Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Ignorance Not Blissful

The level of ignorance I encounter here in Nashville surpasses levels of idiocy that I have encountered in my travels in America.  I have met the owner of a cafe in Cleveland who impressed me with his directness and honesty, the gift shop clerk in Louisville who was a Teacher during  the school year and was truly inspiring, the young man from Philadelphia in pursuit of a career with the YMCA, Darrell my driver in Pittsburgh who few could top for his divine conversation and pure positive energy are just a few examples of the amazing people I have met throughout my Summer of Me.  Now true I have encountered some wonderful people here but I keep my distance as there is no purpose other than being disappointed which inevitably I will be if I push my luck.  This was only once again proven positive when the Barista I asked to mind my home while away failed to well do it if at all.  Plants were dry, some dead and the strangeness I found from a disconnected TV, personal items sitting out and no real sense of anyone here on a consistent basis just bothered me.   I had a vibe before I left as she is not bright but how hard could it be?  Well hard apparently.    But I did not find a single plant stolen from the front patio so that was something.

And in reality a lot of this is simply due to wages and education.  Even if the population was educated, the wages and the way the state is structured with regards to right to work, would not enable the employers to pay said wages.  There is no imperative and the Chamber of Commerce has vocally said that as so many people are moving here and employment is at an all time high there is no reason.  And in turn that  places most of the onus of responsibility on our bizarre legislature that has blocked attempts by Nashville to establish a living wage act, housing laws and other ways to circumvent the costs of living in the "It" City.  The fear is that if Nashville gets anymore it no one will live in the outlying areas of the State and in turn decimate whatever local economy exists in between the closing of hospitals in same areas, no broadband access, schools that barely function and a growing opioid problem that fuels the rage and despair of the elected officials who have no clear plan or idea how to fix the issue.  Try enabling people to get to jobs where there are jobs and have a valid transit and infrastructure plan that enables those outlying areas to have at least functional roles in building a workforce.   Just the other day it was found that the University in Knoxville fuels billions in that areas economy which shocked me but then again given the turnover and attention to the school recently I suspect that it is less about education and more about sports.    But the real driver of the State economy - tourism.

When I read the below article I laughed as the average wage here is nowhere near $17/hr let alone $20.  When you say "average" you include all wages in the labor pool and that includes the Medical professionals (aka Doctors) and Lawyers who dominate the higher sector of employment earnings with those who are the bottom end of the spectrum which artificially inflates the average.  If you remove those in the top tier the reality is that wages here run about $11-13 hour.    Few offer benefits and even fewer require education.  And if one was educated the student loans would negate any reason to take said jobs.  When they say they cannot find enough trained workforce I keep wondering what training are they speaking of.  You don't even need a college degree to be a Substitute Teacher and frankly I wonder when I walk into these dumpsters called schools if the Teachers have them.  It is something I cannot believe when I walk in and even more so when I walk out.   

The influx of supposed migrants into the area is slowing and rents are dropping.  That said we pay the most in living costs as we have the most expensive electric rates in the country.   We have no infrastructure so without a car the transportation costs (supposedly the most expensive city with regards to ride hailing use costs)  are huge here (insurance is unusually high due to the daily traffic accidents/fatalites and crimes regarding car theft)  and there is a sales tax that is out of proportion with wages including food.     I rarely communicate with the property management firm that has let this building fall apart from basic maintenance to required upkeep, and the endless cycle of tenants tell me that this is just another stopping ground to where ever as the dreams and reasons that brought them here don't keep them here for long. I have finally stopped trying to bond or care with the coffee servers, the bank tellers and others I encounter during the day.  I was shocked when one of the Teachers I pushed in with yesterday actually asked my name and introduced me to the class, the others ignored me and pointed to the kids I was to assist.  It was sad, grim and pathetic.  It was the same the day before as that is the standard of respect modeled for the children.  Nashville is truly vile. Come and earn low wages be treated like shit, I call myself the the human colostomy bag.  They don't even know what that is here.    If you think a degreed person making 35K annually is a good wage, realize it takes about 75K to live here.  Seattle does as well and yet this is nowhere near as clean, progressive and intellectual so again numbers don't always tell the truth.  But then again I suspect people in Seattle can do the math better.

10 years after the Great Recession: New opportunities, tepid wages in Nashville
Jamie McGee, Nashville Tennessean Published  Aug. 28, 2018

Editor's note: This is the first in a series on Nashville, 10 years after the start of the Great Recession.

Laura Sivado graduated with a master's degree in communication arts and dreamed of working in human resources.

But in 2009, with a tanking economy, she struggled to find work in her chosen field. She became a caregiver, doing chores and caring for seniors, earning $9 an hour. She and her husband delayed their honeymoon and home improvements. She also crotcheted as a side income.

"I imagine where I could be now," said Sivado, who now lives in South Nashville. "I saw all the jobs dry right up."

Sivado works today as a hospitality recruiter, a job that better aligns with her education and one that she enjoys. She is paid about $35,000 a year, well above her caregiving wages, but less than she expected to be earning nearly a decade after obtaining a master's degree.

“I haven't moved the needle," Sivado said. "A lot of us who were told go to college, get your degrees, do this, you'll make good money, (now)we'll be working through our 70s because we've made no money in our 20s and 30s to build our retirement."

Ten years after the country plummeted into the Great Recession, a lot has changed, particularly in Middle Tennessee.

In September 2008, banking powerhouse Lehman Brothers collapsed in New York, setting off the financial crisis. The Nashville unemployment rate climbed to nearly 10 percent, home foreclosure rates soared, stock markets crumbled and retirement savings dissolved.
Ten years later

Nashville's diverse economy, with a focus on more recession-resilient sectors such as health care and education, helped it weather the recession better than many other metro areas, including Detroit, Las Vegas and Fresno, Calif., where unemployment ranged from 14 to 18 percent.

Middle Tennessee came out of the recession earlier and today faces a vastly different landscape. Employers in a range of industries are desperate for workers amid a 3 percent unemployment rate, and foreclosures have fallen to 2 percent. Stock markets have continuously hit record numbers, helping retirement savings rebound.

Many of those who suffered during the recession are in better shape in 2018, but the stalled economy has left a mark ontoday's wages and salaries.

“The adjustment from the Great Recession continues to take place,” University of Tennessee economist Matthew Murray said. “The lack of earnings growth is an example of this."
Job market devastation

During the downturn, the Nashville area lost 53,000 jobs, nearly 7 percent of its workforce, and Tennessee lost nearly 218,000 jobs, a nearly 8 percent decline. The Tennessee construction sector, professional and business services, and the retail industry each lost tens of thousands of workers. Bellevue Mall shuttered in 2008 and new downtown condos that hit the market as the recession peaked struggled for buyers.

The state's manufacturing industry, which began shedding jobs in the mid-1990s, accelerated its decline and cut ranks by 74,000, or 20 percent, in two years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. General Motors, a major Spring Hill employer, cut about 1,700 local workers in 2009, as it closed 14 plants nationally. The impact rippled across Spring Hill, with 250 businesses closing that year.

"It was one shoe dropping after the other," said Jan McKeel, president of South Central Tennessee Workforce Alliance. "You had a lot of heads of households that lost their jobs in that period of time ... We saw multiple generations, moms and dads, fathers and sons."

As construction slowed, related businesses were impacted. Gresham Smith and Partners architecture and engineering firm in Nashville cut training programs, corporate travel, executive perks,such as golf club membership and sport events, and eventually, staff. Profitsflattened to near zero as projects were paused or stopped.

Even when clients saw their own business improve, they were hesitant to move forward with plans, said Al Pramuk, Gresham Smith CEO.

“There were a lot of difficult phone calls from clients that were telling us the challenges they were having,” Pramuk said. "We wanted to do all the things we could before we had to explain to some of our employees that they had to find some other options, even if it were for the next year or so."

Ralph Schulz, CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, said economic development projects in the pipeline disappeared and recruitment targets abandoned their searches for expansion sites.

"It came out so fast and so hard, it was surprising," Schulz said.

Terri McCall, a recruiter for home health provider Visiting Angels, recalled how her fiancé, now husband, had come to her office at a former health care company in 2009 to take her to lunch. He helped her pack a box instead.

A year later, her employer would be closed, and McCall would work through a temp agency, facing uncertain hours and $9 to $10 an hour wages, well below her earnings as an executive coordinator.

“It took a while to bounce back,” McCall said.
'I schedule people for interviews and they don’t show up'

Today, the state boasts more than 162,000 open positions in Tennessee, more than the 115,000 individuals who are unemployed.

Patrick Combs, executive director of Nashville Career Advancement Center, said the strength of the job market has posed a challenge for employers in need of skilled workers, especially in nursing, manufacturing and construction fields.

"There is a scarcity of skilled workforce," Combs said. "Employers are really feeling the pinch."

During the recession, when the supply of skilled workers greatly exceeded demand, a candidate with a gap in their work history stood little chance against someone with a more complete resume.Now employers are more willing to overlook those periods of unemployment or to hire someone who has a conviction history, he said.

As a recruiter, McCall observes daily the new challenges that have emerged in a robust economy. Jobs are back, but people are not chasing them. Low wages coupled with higher living expenses are among the factors deterring them, she said. For those with children, child care expenses often can counter the income they would earn in the workforce.

"I schedule people for interviews and they don’t show up," McCall said. "The cost of living is so overpriced in Nashville. Companies don’t have comparable pay ... A lot of people have just given up ...There are jobs available. People are just not going after them."

Combs calls this the discouraged workforce — people who are no longer looking for work because of real or perceived barriers. Some may think employers won't hire someone with a conviction history or who lacks transportation. Nashville Career Advancement Center reaches out to communities facing higher rates of poverty to connect them to opportunities or to help them overcome the hurdles that limit their participation.

"There are still parts of town where there has been systemic poverty, where the opportunities have never reached them," Combs said. "They don’t feel they can go looking for it."

Since the depths of the recession, the Nashville metro area has since hit a new high of 1 million jobs, a 25 percent increase. Retail has recovered and business services and hospitality both significantly exceed pre-recession employment levels.

"By and large, most sectors in the economy have done well," Murray said. "It has just taken a long time for that health to be fully restored."
Wage stagnation

Murray describes the lack of wage growth in recent years as one of the “great mysteries” of today's thriving economy, and said the problem is rooted in entry-level wages.

“When you raise the wage rate for entry-level workers, oftentimes, you get pressure to raise the entire wage structure," Murray said. "Employers are reluctant to do that."

During the recession, employers were able to hire people for less money and for fewer hours to avoid covering Affordable Care Act benefit requirements, Combs said.

"All of these things are slowly starting to creep back up," Combs said.

In the first quarter of 2018, average weekly wages in Davidson County grew 6.2 percent compared to the same period last year, outpacing the national increase of 3.7 percent. The county was 19th in the country for its wage growth during the quarter.

For all of 2017, Nashville average wages grew by three percent and stayed flat in 2016, according to data provided by Metro Nashville officials.

"Wages are usually very slow to change, but they are finally changing to reflect the scarcity of the labor," said David Penn, Middle Tennessee State University associate professor of economics. "It took a while."
Laura Sivadoat talks about the foreclosure home with a pool that she and her husband bought during the recession, in Antioch, Tenn., Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018.Buy Photo

Laura Sivadoat talks about the foreclosure home with a pool that she and her husband bought during the recession, in Antioch, Tenn., Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. (Photo: Lacy Atkins / The Tennessean)

Hospitality staffing recruiter Sivado sees firsthand how the stagnant wages are affecting hotels' ability to hire and retain workers who are in heavy demand. Hotel rooms in Nashville are going for $500 a night, but workers are not feeling the impact, she said.

“The pay is nowhere matching the growth," Sivado said. "You want a good housekeeper, someone who stays here and knows what they are doing. If you continue to pay $11 and $12 an hour, they can't afford to feed their family on that."
Housing collapse, recovery and boom

In 2008, Davidson County had 4,203 foreclosures, up 178 percent from 2006, according to Tennessee Housing Development Agency data.

"There were a lot of homeowners who were upside down," said Sher Powers, president of the Greater Nashville Realtors. "Because they were overextended, the house was not worth as much as they owed or they didn’t take good care of the homes. We had a lot of free and easy loans in the past that helped set up this problem. People were borrowing 100, 105 percent, putting no money in the deal. It was easier to walk away and take the credit hit."

For those unable to make housing payments, a job loss or a medical issue was the biggest reason for missed payments, Powers said.

Nashville fared better than other parts of the country. The U.S. had a 225 percent increase in foreclosures from 2006 to 2008. In Shelby County, there were more than 15,000 foreclosures in 2008, and Memphis ranked 18th in the nation inforeclosures among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas. Nashville ranked 52nd and Knoxville ranked 68th.

Tennessee Housing Development Agency Research analyst Joe Speer said better wages, lower unemployment and higher home priceshave helped improve foreclosure rates.

“Home borrowers and mortgage holders have fewer sudden shocks to their incomes, which would mean fewer triggering events that may lead to a default on their home loan,” Speer said. “The velocity in home sales and the appreciation of home values, that often means a borrower who may be struggling with their loan can simply sell their home before they fall very far into delinquency.”

Tighter lending standards now make loans harder to access for many Tennesseans, he said, which has yielded fewer foreclosures. Additionally, many homeowners have refinanced their mortgages as interest rates dropped.

Nashville housing prices have increased twice as fast as wages in the second quarter of 2018, compared to the same quarter in the previous year, according to California-based ATTOM Data Solutions. Home prices climbed 7 percent as wages gained just 3 percent. Since 2012, wages grew 10 percent while home prices shot up 89 percent.

"The very rapid population growth and the stellar job growth that has taken place in the Middle Tennessee region has likely created some real serious housing problems, especially for middle and lower income households," Murray said. "That is the pattern we are seeing in urban areas all around the country."

Job losses (by state/city)

Tennessee: 217,000 jobs, or 7.7 percent

Nashville: 53,000 jobs, or 6.6 percent

Memphis: 53,000 or 8.2 percent

Knoxville: 21,600 or 5.7 percent

Unemployment highs during the recession

Nashville: June 2009 at 9.6 percent

Tennessee: June 2009 at 10.9 percent

U.S.: October 2009 at 10 percent

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Bureau of Labor Statistics,
Unemployment in July 2018

Davidson County: 3 percent

Tennessee: 3.5 percent

U.S.: 3.9 percent

Source: Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development
Tennessee average hourly wages

2008: $17.57

2017: $20.94

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Woman Alone

I just finished 10 days of travel and aside from the normal issues which I wrote about in the Tale of Two Lands I felt safe, secure and utterly ignored.  Well other than the patronizing comments "Are you okay?" I found few people looking my way unless they were in service occupations and are largely hostage to my comments.  And in turn many good things result of this such as gifts and free entrance to Museums and my enthusiasm and gratitude is duly reflected in my thanks. 

Now as for men and unwanted harassment I do not experience it.  I have not observed it or I would intervene or seek assistance and right there is the issue.  In this age of filming encounters I question how that does not make one complicit in the escalation of events versus trying to learn about people and who they are in relation to your community.  So calling Police when you see a "strange" person entering a park, a building, walking or sitting is a bizarre way of handling your own discomfort or bias.  Clearly traveling to a strange city or place would change much of this but then again this is the new world and tribal is as tribal does.   That invitation or action calling the Police may trigger more warnings than clearly a FUCK OFF can do with equal affect. 

I do meet many women and true we agree that "it" exists like the sewer dwelling clown just waiting for the chance to suck you in and most of us have experienced it.  I certainly have and it changed me but not enough to make me see suspicion in every male gaze or encounter.  So I just speak to people and hope that we have a positive exchange and I work to maintain as such in which to part amicably and me a better person for it.  Well exception to the rule is ironically here in Nashville where any exchange is looked at with doubt and with utter disdain. 

I miss having a male companion, someone who to share ideas, to travel, to laugh, to cry and to fuck.  Well maybe not the last one I think I am over it but if I actually met a man worthy of dropping my knickers that may be reconsidered but my experiences are clouded by my bias that all men only want to fuck and the rest is fucked to them.  If they could have a conversation with your vagina then its all good and that is the Catch 22 of age, men see me as "are you okay" and not "okay lets do it" anymore.

Women are alone until they have children and those are the roles we are to fulfill when you don't have them you are clearly a Lesbian or someone damaged as why wouldn't anyone want to breed with you.  And then all that energy and unconditional love falls to children and the spouse gets the leftovers or a dog so either way men are left to get their balls waxed by whatever means necessary.  Sorry men but I did meet two amazing dads and some hillarious conventioneer men who made me laugh and were truly a joy to share a beer with, that was it.  Boundaries can be easily set and maintained as I had a beer and called it a night.  The reality is that women are responsible for men and the sons you raise are your responsibility so do a reality check and see what you are teaching your sons and those who are with your children in social settings are in agreement about the messages they are providing, as we know now from Priests to Coaches there is a clearly a disagreement about what boundaries are and how to understand to set them and more importantly respect them.

Women we own it too.  So learn how to handle uncomfortable encounters, be a strong feminist and teach your children well, they grow up to be adults one day.   The peril right now is just being a woman not just one alone.  That is the fear that leads women into relationships that are neither healthy or safe either.   Stop being afraid, start living and be seen in the universe and then people will know you are "okay."  

The perils of being a woman who’s just asking to be left alone

By Monica Hesse
Columnist The Washington Post
August 27 at 7:00 AM

A woman I know was 53 years old the last time she rejected a stranger’s advances, and it went badly. A man on the New York subway kept asking her out, complimenting her breasts and butt, though he used more vulgar terms. When she told him she wasn’t interested, he pivoted to yelling, “I’m going to f--- you up, you fat bitch,” until she asked the other passengers to take out their cellphones and document what was happening. This was just a few days ago.

Another woman I know was 15 the first time she rejected a stranger’s advances, and the rejection went badly. This was several years ago. She was walking the family dog in a New England suburb when a man in a car pulled up and smiled. When she didn’t smile back, he started to follow her, slowly, down the street. After a block she cut through a random backyard and ran home, 10 minutes of panic while her happy dog thought the whole thing was an ad­ven­ture.

Last week, I kept reading essays about Mollie Tibbetts, the young woman killed in Iowa while out for a run. Her alleged attacker told police he started following her and that she got frightened by this and said she was going to call the police. That threat made him angry, he said, and then he blacked out and woke with her dead body in his car trunk.

I kept reading essays about what Mollie Tibbetts represents. Some commentators say she represents the need to build a border wall, and some say she represents the threat of toxic masculinity, and I’ve been feeling too useless to say anything, because I imagine that to her family, what Mollie represents is a person they loved who is never coming back.

But all this week, I couldn’t stop thinking about the things that have happened to the women I know. And the times they have carefully weighed the consequences of asking to be left alone.

A woman I know was in a bar with friends when a man asked if he could buy her a drink. She declined, and he angrily called her a “bitch.” She was alarmed, but she was also confused. Was she rude for rejecting him? Had she done something wrong?

A woman I know in New York once ignored a passerby’s order for her to “smile,” so he reached out and grabbed her crotch; she was 12. A woman I know in Maryland told a customer at the store where she worked that she had a fiance, but he still figured out her schedule and showed up repeatedly to harass her. A woman I know in Texas last week deflected a new acquaintance’s text message with an “LOL”; he then left her five enraged voicemails in a row telling her to “f--- off,” because he wasn’t laughing.

It could have been worse. These women kept saying it could have been worse. Online, you see stories: Caroline Nosal, 24, shot and killed by a co-worker after he was suspended when she complained he was sexually harassing her. Lakeeya Walker, 22 and pregnant, whose attacker choked and kicked her because she hadn’t thanked him after he held open the door.

Nothing that bad has happened yet to a woman I know, at least not that they’ve talked about.

A woman I’m close with once got on the bus after midnight for her night shift at work. After a few stops, a man her age got on, too. The bus was mostly empty but he chose the seat next to her and tried to strike up a conversation.

When she didn’t reciprocate, he said, “Hey, are you ignoring me?”

When she still didn’t answer, he grabbed her leg.

When she tried to stand up and move away, he yelled, “Hey, bitch, I’m talking to you,” and grabbed her again, this time violently.

She shook him loose, and the bus driver noticed what was happening, and made the bad man get off the bus, and as a thank-you, the woman baked the bus driver cookies the next day.

She later told me she was “amazed” that in a decade of taking public transportation, this was the worst thing that had happened. She expected something like it might happen again; it seemed a part of life.

Anyway, these are some things that happened to women I know. Or to my co-workers and relatives. Or to me.

And last week when we read about Mollie Tibbetts, a lot of us weren’t thinking about undocumented immigrants, or statistics, or policy changes. We were just thinking about the times we have been approached by strangers in everyday places, wondering if we could reject them politely and move on with our days or if this time we would end up in the trunk of a car.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Pray the Crazy Away

Here in the buckle of belt the issues surrounding mental health, drug addiction and other issues connected to one's emotional well being are often relegated to prayer and a reliance on the Church.  I can safely say that there may well be Ministers and other members of a Church fully qualified to offer counseling and support services; however, most are not certified, trained and experience mental health providers.  And with the current state of medical care and insurance lacking for those too poor to have jobs that enable access all the availability is moot. And for many there is no availability for those in rural areas, the areas most affected by the opioid crisis.  Again this may also explain a reliance on guns and in turn Police to provide some quasi support via wellness checks and in turn offering a bullet or a jail to resolve the problem.  And this is again throughout America not just here in Tennessee, but we make it special as only we can.

I read this editorial below in the Tennessean and was surprised to see some honesty with regards to the limitation and role of the Clergy when it comes to mental health support.  I seriously wish more would realize this and in turn lobby for the State to extend Medicaid and in turn enable the poor to have access to some form of mental health counseling.  Another article in the same paper discussed how a mother wishes all schools had Psychologists to assist their children through their struggles. Trust me on this they would have a line up out the door if that was possible, I have never met children as damaged as these.  

The violence once again tops the chart as I arrived home to three different shootings and one death as a result spread out across the city over the weekend and Labor Day is just around the corner which is peek shooting time here in Music City.   And I point to the most racist inflammatory truly fake news site, Scoop Nashville, to those who would like to see how the citizens of Nashville spend their time.  It makes me wonder if Facebook is just a front for the Russian mob for if they monitor this they have a captive audience in which to manipulate.  We exploit the poor and in turn do little to stop the violence as it is a type of Social Darwinism that we are seeing play out in cities like Chicago, the city that has a reputation that extends beyond the lake as the largest percent of migrants into Nashville is Chicago.  That does not bode well for residents.

Clergy not prepared to meet congregations' mental health needs
Holly Meyer, Nashville Tennessean Published Aug. 27, 2018 |

Religious people tend to turn to clergy for help and support in times of trouble.

But when that trouble manifests as a mental health issue, odds are their pastor or rabbi is not well-equipped to respond effectively, said Jared Pingleton, a licensed clinical psychologist.

"They were trained in theology," said Pingleton, clinical director for the American Association of Christian Counselors.

"They're not trained to deal with that 2 o'clock call with a suicidal emergency," Pingleton said. "They're not trained to know how to care or cope with people who are in the throes of a serious depression controlled by an addictive substance or behavior or headed to a divorce lawyer."

More: When we have mental health crises, are our schools, churches or doctors offices prepared?

Mental health and relational issues can be complicated, costly and labor intensive, Pingleton said. And clergy members do not have the training nor do they have the time to give these types of crises the attention they need, he said.

That is the reality for the Rev. Jim Hughes, who leads Belle Meade United Methodist Church.

It is not that Hughes doesn't want to help his 400 or so church members, but he knows from 43 years of ministry experience that professional counselors are far more effective than he could ever be at addressing mental health issues.

"I tend to kind of limit myself to three conversations," Hughes said. "If whatever is going on with somebody can't be really addressed and gotten on a good path, if that can't be done in three, they need to be referred."

The stakes can be high for how pastors respond, too. An oblique or cursory response can leave someone feeling dismissed, intensifying a person's shame, Pingleton said. And a mental health crisis for someone who is suicidal can be a matter of life and death.

But strides are being made in the faith community on how to recognize and address mental health needs.

More and more, seminaries and Bible schools are introducing their students to mental health issues, Pingleton said. Churches, especially large, healthy and progressive congregations, are adding counseling staff to their ministry teams, he said.

Just 14 percent of churches have a counselor on staff trained in mental illness and 13 percent train leaders to recognize the signs, according to a 2014 LifeWay Research survey of Protestant pastors. Only 27 percent have a plan to assist families affected by mental illness.

Not nearly enough churches are adding counselors nor can they all afford to do so, but pastors still have the ability to move the needle in their church, Pingleton said.

Pastors need to preach about mental health, acknowledging the reality of the issues, Pingleton said. According to the LifeWay Research survey, 49 percent of pastors rarely or never speak about acute mental illness in sermons or large group messages.

Related: Extra duties limited school counselors' face time with students. A new rule is changing that.

Related: Teachers learn about mental health to help their students

"When there is a sermon about mental and relational health needs, that ends the silence, it eliminates the shame and it erases the stigma," Pingleton said.

Clergy members also need to build a list of trusted counseling professionals they can refer congregation members to in times of need, Pingleton said.

"They need to learn the art of making an effective referral," Pingleton said. "You need to make sure the parishioner or congregant isn't offended or feels rejected."
Belle Meade church has counseling center on-site

At Belle Meade United Methodist, Hughes has a resource list for moments when needs go beyond his abilities.

The church also opened its doors in the last year to a counseling center led by Chris O'Rear, a licensed clinical pastoral therapist. They see it as a ministry of the church, but it serves the wider community. The first visit is free for church members, and follow-ups are offered on a sliding scale. Hughes has already referred church members to it.

To offset the financial cost of therapy, the church received a grant to help seniors pay for it. The rent the counseling center pays the church goes into a fund to assist those who need financial help.

It is not just congregation members seeking help from the Belle Meade church, which is in an affluent part of the city and located on a bus line and major thoroughfare. Hughes receives calls and visits from those experiencing homelessness or those recently released from jail who are in need of help. Mental illness and addiction are present in both populations.

"Most clergy are not equipped. We're not. We might pretend like we are, but we're not," Hughes said. "We need these resources. We need to be able to put people in the right hands."

Two Lands

The last ten days have been adventurous to say the least as I visited two lands - Iceland and Cleveland - and it was the latter of the lands that blew me away.

I am trying to visit as much of America as I can.  I have an agenda in which to see said cities of often derision or dismissive as a way of tapping into what is best these places have to offer over those of the worst.  I have not been surprised in any way in fact I have been amazed as to the graciousness of those who were my hosts over the extent of my stay.

It began in Pittsburgh over Memorial Day and I had I met my amazing Lyft driver, Darryl, sooner I am sure my appreciation of the city that gave us Mr. Rogers and Mr. Warhol only would have been even larger.  That said the check to the conservatory is coming that way as that was a morning I could not have imagined had I tried.

Then it was Louisville and the weekend of Bourbon, Horses and Ali.  What happened that afternoon at Churchill Downs could not be replicated as it was the day of Belmont and the winner of the Triple Crown a local pony that did good but the city too did good by me as well.  The must see is the Muhammad Ali Institute that yes was about the man but also about the works.  He worked it out in many ways and his wins were ours as well.

Then I took a brief hiatus and instead decided to explore my own city and try every weird thing that crossed my pass, from salt caves to sweat lodges (infrared saunas) as I waited for what was planned, Cleveland; Which in turn became a trip to Iceland as a detour to get there, for  it was Cleveland that stopped this emitting volcano from blowing up and managing to get me to Iceland for what became the perfect layover en route to Cleveland.

I want to talk about Iceland in a positive way and that is possible when you realize what the country is about and the people so tolerant, so generous as the herds have descended upon it in numbers that are twice exceeding its population on an annual basis. Some are just layovers onto other destinations thanks to cheap air fare that enables one to get to Europe to Iceland the same manner in which I refer to mine to Cleveland.   The fares on WOW and Icelandic air put the phrase "dirt cheap" into a whole new meaning that translates into Icelandic as "Sucker."

Iceland is expensive and without organized tours and a sense of purpose or research into understanding where you are going, how to get there and the costs involved you are an idiot.  I am said idiot. But I have dignity and treat the people and the place with the best of intention and wanted to make lemonade out of what began as lemons.  Understanding the place and the people is essential in travel, be it locally or less so.   Iceland is trying to figure that out and they are doing it better than I.

I should have first researched WOW air.  I am not going into detail but this airline is a startup, it is in financial trouble for doing what all startups do - get you in then promptly rip you off.   I think this blog article from a veteran traveler who works in the industry explains it all. The comment section has numerous additions that confirm most of what the author says and there is little to say good about WOW Air.  Travel and Leisure also has a fairly salient piece and in turn reminds you you get what you pay for and you pay in more than just cash.

Now the reality is that Iceland is just that the land of Ice and Snow and in turn its open widely only three months of the year and the daylight is as long as the day in that period and that is when the herds arrive en mass and I feel really feel for everyone, from the tourists to the locals who have to somehow coordinate and organize the thousands that speak multiple languages and have multiple customs and idiosyncrasies heavy on the idiot part.

The late Anthony Bourdain on No Reservations visited  Reykjavik and went in winter when the city is in darkness as long as the days and in turn tried the "native" cuisine and found it inedible.   He hated it but I feel that he did not really get the culture of the people and that is as tough as the rock they reside upon.    The city food situation is challenging but mostly expensive so the focus seems to be the three basic food groups - Fish and Chips, Hamburger and Chips and Pizza.  The local dish of lamb stew/soup is the most frequent you find but again $25 dollars for a plate of decent fish and chips and $10 dollars for a beer in which to quaff when you eat finds one checking one's wallet over one's waistline.  

Oddly if you do one tenth of the activities in Iceland for which they are known - hiking, swimming, horse back riding and other outdoorsy things you won't gain a pound. That said ironically while I found the food inedible at my hotel, (for the record the Hotel, the Foss was off the chain fantastic from location to service) I managed to put together a sammy of croissant, ham and cheese with a banana that fueled my day.  I had a pretty good salmon sammy but the windy roads the endless cold and rain took a toll so I ate half and tossed the rest and wisely so as it exhausts you and that lends to nausea as one of the travellers on my day trip discovered.  I stuck with beer and bread oddly works.   That an a chocolate bar one gets far.  But then I stopped hiking 3/4 up the "volcano" "hill" "mountain" for the rain and cold was too much in rented gear and I had nothing to prove.  The lagoon at the bottom was there waiting for me and I wanted to enjoy it.  That is another custom the swim where one strips down in front of everyone and takes a shower first, puts their suit on and jumps in.  Many had no problem and those that did did.  The same goes at public pools and they frankly are superior to any of this lagoon shit and way cheaper as they dot every township that aligns the land.  So when I return and I will I will take my own food, plan my trip when I get there and fuck the major tours other than one that has a brisk walk and will call it day.  The endless push to prove how roughing it is a good thing is not my idea of a good thing.  Thanks Martha!  This Forbes article is how I managed to find the pleasures that makes me want to return,  I would just throw in a performance at the Harp versus the overpriced super meal instead.   Honestly I felt like a heroin addict must feel when they need their drugs, I just wanted a salad! 

But onto the land of another place that I am not sure Bourdain visited as it has a reputation that even I was unclear as to why - Cleveland.   Look into the history of this city and it was one of great wealth and capitalist bourgeoisie that aligns its aging streets in ways that makes one wonder what it was like "back in the day." But this is the now and the city is changing. Many think of it as the home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum or that of the Christmas Story and Ralphie's endless pursuit of his Red Ryder gun.  Well they also have a world class Orchestra which has the notation of being the most recorded American one in history, their home perch of Severance Hall is a place of amazing beauty and history that is worth a visit with or without the music..chose the music as that performance I experienced marked the perfect ending of three perfect days.   And music you will find from the first ever City music themed festival right in downtown Cleveland to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame you will get your groove on.  The highlight of that visit was the booth where you could listen to one hit wonders A-Z and listen, dance and get the scoop on the writers, the musicians that created these singular hits that seem to be on every playlist forever.  Again the staff of that place extended such courtesy and graciousness that again made my heart bleed or my feet ache more from the dancing and walking that took over four hours to enjoy.   And the same for the Cleveland Museum of Art that was the entire prompt for the trip and their showing of the acclaimed Kusama Mirrors exhibit touring the country.   It is a must see and again the Nordic Gods were smiling upon me as each room requires three to enter and my partners became a charming Father and his son who enabled me to see the art through some new eyes and they too endeared me to Cleveland in ways that never stopped amazing me.

Food, people, weather and history make a trip.  Getting there is not always easy and I can assure you my fuck up on WOW air that led me to miss my flight enabled me to have an overnight in Cleveland initially I did not expect and then the Sheraton Airport Hotel stepped in and led me to the most amazing restaurant I would have again never put on my must list - 100th Bomb Group.  Sitting outside listening a fun blues band, eating delicious skirt steak with perfectly cooked green beans was an evening that I cannot forget and enabled me to return to the airport to embark to Iceland at midnight that night or as they say in Iceland, midnight the morning of.  There began the confusion and it did not end until after I returned even more chaos to lend itself to a trip that was nonsensical to begin with.   Here is where Cleveland needs work.  To clear Customs is one thing and Border entry but to have to clear TSA upon ARRIVAL made no sense.  It is 11:30 PM when you land and you clear customs, then go pick up your bag after yes after clearing customs where you then put it back onto a luggage transfer and go upstairs to line up for TSA clearance.  The entire plane waits and given WOW and their problems in that department mine was the last to land with a few before me.  I put my bag however at the front of the pile, entered the line where one TSA agent was clearing passengers, I was however ready as I put all the weird shit, like water etc in the "checked" bag and managed to get through what added an hour onto the exit plan.  I called hotel at 11:40 and did not arrive until 1 am.  But when I cleared bags were just arriving at the second claim and mine was one of the first off so many who had cleared an hour before me were standing there as the entire plane load of bags were just coming off.  Yes folks this is WOW air and this process is a mess that frankly needs another adjustment.  I thought the bizarre shit in Iceland with WOW with one line after another and then more confusion was just them but apparently no one knows how to fix this and I would warn people about this in the future if you fly out of Cleveland internationally. 

So what I have learned in my tale of two lands?

Cleveland is amazing and I will go back just because I can and I don't need a reason.

Iceland is amazing and I have much to see I will just do it on my own without relying on a travel agent (but the groups and hotel that she had booked me through were amazing and fully refunded me for me for those I missed but still do it yourself when you get there to allow for weather or other issues that can change plans) and bring your own snacks or go to a proper grocery store to get basics.

WOW air is garbage and if you choose to fly it go with a backpack and pay the carry on fee and bring your patience and tolerance for crowded flights, bullshit lines, canceled flights, weird flight times and in turn no ability to check in other than online and find that too is full of bullshit when it comes to doing so or calling the scripted Indian agent who will charge you for the conversation that goes on for a long time; children crying endlessly (they did on both flights), filthy planes, overpriced water and inedible food (a prep for Iceland) and rude rude clerks.  WOW is what I said when I finally got off ato never fly again.  Again WOW translates from Icelandic - SUCKER.     

Thank you to the people of Cleveland and to those I met in Iceland (the locals only two tourists were again civil and again a father and daughter camping but most were not as they did not speak English and the ones that did were in shock over the food and costs so they were masking their anger and frustration for the trip.   The couple from Arkansas who went on the Game of Thrones tour (yes there is that which files under youhavegottatobefuckingkiddingme, tried to make it to the bar for happy hour in which to get a beer under 10 bucks and share a plate of fish and chips they had eaten for the two previous days they had been there.  I thought well that could have been me, so WOW did me a favor.  Thanks it all worked out in my tale of two  lands.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Above Average

I have always known this and now this confirms it.   I am 58 just above the average and certainly don't live with anyone and not religious and I live in the South but it has confirmed that I don't fit in.  And that may be more places than I think.   And it also confirms my worst fears about women and why I struggle with establishing friendships let alone maintaining them.   That or the Housewives franchises have done their part as well and that I am a loner by nature.  

This is what the average American looks like in 2018

The Washington Post by Philip Bump August 13 2018

America is the most diverse country in the world: diverse racially and ethnically, diverse geographically, diverse economically. Across the 2,680 miles that the Lower 48 states span are hundreds of millions of people living in every imaginable type of home, holding nearly every conceivable political position.

It made us wonder: What does the average American look like?

To answer that question, we dipped into Census Bureau data and recent polling to get a sense of what that American looks like, where he or she lives, and what he or she believes.

Well: she.

The average American is a woman. 50.8 percent of Americans are women.

The average American is white and not Hispanic. 60.7 percent of Americans fit that description.

We quickly hit a stumbling block, though. Once you start going down various branches of the American population, the majorities shift. Most Americans are women and most Americans are white, but are most women white? As it happens, yes, but as we proceed, we will at times explore what our theoretical average American does or believes as opposed to what an American overall believes on average. In other words: At times, the difference between what an American white woman thinks and what an American overall thinks might diverge.

Here’s an example:

She’s 52 years old. The most common age of white women in the United States is 52. Overall, the most common age is 57. But these both differ from the median age in the country. That figure is 37.7 years, meaning that half of Americans are older and half younger than that number. (We’ll note here that most of these data points are a bit out of date. Census Bureau data and other indicators are often released a year or two after the periods they describe.)

She has a bachelor’s degree. More Americans (and more whites) have only high school degrees than have bachelor’s degrees (26 percent to 21.3 percent), but more Americans over the age of 25 have been to college than not (60.9 percent have been). Among that group, a bachelor’s is the most common outcome (about 35 percent obtain one).

She works in “education and health services.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks private-sector employment into industries. The most common industry for women — and Americans overall — is education and health services. The most common category of employment within that industry is “ambulatory health care services,” meaning, among other things, working for a doctor’s office, in home health care or for a diagnostic laboratory.

She earns $889.62 a week. That figure is for education and health services only. It’s up about $22 since July 2017, but much of that increase is eaten up by inflation.

She lives in a city. About 4 in 5 housing units are in urban areas.

But which city? Let’s consider this through a political lens.

She’s a political independent — who tends to vote Democratic. The largest political group in the country is independents, but most independents tend to vote for one party or the other. The most recent data from Gallup suggests that the average American is an independent and, if so, leans Democratic. Here we get back into the problem identified above: There are about twice as many Democrats as Democrat-leaning independents. But since the latter is a subset of the larger group of independents, it seems more accurate.

She voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. A plurality of the Americans who cast votes preferred Clinton to Donald Trump, especially among women.

So which city? The largest state in the country in terms of population is California, which backed Clinton overwhelmingly. The average state, though, went for Trump by about five points. That includes less-populous states, certainly, but we’re going to cheat a bit and pick a state that leaned toward Trump. Specifically, Texas, one of the fastest-growing states in the country.

About as many Americans live in cities with populations between 100,000 and 250,000 as in cities with a population of 250,000 to 1,000,000. So let’s say that our average American lives in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, a city that grew more than 8 percent from 2016 to 2017. It’s about half an hour from Dallas, for which it serves as a bedroom community. Which helps because . . .

The average American has a 26.1-minute commute. So Frisco works nicely.

She’s married and lives with her spouse. While only 48.6 percent of all Americans age 15 or older live with a spouse, 62.8 percent of women age 50 to 54 do. The spouse is probably a man; same-sex marriages make up a small percentage of all marriages in the country.

She lives in a house that she owns or that another resident owns. Most Americans do. It was probably built in the late 1970s and is about 1,700 square feet. Or, at least, that would be true nationally. In Frisco, the odds are much better that the house is new construction, given how quickly the population is spreading out into the plains.

There’s probably another person there, too. The average household size in urban areas in the South is 2.65 people.

She’s an evangelical Baptist. A Public Religion Research Institute survey released last fall determined that white evangelicals made up about 17 percent of the U.S. population, with Baptists making up nearly 44 percent of Protestants in the South.

This is another place where the averages for our specific average American buck the national trend. After all, white evangelicals went for Trump by a 64-point margin. Imagine that our average American is in the 16 percent who went for Clinton.

This, in its own way, is illustrative. Evangelicals are a minority of the country but the largest cohesive religious group. It was that sort of loyal core minority that powered Trump’s winning of the nomination of the Republican Party and has continued to power his approval ratings. Most Americans, though, aren’t in that group.

Speaking of:

She disapproves of Trump’s performance as president. The RealClearPolitics average of recent opinion polling has 52.1 percent of Americans disapproving of Trump. In June, independents in Texas were slightly more likely to disapprove of Trump’s performance as president than to approve.

It’s safe to also assume the following, based on recent polling:

She believes that Trump has strengthened the economy. A poll from Marist College has pluralities of Americans and independents holding this position. A recent poll from Quinnipiac University shows pluralities of both groups approving of Trump’s handling of the economy.

She believes that Trump has weakened America’s standing globally. In the Marist poll, an overall majority and a majority of independents believe that Trump has weakened the U.S. role on the world stage. In Quinnipiac’s poll, the same held true.

She would rather see Democrats control the House than Republicans. As it stands, the Democrats have a four-point advantage in the generic ballot, according to RealClearPolitics’s average of recent polls.

In the Marist poll, the Democrats have a three-point advantage among independents. An additional 13 percent said they plan to vote for neither party, raising another point.

She probably won’t vote. Most Americans don’t vote in midterms. While our average American is in groups that are more likely to vote — white, older, better-educated — it’s still unlikely. The U.S. Elections Project looked at Census Bureau data to determine that 41 percent of non-Hispanic whites voted in 2014, as did 42.6 percent of those ages 45 to 59 and 41.4 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree.

Our average American’s views on politics probably won’t be heard in November.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Dollar Dollar

Last night I went to the awards given by the Southern Foodways Alliance to two women who front amazing ways to generate food and sustenance in rural and urban America.   The SFA was a pet project of the writer and activist John Egerton who lived and worked here in Nashville.  When I moved here I discovered the most amazing Civil Rights room in the Downtown Library and that archive of information and records is something to see and it was Mr. Egerton who was a large influence on its sourcing and design.

Why I had never heard of this organization nor Mr. Egerton until I moved here I embraced the philosophy and this year the Library had set up as a city read The Potlikker Papers, which discusses the role of food in the culture and history here.   Not a seminal work by any stretch it is, however,  worthy of a perusal if not to draw attention to what the SFA does annually to generate community and bring social justice through acknowledging culture through food.

I felt those women were my heroes for their role in the community and I have tried here to build some semblance and decided to withdraw as frankly nothing sustains here.  The Save Ft. Negley group has since disappeared now that the Ft is "saved" but its preservation and maintenance not, but that is for another time another day.  Then we have the Wedgewood Houston group that has tried to do something but it appears that they do little and find less with each month.  For the second year in a row another "group" has decided to restore the community gardens in the lot of the Johnson School.  I doubt in a year from now a seed will have been planted and never will as long as that school sits on that lot.  I have heard of a new group that is trying to resolve the MLS Stadium build to be more engaged in the community. They just showed up new to the game long after the decisions and arguments were made but hey better late than never.   There were endless "groups" that were either pro or against Transit, a group demanding transparency regarding the Slattern's affair and they seem to have disappeared with her resignation and the election.  I have lost count on the astroturf charity fake front groups that show up demand air time and never heard from again in the last two years since I have moved here but at least it keeps people busy.  Watch John Oliver's rant on Astroturf groups and look around from Education to Medical Care to other hot bed issues in your community there is some "non profit" LLC there to ensure misinformation and dark money is stashed.

In all reality in Nashville it is the same five wealthy white men run the show, they dominate the skylines, the roads and the buildings and they too have formed many a collective organization funded by dark money to ensure that the way things go is their way and their way is the only way.

When you have a lowly educated largely poor population of workers they are disinclined to ask questions or take risks.  Our media is to say the least appalling and when Channel 5 investigates a subject they are the sole source of any information that to say contradicts the popular opinion leading many to loathe Mr. Williams for upsetting the rich.

And here is where Dollar General comes to play.  They dominated the city here as they are located here in Nashville and with growth came rebranding and right now they are testing their DGX line of stores but in the poor communities they are the sole source of retail from food to drugs.  Been to a Dollar General? I have and I felt dirty and needed to shower afterwards.  They go where even Walmart fails to go.  And this article from The Guardian shows how they exploit poverty and in turn destroy the community from building their own as one of the winner from last night's award did in her North Charleston community.   Don't tell DG or they may try to rob her of that.

Where even Walmart won't go: how Dollar General took over rural America

As the chain opens stores at the rate of three a day across the US, often in the heart of ‘food deserts’, some see Dollar General as an admission that a town is failing

Chris McGreal in Haven, Kansas
Guardian UK
Mon 13 Aug 2018

When Dollar General came to Haven, Kansas, it arrived making demands. The fastest-growing retailer in America wanted the taxpayers of the small, struggling Kansas town to pick up part of the tab for building one of its squat, barebones stores that more often resemble a warehouse than a neighbourhood shop.

Dollar General thought Haven’s council should give the company a $72,000 break on its utility bills, equivalent to the cost of running the town’s library and swimming pool for a year, on the promise of jobs and tax revenues. The council blanched but ended up offering half of that amount to bring the low-price outlet to a town that already had a grocery store.

“Dollar General are a force. It’s hard to stop a train,” said Mike Alfers, Haven’s then mayor who backed the move. “Obviously there’s been collateral damage. We didn’t expect it. I’m torn but, net-net, I still think it was a good move to bring them in.”

The Dollar General opened in Haven at the end of February 2015. Three years later, the company applied to build a similar store in the neighbouring town of Buhler, a 20-minute drive along a ramrod straight road north through sprawling Kansas farmland.

Buhler’s mayor, Daniel Friesen, watched events unfold in Haven and came to see Dollar General not so much as an opportunity as a diagnosis.

Friesen understood why dying towns with no shops beyond the convenience store at the gas station welcomed Dollar General out of desperation for anything at all, like Burton, just up the road, where the last food shop closed 20 years ago. But Buhler had a high street with grocery and hardware stores, a busy cafe and a clothes shop. It had life.

As Friesen saw it, Dollar General was not only a threat to all that but amounted to admission his town was failing. “It was about retaining the soul of the community. It was about, what kind of town do we want?” he said.

Dollar General is opening stores at the rate of three a day across the US. It moves into places not even Walmart will go, targeting rural towns and damaged inner-city neighbourhoods with basic goods at basic prices – a strategy described by a former chief executive of the chain as “we went where they ain’t”.

The chain now has more outlets across the country than McDonald’s has restaurants, and its profits have surged past some of the grand old names of American retail. The company estimates that three-quarters of the population lives within five miles of one of its stores, which stock everything from groceries and household cleaners to clothes and tools.

Not everything is to be had for a dollar, but rarely is anything priced above $10. But there is a cost. Dollar General’s aggressive pricing drives locally owned grocery stores out of business, replacing shelves stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables and meat with the kinds of processed foods underpinning the country’s obesity and diabetes crisis.

Dollar Generals are frequently found at the heart of “food deserts”, defined by the department of agriculture as a rural community where one-third of residents live more than 10 miles from a grocery store selling fresh produce.

We lasted three years and three days after Dollar General opened. Sales dropped and just kept dropping - Doug Nech

That was not what bothered Friesen. He saw construction of a Dollar General more as a statement about the health of his town as a whole than any one of its 1,400 residents.

If Dollar General were to be believed, there was a sound economic benefit for Buhler from one of its stores. This time the company didn’t ask the council for money. Instead it sold the promise of prosperity, claiming it would boost the town’s coffers with increased sales tax revenues by encouraging residents to shop locally instead of traveling to distant supermarkets for what they cannot find at the grocery store.

Buhler’s council called two public meetings in March to gauge the mood of residents and invited Doug Nech, owner of neighbouring Haven’s only grocery store, the Foodliner, to speak. Dollar General had driven his shop out of business days earlier.

“We lasted three years and three days after Dollar General opened,” he said. “Sales dropped and just kept dropping. We averaged 225 customers a day before and immediately dropped to about 175. A year ago we were down to 125 a day. Basically we lost 35 to 40% of our sales. I lost a thousand dollars a day in sales in three years.”

The arrival of Dollar General cost the Foodliner hundreds of thousands of dollars over that time. The foremost challenge was price. The chain has the power of scale in negotiating with foodmakers. Nech discovered the store had done a deal with Campbell’s Soup to make a 14.5oz can of chicken noodle soup for $1.50, the price he was paying wholesale for an 11oz can of the same soup.

“Dollar General have buying power. There’s not a lot of competition at the wholesale level so it’s rather difficult and the smaller you are, you pay a higher price for goods whether it’s in delivery costs or volume buying or any number of things,” he said.

Nech calls Dollar General “a cancer” but reserves his anger for Haven’s council for subsidising a hugely profitable corporation to compete against him. He asked the council to cut his shop’s utility bill to $100 a month until the Foodliner received a matching benefit. It refused, saying that Dollar General had taken advantage of a programme to bring in new business while Nech’s was long established.

“It’s the principle that they gave them money to come to town. I’m kind of conservative. I don’t believe in asking government for anything and I damn sure don’t believe in asking the government for anything now,” he said.

Friesen said Nech’s account “scared a lot of people” in Buhler who feared they could lose their own grocery store. The council also took on board what happened in a town an hour north-east of Buhler when a small Walmart moved in, put two grocery stores out of business and then shut down, leaving the town with nothing. “Dollar General, Walmart, any large corporation, doesn’t have the best interests of our community at heart here at all,” said the mayor.

Buhler’s council was not reassured by Dollar General’s attempts to say that it should not even discuss the store and its potential impact at the planning meetings. The company submitted its application through the developer assigned to build the outlet. The developer sought a change of use for the land from agricultural to retail without specifying what kind of shop it planned to construct. Friesen said Dollar General did not want its name brought up during the council’s deliberations.

“Dollar General were saying this wasn’t an application for a Dollar General, it was an application for a retail store. It could be anything. It could be a clothing store. They didn’t want us to consider some significant issues such as local economic impact,” he said.

The council asked an expert on the impact of cut-price stores from Kansas State University to address the public meeting. David Procter laid out the ways independently owned family businesses generally benefit small communities. “On the average there are about 15 employees in these small grocery stores and Dollar General stores might have five employees. Profits from small-town grocery stores are generally going to stay in that town whereas profits made by Dollar General, a significant percentage of them anyway, are going to the corporate office in Tennessee,” he said.

Procter said many local grocery stores also serve as community gathering places, some of them with delis and seating areas where people have lunch, and offer services such as home delivery for the elderly or infirm. Dollar General, which tends to build spartan shops on the edge of towns to catch passing traffic on main roads, does none of these.

“Grocery stores give more back to the community. They are much more likely to support local sporting teams, local faith-based organisations. Dollar General corporate policy sets a pretty strict limit on how much community giving they provide,” said Procter.

Some at the public meeting spoke up in favour of the chain. They liked its long opening hours – most of Buhler’s shops are closed on a Sunday – and cheaper prices. But the sentiment was overwhelmingly against the store and an informal online poll of the town’s residents came out two to one in opposition. Some people didn’t want an ugly building as the gateway to the town.

A retirement community next to the planned site objected. In the end, people in Buhler decided that although the grocery and hardware stores might cost a little more they were prepared to pay a premium to preserve their community. Buhler has a large brown and yellow sign on the main road into town. It features a cross with an open book suggestive of a Bible. On one page is written “traditional values” and on the other “progressive ideas”.

“There were some who said this is not very progressive to deny a new retail development in the community,” said Friesen. “But there was agreement in the city council that the more progressive thing is to not do what every small community in Kansas seems like it’s doing, just begging for a national retail chain to come in.”

Days after Nech was driven out of business in Haven, Buhler’s council voted unanimously to reject Dollar General. The company’s developer was not pleased. “I wasn’t terribly impressed. They stormed out. They were pretty hot about it,” said Friesen.

In Haven, the former mayor Mike Alfers conceded that the promised financial advantage of Dollar General has largely been lost with the closure of the Foodliner. It is now a fitness centre, with the old grocery store sign still hanging outside. Sales tax revenue for the town rose by more than $60,000 between the years before and after the Dollar General opened. But the Foodliner alone was collecting around $75,000 a year in sales tax which is now gone.

On top of that, Nech paid an annual electricity bill of $37,000, which the city made money on, plus there was the break the council gave Dollar General on its utility bills. It remains to be seen how much business will transfer from the defunct grocery store to the Dollar General but the end result is the Haven’s main street is finding it even more of a struggle to survive with the diminished flow of people to pick up groceries.

For all that, while Alfers feels sympathy for Nech, he said the Dollar General is the future. “The Model-T put horses out of business. It’s hard to protect existing businesses,” he said. “I would still vote for Dollar General. If one state didn’t accept the Model-T it wouldn’t have changed the outcome. I think Buhler voted their sentiment. The question is, in five years will they have a Dollar General or something similar?”

The owner of Buhler’s grocery store, JC Keith, is acutely aware that seeing off Dollar General is not the only challenge. With decent paying jobs increasingly scarce in rural Kansas, a good part of the population of Buhler and Haven work in large towns with ready access to a range of rivals from Walmart to farmers markets. It’s easier for residents of what have become bedroom communities to stop at a major store on the way home from work and only use the local grocery shop for last-minute supplies such as milk.

“A majority of people in Buhler that work, work somewhere else,” said Keith, who is also a long-distance truck driver. “Chances are they drive right by some chain store on their way home.”

The threat from Dollar General prompted Keith to evaluate his way of doing business. He was already in the process of building a larger shop just down the road from the existing one, but now it will incorporate hot foods such as chicken and a salad bar. It will also open later.

For all his support for building the Dollar General in Haven, Alfers rarely shops there and regrets the loss of the Foodliner. “It makes a lot of difference to me. I shopped a lot at Foodliner,” he said. “Now I have a hard time time shopping at Dollar General. I like to cook. I like food items and spices you can’t get at Dollar General. I’m less loyal to any one store these days.”

Haven’s residents now have to travel out of town to find fresh food, although many do that for work in any case. The more immediate impact has been on those who are less mobile, like the elderly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculates that about a quarter of the population is unable to buy healthy food nearby. Dollar Generals are frequently to be found in those areas and some studies have made a direct link between the rise of dollar stores and unhealthy eating. But it is not that straightforward. Megan Rinehart worked at Nech’s Foodliner for six years.

“This isn’t a rich town. A lot of our customers bought not healthy stuff. They leaned towards what was fast and cheap. We had a pretty good selection of fresh produce. It was a matter of if they could afford it,” she said.

An agriculture department study found that many of those on low income and reliant on food stamps were more likely to decide where to shop based on price than where the nearest store is. They drive past a grocery store to a Dollar General.

Alfers thinks Buhler will struggle to stave off the cut-price chain store because it is the future. Doug Nech is not so sure. He owned the Foodliner alongside a job travelling a dozen states as a church pew cushion salesman. Nech has seen the impact across the midwest of the store that put his own out of business. He views Dollar General as a juggernaut but that does not mean he thinks it’s invincible.

“Dollar General is building just as fast as it can. Nebraska. The Dakotas. You see it,” he said. “But somewhere down the line, as these small towns dry up, business for Dollar General is going to dry up just like it does for a grocery store. If there’s nobody new coming to town and your older population is dying off and they’re not getting replaced very quickly, who are they going to sell to?”

The New Millennium

I have no problem admitting I struggle with Millennials and while they are the largest cohort I communicate with in Nashville I often blame the South/Nashville/Education or lack thereof as the primary reason behind my issues with them.  To say age is a factor is something I struggle with as I love kids and until I moved here never had a problem communicating with younger people or so I thought.  And that was after observing  children behave in manners that were truly disturbing and troubling and most if not almost all the children were faces of color and that color was largely black.  The violence and aggression crosses color lines here but again as they are the largest cohort in the dumpsters I call schools here it made me wonder what this all meant.    As a result, I went on a self examination and introspection that had me questioning my attitudes toward race, religion, gender and what I thought was poverty.  And since that time I have found that yes I have changed towards all of those things and mostly just a hyper awareness of it and in ways that does affect how I interact and engage with those who I decide to communicate with.   So in other words I self isolate and upon occasion share a thought or two, often regret it but still try to manage a positive sense of being in which to rescue myself from self hate as I don't want to become a different person from this but it may be too late. 

So no I cannot blame Millennials solely for most of my failures to communicate as I have tried to communicate with those closer in my peer group and that too was largely a dud so now I just put on the happy face and talk about "stuff" like free concerts or other bland observations that frankly is boring but better than nothing.  But I still look to the largest population cohort in the U.S. and shake my head as this is not a good thing. 

But again I spend most of my time lecturing, scolding and reminding the millennial to register to vote and in turn vote.  Here in Tennessee they don't do either and it shows.   But there is more to it here than age it is a type of resignation and frankly laziness that dominates the culture here.  I have never met so many people so marginalized and so unwilling to ask questions, seek resolutions or grow in their pursuit of knowledge. The fear that dominates the landscape here is like the endless dark that dominates Iceland for several months of the year and yet they seem to function fine and why those without such isolation cannot boggles the mind.

I was watching CBS Morning News and they had sponsored a survey with Refinery 29 about Millennial women and voting patterns and the answers were surprising.  Well if you actually knew the real ones that you don't work with but the ones who work in the community you live, that hold marginal jobs and are partnered in relationships that they play at unconventional but are as conventional as the ones the generations before had then no you would not know how conservative, pedantic, dogmatic and provincial they really are.

This from Refinery 29 regarding Politics:

Right now that is an open question. According to the Refinery29/CBS News poll, the women of this generation hold the most negative views of the Trump presidency of any age group. By more than 2 to 1 millennial women want to see Democrats win control of Congress. And yet: While 70% of millennial women said they are "dissatisfied" or "angry" with the direction of the Trump Administration, only 30% said they will “definitely” vote this fall.

 I am not sure what to make of this other than laziness and complicity that I find throughout Nashville which now at least makes me feel slightly better about Nashville as I blamed the city for what is a larger scale problem statewide but the new folks migrating here only further exacerbate the problem.

Again I meet many people and again the Doctor who I encountered and was looking for love in all the wrong places seemed to be oblivious to his own City and well anything going on in his own backyard.  That did not seem to stop him however from wanting to get into my backyard so again his behavior led me back to Nashville as a city in flux and the people even more confused as a result.  What dominates is the concept of opportunism and in turn that struggle with what that means and in America it means one thing - wealth.  An absurd concept linked to the lottery mentality of Meritocracy. 

The other day I met a family that have never set foot in the public library located in Downtown Nashville despite the fact that their daughter lived in the apartment building right next door.  Intellectual curiosity much?   They were from St. Louis and have lived here two years and were nice people but stupid, they fit in well.  This is America.  As I have come to learn the illiteracy that dominates this culture comes from history where oral stories and histories compensated for the laws that prevented many from reading and writing.   Well this is the new millennium and that time is gone but history like the water runs deep with the blood of the past. 

And now this area of the country has money pouring into it thanks to legislative acts to give as many tax breaks and perks for companies to relocate here and in turn exploit the ill educated workforce to pay them substandard wages and in turn make the states "right to work" to prevent union organization securing low wages indefinitely.   And now we have a growing city and people commuting hours to minimum wage jobs as they have relocated here from their varying shitholes to find work.  When you move from Minneapolis and Florida to get a waiter's gig here you must have been living in a shithole as that makes no sense.  But sense is for Horses clearly here.

Millennials will follow sheep as long as its cool. The ones who are ill educated and ill informed need this and they do little to change the reality.  It's thumbs up or down and a world of like or followers is what matters, they see the immediate not the long term and hence they don't give a flying fuck.   Anything that is done to improve the quality of life doesn't.   I am seeing it here with one business opening one after another and I wonder who is funding all this.  I see major issues coming if these businesses cannot sustain the loans or payments to investors in reasonable time frame as we are seeing with regards to Gibson Guitars what can happen.  So you see why they don't want change as change only brings the small kind and that doesn't trickle down.

We have a wealthy adjacemt county that I keep hearing about and supposedly should go teach at struggle with funding education and in turn their students in need of hygiene products. Really you are that wealthy and can't get a girl a feminine napkin or tampon?  Interesting.

And it appears the bloom and the rose are meeting to discuss when those petals will fall as the growth is on the decline which means more low paying jobs and more businesses shuttering. But that is okay as another will open in its place with no more logic or reason.  And try discussing this with Millennials - crickets.  For the supposed enlightened ones they are in need of new bulb.  I have no energy anymore as how can you rationalize with people who don't see the need to be rational.   And to prove this I had a discussion about kids with a young woman who informed me she hates kids and when she has kids she will make her husband raise them.  There is so much wrong with that statement it was hard for me to even try to explain that loving your own children is not a healthy thing as you want your children to be well adjusted socially and if you hate other children how does that work when it comes to school, to social settings and other times when you must mix with other families in which to enable your kids to participate?   She had not thought of that.  Okay then.

This is just one of many conversations I have had since relocating here.  They have no value of education and the outgoing Governor's Drive to 55 pledge goes with him.  There is no way 55% of the population here will have some type of post secondary education. They haven't needed it now and they see no need for it for the future as clearly they don't have a Magic 8 Ball in which to see what happens in the new Millennium.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Generation Wealth

I went yesterday to see an early showing of Generation Wealth as I wanted to take the day off and try to just be in the moment before I leave on holiday.  That failed miserably as I started the day at a Country Museum breakfast, raced to the car rental to extend my rental and to the mall to get last minute things for my trip and then to this movie, all by 11:30 a.m.

When I acknowledged that I had not been feeling well and getting stressed about my upcoming trip I needed to remind myself that I am okay and have a good life despite my dissatisfaction about living in Nashville.   So nothing says that more than seeing other people being unhappy!

I had only seen Queen of Versailles and had never bothered with Lauren Greenfield's other work, just the titles alone seemed to be about damaged women and that alone was a reason to avoid it.  She seems to take great pleasure at showing women at their worst and glossing over the role of men in how that is either enabled or contributed to via their own lack of self image or perception.  I felt that way when I read Roxanne Gay's, Difficult Women.  I found that equally a tough read as if it is easier to depict women as horrific bots who do nothing but hurt themselves and everyone around them in pursuit of self gratification guised as self esteem.  Generation Wealth is no different.

Disjointed and muddled the message was lost in between the need for Greenfield to find reasoning behind her own behaviors and of course blame her parents for her own obsession with her work and particularly her subject matter that dominates her work  - women and the pursuit of money.

What the film is doing is follow up on her past subjects as she is editing a book of photographs that included them over the course of Greenfield's career.  In this she seems to be examining why she is also obsessed with working in the same way her Mother was and this was in turn a self examination of her own youth and in turn a way to finally settle the scores with her ever smiling Mother and also subject.  It was off putting and frankly something worth its own documentary that could be relegated to the Lifetime or Oxygen channel and not a film theater.  The rest of this is a Netflix worthy documentary that if done properly with time allowed an opportunity to educate the film goers to who these people were, how she came to find them and in turn a follow up that clearly explains what has happened to them since they originally came before her camera.  And some get that and in turn it is so thrown in at the end almost as if an afterthought while all showing some of them at her opening for the book Generation Wealth that she was kinda sorta editing in between filming and doing a therapy exercise.

Men are part of the story, but they are so cursory other than one man, a former hedge fund banker and criminal,  whose coverage include his son and his girlfriend.  Their  insight observations about how his father has reconciled his greed, obsession with money and lack of engagement with his family as the most sincere and honest.   Ms. Greenfield in her ever disjointed style finds her own narrator to her story- her own youngest son - who seems to realize that his mother is equally crazy and will one day be the subject of his own book I suspect called Legacy.

There are a few other profiles of men and they are clearly there as background and some apparent need to find gender balance as the intensity of her gaze is on the women.   The Queen of Versailles makes an appearance but only as background to the Trump inauguration and again that is a story that is clearly in need of updating but is passed over for reasons unclear in this film.   The most horrific is the bus driver whose zeal of plastic surgery led to her to homelessness and in turn the suicide of her daughter.  Again a story that is missing so many elements of what happened there I felt much like this woman's daughter  and in turn Greenfield's own sons, ignored and neglected.  This is the true story of this documentary. 

But the most horrific story was about the Porn Star who was a part of Charlie Sheen's meltdown a few years ago, a story now in the history of celebrity insanity but did give us #WINNING as an ever present hashtag that now has been corrupted by our own celebrity obsessed President.  She was a girl clearly when this began and during filming she had taken on another identity (which by the end of the film was another and I suspect more to follow) and facing here 11th pregnancy.  Again this is so glazed over I could not believe what I was seeing or hearing, including Greefield's presence during this young woman's infamous acclaimed Bukkake film.  Now my knowledge of said type of pornography comes from Howard Stern who I quit listening to years ago just for this alone is sufficient reasoning but I never thought I would actually see this in life.  I am not sure what to make of the men ( numbering over 50) who stood over a girl and masturbated on her face to the point she contracted Salmonella.   It was so repulsive and disturbing I almost vomited and wanted to walk out but again Ms. Greenfield fails to even speak to the men about their role and why anyone would participate in this let alone watch again is a documentary worth seeing.

Then the visit to the strip club in Atlanta which to say the least does little to explain the racial issues that dominate and the exploitation of women where they are not just strippers but dance fully in the nude and often enables many of their customers to be the equivalent of a Gynecological exam.  Clearly this is all part of #MeToo and #TimesUp  and the debasement of women.  But don't worry Ms. Greenfield will clearly do her part to ensure that women will be seen as the most fucked up and less redeemed subjects as her Mother too failed to find such at the end of that portion of the film.

The pursuit of wealth and fame are tangentially addressed by Chris Hedges the sole "expert"  who appear in the film to provide a narrative and cautionary tale about the state of the world; Yes Ms Greenfield covers the world by passing a mention of China and Russia's growth and pursuit of wealth. There is the Icelandic fisherman/banker and the traveling European thief/banker, who seems to be connected to Ms. Greenfield via Harvard which is another issue about legacy and privilege.  I am all for mocking Harvard but all of this is so thrown together that is nearly impossible to care about these individuals.  Greenfield provide enough of a cursory glance that makes them interesting in their own right and deserve more which I would have enjoyed seeing, not as a comeuppance but as a reality check.     Clearly Ms. Greenfield is like her mother as her mother excuses her own absences as they were short in duration and that is how I feel watching this film as if I am getting a glimpse but not enough of the person to matter or to know.  Maybe that is the point of Generation Wealth that money is fleeting but infamy is long lasting if anyone is willing to turn their gaze upon them.  And the one person obsessed with it seems less the subjects themselves but Ms. Greenfield. 

Don't waste your money, your time or your gaze upon this travesty of a film.  It is in need of an editor the same way Ms. Greenfield needs therapy.   When I think of the phrase HOT MESS I will think of this film and the girl standing up after being massively ejaculated on and cleaning herself up and that is a vision I cannot forget.  I am also going to need therapy.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Water?

They say Jesus waked on water or perhaps he just simply drank the leaded water that is pumped through the pipes that enable the staff and students to use when they need to parch their throats.  But whatever is going on here I am sure I am sticking to bottled stuff whenever I hit a public fountain.

I said to someone recently that the Bible thumping Jesus fetish seemed to make men confused about sex and particularly sexuality.  This week we have another Evangelical under fire for his sexual abuse towards an employee that lasted decades so as they say Jesus Saves.  Just what he is saving is the issue.

And again in Nashville the endless parade of bizarre regarding sexual abuse and harassment never ends.  So far in the THOUSANDS.  Given that lead in the water that the schools have failed to resolve leading the current Mayor to finally intervene might explain it.  We have had women Teachers molest Students, we have male Teachers molest Students, Students rape Students and my personal favorite Principals molest and harass anyone.  Well they have a wider berth in which to choose but it seems they seem to enjoy the company of men.   I loved that movie.

Today another one bites the dust and once again it is so tragic. So grim. So pathetic. But what is amusing is that this was one of the brothers profiled in the local rag as a family of educators and yet they fail to help their own as he and his brother have entered the family profession and clearly are floundering.

**ETA** Since I wrote this another individual has been put on leave while an "investigation" takes place. The irony is not lost as he is the head of security and a former cop.  Did he take a sip from a public fountain or has this been something going on for years unchecked?  I go with the latter.  Really do you think a man suddenly out of the blue decides to rape, assault, verbally harass people because they are in a position of power or has this been happening for a long while and when in power it is enabled and protected.  Again the culture of complacency and tolerance was the impetus behind decades of Catholic Church abuse.  Man religion seems to be the best cover around.  "I was just trying to pray and whoops my hand slipped!" Again the laying of hands takes on a whole new meaning.  

But his is Tennessee and this is Nashville Public Schools and all in the heart of the belt.  Again 53% identify as Evangelical but even those who don't do identify as Christian attend church.    I did the right thing burning my license and leaving for Iceland this coming week and even then I am not sure what I will come back to but for now this is water that could never quench a thirst let alone take a bath in, it is toxic.   Pray for me? No thanks, I will pass. 

Second Principal Resigns Amid MNPS Sexual Harassment Scandal
Phil Williams News Channel 5
Aug 10, 2018

A Nashville elementary school principal has resigned amid on-going questions about sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in Metro Schools.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Nashville elementary school principal has resigned amid on-going questions about sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct in Metro Schools.

Dr. Lance High, principal of Smith Springs Elementary School in Antioch, resigned just four days after the district received an unspecified complaint against him, spokesperson Dawn Rutledge confirmed.

But, like in other cases, NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered, it wasn't High's first.

In an email to the school's staff, High -- a 14-year veteran of the Metro school system -- said he had been dealing with "deeply intense, personal issues that stemmed from being abused by a family friend" when he was four years old.

He said he began receiving counseling three years ago.

"I've come a long way in three years but I've been convicted in recent weeks that I need to complete the process of healing," High wrote. "I need more intense counseling and therapy, and I need it now."

The district spokesperson said High submitted his resignation Tuesday, just a day after being placed on administrative leave. Metro Schools says it received a complaint on the Friday regarding potential "inappropriate conduct."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained records showing that High was reprimanded in August 2015, right after he started a new job as the principal of Amqui Elementary School in Madison.

At the time, the district learned that nearly two years earlier, when High was an assistant principal at A.Z. Kelley Elementary in Antioch, he had sent "inappropriate text messages" to a teacher who worked there.

The reprimand detailed the allegations.

"In these texts, which you initiated, you invited him to come to your house, when your wife was scheduled to be out of town, to masturbate together," the reprimand said. "In another message, you asked him to measure his penis."

The teacher confronted High and asked him to stop sending the texts, which he did, the memo said.

High "admitted that the allegations ... were true," the reprimand said. "You did not have an explanation for your actions."

Last year, in May 2017, Metro Schools Director Dr. Shawn Joseph offered High the assignment as the principal for Smith Springs Elementary.

A summary in High's file noted that Joseph "acknowledged prior concerns with inappropriate text messages of a sexual nature."

"Dr. Joseph also stated that he would not tolerate inappropriate conduct of a similar nature in the future," another memo noted.

Then, last September, the district received another complaint about High sending emails, pressuring a Metro Schools employee for his mobile phone number even though, according to the investigation, the man hardly knew the Smith Springs principal.

That investigation concluded that the emails "did not rise to the level of sexual harassment."

Still the investigator added, "If [the victim] had complied with Principal High's request for his cell number, harassment may have been a real possibility."

High was, once again, warned about his behavior.

After NewsChannel 5 Investigates recently began investigating the district's handling of sexual harassment, the district sent out an email urging employees to speak up if they had concerns about the workplace culture.

It is not known if that outreach is what led to the latest complaint.