Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

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:

An open letter to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce

tnchamberThe following open letter was sent this morning to membership development and Board of Director members of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce from prospective member Short Mountain Distillery. Our letter repeats concerns posted publicly by Alcoa, Nissan, FedEx, Comcast, AT&T, Embraer, KPMG, UnitedHealth and other prominent business leaders.

As a small business owner in Tennessee, I’m very interested in what the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce can offer us as members. However, recent events involving your president, Deb Woolley, are a cause of great concern.

I’m referring to the Chamber actively lobbying Tennessee lawmakers for legislation (HB600) that does not represent the values and business practices of the Chamber’s very best known brands and job creators.

Since Friday, several of these members, including Alcoa, Nissan, FedEx, Comcast, AT&T, Embraer, KPMG, and UnitedHealth, learned of the Chamber’s support of HB600. Within weekend hours, these business leaders issued statements distancing their successful brands from the Chamber’s misrepresentation of their values to lawmakers, our governor and the voters of Tennessee. It should have been as immediately clear to Chamber President Deb Woolley that this legislation was bad for business.

Once these brands reiterated their strong and successful values in public opposition to the Chamber’s actions, Mrs. Woolley blamed activists for the united actions of the Chamber’s best members and then issued a statement of opposition to the legislation after Gov. Bill Haslam had already signed the bill.

My concern is how the very best brands and job creating members were represented by the Chamber. What assurances do other businesses have that Chamber leadership will adequately represent the values of its best members? What can the Chamber do to ensure the values of the Chamber’s most valued brands wont be co-opted by personal political agendas causing members to issue embarrassing press releases to create distance from Chamber mistakes?

The Chamber benefits from diverse membership and leadership that stands for the values that make its best members as successful as they are. I appreciate your understanding and any effort you make to address these concerns.


Billy Kaufman, CEO
Short Mountain Distillery


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Why Gov. Bill Haslam should veto HB0600

Rep. Glen Casada was the Tea Party pick for House Speaker to lead their divisive charge through Tennessee government, but the state’s Republican Party wisely chose their best leader instead by electing the first female Speaker of the House in state history.

There is a reason Rep. Casada’s own party didn’t entrust him with that power, and it’s the same reason Gov. Bill Haslam should veto HB0600.

Republicans ran on a jobs agenda, but the video above clearly shows where jobs falls on the agenda of Rep. Glen Casada and how much time his politics takes away from serious issues. This session proved that point yet again to the voters of Tennessee.

Rep. Casada was so desperate to stop Nashville’s local city government from extending work place protections to its citizens that Casada convinced lawmakers that Tennessee’s most respected job creators wanted to defeat such protections as well.

Rep. Casada worked with friends at the TN Chamber of Commerce who willingly borrowed the prestige of some of their most innovative and successful brands creating jobs in districts across the state: FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer and United HealthCare.

But there was just one problem with that. As these brands are just now finding out this week, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce misappropriated and misrepresented their values to lawmakers, the governor and the voters of Tennessee. Here’s some of the statements released in the past few days:


“Alcoa provides equal employment opportunity without discrimination and supports state and local legislation protecting the rights of all community members. We do not agree with the chamber on this issue and would ask that the governor veto the bill.


FedEx did not lobby for SB632/HB600 – it is our policy not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While FedEx is a member of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, we do not support every position proposed by the Chamber.


HB600/SB632 has become more closely associated with eroding civil liberties than fostering a strong business climate and this we do not support.

This is the kind of politics Rep. Glen Casada engages in. It’s the only kind of politics that makes good business distance itself from Tennessee, and it’s all that’s left for politicians who give up on serving their people.

Governor Haslam, don’t be the kind of governor that lifts up this kind of politics. Be Tennessee’s governor, and tell the legislature to focus on your jobs agenda by vetoing HB0600.

TAKE ACTION: use the following form to send a message to members of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

UPDATE 5-23-11 12:34pm: KPMG is now the latest major job creator in Tennessee to join Alcoa, Nissan, FedEx and AT&T in calling out the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s misuse of their brands. Tell Gov. Bill Haslam to embrace the pro-business politics of our state’s very best job creators and stop legislative efforts to push them away.

KPMG did not vote to support the Chamber’s adoption of a policy to back this bill, nor do we support the legislation, the effect of which runs counter to KPMG’s policies, core values and our long-standing support for diversity in the workplace in all its forms. KPMG fosters an environment of inclusion and we encourage our employees to share their views, sexual orientation and gender identity, broadening everyone’s awareness of individual differences. We are proud of our record and the fact that Diversity Inc recently named KPMG the top firm for LGBT employees.

UPDATE 5-23-11 2:08pm: UnitedHealth is the latest job creator in Tennessee to distance itself from the TN Chamber of Commerce in an expression of their much better values:

UnitedHealth Group believes in recruiting and retaining a workforce that mirrors the multicultural communities we serve. A mix of different backgrounds and perspectives helps us develop strong products and programs our customers need. As part of that commitment, UnitedHealth Group supports and offers domestic partner benefits. We did not lobby for nor support Tennessee SB632/HB600.

UPDATE 5-23-11 4:00pm: Comcast issues statement opposing this law saying it “sends the wrong signal across Tennessee and around the country”

At Comcast, we believe it’s simple: discrimination is wrong. Our policy of non-discrimination provides the same protections to all our employees, whether in Tennessee or any other state. Consistent with that, we don’t support Tennessee SB632/HB600. Comcast agrees with the NGLCC, “No one should be judged by his or her sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace. In this delicate economic climate, diminishing the rights of LGBT people sends the wrong signal across Tennessee and around the country.”

UPDATE 5-23-11 4:29pm: Whirlpool joins Tennessee’s most successful companies in opposing HB600 and the values expressed by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

Whirlpool Corporation opposes this legislation, which runs counter to our core values of diversity and inclusion. We are reaching out to the Governor’s office and the Chamber to inform them of our position.

UPDATE 5-23-11 5:27pm: Embraer “does not support the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s position.” Governor Haslam, let’s stand with the very best industries in Tennessee.

While we are members of the Chamber of Commerce, Embraer has not lobbied for the SB632/HB600 and does not support the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s position on this or any initiative that limits the principle of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

UPDATE 5-23-11 6:00pm: Gov. Bill Haslam has signed HB600, siding with a divisive political agenda over the pro-business values and policies of Tennessee’s best job creators. Gov. Haslam has chosen to lift a brand of politics in Tennessee that good businesses and the nation’s best job creators vocally oppose.

UPDATE 5-23-11 6:30pm: TN Chamber of Commerce President Deb Woolley issued the following statement well after the consequences of her decision to lobby against pro-business values and policies of Tennessee’s most successful employers. Woolley could have called the Governor herself and told him not to sign. She didn’t. The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce deserves a caliber of leadership that best represents the values and successful business practices of its very best members and job creators.

The Tennessee Chamber supports a standard regulatory environment at the state level as opposed to potentially conflicting local regulations covering employment practices. That principle was the only interest the Chamber had in this bill. Because HB600/SB632 has turned into a debate on diversity and inclusiveness—principles which we support—we are now officially opposing this legislation in its present form.

Adopted unanimously May 23, 2011


Also Read:

Grantham family lineage to William the Conquerer

November 23rd, 2008 No comments

I forgot whether it was my junior or sophomore year in high school, but at the end of class one day, Mrs. Wright asked me if I knew anything about my family tree. I told her I did not, and a few days later she told me she believed I was a descendent of William the Conquerer. This was in 1988 or so. I never believed it and had always gotten a kick out of it.

One thing I’m learning as I explore my family tree is the English kept damn good records, and it seems they tried to impress this upon early American settlers. Maybe life was too tough then, or maybe the constant accounting of life is what they fled for a more simple life in America. The early settlers did enough record keeping to get by, but it was way more than the pioneering generations that soon followed.

Over the past couple of weeks, my family tree has sucked me into a rich family narrative woven into some of the most fascinating moments in history. My weekends have become consumed with exploring one family member or another, imagining their life’s challenges or pondering their noted failures. It’s even more profound seeing some of these ancestors with their own Wikipedia entries.

Last week an email came from saying records were recently added that showed the Warren line in my family tree now going back to the First and Second Crusades. I opened up the family tree and went back in time to my 30th great grandfather Fulk the Younger, King of Jerusalem. His battles in the Crusades, his involvement with the Knights Templar, his appointment to King of Jerusalem and burial in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are documented. So is his lineage, and it was just a matter of someone entering it into before the Warren line in my family tree was recognized as a match.

The Warrens who colonized early America trace their ancestors back to the son of Fulk, Geoffrey of Anjou, who is also the father of King Henry II. It was that online bio that made me do a double take. King Henry II is the great grandson of William the Conquerer.

I could not believe that when I read it and went back to my family tree. Geoffrey’s wife, Matilda the Empress, is the daughter of King Henry I who did not have an heir and passed the thrown to Geoffrey and Matilda’s son. King Henry I’s father was William the Conquerer, also know as William the Bastard because of the illegitimacy of his birth.

Part of my family descends from there through Geoffrey’s illegitimate son named Hamelin (de Warenne) Plantagenet who begat the Warrens. The descendant Thomas Warren, who died in Surry, Va in 1670, was the great, great, great grandfather of Catherine Proctor who married my 8th great grandfather Edward Grantham.

How could Mrs. Wright have known this 20 years ago? Even after two weeks of research, I can see how certain surnames have a known traceable history like a well worn path back in time. I assume she knew something about parts of my own family from her studies of English history and literature. Maybe certain points in my surname’s family tree take those well worn paths.

Grantham’s Reeds: Colonial Virginia Land Map

November 20th, 2008 1 comment


Somewhere among these Surry County Virginia land patents from the 1600s is the 200 acres Edward Grantham bought. This map showed the area 20 years prior to the purchase mentioned below. He sold the property a couple of years later for a good profit and got a new land patent. That property was known as Grantham’s Reeds.

Edward bought 200 acres in Surry County on September 23, 1682, from John Rodgers, Sr., and his wife Mary.  The land was purchased for 1,000 pounds of tobacco with the contract written on the back of the land patent that had been issued to Rodgers in 1666 by Governor William Berkeley.

Edward sold 100 acres of this land to William Jonson in 1684 for 1,650 pounds of tobacco. The other 100 acres and “40 foot dwelling” was sold to Thomas Davis in 1686 for 3,500 pounds of tobacco.

Edward received a land patent of 300 acres on May 29, 1683. The land was located in Southwarke Parish, Surry County, on the branches of Cypress Swamp adjoining Thos. Jordan. The patent was granted for the transportation of six persons into the colony: Isabel Huberd, Jon. Bincks, Tho. Peel, Jon. Anderson, Jon. Walker, & Timo. Jackson. Edward Grantham’s property on Cypress Swamp was known as Grantham’s Reeds. Many of the deeds concerning this land mention the “cart path,” which was actually a well traveled road leading from North Carolina to Southwarke Church and the warehouses at Gray’s Creek.


After scanning over the map, I found the 200 acres owned by John Rodgers. I pulled up a Google map of the land directly across from Jamestown, VA and then overlaid the old patent map. It was tough getting them to line up, but I moved it back and forth until some nearby creeks met and there it is, the first 200 acre property. I highlighted the area in yellow. Here’s the satellite view. I’m still looking for Grantham’s Reed.

Nathan Bacon died of the ‘Lousy Evil’

November 17th, 2008 No comments


The first time I read about the “Lousy Evil” was this weekend in distant relative Sir Thomas Grantham’s personal account of how he ended Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 on behalf of Virginia Governor William Berkeley.

Grantham said in his book An historical account of some memorable actions, particularly in Virginia that Nathaniel Bacon, the leader of Bacon’s Rebellion, “died of the Lousy Evil,” known medically as Phthiriasis. But you might know the Lousy Evil by its more modern name: crabs.


According to Grantham (who worked on behalf of the Governor), he basically showed up at one of the rebel meetings and convinced them to surrender in the wake of Bacon’s death. He provides an interesting account of the entire affair.

History may prefer the narrative that Nathan Bacon’s untimely death was for the cause and by the cause, but there it is tucked away in a distant relatives notes on the first American rebellion. Nathaniel Bacon died of crabs. Now, maybe it was just an insulting jab, but now I know why people wore merkins in the 1600s.

Sir Thomas Grantham and Bacon’s Rebellion

November 16th, 2008 No comments


Today I’m reading Sir Thomas Grantham’s account of his role in Bacon’s Rebellion and how he got the rebels to surrender to Virginia Governor William Berkeley. The introduction described Berkeley as “uncompromising.”

Virginia groaned beneath the accumulated oppressions of Charles the Second and his insatiate minions. The profligate monarch found a fitting viceroy in the choleric and uncompromising Berkeley, who gives infamous testimony to his own character in his memorable reply to an inquiry of the English Council: “I thank God there are no free-schools, nor printing, and I hope we shall not have these three hundred years; for learning has brought disobedience into the world, and printing has divulged them and libels against the best government. God keep us from both!”

Governor Berkeley sounds a lot like some politicians today. Berkeley commissioned Sir Thomas Grantham to intercede in Bacon’s Rebellion on Virginia’s behalf. It was America’s first rebellion by colonists. Grantham took advantage of Nathaniel Bacon’s death to quickly convince rebel leaders they’d be treated with mercy, and they surrendered. Once in the custody of Governor Berkeley, the rebels were hung.

Sorry I Missed You!

(AUTHOR NOTE: the following is a repost I wrote while working on a 13th District Virginia House of Delegates race in 2005 – read comments here)

You never know who you’re gonna meet when you knock on hundreds of doors throughout the 13th District. Sometimes you come across old friends. Sometimes you meet new ones. But today, I knocked on a very special door.

As I approached the house, one of the first things I noticed was a “Bob Marshall” bumper sticker on a truck in the drive way. It was the first time I had seen one, but I’ve seen my share of “W” bumper stickers in driveways and found their owners very pleasant and eager to learn more about Bruce. One thing about an eagerness for change in the 13th district is its bipartisan nature.

The closer I got to the door, the more I realized something about this particular house that I later confirmed online. This was the home of our opponent.

I had spoken on the phone a couple of times with Bob, but I had never been to Bob Marshall’s house. Bob lists his home as his Prince William County office. I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be paying my delegate a visit with a huge “No Trespassing” sign on the steps. I’ve never really seen a “No Trespassing” sign on property listed as the public office of a delegate before, but you learn something new everyday in a campaign.

As I rang the doorbell, I thought to myself, “What am I going to say?” It was as though I felt I needed to say something other than what I say at all the doors.

“Bruce is a 20 year retired firefighter here in Prince William County. He teaches at George Washington University. He’s served his country, and now wants to serve you in the House of Delegates.”

No answer. So, I left our calling card just to let them know we were sorry we missed them and look forward to representing ALL of the people of the 13th District in the Virginia House of Delegates.