Pitchforks and Planning

There are burning questions in this troubled land.

Is Devin Nunes as stupid as he looks? Or is that affectless mask an asset to the kakistocratic gang he works for? Big question, but not on today’s agenda.

Right here in Swamp City, a local chapter of the Christian Fascist Right that is degrading western civilization’s Enlightenment values has hooked up with some political hustlers including, it appears, the Landrieu clan, and is again trying to bring the bawdy fun of the pole dance game to its knees.  The Christian Soldiers and their government accomplices, tinpot and stupid, are trying to wreck what is left of New Orleans’ holdout against authoritarian puritanism and dependent serfdom. But that is for next time.

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Today, in closer focus, right here in Bywater, the end is nigh! Again! And this time, nigh is Tuesday, when the “Sun Yard” small hotel project comes before City Planning.

According to the more hysterical opposition, Liz Solms’s proposal for a low-profile 37 room hotel with the usual accoutrements – restaurant, coffee shop, bar, pool – is the thin edge of a wedge that will open the floodgates (the pitchforkers rarely resist a cliché). History will be irretrievably violated.

Or maybe not.

People have a right to oppose the project. The NPP and City Planning processes allow neighbors and others a voice, and CPC takes the public moods seriously. Some don’t like it, some do. The majority, I suspect, don’t mind much either way.

What I want to challenge is sublimating emotion, impulse and reaction through bad logic and false claims to statements of false authority.

New Orleans nativism

Critics of the Sun Yard project attack Liz Solms, the partner who has been principal spokesman for the company, for having been born in another city. Where does this stuff come from? Even the right wing nationalists and supremacists and the ICE stormtroopers are trying to deport people from Latin America, not from Philadelphia. I would even bet a cheap taco that many of our neighbors who make the words “out of state” drip with cold venom are appalled by the nativist alt-right wing of the Republican cult, and can’t see that they are doing the same thing.

Think I am exaggerating? Here is the opening shot on Nextdoor:

Rezoning along St. Claude and the Pillaging of our
Neighborhood by Out of Town Corporate Interests
who refuse to reveal their identity

https://nextdoor.com/news_feed/?post=60689907

“It is important to know what is going on in our beautiful historic neighborhood that is seemingly rapidly being morphed into a Dallas of the East by developers from out of state.”

So “historic” is in play from the first shot. We will come to that after the identitarian nativism.

If there were any validity to this ugly theme in their opposition, New Orleans based developers or investors would have to leave any project in Atlanta, Chicago or Charleston. They would be limited to investing here, where every project would drag through approvals and court cases for five years. That would be if the Krewe de Fourche cared about any logic, consistency or fairness. Or maybe it is a one-way condemnation: native New Orleans businesses can do what they want, but others can’t come here. Excellent logic.

I am not native New Orleanian either, so the NOLA supremacists attacking Liz Solms would probably tell me that I am geographically doomed. I could never understand.

“Out of state” is a strange attack. Liz and Giuliano’s previous projects include renovation and repurposing in the protected preservation areas of colonial Philadelphia. Who would be more sensitive to urban development, a person who has worked on development within other historical preservation zones or a Louisianan from an agricultural town in the northern part of the state?  

One fairly crazy thread condemned the Sun Yard project for its LLC registration in Delaware, suggesting it was a tax avoidance scheme so New Orleans and Louisiana lost benefit. About half the corporations in the US are registered in either Delaware or Nevada. The reason is generally that those states are user-friendly to corporate registrations. Delaware charges no tax on Delaware corporations’ operations outside of Delaware. So a Delaware corporation operating and earning money in Louisiana has to pay its taxes to Louisiana, but does not have to pay any tax to Delaware.  

The adjustment process began last year. The Truck Farm houses have split zoning – parts of the backyards are zoned differently than the houses on St Claude. This seems like a mistake. Some think it was an intentional buffer zone to protect the backs of houses facing North Rampart. City Planning seems to agree that it was a mistake. For reasons difficult if not impossible to explain, New Orleans has a Future Land Use Map that does not always coincide perfectly with the zoning. When the previous owner of the Truck Farm houses applied for a change in the FLUM preparatory to applying for the zoning change, some of the same people now objecting to the Sun Yard project objected to the FLUM change, on similar grounds, necessarily more general because the hotel plan had not yet been born, but they couldn’t use “out-of-state” as an epithet. “Out of town” was dragged in as a general purpose insult later.

At the time of its NPP on the matter, the previous owner, Sweet Olive LLC, was explicit and clear that the purpose of the changes it wanted was to make the property more salable, because it needed improvement or redevelopment. They were not in a position to do it, and the zoning anomaly was making it hard to sell. So the fine neighbors who are now forming a Pitchfork Krewe knew the properties were for sale from that day, if not before. They showed no interest in buying them. They formed no cooperative. They took no part in finding a buyer. They just waited, and started their out-of-state chant when they found out that the new owner had lived mostly in other cities.

One thread in Nextdoor even accuses the new owners of being Carpetbaggers, and anyone who cooperates in their effort of being Scalawags. Remember those reconstruction terms? What if Liz Solms was not from Philadelphia, a northern city, but from Hattiesburg or Oxford? Is that the same kind of out-of-town? Would it make the project more acceptable to the opponents? Do we really have people – neighbors – who want to frame development of St Claude Avenue in Civil War terms? That’s pretty historic, not in a good way.

Opponents pushing this story line apparently do not see that they had left off objecting to the Sun Yard project. They re-directed their ire from the little hotel, from land use and architecture, to people they don’t know because of where they are from. Is that racism? NOLA-ism? It is some kind of unsavory -ism.

Although ugly and embarrassing, a lot of people here seem to just shrug past it. “Well, yes, New Orleanians do that.”  We don’t know what City Planning will decide Tuesday, but we have to hope they will completely ignore this stuff.

History

That poor long-suffering word gets some heavy abuse whenever these cases come up. The most common is mixing up historical artifacts, such as houses, with the process of history. The way it is usually spun is:

  • We live in a “historical” neighborhood, meaning the houses are what we call historical (even though in New Orleans the designated object is often not very old).
  • These houses were results or artifacts of the building processes of an earlier time, a time we perceive as “history,” so now through owning them, we are not only custodians of the houses – we are the heirs of that time.
  • So now, what we think we are and how we like it is “history.” Through the artifact, we claim the right to dictate the future, so that it will always look like now. Changing anything from what we are or what we want would violate history, by violating our wishes as appointed or self-appointed trustees.

I hope you can see the fallacy. History as a process is not a building, and the past is not the future. “Historical preservation” and the processes that end up being  history are not the same thing. Zoning has been used for necessary and beneficial ends, and to slow and redirect movement and change – the stuff of history as process – and also abused to create racial and economic segregation, but in the end it cannot stop evolution without killing the space it was to preserve. Violating history is hard to imagine, because after changes happen, they become, ipso facto, history.

One way the opponents play this theme is they say that Bywater now provides residential owned and rented property for people in creative pursuits and regular jobs – often in service industries. If a hotel takes up some residential units, then it is invading, displacing.

To understand just one of the things wrong with this scenario, take a look at a small slice of actual history. Bywater’s population was much higher and denser in the mid-twentieth century. The population was roughly 65% African American. Now the population is closer to 2,000, less than half what it was, majority white. Maybe that shouldn’t make any difference, but in America where cultural racism is a nasty, persistent fact, it does.

In the opponents’ mythology, the Sun Yard would be displacing them, the current occupants, but the way they got their house, which possibly used to be occupied by a three generation African American family with several children who played outside with other kids, creating a lively street and porch culture, was not displacement. It was some kind of magical benign replacement that turned Bywater from a relatively dense working class to a low-density middle class, historical-preservation, shabby-chic gentrification area without displacing anybody.

May I call “rubbish” at this point? Cities and neighborhoods evolve and change. People move away, people move in. There is gentrification, and decay. (Bywater tends to favor an aesthetically “authentic”  combination of the two.) An aspect of the process is displacement, Displacement was part of the process that got you where you are, and it will be an aspect of the process that gets you out of it, if you move. Those complaining about displacement are part of that process no less even if less perceptibly than Liz Solms and the Sun Yard project.

Profit

From a comment letter to CPC:

“They will be converting residential homes to commercial and altering the physical landscape, soul and history of this neighborhood needlessly, and only for their own profit. We have plenty of hotels downtown, why do we need more hotel rooms in this neighborhood?”

One of the things that comes up in this discussion is: we don’t need a hotel, we need local service businesses. But the reason we don’t have enough local service businesses – if indeed that is the case – is low density. Not enough people to support the businesses. To increase that density, you need a lot of housing, because people are unlikely to return to the larger families and higher populations per house that would have been more common in the 1940s and 50s. But these same people generally object to apartment house construction, even around the edges, that could provide the housing.

Three low-density houses are irrelevant for creating a lively walkable culture – especially three houses nestled between the U-Haul yard, some restaurants and a disused gas station. A hotel, even a little one, with lighting and movement will at least do something for that.

“Only for their own profit.” Well, yes and no. Businesses in our economic set up have to make or at least promise a profit of some sort, but that is no less true of any business that might be in that or indeed any other space. It can’t be “only” for its own profit; it has to provide some kind of product or service that people pay for to survive.

If somebody wanted to build rental apartments there, after the neighbors got done complaining about the height that would be required to make it viable, the owner would have to earn a profit somehow, or eventually lose the property. If somebody opened a right-on vegan restaurant in the space, that contributed all its surplus to sheltering lost cats, it would still have to make some earnings to survive. The alternative to profit is either subsidy, bailout or bankruptcy. Slinging “profit” as an accusation at the Sun Yard project is simply gratuitous, meaningless abuse. We have to ask CPC to ignore this stuff.  

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A lot more could be written and said about this process – and a lot less should be. If proponents and opponents simply stated their position and were honest and clear in their reasons, the process would work better. In and around the Sun Yard project, people attempt to turn their emotions and their own property interests into generalizations about history, about the nature of their neighborhood, about destiny. They invent Manichaean scenarios of invasion and defense. They set up imaginary dramas and pass them off as real and imminent.

It might make Tuesday’s main event at CPC into an entertaining punch-up, but to get a healthy result, let’s hope the Commissioners have fresh alkaline batteries in their BS meter.

The CPC hearing is Tuesday 6 February at 1120 South Broad (City Hall is being renovated). Come along and put in a vote for reason.

©NOLAscape 2018

The Unindicted

2018 Ep 1 
This has been rattling around in drafts. I couldn’t get the ending right. It;s still not right, but it is taking up space in the drafts folder, Have to release it into the world.

1/2/2018
Waking up this freezing morning, I stumbled to the sink for the ritual of toothbrushing and – WTF! What’s that?!? Did some kind of drain-dwelling jellyfish crawl up to escape the freeze, die, decompose and crystallize in the few hours that passed between New Year’s Eve and the opening hours of 2018?

Nothing so Stephen King. In these stick houses with external pipe runs never designed for this kind of cold, with an HVAC system overpowered by sub-freezing temperatures, we are told to leave the faucets trickle to avoid burst pipes. My bathroom trickle had frozen into tiny icicle threads from the faucet to the drain and around it, like translucent stalactites formed in a couple of icy hours, not the geological ages of a cavern.

Aesthetic compensation for inadequate insulation.

COMING SOON: Another episode in Conversations. Henry and Jonathan will dig into Morvern Callar. Interesting, unusual, penetrating, insightful . . .  even fits in with the Me, Too wave. It’s on Amazon.If you can, try to have a watch of it before the podcast is published.

The most fun now would be to discuss the depths of financial and moral corruption that the White House, most of the federal government and the Congressional Republican Party are sinking to, or perhaps just exposing. It’s a klepto-party, right out in the open. Everyone is invited to watch or play, if you have the ante. They don’t even bother to conceal the pick-pocketing any more. “Leaders,” as some of the younger journalists call our duly elected Unindicted, have progressed from traditional embezzlement and covert bribery through common-or-garden theft to just plain looting. Every day’s headlines are like a TV crime series,

They will get away with it. Since 2008, financial and political crime is no longer prosecuted at the federal level. Eric Holder’s justice department protected our leading criminals as important battlefield generals in the protection of corporatism.

For decades, at least since 1980, a major part of the geopolitical Game of “Land of the Free” Thrones has been corporations and finance vying for power with the nation-state governments – and winning. The free market is about finding the right price. They found it. One could speculate and probably find confirming evidence that one of the uses of Trump is to be the insensate buffoon put in place to test the next step against the institutions and the people, like a rodeo clown checking out the bull. When the risks are clarified, the corporatists can install a real candidate, who will intensify their agenda exponentially from the 1.0 models of Clinton, Bush and Obama. What we will be able to see of government will be indistinguishable from entertainment, as foretold in Rollerball (the 1975 original, not the remake).

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But that’s for next time. Let’s loop back down to town, the other world we live in.

Making the editorial rounds and some social sites: Derrick Shepherd, convicted of money laundering during a political career, was spotted at an event, thought to be in the entourage of Ms Mayor Elect LaToya Cantrell. Much high-minded tsk tsk.

A virtue signalling party quickly began ricocheting around the local editorial pages and websites. Let’s form a circle and tell each other how good we are.

The state of po’facedness should make us feel a little queasy.

Whadda ya say we try to drain some of the hypocrisy into what Cedric Grant’s administration  left of our storm drains?

LaToya is “squandering her good will”, say the self-righteous, by being seen in public with Derrick Shepherd. It might be true. The public mind is a strange space. But it shouldn’t be.

  • Shepherd was convicted for participation in a money laundering operation for $141,000.
  • The Russian trail to the Trump crime family will show that the sad, mad thief we are supposed to call president has been involved in money laundering on a scale that Derrick Shepherd’s calculator doesn’t have enough zeroes for.
  • Avuncular-looking Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary to billionaire-whisperer Trump, invested $400m and became deputy chairman of the bank of tiny Cyprus, whose business is shifting money around for the Russian oligarchic community. 
  • In the modern game of money-laundering, Derrick Shepherd doesn’t even get a seat on the bench of the farm team.
  • How many Unindicted felons are strolling confidently around City Hall on any given busy day?  How many of the Unindicted are lunching comfortably in the dining rooms of our financial institutions?  
  • How many “felons” from the wrong side of the social tracks set up by our Respectable Citizens and the police/justice system have been convicted felons for “possession” of a “substance” which starting January 1 in California is as criminal as a cold PBR? Who is the greater criminal, the guy with a few joints or a vape device, the dealer on the corner, or the self-righteous idiots who made and enforced the largely racist War on Drugs that filled the prisons and deepened a social rift that contributes to urban violence? If the estimable Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Attorney General and hobbit, gets away with re-including marijuana in the astoundingly stupid WoD, he will be responsible for hundreds or thousands of deaths and incarcerations.  But Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is an honorable man.
  • DA Cannizzaro terrorized families on the wrong side of the social tracks with fake subpoenas. Is that a crime? Subpoenas have to be signed by the right authority, normally a judge. They weren’t, but Cannizzaro’s enforcers pretended they were. How is that different from forgery? Our courts are unlikely to decide, since the DA’s office is somehow reluctant to prosecute itself. And Cannizzaro is an honorable man. The twitterati would not question your fitness for office for being seen in public with Mr Cannizzaro.   

I quite like LaToya. I think she might bring a dollop of “street” to relieve the dynastic grip on office that we would have if a Landrieu had handed over to a Charbonnet. That could sound queasily similar to the motivation of some Trump voters: push a bull into the china shop, see what happens. But LaToya is not an invader. She has been in Council for yonks. She is not stupid, sickeningly vulgar or psychopathic like 45. She’ll be okay. (Although she has not replied to a recent request for comment, so I may have to go off her. Come on, LaToya – answer questions.)

We’ll see. Office can be overwhelming (see Ray Nagin for details).

The NOLAscape take: all this warm, steaming propriety and respectability wafting around the streets of Bywater, Marigny and the FQ reeks of bogus.

If you declare people caught and convicted in a net which may even have been cast by political opponents and enemies so tainted that they are even contagious, while letting sleazy kleptocrats and klepto-hangers on off your little moral hook, you are really saying that the crime is getting caught. Shame replaces guilt.

 

The shame is not on LaToya, if indeed Shepherd was in her entourage. It is on us, for our Silly-Putty morality, sinking slowly into the shape of whatever container is a la mode.

Be nicer to convicted felons. Be more skeptical of our criminal “justice” system, and how people end up in or avoid its clutches. Hatpins at the ready for hypocrisy.

There are many people, good and bad, on both sides of the bars.

© NOLAscape 2018

 

Security Scam

NOLAscape’s back!

(To the tune of Heeeeere’s Johnny!)

Been on some trips and projects, so NOLAscape has had a little break, Almost everything attracting and distracting our attention has been national (we’ll come to that in another episode) or Alabama – less fun for a relaunch than NOLA stuff.

The Poetics of Politics
But now I see another outbreak of the petty, the pious, the spiritual retreat and decay dressing itself up in cardboard armor pretending to be a righteous knight. Authoritarianism in its conscious and unconscious incarnations masking as civic religious revival. Oh, the lace-doilyness of it all . . .

Tidy and cursed in my dove cooed room
I lie down thin and hear the good bells jaw –

What is he on about? some of the more literal minded among ye may now be inwardly muttering.

Okay. I’ll tell you.

Remember that under the pretext of protecting us from savage murderous raghead Iraqis, Bush/Cheney took away your privacy, your rights and personal security, while invading two countries, setting up torture regimes and murdering a few million people? They called this social rape “national security.”

Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu has been up to the same sort of game with his $40m security plan, more quietly and on an urban scale; and now CM Stacy Head has joined him in this annoying scheme. And why not? Mayor Mitch is essentially polishing his resumé for his next gig, so why not copy the federal technique of power accretion? It has been working for the authoritarians a level up. And Ms Head – I don’t know. Maybe she needs an elective federal or state job too, or maybe she sincerely believes in the security mythology.

Maybe the voters of red state Louisiana, probably not too enthusiastic about his statue caper, will be more accepting if Landrieu can wave some stringent measures to suppress street crime (the kind committed by you-know-who) in the sinful Sodom that they believe New Orleans to be.

And we can imagine genteel cheers from the perpetually outraged among us, who may look to CM Head to lead them into high dudgeon. “Something must be done!”

There is a ridiculous side to the $40m boondoggle of The Security Plan. Late night monologues could do a number on it. But a bad joke isn’t all that it is. We are used to government initiatives being useless and a waste of money. That may be why resistance has been muted. But the Landrieu/Head plans do not rise to the level of uselessness. They are another raid on your rights in American law and tradition, your information and your identity.

All under cover of the continuing, popular, comforting myth that thicker and harder applications of police will prevent or mitigate crime.

It’s Christmas, so let’s all say, Bah humbug! With all our policing and incarceration and crime, isn’t it time to learn something about the system’s preserving itself? Find out about how crime really works, and do something intelligent about it, and while we are there, work out what really is a crime, and distinguish it from governments’ trying to hold on to prerogative and lingering puritan punishment.

In a 22 page ordinance innocuously called “calender [sic] 32,107” BY: COUNCIL MEMBER HEAD (BY REQUEST) (meaning the administration in the august person of Mayor Mitch asked her and she accepted the mission to propose this ugly thing), CM at large Ms Stacy extends the cold, bony hand of the spiritual sickness of anxiety, fear, criminalization and surveillance. Another brick in an unlovely wall.

Are we stepping back to the bad old days of 2013 and 14, when the sulphurous Stuart Smith motivated compliant neighborhood associations and politicians to go all Calvinist crazy against music, music venues, restaurants and bars with bands? When Ms Head, returning CM Ms Palmer and some of the others (remember Jackie Clarkson?) might be found vying for the title of Representative for Righteous Condemnation?

Buried inside the tedious pages of 32,107 lurks worse. Not only bands and bars will be the victims this time. We all will.  

Let’s hack into Ms Stacy’s extension of Landrieu’s program of power.

Demon Drink. Again. Can you believe it? A curtain call for the Volstead Act. Carrie Nation, the hatchet lady, said she had a call from God in 1900, and now Stacy and Mitch are playing us MP3s of her voice’s echo.

Now I am a man no more no more  
And a black reward for a roaring life

All for our own benefit, of course. Not a call to ban this time, just to degrade, stigmatize and virtually criminalize alcoholic drinks by imposing penalties and restrictions, surveillance and cameras. From the self-righteous urban authoritarianism of security plan gen. 1, we descend to some good ol’ down home tech-flavored pious white gentry Sunday-wife revival with the camera eyes in the low night sky backing up the old Sunday Judge. Old Ms. Nation’s hatchetations by microchip and cloud storage on the New Authoritarian Model: robotic surveillance.

Here is some of the text of Ms Head’s proposal for increased civic bondage. These are punishments if an “outlet” that sells alcohol transgresses against some law. (Aside: CVS and Walgreens are outlets.) Not necessarily violent crime – any law, which has been made law by the people and the political class that will impose the punishment for breaking the law that they in their frequently confused, misguided, stuck-in-a-rut opinion gives them and their police the right to tell you what to do. And in this case, what you have to do, as owner of an “outlet” is install approved surveillance equipment, at your expense, record all your customers and the street, i.e., us – you – and send the images and sound up to the City’s cloud servers, where they say it will be stored for a minimum of fourteen (14) days.

1. Requiring that the alcoholic beverage outlet install video surveillance systems both inside and outside the premises, as dictated by the City, that archives video footage for a period of not less than fourteen (14) days to a cloud based platform integrated with the City’s system;– – – – – –

  1. requiring security guards on premises during particular days/times.

[32,107 par. – –  p. – – – ]

Let’s remember that many of the laws and restrictions surrounding alcoholic beverages in this country, and sadly even in this city which had a separate history, had the chance to escape, are pure pietistic nonsense. Their justification is that anybody that drinks an alcoholic drink in a public place is a moral reprobate and inferior being. A load of old rubbish, of course, but Americans love it. The emotional backwash of righteousness and piety just makes them feel so good.

They are pretending that nice new technology, which doesn’t ask for your driver’s license or try to humiliate youdirectly in the street is going to prevent crime. And by denigrating bars and restaurants, they can get the owners to pay for the city’s espionage.

Minimum fourteen (14) days. What is the maximum? Not even the maximum – the standard. Forever. When these unencrypted images get into the “cloud,” they also get into the NSA’s storage vaults. They will find a way to be accessible to and coded into the disgusting tyranny of the credit rating industry.

Scenario: Two guys have fight outside a grocery store in your neighborhood. Why? Who knows? Within a couple of days, they may not remember themselves. The cops can impose a sentence of enforced surveillance, to be activated immediately, before even due process. Yes, if this thing becomes law, the cops can do that. Who is being recorded? Not those two guys. They are long gone. The surveillee is you, if you buy a six pack or a candy bar from that store, or possibly even walk past it.

We have no presumption of privacy now, Mayor Landrieu recently said. I wonder if he remembers this:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

It’s the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, one of the Bill of Rights once thought to be an essential component of the polity – now generally considered a quaint old saw by the owning classes and their servants in government.

What should we be doing about this? There are a couple of soft solutions. On January 11th, you can go to the Council chamber, fill in a card and possibly be allowed one or two minutes to rail or to cite or argue a sound case. I have done that several times. It’s fun. Do it – there is an outside chance that Ms Head and the other CMs will broaden their vision and see the wider implications of their lining up with authoritarianism.

Or you can lobby and make a case to Mayor Elect Cantrell. In one of her promises, possibly a bit reluctant, she promised to take down the traffic cameras. Now, the speed and red light cameras only snap you if there is probable cause – the sensors have electronic reason to believe that you – you specifically, not any person who drove down that street – violated a law. How can she then justify a system that records your activity and gives it to the government and the police when there is nothing even resembling probable cause. Do that, too. It should be helpful for LaToya Cantrell to have reinforced that many New Orleanians recognize and will resist administrative overreach.

It has been suggested, though, and I like it, that the best recourse against the Landrieu/Head deepening violation of civil liberty could well be the ACLU. The American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU’s lawyers know what they are doing in this space. They do not have to fear retaliation by city political officials or ward heelers. They do not have to defer to this sity’s political caste. They have the skill and experience to humble tinpot authoritarians in court.

Let’s do it. Let’s bring in the A Team.

The ACLU team.

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Post Script: Since 2008, we are vividly and to many painfully aware that the boardrooms and executive suites of many banks and financial “institutions” (not to mention government offices) are loci of criminal activity. We are way beyond simple probable cause in knowing that some of the criminal activity of Chase, Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo and Goldman `Sachs – not to single these players out; there are many more, but these are familiar names – do far more harm to more people than a street criminal or even a gun-nut mass murder can hope to do. The damage correlates to their power, as does our shrinking from assigning accountability. Where are the proposals for recording cameras in the boardrooms? For cameras in the Mayor’s office? Nobody is up for that since Nixon hung himself with his own tapes. There is a supply chain of money, production, politics and down-and-dirty international crime that runs through Washington to Jeddah and drops bombs on Yemeni civilians. What is the value of the moral pulpit of someone who wants cameras in restaurants but has nothing to say about the ongoing imperial slaughter of millions? 

 

© NOLAscape 2017

Quotations from Dylan Thomas, Lament

Conversation with CM Nadine Ramsey

I was fortunate enough to get a few minutes this morning with Council Member Nadine Ramsey, Council Member for District C and Candidate to hold the seat in the election coming up in just two days.

It was a busy day – a Council Meeting and a special event for breast cancer awareness.

To make it even more exciting, we (NOLAscape, not Ms Ramsey) had every technical problem I can think of, from some of the recording equipment not working to format conversion that I still don’t understand, setting us back about four hours.

I always like discussing issues from the general to the most particular with Ms. Ramsey. She is affable, patient, logical and practical, avoiding slogan politics like “more police!” or “No STRs!” for real-world principles and practical solutions to real-world practical problems. Nadine Ramsey knows thay more police and more weapons alone won’t solve our crime rate – that you have to get stuck into the causes of crime. She knows that you can’t minimize the impact of short-term rental by prohibition and crackdowns for show. You have to deal with it by careful management to get best net benefit and least negative impact.

But that’s enough from me. Our interview was just 16 minutes, so let’s let Nadine Ramsey tell it herself.

If you have friends interested in District C who might not be NOLAscape subscribers, please forward the links. Election’s coming – information is good.

© NOLAscape October 2017

The NRA is our most deadly terrorist organization

It’s a few days now, but the hypocrisy is still rising.

When death strikes heavy blows in public, Americans, especially politicians in their most unctuous, hypocritical mode, slide easily into the “thoughts and prayers” thing. This will probably offend some of my religious friends, but the idea makes me feel queasy. I imagine thousands of people with sad clown expressions mumbling stuff to an Old Guy in the Sky, asking their imaginary supernatural boss to be especially kind to the newly killed, their mourning friends and relatives, and others like themselves, basking in impotent grief and possibly relief.

Maybe there is an excuse for this kind of behavior when the causes are outside of ourselves – hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides. But when the causes are within human character and social organization – yecch.

I don’t like rogatory prayers. Rituals, okay. Conditionally. Rituals have rhythm. Words, mantras, hymns, psalms and formal compositions called “prayers” as components of rituals, okay, For everyday use, they beat public slaughter of chickens and goats. Maybe prayers as dramatic windows into the thoughts or character of a person, like Tevye talking to God, okay. But sitting still inside your own head, using God not as an image, avatar, idea or mirror for self-awareness, believing that there is an invisible supernatural agent that you ask, as if he or she was real, to do things that you will not do and will not force your elected government to do – that is a sick-making sight.

59 more people killed and over 500 shot by bad law, bad politics, gun manufacturers and their front organization, the NRA, when the assembled supernaturalists of the nation bow their heads and mumble inanities instead of standing up and doing something – I get off of that bus, quick, before I have to throw up in public. I am not standing with the prayers.

If they perform those gestures later, to meditate a moment on the ugly old poisons buried in our limbic brains that sometimes get loose, okay. But first, citizens: do your damn’ job. Defang the disgusting organization that sells the idea that personal freedom, affirmation and power come from holding murder weapons in your hands, weapons manufactured and sold by its paymasters, caressing them, making love to them in your diseased, addicted mind. The NRA is America’s worst terrorist organization. The worst. Its death toll makes ISIS in the west look like a hobby business.

Isis and Al Qaeda must be trying to catch up with the NRA. Al Baghdadi surely studies videos of Wayne La Pierre to learn how he gets the support of millions of Americans and the majority of government hacks while cheerfully simultaneously claiming and denying responsibility for thousands of murders and suicides every year,

Al Baghdadi and his counterparts in Al Qaeda and other operators of death cults see how money does it. Americans are fooled by the NRA’s act. It must make the lords of ISIS smile over their mint tea, watching the corruption of the declining empire. Little different than any “third world” political hustler, Americans are often less expensive. Our imperial minions just need some campaign contributions and maybe a speaking offer and a second-hand velvet glove to cover their rusty hand. Check out John Thune, Republican senator of South Dakota, for the mechanism, or Mitch McConnell, to watch a quiet master of hypocrisy and subservience to the corporate oligarchy at work.

It’s an empire for sale, and the NRA knows its price. When the jihadis negotiate their price, as the NRA has, and work out the right combination of campaign donations, revolving doors and bribes to getting the mental and spiritual giants of our capitols on board, beware. Wayne La Pierre operates the process. how hard can it be?

The NRA and the other misinterpreters of the Second Amendment are going to get you killed. Forget thoughts and prayers. Stand up to them. Put them down. It is offensive that we even have to hear about these homicidal morons. We may lose, but discretion is not called for.

For more on this subject. Jeremy Scahill’s Intercepted for today just rolled in. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/guns-before-country/id1195206601?i=1000393064304&mt=2

© NOLAscape 2017

Conversations S1E4: Forty Guns

What a film.

I had never seen or even heard of it until Henry and Jonathan put it in the frame for a Conversation.

From one point of view, it can look like a collection of horse opera clichés. A pace or two to the side to let the light hit it from another angle, and it is Sophocles set against the unfinished clapboard fronts of a prairie pioneer town instead of the columns of a Mycenaean palace. Are the two bath scenes just non-sequitur comedy skits with cowboy song musical accompaniment, or are they choral interludes in a play of destiny?

Henry and Jonathan will figure it out.

A few copies of Forty Guns are available on YouTube. If the enigma beneath the obvious catches you as it has me, you may find yourself watching it more than once.

Click the arrowhead on the podcast link below.

 

 

 

 

© NOLAscape October 2017

Evolution

Film fans! Comrades! Nolascapees!

Another movie Conversation is coming up in a minute. I was away for a couple of weeks and didn’t have the kit to handle the audio files. Next up is Forty Guns, an unusual, even unique cowboy movie by Sam Fuller. If you don’t know it, why not have a watch of it first, before Henry and Jonathan’s podcast comes on line? Forty Guns is available nice and free on YouTube.

Meanwhile, we have to do something about primate evolution. It’s running amuck. Some of our ancestors with very bad table manners may be interfering with our wonderful imperial democracy even more than teenage Russian hackers.

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New data coming in with our daily headlines suggest that evolution may not be working right. We need to take a hard look at biochemistry,

Most of us probably think of evolution as a descriptive, historical science but we probably thought the same about climatology until Al Gore put us straight. Social Darwinism didn’t end well, but maybe there is a Third Way between eugenics and free evolution.

Here’s the problem.

Primate behavior is re-emerging. It must have always been just beneath the surface but stronger norms and institutions kept it covered. Now, our social organization may be just a shredding gossamer veil before the onslaught of DNA, the limbic brain and amygdalas going wild.

Recent political eruptions are making it clear that we can’t let primatology and DNA management languish in the shadows of science.

As I was working on this subject, comparing political groups to primate bands and Alpha Apes, and Washington second stringers to the subordinate chimps who usually passively accept the antics of the boss Alpha, no matter how stupid, the great Jane Goodall stepped in and described Trump’s similarity to an Alpha chimp. I take Ms Goodall’s independent verdict as a positive peer review in advance. And of course she published first, so I can’t take all the credit for this great insight.

But I go further than Ms Goodall. Just seeing and describing the fact that we are electing apes is not enough, nor will the tools of public reason suffice to restore civilization. We have to get in there with our micro-monkey wrenches and retro-fix evolution.

I am still working on a launch plan. A protest movement against free evolution would be premature. We would be infiltrated by prairie Christians thinking it was a protest against “belief in” evolution, not against some disappointing results, and some of the cagier evangelicals might spot they they are included among the disappointing results.

Liberal elites would advocate fair and sensible regulation of evolution. Libertarians would come out strongly for Red in Tooth and Claw. Republicans would say regulation of evolution should be left to the states, who can be more responsive to their communities and will understand that evolution in Alabama and Mississippi is different than in New York, California and countries less exceptional than ours. We can expect some resistance. Sharper Republicans would twig that if evolution had been properly managed, they would not exist. They would need a few years of debate, denial and possibly a bit of violence about how low to set the bar.

There is international precedent for getting a grip on DNA and its unfettered recombination. Several years ago, to combat disorder fomented by runaway Buddhism in Tibet and in exile, the government of China outlawed reincarnation without a license.

“Global warming” is a euphemism for one species of primate pouring huge wallops of energy into the atmosphere, energy stored chemically in substances over megayears burnt and exploded into the air over a few decades, along with gases released by cattle raised for our hamburger and fried chicken diet. Our wiser contemporary savannah primates have figured out that we have to do something about it. There are obstacles, such as industrialized greed, but we know we have to do it. We have to put evolution in a similar frame. We will need a reference term for cable news and parade floats. “Alpha eruptions.” “Primate resurgence.” “Monkey brains.” “DNA or Democracy?” We’ll think of something.

I know what you are thinking, but this is not about Trump. It is too big a subject for just that one victim and example of primate relapse. Nevertheless, we can’t ignore him. He and his Praetorian Punch and Judy Show provide a valuable window into the problem.

Our ancestors were not chimpanzees, of course, but another primate species more adapted to life on the grasslands than in the forest. It is unlikely, though, that our ancestors were all that different than forest apes socially because, as we can now see more clearly than ever before, we’re not.

Trump behaves like an Alpha chimp or a Silverback in a bad mood. Trump supporters generally agree with Ms Goodall about the kind of animal he is, but they like it – as do subordinate chimpanzees, glad to be freed from Alpha duty by the chest-beating buffoon at the edge of the clearing.

A forest Alpha ape screeches, bares his teeth and feint-charges, sometimes at imaginary enemies. A city ape runs a different show. One trick is to keep his jacket open so his long red tie swings back and forth below his expanding belt. He can set up panoramas of enemies, some imaginary, with new ones almost every day to keep his fanboys clapping. This week, African American football and basketball players fed up of being on the wrong end of police abuse and racial injustice are center stage, replacing Kim Jong Un as our greatest threat, and Nambia as our great ally. Weaponizing anthem and Pledge Allegiance protests, President Alpha does not even have to make specifically racist statements. He can just weaponize the flag and the Star Spangled Banner against – all the dog whistles go off at once.

For another close-up on the risks of unfinished evolution, watch and read our Alpha’s crazy stuff about Puerto Rico. (More on that in next chapter.)

The Alpha chimp or Silverback gorilla is not always a wise veteran caring for his clan. Frequently the Alpha is just an apish asshole fomenting friction and discontent. For a while, the primate clan lets it go. The Alpha’s job is to be ferociously territorial and preposterously aggressive so the others can sit back and have a nice day without having to screech and feint-charge themselves.

Chimpanzee watchers have seen and filmed revolts where the Alpha swung too much toward Asshole. The normal chimps who like a life of play, sex and bananas got fed up, ganged up and beat the living daylights, and sometimes the living, out of the Alpha. He thought he was king, his authority was not to be questioned. But his days got numbered.

Climate chaos from irresponsible energy use and factory farming – if we don’t get on top of that, mass death will reduce population until the earth, the cockroaches and the rats put things right again.

But if we want to move on from rule by Alpha Asshole, we have to stop being soft on evolution.

© MOLAscape October 2017

Trumpty Dumpty

What’s Trumpty Dumpty up to with this DACA game? Just jumping up and down on his beautiful little wall, doing “Look at me!” while waiting for his great fall? Maybe he stretched out in the cool light of the full moon, alone at last, ready for some serious self-satisfaction. Russian women, Obama and Michelle, and maybe some lovely Latina Dreamers. Maybe even a few tasteful sprinkles on him holding a copy of the DACA executive order. The girls even looked a bit like Ivanka . . . the Russian ones, not the Mexicans.

John Kennedy could have smuggled the Russians into the White House but Trumpty has to handle it himself. In the morning, a change of underwear, a quick jig on the wall and ready for another day of pissing people off. Heh heh heh.

Wait a minute though. Swamp Herald Sarah Charisma and @RealTrumpty’s own tweets say the DACA decision must go to Congress because it is a legislative job. Obama’s executive order was illegal, says Team Trumpty. May be second-level deflection but before you dig into that, back when Muslim bans were his latest outrage, didn’t the echo chamber say immigration control was the president’s prerogative? Didn’t Stephen Miller, Trumpty Dumpty’s external lizard brain, say that in matters of immigration, the president’s authority “shall not be questioned”?

I can’t claim any legal cred beyond having watched pretty much every episode of Boston Legal, so maybe some generous expert will help me out here: isn’t executive authority beyond question a different notion than saying it’s up to Congress? I don’t know, they just don’t seem like the same sort of idea to me.

I guess ol’ Dumpty is having fun with Congress, too, throwing a chunk of red immigration meat into the cage for them to snarl over, so he can do some fun tweeting.

In Trumpty-world, until the Great Fall we are waiting for, unquestionable prerogative and not-my-problem both look good. The Muslim ban and cancelling DACA both stick it to people that alt-idiots don’t consider “white”, so they can hoot and grunt and hop up and down in synch, affirming Trump as alpha-yuck of the primate insurgency.

Even a moral vacuum like the Dumpster knows cancelling DACA is wrong, but by passing the buck to Congress, if they blow it, he can say he won and kept his deplorable promise; if Congress miraculously manages to show up and fix it, he can say he tried but the mainstreamers scuppered his great #MAGA intentions. Elect him again; he’ll fix it next time. Richard Nixon used that trick to extend the Vietnam murder circus a few years. When the time comes, Trump can take credit both for kicking the young people out and for letting them stay.

Emotional common ground: the outcomes of Muslim bans and Dreamer deporting are cruel, stupid, meaningless, stir people’s pots, hog the headlines and block the view of other sand castles he is kicking over. Both are splashes in the infested paddling pool of Trumpty’s only consistent idea: to dump on Obama. Pay him back. Uppity bugger, born in Africa, flashing a forged Harvard degree. Pay his ass back for eviscerating me – me! the great orange ape himself – at the correspondents’ dinner in 2011.

Trumpty wants to show his people that wit, intelligence and grace are no match for mirror-view, money-fueled ignorance, madness and stupidity unleashed. Asshole Power!

Where was I? Oh, yes: legal coaching. If the Dreamers’ case has to go to Congress for legislative solution, doesn’t that ipso facto and in spiritu iuridico invalidate all the Muslim bans and much of the malignity of Bannon and Miller?

Well, I think so. Trump just handed immigration back to Congress

How did Trumpty get up on that wall anyway? Who held the ladder?

© NOLAscape September 2017

City Elections: Council District C

 

. . . . .. 

I might lose some friends here, but I didn’t get into this blog game for diplomacy or flattery.

It should be operatic.

Nadine Ramsey beat Jackie Clarkson to replace Kristin Gisleson Palmer, to use her full sonorous trochaic/dactylic brand name. when she opted out of the last election, citing family reasons. Clarkson was termed out for her At-Large incumbency, and in the opinion of the majority of voters, fortunately, sold out and termed-out in general; nevertheless, she jumped into the District C race on a Mel Brooks-worthy quest to challenge her sell-by, with the support of the  gentrificationist gangs then financed and driven by Stuart Smith, who used them to more or less manage Clarkson in office. Some said it was the would-be neighborhood tyrant’s descent into criminality that made Ms Palmer think the safest option was to sit that one out.

Last Thursday evening, Nadine Ramsey and Kristin Palmer sat next to each other at a table at the front of the St Roch Community Church. I sat in the back, waiting for fireworks. They seemed too friendly. Would there be a third act?

The format was something like the stage shows they call “debates” in presidential elections, which don’t look much like anything that should properly be called a debate. The leader or “moderator” asked a question to be answered by both candidates – in this case also projected onto a screen, which was useful for keeping a check on whether the answers tracked near the questions. For the most part, they did. Give them their due: our council candidates do a much better job than the presidential comedians did in their shows last year.

The two candidates took turns to answer first, with a supposed two minute countdown on each answer, not strictly observed. The format was fair.

I’m not going to do a news report. The T-P and the Advocate have it hard enough already without me helping put them out of business. Just some points of particular interest.

Competition

This campaign should sharpen up. Answers had their edges sanded and smoothed, varnished and polished. After you, Alphonse. Challenges from the other candidate were rare. I want to see and hear policies and commitments in high relief and strong lighting. This campaign should have more red meat and white bone showing. It’s too much tuna salad for me so far.

Kristin Palmer is a strong campaigner. Good reflexes, fast-access memory, good at lists of things proving how wonderful she is, accomplished at leaving out anything that does not support her campaign persona as a tough, street-smart angel of the city. I felt like shouting out, “Come on, Nadine! Counterpunch! Step in. Challenge something. Kristin is shoveling some stuff here.”

More appropriate for McGregor-Mayweather, but you know – you can’t take me anywhere.

Then again, sometimes CM Ramsey did some whitewashing too, and while Kristin didn’t let everything by, challenges were few and ripostes to challenges fewer.

Housing

Asked about affordable housing, both candidates diverted the topic into expanding home ownership. Ms Ramsey wanted to make mortgages more accessible. I didn’t hear a lot of clarity about guarantees for people with no home ownership experience and jobs with low security, but it must be in there somewhere, because let’s remember something from 2007/8: let banks and mortgage hustlers get their unregulated hooks into relatively low income mortgagees, and you are setting the scene for increasing debt peonage and a land grab. Homeowner empowerment can turn to victimization with the tweak of an interest rate, and with neoliberalism still in the national saddle, care should be advised.

Kristin Palmer also did home ownership, adding in a fairly lengthy exposition of what she had done to make more houses available by acquiring properties in bad shape or blighted, fixing them up and returning them to the habitable market. I believe aspects of this refer to her time in office, and others to her time since.

Sorry, Kristin and voters, that sounds more like a small business to me than a serious approach to large-scale alleviation of a housing problem. Not to put the effort down, either as a private business or public effort, but the impact on New Orleans’ affordable housing market as a result of the work of one person of medium means is statistically hard to see with my political microscope. It is probably not even comparable to the tokenist position of some of our downriver neighborhood associations, who passionately espouse zoning rules that require ten percent of new market-rent residential buildings to be means-tested affordable, while sliding over the real numbers: a building with 90 apartments would have nine “affordable”; five buildings would have 45. Not 4,500 or 450. Forty five.

Tokenism can make the problem worse. While having little impact on the income/rent problem, it allows middle class advocates to feel like they have done something and politicians to have something to tout for their next campaign.

It is wryly amusing that while vocally advocating ten per cent affordable, the conservative neighbor-hoodies generally oppose permitting the building.

City government has to think and act bigger than this.

The candidates cited home ownership as somehow teaching or inculcating responsibility. Even if there is something in that, housing crises should not be converted into morality lessons. I am sure council would want to avoid another Desire or St Thomas, but the answer should not be to just give in. Tokenism is just whitewashing despair. Work toward a way to provide substantial numbers of subsidized rental apartments that work. If it’s hard, best get started.

Kristin Palmer touted her record on affordable housing advocacy during her term as CM for District C, before she pulled out of the 2014 election. Maybe. But let’s poke around in that time.

The Old Council

I’m not implying that it was her fault, but the Council in Ms Palmer’s term was a silly circus with a looney tunes tone set by the past-sell-by voice of Jackie Clarkson doing a parody of a Southern politician who could have played herself in a Carl Hiaasen satire. As an At Large CM, she was President of Council half the time.  Smarter members who knew they were dealing with a demented dinosaur went along with it anyway. Kristin Palmer was one of them. Like Trump’s accomplices when this nightmare is over, they should not be let off the hook for it.

One of that Council’s trends was to enable a particularly ugly brand of snobbish gentrification. The neighborhood clubs backed by campaign donors were pushing policies whose outcome would be higher residential property prices and increased residential segregation. VCPORA, the sharpest tack in that unlovely box, was dropping ordinances drafted by Smith’s interns on the desks of Clarkson and associates, with instructions to go out and get them passed. Smith, a lawyer gone crackpot, was trying to suppress music venues and bars, street players, restaurants near his or his friends’ houses – anything that might annoy him, and he showed symptoms of very high annoyability. I tried to make sure he was always annoyed, but probably didn’t have much effect.

As far as I could tell, the neighbor-hoodies’ position was that opposing building height and music they didn’t like – or more accurately, that Smith didn’t like – was the essence of historical preservation. For a while, they went on a toot against souvenir and T-shirt shops, during which they lowered themselves to the nostrils into cesspools of intentional injustice while reaching heights of operatic passion about ridiculous trivia of commercial zoning.

Smith seems to be out of the picture now, but VCPORA and FQC are still there. Their battlefield leader, Meg Lousteau, smart, capable and still in charge, has been generally reasonable since Smith left. But if Kristin Palmer wins the C seat, would we see the worst impulses of the gentrification mafia emerge again? NOLAscape recommends caution.

Some of you may remember that at one point in the FQ residentialists’ crusade of zoning fundamentalism, then-CM Palmer suggested – partly in jest but not enough – that Meg Lousteau should be deputized as French Quarter Sheriff to harass businesses that Safety and Permits was not prosecuting well enough to suit them.

The outcome of their policies is the creation of residential ghettos, generally segregated economically and culturally. Urban suburbs, the very opposite of the Master Plan that everybody claims to support.

I think Nadine Ramsey knows this better than I do. Why isn’t she saying so?

Everybody is too polite in this so far.

Police

And crime. The mainstreamers have to make a statement about more police, more policing money, more police technology – which might suggest some of the snazzy stuff with lots of screens rapidly locating serial killers by tracking their SIM cards that we see in movies about the CIA or the tech rooms in London. Don’t be confident: with the rear-view Trumpster occupation still barricaded inside the White House, cop tech is more likely to be street tanks, black armored suits and machine guns.

Ms Ramsey is way ahead on this one, but she says it too quietly. On crime prevention, she leads with youth, community and school programs and community relations policing. Palmer talks about more police, better retention, more recruits, better pay and conditions, fancier gear.

CM Ramsey probably walks softly on this even though she advocates the smart approach, because showboat policing plays to the gallery. Forceful policing, that Desirée Charbonnet and now possibly Kristin Palmer are pushing, probably works as a campaign ploy. But it is bunk.

Let’s try a thought experiment called “thinking.” It is not the same as outrage, backlash or reflex bouncing up from your preconceptions and prejudices. Scene: we are going to remember that this is the most incarcerated city in the most incarcerated state in the most incarcerated country in the world. In the world. Let’s remember that our prisons and jails are universities of felony and violence. To make it easy, we are going to envisage a black male teenager, brought up in a neighborhood and extended family where the cycle of police disrespect, brutality, arrest, plea deal and incarceration is everyday life. Now in our scientific experiment, we are going to ask ourselves: will NOPD having 1,500 instead of 1,100 police driving around in tough looking SUVs break the cycle and change that kid’s life? Will more machine guns and SWAT suits change our risk or get rid of the guns? Is that kid going to think, Wow, cops all over, Harassment even more than my brother told me about. I think I’ll just change my life and go to law school.

Police is post-crime action, not crime prevention. We need them, and we need them to be good, but get your expectations right. My observation: NOPD has been getting better. We have some fine commanders and good officers. Let’s not have some politicians show off by overriding development and improvement, trying to ditch the consent decree and inaugurate reform and revolution, as likely as not to turn into backlash.

Policing is like the medical and drug industries that afflict our healthcare. The action and the money in medicine is in sick people lingering long. You can’t sell a lot of prescriptions to healthy people or dead people. The money is in long-term illness. All the stents and bypasses and statin drugs churn many hundreds of millions of dollars of medical and pharmaceutical activity every year for post-diagnosis care, but they don’t prevent the diseases. Think of the police as your crime drug: radical symptom treatment.

Or think of it as territorial: moving crime around the map. Think of Sidney Torres’s French Quarter Patrol. Torres is unabashedly territorial. HIs FQ unit was wickedly effective. Street crime was under pressure in those blocks. But how many criminals took a look at Sidney’s rangers in their fast response beach buggies and decided to go straight? Get a good job at Wendy’s and pay 50% of their take-home for a small apartment? Compared, let’s say, to the number that simply moved away from the FQ patrol’s block?

I hope we are not collectively so reactive that any candidate wins an election based on the false crime/police equation. You don’t want that kind of mental limitation in senior management.

Homelessness 

Kristin Palmer advocated low barrier shelters. Good plan. Almost everybody of sound mind is for that, so at least a few of us, yet low-pressure, no-barrier shelters are still not there. The right question would have been: how are you going to make it happen?

Church and charity shelters frequently have early curfews and other restrictions, and subject the homeless to preaching and evangelism. I guess sometimes it gets cold enough outside.

Now I shamelessly segue to one of Ms Palmer’s more recent political interventions – problematical, interesting, deeply moving – and a disqualifier.

KGP, as she used to be tagged in the press, teamed up with Jim Kelly of Covenant House, a Catholic charity for troubled and homeless teenagers, to try to shut down a bunch of “adult” pole dancing and strip clubs, pushing legislation to block young women under 21 from working in the remaining ones. Her motivation is personal, and very moving, one of the great stories, undoubtedly well told in her sister Anne’s new brilliantly titled book, The Futilitarians.

But elections must be about public policy, not personal tragedy. Do we want council members legislating morality? Do we want the pulpit and the perpetually re-arising puritan revival pietizing inside City Hall? A gumbo version of the deep south and prairie culture wars? Another year or two of wasteful flap on private issues? Even if you are one of the piety persuasion that thinks city hall is the place to push church policy, where would you responsibly put a couple of pole dancing clubs on the priority list?

It can be great fun. At one point, FQMD got into trying to recommend legislation to regulate “doorway nudity” at the “adult” clubs. The motivation seemed to be that some delegates of the Convention of Minnesota Dentists said their wives were shocked and offended when they stepped out of the Sonesta into Bourbon Street and encountered the women either catching a break or hustling the club. And the children! What would happen to them if they saw that much female skin on one body. The committee tried to regulate permissible visibility by defining the number of inches allowable between armpit and bra strap. In one memorable episode, the Chairperson tried to get the director of the Vieux Carré Commission to serve as model for the measuring. Great deadpan humor, some of it inadvertent. I enjoyed the hell out of it, but it didn’t get any crimes prevented, homeless sheltered or housing available.

Clean up managements, stop some bad stuff, sure. But shut businesses down just because of the nature of the business they are in, put people out of work in the name of dubious morality, impose the policy of a religious institution – no. Think prohibition. With my deepest respect to the Gisleson family’s ordeal, Its politicization was an unrealistic, moralizing illusion. Let’s not revive its platform.

Back to the Future . . . .

Kristin Palmer is a strong, skillful candidate, but has been an unreliable council member.

Nadine Ramsey has so far been a less inspired campaigner, but a more reliable, realistic, thoughtful council member.

It is more than a little bit sickening that in coffee house and bar conversation some of this is attracting ugly racial rubbish. You hear people talking trash about the candidates’ supporters and sponsors – the black “mafia” v. the white power structure. Some I speak to want me to think that The Respectables of the riverside gentry are morally superior to Ike Spears and the Bourbon Street owners.

Crap. I have checked them out, face to face. Get over that fast. It’s a virus that will bloom into a sickness. If you are carrying that stuff in you, take something before it turns you zombie.

For moral values, I’ll take straightforward Bourbon Street and a few tough lawyers over the devious genteel and the pieties of the pulpit any day.

City Council

District C is big – too big. New Orleans does not have enough members on its council. Without studying it too closely, I’ll say Council should be expanded to at least nine immediately, and probably to 13 or 15 within two years. If this is the city of neighborhoods, let’s start acting like it.

Of course, that is unlikely to happen without some kind of intervention, because each council member has more clout as one of seven than as one of 15. Maybe we can find a way.

Sum Up

NOLAscape’s council recommendation: anyone who had any alliance with the dominant looniness of the Clarkson council should not be allowed back on that platform. Never.

Maybe James Gray can get a pass. CM Gray was on the Council when Clarkson was, but generally kept quiet and voted sensibly. Susan Guidry and Stacy Head came through it scarred and incompletely cured, but they will be termed out anyway, so no need for surgery.

Kristin is a capable, skillful politician. Let her run for state office, The bear pits of Baton Rouge will be more fun for her anyway.

Nadine Ramsey for District C.

© NOLAscape 2017

Reference: Who’s running, who’s not: http://www.nola.com/elections/index.ssf/2017/07/nola_votes_2017_qualifying_end.html

Conversations S1E3: Popeye

Popeye – an inspired selection for our movies series. It’s hard to think of an aspect of the art of film that is not superb in Popeye: a great director on top form directing superb actors, the sets, colors, sound, songs . . . but I should quiet down and let Henry and Jonathan tell you about it.

If you have seen Popeye, I am sure you will enjoy our NOLAscape movie duo drilling down into it. And if you haven’t, I hope they inspire you to get access to a copy and see what you have been missing.

Popeye is not currently on Filmstruck, Amazon Prime, HBO or Netflix. You can rent it from Amazon video for $2.99 or $3.99. I bought it; I think it cost $8.99. With a film this delightful, a pleasure to watch all the way through or in parts over and over again, I’m sure I’ll get my money’s worth.

To get email alerts to the Conversations series and other NOLAscape material, just let us know your email in the slot below, just below the comments box (where you can put your name – optional) and we will put you on the list.

© NOLAscape August 2017