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An open letter to AT&T’s Joelle Phillips on SB2566

February 17th, 2014 No comments

bell phillipsBelow is an open letter I have sent to Tennessee’s AT&T President Joelle Phillips regarding Sen. Mike Bell’s (R-Riceville) discriminatory legislation SB2566.

My hope is we will see an effort that was promised us in 2011 and like we are now seeing by AT&T and the Chamber of Commerce in the state of Kansas regarding a similar discriminatory bill.

In the meantime, learn more about what you can do from the Tennessee Equality Project.

——-

Joelle Phillips:

I would like to know where AT&T Tennessee stands on SB2566, a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell that would protect the choice of businesses to discriminate against legally married same-sex couples.

AT&T Kansas as well as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are publicly working against a mirror of this bill in Kansas. You can read about their effort here.

In May 2011, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce expressed regret for pushing discriminatory HB600 after AT&T President Gregg F. Morton and nine other prominent job-creating members stood up and issued public statements of opposition to the Chamber’s bill. AT&T in particular made a promise:

While the timing of the announced change by the Chamber was not ideal, I believe their public statement sent a positive message to show that the business community stands against discrimination. AT&T does not support any laws, or legislative efforts, that discriminate against populations based on race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and I know businesses across our state similarly oppose any form of discrimination.

That opposition should be clearly reflected by those who represent us in Nashville, and I am confident that this will be the case going forward. I know AT&T will work with NGLCC and other advocacy groups to oppose measures that we believe to be discriminatory against these populations, not only in the state of Tennessee, but also across the nation, and we will encourage the Chamber to adopt similar positions in the future.

You can read Gregg’s statement here. Tennessee Chamber President Deb Woolley’s contract was not renewed following what many viewed as her misuse of prominent national brands in support of discrimination. Will you issue a public statement regarding SB2566 and work against it as promised and as the President of AT&T Kansas and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are now doing against a similar bill in Kansas?

——

UPDATE 2-18-14 11:45am: AT&T Tennessee President Joelle Phillips has responded saying that AT&T will stand up for their values and join the effort to stop SB2566. AT&T is the first of several major American brands and prominent members of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce to take a stand for equality.

Dear Mr. Grantham,

Thank you for contacting me about this bill. I appreciate you bringing it to my attention, and I appreciate your recognition of AT&T’s past work to speak out on discrimination.

As you noted, AT&T opposes discrimination against people based on race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

AT&T’s position on discrimination is simple; we oppose it, and we don’t do it. AT&T is contacting members of the general assembly to communicate our concern that the bill conflicts with that position.

Joelle Phillips President – AT&T Tennessee
333 Commerce Street, Suite 2104
Nashville, TN 37201

UPDATE 2-18-14 2:18pm: I’ve reached out to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and other prominent members (Nissan, Blue Cross Blue Shield, KPMG, Embraer, Comcast, FedEx, and Pfizer) asking them to join AT&T and other Tennessee businesses in standing up for equality and fairness and stopping SB2566.

UPDATE 2-18-14 5:46pm: The bill’s Senate Sponsor, Sen. Mike Bell, has withdrawn his bill!

Read more from 2011:

Blogging, technology and self-fulfillment

December 29th, 2013 No comments

ascii me

I like to think I’m bi-lingual. If you’re reading this, one language is obvious, and the other is not. The one that’s not is HTML.

Like most people in 1990, I was using Unix commands to dig around on wide open gopher servers of the few universities that were online. I would “finger” active users and saw profiles that used ASCII text to create an image.

ASCII graphics weren’t new, but for a while it was as close as computers could get to delivering an image. At 1200 bps, ASCII was all you were going to get. What was new to me was live interaction with remote users through a computer hooked up to the telephone line.

If we could interact live behind ones and zeros online, it was a matter of time before it was something more real like audio and video. When it comes down to it, pretty much everything is data. That epiphany might sound like a no-brainer now, but to this day this idea leaves wide open many possibilities of how we can share things or experiences in the near future. The only things limiting our vision of the future back then was the size and power of computers.

This new space resonated with a part of me that yearned to share, explore, connect, document, learn, and grow. I felt a real calling. Here was another way to have an impact, a chance to connect with others, and most importantly a way to share my own story in a space where fear and judgement was less of a match for the power of truth and reason in a new public space.

head deskI went to college and then totally failed at computer science. I changed my major and then took time off school hitchhiking 1,500 miles across Canada and Alaska. I needed to figure some things out.

It turned out, some computer science professors didn’t share my vision of what was coming and thought it was important I learn Pascal which I’m guessing is the Latin of computer programming these days. “Computers do machine things. It’s not some party phone line of yapping teenagers figuring themselves out,” said 1992.

I had met what would become a common road block over the next 20 years, but I eventually returned to school more determined to change the world. That’s when Netscape happened. I quickly taught myself HTML, stuck a message in a bottle and got invited to work changing the world in Washington, D.C.

When I started my blog 14 years ago today, there were only 9.5 million websites in existence. We were quite literally at the beginning of a new world. There are almost 2 billion today. Sites like Facebook now capitalize on that very early yearning I experienced. The empowerment the web has given many people like myself has changed the politics of our country. Most of my life opportunities have flowed through the language of HTML, including meeting my husband.

websites
The past 14 years have taught me that self knowledge plus new technologies equals revolution. Maybe one day we’ll learn the language of reality and write trees, air and mountains, remotely molecularize elements, program germination, or reimage the output of a dreaming brain. But without a strong sense of self, revolution can go very wrong in that world to come. One lesson I’ve learned is there is another language one should master in preparation for any revolution. It’s the language of being the fullest, most actualized human you can be. You’ll never know what is really possible without that.

When brands promote a culture of bigotry

December 24th, 2013 No comments

cracker barrel

Recent comments by reality TV star Phil Robertson have provided yet another opportunity for Americans to learn what is and isn’t protected by the First Amendment, among other things. Here’s what he said:

On vagina and anal sex:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

On “blacks” of pre-civil-rights-era Louisiana:
They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
[What The Duck? - GQ Magazine - Jan. 2014]

Duck Dynasty’s host A&E promptly suspended Robertson who has made far worse comments. Whether you share his beliefs or not, most people reading this post understand the Constitution protects our choice of speech from government actions, not the consequences from private citizens. That fact hasn’t stopped a contrary perception from being the perennially memetic teaching moment it has become.

Yes America, if it is not obvious, you have the right to be a moron. What is new is how some corporate brands have been willing to embrace and promote bad messages out of a belief they are standing up for the United States Constitution or large groups of customers. The latest example is Tennessee-based Cracker Barrel.

“You told us we made a mistake. And, you weren’t shy about it. You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings. You flat out told us we were wrong. We listened. Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores. And, we apologize for offending you.”

By pledging to keep Duck Dynasty products on their shelves, Cracker Barrel has chosen to use their brand to amplify a culture of bigotry. By further issuing an apology to angry customers who support Robertson’s comments, Cracker Barrel’s actions invested their entire brand into the content of Robertson’s character.

BRAND PROBLEM: The temptation brands have to resist in deciding whether to take sides on the social issues of customers nowadays is assuming the loudness of one message or another is somehow a measure of its morality or the justness of its cause. Another temptation brands have to resist is thinking customers are a monolithic “you” who share beliefs instead of sharing values.

BRAND SOLUTION: Most every successful American brand has a mission statement and expressed values that nearly always reflects the ideas of the kind of America we all want to see. No one would fault a company for choosing to echo their more established values over the angry noise of America working out what it believes along the way.

It’s too bad some brands find themselves with a calibre of leadership that doesn’t simply adhere to the wisdom and values of their own carefully crafted mission statements, but now that corporations are starting to act more like people it’s getting easier to discover just what kind of people they want us to know they are.

A&E TV with shit on itUPDATE 12-27-13: Well, that suspension lasted all of zero episodes. Phil Robertson is back on A&E resonating with ad dollars and America’s heart. Here’s A&E explaining why they changed their minds.

“But Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family … a family that America has come to love.”
[A&E Welcomes Phil Robertson Back to 'Duck Dynasty' - The Hollywood Reporter - 12-27-13]

A lesson in Freedom of Speech at Middle Tennessee State University

October 9th, 2013 8 comments

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution is a simple sentence and reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

That amendment and great document affords Americans like me and members of Middle Tennessee State University’s Lambda Association the right to celebrate the group’s 25 years of service to the University’s vision to create “a vibrant hub for educating accomplished students who are civically engaged and globally responsible citizens.” The group created the display pictured above that you can now see at MTSU’s Library.

I was honored and deeply touched recently when MT Lambda President Joshua Rigsby reached out to me as an alum and asked me to be a part of this powerful display. I provided a wealth of personal papers highlighting our work in the 1990s to ensure fairness and equality on campus that is now part of the display as well as a part of campus policy.

But a former Navy Information Operations Command Officer Olimpia Herlo wasn’t about to let that happen and fired off a disgraceful letter encouraging the campus to violate the United States Constitution. She simply didn’t like the use of the American rainbow flag.

“We ‘keep the watch’ so that our fellow Americans may enjoy liberty and the freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution. We sacrifice birthdays, anniversaries, being able to be with our loved ones in times of tragedy and times of joy. We stand duty when most of America is sleeping. We believe in the honorable presentation of the United States flag to families of those we lose while keeping the watch. Please remove this public disgrace from your institution at once!. Please (issue) a public apology for your blatant disrespect and lawlessness!”

Herlo has a right to chose how to use her First Amendment right, but Herlo demands a state run school violate the same Constitution she swore an oath to uphold in her service to our country. Her choice says a lot about her, and indicates she will never have the courage to come to MTSU and take the flag down herself. She is nothing like the great men and women I know currently serving our country.

One person who did go that far is MTSU student and Sigma Pi Vice President Jacob Lisemby who was charged with theft for stealing a flag from the display. Unfortunately, Lisemby chose to commit a crime instead of using his voice, violating his fraternal creed and embarrassing a great number of upstanding members of Sigma Pi and Sigma Pi International in the process. Never mind the embarrassment he has surely caused his self described “Rock-ribbed conservative” missionary family for showing not only anti-American values, but anti-Christian values (“Thou shall not steal?”).

In a passage from Christian Ministries To Israel Director Reginald Lisemby (Jacob’s father) titled “Is God For The USA?,” Lisemby concludes that “God is not on our side” despite “flags flying everywhere.” Lisemby specifically blames “homosexuals”, “free speech” and thieving leaders who “get caught and yet dismissed because of power” among other things.

These people are certainly entitled to their opinions.

While we’re on the lesson of Freedom of Speech, I got a phone call from MTSU Sigma Pi President Buddy Renner upset about me sharing this story on Twitter. He could have been upset at all the news agencies for reporting Lisemby’s crime, or even at Lisemby himself. Instead, he chose to exercise his freedom to call me and diminish the nature of his “brother’s” poor choice.

In Russia, there’s a law that puts people in prison for simply displaying in public the very rainbow flag that was stolen from our display. This ain’t Russia, and I am forever grateful for the opportunities the First Amendment provides us to compare and contrast those who like America like it is and those who want it to be just like Russia.

UPDATE 10-10-13 Responses: Some of Jacob’s fraternal brothers and sorority friends aren’t happy with this post at all and took to Twitter last night encouraging others to harass me. Kelci Biggs tweeted threats that she was calling the police for “harassment” but has since deleted the comment when she realized just how stupid she made her sorority look. Some encouraged arson. Others cheered on Jacob. Here are some of the ways people have chosen to use their freedom of speech:

  • Kelly Oberg (@kohhhberg) – Alpha Chi Omega: I support Jacob 100% and I have his back no matter what. (5:48pm Oct. 9)
  • Kelci Biggs (@kelcibiggs) – Alpha Delta Pi: I completely stand behind @kohhhberg and Jacob in this. (5:06pm Oct 9)
  • Weslea Miniat (@wesleasnipes) – Alpha Chi Omega: Love you Jacob! Eff those haters! These colors don’t run! (4:07pm Oct. 9)
  • Mikie Adams (@FRATAMS) – that’s cute. I hope that flag gets burned asap. (5:53pm Oct 9)
  • Luke Hayes (@LukeHayes_ATH) – former MTSU Football bench warmer: Jacob is a hero in my book. (4:31pm Oct 9)
  • Brooklyn Chunn ‏(@BrooklynChunn) – Alpha Chi Omega: All I know is that flag in the library should be taken down (1:59pm Oct. 9)

The revolutionary act of love

marriage license
… can change the world. When President Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, I was a year from graduating from Middle Tennessee State University. In my last year I decided to dedicate myself to undoing it, faced death threats, campus protests, lots of local news coverage and soon found myself working with close friends at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the White House in Washington.

Like many of my colleagues, I put my life on hold and worked through many challenging defeats knowing in my heart that love will win and knowing in my mind that the United States Constitution could weather even the worst kind of enemy: hatred.

We worked in small offices on 14th Street, N.W., eventually moving to bigger offices. Shortly after I left for the White House, HRC’s talented and dedicated staff was raising millions of dollars and moved into a permanent presence that I’m sure will help defend forever the America I know and love.

Somewhere in this story, I met Vince, a Marine serving our country at Quantico under another policy since reversed: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. When he wanted to re-enlist on September 11, 2001, it took everything I had to stop him. His mind was on America while mine was on saving the only family I felt I had. We held a ceremony in 2002 attended only by friends. We got married legally in 2010 in the streets of Washington in front of a sandwich shop across from the court house. While we settled into jobs and the suburbs, our friends fought on.

We still live through challenges. We are one of just a few thousand married American couples living our lives in a revolutionary act and are so proud to know the promise of America is affirmed today by the United States Supreme Court for those who can now work less to prove themselves worthy and more on building a family and living the American dream we all rightfully deserve.

Short Mountain Distillery: celebrating a year of success

March 23rd, 2013 2 comments

single bottle barrels

Today marks the one year anniversary of Short Mountain Distillery opening its doors to the public and three years since the hard work began to make this day possible.

It was an exciting three years serving an extraordinary team as Chief Operating Officer during this time. I could not have written the business plan or built a distillery around making moonshine without the help of Cannon County voters in 2010. Building a heritage brand image around local moonshine culture would have never been a reality beyond the law change without the commitment and support of Billy Kaufman and his brothers Ben and David.

I recently left the distillery in February to pursue a project I hope helps save the planet, but I thought it was important to take this opportunity to highlight some of the first year successes we achieved as a team. The captioned slideshow below really helps tell this story using hundreds of photos I took. Here’s to many more years of making our whiskey heritage shine to the world from Woodbury, Tennessee!

Short Mountain Distillery’s first year by the numbers:

  • we created several local jobs and saw over 15,000 visitors at the distillery in Cannon County
  • we launched two products: Short Mountain Shine and Short Mountain Apple Pie
  • we sold over 2,500 cases of moonshine now available in stores across the state of Tennessee
  • Short Mountain Shine (105 proof authentic Tennessee Moonshine) won the Gold Medal in the International Review of Spirits Award from the Beverage Testing Institute
  • we appeared in over 100 media pieces, including a three-part Discovery Channel mini-series How Booze Built America
  • we surpassed every industry consultant’s benchmark for success and helped ignite an American moonshine revival

Discovery Channel: How Booze Built America

September 8th, 2012 No comments

A three part mini series called How Booze Built America will air in a couple weeks on the Discovery Channel and features several folks and locations from the Middle Tennessee area. It’s hosted by Mike Rowe of the popular show Dirty Jobs.

Short Mountain Distillery was the site of a full day of filming back in June. Our upcoming release of Short Mountain Apple Pie Moonshine may or may not make an appearance, but I’m sure the effects will. Mike sat with our three living legends of moonshine at the end of a long day of filming and made sure close to a gallon of it got gone.

Several local Civil War reenactors from the Armies of Tennessee and Dr. Kristofer Ray of APSU will also help add some historic context to the story.

filming mashThe role booze had in building our country is as evident in today’s recovery from the worst economic recession in American history as it was in our rebellious beginning. As I write some big checks to the federal government on the production and sale of our moonshine, I’m reminded of the role the Whiskey Tax played in paying for America’s Revolutionary War. I’m also reminded how down right pleasant the IRS is these days compared to our founding father George Washington who sent soldiers to make sure the taxes were paid… and how that very decision by our government helped create the illicit heritage of backwoods moonshine production we are only now beginning to revive.

In a couple of weeks, this is the story America will learn again thanks to the awesomeness that is Mike Rowe. Once the promos are posted, I’ll share them here. Several TV guide listings across the country have the first episode appearing at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, but local media reports Sept. 18. There is no information on the Discovery Channel website yet. I’ll post correct times once they are available.

UPDATE 9-12-11: A few more details appear in a newly posted “exclusive” from TV Guide. Discovery’s new three-part series How Booze Built America premiers on Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 10/9c.

Discovery Channel issued the following release later this afternoon: Mike Rowe Puts On His Thinking Cap (and Drinking Shoes) in Discovery’s New Three Part Series HOW BOOZE BUILT AMERICA

In HOW BOOZE BUILT AMERICA, Mike Rowe will crisscross the country, stiff drink in hand and beer goggles firmly strapped on, to take an in depth and slightly unusual look at the story of our nation.  Between reenactments of actual historical events, and current day interviews with historians and experts, Rowe will make the case that alcohol is clearly one of the key ingredients that formed our culture and our country.

UPDATE 9-13-12: We posted the promo (above)

Short Mountain Distillery brings regional tourism to Cannon County

August 30th, 2012 No comments

Billy Kaufman knew he had something more than just another moonshine to share with the world. The three moonshiners he knew before seeking the public’s support to build the distillery in 2010 had a story to share that was unique to the South and Tennessee in particular. And more than that, it’s the story of survival in hard times. It’s Cannon County’s story.

Open for just a few months, Short Mountain Distillery has logged more than 5,000 visitors who come to experience our unique whiskey making history and heritage. They come from Woodbury and surrounding counties as well as visitors from several states, all taking home a craving for the moonshine that reconnects them with the artisan and craft spirit of America.

Here is an excerpt from an article by Dan Whittle after his recent visit to get a “snort on Short.”

Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick echoes the optimism of “new revenue” being triggered by Short Mountain Distillery’s presence: “Woodbury and Cannon County have long been known for our crafts’ men and women, particularly for our unique basket weaving traditions. Now, the Short Mountain Distillery brings another longtime Cannon tradition to light, the making of moonshine, but now, it’s legal.”

“A spinoff benefit of the Mountain’s increased tourism, which brings clean dollars that require no increase in school rooms, roads or taxes,” the mayor added. “We’re beginning to see more bus tours and family tours coming specifically to historic Cannon County and Woodbury… ranging from our picturesque Public Square to the majesty of Short Mountain.”

Tennessee Back Roads, Grits & Moonshine Tour

Sometimes it’s good to leave the driving to someone that knows all the back roads when searching for Tennessee’s hidden treasures. That’s the idea behind a new bus tour that will soon bring visitors on a day trip through Cannon County!

The bus tour is a joint project between folks at the Rutherford and Cannon County Chambers of Commerce eager to share a slice of our history and heritage with the world.

The day long bus tour takes visitors to Short Mountain Distillery to see how authentic Tennessee Moonshine is made on a 300 acre working farm. The distillery uses traditional processes, organically grown corn that’s stone-milled on site and water from a natural cave spring. Visitors will then see how the community once relied on the power of the Stones River to mill grains at the historic Readyville Mill. Lunch will be provided by the Blue Porch @ the Arts Center where visitors can learn how local folk crafts of basket and chair making kept families fed during the Great Depression. The day will wrap up with antique shopping on the square in Woodbury, TN.

At each stop our guests will receive complimentary gifts to go along with the warm smiles and hospitality you could only find on a day’s adventures through rural America.

This tour is not for individuals, but if you are interested in taking this tour with a pre-formed group of friends, co-workers or civic groups who already have motor coach service, contact the Rutherford County Convention & Visitors Bureau’s Barbara Wolke at (615) 278-2327 or visit ReadySetRutherford.com. Tickets are $39 per person and includes lunch and gifts. We look forward to seeing you in Cannon County!

Short Mountain Shine now in Middle Tennessee stores

July 18th, 2012 7 comments

It’s official! You can now buy a bottle of our 105 Proof Authentic Tennessee moonshine in stores across Middle Tennessee.

It’s quite a site to see our county’s history and heritage in a bottle on a store shelf, and we are mighty grateful to all the support we’ve gotten from thousands of you who have visited our distillery since we opened in March.

We also want to thank all the retail store owners and their family and friends who came out to our official Middle Tennessee launch party last night at City House. The crowd was about twice what we expected, but Peg Leg Porker Pitmaster Carey Bringle kept everyone delightfully stuffed with a whole pig. The Jake Leg Stompers brought the Bluegrass while the DrinkMusicCity crew kept drinks flowing with four new Moonshine cocktail recipes we’ll share with you in a couple of days.

Here are a few stores that carry Short Mountain Shine in the Middle Tennessee region. Follow us on Facebook for future launch parties in Knoxville, Memphis and Chattanooga!

Stones River Total Beverage Smyrna’s Divine Wine & Spirits Bill’s Package (Manchester) Bubba’s Wine & Liquors
Celebration Liquors Center Point Liquors Champion Discount Cheers Wine & Liquor (Gordonsville)
Cheers Wine & Liquor (Lebanon) Sinker’s Wine & Spirits CNG Wine & Spirits Del Rio Wine & Spirits
Discount Liquor & Wine (Melrose) Fuzzy Duck Liquors Red Dog Wine & Spirits Hudson’s Wine & Liquor
Jackson’s Bar & Bistro LaVergne Beverage Depot TLC Liquors & Wine Liquor World (Nashville)
Major Discount Liquors Murfreesboro City Limits Murfreesboro Wine & Spirits Oasis Package Store
Old Hickory Wine Parkway Wine & Spirits Short Mountain Distillery Metropolitan Wine & Spirits
City House Stones River Liquors Interstate Liquors Spirits of Nissan Drive
Meadows Liquor Midstate Wine & Spirits Oak Liquor Store Old Fort Liquor & Wine
Longhorn Liquors 96 Liquor & Wine Joe’s Liquor University Package Shop
Gordonsville Discount Liquors Boro Liquors Center Point Liquors Southern Spirits Discount
Social Delberts Wine & Spirits Crossroads Wine & Spirits Chill Wine & Spirits
Favorite Liquors Carroll Street Liquor Store Wine Chap All American Wine & Spirits
Smyrna Liquors Jefferson Wine & Liquor Woodland Wine Merchants Parkway Package
Riverbend Package Store Riverbend Wine & Spirits Liquor Locker J. Barleycorn’s Wine & Spirits
North Jackson Wine & Spirits Nashville Daily Spirits Mulligan’s Wine & Spirits Whiskey Bent Saloon
Sango Wine & Spirits Mr. Whiskers Grace’s Plaza Wine & Spirits Riverstone Wine & Spirits
Liquor Locker Frugal Macdoogal Queen City Liquors Play Dance Bar
Gaylord Opryland Hotel Hillsboro Village Wine & Spirits Sinker’s Wine & Spirits Bluegrass Beverages