In the paragraphs of Up Front, I’ve often praised the intellectual rigor of Attorney General Jeff Landry. But my praise never before soared to the heights it did on April 27, when Landry demonstrated that he had the creativity, sense of experimentation and — let’s face it — just plain guts that it takes to change both the spelling and pronunciation of everyday words.
The word Landry worked his linguistic magic on was “fascism.” Now, you and I have always pronounced that word “FASH-ism.” But why should we, really? Why should we go along in the same old humdrum way, pronouncing every word that comes down the pike in the same old common way that every common person does?
And as for spelling … well, spelling’s just bunches of letters strung together in a particular order. If they can be strung together in one order, they can be strung together in a different order. And where is it written that we always have to use the same letters for the same words?
But enough of this falderal. Let’s see exactly how Landry employed his radical verbal experimentation when he was addressing executives from Citigroup and Bank of America at a State Bond Commission hearing. Here are key selections from his speech:
“I’d like both of the CEOs to answer to me why the British went to Lexington and Concord … They were going there because that’s where the arms and ammunition was … I’d also like them to define why this isn’t fassism at its best. Because fassism is when you take the [word unclear: initiatives? industries?] of a country and you turn it into oppressive policies.”
Sometimes it helps to unpack statements of this type. I think this is one of those times.
Would you really want to ask people to “define why this isn’t fassism at its best”? I’d think you’d probably want them to “describe” rather than “define.” And if fascism — I mean, of course, fassism — is a bad thing, wouldn’t you want to say “fassism at its worst”? I’m just sayin’ …
One could make an argument that it’s OK to use the verb “was” with the subject “arms and ammunition.” Even though there are more than two things controlling the verb, the thing that’s closest is singular. So, we’ll give Landry a pass on that.
I’m afraid we can’t be quite so generous with his choice of pronoun in the clause “you turn it.” The object of the sentence (whatever it was) appears to be plural. I’m afraid the pronoun is going to have to be “them.” Sorry, Jeff.
I’m not going to lie. Landry’s definition of fascism is certainly an interesting one. Even a fascinating one. But, no offense Jeff, I’m going to have to go with the definition of fascism that Benito Mussolini put forward a century ago: “Fascism is the merger of state and corporate power.” Jeff, we gotta face facts here … when it comes to fascism, Benito should know.
To see Landry’s entire speech, go to YouTube; type in “AG Jeff Landry”; and look down the list of titles until you see “It’s ‘fassism’ if banks oppose arming teenagers.”
They Voted For This
In the U.S., the legislatures of 15 states have passed bills that make it virtually impossible for payday loan businesses to operate in their states. A few years ago, I thought the Louisiana Legislature was moving in that direction.
Well, if it was moving that way, it’s now doing everything in its power to do a full 180. The Louisiana Senate just passed Senate Bill 365: a grotesque act that would enable payday loan and car titles lenders to issue “installment loans.” By means of these installment loans, people who use the businesses could wind up being charged an annual rate of interest as high as 167 percent. That is more than six times as much interest as any credit card in the United States is allowed to charge.
The Louisiana Budget Project reports that in the worst case scenario, the annual percentage rate for a Louisiana citizen who takes out a payday loan in our state could be as high as 780 percent.
Now, keep in mind, our Louisiana senators didn’t vote against this. They voted for it. That’s right. For it. I’m using all this repetition because I think some of you may find it hard to believe.
Why do we allow these people to serve? Why do we allow them to be paid with our tax money? Why do we take time and trouble to go somewhere and cast a vote for them? Why are we making any effort at all on behalf of politicians who nonchalantly sign off on a 167-percent interest rate for Louisiana citizens when they know perfectly well that loansharking is illegal throughout the United States? Why am I writing out such a long list of questions?
For what it’s worth, our state senator, Ronnie Johns, voted yes on the bill. The bill eventually died in a state House committee.
Throwing Education Under The Bus, Car, Truck
In his book Following the Equator, Mark Twain wrote: “In the first place, God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards.”
My whole life, I’ve asked, Why are politicians allowed to vote on matters of education? I’ve also asked, What group could possibly know less about education than politicians? I’ve never had an answer, good or bad, to either question. But that’s OK. By this point, I’ve pretty much gotten used to not getting answers to my questions.
Anyhoo, turns out Baton Rouge has a traffic problem. We can understand that. We have a traffic problem.
Some Louisiana lawmakers thought they’d come up with a solution to the B.R. traffic problem that was just dandy. Let’s let The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp describe it:
“Lawmakers are suggesting a study that would consider, among other options, whether LSU should be banned from having classes before 10 am to cut congestion.”
As my late father used to say, “Brilliant! Brilliant!” Let’s just ask Louisiana State University to cancel or change the time of half of its classes and the hours of most of its professors. While we’re at it, why not ask the university to change all its textbooks? That would give the school some practice in doing impossible tasks that radically alter the fundamental nature of education at the institution. I mean, why not? It’s only the flagship university of Louisiana. That shouldn’t matter much to a Legislature that’s been putting its universities through the equivalent of a financial shredder for a decade.
All during graduate school, I made a good living by getting up at 6 am so that I could be in the classroom ready to teach at 8 am every day. But how gladly I would have given all that up if I’d known that by so doing, I’d enable someone to get to work 30 seconds faster.
As of April 23, there were two Lazy Boys, a chair and a rug sitting grouped together in the parking lot of the State Capitol. Harrison Golden, anchor at Baton Rouge’s Fox 44, posted photos of the items on Twitter. In all probability, somebody’s gotten them by now. But you never know. If you’ve been yearning for one (or more) of these items, take a drive. The parking lot is nice and empty on Sundays.
That’s $45 Per Director
If you’re on Gmail, I’m sure you notice those two banner ads that always run at the top of your inbox page. Sometimes I kill them; usually I just ignore them.
But the other day, one of them caught my eye; I saw language about David Mamet teaching a course in scriptwriting. For the first time ever, I clicked on one of the ads.
That’s how I found out about Master Classes. Yes, David Mamet will indeed teach me or anyone else about scriptwriting (by video, of course). He’ll teach me for 26 lessons if I like.
Anyone who wants to learn about directing films can take courses from Werner Herzog, Spike Lee, Ron Howard or Martin Scorcese. Want to know about comedy? Steve Martin or Judd Apatow will teach you.
Other topics and teachers that interested me were: investigative journalism: Bob Woodward; DJing: Armin Van Buuren and acting: Helen Mirren. And there are plenty of courses from masters in topics that don’t interest me, such as cooking and fashion designing.
If you want to take just one course, the price is a reasonable $90. (That would be slightly more than $3 for each class with David Mamet.) The cost of an All-Access Pass is $180; that enables you to take as many courses as you want for a year. To check it out, visit masterclass.com.
The World’s Shortest True Crime Book
“New York man allegedly shot a man to death and hid the body. His girlfriend helped.” That’s the text of a KPLC headline that ran on May 2. KPLC just saved you a 300-page read.
How Human Kindness Is Done
My favorite Jazz Fest story of 2018 came from Karen Swenson, a broadcast journalist at WWL-TV New Orleans. She must have been really excited about the fest, because when she parked and got out of her car to go to a stage, she left the car running. And it ran for three hours, until she returned to it.
Here’s how Swenson told the rest of the story on Twitter: “Well, guess what? After 3 hours at @jazzfest, i returned 2 my car to find the Pierre family (greatest lemonade stand ever) standing next to it. Turns out I left my CAR RUNNING. They stood by my car for 3 Hrs having no idea when I’d come back. SO GRATEFUL!!!!”
The Tweet came with a photo of the lemonade stand and a number of the Pierres, each wearing the huge yellow glasses that are associated with the stand. Hats off to the Pierres for showing how human kindness is done.
Trimming Down The Tumblr List
Every May 4, anyone who posts the statement “May the Fourth be with you” automatically gets unfollowed. No exceptions.
“Gov. Jon Bel Edwards has teamed up with LSU coach Ed Orgeron to promote Lemonade Day” — headline in the Baton Rouge Advocate, May 4.
Forgetful Diners On Twitter
“Forgot to photograph my cochon de lait PO’boy before I ate most of it don’t @ me.” — Tweeted by Claire Byun, reporter for New Orleans’ Mid-City Messenger on May 7.
I Wondered When This Would Start Happening
“Businesses desperate to find workers are dropping marijuana from their drug tests” — Associated Press Business News headline, May 2.