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Morning Eye-Opener

JM, Off Sunset, Silver Lake, 4.30.08

Joseph Mailander elsewhereemail

The suicide rate among veterans is unbearably high and a national disgrace. The Department of Defense, however, has its eye on divesting itself of the VA grounds. It seems the Vets deserve more and better use of the grounds, perhaps for special programs, perhaps simply as sanctuary, but certainly not a quick sale to a developer. Keith Jeffreys of the Citizens for Veterans Rights lays out his case for preserving the land for vets in CityWatch.

In my appearance on Which Way LA yesterday, I suggested that City of LA General Managers needed to play more hardball with the Mayor than they presently are willing to do. Jack Kyser seemed anxious, even overanxious, to talk about the budget as being about a "deficit"---in fact, the budget is larger than last years', and the entire "deficit" across the departments comes from the Mayor's zeal for fulfilling his campaign promise of delivering 1,000 more cops. My opinion: General Managers need to say to the Mayor, "We did nothing to precipitate this: it's your own political ambition that is cutting my budget, for the sake of fulfilling your promise. Take it to the voters yourself, not to my Department." I also said that the idea of the City selling naming rights of parks and buildings had little upside and lots of downside. Kyser generally agreed with that.

Tranquilo: International Workers Day marches were smaller and took on more of a carnival atmosphere as they marched down la calle séptima, which seemed to work for the City. The Spanish-language morning deejays played far less of a hyping role than previously.

Conflict is necessary at times, but politics really benefit from taking place in a relaxed, carnival atmosphere in which the possibility of growth looks safe. Throw in the interstellar antipodes of Justice for Janitors, Betty Pleasant, John and Ken, the No2HomeDepot fight, ZumaDogg, and the MayorSam blog into the mix; you see real politics breaking out in almost all parts of the City, giving the town's mini-mayors fits everywhere (one suspects that we are going to see a similar outbreak over Griffith Park soon).

But look carefully at the efforts of the various compass points and you find it's the groups that have a sense of humor and an ironic sense of self that are most succeeding. That's because, absent adequate mainstream media coverage of local politics, the politically savvy have resorted to creating carnival and spectacle to get attention. Simply put, the political mobilizers who are more fun don't look like their a menace to the City when mainstream media finally gets around to noticing them, and they look like safe places to belong. The community meeting filled with shouts and roars usually disintegrates quickly; the one that doesn't seem too demanding of your time, and maybe even a bit of fun to attend, you'll go to that one again.

There's a good book on the topic I often tout: it's Stephen Duncombe's Dream: Re-Imagining Politics in an Age of Fantasy. The premise of the book is that liberals need to draw from the uber-culture of fantasy and spectacle---things about culture they typically spurn---and create "ethical spectacles" of their own. The righties wear goofy shirts and generally clown around when they assemble to mobilize politically; the left needs to find its analogous behaviors, rather than refute them.