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

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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

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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:

img_1927

 

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

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