Philosopher Michel Onfray v President Emmanuel Macron

REASON
The Resurrection of  Reason by Darwin Leon

PROFESSOR MICHEL ONFRAY v PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON

By David Arthur Walters

It’s up to me to make the souls of my parishioners live, to make them happy and dream that they are immortal, not to kill them. (Miguel de Unamuno, San Manuel Bueno, Martir

I had not heard of Michel Onfray before France became troubled by the Yellow Vest movement. He is reputedly the foremost intellectual of France; that is, outside of its center in Paris, where jealous critics scorn him for the popularity of his enormous production, referring to the university professor as a high school philosopher, which he actually was for many years in Caen before he founded his own anti-Platonic Academy.

First of all, Monsieur Onfray is reputedly an intellectual giant as opposed to a mean member of the intelligentsia. That is, he is an independent, unruly thinker. No, genuine intellectuals would not prostitute their very souls in institutional brothels, or so they might think until the devil offers them great jobs. And they shall read lots of books because they know that, as Onfray says, “words kill,” and they would like to do some killing themselves. That is why we find them whispering into the ears of kings, emperors, dictators, and presidents so that their will may be done as it is in heaven by the immortal god of death at the risk of becoming intelligent lackeys.

Eric Hoffer, an intellectual longshoreman and social critic, pointed out in The Ordeal of Change (1963) that intellectuals have been traditionally aligned with the powers-that-be; they seldom take up the interest of the masses unless they become frustrated or lose their status. Their love for the People is soon lost when irrational people get in the way of their rational plans. Where the exercise of power is concerned, they differ little from their former bosses: pharaohs, kings, presidents, generals, directors, executives, and so on. He observed that, although radical changes are pioneered by intellectuals, they in turn are eventually elbowed out by practical men because action takes precedence over words when something must be done. Nonetheless, men of words can win the battle for souls: “Only they can get around the roadblock which bars our way to the dispirited millions everywhere. There must be general awareness of the vital role the intellectuals have to play in our struggle for survival. And they must be given a limited share in the shaping and execution of policies which they will be called upon to expound and defend.” Enter the parade of poets, philosophers, writers, artists, scientists and professors to make the new policies “heard.”

Everyone scholiast knows that the philosopher’s Sisyphean task was inscribed on a temple at Delphi: Know Thyself. Onfray says to be a philosopher one must psychoanalyze one’s existential self (do not waste money on interminable Freudian analysis).

But one must know what his being is before puzzling his existence into pieces. That is impossible without the perception of someone else who reflects the self that one is besides one’s physical deeds, that is to say, his habit of thinking, the pattern of his symbolic action. Until then, the so-called ‘I’ or Category of One is an abstract universal, nothing but a myth, and a vain, empty one at that, making of every damned fool a god or colossal ego. Mind you that Onfray is careful to deny that his philosophy and self-spelunking psychology is egotistical.

Onfray’s perspective reminded me of Albert Camus, whose language is plainer, seemingly parched by the Algerian sun as if he were suffering from shellshock and inebriated incredulity. Nevertheless, I was not surprised to learn that both were cultivated in humble circumstances, both had suffered Catholicism, and that Onfray eventually wrote a book about Camus’ philosophy, a book that I have yet to obtain in English much to my disappointment because I want to know if Camus, who insisted he was not a so-called Existentialist, was more of a Gironde than a Jacobin, as some internationalists who claim to know the difference say. As far as I am concerned, the many interpretations of Camus’ works are far more pleasing to read than the works themselves. Yet what little I have read of Professor Onfray diverts me from boredom in its subtle attempts to evade the religious trappings of the prevailing death culture or structure of evil vainly designed to avoid evil by denying death. Google translations of his Romanic French into Germanic English preserves a tasty postmodern mélange that is often much ado about nothing in particular, or art for the sake of art conducted with greater ease than romantic Flaubert’s painstaking effort to be realistic in Leon while Colet was with other lovers in Paris.

Onfray’s wordiness would be tedious absent his rhetorical flourishes, his refreshing restatements of old platitudes, his neologisms, and his incisive if not caustic observations of a human nature that he ironically shares with the race and thus constitutes his self-portrait. There is apparently no such thing as writer’s block for him. Like Jean-Paul Sartre, he would not say exactly the same thing twice or quote his past work at great length, yet he still churns out hundreds if not thousands of words daily.

Indeed, he seems to be a “writing machine,” a label my own worst critic flattered me with after I commented at book length on the pictures she had posted on the Internet of herself and her girlfriend embracing nude under a running shower. On the other hand, my best critic, a public official and former activist journalist, flattered me by telling me I was qualified for subsidized “artist housing” because I was a “bullshit artist.” Of course that category of housing was promotional bullshit, and the darling artist featured by the local newspaper, a man who said he had trouble making ends meet, was graced by an inheritance and had an income of over $200,000 per year.

Onfray’s prolixity, in any case, is far greater than mine, perhaps because he has bigger ears than mine. I tried to listen twice as long as I speak after I learned I have two ears and one mouth. That may be a great waste of time because absolutely truth, unlike, for example, the relative voice and face of my fair lady, cannot be recognized if one does not already know it, and much of what we know of truth is premised on nonsense. Still, thinking and writing machines are machines. I opine that our machines fly from death in patterns describing structures of evil erected by society in its denials of death, wherefore Ernest Becker’s books should be made available at airline hubs so that we know where we are going faster than we think.

So independent intellectuals love the genuine wisdom of which the foolish crowd has very little despite a fool’s bestselling book to the contrary. We would be philosophers, and to that end plain language suffices better than fancy talk. Socrates said a philosopher lives to die, preparing for death instead of avoiding it, so that he may welcome it when it comes. The final cause of life is death, yet I am beginning to believe as I near the blankest wall that the purpose is in the interim, in the propagation of life as an end in itself. In other words, and no number of words shall do, the purpose of life is to take the most pleasure in life that can be had without hurting others, to perpetuate life on Earth instead of dwelling on The End that is really nothing. I believe Onfray agrees.

Monsieur Onfray perceives, perhaps with the “I told you so” pleasure of foreknowledge, what appears to be the application of a biblical structure of evil threatening France today, as if it were prophecy because history repeats itself. That awful machine, dubbed the Borg in science fiction, is the European Union, the proverbial leviathan that would twist the independent lives out of European nations. It has the poor souls of France in its stranglehold, and President Emmanuel Macron, whom he suggests is a brutal monster if not Satan himself, would be its great dragon king in the form of a bronze oven called Moloch, an oven idolized to preside over the sacrificial holocaust of untold millions of souls. Horror of horrors, for Cronus could do no worse with his children in time, devouring them en masse on suitable occasions.

Of course we might think there is no such thing as metaphysical entities in themselves, or gods for that matter, nor that there is there a universal god, the one-god expected to save chosen members of mankind; that is, the omnipotent hence masculine God religious atheists deny although they, as Camus noted, pray to Him in dire emergencies. Western culture is Judeo-Christian, nevertheless, so we forgive atheists for their references to God, who would not be good without Satan, the angel who loves him the most.

In fact, Onfray advises us in A Hedonist Manifesto – The Power to Exist, to take an inventory of what is left of the Judeo-Christian in our daily lives. He correctly says that it is an illusion that Christianity, a punitive religion of redemption through endless guilt and suffering, is waning. In fact he says its immorality has crowded our prisons and mental hospitals with inmates, filled the cemeteries with corpses, and has cursed humankind with Nazi death camps, Stalinist Gulags, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, terrorism, Western fascism, and Eastern communism. So let us do the virtually impossible: eschew the fictions and fables, the ethics of heroes and saints of false religions; let us adopt the true philosophy, an atheism that denies the Torah, New Testament, and Koran in favor of the revolutionary enlightenment of scientific reason. Let’s abandon the ethics of heroes and saints and follow the ethics of the superlative Western sage. Well said, Monsieur, yet you know why that will never happen, because man may be wise but happens to be an animal at heart.

The sage would no doubt be the author who, like Onfray, wisely follows in the footsteps of his atheistic, materialist, existentialist predecessors. The true philosopher must put individual existence before the “being” of essential social constructs, so that the individual is rendered responsible for knowing that it is a body with a thinking brain, and, furthermore, that what we call the “I” is neuronal.

Monsieur Onfray recently made much of President Emmanuel Macron’s statement that he, Macron, is the product of a brutish history, and we could do the same by elaborating at length on Onfray’s reference to the idealist notion that his philosophy is pig philosophy, but that would be rude. He describes his liberal project, apparently unable to rid himself entirely of Judeo-Christian philosophy because, after all, the first existentialists were Jews to whom the unknown deity was so unknown it was anathema to even pronounce the name.

Atheists, we are informed, would give bodily existence priority over destructive abstract universals:

“They refuse to turn pain and suffering into paths to knowledge and personal redemption. They propose pleasure, enjoyment, the common good, and gladly accepted contracts. They take control of their bodies and don’t hate them. They master their passions and impulses, desires and emotions, instead of brutally extirpating them. What is the aspiration of the Epicurean project? The pure pleasure of existing: a project that is always welcome.”

We may imagine therefore that we are mental fields with identities determined by various circumstances and the rather mystical power of self-determination called Will.  Indeed, our sage declares that I have the power to fashion myself. My attempts to exercise that power have given me considerable pain, and I feel guilty for reclining instead. One trainer tells me, “No pain, no gain,” and the other says, “Don’t do it if it hurts.”

“What should we endeavor to produce?” Onfray asks, and answers, “An I, a Me, a radical Subjectivity, a singular identity, an individual reality, a proper person, a noteworthy style, a unique force, an impressive strength, a comet tracing an untraveled path, an energy making its way down a luminous passage though the chaos of the cosmos, a beautiful individuality, a temperament, a character. We don’t have to aspire to a masterpiece or aim for perfection—of the genius, the hero, or the saint; we should just reach out for an insight that will give us a sovereignty we did not previously know.”

Of course we should use the Reason of the Enlightenment as our guide to the happiness of the greatest number. Is that the Reason idolized in churches during the Revolution? That Reason is an Ideal, a Being, the very sort of nonsensical nothing that Onfray would evade for our own good, wherefore his argument is beheaded, first of all, by the Absurd.  What we naturally love the most is power, and politics is the distribution of that power. Political reasoning justifies the beastly drives. The concept of Reason is a social construct; according to whose reasons or causes, and what school of reasoning should I act? Should I read books on logic after abandoning Christian Logos, and remake myself according to Onfray’s reasoning or President Macron’s reasoning?

The problem with reason is human nature. Reasoning is all too often the rationalization of the irrational urges of the beast within. We want to do something, so we do it in the name of reason, and say our conduct is logical. Logic exposes faults in the process, the story, but what is logical is not necessarily true to factual reality, so the effect we want from the cause does not follow. Scientific reason or ideology, the science of ideas, may be helpful in that regard, but politics, the distribution of the absolute power everyone would like to have alone in order to live forever without resistance, is ultimately destructive hence logically absurd.

No doubt Onfray believes that the ‘Reason’ of the Enlightenment, the Light of Reason, has served humankind well inasmuch as it has purportedly liberated the duly educated man from irrational superstitions and prejudices and autocrats. Conservatives may disagree, and some independent intellectuals believe our scientific ideology is idiotology, a philosophy that has replaced theology, that we are plagued by the same daemons within as always, given different names. Onfray may not escape the daemons however fervently he denies their existence, so he might as well refer to such mythical entities and Moloch, Satan, God and the like, and excuse himself by saying the names are merely metaphorical. He probably has perused Antonio Rosmini’s reasoning on this subject and appreciates his declarations that:

“It is clear that the essence of being cannot be known through any other knowledge but through itself. The essence of being, therefore, is knowable in and through itself, and is the means whereby we know all other things. It is, therefore, the Light of Reason. From this point of view we say that the idea of being is innate, and that it is the form of intelligence.” And.  “Human reason has only one Form, which I call the Form of Truth. Ideology is the science of ideas. Ideas are illuminated in the Light of Reason. That reason is Being.” So methinks the Reason of the Enlightenment is really the Supreme Being when idealism is realism.

A man enlightened by reason is supposedly not a brute. President Macron, presently confronted by the Yellow Vests, a mass protest of workers wearing yellow traffic emergency vests, purportedly implied that he is a brute when he told the press on 13 February 2018 that he is the fruit of a brutal form of history, a literary faux pas our Gaulish philosophe, Monsieur Onfray, pointed out in a polemical brief entitled ‘The Brute,’ now being romantically hailed as one of the most eloquent tracts ever written in the French language. That is in addition to other remarkable pronouncements he has made casting the president as a Molochian monster. To be fair, President Macron, well educated by his fair lady, Brigitte, was probably referring to another great principle of the Enlightenment, namely Progress, and meant to say his enlightenment is historical, something every Marxist would understand.

Never mind. Onfray claims that Macron, a student of Machiavelli, does not seek to maintain order but to repress liberal reforms. Wherefore ‘Monstrous’ Macron is virtually a devil incarnate although not as smart as Satan because he made snide remarks, sneered at the poor, and failed to corrupt them up front for appeasements that would soon be wiped out with inflation.

You see, animals are not stupid. The brutish, ‘Jupiter’ Macron, is both lion and fox, in keeping with Machiavelli’s formula for becoming a successful prince.

“The thought of Macron, too complex to be really understood, will enter the minds of citizens faster with the help of flash balls. At the behest of Jupiter’s reason, power breaks teeth, breaks bones, lets out eyes from their sockets, shatters jaws, tears out hands, handicaps, invalidates, fractures, hurts. Eleven people died so far. This armed response illustrates the lion’s share that Machiavelli tells us that with that of the fox, they share the political cake.”

He refers to Machiavelli’s recommendation that, “A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from snares, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize snares, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this. Therefore a prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by doing so it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them…. Those that have been best able to imitate the fox have succeeded best. But it is necessary to be able to disguise this character well, and to be a great feigner and dissembler.”

Monsieur Onfray attended a Catholic boarding school he did not like yet he obviously learned to sympathize with the poor and oppressed; he does not like seeing the common people brutalized by the power elite, now represented by The Brute. His listing of the victims of the brutish government is heartrending; we wonder why the United Nations did not intervene with troops after its human rights experts denounced the oppressive police tactics employed against the Yellow Vests; to wit: “Since the start of the yellow vest protest movement in November 2018, we have received serious allegations of excessive use of force. More than 1,700 people have been injured as a result of the protests across the country,” the experts said. “The restrictions on rights have also resulted in a high number of arrests and detentions, searches and confiscations of demonstrators’ possessions, and serious injuries have been caused by a disproportionate use of so-called ‘non-lethal’ weapons like grenades and defensive bullets or ‘flash-balls’.”

Onfray himself deplores “the violence of this Maastrichtian [EU] state against single women, single mothers, widows with amputated retirement pensions, women forced to rent their uterus for a mercenary sperm, victims of conjugal violence arising from poverty, young boys or girls who prostitute themselves to pay for their studies; the violence of this Maastrichtian state over the rural private day after day of the public service that their indirect taxes finance yet; the violence of this Maastrichtian state over the peasants who hang themselves every day because the ecologist profession of faith of the urban Maastrichtians does not clutter with ecology when it comes to the plate of the French that they fill with meat damaged, toxic products, carcinogenic chemistry, food from the end of the planet without caring for the trace carbon and which can even be organic; the violence of this Maastrichtian state on the generations of children cretinized by a school that has ceased to be republican and which leaves to the girls and sons of the possibility to get out not thanks to their talents, but with the help from the piston of their well-born families; the violence of this Maastrichtian state which has proletarianized young people whose only hope is the security of employment of the police, the gendarme, the soldier or the prison guard and whose job is to manage through legal violence the waste from the liberal system; the violence of this Maastrichtian state on the small bosses, the tradesmen, the craftsmen who ignore the holidays, the leisure, the weekends, the outings – the violence there, yes, was the first violence. These are the ones that did not generate violence, but just a first protest against the increase of fuel.”

Fuel costs around $5.50 gallon in France. That is very expensive for low paid workers who have been pushed out of the expensive metropolitan centers into outlying areas and who must therefore drive to work if public transportation is unavailable, not to mention the high freight cost to distribute products, high cost of utilities and so on. That and more, including taxes associated with membership in the European Union have made it difficult for hundreds of thousands of people to make ends meet. It is so bad according to press reports that some families have to huddle for warmth in one room under a single light bulb. Yes, small farmers are reportedly committing suicide. Meanwhile the government is doling out money to emigrants, some of whom are living high off the hog in nice quarters. So people are madder than hell.

The proximate cause of the Yellow Vest mass movement was an increase in the gas tax intended to fund climate change mitigation programs, wherefore Monsieur Onfray argues that Articles 13 and 14 of the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen now embedded in the current Constitution specifically provide citizens with a right to determine for themselves whether taxes are needed, to consent to them, and to make sure the burden is distributed according to their ability to pay them.  Some members of the economic class concerned here, mostly white, lower middle class workers, are angry with the elected representatives and therefore want to exercise their right for themselves, that is, directly. They have no power to initiate referendums under the Constitution, wherefore they would have the president or parliament amend the Constitution to provide the right of initiative.

Monsieur Onfray has apparently forgotten to mention Article 12, a provision that certainly appertains to the police brutality he claims is employed by the President of the Rich to suppress the poor:

“The guarantee of the rights of man and citizen requires a public force; this force then is instituted for the advantage of all and not for the personal benefit of those to whom it is entrusted.”

President Macron suggests that he may be amenable to the provision of limited direct democracy, but claims the crowd is not wise enough to, for example, manage the national budget. He has called what may be a sort of constitutional convention in a series of national debates around the country to determine what measures might be put forward for referendum. Monsieur Onfray, however, claims the national debates are just perfume for the monster’s campaign to lead the European Union. The representative of evil, of capitalism run rampant, is merely exploiting the crisis for his own personal good and that of the “Masstrichtian camp,” a communistic allusion to the 1992 Maastricht Treaty signed by members of the European Community to further European economic cooperation into a political confederation.

From Monsieur Onfray’s perspective as an indoctrinated materialist, the idealistic president of France is a reactionary phony and a liar.  The debate is no debate at all because it terms are preconceived to arrive at foregone conclusions. Monster Macron, although a brute, is well versed in the methodology of the Greek sophists, and he is using empty rhetoric to pull the wool over the eyes of the ignorant, credulous masses in need of a thorough indoctrination in historical materialism, in anti-idealistic atheism, so the poor will not be deluded like Jesus into suffering the rich in the name of a non-existent god. Instead they shall take pleasure in self-serving hedonism. They shall be governed by epicures who shall determine what is most tasty.

As for the billions of Euros in concessions made to labor by the so-called President of the Rich aka King of the Bourgeoisie, they are mere “crumbs,” a favorite term of communist polemicists.  And never mind the mainstream media. Its journalists are the power elite’s running dogs. What you see on television is really fake news, propaganda to perpetuate the ruling order it is beholden to. The audience is so untethered from reality that it perceives whatever appears in fabricated virtual reality as truth. President Trump over in America does not even bother to read much because he can please his fawning base by feeding Fox news with outrageous lies and taking the advice of his favorite conservative talk show host.

Monsieur Onfray claims that the President and his ministers fed mainstream media with false propaganda, casting the Yellow Vests as a motley crowd of racists, homophobes, anti-Semites, anarchists, not to mention the Anonymous. Brown shirts, black shirts, yellow vests: it makes no difference. As a matter of fact, they were there in small numbers to take advantage of the situation, just as political ideologues, philosophes, armchair journalists, professors, and other intellectual people flocked to the media outlets to hover over the movement. The Yellow Vest movement, we know, is not tightly organized and lacks a charismatic Mussolini, wherefore it is destined to peter out with modest gains to the cause. Some of its members tried to police the demonstrations, but gave way to the “wreckers,” who use tried and proven techniques of rioting to provoke the police, into overreacting and appearing as brutes.

Violence breeds violence: the brute in almost everyone becomes inflamed; nice people assault gendarmes, the insult is returned, and someone trying to get to work to make a living gets mad and drives his car into the crowd. Fortunately, few people have thus far been hurt in comparison to the thousands lost in China during the Tiananmen demonstration. Even so, pots like to call kettles black, and the rhetoric of Monsieur Onfray, who professes non-violence, projecting all the blame for the violence on the government, and particularly on President Macron, may serve, in the minds of the participants, to justify further outrages, for, as he says, “Words kill.” After all, what is going on here, he says, is “populicide,” the slaughter or massacre of innocents, so presumably righteous people have the right to take up arms in self-defense. The president, then, is a murderer, in a manner of speaking, and it shall be an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. At least he has, with the help of the infernal Masstrichtian press that amplified his vilifications, murdered the souls of hundreds of thousands of poor working people, has rendered them zombies, wage slaves, that is, if they are lucky to have work instead of welfare.

Words from Monster Macron’s mouth are not merely bullshit. They are, of course, “symbolic violence” in the ears of people who disagree with him, opines Monsieur Onfray, and, what’s more, they are warmongering slaps in the face! Imagine being told that you do not know what is going on, and your ideas of reform are worthless because true reform is not a child’s play! And, he suggests without any evidence that agent provocateurs were at work for the government to provoke the crowd so gendarmes could beat the hell out of people, engage in murderous populicide, and terrorize the survivors into not coming back the next weekend. This is enough to cause some people to reach for their weapons in self-defense, to say that the best defense is an offense. But of course he does not recommend violence. It is best for a hedonist to refrain from violence if he would please himself for long, or for an epicure to retire to a utopian commune to appreciate the finest things of life instead of gorging oneself with red meat, or, better yet, to escape from reality by writing philosophical books because the best thing to do about something is nothing when the conclusion is ordained from the beginning: Never mind the brutal state: it will wither away one day, and people will live happily ever after, at least until a comet destroys Earth before humankind inhabits other planets.

Our philosophy professor is correct when he says the police overreacted, that its means were brutal in comparison to the method taken to quell violent rioters in 2005, and that the “child king” failed to immediately take appropriate action when the movement began. But he is incorrect when he says the President is a liar if he says he is not personally responsible for injuries and deaths, because, in fact, he is the head of state, and as such he is a murderer. The brute is him, sayeth Onfray. Do not blame his ministers entirely for the decisions made, for he chose the repression; each wound inflicted is his fault.  He is a perfect scapegoat.

My first thought when I saw the videos of the demonstrations was, “Why are the gendarmes tear gassing demonstrators and shooting at them with flash balls and trapping them in side streets to beat them up when they were just standing still or walking peacefully on the Champs-Élysee? The way this is going pleases the anarchists.”

There did not seem to be any rules of engagement except to engage the protestors in one way or another just to be doing something. Why so much tear gas? Tear gas can seriously damage the lungs, and is outlawed in war. Why the flash balls? There are other devices that disintegrate on impact, and there are water cannon. Why are they shooting people in the head with flash balls?

Not that I am a “bleeding heart liberal.” In fact, I was in Chicago with my family during the great blizzard, and when Mayor Daly said “Shoot looters to kill,” I agreed that shooting criminals after warning them was good policy. And I would not have cried out loud except for the loss to relatives if the French police shot wreckers engaged in destruction of property, looting of shops, and endangering the public.  Of course that may be bad policy since that may enrage a crowd to overwhelm the police, but I am not a politician.

My personal opinion was not that some monster named Macron, in collusion with the EU government, had ordered his minister to have the police terrorize the peaceful demonstrators in order to boost his aristocratic ego, perhaps become a virtual president of a United States of Europe, and cause dissidents to cringe and go home with tails between the legs. Imagine, what was going on behind the scenes? Was a communist plot detected and a coup feared?

More likely, what we saw was the result of inexperience, bad training of the rank and file, and outmoded police methodology. More likely, the government learned from the experience. More likely, Monsieur Macron is not as arrogant as he looked in the beginning, and that he and his cabinet and Brigitte loved the French in French people well enough to listen to people and provide billions in relief to everyone concerned. That relief is not as crummy as the power-hungry leftists would have it. The whole thing is a blow to the economy at the wrong time, just as the UK, which contracted nationalism measles, might exit the EU.

On the one hand, Onfray, whom we hope is a not a classic cynic or someone who has little faith in the value in the salvational value of the artificial or idealized cultures of man hence would presumably take pleasure in living like a dog under the porch and fornicating at will in public, portrays the President as being as clever as Satan. But on the other hand he mocks him for not being clever, that is, for not being as cynical as Pompidou back in May ’68.

He credits Pompidou with ending the disturbance by employing intermediate bodies with a political cynicism should have inspired Monsieur Macron: union and government officials colluded in meetings culminating in the Grenelle Accords with spectacular salary increase, increase of the unprecedented minimum wage, reduction of the weekly working time, expansion of the right to organize, a boost to family allowances, an increase in the benefits offered to the elderly, payment of strike days, lower user fees for social security, knowing very well that inflation would offset these gains a few years later.

Well, yes, it would behoove the President of France, that is, if he would be a great man instead of a diacritical mark over a vowel in French history, to promote the provision of such relief as can be had within reason, and that is what he is doing albeit he was late in the uptake. Yes, he knows that inflation might wipe out those gains, especially if more money is printed to foster socialism. As an investment banker he knows that inflation tends to reduce the value of debt, which can be a very bad thing for investors.  So I suppose he is cynical enough about the competitive nature of man to try to strike a compromise that might keep the people on the Middle Way, namely, the wisest path, perhaps a yellow or gold path that will widen the middle economic class and keep people fat enough to stay off the warpath.

As for May ’68, I must attend Monsieur Onfray’s class, because I thought it was actually Charles de Gaulle who saved France from revolution and not Pompidou’s “cynicism.” The great general was unpopular at the time, but when he disappeared to a military compound in German and his wife secured the family jewels, he gave the people the classic choice between order and chaos: the overwhelming number of people chose order and went back to work.

I expect the French people will most likely choose order today. Reforms are needed. People have their liberties and they are indeed suffering liberally. But they are not eating grass and rotten bread filled with sawdust and ground up bones of people starved to death. Would be leaders of the Yellow Vest movement are at odds with one another, and the gentler ones, the ladies, are being insulted and threatened as the movement is boiled down to its diehards. The movement does not have the students and the unions. It does not have a Mussolini and philosophers to fashion a popular political platform.

May revolution and war be forgone although militants advocate it, reasoning that a conflict is needed to keep the wheel of progress rolling forward. It would annihilate everyone in its path until total destruction is accomplished. May heaven forbid—the atheists would have their heaven on Earth. Herr Hegel the idealist was so shocked by the horrors of the Terror on French soil that he withdrew into the logical absurdity of dialectics. I prefer Madame Beauvoir’s ambiguities, but dialectic will do provided it is limited to pacific argument and constitutes rolling compromises.

The tendency of the progress of social organization is to growth and consolidation into a highly organized federal world or international global order tolerant of diverse cultures, states, and nations. That order is socialist, not the corporate board socialism of the few but the socialism of the many. Einstein was correct when he characterized nationalism as virus, a contagious disease.  The West is suffering an outbreak of this disease. The EU may collapse. The United States of America, an indissoluble union of states forged in civil war with the help of French libertarians, has lost its bearing in truth. Lacking a vaccine, billions may die of the plague, but we think not because a socialist backlash is mounting.

The vaccine is the right balance of freedom in order. Yes, man must have matter, the ground or hypostasis, not to crawl upon but to stand erect upon with his head in heaven. If Monsieur Onfray were correct in his perception that the government of France is repressing people so they may not stand up for their rights, forcing them to crawl on their knees for crumbs or be imprisoned or liquidated,  I would congratulate the intellectual giant for his eloquence. I refrain from doing so for now to see the effect of his words, whether they incite violence or motivate peaceful reform.

Shorn of its rhetorical ornaments and sophistries, his philosophy appears to be molded by communist propaganda of the pacifist sort. We might say, to please the French, that it is a secularized French version of resentment, namely, ressentiment, a silent resentment that frustrated peoples have towards superiors whom they blame for their predicament yet do nothing about it whine, remaining submissive while feigning moral superiority.

I agree with the man on many things, for he is like me whether we like each other or not. I agree the most with his pronouncement that:

“The self must have a healthy relationship to itself if it is going to relate well with others. An identity that is either missing or weak prohibits any kind of ethics. Only the force of an I authorizes the mobilization of morality.”

Whom do we hate the most when we hate the others, and whom do we love the most when we love the others? Hypocrisy is the underlying crisis between our ideals and realities. We hate because we love something better. Confess and forgive the beast, have faith in your higher self, hope for the best, and you shall have charity.

xYx

Miami Beach February 2019

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Is France Doomed?

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IS FRANCE DOOMED?

By David Arthur Walters

18 December 2018

Once upon a time, when ‘France’ stood for ‘freedom’, France enlightened the world, but Lady Liberty, who led peoples from rule by few towards rule by many, has lost her luster of late. In fact she is despondent and at times hysterical.

A mere year ago we expected France to lead a Europe out of the darkness into enlightened unity, but now the Frankish masses complain they are being smothered by immigrants and strangled by taxes. This has been going on for some time, and they cannot stand it anymore. They just want to be French, again, and they would burn their house down rather than suffer another day in the vices of a soi disant union. One thing they do not want is the alienating advice of the predatory capitalist elite represented by the current government.

Britain, who once ruled the seas, still prefers the more conservative English Enlightenment to the liberal French Enlightenment, wherefore she would exit the European Union, ungracefully if necessary. She is not the only one. Nationalist dissonance resounds in every state today, even across the pond in the United States. Disunion, disintegration, dissolution is the tendency of the populaces unwilling to pay the purportedly temporary price of consolidation for long-term benefits in the Promised Land.

We once beheld France for the sake of Progress. Now we behold her regression. Let it be a warning to the world. She is dispirited, depressed, her countenance has a deathly pallor. It is as if she lives just to die, weary of the productive span between birth and death. Indeed, the metaphysical substance of France is decaying like the nearly spoiled, discounted meat the poor housewife brings home from the market to keep frozen until she cooks it over a trash fire to save electricity and serves it to her family, who wear several layers of clothes or are wrapped in blankets under a single light bulb at the dinner table.

No, the bread of life is not yet blackened and filled with sawdust, but it is moldy enough for hallucinations. We see thousands of people milling in the streets with yellow traffic vests, provoked to madness by anarchists and police.

The globalists have a rational argument that the human race would stabilize and prosper economically if only it were singularly incorporated. Yet we have good reason to suspect that Totalitaria is bound to fail. Everyone has a rebel within, a fact that advances and protects the race from total disaster. We are identified by how we passively and actively react to circumstances. We need our differences and mutual identifications to sustain life. Variety is so dearly wanted because it is the spice of life.

Fortunately for our palates, the French are good with spices. Various spices were offered to the gods in prehistoric times. Today many French households cannot afford meat, let alone spices. Such luxuries are commonplace, however, in the palaces, mansions, and restaurants of the neo-nobility, the effete snobs who believe their net worth measures their virtue.

Of course that phenomenon is not peculiar to the French elite. An economic class is not an ethical class. We all know high class people who are no better than low class people. We know members of the ruling class who have risen like scum to the top of the pond yet are snobs who think they are better than everyone else. They are most despised in France, and not only by communists.

Times are certainly tough for many French people. Still things are not as bad as they seem, and the definition of bad is relative. Camille, a highly educated, attractive woman in her forties, suffers because she has to pay $6 or more for a gallon of gas. She is a good woman, kind at heart, a conservative woman in the sense that she does not think like a man. She has studied and worked hard for decades, winding up single. The garage at her home outside of Paris has no electric outlet. She also suffers property taxes and maintenance fees. She cannot afford to go out and socialize. No, she cannot make ends meet and has to borrow from her parents although she earns slightly above the national median income. She might have to sell the home and move in with her parents. France is so depressing lately given the killer taxes and its black mood that she thinks of death. Yes, she is very wealthy compared to a Cro-Magnon woman, but human wants have become needs, so a cave and fire will not do. Of course those of us who pay $2.50 a gallon of gas certainly sympathize with her. On the other hand, there are many of us in the United States, the greatest superpower and wealthiest nation in the world, who think she is lucky to even have a car, a home, a garage, parents who can afford to take her in if need be, a responsible job, and her good looks. An ambitious single American woman might even scoff at her, and tell her she does not need a husband, that she should strive to become CEO of Google instead of crying in her champagne, but she would not scoff if she understood the traditionally misogynist politics of France.

Hundreds of thousands of people in France below the median income are even worse off, and they do not want to take it anymore, so they took to the streets and the highways, and they are damaging the economy. The concessions made by the government to quell the unrest will cost billions, but pessimist pundits who lust for blood call them “crumbs,” “empty talk,” “mere words.” Many members of the upper middle class honk their horns approvingly, and even a few members of the elite are sympathetic. That is a good sign for reform. However, all too many people would rather have a revolution than billions in concessions and decades of muddling; they would fain die in the revolutionary process rather than continue with a material life they have learned to hate because there is never enough stuff to consume. Mind you that it is not the stuff they really want. The material concessions given are bound to be insufficient. They want so many different things that it is hard to say what they want. Some do not even know. That was a phenomenon recorded by historians in previous revolutions: people were rioting, unsure of what they wanted except blood, perhaps to see the severed head of a rich man on a pike or in a bucket at the guillotine.

The catholic spirit seems to be lacking today. Religion used to take care of that. Not anymore. It is unfair, however, to lay the blame on a dearth of spirit, for the anarchic spirit of rebellion is alive and well. That much is instinctive. So law and order, or what we call freedom in order, must prevail or many shall die. But whose law and order? Whose freedom? Are we to have primitive equality or predatory hierarchy? The French police called out to keep order during the riots are weary and emotionally disturbed. They contributed to the rioting by abusing people with baton charges, tear gas, water cannon, and hard rubber balls. The demonstrators were just milling around aimlessly. It may have been better to let them demonstrate, hand out marijuana, pipe in some music, yet use lethal force on vandals and looters.

But never mind, the police were just following orders, and now they want their fair share of the Yellow Vest spoils in the form of a bonus, but a bonus might not be enough. You see, they have causes in common with the Yellow Vests, and at this juncture nothing is enough, or only nothing is enough if the death instinct is in play to prove that the purpose of life is death of the individual to preserve the species. If this irrational movement ran the usual French course, the gendarmes and National Guard would ultimately side with their own people, that is, the working masses who lack the means of production, as opposed to the bourgeoisie who are eating from fine plates. In that event, the government would fall and not be replaced until a new constitution is written, perchance for the National Socialist Democracy of France. So France, which the Polish minister, Jacek Czaputowicz, mocked as the “sick man of Europe,” is indeed leading Europe, and perhaps not in a direction wanted by the investment bankers, but to another round of revolution and war, perhaps even a world war between rich and poor instead of between the rich and rich.

An apocalypse, an uncovering of the horrors of human nature, is possible. The “division” being experienced among peoples of several nations is between Love and Strife, Eros and Thanatos, Life and Death. Prophecies of doom are made so that people can make sure everything possible is done to forestall doom, for doom is the judgement of Dom, and surely the unrighteous will be damned to hell unless they mend their ways.

xYx

Critical Mass and The Yellow Vest Unrest

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CRITICAL MASS AND THE YELLOW VEST UNREST

by David Arthur Walters

France is in the grips of a sort of mass hysteria, a contagion spread by mass media, the factions of which accuse one another of engaging in false and fake news, the cause of which is really the confusion of opinions, a confusion that can only be cleared up by a perspicacious master who can get out ahead of the issues and lead instead of be led.

It is with that in mind that I consulted Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the Book of Changes (I Ching) as to the fate of the Yellow Vest Unrest, a social episode in France of tremendous import for the world since France is the source of many of its leading political ideas, not to mention the soft culture that is still ranked as most influential.

I left sorting the yarrow stalks to Chinese sages and tossed the coins in the easy Western fashion, which returned the 28th hexagram, Critical Mass (Ta Kuo), Preponderance of the Great, with lines changing in the third and fourth places. I sent along this reference to President Emmanuel Macron late last evening in hopes that he would consider it during the preparation of his widely anticipated speech today.

We see that the hexagram represents a sagging ridgepole that is so heavy in the middle and weak on the ends that it is about to break and bring the structure down.
Revolution, however, is not to be feared because the weight is on the center of gravity.

A great person can brace the ridgepole so the roof does not collapse. He can do so by taking responsibility and befriending people of the lower ranks, and acting quickly.

On the other hand, if a leader misuses his connections to obtain power and income, accepts no advice from others, and insists on plowing ahead instead of rescuing the whole people, his program will surely fail and he will be duly humiliated.

The Commentaries on this hexagram indicate that there is a want of nourishment without which the people cannot get ahead,

Now some pundits in France see a similarity in the French Revolution of 1789 to the Yellow Vest Unrest of 2018 because the middle class, particularly the lower middle class, are purportedly being starved by high taxes and benefit cuts.

One must nonetheless consult history to discover that the starvation was far less metaphorical in the years of drought and deprivation before the 1789 revolt led by the Middle Class and dissident nobles. The dearth then was such that people were eating bread spoiled black, bread often filled with bone meal from bones dug up at the cemeteries.

Today, although we do not deny that many people are squeezed by inappropriate economic policies based on the natural greed of the bulging belly bourgeoisie (BBB). we cannot help noticing that many people who have taken off work, or who are supported by unemployment benefits to wear yellow vests, are overweight.

One advantage, and it has it drawbacks, of the parliamentary system is that the government can be changed when confidence is lost in it. The structure itself would remain.

President Macron’s party has the strength between right and left ends, the strength referred to in the Book of Changes. Yet he and his government is vulnerable. He may even choose to resign.

Mister President is cast as the devil already. But who will replace him? Would you replace him? What would you do? Would you again vote for other representatives and a president with high hopes that things would change, when they have not changed before?

The ridgepole has been sagging for decades, so now we have a crisis. Should we burn down our own house? Should we write a new constitution, and call our country the Sixth Republic? Or should it be the First Democracy of France?

History provides us with some guidelines. The commentary to the Ta Kuo hexagram puts it into context with this Sequence:

“Without provision of nourishment one cannot move; hence there follows the hexagram of Preponderance of the Great.”

Here we have the main issue the lack of nourishment. But bread is not the only kind of food, although we might consecrate it so that it embodies the spirit of humankind associated with love and the ability to reason on experience and pass wisdom down through the generations.

No, we may be down to using one light bulb to save on electricity, but our bread is not black, we are not grinding the bones of our ancestors up or using sawdust to make our bread fill our bellies. What we may want in this predicament is spiritual sustenance, and the French do have a romantic reputation for spiritual progress. Where are they?

Hexagram 28 represents wood under the lake, gentleness under joy. The Commentary speculates on the ancient source of the symbolic meaning of the wood.

People used to cover up the dead with brush and leave them to decompose. Eventually they used the wood to build coffins for the dead, and they created definite rituals honoring ancestors, including leaving food out for them. This is the beginning of what we call history, and our history if nothing else is the history of the spiritual progress of civilization. Feed the hungry spirit and you shall have plenty of food for the stomach.

We must engage in the great conversation, sort out the confusion of ideas, and select the best ones to approach the realization of our highest ideals, those which are inclusive of the best possible outcomes. They will not be achieved overnight. Yet immediate steps must be taken or we shall get nowhere.

The changing lines of Hexagram 28 leave us with Hexagram 29, K’an. That is the future. Think upon it

xYx.

Miami Beach 9 December 2018

Is a Macron a Great Man or a mark over a vowel in French history?

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IS A MACRON A GREAT MAN OR A DIACRITICAL MARK?

By David Arthur Walters

PRESS INDEPENDENT

30 November 2018

President Emmanuel Macron of France has been characterized by mainstream media, on the one hand, as charismatic, handsome, and articulate, and, on the other hand, as arrogant, imperious, and condescending. Is he a great man or a mere diacritical mark over a vowel in French history?

Charisma is the key to transformative leadership, and charisma, like prestige, depends on virtually miraculous deeds, not on good looks and sophistry, and it may be appreciated all the more when the man is arrogant, imperious and condescending as people bask in the reflected glory of his deeds. When success turns to failure, charisma is lost forthwith, and the man had better retire before he is utterly disgraced.

The fact that Macron was an investment banker and bureaucrat and is now an elected politician tends to disqualify him from punctuating world history with marvelous deeds although not necessarily so.  Thus far he has wasted public money on expensive dishware and talked the liberal talk of the upper bourgeoisie, casting himself as a president of the rich and a wannabe king. He condemns welfare fraud and labor unions, makes snide remarks to workers who complain of unemployment, and proposes tax cuts for the wealthy and refers to their tax evasions as “fiscal optimizations.”

Yet the debonair French president has been quite charming on the international stage. He certainly used his charm to make a fool out of President Trump, the epitome of vulgar populism in America, going so far as to pat him on the knee, and the intellectual world is grateful for that.

Macron was never popular in France, where he was portrayed as leading a grand march to victory over populist foes. Elected as the least of several evils on the left-right political spectrum, he was so out of touch with the travails of labor that riots were incited by his gas tax hike to save the climate. Eighty-percent of the population, almost everyone who works or wants work, sympathized with the hordes of demonstrators wearing emergency yellow jackets. Wherefore the suave gentleman in his fine suit and shiny shoes has lately been dubbed “toxic.”

That does not mean Macron will never be a great man. He is naïve and may yet prove blessed by the gods. Great men, like gods, make big mistakes, and are accordingly defamed, but their goods exceed their evils in the final analysis, when the universe implodes to expand yet again from nothing, for nothing and only nothing is perfect.

Victor Cousin, the French philosopher who laid the foundation for the French and American education systems, developed a great man theory from his studies of history, which convinced him that there were more great men among philosophers than elsewhere.

“The fundamental rule of philosophy,” declared Cousin, “in regard to great men is to do as humanity does… to neglect the description of weaknesses inherent in their individuality and which have perished with it… to fasten itself upon the great things which they have done, which have served humanity, and which still endure in the memories of men… to search out what has given them power and glory, namely, the idea they represent, and their intimate relation with the spirit of their times and their nation….”

Macron’s big mistake has been his treatment of ordinary workers, the concrete foundation that upholds his elitist regime on the top floors.

Gaulish workers have not forgotten the socialist Principles of ’89 the aristocracy would monopolize for themselves. Gauls have real revolution in their blood, and are not inclined to bend over as far their reformist cousins in America do in hopes of getting rich quick themselves. Macron sympathized with the wage slaves after the Yellow Jacket protests, but they require more than fancy talk, and soon. Although they are not yet forced to buy sawdust flour or rotting bread, they are not prepared to wait for scraps to trickle down from the dinner table Macron has laid out for capitalists eager to cheapen labor until workers are desperate enough to work for a pittance.

The liberal conservatives, in the interest of conserving the lion’s share of the world’s wealth, persuaded themselves that France was impeding progress with its mixed economy. A highly regulated labor market with generous social benefits supported by high taxes simply would not suffice for global prosperity.

One might imagine that the typical French worker was rendered lazy and incompetent, fat, dumb and happy by short working hours, long holidays, extended vacations, free medical care, cheap bread, discounted fine wine and cheese. That would be the ideal state as far as lazy Chinese emperors of yore were concerned as they changed palaces every month, for then they could rule by doing nothing except collect taxes. Such is not the case in France, where many thousands of honest workers have been taxed into the red, and are beginning to thirst for blood.

The same thing said about the French market was once said about the German mixed market, which was expected to collapse after the Wall came down, absorbing millions of poor people into the democratic federal republic, yet it has prospered, wages are high, and the generous social benefits persist. Is that because Germany is a hog, or are the Germans more efficient? Could it be a question of mental attitude? Should the French language become more guttural and less slurred, impressionistic and romantic?

Perhaps France needs an upgraded Napoleon I or Napoleon III or Charles de Gaulle to prosper the economy and restore prestige to France. The quest for glory and the hubris of great men toppled their empires, so it is a wonder that the charisma of the first Napoleon still persists while that of the third was lost with the German victory. The third deserves celebration because Napoleon III recognized the worth of labor and advanced the industrial revolution.

Hail Caesar! France loves strong military leaders. General de Gaulle was not an imperialist although he expected France, made great again, to be the European leader as a nation state, not as a member of a European union. He rejected U.S. domination. Roosevelt feared de Gaulle would become a dictator if not an emperor. Thanks in part to the U.S. Marshall Plan, France enjoyed thirty prosperous years from 1945 to 1975, dubbed Les Trente Glorieuses, ou la révolution invisible de 1946 à 1975, by demographer Jean Fourastié.

Macron’s poses has caused him to be disparagingly compared to Caesar and Louis XIV. The satire reveals a certain truth, to wit, the great expectation that a savior will appear to save France from its predicaments whatever they might be. The French have yet to be advised, “Ask not what the government can do for you, ask what you can do for France, and then get it done.” We deserve our leaders, even absent a republic or democracy, therefore everyone should strive to be a better leader in order to press the best leaders forward and remove the worst ones from office by the best means available for the change or overthrow of governments.

It is said that Russians love to obey strong men. Yet a great Russian author noted that great men are made men.  “A king is history’s slave,” Tolstoy penned in War and Peace.  “Man lives consciously for himself, but is an unconscious instrument in the attainment of the historic, universal, aims of humanity. A deed done is irrevocable, and its result coinciding in time with the actions of millions of other men assumes an historic significance. The higher a man stands on the social ladder, the more people he is connected with and the more power he has over others, the more evidence is the predestination and inevitability of his every action.”

Macron is the man of the moment, and he can be a great man for France and Europe if persuaded to be history’s slave, that is, if history is, as Victor Cousin averred, the history of progress, and progress is the history of liberty.

The People are ready to act, and want positive inspiration and a great plan that is in accord with the survival and progress of the race.

Macron wants to save the planet, for example, from the ravages of climate change caused by man, so let him come up with a business plan to finance and implement a salvation plan immediately, and include in the budget for that program and other public works ample funding for the training and employment of a well paid, massive workforce, including women standing on a equal footing with men, and immigrants as well, so that migrants will want to stay in France and work instead of pile up trying to get to England. Engage that workforce to perfect a rapid, distributed public transportation system that runs like clockwork, and to invent and manufacture French alternative energy folk cars. Take advantage of technology to build a vast virtual workplace in the cloud for telecommuters. Convert land from the production of livestock protein to plant protein. Make sure livestock feed is supplanted with Gas-X to reduce methane pollution for the production of great cheeses. That is not all. Review science fiction for ideas.

“But where is the money going to come from? Certainly the economy will fail if we embark on such quixotic endeavors.”

Not.

Macron, if he personifies progress, knows well the trade secret of money, and he is fully aware that much of the medium of exchange goes for the purchase of wanted things instead of necessities. Today a great deal of the gross product is immaterial! And much of the material product is trash, at least in the eyes of the well to do who can afford fine plates and silver at the dinner table.

A great man with a glib tongue, great ideas, and budgeting skills can make France great again if he gives full faith and credit to the workforce. Then he shall have the prestige of a great man, an elite man, a member of the great man aristocracy.

xYx

THE PEOPLE’S FOOL

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

 

“Truly, a fine catch of fish has Zarathustra made to-day! It is not a man he has caught, but a corpse. Uncanny is human existence and as yet without meaning: a buffoon can become a man’s fate and fatality.” (1)

The late United States of America was gradually recovering from the Great Recession brought on by the pandering of its regressive administrations to the principle of freedom rooted in unmitigated greed, evaluating individuals solely in material terms, when the people got so bored again with the progressive swing to an equalitarian global order that they wanted to make America great again.

Yes, the American people, who had not suffered much lately, had been saved from an economic disaster, and they had grown exceedingly bored again, mostly for want of political entertainments such as revolution and war. So the fools found a “fool,” a ‘bag of wind’ or ‘bellows,’ a “buffoon” or entertainer who ‘puffs out his cheeks,’ among their own worst enemies, and declared him king.

The king was a natural fool whose crudeness and guileless infatuation with his monumental ego appealed to the vanity of millions upon millions of sycophants who were as blind to his defects as to their own faults. His critics including members of his own court called him a fool a moron, a clown, or even worse, yet he was still deemed to be closer to the ultimate truth of everyone, that everyone is inherently a fool no matter what is said, and this fool is so foolish that he is closest to the god in each and everyone one of them.

The people are king in a democracy, and this king was their fool, their political jester and jouster, their Anglo-Saxon Till Eulenspiegel. He turned America into a travelling carnival or political affair, changing his tune daily and mocking politicians and public figures along the way. The jester’s hat on his head emitted a golden aura, a charismatic light that enchanted roughly thirty percent of the population subjected to him, like it or not. Americans, you see, were insane, un-whole, and he was the divisive mirror of their time. 

It was said that the King of America was stupid. Mind you, however, that he was wise enough to play the fool. His first great triumph for his criminal court was convincing the masses that they were being enriched while being robbed. It was for fear of losing even more that his dear ones wanted to erect a wall on the southern border of his castle. And he stacked his court with fools.

Fools all, but never mind, for there is wisdom in stupidity. As the fool praised by Erasmus said, “The more foolish anything is, the more tis admired, the greater number being ever tickled at the worst things, because most men are so subject to folly. And If the more foolish a man is, the more he pleases himself and is admired by others, to what purpose should he beat his brains about true knowledge, which first will cost him dear, and next render him the more troublesome and less confident, and lastly, please only a few?”

No, the King of America was not the first egotistical fool to head a great state nor shall he be the last. Erasmus once remarked on the proverb, that one may lawfully praise himself that lives far from neighbors. Now democracy permits all to flatter their own selves to no end, undaunted Self-love or Philautia is enshrined. Wherefore worship this American Fool, for Folly provides the greatest wealth, namely, unbounded self-love.

It was foolishly said that Folly readily and indifferently bestows benefits on all.

“I do not care to be entreated,” sayeth Folly, “nor am I subject to take offense, and I require an expiatory sacrifice if some ceremony be omitted. For why should I require incense, wafers, a goat, or sow when all men pay me that worship everywhere?” And Folly promises riches to all. “I am, as you see, that true and only giver of wealth whom the Greeks call Moria, the Latin Stultitia, and our plain English Folly.”

Unfortunately for the late King of America, he was merely a fool, a great fool, indeed, but not Folly herself. He over-reached and insulted too many influential people, and was duly dethroned. Still many aspire to his greatness. His book, full of crude jokes about his opponents, has been a best seller for some time.

Secular charisma, as Weber knew very well from his own circumstances in Germany, is indifferent to ethical, aesthetic, and moral considerations. It is perceived as divinely-originating “gift,” and the leader is seen as infallible. Action against him will be seen as a crime against the state. A cult of personality is developed. He is irrational, a narcissist, violating protocol and traditional norms. He displays an extraordinary amount of energy and is unhindered by anxieties and guilt.

The most that can be said of the fool is that he is no hypocrite if he loves himself alone. Alas for the leading fool, however, because his charisma wanes as greedy fools gorge themselves on ill-gotten gains, and then egomaniacal foolishness finally is exposed. High hopes are unrealized, and great expectations are dashed by pestilence, depression, war, and death.  The King of America was abandoned soon enough to make America great again.

xYx

(1) Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche

Natalie Nichols battles Miami Beach vacation rental law

 

NATALIE NICHOLS BATTLES MIAMI BEACH VACATION RENTAL LAW
Arizona Gila Monsters v. Florida Litigation Alligators
October 19, 2018
By David Arthur Walters
Winter is nigh and it is time to plan your family vacation in the Sun. Florida naturally comes to mind because you have been there before or have heard about it and it is easy to get to. A weekend or even a week would be nice in Miami Beach.
Of course you do not want to cram your family into hotel rooms in crowded areas.  No problem, because thousands of homeowners in Florida are willing to rent their homes to guests. So you do some research online, and happen to find an ad by Natalie Nichols.
Natalie says she is willing to share her 3,030 square foot, $1.3 million home with dock and pool on Stillwater Drive, and she has great reviews. It is a good thing you called her early and made arrangements. Yes, she can help arrange for sailing. She wanted $1,000 per night. You finagled a week for $5,000.
The airport was a bit of a hassle, and then there was the traffic, yet it was not so bad compared to the jams you have suffered up north. Besides, it’s a sunny eighty-five degrees. Florida is a pretty place, indeed, and the kids are really excited.
Natalie greets you in front of the house. A police car pulls up as you are taking your luggage inside. A man in black gets out with a notebook and starts to ask you questions, like “How long have you rented this place?” Natalie interrupts him, at which time the muscle-bound cop in blue who has gotten out of the squad car barks at her to get off her property so the man in black can interrogate you.
The black outfit reminds you of pictures taken by your dad of the fascists during the war. Local merchants here call them “the mafia.” Your wife is worried. Your kids look on wide-eyed. “Dad, will they take us to jail?”
“What is going on?” you think. “Maybe Natalie does not own this place? Is she scamming people? Am I going to lose my deposit? No, that cannot be. I checked her and the property out online. She is a licensed real estate agent with good references.”
You cooperate because you have done nothing wrong. You are a stranger in a seemingly strange land, where cops can order people off their own property so they can question your guests even though that is unconstitutional thus contrary to official police policy. Besides, you regularly see videos on television of officers shooting people unnecessarily.
If you had said to the code enforcement officer, or even to the police officer, “I am an invited guest here, and that is all you need to know,” and Natalie had said “I do not have to answer your questions, so call my attorney,” that would have been the end of it if the officer had paid much attention at the police academy.
But no, you are innocent, unaware of what is going on because Natalie did not forewarn you, so you think you don’t need counsel, so you answered the questions. You said yes, you had rented the home, from that woman over there, Natalie, and you even showed the code enforcement officer a copy of the advertisement and the rental agreement, which he duly photographed. He kindly informed you that vacation rentals of dwelling units are not allowed in the residential neighborhood.
The code officer does not mention that the state preempted municipalities from prohibiting vacation rentals of dwelling units and regulating their duration. But the legislation included a negative grandfathering clause, allowing local agencies to disallow the longstanding practice in areas where it was prohibited prior to June 2011 although not enforced there except selectively for years, hence to do so would be inequitable. That would be Natalie’s residential neighborhood, although it was expressly permitted on nearby North Beach. You look on as he cites Natalie for harmlessly exercising her private property rights. He may advise you to get off the premises. 
If the government mafia had its way, Natalie would be fined from $20,000 to $100,000, depending on the number of offenses, and her business shut down for even advertising the property, plus $1,000 for lack of the tax certificate denied to her because the use is not permitted in the first place, plus $500 or imprisonment if the offense is repeated.
 
Mayor Dan Gelber, a former prosecutor, whose famous father, Seymour Gelber, said city officials had been corrupted for decades by the hotel and tourist industry, would, to add insult to injury, have the fines for the lack of a resort tax certificate ramped up to $3,000 on repetition of the offense, and he would like to see the likes of Natalie jailed if they persist, in effect wringing the necks of the geese that lay golden eggs instead of protecting them, something the real mafia would not do.
What? Is this Totalitaria?   
Members of the jet set may own several homes throughout the world, rent them out for a few months when they are not around, hence say they are “sharing” their homes, while others prefer not to share except with a custodian. Natalie called her rental “home sharing” because she actually lived there when it wss not rented out. You see, she packed a bag and stayed elsewhere until her guests departed. She had another home across the street, was fined $4,500 for advertising vacation rentals there, and sold it for $50,000 less than she bought it for. And then came the crackdown and she had to stop renting.
She still has her home and an old four-plex apartment building down the street, now allowed although newer apartment buildings were zoned out by imposition of single-family residential zoning. Long-term rentals to Floridians on Miami Beach can be a real problem. Her apartment building has been more than problematic, what with tenants trashing it and playing the eviction game, taking her sometimes seven months to get the bad ones out, leaving her at loss greatly exceeding the first and last month security deposit. She maintains that short-term vacation rentals attracts better clientele and lifts values in contrast to the riffraff South Florida landlords are confronted with.     
Home owners have been sharing their homes for decades to vacationers whether they had licenses to do so or not. Look, this is Florida, a swampy state. Everybody does it, everybody knows it, and nobody cares. In theory people who provide the public with lodging are supposed to have a state license. No doubt hundreds if not thousands of small renters do not have one, most of whom are unaware that there is any such state license, and that not having one is a misdemeanor. The politicians are making new laws every day. One day Popeye may show up at the dock and be greeted by the Tax Man and taxed just for being a stranger among other things.
The City of Miami Beach requires renters to have a local business tax receipt. To get it one should in theory be certified to use the property for rentals according to the kind of occupancy permitted by the particular zoning classification. And a resort tax certificate is needed to pay resort taxes on any rentals less than six months.
The city was glad to deposit resort taxes. Did it even bother to check to see if the payers had a state public lodging license?  Did officials carefully check to see if the short-term use is even allowed? No. This is not only Florida; it is South Florida, and, even better, the City of Miami Beach in Miami-Dade County, a lazy subtropical city first made famous by Capone and Lansky for its traditional corruption. 
Top-to-bottom municipal corruption included the non-random discriminatory enforcement of laws. Few code enforcement and law enforcement officers are corrupt, but they all belong to command organizations with directors and chiefs under the thumbs of the political power, the mayor and commission, so do not blame them for their lack of independence when their jobs are at stake for disobedience to the will of the power elite. The same goes for the local magistrate or “special master” who hears appeals of code enforcement cases. S/he is not a real judge, and has often been little more than a stooge. The City of Miami Beach Special Master “court,” which the state allows municipalities to have under the pretense of their being “people’s courts,” is a dependent arm of the ruling clique. Do not believe the pleas in federal court that policies are set higher up by the county state, so the city is not the policymaker hence cannot be responsible as the policymaker. And every official sued seems to have the sovereign immunity of kings from top to bottom, never mind the state and federal waiver of sovereign immunity.
If you are Miami Beach magnate Russell Galbut or his relative, you can throw raucous parties and violate the noise ordinances with impunity in single-family residential areas as well as in South Beach. Just scoff at the code enforcement officer and appeal the fine because the family’s fixer will show up in front of the magistrate and get the case dismissed. What we have here is socialism for the power elite. The Good Old Boys are favored comrades. The rest are shaken down. There is hell to pay for those who did not cooperate or cannot afford to hire fixers. The city’s departments are customarily referred to as RICO operations in arrest warrants and indictments.
Anyway, what went wrong? Nobody cared about how long someone was staying on Miami Beach before. We had plenty of rooms for them, and pretty cheap rooms at that, maybe right on the beach. A day, a week, a winter, twenty years: so what? A Mason and Dixon March 2017 poll in February had 94 percent of 625 registered voters South Floridians in favor of such home-sharing applications. 
One theory for the crackdown on Miami Beach vacation rentals places the cause on the intolerance of former Mayor Phil Levine, a self-made tourism media mogul and real estate developer whose thin-skinned egotism pales only in contrast to The Donald’s. Levine, a “self-made” man whose fortune was made from a close friendship with the wealthy Robins family and from hawking tours on cruise ships, was theoretically personally disturbed where he lived on Sunset Island by parties of three hundred people in rented houses. That, along with his relationship with the hotel industry, presumably fomented his animosity against Airbnb type of operations and anyone else involved in home sharing, including small fry like Natalie. Levine sent out a Trumpian tweet to Airbnb, “MB doesn’t want your selling!!!!”
Thus rankled at home, Levine used his dominance on the dais hence over the administration to crackdown on home sharing citywide. The vestiges of his rule remain on the commission to his day with commissioners who are not about to admit they became his overawed tools.
“King” Levine’s dictatorial manner was duly appreciated by lesser authoritarian types. Carolina Jones, Natalie’s neighborhood association president, was observed posting propaganda favorable to the hotel industry, and urging residents of the neighborhood to complain about short-term rentals even if they had not been bothered by them. Mind you that no statistical analysis was conducted to show a demonstrable link between short-term rentals and noise in single-family residential neighborhoods.
Levine  touted his close friendship with the Clintons, and spent millions out of pocket to seat himself and enough commissioners to render himself a de facto strong mayor in a city with a weak mayor charter. He was scandalized for selling the city to developers. His “Get It Done” right or wrong projects included personally enriching himself and his partner Scott Robins in the Sunset Harbour district. The city paid them $13 million for the air rights for a city garage over their shopping center at taxpayer expense. Millions were expended on raising the roads around the shopping center. The newly raised streets may have to be torn up to replace the crumbling century-old sewer system as a result of the expected increase of demand on that system due to development in the area. Jay Fink, the assistant director of public works, who is unable to produce an engineers’ certification for the sewers says, well, some cameras looked into the pipe and all was well, and we are doing an excellent job. Residents, however, say that is contrary to what was seen from above with the naked eye. However that may be, the partners bailed out of Sunset for $69 million before Levine ran for governor.  
In sum, Levine left Miami Beach, hopefully his stepping stone to the governorship and the White House, in shambles. The electorate got wise and his campaign was resoundingly defeated, temporarily deflating his ego to such an extent that he must be having difficulty re-inflating it even although narcissism is theoretically overcompensation for feelings of inferiority.
Selective enforcement is obvious in Miami Beach. The Miami Herald, the daily newspaper that championed Levine all along, does not cover discriminatory enforcement and the like because it serves as the propaganda organ or booster sheet for the ruling elite, its “authoritative news source,” at least until someone is arrested, and, pending that, it claims it was unaware of what was going on despite the floods of letters to the editor and reporters.
Natalie Nichols was blindsided for advertising a house, but not Mayor Levine’s pal and partner Scott Robins when he was advertising and renting out his unpermitted hotel on Espanola Way with inadequate fire sprinklers to tourists.  City officials including code enforcement brass were presented with multiple advertisements offering the hotel, which had been cited by the state but continued to operate. Code enforcement declined to act immediately, saying it was difficult to collect evidence of short term activity although they also had photos of tourists arriving with bags. It was finally cited after continuous pressure was put on officials. Robins took the case to the magistrate. Everything was eventually forgiven including several years of resort taxes and unpaid permitting fees for extensive unpermitted renovations for which there should have been double-permit fee fines. County appraisers were interested in the renovations because it was a unique building and the increased value might affect its taxes, and at that time Robins was pleading for a downward adjustment. Photographs of the renovations appeared in the advertisements.
Poor Natalie! She does not qualify for special treatment.
Mayor Levine knew all about Espanola Suites. And the mayor and code enforcement officers and the city attorney knew all about Rod Eisenberg’s historic Sadigo Apartment Hotel in the Collins Park neighborhood a few blocks away.  He had been giving the city a bad time from time to time for its discriminatory policies and negligence since the 90s. The legal mafia finally came down like gang busters on his three-story historic building although transient apartment rentals are zoned into his neighborhood, and his engineer said the structure was the safest in the area although it did not have fire sprinklers. Indeed, vacated and unmaintained buildings nearby, held for investment by developers friendly with city officials, were not secured by the city for years despite complaints from neighbors including Eisenberg. A vagrant firebug gleefully set some of them afire. Poor Eisenberg, who has spent hundreds of thousands of hard-earned dollars on lawyers, religiously believes Justice is nigh, and, like a fool, he thinks Justice will come in a courtroom despite the advice of a chief inspector, who wound up in prison for taking bribes, that he could not solve his kind of problem with the Sadigo in courts of law.     
A notorious case of party noise in a residential neighborhood involved the racket made at a ‘Great Gatsby’ party thrown in a residential mansion by Keith Menin, a relative of Russell Galbut, a mogul whose licensed hotels in hotel districts are resented by neighbors for their noise, which is regulated. When cited, Galbut &Co has its fixer go to the magistrate and get the cases dismissed. At Menin’s residential party, the code officer was addressed contemptuously; sure enough, the magistrate dismissed the case. The Good Old Boys are above the law or have purchased laws that legalize their misconduct.
Levine’s vanity made him a great scapegoat. Robins wisely keeps a low profile. Galbut’s power over politicians and vast swaths of prime real estate gets him cast as a local devil if not Satan himself. They are too blame for some development issues, yet there are economic and demographic factors at play, not only in Miami Beach but nationwide, the exception for Miami Beach being that it has always had a large population of transients running from the cold and sometimes the law. The population has exploded and there are more rich people to go around. More and more middleclass people are travelling. Real estate values rise with the demand for vacation homes; regular folk including the elderly are pushed out of their neighborhoods into ghettos.
Moreover, residents, particularly elderly residents, do not like having so many strangers around, especially when they make noise. Indeed, humans have an innate fear of strangers when they come too close; for much of human history, a man would as soon kill a stranger than look at him, and for good reasons. It should be no mystery to anthropologists why Ötzi the prototypical Copper Age ice man from Tuscany, whose corpse was found preserved up in the Alpines, was killed by locals: He was a stranger encroaching on their fat.

I have lived in dense tourist areas. I like tourists because they are generally in a better mood than locals. Yet what settled folk suffer, it is said, is “Tourist Pollution.”

So how does it feel to be a pollutant? Well, residents actually love your tax contributions provided that you stay in a hotel in the hotel district. And the hotel industry loves you even the more, and politicians do love hotel lobbyists. Wherefore let us raise fines for unauthorized transient rentals so high that renters will be driven out of business.

John Alemán, a wealthy Miami Beach Commissioner, excused the fines running from $20,000 to $100,000 as necessary because, she reportedly said, a beachside mansion might be let out for thousands of dollars per night, so lower fines would be a cost of doing business for some operators. Wherefore the penalty is reasonable. After all, people come to Miami Beach to party, to get drunk and make a racket, in other words, to cause a nuisance, as far as some residents are concerned. The government has a legitimate interest in curbing public nuisances, or so she adamantly thinks.
“Some” is the key word here. Perhaps John Alemán or her friends could get several thousand dollars a night letting out their fabulous mansions in a few choice spots to rich and famous visitors. An allegedly morally corrupt city attorney for Miami Beach has secretly allowed such a place to operate like a hotel providing nobody complains while small business entrepreneurs like Natalie are persecuted. A luxury vacation rental company called Villazo LLC was cited twice for running a private hotel operation on Palm Island. They fought the charges until 2015; city attorneys forged a secret deal that allowed them to continue. Real estate agent Gregory Mirmelli filed a complaint against the city for withholding the records on the deal and for its selective enforcement.
Natalie charged $1,000 a night for her 3,080 sq. ft. home on the water, yielding her around $20,000 per month on the average. Take away $10,000 per month for mortgage, taxes, insurance, and the cost for staying elsewhere, and that left her $10,000 profit before maintenance and depreciation of the structure. She had another home across the street, so double that during good times.
The hype in the expensive seminars is true, that is, if you are lucky, work hard, and enjoy the hassle, there is plenty of money to be made in buying, fixing up, renting, and selling homes. Of course timing can be the key to rental income and capital gains. We were Ground Zero for the Great Recession, and real estate values plummeted. Natalie persevered and managed to bail out of one home for $50,000 less than what she paid for it after the official harassment began in her neighborhood. She apparently struggles to keep the one she lives in. Without the rental revenue, she must cough up around $9,000 a month to pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance.  She had an opportunity to sell it for a gain at one time, but she kept it because she thought she would need it to house her aging father before he went to the Better Place.  
Again, do transient rentals to vacationers increase nuisances such as noise in neighborhoods? That depends on the class of renters and the neighborhood, which might actually be improved by vacation rentals that tend to raise values and “drive out the riffraff.” Public records do not reveal noise complaints from Natalie’s neighbors. Since the city’s “mafia” started patrolling Stillwater Drive to harass unwitting vacationers carrying suitcases, owners are selling out, long term rents have fallen, and the quality of life has deteriorated accordingly as the neighborhood is becoming virtually ghettoized. 
Natalie argues that, if law enforcement would do its job, the public nuisances would diminish, and it is unfair to ban short-term rentals. She has a good point. Law enforcement finally did its job in Flamingo Park and elsewhere as the last wave of corruption crested. Landlords proceeded to jack up the rents. Carpetbag developers are redeveloping whole blocks of deserted buildings. The worst nuisances in the “chic” South Beach area have been the apartment and condominium buildings inhabited by undocumented migrant workers, remnants of the Mariela Exodus, welfare recipients, and itinerant dope dealers, for who knows how long. The nuisances included noise, rapes, muggings, shootings, and stabbings.
I almost became a “conservative” after being outraged at all hours while trying to get up at 6 AM to make an honest living. Noise can be torture to humans. A man in one town asked neighbors twice to quiet down, and they did not. He called the police, and they did not show. So he shot three people at the party. An official said that act was “abominable, reprehensible.” Another called him “an animal,” which was true because humans are rational animals with a long history of transience as hunter gatherers before they settled down. Animals will flee or fight when disturbed. Most of us civilized folk prefer to stay put and call the police. We feel we have a right to quiet enjoyment of the premises, so all hell may break out if the police do not show up.
Cash in hand was often sufficient background for South Beach rentals. That is what David Muhlrad, a prominent landlord, the city’s first code enforcement chief, relative of Russell Galbut, wanted when I arrived in South Beach—he said he could tell by my looks that I was good. I moved when the apartment building was converted to the Regent Hotel.
Some advertisements even trumpeted that no background checks were required. The lease might say six months and a day at so much a month, but that was not the real term, and no resort tax was paid, nor income taxes in many cases. Besides, many of the nuisances were created by long term inhabitants who stayed as long as they could get away with their normal misbehavior.   
One studio in a four-building apartment complex I moved into was used by two enterprising prostitutes to run a gambling den that served hotel and restaurant workers from 2 AM until noon, as tricks were turned in a car, outfitted with blankets and pillows and bearing a temporary license plate in the alley. Crack was available on demand as well as cases of beer. The studio upstairs was used as a drop for stolen goods and as a party den by a gang of teenagers. Next door was a dope dealer who was a master of disguises, so crazed by crack that he tried to wash the buildings down with a hose in the middle of the night, then went over to the police station and threw a bag of cocaine into the air. Another tenant in that four-studio building was down from Tampa working for Gotti’s son, running an illegal nightclub and selling weed. The police actually apologized when they were called and actually showed up. The landlord from Cuba, whose son was a county attorney, said apples would cost $5 if illegal aliens were banned. I refused to move because the issue was endemic to much of South Beach. Only the superrich in the towers managed to “keep the riffraff out.”
City officials were not unaware of those activities, and some profited from them. Jorge Gonzalez, the city manager, said there was corruption on the commission; he took steps to curb corruption: he was immediately terminated by the commission, paving the way for Phil Levine. There is no way of knowing how much short-term rentals contributed to the nuisances other than rising rents and property values, which is not a nuisance to people who can afford it.
I lived in a city where landlords downtown were required to submit lease information to the police department, not to curb short term rentals but to apprehend wanted criminals. Cages were erected periodically in the parking lot to hold prisoners as the police went from door to door arresting wanted people. Perhaps the city should collect lease information to determine the duration of rents as well as to apprehend wanted people. But some Miami Beach landlords do not require identification and prefer cash, so who can prove what their lease terms are?
Short-term rentals were eventually prohibited in the Flamingo Neighborhood apartment buildings, except for very few where the practice was grandfathered in by friendly commissioners, but the practice continues illegally. Still today tourists with suitcases can be seen entering the apartment buildings, often behind a real estate agent as their guide. The rule of thumb in Miami Beach has always been selective enforcement. The higher the fine, the greater the incentive for corruption.  
One unlicensed rental agent in Natalie’s area bragged that he paid off the code enforcement officers. If true that would hardly be surprising. Again and again, Miami Beach officials seem to have a tradition of being corrupted in one way or another, with waves of corruption mounting between FBI busts.
The FBI wanted to wire Natalie to sting a public works official who allegedly solicited bribes to expedite sewer work, but her lawyer advised her not to do it, and to pay him a fee, instead, to resolve her issue with the sewer line.
Well, there are always a few bad apples in every government, or so it is said, and we know the adage about the scum at the top. In fact, studies show that the bulk of corruption public and private is perpetrated by trusted managers and executives who have been around their organizations for some time. Former City Manager Jorge Gonzalez was blamed by “reformers” for the corruption. He claimed some of it was on the commission in the form of commissioners who served as fixers. Even the city attorney office has been suspected of aiding and abetting the corruption of its client, the ruling elite, as a sort of criminal defense lawyer for the commission.
Natalie must be out a million dollars in revenue since she was blindsided by the ordinance prohibiting vacation rentals in her neighborhood. She did not see it coming in Stillwater Drive.
When a 2010 ordinance was passed to prohibit short-term rentals in the Flamingo Park and Espanola Way residential neighborhood, few people were aware of what was coming. Tammy R. Tibbs, the operator of four apartment buildings in Flamingo, however, was made aware of the change. A grandfathering clause was written into the original ordinance to give him six months to get those buildings grandfathered if certain conditions were met, and of course he complied. A building at 751 Meridian Avenue was not on the grandfathering list. The owner, Playa de Oro, had its lawyer, Simon Ferro, a prominent zoning and government relation lawyer, and President Clinton’s former ambassador to Panama, get ahold of the city attorney, claiming that an error by the state prevented his client’s building from making the short list. Ad hoc legislation was arranged for that building.  Another owner claimed he had improper notice, but his petition was denied. Someday a diligent attorney may want to make a public record request for the list and examine the process to see if the Flamingo Park and Espanola Way neighborhoods were favored over Natalie’s neighborhood and why.
Natalie scoured the code when she got into hot water, but she could not find a restriction limiting occupation to more than six months and a day. She had been renting short term for years. And then the restriction magically appeared when she looked again. That is probably because the code is updated quarterly. Until then people were supposed subscribe to and scour the Miami Herald for notices of hearings, and then check back to see if an ordinance that interests them was passed into law. And when there was a crackdown on sidewalk cafes, flyers were handed out, and that was supposed to constitute sufficient notice. Agenda notices are emailed out without specifications, so you must take time off from work and martinis to scour the agendas.  If you do not have your nose in the rear end of city hall, you will lose track, even if you take the continuing education real estate courses.  Before the advent of the Levine Regime, all one had to do was enter key search terms in the universal search engine called “the fishbowl” to pull up links to everything including ordinances, as we do with Google search. Not anymore, not since “transparency” was improved and the software upgraded.
Pleas to make ordinances effective only when they are published online in the code, except for emergency legislation, have fallen on deaf ears. The city attorney, the mayor, the commissioners do not care about the inconvenience and efficiency because they do not have to care; after all, the city clerk and city attorney say it’s all perfectly legal.
We would be better off living in ancient Rome if we wanted to know the basic law. We could walk over to the civic center and find it inscribed on the stone.
City Clerk Rafael Granado, Esq. insists that notices of hearings satisfy the statutory requirements for notice of hearing. That may well be, but those notices do not satisfy the maxim maximus that, “An enactment that regulates persons or property and imposes a fine for violations must be a printed law and citizens must have notice that it is in effect before they can be subjected to regulation and fines.” To wit, the public must have notice not only of the possibility that prospective legislation is to be considered, but must also have notice that legislation under consideration was passed into law.
Alas, overall bad management, bad politics, bad distribution of power. As Hotelier Trump, who might have Natalie over to Mar-A-Lago to discuss this free enterprise issue, would tweet: BAD!!!
Miami Beach real estate looks like it is going to implode again, and that is not good for Natalie’s real estate sales business. The fear of flooding and Zika mosquitoes, and the recent crackdown on money laundering that involves a big chunk of the local market, has been dampening sales and hurting prices. I noticed on the Web that she sold a home recently. Great, yet it is not easy to get rich off commissions and an ancient four-plex apartment building. Maybe she will return to the medical industry with her entrepreneurial dream in shambles.
Lo and Behold! A knight in shining armor, the Goldwater Institute (1), has appeared to represent our lovely lady in distress in a suit against the City of Miami Beach. Sadly, there is nothing in it for her, unless the law is repealed and she still has a home to rent, except the satisfaction of helping others in like circumstances before it is too late for them too.  She will not recover from this suit the damages she suffered because the lawyers are unwilling to sue for damages. And hardly anyone wants to be in a class fighting city hall at this point.
Natalie is the poster girl for this nonprofit organization, founded to perpetuate the principles of the late Barry Goldwater. (2) The Complaint identifies her two remaining properties, her home and the four-plex apartment, as “Prototypical Miami Beach Short-term Rentals.” Vacation home rentals and transient apartment building transient rentals are, by state definition, birds of a different feather. The state preempted prohibition of vacation rentals after June 1, 2011, except where they were already prohibited as in her zone. Perhaps she could convert the apartment building to a condominium if the suit is won, and rent out each home. One day she might own over a thousand units and block them with Airbnb or its competitor. There would be nothing wrong with that except from the perspective of nearby hotels.
Better yet, why not rewrite the public lodging law for all categories to recognize the right of property owners to rent their premises for less than six months and a day provided certain equitable conditions are met? And fiercely enforce quality of life ordinances.
The fundamental abstract principle of Goldwater should be individual liberty as demonstrated in the progress of civilization and the liberal foundations of the United States of America. Of course there is considerable disagreement among people as to what that they should be liberated from and what liberties should therefore be conserved. In any case, free individuals should have a right to privacy and the right to make a living. To be themselves, they must not be alienated from the essential product of their labor, their private property.
Natalie Nichols’ property, claims the Goldwater Institute, is “prototypical.” It represents private property everywhere in the allegedly free world. It has been infringed on by government. She has a sacred right to do with it as she pleases provided she does no harm to others. As a matter of fact, she had not a single nuisance complaint from her neighbors. So her right, although it may seem rather moot now as a lost cause in the past, is everybody’s right, and is presently asserted in the circuit court Complaint brought by the Goldwater Institute (3), with a hearing scheduled for the end of October 2018.
Goldwater is bringing in its top guns. The Arizona carpetbaggers will be up against experienced local alligators in South Florida’s litigation swampland: Mssrs. Raul Aguila, Alexsander Boksner, and Carlton Fields Jordan& Burt.
More lies are told in Florida courts than anywhere else, and then under oath. Florida lawyers have naturally been exposed for lying in court as well, even forging citations to suit their needs among other unethical deeds including criminal fraud and embezzlement of trust funds. It would not surprise anyone if the malpractice were widespread since some of the lawyers exposed were considered to be the most upright lawyers in the state. Of course money is sacred to the integrated Florida Bar, the disciplinary arm of the state Supreme Court, so theft of client funds is likely to get a lawyer disbarred. Otherwise nothing or little is done but a slap on the wrist. The mission of the Florida Bar is more to protect the trade than to discipline it. (3)
In any case, the fly-by-night Arizona Goldwater litigators representing Natalie are formidable right-winged foes for the left-handed Florida swampland cavilers.   
“Matt Miller” Goldwater advertises, “is a Senior Attorney at the Goldwater Institute, where he leads the Institute’s free-speech litigation efforts. Before joining Goldwater, he served 9 years as the Managing Attorney of the Institute for Justice’s Texas Office, which he opened in 2008. There, he won important victories for free speech and economic liberty. Prior to that, he worked as a land-use attorney at a large Dallas law firm. Matt’s cases have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters, Dallas Morning News, and other outlets nationwide. Matt has testified by invitation on numerous occasions before state legislatures on many topics. In 2009, he led the effort to reform the Texas Constitution to better strengthen protections for private property owners.”
“Christina Sandefur,” Goldwater states, “is Executive Vice President at the Goldwater Institute. She also develops policies and litigates cases advancing healthcare freedom, free enterprise, private property rights, free speech, and taxpayer rights. Christina has won important victories for property rights in Arizona and works nationally to promote the Institute’s Private Property Rights Protection Act, a state-level reform that requires government to pay owners when regulations destroy property rights and reduce property values. She is also a co-drafter of the 40-state Right to Try initiative, now federal law, which protects terminally ill patients’ right to try safe investigational treatments that have been prescribed by their physician but are not yet FDA approved for market. Christina is the co-author of the book Cornerstone of Liberty: Private Property Rights in 21st Century America (2016). She is a frequent guest on national television and radio programs, has provided expert legal testimony to various legislative committees, and is a frequent speaker at conferences. She is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Law and Hillsdale College.”
Fort Lauderdale lawyers Joseph S. Van de Bogart and Katherine Van de Bogart of Van de Bogart Law will keep the Arizona lawyer in line with Florida customs.
The Goldwater suit would like to do away with the “home sharing” prohibition altogether on constitutional grounds. Yet Goldwater counsel must not have absolute confidence in that happening since it emphasizes in another count that the fines of $20,000 to $100,000 are excessive in comparison to a supposedly more reasonable state limitation on all types of local code violations, in Chapter 162 of the Statutes of Florida, of from $1,000 a day for the first offense and $5,000 every day for each repeated offense.
Apparently the Goldwater lawyers have not read the provision of the statute that allows any other means for enforcing codes: “162.13 Provisions of act supplemental.—It is the legislative intent of ss. 162.01-162.12 to provide an additional or supplemental means of obtaining compliance with local codes. Nothing contained in ss. 162.01-162.12 shall prohibit a local governing body from enforcing its codes by any other means.”
The excessive-fine strategy either betrays the misunderstanding of the lawyers or reveals the income class Goldwater prefers, and that is apparently not homeowners who occasionally use realtors or rent their homes themselves to supplement their income. Vacationers can now rent a modest two-bedroom home in Miami Beach for $200 a night. Midrange would be $1,000 a night for a large home on the Bay with a pool like Natalie’s home, or one that could house quite a few people. Luxury mansions go for $10,000 or more a night.
Fines of $5,000 per day might not deter persons who own and/or advertise multiple homes and engage in huge operations that allow them write off the cost of the fines since enforcement cannot keep up with all the violations. But the fines will definitely deter others, especially the small fry who are really sharing their home instead of running vast rental operations. Furthermore, we leave it to the lawyers to discover how renters can avoid criminal misdemeanor charges for the violations that are cited.
People rich and poor should have a right to make a living of their own choosing in a free country if that does not unduly infringe on the right of others to do the same. Perhaps Goldwater Institute or someone else should take this major question up with the federal government in federal court, perhaps invest a million dollars to take it all the way to the top if need be to see how the conservative majority feels about it.
Since 94% Floridians approve of short-term vacation rentals, and two-thirds approve of transient rentals of all types, and that piece of the pie is so large, one would expect a great public clamor over the spread of the creeping bureaucracy that enhances the monopolies of the power elite. Yes, Airbnb is lobbying for vacation rentals for its own sake. Small rentiers would benefit. Where is the class action lawsuit? Why are not the rentiers coming out of the woodwork, like Natalie, to raise hell about the irrational infringement of their private property rights? Where are the interveners in the lawsuits?
Why? Because many of them are still doing it and do not want to expose themselves to retaliation. After all, retaliation, the most primitive practice of justice, is still the rule in Miami Beach. It does not pay to fight city hall when city hall is at the beck and call of the hotel industry and other major industrial segments of its economy. Believe it or not, people who have spoken in favor of vacation rentals on Facebook have been placed under surveillance and interrogated.
Finally, Florida, especially South Florida, is not a place where people come to cooperate or to join or intervene in other people’s lawsuits. They cannot see that there is a common element in their respective beefs, the violation of their civil rights.  As Christina Sandefur’s husband Timothy posted in his April 21, 2005, Freeespace under ‘The all consuming hatred of man’:
 “The evils of the modern age—as well as of the ancient times—have come about because of the assault on the individual; because of the notion that people do not matter, and that they owe their lives to the service of others. The principle of the gulag is the principle that the individual belongs to the state and that the state has the right to do with them what it pleases.”
He repeats what he had said many times before, that the notion that we should give up our notions as individuals and become cogs in the social machine “is the defining trait of conservatism” in the context of archaic patriarchal rights. Wherefore it appears in 2005 that he would conserve the principle of individual freedom and therefore its basis in private property.
Well, many South Floridians, familiar with repressive regimes, are staunch individualists who normally resent government encroachment on their persons and property. What we have here now is creeping alligator socialism. It can outrun you if you get too close to the water, and will drag you in before you know it.  Act accordingly. 
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(1) The Goldwater Institute has championed, among other rights, the right to choose charter schools, education vouchers, and experimental drugs; the right to use heavy machinery in environmentally sensitive areas; the right to separate orphaned Native American children from their tribal culture; the right of corporations to contribute to political candidates; the right to make hateful speeches anywhere on college campuses; the right to pay tipped, young, and temporary workers less than the minimum wage; the right not to pay police officers for overtime; the right of minors to smoke electric cigarettes; the right not to give veterans employment preferences; the right not to teach CPR in schools; the right not to expand Medicaid expansion under Obamacare; the right to be free from greenhouse gas emission regulation;  the right of lawyers  to speak harmfully, in a way that manifests bias or prejudice towards others. And now, in Miami Beach, the right fought for is the sacred right to rent homes for less than six months, and, if that is not granted by the court, the right to be free from fines so high that a profit after paying the fines is rendered impossible.
 
(2) Old folks remember Goldwater well. He was trounced by Johnson 486 to 52 electoral votes in 1964 in the most dismal showing of a major party in history, yet his extremism inflamed the alarming hatred and passion of his Southern base and advanced the “popular” strains of conservatism of Presidents Reagan and Trump. He was not a bigot himself, as even Martin Luther King observed, at least not openly, but he favored segregation and he opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because, for one thing, it would to lead to quotas. A tiny minority of blacks voted for him, so it was said they must have been ignorant or illiterate. He championed the Forgotten American, “that dragooned and ignored individual who is either outside the organized pressure groups or who finds himself represented by organizations with whose policies he disagrees either in whole or in part.”  He was a Jewish Episcopalian popular among all sorts of disgruntled factions, including but not limited to Christians and the Klan. He believed it right to be extreme if the cause was righteous, although people disagree on what is right and are even willing to die for it. He thought military field commanders had authority to nuke enemies without a presidential order. The United States government should not interfere with the liberties of its own citizens, he said, but has a perfect right to interfere in the affairs of nations whose interests are incompatible with its own.
Goldwater may likened to the latest version of Trump, which changes from day to day, although Goldwater was not such a loose cannon and was keen on protecting the environment. He like Trump was declared insane by armchair psychiatrists, but he sued and won damages for defamation of his character.  He hated communism and said socialism was a social disease. What he called conservatism was mandatory in the face of the totalitarian menace if the United States with its “true religion” Judeo-Christian heritage was to remain the leader of antislavery forces in the world.
Creeping socialism, you see, eats up private capital as the government encroaches on and takes over activities, destroying incentives. Social security and other welfare programs are best gotten rid of. Small business entrepreneurs like Natalie are being ruined by socialist creeps, and the nation will be consequently impoverished. Perhaps in the end everyone will be gray and wind up with the mere 100 square feet of living space Lenin dreamed of for the USSR.
The bone of contention or the bottom line is obviously property. Real estate is said to be the basis of all wealth. Private ownership of property, starting with one’s own body, is the very cornerstone of freedom. Yes, there is a spiritual underground, but that is chaos, as was famously discovered when the cornerstone of the temple was raised and a man descended into the abyss below it.
Freedom and justice require order, and the right order, which is a “just order under God,” is based on property rights. Let the government keep its hands off our property. Government, said Goldwater, should be concerned with the things that are its proper province, such as defense of the country and the administration of justice. Government should not try to do things which are better done by individuals or voluntary associations.
City Attorneys Raul Aguila & Alexsander Boksner, Developer Rod Eisenberg

(3) Rod Eisenberg, a small businessman who owned the historic Sadigo Apartment Hotel on South Beach, testified before the City Commission that a city attorney defending the city against his civil rights suit suborned the perjury of material witness in order to get his case dismissed and obtain $600,000 in sanctions for assertions his lawyers made. Eisenberg’s guests in for an art show were tossed onto the street with their bags and he was arrested and jailed at the behest of the chief deputy city attorney, Alexsander Boksner, because Eisenberg was accommodating them at the Sadigo. He submitted a deposition of the material witness, a code enforcement inspector, under penalty of felony backed by a polygraph test to the mayor and commissioners and city manager, most of whom are lawyers, showing probable cause that the deputy city attorney may have committed a federal felony. And it would be a federal felony for those who had that knowledge to conspire to obstruct justice by not reporting it to law enforcement and the Florida Bar. Neither Boksner nor other knowledgeable officials responded to my inquiries about Eisenberg’s allegations. The Florida Bar had the information, said no file would be opened, and the district attorney was not responsive at all.
Eisenberg has most recently filed an independent action in federal court for recovery of the sanctions, and has alleged in his brief that the city attorneys frequently lied about transient rental laws. He will probably have to go higher than that, far away from South Florida, to obtain justice. Local, state, and federal are one ball of wax here.

 

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.

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