Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Cajun Navy

I had never heard the term or group until yesterday.  In a fluke of good luck of late I have had the most amazing Lyft drivers who from driving a Tesla to a woman who owns the local peanut store, yesterday I met Caroline who has lived here for a few years and shares very similar views and perspective as mine living here in the South.

We agreed that education is a major factor and anyone who thinks that making it free for Adults and Minors to attend two years of Community College will have any significant dent in the overall achievement rate of higher education has clearly never lived here or are in full denial.  I don't believe one minute that the percent of educated residents of Tennessee will increase more than the national average and rise over the current 33% unless more outsiders move in from the North and have a clear established value about the subject.  Her daughter goes to College and her Parents were both in the Army and in turn possess degrees and at 54 she too went to College but never finished so her daughter earning a degree is important to her.   That is not a philosophy that it shared here by many of the locals I have met well those who are not truly well off and secure in their financial situations.

We discussed her going to Baton Rouge recently when floods raged there and in turn the role of the Cajun Navy as they rescue regardless of income or social standing.  As she had found and heard via her associates that she met through that effort that in Houston there is a chaos about rescue efforts.  And that a group stranded in a trailer park or manufactured homes that sit across a major thoroughfare on top of the homes and cannot nor will not leave pets are being forced to or were rejected as private groups said this is not where they are supposed to be and immediately left them to go to a wealthier area first.   Thankfully many have since been rescued by the Coast Guard as again Government that these same people hate cannot pick and choose who they rescue.

We laughed about the current efforts here by the push to Red Cross an organization that is more bureaucratic than the same Government that are eschewed by the same people needing help.  Try to donate something that has not been approved or go to volunteer and you will find a process that rivals any Government agency.   And we know that Joel Osteen turned people away from his mega church while Mosques were open and running for business without issue.  Yes the same people who we supposedly hate.

This is the South and well Texas which is its own beahmoth that defines designation as Southern but it is a cracker as a barrel.

And that is why I am impressed when people are willing to do this on their own and go and help.  There is right there altruism and generosity in both word and deed.  I am not engaging in this in any way and allowing the fine Government with the fine President of Trump they so adore there to figure this out and solve the problem.  I am out and I did not watch the news last night nor will engage in any of it.  I live here and I frankly have nothing to say about what defines Southern Hospitality. 

But she told me about this group called the Cajun Navy and that many of them now in fact live in Houston after being evacuated there post Katrina and have finally been compensated for their efforts there a dozen years ago, yesterday.  One woman received a check for $34 bucks... well you do it for the good of others.  And then there are those who don't want said help.

'We ain’t doing no damn good': volunteer rescuers struggle in Houston

The ‘Cajun navy’ force of helpers from Louisiana are hitting an unexpected problem in the Harvey-flooded city – residents declining to evacuate

Rory Carroll in Houston
Guardian UK
Wednesday 30 August 2017

The three men drove through the night from Louisiana hauling three boats, ready for whatever the storm would throw at them.

Brad Johns and his dad Wayne, and their friend John Utesch, helped save lives during Hurricane Katrina and planned to do the same in Houston as part of a volunteer rescue force, paying their own way.

The challenge was immense. Tropical storm Harvey was breaking records for rain and flooding, a once-in-a-thousand-year event by some measures. Countless people were trapped and tens of thousands were displaced.

“You gotta do something,” said Wayne, 71, a retired oil worker. His son Brad, 39, who works in home improvement, agreed. “It seems like the thing to do.” Utesch, 64, a furniture restorer, nodded. “If it was us, we’d appreciate the help.”

They had a ski boat, a skiff and a canoe plus fuel, food, water and an app,, which pinpointed people in need. It showed dozens of locations in Cypress, an inundated northern suburb. “Hopefully we can do some good,” said Brad.

Television footage has shown dramatic rescues: people plucked from rooftops, vehicles and foaming torrents, heroism and survival, played out again and again. But for the three Louisianians, part of the so-called Cajun navy, there was just the messy, confusing, unpredictable dynamics of catastrophe in a sprawling city.

The app, for starters, did not work well. Locations which seemed close turned out to be far. Or the people needing rescuing turned out to have already been rescued.

The three criss-crossed waterlogged highways and byways seeking a place to launch a mission.

Dozens of other vehicles towing dinghies, kayaks, airboats, jet skis and motorised fishing boats were doing the same thing. Their drivers stopped at gas stations and parking lots to confer in the rain, exchanging tips and rumours, before resuming the quest.

During one stop the Johns and Utesch acquired a local guide, Karl Juergen, a semi-retired electrical worker, who offered to navigate.

They found an emergency response command post – a fire station bristling with military vehicles – only to receive apologetic shrugs. The uniforms didn’t know where to send them.

An hour later the would-be rescuers joined a convoy which splashed to a halt on North Eldridge Parkway. The road ahead was waist-high in water, beyond it marooned housing estates.

Finally, action.

Except for one problem. Boats had already gone up there and returned empty. Residents didn’t want to leave despite warnings the water would rise another 1.2 metres (4ft).

The Louisianians hesitated. Launch, or try elsewhere? “I’ve got a real winning personality,” grinned Brad. “I’ll persuade them to leave.”

Wayne and Juergen stayed behind to move the trucks to higher ground while Brad piloted the skiff and Utesch the canoe, skimming through brown, fast-flowing murk. Traffic hydrants could be glimpsed below.

Brad rehearsed his spiel: “We’ve come all the way from Louisiana to help you, man.”

Utesch planned a blunter pitch: get out before it was too late.

They turned into an estate called Twin Lakes: big, fancy houses in mock Tudor and plantation styles. A privileged place to live but for the floodwaters lapping through doorways.

The boatmen glided in silence up Tropicana Drive. Some homes still had electricity – the lights were on – but nothing stirred. Some residents had fled before the storm and those that remained were hunkered down. They had no interest in greeting waterborne visitors, let alone hitching a ride.

Utesch moored at a porch on a cul-de-sac called Sweet Surrender Court and called out. An elderly woman opened the door a crack and politely shooed him away. When he said the water would rise another 4ft she considered this a moment, then shut the door.

“They don’t believe us. They just don’t want to come out,” said Utesch, shaking his head.

On Summer Snow Drive Brad encountered a middle-aged couple standing in their garage, monitoring the water level. They too declined help, saying they had moved all essentials to their second floor.

The would-be rescuers were crestfallen.

“We ain’t doing no damn good right here,” said Utesch. Brad wondered if the homeowners suspected they were looters.

They passed other boaters with similar experiences. The few homeowners who were evacuating from this corner of Houston preferred to do so in the back of huge trucks.

Back on the highway the two men found Wayne and Juergen and loaded their boats back on to the pickup. “Well, we tried,” said Brad, dejected. “The effort and desire were there, the results weren’t,” said Utesch.

The three visitors, 380 miles (611km) from home, had planned on eating cold sandwiches and sleeping in their trucks. Juergen, born and bred Texan, insisted they dine and stay at his home. “It would be my privilege to host you.”

The radio spoke of the need for blood donations. Brad perked up. “I’ll do that tonight. I’ll feel like I did something.”

Monday, August 28, 2017

School Daze

While this story could be in any State in the Union it is Mississippi and note that it like Tennessee, Alabama and Missouri are not in the middle of the battlefronts over Statues and Markers. We have them everywhere and frankly no one in their right mind would get too engaged as we have a law here where you can actually drive a car through a protest if they are blocking the road!  So come to Tennessee and get legally murdered by a White Sociopath Supremacist.  The conflict over the statues and monuments is with good intent, often misguided and in turn an opportunity for those who neither live nor even care about the same markers can by using it as a cover for their own rage.

We have a lot more problems and I do think that much of my anger is associated with my involvement with schools. If I had a real job in a workplace with semi-educated professionals and was able to integrate myself into the community I might feel better about Nashville and the place I loosely call home. But that will not change as long as I am in the middle of dental reconstruction and no matter how I push this through I can't change healing and recovery so here I am stuck in the middle, literally and figuratively with you, so to speak.  And it is tough as I cannot bury my head despite my best efforts to pretend this does not exist.

The schools here are dumps and a disgrace and nothing will change it. Money and willingness yes.  And funny only a few years ago the whole idea of new Teachers in the field were the resolutions to the problems in Education so that was the reasoning behind Union busting as they were preventing Principals from hiring newly credentialed, Teach for America trainees and other faux licensing methods from their schools that will bring the energy needed to fix those kids.  Whoops!

The schools need massive changes but that is not all the problems they face. The societal ills are the primary cause and reasoning behind some of the academic and behavioral problems associated with students of poverty and largely of color.

 I read this comment and I think it appropriately explains that it is much larger than the school itself

So there are people who believe that "uniform" schools will deliver uniform quality of education, or, failing that, uniform grades? Well, Soviets tried that for decades, and eventually even within the same school there was "segregation" by performance, with college-bound kids aggregated into class A in every grade. So no, 100% uniform schools will not deliver 100% uniform performance, where 100% of kids are above average.
Redistribution of wealth can do a lot of good things - fix dilapidated buildings, provide safe environment and nutritious lunches for everyone. And I am all for that. Just don't expect that it will also make up for illiterate parents, homes with no books, and growing contempt for intellectual pursuits.

And I believe that families are so broken and busted themselves thanks to the Criminal Justice System, the rising Income Inequality and in turn the rise of open racism and discrimination among all races there will continue to be a division among achievement.

A school is only a community within a a community and that is the real issue and in turn problem.

Two schools in Mississippi – and a lesson in race and inequality in America

One is predominantly white, one is predominantly African American. The education, and outcomes, for students vary wildly. A lawsuit is exposing the reasons why

Jamiles Lartey
The UK Guardian
Sunday 27 August 2017

Two summers ago, Indigo Williams couldn’t have been more thrilled to send her son off for his first day of school.

Her home was zoned into Madison Station elementary school in Madison, Mississippi, an “A” rated school and district where her son JS, then five, quickly dove into Kindergarten with enthusiasm. JS was taking Taekwondo lessons and was served fresh fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria. He had access to tutoring.

But when Williams and her children moved just a few miles away before the start of the following school year, her home was instead zoned to an elementary school in the Jackson, MS school district. She was horrified to see just how dramatic the difference could be.

Now attending Raines Elementary, Williams says Jonathan’s environment “feels more like a jail than a school. Paint is chipping off the walls. They’ve served him expired food in the cafeteria,” she said.

“There are no extracurricular activities available for my son, no art or music class or even afterschool tutoring. There are not enough textbooks for him to take home or even for students to use in the classrooms, and the books that are in the classroom are outdated,” Williams added.

She worries that JS is growing bored with his classwork, and that the school doesn’t have the resources to challenge him or make learning interesting. “I’m afraid he’s falling behind other kids in better schools,” Williams said.

But Williams hasn’t just sat by and watched as her son’s quality of education deteriorated. She – and three other black Mississippi mothers – have put themselves and the Raines Elementary at the centre of a lawsuit that argues the state has reneged on 150 year-old promise to offer a “uniform system of free public schools”.

The lawsuit, filed by Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of the mothers, is about quality of education, but there is also a broader context reflected in the make-up of the student population in the two schools that JS has attended. The pupils at Raines School pupils are 99% black. The pupils at Madison Station school are 70% white. And in a state where, in the years after Brown v Board, the landmark 1954 US Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation in schools, public officials in Mississippi considered shutting down public schools all together to avoid integration, race is never far from view.

“This case is about quality of education and making sure that quality is uniform no matter what color your skin is or where you live,” said Will Bardwell, an attorney for SPLC. “Mississippi gutted education rights over years and years to avoid integration, to the extent that they are now non-existent. We want to change that.”
Mississippi Goddam

By virtually any metric you choose, Mississippi has among the worst education systems in the US. In a July study, researchers using a 13-point quality rubric ranked the state 49 out of the 50 states and Washington DC.

Mississippi is also, by both median income and poverty level, the poorest state in the country.

This is no coincidence, of course. Because US public school are almost exclusively funded by state and local tax dollars, the amount of resources any given school has is almost wholly a function of how wealthy the people who live nearby are.

The Madison Station elementary school where JS began his student career is, by car, about 20 minutes north of Raines – but it isa universe apart. Elaborate gated mansions with circular driveways dot the road to the school which passes through expansive stretches of verdant green Mississippi pasture. Near the end of the school day, a fleet of immaculate saffron and black buses pull up to the building.

The environment mirrors the performance. In 2010 Madison Station was a National Blue Ribbon School, a Department of Education designation made to high performing schools. Some 72.6% of students are proficient in reading and 70.5% are proficient in math – well above the state average. In 2013, less than 9% of the school’s teachers were in their first year of teaching.

Down the road at Raines, 20% of teachers are in their first year. Only 11% of students are proficient in reading and just 4% in math.

The stark difference in racial makeup of the student populations is nothing new in the US of course, and nothing particularly specific to Mississippi. US schools are, on balance, more segregated today than they were 45 years ago.
JS (left) is now going to Raines elementary, where ‘the classrooms are too small for the number of students they put in them’.

“Resegregation is not a Mississippi specific problem. It’s a nationwide problem, and that’s part of the reason this case isn’t really about segregation. It’s more about disuniformity,” Bardwell said.

The suit itself never actually mentions the term “segregation” and instead zeroes in on the language enshrined in the state’s first constitution, ratified in 1869, and approved by the US congress:

“It shall be the duty of the legislature to encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual scientific moral and agricultural improvement by establishing a uniform system of free public schools by taxation or otherwise for all children between the ages of five and 21 years.”

That was then. But this bold promise of “uniform” compulsory education is no longer a part of the state’s constitution. The language has been progressively eroded in each of four updates over the ensuing 120 years. The most recent revision in 1987 has no mention of any commitment to a “uniform” quality of education – instead it promises “the establishment, maintenance and support of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may prescribe”.

In other words, the promise amounts to virtually nothing – when it comes to education, the state legislature can do literally whatever it wants, so long as there are some free public schools.

This change to the language – and the nature of the promise the state makes about education – is at the heart of the suit and goes to the core of Mississippi’s troubled racial history and its relationship to the union. Concerned that the former Confederate territory would pass one type of constitution to reenter the union, and then modify it to deny rights to black Americans as time went on, the US congress passed the Mississippi Readmission Act. This was passed specifically to target any prospect that Mississippi would slip-slide on its obligations to its non-white residents once it had reentered the union. The readmission act, which technically remains federal law, states that:

“The constitution of Mississippi shall never be so amended or changed as to deprive any citizen or class of citizens of the United States of the school rights and privileges secured by the constitution of said State.”

Bardwell says that, insofar as the state once guaranteed uniform schools, and now does not, it has been in violation of the Readmission act.

“The point that we have made in this lawsuit is that regardless of the racial composition of your school is, federal law required Mississippi to provide the same opportunity at every school and that’s just not happening.”

And if the historical record is clear about one thing, it’s that the changes to Mississippi’s constitution after readmission were intended to do one thing: disenfranchise the state’s black citizens. “There is no reason to equivocate or lie about the matter,” said former Mississippi governor James Vardaman of the 1890 constitutional convention that amended the constitution and first modified the educational guarantees. “It was held for no other purpose than to eliminate the nigger from politics.”

He would know. Vardaman was one of the authors of the modified language, and those remarks were hardly out of character. On another occasion he opined blithely the “best way to control the nigger is to whip him when he does not obey without it”.

Black disenfranchisement was so effective in post-reconstruction Mississippi that Vardaman and his white supremacy ideology ascended to the state’s highest office during a century-long period where black Mississippians substantially outnumbered white ones. The state remains the one with the highest concentration of black Americans today.

The state also endures with the unofficial reputation as the nation’s most racist. It has some claims to that title. It was here that 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered for the imagined crime of hitting on a white woman in 1955. It was here that civil rights icon Medgar Evers was martyred in his own driveway in 1963, and it was here that, one year later, during the Mississippi Freedom Summer campaign, activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman & Michael Schwerner were murdered for the offense of registering black people to vote. The state’s preeminence in racial violence was perhaps most viscerally captured in Nina Simone’s 1964 tune, Mississippi Goddamn. Throughout the civil rights movement the state became the embodiment of white supremacy resistance.

Raines elementary is tucked in a residential stretch on the northwestern side of Jackson’s outskirts. There are no mansions here, but instead, humble L-shaped bungalows in various states of maintenance and disrepair. The school’s interior has the look of a place where educators and staff do what they can with what little they have. The floors are sparkling clean but on the corners they show the telltale decay of repetitive flood damage. On the wall, a colorful sign with construction-paper butterflies encourages students that “learning is an adventure”, sitting below ceiling tiles that are all discolored and crumbling on their edges.

“The school building is old, dark, and gloomy,” said Precious Hughes, the mother of a first-grader and a kindergartener at Raines. “The children are always bumping into each other because the classrooms are too small for the number of students they put in them.”

Real estate database Zillow rates the school as a one out of 10. School ranking website Schooldigger rates it as a zero out of five, and the 25th worst elementary school in the state.

And that type of performance is characteristic of predominantly black schools throughout the state. In Mississippi schools where the student body is at least 70% black, the average rating is D, for schools where the student body is at least 70% white, that slides up to a B.

Hughes said her oldest daughter, six, is in the majority of Raines pupils who struggle with reading. “Early on, Raines offered the Read Well program to help students boost their reading skills. That helped my daughter tremendously and improved her reading scores. But the program was shut down because there was not enough funding to pay for it,” Hughes said.

Hughes and Williams both also worry about overall teacher quality. One in five at Raines are in their first year of teaching, compared with one in 11 at Madison Station.

“The rubber meets the road at a quality teacher in every classroom,” said Tom Taylor, assistant superintendent of schools in nearby Yazoo County. “If that could ever be provided to every child in the state, or this nation for that matter, then that’s where you begin to see the progress.”
The way it’s been for a long time in Mississippi

The latest twist in the lawsuit is that the state filed a motion to dismiss it in July and released a statement calling the suit “cynical and misguided”, accusing Bardwell and the SPLC of an attempt “to fundraise on the backs of Mississippi taxpayers”.

Among their arguments for dismissal, the state said that even if you grant that the state were in violation of the Readmission act, the legal question would be whether the state should lose representation in Congress rather than one about how the state educates students.

“Of course, Mississippi has continued to be admitted to representation in Congress for nearly 150 years after the Readmission Act, [and] 127 years after the 1890 amendments to the State Constitution,” the motion notes.

Bardwell finds that response underwhelming. “The fact that this is the way it’s been for a long time in Mississippi doesn’t settle the question,” he said.

The state also argued that student performance might have nothing to do with state policies or funding levels at all, accusing the plaintiffs of ignoring the “many other factors that contribute to literacy and education – such as resources, parental involvement, medical problems, intellectual limitations, domestic violence [and] trauma.”

Bardwell called this argument “outrageous” and said the the four mothers in this suit were “doing everything they can” to see their kids succeed in school.

“I would defy anyone with the state of Mississippi to sit down with these parents, talk to them and come away with the impression that those parents are not,” Bardwell said.

“Just like every other parent in this state, I love my child,” Hughes said. “I know she deserves better, and that is why I’m filing this lawsuit.”

A Blowhard

 Just a month ago the Texas Legislature was ordered into a special session by their Governor and the agenda is below.

Gov. Greg Abbott announces July 18 special session

Filed under Texas Legislature at Jun 6
Brandi Grissom, Austin Bureau Chief
Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott has called a special session that will begin July 18. He outlined an agenda chock-a-block with red-meat conservative issues, including a "bathroom ban" and restrictions on property tax growth and abortion.

The announcement was a major win for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the conservative firebrand who leads the Senate and has been pressuring Abbott to call a special legislative session. Patrick's top priorities during the regular legislative session that ended Memorial Day included restricting bathroom access for transgender Texans and limiting local property tax growth.

Amid session-long squabbles that escalated in the final weeks of the regular legislative session, lawmakers failed to approve a must-pass bill to reauthorize several state agencies, including the one that licenses and oversees doctors, the Texas Medical Board. Those agencies will stop functioning in September without legislation to keep them up and running.

Abbott criticized lawmakers for failing to finish their business and said they have six weeks to prepare for the special session, which can last up to 30 days. The governor is the only state official who can convene a special legislative session, and he has been reluctant to do so in the past. Taxpayers, he has said, expect lawmakers to finish their work at the Capitol on time. But the failure to reauthorize agencies gave Abbott little alternative but to bring lawmakers back to get the job done.

"A special session was entirely avoidable," Abbott said. "There was plenty of time for the House and Senate to forge compromises."

Abbott said once the Senate approves a measure to reauthorize agencies that are scheduled to shutter, he will immediately add to the special session agenda 19 items championed by Republican lawmakers, including Patrick's top priorities.

"If I'm going to ask taxpayers to foot the bill for a special session, I intend to make it count," Abbott said.

Among the other issues Abbott said he would ask lawmakers to address: approving a $1,000 pay raise for public school teachers, prohibiting local ordinances that restrict homeowners and businesses, cutting off local money to abortion providers, restricting cities' ability to annex property and studying the causes of maternal deaths in Texas.

Abbott said he hopes that cooler heads will prevail in a special session after the tumultuous legislative session that ended on Memorial Day with a near-fisticuffs scuffle on the House floor.

"I expect legislators to return with a calm demeanor and with a firm commitment to make Texas even better," Abbott said.

The bathroom and tax proposals died amid bitter feuding between Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus, a more moderate Republican. Straus, along with other moderate Republicans, business groups and Democrats, argued that the so-called bathroom bill would cost the Texas economy millions and encourage discrimination against a vulnerable population.

Abbott said he wants, at minimum, a bill that will keep transgender children in schools from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. He specifically pointed to a bill by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, that would have eliminated city ordinances and school district rules that allow transgender people to use the restrooms that match their gender identity.

Simmons said he plans to file the measure again next week. He said Abbott sent a strong message by making the measure a priority for the special session.

"If it doesn't get done, it will either be because the leaders of the House or Senate didn't get it done," Simmons said.

During the regular session, House Republican leaders also rejected Patrick's property tax proposal, which would trigger automatic rollback elections if local property taxes grow by more than 5 percent. Under current law, residents can petition for a rollback election if the tax rate grows more than 8 percent. Local officials said the proposed change would hamstring their ability to provide important public safety services.

Abbott said he wants lawmakers to pass legislation that includes a rollback election provision.

"If we are going to come together and work this summer at taxpayers' expense, then let us work on relieving Texas homeowners from out-of-control property taxes," he said.

Angleton GOP Rep. Dennis Bonnen, who heads the tax-writing House Ways and Means panel, said he welcomes another chance to tighten revenue caps on cities, counties and other nonschool taxing districts.

"The cities and counties overplayed their hand," Bonnen said. "And now they have a different situation — and it may no go as well for them."

Calling a special session could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on how long lawmakers take to reach an agreement. In 2013, PolitiFact Texas estimated a one-month special session could cost $716,100 to $819,000 in lawmaker and staff per diems alone. That doesn't include other costs related to continued use of the state Capitol.

The most recent special sessions with 20 or more items on the agenda were called by former Gov. Rick Perry. He convened two special sessions in the summer of 2005 with more than 20 topics on the agenda. Each lasted 30 days.

Patrick applauded Abbott for calling a special session, which the lieutenant governor had clamored for.

"I want to congratulate Governor Abbott for his big and bold special session agenda which solidly reflects the priorities of the people of Texas," Patrick said in a prepared statement.

Straus issued a less laudatory statement. He said before the legislative session ended that he didn't want lawmakers to return to the Capitol for overtime.

"The members of the House will return to the Capitol next month ready to put their constituents and the best interest of the state first," Straus said. "The House looks forward to resuming our work on school finance and other challenges facing this state."

Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington, chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said Abbott's laundry list of special session topics ws a symptom of the governor's lax leadership during the regular legislative session.

"If the governor had not been so absent and so disengaged in the legislative process and from the duties of governor, frankly, he wouldn't be making his announcement today," Turner said.

Turner said the governor capitulated to political pressure from Patrick and the tea party wing of the GOP.

"It's clear to me the governor is panicking," Turner said. "Dan Patrick is breathing down his neck and has been for sometime. "

As Abbott mulled the special session question, far-right Republicans aligned with Patrick had implored him to expand the agenda of any such session to include other conservative priorities lawmakers failed to pass.

The Texas Republican Party executive committee on Tuesday sent Abbott a letter with an even bigger proposed agenda. In addition to the bathroom and tax measures, the nearly 60 GOP authors said they want lawmakers to vote on bills that would allow Texans to carry guns without licenses; abolish abortion and refuse to follow federal rules and court orders that allow the procedure; and allow parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools.

Abbott acquiesced on nearly all of their requests, plus added a few more agenda items.

Here is a complete list of the 20 items that will be on the special session agenda:

* Measures that will continue the operations of the Texas Medical Board and four other agencies are scheduled to shutter Sept. 1.
* Teacher pay increase of $1,000.
* Administrative flexibility in teacher hiring and retention practices.
* A commission to study ways to fix public school financing.
* Allowing parents of special needs children to use public school dollars for private schools.
* Limiting growth of local property taxes.
* Caps on state and local spending.
* Preventing cities from regulating what property owners do with trees on private land.
* Preventing local governments from changing rules midway through construction projects.
* Speeding up local government permitting process.
* Restrict cities' ability to annex property.
* Abbott signed a ban on texting while driving Tuesday, but he wants lawmakers to pass a bill preempting local restrictions on mobile devices in automobiles.
* Restricting transgender Texans from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
* Prohibiting public employers from collecting union dues.
* Prohibiting local governments from sending tax dollars to abortion providers.
* Prohibiting abortion coverage under primary health insurance plans.
* Increasing reporting requirements when health complications arise from abortions.
* Strengthening patient protections relating to do-not-resuscitate orders.
* Cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud.
* Extending a study of the causes of maternal mortality.

Austin bureau reporters Robert T. Garrett and Lauren McGaughy contributed to this report.

As you can see it is chock-a-block full of significant and important issues that address infrastructure, disaster relief and any issue of import that would somehow compensate or supplement the current change with regards to Federal funding, Climate Change and basic overall wellness and safety of the residents of Texas.    Yes Abortion, toilets, Unions, and texting while driving dominated the agenda. The same Legislature that only a month earlier got into fisticuffs between members of Immigration.

The people of Texas voted for these people and they I am sure campaigned on those issues and felt those were the most important and relevant matters that need to be addressed in Texas as super important!

As a resident of a red state I am incredulous as to the idiots elected into our State Legislature and their overreach to negate, cancel and override any Cities attempts to legislate and follow thru on campaign issues that were why they were elected to office.  Apparently the Citizens and Voters are children and do not know what is good for them so we have the Parents taking over to ensure our Municipality will not do anything bad to make things different or better for their constituents.

Yesterday I spoke with my Gardner and he is a smart and has actually worked in the public schools here so he is one of the few I can actually communicate with and have a rapoor.  I said that I can't make it here even two more years and that I am going to do my best to get out of here by 2019 and speed up the dental work to get out of here sooner the better.   There is a stupidity here that boggles the mind and in turn makes me feel at risk every single day I live here.

Every weather report, every day the news announces that they are there to make us safe.  My favorite was that they advertised that they were broadcasting during the Eclipse to ensure ways to keep us safe during that 1:29 minutes of darkness. That the Mayor originally wanted the kids in school as she was sure that havoc would reign with kids not in school then on a quick change school was scheduled then after complaints, cancelled and the original day was off.   I have seen this during snow and tornado watches and they seem utterly perplexed when real situations of risk occur but hey lets get hysterical over just rain and that they do regularly.  Why? Because infrastructure here has never been improved to handle grey water and in turn streets and roads flood so the morons here drive a full speed over pools of water, hydroplane or cause backwash to cover cars that their vision is blocked and in turn crash as they slam on the breaks.  What I saw during the snow day last year was almost amusing if it was not so utterly dangerous.

And this is why as I watch the disaster unfold in Houston I am reminded of Katrina and just recently New Orleans was again recently flooded thanks to unrelenting rain but it was just another natural disaster that has plagued the U.S. this summer.

When I left Seattle there was great discussion about the potential for Earthquake disaster and what the City was doing and informing residents of what they needed to do to survive when not if when it hits.  I am not sure there has been more movement or discussion the severity of this as we learned from San Francisco 20 years earlier that there is a need to plan for said crisis.  And here we are a decade later after Katrina and watching what is unfolding is not much different. So clearly what have we learned?  Not a goddamn thing!

We as in the collective United States elected a total moron as President.  He in turn has placed utter incapable or hostile individuals in charge of the departments and agencies in charge of the Environment, Housing and of course no one in charge of FEMA.  So this is going to work out well and why? US.  As in us the citizens and residents of the United States who will stand up, donate and go full on Dunkirk to save those residents in the affected there.  Will I? No. You dance with the one who brought you and I had nothing to do with the citizens of Texas and their choices and frankly I am not clear why they have chosen idiots like  Ted Cruz to represent them as well so fuck em.  You made your bed now lie in it.  If there is one thing I have learned since living in Nashville no matter what happens to you - you are ultimately responsible and you are utterly at fault and you ultimately have to fix it.  Good luck to you loser as you somehow failed God and in turn God is punishing you.

Everything in the God fearing red states are of course the fault and failings of those individuals who chose to live in a Hurricane area, Tornado zone, in a City, live in a house, not have a boat, not have money to evacuate and in turn are probably not Christians, Illegals, Gays or Democrats.  This is America divided.  So good luck Houston.  As they say here instead of actually doing something - I'll pray for you!  I would but I don't pray.. well I will send good thoughts.  Bless Your Hearts!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hold On

 I elected to not see the movie The Glass Castle as the reviews told me that one of my favorite memoirs was not honored and it explains why other stories, such as Mary Karr's Liar's Club has never made it to the screen.  Mary is quite vocal about writing truths in memoir and in turn film is a form that takes advantage of smudging the truth. 

Jeanette Walls book resonated with a young woman whom I met buying a black and white cookie at Publix in Donelson so much that when I said I was heading to the movies, hence the cookie (I bring my own snacks) she said I should see the Glass Castle as the book moved her so much she wrote Ms. Walls who responded to her.  That gesture meant so much and it touched me in a way that I said she must read the Liar's Club as that too is an amazing story by an amazing writer.  But I went to see Dunkirk instead as I wanted Ms. Walls words to touch me in a way that film clearly fails to do so.     There are many stories like these women that are real and have such hard truths they are not easy and truth is never easy.

But truths in the South are stories best told over Iced Tea and in turn they like the tea are always a touch too sweet or too maudlin to be believed.  Ms. Walls heard such criticism of her unflinching portrayal of a family in full dysfunction but to those who loved it it was a book of pain and of truth.  I just finished an appalling book, The Incest Book by Anonymous, that at some point I thought no wonder you didn't want your name associated with this as even I questioned the authenticity.   But read Roxanne Gay's Hunger and then you will hear another story that has one telling the unflinching truth of their youth. 

When I read this article below I thought that again everyone needs to read Deep South, by Paul Theroux.  Until you read the stories and his observations, all the protests, arguments and debates over these absurd Statues (this years Confederate Flag and Building Names and next week Street names) you will never understand the argument or truths about living in the South.

This is not about honoring some racist nutfuck this is about the other telling the South how to live and they are not having it.  But the odd thing is that they are busing in outsiders and others to defend that shit.  The same thing the GOP accused the left of doing at Town Halls. Funny no violence ensued there, well maybe some hurt feelers and a misplaced sign but hey!

Some if not all of the most heinous nutters in Charlottesville came from States that have not one Statue, one building or place of significance marking any hero of the Civil War of the North or the South.  When they are now debating Mayors and Governors honorariums you know we are reaching here as I would really like to know if there is anyone who remembers truly any of these people and if they do what do they recall - three specifics please.

One thing these protests do is offer  a great excuse to smack talk much like the absurd Maryweather/McGregor fight of last night.  I demand Michael Jordan come out of retirement to play a match with Venus Williams to decide who is the greatest dunker of balls across a net in history!   100 Million dollars to the winner and the title of Greatest Net Baller in History!

Poverty, alienation, frustration is what it is all about.  Instead of yelling "Jews will not replace us" Maybe more appropriately yell out "Foreign Outsourced Workers Won't Work We Will"  Okay that might be a little long but that is the point.  We have been outsourcing so much labor and insourcing it via H1B1 Visas that we might actually believe that accented individual on the other end of the phone is named Tiffany.   I would love to have a conversation with someone who lives nearby and it is the first question I ask when I call the bank, the credit card company or other service industry - where are you located?  If a company has no regional service call center I drop the business from my service or write them to ask why and how much is that call costing me to locate this in India.  It is quite amusing to read the responses. And yes Sirius radio I mean you.

Now is that racism? Xenophobia?  Isolationism? No.  Here is the deal: If I fly British Airways I will expect them to be located in some British Commonwealth so I am good with that.  If I own a Chinese made washer well that might be a bad comparison but again the service ironically for said washer is actually located just up the road! Who would have thunk it!  Haier owns GE now and in turn makes many of their products here in the United States. And from them I actually got better service than Home Depot who I bought said machine from.  Well until I called the Depot's headquarters and demanded an Executive to call me back and an Admin Assistant did and quickly resolved the issue. 

But despite the fact that jobs have been filled and more people are working wages have stagnated with more working from paycheck to paycheck with housing costs absorbing most of those wage.  This in turn places more people at financial risk and in turn they are taking on more debt to sustain a  lifestyle.  I gave up a car and rent, car share or use Lyft along with mass transit to take me where I need to go.  My wages largely go to rent and I have not taken a vacation in quite some time, never eat out, shop for luxury items such as books, etc and have used my savings for dental surgery.  So when my neighbor said "you will be retiring soon" I wanted to punch him in the face to allow him to have dental surgery too.

All of us unless you are in the established 1% are at one paycheck risk from losing it.  But until you understand the differences between what defines working poor to that of a state of living in poverty you will find denial a great river in which to float down and not even in Egypt.

I have said repeatedly that poverty is the problem and that within that racism divides and segregates by class and then by color and by ethnicity/gender/etc.   And Poverty in the South is a unique and truly life defining state of being that until I moved here only understood via books and movies.  And even those did not fully explain or teach one about the truths of living in this survival mode day to day for one's life.  It is a trauma that is akin to one Soldiers experience on the battlefield and why you see so many young and poor and yes largely of color carry and use guns to resolve and solve conflicts.  

When you are holding on to that rung of that ladder it is a slippery one and you will do whatever it takes to keep holding on.

Where do we learn that poverty is shameful and dangerous? At the movies.

By Stephen Pimpare August 23 The Washingto Post

Stephen Pimpare is the author most recently of "Ghettos, Tramps, and Welfare Queens: Down and Out on the Silver Screen." He teaches American politics and public policy at the University of New Hampshire.

This week, the well-to-do wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former actress Louise Linton, shared a heated exchange on Instagram over photographs of her wearing (and flaunting) expensive clothing brands, where she appeared to insult another woman for having lesser means. Linton, who once gave an interview about the dozens of diamonds and other jewels she would be wearing to wed Mnuchin, asked the commenter if she had “given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?” and concluded with a final barb: “Your life looks cute.”

Linton may not think very much of people who don’t “give” as much to “the economy” as she and her husband. It wouldn’t be any big surprise: After all, Linton and Mnuchin are both creatures of Hollywood, a territory none too friendly to poor people.

It’s unusual to see people struggling to get by on the big screen. By my count, in the entirety of American cinema, there are fewer than 300 movies that significantly concern themselves with poverty or homelessness. When they do, the result is predictable, insulting in ways that not only reflect but propagate unfair stereotypes and misleading prejudices about people who live in poverty.

Oftentimes, movies that seem to be about poor people are actually about rich people. If you know “My Man Godfrey,” “Oliver Twist” or “My Own Private Idaho,” you may remember them as being about, respectively, a Depression-era hobo, a hungry orphan boy, or two homeless hustlers. But in each instance, the central character is actually a rich man in poor drag: Godfrey is a well-to-do Bostonian hiding away in a Hooverville while recovering from a broken heart; Oliver’s true parentage, and inheritance, is eventually revealed; and Keanu Reeves’s hustler, who comes into his own fortune, is the mayor’s son. I think of these kind of characters (and they abound) as Impostor Tramps.

And there’s another way in which movies may care less about poverty than they would have you believe. You may remember “The Soloist” as being about a homeless Juilliard-trained musician played by Jamie Foxx. But the narrative actually centers on the reporter (Robert Downey Jr.) and how he finds new meaning in his work, saves his marriage and repairs his relationship with his son — all thanks to the Important Lessons he learns by helping Foxx. In such films, (think of “The Fisher King” and “Resurrecting the Champ”) poor people are objects, not subjects: They are the means toward someone else’s end. It’s one way in which old doctrines show themselves, counseling us to aid The Poor because it’s a way to achieve our own salvation.

When the main characters are genuinely destitute, they are often objects of fear. “C.H.U.D.” is one notorious case, in which homeless men literally rise up from the sewers to slaughter the upper classes. While many horror flicks with “vagrants” as the villain were made in the 1980s, as widespread homelessness emerged for the first time since the 1930s, the bigotry that inspired them endures: Kevin Drum recently insisted that it is “perfectly understandable” to be disgusted by homeless people.

When they are not monsters, poor people on film are often irredeemable and irresponsible. Take “Precious,” which purports to care about its characters but nonetheless traffics in the ugliest racist stereotypes about welfare recipients and poor African Americans.

Alternately, poor people onscreen are broken and need to be fixed (“The Saint of Fort Washington,” “Being Flynn”), or lost and in need of rescue, as with movies (“Dangerous Minds,” “Freedom Writers”) that feature a Nice White Lady coming to inspire and save black and brown children, who merely need to be motivated to find some reservoir of pluck or grit so that they can improve their lot.

These stories are especially insidious because they teach viewers that poverty, as HUD Secretary Ben Carson said recently, is a “state of mind” rather than a condition we create through our politics and public policy. In the movies, poverty is rooted in individual failure (or one dramatic, tragic event), and the larger political and economic forces that constrain people’s opportunities are absent.

Indeed, the way to escape poverty in cinema is never public aid or even private charity. Accepting help (or, heaven forbid, demanding it) marks characters as undeserving; refusing aid, by contrast, even if it means your children go hungry, is a sign of moral fiber (see Jeff Bridges in “Hidden in America” or “Cinderella Man,” in which the final heroic act is ostentatiously repaying the public relief that saved the family from ruin).

Finally, despite the fact that poverty is higher outside metropolitan areas than in them, and highest in the South, in the movies, it is concentrated in big cities, and especially among African Americans in New York. That gives us a wildly distorted sense of where most poverty is and who experiences it.

“The Grapes of Wrath,” still among the best movies about poverty, is an exception, showing audiences rural families in need. So does “The Glass Castle,” along with better films like “Winter’s Bone,” “Frozen River” and “Wendy and Lucy.” But these conform to their own pattern: When movie poverty is rural, it is white (with exceptions, like “Ballast” and “George Washington”). And this white, rural poverty is much more likely to be portrayed sympathetically. As recent events remind us — from the extravagant efforts mainstream media have made to humanize racist, homophobic, and xenophobic white Trump voters, to violent public rallies by neo-Nazis — we still inhabit a white supremacist culture, so this should probably not be surprising, even it we find it troubling.

The newly released “The Glass Castle,” based on author Jeanette Walls’s memoirs of growing up poor, offers a fresh opportunity to watch whiteness work, given how much it deviates from the book to make the alcoholic father blameless and the neglectful mother merely eccentric. It softens this family’s poverty in a common way, too. In Walls’s memoir, the children spend much of their time hungry, cold, and dirty. But in Hollywood’s version, they are never too cold, too hungry or too dirty.

American movies often pull their punches in this way, avoiding giving filmgoers a realistic sense of what deep poverty is like, thereby making it easier for people like Linton and her husband to dismiss and easier to deny the need for policies to reduce it. “The Glass Castle” takes a brutally unsentimental, clear-eyed accounting of growing up poor and turns it into a maudlin movie about a woman’s troubled relationship with her father and their reconciliation. And another opportunity to show movie audiences something about the reality of poverty in America is squandered.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Dumb and Dumber

I read the below article in of course all things elite, The Harvard Crimson.  No matter what the color of your skin, arriving through that Yard means you have made it.  And frankly I am not impressed.  I think it demeans many of those who serve on Faculty's and Campuses across this country as something less and neither as challenging nor intellectual as those who are so privileged to serve on the campuses of the Ivy League.  What.the.fuck.ever.

Now clearly admission standards, costs and of course desire are all factors which allow and enable people to attend any College and that is something often out of reach for many despite their innate ability and willingness.   I am sure that one thing is guaranteed that when you leave you could be an utter moron and the prodigy of a family who has been a legacy family, donated money and secured your spot and you will then be placed in a position that will secure your success regardless. See Jared Kushner as example. Or George W. Bush as another.

The "other" Trump Daughter enters law school at Georgetown as does the elder daughter of Obama who has expressed an interest in film as a career but good back up choice to go to Harvard if that doesn't pan out.  Oh who are we kidding regardless she will be hired anywhere she applies with or without a Harvard diploma as anyone would love to be less than one degree from those fabulous parents.  As for Tiffany that law degree will come in handy just the family alone needs in house counsel so she will never be short of work as many newly degreed Lawyers are finding out.

But the argument that the South is dumb has some truths as again the reality is here in the Athens of the South, Nashville, only 33% possess a degree outside of high school.  While our dropout rate has declined and is more in line with the average drop out rate across the country.  This is from the National Center of Education Stats:

The decline in the overall status dropout rate from 10.9 percent in 2000 to 5.9 percent in 2015 coincided with a shift in the distribution of years of school completed by status dropouts, as fewer status dropouts completed less than 9 years of schooling, while more completed 11 or 12 years of schooling. The percentage of status dropouts with less than 9 years of schooling decreased from 21.5 percent in 2000 to 14.5 percent in 2015. Conversely, the percentage of status dropouts who had completed 11 or 12 years of schooling but did not receive a diploma or GED certificate increased from 40.0 percent in 2000 to 50.2 percent in 2015.
Based on data from the ACS (which covers a broader population than the CPS), the overall status dropout rate in 2015 was 6.0 percent. The status dropout rate was lower for individuals living in households and noninstitutionalized group quarters (5.7 percent) than for individuals living in institutionalized group quarters (34.6 percent).
According to data from the ACS, the status dropout rate varied by race/ethnicity in 2015. The status dropout rate was lower for Asian youth (2.4 percent), White youth (4.5 percent), and youth of Two or more races (4.7 percent), than for Black (7.2 percent), Hispanic (9.9 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native youth (13.2 percent). The rate for Pacific Islander youth (5.4 percent) was lower than the rates for Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native youth, but not measurably different from those of other racial groups.
 The reality is that for Minority and Low Income students the door is still firmly closed for them as they are distinctly out of reach with regards to hitting the Commencement stage.   To put it crudely there are shitload of poor brown people here in Tennessee and so that drive to 55 probably means the speed limit versus college degree attention.  

I am amazed here at the lack of desire for knowledge and then I realize that survival trumps all the willingness to engage or converse with anyone different and in turn listen, hear and in turn learn what it means to live in a place where there is hope and prospects for a better life.

I met a young Lyft driver yesterday who came here from Arkansas, she has a Lexus and yet cannot make ends meet, came here for a baby daddy (her words not mine) whom she married and in turn divorced within the two years of living here.  Her son is three and she suspects he is on the Spectrum and would like to go to school to be a Special Ed Teacher but cannot afford the tuition as she claims to have no proof of residency.  I said well you are driving for Lyft and you have to have a Tennessee license and they require it by law to have one within 30 days of arrival so the Department of Homeland Securites would have record (no we don't have a DMV here we have it under the DOT for reasons that again are about the fear factor) of when she exactly surrendered her license.   Then our ride ended and I once again thought this is another story that has many aspects of truth and I am exhausted from trying to decipher let alone care anymore.  But I do just because that is how I am trained and raised, man my Parents really fucked me over. It is auto pilot, like Southern Hospitality, you just do it without thinking and behind the gesture is nothing else.

So when I read this essay in the Crimson I of course went to read the comments and they ran the gamut as they do.  Again this is what the reality of life is trolling all day on the Internet and commenting/harassing/liking/threatening/masturbating to whatever gets you off.

The reality is that the South is not dumber than the North they just embrace it in a way that is part Contrarian, part resignation as that is what your family did and you will be the same and it is all just fine.  I listen to the lectures, the scolding, the reprimanding all the time in the public schools and it is utterly self defeating and demoralizing to me so I can only imagine what it is like to hear it repeatedly on an endless basis from Adults who are there to help you.  I have given up and just on the rare day (yesterday for an example) I teach just to well remind myself I can.  I don't do it for the kids anymore I do it for myself.  How grim.How tragic.How Pathetic.  I feel every passing day here I get dumb and dumber.

The Dumb South
What to make of regional difference
By Madison E. Johnson March 11, 2015

The other day in section, (if I had a nickel in BoardPlus for every boring story I’ve heard with that beginning, I could buy out the Barker Cafe) one of my classmates made a comment about an antiquated law or some other asinine turmoil in some Southern state or the other. My recollection is vague because the statement was vague. But regardless, the room erupted in laughter, not really paying attention to the content of the statement—the past fifteen minutes had been that trademark section midway lull; until this point all eyes had been glazed over. The room responded to the simple “laugh-here” punchline the student provided, that punchline being: “The South.”

The South. Cue laughter. Oh, but he was from the South. Cue laughter. You know, the South. Cue laughter.

By this point I’ve learned that this is not an unusual handling of the topic of the modern American South. Sure, I spent a lot of the first eighteen years of my Georgia upbringing complaining about it. Complaining is what high school is for, I’m pretty sure. But still, something about this bothered me. At first I figured it was something like that odd complex that sitcoms often taught me big brothers have, an innate (and creepy and territorial) possession and protection of their little sisters. I imagine some dude on the TV in a jersey and a backwards baseball cap, holding a football in one of his giant, giant hands, thumbing himself in the chest with the other, “The only one who can pick on the little twerp is me.”

I figured that was how I felt about the entire South. Me, the South’s jersey-clad older brother: “I’m the only one who gets to call you stupid!” I say, giving the South a noogie and a wet willy, running off to the arcade with my older buddies.

The whole section laughed. The section leader laughed. And I look around, smiling this one smile I have that makes me feel and look like I’m suffering some kind of machinery meltdown, or like I’m a Mrs. Potato Head doll and I chose the wrong plastic mouth and then put it in the face-hole a little askew.

I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be laughing at the joke, whatever the joke was, which I’m pretty sure had nothing to do with feeling like the South’s big brother, an easy but unlikely explanation. More likely, unfortunately, is that when a dozen Harvard students gather around a table and laugh at the South, shrug it off as the unrelated and unfortunate growth attached to their endlessly more scholarly and charming Northeast, there is power and presumption at play that I don’t think I am intended to be a part of, and that I’m not sure I’d like to be. Another club I can’t join.

A lot of racist shit happens down South. It is excellent and warranted and exciting when people thoughtfully consider that, questioning what unique Southern history is at play, considering what role education inequity plays in the situation and how racism plays into that, analyzing how history bleeds into the present.

More often though, the conversation doesn’t quite go like that. The conversation goes, “LOL, the South!” And then the conversation is over. And suddenly it’s not a conversation at all. It is a hilarious device, a dark and farcical tale against which it's authors apotheosize themselves.

Growing up, there were people who talked about the North like it was the Promised Land. Here, I’m beginning to hear people talk about the South like it is actual Hell. By substituting laughter for any possible constructive conversation that could take place about what is actually at play and what is actually at stake when it comes to the American South, there becomes a sense of irresponsibility. Oh no, we would never do anything like that. And if we would, at least we’re not the South.

A lot of racist shit happens in the Northeast. But hey, let’s make it personal. A lot of racist shit happens at Harvard. (Its not just about race, its about ableism and sexism and homophobia and all kinds of prejudice.) It is rare and excellent and warranted when people thoughtfully consider what history is at play here, what education inequity is at play when a Harvard student wearing their new academic privilege like an uncomfortable but expensive sweater vest (or, more likely, like yet another shiny badge on a very old and familiar sweater vest) chuckles and guffaws at all the Southern plebeians.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of slavery money in the Harvard endowment. Cue laughter. That anti-affirmative action Crimson article. Cue laughter. That Harvard building named after that slave owner. Cue laughter. Oh and that one, and that one, and that one. What a riot. Cue laughter.

The South can be hilarious. The South can be terribly, terribly racist. And so can the rest of the country. Harvard gets away with passing as a perfectly progressive institution when it simply is not, laughing at those idiotic and shameful “others” all the while. And sometimes that sneaky prejudice and covert oppression hurts more than its outright counterpart. At least those confederate flags waving proudly on pickup trucks back home are obvious. Let’s talk about systems and ideas that transcend borders before we laugh off half of the country as hilariously “other.” You're no angel either, baby.

The energy put into simplifying the modern American South into an easy punchline could be redirected to instead promote what ought to be an essential human practice: Checketh thyself before you wrecketh thyself.

Welcome to Amazonia

I still keep up with Seattle's news and this was not news as it was only a matter of time before Amazon on its quest to be the biggest company ever in the history of the world would in fact turn Seattle into its bitch.

A little over a year ago the New York Times did an unfavorable profile on the company and the affects on the city and its character and they were not off the mark.  Then over time Bezos took on some philanthropy, bought The Washington Post and seemingly allowed it to thrive, bought out Whole Foods and for about a hot minute was the richest man in the World/America/Space.

With that the Carpetbaggers to the Northwest have arrived and put homelessness at a national crisis, with Seattle having the largest homeless school population enrolled in its public schools, a fight over the minimum wage and its actual affects on workers, the issue of legal pot,  a Mayor under scandal and irony putting Seattle as number two in rising cost of living to where?  NASHVILLE!  It must be me.

Living in a Company town makes the entire city co-dependent on the robber barons and oligarchs that dominate the corporate hierarchy.  The wealthy who will dictate the political and economic climate and subsequent businesses and services that are there to serve them.  Ask those in Detroit, Cleveland and other such former  company towns.  And I am sure they thought it would never end. But welcome to the target on the back as in this free market economy led by the current Oligarch in chief means that Google and now Walmart joining forces this too means war just of a civil nature.

So what does this mean for a town like Nashville? Well they will never attract the intellectual monied class that tech attracts.  There is no State income tax in Washington State, the weather is better, the International Airport has always been there and functional with Vancouver a three hour/one hour flight away to lend to travel access and in turn Microsoft and other Billionaires have lived there for decades in the same privacy and suburbian life on a lake that is one of many that dot the Emerald City.  When it comes to landscape Seattle will only have one rival, San Francisco.

As for Nashville the only industry here that has this much clout is the Music industry and they are still nowhere near the level of influence that the tech sector possess.   The Medical and Hospitality Trade are still the largest employer and the other Bridgestone is not interested in anything outside their own business.  They have no world growth ambition let alone local presence.   We will never see Bridgestonians flocking the streets as you see in Seattle with Amazon.  This is a Capital City and the after the Government offices shut at 4:13 you see the flocking away from the "downtown" as there is no downtown frankly to encourage as such. 

And despite the constant push that 85-100 people move here a day I question how long they stay, what their qualifications or purpose are as the last stat said 85% arrrive with no jobs and those I meet are usually Uber/Lyft drivers, work in hospitality and have no clear plans or long rang goals. So what it seems is often transient and I too fit into that category with plans to leave within the next 3-4 years.

Then you have the "politics" of the red sea that veers between bizarre to oppressive with the State Legislature overturning any progressive attempts by either Nashville or Memphis to build a larger economic base that would relocate if said accommodations were available - such as Marijuana - legal or medical;  LGBT rights, massive transit, a well established infrastructure with a proper downtown core as Seattle has, and of course quality education.  When Vanderbilt is the private secular choice and the other public Universities are struggling to attract diverse population that leaves the non secular Belmont, Lipscomb and Trevecca.  So why come here to go to TSU? I have no clue as I hear nothing good and I am unsure why unless it is about race and that might be the only real problem as it is located in the "bad" hood.   Talk to a local native Nashvillian and they live and breathe fear constantly about perceived violence, real or otherwise.  It is all we hear every day - crime and more crime.   Why would you come here?   And again when I am asked it is what I respond to shut that down as even I think well it could have been anywhere but I am here.    And I struggle daily with what that means as it has truly affected my feelings about race and poverty that I never had until I moved here.  But Seattle I have no desire to go back to and I truly don't miss it. I suspect those who live there feel the same way about the old Seattle.  But hey again it could be Detroit/Cleveland/Pittsburg and they are trying to do what Seattle has achieved and Nashville wishes for.

Careful for what you wish for.  Welcome to Amazonia.

Thanks to Amazon, Seattle is now America’s biggest company town

1.6 million square feet downtown, more than any other company. It took years for the downtown office market to recover after WaMu was absorbed by JPMorgan Chase and its headquarters employees were dispersed. The market only fully bounced back once the recession was fully in the rearview mirror and Amazon began expanding earlier this decade.

‘A sea of parking lots’

Amazon got its start in a Bellevue garage in 1994, and it first grew without much of a plan — its employees were scattered in various downtown Seattle buildings and in the former Pacific Medical Center building on Beacon Hill. When Schoettler, the Amazon real-estate executive, joined the company in 2001, it had 630,000 square feet in Seattle.

In 2005, Schoettler said, he told CEO Jeff Bezos that the company needed a plan, and Bezos agreed. His only condition was that Amazon would stay in downtown Seattle, Schoettler said.

That coincided with the reversal of a decades-long outflow from U.S. cities to their suburbs: By staying in the urban core, Amazon would attract members of the hip creative class.

“It was a very conscious decision we made,” Schoettler said.

The easiest place for Amazon to grow into was South Lake Union. “It was essentially a sea of parking lots,” Ada Healy, vice president of real estate at Vulcan, billionaire Paul Allen’s real-estate firm — which built much of Amazon’s campus — said at a recent real-estate conference.

Allen had paid for 11.5 acres he intended to donate to an urban park project called the Seattle Commons. But when voters turned it down — twice, most recently in 1996 — the land went to Allen. His Vulcan development company then gobbled up more land in the neighborhood over the following decade, giving it about 60 acres.

Amazon’s first request was for about 2 million square feet, to be delivered in 2010. That initial expansion, Schoettler said at the real-estate conference, “was supposed to last us through 2016.”

As it turned out, by then the company would have three times as much.

That’s because its Seattle payroll was growing even faster than expected. The company now employs about 40,000 employees in Seattle, up from 5,000 in 2010.

Now it is by far the largest employer in the city. Under Amazon’s current plans, there will be room in Seattle for more than 55,000 Amazonians at the beginning of next decade.

Amazon later acquired another 2 million square feet from Vulcan, and some 3.3 million square feet from Clise Properties in the Denny Regrade, formerly a realm of cheap motels and car dealerships. There, Amazon is building the epicenter of its campus around three 40-story towers and three giant spheres.

Altogether, Amazon occupies or plans to be in about three dozen office buildings in Seattle.
This breakneck rate of expansion, in contiguous land, “would be difficult to do in a lot of other metropolitan areas,” Schoettler said.

Amazon’s expansion has led, in the short time since the end of the recession, to a “record level of private investment,” as well as significant levels of public infrastructure investment, according to John Scholes, CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association.

Over the last decade, South Lake Union has seen $668 million in infrastructure improvements, from a new electrical substation under construction to the revamped Mercer Street to a new streetcar line to upgraded parks. About one-sixth of the cost has come from private investment, the rest from ratepayers and public funds.

Housing, traffic impacts

Amazon has become the go-to scapegoat for people complaining about Seattle’s problems associated with growth, like housing prices and clogged streets. And while it’s certainly not the only reason Seattle is bursting at the seams, Amazon makes up a disproportionate share of the city’s rapid growth.

Apartment rents this year are 63 percent higher than in 2010, as Seattle has become the fastest-growing city in the country.

Home costs are rising faster here than anywhere in the nation, and have doubled in the past five years, pushing the middle class to surrounding, less expensive towns.

Seattle now also has the nation’s third-highest concentration of mega-commuters — people traveling at least 90 minutes each way to work. Their numbers have grown 72 percent in five years.

Buses are more packed than ever, and lines that run along the Amazon campus are often standing-room-only during rush hour; Metro drivers at times have to leave commuters waiting outside an Amazon office because their buses are full. Local officials even added buses to accommodate the crush of Amazon interns that arrived this summer.

“It’s hard to keep pace in terms of development of infrastructure,” said Simon Stevenson, the director of the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies at the University of Washington. But overall, “the positives, economically, outweigh the potential of the downside.”

Wages here are rising faster than anywhere else in the country, driven by Amazon’s hiring binge of employees making six figures. Unemployment is near record lows.

Local celebrity chef Tom Douglas, who operates 16 restaurants in the area, including several in the South Lake Union epicenter of Amazon’s boom, has seen the transformation since he arrived in Seattle in 1984.

He says that despite the traffic and high cost of living, he’d rather have the growth happening here than in another city.

“There’s this romantic notion about Seattle. I’ve been here long enough to see both sides of this,” he said. Douglas recalled how the opening of Dahlia Lounge on Fourth Avenue, in 1989, “was a tough go.”

“There were crackheads in the 7-Eleven next door to us. We barely made it,” he said. “We should be thankful for the prosperity we have right now. I think we should embrace it.”

Amazon has also begun turning around the reputation that it’s done little to alleviate the problems stemming from Seattle’s growth. The company recently said it would house a homeless shelter in one of its new offices and is offering nonprofits space for restaurants in some of its other buildings. It donated $10 million to the University of Washington last fall, created plazas for public use and has helped underwrite the South Lake Union streetcar.

A real-estate revolution

Amazon’s growth has been so substantial that it can single-handedly skew the city’s core office market, said Matthew Gardner, the chief economist of Windermere Real Estate.

In the last quarter of 2016, for instance, all non-Amazon employers in Seattle’s greater downtown region shrank by a combined 150,000 square feet of office space. But Amazon gained 408,000 square feet by itself, making it a positive quarter for the market overall.

“They’re kind of almost juicing the market in some respects,” Gardner said.

Amazon’s supercharged growth has made it harder for other companies to find available offices in the entire downtown core, said Eric Blohm, a senior managing director for Savills Studley, which represents companies looking for office space.

The company’s expansive effect is being felt well beyond the South Lake Union and Denny Regrade neighborhoods. Amazon recently leased 400,000 square feet in Bellevue, and various real-estate sources said the company is interested in taking over the entire office portion of a forthcoming 58-story downtown Seattle skyscraper at Rainier Square, scheduled to open in 2019. Amazon declined to comment on the potential expansion.

If that move happens, it would have a cascading effect on availability for other businesses in the core of downtown, outside of South Lake Union, Blohm said.

Previously, he said, “A landlord in that (downtown) market couldn’t really say, ‘Oh we’re holding out for Amazon’ … Now they would have some ammunition to say that.”

Amazon’s growing mass has also created a gravitational pull for other big tech companies on the prowl for employees. Google and Facebook have set up big offices in Seattle’s urban core, and by the end of the decade they are both poised to be among the top 10 tenants in the city.

Apple, Airbnb, Uber, the makers of Snapchat and others have also set up shop downtown following Amazon’s success in recruiting engineering talent.

That, said Seslen, the University of Washington professor, helps strengthen the local tech community.

Because Amazon does not have an isolated suburban campus like Microsoft, “there’s more opportunity for employees at Amazon to network with their peers at other companies,” she said.

But that influx of deep-pocketed tech giants also makes it more difficult and expensive for smaller businesses to find space.

“Some landlords aren’t even talking to us about (leasing) full floors,” Blohm said. “They’re holding out for the full building user. Or they’ll say, ‘Get in line, you’re third in line, we’re talking with other people.’ ”

Revitalizing retail

Although Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce company, has been long criticized for destroying Main Street retail jobs, in Seattle’s case the influx of Amazon jobs has been accompanied by a boom in local retail.

Between 2010 and 2015, retail sales in downtown Seattle have grown more than 19 percent annually — much faster than in nearby cities, according to the Downtown Seattle Association. Just in 2015, sales spiked 27.5 percent to some $1.4 billion. By comparison, Bellevue sales grew by 13.3 percent and Redmond’s by 5.7 percent that year.

Scholes, the Downtown Seattle Association president, says there’s been a shift toward beverage and food services, a corollary of the expanding downtown residential population, many of them well-paid.

Even department stores — a category that’s been eviscerated by Amazon’s success elsewhere — have been buoyed here by downtown Seattle’s increasing hubbub. Their 2015 sales rose 224 percent from the recession’s tail end in 2010, while across the lake in Bellevue, sales grew 64 percent.

Stevenson, the UW real-estate expert, said that localized retail surge is the result of Amazon breaking with the suburban campus tradition of software companies.

“Actually the benefit to downtown is enormous,” he said. “The development and revitalization would not have happened this quick without Amazon moving there and expanding that much.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Daily Rant

Yesterday the Eclipse crossed Middle Tennessee and here in Nashville it was as anticipated as the Baby Jesus only with more a monetary aspect.

I live a few blocks away from the Adventure Science Center and designated zone by NASA. Irony that it is adjacent to one of Nashville's most neglected park, Fort Negley.  The debate about the ground is that it was a fort built by "free" blacks with Soldiers who were seemingly pro Union and fought off the Confederates during what was called, The Battle of Nashville.

The Fort Center has this to say about this park:
Visitors can read about the roles of the conscript laborers, the United States Colored Troops, and ordinary citizens. Learn about the design and construction of the fort through interactive exhibits. See the effects of a sudden occupation on Nashville’s citizens. Hear about the strength and bravery of the men who built the fort, hear stories and see photos of life in the occupied city, and experience the heartbreak of the Battle of Nashville.

The center is intended to serve as a hub for Civil War heritage tourism in Middle Tennessee. Rather than competing with other historic sites, the intent is to develop partnerships with other agencies to enhance and expand the educational and economic benefits of heritage tourism in the area. In addition, programs and events offered by a full time staff at the center will provide students and the public at large new opportunities to understand Nashville’s fascinating Civil War past.

As of now the site is also adjacent to a now abandoned Baseball Park, Greer Park, that has some of course historical markers (what doesn't here?) and is of course in the prime location of another upcoming and gentrifying area of Wedgewood Houston.  The land is now being debated on how to appropriately use it and retain the significance of the Fort. Well here in the City of Now what matters is the money Developers have to rip anything and everything down to build more expensive units for rent or sale that are oddly in conflict with the actual neighborhood and in turn the economics that supports the community.  Apparently in Nashville all of us are wealthy and have amazing jobs that can support this lifestyle.  And for the economists that is 75K annually when in reality the average income is 45K but that 30K is a song for the dreamers in the Honky Tonks as you need a moonlight gig in order to pay the rent.

So the current flavor du jour group have hired/partnered with T. Boone Pickens as a front man, sort of like a band, to sing to the Council about their plans and ideas on making this an affordable artist haven.  Funny the May Hosiery Company and Houston Station just south of the same site sits largely vacant after kicking out Artists from the affordable spaces they used to rent as the new owners too want to hit the big time as in big money. It has been proposed to be a New Orleans style market, a Tech center and then news hub. I walk by daily and see dust and cobwebs.  Maybe that is an art form? Ah Nashville it is about who is currently on the Top 10 list of money makers and that has little to do with music.

What happens to the Stadium is yet unknown as again another adjacent site since purchased and abandoned warehouse and silo site also sits there with big plans and zero to show for it.  And as we move along towards Nolensville Pike the aging Fairgrounds are being planned for a future Soccer stadium in lines with the Tennessee Park that houses the regional baseball team built all over budget and it too hosted the Eclipse viewing that as the Mayor noted, puts Nashville in the middle of it all.

The inflated self view of Nashville is charming and its not.  It is as if I am listening to a constant fish tale.  If one needs to try to understand the method of communication I suggest reading quotes by our Senator Bob Corker on Donald Trump or look to our other aging Senator Alexander who when he ran for President of the United States demanded the Department of Education be shuttered only to run it when he was appointed under the H.W. Bush. And he and Corker voted for the nut case DeVos and support the agenda of the Trump Administration while simultaneously criticizing it.   Alexander and Corker are two hot messes when it comes to health care voting against it despite the fact that now Alexander wants to fix the ACA.   And here in Nashville, capital of Medical and Insurance providers approximately 40% have no insurance and in turn we have a serious wellness issue with over 30% of the population seriously ill.  Welcome to Tennessee where talking why lying is an art form.

So when the Eclipse happened yesterday and right at the moment of totality there was cloud cover and remained for the entire 1 minute 29 seconds but the city from the top of the hill in Ft. Negley looked amazing and so I instead focused on the lights and the sky as it was now twilight in the middle of the day.  The temps dropped and it was silent for that as we all just were in awe and then it was over and the march down the hill.  Of course the news failed to report it and people claimed they saw the total eclipse and I thought well maybe in their minds eye as in the South that is what matters most.

But rather than life changing I found it rather affirming as this is what Nashville has become to me, cloudy with some light somewhere behind it.  I have to believe that something that will come good out of this as any journey worth having is one that has been a bit bumpy to get there as you appreciate arrival even more so.  And this is what I hold onto as I have little else.

My efforts to integrate are stalling. But admittedly joining a writing class right during my surgical recovery was idiotic but I thought it would propel me out and about and into something positive that would have less to do with illness and more about wellness. But missing that first class I think led to me feeling more like the outsider I already do feel and the inability to speak and just feel good did not help.  So with two classes in out of six I am bailing for the last as there is nothing I can offer nor get from this other than some insight and some feedback that was more akin to drop the mic than anything of relevance.  Ah well best excuse oneself with dignity than try to pretend I give a shit and let them think whatever they wish than confirm their worst.

Again I do come to these with baggage and walls built and in every encounter I feel defensive and frustrated.  Today in a school I came to a class where the Teacher was there, I met her, and she promptly informed me my job is to help the Volunteer who would do the work.  Okay great and then I met the Volunteer.  A former Teacher who managed to teach for one year in Tennessee then bagging it and becoming a Sub (which did not shock me but she failed to clarify why and I went well I am the same I just never got that far) then becoming Sub which then allowed her license to end but then also falling off the Sub roster as she did not meet the minimum of working the sole requirement of one day a month.  Okay so instead of remaining as an unlicensed sub making $3/hr less (yes that is right unlicensed subs make about 15 bucks less a day than I make - WHOOA) she is volunteering for zero.   Really?

It was after I informed her that yes I was a Sub and while I had a license and was still working as such I would never set foot in these schools for free and when my license does expire in a year or so I will think about other options or just being an aid as at least I get benefits.  But that was the extent as the next question was the standard, "What brought you to Nashville?" Which I responded, "That is my business." And then she informed me that she would close out the classroom and I should report to the office to see where I am needed for the next and last hour of the school day.   Right I said that I would and promptly walked out the door, down the stairs and out into the pouring rain. And that is what the people are like here - rude, arrogant and self involved.  And yes stupid as I watched her teach a lesson and do so poorly and so over taught that I once again thought I see why she chucked it in after a year, she is shitty at it.

So when I came home and found some yard ornaments stolen, a plant taken and once again the reality is that we have a real problem in Nashville with crime as it is as petty as the people who live here.  So another day and another coffee as that is my solace to not cry but laugh as what else can you do?  Can I make another two years?  I doubt it but I have to be patient and I will have much to write about and that cannot be a bad thing.  Well living here is bad enough.