Friday, September 29, 2017

Living on the Road

Many of the people in the profile story below are the forgotten generation. These are boomers and some Gen X'ers who are carving out a living by being the new 21st Century Hobos. They move in Vans, Cars, RV's and in Campers across America in search of work. I have written about them several times and now are the subject of a book. But in all honesty the reality is America is run by their Peers as Donald Trump and much of his Cabinet members are highly successful billionaires in the their 70s or well over conventional retirement years as are much of the Senate.

And while they private jet in designer duds with their younger wives in designer duds the reality is that many are scraping by. To them the reality of life is always just a truck stop away. Amazon is given tax breaks for hiring this nomadic work force and for many age is the new invisible.  And it appears the rich will be receiving more under the new tax plan, whatever that is, like Trumpcare only worse.

I spoke to a neighbor once and said I was likely going to stay in Tennessee for four more years and that puts me at 60 too old to be subbing in such vile schools and then move on to a much larger city where I had more options. He said, "Well you will be retiring right about then so it would be good to find a place you could do both." Okay then sure. I only nod now when I see him. There is a real disconnect when it comes to connection about aging. We have a youth culture a sexually obsessed one and the two are co-joined at the hip. We have famous people who look amazingly youthful and in turn they are still desirable.

In our world work defines us and that too is another issue that leads those who work to live versus live for their work. This in turn is why we have the constant mantra to "work hard" as a means to prove said worth. Less net worth means overall less worth. And it explains here in the South that I am constantly told I should go to Williamson County to teach despite the fact that it is a suburban county with yes fine schools but that is about it. I would have to buy a car, pay even more for housing to do what? Teach all day then head to the strip mall for a hour and be even more isolated from things I enjoy. Yes that makes total sense. Go into debt to Teach in the lowest paid region with the lowest paid matriculation and college graduation rates. What a great plan! Regardless of where in Tennessee you must think I am from here and am that stupid. Teaching is my work not my life. My Mother told me to find a job that I could do anywhere and she suggested the food industry or education.   I went with the latter after a 3 month gig as a Waitress in a Senior Living Home.  Funny I bailed on it in the same way I think now about aging, a challenge and with fear.

If you have not read about  the Nursing Home in Florida where residents literally were cooked to death I put a link here to the New York Times article about the subject.  It brought to light conversations that have to be made with family members about end of life care and the reality of that situation, and do so  when of sound mind and a clear understanding that what happens in case of an emergency.  And for those without family members a good  Lawyer to make sure you don't end up in the same way one of the single women did in the article - naked and in diaper left to die from heat.

And when I try to have any conversation of late, I find myself constantly mystified by conversations and exchanges here regardless of age and I think that we have so many issues in America that the one constant is the method of communication we now embrace. Social Media, Texts and even Email have made us thoroughly unable to read faces, to understand non verbal cues and have any ability to absorb information as it is presented to you. All the talking of late is much like what I experience here - a type of scolding reprimand that at first I took personally, now I just realize is the way things are. We have found the perfect President to embody that. Reagan was the Great Communicator, Trump is the great Tweeter. Ah how times have changed and both men in their dotage, with brain dementia were and are Presidents. We are so fucked America.

The new reality of old age in America

“I’m going to work until I die,” says one 74-year-old in a generation finding it too costly to retire.

By Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan

The Washington Post Sept. 30, 2017

“I’m going to work until I die, if I can, because I need the money,” said Dever, 74, who drove 1,400 miles to this Maine campground from his home in Indiana to take a temporary job that pays $10 an hour.

Dever shifted gently in the tractor seat, a rubber cushion carefully positioned to ease the bursitis in his hip — a snapshot of the new reality of old age in America.

People are living longer, more expensive lives, often without much of a safety net. As a result, record numbers of Americans older than 65 are working — now nearly 1 in 5. That proportion has risen steadily over the past decade, and at a far faster rate than any other age group. Today, 9 million senior citizens work, compared with 4 million in 2000.

While some work by choice rather than need, millions of others are entering their golden years with alarmingly fragile finances. Fundamental changes in the U.S. retirement system have shifted responsibility for saving from the employer to the worker, exacerbating the nation’s rich-poor divide. Two recent recessions devastated personal savings. And at a time when 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, Social Security benefits have lost about a third of their purchasing power since 2000.

Polls show that most older people are more worried about running out of money than dying.

“There is no part of the country where the majority of middle-class older workers have adequate retirement savings to maintain their standard of living in their retirement,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist who specializes in retirement security. “People are coming into retirement with a lot more anxiety and a lot less buying power.”

As a result, many older workers are hitting the road as work campers — also called “workampers” — those who shed costly lifestyles, purchase RVs and travel the nation picking up seasonal jobs that typically offer hourly wages and few or no benefits.

Amazon’s “CamperForce” program hires thousands of these silver-haired migrant workers to box online orders during the Christmas rush. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Walmart, whose giant parking lots are famous for welcoming RV travelers, has hired elderly people as store greeters and cashiers. Websites such as the Workamper News list jobs as varied as ushering at NASCAR tracks in Florida, picking sugar beets in Minnesota and working as security guards in the Texas oil fields.

In Maine, which calls itself “Vacationland,” thousands of seniors are drawn each summer to the state’s rocky coastline and picturesque small towns, both as vacationers and seasonal workers. In Bar Harbor, one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations, well-to-do retirees come ashore from luxury cruise ships to dine on $30 lobsters and $13 glasses of sauvignon blanc — leaving tips for other senior citizens waiting on oceanfront tables, driving Ollie’s Trolley buses or taking tickets for whale-watching tours.

The Devers have noticed this economic divide. They found their campground jobs online and drove here in May, with plans to stay until the season ends in October. On a recent day off, they took a bus tour near Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, where the tour guide pointed out the oceanfront Rockefeller estate and Martha Stewart’s 12-bedroom mansion.

“The ones who go on these ritzy, ritzy cruises to all these islands in Maine, I don’t know how they got all that money. Maybe they were born into it,” said Jeannie, 72. “And then you see this poor little old retired person next door, who can hardly keep going. And he’s got his little trailer.”

On Election Day last November, the Devers expressed their frustration. For more than 50 years, they had supported mainstream candidates in both parties, casting their ballots for John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. This time, they concluded that the Democrat, Hillary Clinton, would be no help to them. And they found the Republican standard-bearer, Donald Trump, too “mouthy.”

So, for the first time in their lives, they cast protest votes, joining legions of disaffected voters whose aversion to Clinton helped propel Trump into the White House. Richard voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Jeannie left her presidential ballot blank.

“We are all talking about this, but not politicians. Helping people build a nest egg is not on their agenda,” Jeannie said. “We are the forgotten people.”

‘This job is a blessing’

The Devers first hit the road in their 33-foot American Star RV when Jeannie turned 65. Since then, they have worked jobs in Wyoming, Pennsylvania and now Maine. In addition to their $10-an-hour paychecks, the couple receives $22,000 a year from Social Security, an amount that has barely budged while health-care and other costs have soared.

“If we didn’t work, our money would run out real quick,” Richard said.

On a recent Friday, the Devers met for lunch back at their RV, Richard’s plaid shirt and suspenders dusty from mowing the drought-dried grass. Jeannie had spent the morning working the front desk in the campground office, where she checks people in and sells bug spray, marshmallows and other camping essentials.

As usual, she had arrived a half-hour early for her 9 a.m. shift to make sure everything was tidy for the first customer. Full of cheer and wearing white sneakers, she shies from talking about her macular degeneration and arthritic knuckles. “This job is a blessing,” she said.

President Trump is one year younger than Jeannie and, she said, “has more money than we can even imagine.” She muses that he probably “will hand a lot down to his kids” — another generation of rich people who, Richard and Jeannie believe, tend to be born that way.

The Devers know how hard it is to make it on your own.

In 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were running for president, Richard started repairing homes and Jeannie made root beer floats in a drugstore back home in southern Indiana, near the Kentucky border. Later, they ran a business that put vinyl siding on homes and a little start-up called Southwest Stuff that sold Western-themed knickknacks.

They raised two children and lived well enough but never had much extra cash to put away. After a lifetime of working, they have a small mobile home in Indiana, a couple of modest life insurance policies and $5,000 in savings.

The Devers are better off than many Americans. One in 5 have no savings, and millions retire with nothing in the bank. Nearly 30 percent of households headed by someone 55 or older have neither a pension nor any retirement savings, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

From the camper’s compact refrigerator, Jeannie pulled a tub of meatloaf she had cooked in her crockpot a couple of days earlier.

“Are you good with just a sandwich?” she called to Richard.

“Just a sandwich, thanks,” he said, emerging from the bedroom in a fresh plaid shirt, bought for $2 at Goodwill. His blue-striped suspenders dangled below his waistband.

Without a word, Jeannie leaned over and slipped them over his shoulders — a daily task that keeps getting harder for the man she married 55 years ago.

A Wall Street gold mine

While most Americans are unprepared for retirement, rich older people are doing better than ever. Among people older than 65, the wealthiest 20 percent own virtually all of the nation’s $25 trillion in retirement accounts, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Employers have gradually shifted from traditional pensions, with guaranteed benefits for life, to 401(k) accounts that run out when the money has been spent. Those accounts work best for the wealthy, who not only have the extra cash to invest but also use 401(k)s to shelter their income from taxes while they are working.

People with little financial know-how often find 401(k)s confusing. Millions of people opt not to participate, or contribute too little, or take money out at the wrong time and are charged huge fees.

Even people who manage to save for retirement often face a grim calculation: Among people between 55 and 64 who have retirement accounts, the median value of those accounts is just over $120,000, according to the Federal Reserve. So people are forced to guess how long they might live and budget their money accordingly, knowing that one big health problem, or a year in a nursing home, could wipe it all out.

The system has been a gold mine for Wall Street. Brokerages and insurance companies that manage retirement accounts earned roughly $33 billion in fees last year, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Ted Benna, a retirement consultant who is credited with creating the modern 401(k), called those fees “outrageous.” Many people — especially those who need the money the most — don’t even know they are paying them, he said.

Compared with the old system of company pensions, the new retirement system does not serve the average American well, said Ghilarducci, the labor economist, who teaches at the New School in New York.

“It’s as if we moved from a system where everybody went to the dentist to a system where everybody now pulls their own teeth,” she said.

‘The rich help the rich’

A few miles up the road from the Devers, Joanne Molnar, 64, and her husband, Mark, 62, live in their RV and work at another campground.

For 21 years, Joanne worked as a manager for a day-care company in Fairfield, Conn. She said she paid regularly into a 401(k) account that, at one point, was worth more than $40,000.

By the time she left the company in 2008, however, its value had fallen to $2,000.

Molnar said the company’s owner thought he was doing his 100 employees a favor by managing their retirement accounts. “But he didn’t know what he was doing,” she said. Instead of being angry with him, she’s furious with the 401(k) system.

“It stinks,” she said.

As Joanne’s retirement account was further battered by the Great Recession in 2008, the Molnars sold Mark’s share of his piano-restoration business and their home in Connecticut, which had lost value but kept attracting higher and higher property tax bills.

They bought a 25-foot RV for $13,000 and started looking for work near their three sons, one of whom lives near Bar Harbor, and their six grandchildren. After finishing at the Maine campground this fall, they plan to look for work in Texas or Wisconsin, near their other children.

Like the Devers, the Molnars say they are frustrated that the problems of older Americans do not seem to register in Washington.

“The little people are drowning, and nobody wants to talk about it,” Joanne said. “Us middle-class, or lower-class, people are just not part of anything politicians decide.”

Last year, the Molnars grew more optimistic when they heard Trump promising in campaign speeches to help the “forgotten people.” Like a majority of older voters, Joanne voted for Trump. She said she thought maybe a businessman, an outsider, would finally address the economic issues that matter to her.

But the Molnars said that with each passing week of the Trump presidency, they are growing less hopeful.

“We’ll see. I’m just getting a little worried now,” Joanne said. “I just think he’s not going to be helping the lower class as much as he thought he would.”

The recent battle to repeal Obamacare was “kind of scary,” she said, noting that Trump supported legislation that would have slashed Medicaid and left more people without government-subsidized insurance. Although the effort failed, Joanne and Mark remain nervous.

“The rich help the rich, and I’m starting to think that not enough will fall down to us,” Mark said, as he methodically bolted together one of 170 new picnic tables.

Mark signed up to begin collecting Social Security this summer. Even with those monthly checks, he figures he’ll have to work at least 10 more years.

“Forget the government. It’s got to be ‘We the People,’ ” he said. “We’re on our own. You have to fend for yourself.”

After a lifetime’s work, the Devers have a small mobile home in Indiana, $5,000 in savings and a couple of modest insurance policies. Still, they are better off than many other Americans: Millions retire with nothing in the bank. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

‘It’s not fun getting old’

At the end of a long day at work, Richard and Jeannie Dever met back at their RV. After mowing the grass in the hot sun, Richard, who is just shy of his 75th birthday, was sweating under his baseball cap. He was tired.

“It’s not fun getting old,” he said.

Asked whether he was more worried about dying or running out of money, Richard thought about it, then said with a shrug, “I guess it’s a toss-up.”

Jeannie took off her sneakers and rested her swollen ankles. Richard recently cut back to 33 hours a week, but she was still working 40 hours, sometimes a few more.

A few days earlier, she had spent four hours cleaning a trailer where the guests had used a fire extinguisher to put out a small stove fire. She got down on the linoleum floor and lay on her stomach to reach the dust under the stove.

In the years ahead, Jeannie said, she hopes to find a job where she can sit down.

Pimp Daddy

I had not thought about Hugh Hefner or Playboy in years. I recall a couple of years ago they were going to focus on articles of which they had become famous and discontinue nudes. That failed and like The Rolling Stone the magazine seemed to harken to another era. I read Playboy and skipped the nudes but always actually read the magazine. The more vulgar Penthouse seemed to have a corner on a new market and we cannot forget Hustler and Larry Flynt who truly believed that sexual magazines and porn were protected under the First Amendment and a great movie came from that adventure which secured porn in our journalistic legacy.

Porn has changed. I went to Porno movies (as they were called that back in the day) in greasy theaters and first run ones when that too became the new thing of the day and then porn went on to become DVD's and then on internet and it has never looked back. And with it came more vulgarity and more ways that young men are introduced to sex and sexuality. How sad. How Grim. How Pathetic.

So when I heard that a few years ago to pay debt the infamous Playboy mansion was sold with the caveat that he could live there til death, my first thought was: He is still alive? And then his death announcement came with some type of bizarre thanks for the memories and tributes as if he was the leader of a new sexuality and the movement towards personal freedoms. Really?

I recall a creepy looking white guy wearing pajamas and the supposed parties of bacchanalia that defined his era. The E channels with its endless need for faux reality had several shows focused on the Bunnies who lived with Hef and then later more memoirs and truth telling started to emerge as I am sure Hef was well into his dotage and unlikely to either get up, get it up or sue let alone know what day it was. He was a pig and enabled men to be pigs but confined to the Mansion who cares?

I recall the Playboy clubs and I recalled the great expose by Gloria Steinem that exposed the realities of working for this "empire" of sexual slavery. Funny how obsessed we are today about Human Trafficking and yet Hefner brought it too new heights with club memberships around the world all under the concept of sexual freedom.

So when I read this article and the one below today in the Guardian I thought this is by far more honest a tribute and in fact truth about what was the beginning of the sex industry.  How revolutionary. 

I called Hugh Hefner a pimp, he threatened to sue. But that’s what he was

Suzanne Moore
Guardian UK
September 28 2017

Now that he’s dead, the old sleaze in the Playboy mansion is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Quite the opposite

Long ago, in another time, I got a call from a lawyer. Hugh Hefner was threatening a libel action against me and the paper I worked for at the time, for something I had written. Journalists live in dread of such calls. I had called Hefner a pimp. To me this was not even controversial; it was self-evident. And he was just one of the many “libertines” who had threatened me with court action over the years.

It is strange that these outlaws have recourse in this way, but they do. But at the time, part of me wanted my allegation to be tested in a court of law. What a case it could have made. What a hoot it would have been to argue whether a man who procured, solicited and made profits from women selling sex could be called a pimp. Of course, central to Playboy’s ideology is the idea that women do this kind of thing willingly; that at 23 they want nothing more than to jump octogenarians.

Now that he’s dead, the disgusting old sleaze in the smoking jacket is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Kim Kardashian is honoured to have been involved. Righty ho.

I don’t really know which women were liberated by Hefner’s fantasies. I guess if you aspired to be a living Barbie it was as fabulous as it is to be in Donald Trump’s entourage. Had we gone to court, I would like to have heard some of the former playmates and bunnies speak up in court – because over the years they have.

The accounts of the “privileged few” who made it into the inner sanctum of the 29-room Playboy mansion as wives/girlfriends/bunny rabbits are quite something. In Hefner’s petting zoo/harem/brothel, these interchangeable blondes were put on a curfew. They were not allowed to have friends to visit. And certainly not boyfriends. They were given an “allowance”. The big metal gates on the mansion that everyone claimed were to keep people out of this “nirvana” were described by one-time Hefner “girlfriend no 1” Holly Madison in her autobiography thus: “I grew to feel it was meant to lock me in.”

The fantasy that Hefner sold was not a fantasy of freedom for women, but for men. Women had to be strangely chaste but constantly available for the right price. Dressing grown women as rabbits – once seen as the height of sophistication – is now seen as camp and ironic. There are those today who want to celebrate Hefner’s contribution to magazine journalism, and I don’t dispute that Playboy did use some fantastic writers.

Part of Hefner’s business acumen was to make the selling of female flesh respectable and hip, to make soft porn acceptable. Every man’s dream was to have Hefner’s lifestyle. Apparently. Every picture of him, right to the end, shows him with his lizard smirk surrounded by blonde clones. Every half-wit on Twitter is asking if Hefner will go to heaven when he already lived in it.

But listen to what the women say about this heaven. Every week, Izabella St James recalls, they had to go to his room and “wait while he picked the dog poo off the carpet – and then ask for our allowance. A thousand dollars counted out in crisp hundred dollar bills from a safe in one of his bookcases.”

If any of them left the mansion and were not available for club nights where they were paraded, they didn’t get their allowance. The sheets in the mansion were stained. There was to be no bickering between girlfriends. No condoms could be used. A nurse sometimes had to be called to Hefner’s “grotto” if he’d had a fall. Nonetheless, these young women would have to perform.

Hefner – repeatedly described as an icon for sexual liberation – would lie there with, I guess, an iconic erection, Viagra-ed to the eyeballs. The main girlfriend would then be called to give him oral sex. There was no protection and no testing. He didn’t care, wrote Jill Ann Spaulding. Then the other women would take turns to get on top of him for two minutes while the girls in the background enacted lesbian scenarios to keep “Daddy” excited. Is there no end to this glamour?

Well now there is, of course. But this man is still being celebrated by people who should know better. You can dress it up with talk of glamour and bunny ears and fishnets, you can talk about his contribution to gonzo journalism, you can contextualise his drive to free up sex as part of the sexual revolution. But strip it all back and he was a man who bought and sold women to other men. Isn’t that the definition of a pimp? I couldn’t possibly say

Numbers vs People

When I read this article I thought immediately - REALLY?  Numbers are just that data and what that means is nothing when in reality those living in day to day reality.   While wages may have returned to higher levels I question how those came to be.  Were they due to States and Cities raising the minimum wages or was it due employers in certain fields due to labor shortages to retain workers? 

Living in the most appalling state well next to the others in the South which are by far worse I see a Catch 22 situation.  The largest industry here is service and hospitality and related businesses which are minimum wage with no benefits.  As a result, there is a great deal of turnover and job hopping to find both hours and wages commensurate with the increasing cost of living in the Nashville area.  Add to that many are taking on the McJobs of the Gig Economy in which supplement incomes.  Second jobs are almost required here unless you are in a well paying field.  The median income is 42K but cost of living is 75K so there is a big need to meet that gap.

Then I read the article about non-compete clauses in the fast food industry.  To say I have heard everything would now relate to this.  Honestly you have to have this in an employment agreement in the fast food world?  No, Rosa you can't go to Arby's as you are our best fryer here and I can't risk you leaving as you may take our McDonald's customers with you!  Fuck me.

I spoke yesterday to our buildings maintenance man and he is black and I said to him after being in a school yesterday for a half a day watching only black children rage and rant on to the point of extreme I was once again ashamed and embarrassed to be witness to this.  The kids had no clue on how to even behave for longer than a minute.  And we concurred it was a problem with regards to the kids of color living in extreme poverty.   We spoke about how racism is much more subtle and that this way it divides and disintegrates communities almost intentionally.  Then he said the magic phrase I have said repeatedly since I moved here: "It was better in the 50s"  This is the time before desegregation and in turn when community of colors thrived in segregation but that while they were not great they had a self reliance that enabled them to live in stability.   Jefferson Street in that era was thriving and Vinegar Hill in Charlottlesville another example of how less may not be more but it was better than nothing. Separate and Equal?  Ah MAGA.  Yes I have thought that since day one here and to have someone black confirm my belief was all I needed to realize that is exactly what Nashville wishes it was.

Where this school was in the outlying area of a massive gentrifying area in East Nashville.  While most of it focuses on the sections closest to downtown Nashville, this area is still very much an area of extreme poverty.  And having recently heading into Madison the next township to this area I saw what was once a thriving working class area now the epitome of what white trash meth addiction can do.  I thought, "Well if I wanted Meth I could just slow down the car at an intersection and just wait for someone to come to the window to throw in the stuff and I could throw out the money without ever stopping." 

And my drive to this school passes both public housing and vintage homes adjacent to new complexes with all six figure prices.  There is no way any families would send their children to that school if they have a choice.  Good thing as in Nashville they do, up to 80!  I knew that when I signed up that the Talented and Gifted program was non-existent and sure enough I was right.  There just being functioning is considered such  so I agreed to do another.  This was a SPED push in and  irony that the first classroom was again with another older Gentleman who wants to be a Teacher and is now subbing.  I watched him struggle with what to do and I saw garbage lesson plans left and offered my thoughts on how to handle this type of class.  The worst was the the cohort of girls who were so appalling and vulgar I just packed it in after 20 minutes.  The laugh we both had was the conflicting and contradicting messages on the board - "Build a Community" next to "I know how many pencils I have so they better all be there at the end of the day."  No paper, no board markers no anything to facilitate teaching just lesson plans with more threats on them.   I hoped his day went well and I was off to the next class.

I watched this one Teacher just fail to get any management or structure for any point of time.  She attempted to Teach and I just went in the hall and tried with a small cohort with mixed results I got one little girl to do something. This was with kids ripping each others papers up, smack talking and one little girl just went downstairs.  I did not stop her or care.  Why?   I looked in room after room and saw similar levels of chaos.  After class I spoke to this Teacher and she had tears in her eyes, she had taught at another challenging middle school in the area but they had a discipline structure in place and in turn the problems were less to this level but that this school had no such plan.  The move to restorative justice is not working here but I have no idea what would.  Well I do but it is pointless to have discussions beyond that and considering she is a Science Teacher, a highly demand field,  why she is staying?   Well that whole Christian/Southern Martyr bullshit or perhaps more complex and again not something I want to get into.   

Then I was escorted to the next room with a Black Teacher and a man who came at the request of the Dean of Students to teach math after a Teacher left after the first two weeks of the year.  His management was threats, yelling and doing little else.  I saw no Teaching nor attempt to do so.  Again there I found a little girl and in the din of noise and chaos I managed to get her to work through the worksheet, but what is sad is that  she is in 5th grade and cannot do even rudimentary multiplication.  I brought this to his attention and he repeated the same story, I repeated mine about how I ended up in this gig and after circle jerking I just informed them I needed to make this a half day and leave.  He was really stupid frankly and I questioned if he was a licensed Teacher.  He seemed utterly clueless as a Teacher or well even an Adult, seemingly confused  as to my explanation of what happened with regards to my gig  but then I could not tell if he had comprehension issues or the chaos which lent to confusing conversations and in turn our need to repeat ourselves.  Frankly I went with the prior as I have seem to have these conversations a lot which at one point made me question my communication skills but nope they are really really ignorant here.  When is it acceptable to have a woman walk from room to room to stand there and watch chaos then try to teach those who want to learn but instead be given discipline problems because the Teacher no longer wants to handle them?  That is not my job and the first woman was doing just that, so I simply took them into the hall and sat there.  I felt bad for everyone  not letting me work with kids who needed and more importantly wanted my help told me what I was there for; I was there for babysitting.  Toting my purse from one room to another, up and down stairs just to watch this was not something I needed nor wanted to do.

The kids that were bilingual or African were self segregated in the classroom and  they were trying to function.  The American black boys and girls were insane.   What is the point of this and what will happen to them as they go along the chain of education.  They will never function fully into society and they only validate the stereotypes that White Americans carry about race.  The Administration is largely black, the Superintendent of Public Schools is black, many of the Teachers are black. And it is deliberate in the policy. Again there is a book on this district and their crazy policies.   The woman who I was sent to to supervise me on this Odyssey was also black. 

So this woman whose name I could not remember nor her mine came to get me to chaperone me from room to room.  The Teachers did not know why I was there but sure another warm body to do what was unclear.   I saw her frequently look in to see if I was there and what was going on but she said nothing, so when I caught her on  the next pass through I  said I was taking leave at the half day. She was clearly angry and of course decided I was a racist as that must be the only reason it was obvious by her tone and face, another thing I have become accustomed to, the veiled distrust as the standard go to when I speak to Black Educators.  They are almost always indignant and shocked when I say would like to leave. Yet I watched a Black Sub grab her purse at one school while yelling that she was out of here that these kids were crazy.  Funny the white folks always stay as we don't want to be thought of as racist and I did stay in that school and watched school aggression and violence that scared the shit out of me.  A School where a Teacher was found with a gun in his backpack.  Okay then.  So now I just leave and don't care.  I have zero problem with that as I have no guilt for what is not my problem nor my responsibility and if you actually spoke to me in a civilized manner you may find that out.

 In turn she got her boss an elderly white woman and I just said, "This is not for me and I will leave at the half day mark."  They never thought it was odd or expressed understanding that it okay to walk from room to room, carrying a purse, my coat, lunch or whatever as they just thought another body might be a great idea.   Maybe but I was not that body.  What I loved is when I left the Secretary asked if I had a job for the next day.  Yes I did but even if I did not why would I come back, really?

I am becoming used to this in Nashville but the increasing violence here proves there are massive class issues and in turn racial  I told our Maintenance dude that I went up to Madison finally and that is the white trash equivalent of ghetto and I was more worried than when I pass through North Nashville on a regular basis.  The reality is that many here struggle and the public housing units are awash with crime and violence but all of it is inter racial and filled with the same anger resentments, jealousy and needs that I saw in the children at this sad mess of a school.

What is the message here?  If you are of color, if you are poor you deserve this.  Well I am neither and I didn't so I left.  I cannot wait to leave Nashville and this as my feelings about race and poverty have not changed but I fear they will if I stay much longer or at least stay in the public schools. Today I am at the highly achieving school and I will meet normal kids who have a secure path.  What a contradiction and that defines the South.  Contradictions.  Notes on boards about community and awards for good behavior and then notes that threaten and demean students. No notes or plans or any kind of clear direction on how to help the room function and I want nothing to do with that.  That is what poor education is - keeping people poor.  Numbers may not lie but they don't tell the truth.

Minorities and Americans without college degrees showed greatest gains in wealth since 2013, new data says

By Heather Long and Tracy Jan The Washington Post September 27 2017

Americans who were left behind as the country pulled out of the Great Recession — African Americans, Hispanics and people without college degrees — saw large gains in net worth over the past three years, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday.

But the improvements failed to narrow the inequality gap: The share of America’s income held by the top 1 percent of households reached 24 percent in 2016, a record high, and the median net worth of white households, at $171,000, was nearly 10 times larger than for black households.

The findings suggest that while a robust economy has benefited all economic groups, the wealthiest and most educated have been in a position to benefit even more because they began with such a significant advantage.

“The gap between the haves and have-nots hasn’t closed in recent years. It still remains a gulf,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “These groups have a lot of financial catch-up to do.

Even so, the gains of the past three years marked a dramatic shift from the period between 2010 and 2013, when wealth fell for all racial and ethnic groups except whites.

Every slice of America — young, old, rich, poor, black, white — saw their incomes grow and the value of stocks, homes and other assets climb over the past three years.

Economists said the Fed report was an encouraging sign that the recovery from the devastating Great Recession and financial crisis of 2008 is picking up steam as more people are able to get jobs, pay off debt and invest more.

The Survey of Consumer Finances, published every three years, is seen as a strong barometer of Americans’ household wealth because it queries over 6,200 households about a wide array of assets, including salary, stock portfolios and home and car ownership.

For the first time since the crisis, a majority of Americans have money in the stock market, the Fed reported. The tally includes all investments in stock, whether through a pension, 401(k) retirement plan or a brokerage account

“We’re glad the recovery is spreading to a lot of households,” the report said.

Household wealth for African American and Hispanic families and Americans without college degrees or high school diplomas rose the fastest of all groups from 2013 to 2016, according to the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances, which surveys more than 6,000 households about their pay, debt and other finances.

Black households went from $13,600 in net worth in 2013 to $17,600 in 2016, a gain of almost 30 percent. Hispanic households went from $14,200 to $20,700 over the same time frame, a 46 percent increase, the Fed reported.

Net worth includes all the assets a family has: homes, vehicles, savings accounts, retirement funds and other stock and bond funds.

The widespread gains were driven largely by people getting back to work. The unemployment rate has fallen substantially in recent years from 7.5 percent to 5 percent last year.

As more minority workers found jobs, those families were able to save money and pay off debt. Many states have also raised the minimum wage in recent years, giving a boost to low-skilled workers in fast food and retail.

“The 2014 midterm elections ushered in a whole new era of higher minimum wages at the state and local level. Many of the increases kicked in starting in 2015,” said economist Diane Swonk, founder of DS Economics.

The construction sector has also been adding employees at a rapid rate in the past several years, said Ken Simonson, chief economist at Associated General Contractors of America.

“Many of these construction jobs are held by workers with a high school education,” Simonson said, and the wages are generally higher in construction than in sectors such as retail.

But despite the larger percentage gains, the median net worth of African American and Latino families remained below $21,000.

“White households had a head start in rebuilding wealth relative to black and Hispanic households,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race, ethnicity and the economy. “Black and Hispanic households see larger percentage gains simply because they were starting from a lower level.”

Among the factors that contribute to disparities in net worth: homeownership rates, retirement savings and student debt.

More than 70 percent of white families own their homes, compared with less than half of black and Hispanic families. Among homeowners, white families hold higher levels of equity in their homes.

Sixty percent of white families reported having retirement savings, double the rate of black and Hispanic families. White families are also twice as likely to own a business.

And black families were the most burdened by education loans, with 31 percent reporting having such debt, compared with about 20 percent of Hispanics and whites.

Fed economists offer other potential reasons for the racial wealth gap: White households are older, more highly educated, more likely to have received an inheritance, and less likely to be run by a single parent than their black and Hispanic counterparts.

But even among families headed by someone with a college degree, median net worth for white families is substantially higher at $397,100 — compared with well below $100,000 for black and Hispanic families.

“In dollar terms, blacks and Hispanics are continuing to fall further behind,” said Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who focuses on asset and wealth building.

The wealth gap also grew for those with college degrees and those without. Families led by someone with only a high school diploma went from $54,100 in net worth in 2013 to $67,100 in 2016, a 24 percent gain.

But people with college degrees have a median net worth of $292,100, over four times as much as those without bachelor’s degrees. Their wealth increased by only 2 percent over the past three years, but those households were already far ahead of people without higher education degrees. The wealthiest and best-educated families continued to pull away from everyone else.

“Shares of income and wealth held by affluent families have reached historically high levels,” the Fed wrote in its report.

The report showed growing income inequality over the past three decades. In 1989, the top 1 percent held only 17 percent of the nation’s income. The bull market on Wall Street and surging prices for mansions around the world helped the super rich accumulate more wealth.

As the mega-wealthy have seen their share of the total pie climb, the bottom 90 percent have lost ground. Last year, the bottom 90 percent took home less than half of America’s total income for the first time since the Fed began calculating this statistic in the 1980s. In 1992, the bottom 90 percent captured over 60 percent of the income. It has been a steady decline since.

Economists said the large financial gains made by blacks and Hispanics were largely explained by the fact that the two groups have far less money to begin with, compared with whites, and so any increase as a result of the nation’s economic recovery would appear to be disproportionately large.

“You’re looking at people with lower net worth, so when the economy recovers, you are going to see them benefit disproportionately as a percentage,” said Jeffrey Eisenach, an economist and managing director at NERA Economic Consulting, which released a study in December on Latino prosperity.

“If you’re poor and you go through a tough period, you use all your savings to get through it,” Eisenach said. “If you go from having very little to doubling that, you still may not have very much, but you see a big percentage gain.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Hooker or Teacher?

As I move out of Public School teaching I thought I would look into teaching at Community Colleges or a Private Institution part time. What is amusing is that they require all the same credentials and credits but pay significantly lower often  less than public school teaching with no benefits or security.  But the idea is that you are teaching the elite and have less management issues.

I find it ironic that Education shoves the notion of having a degree, multiple degrees costing six figures but they themselves do not compensate in conjunction with said degrees. Yes Teaching is measured by the number of letters one has after their name as we know this from life's experience. You need a Ph.d to teach, really you do?

Teaching is learning. You have to commit to a life long pattern of learning and in turn sharing and exchanging knowledge. You can just get a Ph.d in your field and then that is the extent of it and in turn teach just what you know over and over for decades but that has to be boring to both you and your students.  In reality the brain is fluid, the world is as well and in turn you must be. Funny how we have such little respect for Educators yet are equally obsessed with it.

When I read this I thought well it is largely the same. Frankly not a man in the story so what are they doing? Men do teach but they are not drawn to the field and the few male student Teachers I have encountered really should be pumping gas frankly they are that slovenly and idiotic. Again Tennessee here but I found men in Seattle to be largely looking at the gig as temporary or were coming from another profession and it was a career change.

I rarely meet women doing the same and here in Nashville I occasionally meet subs who were former Teachers elsewhere or are have had some experience in Education at some time in their professional lives. Subbing here is a crapshoot of idiots and yesterday I was partnered with a new Sub who said she had been with the district since last year, which meant she started in May, two weeks before the school year ended so no not really. And in turn was oblivious to what the terminology was and what was expected of subs in the district. She was a bookkeeper and accountant after foregoing Teaching, her original career. I get that with 40% leaving in the first 4 years one figures out that by year five debt and compensation matter more than being a caring Educator which is supposedly the real reward for working on subliminal wages. Sure that is it! It explains why there is a massive Teacher shortage, there is only so much love a person can live on!

So as I watched the class behave in the typical fashion I asked her if she understood that this was a SPED group of largely behavioral issues with some learning ones it requires a strong hand to cope. She thought EX ED stood for a type of learning as in experiential learning. OMG was my thought. No I said that is their term for special needs, special ed as the spectrum here includes that and talented and gifted which is how they differentiate here. Take the latter not the former if you are looking to survive in Nashville schools. I quit doing SPED/EX ED when I realized it was a dumping ground and it made me too uncomfortable to be a part of it.

She too is looking for a full time accounting job so this is a stop gap but once again the whole "you should teach in Williamson County." Really? So I will buy a car and move to a suburban school just to make the same wages, have even more isolated a life just to teach. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME! And these women's stories could be mine. Bitch please. Well maybe if I was paid I would put a dick in my mouth as I am sure not doing it for free anymore.

Facing poverty, academics turn to sex work and sleeping in cars

Adjunct professors in America face low pay and long hours without the security of full-time faculty. Some, on the brink of homelessness, take desperate measures

by Alastair Gee in San Francisco
Thursday 28 September 2017

There is nothing she would rather do than teach. But after supplementing her career with tutoring and proofreading, the university lecturer decided to go to remarkable lengths to make her career financially viable.

She first opted for her side gig during a particularly rough patch, several years ago, when her course load was suddenly cut in half and her income plunged, putting her on the brink of eviction. “In my mind I was like, I’ve had one-night stands, how bad can it be?” she said. “And it wasn’t that bad.”

The wry but weary-sounding middle-aged woman, who lives in a large US city and asked to remain anonymous to protect her reputation, is an adjunct instructor, meaning she is not a full-time faculty member at any one institution and strings together a living by teaching individual courses, in her case at multiple colleges.

“I feel committed to being the person who’s there to help millennials, the next generation, go on to become critical thinkers,” she said. “And I’m really good at it, and I really like it. And it’s heartbreaking to me it doesn’t pay what I feel it should.”

Sex work is one of the more unusual ways that adjuncts have avoided living in poverty, and perhaps even homelessness. A quarter of part-time college academics (many of whom are adjuncts, though it’s not uncommon for adjuncts to work 40 hours a week or more) are said to be enrolled in public assistance programs such as Medicaid.

They resort to food banks and Goodwill, and there is even an adjuncts’ cookbook that shows how to turn items like beef scraps, chicken bones and orange peel into meals. And then there are those who are either on the streets or teetering on the edge of losing stable housing. The Guardian has spoken to several such academics, including an adjunct living in a “shack” north of Miami, and anther sleeping in her car in Silicon Valley.

The adjunct who turned to sex work makes several thousand dollars per course, and teaches around six per semester. She estimates that she puts in 60 hours per week. But she struggles to make ends meet after paying $1,500 in monthly rent and with student loans that, including interest, amount to a few hundred thousand dollars. Her income from teaching comes to $40,000 per year. That’s significantly more than most adjuncts: a 2014 survey found that the median income for adjuncts is only $22,041 a year, whereas for full-time faculty it is $47,500.

‘We take a kind of vow of poverty’

Recent reports have revealed the extent of poverty among professors, but the issue is longstanding. Several years ago, it was thrust into the headlines in dramatic fashion when Mary-Faith Cerasoli, an adjunct professor of Romance languages in her 50s, revealed she was homeless and protested outside the New York state education department.

“We take a kind of vow of poverty to continue practicing our profession,” Debra Leigh Scott, who is working on a documentary about adjuncts, said in an e-mail. “We do it because we are dedicated to scholarship, to learning, to our students and to our disciplines.”

Adjuncting has grown as funding for public universities has fallen by more than a quarter between 1990 and 2009. Private institutions also recognize the allure of part-time professors: generally they are cheaper than full-time staff, don’t receive benefits or support for their personal research, and their hours can be carefully limited so they do not teach enough to qualify for health insurance.

This is why adjuncts have been called “the fast-food workers of the academic world”: among labor experts adjuncting is defined as “precarious employment”, a growing category that includes temping and sharing-economy gigs such as driving for Uber. An American Sociological Association task force focusing on precarious academic jobs, meanwhile, has suggested that “faculty employment is no longer a stable middle-class career”.

Adjunct English professor Ellen James-Penney and her husband live in a car with their two dogs. They have developed a system. ‘Keep nothing on the dash, nothing on the floor – you can’t look like you’re homeless, you can’t dress like you’re homeless.’

The struggle to stay in housing can take many forms, and a second job is one way adjuncts seek to buoy their finances. The professor who turned to sex work said it helps her keep her toe-hold in the rental market.

“This is something I chose to do,” she said, adding that for her it is preferable to, say, a six-hour shift at a bar after teaching all day. “I don’t want it to come across as, ‘Oh, I had no other choice, this is how hard my life is.’”

Advertising online, she makes about $200 an hour for sex work. She sees clients only a handful of times during the semester, and more often during the summer, when classes end and she receives no income.

“I’m terrified that a student is going to come walking in,” she said. And the financial concerns have not ceased. “I constantly have tension in my neck from gritting my teeth all night.”

To keep their homes, some adjuncts are forced to compromise on their living space.

Caprice Lawless, 65, a teacher of English composition and a campaigner for better working conditions for adjuncts, resides in an 1100 sq ft brick house near Boulder, Colorado. She bought it following a divorce two decades ago. But because her $18,000 income from teaching almost full time is so meager, she has remortgaged the property several times, and has had to rent her home to three other female housemates.

“I live paycheck to paycheck and I’m deeply in debt,” she said, including from car repairs and a hospitalization for food poisoning.

Like every other adjunct, she says, she opted for the role thinking it would be a path to full-time work. She is so dependent on her job to maintain her living situation that when her mother died this summer, she didn’t take time off because she has no bereavement leave. She turned up for work at 8am the next day, taught in a blur and, despite the cane she has used since a hip replacement, fell over in the parking lot.

If she were to lose her home her only hope, she says, would be government-subsidized housing.

“Most of my colleagues are unjustifiably ashamed,” she said. “They take this personally, as if they’ve failed, and I’m always telling them, ‘you haven’t failed, the system has failed you.’”
A precarious situation

Even more desperate are those adjuncts in substandard living spaces who cannot afford to fix them. Mindy Percival, 61, a lecturer with a doctorate from Columbia, teaches “history at a state college in Florida and, in her words, lives in “a shack” which is “in the woods in middle of nowhere”.

The mobile home she inhabits, located in the town of Stewart, north of Miami, was donated to her about eight years ago. It looks tidy on the outside, but inside there are holes in the floor and the paneling is peeling off the walls. She has no washing machine, and the oven, shower and water heater don’t work. “I’m on the verge of homelessness, constantly on verge,” she said.

Percival once had a tenure-track job but left to care for elderly mother, not expecting it would be impossible to find a similar position. Now, two weeks after being paid, “I might have a can with $5 in change in it.” Her 18-year-old car broke down after Hurricane Irma, and she is driven to school by a former student, paying $20 a day for gas.

“I am trying to get out so terribly hard,” she said.

Most of my colleagues are ashamed. I’m always telling them, ‘you haven’t failed, the system has failed you'
Caprice Lawless, adjunct English teacher

Homelessness is a genuine prospect for adjuncts. When Ellen Tara James-Penney finishes work, teaching English composition and critical thinking at San Jose State University in Silicon Valley, her husband, Jim, picks her up. They have dinner and drive to a local church, where Jim pitches a tent by the car and sleeps there with one of their rescue dogs. In the car, James-Penney puts the car seats down and sleeps with another dog. She grades papers using a headlamp.

Over the years, she said, they have developed a system. “Keep nothing on the dash, nothing on the floor – you can’t look like you’re homeless, you can’t dress like you’re homeless. Don’t park anywhere too long so the cops don’t stop you.”

James-Penney, 54, has struggled with homelessness since 2007, when she began studying for her bachelor’s degree. Jim, 64, used to be a trucker but cannot work owing to a herniated disk. Ellen made $28,000 last year, a chunk of which goes to debt repayments. The remainder is not enough for afford Silicon Valley rent.

At night, instead of a toilet they must use cups or plastic bags and baby wipes. To get clean, they find restrooms and “we have what we call the sink-shower”, James-Penney said. The couple keep their belongings in the back of the car and a roof container. All the while they deal with the consequences of aging – James-Penney has osteoporosis – in a space too small to even stand up.

James-Penney does not hide her situation from her class. If her students complain about the homeless people who can sometimes be seen on campus, she will say: “You’re looking at someone who is homeless.”

“That generally stops any kind of sound in the room,” she says. “I tell them, your parents could very well be one paycheck away, one illness away, from homelessness, so it is not something to be ashamed of.”

Many adjuncts are seeking to change their lot by unionizing, and have done so at dozens of schools in recent years. They are notching successes; some have seen annual pay increases of about 5% to almost 20% , according to Julie Schmid, executive director of the American Association of University Professors.

Schools are often opposed to such efforts and say unions will result in higher costs for students. And for certain adjuncts, any gains will come too late.

Mary-Faith Cerasoli, 56, the homeless adjunct who captured the public’s attention with her protest in New York three years ago, said little has changed since in terms of her living situation. Two generous people, a retiree and then a nurse, offered her temporary accommodation, but she subsequently ended up in a tent pitched at a campground and, after that, a broken sailboat docked in the Hudson River.

But there has, however, been one shift. All the moving around made it hard for her to make teaching commitments, and in any case the pay remained terrible, so she gave it up. She currently lives in a subsidized room in a shared house in a wealthy county north of New York.

For Rebecca Snow, 51, another adjunct who quit teaching after a succession of appalling living situations, there is a sense of having been freed, even though finances remain stressful.

She began teaching English composition at a community college in the Denver area in 2005, but the poor conditions of the homes she could afford meant she had to move every year or two. She left one place because of bedbugs, another when raw sewage flowed into her bathtub and the landlord failed to properly fix the pipes.

Sometimes her teenage son would have to stay with her ex-husband when she couldn’t provide a stable home. Snow even published a poem about adjuncts’ housing difficulties.

In the end she left the profession when the housing and job insecurity became too much, and her bills too daunting. Today she lives in a quiet apartment above the garage of a friend’s home, located 15 miles outside Spokane, Washington. She has a view of a lake and forested hills and, with one novel under her belt, is working on a second.

Teaching was the fantasy, she said, but life on the brink of homelessness was the reality.

“I realized I hung on to the dream for too long.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Revenue or Racism

I frequently lament that much of the regressive taxation policies are subtle ways of discrimination.  I truly believe that tying almost all of a city's municipal budget to liquor, cigarette taxes as well as general sales tax to other consumer items, car tabs and property taxes turns a city into a wealthy and largely white one.  Seattle comes to mind and it is a city that is over 85% white and has the most expensive real estate in the nation.

The sudden hysteria that is centered on Amazon and their quest for a new second home is a mug's game.  It is about corporate welfare at the cost of the taxpayers.  Washington State has no income tax and the cost of living there has led to a rise in the minimum wage and in turn the City Council to pass an income tax residency bill that will likely not pass muster when it inevitably hits the Courts.  Seattle has many municipal fines and they do garnishee wages and still have debtor's prisons in which to further spiral debt and criminal history records that make finding work impossible so the point is what exactly?  And the article about Tennessee (below)  in that same time period of 2015 shows not much has changed as I have written about the subject of late from an article in The Atlantic.

This is why I like to contrast and compare Seattle to Nashville for all the white privilege there is just as much discrimination towards those of color as here, there is just fewer of them and that might be the point.  When a natural disaster cannot level the playing field, add hurdles and ditches in which it makes it impossible to cross when you are poor and/or of color. 

Here in Tennessee the sheer level of manipulation that I see with regards to those of color and poor is surreal. Take the Transit issue and the move towards building light rail here.  The reality is that the first dedicated line they have aspired is to run in East Nashville.  It would run through a largely gentrified portion than move through the remaining black neighborhood into Madison an area that defines the concept of White Trash.  When you first arrive you see the vestiages of a formerly charming working class town.  There is a dying mall, Rivergate, and in turn businesses that are long gone or dying and in turn the casualties of what is clearly an opioid epidemic.  Actually I told someone that it has to be Meth as that is what looks like the drug of choice among those I saw literally begging on the streets, a site you don't see in North Nashville the larger black community.  There are massive problems there but I actually fear it less than I did during my day trip to Madison.

So when I read this article in our Nashville Scene which is doing what the daily, The Tennessean, fails to do with regards to issues that matter, they once again brought up the suspended Drivers License issue. States are sure this is what will generate the lottery windfall but as we have learned in Ferguson, Missouri it doesn't.

Driver’s License Suspensions Create Cycle of Debt

APRIL 14, 2015

LEBANON, Tenn. — The last time Kenneth Seay lost his job, at an industrial bakery that offered health insurance and Christmas bonuses, it was because he had been thrown in jail for legal issues stemming from a revoked driver’s license. Same with the three jobs before that.

In fact, Mr. Seay said, when it comes to gainful employment, it is not his criminal record that is holding him back — he did time for dealing drugs — but the $4,509.22 in fines, court costs and reinstatement fees he must pay to recover his license.

Mr. Seay’s inability to pay those costs has trapped him in a cycle that thousands of other low-income Tennesseans are struggling to escape. Going through the legal system, even for people charged with nonviolent misdemeanors, can be expensive, with fines, public defender fees, probation fees and other costs running into hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars. Many people cannot pay.

As a result, some states have begun suspending driver’s licenses for unsatisfied debts stemming from any criminal case, from misdemeanors like marijuana possession to felonies in which court costs can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. In Tennessee, almost 90,000 driver’s licenses have been suspended since its law was enacted in 2011.

Tennessee’s law has become part of a broader debate over criminal justice debt, a national issue since a Justice Department report faulted Ferguson, Mo., for a law enforcement system that focused aggressively on raising revenue and jailing people who could not pay.

Many drivers who have lost their licenses in Tennessee, too poor to pay what they owe and living in places with limited public transportation, have done what Mr. Seay did. They have driven anyway, resulting in courts so clogged with “driving while suspended” cases that some judges dispatch them 10 at a time.

Each time Mr. Seay was caught, he racked up new fines and fees on top of the old. As a repeat offender, he would often be jailed, causing him to lose his job, and placed on probation, which carries an additional fee of $40 a month. More recently, he has been jailed for violating probation because he fell behind on those payments. Except for odd jobs, he has been unemployed for about a year, partly because he finally swore off driving.

“If I could get my license back, that would be the most wonderful thing that happened to me in my life,” Mr. Seay, 44, said.

Tennessee is not alone in the practice: Five of the 15 states with the largest prison populations have it, according to Alicia Bannon at the Brennan Center for Justice. Most states also suspend licenses for failure to pay traffic fines, another policy that critics say creates a quicksand of debt. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has complained that suspensions should be reserved for dangerous drivers, not indebted ones.

But in recent years, a few states have reconsidered the policy amid concerns that it hurts low-income residents without achieving its intended goals. In 2013, Washington stopped suspending licenses for failure to pay nonmoving violations like expired registrations. Suspensions dropped by half, said Brad Benfield, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Licensing, and each month, there have been 500 fewer arrests for driving while suspended, saving an estimated 4,500 hours of patrol officers’ time.

And this month, a California lawmaker introduced a bill that would make it easier for people to reinstate their licenses, after a report said that four million California licenses had been suspended for failure to pay or failure to appear in court.

“For many families, a driver’s license suspension is the beginning of a descent into abject poverty for which there is no escape,” the proposed law says.

In Tennessee, court clerks already had the power to pursue unpaid court debts by garnishing wages or turning the cases over to a collection agency. The new law was intended to give them extra leverage. Now, even some of those clerks say they have mixed feelings about the policy.

“Though it does give us some kind of teeth to be able to go after people who don’t pay their court costs,” said Howard Gentry, the Davidson County Criminal Court clerk in Nashville, “it also has some collateral damage to it for those who are unable to pay.”

Typical court costs can vary widely. Asked for an average, a lawyer at the public defender’s office in Nashville picked up some files from her desk and read off the outstanding debts: $598, $1,100, $5,600, $14,872 and $3,800. That does not include a separate license reinstatement fee based on the number of offenses. In Mr. Seay’s case, the reinstatement fee, solely from minor traffic violations and driving-while-revoked charges, is $1,822.

Many defendants are forced to choose between paying court debt or essentials like utility bills and child support. Mr. Seay said his tax refund this year went toward child support debt accumulated during his time in prison and periods of unemployment. For even low-level offenders, debt can make a valid license unattainable.

Stephanie Newhouse, a divorced mother of two in Pulaski, Tenn., had her license suspended for a time after a drunken-driving conviction in Georgia. She said that the suspension was fair punishment, but that having to pay hundreds of dollars to reinstate the license was not. Ms. Newhouse has been able to work only part time since the suspension because her hours are contingent on when she can get a ride to work at an insurance office two counties away.

“You really have to have a full-time, really good job to be able to pay it back,” she said.

Though the law was projected to raise more than $20 million a year, it has not come close, according to state agencies. Revenue from litigation taxes, the primary court fee collected by the state, has remained flat and even declined a bit in 2014, and license reinstatement fees have increased far less than was anticipated.

But since suspensions under the law began in mid-2012, almost 90,000 licenses have been suspended. Over the same period, 170,000 Tennessee licenses were suspended for unpaid traffic tickets. In both categories, more than 40 percent of the suspended drivers were black, compared with 16 percent of state residents.

Still, State Senator Jack Johnson, one of the sponsors of the 2011 law, said it was needed to rein in shirkers. “It’s usually not a tremendous amount of money; it’s just that folks are just blowing it off,” he said.

Mr. Johnson, a Republican from Williamson County, just south of Nashville, pointed out that the law gives people a year to pay and that it allows people to petition for a hardship license to get to work — a provision that some court officials, public defenders and even one judge said they were unfamiliar with.

“Not a single person has approached me about changing this,” Mr. Johnson said. “Every one of these people ending up with these court fines and fees and expenses, it’s as a result of violating the law in some capacity.”

In Nashville, Cathie Sweat, 21, said she had gone to apply for a license so she could work as a home health care aide and learned that it had already been suspended for unpaid fines relating to a minor drug charge and driving without a license. “How do you suspend a person’s license that they never had?” she asked.

The burden of criminal justice debt often falls on family members. Mr. Seay’s wife, Terrica, uses her income from a $12.50-an-hour factory job to pay all the household bills and has provided money time and again to bail her husband out of jail, pay his probation fees and contribute toward the backlog of fines. Asked how much this had added up to, Ms. Seay choked back tears.

“I’m just crying all day at work,” she said, adding that she had recently smoked marijuana to relieve the stress, failed a drug test at work and had to attend counseling. “I got a good job, and I don’t have no money.”

In Tennessee, judges have the discretion to waive court fees and fines for indigent defendants, but they do not have to, and some routinely refuse. Judges also have wide discretion over how much time to allow defendants to pay traffic tickets before suspending a license. The new law on criminal court debt allows defendants one year to keep their license as long as they stay current on a payment plan approved by a judge.

Nashville has also set up an “indigency docket” where the court debt of poor defendants — at least, those who hear about the option — is routinely waived. But they still have to pay a license reinstatement fee to the Department of Safety based on the number and type of violations.

Other courts do not take the time to examine defendants’ ability to pay. At a recent court session in Robertson County, north of Nashville, Erin McKissick — who said she had been placed on probation, required to pay for drug tests and threatened with losing her children after being convicted of driving while suspended and other counts — filled out an affidavit of indigency, saying she had a part-time cashier job and received $200 a month in food stamps. When Judge Joel W. Perry of General Sessions Court declined to look at it, she crumpled it into a ball.

Reached by phone, Judge Perry said that he did not recall the details of Ms. McKissick’s case, but that if she had previously been able to pay a bail bond, he would most likely have assumed that she was not indigent.

Even when people finally manage to get their license back, their ordeal may not be over. James Goodwin, whose blended family includes six young children, failed years ago to pay a $35 traffic fine and then was repeatedly caught driving while suspended. After thousands of dollars and seven months in jail, he said, last month he was able to show a judge his new license. The judge dismissed his latest charge of driving while suspended, but assessed him $275 in court costs.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Baby Girl

Yesterday at a Middle School I watched a class deteriorate before my eyes and I lost it. I was absolutely mortified that I became so angry at kids who had no idea how to behave, to have self control or to even remotely demonstrate any self management that I yelled at them to the point I was ashamed. I was upset as that showed I cared and in turn expressed a reaction that was beneath me. I wanted to jump from the window or just walk out as it was not the children that I cared about it was me. I had to stop caring about Nashville kids a long time ago and in turn that was another thing that I was debating: Did I care or was this about me? I knew instantly it was about me and that lent to the shame that while all this was going on I was thinking that the students in Nashville Public Schools are incapable of anything and in turn those students are largely black so is this me being racist or me being a Teacher? I chose the former. I can no longer distinguish the two when I walk into a Nashville Public School.

**Since I wrote this I went to another and the chaos there was surreal and I never raised my voice nor even felt angry.  I was saddened but amused watching one Adult after another thrash about failing to get any control of the class and then I knew that it was not me.  This is how bad it is here. 

After my expressing my displeasure with the kids and myself asking them why they felt the need to treat me with such disrespect that led me to think I was garbage to the point I had to question their motives and my own internalization of this feeling the bell rang.  I knew I was intentionally manipulating the few that might have some empathy and sadly those who did immediately came up after to apologize and ask for a hug.  I was so disgusted with this response and felt it was utterly inappropriate I told them to not touch me and in turn said I need to be left alone to think about my own anger.  Not exactly the right response but later I realized that I had no business being hugged by these children nor should they offer but this is the weird dynamic that defines adult/child relationships and they cross into boundaries of which I am uncomfortable.  Sorry but I am not a relative of this child and hugging and other gestures mean nothing when they will continue with this behavior when the next sub takes the class and the cycle continues.  They need to know and understand that this behavior is unacceptable and in turn they need to learn self management and respect which is not demonstrated by physical contact that reflects intimacy.  But boundaries here in the South are long since blurred and I thought of the weird case that when I came home found this and went - point proven.   They are batshit here and the whole Jesus thing blurs lines in ways that make one run in the other direction.

And this also goes with the whole "you are my babies" and "I love you" nonsense that I have seen repeatedly in my years of teaching.  Again I see and hear this more from those faces of color than I do from white teachers but in Seattle there were great deals of issues regarding boundaries and finding appropriate ways in demonstrating support that did not include expressions that included physical demonstrations of affection.  True we took it to wearing T-shirts and having endless meetings about this issue but in reality it is fairly simple - get the parents/guardians involved early in their Child's success and in turn issues around their failure.  I don't think we pretending to be their school "mommy" or "daddy" is either healthy or a good idea.  It opens up a confused if not blurred line which I suspect was the Cummings issue.  And this was a dude who was active in the Church with the whole bullshit about faith all over social media etc.  This excuse runs rampant here and yes in Seattle we had a ton of Teachers who also crossed lines but they do it here with God. No it doesn't make it better, just stranger.  And you can tell that by that interview the girl is not any closer to a clearly dysfunctional family nor is anywhere in a place where stable adults are working towards her mental and emotional growth.   Well God cares and isn't that enough? 

Elizabeth Thomas' first interview with anyone in the media came spontaneously and without hesitation Saturday evening in Columbia.

I was sitting in a fast-food restaurant when she walked in with two kids she was babysitting.

I've been looking for Thomas out of the corner of my eye since she allegedly was kidnapped March 13 by her former teacher at Culleoka Unit School, Tad Cummins. The Amber Alert for her went out more than six months ago.

Thomas was found in California after a cross-country manhunt for 51-year-old Cummins on April 20. He was charged with aggravated kidnapping, among other crimes.

"Hi, Mary Katherine," I said, referring to her real name instead of the informal Elizabeth. "I'm from the newspaper. I'm glad to see you're looking well.

"I know you're in your pajama bottoms now and a T-shirt, but would you mind if I took your picture? No one has seen you in six months. They'd be happy to see you smiling, knowing you're back home."

Thomas, 16, flashed a grin and responded, "Sure. This is what I wear most of the time, anyway. I've been thinking about calling you. I have a lot on my mind. There's been a lot of rumors about me I'd like to clear up."

I invited her to sit and asked if she would mind telling me what's bothering her.

She told me she did not want to talk about Cummins' case out of respect for her attorney, Columbia's Jason Whatley.

"He's reminded me about not saying anything about the criminal case to the media," she said.

A juvenile court judge placed a gag order on parties involved in her case, including her lawyer and parents.

Thomas' father, Anthony, kept the search for his daughter trending because of his accessibility to talk about the case. Thomas' mother, Kimberly, was facing charges of child abuse while Elizabeth was missing.

"But I don't mind telling you about myself," she added.

Thomas told me she returned to Columbia permanently in July. She said she spent 78 days in therapy in Jackson after flying home to Tennessee with TBI agents April 21.

The rest of our conversation centered on her job, where she's going to school and if she made a mistake by leaving town with Cummins.

Thomas gave permission to use her name in stories about her, even though newspapers rarely use juveniles' identities if they're involved in litigation.

We've decided to use it, when appropriate, considering her name and face were in the newspaper almost daily from March 15 to April 26. We ran the TBI Amber alert poster in print or online everyday until she was found.
It would be disingenuous to exclude the high school junior's name now.

She and I talked for about five minutes. Her answers were short and to the point:

Question: How do you feel about being back in Columbia? Are you happy and feeling well?
Answer: Yes. I'm pretty happy that I'm back with my brother.

Q: Where are you going to school?
A: I am home schooling, and my brother is tutoring me.

Q: What is your life like now? How would you describe your day-to-day activities?
A: I can't really complain right now. I baby sit kids, and I work in Columbia. I am studying at home.

Q: What are your favorite subjects?
A: Economics and science.

Q: What are you hoping to do with that when you're older?
A: I would like to be a medical examiner. That is the science part. Economics is just an easy class.

Q: You have two more years of school?
A: Yes, two years of high school, then lots of years in college.

Q: Where would you like to go to college?
A: I am thinking either MTSU or Vanderbilt. But, right now, it's going to be MTSU.

Q: Your Amber Alert riveted Columbia when it was ongoing. Looking back, what would you like to say to people in your hometown who wanted to see you come home safely?
A: Happy to be back and that people are so accepting.

Q: You're not living with your father and all of your siblings?
A: Not at the moment.

Q: Do you think issues with your father will work out?
A: It's just safer to be back with my brother instead of in the middle of everything.

Q: Are you hoping to be emancipated and handle your own affairs?
A: Yes.

Q: How long have you been back in Columbia for good?
A: I came back and visited for a while. I came back permanently in July.

Q: At first you, you were in Jackson for several weeks?
A: Three months.

Q: Did that seem like a little too long? You were getting therapy?
A: Yes, it was way too long. I should not have been up there.

Q: Your sister told me you were going on "Dr. Phil." Is that true?
A: There have been some rumors. Lots of stuff going around. It might happen. It might not happen. We're all just joking about it right now.

Q: She was just messing around with me when she said that?
A: We're just messing around with each other.

Q: You said there were some things you wanted to get off of your mind. What's that about?
A: It's only been recently that I wanted to talk -- to anyone. There's been some much speculation about me. There are people saying, "She's not talking for this reason. She's not talking for that reason." It's not that. It's just the publicity is affecting people. Everyone just needs to calm down. I am a human being. I can answer things fairly. But people are asking things that are too personal. People are talking to me like they know me. They didn't talk to me before. They didn't try to know me before. They have only liked me since I came back.

Q: You've found out who your true friends are in the last six months?
A: Yes.

Q: Do you regret having left town?
A: I don't regret it, nor do I say it was the right thing to do. It was an experience I'll have to live with the rest of my life. It's good and bad. It's there. No matter what we do, we'll have to deal with it.

James Bennett is editor of The Daily Herald. His column is based on exclusive reporting, old-school storytelling and original commentary on whatever catches his fancy or yours. He was a 2017 Tennessee Press Association first-place award winner for editorial writing and public service. Contact him at

Ladies Night

When women failed to vote for Hillary the same way many of those of color did to vote for Barack Obama I think America was more shocked as here was this qualified capable woman, a former First Lady, a Senator and Secretary of State all rolled into one.  Clinton was perhaps the most qualified individual to ever run for the office, even Barack Obama did not have those credentials and yet many voted for him for the first time in their lives and had no qualms about saying that they voted for him due to his color of his skin.  I never had a problem with that but I do when many said "Never Trump" and voted for him regardless.  I see that hypocrisy is acceptable for Republicans but when a Democrat is elected and many admit they did so because of his color that is akin to voter fraud or whatever other bullshit story (the Birther bullshit) they concocted to deny the validity of his election.

So why did Clinton lose women votes?   Frankly I am shocked at the amount of Black people who voted for Trump given his history and relationships with the Black Community even more disturbing. I guess Omarosa is more powerful than I knew.  And since the Charlottesville issue and the recent NFL rants, this is a question that I cannot imagine an answer for.

But I read this article from the UK Guardian and I think it does a great job summing up the explanation as to why Women voted Trump.  Women and their relationships to each other is not the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits we imagine.  Women have very conflicted relatioships with other women, especially those who have had more success professionally than they.  Add to this the reality is that we are still very much subject to the men in our lives and they dominate the dialogue for many women who would rather have peace in the home than conflict.  Women have insatiable need to please men despite all what people are reading about Title IX or Sexual Harassment at workplaces.   Women will fuck men for jobs, fuck men drunk out of their skulls and plead that as a reason and men know this.  So when a woman on her own has the courage and willingness to try to stop it she is ostracized and brutalized in a way having a dick in one's mouth seems not that big of deal.  

I knew the women's march would end nothing and go nowhere.  I am amazed that Black Lives Matter has lasted as I too thought that would go the way of Occupy Wall Street and end with nothing changed and the voices silenced.  These are all leaderless movements with little national or regional organization but the NFL proved to me that perhaps one might emerge to coordinate and find ways to get the message to transcend to legislation and ultimately change.   But the beginning is the ballot box and that I have yet to see any cognizant and coordinated effort.  And kids that is where it all begins and ends.  Never Trump?

Why Hillary Clinton was right about white women – and their husbands

Conventional wisdom says women will show solidarity at the polls. But new research shows that for white women, having a husband trumped the sisterhood

Lucia Graves
UK Guardian
Monday 25 September 2017

Hillary Clinton hoped to wear white on election night, a tribute to the suffragettes and the sweep of political history. Instead, as she wrote in her new book, the white suit stayed in her garment bag as she donned the gray and purple garment she had intended for her first trip to Washington as president-elect.

Given the opportunity to make history by electing the first female president, women didn’t take it. And ironically, the women who bore the most resemblance to Clinton – white, heterosexual and married – were less likely to vote for her.

Many had expected Clinton to rally women, the same way Barack Obama rallied black voters in 2008 – and if she had, she would have handily trumped Donald Trump. But while Obama won 95% of the black vote, Clinton won just 54% of women – a percentage point less than her male predecessor atop the Democratic ticket. Among white women in particular, she fared even worse: a slim majority voted for Trump.

Last week, Clinton, who has had a lifetime to contemplate the women’s vote, copped to having a theory. “[Women] will be under tremendous pressure – and I’m talking principally about white women. They will be under tremendous pressure from fathers and husbands and boyfriends and male employers not to vote for ‘the girl’,” she said in an interview as part of a tour promoting her new memoir of the 2016 campaign.

People might scoff at the idea that women vote based on what husbands and fathers tell them to do. And tens of millions of dollars in political messaging has been spent based on the assumption that women will vote collectively on equal pay, abortion, and other salient issues regarding women’s autonomy.

But social science backs up Clinton’s anecdotal hunch. “We think she was right in her analysis about women getting pressure from men in their lives, specifically [straight] white women,” said Kelsy Kretschmer, an assistant professor at Oregon State University and a co-author of a recent study examining women’s voting patterns.

“We know white men are more conservative, so when you’re married to a white man you get a lot more pressure to vote consistent with that ideology.”

Individually speaking, such voting behavior is more rational than it may sound.

The key distinction, according to Kretschmer’s research, is that single women tend to cast votes with the fate of all women in mind, while women married to men vote on behalf of their husbands and families (the study was based on a poll of straight women conducted in 2012, before same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, and draws no conclusions about marriages where neither partner is a man).

That could help explain why, despite the fact that the Democratic party is generally considered to have policies more favorable to women, Republicans have traditionally won the votes of married women.

“Just being married makes women more conservative in their vote choice,” said Kretschmer.

The bottom line is quite literally economic, rather than ideological.

“Women consistently earn less money and hold less power, which fosters women’s economic dependency on men,” Kretschmer and her co-authors write in their study. “Thus, it is within married women’s interests to support policies and politicians who protect their husbands and improve their status.”

In fact, since men are the primary breadwinners in the vast majority of American families, their wives may well see equality-focused measures as setting their husbands – and therefore their family – back.

“Some married women perceive advances for women, such as lawsuits to mitigate pay discrimination, as coming at the expense of their male partners,” the authors continue.

Married straight women siding with the economic interests of their husbands and families over the collective interests of women was something authors observed anecdotally during the campaign, too.

A college-educated woman identifying as a liberal Democrat confided to Kretschmer – not wanting to be identified, as a Trump voter – that she had voted for him over Clinton because her husband’s job depends on the coal industry; she saw Trump as the candidate that would protect it, and by extension her family’s economic interests. Kretschmer called her story “the clearest, most heartbreaking validation of our article that I had ever heard”.

Yet the conventional wisdom going into the election, as one Atlantic story summed it up at the time, was that “the 2016 race has turned the battle of the sexes into an all-out war”: Trump and Clinton had divided not just men and women, according to the narrative, but expressly “men and women who are married to each other”. Or so readers were told.

A few weeks later, it was clear this theory didn’t amount to much: married women preferred Clinton to Trump by a paltry two percentage point margin. And it shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
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Studies from at least as far back as 2006 have shown married women have very often voted in the economic interest of a male partner; and given wage disparities and men’s traditional breadwinner status, it makes a good deal of sense from an economic perspective that married women might have voted that way. Though the pay gap has narrowed, a significant disparity endures, and so too do attendant gendered expectations.

And a study published Wednesday by Pew Research Center found Americans continue to see men as the primary financial provider, even as women’s contributions have grown.

While 71% of women polled said it was “very important” for a man to be able to support a family financially, just 41% of women said the same about their own gender. Among white men and women, the number who said it was important for women to be able to support a family was just 27%, compared to 52% among black men and women.

Most striking of all, perhaps: the more educated women were, the less likely they were to say women being able to support a family was important.

The trend lines are disturbing: across race and education, the groups most likely to be able to support a family on their husband’s income alone – white women, and women of all races with a college degree – were the most likely dismiss the importance of women being able to support a family.

They may also offer context for other reports, like one from a New York City-based thinktank in 2015, which found black women were significantly more ambitious than white women in the workplace (22% of black women said they wanted to hold powerful positions, as compared with just 8% of white women).

Kretschmer’s study, published in Political Research Quarterly, further illuminates such dynamics by seeking to distill the extent to which women see their own fates as linked to the fates of other women in the country.

Using data from the 2012 American National Election Study, her team analyzed responses from more than 2,000 women to the following question: “Do you think that what happens generally to women in this country will have something to do with what happens in your life?” Women who said “yes” were then asked to report the extent to which they felt that was true.

The findings showed unmarried women were significantly more likely than married women to answer yes to the question. And the gaps between how single women and married women answered were largest among white women and Latina women.

The origins of such gaps are thought to be economic as well as cultural. White women, according Bureau of Labor Statistics data, are more likely to marry and stay married than women of any other race, for instance. Meanwhile, many Latinas, the report authors note, maintain ties to a culture of “‘familism’ which advocates for the interests of the family as a whole to take precedence over the interest of any single member of the family”.

Single and married black women were the most likely to see their fates as bound up in the fate of all women, and, significantly, were much more likely than white or Latina women to be the primary breadwinners in their families as well as the more educated partner when they married.

“Racial groups have really strong collective identity bonds, so it wasn’t surprising that when they had a black candidate to vote for, they experienced really high turnout,” said Kretschmer. “For women, one of the interesting things is they consistently lack social identity bonds.”

False assumptions that women will vote as a unified bloc go back to the earliest days of the women’s suffrage movement: “Women always take the part of each other,” a New York Herald editorial warned in 1870 of Victoria Woodhull’s bid for president, “and if the women can be allowed to vote Mrs Woodhull may rely on rolling up the heaviest majority ever polled in this or any other nation.”

But no such advantage ever materialized for Woodhull, who saw the suffragist-inspired support that had once boosted her quickly crumble when aspects of her personal life came under attack.

As Amanda Hess pointed out in the New York Times, the women’s vote has always disappointed its proponents – from the 1916 presidential race when suffragists failed to defeat Woodrow Wilson, to the Equal Rights Amendment, which was defeated in the 70s by conservative women arguing middle-class ones would be set back.

Lost on too many in the last election cycle was just how much of an uphill battle Clinton faced, not just for winning over the electorate, but for winning women’s votes at all.