The February 19th edition of Washington County’s weekly newspaper The Sandersville Georgian, which is not available online, included an article about a presentation made to two of the county’s commissioners. Lynda Brown, a board member of Ten Commandments Georgia, Inc., which was founded by the county’s Congressional District Representative Jody Hice, requested that the county consider spending $1,200 of taxpayer dollars for a display of documents related to the history and background of our country.
According to the newspaper, Ms. Brown said, “These documents tell the story of men striving for and his [sic] attainment of freedom…” Among the nine documents Ms. Brown says best represent freedom, she includes the first ten rights of the United States Bill of Rights.
What Ms. Brown’s organization does not consider essential for the display are these Amendments to the Bill of Rights: abolition of slavery (13th Amendment, adopted 1865), protection of civil rights (14th Amendment, 1868), the right to vote regardless of race or previous servitude (15th Amendment, 1870), voting rights for women (19th Amendment, 1920), abolition of poll taxes as a requirement for voting (Amendment 24, 1964) and the right for 18 year old citizens to vote in elections (26th Amendment, 1971).
Ms. Brown’s organization excludes the Emancipation Proclamation as a document reflective of our country’s history and commitment to freedom. While not perfect, this document stands as a marker in our government’s history recognizing that enslaved people should be free.
How can an organization professing to be committed to teaching civics and our country’s history fail to include documents written expressly to extend and protect civil and human rights to people of color and all women?
The Washington County Commissioners have agreed to allow the display in the county courthouse if it is funded by donations. Local citizens who chip in for the display should consider going further than the documents Ms. Brown’s group offers. If county leaders are concerned that residents don’t know Georgia or our country’s history, they have an opportunity, and obligation, to look more broadly than Ms. Brown’s proposal.
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.
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
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.
After weeks of political laryngitis on the government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) found the will to say that fellow Republican Rep Steve King (R-Iowa) should “find another line of work.”
In the mean time, King has been stripped of committee appointments by his own party. Without committee assignments to craft and vote on bills as they are developed, King’s ability to robustly represent Iowa’s only Republican district in Congress has shrunk to hoping he can find anyone in his party to lobby for his district as bills move towards the House floor. James Clyburn, (D-South Carolina) will introduce a call to censure King in the House.
Today marks a new era in Georgia, one that follows a contentious race for the governor’s mansion. Will Brian Kemp and the GA Legislature deliver on promises to rural voters?
Rural hospitals are fragile, while access to care is difficult in regards to insurance coverage, number of providers, and transportation. Will legislators swallow hard and request a waiver so much needed federal dollars can make their way to rural citizens and providers?
Will rural residents, and by rural I mean the ones who live on dirt roads or outside any semblance of a crossroads or town, begin to see a solution to high speed, affordable internet access? This infrastructure impacts businesses, schools, and the attractiveness of living in rural communities.
How will Kemp and the legislature handle districting when the census is completed? This issue didn’t get a lot of coverage during the campaigns, but it will impact rural Georgians in big ways as populations continue to shift to more urban areas. What about safe and secure voting?
The clock starts today. When the 40 day session ends, what will wait until 2020, or arrive on Gov Kemp’s desk to be signed?
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.
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.
Earlier this week I found this nifty tool for comparing the healthcare plan proposed by the Republicans (Trumpcare) to the current plan in place (Obamacare). Let’s call the plans what they are, since the Republicans considered attaching the former President’s name to the health care plan he championed, which provided affordable insurance to over 20Million more Americans, as a negative way to tag the plan and policies.
I also shared the Kaiser Family Foundation’s tool in a FaceBook group that was put together to support the hospital in my rural county. All I did was compare the differences in costs for a 60 year-old making $40,000 per year. I used the names Affordable Care Act and Affordable Health Care for America, not Obamacare and Trumpcare, respectively. I didn’t even mention either President or member of Congress by name.
Yesterday a local man took issue with posting the tool and providing the difference in coverage costs as criticism of the plan and the hospital. I responded today:
I am sharing the data. The tool allows people to use it themselves if they choose to do that. Both plans impact the access to care, and affordability of that care for local residents. Both plans also directly impact our hospital.
If we want to keep our hospital open and viable, it will take a combination of many funding streams- that’s not a criticism of the hospital. Hospital admins and leaders have been frank about the diverse source of funds and payer load that is required to keep the hospital open. I have not named any elected officials, nor criticized anyone, OR provided any information that can’t be verified. If sharing information in a polite and civil forum “stirs people up,” that is something that people who are “stirred up” must resolve for themselves. I’m not afraid to do some of the work of being an informed citizen, and share what I learn if others want to use those resources. The proposed legislation is being fast-tracked, so there isn’t a lot of time to “wait for all the data to be processed.”
I’m smart enough to look at the numbers myself and work through the differences- I don’t have to wait for someone to explain it to me.
Have a good day and weekend.
What’s so scary about a an easy-to-use data tool with information that is readily available and verifiable? What’s to get “stirred up for no reason” about looking at information yourself? And perhaps worse, why does anyone think that we ought to, “wait for all the data to be processed.’? Even though this in a complex problem, it isn’t rocket science.
Why are Trump supporters so unhappy about comparing Trumpcare data to Obamacare data?
The mansplaining and “don’t you worry missy, wait until someone can explain it all to you” is another problem. If you look at the provisions for women’s health care in the Trumpcare plan, and the lack of respect for women and our ability to make information decisions about our health and bodies, well, no wonder this man thought I needed to just sit down and be quiet.
In Washington County, if you are 60 years old and making $40,000 a year (per capita income is under $38,000 in my county), the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) health insurance tax credit in 2020 will be $7,800. The House plan would provide a credit of just $4,000 in 2020. That means the cost of buying health insurance for a 60-year-old making $40,000 per year will GO UP by $3,800 if the Republican plan is adopted.
Under the current plan, insurance companies are capped at charging three times the amount charged for coverage for younger people. Under the Republican plan the cap increases to five times the cost of rates charged to younger people.
There are also considerable cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.
All of these proposed changes will impose serious financial and health threats to people in my county who may not be able to afford insurance any longer, and these expenses will be added to the other cuts to funding in the proposed legislation. These factors, plus others in the proposed plan, do not bode well for our hospital or facilities in other rural communities.
Last May Washington County voters took on a bond to support our hospital, knowing that the bond could not solve all of the financial problems for our struggling facility. We still have work to do if we want to keep our hospital open.
What I’m reading about last night (link to the address is below from the New York Times):
WAPo: “In describing his bleak vision of a ruined United States exploited by foreigners, Mr. Trump wrote a series of checks he almost certainly cannot cash.”
The ugliest moment in the 60-minute address came when Mr. Trump announced the formation of an office on “Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement,” and then introduced families of people allegedly murdered by illegal immigrants. It was an appeal to raw prejudice and fear that will do nothing to promote the national unity he claims to be seeking. (emphasis added)
Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal Constitution on pouring money into the military,
“In short, this is not a carefully thought-out strategy from the Trump administration, based on consultation with the experts and our allies. Instead, the man who took five draft deferments to avoid fighting in Vietnam, the man who says that he knows better than the generals how to defeat ISIS and who claims he understands the military because he attended a military-themed boarding school, is offering a military strategy fueled largely by his own deep personal insecurities.”
The Friday Photo
January 20, 2017
reposted with permission from my daughter McKinsey Cummings
An Open Letter to My Children on MLK Day
4 days prior to the inauguration of He Who Must Not Be Named: I’m sorry. Sorry that the world you were born into is about to change. Sorry that the value I raise you with: honesty, kindness, and fairness to all will not be the values reflected by the head of government in this country. When all this is over you will be teenagers and trying to find your place in the world. You will have heard and witnessed things I would have never thought possible for your generation. I promise I will show you the path of generosity of spirit and deed. And that the little voice in your heart must guide you in the face of overwhelming animosity that is sure to come. #notmypresident #bluedot #notthis
This saying has been circulating since the election, and I understand the thinking behind it.
It also reminds me of the passenger-heroes of Flight 93, who overtook hijackers on their September 11, 2001 flight, forcing the plane to crash in a Pennsylvania field instead of its intended metropolitan target.
If your plane has been hijacked, and you know it is on a suicide mission, do you sit by idly? Or, do you organize and try to regain control of the plane, putting it on its right course?
I did some checking on definitions last night. Carl Bernstein, who, with fellow reporter Bob Woodward, earned a Pulitzer Prize for the Washington Post after uncovering and reporting the Watergate break-in and resulting coverup, tagged Donald Trump’s campaign manager and staffer Kellyanne Conway, as the incoming administration’s Propaganda Minister. Bernstein bestowed that title following her complex and unsuccessful verbal gymnastic routine with Anderson Cooper over Trump’s media event on Wednesday.
Jospeh Goebbels served Adolf Hitler as the Reich Minister of Propaganda of the Third Reich.
Another word getting lots of use in recent months is gaslighting. Wikipedia definition: Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target. The online resource goes on to offer examples: Sociopaths and narcissists frequently use gaslighting tactics. Sociopaths consistently transgress social mores, break laws, and exploit others, but typically are also convincing liars, sometimes charming ones, who consistently deny wrongdoing. Thus, some who have been victimized by sociopaths may doubt their own perceptions. Some physically abusive spouses may gaslight their partners by flatly denying that they have been violent.
Gaslighting may occur in parent–child relationships, with either parent, child, or both, lying to each other and attempting to undermine perceptions. Gaslighting also occurs in examples of school bullying. The word gaslighting is often used to describe the tactics of the President-elect. Teenvogue, of all places, had an excellent editorial on Trump’s tactics.
The weekend’s news was filled with the glitter and fluff of New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world. According to several reports, the criticism of Mariah Carey’s appearance Saturday night on national TV quickly dissolved into trashing Carey, her plea to the audience to sing, and barbs between Carey and the show’s producer over sound systems and lip-syncing gone bad.
I was reminded of the incredible grace that Patti Smith displayed, and received from the audience, when she performed on behalf of Bob Dylan’s recognition as the 2016 recipient for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Smith lost her way in Dylan’s winding second verse of A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. When she realized she was repeating words, tried to find her place, and had to pause again, Smith told the audience,“I’m sorry, I’m so nervous.”
The audience, filled with dignitaries, responded with grace and kindness by offering applause. Smith regained her composure, the musicians helped her return to the song, and Smith finished the song.
The audience at Times Square on New Year’s Eve isn’t there to be somber and sit still. It is due professional respect, the same kind that Smith extended to her audience in Sweden last month, and that she received in return.
I thought the hardest day of 2016 was going to be the morning of November 9th. My eight year old grandson, who said a woman ought to have a chance at being president, called to ask me who won the election. I couldn’t choke back my tears. I guessed the worst thing I would do in 2016 was tell him that I was seeing a world I didn’t want for him.
I was wrong.
Less than a month later my 10 week old grandson, Brayer, suddenly stopped breathing, and his 26-year-old parents made the hard decision to remove him from life support.
There aren’t many hours left in 2016, but after putting part of Christmas dinner in the oven on Sunday and walking down to the cemetery to find my daughter and son-in-law sitting by their infant son’s grave, well, 2016, I don’t have anything more to give, and those two young parents don’t either.
As November’s disappointments settled in, and the month of December has crept along, I find myself returning to a commitment I made in 2012, which was a promise to myself, and others, to Be Present in 2013.
As the election season sped up this year, I knew there would be lots of work ahead. I didn’t think the work would be bare-knuckled battles against the Twitter-length ideas of a man with a really bad comb-over, scary illusions of his abilities, the temperament of a tired three-year old, and a failure to understand that facts are facts, regardless of whether they go along with what you believe or want for yourself.
My calendar has dates marked for Being Present. Events are easy because they require setting time aside in advance. The bigger challenge for me is Being Present in some capacity every day. It means living my values every day, and holding businesses, community leaders. elected officials, and their supporters, responsible for theirs. This is not the time to look away from hate, racism, intolerance, violence, and so many isms.
On November 9th I told my grandson Chase I will do my best to build a better world for his generation. I have to Be Present every day in 2017 to do that work. And in doing so, my hope is that the ragged edges of my heart will begin to mend too.
Sitting Shiva Since the wee hours of last Wednesday morning I have wondered how long I would leave the Clinton/Kaine sign up in my yard. Over the weekend, my cousin in California, parked in their driveway within sight of their Clinton/Kaine sign, had a car window smashed. Someone with a Trump/Pence sticker on their car leaned on their horn and sped past me last Thursday afternoon outside Atlanta. Violence and rudeness (never mind safety on an interstate road with cars driving at 65+ mph) don’t win any points for Trump/Pence supporters.
With the announcement that Steve Bannon, a candidate for the Mr Anti-Semitic Lifetime Achievement Award, to serve as Trump’s chief strategist, I decided to Sit Shiva with my yard sign, as many Jewish people do following a death (although, to be clear, last week’s election outcome was not a death sentence for diversity and greater equality, but instead a wake-up call). The sign will be put away tomorrow, a full seven days after the election, even though Clinton/Kaine did receive more votes.
Jehovah Witnesses wearing safety pins This morning I heard someone knock on our front door, and since we are “come to the back door” folks, I knew a stranger must be knocking. I stepped outside to keep the dogs from making a racket, and was greeted by two black women, one maybe in her mid-late 50s and another in her 60s. They were holding Bibles and Jehovah Witness’s pamphlets, dressed in skirts and shoes intended for walking most of the day.
Before I could say anything I realized this was a chance to practice some patience and tolerance, which is in short supply in our country. We all said hello, and then I asked them as politely as possible, to not come back, and that I have asked others who came before them to strike us from their list. They said they were new here, our house wasn’t marked to be skipped, they repeated the house number, said they would take care of it.
The older of the two women had a safety pin on her scarf, and I said, “I see your safety pin, and I forgot to put mine on. We’re Quakers here, and you are always welcome if you need to find a bathroom or want a glass of water, but we’re fine.”
The younger woman said, “We all want peace.” They made note again of the house number, we all smiled, and I came back inside feeling a little better about where we can be if we are willing to try. It isn’t about wearing a safety pin; it is about being ready to do my part.