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.



New police crimes: have you seen this one?

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.


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.


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

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Black and Blue, pt. 1

A few weeks ago The Lens published a piece by a guy named Austen Ward, headlined to be about Black Lives Matter. I thought it was a pretty nasty piece of work; I drafted a rebuttal (for NOLAscape, not The Lens). After a number of edits to calm it down, it still sounded too angry, so I parked it.

I went back to it after a few weeks on the back burner. It doesn’t make me less angry.

Have a read of it. Ward’s central hypothesis sometimes insinuates, sometimes just says that the Black “community” is responsible for police killing unarmed people because of the higher recorded crime rate of African Americans compared to White Americans.

Let’s trash it. It will be fun.

First disclaimer: I am not pretending to be a spokesman for BLM or any African American community or individual. I am just banging out reactions to what I see as a strand in post-Ferguson discourse that is worse than just wrong. Not only bad thinking, it is arrogant, pompous and laced with smarmy entitlement. If you can read to the end of Ward’s sermon, you will see that he tells all African Americans, all 38 million of them, what they have to do to sort out their lives and neighborhoods to be happy citizens and not get shot. I am going to try to avoid anything that dumb.

To give The Lens a bit of slack, they also published a useful rebuttal by a contributor named Michelle Regan Wedberg. Ms Wedberg’s critique was sound, but did not give Ward’s immoral muddle all the smacking down it deserves. My turn.

“The disproportionate rate at which black Americans die in encounters with police reflects the disproportionate rate at which black Americans are involved in crime. Especially homicide.”

This idea is not novel. In the days following Darren Wilson’s shooting of Michael Brown, when the country was again waking up to the plague of police violence, it was the dominant White conservative reaction: African Americans (note that they are not individuals any more in this mindset; there is an imaginary African American hive of like-minded people) commit proportionally more crimes, therefore they must be submissive to police, compliant at all times, and expect to get shot a little more than Whites, who own the country. Basically an update of lower your eyes and step off the curb when a white woman passes.

My reaction to Ward’s equation was, I don’t care if the “disproportionate rate” reflects the structure of matter at the center of the black hole at the core of the Milky Way – we have to find a way to make the police stop it. It is ugly, wrong, inexcusable. (And I don’t mean cops killing just Black people. But we’ll come to that.)

If you actually feel yourself being seduced by this twisted, false equation, watch any of the still multiplying videos of police shooting unarmed Black people, or just terrorizing, abusing or beating them up. There are probably fewer of those but the arrest of Sandra Bland, the cops terrorizing teenagers at a pool party and the State Police attack on Shamarr Allen in Holy Cross in 2014 should do for starters. (Colonel Edmonson, State Police chief, said that was justified. NOLAscape says: if there were any justice here, the cop who instigated the assault might be getting out soon.) Look for the effect of statistical thinking. See if you can see it behind the cloud of adrenaline, fear, and the centuries old racism whose cold shadow is still a curse on this country, now sneaking out of the closet again, as the Trump party opens the coffins.

Ward tries to convey a balanced, humanitarian spin, but it reads like a smug sermon, as bad as all the others of this ilk: a queasy defense of collective responsibility and collective punishment. Some African Americans are criminals. Some use guns, live in violent environments and engage in criminal businesses. So it is understandable that Baton Rouge cops attacked, subdued and then shot Alton Sterling for the wicked business of selling CDs at a shop. Some other people of the same “race” as Sterling, somewhere else at some other time might have committed some unspecified crime, so we better shoot this one before he kills us.

Why might he kill us? Because we are attacking and humiliating him, as so many before him, and around it goes. You can lay that template over a lot of the killings of unarmed Black people over the past several years.

Racial fear and police violence are not any less disgraceful crimes because you try to drain the blood out by using words devoid of affect like “disproportionate rate.”

Turn it around. Imagine an African American columnist explains a Black cop’s adrenaline driven shooting an unarmed White guy, saying he, the cop, grew up bullied and humiliated by White cops, his family harassed by White debt collectors and a White landlord, attended schools with metal detectors, hall cops, locker checks and all the distrust and pre-criminalization built into schools in minority neighborhoods, exploited in his teenage jobs by unscrupulous white corporate employers – effectively surrounded by and programmed to fear and expect racial crime. Statistically, all the harm, threat and humiliation in his life had come from white cops, teachers, bosses and politicians. So it is understandable that this one time, it broke through his practiced restraint. Sad, but understandable. The grand jury will understand, right?

The fact that Ward’s piece is not seen as morally equivalent to this scenario should trigger outrage, but it won’t. The standards applied to Whites and Blacks are not the same. Drawing an equivalence shocks people. Ward’s statement will get some of our prominent citizens, apparently including the editors at The Lens, solemnly nodding. Mine will make me new enemies that I don’t need.

Ward uses some tricks to sell his idea: Montrell Jackson’s widow speaking at his funeral. Some statistics about how many Black people are murdered in America, and of course mostly by other African Americans. Where have we heard that before? Oh yes – everywhere. Everywhere that white people look for ways to blame Black men for police crime.

He turns that into a notion of “community,” which basically means that people in Black neighborhoods have to stop distrusting police and rat out criminal elements in their neighborhoods. He does not mention that informing is often a quick ticket to an early grave.

“Coming together will require work to improve law-enforcement practices, and that certainly includes rooting out racist officers and sensitizing others to reasons why police are often distrusted within communities of color.”

The “we” that he wants to come together doesn’t have to root out racist cops. Making sure that cops do the right job right is the job of police departments. They get paid for it, but only some of them are doing it. Controlling lethality is already part of the basic responsibility of any management structure that sends armed troops out among civilians. If they have to “root out” bad or racist cops, if they don’t already know who they are, they are not even close to doing their job.

What other industry to which lives are entrusted could hide behind such a notion? Would you fly with an airline that said, “We have some bad pilots; we are trying to root them out.” Eat at a restaurant of a group that said. “Most of our chefs only use fresh, safe shrimp. Some . . . well, we are trying to root them out.” But thousands of police chiefs let dangerous people out on our streets with deadly weapons, and our Wards think that is something we might look into soon.

Ward draws an imaginary line – very imaginary — from police violence to BLM to crime committed by African Americans, which The Lens’s headline distilled to the the tiresome saw of Black-on-Black Crime, a condescending line of bogus reasoning that must sound sane to some in the fact- and reason-free alt-world of current political discourse. He even has a go at a fuzzy criminological notion called the Ferguson effect, which goes something like protest against police violence and institutional injustice gets people excited, so they commit more crimes. The right thing to do, according to this theory, in response to police violence is to remain passive, because if you react as if you were a citizen in a democracy, the cops might get even worse. A cartoon of tinpot tyranny.

Ward sums up, in a strained academic style:

“ . . . abated levels of black criminality will reduce the incidence of inappropriate action taken against black people by cops — men and women who are as cognizant of black violence as are members of the communities it is destroying.”

English translation: if some Black people commit crimes at a statistically higher rate than Whites or the all-races-and-nationalities average, then they have to expect cops to keep shooting more of them.

Inappropriate action. That must mean when after all efforts, they cannot find a way to deny that the victim was unarmed, or was running away, or the police had just pulled the trigger on reflex, like Tamir Rice, with the whole thing on video. (Have you noticed Boston PD’s answer to that problem? Don’t video.)

Appropriate action: Has anyone recently seen BLM protesting a killing which would be called appropriate in American law (leaving aside the rest of post-Enlightenment civilization, which generally has a higher standard)? I can’t think of one. The inappropriate is BLM’s point.

That great American philosopher Rudy Giuliani once said – no, actually, he always says, in different ways – “Freedom is about authority.” George Lakoff references a sign on a military base: “Obedience is Freedom!” (The Political Mind, p60) Arbeit macht frei! Paternalistic authoritarianism, the meta-political background, is not limited to neo-Nazi Neanderthalers like we see on YouTube of Trump rallies, looking for a government that beats up other people and confirms their tribal identity. It also has a branch among people that think they are being just, helpful and realistic.

In this Wardian mindcloud police action, legal or not, is a given, a fact, a natural event that you have to accept. If Black Americans commit more crimes, well, then, the cops are going to kill more of them. People actually committing a crime or threatening life? Not really. Just any Black guy that gets on the wrong side of the blue line.

Collective responsibility and collective punishment under hierarchical authoritarianism. The essence of the poisonous core of Rudy Giuliani, sadly being let out of the bottle by the horror show of the Trump and other nationalist/nativist campaigns in other countries.

Police violence is not a “given.” It is not physics. It did not come down Mt Sinai or the Sermon on the Mount. It is the result of choice, organization, bad habit and bad management. It can be changed by clear thinking and decisive action.


It ain’t over. Cops are still killing people. Just in the past few days, we have two more filmed police murders, Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte and Terence Crutcher near Tuisa. Police chiefs are going to send their troops out in black riot gear to oppose the angry populace, appear on TV with political pablum calling for calm, put the killer on “administrative leave,” deal with the intransigent justification of everything by the union, aware all the time, if they have the power of critical self-awareness, that they enable badly trained people, armed and dangerous, to walk and ride among us.

Part 2 soon.

© NOLAscape September 2016

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National Anthems

Owen Courreges’ column in last Monday’s Uptown Messenger took a surprising turn into the orthodoxy of American patriotism that I would not have expected of him. As the piece itself and the comments rolled along, it opened up some interesting paths of thought. Let’s wander around.

His topic is Colin Kaepernick not standing up for the Star Spangled Banner. Strange, isn’t it, a presidential campaign on, featuring probably the worst candidate with the worst associates running for a party in terrible shape, in the flickering shadow of the wings of chickens coming home to roost, recommending the most poisonous, divisive policies in the most vulgar way that anyone has ever seen; ISIS is being rolled back, but half of the people who claim to care won’t look at that, because they have to say Obama is a patsy. Republicans are telling their fans that ISIS, which does not even have an airplane, is their greatest threat, while North Korea, with a huge, disciplined army conducts a nuclear weapon test. Distracted by the Middle East and the endless muttering about terrorism – yet we have been transfixed by a football player who sat down through a song.

Owen explores an innocuous line – an empty line, really – about First Amendment rights. Is sitting out a song protected speech? Owen dismisses it, too, but some Americans must have been discussing his being able to do it without facing prison as if it were a special, proprietary, Shining City thing. People in other countries without a First Amendment can sit through songs.

Owen dismisses the First Amendment issue with a great synesthesia sentence, the rhetorical high point of the piece: “. . . I never heard hide nor hair of the notion that anybody wanted to force Kaepernick to stand steadfast as the Star Spangled Banner played. Everyone seemed to recognize that he had the right to express himself. Rather, he needed to deal with the consequences thereof.” I am still listening for a hide and a hair. When Owen isn’t looking (or listening) I might steal that line.

“Certainly, objecting to the way minorities are treated in America is mainstream enough. Showing contempt for America itself, however, is not. Kaepernick committed the grievous error of failing to show reverence for our country in spite of its faults. Although that’s his right, it also puts him at loggerheads with the overwhelming majority of his fellow citizens.”

Mainstream enough? Seriously? Does Owen rate protest on how smoothly the gesture slots into the Six O’Clock News? By whether it is mild enough to survive scrutiny for heterodox implications by Andrea Mitchell? Do we have to watch Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer to make sure a protest is in their comfort zones, so it can be stamped “mainstream”?

“At loggerheads with the overwhelming majority of his fellow citizens.” I thought the idea of protest was to wake people up, not help them stay comfortably seated in the Lazy Boy watching “reality” TV.

Then, bringing it back to home ground, Owen gets in character again, referring to a bad, unconstitutional law passed by City Council and signed by Landrieu in October 2011, that made it illegal to “loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any social, political, or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise.” Influential members of that council were Jacqueline Brechtel Clarkson – remember her? Such fun – Kristin Giselson Palmer and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Just the length and rhythm of their names should send a warning. That council had a tendency to loony legislating, but they should not be let off the hook for shaky personalities. They all have legal advisors. I’m sure they had been told that this kind of junk law could not survive a challenge by any lawyer who could stay awake and standing, but they pass them anyway, I guess to appease some scratchy constituents and hope the backlash comes after they leave office.

Courrèges is in his wheelhouse here, tough and clear: “This ordinance, New Orleans Municipal Code Article 54-419(c)(4), was the most blatant piece of unconstitutional dreck that I have, frankly, ever had the displeasure of seeing. There was absolutely no question that it violated the First Amendment.”

Looping back to football songs, though:

“There are certainly acceptable ways to protest, but showing contempt for America and its symbols is objectionable to most Americans. Kaepernick could have protested by organizing, showing up at protests, giving speeches, writing opinion columns, etc. The idea that he just had to protest in a way that strongly implied disrespect for our country is ridiculous. It wasn’t necessary and has been counterproductive.”

“Ridiculous”? Really? Have you seen anything get so much attention for one guy sitting still for about two minutes? I don’t think Kaepernick implied disrespect. He declared it, loud and clear, and gave his reasons. Is Owen’s suggested way better? Show “respect” on the field where you are famous and all cameras are on you, and then turn up at other events to lash out at what he sees – institutionally encouraged or protected racism leading to an annual officially sanctioned killing spree. If that is really what he sees, I would suggest, saying so in the strongest way he can is being a responsible citizen.

What Kaepernick is protesting is adrenaline-fueled murder by trigger-happy cops who are then protected by their union, their departments, and a complicit, dysfunctional injustice system which really should shock all Americans awake just from watching its operations and results for ten minutes. We are talking about an annual murder spree by police of upwards of 1,200 people – more than three a day, with a disproportional number of victims being African American. That compares to numbers that never even reach double digits in Western Europe, and are sometimes zero.

An inordinate amount of the victims are African American. Always have been. And now an increasing number of people are saying, “Enough!” So I was pretty surprised that Owen could talk about “acceptable” ways to protest, against the background of an officially permitted, barbaric murder campaign going on for decades, or centuries if you include the lynching by hanging period, with a body count of thousands.

If you do not think this actually happens, or if you think three extra-judicial murders per day covered for by police departments and municipal governments are okay, then you can object to Kaepernick’s gesture. If you think it does happen, you should applaud it and join him, because what he protests is infinitely more shameful and disrespecting to this country than not showing the expected reverence for a song and a patriotic wave of emotion which to me, frankly, looks manipulated, overcooked and dangerous.

Comply! Not only with shouted police instructions while they throw you to the ground or hold a gun to your head, but to the imperative of a song to strike a religious pose and gaze at the holy flag with patriotic sentiment and a softening of the jaw and face muscles to generate a patriotic expression..

I said I support Kaepernick’s action completely, not because of his rights – because he is right!

With all due respect to the First Amendment, freedom to speak up is not unique to the US. The patriot virus is less virulent in most Western European countries, so messing with an anthem might be less effective than it is here. Our European co-citizens of post-Enlightenemnt culture speak up all the time. They protest, write, broadcast, demonstrate and obstruct traffic. They even face tough police with Plexiglas shields and the whole militarized nine yards (the French Gendarmes are a division of the military, but let’s not foray too far into the long grass).

The exchanges in Comments started leading down some interesting side tracks. Let’s explore a couple.

I wrote, “Why is a football game an appropriate venue for a display of nationalistic ritual? (We’re supposed to say “patriotic” when it is about the USA. “Nationalist” is the same thing for other countries.) Partly, we know, because the Pentagon pays the NFL. The Star Spangled Banner is emotionally linked to this country’s militarism and imperialism. It would be better if all the players ignored it and started the game.

Owen replied: “I disagree; First of all, patriotism and nationalism have entirely different connotations. The former refers to pride in and respect for one’s country, while the latter tends to refer to arrogance and belligerence. Standing for the national anthem at major sporting event is a long-standing tradition associated with patriotism, and the refusal to stand is generally regarded as a show of contempt for one’s country.”

In another paragraph, Owen contrasted patriotic sentiment v. nationalist fervor.

Those are not definitions. Those are the the connotations Americans trowel onto the words when feeling patriotic. In my reading of real usage, patriotic is us; nationalistic is them. Sentiment is us; fervor is them. When Karadjic or Ratko Mladic attacked and killed Muslims in Bosnia Herzegovina, it was Serbian nationalistic fervor. When US drones kill Muslims in Iraq or Pakistan, patriots know it is for our national security.

Anglo-America has been plagued by puritanical religion throughout it’s history, from the Pilgrims to Ted Cruz and the Evangelical vote. It simmers and bubbles up even here, a city that could historically be free of the puritans’ choke hold. But the American invasion not only raises house prices; it brings us Jim Kelly and Kristin Palmer getting City Council to help them shut down strip clubs. It gets the neighborhood associations and whatever you call the dire tendency toward boring respectability to close down all the bars in Tremé, and try to kettle all the music into a few weekend bash zones. The Cultural Economy lives on, while creative culture leaves town.

That streak of pietism affects how we handle our relationship to the State. It makes us more vulnerable to the kind of mental tyranny the Constitution writers were trying to put behind them. That’s why they banned kings and state religion.

But there are always strange consequences. Separation of Church and State plus entrepreneurialism led to a wildly competitive market in religions, where any guy with a good voice and a black suit could open a church in a tent and if he was an inspiring preacher, could rise in a hierarchy or make millions in his own megachurch.

I wonder if the Constitution team anticipated our religion of the state, which has replaced the state religion. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence are its holy texts, the flag its cross or crescent or star, the Star Spangled Banner its main hymn, Pledge Alliance the credo. It has positions, as religions do: sit, stand, kneel. The Sunday patriots have hand over heart, with a sentimental gaze. We say ‘First Amendment” like one candidate said “Second Corinthians.”

So Owen got me thinking: why don’t we have a free market in patriotism, too? Such a medieval orthodoxy – stand and sing with your hand just right, or else. Poor Gabby Douglas, shredded by the alt-media and social trip, for standing but not putting her hand right. And apparently not handling it so well. As a young gymnast not a seasoned, wealthy NFL guy, she doesn’t seem to have Kaepernick’s battle arsenal.

We could change up anthems. La Marseillaise is a really good one, best national anthem for wanting to pick up a gun and head for the battlefield that I know. The German one, Das Deutschlandslied, has a great pedigree as well – music by Franz Josef Haydn. It picked up a bad rep in the Nazi years, but Germany has been reinstated, and they win a lot of football.

Britain has been having an anthem conniption as well. Along with Brexit, the once-United Kingdom has been choking on undigested nationalisms. Britain is one country in international affairs, and has been since the Act of Union of 1707, but inside the country, engaged in its real passion – football – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are rabidly separate. So what do you play before the game? God Save the Queen is the official anthem. You can see here that the North London fans don’t manage much reverence for the Queen, but they do for Arsenal. I don’t think one of the players sitting down would even make the papers in this crowd. Or you might like the Sex Pistols politically incorrect version. I don’t know if Owen would let us get away with an American one of that here.

Still, it is tough for those national teams within the UK to run a good vicious rivalry under the same song, too monarchist for a lot of the fans at that. Members of Parliament and the tabloids got into it. Some proposed Jerusalem , a class act with lyrics by William Blake. Some preferred Land of Hope and Glory, With music by Edward Elgar, it’s a pretty class act, too; but like the others, I can’t see what it has to do with football.

For a rousing martial patriotic (or is it nationalistic?) emotion, the Foreign Legion marching song Le Boudin should be a contender. Sung at a pretty fast tempo contrasting with the Legion’s ominously slow marching pace, it all seems very menacing, especially with those black bayonets on the ends of their machine guns.

The Marine Hymn is a worthy rival, perhaps especially for halftime. Imagine that button popping on the last syllable of “to the shores of Tripoli.”

The most appropriate anthem might be Sixteen Tons: “Another day older and deeper in debt . . . I owe my soul to the company store.” Only problem, once that was like blues about a hard lot; now in parts of the country, it might be aspirational.

The dominant underlying or meta-political conflict visible for the last 35 years or so is the Sumo match between trans-national corporations and national governments. This is not an Alex Jones conspiracy theory. It is mainstream now, and as we have seen, Owen Courrèges approves mainstream. When Bernie Sanders talks about billionaires, corporations and bad trade deals, that is what he means: how can the transnational corporations be made to contribute to the countries and people they act in, not just pump money out of them? Trump talks about it sometimes, not in a coherent way – just a shiny thing he drops on the table with the other stuff to get the children excited. Popular economists Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and Robert Reich use it as background for explaining extreme inequality. It is the background mechanism of the income and wealth gap that has been widening noticeably for about the same amount of time. It is the mechanism that leads to the Hunger Games And Elysium in popular fiction.

It is where the big treaties come from, like TPP. It is now fashionable for candidates to say they are not going to sign it. Nativist nationalists like Trump and progressives alike can try to look all-American by opposing it, because they say it gives advantages to some other countries. I suggest this: these treaties are only secondarily about countries’ relationships with each other. They are peace treaties between the nation-states and the corporations on who gets what. Who gets what power over whom, and how do they divvy up the money. Toyota, Hyundai, Goldman Sachs, Chase, Google, Apple – the many resource and component suppliers, huge companies with names we don’t know, shipping, containers and airlines, international banks – they source parts from their own subsidiaries and others, who may be located anywhere, manufacture a subassembly or a finished product or supply services in several places that need to be transferred to other subsidiaries or departments which may be anywhere for selling to customers everywhere. National nit-picking is inefficient, in their way. A strong player, maybe a Bernie Sanders if he had won, might have the power to tell them, You want this? We want 400 new car and truck, airplane and tech factories in the US and Puerto Rico employing two million people, with contracted obligation to keep them running while your company lives. Yeah, at American wages you probably want a lot of them programming the robots instead of turning the socket wrench. That’s not a deal Trump would get. He would be fighting the wrong battle, and the transnational maestros would think, correctly, that he is a clown.

If you just put up tariff barriers and resist the movement of history, like Trump, the dope fronting the wreck of the Repubs, now says he is going to do, you just get left behind. They will wait for us to re-emerge from medievalism.

Even with the nativist backlashes and retro vision rising everywhere, the overriding trend is towards an increasingly global outlook. The Internet, increasingly the Blockchain technology (I am just learning what it is; borders won’t bother it) air travel, the explosion of trade-focused hotels, Asia becoming a dominant market as well as cheap labor pool, and also (have to shift a grammar gear here) it should be increasingly obvious that our intense focus on ISIS, Iraq and Syria, and relative ignorance of and low popular value put on Asia, South America and the rest of the world is either deception or distraction – check with your local conspiracy theorist for which word best applies.

So I say (and NOLAscape agrees with me) we need less national piety and more Sex Pistols. Less patriotic emotion and more critical thinking. Less of the hand-over-heart and more looking at what really happens in the lives of some citizens growing up in this country.

Let’s have a big round of applause for Colin Kaepernick, Black Lives Matter, and Gabby Douglas. More choice and less solemnity in nationalistic ritual, and a lighter touch on anthems, because they are used as emotional propaganda-mail to fortify us against the other, and how to create new others.

It is a coincidence that I finished this article on an anniversary of 9/11. I guess some won’t like that. But if you haven’t, I suggest reading Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s article on Kaepernick’s gesture which he contrasts with Sam Jenkins’ gesture of ritual orthodoxy at the Olympics, and wisely says: both are patriotic.

© NOLAscape September 2016

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FMIA Directors Meeting


imageNOLAscape has stuff bursting to get out, but first I have to do this. An obligation of honor. For my soul, ragged, unbelieved-in thing that it is.

I have been following a planned residential building development in the Marigny. Ten apartments and maybe a coffee house or casual restaurant in the strangely anachronous warehouse and industrial blocks of Marigny. A friend designed it. I was enormously impressed with the building sketches. That’s the main thing. I have become something of a downriver architecture nerd, so I want to help promote a good building.

I met the property owners and builders – great guys. Men of dignity who run a fine and conscientious business. I feel positive about the project and agreed to help. Getting new construction to realization in New Orleans is a process that requires Zen peace of mind and saintly patience. The alphabet is overwhelming: HDLC, ARC, NPP, CPC and City Council – and that is fore approvals, before the final, detailed plans. Then you have the engineers, building codes, storm water, soil cores – it’s the Twelve Tasks plus.,

Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association, the neighborhood association that NOLAscape has criticized – excoriated might be more accurate – more harshly than any except perhaps VCPORA in its most dishonest, anti-democratic period, is significant in the approval process.

Last night, the designer and the property owners were scheduled to speak to the FMIA board meeting. Not even the General in the big church hall. Just directors around the table in a private house. I wanted to observe, but – talk about the lions’ den!

I took a deep breath. A lot of deep breaths. I don’t have any of those California drugs with names full of Zs and Xs that help with this kind of thing. A tot of Bourbon for a bit of the Dutch and off I go, half expecting to get kicked out, summarily, unceremoniously. ” . . . And stay out!” would be the last thing I heard before the paramedics wheeled me into the ER.

Nothing of it! The board members, even the few who knew who I was, were polite, and formally welcoming. Ms Lisa Suarez, whom I am often called upon to give a very hard time, was polite and gracious.

I was impressed.

I appreciate that way of relating. Down here in my residential patch, we get people falling out over a building. “I will never speak to her again!”

I say: “Come on. Really? A person is still a person. Would you really blow away a friendship over a disagreement about someone else’s building? Fight hard, kick ass – then go and share a drink. Shake hands. Don’t internalize everything.”

I didn’t think FMIA would do that.

But they did. Respect. I was surprised. I acknowledge the grace and dignity.

Thank you, FMIA.

But we are not going soft! New stuff is leaking out about the nightmarish, almost criminal Costello/Deveney period and its ongoing aftermath. John Deveney, ex-FMIA stalwart, up to his gotchkas in multidirectional conflict of interest charges, is inexplicably still holding on to his HDLC seat. Strange that he hasn’t the grace to resign. He runs a communication company, but doesn’t get it.

NOLAscape will not be giving them a break. We need the bad actors off the stage.

But FMIA directors yesterday – top marks.

© NOLAscape September 2016

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