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October 28, 2008

THERAPIST IN CHIEF

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THERAPIST IN CHIEF

 

This is not about party politics or policy; it is about character.

 

I’m constantly amazed by the apparent emotional fragility of the current crop of Americans.  Heaven forbid that we’d be thrust into something half as daunting as WW II. 

 

Recall that, during that epic struggle for the heart of civilization, we were expending several times the economic resources (measured as a percentage of all our wealth), every day of that war, and we were devoting our personal resources to the struggle (measured as all war related daily work, both civilian and military, and the huge battle casualties) at a vastly greater rate than anything we’ve seen since, especially in the last fifteen years.

 

Our entire casualty rate in Iraq-Afghanistan is the rough equivalent of a single battle like Okinawa, and that battle was but a single chapter in a long book of heroic sacrifice. 

 

Oh, did I say sacrifice?  It didn’t mean to disturb the faint hearted among us.  It seems that term has taken on an entirely new meaning. 

 

Note to the Boomers: The sacrifice of your WW II era parents was something entirely different from saving up to get a big flat screen television, being forced to cancel three credit cards or – God forbid – cutting back on your Starbucks expenditures.

 

This media-abetted deterioration of the American psyche and (dare I say it?) of the national character is the direct result of our replacement of a robust, honor-based ethos for something far less vital and infinitely less admirable.

 

We have cashed in the struggle-achievement model (and the corresponding ethos of moral law-real world consequences) for the therapeutic model (and the corresponding ethos of moral gesture and no real-world consequences). 

 

It was a bad deal and we about to find that out.

 

We now face an election for the Leader of the Free World (as Americans used to call it) in which one candidate personifies the old national character and the other represents the new national mood. 

 

The electorate seems all too ready for a rebound romance with a young, untested, attractive suitor who fills an empty psychological space in the national soul. 

 

It seems (absent a miracle) that Barack Obama is to be the “Therapist in Chief”.  And we are about to be very, very disappointed.

 

JBG

 

 

October 24, 2008

DANCING WITH BEARS -- GREENSPAN IN THE DOCK

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DANCING WITH BEARS
GREENSPAN IN THE DOCK

 

Today's headlines suggest that former FedHead Alan Greenspan has abandoned all his free market principles, shouldered all the blame for the mortgage crisis and has humbly signed on to the Obama campaign as the resident bad example, presumably to be paraded before select audiences wearing a dunce cap. 

 

How quickly the politicians discard their former heroes when expediency trumps fidelity.

 

As a young graduate student in New York, Greenspan belonged to a group that was in the thrall of the  author-philosopher Ayn Rand (Alisa Rosenbaum), a refugee from communist Russia (where the Soviets had essentially destroyed her parent’s business). She was a fiercely anticommunist atheist who defended the ethic of rational self interest against cultural and political forces that enforce a sacrificial ethos, deride profit and sap achievement.  She had no formal economic training.  She loved America.

 

Later in life, Mr. Greenspan was asked if he was still a follower of Ayn Rand's philosophy (Objectivism). He said he was an agnostic where Ms. Rand was concerned.

 

Under blistering examination in congress yesterday, Mr. Greenspan was asked whether he had given up his libertarian market principles, and he said “partially”, then he attempted the kind of nuanced answer that congress, the president and media had accepted without question when he was at the top of his game. Not this time.  Nor did anyone listen carefully.

 

Ayn Rand despised libertarians, not so much because they “believed in” free market capitalism, but because they lacked core moral values. In Ayn Rand's ideal world, her economic heroes were productive, hard working, men and women of great personal honor and integrity. And they were not shielded from the consequences of failure by complex credit instruments.  In a scene in one of her novels an “old fashioned” banker (when Rand uses the term old fashioned, it is intended as a complement) makes a loan to one of her heroes with no collateral other than the man's character. No, the old fashioned banker would not “float paper”, thus “securitizing” the loan and transferring the “risk” (i.e., responsibility) to others. 

 

Accountability for failure wonderfully concentrates the mind.

 

When governments or networks of financial institutions, acting like a government, mess with the natural risk consequence mechanisms that attend ordinary free transactions they rob the market at large of its internal corrective checks and balances. No regulatory scheme is perfect and no regulatory body can be more effective than a system that requires full transparency and accountability.

 

Markets that eliminate the consequences of failure – or transfer those consequences to innocent third parties, or try to dilute them – no longer function as rational and impartial pricing mechanisms. Put differently, such markets can no longer be trusted.

 

Mr. Greenspan's problem (shared by almost everyone in the Beltway bubble) was not a failed economic theory but failed real world practice.  Compared to Ms. Rand's “old fashioned” values, Wall Street and “post-modern” banking operate in a morally bankrupt culture. Fiscal bankruptcy followed. And that consequence was as inevitable as hypothermia and death following a naked frolic with  polar bears in their natural habitat.

 

JBG

 

Without accountability for failure, there ain't no such thing as a free market.

 

October 22, 2008

PROFILE OF OBAMA - THE UNKNOWN PRESIDENT

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The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]
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J Gaskill 

JAY GASKILL 

Note  - I'm still rooting for the Arizona candidate. The race is not over: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081023/ap_on_el_pr/ap_poll_presidential_race .



 

PROFILE OF OBAMA - THE UNKNOWN PRESIDENT

Obama

I think the core question, “Who is Barack Obama, really?” has not been answered.  Nor can it be answered in the remaining days before November 4. 

 

Now I believe in miracles but have learned never to expect them.  So this profile is of the looming Obama presidency.

 

Everyone these days is getting a huge volume of forwarded MAIL.  Recently, one of those anonymous web correspondents, a self styled retired spook, was quoted in a forwarded email from a friend. The topic was Senator Barack Obama (surprise!) and how he might be evaluated by a professional spy, someone presumably swoon-proof, a hardened spy, one not beguiled by the rhetorical charm of “The One”.

 

I won’t vouch for the source of course, but at least some of what this “source” asserts can stand on its own. 

 

I do have a personal take on Senator Obama, but that will wait until later in this narrative.  I’ve made a few minor reductions/redactions in the interests of simplicity and brevity and (in parentheses) I’ve added an occasional note of explanation for those of us less obsessed with the details of the senator’s early history. 

 

With that disclaimer, here goes:

 

////

 

“[Suppose I were] an intelligence officer - the source writes ... a foreign one, say, from France, Italy, Israel or Russia, stationed in Washington , D. C. ... and that I was commissioned to profile the U.S. presidential candidates for my handlers.
 
“I would begin by investigating the backgrounds of each candidate.

 

“In the Intel business, it’s not really about what they say they are. A person is more defined by his or her friends, contacts, by who he/she associates with, by where he/she worked, by what he/she actually did, etc., than all other factors.

 

“We know a great deal about McCain. He’s been an open book for the past forty years or more, but Obama is different.

 

“I don’t know who he is. (So I must determine) Who are his friends and associates, who did he work for, etc. To find this out, I will do what the media did not do, I will compile a list:

 

“Michael Pfleger (the radical leftist priest)
“Antoine Rezko (the Syrian born crook, now in federal prison)
“Rita Reszo (see above)
“Saul Alinsky (Marxist founder of the street organizer movement)
“Jeremiah Wright (whose strident black liberation theology echoes the anti-American left)
“James Cone (Wright’s mentor)
“William Ayres (the Weatherman terrorist who avoided prison on a technicality)
“Bernadine Dohrn (Ayers wife, the terrorist who did not avoid prison)
“Industrial Areas Foundation (Alinsky’s organization)
“Woods Foundation
“Joyce Foundation
Chicago Annenberg Challenge
“Coalition for Improved Education in South Shore
South Shore African Village Collaborative

 

“[My investigation reveals that] Obama’s associates were a collection of former revolutionary members, underground leaders, draft protesters, black radicals, racketeers, former Communist Party leaders and radical inner city Catholic priests. And that they all appear to believe in the Marxist Saul Alinsky’s maxim, “The end justifies the means.”

 

“So what shall I report?

 

“A person is judged on his past. A person is loyal to his core associates. What do his loyal associates want?  What is their agenda? What is the ‘end that justifies the means’?

 

“History is a great teacher.  In Cuba, Fidel Castro took power and brought along his Marxist -core guerrilla cadre. Their political motivation was known to Fidel’s middle class supporters who (nevertheless clung to the belief) that once Castro and company were in power, he would become part of the mainstream. He was loyal to his core associates.”

 

“Boy, were his middle class supporters surprised.”

 

 

 

[][][]

 

I shared this missive with a friend who – though not an Obama supporter – told me I was being a bit paranoid.  Actually, I gave up paranoia in 1984 - since that political reality didn’t resemble the novel of the same name. 

 

FLASHBACK:

 

When I arrived in the Bay Area from out of state to attend law school, having been the head of a campus Young Democrats in a more conservative setting, I toyed with getting involved in local politics.  And - especially in Berkeley, I became aware just how far the real spectrum (as opposed to the public one) ran to the far left.

 

And over time, I came to understand just how much pressure is exerted on a nascent political animal to become co-opted and essentially controlled by the extreme left networks.  I met Black Panthers and their deluded supporters, overt Marxists, and fervent America haters - all clever and many covert. 

 

I haven’t met Mr. Ayers or his lovely ex-felon wife, but I got to know people exactly like them.

 

So my politics stayed local. I am friends with prominent democrat public officials, many of whom are closet moderates, if you will - one of whom actually voted for the “Governator”.

 

MY LIFE LESSON:

 

Over time, I gradually mutated from a conventional, but firmly patriotic liberal into a centrist with both liberal and conservative leanings.  On national security and law and order issues, I remain a hard nosed realist.  Therapy and happy talk are ineffective against thugs of all types and at all levels.

 

The litmus test for me has become a simple question: How did you react to 9-11-01?

 

If you saw the attack as a manifestation of existential evil aimed at gravely damaging the world’s most promising democratic republic, then you are my friend and ally whatever else you happen to believe.  But if you (like Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright) saw this malevolent attack as vindication of the perverse “we had it coming” ideological stance, then you and I are very, very far from the same page.

 

Where was Barack Obama on 9-11-01?  [Hint: The question is not about physical geography.]

 

As you might expect, my experiences with the hard left and their loony, over-idealist camp followers soured me on any active participation in California politics except on a very local, very selective level.
 
From this experience, my inner political scientist has distilled four distinct political archetypes that tend to emerge from the formative left wing swamp (a place I know all too well):
 
[1] The overt left-wing rejectionists – these became the dreaded “neo-cons”;
[2] The closet moderates who strive for “good government” – these are the elected officials who continue to swallow their misgivings about the leftist extreme;
[3] The camouflage radicals – these are the leftists who have cultivated a reasonable tone, but are biding their time until they achieve “real power”;
[4] The unrepentant lefties – these birds have migrated into the academy and / or leadership positions in the great opinion making machine. Ayers and company belong to this flock.

 

I’m too small a sample to constitute a political archetype.

 

Based on the record, including all of Senator Obama’s campaign pronouncements, he is either type 2or type 3.   EITHER.  I defy you to produce compelling evidence for either proposition.

 

One hopes that Senator Obama may still turn out to be a closet moderate - I will be greatly relieved if that turns out to be the case.  His life pattern, his tone and his recent statements are almost perfectly reconcilable with the pattern of a closet leftist and the pattern of a late blooming moderate. 

 

This is why, for me he remains -- above all -- a chameleon.  His life is the classic “fit in wherever I happen to be” narrative. A chameleon by any other name…. 

 

Now I grant the senator one thing.  In spite of his affiliation with a “black revolutionary”, somewhat anti-Semitic urban church, I am willing to believe that he really is a post-racial candidate.  Surely, this is a healthy and much overdue development.  By itself, it explains why this charismatic and enigmatic African, Indonesian, and Hawaiian fellow who became a Chicago politician has captured the imagination of the left and the affection of many on the right.

 

Were we sailing into safe waters in a time of peace and prosperity, this could well be enough to “make the sale”.

 

But we are not on that boat.

 

Barack’s first biography is a very well written and engaging narrative that tells all but reveals nothing.

 

So, years ago I traded inparanoia for street wise suspicion. For audacious hope, I adopted idealistic realism. And instead of an infatuation for personal ambiguity, I developed a stern preference for character transparency.

 

The times call for nothing less. 

 

John McCain, all his warts, quirks and flaws included, is a safer choice for an America-in-crisis

 

But only a miracle will make him president.

 

JBG
 

 

 

October 19, 2008

POWELL ENDORSES OBAMA, AND...

SUNDAY

Noon Pacific Time


As posted on the Policy Think Site - www.jaygaskill.com and “the Out-Lawyer's Blog”.

Copyright 2008 by Jay B. Gaskill, Attorney at Law. Contact: law@jaygaskill.com


POWELL ENDORSES OBAMA


Colin Powell has ably served two republican administrations -- the administration of “W's” father, and as Secretary of State at the time of the current president's run up to the Iraq invasion. Rumors of Mr. Powell's possible defection to the Obama camp have been circulating for weeks.


Today, on Meet the Press, the General dropped the bomb.


Given Secretary Powell's disaffection with the Bush administration, I find his decision unsurprising. Had it come earlier in the campaign, it might have had a muted impact, say, on the level of Senator Lieberman's endorsement of John McCain. Had it taken place when foreign policy and national security considerations were not swamped by the economic crisis, it might have amounted to a critical boost to Senator Obama in an area of acknowledged weakness.


So the good news, bad news joke for the McCain camp is this: The good news is that the Powell endorsement isn't a big deal, because the bad news is that the Obama didn't need the help.


The Rasmussen Tracking poll (which now folds in “leaners”) shows Obama's support has remained very stable at about 50% against McCain's 45% for about 10 days. This is well beyond the margin of error.

 

Note that other polls have different numbers.  Zogby, for example, released a poll today (10-19) in which Obama was only 47.8% to McCain’s 46.1%. Go to this link: http://zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1597 .  I suspect that Rasmussen’s policy of including the “leaners” masks the volatility reported on some other polls.

 


The McCain campaign has gone from “too close to call” to “still competitive” to “miracle needed”. I don't think that the 8% or so voters who harbor doubts about the junior senator from Illinois are going to suddenly break for McCain without a precipitating factor. And for the life of me, I am unable to imagine just what that could be.


Joe the Plumber has given the McCain campaign an opening to discuss taxes, an area of Obama vulnerability, but that was good for about two news cycles. Significantly, the Joe opportunity dropped into the campaign from the air, so to speak – you can't plan those things.


I am reminded of an anecdote from a Civil War Cabinet meeting. President Lincoln and General Grant were arguing about moving a particular general into major theater of battle. After some discussion, President Lincoln interrupted: “Grant, I don't give a damn about all that. Just tell me one thing: Is this man lucky?”


To be elected POTUS, John McCain needs to get lucky... damn lucky.


JBG




October 04, 2008

the Chrysler Bailout on Steroids?

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All contents, unless otherwise indicated are

Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 by Jay B. Gaskill

Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]

Please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com


The Chrysler Bailout on Steroids?


The best thing that can be said about the now-signed bailout legislation is that is carries on a tradition of financially rescuing economically challenged businesses, one that notably included the government loan to Chrysler. The automaker has survived but has never flourished because of inherent structural problems and corporate cultural dysfunctions. The difference in scale is staggering - .7 trillion dollars is an appreciable fraction of the nation's annual budget.


Every recession produces federal budget deficits. The downside in the current bailout is captured in the following question: Suppose the recession is not affected at all by Paulson's magic plan. Where is the next .7 trillion dollars coming from?


The McCain campaign seems to be cratering at the moment. To be fair, neither candidate has a good handle on the current economic mess. This will not be a fun presidency.


A long time friend – who opposed the bailout – wrote the following reproduced with his permission. His letter was not published.


You accuse Congress of standing by while America burns.  Yet the members of Congress who voted against the Paulson plan may be closer to Cato than Nero.  They blocked an expensive bailout of Wall Street by a Secretary of the Treasury who is himself a recent member of the Street.  They have slowed down an ever more aggrandizing Federal Reserve, whose cheap credit policies are partly responsible for the present mess.  And Congressional naysayers have given the Republic some breathing room, so that we may soberly consider whether a massive scheme to save financiers from the effects of their bad decisions is necessary.  It probably is not.  The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation may be able to dispose of bad loans and bad executives more effectively than Mr. Paulson and his successors; William Issac, a former chairman of the FDIC,  thinks that it can. (See "A Better Way to Aid Banks" in last Friday's Washington Post.)  The Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve System have effective weapons at their disposal to prevent thirties-style bank runs.  Savvy investment firms are working out deals to buy troubled banks and brokerages. 

The financial crisis is serious.  Hundreds of billions of investment capital have been squandered.  A recession looms.  Congress should act, but not before it considers alternatives.  America is a Republic, not an Empire, and we have time to think before taking out a $700 billion mortgage on our children's future.
Sincerely,

Jack High
Professor of Economics
School of Public Policy
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA


Professor Jack High was not alone in this opinion. More than 100 highly qualified economists agreed. But here's the rub: few of the critics had a solution other than “let the fed do what it normally does in these situations”. But once the “Paulson panic” was unleashed, the light-touch-under-the -radar solution was a political impossibility.


We are now watching political theater that has becomea very bad movie and we can't walk out.


JBG

October 03, 2008

Hocky Mom Kicks B..

Copyright 2008 by Jay B. Gaskill, Attorney at Law.  Contact email is on the Policy Think Site www.jaygaskill.com

 

 

THE CHEERFUL, TOUGH HOCKY MOM BEATS THE WEARY SENATOR

 

Leave all policy nuances aside for a moment and look at last night’s performances forensically.

 

Governor Sarah Palin fully justified John McCain’s decision to put her on the ticket.  Where she was strong, Senator Biden was tired; where she was charming, Biden was boring; where she was cheerful, the Senator was grim; and where Joe Biden unconvincingly trotted out his blue collar origins, Sarah was the quintessentially real deal.  She moved the ball for her party’s nominee and the rest is up to John McCain.

 

An unintended side effect for the democrats: It was painfully obvious that Senator Joe Biden is on the ticket to mask Senator Obama’s weakness on military issues.

 

JBG

October 01, 2008

Saving McCain from Himself - A trial Lawyer's Advice

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→The Human Conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008 by Jay B. Gaskill
Permission to publish, distribute or print all or part of this article (except for personal use) is needed. [Permission for use in group discussions is almost always routinely given.]
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 LINK to the printable HTM Version: http://jaygaskill.com/SavingMcCain.htm 

Wednesday

As I write this, the US Senate has overwhelmingly approved the bailout package in close to the same form as the one rejected by the house. Both candidates for POTUS voted YES. And Senator McCain is now trailing badly in the polls….

SAVING MCCAIN FROM HIMSELF

There are several reasons that we should all want McCain to do much better in this phase of the campaign. These are mine.

A DISCLOSURE: 

As a Truman democrat, I am appalled at the current ideological condition of my party.

MY REASONS

I am uneasy at the prospect that the country might have to experience four years with no one in the White House able or inclined to restrain the impulses of the current Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader. 

I am nervous about the prospect of the Junior Senator from Illinois as its Commander in Chief, given his earlier record of pandering to the internationalist left.

I think that a spirited bipartisan government is by far healthier than any mono-partisan government.  There is every reason to expect that McCain will govern in a bipartisan spirit and little reason to expect that Obama will even be able to do so. 

A closer race will ensure much more scrutiny is given to Senator Obama’s suitability for our nation’s highest elected office.

If, as I suggested in an earlier post, this really does become the Obama express, we will witness the putative and premature coronation of an insufficiently vetted candidate.

ADVICE FROM EVERYWHERE

Dick Morris advises McCain to draw a line in the sand in the congress until the bailout bill is reconfigured as a more fiscally responsible measure. Go to this link--http://thehill.com/dick-morris/theres-still-time--john-mccain-2008-09-30.html .

Rush Limbaugh advises McCain to get down and dirty with the democrats, exposing their leadership in Congress as having earned the blame for setting up the whole underlying mess. Go to this link --http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_093008/content/01125107.guest.html .

The McCain campaign has launched a short spot on YouTube highlighting his leading role in fighting to curb the Fanny & Freddy excesses against democratic resistance. The video includes a clip from President Bill Clinton corroborating that congressional democrats resisted his own efforts to accomplish the same. Go to this link-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2RZ0sUcVcE 

A TRIAL LAWYER'S ADVICE

The time for pulling punches is long gone.  In spite of the YouTube piece, Senator McCain has personally refrained from landing any hard hitting rhetorical blows on the democrats at all.  He has about 30 hours to make the credit meltdown his own issue.  If there ever was an event that emphasized the virtues of traditional economic principles and zero tolerance for corruption, this is it.  The Senator from Arizona needs to go on the warpath, name names and promise to make things right.  

And candidate McCain should concisely and pointedly make the case for a divided government.  Does America really want Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to have a rubber stamp in the White House?

He can repeat that Obama is out of touch with the mainstream, but this sort of charge loses traction as a generality.  Every recent democratic presidential nominee is called a “liberal”. 

Big deal. 

But none of these candidates, while serving in the legislature, supported a measure that sanctioned allowing a delivered baby to die after a failed abortion.  The explanation that Mr. Obama didn’t want to undermine Roe v. Wade is sufficiently lame that he should have to make it before a national audience.

There are more examples.  But the forensic principle operating here is that details speak louder than repeated generalities. Former Navy Commander McCain needs to load the ammunition and get his off shots as frequently as possible.

Finally, Senator McCain needs to spend a solid, reassuring FDR moment in front of each audience, one in which he slows down and simply and clearly expresses his love for this country and his abiding faith in America’s future. I can hear him say these words with a conviction borne of a lifetime of struggle:  “America is still the greatest country in the world. I have fought for her all my life. We are still a powerful and good nation, still the inspiration of the world, still the liberator of the oppressed, still the hope for those who live in the darkest places.  Every runner stumbles sometimes.  But this great nation will not fail because we will never give up. God bless America.”

JBG

 

 


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