Friday Reads: Late EditionPosted: January 15, 2016 Filed under: Economic Develpment, Economy | Tags: Air BnB hell realms, gentrification, New Orleans 33 Comments
I’m running really late today despite coffee and all the usual things I use to face the morning. I seem to be in need of hibernation. I’m not sure if it’s the ugly political situation or just the challenges of doing any little thing these days. Have you noticed how businesses are basically set up to take your money efficiently and create hell for you under any other circumstance? Calling them is to enter a hell realm. Even when you do reach a person, there seems to be little they can do but offer sympathy and customer service surveys. Why are businesses so damned rotten these days? Is it because they are coddled while the rest of us have been basically dropped from the master plan?
I’m going to do a little sharing of local stuff juxtaposed on some national news because I’ve been noticing how difficult life is becoming for regular people. Here in New Orleans, we’re chasing tourist dollars by destroying the culture that brings them here and basically driving off the workers that do the daily stuff of dealing with them. I’m beginning to think that the entire plan of the Aspen Institute is to turn every major city into a seamless, architecturally bland, sea of guys sporting manbuns. We seem to be selling our treasure to the highest out-of-town bidder who then remakes it into something totally new Portland or new Seattle or new Brooklyn. Then, we all have to indulge boorish burbies in all the places we used to use to escape them.
Here’s a great example. This nice old home used to be the equivalent of a hostel owned by a friend of mine. It was called the Mazant Guesthouse and was heavily used by Europeans because it had no A/C, a communal kitchen, and was extremely cheap. The first thing the new owners did was try to tear down the backhouse. Thankfully, the historic commission stopped them. Now the entire property is just another reminder of the folks city government is trying to attract to all parts of the city including our personal, private backyards. Asking price? $1.65 million. You could’ve bought entire blocks here for that just a few years ago. So, you can imagine what that’s done to the rental market and what that’s doing to property tax valuations.
This revitalization includes sanitizing the city’s really awful past as an outpost of the Confederacy and Lost Cause by removing statues that used to attract more pigeon shit than attention. We tear down a very historical Woolworth’s with an intact counter that was central to the Civil Rights Movement and no one mourns that at all. We had an opportunity to put a great Civil Rights museum downtown for a real tourist experience. But no, we spend time removing rather than preserving the sites to use them to elucidate the awful past. We’d rather have a Dave and Buster’s than a National Jazz Park.
Several items came to my attention today that show the master plan is to transform us into the destination of the manbun crowd and that is having all kinds of unintended consequences. The example sits right next door to me. Two guys from NJ charge $180 a night for one side of a double that’s been redone to look like a badly decorated boutique hotel inside and barely maintains a semblance of its historical past outside. It used to be home to two families. Some NJ guy bought the family home across the street and it’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen now. It was an arts and crafts double but now it looks like some weird, awkward Cape Code monstrosity and it’s selling for way over $.5 million. Both homes were stripped of their historic architecture during renovation. My guess is some out of town rich people will Air BNB the arts & crafts double too which is currently illegal and against zoning laws. It used to be a rental when I moved here but was a single family dwelling until it sold. A barber who worked down in the quarter lived there. Regular folks that are renters aren’t here any more. But, don’t take my word for it. New Orleans now ranks second as the worst market for renters in the nation.
New Orleans is gaining notoriety among America’s mid-sized cities as a place where renters must devote an increasing share of their income to housing expenses.
Make Room, a campaign by nonprofit affordable housing developer Enterprise Community Partners, extracted Census data to rank the top “10 worst metro areas for cash-strapped renters.” New Orleans was No. 2.
According to Harvard’s data, 35 percent of renters in the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner statistical area devote 50 percent or more of their income to rent and utilities, only slightly less than top-ranked Miami where the rate was 35.7 percent.
The Make Room initiative was launched in May 2015 to push for policy changes and additional resources for cities where the lack of affordable housing is acute. Angela Boyd, the campaign’s managing director, said the effort seeks, in part, to debunk misconceptions that affordable housing is an issue only for coastal cities and targets renters in need of subsidies or government assistance.
“Some people think affordable housing is for the homeless or residents of public housing, but it also takes into account moderate income (renters),” Boyd said. “These are people who are probably already your neighbors.”
I wonder how all those restaurants are going to find help when there are no more places for their employees to rent in the city at the wages they can pay? While the city is hassling over statues and renting its lampposts to hang fetus fetish propaganda, there’s very little discussion of things that are really wrong here. We may be good at attracting celebrities to film stuff and buy houses, but we’re absolutely forgetting the majority of our population in the rush to be cool for pennies on the tax dollar.
On Wednesday night, Douglas Brown allegedly jumped over the counter of a New Orleans Subway after ordering a sandwich, according to the Times-Picayune, but was foiled in his attempt to nab the cash register drawer because it was tethered into place. Instead, he grabbed a bunch of cash and ran. He was detained 25 minutes later.It’s unclear who will represent Brown. Yesterday, the Orleans Public Defenders refused to take his case. The underfunded office, which says it represents nearly 85-percent of all defendants in the parish but has a budget just half the size of the district attorney, simply can’t handle any more.
“Our workload has now reached unmanageable levels resulting in a constitutional crisis,” Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton said in a December statement, giving one month’s notice that they would start refusing some clients charged with felonies carrying long sentences. “As Chief Defender, I can no longer ethically assign cases to attorneys with excessive caseloads or those that lack the requisite experience and training to represent the most serious offenses.”
This week, Bunton’s office made good on that pledge and began refusing clients. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana last night filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against Bunton and Louisiana State Public Defender James Dixon on behalf of plaintiffs who were assigned public defenders but then placed on a waiting list.
“So long as you’re on the public defender waiting list in New Orleans, you’re helpless. Your legal defense erodes along with your constitutional rights,” said Brandon Buskey, Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, in a statement. “With every hour without an attorney, you may forever lose invaluable opportunities to prove your innocence. You also may be forced into a crippling choice between waiting months for counsel or doing bail and plea negotiations yourself. The damage to your case can be irreparable.”
Mayor Mitch Landrieu maintains that while the city has increased its funding of the office that they have “barely kept pace with state funding cuts,” the Times-Picayune reports. The defenders contend that “the additional local funding is enough to stave off mandatory furloughs, but not enough to provide representation in serious felony cases that is constitutional or ethical.” Bunton and Dixon could not be reached for comment.
The total focus on re-imagining New Orleans appears to include putting street cars everywhere and making sure no road goes unfixed endlessly as long as it is uptown. I’m not sure it includes a vision of much else. We seem to be highly focused on accommodating a certain segment of American society to the exclusion of a nearly everything else. From what I can see, we’re really not “winning” in any sense but Charlie Sheen’s or whatever it is Mayor Landrieu has in mind. He did come to us as the LT. Governor whose sole job is to fixate on tourism. Maybe that’s the issue he just can’t move beyond. I really don’t know. But, as far as I can tell, the development we’ve been getting recently is really killing exactly what we’ve been good at doing for a very long time.
Does resilience mean dumping your core competencies and the things that make you unique for the latest trendiness?
What happens when a city because a laboratory for hair brained schemes like charter schools and whatever you call this urban development trend that seems to be making us some blander version of ourselves? One of our issues has been the lack of health care for so many people. I’m hoping that the state’s move to now accept the Medicaid Expansion will help these kinds of statistics. Meanwhile, we can only look at the skeleton of Big Charity Hospital which was once the hallmark of a civilized nation.
Indeed, Place Matters for Health in Orleans Parish, a report prepared by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and the Orleans Parish Place Matters Team, in conjunction with the Center on Human Needs, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Virginia Network for Geospatial Health Research, noted that “Life expectancy in the poorest zip code in the city is 54.5 years, or 25.5-years lower than life expectancy in the zip code with the least amount of poverty in the city, where it is 80.”
I’m beginning to think the entire “sharing” economy is basic piracy. I came across this at AJ and was appalled that folks would do this on both supply and demand side of AIR BnB. I swear this corporation is just an international crime syndicate that makes money off of illegal and destructive activities.
Airbnb may be the next high-profile target of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, following media reports this week that the online accommodation service includes listings from settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories that are advertised as being in Israel.
Anyone staying in an Airbnb-listed settlement property “facilitates the commission of the crime of establishing settlements and therefore aids and abets the crime,” said John Dugard, professor of international law, and a former Special Rapporteur to the UN on Palestine.
“The same applies to making money from property built on illegal settlements.” Airbnb takes a commission on property rentals, and so is profiting from Israel’s colonisation of Palestine.
Hosts who list properties via the company are required to provide accurate locations. As such, stating that settlements are located in Israel – when they are in fact illegal under international law because they are built on occupied territory – is a violation of the company’s terms.
I would like to think that just because you can make money off of something doesn’t mean that you should do it, the government should allow it, or there should be legal businesses encouraging it. But then, it seems state and local governments are also doing anything to quit providing services to citizens while heavily subsidizing private businesses for whatever reason. At what point do we decide that businesses and rich people should pony up their fair share of the bill of living in a civilized country,state and city of laws, institutions and regular people?
The city of Flint, Mich., is in the midst of a water crisis several years in the making. The city opted out of Detroit’s water supply and began drawing water from the Flint River in April 2014, part of a cost-saving move. Eighteen months later, in the fall of 2015, researchers discovered that the proportion of children with above-average lead levels in their blood had doubled.
The city reconnected to Detroit’s water system in October, but the damage was done. Water from the Flint River was found to be highly corrosive to the lead pipes still used in some parts of the city. Even though Flint River water no longer flows through the city’s pipes, it’s unclear how long those pipes will continue to leach unsafe levels of lead into the tap water supply. Experts currently say the water is safe for bathing, but not drinking.
A group of Virginia Tech researchers who sampled the water in 271 Flint homes last summer found some contained lead levels high enough to meet the EPA’s definition of “toxic waste.”
Economic theory states that we should tax nuisance activities heavily to both discourage them and to collect funds for the damages they inflict on the citizens around them. (Think any kind of pollution.) Subsidies are to be given to those activities that won’t occur–even though they are highly beneficial to society–because they won’t provide profits to private businesses. (Think public transportation and education.) It’s a really basic and simply theory that’s been proven useful time and time again. There are some things we really do want to tax the hell out of because we want less of it and we want to recover the damage it creates. Many rules and regulations exist to protect current property owners and stakeholders. Here’s a brief little lesson on Pigouvian Taxes and subsidies that’s worth a watch that gives you a good idea of the costs and benefits. I’m not sure why the entire concept has gone out of style. Perhaps it’s because the Aspen Institute doesn’t find it trendy enough. Although my gut says it’s likely because lobbyists and political donors prefer to be enabled rather than held accountable.
Anyway, what I think I can say is that we’re making it difficult (e.g. taxing) for the wrong people to exist in society and we’re subsidizing the folks that are just making things worse. I believe this is why there’s such disgruntlement at working, poor, and middle class income levels.
The question now, is how do we really change this? When are we going to stop selling our society to any bidder for any sleazoid reason in the name development?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Friday ReadsPosted: March 14, 2014 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Bobby Jindal, gentrification, Louisiana, Mary Landrieu, New Orleans, Rick Perry, Southern Orientalism., True Detective 30 Comments
I’ve been looking at some of the elections coming up for the midterm season as well as reading the scuttlebutt about the presidential campaigns likely to gear up at the same time. There’s still some worry that the Republicans may have the momentum going into the midterms and that the Democratic Party may lose its majority in the Senate. I figured I’d start looking towards fall with my own vulnerable senator and overtly ambitious governor.
The Koch Brothers’ money is hot and heavy in most of the races that are seen as potential switches including my one sane–albeit owned by the oil & gas industry–Senator Mary Landrieu. I’ve been getting really sick of the same stupid Obama-care based attack ad on her that plays endlessly on TV. The Democratic party is evidently trying some new strategies to run the Koch Brothers express off the tracks. Here’s the new response to that ad that’s been bugging the living daylights out of me for months now. The analysis comes from Greg Sargent.
A Dem source tells me the spot is backed by a $200,000 buy. Script:
Out of state billionaires spending millions to rig the system and elect Bill Cassidy. Their goal: Another politician bought and paid for. Their agenda: Protect tax cuts for companies that ship our jobs overseas. Cut Social Security and end Medicare as we know it. They even tried to kill relief for hurricane victims. Cassidy’s billion dollar backers: They’ve got a plan for him. It’s not good for Louisiana.
As I noted the other day, this is all about creating a framework within which voters can be made to understand the actual policy agenda Republicans are campaigning on. This is what the Bain attacks on Mitt Romney were all about: Dem focus groups showed voters simply didn’t believe Romney would cut entitlements (per the Paul Ryan plan) whilecutting taxes on the rich. The Bain narrative made Romney’s actual priorities more comprehensible.
The Koch attacks are designed to do something similar. They aren’t really about the Kochs. They are a proxy for the one percent, a means through which to tap into a general sense that the economy remains rigged in favor of the very wealthy. Placed into this frame, GOP policies – opposition to raising the minimum wage; the Paul Ryan fiscal blueprint, which would redistribute wealth upwards; opposition to the Medicaid expansion, which AFP is fighting in multiple states – become more comprehensible as part of a broader storyline. In that narrative, Republican candidates are trying to maintain or even exacerbate an economic status quo that’s stacked against ordinary Americans, while Dems are offering solutions to boost economic mobility and reduce inequality, which are increasingly pressing public concerns.
In many ways this strategy is born of necessity. The 2014 fundamentals are stacked heavily against Democrats, who are defending seven Senate seats in states carried by Mitt Romney in 2012 that are older, whiter, and redder than the diversifying national electorate. This is made even worse by the midterm electorate, in which core Dem groups are less likely to turn out.
GOP attacks on the health law in red states are not just about Obamacare. They are, more broadly, about casting Senate Dems as willing enablers of the hated president and blaming the sputtering recovery on #Obummer Big Gummint, to channel people’s economic anxieties into a vote to oust Dem incumbents.
Mary Landrieu, meanwhile, is out front and center trying to force through the Keystone Pipeline. This is likely to bring a few jobs to Louisiana and make her oil company donors quite happy.
Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana intensified the pressure on Secretary of State John Kerry, a former Senate colleague, to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
During a hearing on the State Department’s 2015 budget, Ms. Landrieu, a Democrat who has been a strong pipeline proponent and faces a tough re-election fight this year, pressed Mr. Kerry to approve the project, which would carry crude from Canada’s oil sands and from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale Formation to Gulf Coast refineries.
Ms. Landrieu, the new chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, said, “Canada is our closest, strongest trading partner,” and “a majority of American people” support Keystone. “It is hard for me to understand why there are still questions about whether building this pipeline is in our national interest,” she said.
Actually, it really isn’t in the national interest since most of the Canadian tar sands oil will be sold on the open market and the danger of polluting the major source of fresh water for five states in the center of the country remains. However, Landrieu always moves to the right during the election cycle. I am certainly not going to vote for Bill Cassidy who could be worse . He still rings all the usual right wing bells albeit not with much charisma as some of his Texas compadres in congress.
Leading Republicans figured Cassidy to be her perfect foil, as a physician (treating the poor in public hospitals) with only eight years in elected office (experience but not a career in politics). He’s not especially charismatic, but he is intelligent and trustworthy. In the recent government shutdown/debt crisis, he voted along with conservatives but, in his rhetoric, he did not get wild-eyed about it.
And that’s a problem. Though U.S. Sen. David Vitter has run interference, Cassidy has been unable to close the deal on the right. For Republicans running for Congress these days, it is not enough to be conservative. If you are not ultra-conservative, then you’re moderate, which is just a slippery slope away from closet liberal. This nagging distrust about his conservatism has created an opening on the right, into which have stepped two other Republican candidates, Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington and Rob Maness of Madisonville.
Maness, with tea party connections, lumps Cassidy together with Landrieu as compromised establishment politicians. Hollis assured Vitter that he would not criticize Cassidy but keep his aim on Landrieu. Yet in his first TV ads, standing under an oak tree, he distinguishes himself as unspoiled by the partisan politics of Washington. His bid for home boy status — “lifelong Louisiana,” he describes himself — is a sly dig at both Maness, an Air Force brat, and Cassidy, whose family moved here when he was 6 years old. His underlying message is: I’m one of us, and they are not.
A more direct slap at the GOP anointed one comes from Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, a former Louisiana legislator, who recently told The Hill newspaper that Cassidy can’t beat the incumbent because he’s not conservative enough.
Perkins has his eye on a seat some where right now so he’s hardly an objective on the candidate. Of course, the Republican Party and the Koch ads are hammering away at “Obamacare”. This is an interesting tactic in a state like Louisiana where the needs of so many go unserved and the governor is taking heat for turning down the Medicaid expansion from every paper in the state. Then, there are these numbers. Ted Cruz’s fears have come true. It’s getting popular and most of the recent advertised scare stories used in the political ads are being successfully debunked,
President Barack Obama’s health-care law is becoming more entrenched, with 64 percent of Americans now supporting it outright or backing small changes.
Even so, the fervor of the opposition shows no sign of abating, posing a challenge for Obama’s Democrats during congressional races this year, as a Republican victory in a special Florida election this week showed. In addition, 54 percent of Americans say they’re unhappy with the president’s handling of the issue, according to a Bloomberg National Poll.
That’s an improvement since the last poll, in December, when Obama’s public standing on health care hit a low of 60 percent disapproval after the botched rollout of the insurance exchanges, according to the March 7-10 poll of 1,001 adults.
So, this Louisiana race may be one to watch if you want to see what could happen in the fall. The other thing is that it’s pretty certain that Governor Bobby Jindal is not giving up his presidential dreams no matter how badly he shows in all the polls. He’s on the campaign trail and introducing legislation that’s been written by the Koch machine. Oh, and he’s in New Hampshire.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal launched a new political action committee (PAC) on Thursday (March 13) to assist conservative candidates in the 2014 midterm elections, just before heading off to New Hampshire for a series of events.
Jindal’s PAC, dubbed “Stand Up to Washington,” will feature former Mitt Romney campaign manager Jill Neunaber in its leadership role. Neunaber is getting to be a familiar name around Louisiana, as the head of Jindal’s PAC and also his recently-formed nonprofit “America Next,” which is aimed primarily at national issues and supporting Republican candidates in this year’s gubernatorial races.
“Obviously, my main focus is still going to be continuing to help governors win their races and candidates to win gubernatorial races,” Jindal told POLITICO in a reported 18-minute phone interview about the new PAC.
“But I also get a ton of requests to go and speak and help federal candidates in the Senate and the House. So we just thought this was a logical thing to do.”
Soon after announcing the PAC, Jindal will head off to the battleground state of New Hampshire for a series of events. He will keynote the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference on Friday; The Nashua Telegraph also reports he will appear at the Wild Irish Breakfast that morning.
Nothing says candidate like Pancake breakfasts and parades. Oh, and appearing on comedy and talk shows. Did you know that Texas Governor Rick Perry got booed during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel live?
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was booed when he took the stage at ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ on Tuesday night at the South by Southwest conference in Austin.
“We do know how to get it stirred up,” the Republican said as he sat down, presumably referring to Texans.
The booing continued throughout the interview, until Perry mentioned decriminalizing marijuana – that prompted the crowd to cheer.
When asked if he’d ever smoked marijuana himself, Perry responded, “No, thank God!”
Kimmel also asked Perry whether he planned to run for president in 2016, after an unsuccessful attempt in 2012.
“This is not the crowd that I want to make this announcement to,” Perry said.
I have to think that most of the folks in Austin will be really glad to get rid of the man, but then you probably should ask Ralph about that since he would know more than me.
I might as well follow up on my post last Friday since this post seems to have taken on a Louisianan flavor anyway. There have been a few more folks–recent transplants and visitors–writing articles on the state still. I’m thinking it must have something to do with True Detective but maybe not. I don’t feel like I can be the outstanding transmitter of what’s special and frustrating about this state as well as a native because frankly, after 20 years, the place still can make me dizzy in both good and bad ways. So, I’m going to quote Lamar White here. See, Lamar, I not only attribute and cite you but I put your name right here. Too bad I’m not any one that matters, but hey, you’re out there making some waves and that’s good.
On Tuesday, Dave Thier, a freelance writer based in New Orleans, published a piece in Esquire titled “Sorry, Louisiana Is Not Actually Made Of Magic.” I really wanted to like Mr. Thier’s piece, because I thought the headline was provocative. But the article was absurdly patronizing and completely disconnected. Mr. Thier is a Yale graduate who has lived in New Orleans for only three years. While we should all celebrate smart, young, educated professionals who move to Louisiana, it is unwise, arrogant, and misguided for a self-described “transplant” to hold himself out, to a national audience, as a curator of Louisiana culture, particularly when he implies that his understanding of his newly-adopted home has been informed by Hollywood.
Indeed, that seems to be the point of his article: Hollywood has lied about Louisiana being magical, which he can prove by way of juxtaposing the banalities of his own life. He watches Netflix and plays video games and prefers Thai take-out over the native cuisine of his adopted Louisiana. And this, I think, may bolster Mr. Thier’s argument that he’s just an ordinary American in his late twenties. But it completely destroys his credibility when it comes to opining on the culture and, yes, the magic of Louisiana.
The same group of Louisiana Bloggers, Twitterati, and Facebookers had it out re: Thier’s article in Esquire, harkened back to Kalegate and the NYT, and then hashed over if we should even be paying these folks some never mind anyway. I personally wonder why these recent transplants get the paid gigs on what is and isn’t New Orleans or Louisiana instead of folks that have either been born here or at least lived here long enough to have decoded some of the unique charms and frustration. Here’s another take in Salon that’s called True Detective goth Southern porn characterizing Louisiana poverty as stemming from a stereotyped swampbilly culture.
As someone who studies southern Appalachia in popular culture, I have become occasionally numb to the portrayal of other parts of the southern United States, viewing their representation/stereotypes as being less severe. Louisiana in particular.
Louisiana gets heaps of praise. “True Blood” made it sexy and campy. “Treme” showed its heart. The last season of “Top Chef” showcased its deliciousness.
There’s another side, though. A bit darker. “Duck Dynasty,” “Gator Boys,” “Cajun Pawn Stars,” “Swamp People,” etc. All reality television series that showcase people living off the land or trying to get by, often downplaying the intelligence of its stars. It paints the state as a different country, with different rules.
But those rules are not as far-flung as “True Detective” might have you believe. Creator Nic Pizzolatto, who grew up in the Lake Charles, La., depicts his hometown as a post-apocalyptic landscape in which the rapes and murders of women and children are covered up by kin connections. He follows what I have deemed the three rules of a Southern horror story: Close Family Relationships, Weird Sex and Malicious Rednecks.
Important note: The more overlap between the above three elements, the better.
Essentially Lake Charles received its own “Deliverance” through the episodes of “True Detective.” Has ever a show depicted such a large number of beaten and bruised female prostitutes? As far as the series reveals, there’s no reason that Marty’s elementary-school-aged daughter draws graphic pictures of people having sex or sets up her toys to depict a doll getting gang-banged. It’s just one of those things kids in rural Louisiana do.
By the way, Lake Charles was not really the center of the series or the filming location or the plot, but then I quibble. I’m not exactly certain why the writers of establishment media have decided to put every one in Louisiana on the couch, but it appears there’s some kind’ve creepy fascination that’s playing out in the press right now. Yes, there is unique culture down here. This area has given the world a lot of musical forms, food, and reasons to party. The landscape can be breathtaking in both its lushness and its austerity. You can see any and all of it play out just by visiting here and taking note. But, really, does that mean you can decode it for the rest of the world to earn a few bucks?
Here’s the Cajun version of Mardi Gras that shows you there is plenty of unique culture to celebrate, to learn about, and to appreciate. Thier should take some time away from his video games and Thai take out food to chase some of this down. The last thing I did when I first moved here was to sit at home with all things mundane. I just participated. This part of the country will amaze and capture your attention. The problem that I have with these accidental tourists and transplants is they really haven’t taken the time to let their gumbo simmer. But, when has Hollywood or the New York/Washington DC -centric press ever put any place in any kind of real light? I frankly remember growing up watching TV where every hayseed that became the butt of a sitcom joke haled from Nebraska. (It’s actually a subtheme of The Big Bang Theory right now.) It would absolutely make me even more embarrassed of having to grow up in the place knowing that the rest of the country had a worse opinion of the place than me and mine was pretty darn low.
What I’m more worried though about is this kind of thing : U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil. Since corporations are people my friend–at least that’s what Citizen’s United declared–then I say we ought not let a mass murderer out to kill again. But, that’s not the kind of story that’s likely to create any human interest. Well, not yet. So, what should we be more worried about? It does no one a great service to characterize a culture, but at least that doesn’t have the power to take down the culture itself. What’s gotten me to start writing about my adopted home has been my experiences with Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil spill because having lived here 20 years, I know exactly what’s at stake if the country would lose it. There are things down here both human and natural that are awesome. It’s worth appreciating, experiencing and protecting.
What’s on your blogging and reading list today?
Friday Reads: Us Savages in New Orleans have Done Been DiscoveredPosted: March 7, 2014 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Bobby Jindal, Fauxhemians, gentrification, New Orleans 65 Comments
And pardon me for a provincial rant here this morning!
This year will be my 20th anniversary of living in New Orleans. Yes, I was here before, during, and after Katrina. Yes, I have lived in the French Quarter and now I’ve been in the Bywater for nearly 15 of those 20 years. When I moved here, most of the folks were very old people, people living in section 8 housing, a gay contingent working in the quarter, and a very odd sundry of people trying to get out of the Quarter that had been a counterculture enclave but was rapidly turning into weekend condos for people from Texas and Georgia.
I had a few friends that owned bars and galleries here. Then, a few friends that opened up some restaurants. Then, Katrina happened. Then, we extended tax credits to movies studios and got Treme and a few interesting movies and now, well now it’s really, really attracting a group of people who have “discovered’ our wasteland and decided it’s ripe for their sort’ve civilization. We’re all so quaint here. No taxis would come here before they moved here. And, there is no kale to be found any where. But, it so authentically authentic. Isn’t it wonderful they discovered a new Brooklyn?
For some reason, I didn’t feel the need to civilize the city when I moved here. I just sort’ve dove in and let it wash all over me.
I will admit that some things are not as they should be here in the Not Always so Big Easy. There’s the NOPD. There’s still a contingent of politicians down here that are way too generous to their friends and to their own bank accounts. There’s plenty of institutional racism, sexism, and provincialism to go around. But I see this every where and at least New Orleans fills its cracks with good food, good music, and a lot of friendly people. Believe me, that makes up for a lot. However, for some reason, we’re attracting a lot of folks who want to turn us into Brooklyn or what Brooklyn has become. For this, I will reference Spike Lee who shouts “We’ve Been Here”. Discovering new lands that already exist and contain culture and people is not just a Christopher Columbus kind’ve thing.
Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. There were brothers playing motherfuckin’ African drums in Mount Morris Park for 40 years and now they can’t do it anymore because the new inhabitants said the drums are loud. My father’s a great jazz musician. He bought a house in nineteen-motherfuckin’-sixty-eight, and the motherfuckin’ people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He’s not — he doesn’t even play electric bass! It’s acoustic! We bought the motherfuckin’ house in nineteen-sixty-motherfuckin’-eight and now you call the cops? In 2013? Get the fuck outta here!
Nah. You can’t do that. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherfuckin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code. There’s people.
You can’t just — here’s another thing: When Michael Jackson died they wanted to have a party for him in motherfuckin’ Fort Greene Park and all of a sudden the white people in Fort Greene said, “Wait a minute! We can’t have black people having a party for Michael Jackson to celebrate his life. Who’s coming to the neighborhood? They’re gonna leave lots of garbage.” Garbage? Have you seen Fort Greene Park in the morning? It’s like the motherfuckin’ Westminster Dog Show. There’s 20,000 dogs running around. Whoa. So we had to move it to Prospect Park!
I mean, they just move in the neighborhood. You just can’t come in the neighborhood. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here? Get the fuck outta here. Can’t do that!
Yeah, you right.
You may have been reading my previous columns about how people that have just moved here have suddenly become the authentic carriers of New Orleans Culture and all things civilized. I have written about it before. The NYT just will not leave my neighborhood alone. Now, I have neighbors moving in from New Jersey, Philadelphia, New York, and all over. They just have decided that we’re passable if they can just civilize us a little bit more. We’re quaint and they can make us tolerable. Part of this post is about the hubris that comes from journalists. Part of this post is about the hubris that comes from being young. A lot of this post is about the hubris that comes from deciding that you’re just going to come into some one’s neighborhood, label them quaint, and then proceed to become the authority on what it is and isn’t.
“New Orleans is not cosmopolitan,” said the actress Tara Elders. “There’s no kale here.” Her husband, Michiel Huisman, the actor and musician who moved here with Ms. Elders in 2009 to shoot the HBO series “Treme” (he’s currently on the series “Nashville”), agreed. “The sign on a shop says that they’ll open at 10? You’re there at noon and it’s not open,” he said.
We were sitting outside at Sylvain, a restaurant in the French Quarter that Mr. Huisman said “takes Southern cuisine and pushes it a bit more modern.” With its elegant but rustic décor, cocktails featuring noirish names (Blood in the Gulfstream, Dead Man’s Wallet), and inventive food, Sylvain wouldn’t be out of place in Brooklyn — but Ms. Elders said spots like this are still the exception. “So many of the cool places here are really rundown,” she said. “And not because a stylist designed them that way.”
Just for your information, we have plenty of kale here. I went to Rouse’s Market yesterday and you can barely spot the mustard greens through the various assortment of kale. In fact, we’ve decided that #kalespotting is the new event for the post Mardi Gras let down just so they NYT knows we’ve got it. I have it on good authority that the Walmart in Chalmette even has it now.
In a long-ago episode of “The Simpsons,” a tourist to Springfield enters Moe’s bar and declares, “This isn’t a faux dive! This is a dive!” That was satire. But Goodman quotes Elders saying essentially the same thing and with apparent sincerity. “So many of the cool places here are really rundown. And not because a stylist designed them that way.”
Goodman’s story also includes a new transplant’s translation of a Mardi Gras Indian chant: “Shallow water, your mama.”
“Music really flows through the veins of the town, like where we are going tonight,” Mr. Huisman said, referring to the United Mardi Gras Indian Practice. “It’s so true to itself and so African. That really resonates with me: Nothing moves me as much as that beat, that rhythm that is truly New Orleans.”
We all piled into the family Jeep and drove out to Handa Wanda’s, an open warehouse space with a band set up in the back, a bar in the middle, and red beans and rice on hot plates up front. This spot is home base for the Wild Magnolias, one of dozens of tribes. Come Mardi Gras day, the tribe leader, or Big Chief, will lead a procession in full costume, challenging other tribes to mock battles. But tonight is an open practice and all are welcome.
Perched upstairs in the rickety balcony, we drank whiskey and Cokes out of Dixie cups while revelers of all ages shook it to a rollicking beat punctuated by chanting from the Big Chief. Instinctively, all of us leaned over the balcony and started bobbing our heads. Mr. Huisman saw me trying to sing along to words I couldn’t decipher. He smiled and said into my ear, “They’re saying, ‘shallow water, your mama,’ ” a traditional Indian call-and-response.
We are now fighting for t-shirts that say “Shallow water, Yo Mama”. Yes, the new dats are singing their own special lyrics in the shower cause you know how authentic and how, well so true and so African it all is.”
— Paradise City by Guns N’ Roses
“Take me down to a very nice city” Actual lyric: “Take me down to the Paradise City.”
— Rock the Casbah by The Clash
“The sheep don’t like it, rockin’ the cat box” Actual lyric: “Shareef don’t like it, rock the Casbah”
— Africa by Toto
“I left my brains down in Africa” Actual lyric: “I bless the rains down in Africa”
— Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival
“There’s a bathroom on the right” Actual lyric: “There’s a bad moon on the rise.”
— You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate
“I Remove Umbilicals” Actual lyric: “I believe in miracles”
— Suffragette City by David Bowie
“This mellow fat chick just put my spine out of place” Actual lyric: “This mellow thighed chick just put my spine out of place”
— Waterfalls by TLC
“Don’t go, Jason Waterfalls” Actual lyric: “Don’t go chasing waterfalls”
So, a group of the local New Orleans Twitterati and facebookers spent the day coming up with just the precisely right phrase to dub our invaders. Oh, excuse me, those that are here to authenticate and purify and discover our lowly asses along with their search for Kale. We’ve adopted the term Fauxhemians.
New Orleans does have a long outsider tradition. After all, the Barataria pirates and Jean Lafitte wandered the swamps here quite awhile ago before being pardoned for their outstanding fighting during the War of 1812. We’ve had our share of people chasing the local muses. You probably know that our long literary tradition includes Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. The filming of the movie “Easy Rider” sent in an entire new group that took up residence in the quarter. However, Bourbon Street has always been a little bit of this and a little bit of that.
Educated young people were aware of their privilege, and a certain segment grew bored and anguished with it. As Adam Nathaniel Mayer writes, they “suffered a kind of postmodern malaise which in turn spurred a quest for meaning.”  Previous generations had common causes like escaping poverty or fighting wars to satisfy the top tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; this generation did not. So they sought meaning through individualized quests for authentic experiences.
Because authenticity seemed to call for a certain demeanor, its seekers brooded, acted aloof and squinted when they dragged on their cigarettes. Because it needed a certain look, they grew or chopped their hair defiantly, got tattoos, and donned ragged or vintage clothing. Music, food, cinema, literature, cars, religion: just about every aspect of culture had a “groovy” (1960s), “alternative” (1980s) or “critical” (2000s) counterpart which pitted itself against the mainstream and viewed itself as authentic. And because authenticity also had a geography, its seekers packed their knapsacks and hit the road — out of suburbia and into the wilderness, to distant countries, communes, college towns and mountain villages, and to the decaying inner cities abandoned by their elders. In the past few decades, educated, mostly white youths from prosperous backgrounds have transformed urban spaces in cities like Brooklyn and Oakland and Baltimore and Boston and London from shabbiness and indigence to restoration and gentrification.
New Orleans fit the bill perfectly. It had history, culture, and the poignancy of tragedy and past grandeur. It had a European look, a Caribbean feel, an expatriated vibe, an abundance of historic housing at low rent, a pervasive booziness, and music, food and festivity to boot. It was authentic!
Richard Campanella has been examining the process from an office at Tulane University and a house in my neighborhood.
Gentrifiers seem to stew in irreconcilable philosophical disequilibrium. Fortunately, they’ve created plenty of nice spaces to stew in. Bywater in the past few years has seen the opening of nearly ten retro-chic foodie/locavore-type restaurants, two new art-loft colonies, guerrilla galleries and performance spaces on grungy St. Claude Avenue, a “healing center” affiliated with Kabacoff and his Maine-born voodoo-priestess partner, yoga studios, a vinyl records store, and a smattering of coffee shops where one can overhear conversations about bioswales, tactical urbanism, the klezmer music scene, and every conceivable permutation of “sustainability” and “resilience.”
It’s increasingly like living in a city of graduate students. Nothing wrong with that—except, what happens when they, well, graduate? Will a subsequent wave take their place? Or will the neighborhood be too pricey by then?
But, at least we’re some what separate from the state. The right wing side of the media has decided one of the movies filmed down here and about down here is far too mean to the institution of slavery. I guess every one has their notion of what we’re supposed to be about down here.
Some conservatives have started laying into the Oscar-winning movie 12 Years a Slave for creating an unfairly negative portrayal of slavery. You see, the movie portrays slaves being made unhappy by slavery. But that negativity is merely anti-slavery “propaganda,” according to James Bowman in conservative magazine The American Spectator:
If ever in slavery’s 250-year history in North America there were a kind master or a contented slave, as in the nature of things there must have been, here and there, we may be sure that Mr McQueen does not want us to hear about it. This, in turn, surely means that his view of the history of the American South is as partial and one-sided as that of the hated Gone With the Wind.
…Yes, there was much cruelty and hardship in the slave-owning South, as there has been in most of the rest of the world most of the time, and Mr. McQueen’s camera is all over that. But it strains ordinary credulity to suppose that there was nothing else.
We are wondering, was Bowman equally aggrieved by the lack of happy Jews in Schindler’s List?
To be fair to the American Spectator‘s readers, the comment thread under the article is mainly filled with people asking WTF the article is all about. The top comment reads, “‘a contented slave’ – is this article a joke of some sort?”
This state has been cursed with some of the worst leadership that could walk the planet. The head of the current plantation system is a cruel master.
“We’ve got Eric Holder and the Department of Justice trying to stand in the schoolhouse door to prevent minority kids, low-income kids, kids who haven’t had access to a great education, the chance to go to better schools,” Jindal said.
As the Washington Post points out, Jindal’s rhetoric is an apparent allusion to former Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s 1963 “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” demonstration, during which the anti-integration governor stood in a doorway at the University of Alabama as two black students attempted to enter the institution.
Jindal also gave a shout out to some of his home state’s biggest celebrities — the stars of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty.”
“We must not let [the left] silence the Robertsons,” Jindal said of the reality show family, referencing national outrage over patriarch Phil Robertson’s homophobic remarks last year.
A new report from the state auditor shows these schools are failing miserably.
The report also says that:
- 41 percent of voucher students scored at grade level or above on key tests.
- Voucher students account for more than half the enrollment at 18 schools in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas of the 118 reviewed statewide.
- The state was overcharged for tuition by 35 of the schools, including a top overbilling of $5,566 per student.
The school was not identified.
Those who get the state aid — backers call it scholarships — are not supposed to be charged more than others.
Vouchers are state aid for students who attend public schools rated C, D and F, and who meet income rules, to attend private schools with the tuition and some fees paid by the state.
Whether they provide students viable options to low-performing public schools is one of the most hotly-debated issues in Louisiana education circles.
Jindal is making a run at president and wants to replace Chris Christie as the Governor that can be taken seriously. But, any on that watches him from down here knows he only does what best for Jindal. It is only about him and his ambitions.
As governor, Jindal had an opportunity to put his big ideas into action. But his bold prescriptions look a lot like the same ideas Republicans have been pushing for decades—perhaps not surprising for a man who started out in an industry built around telling corporate leaders what they already know.
The centerpiece of his agenda was education. When he took office, Louisiana had some of the nation’s highest dropout rates and lowest literacy scores, and Katrina had battered New Orleans’ school system. Like another Southern governor, Jeb Bush, he built a reputation as an education reformer from the GOP mainstream—charter schools, teacher merit pay, and a voucher program to pay private-school tuition. But Jindal’s agenda also had a strong Christian flavor. In 2008, he signed the Louisiana Science Education Act, which allows public schools to teach creationism. Jindal framed it as a matter of giving local districts more control, but the effect was obvious: Thousands of high school students, especially in the state’s Baptist and evangelical north, were instructed that (for instance) the Loch Ness monster proves humans and dinosaurs coexisted.
Some think Jindal was simply playing politics, rewarding a religious demographic that was instrumental to his rise. “He’s smart—he was nearly gonna go to Harvard Medical School. I can’t believe that he believes in creationism,” says 20-year-old Zack Kopplin, who, as a high school student, persuaded 75 Nobel laureates to sign a letter opposing the legislation. But Jindal’s own statements suggest otherwise: As far back as 1995, fresh off his final semester at Oxford, Jindal wrote that there was “much controversy over the fossil evidence for evolution.”
Jindal’s voucher program has so far funneled at least $4 million to religious institutions, many with strict discriminatory policies. In the state’s northeastern corner, Claiborne Christian Academy students believed to be pregnant can be suspended and expelled upon confirmation. (An abortion warrants expulsion, too.)
Other voucher-funded schools in the region subject gay students to the equivalent of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. At Northlake Christian School in Covington, students can be refused admission if they or their family promote the “homosexual lifestyle.” Northeast Baptist School in West Monroe states that “students that profess a sexual orientation contrary to God’s Word will not be accepted and may be un-enrolled…upon discovery.”
“I guess they would confess it, and they would talk about it to the kids, and I would ask about it,” says Anita Watson, Northeast Baptist’s principal, when I call to ask how the school would find out about gay students. “To be honest, it hasn’t ever really come up because the teenagers that, I don’t know, that are leaning in that direction, they would probably choose not to come here.”
While aspects of Jindal’s education policies evoked Bush-era compassionate conservatism, in most areas he has embraced brute austerity. In the name of cutting waste—overspending has historically been a vehicle for corruption in Louisiana—Jindal has sought to slash the services on which residents of the nation’s third-poorest state have depended. He moved to cut the retirement benefits of some state employees by as much as 50 percent, while blocking even incremental increases in levies like the cigarette tax. State funding for higher education has been cut by 80 percent, with Jindal turning down federal stimulus funds that could have filled some of that gap. And last spring he vetoed $4 million to help relieve a 10-year waiting list for developmentally disabled Louisianans seeking in-home care.His constant travel has eroded his stature at home. One state appointee who supports Jindal calls him an “absentee landlord.”
Jindal touts his record as the first Louisiana governor in recent history not to raise net taxes. Instead, his approach has been to shift more of the tax burden onto the state’s poorest residents, while giving high-earners a break: In 2013, he proposed increasing sales taxes so the state couldeliminate all income and corporate taxes. (The plan died amid bipartisan rebellion.) And like 24 other Republican governorsacross the country, he turned down funding to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, denying coverage to 214,000 low-income Louisianans.
Jindal’s zeal to keep spending low and protect his reputation as a budget hawk has undercut other initiatives. He brought on environmentalists to help write his 2012 plan to shore up the coastline, but has so far fruitlessly insisted Washington, not Baton Rouge, foot the bill. When the state’s independent flood control board sought funding for the plan by suing 100 oil and gas companies for elevating flood risks through the construction of pipelines and canals, Jindal—who has received more than $1 million in contributions from the industry—asked the courts to throw the case out, and when that failed, replaced three of the board’s members. And even though Jindal had called outdated ethics rules the No. 1 obstacle to economic investment, and had pushed through an overhaul, his budget dramatically slashed the number of employees keeping watch; an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity gave Jindal’s administration a D+ for enforcement of corruption laws.
So, here I sit in a really changed post-Katrina world coming on 10 years after the flood. Who could predict that my neighborhood would be discovered by people seeking a new culture path to Brooklyn? Or that, my governor, a Rhodes Scholar who was a pre-med student at an ivy league college would put in a law that puts creation mythology on the same footing as science? It’s a strange reality and one that makes you wonder if any really cares about authenticity these days or even knows what it is.
So, there’s a lot of links to be shared down thread because I didn’t do it here. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Monday ReadsPosted: March 4, 2013 Filed under: Austerity, misogyny, morning reads, New Orleans, Violence against women, Women's Rights | Tags: Austerity economics, bywater, Flash Dance, gentrification, Musicals, Richard the Lionheart, violence against women 49 Comments
A friend of mine of 30 years visited me the last few days so we did some things that I rarely do. This included seeing a Broadway play. We saw Flashdance the Musical, let me say, in terms of entertainment and music, those are three hours I will never get back, I’m afraid. I even went to the bar during the intermission and got a very large gin and tonic to see me through the second act. It really didn’t help as much as I’d hoped. Some things are better left as chintzy 80s movies. The supplemental songs were completely forgettable! I was trying to forget them as they were being sung. I actually think the last composer worth anything on Broadway was Steven Sondheim and whoever wrote these songs proved me right again.
All the musicals these days have everything but singable songs, I swear! Maybe it’s because I had just seen Bernadette Peters sing Rogers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, and Irvin Berlin songs that still make my heart strings go zing!!! But not even all these splashy dance numbers and a few old 80s hits could juice this show. I’d have gone out to play Angry Birds in the Lobby if I wasn’t sitting in the middle of the row and would’ve rudely awakened my seat prisoners. “Gloria” was included. It’s not an ice skating scene, however, it’s now a tawdry stripper club dance number. The song had to be the worst arranged version I’d ever heard of anything Plus, the Michael Nouri character got morphed into some goody two shoes white male trust fund baby that rescued all the womminz, the blax, and the real working men. Not funny. Skip it if it flashdances into a town near you.
So, I’m getting caught up with things that do intrigue me. That means this post is going to be weird, so sit tight. First up–and you know it was coming–is about the remains of Richard the Lionheart. A group of forensic scientist had at them.
When the English monarch, nicknamed Richard the Lionheart, died in 1199 his heart was embalmed and buried separately from the rest of his body.
Its condition was too poor to reveal the cause of death, but the team was able to rule out a theory that he had been killed by a poisoned arrow. The researchers were also able to find out more about the methods used to preserve his organ. The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The medieval king became known as Richard the Lionheart because of his reputation as a courageous military leader.
He was central to the Third Crusade, fighting against the Muslim leader Saladin. Although he ruled England, he spent much of his time in France, and was killed there after being hit by a crossbow bolt during a siege on a castle.
Richard I’s remains were divided after he died – his heart was buried in a tomb in Rouen. After his death, his body was divided up – a common practice for aristocracy during the Middle Ages. His entrails were buried in Chalus, which is close to Limoges in central France. The rest of his body was entombed further north, in Fontevraud Abbey, but his heart was embalmed and buried in the cathedral of Notre Dame in Rouen.
The remains of his heart – now a grey-brown powder – were locked away in a small lead box, and discovered in the 19th Century during an excavation. But until now, they had not been studied in detail. To find out more, a team of forensic specialists and historians performed a biological analysis
Economist William K Black asks a great question here: “Sequester Insanity: Why Are We Flushing Economic Recovery Down the Toilet?” Yes, Mourning Joe, another economist disagrees with you and agrees with Krugman, imagine that!!
We have been strangling the economic recovery through economic incompetence — and worse is in store because President Obama continues to embrace (1) the self-inflicted wound of austerity, (2) austerity primarily through cuts in vital social programs that are already under-funded, and (3) attacking the safety net by reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits. The latest insanity is the sequester — the fourth act of austerity in the last 20 months. The August 2011 budget deal caused large cuts to social spending. The January 2013 “fiscal cliff” deal increased taxes on the wealthy and ended the moratorium on collecting the full payroll tax. The sequester will be the fourth assault on our already weak economic recovery. We have a jobs crisis in America — not a government spending crisis and the cumulative effect of these four acts of austerity has caused a certainty of weak growth and a serious risk that we will throw our economy back into recession. The Eurozone’s recession — caused by austerity — greatly adds to the risk to our economy because Europe remains our leading trading partner.
President Obama and a host of administration spokespersons have condemned the sequestration, explaining how it will cause catastrophic damage to hundreds of vital government services. Those of us who teach economics, however, always stress “revealed preferences” — it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what you do that matters. Obama has revealed his preference by refusing to sponsor, or even support, a clean bill that would kill the sequestration threat to our nation. Instead, he has nominated Jacob Lew, the author of the sequestration provision, as his principal economic advisor. Lew is one of the strongest proponents of austerity and what he and Obama call the “Grand Bargain” — which would inflict large cuts in social programs and the safety net and some increases in revenues. Obama has made clear that he hopes this Grand Betrayal (my phrase) will be his legacy. Obama and Lew do not want to remove the sequester because they view it as creating the leverage — over progressives — essential to induce them to vote for the Grand Betrayal.
Yes. Grand Betrayal. But, it is what he was planning all along, yes? It’s not like he hasn’t written or talked about it. So, we may not lose what we paid for but it certainly is going to be much watered down by the time the Beltway is done.
I’ve been meaning to read this much discussed article by Ruth Rosen. I’m doing it now and making sure that you didn’t miss it. It was published in Slate last week and is titled: Women’s rights is the longest revolution . It highlights many things in the women’s movement but focuses on one thing that we should never put at the end of our lists of demands; the end to violence against women.
As an activist and historian, I’m still shocked that women activists (myself included) didn’t add violence against women to those three demands back in 1970. Fear of male violence was such a normal part of our lives that it didn’t occur to us to highlight it — not until feminists began, during the 1970s, to publicize the wife-beating that took place behind closed doors and to reveal how many women were raped by strangers, the men they dated, or even their husbands.
Nor did we see how any laws could end it. As Rebecca Solnit wrote in a powerful essay recently, one in five women will be raped during her lifetime and gang rape is pandemic around the world. There are now laws against rape and violence toward women. There is even a U.N. international resolution on the subject. In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna declared that violence against girls and women violated their human rights. After much debate, member nations ratified the resolution and dared to begin calling supposedly time-honored “customs” — wife beating, honor killings, dowry deaths, genital mutilation — what they really are: brutal and gruesome crimes. Now, the nations of the world had a new moral compass for judging one another’s cultures. In this instance, the demands made by global feminists trumped cultural relativism, at least when it involved violence against women.
Still, little enough has changed. Such violence continues to keep women from walking in public spaces. Rape, as feminists have always argued, is a form of social control, meant to make women invisible and shut them in their homes, out of public sight. That’s why activists created “take back the night” protests in the late 1970s. They sought to reclaim the right to public space without fear of rape.
The daytime brutal rape and killing of a 23-year-old in India in early January 2013 prompted the first international protest around violence against women. Maybe that will raise the consciousness of some men. But it’s hard to feel optimistic when you realize how many rapes are still regularly being committed globally.
So, any of you that know me closely know that I’ve been screaming about ‘new’ neighbors and wondering what’s up with my neighborhood. Here’s a great article on my New Orleans Bywater Neighborhood: Gentrification and its Discontents: Notes from New Orleans. The house prices in my neighborhood have skyrocketed. We are now have multiple eateries where arrugala, kale, and things that totally confused my Omaha friend are on the menus. The article really explains what’s been going on around me as we’ve been taken over from by Class 4 hipsters. Here’s the bit about how a neighborhood ‘gentrifies’. You can read more about my neighborhood in particular at the link.
The frontiers of gentrification are “pioneered” by certain social cohorts who settle sequentially, usually over a period of five to twenty years. The four-phase cycle often begins with—forgive my tongue-in-cheek use of vernacular stereotypes: (1) “gutter punks” (their term), young transients with troubled backgrounds who bitterly reject societal norms and settle, squatter-like, in the roughest neighborhoods bordering bohemian or tourist districts, where they busk or beg in tattered attire.
On their unshod heels come (2) hipsters, who, also fixated upon dissing the mainstream but better educated and obsessively self-aware, see these punk-infused neighborhoods as bastions of coolness.
Their presence generates a certain funky vibe that appeals to the third phase of the gentrification sequence: (3) “bourgeois bohemians,” to use David Brooks’ term. Free-spirited but well-educated and willing to strike a bargain with middle-class normalcy, this group is skillfully employed, buys old houses and lovingly restores them, engages tirelessly in civic affairs, and can reliably be found at the Saturday morning farmers’ market. Usually childless, they often convert doubles to singles, which removes rentable housing stock from the neighborhood even as property values rise and lower-class renters find themselves priced out their own neighborhoods. (Gentrification in New Orleans tends to be more house-based than in northeastern cities, where renovated industrial or commercial buildings dominate the transformation).
After the area attains full-blown “revived” status, the final cohort arrives: (4) bona fide gentry, including lawyers, doctors, moneyed retirees, and alpha-professionals from places like Manhattan or San Francisco. Real estate agents and developers are involved at every phase transition, sometimes leading, sometimes following, always profiting.
Native tenants fare the worst in the process, often finding themselves unable to afford the rising rent and facing eviction. Those who own, however, might experience a windfall, their abodes now worth ten to fifty times more than their grandparents paid. Of the four-phase process, a neighborhood like St. Roch is currently between phases 1 and 2; the Irish Channel is 3-to-4 in the blocks closer to Magazine and 2-to-3 closer to Tchoupitoulas; Bywater is swiftly moving from 2 to 3 to 4; Marigny is nearing 4; and the French Quarter is post-4.
I just refer to them as the barbarian hordes of yupsters, but I guess that’s not the academic term for it. On a bright note, I could never afford my house now and can sell it for a huge amount of money. Actually, I’m not so sure that’s a bright note because now my new neighbors do not like the charm of my slightly run down green house or the fact I prefer low up keep weeds to grass in the alley. Oh, well … I still miss the old coterie of merchant seamen that were drag queens when they got back home, hippies thrown out of the quarter, old people left over from the old days, and section 8 rental denizens. After all, what’s a few seedy people among friends if they’ve got character and a good story to tell over a beer?
So, there’s a little this and that to get you started on a Monday Morning. I didn’t want to depress you with the Sunday Presskateers so, you will just have to hit the Charles Pierce link for that. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?