South Beach Hemingway Politics

imortar

SOUTH BEACH HEMINGWAY POLITICS

An Impromptu South Beach Moochers Club Meeting

By Special Request of a Miami Beach Commissioner

“Whew, the Bay stinks like shit around here thanks to Bill Divine’s pumps,” observed Bob Gunner with a wrinkle of his nose as he lounged with Arthur Davidson under a tree behind a condominium building on South Beach Baywalk.

“What a two-bit SOB that fast-talking hustler is. If he’s elected governor he’ll stink up the whole state and turn it into one big traffic jam.”

“That’s not fair,” Arthur said, and took a swig from the bottle of Booth’s yellow gin on hand.

Arthur fancied himself an artistic author given his name. He was often distracted by current affairs from writing novels, taking up journalism instead. As a self-made journalist he was dedicated to the notion that his reporting should be more fair and balanced than the political propaganda that appears in what Miami Beach residents call “the ass-kissing Herald.”

“So he’s not a SOB?” asked Bob Gunner, a large-framed, red-faced man who made his living the gun trade. He was shirtless, exposing an enormous hairy belly.

“He’s a jerk, alright, but the pumps were not his idea. The residents pushed them on the last administration.”

“Yeah, but they’re pumping pollution into the Bay.”

“But scientists say the Bay is safe,” Arthur said. “I would rather have the shit run off into the Bay than to wade around in it when it floods. The new thing is the road-raising.”

“Ah, those huge roller-coaster bumps on the road and water running off into people’s businesses and homes!” rejoined Gunner. “Well, the selfish bastard did all that in a hurry to protect his own properties and get some gratitude from the contractors.”

“Hey, what’s up, Art?” asked Jacob Ratner as he sauntered up with his sidekick, Jon Weasel.  Ratner, a disbarred lawyer known for passing out in doorways, was sporting an Aloha shirt below his disheveled mop of hair. Weasel, a tall, mousy, balding man, was drunker than a skunk as usual.

“I noticed Arrogante Carriola publicly insulting you on social media last evening,” said Ratner, “calling you a caveman, or an ‘Injun’ who should live in a teepee because you recommended a moratorium on new development.”

“Well, people were complaining about rampant development and the bond proposal. I observed that the Divine gang had run the city and its finances into the ground during good times.  I have my post to him right here, on my phone.”

Arthur pulled up the post and read:

“You scoff at the idea of a moratorium on development, which would help to mitigate the population density even more than FAR regulations, and you rely on cliché’s and hackneyed phrases to insult me for mentioning the moratorium extreme, inferring that I have some sort of caveman mentality, that I am a coward who fears change, even that I am virtually illiterate for recommending moderation and the deposing of misleaders who waste the taxpayer’s money while driving businesses and into bankruptcy and the city into a deficit despite good times. That is because of the prevailing mindset, that property is everything, that growth is good, that GNP must go up every year and the more the better, that no amount of wealth is enough, and that anyone who disagrees should be damned by trolls from hell. Good luck with that approach, because not everyone wants to be a welcome mat for YOUR kind of change.”

Weasel had wet his pants. He stood up for a moment, started to say something, forgot what he was going to say, plopped back down, then remembered something.

“Arrogante Carriola is a rotten, a rotten, rotten…”

“Filthy phony?” added Ratner. “That’s what he thinks of everyone who disagrees with his fascist opinions. Actually, he’s a big grown-up boy. He’s a businessman. Can’t you recognize a big businessman?”

“I recognize a copyright violation,” Art intervened. “That’s right out of Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream. Carriola recommended Hemingway.”

“I saw that on Facebook.”

“Cubans have a thing for Hemingway because he had a house on the island. The exiles don’t seem to realize he was a communist sympathizer. He supported Castro, contributing through a front man on the island.”

Viva la revolución!” exclaimed Weasel with clenched fist raised.

“Maybe Carriola likes the fascist in Castro,” Arthur smiled. “Right or left doesn’t matter when you’re a dictator.  That is why he was so tight with Divine. Money spoiled the both of them, but Carriola has a Cuban elitist sort of arrogance. He attacks and humiliates anyone who disagrees with him, especially females. He’s likely to get a slap upside the head someday if not a kick in cajones.”

“Oh, there’s more to it than that,” said Ratner. “The both of them went to Cuba to set things up with the junta, and then they tried to create a Cuban consulate here.”

“Lansky must be laughing his ass off.”

“He was a fool to criticize your writing. We know how you are with critics. I remember he said you are too wordy.  He said he couldn’t figure out what, why and how you write.”

“I have a computer, that’s how, and I write to free people from foreshortened brains. They believe nothing is worth doing if there is no money in it. If wealth is not the ultimate subject, they’re illiterate.  The consumers understand Carriola enough. It is no accident that he and Divine made their fortunes in the consumer relations business yet are such assholes. You know where they keep their money, in their bungholes.”

“He has to think you are a big fat slob, yourself, a faker, a phony and rotten writer. You know, you sound like a socialist. Maybe you do talk too much.”

“That’s why Sam said he would not hire me for the Outfit when I was a kid in Chicago, that I should be a writer like Dreiser…. At least I was brief enough when I said ‘underfunded overdevelopment’ to describe what Carriola and his pal Divine did, leaving Miami Beach in shambles. It’s just a big traffic jam full of harassed, unfriendly people now.”

“Carriola is an asshole, plain and simple,” declared Gunner.  “He should grow up. He has a childish habit of personally insulting and trying to publicly humiliate anyone who disagrees with his pet projects. That girlfriend he shares with Divine is even worse, goes around attacking people on social media.”

“Yeah, Janet Troll, she’s hell on wheels, but Carriola writes the nasty stuff for her to post, I think.”

“Not a gentleman, no way,” said Weasel, slurring his words. “He was busted for pawing a woman who drank a lot because she couldn’t stand him….”

“Nah, you gotta get a girl drunk to take advantage. We can’t depend on sober girls to propagate the race. Anyway, she admitted he laid his hands off when she said no, so nobody got laid, there was nothing to it, he would not know what a friend is really for.”

“Hey, Arthur, look at what I got here.” Gunner opened a duffel bag at his feet.

“What is that?”

“It’s an iMortar.  It’s got a nifty liquid sighting system. We can get the drop on it.”

“Drop on what?”

“Divine’s office building. Carriola is having a press conference with him right now.”

“What the hell?” Arthur balked. “Count me out of your ‘we’.”

“Come on. I got the perfect angles from here to lob a few and scare the shit out those arrogant assholes.”

“Hey, stop, you could kill somebody.”

“Don’t worry. These little blue babies are smoke bombs, the red ones are flares, not HEs, and they make a scary bang. It’s almost dark. We’ll be out of here by the time anyone figures it out. ”

“All right!” exclaimed Weasel.

“You’re talking felonies,” Arthur got up and backed away. “You could start a fire, cause an accident….”

“Don’t worry. I practiced.”

“You need a forward observer,” Arthur observed. “Hey, don’t you fire that damn thing!”

Gunner had put one end down on the ground and was looking at the sighting mechanism.

“Fire!” yelled Weasel.

Arthur and Ratner hastened away in opposite directions, leaving Gunner and Weasel with the mortar and an almost empty bottle of yellow gin.

xYx

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Appeal for Reform of The Supreme Court of The United States of America

John_Marshall_Park_-_statue

John Marshall, John Marshall Park, Washington, D.C.

AN APPEAL FOR REFORM OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

By David Arthur Walters

July 31, 2018

“The question is in truth between the people and the Supreme Court. We contend that the great constructive principle of our system is in the people of the states, and our opponents that it is in the Supreme Court. This is the sum total of the whole difference; and I hold him a shallow statesman ,who, after proper examination does not see, which is most in conformity to the genius of our system and the most effective and safe in its operation.” (1)

The ideologically stacked United States Supreme Court has made an elephant’s ass of itself at the behest of the Senate and the President by deciding cases on the basis of political ideology conveniently disguised as “conservative” to conserve and advance the interests of the power elite rather than on the substantive merits.

Vacancies on the court have as a matter of fact been openly filled by judges with opinions coinciding with the prejudices of Senators fearful for their own fortunes hence more interested in conserving and augmenting the fortunes of their wealthy patrons than in conserving the liberties of the people at large.

Indeed, the Republican majority in the Senate is proud to declare this berobed embodiment of its temporal prejudice in the highest court the font of the supreme law of the land for decades to come.

Thus are people in common embarrassed by the Senate, the hallowed vestige of the king’s noble court, now subservient to a fortunately temporary king widely believed to be a self-indulgent, impulsive fool, the very laughing stock of the free press he would fain silence for being the best friend of the people.

The Court, on the other hand, has also been crudely disgraced, having taken on the appearance of a long-term donkey court because of its stubborn tendency to self-preservation no matter how asinine its opinions, and a kangaroo court as well because it jumps to ideological conclusions before cases are tried.

This preposterous situation is largely the historical outcome of Alexander Hamilton’s federalist rhetoric; clauses in the Constitution providing for the tenure of justices on good behavior, and the supremacy of the Court; the 25th Section of the 1789 Judiciary Act; and the evolved “judicial review” opinions of a Court that elevated itself over the executive and legislative branches of the national government as well as over the people of the several states, which were sovereign only in rebellion after the Articles of Confederation were replaced with a national Constitution, an inviolable contract in contrast to the former league.

Wherefore a judicial aristocracy, now numbering nine unelected justices, presides over the “living constitution” of the United States. Five justices, to the horror of the other four, are presently committed to politically and culturally regressive policies instead of traditional constructive progress, not to mention the common sense of justice that ancient sages thought every sane adult should have or else be banished from civilization.

No amendment of the Constitution is necessary to remedy the usurpation of power attributed to “judicial review,” for the good reason that judicial review is not one of the powers enumerated in the Constitution in the first place. The Constitution definitely provides for limitations or exclusions from the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction:

“The Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

All that is required to remedy the unconstitutional construction is a judiciary act of Congress, the legitimate legislative body representing the sovereign people, amending or replacing the 1789 Judiciary Act.

The wheel does not need to be reinvented inasmuch as this one has taken us a long way and we have learned a great deal along the journey although we are now at an absurd impasse where we have good reason to ridicule the Supreme Court for making a complete ass of itself under the influence of cracked pots in Congress. Those pots need to be mended and the judiciary reformed. Congress is in fact the sovereign lawmaking institution, and it should form a Constitutional Committee to review the judiciary, compare it with the systems of other advanced nations, and recommend reforms.

For example, the Constitutional Committee might recommend the appointment of a permanent independent Constitutional Council of rotating scholars and laypersons to review all bills for their constitutionality before they are passed into law.

The concept of the judicial review of constitutionality of bills after they are passed into law is rather peculiar to the United States of America, an institution without which, given the milieu of those formative days, we might have no Union.

Lawyers naturally reverence the court of final resort, which should not be mocked as it is now for its usurpation of power. Nevertheless, definite restraints should be put on the appellate power of their hallowed Court. That does not mean it should be completely emasculated. There would remain some cases for the reformed Supreme Court to review, chosen according to the common sense principle laid down by Sir Edward Coke in Dr. Bonham’s case in England, a principle sometimes cited by scholars as a precedent for the development of judicial review in the United States.

“[I]t appears in our books, that in many cases, the common law will control Acts of Parliament, and sometimes adjudge them to be utterly void: for when an Act of Parliament is against common right and reason, or repugnant, or impossible to be performed, the common law will control it, and adjudge such Act to be void.”

Justice Coke did not have to be one of the most profound doctors of jurisprudence or have infinite wisdom to see how ridiculous was the Act of 14 H.S. requiring physicians practicing in London to be examined and obtain a license from the College of London even though Dr. Bonham happened to have gotten his doctorate degree from Justice Coke’s own alma mater, the University of Cambridge.

Since then other judges opined that judges existed to decide cases of law, and to do that they must interpret the law, thus adding common law to statutory law. That is to say that judges must say what the law is in order to apply it. Judges in the American colonies and in the fledging United States had the same opinion from time to time although they were reluctant at first to expound on it for fear of losing their jobs.

Still, it was not the practice for English courts to declare acts unconstitutional for that would constitute an absurdity. The constitution was unwritten, or rather was the whole body of law itself, with English civil rights preserved in various historical charters and bills.   The courts fought long and hard for independence from the sovereign. Parliament itself won the crown in fact although it was worn by the royal figure. The Law Lords of the House of Lords served as the highest appellate court of appeal until 2009. They now constitute the Supreme Court, and may not sit in the House of Lords at the same time, hence in theory making them independent of the legislative body. Only very important or complicated cases came before the Law Lords, and they did not have the express power to declare a law unconstitutional.

Our proposed Constitutional Committee may want to consider whether or not the best place for an appeal on significant constitutional questions is the legislative branch that forged the statute in question for one might think that institution would know best. In any case, pending the reform of the Court, it might suit the chief justice to send a memo to the clerks instructing them to not forward constitutional appeals to him unless the statute or opinion of the lower court challenged appears to be unreasonable, nonsensical, repugnant, impossible or disastrous to effect, or, in another word, absolutely ridiculous, all others to be returned with the advice to pursue the matter with the appropriate legislature.

The power of judicial review in the United States was advanced by John Marshall and successfully employed as a political instrument to regulate the various states, which were in fact called “sovereign” in the practically useless Articles of Confederation. Certain Amendments as to the civil rights were made to the Constitution in order to obtain its approval although some Founders figured everyone should know what their English rights were. It was the Tenth Amendment reserving powers to the states that became more than problematic when the Southern states felt the dominant Northern states were encroaching on their federal constitutional guarantees with tariff and slave bills.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Almost every fifth grader selected for a TV quiz show knows that Virginia and Kentucky and then South Carolina resolved to nullify what their state legislators felt were unconstitutional federal statutes violating the civil rights of their citizens and thus were destructive of their society or economy. The most offensive of the Alien and Sedition Acts would be repealed, and a compromise was had with South Carolina on the abominable tariff, yet the rebellious spirit persevered, especially over slavery, winding up in secession, the defeat of the Confederate States, and reunification.

The notions of all kinds of reserved states’ rights wound up being determined and winnowed down by the supreme federal institution, the unelected Supreme Court, until there is hardly anything left of a plurality.   Today we hear the President and his colleagues say that certain things they do not like such as health care, abortion, and gay marriage, and union contributions law “should be up to the states.” Naturally laws they like should not be up to the states. Wherefore they would stack the court accordingly.

So perhaps a woman could get a divorce and an abortion and marry a woman on the same day in a particular state, or none of the above in another. And one can image the constitutional objections that would naturally be brought to the disparities between the states, especially by the poor woman who could not afford to get to Nevada let alone pay for the services.

It is feared that the president’s selection of a candidate, seen smiling smugly beside his pious, better-than-thou vice president, would roll back liberal advances in judge-made law, to conserve, for example, the primitive principle that men should own women’s bodies. The debate itself may move the candidate, if he is confirmed, to let the precedent stand. If he does not, the voters may revolt against his benefactors in the Senate and White House.

Abortion is always a hot button issue. Unions have lost their allure. Their bargains with government do not seem to help the worker that much, and tend more or less to put labor under tyranny of two governments, which seem to have collaborated to his or her disadvantage in the case of public unions. Recently the organized teachers of several states rebelled against pathetic wages, and they received a pittance for their trouble.

Union dues are a financial burden. Some right-to-work states required non-union members to pay their fair share of the purported benefits of collective bargaining. That was perfectly constitutional for decades according to a Supreme Court precedent recently upheld by 4:4 split due to an unfilled vacancy on the court. Everyone expected the precedent to be overturned with the appointment of an ideologue to that seat, and it was indeed duly overturned as expected by virtue of an informal political quid pro quo furthering the corruption of the court.

Mark Janus had been found willing to buck the system in Illinois and to say he did not like to contribute the cost of his share of the benefits of collective bargaining, so the lawyers had a field day with the constitutional right of free speech. “Under Illinois law,” pronounced Justice Alito on June, 27, 2018, in Mark Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees et al, “public employees are forced to subsidize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bargaining and related activities. We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of non-members by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”

“Matters of substantial public concern” are what the power elite including its press determines them to be, otherwise the cases will not see the light of day. For example, when I asked for an important Florida case to be put online so persons interested do not have to travel to the courthouse to review it, the chief justice of that circuit informed me that the mainstream press determines what is significant enough to publish online. The judiciary obviously does not want the public to be concerned with the everyday behavior of courts that potentially affects it because it might be shocked by what goes regularly transpires. Rights such as free speech are not absolute when free speech is against the public interest. Speech may be restrained when selling three-dimensional programs to print unregistered guns will result in chaos or the anarchy desired by the seller.

Mark Janus could have had recourse to the Illinois legislature, but no, he must have been so outraged at a few hundred dollars of deductions every year from his salary that his lawyers needed to make it a judicial issue and appeal it to the highest court, politically prepared to rehear hear it, an appellate process that might cost more than a million dollars in legal fees for reputedly excellent lawyers if the plaintiff cares enough to pay out of pocket.

Several proposals have been made to get around the loss of funds unions are expected to suffer because non-members like Janus do not want to pay for the benefits whatever they are. I propose that the states offer no benefits negotiated by the unions to non-members, leaving persons like Janus free to speak for himself or through an agent when applying for a job. That process would eventually create a free market price for the functions so fervently desired by economic libertarians.

The Governor, Attorney General, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Hawaii, for example, are not going to proclaim the Janus decision null and void within the boundaries of the state. No, Nullification and Secession do not work well. The oppositional Nullification theory advanced the wheel of Sisyphus from horizon to horizon. The consensus medieval theories are inapplicable today. (3)

But our Constitutional Committee should examine nullification ideology along with the “concurrent majority” reasoning of such Nullifiers of John Calhoun, former Secretary of War, Vice President and Senator, and other Nullifiers such as Robert James Turnbull (‘Brutus’).

Calhoun was raised by a slaveholding dad, and he saw firsthand how decently slaves were treated. He, like the descendants of Hawaii’s plantation owners, claimed that life was much better for plantation slaves than for free workers. (2)

We are well aware of the pathetic condition of workers during the industrial revolution. Unions would be crucial in gaining relief from that virtual slavery. Conservatives blinded by their obsolete tradition and fear for their fortunes would like to roll back some of those gains, and the oligarchic Supreme Court would allow them to bypass the elected legislatures.

Notwithstanding a few employee-owned and democratically managed firms, the place where Americans spend the most of their time is not democratic by any means. We see no whips and chains. There is enough time off for leisure to buy sufficient consumable goods to keep the ball rolling and clog the world with mountains of trash, junk and garbage in the process. Yes, the material life is better, much to the disadvantage of the spiritual life distracted as it is by entertaining commercials, but untold millions of people are wage slaves. I was appalled by what a black union leader who hated Jack Welch with a passion said to me in New York. I identify him as black because blacks have a right to use the denigrating term: he claimed that technological workers are “technological niggers.”

Calhoun’s concurrent majority theory may remind one of the complex geocentric planetary theory replaced by the simple heliocentric theory. Nevertheless, our Constitutional Committee may find some useful ideas therein. Sectionalism will always be as great a problem as individualism. A certain degree of latitude or liberty is required for unity.

The best argument against the Nullifiers was given by President Andrew Jackson, so his famous 1832 Proclamation penned by Edward Livingston should be considered too. He was not altogether fond of the judiciary, and remarked once that, now that the Court had pronounced the law, let it try to enforce it. The foremost Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, advocated judicial review although it was not adopted in the Constitution. He discounted the danger of tyranny that might present, saying a Supreme Court, lacking a sword, would be the weakest institution.

Not so, not now that blind obedience is the custom, and any challenge to judicial review is rebutted with, “Stare Decisis! Res Judicata!”

Wake up! What was once a useful habit is converted into a bad habit and is a disgrace to the nation.

Perhaps the embarrassment that our still great nation presently suffers will expose the ideological religions as inherently idiotic so that the representatives of the people can see, in this instance, that judicial review as we know it is obsolete, and then proceed to draft and pass a judiciary act that will put it in its rightful place.

Until then, the usual means will be employed by the population to get around the opinions of a disgraceful Court. Nullification theory will not do, for it is patently absurd inasmuch as it uses constitutional arguments to destroy the constitution. Simple disobedience to law was more successful than open efforts at nullification.  It is impossible to enforce all the laws on the books. A law unenforced is no law.

xYx

(1) John Calhoun, unpublished letter dated Sept. 1, 1831:

(2)  “Slavery is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good… I may say with truth that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civilized portions of Europe—look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse… I hold then, that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other” (John C. Calhoun, Feb 6, 1837)

(3) Unions are most powerful in the State of Hawaii. One might expect street protests over the Janus decision given Hawaii’s history and the belief of Native Hawaiians that their islands were stolen and the Kingdom forcefully overthrown by agents of the United States imperialism. Many natives were not very keen on working the invasive sugar plantations that supplanted the strips of land allotted to them under the kingdom. The demand for sugar resulted in the importation of virtual slaves, indentured servants, most of them from the East. Many of them stayed and struggled for many years to obtain civil rights, succeeding in large part because of their organization into unions.

Japanese Americans withstood insults and assaults, deprivation of rights, and even deportation during World War II, and they with their Asian colleagues and like-minded Caucasian notables were instrumental in the creation of the democratic organization for the state, one that the arch-conservative Malcolm Forbes denounced as “socialist.” Republicans are therefore a small minority. There are a few Republican true to republicanism and the democratic aspirations of the Party. Native Hawaiians with at least a rather small quota of native blood left wanted to create a tribe so they could enjoy the benefits of tribes on the Mainland. The majority of natives, however, believed that General Welfare under the Constitution is better than that provided by the Kings and Queens of Hawaii. The legislature was sympathetic to the tribal ideal. The issue was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on constitutional grounds, and that was the end of that.

Hawaii’s government and the public unions and the Democratic Party are one ball of wax in Hawaii. Yet Hawaii suffers like the Mainland. Average wages are not rising. Labor is being bled as usual much to the profit of the big corporations and other heirs to the remnants of the halcyon plantation days. The state like the rest of the nation is becoming more and more top heavy as the days pass.

Conservatives have good reason fear for their fortunes. Conservatism may be defined in terms of a general defense of social and economic inequality, with lip service given to free trade and competition, rather than an effort to uphold traditional institutions. Conservatism is an attempt then to maintain and augment power of the ruling elite by all means available including the resort to war in which the conservative leaders would rather not risk their lives in personal combat.

The underlying thesis of the Federalist or nationalist conservatives is obsolete today. It upholds and expands the contradictory vestiges of medieval tradition. It was authoritarian, centralized, a constitutional monarchy, the executive being limited by court of princes and republican estate. It placed emphasis on human imperfection, on Hobbes more than on Locke. It celebrated the organic society hierarchically organized with one head, the Supreme Court, supported by the propertied class.

The future of Hawaii as a cultural and financial treasure depends on the maintenance of the Hawaiian culture. We see sporadic demonstrations and memorials to the old kingdom from time to time, but no demonstration. The truth of the matter is that the natives are thoroughly assimilated.  Not only they but the haoles (white invaders) may have to move to the Mainland to support themselves and their families.

And with Janus there is no vehement protest in Hawaii. A libertarian nativist relocated from the Heart of America says there may not be much of an impact because unions will be forced to become more productive to survive. That might as well be said of many small business entities facing mammoth competition from the big corporations.

A member of the old haole elite who is intimate with some of the evils of the public unions rejoices on his gentleman’s estate that the Constitutional right to free speech has been upheld by the Supreme Court. He thinks it is sad that good teachers leave the state because of the low pay, but he suggests no solution whatsoever. The Supreme Court legislated the supreme law of the land, and that is that.

(4) President Jackson’s Proclamation

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/jack01.asp

 

 

The Fake News on Supreme Court Appointments

Moi Downsize

ON THE FAKE NEWS ABOUT JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS

13 July 2018

By David Arthur Walters
THE MIAMI MIRROR

There is indeed something “fake” about mainstream media “news” although not anywhere near as fake as the packs of lies drummed up by its detractors. Take, for example, reports of the confirmation drama looming in the United States Senate over President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

The nomination is destined to be confirmed by a partisan majority intent on stacking the Court with judges partial to so-called conservatism. Thus it is expected to be an ideologically prejudiced appointment. Champions of democratic progress believe it will doom the nation to the loss of civil liberties previously concocted by judicial interpretations of Constitutional vagaries.

On 11 July 2018 the reputedly liberal New York Times devoted two front-page columns to the event, pronouncing it a “novel historical moment” because Judge Kavanaugh, coincidentally, is famed for his learned opinion that presidents cannot be subpoenaed to testify in criminal investigations although they may be impeached and removed from office for “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

A study of past impeachments indicates that a president may thus far be subpoenaed in criminal proceedings against him although he may not be prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned while in office. If he is convicted by the Senate on the impeachment charge brought by the House of Representatives, then he might be, for example, prosecuted for conspiring with the Russians to corrupt the nation’s electoral integrity. It might be argued that that would constitute unconstitutional double jeopardy, an argument that would probably fail.

So the “novelty” here is the unspoken insinuation of a quid pro quo. The unwitting are led to infer that Judge Kavanaugh, in return for life tenure in a prestigious post, will collaborate with his like-minded colleagues on the bench, and declare that President Trump does not have to testify in criminal proceedings.

That is a piece of nonsense, for all he would have to do is show up and plead the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, an act that certainly would not sully his already tarnished reputation. As he has correctly noted with some amusement, he could murder someone on the street and his populist base would support him.

So this “historically novel moment” is a trivial coincidence, a barely newsworthy footnote, an understatement to the effect that this conservative judge would bolster the conservative prejudices of his conservative colleagues, who would supposedly constitute a judicial majority favoring executive privilege or imperial presidency, one of the things that the Supreme Court was supposed to offset.

One might think that “news” should be genuinely novel to be called “novel” and momentous, otherwise it would be “fake news.” If the New York Times, which conservatives love to hate, wanted to devote half the print on its first page to the real issue, the paper would, in covering the attempt to render the Court a conservative tool, emphasize that the Court does not have the Constitutional power to declare legislation unconstitutional. In other words, although its decisions, on what is and what is not constitutional, have almost always been implemented by the executive and legislative branches, those “judicial reviews” are not provided for in the Constitution hence are unconstitutional.

Let that instance of judicial activism fly in the face of fake conservatives who profess Originalism if not Strict Construction yet would stack the Court with their own ilk so the Court’s unconstitutional decisions accord with their prejudicial ideology instead of impartial justice.

Ironically, one argument for allowing the Court to continue with judicial review is that it is a “weak” branch of government inasmuch as it does not have the means to enforce its opinions. That is left to the executive branch, which is supposed to obey Congress. In reality we have a variety of functions that evolved within a ball of wax.

Recall the evolution of the limbs of the tree, that what we call the Senate was once the King’s Court composed of nobles whose advice he might ignore if the feudal balance of power was in his favor, and that was tempered by commoners whose cooperation was needed to fund the royal campaigns. The monarch would eventually be reduced to a virtual figurehead in England. Parliament is supreme, and government is led by an elected cabinet that chooses a prime minister perfunctorily recognized by the monarch. New elections may be called if the government cannot get along. The judicial courts evolved and gradually won their independence. The court of impeachment and court of last resort was a judicial function of the House of Lords until 2009, when the 2005 Constitutional Reform Act creating a Supreme Court took effect. There is no written constitution but for the laws on the books. If there is a constitutional issue it must be resolved by Parliament in the form or repeal, revision, or new legislation. Its Members and the courts know well what the rights of all English citizens are.  They certainly recall the rights lords won against the tyranny of monarchs, and the various rights billed thereafter. Those rights may be found in several documents in case someone forgets, but hardly any Brit does.

So much for the mother country: sometimes mother knows best. By the way, the liberal anti-Federalists suspected the Federalists would deprive them of unwritten rights, so they demanded a written declaration of rights in the new Constitution, which were duly added as by-the-ways or amendments at the very bottom of the document.

We now have universal suffrage and a popularly elected president. That person may be a moron as long as he is a natural born moron, and he may stack his cabinet with highly credentialed bigots and other idiotic ideologues with the consent of a Senate majority sympathetic to their own need to maintain status as members of the power elite beholden to the vested interests that virtually own the country. A Senator might be a constitutional scholar, a professional politician, a lawyer, and so on, or merely a vulgar tool of the average mentality, a sort of people’s bully. Whosoever he is, he may be swayed by public opinion unless he is a sociopath at the head of a mob of gangsters whose crimes may or may not have been legalized by their peers.

A change of a very few words in our Constitution would protect the people from outrageous government by reverting the constitutional structure to a cabinet government led by an experienced politician of its choosing, a government that would be removed if it confidence in it is lost.

The United States “supreme Court” was conceived as a relatively independent branch of government that would balance the branches and protect the people from the executive and legislative functionaries. To say it is “supreme” is not meant to say that its power is ultimate or superior to the legislative and the executive powers. Rather, it is to say it is the last court of resort, and in some cases an original court, that determines whether or not government is abiding by legislation. That is not to say that it may legislate itself or declare legislation null and void although every court necessarily legislates because it must interpret whether or not general statutes apply in particular cases. The Constitution explicitly provides that it is merely an appellate court, and that its appellate power may be regulated and exceptions taken to its exercise. That exercise might take the form of judiciary acts.

So how did the Court become what Thomas Jefferson, who had praised it early on, a tyrannical oligarchy, after its decision in Marbury v. Madison?

We remember that the outgoing Federalist president, John Adams, with help from the Senate, stacked the courts with Federalist commissioners on his way out. The sealed appointment of Judge William Marbury, a wealthy Federalist supporter of President Adams, was not delivered on time by John Marshall, the outgoing Secretary of State, so when incoming President Jefferson refused to recognize Marbury’s appointment to Justice of the Peace of the District of Columbia because his own Secretary State, anti-Federalist John Madison, refused to deliver the appointment, Marbury appealed to the Court for its mandate confirming his appointment, claiming that the Judiciary Act of 1789 sanctified the sealed appointment even though it was not delivered.

John Marshall was appointed Chief Justice by that time. He was a Federalist himself, so one would not be surprised if his judgment would be biased against Marbury, but it was not, at least not entirely, for he feared for the independence of the Court at the time. That overriding concern led him to straddle the issue, leaving scholars to debate his reasoning ever since, some even declaring his argument patently absurd.

The Court determined that delivery of the appointment was not required by the Judiciary Act of 1789 that created the Supreme Court. The seal on it sufficed. Alas, however, for Marbury, because the provision of the Act allowing Marbury to assert his claim directly in the Supreme Court was purportedly unconstitutional. Marshall wrote that it was the duty of the Court to say what the law is, and, that there was inherent in the Constitution a bestowal of special power on the Court to review legislation and declare it unconstitutional. End of discussion.

But no intrinsic right of judicial review of constitutional law exists in the Constitution. The Constitution is a fulcrum of controversy based on experience. Crucial disagreement over the meaning of its fundamental language should be referred back to the people’s legislature or directly to the people. Nevertheless, the Court is unlikely to contradict itself to overturn its decision in Marbury v. Madison. That may be done by Congress. If that deed be declared unconstitutional by the Court, then the justices may be impeached or their opinion ignored.

We should not, however, treat judicial review so callously now that it is traditional, meaning it has evolved from historical needs according to the circumstances of time and place. Judicial review was unheard of until it was invented by American judges even prior to Marbury v. Madison. Some of those judges had their doubts if it was constitutional.

As every fifth grander is supposed to know, the Confederation of states was not working out well. A strong federal government was needed to unify the nation, so the Constitution was forged from the debate between Federalists and Anti-Federalists. The extent of sovereignty of the several states was not settled and may never be. Federal judges were naturally interested in conserving the federal nation, so we find a number of cases where they determined that state legislation was unconstitutional. John Marshall simply crowned the practice. Of course the tables would be turned to suit the occasion, and the Anti-Federalists in another situation backed judicial review while Federalists abhorred it.

States may in theory but not in practice secede from the Union. That much seems to have been proven by the Civil War. Yet the old struggle for state’s rights has not ended. President Trump would like to see Roe v. Wade and other Supreme Court legislation voiding state laws overturned. Let the states be sovereign in those matters. For example, a woman might get an abortion and divorce in Nevada and marry a woman within the week given the appropriate state legislation, yet that might be prohibited in her home state, where she might even be arrested for abortion and homosexuality.

So now the President would have the Supreme Court liberate states from infringement on their sovereignty. Is he a liberal or a conservative?

Why not have Congress simply withdraw the power of the Supreme Court to actively legislate from its bench, and depend on Congress to repeal, amend, and pass new legislation to remedy civil rights issues?

Or it would not be such a bad idea to have a Constitutional Council to review legislation and determine its constitutionally before it becomes effective, as in France, which has a written constitution?

Or we might have a constitutional committee of the U.S. Congress review legislation when unanticipated situations arise, although one might then wonder why the Supreme Court is not allowed to continue to perform that function since it might be more independent.

The ideological partisanship evident today makes it all too obvious that elected Senators do not desire a nonpartisan, impartial, independent Supreme Court. The President and faux conservative partisans want partial justice under the law. They want laws interpreted by dependent justices who swear to uphold the Constitution so they may interpret it according to their theological and ideological prejudices.

This curse on the public welfare may not be absolutely solved by judicial selection methods because justice involves the distribution of power hence is political, and every political animal is prejudiced to a certain extent in its own favor. We curse the judges and the politicians without realizing that they are the scapegoats for our own faults.

Whatever the form of government, public opinion rules in the end. It appears from the current divisiveness and the absence of good character and ethical leadership that not only the goats but millions of their kids might be run into the desert and sacrificed in short order.

We are indeed at a “historically novel moment.” The tension of this crisis may result in revolution wherein the principles of the French Revolution will be pressed forward. One sort of tyranny may soon be replaced by another, as is usual, or there may be progress from the current regression.

No, this is not a trivial moment. Novels are already being written about it. This is not fake news. Sad to say, it is a reality show.

xYx

The Satanic Principle in the Oval Office

Satanic Principle in White House Header

THE SATANIC PRINCIPLE IN THE OVAL OFFICE

By David Arthur Walters PRESS INDEPENDENT

22 June 2018

Regina von Halstadt, an old friend of mine, said she knew exactly what the words on the back of Melania Trump’s jacket meant on her visit to the immigrant children’s shelter.

“It meant what it said, that she does really not care if kids are separated from their parents who enter our country illegally, and I don’t care either.”

“But you’re a mother,” I pleaded. “You must sympathize with the kids and their parents. They are being treated badly in their home countries. It is cruel to pull kids as young as a few months old out of the arms of their mothers and put them in cages.”

“They are illegal, and that is that! If they do not like their own countries they should change them. We need to build the wall. Anyone entering this country illegal should be shot at the border or put in concentration camps and the kids and their parents should be sent to the showers!”

“Regina, please stop acting like a Nazi. Surely you don’t mean that.”

“Yes I do, and I do not want to talk about it anymore.”

“But Regina….”

“No!”

“I just want to say….”

“No!”

Needless to say, Regina is an ardent Trump supporter, and a black-and-white thinker to boot. With her, it is them or us, so let it be them.

“They” are anyone who does not look like “us.” So “we” must be a whiter shade of pale, preferably with blonde or red hair and blue eyes.

I have blue eyes, and Regina likes me to shave my head of its brown hair. She once remarked with some surprise, as she watched Fox News, the only news she said she can tolerate, that Afghan kids look a lot like us. In any event, Regina loves power and wealth without prejudice against race, color, creed and sexual orientation.

Of course I have changed her name, with apologies to anyone with that name who finds her views disagreeable. Yes, she is of German extract. Her rich, powerful and unfaithful husbands were of European extract. They beat the hell out of her from time to time, and they paid dearly for it in the end, making it worth her while in retrospect. She became a fundraiser for an organization that protects high-end women and children from abuse, then resigned and took up painting when the lesbian running the organization assaulted her in the restroom.

The liberal reader may wonder why I maintain a friendship with Regina. The truth of the matter is that Regina is really not evil. She is a fake racist, a walking self-contradiction, and she does not know it. She is actually horrified by the abuse of animals including human animals, and her self-defensive, icy attitude melts into sympathetic tears at the sight of a creature in pain.

My own moral fault is that I tend to like all sorts of people high and low. Yet I certainly would not like them if they were committing crimes against humanity such as sending unwanted people to the ovens, or if they were ripping kids from the arms of their parents and putting them into cages, as the president has sadistically done on behalf of his basest base simply to acquire more narcissistic supplies for his unreality show.

What troubles me most about President Trump, who is Regina’s champion merely because he is a Republican president, and that despite having traits that she despises in other men, is that he fathers the lies told by his sycophants, who regularly show the fig to the public.

Americans have become so practical that they think they can separate personal morals from public politics. As long as they get what they want, they do not care about the personal immorality of the politician. Let him lie and cheat at will, and never mind how mean he may be, as long as he serves their interest. But he who lies and cheats will lie to them and cheat them in one way or another.

I myself have a few conservative friends who support Donald Trump because they believe he serves their interest in conserving their status at the apex of the social pyramid, which they believe is their natural and divine right. They profess that Logos or Reason should preside over disagreements, yet they do not want to reason with friends who disagree with the character of their man in the White House in order to persuade them that immoral and unethical means have good ends.

Their excuse is that this man is just like everyone else. Therefore he is a representative man, as good and evil as any other. They end disagreeable friendships instead of persuading their friends that they are right. Why? Because they know they are wrong.

The satanic principle presides in the Oval Office at present. No one’s interest is secure when the father of lies is at the head of government.

xYx

 Graphic by Darwin Leon

 

Votre president est un faux imbécile!

 

Votre president est un faux imbécile!

By David Arthur Walters

MIAMI MIRROR

April 30, 2018

I believe that against ignorance, we have education. Against inequalities, development. Against cynicism, trust and good faith. Against fanaticism, culture. Against disease and epidemics, medicine. Against the threats on the planet, science. Emmanuel Macron

It may not seem of any great moment now, but historians will consider French President Jean-Michel Frédéric Emmanuel Macron’s April 2018 visit with U.S. President Donald J. Trump in Washington and his speech to Congress for centuries to come.

One theory posits that Macron “played” Trump like a squeezebox, making a blooming romantic fool of him.

“Beware of French bearing gifts,” it is said. The presidents accompanied by their first ladies used golden shovels to plant on the White House lawn an oak tree sapling from where the 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood took place in 1918. Two U.S. Army divisions along with British and French elements were victorious there against four German divisions; therefore Macron intended the gifted tree to symbolize the ties that bind France and the United States. The U.S. Marines celebrate the battle as a symbol of their superior courage. The commander of the fleeing French forces had advised the Americans to cut and run, and these memorable words were uttered in response: “Retreat? Hell, we just got here.”

Some jokes have been made about the sapling. One casts President Trump as a hypocrite because would not be so kind on the environment as the tree-huggers who love to hate him. Another joke casts the two presidents as lovers, and claims that love was lost after Macron went on to Congress to glibly denounce Trump’s nationalism, wherefore Trump, jilted, instead of tweeting his ire, emerged from his Hamletian lucubrations in the White House cellar to personally rip the tree out of the yard and order his bodyguards to cremate it, put it in an urn, and return it to Macron.

The planting itself was allegedly as symbolic as the tree. The roots were covered with plastic, and the sapling was immediately removed to comply with quarantine law to protect the other trees around the White House from a dangerous French moth.

That being said, another theory is that Trump was faking foolishness and feigning madness ever since he infiltrated the Republican Party to sleep with the enemy, plotting to arise one night to betray the Republicans by wreaking havoc for the Democrats.

“Votre president est un faux imbécile!” a rumor monger declared in social media after the U.S. president appeared somewhat stupefied by the overly affectionate ‘La bise” bestowed on him by Macron, a kiss deemed “beaucoup trop romantique” by homophobes.

But no, the President of the United States is not stupid. General  Charles de Gaul’s Memoirs may be found on his bed stand. Trump was undoubtedly calculating the political-economic benefits to be enjoyed by adopting the sapling president of France. For all his talk about making America great again by economically isolating it to wage tariff wars, there is nothing he enjoys more than trade deficits with political allies against terrorism, especially allies whose terrorism is legitimately organized into formidable military forces.

After all, what is not to like about a huge trade deficit? We get more stuff from them than they get from us, and they use our dollars as a world currency backed by the biggest guns, investing a great deal of it in America! Why, make a few threats, recite the Free Trade mantra, get the means to get a little more stuff to make America even greater! No, Trump is no fool, or so goes the rumor.

Macron’s speech to Congress was romantic indeed. It was presumably drafted by his wife and high school literature teacher, Brigitte Marie-Claude Macron née Trogneux. Her exemplary appearance proved that France has the most attractive females in the European Union, as is well known by gentlemen who surf the Web for nudes by country of origin. Beware of the feminist cougars, however: they can be hell on high heels after a martini or two.

Melania Trump, née Melanija Knavs, a world-class beauty in her own, Slavic right, looked rather grim herself under her broad-rimmed white hat, which rebuffed her husband’s attempt at La bise after he failed to get her a birthday present. Brigitte reportedly felt sorry for Melania because she is cooped up in a White House that The Donald has characterized as a “dump.” She had more freedom in Slovenia under Tito. Her dad registered as a communist as Slovenians were wont to do to advance their careers and obtain favorable housing.

France has denied Brigitte the official title of First Lady, but it is safe to say that it would behoove the First Ladies to hold a champagne, macaroon, chocolate and cheese soirée at Carlton Hotel in Lille sometime soon to discuss such matters as the relationship between feminism, communism and atheism, the role of bread and cake in revolutions, whether poudre de perlimpinpin should be legalized, whether the capitol of France should be removed to Lille and the railway system revised accordingly, and so on. Canard-Duchéne Brut champagne would mate well on that occasion with Trogneux macaroons, Léonidas Belgian chocolates, along with mimolette, morbier, maroilles, and roquefort cheeses. Moskovskaya Osobaya and Tito’s vodka would also be available for emergencies.

Naturally Macron, a history buff who was at one time a registered socialist, waxed romantically in Congress on the liberal side of the French-American relationship, refraining from mentioning certain antagonisms between French and English culture hailing back to the invasion of William the Conqueror. Witness thereafter the evolution of virulent nationalism and several wars between France and England, drunken brawls over Chaucer’s theft of French words, not to mention plagiarism of whole tales, and France’s attempt to purge English borrowings from its dictionaries.

As we know so well, the wars between European powers had to be fought over North America as well. Ten-percent of the inhabitants of the English colonies, advised well on property rights defined as the “Ground of Happiness” by the landed gentry, desired independence from the Mother country. Wherefore the convenient alliance with France, never mind the differences.

It is said that there exists a French democratic revolution within the American republican revolution, rendering the United States a democratic republic, a political hybrid that troubles ideologues to this very day.

Mind you, political philosophers are free to deny that the so-called American Revolution was a revolution at all, and to insist that it was just a changing of the guard with a few constitutional revisions in a constitution finally written down. Someday, hopefully, a few minor changes will be made in that constitution to restore cabinet government. As it is, a perversely elected president and his appointees may bring the nation to ruin. In any event, the rebels were so sure of their ancient English rights that they believed a bill declaring them would be redundant.

The French revolutionaries, on the other hand, wanted to overthrow an ancient regime of hierarchical privileges and establish a flatter or more democratic socialist government. That is why their declaration of rights was a real declaration while the Anglo-Saxon one was a mere reiteration of faits accomplis. French ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’ had a distinct French flavor relished by American visitors to Paris such as Thomas Jefferson, who claimed the Revolution was caused by Marie Antoinette, took a liking to French ideologie, or the French science of political reasoning fathered by Antoine Destutt de Tracy, and replaced Theology with Ideology at his beloved university in Virginia.

After all, the goal of political progress to a perfect civilization is liberty for everyone, at least according to the great French eclectic, Victor Cousin, who, thanks to the Prussians, had a significant effect on the philosophy of education in the United States. Of course he noted that progress requires the leadership of Great Men or dictators who embody the French revolutionary spirit, which is somewhat universal since Cousin ventured to Germany and stole a bowl of Hegel’s confounded soup.

Hegel was more than enthusiastic or “god-possessed” about the French Revolution before the Terror appalled him. The “Theos” he irrationally intuited was named Reason; to wit: the inscrutable god aka Logos that enlightened the globe from Paris. Indeed, the difference between the French revolutions and other revolutions so-called was that its rights were borne out of the head of Zeus by Athena instead of purchased or inherited as privileges.

Mind you that the faults of great men should be forgiven if not ignored, said Cousin, for the sake of progress to Liberty, especially after they are dead when statues are erected to remember them well. We may beg to disagree, and learn much by the faults lest history makes fools of us yet again.

Now people in France and the United States may wish for an exchange of presidents to suit their ideological prejudices, so some Americans would have Macron as President of the United States, and some French would have Trump as President of France. Yet there is little fundamental difference between the two presidents as one might suppose, nor between their people, and John Adams had a good point when he called ideology “idiotology.”

Socrates proved the wise were fools. We are all mongrels. The people of the United States and France admittedly have a fraternal relationship, so let Macron be the son of Trump, as foolish as that may sound.

xYx

Oak of Flagey by Courbet

Black Swan for Black and White Thinkers

Swan Header

Scene from Alexander Ekman’s ‘A Swan Lake’

MY BLACK SWAN

FOR BLACK AND WHITE THINKERS

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

For Virginie

Money and not morals is what counts most of all in the United States. If you do not have it you are nobody of note, no matter what you do, and if you have enough of it you may become President of the United States, whatever you happen to do. Yet, no matter who you are, your days on this earth are numbered, and your number may come up as quite a surprise to you although the statisticians have taken your demise into account when devising their mortality and accidental death tables for the insurance industry. And there is a chance you might win the $500 million lottery.

Enjoy the day the best you can because, as a matter of fact, you may be gone tomorrow as a result of some random, unexpected event, say, a bridge collapsing on your head, a plane crash, or perchance a terrorist attack. And on a larger scale, there are natural disasters, and do not rule out a pre-emptive nuclear attack. The planet itself is not perfectly secure since it might be encountered by a comet. I think it was Voltaire who remarked that this planet of ours might be a speck of dust in the road to be unexpectedly flattened by the hoof of a passing horse. So a lot of good your money will do you then.

Yes, there are some events even statisticians may not predict no matter their theories and how much historical data they may have. Every schoolboy knows that the mathematician and scientist Charles Sanders Peirce thought that nothing was determined for certain despite the habitual behavior we observe as laws. Chance events beyond the scope of those natural laws might irregularly occur. That is, there is such a thing a chance operating in the universe, the theory for which is dubbed ‘Tychism,’ after Tyche, the Greek goddess of luck, who was known to the Romans as Fortuna. Peirce, needless to say, was not a conventional man, though he was a great logician. His advanced scientific perspective aroused the jealousy of colleagues. He made some unfortunate choices including an unrewarding investment. Although he was helped out by relatives and his great friend William James, the successful philosopher who marketed his Pragmatism brand of philosophy, he fell upon hard times before he died destitute.

More recently, a nerdish Lebanese immigrant and Wharton School grad by the name of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who said he made enough “f*** you” money as a quant and securities trader to say “f*** you” to people, enlarged his small fortune by writing his best-selling book, The Black Swan. A so-called black swan or unexpected event, because almost all swans are white, had come out of nowhere to embroil Lebanon in war.

The same sort of swan might be to blame for financial crashes, the budding probability theorist proposed as he developed his Black Swan or reverse-probability theory into a nice day job for himself because he discovered that everyone including himself was incompetent when it came to predicting future market prices. An investor might as well hire a monkey to throw darts at a list of securities than trust his money to experts, but without those experts there would not be a secondary securities market.

I like Taleb. He preferred to study instead of pursuing an infinite number of dollars. Indeed, he said he was ashamed when he engaged in the pursuit of wealth. The “inelegant, dull, pompous, greedy, unintellectual, selfish, and boring” business world literally disgusted him. Journalists “cluster” around the same subjects. Everyone consumes the same “news,” the last thing one should do to know what is really going on; the more news consumed the less the cookie-cutter society knows about things except for things of “dubious value.” The “achievers” in suits who do not read books and who become more sycophantic the higher their income are even more ignorant than cab drivers because cab drivers know they are ignorant.

He was so ashamed of his business that he did not want to tell people what he did for a living:

“When people at cocktail parties asked me what I did for a living, I was tempted to answer, ‘I am a skeptical empiricist and a flâneur reader, someone committed to getting very deep into an idea,’ but I made things simple by saying I was a limousine driver.”

A flâneur was an 18th century artistic character or literary type who wandered Paris incognito without purpose, a random walker absorbed by the crowd although detached and somewhat cynical while experiencing the urban environment. He becomes blasé and disappears as the city is transformed into a modern capitalist hub and he into an insatiable shopper hypnotized by window displays. The whole of France may be said to heading in that direction as it is losing its distinct character to the European Union, much to the horror of Virginie in Nord France and millions of other French people.

I was an anachronistic flâneur some years ago, randomly walking the streets of New York City as its distinct neighborhoods were gradually being absorbed by big stores. In fact, my life has been a random walk. I knew people were supposed to have goals in order to succeed, and success was determined by wealth, by the things and people one owned, but even as a young boy I rebelled against “being somebody” in that bodily sense.

No way was I going to have goals and plans. When I was a little boy I was angered when people asked me “what” I was going to be when I grew up. Why should be other than “who” I am? I ran away from home for good two weeks after I turned thirteen years of age, and proceeded to wander the streets of Chicago. I was lucky that I was a tall boy who loved to read and seemed intelligent to others as I eventually lied my way off the mean streets into steady employment, falling, by chance, into office jobs, and, ultimately, into accounting, where I, ironically, used some common sense I had picked up as a kid in Kansas and my Chicago street smarts to help my employers devise plans to achieve goals.

I might have done very well if I had taken my own advice, but I was not interested in success, except perhaps to be the greatest author the world would ever or never know. As it is, I am what one might call a successful loser, an idler who loves to think about what others do and to write about it in my own way. I guess I am, like Taleb, a flâneur. I was on a random walk. I ventured to New York City from Chicago and took a liking to it because the drinking age was 18 back then. Turned down for a job on Wall Street because they found out I lied about my formal education, I randomly walked around, and chanced by the construction site for the World Trade Center. I was angry that my application was rejected, so I cursed the pit upon which the twin towers would be set. I knew I would have performed as well as the college grads if I had been given a chance to analyze businesses and pick the best securities to invest in. I did not know at the time that the market was on a random walk, and that a monkey with darts could do as well as the average expert.

If I had been hired that day, I would have enough “f*** you” money to write a Black Swan book! As it were, I crunched numbers, was luckily paid well for that, and otherwise applied myself to reading and the theatre arts, i.e. dancing, singing, and acting, dance being my favorite because it allowed the animal to express itself, without a goal in mind. My studies were as always at random. It appeared to me that everything was connected, that one could start with any detail within the book of life and tell quite a tale no matter how pointless it might be to sharpened pencil heads. Theoretically, dancers who actually dance instead of just doing technique make good writers because they are exhibitionists, and writing is thinking out loud.

Now the problem with the exercise of my aimless avocation in the city was that it was difficult to explain and seemingly absurd to everyone with plans and goals. Even after I ventured to Hawaii to marry and lead a straight life, my wife had difficulty explaining what I did for a living although I did well enough financially thanks to a German wheeler-dealer whom I helped make millions in real estate.

“What do you do for a living?” had required a short answer in Manhattan, especially when asked by beautiful Jewish American Princesses on the West Side, and I, like Taleb, preferred not to identify myself with money grubbing! I was, after all, a flâneur, if you please.

“Once, on a transatlantic flight,” wrote Taleb, “I found myself upgraded to first class next to an expensively dressed, high-powered lady dripping with gold and jewelry who continuously ate nuts (low-carb diet, perhaps), insisted on drinking only Evian, all the while reading the European edition of The Wall Street Journal. She kept trying to start a conversation in broken French, since she saw me reading a book (in French) by the sociologist-philosopher Pierre Bourdieu—which naturally, dealt with the marks of social distinction. I informed her (in English) that I was a limousine driver, proudly insisting that I drove ‘very upper-ended’ cars. An icy silence followed, and, although I could feel the tension, it allowed me to read in peace.”

That particular paragraph convinced me that Taleb is a kindred spirit. I would rather study than work, and study on my own at that. I do not write for money, I write to live, to avoid the end. I do not begrudge people their wealth, their escapes into matter no matter how professional. Whether I like it or not, man is a goal-seeking animal, and the goal of life is to avoid the goal fated for all things, with the possible exception of fundamentalist Christians.

I am too engaged in writing to market my work, and that does not matter. People ask me what I do for a living, and I just say I am retired, because if I say I am an author, they want to know right away if I have been published by major publishers. If not, I am immediately demoted, albeit politely, and find myself treated disrespectfully. Whatever happened to the importance of Being over Doing?

The woman on the plane who wanted to know what Taleb did for a living may have just been curious, or perhaps she just wanted to pass the time in conversation, which is most likely. He did not say how many rings she had on her fingers. According to my favorite songstress, Alicia Keys, a Real Man will know A Woman’s Worth and lay some diamonds on her.

Look, I took courses on the street in the school of hard knocks. I am not one to go around calling women prostitutes for renting their bodies when men are engaged in renting out their souls as well. People naturally want power, status has power, and wealth today buys the highest status in the minds of many competitors.

I lived on the Upper West Side, where I habituated a popular restaurant and bar on West 79th Street called Wilsons, and I cannot remember how many times a women asked me “What do you do?” and did not get around to asking my name after I answered. Clubs like Wilsons were called “meat markets” by guys who cruised meat markets to meet women.

The ladies were on the hunt as well, and usually for something more permanent than a handsome hunk of meat. A qualified man should have a substantial income, therefore, “What do you do?” No matter how smart or helpful a man might be, his “character” is determined by his wealth and how “generous” he is with it. I actually saw many women take the tips their dates had left on the bar as they departed, the gentleman leading the way, of course.

I did not like to be pegged down. I experimentally lied to assess the reactions, and discovered that if I loudly said, “I am a surgeon,” almost every girl at the bar took inordinate interest. If I wanted to be left alone, perhaps because I did not like the girl I encountered, I would just say, “I am a file clerk,” and she would turn her back on me to talk to someone else.

Now there was a jazz lounge on Upper Broadway, in the Nineties, called J’s or Judy’s, I think, where some great musicians appeared. It was not a meat market, far from it, so I was surprised when a woman I was chatting with asked:

“What do you do?”

“I’m a file clerk.”

“Did you say a file clerk?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

“Not only do I file things, I retrieve them as well.”

“You are just what I have been looking for, in my business,” she said, handing me her business card. Would you mind coming to my office on Fifth Avenue tomorrow?”

SWAN Petersburg

I may relate what happened afterwards in a novel, where personal truths are always better told as fiction. Yet another version of Swan Lake might do.

Taleb is probably right about the Black Swan. Dark matter is invisible so its effects seem to come out of nowhere. He relates that people were walking about shocked and dazed by the unexpected “Black Monday” stock market crash on 19 October 1987 when the average of the index decreased 29.2%, a virtually impossible event according to the Efficient Market Hypothesis; the odds against that happenening at the time were 1 in 10 followed by 45 zeros. I noticed something strange about the mood on the sidewalk when I came out of the Fisk Building near Columbus Circle. I stopped by a bar and asked what was going on. The stock market had crashed! Thirty-three years after I observed the foundations being laid for the World Trade Center, the twin towers had tumbled down! Who would have imagined such a disaster was forthcoming?

Swan Natalie Portman Black Swan

Natalie Portman as White Swan in Black Swan movie

We can never make ourselves completely secure from the untoward events fostered by the Black Swan. She is supernatural. We find no instrument between her as cause and her effects. Note that the Black Swan can be a male even though males like to characterize the opposite sex as hysterical.

The Black Swan is within so may not be walled out. Taleb arrived with the virtue of an immigrant after he became an ascetic rebel in a luxurious Lebanese setting “with a vastly sophisticated lifestyle, a prosperous economy, and temperate weather just like California, with snow-covered mountains jutting above the Mediterranean. It attracted a collection of spies (both Soviet and Western), prostitutes (blondes), writers, pimps, drug dealers, adventurers, compulsive gamblers, tennis players, après-skiers, and merchants—all professions that complement each other….”

And then…. “The Lebanese ‘paradise’ suddenly evaporated…. A Black Swan, coming out of nowhere, transformed the place from heaven to hell.”

The only exception I might take at length to Taleb’s classical thesis is the association of catastrophes with color and gender. Some lucky people think success is entirely their own doing, while others confess that luck played a large part. Lady Fortuna has been called a bitch because she is faithful to no man or woman regardless of race, color, or creed. She can bring incredible luck as well as misfortune. Besides, the Goddess of Night conceals not only criminals but lovers.

Is the Black Swan, the “dark side” or alter ego of the American ego, its death instinct, soon to be its suicidal undoing? Will the “Platonic” boxes people think in come tumbling down? Is the American ‘paradise’ about to suddenly evaporate?

SWAN black stallion poster 1979

Black Stallion 1979

The subtitle of The Black Swan is ‘The Impact of the Highly Improbable.” The highly improbable is still probable. The problem is too complex for the computers to figure out. We might enjoy the day before meeting our maker. We might remove the motive for hate with love and stop looking on people as numbers to be manipulated. The Black Swan might then become our Black Stallion.

xYx

SWAN Black Stallion 1979

My Volt Died but Life is Good

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MY VOLT DIED BUT LIFE IS GOOD

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

Oh, woe is me, my Life is Good LG Volt phone went into a vicious restart cycle and I was unable to manually factory reset it after reading a thousand and one solutions to the issue including putting it in an icebox, scraping the battery leads, dismantling it to fiddle with the start button mechanism, slapping it repeatedly against the palm of the hand, and depressing the down volume button and start button at the same time to reset it and so on, so I emailed Steven, a longtime executive with Sprint: PLEASE HELP!

Steven had changed my life when he sent me the Volt to replace a Samsung phone much lower on the totem pole. The Samsung phone became obsolete less than a year after I bought it. I was fond of it because of the full mechanical keyboard that slid out for the convenience of those of us who are amazed at how nimbly nimble-fingered kids can type on touch screens while we curse with almost every word mistyped or wrongly corrected. On the other hand it had a primitive little screen with no apps.

Steven forwarded my email to Donnetha, an Executive Service Analyst with Sprint’s Executive and Regulatory Services Department. Lo and Behold, the next day Fed Ex was at my door with a Certified Pre-Owned LG Tribute 5 device. Life is still good for the time being.

The fact that it is a “Certified Pre-Owned” replacement reminds me of the line of automobiles I received on the Big Island of Hawaii from Hawaii Auto Center, “Home of Pre-owned Cars.” The engine of the red Ford burst into flames as I drove up a mountain, so Sammy, the owner of the used car lot, replaced it with another Ford, and its transmission failed, except for reverse, three blocks away, so I drove it backwards to the lot, and got another Ford that lasted awhile after some maintenance, and then I traded that in for a Mark IV Lincoln Continental, which cost me a bundle in maintenance before the transmission dropped, which meant another transmission had to be obtained from a Mainland junkyard, so it seemed true back then that “Ford” meant “Fix Or Repair Daily.” Sammy, a former Ford sales director, threw in the towel and gave me a Chevy that lasted until I left the island. Sammy was good. He stood by his deals, and it helped that I was his accountant and lobbyist. Sometime later, by the way, the bartender at Don Drysdale’s Club 53 in Kona was bragging about the great car he had been driving for two years—it was my refurbished Mark IV!

Now since I have mentioned two low-end phones it is obvious that I am either poor or frugal, probably one of those prepaid phone people, someone that may someday own a refurbished high-end phone if he is extremely lucky. Anyhow, just because a person does not have a thousand dollars or more for the best of all possible phones at the moment does not mean s/he is not influential enough to get first class executive service, and that is what I received from Sprint via Steven and Donnetha.

As for the Tribute 5, it has its virtues and faults like everything else in the world including people like me who generally like to harp on the negatives to perpetuate innovation that will land us on a higher plane of existence, that is, a planet with better people and products including communication devices.

All friends have faults yet we keep them because they are friends even when they do not like each other, and the Tribute 5 is user friendly enough right now, its main faults being, as far as I am concerned, several in number.

Sometimes the music takes forever to play, if at all, even with Wi-Fi, and that is most disconcerting.

It does not have a call block function on the Calls Log. Several steps must be taken to block nuisances: go to the Calls Log: copy the number; go to Apps; go to Setup; go to Call; go to Reject Calls; paste the number.

I could not get rid of the Android upgrade notice after I upgraded it twice. After I left it to upgrade automatically at night for two nights in a row, the annoying notice disappeared.

The slender, wide body felt uncomfortable in my hand. It felt better, however, after I put it in a heavy duty EVOCEL carrying case, and it looked more substantial too. So much for going around naked with all the risks that entails.

The images taken by the camera are inferior to the ones I enjoyed with the Volt because there are not as many pixels nor does the aperture let in enough light, much to my chagrin for I am a frustrated photographer.

I could not find a microphone input on the keyboard that loaded with my new used phone. The SWYPE application with the microphone input is no longer available no matter what kind of phone you have; SWYPE went coincidentally kaput just before my Volt went on the blink. I got ahold of the LG Company and I was instructed how to change the board to Gboard, and I must say it is functionally superior to the moribund SWYPE board.

I must say that the web pages look better on the larger Tribute 5 screen. I hope the glass is the same kind as on my old one because it did not scratch.

The buttons are on the back of the Tribute 5, and I like that because side buttons can be accidentally depressed with undesirable results.

I heard on the Internet grapevine that the Tribute 5 is inferior to the Volt, so it seems I have been downgraded. What can one expect for nothing when a warranty runs out just before something dies? Almost everyone was badmouthing the Volt, but I liked my old friend. I had no problems with it until it did the vicious restart cycle, and I miss it. I am, however, growing fonder of the Tribute 5. If you live with an ape long enough you may learn to love him or her.

The fact of the matter is that I do not like change no matter how often I am told to accept someone else’s change. I feel like my body died and I was given another one. Well, at least I can remember who I am. Anyway, I shall not complain if I get an even better phone before I meet our maker.

Bad things happen in bunches, as I first learned as young hospital orderly when a certain wing of a floor would have a slew of deaths on the same night and I would have to wheel the bodies to the basement.

It just so happened that at the time my Volt died a friend of mine had been abusing me to no end as if my brand had grown psychologically obsolete for her. I felt I was invited for dinner only to be beaten like a dog, and to that end I was not allowed to share in its cost.

I think it was Buddha who asked a beggar, “To whom would food left out belonged to if a mendicant did not take it because of abuse?” “To the proprietor of course, and, likewise, the abuse would belong to proprietor as well, and, to make matters worse, a friend would be lost.”

The last straw came after I emailed her the news that steering wheels are coming off the latest Ford Fusions. She had already had a serious battery draining issue with her Fusion, which she loves dearly. Are we back in the USSR? The battery issue was resolved, and I thought she would want to know about this new problem. She said that she listens to the news all day and did not want any news from me, then ordered me not to communicate with her. Done, albeit sadly, mostly because she is an unhappy bird. I had a dream this morning that I was telling her “I am your prayer,” but she responded cruelly, and said I had no license to help people, so get lost.

My sorrow naturally moved me to consult the I Ching for advice. I tossed the coins instead of sorting yarrow stalks. I came up with Hexagram 63, After Completion, which advised me to be patient and not to look back. After Completion changed into Hexagram 10, Treading, as it were, on the tail of a tiger, I was advised to be pleasant while discriminating between the high and low roads.

The advice not to look back is well put because if I dwell on the past I may turn into a pillar of salty tears, not a good thing to do given the fact that big boys are not supposed to cry. And being courteous and pleasant during troubled times is wise though not easy to do. Sometimes the sheer traffic of the city makes me so anxious I wonder what sort of drug might take the edge off, and I think of having a pint of Fosters Ale while watching Leaving Las Vegas.

Now what about the high and low roads? Does that mean I should find better friends and phones and let go of the rest? But if I abandon the friends and phones that I have, I would be left alone, incommunicado, even more unlikely to get on the high road where I might have one of those thousand dollar phones with a little pen. I might as well be dead and gone, for a man is good for nothing without friends. He might imagine he is not lonely, that he is merely all-one in the One, but then he would be an incomparable nobody if not nothing.

Sometimes Customer Service is the only shoulder available to cry upon at any length. It is usually a rather cold, “professional” or robotic shoulder. Customer Service, please remember that we were born helpless and secretly yearn to go home again to be picked up and coddled for awhile.

Coincidentally or not, at the time my phone died, I was virtually retracing the steps of a linguist and trekker named Csoma de Koros from Hungary to Tibet. He was obsessed with going home again to what he thought was the origin of his kind of Hungarian people, somewhere in Siberia or Mongolia. He was dirt poor, a virtual monk, an almost barefoot scholar headed for the ancient Silk Road. He met an East India official by the name of William Moorcroft along the way. Moorcroft got him a contract to compile a Tibetan dictionary to facilitate the economic goals of the British Empire. Csoma proceeded with the project in Tibet, with the help of a lama, in bitter cold quarters in Zanskar, a province once within the ancient Guge Kingdom in Western Tibet, now in Ladak, North India. That led to his employment as a librarian in Calcutta for a few years, and then he ventured up to Darjeeling with the intention of finally going to Lhasa to resume research on the fabled origin of his ancestral race. Alas, he came down with a fever and died, going to the final resting place of all things material, the Better Place that might be Utopia or no place at all. So it was the means to his goal and not the goal itself that benefited the human race.

Of course my research into the physical and mental trekking of Csoma included studies of his translations and discussions of Tibetan Buddhism. Scholars are sort of monks naturally influenced by their studies. It occurred to me that Csoma had become a Buddhist monk.

I myself was called a Buddhist some years ago by photographers involved in a proposed revival of Life Magazine. I had abandoned my professional career and the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii to take up the study of dancing, the foundation of all the arts, in Manhattan. Of course I was soon reduced to impoverished circumstances and had to take a day job to pay for classes and a tiny room on the Upper West Side. The photographers encountered me at a studio in Carnegie Hall, and that resulted in extensive photo shoots in Central Park and in my small but cute room. “You are a Buddhist,” I was told.

So here I was in South Beach studying Buddhism, how the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path evolved, pondering the essential concept of dependent origination and its identity with karma. I arrived at the tentative conclusion that the goal, Nirvana, was death, that Buddhism is a form of virtual suicide, a nihilistic process of going home again forever after making an infinitesimal mark in infinity. The saving grace of Buddha, I thought, was his compassion and moderation. Come to think of it, Buddha and Jesus have much in common, and I dared to say that to the Watchtower ladies selling Jesus in my apartment building, undulling angering one of them.

And then, in the midst of a morose contemplation, my Volt died! I had a sinking sensation, like I had the time my father, who often spoke of voltage because he was an electrician, died up north as I was reading Kafka on the beach. Without my Volt in my left pocket I felt the Void that I am without communication. Excuse me while I put on Holtz’ Ode to Death because I cannot stand to think about Nothing without the choir.

Yes, it is true that everyone is suffering, even when they are laughing at loud. Even beauty makes people cry. The expression on the face is the same. Try dropping some acid with Dr. Timothy Leary if you do not believe me. On second thought, just say no. You do not want to know. Do not read Aldous Huxley or Carlos Castaneda.

In any event, existence and not being is the problem, and the solution is inevitable.

Suffice it to say that I was profoundly depressed with the loss of my Volt and my best friend, with the growing imminence of the living end without a phone to die for, the dark enlightenment shed by the existential core of Buddhism, and Socrates’ statement that philosophy or the love of wisdom is a preparation for death, and so on.I had been crushed by the All Mighty. Thankfully, the All Mighty is merciful as well as cruel. Sprint’s executive service reached out with a new phone for me to cling to. I began to gradually recover from my profound depression, like one of those amazing little flat frogs that rises and jumps when water is poured on it.

I have never been a goal-oriented person myself although I have advised others on how to have and achieve goals. I tend to lose my miserable self in processes: in play, in thinking, in dancing, in writing, in acting. Ironically, I am a financial conservative as a result of being penniless on several occasions, hence the low-end phones. So I beg your pardon for being a fool in art, that is, someone without a goal, for not being rich and famous.

My dead LG Volt and my LG Tribute got me to thinking about Existentialism again, and how Albert Camus found meaning in meaninglessness after realizing the vanity of goals. Just feeling the Sun on one’s face and the sight of kids playing with a ball is delightful no matter that everything comes to an end. I went for a walk and happened to notice the plants the kids had grown in the yard at the charter school, and, behold, there it was, that red sunflower! Life is good enough for now.

I had gotten the impression from Buddha that death is better because the suffering comes to an end; that is, until I read that the key to good and evil is how one thinks because like follow like. I am beginning to like the Tribute 5 better than the Volt, that’s for sure. Still I wish I had one of those phones with the little pen.

xYx