“Flynn Facts”: lubricant drips from the finely tuned machine

I have a file of local topics that Insane Clown Prez Trump won’t let me get to. The compulsion to watch this strangely shaped and colored bag of mental and character enablements and limitations is like waving gently about in front of a cobra – if you stop, it might strike.

This “press conference” (Thursday 2/16) might do it, though. Liberating. A couple of things are coming clear. (Going Clear?)

Trump is stressing that the Flynn leaks are illegal. He avoids mentioning that Flynn’s actions were illegal. To make sure we believe him (does he know how hard that is?) he repeats, “I stress that,” with one of his mysterious finger mudras to reinforce the solemnity and importance of this Presidential fatwa. This part of his performance is another blow at the security agency career people who may in the end be the ones who bring him down. He is telling us that he still thinks he can beat them. That confidence might have been installed in his strange mind by the clearly insane Stephen Miller. If the CIA and the others bring him down, it would be a relief, but also something like a military coup, a bad precedent. We may get to see whether it is a price worth paying.

Asked about Flynn’s Russian muddle a few days before, as a habitual or compulsive liar, the clown prince said, “I have not heard of those reports.” He could have said, “We are looking into it. I am not ready to make statement just yet,” but apparently finds it more natural to lie and deny. He is not even a good liar – it was obvious in that interview, from the blanked, falsely serious expression and constricted voice, that he was lying – which I think tells us something significant about the counterfactual nonsense he says with a bright expression and confident voice.

Spokes-creatures Spicer and Kellyanne had told contradictory stories to muddy the ground and submerge the reality, preparing the ground for the weird presser.

Well, leaving that pair of comedians to wrangle the alternative realities gives us a fine opportunity to look behind the curtain to see if the wizard has his new clothes on.

The Flynn scandal fun might identify one of the White House factions jockeying for influence and leaking against each other every day: Pence. President 45 now admits he knew about the Flynn problem weeks ago. How many weeks ago? Was he behind Flynn’s actions? He said he did not order Flynn to discuss sanctions, but he would have if Flynn had not been doing it anyway, “because that was his job.” No, it wasn’t. Once again, the so-called President is either clueless or dribbling BS. It could have been his assignment when he had been confirmed and taken office, but not when he was an unconfirmed nominee and Trump wasn’t President yet. Making commitments or arrangements with foreign officers of state is illegal under a law made while the ink was hardly dry on the Constitution, specifically intended to ensure that incoming administrations could not undermine the work of incumbents.

Could this be Trump’s undeniable talent for counterfactual creativity adjusting the calendar to suit his soundbite?

The Trump cabal has shown that they think of law not as rules of constraint or decent behavior, but as obstacles to be dealt with by aggressive dictating, politicking, gaslighting and lawyers. That might be okay for a property guy hustling hardball politicians in New York. In the White House, stuff like that has the sulfurous whiff of treason.

To be clear, I don’t think rapprochement with Russia is wrong, not necessarily even if some private interest is in the mix. The factions trying to re-start the Cold War are as foolish and dangerous as Trump’s gang, who are trying to scapegoat Muslims and Mexicans and provoke hostile response from ISIS, Iran and China. Successful outcomes by either of them would be a money pump from taxes and bonds into the armaments and war industries, a welfare program for the wealthy. Trump’s crude, clumsy performance makes it less likely that he will achieve his objectives, or stop the anti-Russians, but the system is tilted so that it won’t matter much for Americans.

Time out: have you seen the wild news – if true – that Wendi Deng, gold digger supreme, right out of the funny papers and Bond world, divorced by Rupert Murdoch, reportedly either for a quicky with Tony Blair or so he could marry Mick Jagger’s ex, Jerry Hall, is now hanging with Vladimir Putin and also – dum da dum dum – holidaying with Ivanka? Ah, how I hate cheap, sleazy gossip.

Who is drawing up the White House enemies list? For the Putin-friendly Flynn/Bannon/Miller psychopathy, it may well be as simple that Russians are “white” while in their sick vocabulary Mexicans, Chinese, Arabs and Persians are not.

Let’s take a second to give General Flynn a break. By all accounts, he has been a first-class warrior, doing the jobs the government has asked him to do. Whether effective action in operations like invading Grenada, Haiti and Iraq was really worth doing is another thing. It looks like politics was not his thing. He didn’t quite get the difference between National Security Adviser and battlefield officer. Trump, maestro of the incorrigibly superficial, probably picked him for his sharp features and steely gaze, and lifelong training to follow orders. Even though he worked in parts of the military that reward initiative, it is hard to get convinced that he stepped over the legal line with the Russian ambassador on his own intiative. He has fallen on his sword for somebody.

Trumpy is on TV right now, at this moment, sounding insane, bulldozing more BS onto one of his favorite scapegoat stories, Iran.

Iran is positioned as an adversary largely because the CIA conspired with MI6 to topple Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953, because Iran under his government was going to take control of its own oil resources, a clear crime against the interests of BP and Exxon. They got rid of the democratically elected government and installed Reza Pahlavi as Shah. While “westernizing” and secularizing fast, with obsequious deference in an emperor’s uniform to the US and western oil companies, Reza Shah brutally suppressed any opposition or democratic movements for a few decades, rendering his country vulnerable to a religious backlash. In 1979, the Islamists were the faction who kicked the tyrant out and seized power in a wild rebellion that unleashed a lot of hell and rained fuel and sparks on the Shi’a/Sunni interface.

It took 26 years, but the country got its oil back anyway, and Khomeini was a more destructive opponent than Mossadegh. It does not seem to have served as a lesson to the interventionists.

Trump and other war provocateurs call Iran the biggest funder of terrorism in the world. It’s not. Our cherished ally Sa’udi Arabia is, but they privatize the cash flow to ISIS and Al Qaeda, who actually do attack the West – mostly Europe. Iran’s clients for the most part do not. The family of Saudi royal robbers maintains sufficient deniability to allow the US to claim its hands are clean.

Iran supports Shi’a causes and movements, including Hezbollah and the Houthis. Israel and the US classify them as “terrorists,” but they are political/military defense organizations opposing certain perceived enemies: Wahhabi Sunni oppression, Euro-American latter-day colonialism, and Israel, which they (with some justification) consider its current agent. From Hezbollah’s point of view, the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon was a “terrorist” act.

Under the US’s rules of asymmetrical warfare, as far as I can determine them by observation, invasion and occupation are legal, honorable and patriotic; retaliation and resistance are terrorist, sneaky, murderous and cowardly. If we believe this tripe, we deserve to have our screens infected by the likes of Stephen Miller and his representative on Earth, the White Princess of Spiritual Demise, Kellyanne.

The terrorist threat is a scam anyway, but to focus on these Shi’a groups, Hezbollah and the Houthis oppose the Empire, but are no serious threat to the US “homeland.” What threat they pose is retaliation for real terror that drops from the skies, delivered by Sa’udi pilots driving planes made in the USA. They are against imperialism, Israel and Saudi Arabia, which promote fundamentalist Sunni Wahhabis, who persecute Shi’ites in some countries and are the bedrock and support of the Jihadi movements that our governmental fearmongers claim to want to destroy by the method proven ineffective – starting more wars. I believe the Sa’udi religious police go as far as declaring some Shi’a holidays illegal and punishing people who celebrate them by the usual Sa’udi repertoire of penalties.

The Breitbart, Drudge and Fox stories about Shari’a in Michigan and no-go areas in Birmingham are just the usual bad odors from those brands of loo paper. Hezbollah and the Houthis mostly want us to go away. The Houthi in Yemen are in rebellion against the central government, seeking some kind of autonomy in predominantly Shi’a areas. They managed to take over the government in the capital, Sana’a, in 2015. Saudi Arabia attacks them with jet fighters, bombs and drones provided, of course, by the United States, frequently raining death and mayhem on hospitals, weddings and religious festivals. Trump wanted to get in on the action. Like the military action succeeding well against ISIS, in the spirit of his lifelong career as a thief, he wants to claim the win for himself.

The royal Saud clan calls them “terrorists,” the annoying trigger word to justify everything. I am not saying that the Houthi movement is nice people. Their slogan is, “God is great, death to the US, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam.” Not very friendly, but move some of the words around and you have language that fits a couple of Trump’s house lunatics. The real terrorists in Yemen, the people bombing weddings, killing kids and even American military in the wrong place at the wrong time, are the Saudi military and us. Trump’s first military attempt, a disastrous, messy massacre, was a terror attack in Yemen. Back in the days of Lawrence of Arabia, Faisal al Sa’ud wanted to conquer Yemen and incorporate it in the Saudi territory. They did not succeed then. We might wonder whether they are trying again, with the US as the royal family’s cat’s paw and Iran cast as bogeyman.

Sa’udi, meanwhile, is the main funder of ISIS, and joins it in a merry festival of decapitation and savage medieval Islamism.

Are any of these players good guys? Not that I can see. These are all tough customers trying to win points over the others. Just don’t let Trump or the Republicans of either party tell you that Iran is the bad guy. In the Catch-22 tradition, the Majlis in Tehran and Mullahs of Qom are a whole lot less likely to kill you than the fascist coup in Washington, if it succeeds.

———-<>———-

Bback to Flynn, Pence and whatsisname, 45. They miss us.

Why is Flynn’s illegal contact being pegged to Pence? Could it be true that Flynn concealed information from the Veep? If true, is it the real reason for firing him?

With or without connivance of the WH Gang in Flynn’s calls, that would suggest that Pence represents puritanical evangelical conservatives who may distrust the conspiracy crowd, and might be uncomfortable with secret intrigue with Russian ambassadors. Flynn’s phone sex with Putin’s reps is well within Trump’s and Bannon’s no-tell motel business, but possibly does not sit right with the midwestern church warden. That would place Pence outside the Rasputin circle, which would place him in some other group of would-be Machiavellis.

Puritanical reactionary bed- and bathroom-obsessed fantasists are pretty much as distasteful as anarchic law- and constitution-despising fascistic fantasists. Dump them all, and all who sail in them. But note that we may have glimpsed one of the factions, which if the wind blows fair, will bring this house of marked cards down.

“Some of Flynn’s former military colleagues, even those from whom he’s drifted apart in recent years, told me they were skeptical that Flynn would have conducted shadow diplomacy on his own. Despite his reputation as an agitator, he was, in the end, a soldier who followed orders, they said.

“This story is bigger than Mike Flynn,” the senior military intelligence official said. “Who told Mike to go do this? I think somebody said, ‘Mike, you’ve got some contacts. Let them know it’s gonna be all right.’ Mike’s a soldier. He did not go rogue.” ”

New Yorker, “Michael Flynn, General Chaos,” by Nicholas Schmidle, issue of 27 February 2017♦

When Trump tried to say that he had not heard any report about Flynn’s violation of the Logan act, he was clearly lying. You couldn’t miss it. A polygraph operator would have broken out laughing.

But when he goes on about five million phantom voters and people bused from Massachusetts to New Hampshire to vote again – not clear who for – he is cheerful, triumphant, radiant in his plastic smile. He might have been laughing, if he knew how to do that. When he goes on about the threat to “our nation” from returning students and poor refugees who have lived hungry in tents for two or three years while the slow process of State Department vetting grinds on, or the grand and utterly fictional benefits his boondoggle of a construction project on the Mexican border will be, he looks happy, folded into his sick mental element, eliciting cheap cheers from hired shills and unthinking audiences fueled by aggressive expression.

That is telling us, if we listen, that he believes this stuff. The difference between Trump lying and Trump strutting is clear: he believes it. Bannon and Miller, Breitbart, Fox and Drudge are feeding garbage into his feed trough and he is processing it into bullshit. He believes his own BS.

In other word, Ladies and Gentlemen, your so-called President is as mad as a hatter. Right out there in public for the world to see, your President is a nut case. On top of all his clinical complexes and phobias, he is just crazy.

Gabriel, my son, occasional NOLAscape reader and still a Trump-watcher, is a British actor. He reads the history and literature of the Tudor and Jacobean periods, and spent some time reviewing old videos of Trump. He noticed that his skin color used to be closer to normal and he spoke English in complete sentences. He spoke without substituting grimacing, mugging and hand and finger gestures for reason and completing thoughts. The thoughts were sometimes savage and stupid, like his Central Park Five period, or charged with lies and self-aggrandizement, but he was something like a normal person. Gabriel pointed out that if a historian observed these changes in a 15th or 16th century figure, the suspected cause would usually be syphilis.

Trump used to boast of promiscuity; now he reassures us that he would stay clear of Russian hookers because he is a “germophobe.” Could some microbes have sneaked by Dr. Bornstein? I’m jus’ sayin’, ya know . . .

Not only Jake Tapper can see the madness. Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping can see it. Kim Jong Un can recognize a man he could get along with, if the circumstances were right. Bannon, Miller and Netanyahu see a patient they can manipulate. Forty percent of American voters saw something the mob too often follows: a fantasist of infinite self-confidence, minuscule self-reflection, no thought for real or unintended consequences. And off we go.

Please don’t bother to object that he must be capable and cool because successful in business. If you really cannot see it yet, you are missing what the Trump eruption has exposed: success in the game of predatory capitalism does not in the least preclude lunacy. In fact, the American  corporate formula rewards a psychopath at the controls, who can roll over people and the earth without reflection or remorse in the pursuit of shareholder value. We have no reason that they would have any more compunction about manipulating a dupe to assist their sacred duties of raping and pillaging than they would of swatting a mosquito, or busting up Mexican families for headlines, or dropping bombs on Yemeni hospitals and American soldiers to cheer up King Salman al Saud. Given some of our recent governmental wonders like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Robert Gates, L. Paul Bremer, John Roberts, Antoning Scalia and now Bannon, Miller and Trump, we and our employed legislators and jurists should all be wondering whether the US Constitution is not only not proof against stupidity, shallowness and psychopathy but has managed as an unintended consequence to actively encourage it.

Your President is a front man who passed his Peter Principle level. The “unhinged” (Jake Tapper) presser was the opener in another campaign tour. Bannon and Miller are sending their celebrity pet out to play with cheering crowds. If he was less restless, they would give him a coloring book and crayons and lock him in the Oval.

But the idea they have come up with instead is to send him out campaigning, and this time your taxes, not Mercer’s and Adelson’s spare change, will pay for it.

© NOLAscape February 2017

Geaux, Council! Yeah, Nadine!

Let’s give a High Five to our City Council!

As the Marx Brothers cover band allowed into the White House to play with big guns by a bewildered electorate continues to embarrass the country and bring us all into disrepute, with its attempted fascist coup against civil society, human decency and normal government (not that I am standing up for what passes for normal in the Imperial decline), our New Orleans City Council passed a resolution introduced by our downtown favorite Nadine Ramsey to condemn and oppose the illegal Muslim Ban.

Congratulations, team. Let’s be a sanctuary city!

The Muslim Ban, in case anybody has not noticed, is an intentional provocation by the First Triumvirate (Mercer, Bannon and Trump) as the 9/11 attacks were a provocation by Al Qaeda, and most Jihadi attacks in the West are. Bin Laden wanted to incite a counter-attack to galvanize Arab and Islamic countries against Western infidel civilization. W & co. were the useful idiots who gave him the game.

A primary goal of ISIS and others in the Jihad movement is to impede assimilation and exacerbate friction between Muslims and others in the majority Christian countries of Europe and America. Irrational attacks generate conflict between both rational secularists and Christians on one side and Muslims on the other, so the Jihadis can show that both Christianity and the secular West are at war against Islam and Muslims. The Jihadis, the American spear-shakers and some of the European nationalists agree that a big war would be quite a nice thing.

It is of course good that the courts are blocking this move by our aspiring tyranny, restricting at least some of their ability to harm and destroy people. Anything that reduces or limits the inhumanity and cruelty that these psychopathic corporate cat’s paws get up to, and seem to take pleasure in, is good. But just by continuing to have Trump shout about it, Bannon can think he is advancing toward the cracked fantasy he calls the “Fourth Turning.” I am not sure what it means in his twisted brain; what it would mean for us is a long nightmare full of blood and death.

Blocking refugees, new immigrants and green card holders would do nothing to protect the people of this country or any other, but promoting Islamophobia sets up opportunities for crisis capitalism and apocalyptic crazy games, while feeding material to the Jihadi groups to demonstrate that the U.S.A. intends to declare war on Islam. (Does it? Hard to say.)

The move is either crazy, stupid or both. I vote for both. The White House has been captured by a crime family, but The Godfather they ain’t. This is the bottom of the pezzonovanti barrel.

Trump declares a crisis or two every day, as protective cover for some repressive move. Today it is a few steps towards a police state. We will see a resurgence of brutality within a few days. The steady march against truth, sanity and meaning will either wear people down so they accept the Mercer/Bannon/Trump coup d’etat (“resistance fatigue”) or provoke a rebellion, which might – let’s hope – enable a successful mid-term congressional change followed by a successful impeachment and a Congress with spine enough to paint President Pence into a tight corner.

At least the Triumvirate is liberating us from that “exceptional nation” rubbish, that was always awful, then raised to suffocating smarminess in the Reagan period. You would need an exceptionally thick skin to try that on now, and you would have to believe that your listener was unaware and a moron to think he or she would accept it.

So Geaux, Council! Yeah, Nadine!

©NOLAscape February 2016

Back to Bourbon Street

The language series has another chapter or two to go, but something is going on right here that needs ferocious opposition. With the violence going on in Washington now – and I do not mean in the streets – we might even wonder if Landrieu is using Shock Doctrine cover to shove a junk “security” law through. After the W regime’s long, exhausting eight years degrading the country, and what the current gang of would be Genghiz Khans is up to as we speak, we should all feel an icy stab in a sensitive place when we hear the word “security.”

Disclaimer: I do not have as much information on the latest pointless attack on Bourbon Street  as I should.  Yet. I should have been down there two weeks ago, checking out my own experts, who are a lot smarter than Ms. Burns’s experts, believe me (the new standard in fact checking). I have to get my lazy butt down to Bourbon Street and start digging. If I have this wrong, I will do some groveling and retracting.

I don’t know if anything can be done about this. I don’t know if we can get the sane and sound Council Members on the case. I don’t know if Mayor Mitch Landrieu can reach in, find some character, and call intermission on the political vaudeville, triangulation and balancing acts and do something – or in this case, not do something – because it is smart and right. Let’s hope.

Maybe, just maybe, I can encourage some more people to notice what is happening, go down to City Hall or Bourbon Street or get on the phone and complain a lot. Tell Landrieu & Co. to stop screwing around. If you want to get into reduction of crime, jump in. But as the old saying goes, Keep it real. Blow off silly regulations about when the pubs close. That has absolutely bugger-all to do with crime.

The approximately biennial huffing and puffing about Bourbon Street by all the ever-so-respectable ladies of all the various genders has nothing to do with crime. Their proposals have to do only, solely and exclusively with two things: the ancient, tortured, boring, apparently unkillable though frequently violent American tendency toward public Puritanism (public is all I can take; I don’t even like to think about what they get up to when the curtains are closed) and one of its offshoots, the stultifying, smug, bottomlessly ugly, self-satisfied self-righteousness of the petite bourgeoisie de la ville. “Something must be done!” they say to each other, as they order some nice cakes for the meeting, working quietly on their best look of decorous outrage. (I deny sexism! The women who come and go, talking of Michelangelo – they come in all sorts of genders now.)

If you have a deep drag of a semi-legal substance to assist your imagination, lean back and let your mind stroll through the French Quarter, your senses will catch the Neighborhood Ladies pheromones, a sickly-sweet, lace and velvet allure. Wafting. That’s a great word. Lilac scent wafting. Some of them of course will be dressed in the latest active wear, speaking in crisp tones honed at Loyola – but keep all your senses open. You will see into their DNA. You will see and hear their Anglo great great grandmother who came downriver from Missouri, turning up their bony noses at these licentious New Orleans foreigners and Frenchies.

The real Puritans are feverish and rancid. You may need another little drag on the vape to survive this . . . waft. They turn virtue into a suppurating infection. More restrictions on “live entertainment” are folded into the package. In Bourbon Street context, “live entertainment”  is code for strip clubs. That means the evangelical Catholic misery of Jim Kelly of Covenant House must be in the mix, dribbling self-righteous venom, protecting other people from illusions of sex, under a dreary cover story of saving women from themselves. His tired old tale is now probably reinvigorated by the pious platform of Michael Pence, worst of his name, appointed by the Mercer/Bannon fascist coup as one of the distractions from the damage they want to do.

Yes, Bourbon Street is OTT because it caters to tourism. Yes, it has gone bogus. A Disney illusion of sin, a synthetic soupçon of Storyville. I don’t want to encourage more of that. The tourist industry worldwide is now destroying urban and natural environments, causing homogenization endangering differentiation. Packs of overweight Americans and Germans in Bermuda shorts clumping though Venice and Florence is not the way to honor the Quattrocento. Cities are great human creations. States like Louisiana are artificial constructions desperate for relevance, largely cover stories for corruption. Why is the governor in this? Source of funds, no doubt. And the ever-present Edmondson, field commander of a troop of anti-urban SUV jockeys whose net effect is to make New Orleans look like Shreveport – why is he on the stage?

(I hope that is right. I have never been to Shreveport, but it has such a state-police type of name.)

Let’s take a stand and preserve cities against artificial entities of questionable purpose. The first thirteen states were entities with history that were real to the founders. More real than the country they were inventing. The rest of them are just imitations based on the federal idea. But that is another essay.

Now, before I forget what this story was about:

Jeff Adelson posted in The Advocate, 28 January at 6:30 PM:

“Landrieu press secretary Erin Burns said in a statement that requiring bars to close their doors after 3 a.m. “is one piece of our larger, $40 million public safety improvement strategy that is designed to address the issue as a whole” and that was arrived at “after consulting with several security experts and local stakeholders as well as analyzing the practices of other cities.”

Burns said most of the other cities studied “completely close (bars) at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., and many of the experts we consulted suggested that we do the same,” but she added that New Orleans “is a 24-hour city, and we do not feel that closing bars completely would be appropriate for the authenticity of our unique culture.”

However, she said, having bars “simply close their doors at 3 a.m. could encourage people to move inside. We believe this will contribute to a more controlled physical environment, and when coupled with the other security measures in our plan, it (will) allow us to see progress in reducing crime on our streets.”

What kind of slippery slime. . . has Erin Burns been taking a Kellyanne course?

My follow-ups:

Paragraph 1:

Who precisely are the “experts” this time? The mixed bag of ex-cops, PIs and security company managers who claim to be security experts should not be summed up in a vague collective. Security expertise is a trade riddled with semi-competents who extrapolate from locking down a warehouse against burglars to managing a city. Let’s hear something about their understanding of freedom and our urban life before they bleat “security.” When they leave the cops to make more money, they watch a couple of thrillers about Afghanistan, get a few gigs putting in alarm systems, hang out a shingle for the anxious gullible, and abracadabra, they are experts.Some of their understanding of complexity is two burglars instead of one. In the 2013/14 assault on Bourbon, masterminded and master-funded by lawyer Smith and his agents in VCPORA, we got to see what kind of expertise is available, for a price. Who are they, what exactly did they say, how do they know and who paid their fee?

“Local stakeholders.” Which exactly? Neighborhood associations?  VCPORA and FQC, the ceaseless moaners of the Quarter? I am writing on suspicion here  If it turns out not to be the crotchety ladies of the FQ, I will fall all over myself apologizing.

Satisfying them, as we have so often seen, does not depend on effectiveness. They are happy just to annoy people they don’t like. They play a politics of gesture, a counterpoint to the mayor’s illusion of action. They bask in the feeling that they exercised some power over others. I imagine them at night behind velvet curtains before a gilt-framed mirror, stripping slowly, out of sight of Preacher Kelly, thinking: “We showed them!”

“Other cities.” So what? So fucking what? New Orleans is not other cities. Which cities, anyway? Cities we want to be like, or centers of tedium we want to avoid? Bourbon Street is not other cities. Bourbon Street is the world leader of streets like Bourbon Street, all trying to imitate Bourbon Street.

Paragraph 2:

“Other cities close at 2 AM.” Of course they do. Do you have to be a “security expert” to know that or suggest that?

2 AM cities include, for instance, Oakland CA and Philadelphia, both with higher violent crime rates than New Orleans.

Come on, Ms Burns. Entertain us with an alternative fact instead. If it is an actual quotation, such an inane remark should disqualify a security “expert,” unless he has some sound and solid reasoning, data, evidence and logic to back up why a restriction we all know is really part of the boring legacy of the temperance movement would be a net benefit for New Orleans. If this was the best our administration’s “experts” could come up with, we can strike their testimony for a start.

Paragraph 3

“We believe.” What!? Who cares what they bloody believe? You do not run cities and make rules that limit the lives and restrict the liberty of people on faith. This is a tragically stupid statement.

“A more controlled physical environment.” Is there a meaning in there somewhere? What is a “physical environment”? Does she means fewer people visible in the street? Just some lonely footsteps on the glistening cobblestones. Very picturesque, to assuage the feelings (similar to belief – evidence free, a desire to make others look more like yourself) of the respectable gentry that streets should be quiet, that only people like them should be out and about, if, for instance, they have a sudden 3 AM need to water the begonias in the window box. This is mealy mouthed meaninglessness. Language intended to obfuscate, not to clarify. Sorry, Ms Burns; this is the worst kind of PR. You have to either go all Kellyanne or give Jeff an answer – but it’s crap. And I would bet you know it.

“. . . progress in reducing crime in our streets.” Mayor Landrieu has been working in government for years. He comes from a political family. They talked politics over turkey at Sunday lunch. He didn’t get to be mayor by thinking in illusions. He should not be peddling them to us, or sending poor Ms Burns out to embarrass herself by telling Jeff Adelson such utter bunk.

Landrieu knows perfectly well that no serious crime will be reduced by such silly measures as this. If there is any effect at all, it will be to move it around the chessboard. These are attempts at cosmetic law – but a very ugly, rear-view kind of cosmetology it is. It will make Bourbon Street worse and New Orleans worse.

A few days before, January 23d, Jeff Adelson posted for The Advocate, “The plan also calls for increasing regulations on strip clubs and live entertainment venues in the French Quarter and further restricting performers at Jackson Square, while “rebranding the French Quarter and Bourbon Street’s image as a cultural destination.”

So we see Kelly’s fingerprints all over this. Come on, New Orleans, rid yourselves of this plague of disguised piety.

“Rebranding . . .” Bourbon Street’s growth and branding has been an exemplary, almost unique instance of competitive cooperation. It is rare, difficult to emulate and should under no circumstances be co-opted by politicians and Puritans cloaking a lust to control in a fake language of social benefit. The most notable example in history of evolution like Bourbon Street is Classical Greece! Okay, they drank diluted wine instead of Bourbon whiskey and Hand Grenades, but they developed one of the world’s handful of great civilizations with independent city-states sharing a common culture, leaderless, competing within a cooperating environment, creating the beginnings and source of the culture we still live in today – until a controlling, ambitious, power-hungry warlord, Phillip of Macedon (Alexander’s father) looted and pillaged them all into submission.

Bourbon Street does not need re-branding by politicians, police and Puritans. Blow this off!

We are watching daily the Trumpians use illusionists’ misdirection while they pillage the country and try to install Bannonite tyranny. This, however – this is the misdirection itself. The illusion and the objective are one. This is a performance by the Mayor of Smoke and Mirrors, impresario of the Politics of Illusion.

Would you like to hear a radical proposal to close off? Or is it perhaps a memory – that Landrieu does not want you to remember?

It s the job of the police and the administration to stop or prevent crime in our environment – NOT to reshape the environment to make policing and administering easier!

© NOLAscape 30 January 2013

Politically Corrected, Part 2

“Avowed socialist.”

This piece has been dribbling around in a drafts file for so long, I thought maybe I should bin it for a sell-by risk. Then came Trump’s fake “press conference,” dubbed an infomercial by astute observers. (“Avowed” observers?) Maybe it was the pilot for an Apprentice spin off – working title “Spin Off!”  Contestants would launch tweet lashes at anybody that did not show respect (fake deference is okay – it’s an alternative reality show) for . . .  the strange creature that the oligarchic backlash has allowed to become their combo of front man and bait fish. The winner would be the one most resembling an Egyptian slave groveling at the feet of Pharaoh. The loser will be tied to a chair for 24 hours of gaslighting by Kellyanne.

“Avowed Socialist” was the next topic in this series, exploring some of the current excrescences in the erosion of meaning. This was the tag line many journalists put on Bernie Sanders. Technically correct, its simplest meaning is that he himself says he is a socialist.

But what is the message? Condescension, feigned astonishment, a gently raised eyebrow, implying that the respectable socialist would creep in the shadows, fearful of Hannity, Gingrich and other heirs of the HUAC and McCarthy witch hunters. The pundit basks in his own wisdom signaling that while perhaps brave, using the “S” word is suicidal here, where we are expected to do our own censorship, free of charge.

After his “press conference,” – actually a rally re-run (he brought stooges to cheer and clap in the right places) came Trump’s grim inauguration speech. My new Muse Kellyanne called it “unifying.” My heroine. She stares straight into the shotgun, unblinking, whether her response is an answer, a lie, a dodge, volley, challenge or fairy story. A mercenary with a Templar’s shining faith, she called Trump all he things real people do just a few moneths ago when she worked for Cruz. Despite everybody else calling it awkward, pugnacious and divisive, and presidential historians calling it the worst inauguration speech in history, our Kellyanne stands strong in defense of her second level master’s declaration of war against America. (Secondary, because I suspect she still works for Robert Mercer, possibly to keep him up to date on Trump’s next move. I get my information on this from the same source that Trump gets his special information about five million undocumented voters.)

Some ask, is she crazy, or just well paid? It’s more than that.

Remember “avowed socialist”? We’ll get back to it soon. We are in a segue here. I am learning from Kellyanne, the Zen Master of dodge and pivot, who can divert, spin and juggle alternative facts faster than the eye can follow. I, a humble neophyte, can only do one at a time, at pedestrian pace, then like Penn Jillette pretend to explain the trick.

We live in a poor, vulnerable sucker of a country, says the President with one minute’s experience in office, that has allowed its military to be enfeebled by successive administrations (whose Presidents were seated behind him as he turned the event into another opportunity for boorish behavior) while other countries use our selfless charity to build up their forces and prepare to attack us. Mad Max zones infiltrate our suburban dreams. Journalists with White House sources say the speech was written by Steve Bannon, official national coordinator of racism, antisemitism and xenophobia. Credible; it was ugly enough for a Bannon effort.

Isn’t Kellyanne wonderful, though? First sent in by megadonor Mercer to organize and filter Trump’s mental condition for public consumption, she soon had to give up on that, and now serves as interpreter of his crude, cryptic and contradictory bleats and blurts. Priestess of the Oracle, the Pythoness of Delphi, who constructs new “realities” in the instant between interview questions, Kellyanne sees what is in his heart. Whatever that is, it does not always intersect with reality, but Kellyanne is well armed with alternative realities. She tells us that the President did not say what he said: he said what he said he said. If we do not understand that, we are not being properly respectful to the new Warlord with his mandate of minus three million.

Like the snake priestesses of Delphi, Kellyanne tells us what the Orange Oracle meant in English. Soon Trump will just babble in tongues, while Kellyanne intones her man-god’s meaning in couplets, punctuated by tolls of a gong.

Last Sunday Serpent Priestess Conway, now installed in the White House and feeling the power, began to exude menace along with the signature madness, warning Chuck Todd as he questioned Trump’s fictions about the crowd numbers at his inauguration that if he persisted in challenging the President’s beliefs or using adjectives that she did not approve of, she would have to rethink her relationship with NBC. She informed him that his job description was reporter, so he must not use adjectives. Todd was cool enough not to contradict her, though his primary employer, NBC, describes him as moderator of Meet the Press, host of MTP Daily and Political Director of NBC News, titles that you would think entitled him to the occasional editorial brush stroke. The next day she said that nobody was interested in Chuck Todd’s opinion – implying that everybody is interested in Kellyanne’s opinion of Todd’s opinion.

Behind and around the White House slapstick, we hear and read a lot that Trumpism is neo- or pre- or proto-Fascism. Don’t be so optimistic. What you heard in Bannon/Trump’s inaugural speech is authoritarian fascism, folks. Not figuratively, no exaggeration for effect. That malevolent clown Spencer’s “alt-right” understands. Bannon understands. The white supremacists, the neo-Nazis, the skinheads, the isolationists, the Christian Dominionists and the other legions of the armies of Mordor – they understand. Don’t let their low comedy, medievalism and ugliness fool you. They get it.

Fascism is the alliance of political power gained by populist appeal with corporate oligarchy, maintaining its hold over the people by managed nationalism and militarism, characterized by emphasis on scapegoat groups internal and external targeted as enemies and causes of national decay. That is what Trump promised in his campaign entertainment shows and reinforced in his dark, ugly inauguration speech. In his first days, he revealed another totalitarian characteristic, information control and propaganda replacing reality. Six reporters so far have been arrested and charged with bogus felonies as early examples. Pages the new regime of thieves and environmental rapists don’t like have been removed from government web sites. Government employees have been warned not to speak to the press or use social media.

Every time somebody says “Fascism,” the reflex bleat is Hitler, followed by indignation: we are not allowed to say Hitler. Since the broad American public has low recognition of any other fascist presidents, there is a blank spot in our reference vocabulary. Trump sometimes seems to be working up a Mussolini act without the uniform. He might resemble Berlusconi, if he was capable of laughter and fun. While Fascism is not defined by the military costumes favored by its most histrionic performers, we should keep in mind that Trump did request tanks and missile trucks for his inaugural parade. The Pentagon mercifully refused, but it would not be a giant step from there to getting his tailor to run up a natty Commander in Chief number with lots of braid and bling and to deliver his speech blurts from the balcony instead of the Rose Garden.

We might say that to a good approximation, the US has been under fascist oligarchic government at least since Reagan’s first term, if not Nixon, or even building toward it since Kennedy, the Cuban missile crisis and Vietnam. Trump’s key contribution to the process could be his crudeness, narrowness, proud ignorance and thieves’ den of a cabinet. Republicans (of both “parties”) look worried that Trump shreds the curtain of Oz faster than Kellyanne can sew it back up; we can see the Orcs and Goblins that turn his crank.

America first! America first!  We are the good guys. So good. Fantastic good. We the Christian warriors will rise up and exterminate ISIS (what’s left of it) and Radical Islamic Terrorism, from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli. We are the Christians (1), the Medieval, the Crusaders. God supports our team! Theocrats Pence and DeVos, the cabinet Generals and imperialists, the Political Pastors – their ratty little hearts leap up. Our god is bigger than your god. If Trump actually has any supernatural beliefs, which I doubt, he likes the kind of god the Vikings liked. Gods who beat people up. Gods who win.

Empire US style is corporate, not territorial. Corporate dominance is only dimly visible, its US style territorial adjunct – military bases – deniable. Mad Dog and the Pentagon open the invaded territory for business. Nations bend over for American Global Amalgamated.

The invisible elephant is that the United States is – we are – also a colony of the corporate oligarchy.

US residents and citizens who do not lower their gaze to the White House Gang and the oligarchy behind them may find themselves on the enemies list. Check Nixon for details. Will the military and police protect the people or follow the fascists? I think we know the answer. If we get to that point before the country shakes off the disease, they will obey the fascists until they don’t. When the cops and the soldiers realize that they are being asked to suppress or even shoot their own families, they will set the safety and lower their guns, and it will be over for that temporary emperor. Until the next one.

The notion that Trump’s military flavored nationalism is original is a direct result of the decimation of education. Textbooks and teachers who peddle patriotism and prayer instead of history and reason have dulled perception. It is not original; it is just bad. We are already hearing Angela Merkel and François Hollande calling his statements protectionism. Nothing new, nothing original, just plain old nationalist protectionism.

The Saber-rattler in Chief boldly monotoned, punctuated by his cryptic finger gestures, that he will wipe ISIS “from the face of the Earth.” What’s left of it – ISIS in Iraq is gasping, close to finished. Fighters retreating to Syria are reportedly demoralized, expecting the Daesh project to be defeated soon. Is that this tinpot’s turf now – the face of the Earth? Including Syria, a virtual Russian protectorate?

Maybe he is talking to Betsy DeVos’s brother Edward Prince, America’s favorite mercenary, about sending Blackwater squads into Syria, elbowing the Russian military aside, and conquering Raqqah, Marvel Comics style. The “intelligence community” will be instructed to finance the movie.

So what does any of this have to do with “avowed socialist”? I’m glad you asked me that . . .  

Call things what they are, or you will end up calling them what Kellyanne says they are.

Debasing language has been a key contributor to getting us here. That is why 1984 is a best seller again. Mainstream media, our famous MSM, picks up and mindlessly repeats the tag lines. The unconsciously heard familiar sounds make viewers feel comfortable. They are good for ratings. Fox News is on the case, degrading meaning daily. If you let silly expressions like “avowed socialist” seep into your listening language and dull your brain, you are working for the Fox dream mill.

Start with “avowed socialist” and by a crooked line you get to “alternative facts.” Soon, we listen to Trump’s unfinished sentences and hum the meaning we want into the inchoate sounds.

Most of the literate anti-MSM news and commentary – TYT, The Real News, Truthdig, Democracy Now!, Abby Martin, Vice, Robert Reich, Paul Krugman – keep clear of the empty phrases and reach for meaning – which costs them the mass audience, who watch news to feel comfort or shock, not to do mental work.

Interestingly, the deranged Trump team has found a way to motivate the supine corporate news operations to try to stand up and rediscover meaning. Mister T’s campaign of attacking and insulting the press in general and some of its specific individuals was probably a pretty shrewd idea: branding the press a dishonest enterprise of low people, he can blame anything he doesn’t like in his domain of illusion on lying reporters. They must be lying because Trump and Kellyanne keep saying so, and what you say three times is true. What’s the downside? he might think. He would at least convince the big chunk of our population that will accept or “believe” anything, with no evidence, if stated with sufficient belligerence.

On the other hand, Trump and many of his appointees are far from squeaky clean. Trump has been on the edge of the law and over it for decades. He is vulnerable on conflict of interest, and now cooking up unconstitutional plans and orders every day. The confirmation hearings brought out Tom Price’s insider trading. They could not nail him for it, but a motivated investigative reporter can. Kellyanne Conway’s cover stories will wear out. Trumpians will be forced to resign or face charges. The emperor’s blue suits will look more and more like new clothes. At some point, it will become clear to enough people that their President is irretrievably, incurably, insane and Congress or the courts will be forced to remove him. The hunt is gruesome – think of Nixon and Watergate, or Clinton and Ken Starr. Does Trump have the mental resilience to see that through, or will he take the Nixon helicopter ride?

With his Dementor Angel Kellyanne and ring announcer Sean Spicer supporting, Trump has pissed off not only the reporters and news people we see, but their editors, managers and at least some of the owners. They have loosened the communicators’ leashes. Formerly mild-mannered TV faces on the commercial channels are calling barbarians out on lies, BS and the new word, “falsehoods.”

The risks for civilization include:

  • Conflict escalation may be what Trump wants. Confusion is his home turf. While reporters and people quarrel about crowd size, Trump and the Kabinet of Kleptocracy will be cheerfully picking your pocket.
  • Counter-backlash: he may call the CEOs of the corporations that own the networks in for a carrot-and-stick talk. Trading access for acquiescence, he may get them to bring their TV people to heel. Few of the “anchors” have ever shown the courage to buck an order from the boardroom.
  • The reporters and TV faces may whine too much about Trump and Kellyanne’s mean behavior to them and their industry. The White House spin cave will jump on any sign of self-pity in a very hobnailed fashion. If the MSM wants to earn some integrity back, they will have to be cool, sharp and relentless.

So: blow off “avowed socialist” and all who sale in similar ships. Degraded language paves the downhill road into the next Dark Age. If we can’t avoid it, slow it down. It won’t be a nice place.

A socialist is a socialist. A social democrat is a social democrat. Neither one will eat your children. Whether you agree with them or not, we should have a Social Democratic party, to offer a better spectrum of political choice and clearer argument. If they had to deal with real parties in a grown-up way, the Republican and Democratic tendencies might get their acts together and knock out some real policies.

Choose your psychosis: conservative, theocratic, progressive, libertarian, Religious Right, Kropotkin anarchist. I don’t care. Just require your spokesmen to be clear. The colorless, odorless, issue-free, meaning-draining, policy-dodging Clintonian strategy did not work.

(Don’t wander far from your device. NOLAscape is back!)

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(1) The Commander of Chaos got this rolling sooner than expected with an order banning Muslims but not Christians from Muslim-majority countries which have no Trump businesses or investments. It is already disrupting airports and enraging a billion or so people. Ugly, provocative (probably intentionally), probably unconstitutional, this kind of crap demeans and diminishes the US even worse than just the social disorder of electing the belligerent buffoon in the first place. Jihadist retaliation should come soon, allowing the Trump team of snarling critters (seen any Tasmanian Devils cartoons lately?) to declare emergencies, intensify surveillance, call for martial law, curfews, air raids, preventive detention – a whole authoritarian toy kit.  

© NOLAscape January 2017

Politically Corrected, Part 1

Let’s torture three expressions used, recycled and abused in journalism and public discourse that rose to high putrefaction in the recent election cycle in which this country finally threw its pretenses down the sewer.

We have to get them out of our vocabulary. After this article, anyone who uses them or accepts their validity from politicians or the chattering classes is in a new identity box – the political Left Behind class.

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NOLAscape has to find its way back to local stuff. Has to. But for these weeks, we (NOLAscape’s vast research, social media and admin staff – can you see them back there? – and me) have been choking on the extended nightmare of the election aftermath, which doesn’t look like it is going to end anytime soon. What we used to call Western Civilization, or at least the American branch, is charging cheerfully into a new Dark Age. We have good seats to watch the show, but we don’t know whether it is a farce or a Jacobean tragedy. An incursion of baboons into the columned imitation Roman palaces of the Empire’s Washington ganglion might be a clue. A big league clue.

                                               Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I have to write Trump and his creep-out family and zombie entourage out of my system. Get it written, corrected, edited, printed and stashed in the bottom drawer, so we can get back to important stuff, like sleaze in the HDLC, bicycle theft and Mayor Teflon’s Olde-Time Extravaganza of Illusiion.

That’s In the Coming Attractions. I am still in a Groundhog Day trap: watching for Trump’s cheap shot of the day. You can’t finish anything, because the next distraction is being pecked out on on the twitter-phone as your fingers tremble over the keyboard. It won’t stop, because that is what our co-citizens elected: a noisy non-stop fountain of crazy, a barnyard ringmaster trying out a bigger farm with more chickens to pluck. In the gentle words of Samantha Bee, “An oddly tinted compilation of psychiatric symptoms.”

The fun has ramped up now. As a ratings-grab alternative to intelligently shutting his gob for once, the looper-elect picked a fight with the CIA about Russian influence on his election “win.” (He lost by 2.6 million votes so far, so stole the office. He’s used to that sort of thing.) So the CIA is leaking carefully worded “secret” reports suggesting that the Buffoon-in-Chief is Putin’s man in Washington. I don’t think his pick for head of the agency, Pompeo, will be able to do much about it. The CIA has a deep bench of career guys whose job has been to spy, dissimulate, undermine and assassinate, trained for the international long game. All part of the error you could see in Trumps’ campaign: he thought if he won, people would be afraid of him, and follow his orders.

If Tillerson gets past the Senate, Trump may try to dump his Russian problems on him. That may draw the fire of some of his loyal voters and the entourage, but it won’t deflect the spy establishment. He may already be in the crosshairs. I can see a movie where Betsy De Vos gets her brother’s mercenary army to try to protect Trump from the CIA’s remaining drone controls while he is trying to swat away impeachment for violations of the emoluments clause and some state warrants for abuse and financial stuff that the CIA’s hackers, as good as the Russians, will leak to Democratic governors.

I will try to find something original to say in the righteous struggle to flush this gang down the sewer soon. First, I have to start a new feature: cleaning up our language. Getting rid of political band-aids on boils on the bum of progress. The noble task of recovering meaning. Here are the three for now:

“Working families.”

“Avowed socialist.”

“People of color.”

Let’s do “working families” first, a political euphemism that fogs discussion and reality (what’s left of it) derailing political discourse and holding Americans back from engagement with international political discourse.

Unfortunately overused by Tribunes of the People Bernie Sanders, the “avowed socialist” who should know better, and Elizabeth Warren, inadvertently undermining their constituency, this flaccid expression dumbs us down.

The working class has been a concept in economics and political science since Marx and Engels published The Communist Manifesto in 1848, just as a series of revolutions in Europe were getting ripe, then analytically reinforced by the publication of Capital in 1867.

Opening sentences:

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”

But we of the Land of the Free could not be trusted with real language. Starting with Woodrow Wilson and the first Red Scare, then into the HUAC and McCarthy periods of social terror, Americans allowed their cultural evolution to be stunted by the elected, appointed, unappointed (and disappointed) censorship class treating us as children, who can be trusted with guns but not ideas. You could have been busted for saying “class struggle” in the wrong room. When I was a kid, we were taught that the Soviet Union imposed and brutally enforced strict censorship and fed the Russian people propaganda – unlike us, the free society, the free people. It took us – well, me, anyway – a few decades to work out that we were growing up in the most sophisticated system of propaganda, censorship and manufactured consent in the world. The objective was not to resolve the mutating social struggle, but to obscure it to protect status quo – in other words, the exploitative players, the ruling class behind the political oppos. It worked; about 50% of United States voters now vote against their own material interests. “Values voters.” We’ll find a way to explore what that means.

Stalin was the bogeyman back then. Few of us realized that we had been trained to thought-police ourselves, and many or. even most of them would not say it out loud. You can argue that it was better than jackboots and the gulag, but freedom of thought it was not. We the people, the citizens beyond class of the self-appointed Greatest Country on Earth – we let guns be cast as our defense of illusory liberty, while clear thinking, good public education and the tools of economic and social awareness available to our European co-civilizationists were denied.

The exemplary legislators of HUAC, J. Edgar Hoover, McCarthy, that promising young political personality Richard Milhous Nixon and the Ministry of Magic protected us from ourselves. If we accidentally said the secret words without being locked up or losing our job, union members would burn down the Ford factory and we would all live in the Soviet Socialist Republic of Amryka. “Working class” was airbrushed out of the conversation. We were all captains of industry temporarily marking time on the assembly line, waiting for the moment to make our move. Eventually, Ronald Reagan weaponized dreams and visions to disable social democracy here and in several other countries.  Saying “working class” might magically disappear the social mobility that we were told the US uniquely had – upwardly mobile to the aspirational two car garage and daily commute. (Don’t laugh – the American suburbanization explosion was a huge driver of the comfortably segregated prosperity of the 50s, which is probably the model for the “AGAIN” on Trump’s hat.)

Back in the days of grainy black and white news, the obscene McCarthy’s sidekick, the even slimier Roy Cohn (who, after cynically managing one of twentieth century America’s most shameful fits of internal oppression, eventually became Trump’s lawyer and legal evasion teacher) and the acquiescent classes protected us from the Red Menace with blacklists, betrayal and loyalty oaths. Keep those reds under the bed.

Keep those tactics in mind; we may see their like again soon.

Now, they keep us safe from Radical Islamic Terrorists. Keep America Safe Again.

There are three pillars of analysis in economics: Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx. An economics student does not turn you into an “-ist” any more than e=mc2 turns a physicist into a nuclear warrior. But you can guess which one’s work has been almost absent from American universities.

“Working families,” the current politician’s euphemism for the proper economic descriptor, makes subliminal reference to “family values” and all that hokey Americana, mixing Evangelism with apple pie. It strokes the soft underbellies of Republicans of both parties. Currently near the head of the list of terms used to confuse us with approved duopoly messaging, working families reeks of condescension. The image is of desperate people focused on an illusion. Some of our best pols, like Elizabeth Warren, dig it deeper: working families that play by the rules.

“Working families” suggests a silent, slow, passive demographic who missed the boat. Standing sadly on the shore watching it sail away, they really wanted to be players in the capitalist meritocracy, but they just didn’t have what it takes.

Republicans and Trumpists hear that as the condescension it is. They know that the smarter cookie, like their grotesque hero, ignores rules and norms, rips people off, spends his money on bad taste bling, and surrounds himself with lawyers to keep him out of jail.

The working class, though, is a tougher, more dangerous kettle of fish. Since 1848, working class does not generate an image of the cubicle-compliant Dilbert class. The core of the working class is there because they want to be. They wanted work that ends at five o’clock, that supports a family and leaves enough at the end of the week for a couple of pints down the pub. Before the dumbing-down, they had theatre and literature, political and scientific discussion. They are workers, not left-behind bosses lamenting their diminished lot. But they do not want to be unacceptably exploited to the point of oppression either. The real working class does not want or need to be fed bullshit by the political and middle management sycophants of the oligarchy.

They’re still out there. The Reagan delusions changed their name and pulled their claws. Let’s use the right words and bring them back.

The working class looks the state in the eye and says: Keep this robbery up and we will put you down. The working class knows which end of the pitchfork has the sharp points. Working families suffer in silence, waiting for a savior. (It probably comes from the evolution of American Christianity, but that is for another NOLAscape.)

And why do you have to be in a “family” anyway? Single people work.

(And why do you have to work? That’s a question for the advanced class.)

Most cops and soldiers come from the working class, whose real name we are giving back. I don’t know if they tell the elected politicians, but the Deep State knows from watching East Europe in 1989 that American cops might shoot into a Black Lives Matter march, and maybe lash out some injury at the DAPL protests, but it is uncertain whether they will shoot into a crowd that might contain their parents, children and friends.

They know that when the police and the soldiers put the safety on and holster the guns, it’s over. Erich Honecker lasted barely seven days after the East German police refused to shoot into crowds of civilians.

They know that empires can fall over fast. The Roman Empire dwindled slowly over hundreds of years, until all that was left was Byzantium, finally conquered by the Ottomans in 1453. But empires can also go down fast. The Soviet Union declared itself over December 26th, 1991, after a few decades of officially sanctioned alternative reality. Signs are, Americans have a higher BS tolerance than Russians, so might hold out longer when the curtain is pulled away and the kleptocracy is live on TV.

Ditch “working families,” a soggy term that draws a picture of a disordered mush of passive, sad, silent screwees. Bring back the working class. It will make the disintegrating neoliberal consensus and Trump’s menagerie squirm in their seats, and tell aspiring saviors to keep it real.

So scare the fish: working class, not working families.

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Next: “avowed socialist” to be struck from the list of approved political terms of obfuscation.

 

© NOLAscape December 2016

 

The Morning After the Morning After

On returning the United States to grown-up government and reinstating Civil Society, by a reformed Lesser-Evilist.

(The sentence above was originally in an elegant script reminiscent of 18th century calligraphy. You would have been very impressed, but this program can’t reproduce it.)

One of the casualties of Tuesday’s election – remember that? – should be lesser-evilism. Maybe we can drown it in Grover Norquist’s bathtub. I spent a few months defending it as the right tactic in the battleground states, and possibly understandable in fairly solid red or blues, but in the states with 90+% probability either way, we could vote our real preference. In other words, voting your preference would be symbolic only. Louisiana is so deep, solid, crawfish red, with a 99+% probability of voting Trump, thousands of us could vote for Jill Stein and feel comfortable without affecting the outcome.

And what did America get for the tactical voting? A rambunctious moron who intends to sweep away not only the United States’ still inadequate steps toward social and political decency, but also the few accomplishments of its lagging pace toward some protection of the earth.

But what if the flyover and white tribal revolt had not quite worked? Clinton won the popular vote. Trump is about the fifth President installed over popular preference by the quirks of the electoral college system, which gives too much weight to state governments just for being states. Wyoming, which might almost be a national park as an autonomous state, has two senators just like California and New York.

Would a Clinton presidency have been much better? Aesthetically, yes. Trump may seem okay for a few weeks now, calmed like a prey animal who has gorged on a big antelope, but we will be embarrassed. He will do stupid things and try to pass criminal and unconstitutional laws and executive orders. But look back objectively – would Hillary Clinton really have been much better for the world and for you? Well, yes, but not enough. Maybe we would have had purposeful wars of imperial expansion instead of reactive ones launched by pride, anger or menace, but they would cost us and the world as much. She would have compromised us into a cocked hat, trading wages, infrastructure improvement, education, corporate political funding and labor reform for bank deals.

In fact, if you compare Clinton’s history and alliances to Trump’s hundred days pledges, you can think of the election as a contest between the extraction industries and Wall Street. Different kinds of upward money pump, different end points of the pipelines. Trump will do reckless damage to civilization and to the environment that will take more years to put right than it will take him and the circus of greed and ignorance he will put in charge to wreck. The Guardian this morning predicts he will appoint Sarah Palin Secretary of the Interior. Could that be motivated by anything but resentment? Trump is playing Captain Ahab, shaking his fist not against heaven but intelligence – and the US propaganda system is going to be calling for unity behind the President of all the people.

We wonder when the Trump supporters will get it. Probably never. Fox and the alt-right make their living by aggressive blindness. The other alt-world of corporate mainstream TV “news” will be ordered to maintain access at all costs, and a Trump White House will cheerfully sling out any reporter who criticizes a statement or policy, or who works for a paper or station who does. Countries whose tinpot status is less developed than ours have to send in the jackboots to shut down a newspaper or TV station. In Washington, the press secretary just has to frown at one of the news shows’ access whores, and the story grows roses.

Michael Moore quickly put out a five point plan for taking the country back, to be started by close of business Wednesday, while the rest of us were still resolved into a dew. Since MMFlint is as aware as you can get, smart as hell, called this election right long before anyone else and never gave up on his own perception, it has to be worth a lot of attention. It has to be good. I like it. But I am going to pick at it anyway, for a few excellent reasons.

Cenk Uyghur of TYT also came out with a five point plan too. It’s pretty good, too. But I can’t let these guys upstage NOLAscape just because they have national recognition and millions of followers. My plan has more points, lots of points, and they are long points. Amazing points.

  1. Michael Moore says, “Take over the Democratic Party and return it to the people. They failed us miserably.” Cenk says fire the DNC.

We need more than that.

The Democratic Party and the DNC not only misjudged the electorate, they were weak. Forget their little bit of finagling and covering up for their anointed princess. They were just too flabby and ineffectual to make the hard decision to go with a winning candidate or to acknowledge what it took to win. The Clintons were their boys, both candidates and power brokers, so they did what they had to do, and it wasn’t any good. Their candidate ran a boring, aloof campaign, connecting with almost no one except her star chamber, and they either could not see it or didn’t have the courage to deal with it.

They thought they were strong, and probably still do. The pompous Democratic establishment (Podesta, the Clintons, Donna Brazile, their backers and clients) have achieved wealth and are considered important and powerful. Remember the Nevada convention? Roberta Lange, a pompous, arrogant little panjandrum of the Nevada state Democratic apparatus, banging her gavel and striding off after declaring the winner decided by Harry Reid, gave us a glimpse of what it is like at mid-level. The top table is just more media savvy.

But they have just proved they were a busted flush. Corrupted by self-regard and complacency, the established party is now too tainted and exposed to attract, convert or defeat the people in the reactionary forces of white tribalism and its horror-comic policies: building walls, unleashing hell on perceived but minor enemies, empowering superstition and despoiling the earth.

Money was their secret weapon and it didn’t work. Money on its own is too soft.

Clear out the DNC using the Augean Stables technique. The fifth of the twelve tasks of Herakles was to clean the stables of King Augeas, who had three thousand cattle of divine descent, the best fed in the world, so they generated copious tons of dung. They were driven home from the fields every night to their enormous stable, which had not been cleaned for thirty years. A messy, smelly job for a demigod on a one day deadline.

Heracles chopped a hole in the back wall, diverted a couple of rivers into the front door, and flushed out thirty years of bullshit in a few hours. Sounds like an operational model.

The Clintons may be done. The Podesta brothers and the “establishment” and clients they represent are still in place. They just showed us they didn’t have the power to beat a traveling circus, and are probably maneuvering to keep their jobs right now. A citizens’ movement would probably not be able to shutter the Podestas’ lobbying business, but clearing John out of the DNC and establishment central should knock a zero off the fees brother Tony could charge. Leaked reports of DNC meetings suggest the stalwarts are getting behind Donna Brazile. In deference to her years of service and attractive TV persona, let’s overlook getting caught in some petty cheating and not being skillful enough to see what needed doing to overcome a shambolic Republican campaign.

Let’s cll bullshit, as Herakles would. Cenk is right: fire everybody, from the honchos to the interns.

People are talking about a new DNC now, which won’t be new. Some are proposing putting Howard Dean back in charge. He did okay before, so why not put him in charge of facing the new challenges? One reason: he is not near as wild and wooly as he was once thought to be. He is older, and a part of the Dem establishment.

Progressives will promote Keith Ellison. Better, but still on the fringes of the establishment. He might be okay if people, real people, can scare the hell out of the Party, so they get the feeling they will be bumped off the cliff if they don’t dirty up their act.

If you can’t re-capture the DNC right away, or if it is quickly taken over by a replacement group as uninspiring as the current gang, form a new DNC. An alt-DNC, to get up their noses. Call yourselves the New Democrats, as Tony Blair (but don’t model it on him) did to the Labour Party in the UK. Build up a new DNC and say it is within the party. Call it the Real DNC, and tell everybody the other one is full of losers and has-beens. Sponsor Sanders, or get him to run it.

2.  More progressive parties are emerging. The Socialst Alternative is one, as Americans get used to the word Socialist again, which the propaganda system shoved underground for the past 70 years or so. But while they can be effective pressure groups, they are unlikely to work in election politics. Michael Moore is right – take over the Democratic Party. America is hooked on a two party system. The NOLAscape plan is an expanded five point program, not a 12 step program. We can’t stop the two party addiction this side of 2020. I would prefer more parties for more choice, and Jill Stein’s Green Party has the best policies for the best quality of life for the greatest number, but as demonstrated by the relative success of the Sanders campaign within the tattered Democratic umbrella compared to the Libertarians and Greens, third-party is still a dubious strategy here.

3. Michael Moore says, “Any Democratic member of Congress who didn’t wake up this morning ready to fight, resist and obstruct in the way Republicans did against President Obama every day for eight full years must step out of the way and let those of us who know the score lead the way in stopping the meanness and the madness that’s about to begin.”

How do you make that happen? Mike is praying for magic. Congressional hustlers are not going to step aside. They like their place at the trough. They like living in Georgetown most of the year.

It is a truism that the Dems and Repubs have become a duopoly. Any principles they pretend to have been lost in the game of power-broking, especially by the Democrats. The Republicans hold on to a few, mostly irrational, by giving shelter to crazy people. It became obvious in the course of the primaries that the DNC would rather see the RNC take its turn than risk their jobs and influence by compromise with the Sanders insurgency, which would have won the election Tuesday. Factory reset, so that the parties are in serious opposition, not two parties in a twin planet orbit.

So if you want to get rid of them, either take the DNC properly, or outnumber it with a better one, harass the new establishment managers until they can’t sleep at night, and primary the lukewarm duopolists out into the private sector, under injunction of one of the Trump camp’s better ideas: no lobbying job for five years.

4. It has been suggested many times that this is the Chinese century, as the 20th was the American. More recently it looked like China had some soft spots, but Trumpism is cover for   a much weaker spot. It is more likely that the Chinese system is just the next model in the series of empires. We are being traded in.

Trumpism looks like another thrash of the tail of a dying empire. Various flavors of Neocon or Neoliberal have been setting the imperialist agenda since Eisenhower – yes, think Cuba and Vietnam: the sainted John Kennedy was as bad as any of them – with the occasional time out for privatization, union bashing, fossil fuel and bank deregulation and quantitative easing. Neoliberalism has gone past the point of sickness and boredom. Trump is going to be just another flavor of it.

So it is an opportunity for a global cease-fire. Help Iraq and Syria get rid of ISIS, but don’t invade. Obama’s model is working. Stop supporting Israel’s abuse of Palestinians individually and collectively. Shift more attention away from external spheres of influence and look to your own electorate – or even step out of the bubble and call them your own people.

5. This week’s mind-fucked insurgency under some of the most ridiculous characters in American politics should be a signal that that it is time to wind down the Empire, as proposed by the campaigns of Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein and Johnson/Weld, and build a decent, social democratic society with better distribution of opportunity and a better safety net for protection from the harsh backwash of capitalism for people who fail at or are not interested in that game. That requires putting the ideas of Duck Dynasty and the Bundy clan out of power, out of participation. Behind us, in the past. White tribalism standing against human reality is not a scenario for peace or prosperity. Its followers must be recruited, converted or re-marginalized.

6. To be a serious opposition, the New Democratic National Committee has to be seriously progressive, a well left-of-center social democratic party, with a clear written statement of its position. Progressive and aggressive. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren can help with that. If they want to play out a dialectic in popular language in public, they can get Robert Reich to defend liberal capitalism and Richard Wolff to argue against it and find a path for the next step. If it turns out not to be a strong opposition prepared to take power, it is not worth having. Make sure their tenures are vulnerable, not entrenched like the current structure. Boot them aside and start again.

7. While corporations are not people – that was a stupid idea – they are corporations. They exist and work here. They have to be made a serving part of society, not corrupting leeches on it. Don’t re-write the agenda to please either the finance, extraction or military industries, as the parties have done, as the Clintons did to the Democratic party, as the Republicans always did. Recruit big businesses and small to the progressive agenda. Craft a good story and sell it. Write a set of clean, clear, beneficial rules, and prosecute them criminally when they go outside the lines. In a progressive agenda, they will lose political power; convince them, as Franklin Roosevelt did, that the alternative is worse. They won’t all sign on, but some will. FDR got about 50%. Make sure the good ones win.

8. Michael Moore said fire all the pundits and pontificators who couldn’t see through the membranes of deception, and will now be babbling about “coming together.” Good idea, but you can’t fire them. They work for corporate propaganda organs funded by other corporations through advertising. Their “news” stars get paid millions of dollars a year to attract, entertain and soothe the people that politicians peddling imaginary fear and salvation work up. The see-saw between indignant fear and being wrapped into the confidence of Megyn Kelly’s or Chris Cuomo’s or Lawrence O’Donnell’s soothing voices is an addiction.

What you can do is not watch them. Television is fading anyway. Corporate propaganda media has less advantage in the on-demand internet system than in time-controlled broadcast and cable. But you still have to learn to think and discern, because against the neutral internet background, Breitbart and Drudge can look less insane than they are.

Like Trump, they are trading hot air for attention. Just wean yourself off the addiction by watching and reading real news until you feel clean, then move on to real facts with less filter. Older folks and conspiracy jerks will still be on Breitbart or Fox, but play this right and soon they will fade away while while the hardcore loonies paint themselves into a quirky corner.

So Michael Moore’s Five Step Program is right, but needs method as well as goals, and looking back, did he put a dent in his street cred by going all gooey over Hillary Clinton? I wasn’t convinced of that on Monday, but it looks clearer now. The United States needs better candidates, and to get better candidates, it needs better parties. Or rather, one better party. The other can stew in its superstitions, mythology and medievalism as a home for the overconfident bewildered.

Even within this party system, though, our backward, undemocratic, legacy voting system hands power to the wrong guy. Michael Moore says that one well:

The MAJORITY of our fellow Americans preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. Period. Fact. If you woke up this morning thinking you live in an effed-up country, you don’t. The majority of your fellow Americans wanted Hillary, not Trump. The only reason he’s president is because of an arcane, insane 18th-century idea called the Electoral College. Until we change that, we’ll continue to have presidents we didn’t elect and didn’t want.

How do you do that? Even if the government was not now falling into the hands of dolts and madmen as well as the usual crooks, we still have the small states and Southern states who won’t want to relinquish an inch of their spoiler power. Same problem the Constitutional Convention had.

It gets better:

You live in a country where a majority of its citizens have said they believe there’s climate change, they believe women should be paid the same as men, they want a debt-free college education, they don’t want us invading countries, they want a raise in the minimum wage and they want a single-payer true universal health care system. None of that has changed. We live in a country where the majority agree with the “liberal” position. We just lack the liberal leadership to make that happen.

When we get Trump and his freak show out, will there be enough of civilization and the earth left to save?

If you have the patience for a half hour of intelligent but somewhat ponderous thought, try Tariq Ali:  https://youtu.be/kdnp29K8db8

© NOLAscape November 2016

Shock, not awe

Shared shell shock seems to be the dominant mood today. If there were underground shelters, we might be huddling together in them, sharing drags off mangled cigarettes.

One of the disagreeable things about Trump’s electoral college win is that it gives this tacky vulgarian the prize he was after. The least deserving guy we have ever seen. W can begin to boast down the boozer that he wasn’t the worst.

Another is that as President, his actions will affect your life. He was always a repugnant buffoon, but you did not have to enter his casinos or hotels, play golf or buy any products branded with his boring name. Now he will be all over the place, in your eye line, hogging your time and attention, as he has for the past 18 months.

He will be head of state. Imagine meetings with the Europeans and the President of China, the US represented by this crude guy who can’t form complete sentences, who speaks with a child’s vocabulary, who doesn’t read or know anything outside of himself. His sense of social norms has never developed to adult level. Even the New York mafia bosses gave up asshole as a style statement after Gotti, but Trump carries on the tradition. He has a level of working bravado over his deeper insecurity about his intelligence and boorishness that gets him through most things. He can tell himself that since he runs a bigger army and has more money, they will respect him. At some level, he, and we, know that they don’t. That even Putin doesn’t. That he is a semi-literate carney barker just Peter Principled above his level. If we can stand to look, we will be embarrassed.

Some of the the things we can look forward to: Trump has pledged to:

  • Bring back torture
  • Kill families of “terrorists.”
  • Shut the door on refugees from violence (largely created by US intervention)
  • Annul the Iran nuclear deal.
  • Annul the Paris climate treaty
  • Shut down the EPA.
  • Repeal the Federal Clean Energy Act
  • Encourage or subsidize more drilling and fracking.
  • Support or subsidize more coal mining and coal power plants.
  • Support more pipelines, with no regard for environment, lives and wildlife destroyed.
  • Lower his own tax rate
  • Repeal the Affordable Care Act

And probably more I haven’t thought of. Feel free to suggest others. Oh yes – he might try out a few nukes, just to test the effect.

It looks like the Decline and Fall, and it is not going to be pretty. We may get to see the death rattle of the Republican Party on the way down, which in view of what it has become since it covered for McCarthy and Trump’s old friend and mentor, Roy Cohn, would not be a bad thing.

The USA has always been part barbarian, but think of the cartoon villains this guy will bring to Washington and what they and the Congressional Republicans will do to law and justice. Imagine Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Steve Bannon as part of your daily life for four years.

What new furniture and drapes will he tell Melania that she wants? Will he be assigning rooms to Uday, Qusay and Ivanka?

My gag reflex won’t make it through. What’s Costa Rica like this time of year?

I’m working on a plan to take back the country. Should be done by morning, so I can save you all. Michael Moore wrote one – why can’t I? I may even crib some stuff out of his.

© NOLAscape November 2016

Gas Station Blues

Today’s NOLAscape is intensely local, so before we move on to less important things, let’s do a bit of national to warm up.

if any of you are still thinking of voting for Trump – don’t. Please don’t. I know Louisiana is so deep red that the chances of making any difference approach zero, but still – let’s make the decent gesture and keep our self-respect.

No matter how pissed off you feel, let’s get past this national embarrassment. He could not stay within the ethical guidelines of governance of a public company, let alone a complex democratic government. He has announced that he does not intend to. You would not leave your money in a bank he was president of. To estimate this guy’s lack of integrity, think of Nixon and multiply it by a big number. His promises are ridiculous, destructive or both. He will work to get tax laws changed in his favor, pay back some hardcore Russians with money and favors, just as he hustled, finagled and sold junk bonds to pay back mob guys in Atlantic City in the 90s, stiffing investors, suppliers and American banks along the way – which might have kept him alive. Then he would find a way to leverage the President brand to channel some more bling to his tacky, ridiculous Tower. When he finds out that the President is not a dictator, that he does not know more about war than the generals, that Senators, other presidents and prime ministers are not afraid of him, and that Presidential behavior requires more than a long red tie and mugging for the camera, he will get bored. The only upside would be, public disgust would set the stage for the next President, Michelle Obama.

Bill Weld, the smarter cookie of the Libertarian comedy, wrote some disparaging but well-formed sentences about our international embarrassment, Donald Trump. My favorite line:

‘When challenged, he often responds as a child might. He makes a sour face, he calls people by insulting names, he waves his arms, he impatiently interrupts. Most families would not allow their children to remain at the dinner table if they behaved as Mr. Trump does.’

“Mr” Trump indeed.

———<>———-

If complaining were an Olympic sport, Bywater/Marigny would be in the medals. They wouldn’t get gold. North London would easily take gold in the international kvetch stakes. Tel Aviv would probably be up there. But we would be on the podium, flashing silver or bronze.

In an inspired moment in one of her turns as President of City Council, Stacy Head told a fairly full chamber, “You think we are in positions of power or influence. No. We are the city’s complaint department.”

Reliable sources tell me the way to get free of the complaints vibe is to move Uptown. Even to Lower Garden. Get upriver of Calliope and the sun shines greener. But I don’t know. The whole country seems to be in angry complaint mode now. Payback for every politician and “news” show talking head, who seem to number in the low millions, telling us about all the threats we are facing, drumming some up in case we missed them, so they can pose as superhero.

So what, you may be wondering, am I actually talking about?

A new gas station is going to be built on a blighted, abandoned site on Poland Ave, and, as usual, people are objecting. Neighbors. In high dudgeon, neighbors turn into the new political activist category <<neighbors>>. I don’t agree with them, but for once, I don’t feel so good about objecting to the objectors.

Here’s the site:

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Everybody knows it. North Robertson is the approach road to the Claiborne Avenue bridge to the Lower 9th, Arabi and Chalmette. Poland Ave is the last street you cross this side of the canal. The gas station site is the space where the truck trailer in the photo is parked, next to a post office and sorting station. If you go straight back into the streets behind the bridge approach, there is a mix of residential and industrial properties. If you walk past the post office on Poland and turn right, you come to the Villalobos pit bull rescue shelter – that’s fun.

The new owners are going to build a gas station and convenience store, and as usual, the opposition drifted into fiction.

Opponents said there are other gas stations nearby, but that is not really true, and if it were, we might ask: so what? Gas station is a permitted not conditional use at the site, and it is really up to the owner/entrepreneur what business he wants to open. Competition is allowed. If the operator thinks he can win business away from other gas stations, that is a permitted business objective. If the country or even city and state decided to change to a social planning system, even for small businesses, that might be a different story, but in the current legal/economic structure, the owner decides within zoning and and other regulations.

What was up for conditional approval was an alcoholic beverage sales license. Naturally, some neighbors objected to that. People always object to alcohol licenses. I can’t see the point of it. Prohibition didn’t work, doesn’t work. Alcoholic beverages are sold in every supermarket, almost all convenience stores, wine stores and lots of gas stations. Why is there still a fuss? Are we supposed to sequester drinkers on somebody else’s street? Why does an elaborate alcohol control mechanism still empower kangaroo courts like Deputy City Attorney Dan McNamara’s ABO Inquisition and questionable state officials like Troy Hebert? Regulations that enable governmental empire building create a counter-industry of bar and entertainment business associations and their lobbyists fighting back against administration, and the dance goes on – a reality show that spins money out of hot air.

Some neighbors started a petition. A friend alerted me that it was publicized on Nextdoor, so I clicked on and objected to the objection. The protesting and complaining that bubbles up around every new project, no matter how ordinary, is tiresome.

But wasn’t I objecting and complaining – to the objections and complaints? And gas stations generally feature about the worst design that afflicts a city. Few are appropriately adapted to the urban environment. These garish constructions of backlit brightly colored plastic were designed as part of the suburbanization car culture movement, for visually noisy sales hustle on commuter roads. The oil companies’ style guides still dump them into urban environments, ready to outglare the competition if another brand opens across the street.

Maybe I should find different things to pay attention to, or move out of Bywater/St. Claude before I become an incurable moaner, worse than “the neighbors.”

Then I watched the video of the Council session. Wow – a shock. The first opponent, owner of a dress shop on Poland, did this cringemaking classist stuff about how her clients were too upper class to have to deal with anything as vulgar as a gas station across the street. Then it got worse, for me. The objectors included Lauren Morlock, whose coffee shop, Sólo, makes the best espresso this side of Rome, and Jimmy Horn of King James and the Special Men, one of the best bar bands alive. How could I oppose the position of these two valued people?

Bounded duty. It can’t be right to leave dilapidated, empty spaces to molder forever until the perfect business pleases everybody. Whatever might open in this space, according to the petitioning neighbors, as we shall see, it would be too dangerous to walk or drive to. Maybe it could be an accident insurance office.

The stated issues: the intersection is “congested.” No, it’s not. I’m a neighbor too. It is busy sometimes, especially during the afternoon commuter exodus. Congested is when cars repeatedly get trapped in and block up the intersection, can’t get free of the traffic, horns honking, anger mounting, fender benders abounding. If that ever happens at this intersection, it must be very rare. I have never seen it.

They say when the bridge approach is closed or the bridge open, there are already delays and “congestion.” Well, of course closing a bridge causes delays, but the Claiborne Bridge is high and opens rarely. It was recently closed for several weeks for repair, but that is unlikely to happen again for several years. Even so, delays and congestion are not the same thing, and what does bridge raising or repair have to do with whether there is a gas station on the corner?

There are already accidents and will be more, they said. Why? Robertson is one way with rather heavy but moving traffic during afternoon rush hour. Poland has medium traffic, two sides, two lanes each, with a broad, grassy neutral ground between, so vanishingly low risk of head-on collisions. The intersection is managed by traffic signals that work properly and are reasonably timed so that they do not cause excessive back-ups on either street. Accidents must be due to the usual: inattention. Attention lapses are the real cause of most crashes, as any driver knows if they give it a bit of proper attention. You can’t blame distraction on the intersection, or on a gas station that isn’t there yet.

High risk for pedestrians was another of the dire warnings. I have crossed both Robertson and Poland at that intersection dozens of times. I can’t think of one time when there was another person crossing at the same time. I am always the only one. It has a reliable traffic signal and marked crossing lanes. If an urban pedestrian cannot negotiate this intersection safely, it might be best not to let him or her out alone.

Selling alcohol in the convenience store is probably the real trigger to the exaggerated traffic objections, and maybe a bad rep some gas stations have for attracting loiterers and muggers. Add alcohol to a city station, it all could get unsavory – if the city allows it to.

The City Planning Commission’s staff recommendation was to allow the license. There was no recommendation from the commissioners. I did not watch their session, but I am not particularly surprised. City Planning is frequently bewildered. Their staff is usually professional and serious, though sometimes you can sense a verdict politicized by the administration.

Council voted 6-1 with CPC staff to allow. CM Susan Guidry dissented. Again, not surprised; Ms Guidry is frequently gives more weight to neighbor objections than the others. Maybe Ms Guidry is more comfortable with derelict sites and semi-blight than CMs more eager for new light and life.

In summation, CM Jason Williams mentioned that he had recently met executives of Trader Joe’s, which had sited its new store in Metairie. They told him they would have preferred to build in New Orleans, but they saw the city as too difficult, battling the chronic objections to everything too expensive. So Trader Joe’s has registered the culture of complaint,

CM James Gray, wise as usual, said the problems that the city and neighborhoods have had around some gas stations and convenience stores come from the city’s failure to enforce laws and manage our urban environment. There is no justification for hanging the burden of an administrative failure around the neck of the next guy who wants to open a business.

The application passed, six to one. Now there will be a garish gas station instead of an empty lot. We don’t know whether it will be the green one, the yellow one or the red one yet, but its convenience store will be able to sell package liquor. It would be nice if oil companies were less powerful, so they could not get away with ugly design. Maybe one day. Meanwhile, we should be okay with an active, well-lit business, but not okay with one that is badly run, enables petty crime or attracts loitering and anti-social behavior. If it does that, the neighbors should get on the municipal government in a very hobnailed fashion and get it stopped. If its design is right, not just a bunch of backlit brightly colored plastic, and its store well managed, it could be a beneficial business. If it is not, stomp all over it. But is it right to pre-judge it? I don’t think so. Active businesses and residential density are preferable to blighted vacant lots.

Now I need some help. Is there a Complaints Anonymous, a twelve step anti-kvetch organization, where I can go to cheer up and pay attention to more important things? Or do I have to move uptown

Black and Blue, Pt. 2

At the end of Part 1, I mentioned Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott, who had recently been killed by police in Tulsa and Charlotte. I am sorry to exploit their sad deaths, but the videos and sound recordings of these two police attacks strongly spotlight a consistent theme that could be the portal into this plague of violence.

When Michael Brown was shot down in Ferguson two years ago, beginning the current wave of protest against police violence, failure to comply with police commands was frequently asserted as a just cause for killing. “Compliance” filled print and cyberspace as both the recommended procedure for the prudent citizen to survive contact with our police, while even minor deviation from following shouted commands in tense circumstances was cited as justification for police violence. That was the part that knocked me out. Apparently large numbers of respectable citizens were comfortable with what they acknowledged to be armed, uniformed mercenaries roaming our streets, who might shoot people for not complying with their screamed instructions, and walk free from a homicide without even charge using a justification that nobody but a cop could get away with.

Americans boast about the special degree of freedom they think they have, but found this okay. Maybe they feel comfortable with the quotation from that great public intellectual Rudy Giuliani, “Freedom is about authority.” Probably like Mayor Nosferatu himself, they translate that into a badge, a gun and violent confrontation. Ugly ideas, more suitable for a military occupation than a civil society, but largely due to BLM waking us up, there are some signs of improvement. Not actually in the killing fields yet. The spree goes on. The Washington Post reports 715 killed by police so far in 2016, of whom 194 are African American. This is up 13 since Blue on Black pt. 1 was published, September 21, so about 1.3 per day.

Compliance was a fine statement of the authoritarian/paternalistic view of society, an atavistic stance that says, essentially, power is right because it is power. We need more power over us. That gives many Republicans and the Trumps of our political asylum the opportunity to offer us their overlordship.

Black men were recommended to comply with police at all times, usually in condescending tones by white people. They have a point, of course. Compliance can have a percentage advantage as a near-term survival strategy. But as some jurists have recently said, police killings are now like lynching. Accepting the conditions that enable it is like accepting slavery.

Police and their authoritarian supporters would blandly say, the victim did not comply with police instructions, so we killed him. Besides, he was a criminal who had committed first degree shoplifting and once peed in an alley.

It is hardly credible that anyone who felt himself at risk of lethal police action would support this madness. We are in that Jane Elliott realm where people acknowledge that they know what is going on; they do not want it nor would they accept it for themselves; but they are happy enough for others to be the victims of the bad idea they support.

Increasingly we are seeing that compliance has a more sinister significance. It is the common theme linking the incidents of police unnecessarily shooting down citizens, generally in completely unnecessary escalations, sometimes in completely unnecessary confrontations. Compliance is a trigger implanted in the brains of police engaged in confrontation with civilians.

A sad paradigm case is Officer Betty Shelby killing Terence Crutcher in Tulsa. They are both victims of this nightmarish policy, which has now even elicited open condemnation from the United Nations, usually hesitant to criticize its most powerful and fractious member.

In recently released audio recording we hear Ms Shelby shouting in a tense, anxious tone, “He won’t show his hands! He won’t show his hands!” We can hear a whole drama of information in that. She will have issued an instruction, drawn her gun and dropped into aggressive shooting crouch, instantly turning the instruction from any chance it had of functioning as eye contact communication between two humans into a death threat. She has drawn an ineradicable line of deadly enemy status between Crutcher and herself. Its psychological impact is probably stronger on Ms Shelby than on Crutcher. He was wandering back toward his car. Maybe he thought he was supposed to spread his legs and lean against the car.

Or maybe, even worse, Terence Crutcher was just resigned. Perhaps he knew what happens when white cops pull guns on black men.

In her cry into the radio, we can hear that Betty Shelby is responding to a training instruction that must be implanted like a latent virus in the minds of thousands of police. “Show your hands!” Ms Shelby may be talking to her command in a kind of despair. If she thinks he is not complying, her trained response would be to shoot. Imagine that she can see the horror of that, but feels that she can’t find the choice to stand down, to de-escalate, without permission..

When a cop shouts “Show your hands” in a confrontation, he has already declared the other person a deadly threat. Evidence? Frequently none. He or she just has that “feeling.” Later on, they say, “I was afraid for my life.” When Darren Wilson said that in the Michael Brown investigation, I did not believe him. Now I do. He had been taught and trained that non-compliance with his commands by anybody endangered his life. That mad misreasoning makes some police on some forces dangers to all our lives.

The compliance trigger can quickly turn an inquiry into a showdown. The recording suggests that that is what happened to Betty Shelby.The status is no longer citizen and citizen. With police in this mode, it won’t matter that the citizen is unarmed; the cop has entered fight or flight mode, and the police must dominate. Must win. The other option is disorder.

I question whether in that moment, in that narrow focus, the notion of “unarmed” has any relevance to the police officer. The concepts of threat to his or her life and compliance have merged. Non-compliance equals deadly threat.

The authoritarian tendency views this setup as a social law as ineluctable as physics.

But we also know, and we can hear it in Betty Shelby’s voice, that many police are almost always ready to be afraid for their lives, not because they are cowardly or more anxious than anybody else, but because they are told to be. They are trained to it and reminded of it continually by their superior officers and trainers.

And I am ready to take a shot that I can’t prove: thousands of Black men know this pattern as well as they know anything in our society. As soon as they see and hear it, their instinct tells them they are targets. Subsequent behavior comes from a set of defense mechanisms. Raise your hands, “assume the position,” freeze, duck, run, hide. They know with resignation that none is reliable. When an American cop has decided to cross that thin line from a simple stop to an armed confrontation, to narrow the focus of exchange from communication to the muzzle of a gun, the rest of your life may be unlikely and reasoned thought may stop. We don’t get to discuss those last thoughts with murder victims, so we won’t ever know.

Before I have to hear the “ you just hate the police” refrain again, we also know that thousands of police do not want to be like this, but in confrontation, some of them may not be able to overcome it. The video of Officer Eric Casebolt going berserk on the pool party kids shows other cops trying to talk him down. Watch the video of the shooting of Paul O’Neal in Chicago: one cop draws and fires at the rear of the car. Hearing shots, others draw their guns. One of the officers reaches over to the first one to lower his arm. The cops around are caught in conflict between the situation turned violent, their training, their team spirit, their perception and their instincts. There is no clear commander who can say like General Honoré, “Lower those weapons!” Once the “comply or die” pin has been pulled, it is pretty much over.

Notice that I am saying American cop. Police talking to you does not go down like this in European countries that I know. Probably not in any of them. Even in Belfast in the 1980s, with a virtual civil war on in Northern Ireland and London, with the Royal Ulster Constabulary a militarized, heavily armed force, bombing, shooting and shooting back an almost daily occurrence, incidents like these causing death of the innocent by police or army nervousness were exceedingly rare. Members of the RUC killed and got killed, but they knew who they were shooting at. In post-enlightenment civilization, the police killing spree of unarmed civilians in random stops is a particularly American crime, officially protected – at least until now.

The Massachusetts High Court’s ruling that flight is not sufficient evidence to presume guilt to justify shooting could be the beginning of a turn toward civilization.

But maybe not. Chris Hedges, who is pessimistic about the survival chances of anything approaching a free society or a return of democracy under corporate capitalism, says that police violence has bigger objectives than racism. Hedges says that corporate capitalism having destroyed the traditional social stabilizers – reliable employment, decent wages, interesting consumerism, labor unions – cohesion has been fractured like a car window, and force is being set up to maintain order. The essential function of police will be to suppress dissent. Against the background of this idea, police violence against Black men and women dying now could function as field practice for when they have to turn their guns and urban tanks against the rebellion of the victims of corporate robbery. The 99%, in Occupy idiom.

We are tamed by foolishness: it’s the Mexicans; it’s the immigrants; it’s the Muslims; it’s them; it’s the lizard aliens. It’s the idiots that make trade deals, the fools that try to deal honorably with Iran. Iran should be treated, they believe, with the same disrespect that America treats some Arab countries (even if that is what generates the terrorism that allows them to churn the weapons economy and attack . . . and so on, as Vonnegut would say.)

Some correctly point out: police violence does not stop at black men. They shoot white people, too. Not at the same per capita rate and maybe they do not register on the compliance screen through the same filter, but they do. The problem is not that police do not kill white guys, it is that white people have not perceived police violence as a threat. Many even support it. They do not think it is about them. “All Lives Matter” has turned into a white supremacist group. Two years ago in Ferguson, when BLM’s profile rose above the parapet, it looked like the forces of Law and Order, the code phrase handed down from Nixon to Trump and even his lackey Giuliani, might crush it. But there is a decent chance it isn’t going that way.

A reminder of the scale of the problem. A database called the Government Terrorism Database says the number of Americans killed by acts that would call terrorism from 2004 to 2013, ten years, is 80. (I don’t know whether they are counting Orlando. I would take that out.) If you go back farther and include 9/11, you get 3.066. So the Twin Towers plus 80.

The best count of the police death toll, according to FBI Director James Comey – who is not fond of that fact and has now moved to compel police forces to report every police shooting – are the Guardian newspapers: 2015 – 1,146; 2016 to date, 814. Comey is telling us that the numbers are under-reported, but to be conservative, to play it very safe, let’s say 10,000 over the ten years.

The ratio for the period is 10,000: 80, or if you want to shift the time frame to include the Twin Towers, you get 10,000 v. 3,000.

To compare to another country, Germany: 15 in the 2010/2011 period, so 75 estimated for ten years. Population 80.7m v. US 330m, so at the most conservative possible estimate, US police kill civilians at a rate over 32.5 times higher. Probably at least 40 times.

Some of the election bombast may be entertaining. Some of us laugh at the BS, some are excited by the fear they are mongering. But if you are among those still hoping to stay tuned to reality, give ISIS a few minutes’ break in the red herring box. You are many, many times more likely to be killed or brutalized by our own cops than by by an Al Qaeda or ISIS oppo.

Anybody reading this is infinitely more likely to be a victim of police brutality than a beneficiary of it. Do what you can to help cure this thing. It’s not hopeless. Police violence is not a law of physics; it is a product of human decisions. Change the program, you can change the outcome. Some police chiefs, influential officials in the justice departments and some enlightened judges are now openly down with ending this product of ignorance. Let’s support them.

Despite the reflex whining of some chiefs, and backlash states like North Carolina digging their heels in to let police continue to hide, we will value police and benefit from them much more when they join the people. When “protect and serve” supersedes “comply.”

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Next up is a percolating story about the ethics case against John Deveney in his role as an HDLC Commissioner; and the HDLC, while we are there; and how Deveney got himself into this. What Chris Costello, former president and FMIA and neighborhood tyrant manqué, had to do with that, and is the current incarnation of FMIA dealing successfully with the Costello backwash.
It is part legal case about conduct in public office, and part domestic drama and personal tragedy. What is right when love and rules collide? I am going to have to reach deep to search for my inner Truman Capote.

© NOLAscape October 2016

Coming Attractions

More coming soon on the disastrous Costello period of Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association and some of its lingering effects. We will attempt to see into the drama underlying the battles and the bluster. Testimony is emerging from the ongoing litigation that shows not just the grey lines linking the ferocious attack against the Elisio Lofts proposal for 501 Elysian, and the ethics issue fallout, but the personal ambition and pain that drove the battle, in three dimensions and full color.

Marigny is a fine neighborhood that could be great. There are some hints that the FMIA is trying to shake itself free of the old ghosts and rejoin the city.

One consequence of the Elisio campaign:

“City conveyance records show that an entity known as 501EFA Hotel, headed by Amit Patel, purchased the 36,200-square-foot property at 501 Elysian Fields Ave. for $3.5 million from Mercato Elisio, which lists local real estate developer Sean Cummings as its manager. The transaction was recorded on September 12.

The property is bounded by Elysian Fields Avenue, Chartres, Marigny and Decatur Streets and is one block from Frenchmen Street’s numerous bars and entertainment venues. Conveyance records also indicate that a $2.8 million mortgage was taken out on the property through First NBC Bank.

Pinu Patel of Lake Charles-based Patel Construction, a partner in 501EFA Hotel, could not be reached for comment. His company specializes in hotel construction.”

Marigny warehouse sells for $3.5M to hotel developers

FMIA is generally Residentialist, so possibly disappointed to get a tourist hotel instead of apartments. But maybe not.

Elysian Fields Avenue has been a missed opportunity. If its zoning allowed construction to appropriate height, in scale for a wide boulevard, and allowed cafés and restaurants with outside tables, it could be a pedestrian friendly, walkable, cheerful environment, like its namesake in Paris. Now, even around Washington Square, walking on Elysian feels like trying to take a relaxing stroll on an airport runway. A lively hotel might set a new tone and inspire the city to come up with a real vision, with a variable skyline, and a mix of hotels, apartments, shops, music and refreshments. Elysian is a boulevard, and should be a better version of Canal Street, dominated by hotels and second rate shopping. More outside, more street life, like the original Champs-Elysèes.

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New police crimes: have you seen this one?

http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/22/politics/maryland-police-pepper-spray-teen-girl/

Apparently trying to achieve a new low in institutional stupidity, the police chief of Hagerstown told reporters resignedly, “Every time we use a level of force, regardless whether we are justified or not, we lose.” He defended his officers abhorrent behavior, saying the girl had become “assaultive.” Five feet, 15 and 100 lb facing about 500 cumulative pounds of cop, and even given Maryland policing’s record of discrimination, reconfirmed in this incident, they couldn’t think of a better way to deal with a scared girl after an accident than handcuffing and Mace. It should either amaze or sicken all of us, depending on how many times we have watched it, that American municipal cops can’t grasp the concept of patience.

I just watched a British crime show. A cop, a young woman, had been murdered. The sergeant, also a woman, was sending her officers out to go door to door for any information. Her last instruction was, “Do not forget to treat people with the compassion and respect they deserve.”

Chief Brito and his street warriors prefer fine-tuning their level of force. Some of our most acute social and economic analysts say, expect it to continue. Police violence is an arm of the corporate statE. TBD in Blue and Black, pt. 2.

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Coming soon:

Stolen Bikes NOLA started life as a semi-formed idea and a Facebook page to post bike thefts. People who had been robbed could post a picture of their bike and theft details. Bike enthusiasts could look for and identify them around the city. It may sound like a forlorn effort, but in fact one of the founders, Alex Fleming, said that soon after launch, they received 50 postings in less than two days.

Over the following year, they recovered 600 stolen bicycles, and located the owners of 500 of them. Organization was rough and ready, improvisational. Sometimes when the rider had bought the bike, apparently innocently, from a thief, Alex or his associate Dean xxx reimbursed him out of their own pockets, hoping to get it back one day.

As it grew and outstripped their organizational experience, another guy, one Brian Opert, surfaced from the SBN Facebook community. He just happened to have a dormant non-profit company, claimed management expertise and an ability to sort everything out. Then he brought in a sidekick or two. Everybody was a board director. Soon, as far as we can see, he and his little group were pushing the founders around, criticizing everything, taking over. Eventually, having kept himself as real owner of the company and sole signer on its bank account, he kicked the founders off and sequestered all the group’s money, around $4,000..

So either we are looking at a bad dude and his gang, or I have the wrong side of a short stick. Opert and one of his associates have made their case in online writing, in Opert’s case long, repetitive, either angry or feigning anger. My first reaction to Opert’s attack was that it is an example of the mirroring technique we see in the Trump campaign, that psychologists tell us is characteristic of narcissism.

Meanwhile, Stolen Bikes NOLA is reorganizing. They discovered a need and a service they can do for New Orleans cyclists. It should be up and running again soon.

We are going to try to record an audio interview with Alex – the first ever NOLAscape embedded audio.

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Debate day. How ugly is it going to be?  For the election, I like to watch the odds on the big British betting companies. Of course, they are affected by the pool, the trend of beliefs of the bettors, who aren’t here. But also in the equation is the factor that the companies are not in business to lose. Even with a bit of leveling, and her odds to win double digits about doubled, Clinton is at 4/7, Trump 13/8.  I am not very reliable on this arithmetic, but I think that translates to something like 70% probability of a Clinton win according to the international gambling industry, down from about 80% a few weeks ago.

Beats the hell out of me how anybody could vote for Trump for anything but to get off the stage, shut up, and let’s see the trial when they charge his ass for – just some examples – bribing Pam Bondi when she was Attorney General of Florida, serial illegal misuse of tax exempt foundation funds, and illegal backdoor financing from his father when he needed to keep a dead casino looking alive while he prepared its bankruptcy. He would probably skate, though. His business skill seems to be borderline larceny, with maybe some Teflon in his spray tan.

© NOLAscape September 2016