Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Trust Matters

I spent the last weekend in New York City catching a few plays/musicals and just enjoying a brief respite of winter walking along the seaport all while struggling with a residual cold but exhilarated being in my favorite city in America.

That said I hit two traffic incidents that were out of the norm even for NYC when I found out the President was in town as well catching a play.   I was pissed until my Lyft driver goes, "the other one."  We both laughed.  The irony was that Obama and his daughter went to the white Arthur Miller play, The Price, while I went o the black play of August Wilson, Jitney.  I did find that sort of interesting as Miller is my all time favorite writer with Wilson likely number two or three as it is hard as Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee (largely as they focus on complex women).

As the weekend unfolded I was asked frequently, "where are you from?" and my response, "I live in Nashville but I am from Seattle."  This is often my pronouncement when I meet people here as I am not sure if I am excusing myself or explaining myself as this is a culture of which I have understanding but little tolerance.

I explained to the many who asked me about Nashville what it was like and how they wanted to visit here which I concurred this is a hell of a place to visit but living here is another story.  And the next conversation was about race.  And taking this from Facebook I always go, "it's complicated."  I have written about the odd contradictions, the reverence for the past that literally paralyzes the present and the structural and emotional segregation that divides most based on class over race.  It is only then inside each respective class does true racism emerge.

We have few protests here and they too are largely defined and dived by race.  The women's march was attended by some women of color but that was not inclusive of the many women of "other" colors - Latino, African, Arabic and Asian.   We have all of "those" people here but within that classification of working poor/poor they are harshly divided.

Then are Gay Community which is also segregated and in a City that has targeted LGBT rights getting one bill passed that was clearly sexually oriented directed and more on the plate shows that despite their presence they are invisible.  And why?  The reality is Church, Religion and faith.  Almost all movements here come from the Church and that has been the history behind the Civil Rights movement and there are more Churches here than schools.  A whole other problem.

The standard query, "What Church do you belong?" is a given among a certain generation.  It crosses color, gender and class.  You are judged by that association regardless and if you choose none even more so.

Nashville despite all its proclamations to be the city of now, I always point out that by now they mean the one in 1953.  The divisiveness and segregation here is not only physical it is psychological and that has a strong affect on those who have been born and raised here.   To newcomers is is a cross between WTF and not my problem.  I fall somewhere in between and the comes from my being in the schools here that on average are just that - average.    They micro manage every aspect of the behaviors  of the students and the staff, down to walking the right way down the hall, to how you do every aspect of your job.    It is appalling, utterly condescending and truly bizarre.

I spoke with a Teacher who moved here from Alabama and her feelings were oddly the same and she is white woman from the deep south, so there you go.   She hates her job, loves kids but has spent her entire working life - 10 years - wanting to Teach but in the last 5 years since relocating she asks herself why she continues.

It made me realize that all of our decisions and our ability to integrate and assimilate into a new culture is a matter of trust.   I read this article about Syrian women  and their struggles with  a community  that put many refugees/migrants  at constant conflict, with the Government, and each other, in order to survive.  I think many people are unaware that yes you can be "Syrian" "African" "Muslim" but those are just identifiers and labels in one aspect but they do not define you nor actually explain you or those who share said labels and their ability to fit in or not.

The idea of stereotyping and generalizing makes things easier for those who used said labels to make decisions about how to respond and accommodate/ignore/justify or ignore when they meet those who fit into said category.

And in order to understand, cope and learn from anyone who is not like you means you have to let down your guard and put your trust into them to enable them to do the same.  Not always an easy thing to do when you share little in common other than perhaps working or living in the same place.

I had lost trust in Seattle after what happened to me there. I saw the remnants of the "other" life and my rage and anger could not enable me to ever get past it.   I had to move and needed to and ended up here, sight unseen.  I knew that I was walking into the unknown but this was not at all what I thought it would be.   To move here is like anyone who comes to another country, city, or place they have to rely on those there to help them make the transition, as it is a unspoken contract, and in turn a mater of trust.

And by now I have come to the realization that there are few here I trust in the same way I lost trust in Seattle that the implied contract, the belief that if one needs help and in turn is willing to do their part in this unspoken agreement that cooperation and compromise was possible.    And it took two cops to come to my door unsolicited and uninvited to assure to me that here I was once again a person to whom no one would listen to nor respect.  The shades of Harborview Medical Center was coming back to meet me at Vanderbilt.  And I became afraid.  Fear is the major factor that prohibits the idea of suspending defense and placing trust in others to do the right thing.  Yet later I realized that the medical surgical and dental team were not the problem it was one woman and I had to let that go if I was to finish my procedure and walk out here healthier and in turn happier.

But I have made the same sweeping generalizations and stereotypes when it comes to the fields of law and medicine.  I have no trust nor faith in either that they ever do the right thing regardless and it is only a matter of chance and luck and so I will have to hope for the best as the time comes closer but there is little one can do otherwise but keep trying to find someone who you can both trust and respect.  And in reality I doubt that will ever happen given my history.  And that is when again history defines you to the point of making change or choosing not.

Nashville is a city under great conflict with itself.  The lack of quality paying jobs dominate, the poor infrastructure, the lack of services and businesses that are not hospitality related are of major import, the level of ignorance, poorly educated populace, massive health needs, appalling public schools, expensive housing, over crowded traffic and a truly segregated and divided populace that at one point you just go WOW!  And I said yesterday there is no one here willing to do it as they are just beaten down to the point you stop.  The adage if you don't like it change it is not a mantra here, it is almost always, why are you here or why did you come here.  It as if you are the problem and you have nothing to offer if you refuse to accept it as it is.  There is much resentment and suspicion about those who are the "others" and that is ingrained into the soul of the city here, despite their claims otherwise.  Again the South is a place of constant contradictions.

And today the bogus U.S. News came up with its best state list, Massachusetts comes out number one.  I have been to Boston and had a bad vibe from the moment I walked around, it is a wealthier version of Nashville but that is because the schools there are wealthier and of course whiter.  Ultimately we only have Vanderbilt which I suspect graduates most migrants who come and go upon receipt of said degree and again that is because the deep red sea is neither as liberal and tolerant as those states whose reputations and economic success reflect a larger socially tolerant philosophy.  And color me (pun intended) shocked, no southern states made the list!

So, no I don't trust anyone personally in Nashville. I have seen little evidence here that speaks otherwise.   And I imagine many who come here feel the same and in turn I suspect the expansion and growth that Nashville is planning on there vague and unverified "figures"  to go on and in turn it will  hit a wall and hit it hard unless they make dramatic changes politically.  I don't see that happening.  Church rules here and those are brick walls that take immense effort to break through.    So you have to walk through a door and trust that you will be welcome.  I am not sure from what I have experienced would demonstrate that I would be a welcome guest.

Living in our world today is just that - placing our faith in others to do the right thing.  For that is the unspoken contract, the agreement that they will make decisions that vested in the whole. It is a matter of trust.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Welcome to Amazonia

I have frequently joked that Seattle should rename itself Amazonia as it is very much a corporate town, due to Amazon which is headquartered right in the middle of downtown Seattle. With it comes immense wealth as workers earn more in the higher paid positions (not all of Amazon is 6 figures), they in turn live there, as in immediately adjacent but why they don't have cots and dorms on "campus" is beyond me.   Those workers ride, bike and live in the city so they pay the heavy sales taxes, support the mass transit and pay exorbitant rents to have the privilege in living in a city which streets are littered with the massive homeless population that this gentrification and reputation brought.

 I use littered as that is how many of the homeless are perceived, as litter, and the same is in San Francisco, another infamous City that has been transformed by the new tech class.  Homes are outrageously expensive and in turn the schools, the community that is not serving the tech sector are dutifully ignored or slowly eroding and in turn leaving.  There is a culture that is in tech that is often exposed and in turn excused as they are rich bitch.  See this article on Uber or the one on Amazon from the New York Times a year ago.  And before Bezos there were Gates and Allen and they too cast a long shadow in Seattle via their philanthropy or their business interests.  And Boeing too wielded great sway in the region as well.

I left Seattle as I was sick of the nature of the residents, rude, pushy, arrogant and more importantly thought of as "rich."  So I moved to Nashville which is the same only with more stupid thrown in. But this too is very much an industry town.

What is the issue is that without these industrial Oligarchs there would be no towns, they built their businesses and in turn enabled workers to find a piece of the pie called the American dream and often Henry Ford is cited as one who developed the modern industrial age and the concept of the working middle class.  Yes that is quite true and then there is the story below.

I see the parallels today in the tech sector by calling their workplaces "campuses" and in turn providing all kinds of services and benefits to push workers and enable them more time to generate work product.  That concept of work life balance goes out the window when a concierge picks up and drops off your laundry so you don't even need to leave the workplace to change, so why the expensive housing then?  Throw a blow up mattress under the desk and be done with it!

The rich think they know better. That they are smarter and therefore better than the rest or they would not be rich right?   Some are smarter but better I question that.  We have the faux Corporate chief who never ran a business in his life and when he did - his casinos - he ran them promptly into the ground.  His wealth initiated by his father's true earned wealth, Trump has since subsidized it through bad loans, shady deals and numerous bankruptcy's. Trump is a poor persons idea of rich and they excuse all the bizarre antics as just how rich people act.   Well there is some truth to that.  Co-dependency is not just about personal relationships they exist in the public arena as well.

The story below shares what happens when a rich person gets an idea and is sure they have the magic dust to make and create Nirvana.  A Nirvana that is not a band but a tortured idea of a reality.  Irony  that our Country is now in the hands of a reality star.  At this point one the Real Housewives could do no worse.

 Deep in Brazil’s Amazon, Exploring the Ruins of Ford’s Fantasyland

FORDLÂNDIA, Brazil — The Amazon jungle already swallowed the Winding Brook Golf Course. Floods ravaged the cemetery, leaving behind a stockpile of concrete crosses. The 100-bed hospital designed by the acclaimed Detroit architect Albert Kahn. Plunderers destroyed it.
Given the scale of decay and decrepitude in this town — founded in 1928 by the industrialist Henry Ford in the far reaches of the Amazon River Basin — I didn’t expect to come across the stately, largely well-preserved homes on Palm Avenue. But there they were, thanks to the squatters.
“This street was a looters’ paradise, with thieves taking furniture, doorknobs, anything the Americans left behind,” said Expedito Duarte de Brito, 71, a retired milkman who dwells in one of the homes built for Ford managers in what was planned to be a utopian plantation town. “I thought, ‘Either I occupy this piece of history or it joins the other ruins of Fordlândia.’”

A statue of a man harvesting rubber stands near Fordlândia’s church. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
In more than a decade of reporting from Latin America, I made dozens of trips to the Amazon, lured back time and again by its vast rivers, magnificent skies, boomtowns, lost civilizations and tales of hubris consumed by nature. But somehow I never got to Fordlândia.
That finally changed when I boarded a riverboat this year in Santarém, an outpost at the confluence of the Amazon and Tapajós rivers, and made the six-hour trip to the place where Ford, one of the world’s richest men, tried turning a colossal swath of Brazilian jungle into a Midwest fantasyland.
I explored the outpost on foot, wandering the ruins and talking to gold prospectors, farmers and descendants of plantation workers who live here. Hardly a lost city, Fordlândia is home to about 2,000 people, some who live in the crumbling structures built nearly a century ago.

An encroaching forest frames the decaying walls of the Fordlândia hospital. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
Ford, the automobile manufacturer who is considered a founder of American industrial mass-production methods, hatched his plan for Fordlândia in a bid to produce his own source of the rubber needed for making tires and car parts like valves, hoses and gaskets.
In doing so, he waded into an industry shaped by imperialism and claims of botanical subterfuge.
Brazil was home to Hevea brasiliensis, the coveted rubber tree, and the Amazon Basin had boomed from 1879 to 1912 as industries in North America and Europe fed the demand for rubber.
But to the dismay of Brazil’s leaders, Henry Wickham, a British botanist and explorer, had spirited thousands of Hevea seeds out of Santarém, providing the genetic stock for rubber plantations in British, Dutch and French colonies in Asia.

The village of Fordlândia is now home to about 2,000 people, many of whom live in the original American-built structures. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
These endeavors on the other side of the world devastated Brazil’s rubber economy. But Ford despised relying on the Europeans, fearing a proposal by Winston Churchill to create a rubber cartel. So, in a move that pleased Brazilian officials, Ford acquired a giant stretch of land in the Amazon.

From the start, ineptitude and tragedy plagued the venture, meticulously documented in a book by the historian Greg Grandin that I read on the boat as it made its way up the Tapajós. Disdainful of experts who could have advised them on tropical agriculture, Ford’s men planted seeds of questionable value and let leaf blight ravage the plantation.
Despite such setbacks, Ford constructed an American-style town, which he wanted inhabited by Brazilians hewing to what he considered American values.

Old gravestones from the Ford era, tipped over after years of floods and erosion. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
Employees moved into clapboard bungalows — designed, of course, in Michigan — some of which are still standing. Streetlamps illuminated concrete sidewalks. Portions of these footpaths persist in the town, near red fire hydrants, in the shadow of decaying dance halls and crumbling warehouses.
“It turns out Detroit isn’t the only place where Ford produced ruins,” said Guilherme Lisboa, 67, the owner of a small inn called the Pousada Americana.
Beyond producing rubber, Ford, an avowed teetotaler, anti-Semite and skeptic of the Jazz Age, clearly wanted life in the jungle to be more transformative. His American managers forbade consumption of alcohol, while promoting gardening, square dancing and readings of the poetry of Emerson and Longfellow.

Trees grow among old equipment in the abandoned workshops of Fordlândia. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
Going even further in Ford’s quest for utopia, so-called sanitation squads operated across the outpost, killing stray dogs, draining puddles of water where malaria-transmitting mosquitoes could multiply and checking employees for venereal diseases.
“With a surety of purpose and incuriosity about the world that seems all too familiar, Ford deliberately rejected expert advice and set out to turn the Amazon into the Midwest of his imagination,” Mr. Grandin, the historian, wrote in his account of the town.
These days, the ruins of Fordlândia stand as testament to the folly of trying to bend the jungle to the will of man.

A resident of Fordlândia near the workshops and warehouses that were the center of Ford’s community in Brazil. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
Seeking to promote the automobile as a form of recreation — along with the golf course, tennis courts, a movie theater and swimming pools — managers laid out nearly 30 miles of roads around Fordlândia. But cars are mostly absent on the town’s muddy lanes, eclipsed by the motorbikes found in towns across the Amazon.
By the end of World War II, it was clear that cultivating rubber trees around Fordlândia could not be profitable in the face of leaf blight and competition from synthetic rubber and Asian plantations freed from Japanese domination.
After Ford turned the town over to Brazil’s government in 1945, officials transferred Fordlândia from one public agency to another, largely for unsuccessful experiments in tropical agriculture. The town went into a seemingly perpetual state of decline.

Passengers waiting for a riverboat look out on the American-built water pumping station. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
“Nothing happens here, and that’s how I like it,” said Joaquim Pereira da Silva, 73, a farmer from Minas Gerais State who followed his star to Fordlândia in 1997. Now he lives on Palm Avenue in an old American house he bought for 20,000 reais (about $6,670) from a squatter who fixed it up.
“The Americans had no idea about rubber but they knew how to build things to last,” he said.
Something about the failed utopia strikes a chord with scholars and artists in other parts of the world. Fordlândia inspired a 2008 album by the Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson and a 1997 novel by Eduardo Sguiglia about an Argentine adventurer who travels here to recruit plantation laborers.

An American-built bungalow that once housed Ford executives is now inhabited by a local vegetable farmer. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
Some descendants of workers who settled in Fordlândia, along with new migrants from other parts in Brazil, have small plots where zebu cattle graze. Others plant manioc in areas where rubber trees were chopped down decades ago. Many survive on small social welfare payments or pensions.
Then there are residents like Eduardo Silva dos Santos, born 66 years ago in the hospital conceived by Kahn, the architect who designed much of 20th-century Detroit. Mr. dos Santos now lives in a small house near the hospital’s ruins.
Scavenging material left by the Americans, he fashioned a fishing lantern from old car parts and a spice grinder from discarded machinery. Mr. dos Santos expressed mixed views of Fordlândia under American stewardship, growing up in the years after Ford unloaded the town.

Original wood floors and furniture adorn the old American Club. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
“This place in Ford’s day was clean, no insects, no animals, no jungle in the town,” said Mr. dos Santos, one of 11 children born to a family that depended on the rubber plantation.
“My father worked for them,” he said, “and he did what they ordered him to do. Workers are like dogs: They obey.”
But to Ford’s dismay, sometimes they didn’t obey.
Managers tried enforcing the alcohol prohibition, but workers simply hopped on boats to a so-called island of innocence nearby with bars and brothels. And in 1930, workers fed up with eating Ford’s diet of oatmeal, canned peaches and brown rice in a sweltering dining hall staged a full-scale riot.
They smashed time clocks, cut electricity to the plantation and chanted, “Brazil for Brazilians; kill all the Americans,” forcing some of the managers to decamp into the jungle.

A Ford-era fire hydrant, overlooking the Tapajós river. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times
The Amazon offered its own challenges to the Americans. Some couldn’t adapt to the conditions here, suffering nervous breakdowns. One drowned when a storm on the Tapajós River toppled his boat. Another manager left after three of his children died from tropical fevers.
Ford might have avoided such tragedies, and the ruinous management of the plantation, if he had sought counsel from specialists in caring for rubber trees or scholars of the Amazon’s capacity to thwart grandiose ventures. But he seemed to abhor learning from the past.
“History is bunk,” Ford told The New York Times in 1921. “What difference does it make how many times the ancient Greeks flew their kites?”

What's the Matter With Kansas

If you have not read Thomas Franks' definitive book on the subject I urge you to do so.  Then get the follow up Listen Liberal as he uses the same brush to paint a dire picture that truly explains in a classic "book end" (pun intended) to the crisis we face as a nation thanks to the idea of partisan political gamesmanship and divides that govern the United States to the detriment of all.

In Indiana the current Republican Governor is discreetly working to remove with the legislature many of now VP Pence's laws that served few interests.

In Alabama, in Kentucky and the Carolina's you have serious issues that former Governor's or current ones have left their states in shambles.  Louisana has a long road ahead to repair Jindal's mess.  And irony that states run by their more liberal counterparts are thriving.  Why?  People want to live and do business there.  Despite all the promises and/or threats who in the hell would move to Kansas willingly? Is there a business or industry or way of life that would enable one to overlook people using God and Guns to run over the right and this thing we call the independence of America?

Much of this has to do with what I call the Bruce Jenner effect.  For many people they don't actually care about immigration, transgender rights and other liberal movement issues that dominate the news.  When you don't know anyone or have customers who are members of a minority you are less inclined to concern yourself with their issues.  That is until a bus arrives in your town and demand you listen to them and change your ways and businesses to meet their needs.  Their needs are however temporary and slight in comparison to the larger picture you feel angry that they are shoving their life choices, beliefs, etc, down your throat.  Where in normal circumstances over time and with a dialog you would be happy to bake cupcakes, do flours, provide a private restroom to accommodate these people in whatever they need as it is business, not personal and that is all that matters.  At the end of the day the customer is happy and you have rung cash into your register and everyone goes home to start another day tomorrow.  Sadly that is not the case anymore.

We have 24/7 cycle of news, babble and constant drum beats.  You used to go home watch the latest show and talk about it around the water cooler the next day.   You did not care that Sam went home to his husband, wore a dress on the weekends as it was none of your business unless Sam decided to confide in you and you in turn chose to accept it or inform him that it made you uncomfortable and that was that, other than awkward moments for a while until the conversation wandered back to sports.  On that we can agree or not but with less confusion or ire.

When religion gets into the mix it lends or adds to the frustration and confusion. The same churches that advocate equality and love are the same churches that disdain the homosexual or the "other" and that those are individuals who are sinners and failures in the eyes of God.  Well they need new glasses as reading their dogma of their faith is a matter of interpretation and in turn beauty is in the eye of the beholder.   So we are all different and we have different beliefs, different attitudes and yes politics but in some way we all want the best for our families and lives in however we define them.  And again that too is a broad spectrum of choice.  Build a fence or not but we all must live in this community together.

I have and will continue to write about my experience in Nashville.  I am very convinced that what I need will be found here.  I need full dental restoration, I need to write and I need to move on when I am done.  I have to tuck my smarts in my purse, my pride at times in order to do so.  I feel alone and will ostensibly remain alone.  But this is not a state of which I am unfamiliar regardless of the state I live in.  I can pick my battles and choose to fight those that matter.  A good example is the train issue, the bus issue and the sidewalk issue.  The schools I want no part of and today I cancelled my job as I thought I am sick and for 35 bucks I could cut a week's worth of lattes to make that up.  So instead I am staying home, packing for New York and going to see theater for the weekend.  We make choices and we choose what is best for us with some realities that those decisions have larger effects and in turn we have to live with that and try to do so in the least obnoxious and intrusive way.

Kansas and Brownback is an example of how not to.  Brownback is a religious crackpot who washed the feet of a Senator on the floor of the Senate.  Mike Pence is a homophobic asshole who can hate gays all he wants but he needs to keep that faith in his church, a church that must have a congregation of assholes frankly as who else would go there.

We have an abject moron in the Governor's role here but he actually wants to improve  Tennessee and he wants to tax gas to improve roads and again the Legislature blocks this. Mayors want local control to add initiatives to ballots to add tax bills and choice for their residents to choose what they want done in their cities and how to pay for it.   Wow how modern!  Many many of the actual towns here in Tennessee have elected moderate to liberal individuals locally and hell did not come down so why they also elect idiots like Mae Beaver (let's face it that name is fantastic) to office and spend her days worrying about how to define "man and wife" and where people are peeing tells you that if they didn't feel forced to do it by the federal government, a government run by a black man no less, that may explain Trump.

But fear is not the only explanation nor is racism, homophobia, etc.  It is education of lack thereof.  These same states, Louisiana, Kansas and others have been sued for failing to fund education. Even liberal Washington has been sued and yet to resolve that issue despite numerous protests and fines from the State Supreme Court at 100K a day to do so.   Education has systemically been under-funded and neglected across the board, K-12, Post secondary and across party lines as well.  Democrats are equally culpable in this as Washington has had a Democrat in office for decades.

And there are numerous lawsuits and other issues surrounding segregation in schools that still exists despite Brown vs Board of Ed and in turn that opened the door to this issue of choice and vouchers and of course now Betsey DeVos.   The idea that Bush created No Child Left Behind in some odd way to resolve this difference only in fact opened the Pandora's box that showed how racially divided schools are and now this in turn has exposed it as income inequality as well.  So this is where "choice" came to be as if poor families can send their snowflake to a school in a rich district and in turn all societal problems are resolved.  I can assure you here at ground zero for that experiment it is also a failure.  Children being bused for an hour or more a day does nothing to fix the community in which they live and which their school is a large portion of said community.  What that message is that you live in  shitty hood, your school is shitty and therefore you too are shitty.  The most illustrative of that here in Nashville is West End Middle and Margaret Allen Middle.  West End is in a glorious neighborhood adjacent to a park and a wealthy community.  Margaret Allen is across from a cementary and industrial buildings.  Kids are bused to both schools and they have true behavioral and academic problems. but West End has a marginal saving grace as it is a designated "IB" school, one of the many baits and switches they use here to draw kids who are academically inclined and in turn less a management problem.   I have been to both and I will only go half days if at all, they are that bad.

This blog entry shares a Teacher in Boston and her school being "labelled" and in turn what that means to the staff and the students.  I can assure you this is coming.  Local districts here are now rejecting this and Nashville has sued just for ELL funding, they lost round one but found the State Supreme Court to look upon ELL funding as a difference that is not equal.  We are no longer at that stage that set Brown in 1954 and we need to understand the distinction between equal and equality.

So rather than fix them it is more choice and more options.  Yes this will work out well and this appears that the current President, whoever that is, will be dumping that one on DeVos who has her own agenda and none of it good.  Well that is one consistent in that Administration.

Read the below article about Kansas and ask yourself is this what we want for our Country or do we deserve and want something even better than what our greatest was.  As if you recall that great was well not that great when it came to social issues.   Again life choices are those and those are personal and we cannot and should not govern those decisions but let them evolve with assurances that we will not do harm regardless of our own beliefs.  And Education is the way to enable that critical thinking process. 

Republicans’ ‘real-live experiment’ with Kansas’s economy survives a revolt from their own party

By Max Ehrenfreund
The Washington Post
February 22 2017

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s ambitious tax overhaul — which slashed taxes for businesses and affluent households, leading to years of budget shortfalls — narrowly survived a mutiny Wednesday afternoon when about half of Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in an effort to overturn it.

Brownback, a Republican who once called his tax policy a “real-live experiment” with conservative principles, had vetoed a bill that would have repealed the most important provisions of his overhaul. While the state House voted to override the veto earlier in the day, proponents of the bill came up three votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed in the Senate. Fifteen Republican senators voted to override the veto, while 16 voted to sustain it.

In the House, 45 GOP legislators voted in favor of the increase, while 40 voted to uphold the governor’s veto.

The state is facing a $350 million budget shortfall. Brownback’s critics say the state’s persistent deficits are evidence that the economic benefits from reduced taxes are not always adequate to make up for reductions in revenue, as advocates of supply-side changes have sometimes claimed.

“I'm disappointed in the actions of our Senate today,” said state Rep. Melissa Rooker, a Republican from Fairway, Kansas, who supported the bill. “This was a balanced compromise that provided the revenue necessary to fund the basic needs of our budget and restore some semblance of solvency and sustainability.”

For both Brownback and his critics, the changes are a model for the policies that Republicans in Washington, D.C., might pursue on a national level now that they are in control of the federal government. One of President Trump’s advisers on economic policy during the campaign, Stephen Moore, also helped Brownback develop the changes he enacted beginning in 2012. Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), the speaker of the House, served as Brownback’s legislative director when Brownback was in Congress.

Ryan’s and Trump’s proposals for tax reform have important features in common with Brownback’s policies. Both reduce the number of income-tax brackets. Brownback’s policies and Ryan’s proposal treat income from legal entities typically used by small businesses more favorably than ordinary income. Likewise, the plan Trump advanced as a candidate appeared to reduce the tax rate on such earnings, known as “pass-through income,” but his proposal was ambiguous on this point.

In the case of Brownback’s overhaul, pass-through income has been completely exempt from taxation. In 2012, the state had projected that about 200,000 pass-through entities would take advantage of the exemption. In fact, about 330,000 ostensible small businesses profited from the rule. That data suggests the reform encouraged tens of thousands of Kansans to claim their wages and salaries as income from a business rather than from employment.

That avoidance has contributed to repeated budget deficits, forcing state policymakers to take emergency measures, exhausting the state’s reserves and diverting money dedicated to maintaining highways to keep the state’s government operating.

The bill in Kansas would have eliminated the exemption for pass-through income and increased income taxes (although not to the rates that prevailed before Brownback took office), while eliminating tax reductions planned for the future. The state projected that the legislation would have increased revenue by $590 million in 2018.

Moore, the former adviser to Brownback and Trump, acknowledged that avoidance by residents claiming business income was an issue, one that he said the Trump campaign also debated.

“That has been a problem, I agree,” he said. “One of the things we’re really struggling with is how to avoid that problem.”

Experts on taxation said that Kansas’s experience with the exemption for pass-through income should be a source of caution for GOP lawmakers in Washington considering a similar approach.

“It’s very expensive,” said Scott Drenkard, the director of state projects at the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation. “What we’ve seen in Kansas as a result of this is that the state has had a hard time making budget.”

Yet Moore and other proponents of the policies say that reduced taxes, especially for small businesses, will help encourage economic growth. Kansas’s economic performance has been only middling over the past several years, but Moore argued that the state’s problems are a result of tepid growth nationally.

“It’s certainly not a very Republican idea to be raising income taxes,” he said.

Identifying the precise effect of the tax overhaul on the economy is difficult. Overall, Kansas’s economy expanded by about 2.9 percent between 2011, when Brownback took office, and 2015, the latest year for which data are available. Over the same period, the gross domestic product increased 9.2 percent nationally, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Rooker noted that the coalition voting to override Brownback’s veto in her GOP-dominated chamber included more Republicans than Democrats. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are also divided on how to approach the problem of tax reform, confronting similar disagreements on how drastically to reduce federal revenue.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the U.S. Senate majority leader, said in December that he would prefer tax reform that did not reduce federal revenue. Ryan's proposal would cost the government by about $2.5 trillion over a decade, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

“What we may be seeing here is the return of the fiscally moderate Republican,” said Jared Bernstein, former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Red Wedding

Here in the deep red sea even the constituents of the Grand Old Party are holding a party for the Representatives and it is like the Red Wedding of Game of Thrones only without the death part.

Marsha Blackburn, a Trump advocate  and consummate representative of what defines a Tennessee woman, (you can fill that description yourself but Jesus thumpin, smug, arrogant and dim are mine) held a Town Hall literally in a town. A town so small it could not accommodate all the people who wanted to engage with Ms. Blackburn as we do in a democracy.  

Ms Blackburn could have selected any number of venues that could of accommodated people as in her constituents, and had it a time when more could have attended.   But no,  she chose 3:30 in the afternoon in a small town adjacent to Franklin the biggest town in Williamson County, and one with even the best of Nashville traffic 30 minutes from Nashville.  Accessible is her middle name or not.

But despite it a rousing chorus of sayers of nay showed up to inform and advise Ms. Blackburn of their thoughts and opinions on the recent Trump Administration's sweeping orders/demands/rants.

Even The Tennessean was less than kind with their story and this is a newspaper that fits the needs of the average Tennessean who doesn't read - the paper - any paper.

It is ironic that again one of our largest employer in Nashville is LifeWay is  a Christian publishing company with headquarters directly adjacent to The Tennessean/U.S.Today, both of which sold those buildings for millions as its boon time here in this City-Town, which I am sure  enables them to forever fund the education and information they peddle.  I imagine they sent signals or carrier pigeons or whatever to ensure the news was focused on God and his Christian brethren as again the news here is anythign but.    It is as if we live in a news/fact/information free zone. You honestly think alternative facts is a new concept?  I think the South trademarked it.

 And while this is ongoing,  not one Senator whose offices are here in Nashville are holding any public meetings, which I suspect would fill Bridgestone Arena as even the wingnuts are losing their mind.  No, not minds as they have a singular brain, like the Borg only less interesting.

So across the country we have a new Latte Party emerging and the ire and dramatics to go with it but without the funding.    The New York Times sent reporters to Blackburn's Town Hall, and another of my personal favorite dinosaurs in the Senate, Charles Grassley and to some Florida tea partier.  The results are the same as they were when Obama first came up with the ACA.  The crowds, the histrionics and the hubris.   Of course the standard trope is alive and well.  The paid protestors accusation comes from the reality that it takes one to know one and the Koch's and Karl Rove's astroturf groups rented buses, organized the oldsters through misinformation and a free ride on a bus to go to varying Democrats town halls and throw stuff, have a temper tantrum and all on the evening news.  But when it is there turn the meetings are held in mid afternoon out of easy access or utterly avoided and canceled midstream as was here locally regarding the current hate bills on the State Legislature floor. 

It is also nice to know that the same bullshit is ongoing in Virginia as the party of red don't want to put those necks out in case they end up like a guest at the Red Wedding. 

I truly am embarrassed that I live here as there are good people here but they are caught up on money and in turn Jesus to the point that is all they see and they resent anyone who has more of one, less of the other and seem to not think about the greater good despite the message of Christianity which is as such.  Charity begins at home and they mean actually in their home.

The South is everything and more than I expected it to be and none of it was good. I just thought it would be mildly amusing and at times frustrating. It has been much more and none of it I am afraid good.  I moved in turmoil, arrived in the same state.  But I was hopeful that time would pass and I would settle into a groove and find a like mind or two and develop a life of some type.  Instead I have met one hostile person after another, largely people of color who have truly affected my values and belief systems and in turn led me to question Religion of which I had always  been in passive acceptance of. 

Now I question myself and who I have become and this is all of it I truly think is based on my experience in Nashville Public Schools.   They are truly a throwback to another era and they are horrific.  It is from there I think has led me to this state of depression, sadness, anxiety and anger.  You cannot live among this and not be affected.  I cannot look at an Adult and say, "What the hell is wrong with you people? Your children are horrific beings. Unkind and utterly bereft of any human compassion and dignity which is clear they learned this at home."  And yes this crosses race almost universally.  There are few children in the public system that I like let alone care about. 

But  here the manner of communication is much what you read in the articles about Marsha Blackburn, patronizing and dismissive.   She is the prototype and archetype of every woman (and yes the men too.. ever seen that Chrisley Knows Best show on TV they are all one step gay in the closet and one step Drag Race contestant) I have encountered.   So if that is what the parents are like it explains the children.  It also explains it all from the gay hating to the obsession with vaginas. 

So will I protest? No but I don't discourage anyone else from doing so, I just have to deal with this on a daily basis so my down time is mine alone.  Literally alone, there is something about quiet that makes one feel at peace and at peace one finds joy.  Find yours.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Charles In Charge

That may be the real de facto leader in the White House as clearly it is not Donald J. Trump.   After reading this article discussing the speech patterns of Alzheimer victims I thought: "I by the grace of God but Trump not so lucky.'  And then I found this article about what defines a CEO in a public vs private business.

I do think that Fran Lebovitz said about Trump: "He is a poor persons idea of what a rich person is like" has validity.  But what she really means: "This is what they think a CEO is"  Most people do not work for a Fortune 500 Company and if they do they are so far down the food chain they don't even know that they do.   And the myriad of businesses and ownership further confuse those who think they are working for a business when in reality they are working for a private investement company or hedge fund that has multiple investors and are not interested in that businesses singular success.

Then comes the con-in-chief who actually owns and manages very little of his investments. His business is largely licensing with little hands on but very specific guidelines and procedures that secure continuity among the projects so they provide the illusion of Trump without The Trump.

Trumps own ventures have landed him in bankruptcy and civil courts numerous times. And through disclosure and deposition transcripts we learn just how veiled the head that wears the crown is from actually operating the said business.  So I am sure the same philosophy applies to the White House and explains the dissaray as Trump does not have the shield and protection of his family to ensure that exposing the Emperor in his new clothes to the the citizenry does not occur.  But as we learned on Saturday the Emperor's subjects don't care one iota.  They are morons and like always likes like, so this is a win-win for the Trump and his kins.

But this article does explain how the concept of CEO - private or public - have very different roles and functions which distinguishes how their respective businesses are run.  This might be why Trump wants to eradicate regulations, they don't apply to him and regardless they are his kind.  And as they say in West Side Story, stick with your own kind.

Trump wasn’t a real CEO. No wonder his White House is disorganized.
Running a family business isn't the same as running a public corporation.

By Bert Spector February 21 at 7:00 AM

Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump made much of his business experience, claiming he’s been “creating jobs and rebuilding neighborhoods my entire adult life.”

The fact that he was from the business world rather than a career politician was something that appealed to many of his supporters.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of a president as CEO. The U.S. president is indisputably the chief executive of a massive, complex, global structure known as the federal government. And if the performance of our national economy is vital to the well-being of us all, why not believe that Trump’s experience running a large company equips him to effectively manage a nation?

Instead of a “fine-tuned machine,” however, the opening weeks of the Trump administration have revealed a White House that’s chaotic, disorganized and anything but efficient. Examples include rushed and poorly constructed executive orders, a dysfunctional national security team, and unclear and even contradictory messages emanating from multiple administrative spokesmen, which frequently clash with the tweets of the president himself.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) succinctly summed up the growing sentiment even some Republicans are feeling: “Nobody knows who’s in charge.”

So why the seeming contradiction between his businessman credentials and chaotic governing style?

Well for one thing, Trump wasn’t a genuine CEO. That is, he didn’t run a major public corporation with shareholders and a board of directors that could hold him to account. Instead, he was the head of a family-owned, private web of enterprises. Regardless of the title he gave himself, the position arguably ill-equipped him for the demands of the presidency.

Several years ago, I explored the distinction between public and private companies in detail when the American Bar Association invited me to write about what young corporate lawyers needed to understand about how business works. Based on that research, I want to point to an important set of distinctions between public corporations and private businesses, and what it all means for President Trump.

Public corporations are companies that offer their stock to pretty much anyone via organized exchanges or by some over-the-counter mechanism. To protect investors, the government created the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which imposes an obligation of transparency on public corporations that does not apply to private businesses like the Trump Organization.

The SEC, for example, requires the CEOs of public corporations to make full and public disclosures of their financial positions. Annual 10-K reports, quarterly 10-Q’s and occasional special 8-K’s require disclosure of operating expenses, significant partnerships, liabilities, strategies, risks and plans.

Additionally, an independent firm overseen by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board conducts an audit of these financial statements to ensure thoroughness and accuracy.

Finally, the CEO, along with the chief financial officer, is criminally liable for falsification or manipulation of the company’s reports. Remember the 2001 Enron scandal? CEO Jeffrey Skilling was convicted of conspiracy, fraud and insider trading and initially sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Then there is the matter of internal governance.

The CEO of a public company is subject to an array of constraints and a varying but always substantial degree of oversight. There are boards of directors, of course, that review all major strategic decisions, among other duties. And there are separate committees that assess CEO performance and determine compensation, composed entirely of independent or outside directors without any ongoing involvement in running the business.

Whole categories of CEO decisions, including mergers and acquisitions, changes in the corporation’s charter, and executive compensation packages, are subject to the opinion of shareholders and directors.

In addition, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act requires — for now — regular nonbinding shareholder votes on the compensation packages of top executives.

And then there’s this critical fact: Well-governed firms tend to outperform poorly governed ones, often dramatically. And that’s because of factors like a strong board of directors, more transparency, a responsiveness to shareholders, thorough and independent audits, and so forth.

None of the obligations listed above applied to Trump, who was owner, chairman and president of the Trump Organization, a family-owned limited liability company (LLC) that has owned and run hundreds of businesses involving real estate, hotels, golf courses, private jet rentals, beauty pageants and even bottled water.

LLCs are specifically designed to offer owners tax advantages, maximum flexibility, and financial and legal protections without either the benefits (such as access to equity capital markets) or the many obligations of a public corporation.

For example, as I noted above, a corporate CEO is required by law to allow scrutiny of the financial consequences of his or her decisions by others. As such, CEOs know the value of having a strong executive team able to serve as a sounding board and participate in key strategic decisions.

Trump, by contrast, as the head of a family business was accountable to no one and reportedly ran his company that way. His executive team comprised his children and people who are loyal to him, and his decision-making authority was unconstrained by any internal governance mechanisms. Decisions concerning what businesses to start or exit, how much money to borrow and at what interest rates, how to market products and services, and how — or even whether — to pay suppliers or treat customers were made centrally and not subject to review

Clearly, this poorly equips Trump to be president and accountable to lawmakers, the courts and ultimately the voters.

Another important aspect of the public corporation is the notion of transparency and the degree to which it enables accountability.

A lack of transparency and reluctance to engage in open disclosure characterized the formulation of Trump’s immigration ban that was quickly overturned in federal court. That same tendency toward secrecy was manifest throughout the campaign, such as when he refused to disclose much about his health (besides this cursory “note”) or release any of his tax returns.

While there’s no law that requires a candidate to divulge either health or tax status, that lack of transparency kept potentially vital information from U.S. voters. And Trump’s continuing lack of transparency as president has kept experts and advisers in the dark, leading to precisely the confusion, mixed messages and dysfunction that have characterized these early weeks. And, of course, this can quickly lead to a continuing erosion of public trust.

Trump, it should be noted, made one stab at a public company: Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts. That was an unmitigated disaster, leading to five separate declarations of bankruptcy before finally going under, all this while other casino companies thrived. Public investors ignored all the signs in favor of the showmanship and glitz of the Trump brand and, as a result, lost millions of dollars. Trump allotted himself a huge salary and bonuses, corporate perks, and special merchandising deals.

What is especially telling about this experience is that, rather than speaking on behalf of fiduciary responsibilities for the best interests of the corporation, Trump noted, “I make great deals for myself.”

There is no need to be overly naive here.

Some CEOs also operate in a highly centralized manner, expecting obedience rather than participation from direct reports. All business executives expect a shared commitment from their employees to their corporate goals and value dependability, cooperation and loyalty from subordinates.

But the involvement of a multiplicity of voices with diverse perspectives and different backgrounds and fields of expertise improves the quality of resulting decisions. Impulsive decision-making by an individual or a small, cloistered group of followers can and often will lead to disastrous results.

Virtually every U.S. president, ranging from the great to the inconsequential and even the disastrous, has emerged from one of two groups: career politicians or generals. So why not a CEO president?

Without question, a background in politics does not guarantee an effective presidency. Abraham Lincoln, the consensus choice among historians for the best president ever, was a career politician, but so was his disastrous successor, Andrew Johnson.

Likewise, we can think of many traits of an effective corporate CEO that could serve a president well: transparency and accountability, responsiveness to internal governance, and commitment to the interest of the overall corporation over and above self-enrichment.

Sadly, that is not Trump’s background. His experience overseeing an interconnected tangle of LLCs and his one disastrous term as CEO of a public corporation suggest a poor background to be chief executive of the United States. As such, “nobody knows who’s in charge” may be the mantra for years to come.

Choose Your Battles

Here in batshit crazy town, I want people to know Nashville is the capital and supposedly the city of now.  What.ever.  When I read this I busted out laughing.  I have 3.5 years left on my sell by date and let's see if I can make. 

I elected to make comments immediately proceeding the sections that particularly drew my ire, whoops I mean attention.

The Tennessean

Lawmakers, LGBT advocates far apart on marriage, parenting bills

If you’re a man living in Tennessee, state law says you can claim paternity by performing what reads like a line from a famous Disney movie about a lion cub.

A man is presumed the father of a child if “while the child is under the age of majority, the man receives the child into the man's home and openly holds the child out as the man's natural child,” a state statute reads.

**this sounds a hell of lot more fun than a Baptism or Circumcision.  Put me on the guest list of this ceremony.  Hakuna Matata!

Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, cited that statute in defending legislation she introduced that would repeal a law that grants legitimacy to children conceived through artificial insemination in married heterosexual couples.

Weaver said repealing the law means "the state will no longer intrude into how a woman conceives her child," while other state rules about marriage and children would remain in effect.

**odd as the right wing have never had a problem intruding their religious personal beliefs into women's vaginas in the past.  They seem to want to set up a camp in there Survivor style to ensure that what comes in never goes out unless they vote on it.

But critics say the bill is aimed at same-sex couples and is one of a host filed this year that target the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing gay marriage. Other proposed legislation include measures to define a husband and wife by gender and biology and another that would strictly define marriage in Tennessee as being between one man and one woman

**I would like to define marriage as me and Ryan Gosling

Charitey Mackenzie and her wife, Heather, are worried because the legislature, particularly Weaver's bill, could dramatically change their family. Charitey Mackenzie is pregnant with the couple’s second child, conceived through artificial insemination.

She is due to deliver the couple’s baby in September, after Weaver's proposed repeal of the state law would take effect.

“You feel like we finally made it,” Charitey Mackenzie said, referring to measures that have given her and her wife the ability to have a family. “And you see (Weaver’s bill) and you think what year is it, are we stepping back in time?”

The Family Action Council of Tennessee, which supports marriage between one man and one woman, is pushing the legislation. David Fowler, the group's president, said the bill "is related to vital records, not what takes place between a physician and their patient."

**well this could be Utah at least it is only one man and one woman, polygamy not happening here as this is Christian Jesus not that other Mormon one

The debate has generated accusations that lawmakers are grandstanding and trying to undermine the rights of mostly same-sex couples through pieces of legislation that would make it almost impossible for them to marry and become parents in Tennessee.

“That is scary in a way, and even though it might not have legs to stand on, these people really think this should happen,” Charitey Mackenzie said.

Lawyers criticize, support effort

Lawyers say the intent is clear, even though the wording in bills is sometimes vague and obscure to the average citizen.

“It shows their motivation,” said Julia Tate-Keith, a Murfreesboro attorney.

“They’re not stepping into a straight couple’s marriage, are they,” she said, referring to the handful of conservative legislators sponsoring legislation taking aim at her rights as a married lesbian and the rights of others.

Tate-Keith is convinced there are some lawmakers subtly trying to undermine the rights of the LGBT community, despite Supreme Court rulings and opinions delivered by the state attorney general.

Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, and fellow Wilson County lawmaker Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, filed legislation to define marriage as between one man and one woman and nullify all marriages that don't meet that criteria.

**I cannot help that the woman's name is Beaver, my God it is like a Beavis and Butthead moment

Beavers and Pody argue that the high court's decision is a breach of state sovereignty and the Tennessee Constitution.

Fowler said the bills are only an attack on judicial "overreach," not any one group of people.

"If they are an attack on anything, they are an attack on judicial activism," Fowler said.

State law and gender-based roles

Many of Tennessee’s laws regarding marriage and parenting have not been formally updated through legislation since the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision.

House Bill 33, sponsored by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, and Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, would update state law to assign gender-based definitions to the terms “mother,” “father,” “husband” and “wife” to be “based on biological distinctions.”

**but what about the test tube artificial insemination baby.. is that the Doctors baby and what if he holds the baby up after birth and goes "AHHHAYEAAH" is he the baby daddy?

Bowling and Ragan defended the legislation, saying it merely codified judicial opinions delivered in the publicized same-sex divorce and custody case in Knoxville between Sabrina and Erica Witt, who fought in court over the custody of their child.

"Rights are something that God gives you; the law can't give you that," Bowling said. "What this does is clearly define words. We are a nation of laws. Laws are made up of words, and words have clear understanding — clear meaning."

**and on that note the words the Il Douchebag in Chief use to describe the media connote  and  reference a word, enemy,  that is violent and hostile but what do I know an English teacher?

**and what about cakes and flowers? No laws protecting those from hideous couples demanding as such? Well the idea that therapy to stop the gayness can't happen as therapists can refuse you.

The judge in that case ruled that custody claims could not be awarded to Erica Witt because she did not birth the child and state law had not been updated after the Supreme Court's decision, which did not address custody. But the Tennessee attorney general issued a different opinion.

"The legislature's use of the words 'husband' and 'wife' merely reflects the fact that only opposite-sex marriages were recognized in Tennessee when the statute was enacted in 1977," Herbert Slatery wrote in October.

That changed after the Supreme Court decision, Slatery wrote. "In order to preserve the constitutionality of (state law), therefore, it must now be construed to read: 'A child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman's spouse, is deemed to be the legitimate child of the two spouses.' "

Slatery’s opinion has been used as an argument by Weaver and others as justification for their legislation.

Fowler said Slatery's opinion was "shocking" and a great step beyond his bounds.

"Not only is he rewriting the statute, he’s rewriting the statute against the child of two men because neither of them are inseminated," Fowler said.

Legislative leaders: We have bigger priorities

Legislative leaders say issues such as transportation funding and the state’s budget are higher priorities than the marriage-related bills. House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said the legislation is not a primary area of concern.

Democratic leaders also say the legislation is a distraction from other priorities.

**yes such as ensuring all of them watch the sexual harassment video so no more legislators get their hands caught touching in the wrong places.

“We’re talking about a group of people that, yes, is spending its time on bills that are patently unconstitutional that would serve no purpose other than potentially creating lawsuits and forcing our state to go through extensive litigation, which they would inevitably lose at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Stewart, D-Nashville.

Predictions of more of the same

Chris Sanders, executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, said he doesn't expect some conservative lawmakers to back off on similar legislation.

“I think we can expect the kinds of attacks over the years that you’ve seen activists engage in with respect to Roe versus Wade. They haven’t given up on that,” he said. “I think we’ll see the same thing with marriage equality over the years.”

Fowler said both sides of the issue could claim being attacked, and that his efforts to protect his "traditional" definition of family won't stop.

"We can never not be concerned with the integrity and strength of the family," Fowler said.

For Mackenzie, she and her wife quietly have conversations about how to explain all of this to their adopted 4-year-old.

“I think it’s going to be that thorn in our side that doesn’t go away,” Mackenzie said.

**no but you can and many smart talented people will leave here as the repression, oppression and stigma here is too well ingrained to overcome.  You can change laws but those who write them will still always hate you and those who elect them to those positions do as well. So either stay, mobilize and vote or pack and go. Your choice.  I choose the latter as I have no dog in the race and the people here are frankly too rude, too unkind and too stupid to bother withAnd the few I have met that aren't, aren't from here. Go figure.

Building for Humanity

I gave up on green building a long while ago. I am not sure when the bloom on that rose fell but the full transition of my interests dramatically changed in 2012 when I nearly died. I fell into the precipice and chasm of the medical and legal industrial complex only to emerge out of that cocoon, not a butterfly, but not something of which I even recognized. But I knew I needed to rejoin humanity and be whomever I needed to be in this Act 3 of life.

So I left Seattle in search of myself. I came to Nashville largely for no other reason than it was not Seattle. It was a state that does not make name changes public record, is not part of the intra state commerce act regarding driving licenses and it was just far east and not so far south that it would work for my needs to travel (That would be Dulles, NYC and Atlanta all large international airports).

I thought it would be cheap to live here and that I could substitute while I again figured out my health needs, as Vanderbilt had that skill set and in turn I would come out of this a reasonable new butterfly vs the caterpillar that brought me here.

Well in true Alice fashion I fell into the looking glass hard and realized I am always who I am and that which brung me to this dance will always be with me and that is not a bad thing. It kept me alive when I thought no other option was available and I look forward to writing books about that time and all the others in my journey called life.

Since arriving I found a city that is not one, it has delusions of grandeur and the costs of a Trump hotel with all the lies and drama that comes with the name. Trump is more Southern than most people I meet, down to the hideous diet, the bad taste, the numerous contradictions and the ability to spin a web of lies that after a while you just accept as a part of your reality.

In my Lyft this morning my New Zealand driver and I dished on the communication skills or lack thereof, the way even worshiping Jesus seems odd and the dynamics of this town struggling under its own PR. And that is best demonstrated by the traffic.

Traffic here is the worst in the country and that is largely due to two things: A lack of mass transit system and just bad driving. They drive in two speeds here - full on gas or full on stop. Anytime someone tells me to buy a car I want to go: Do you own a repair business as clearly that is the one industry doing well here. It is why I rent, Lyft, bus or walk. Well walking is just as dangerous as again we have few sidewalks and that does little to prevent pedestrian fatalities. There are few bike lanes and some are shared simply with traffic as literally traffic lanes weave and suddenly once going in a straight lane you must veer into another or be forced onto a side street. The roads are dangerous and are like drunk people where suddenly they end or are diverted and names change with no warning or purpose. Yes you are driving down the street in a northerly direction, suddenly the lane you are in veers to the left you must go left or move into the further right lane or if not able to turn. Or you are on Edgehill street and then you cross a street and it is now Chestnut. It truly is as if a drunk person designed the roads here.

Then we have trains that run throughout the day, blasting horns and blocking intersections for hours at a time as Nashville has never bothered to follow through with federal guidelines that enable them to declare neighborhoods or even the city a "silent zone" and prohibit said blockages for longer than 20 minutes. This is the city of now alright.

Nashville prides itself on supposedly being number one for relocation in America. Actually another lie it is Denver but maybe they mean east of the Mississippi. Well that would be Raleigh Durham but that may change due to the bathroom bills, etc. And yes we here in have the same pending bills.

Tennessee has some green build but the alternative energy one would think would be a normal fit is near to non-existent. Solar or any alternative options are rare but they do exist. And no the South is not totally that behind the 8 ball but they are of course dubious about well everything. Two things Southerners do excel at - skepticism and bitterness.

Then I read about this Architectural firm that does more than build buildings they create communities. I thought about the non profit Architecture for Humanity and what has happened since their founder died and they too were re-inventing themselves.

I think to build a community you look to the people inside it and ask what they need. I think that without strong advocates and groups to advocate for sustainability that is more than LEED stars or accreditation there is little done to actually build community. And while Nashville is on a tear here, they have truly done nothing, nothing to build community. From infrastructure to services they have neglected the most important elements and aspects that define a city. I am not sure if they even know how but they speak of it as they do of drive in indoor theaters, bars and other developments as if they will magically bring the other needed elements to create this mythical city they believe exists. This is the South and they have never had a history of doing right but then again, there are exceptions to this rule as this couple have proven.

You can build for humanity, be it big or small, literal or metaphorical but you must always keep the end game in sight, we are all humans and this is all part of a greater bigger picture.

On a Design Mission in Mississippi

An academic center designed by the firm Duvall Decker on the Tougaloo College campus on the northern edge of Jackson, Miss. Credit Timothy Hursley

JACKSON, Miss. — When officials in Mississippi’s rural Holmes County, about an hour’s drive north of here, hired an architecture firm to fix the county’s ailing schools, they got back plans for a new $40 million high school to serve 1,200 students.

Holmes County is among the poorest counties in the nation, plagued by age-old systematic racism, with a population (18,340) that has been declining for more than a half-century. Holmes didn’t have $40 million to pay for a high school.

Community leaders reached out to Derrick Johnson, state president of the N.A.A.C.P., who also helps underserved Mississippi neighborhoods and districts with strategic planning. “Poor communities here are especially vulnerable,” Mr. Johnson told me the other day. “The whole system perpetuates exploitation. Residents need people they can trust.”

So Mr. Johnson enlisted Roy Decker and Anne Marie Duvall, husband-and-wife architects from Jackson.

Since they founded Duvall Decker nearly 20 years ago, the Deckers, as they’re known, have focused mostly on neglected corners in and around Jackson, Mississippi’s capital. To pay the bills, the two have redefined for themselves the ambit of a small architectural practice. They have become developers and even branched into building maintenance: a soup-to-nuts strategy that has allowed them more than just financial breathing room.

“Assuming more risk and responsibility has also given us a stronger voice, upfront, in this community, with politicians and businesspeople,” Ms. Duvall pointed out. “That’s because we have skin in the game.”
 Architects are forever complaining about feeling undervalued, about having lost a seat at the decision-making table. Big ideas — the ones that shape whole cities and ultimately determine what is built, for whom and where — mostly happen “during the first 10 percent of any project,” as Mr. Decker likes to put it, meaning before architects are called in to design something. For the Deckers, like more and more socially minded architects today, reclaiming that seat is an increasing priority.

A play area in a Duvall Decker housing development in the Midtown section of Jackson, Miss. Credit Timothy Hursley

“When young architects apply to work for us,” Ms. Duvall said, “we ask what they want. Sometimes they say they want to design buildings that are unique, to express themselves. Other times they say they hope their work will have good consequences in a community. We’re finding more young people answering the second way.”

The architect Billie Tsien was a juror for the Architectural League in New York that just gave the Deckers an Emerging Voices award. “There’s a lot of fashionable work out there,” Ms. Tsien said. “Anyone who has done public work for nonprofits can appreciate the effort it takes to make even a smidgen of architecture happen.”

I met some of the people who live and work in the buildings the Deckers have designed. For Midtown, a Jackson neighborhood where the poverty rate hovers around 50 percent, the architects produced a master plan with affordable housing. The low-cost homes — wood-frame, three-bedroom modernist duplexes with solar panels and tall Mississippi-brick porches — have helped resuscitate a main street. Duvall Decker also renovated a nearby strip mall long dominated by a pair of liquor stores. The stores are now gone, replaced by a community health center, the mall painted a stylish slate gray, with shiny stainless-steel benches and window frames beneath a lofty new portico. The Deckers eked their smidgens out of the arrangement of drainpipes and new signage. With a little money from the city housing authority and a mix of local nonprofits, a mall that used to blight the neighborhood has become an advertisement for it.

The architects are looking to do something as transformative for Up in Farms, a food hub that links farmers (average income: $10,000 a year) with Jackson restaurants, groceries and food banks. The Deckers are upgrading a dilapidated 1940s farmers market in the city.

“They have also helped clarify our organization and reduce our costs,” said David Watkins Jr., who runs the hub. “They’re focused on our whole business and our outcomes, not just on designing space.”

Likewise, with Holmes County, the architects consulted parents and teachers on curriculums for kindergarten through 12th grade because the schools’ problems clearly went well beyond a single building. The Deckers brought in a tech consultant to help develop interactive digital learning tools — thinking about virtual space “in the same way we are thinking about buildings,” as Mr. Decker put it. Duvall Decker’s plan consolidates several state-of-the-art schools in the shell of an abandoned factory whose reconfiguration will cost residents a fraction of the $40 million the earlier firm originally discussed for just the high school.

A commercial strip that the firm renovated in Midtown. A community health center is one of the tenants. Credit Mark Howell

The Deckers acknowledge Rural Studio’s impact. But they don’t think of themselves as part of that legacy. Mr. Decker describes Mockbee’s initial strategy as a kind of top-down, “creative abduction and aestheticized version” of Southern vernacular design.

“Rural Studio has always done great pro-bono work, but we can’t depend on free labor,” Ms. Duvall added.

We were talking on the sunny patio of a restaurant near Duvall Decker’s office, in a growing commercial area of low-rise 1950s buildings a couple of miles from downtown. What Mr. Decker said is the only abortion clinic left in Mississippi is just up the block. Next door is a building the Deckers bought years ago. They became almost accidental developers, acquiring a derelict site for a potential studio, receiving an offer to buy it within weeks, and realizing that real estate, on a modest scale, could subsidize their practice. Across the street, in what used to be a dry cleaner, they’re now partners in what expanded will become a hotel.

At the same time, the firm fixes leaky pipes and broken windows for clients like an after-school program called Operation Shoestring. When the lights go out at a veterans’ home mortgage association, another client, Duvall Decker sends over an electrician. When rain falls on the headquarters of a community college honor society, the Deckers themselves sometimes go up on the roof afterward to clear the gutters and sweep away puddles.

It’s all of a piece: architecture conceived as buildings with many lives. Tough and pragmatic, Duvall Decker’s work relies on an evolving vocabulary of economical materials and attunement to Southern light. A state library the Deckers designed exploits the changing shadows cast by an irregular grid of precast concrete panels on the facade. Light pours through huge windows into a triple-height, wood-paneled reading room for the state book collections.

At a civil rights research center and art museum on the campus of Tougaloo, the historically black college on the northern edge of Jackson, I asked Beverly Wade Hogan, the president, what it’s like to work with Duvall Decker.

“I talk a lot about what this school means and what it stands for,” she told me. “Roy and Anne listen.”
That’s the goal, Mr. Decker said. “The world is what you make of it,” he added. “For most people here in Mississippi, it’s hard. Our fundamental job as architects is to make it better.”