Austin Dispatches No. 174 April 12, 2014

Community Impact Newspaper’s Northwest Austin edition for March extols “social media,” particularly a partnership between the Austin Police Department and Nextdoor.com, as a way of reconnecting with one’s neighbors. What’s involved in this cybernetic reconnecting? “Nextdoor verifies all user addresses by sending postcards to their residences, calling home phone numbers or comparing information with credit card billing addresses. If a home is registered in the U.S. Department of Justice’s national sex offender database, the resident is denied an account.”[1]

So as is typical with these stories, it gets the important matters backwards. For starters, the sex offender database is a half-assed totalitarian measure because too many of our neighbors are too soft to demand execution of duly convicted rapists and child molesters.[2] Then there’d be no pretext for a database that can be easily abused, manipulated and expanded into comprehensive government electronic records on everyone, which is what participating in the APD-Nextdoor project amounts to.[3]

e174fig2Furthermore, giving your information voluntarily to this project is a way for your neighbors to snoop on you, in an unsociable manner. Before “social media,” the neighborhood snoops would at least have to attempt interpersonal interaction to find out about you. If my neighbors were truly interested in being neighborly, the landlord wouldn’t have to issue a letter March 20 reminding them to keep their dogs leashed and pick up their shit. And the snoops aren’t the only ones who can exploit this system. How long before we read about professional criminals cracking these databases as a way to case prime targets of the neighborhoods?

In the related editorial, the general manager scratches her head about why North Austin’s changed from the days when her parents “knew everyone on our block.”[4] That author might consider the prevalence of apartment buildings, approved by the City Planning Department, which encourages a transient population.[5] The lack of neighborhood feeling is compounded by the presence of foreign nationals from low-trust societies.[6] Civic cohesion declines when the population is too diverse,[7] such as the neighborhoods around Rundberg Lane that require constant police presence to keep a lid on crime.

Austin Death Watch

The Chronicle’s April Fool’s cover story was all too plausible. To paraphrase, Austin’s power elite announced the building of a soccer stadium downtown with a massive new rail project attached. Unfortunately, this isn’t much different from the power elite’s civic schemes the rest of the year: gargantuan debt, downtown congestion and transparently obvious yet awry social climbing masquerading as sound public policy.[8] For example, the city is thinking about a mass transit line crossing Lake Bird Lake – for real – for as much as $475 million.[9]

Coffee house Flipnotics’ closing induced a lot of sad farewells. I once attended with Jody Lockshin and some acquaintances to see an amateur band fronted by one of her employees. The place was OK, but mostly I thought the dearth of nearby parking for the Barton Springs Road establishment was inconvenient. Considered that way, Flipnotics was fortunate to have lasted 22 years.[10]

Even retiring Mayor Lee Leffingwell admits to the Business Journal that “Austin has made the permitting process much too complex and time consuming. We need to simplify our land development code, zoning, and permitting processes.” I could’ve said that. In fact, I have said that. Repeatedly. And I didn’t have to watch businesses relocate elsewhere during my term of office before I reached that conclusion.[11]

There They Go Again

e174fig3Numerous Austinites succumbed to an April 8 outbreak of malaise, with the reappearance of hapless ex-President Jimmy Carter.[12] Briefly, the Zeitgeist favored this harvester of goobers, although he still barely beat Jerry Ford.[13] Then the Zeitgeist shift blindsided Carter, and he left office after experiencing a public 18-month string of bad luck.[14] In between, he personally lied to Robert Novak and Bob Woodward, with predictable consequences,[15] and antagonized U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill with his austere White House breakfasts.[16] An Israeli friend once summarized him as “a terrible president who now thinks he’s God,” but that didn’t stop Austin’s power elite from feting yet another Democratic politician who’s done to the country what they want to do to Austin.

Similarly, as part of the continuing 50th-anniversary media masturbations over shit by shit for shit that’ll be foisted on the rest of us for the next several years, President Lyndon Johnson’s daughters speculated to Yahoo! News that he’d be sympathetic about homosexual “marriage.”[18] Based on what I know of him, I imagine LBJ's view of the matter would be a bit more … colorful, particularly if one of the homos in question were a “top” White House aide arrested while cruising men’s toilets in Washington, D.C., in the final weeks of a presidential campaign.[19] However, I suspect that’s the sort of ’60s anniversary that won’t be rehashed to death, because it could raise too many troubling questions.[20]

Which is why you should eschew Boomer nostalgia for “their” era. Aside from some family milestones, when I think of these years, I associate it with established modernists and underacknowleged visionaries.[21] But stereotypical Boomers can’t think clearly about that time – or anything else, for that matter. They need to get the fuck over that era, get the fuck over themselves, shut the fuck up, and fuck off. In short, fuck them.

My friend Tonie Nathan died March 20, age 91.[22] I met her early in my involvement with the Libertarian Party, back when it was libertarian. In spite of outarguing her – possibly because I outargued her (“Your stated goal X, while broadly desirable, is unattainable with strategy Y and/or rhetoric Z.”), Tonie called my parents’ house soon after I graduated college about my working as an advance man for Andre Marrou’s presidential campaign.[23] With her intercession, I interviewed by phone with the “e174fig4Committee of Steves” – three activists named Steve managing Marrou’s campaign. Ultimately, though, I had to decline the job because there was no money involved. In early summer 1992, I had only one suit, a failing ’79 Buick Opel with a misaligned front end, $68 to my name, and residency with my parents. I did however, have a college diploma, no debt, and strong motivation to improve my circumstances. Even now, I’m conflicted about my choice. Given Marrou’s disastrous performance, I probably helped my future prospects by avoiding the taint of conspicuous failure.[24] But could I have made a difference on the campaign? Usual conclusion: The natcon delegates should’ve nominated Richard Boddie.[25]

Actor Chris Mitchum is running for the 24th U.S. House District in California.[26] He’s running on a Reaganite platform, but his campaign might be more interesting if he ran on his dad’s views.[27] If he wins he’ll conclude Palm Springs is like Washington, D.C., without the riff-raff.[28] Ted Nugent is serving as treasurer for former Rep. Sid Miller’s campaign for agricultural commissioner.[29]

… And The Meathead as Archie Bunker

The March 28 Chronicle covers the rising cost of rent’s adverse impact on art galleries in matter-of-fact fashion. When I first read the article, I thought it also was an April Fool’s story, since it didn’t sneeringly blame Republicans, conservatives, or bourgeois philistines for the galleries’ plight. However, the writer did conclude

Austin is a peculiar city that seems deeply aware of aesthetic trends and sensibilities in food, fashion, music, and architecture, and, in vary degrees, is happy to pay for each. In a word, the city has culture. However, when it comes to visual art (and theatre [sic.], dance, comedy, etc.), the city has yet to step up its game.

Let’s gloss over the assertions in the first two paragraphs, since I often wonder whether Austin’s artiness is anything other than an affectation against Republicans, conservatives, or bourgeois philistines, an attitude going back decades:

Liberal [sic.] intellectuals were betraying themselves in a moment of crisis for liberal ideology. They saw themselves as tribunes of the people, Republicans as the people’s traducers. Liberals had written the New Deal social and labor legislation that let ordinary Americans win back a measure of economic security. Then liberals helped lead a war against fascism, a war conservatives opposed, and then worked to create, in the postwar reconversion, the consumer economy that built the middle class, a prosperity for ordinary laborers unprecedented in the history of the world. Liberalism had done that. Now history had caught them in a bind: with the boom they had helped build, ordinary laborers were becoming ever less reliably downtrodden, vulnerable to appeal from the Republicans. The pollster Samuel Lubell was the first to recognize it: “The inner dynamics of the Roosevelt coalition have shifted from those of getting to those of keeping.”

Their liberal champions developed a distaste for them. One of the ways it manifested itself was in matters of style. The liberal capitalism that had created this mass middle class created, in its wake, a mass culture of consumption. And the liberals whose New Deal created this mass middle class were more and more turning their attention to critiquing the degraded mass culture of cheap sensation and plastic gadgets and politicians who seemed to cater to this lowest-common denominator – public-relations-driven politicians who catered to only the basest and most sentimental emotions in men. Who resembled in certain formal respects – didn’t they? – the fascists who’d won power most effectively with, as Adolf Hitler bragged, a radio microphone. Now came the boob tube, “a vast wasteland,” as Adlai Stevenson’s administrative assistant Newton Minow would later say, when he became FCC chair. A working class that was no longer poor, but seemed so much poorer in spirit.[30]

For variety, let’s question that Chronicle article’s last sentence. To go by the weekly Chronicle listings, themselves far from comprehensive, theater, dance and comedy are so plentiful that I couldn’t attend every event even if I wanted.[31] Moreover, if those events were scarcer, it’s questionable whether we could or should further emphasize those endeavors, since the revealed preference seems to be toward food, fashion, music, and architecture. Austin simply may not possess the wherewithal, talent, or even interest to be good in all artistic endeavors.[32]

Unremarked in the new Martin Scorsese movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” is Rob Reiner’s tribute to Carol O’Connor. In other words, “The Meathead” from “All in the Family” plays an Archie Bunkeresque character.[33]

Reading Michael Ventura’s blithering blather about “radical aesthetics” – more like establishment anesthetics – in the March 21 Chronicle, you’d never know that Randolph Bourne was an interesting writer.[34]

Robert Rodriguez directed a commercial for the fictitious Big Kahuna Burger chain for his El Rey cable network, two decades after I thought Quentin Tarantino missed a commercial tie-in opportunity.[35]

On the Town

March 22: I attended a salsa social at the Shoal Crossing Event Center off MoPac Expressway, which used to be Harold Powell clothing outlet. I still have a cardigan I bought there on sale. The club décor was upscale, but as another patron pointed out, the place was insufficiently air-conditioned.

Mar. 27: A doe-eye sylph of my acquaintance showed up at Dallas Nite Club after a long absence and confirmed a hunch I had about so many regulars’ absence for many months because they’ve graduated college and moved away. Unfortunately, the newcomers haven’t yet taken their place in quantity or quality.

Business Roundup

Some Hindu took over as president of Microsoft, which means the products will soon be as wretched as its detractors have always claimed. But then what would you expect of a people who shit in their drinking water?[36] Already, the company’s discontinued support for Windows XP, thereby jeopardizing millions of cash machines.[37]

Recently, I used Google Maps to look at houses in Greenwich, Conn. – never mind why. Except while trying to view photos of them in the Byram neighborhood, the street layout and the feature’s performance got me twisted around, stuck repeatedly on the same crumbling stretch of Interstate 95 and heading into Port Chester, N.Y., which isn’t what I wanted. After a while, I was frazzled and annoyed without even getting behind the wheel. So Google Maps has perfectly recreated the real-world driving experience.[38]

The April 4 Business Journal reports social media companies Spredfast and Mass Relevance merged. Except with names like that, I expected to read about weight loss programs.[39]

Hays County sheriff’s deputies arrested an Italian restaurateur, once for allegedly breaking into a winery and stealing a bottle, and once for threatening to kill a winery employee in a foul-mouthed tirade while he vandalized the employee’s car. Way to defy stereotypes there, greaseball.[40]

Nestlé has introduced Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups.[41] They taste distinctive compared to Reese’s, unlike a lot of lesser-known brands.[42] Not better or worse, mind you, just different. It’s akin to the variation in taste and texture of chocolate chip cookies using butter versus margarine in the recipe.[43]
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[1] Taylor, Lyndsey. “Social Media Platform Could Help Reduce Crime.” CIN 27 Mar. 2014, Northwest Austin ed.: 1+.

[2] AD No. 144n22 (Aug. 6, 2011).

[3] Jones, Alex, and Paul Joseph Watson. “NSA: Spying, Intimidation, Censorship.” Infowars Jul. 2013: 10-11.

[4] Kennedy, Katherine. “From the General Manager.” Mar. 2014, Northwest Austin ed.: 5.

[5] AD No. 92 (Sep. 27, 2006); AD No. 115 (Aug. 22, 2008).

[6] AD No. 118n31 (Oct. 27, 2008).

[7] AD No. 134n26 (July 10, 2010).

[8] King, Michael. “All Aboard the Soccer Train!” AC 28 Mar. 2014: 22-24.

[9] “Bridge or Tunnel? Options for Rail Line Over Lady Bird Lake on Display.” ABJ 28 Mar. 2014: 12; McCann, Mac. “Project Connect: Phases and Stages.” AC 4 Apr. 2014: 14.

[10] “Flipnotics Closes.” AC 28 Mar. 2014: 47.

[11] “Quote of the Week.” ABJ 21 Mar. 2014: 14.

[12] Beach, Patrick. “Carter Speaks on Race, Treatment of Women.” AAS 9 Apr. 2014: A1+; Mahoney, Alyssa. “Carter: ‘We Are Not Above Reproach.’ ” DT 9 Apr. 2014: 1+; Shirley, Craig. Rendevous With Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America. Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2009: Ch. 3.

[13] Dionne, E.J. Jr. Why Americans Hate Politics, 2nd rev. ed. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 2004: Ch. 5; Morris, Kenneth E. Jimmy Carter, American Moralist. Athens, Ga.: U of Georgia P, 1996: 115; Witcover, Jules. Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency, 1972-1976. New York City: Viking Press, 1977: 11.

[14] Hayward, Steven F. The Age of Reagan, Vol. I: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order, 1964-1980. Roseville, Calif.: Forum, 2001: Ch. 11-12; Shirley, op. cit., passim.; Tyrrell, R. Emmett Jr. The Conservative Crack-Up. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1992: 91.

[15] Novak, Robert D. The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington. New York City: Crown Forum, 2007: 284-287; Woodward, Bob. Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate. New York City: Simon & Schuster, 1999: 44-51.

[16] Morris, op. cit., 243; Sandbrook, Dominic. Mad as Hell: The Crisis of the 1970s and the Rise of the Populist Right. New York City: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011: 225.

[18] King. “Stayed on Freedom.” AC 11 Apr. 2014: 12+; “LBJ’s Daughters on Civil Rights Act at 50.” Yahoo News! 8 Apr. 2014 <http://news.yahoo.com/katie-couric-lbj-daughters-civil-rights-interview-001003293.html>.

[19] Dalzell, Tom, and Terry Victor. Sex Slang. Abingdon, U.K.: Routledge, 2008: 185; Goldwater, Barry M., and Jack Casserly. Goldwater. New York City: Doubleday, 1988: 202-204.

[20] Corsi, Jerome R. Where’s the Birth Certificate?: The Case That Barack Obama Is Not Eligible to Be President. Los Angeles: WND Books, 2011.

[21] Eisler, Dan. “Re: Visit the World’s Fair of 2014…” E-mail to Chris Loyd, 8 Sep. 2013.

[22] Wright, Jeff. “Libertarian Tonie Nathan Dies.” Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard 21 Mar. 2014: B1.

[23] Weaver, Paul H. “Going for the Bronze.” Reason Nov. 1992: 36-41; White, Rick et al. “The Space War.” LF Jan./Feb. 1979: 1-5+.

[24] “Arthur, Chester Alan” [R.W. Bradford]. “Behind the Electoral Disaster.” Liberty  Feb. 1993: 31-37.

[25] “Arthur.” “My Kind of Town.” Liberty Nov. 1991: 35-42+; Eisler, Dan. “Libertarian Defends Individual Rights.” ODE 5 April 1991: 8; Rothbard, Murray N. “Requiem for Dick Boddie.” Rothbard-Rockwell Report Oct. 1991: 10.

[26] Fountain, Matt. “Five GOP Hopefuls Urge Less Regulation, Slam Health Act.” The (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) Tribune 18 Mar. 2014: A1.

[27] Server, Lee. Robert Mitchum: “Baby, I Don’t Care”. New York City: St. Martin’s Press, 2001: 90-91.

[28] Ibid., 193.

[29] “Headlines.” AC 25 Oct. 2013: 12.

[30] Perlstein, Rick. Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. New York City: Scribner, 2008: 41-43.

[31] Swiatecki, Chad. “Austin Event Site Do512 Scores in South By’s Click Wars.” ABJ 11 Apr. 2014: A12-13.

[32] Schwaiger, Beth Orion. “Park Benched.” AC 28 Mar. 2014: 32+.

[33] McCrohan, Donna. Archie & Edith, Mike & Gloria: The Tumultuous History of All in the Family. New York City: Workman Publishing, 1987. The Wolf of Wall Street. Paramount Pictures/Red Granite Pictures/Appian Way/Sikelia/EMJAG Productions, 2013.

[34] Bourne, Randolph. Youth and Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1913; Strauss, William, and Neil Howe. Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584-2069. New York City: William Morrow and Co., 1991: 250; Ventura, Michael. “Manifesto: A Radical Aesthetics.” AC 21 Mar. 2014: 24.

[35] “Fake Burger Sighting.”  ABJ 28 Mar. 2014: 11.

[36] Chacos, Brad. “10 Things You Need to Know About Satya Nadella.” PC World Mar. 2014: 9-13.

[37] Ahmed, Murad. “Hacking Fears for Millions of Cash Machines.” The Times 5 Apr. 2014: 27.

[38] Battista, Thomas M. The Company’s Man. Minneapolis: Mill City Press, 2011: 192; History of the Village of Port Chester, New York: On the Occasion of the Centennial Celebration of Its Incorporation on May 14, 1868. Village of Port Chester Centennial Historic Book Committee, 1968; Miller, Michael. Using Google Maps and Google Earth, enhanced ed. Indianapolis: Que, 2010: i.

[39] Calnan, Christopher. “Creating a Social Media Powerhouse.” ABJ 11 Apr. 2014: A8; Calnan. “Spredfast Merges With Mass Relevance.” ABJ 4 Apr. 2014: A12.

[40] De Stefano, George. An Offer We Can’t Refuse: The Mafia in the Mind of America. New York City: Faber and Faber, 2006; Dinges, Gary. “Mandola Reportedly Issued Threat.” AAS 8 Apr. 2014: B1+.

[41] “NCAS Highlights New Products, Trends.” Candy Industry Jan. 2014: 36-37.

[42] AD No. 100n30 (Sep. 3, 2007).

[43] Wyman, Carolyn. The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book. Woodstock, Vt.: The Countryman Press, 2013.