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

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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

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