles he put on that bike, but he loved every one of them. (That’s not the Rivendell in the photo below, but another bike he and his work wife Leslie looked at on a different business trip.)Now I am recalibrating my internal compass. A full-stop was in order. I quit my job and signed up for Life Is A Verb Camp in November. Offers for weekends with friends have been accepted. “Can you help me with…” is in my vocabulary. “Not now but later please,” and “That decision doesn’t have to be made today,” are also phrases I call on when needed.
We had planned to be with family on what would have been our 34th anniversary, so I was there in Colorado, at a family reunion without the man who brought me into two families who love laughter, a good story, great food, and time together. When we tell stories about David with baby Parker, he is always called D, the name Ella chose when she was old enough to call to him, and that both children would often shout when they came in our back door.
I am in unchartered waters, not adrift, but still not sure which direction I will choose. My task is to not to rush the recalibration, because I need to get this right. I must honor and respect this time and work every day.
Early voting is underway across Georgia with hotly contested races for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Insurance Commissioner, and of course Congressional districts. Being an informed voter requires doing the homework, and one of the best ways to do that is to listen to the candidates themselves. I love political pundits and editorial columns more than most people, but someone else’s coverage of what a candidate says isn’t the same as hearing them yourself (or reading their policy positions on their web sites).
Georgia Public Broadcasting and the Atlanta Press Club are hosting multiple candidate debates that are free and easy for the public to access online. Watch live or find them later on demand, or do both to go back and make sure you are clear on what was said, or just as important, what wasn’t said.
Whether you’ve made up your mind or not, these debates are good opportunities to learn more about the candidates. Time consuming? Sure.
But Georgia state senate and house members, and US House members, have a total of 17,520 hours on the clock during the two years as your representative. Four year representatives are in for 35,040 hours. Invest a little of your time over the next few days to know the candidates better.