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A DEATH IN VENICE

Venice Beachead - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 11:09

by P.S. Barber

“There is no such thing as society.”
— Margaret Thatcher

At the lowermost point of a southerly sloping intersection, California Avenue ends to form the bottom half of a long “T” with with its horizontal top, Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Situated at the northeast corner of that crossroads for the last quarter century, ABBOT’S HABIT has been a locals’ gathering spot, serving the community as the neighborhood’s primary nosh & coffee shop.
Every kind of anyone imaginable has passed through those doors, through the decades: Naked Poetry and Naked Bikers; sun soaked riff-raff off the beach; nascent lovers alongside the anguished unrequited; stars born, stars dying; poets, pimps, pugilists, priests and pirates; every stripe of wannabe or has-been; the profane and divine, musicians, miscreants, saints, sculptors, painters, writers; some taking their first steps, others on their last legs; tourists ad nauseam; junkies, gangbangers, surfers, skateboarders, people headed up and down, already lost or being found; the world’s hoi polloi California Dreamin’; those with way too much, those who‘ve begged their morning cup of joe.

We’ll look upon their like no more.

The doors to our local coffee shop will shutter soon, never to open again, taking with it the greater part of a spirit that’s been a beacon of Venice. Innumerable stories circulate of how the Habit-habit begins directly upon arrival to our beach village: the funky stop is the inevitable first place one lands when washing up on our shores. Its central location, like a vortex, draws people in; its welcoming brick façade and green awnings and red-neon come-on “COFFEE” as eclectic locals hang inside and out – all serve to make Abbot’s a natural meeting place for every soul strolling the well-worn sidewalks.

Nina Sant’Angelo has owned and operated Abbot’s Habit for the last 16 years, partnered with Noah Farrell, who originally opened the coffee shop with another partner in 1993. A few years ago, Nina bought out Noah and has, since then, run the shop by herself; but recently it’s gotten too difficult to make ends meet with rising rent and, at the same time, serve her community and employees.

So she’s done. And importantly her decision has to do with not just being beat up by the economic vicissitudes of the changing boulevard, but with the colonizing of it by CORPORATE RETAIL, altering the street’s innate and naturally-evolved identity, original culture, its authentic Venetian look and feel.
It’s no mystery what’s happened these last few years, the transformation taking place right before our eyes at an ever more accelerated rate. Nina seems like a modern day Cassandra, her store’s closure a warning to Venetians about the grim fate facing their neighborhood. And like Cassandra, Nina is excoriated by some residents while others blithely disbelieve her dire portents. But make no mistake — closing Abbot’s Habit is a significant sign that the founding and unique BOHEMIAN SPIRIT of Venice is palpably coming to a very quick end; unfortunately, many other Venetians feel the city’s essence is already long gone.

Talking with Nina, one’s reminded of a time when the boulevard housed watering holes like the original Hal’s, where world-class jazz was played live, Joni Mitchell’s art hung on the walls, Gregory Hines danced on the bar and Chaka Khan sang spontaneously; today, a smaller and frankly anemic version of Hal’s is stuffed and all but lost at the far end of Abbot Kinney, while other corporate stores, now centrally located, boast other retail locations like Paris, London, New York, Rome. “Soon,” Nina says, “all of Venice is going to look like Miami.”

Adidas, which colonized Hal’s old location, had the chutzpa to claim on its construction boarding that it was, “Defining Venice” – until unknown but heroic residents corrected the spelling to read, “DEFILING VENICE,” forcing Adidas to take down their arrogant and untruthful assertion of ownership to our neighborhood which is, in fact, a fundamentally anti-corporate culture.
Back in the fecund days of the Fifties and Sixties, when Venice was primarily an African-American community, there WERE locals like the Reese and Tabor families who began businesses which served their neighborhood, which were staples and necessities to the community; they’re long gone now, too. In fact, the African-American residents were the very first people driven out by well-tested political machinations that unfairly raised taxes, issued spurious property fines which drove out the POORER homeowners (wealthy homeowners now, instead, like to call themselves “stakeholders”). The STAKES they hold, unfortunately, are all too often driven straight into the hearts of vulnerable Venetians.

Until recently, until the suddenly increasing and overwhelming influx of high-end shops that have zero connection to the community, the Reese-Tabor spirit ran through the veins of Venetians, was reflected by the local stores which served the neighborhood: dress shops where everything was hand-made and no single dress was alike; The Sandbox, a local gallery below, where the artist lived above; even Abbot’s Habit was designed to be “of the people,” a place where, as Nina points out, “everything you get here, you can make at home.” At Abbot’s, the coffee is “damn good” and affordable for all, employees and patrons know each other’s names, and whoever enters immediately feels welcomed.

Not so on Abbot Kinney Boulevard anymore and, likely, never again. It’s the way of life, many say, an unstoppable tide of rapacious and predatory capitalism which can’t be rolled back at this late point in an inexorable process of “economic progress”. Besides, it’s the American Way and laissez-faire entrepreneurialism is the most democratic of forms, isn’t it? And doesn’t it, in fact, IMPROVE the quality of Venice? Property values go up, crime goes down, the neighborhood dies but big business thrives?

And what’s good for business is good for Venice, or so the refrain goes; little comfort to the hundreds of locals and others who daily depend on Abbot’s Habit and are going to be left out in the cold. And though it’s too late to save Abbot’s Habit, we residents must ask: is it still possible to save Abbot Kinney Boulevard?

Is it possible to still save our neighborhood from this organized movement of stakeholders renting their properties to the highest bidder, regardless of the cultural and social effects on the neighborhood, regardless of destroying the ETHOS and SPIRIT of Venice, obliterating its phenomenal diversity until the place becomes a dulling, homogeneous grouping of brand-businesses and box-houses where no one actually lives but ubiquitous Ubers shuttle visitors in-and-out of what once was a distinctive neighborhood and common community.
This crisis which Venice faces is existential, a life-and-death struggle as ancient as society itself. Thomas Mann, in his novella, “A Death in Venice,” based his theme on Nietzsche’s inventive battle between the Dionysian spirit of passion and unreason (which drives art and creativity), and which is in direct conflict with the life-force of Apollo, where restraint and well-structured forms (economics, in this case) take precedent.

It’s reflected in the long-standing struggle between the primal bohemian freedoms which have defined Venice up to now, and the corporate drive to control the assets and society which those bohemians built. Today this dialectic is misnamed, “GENTRIFICATION.” Misnamed because by now the word’s lost all meaning with its endless repetition, co-opting and purposeful misrepresentation. So let’s forget the word “gentrification,” stop using it: “gentrification” is the brand-retailer’s language, meant to sanitize their organized and well-laid plans for taking over Abbot Kinney Boulevard. “ECONOMIC COLONIZATION” is a more accurate term for what’s been long-planned and is being currently carried out.

This primal struggle for defining the soul of Venice, again, is between the Dionysian spirit, drunk with Eros and creativity – or the manufactured, corporate Apollonian view that organizes society based on, in this case, questions of capital.

Importantly, Mann asserts in his story, there’s a balance to be struck between these two opposing forces if society, or even in an individual, is to survive and ultimately thrive. Hegel’s Master/Slave dialectic, to which Nietzsche owes his theories, also makes it clear that without a balance, the assumed “master” himself becomes a slave to the dialectic: he NEEDS his slave in order to maintain his own position and so is enslaved by his own needs.

Similarly, Venice is of no use to Adidas if the community becomes a sterile town, fetid and coldly corporate, bankrupt of its natural bohemian influence and Dionysian soul. And while no good Venetian in their right mind will ever set foot inside the Adidas store, we can all continue to assert our indomitable bohemian spirits, fight the Powers That Be, let our Freak Flags fly, and be creative in our fight against the current corporate blitzkrieg.

One thing we CAN’T DO is fight each other: divide and conquer is the enemy’s long-term tactic and it’s been very effective. Venice is infamous for its internecine conflicts, numerous opposing positions that clash – meanwhile, the Brand Retailers waltz away with what they want.

If Venetians are serious about stopping the corporate takeover of their neighborhoods, they must start to work IN UNISON against those who would openly rape the city for their own profit, who have no interest, concern, or living investments in Venice.

Roger Webster, a long-time Venetian and partner in Perloff-Webster Realty (which owns the lease on Abbot’s Habit) also decries the changes taking place in the neighborhood, emphasizing the need for Venetians to fight from, “the top down,” meaning residents can only have an effect against the forces of corporate greed by addressing our representatives, like Mike Bonin, forcing THEM to defend our neighborhoods against international Retail Brands and their predatory goals.

But right now, Webster says, there’s too much, “inbred fighting” and Venetians are so polarized that, “the city’s not doing what’s good for itself.” He suggests Venice needs a new vision for itself, perhaps based in the old, but not simply for nostalgia’s sake; instead, as a flame for the future.

“I see Venice as an estuary. A spot where life replenishes and re-nourishes itself,” Webster claimed, “not a place that’s necessarily dying off, leaving one with bitter memories of better times.” The trick is to force our Representatives, using our power as citizens and as de facto Venetian visionaries, to serve OUR purposes or we’ll promise to vote them out!

If we simply give ground without fighting, Adidas wins. So in the memory of Abbot’s Habit, all its meant to our neighborhood the last 25 years, in the spirit of Dionysus, the Reese and Tabor families, the myriads of people who’ve passed through this soon-to-be-gone coffee shop – FIGHT FOR YOUR CITY!

The closing of Abbot’s Habit should MOTIVATE our community to fight the brand-name bullies who have no sense of what Venice is, ever was, or ever will be; resist the dulling influence of Google and SnapChat employees who hide out in their corporate bubbles, never venturing from their safe havens to become authentic Venetians; resist the pricy restaurants not truly intended for anyone who actually lives in town; resist the corporatization of Venice.

ALL VENETIANS need to UNIFY in COMMON CAUSE and SAVE OUR CITY’S VISION OF ITSELF! At the same time, we MUST NOT ALLOW outsiders to define our future as one which has no place for us. We bear a moral culpability ourselves if we stay on the sidelines and simply bemoan the current or impending state of affairs. We are Bohemians, Dionysian dreamers, artists, sinners and saints – but above all, we are Venetians. And the demise of Abbots Habit is our Clarion Call – either we put aside our differences or we risk losing everything. Because, as Ben Franklin wisely observed on the brink of an earlier revolution, “If we don’t hang together… we will surely hang apart.”


Don'ts and then do's

Venice Papparazzi - Mon, 06/19/2017 - 18:17

08/08/15 VNC BBQ

Venice Papparazzi - Sat, 06/17/2017 - 09:19

VenicePaparazzi updated gallery '08/08/15 VNC BBQ'

Obituary – Allan Holdsworth

Venice Beachead - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 20:55

Allan Holdsworth Report

by Gerry Fialka

Guitar fusion master Allan Holdsworth played in Venice last month on April 4th. Two weeks later, he passed away.

But what if Allan forgot to die? His music definitely lives on. We are grateful to this maestro of musical magic. “Allan Holdsworth’s phrasing reminds me of James Joyce. His ideas, like Joyce’s sentences, can spill over to multiple pages. Tough sledding for some, sheer joy for others” wrote blogger Kingleyd on thegearpages.net. Local guitar freaks gathered to celebrate one of Frank Zappa’s favorite guitarists. Allan started the evening saying, “I’m old,” but he delivered such youthful melodic multiplicity. He knows dynamics of silence even in the midst of many notes. Age has enabled him to stress the importance of the space between the notes.

As Vernon Reid states, “Allan has ball-busting technique. People get caught up in that, but he really is a great lyrical poet.” Allan outs his inner dialogue into a never ending stream of sonic solutions, meshing T-Bone Walker and John Abercrombie into new outsideness. The dude expands music boundaries. He does not rely on cliche riffs.

Many decades ago, Allan wanted to pursue saxophone, but his Dad could only afford a guitar. Allan flipped this breakdown into a breakthrough. He plays the guitar like a saxophone with a unique flowing legato technique. That’s why Robben Ford duly calls him, “the John Coltrane of the guitar.”

He always worked with great players. A local drum freak noted that “the night belonged to drummer Virgil Donati, who was the best musician on the stage. As good as the other musicians are, there was a palpable sense of ‘what is Virgil going to do next!’ Even Holdsworth himself was caught gawking at his drummer’s ability to melodically metrically modulate within the smallest span of beats. This is what separates the world’s greatest drummers: showcasing in an instant a musical ‘ear’ as big as their chops. Donati had it all on display, and the entire room knew it.”

Frank Zappa claimed that Allan deserved credit for “single-handedly reinventing the electric guitar.” Local guitar wiz Kent Militzer appreciates Allan’s contributing a “whole new vocabulary to guitar.” George Varga’s obit in the LA Times 4-20-17 nails it: “Holdsworth’s astounding fluency was matched by the intense emotion he brought to his playing. He cleanly articulated every note, no matter how accelerated the tempo or deviously constructed the song structure. And, when playing ballads, he created gently swelling chords that made ingenious use of space and silence.”

The opening act, Cameron Morgan, was stunning. His solo fret gymnastics displays fun, taste and stellar style. Check him out, he don’t need no stinking pick.

Kudos to Carlos Nino for bringing Allan to the second oldest bar in Los Angeles, the Townhouse (aka Del Monte Speakeasy). Congrats to LA-based Manifesto Records, who have recently released Holdswoth’s 12CD box set.

All these folks know that “music is the best,” as yelped by Zappa. “All art aspires to the condition of music” – Walter Pater. Music brings people together to celebrate feelings. “Kick out the jams.” – MC5. – Gerry Fialka Laughtears.com


Letter: Snap employees! How can you sleep at night?

Venice Beachead - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 20:36

I would like all employees of Snap Inc to please take a minute and think about where you grew up –the town, the streets, the people, the surroundings…The neighborhood you ran around in with your brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents, friends and family. The buildings, businesses and playgrounds you used to frequent that are imbedded in your memories and will never forget, along with every back alley, every turn of every corner, and the places you’ve spent almost every holiday. And now think about outsiders coming into your town in the form of a covert operation, coming in with lots of money and greed and power, and then having everything you’ve known about the place being ripped to pieces, shredded and torn up and taken over by this one single entity. How would you like to see all the people you love, family and friends you’ve known your entire lives, being forced to move out because of this one single company? Store owners who have been like family members since you were a child being forced to close their shops and then go through extremely tough times because of this One. Single. Company. One beloved neighbor after the next gets displaced, one beloved business after the next gets pushed out, one beloved local after the next gets hassled, one long-time resident after the next gets treated like they don’t belong… Not only is it sad… it’s just simply wrong – and YOU know it. How can you sleep at night?

Did you ever wonder how, when and why your CEO Evan Spiegel decided he wanted to literally take over an entire beach town? Think about it. He was quoted as saying, “Our dream had always been to have an office on the beach” yet this dream at some point turned into having THE WHOLE ENTIRE BEACH and has resulted in shredding all of the character, history and structure from the entire community – and to make it even worse, he doesn’t even live here!! Personally I think he suffers from “Affluenza”: a person’s inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions because of financial privilege – it just simply makes sense. There is a rumor about Spiegel being bullied by Venice locals when he was a teenager and this is his form of revenge. I’d like to think he’s grown up since then… but look at what he’s doing to Venice and it’s very possible he hasn’t. And the fact that all of you 2,000+ employees are turning a blind eye and actually trying to justify what he’s doing to our community as a positive thing means you are no better than he is. YOU are the ones that are representing HIM. And YOUR negligence in all of this, YOUR refusal to speak up and say how you feel about all of this only solidifies the fact that you just don’t care and you are just as egotistical as your superiors and your childish CEO. How can you sleep at night?

What’s going on here in our community is devastating and it really is much like a foreign military taking over a new territory without any regards to the consequences – Power, money and greed, greed, greed stomping in without any thought to the history or people of the area. The Freak Show… “NO get out – we want it!” Gingerbread Court… “NO get out – we want it!” LA Louver… “NO get out – we want it!!” What’s next – the Erwin Hotel??… Hmmm…quite possibly! Apparently they’re already using the top floors for their employees and one young gentleman said he went there for a job interview but thankfully didn’t accept the offer because of what they are doing to our community here in Venice. He knows what’s going on here is wrong…and YOU know it too. How can you sleep at night?

Look at all the office space you have accumulated: 90% of it had people working in them previously… all gone now just for YOU and YOUR desk and computer – you don’t care I guess. The residential units you are all living and working in: 90% of them had people living in there that had to relocate… all gone now just for YOU – you don’t care I guess. That parking space you’re using only 5 days a week that no one uses overnight anymore – certainly 100% of them were previously used by locals and residents… all gone now just for YOU during your working hours – you don’t care I guess. Businesses and residents are being forced to move every week and every month and it’s all very wrong and I’d bet 95% of you know it deep down – or you just don’t care I guess. How can you sleep at night?

Venice has always been known as a place where everyone knows your name, you say “hello” to strangers, and are probably best friends with some of your neighbors. It’s one of the few places around the globe where you could have a world-renown artist living next to a wealthy executive in a house next to a nocturnal drug dealer all living together in perfect harmony with respect for each other. It’s an environment where different people can get along with huge differences, no matter the race, religion or tax bracket, and still have a mutual respect. But there is no respect here at all. None. Your CEO, Evan Spiegel could be a hero, the next Abbot Kinney of Venice, he could be an enormous asset to the community, but instead he’s being a childhood bully with the nickname “Evil Spiegel” without a care in the world, looking down on people who weren’t born with the same privileged lifestyle he was. This isn’t “business”, this is classless. This is shameful. It’s a cowardly takeover fueled solely on greed and money. In the debate of human morals of what’s right and wrong –this is so wrong it falls immediately off the scale. As one Google executive told me about Snap employees, “They should all be embarrassed”, and he’s right. How can you sleep at night?

The residents and locals here know most of you are decent people. And most of us locals are decent people too, which is why things haven’t gotten violent… yet, because some of us can be assholes especially when we’re shoved. But some of you are even bigger assholes than your immature CEO who wants to take over our town. And all it takes is one sarcastic smile or one drunken comment and the buildup of frustration might burst and things will get ugly. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t happened already. I’m not going to say that violence would not be part of a solution to this problem your CEO has created because it’s succeeded in some other towns, but what I will say to all of you, all of you employees of Snap Inc, is that you need to stand up and do what’s right, voice your own displeasure, communicate with each other and have some self-respect. IF YOU LOVE VENICE SO MUCH YOU WOULDN’T HELP IN TEARING IT APART! Tell your superiors that you want to work with your desk and computer somewhere else. Tell them you want to work in a place without tension where the locals are friendly with the employees of your company and vice-versa. Voice your unhappiness of what your company is doing to the neighborhood you work in. Do something important, have some self-respect, take a stand, do the right thing and contribute to saving our community, the very same community many of you call home yourselves, and that separates us from Santa Monica and Marina del Rey. You know what your company is doing is wrong! Who would want to work for a company that is ruining tradition, culture and the lives of so many good people?? How can any of you sleep at night?

We all love the beach and anyone can understand your willingness to work here like your CEO always wanted, but I’m sure most of you don’t agree with taking over so many properties and displacing so many businesses and residents like a financial genocide. It’s not the right thing for any company to do anywhere in the world let alone here in Venice which has gained its reputation by being different than everywhere else. And trying to justify it by throwing a little money at a few non-profits and pointing to real estate developers and property owners who are your lone supporters is like spitting in our faces, and it’s no consolation to ruining the lives of so many good people who have made their homes and workplaces here well before most of you were even born! Your CEO Evan Spiegel made a quote where he said, “It’s not about working harder – it’s about working the system”. The fact that this quote is from a rich privileged white kid from the Palisades and not a person who was born a minority, or without the resources of a loving family or financial support pretty much says it all. How can HE sleep at night? And how can ANY OF YOU?


PRESIDENTIAL PETER PRINCIPLE

Venice Beachead - Wed, 06/14/2017 - 20:02
by P.S.Barber

drawing by Gerta Lind

“God created war so that Americans would learn geography
— Mark Twain

Our game-show-host President is as quintessentially American as a yuuuge proverbial piece of apple pie, with an even yuuuger shovel of ice cream atop; vanilla, of course, unadulterated – emphasis on “un-adult” – then scrumptiously coated with a radiant-orange sherbet-shell. Our President is the American Dream: ostentatious wealth; celebrity for its own sake; hot chicks, fast cars, big houses, bigger hair; sui generis; loud-mouthed, know-it-all; wholly A-Historical and brazenly A-Hole proud of it; bigger, better, harder, thicker, longer, bursting his seams with prodigious, boundless reserves of scorching-hot stamina.

According to many women I’ve known, there are men — white males in particular — who nickname their penises. Though I’ll have to take these women’s word for it and have no reason to doubt them, I do know for certain that our U.S. Generals love to nickname their penises.

As with their human archetypes, in naming weapons of mass destruction, the Pentagon Boys subscribe to that priapic precept which firmly purports, “Bigger is Better.” Again, I’m not here to debate long-held biological beliefs; it’s the psychological aspects of our Masters of War which worry me, those precepts of power which engender their murderous mindset.
Let’s take a look at their latest and largest penis – the yuuugest non-atomic armament ever deployed in the history of humankind, dropped April 13th by the U.S. Military in Afghanistan (America is also the record-holder for the only two other larger bombs ever dropped, Hiroshima and Nagasaki). This newest shlong is the length of a city bus and officially named GBU43: this prior-to-now never-used bomb falls under the category of Massive Ordinance Air Blast, more familiarly known under its acronym, M.O.A.B.

And it’s from MOAB that we get the unlikely penis-nickname, Mother Of All Bombs.

Now it’s no accident that all this devastation delivered-by-phallus is given, by the Pentagon Boys, a female moniker: after all, who wants to be the gruesome progenitor birthing a bomb whose blast radius is one mile wide, 360-degrees? That instantaneously sucks the oxygen from that sorry area — then lights the air on fire? At a cost of 16-million, weighing 11-tons, there is no bomb-bay that can disgorge the Mother Of All Bombs, and so it’s pushed out the back of a C-130 Hercules transport – ejaculated, you might say — then GPS guidance and gravity do the rest, until the Pentagon Penis explodes midair with a concussion so goddamned yuuuge, it causes the earth below to crumble and quake for miles.

An Afghan Army spokesman proudly claimed that the bomb killed nearly 100 ISIS-K militants and that, apparently miraculously, there were zero civilian casualties. The media, with no pushback, reported what they were told — the bombing happened in a “remote” province. Other Afghan sources point out that there were villages in the bombed area for many centuries – “were” being the operative word. Whatever the truth, it will take a while longer until unbiased, on-the-ground facts are accurately reported – if they ever are.

The child in the White House, when asked if he ordered the April 13th bombing, couldn’t take first-hand credit for the show of force, like he likes – because he didn’t order the bombing. Among the run-on sentences and obfuscation in his swerving answer to a simple yes-or-no question, it became clear that the Pentagon, who’d previously been given carte blanche in the Afghan War by Obama, acted unilaterally and Trump, catching up, was left having to salvage credit as best he could.

But whether he gave the final go-ahead or not, is irrelevant: GBU43 was developed during Bush-the-Second’s unilateral and illegal invasion of Iraq, but neither he nor Obama felt its usage was worth the blowback. However, the new martial atmosphere this President has created, endorsed the Generals’ freedom to whip out their yugely-yuge dick and finally drop it without fear of recrimination. Our 45th President has boisterously loosened the lightning of his terrible swift sword along with the Pentagon’s official rules of engagement, the most heinous of which is now allowing for broad civilian casualties as entirely acceptable – in fact, negligible.

The day after the Mother Of All Bombs was unloaded, the unabashed idiots at Fox and Friends showed grainy aerial, black-and-white Pentagon footage of the massive explosion as Toby Keith sang his hit, Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American) on the show’s soundtrack: “You’re gonna feel like the whole wide world is raining down on yooooooouuu!” By unanimously crowing, “There’s a new sheriff in town!” The Press and Congress, liberal and conservative alike, positively acknowledged the President’s actions, validated and affirmed that malignant ego, normalizing what’s perversely anomalous. Trump had finally risen to Commander-in-Chief status; the Presidential table was re-set; an amateur administration was suddenly decisive; Trump was a tough guy, authoritative, moral even, he showed “credibility.” Even Nancy Pelosi went along with some ill-placed praise. So see? In the end, size does matter.

There’s one more megalomaniacal quality of Donald Trump’s which is particularly American, glove-in-hand with his Sys-Male machismo: sentimentality. It’s a swell counterpoint to the bombast — maudlin consternation cloaked passionately in outrage and surprise at suddenly discovering there’s such a thing as human suffering. The man who vociferously and viciously excoriates Syrian refuges every chance he gets, cold-bloodedly barring every despairing woman, child, sick and old person from our shores is abruptly, incomprehensibly in touch with himself — or more accurately, he likely touched himself, felt something, even if it was tiny.

After all, what did Trump do the moment those gruesome TV-images caught his usually inattentive eyes? Whip out his dick — albeit in a limp and impotent way — this time with the leader of China visiting Mar a Lago, slathering over the yuuugest piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen. Donald-in-Chief ordered the Navy to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise penises into Syria, causing minor damage to an airfield, after alerting the enemy of the imminent attack; this from the President who says, “I never telegraph my moves.” Trump’s heart, had he one, craves to be in the right place — even if his pecker never is.

Donald Trump doesn’t recognize his own contradictory behavior, much less his country’s complex history, so he can afford to be suddenly sentimental about other people’s violence while simultaneously sweeping U.S. influences under the rug. The rest of us have no such luxury when it comes to America’s prior relationships with dictators, chemical armaments and their precursor elements – many supplied by the United States in times past.

In the aftermath of Assad’s chemical carnage on his own people, the Trump Administration and Corporate Media conveniently forgot about Ronald Reagan’s cynical response years earlier to an immensely more horrible gas attack in Northern Iraq during the waning days of the Iran-Iraq War. Let’s go back a bit and examine how this paragon of piety for the Republican Party reacted to the Halabja chemical attack, perpetrated by the dictator-dog America supported in that fight, Saddam Hussein.

As evening fell on the Halabja residential district, March 16, 1988, it had been quiet for several hours — quiet since Hussein’s planes had begun raining conventional bombs and Napalm on the town’s civilians starting at 11:00 that morning, lasting three hours (ostensibly to route Iranian fighters that Saddam said were ensconced among the city’s residents).

With the sun setting at a nearby airbase, more bomber planes departed – 14 sorties, each comprised of 8 bombers, this time lasting five interminable hours: their planes’ ordinances? Mustard and Sarin gas: 6,800 civilians suffocated to death, burning and writhing in agony – including thousands upon thousands of women and children – leaving tens of thousands more forever injured, including future cases of cancer and birth defects. It was the largest chemical attack against civilians in world history; a genocidal massacre specifically carried out against Kurdish Iraqis whom Saddam loathed because they historically desired independence from Iraq.

What did that moral paragon, the Christian-Right icon Ronald Reagan do? He blamed Iran instead of Iraq: publicly and purposefully, he wagged a guilty finger at the wrong side, though he knew privately with indisputable and absolute certainty from his CIA, that it was Saddam Hussein and not Iran who’d perpetrated the War Crime on his own people, then denied it with alacrity as his U.S. sponsors looked the other way, as they generally tend to do. That is, unless of course, it serves America’s purposes to do otherwise – then there’s outrage! Suddenly everyone’s Claude Rains, “Shocked! Shocked to hear there’s gambling!” at Rick’s American Café.

Welcome then to Trump’s American Café where the coffee’s bitter, hard to swallow, and is calculated to induce vomiting. Truly though… years after Halabja, when Bush Junior was concocting “smoking guns as mushroom clouds” to justify his invasion of Iraq, he had the temerity to use the previously shunned horrors of Halabja – officially denied for 15 years — now proof positive that Hussein was an imminent threat to the United States.

In a gruesome parallel, Assad claims that the TV images of his chemical attack (which moved The Donald to such emotional depths) are “Fake News,” the dead and dying were, he said, “child actors” staging the event just to make him look bad.

And as a peculiar side-note to chemical weapons, I give you the following observation: that inimitable mass murderer, the teetotaling vegetarian, non-smoking, true nonpareil of evil with that iconic slap of black paint above his sneering lip, owes his mustache’s truncated and oblong shape to the planet’s first ever use of poison gas, down in the wet trenches of World War One (remember the “War to End All Wars”?).
At the start WWI, young Adolf sported a lengthier, Teutonic-stach with extravagant extremities he could twirl as he railed, one imagines, against Jews, immigrants, communists, homosexuals, Freemasons – basically all “Others.” But Corporal Adolf faced a life-and-death decision regarding his proud Prussian persona: that handlebar of pubic hair interfered with his infantry gas mask, jutting out its sides, precluding a hermetic seal against the terrifying, toxic gases. Forced to swallow his vanity, the Fuher-to-be trimmed his manhood to a more manageable size, giving us that rectangle of hate forever-after painted on the loathed images of every leader across the globe whom the public believes is oppressing them. But let’s be real: no one will ever match that malignant villain, nor match the horrors he wrought.

Not even You-Know-Who — not by a yuuuge shot.

And though the Organ Grinder’s Monkey himself invokes Hitler vis-a-vis Bashar al-Assad, claiming the latter is worse because the former never gassed his own people (except of course, the Monkey realized on reflection, in “Holocaust Centers”), we can all agree that the Archetypal Adolf holds a place all his own and comparisons are inescapably hyperbolic.

What isn’t a false comparison, is the striking similarity between today’s Republicans and the collaborators with the Third Reich, most particularly the Vichy French, who represented the failed French State at the time. The calculation was that France would be spared from Nazi excesses with a wait-and-see attitude, “Attentiste,” rather than openly resisting the German occupation. The bet was that Hitler would defeat England and it was better to be on the winning than losing side; so normalize the Nazi presence, go-along-to-get-along – collaborate.

The arch collaborators, Philippe Petain and Pierre Laval, were the masterminds behind the Vichy policies; Laval had a close relationship with the German Ambassador, bragged that he “had the ear” of the Third Reich. Laval also saw himself as a Christ-like figure sacrificing himself for the greatness of France and that only HE could do the job which needed doing: Trump has certainly echoed this sentiment numerous times during his campaign and in the White House. The reality for France, despite Laval’s messianic self-image, was quite different: all Hitler actually wanted was to suck the French teat dry of all its resources, use French airbases in Syria to attack the British in Iraq — not that history repeats itself or anything.

Laval and Petain, so as to keep their faux Vichy government afloat and restore “National Unity,” initiated draconian “law-and-order” measures and began rounding up thousands of “undesirables” to meet Hitler’s target numbers for forced-labor camps. This authoritarian New Order was meant to mitigate the “degenerative effects of parliamentary democracy” leading to a “National Revolution” wherein Traditional Values and Culture were glorified; as opposed to the evils of “La Decadence,” meaning all things Modern. France, they explained, would experience a “Moral Revolution” wherein the French people would return to their TRUE National Identity, turning inwards and away from the rest of the world. Not unlike today’s mantra, say it with me now, “Make America Great Again!”

Religiously Catholic and aristocratic in their self-image, the Vichy New Order would tolerate zero criticism of its national vision for moral purity: all media was strictly controlled to match the propaganda message; birth control and abortion were outlawed; the patriarchal family, where a subservient wife bore numerous children, was exalted; this vision of family included the firing of all married women from government jobs so they could fulfill their true purposes at home.

The mentality of the Vichy collaborators is not unlike many of the changes America has experienced since the election of this incompetent poseur. For instance: the President’s Men embarking on their quest to disembowel our government for some ideological “greater good”, or in Steve Bannon’s words, “Deconstruct the State”; the Law-and-Order authoritarianism which lifts restrictions on police violence and responsibility; the abrogation of Women’s Rights and taking control their wombs; the so-called Alt-Right ethos of White-Traditional-Values taking precedence; demonizing of the press and all things progressive; Nationalism and isolationism; a preoccupation with provoking conflict in order to seem strong, in lieu of tangible progress and actual strength; emphasis on religion and family as the nonpareil of National Existence.

So as the Cheeto-in-Chief flexes his muscle against our old torture-buddy Bashar al-Assad and “shows credibility” by being a more hair-trigger (if not ham-fisted) President than his predecessors, this apotheosis of orangish-white male privilege, dummy-with-a-hammer to whom everything is a nail, this vulgarian who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, a profane misogynist who lies when he says “hello” to you, this fucking loudmouth… is the American Dream become the American Nightmare.

There are many who will continue to collaborate with the megalomaniacal bag of wind no matter what — the “Adults in the Room” as they’re often and un-ironically called – they will continue to try and normalize what is by any and all standards of decency and reason, insupportable. These Vichy Republicans will have much to answer for down the road, because already to the vast majority of the American public, the first 100 days of this inexcusable excuse of an administration are a fiasco (though the Liar-in-Chief calls it, “The best 100 days of all time”).

So fellow Venetians and Americans everywhere, let’s stay hip to the fact that “normalizing” and “accepting” of this moment in our nation’s history is NOT acceptable. That the ONLY solution to collaboration is RESISTANCE! The future of our Republic — of the world’s first Great Experiment in Democracy — demands this fight from us all.

VIVE LA RESISTANCE!

Oppose Digital Billboards on Public Property

Ban Billboard Blight - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 12:05
As part of its dragged-out process of rewriting the ordinances governing billboards citywide, the L.A. City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) is about to receive a report on how the city can install digital billboards on city-owned property. Today I submitted the following memo for the record in opposition to this idea. […]

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