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December 27, 2007

Ms. Bhutto was probably killed by Taliban and al Quaida

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BHUTTO’S WAS A TALIBAN - AL QUAIDA MURDER

Ms. Bhutto had returned to Pakistan after the Musharraf government was pressured by the United States. She had promised to purge the Taliban and al Qaeda from tribal regions on the Pakistan – Afghanistan border.

In early October of this year, the Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud threatened suicide attacks. FATA Senator Saleh Shah said bombers would “welcome” her in Pakistan.  He added, “We don’t accept President General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto because they only protect the US interest and see things through its glasses.” He bragged that his friend Mehsud controlled 35,000 highly trained fighters, including a “suicide squad”.

Ms. Bhutto was earlier quoted as saying that “I don’t believe that a true Muslim will attack me. I believe Islam forbids suicide bombings." Sadly, she underestimated the threat.

 

 coffin

AP photo of Bhutto's coffin

TODAY, December 27, 2007:

As Bhutto's vehicle pulled into the main street of the Pakistani military garrison city of Rawalpind, there were two gunshots and and explosion next to her car. A witness interviewed by the AP reported that "The man first fired at Bhutto's vehicle. She ducked and then he blew himself up."

Bhutto was taken to Rawalpindi General Hospital where she died without regaining consciousness.

May she rest in peace and may Pakistan yetfind both freedom and peace....

 

 

JBG

 Note --background in preceding post

Bhutto is Killed // Guns, Thugs and Steal...

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The Bridge to Being Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog2

The Human Conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 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

 

A print version of this piece is posted at http://jaygaskill.com/Guns.htm .

 

“Guns, Thugs and Steal”
About The Fragility of Elections
No, We Have Not Reached “The End of History”

 Bhotto

AP Photo 

Ms. Benazir Bhutto is dead, victim of anti-democratic thugs in Pakistan, as yet unidentified.  This is not the first Bhutto political killing. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, founder of Pakistan’s People’s Party, served as Pakistan’s Prime Minister from 1973 until he was removed in a coup in1977, then hanged in 1979 following his conviction for murdering a dissident. The late Ms. Bhutto was his daughter, born in 1953.

Pakistan belongs to a significant list of proto-democracies in which the entire democratization project remains unresolved.  Think of Venezuela, post-Soviet Russia and Iraq, for example.

 

The establishment of a functioning democracy in a place where one has never before flourished presents a multi-focal problem in infrastructure development; this is another way of saying that the worthy project if spreading democratic forms of governance in the world, however desirable, can’t be accomplished by fiat, or without the willing engagement of a critical mass of informed and very, very savvy local supporters. And it doesn’t happen without the investment of time, education and – at least in many cases – without external support.

 

Ultimately democracy depends for its existence on the “rule of law”, essentially a robust, well enforced legal system with check and balances and security conditions sufficient to police the police and their political string pullers.  It is the work of decades, not years.

 

Francis Fukuyama wrote in “The End of History” that democracy was the world’s new triumphant paradigm.  Propelled by the acclaim for his book and the attractive force of this notion, he was among the early cheerleaders for the Iraq war of liberation.  As the going got tough, Fukuyama wilted under the pressure from his fellow academics and recanted.

 

I’ve written about the problem (and democracy’s long term prospects) in an article “Fukuyama’s Wave Meets the Rocky Beach”, still posted at http://www.jaygaskill.com/democracychallenged.htm , with a follow up article at http://www.jaygaskill.com/FukuyamaWaveRevisited.htm  .

 

We Americans need to understand that the establishment of durable democracies in the world’s most sensitive regions (i.e., consensual governments that are geared to peaceful regime changes via free elections) may actually prove necessary for our democracy’s survival in the long term.  And we need to realize that the development processes that lead to that outcome are tricky and expensive.  I still think that Fukuyama’s vision of the future was accurate.  But we are far from reaching “The End of History.”

 

JBG

December 15, 2007

THE TIGER IN THE BACK YARD - YES IRAN IS STILL VERY DANGEROUS

I have revised and consolidated my three posts on the topic of the National Intelligence Assessment re Iran and posted the new article in the "Policy Think site" at

http://jaygaskill.com/INTELLIGENCEASSESSMENT.htm .

JBG

December 13, 2007

TOOTH OF THE TIGER - DETERRING IRAN?

 

 

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The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
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Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
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TOOTH OF THE TIGER

Tom Friedman chastises.

POTUS exhorts.

And Iran sneaks.

 

Tom Friedman complained about the NIE’s impact in yesterday’s NYT Op Ed column, “Losing Weight in the Gulf”, reprinted in today’s San Francisco Chronicle as “Let’s not be Naïve about Iran”.  

Friedman: “Right now, the Arab Gulf states are all sizing up America, their protector, and are wondering just how much Uncle Sam weighs in the standoff with Iran — and whether it will be enough to keep Iran at bay.”

Let’s not be naïve indeed. 

Of course the Middle East players see the NIE as a sign that American can’t be the trusted neighborhood cop anymore even though the local thugs are still in business.  Lot’s of players (think Russia and China) want to do business with Iran, and damn the consequences. 

No one claims that this president was behind the NIE – was sandbagged is a better description.  Moreover, this is the second sandbag: Recall who told POTUS about Iraq’s WMD’s?

Friedman: “I’d rather see Iran go nuclear and contain it, than have the Bush team start another Middle East war over this issue.”

Give me a break.  Containment of a suicidal jihad?  Maybe and maybe not.  Just whose lives are we willing to gamble?

Tom Friedman is a responsible liberal, the kind that is capable of supporting a conservative when the cause is right. But he seems to be suffering of late from the classic liberal naiveté -- the kind that Mr. Truman, say, never fully succumbed to.  Mr. Truman’s sense of political realism was forged in the hardball politics played in the boss Pendergast style in old Kansas City. 

The Middle East is all about mendacity and hardball politics. It is mob-land. Rule one in mob-land:  You don’t make nice except as a diplomatic gloss over the implicit threats.  Rule two: You make good on your threats.  No exceptions.

Some liberals are truly deluded; they actually think that you can waive your hands and speak strongly, while never intending to use your stick.  They are tone deaf to the snickers coming from mob-land.

This president is disabled in office not because he invaded Iraq relying on outdated intelligence that assured him our troops would find WMD stockpiles.  He is disabled because the left chose relentlessly to punish him for doing the right thing. 

Our Iraq invasion operated as a powerful deterrent to our enemies in the region precisely because it demonstrated our will to act decisively against an enemy even when information about Saddam’s true capabilities was ambiguous.  Nothing less than that kind of ruthlessness will deter the mendacious sneaks in mob-land.

We may not need to invade Iran.  But we cannot afford anyone to doubt our capability and will to do so if and when the time comes.

JBG

 

 

 

 
 

December 10, 2007

THE PRESIDENTIAL GAMBLE – PART II

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The Human conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
And
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 by Jay B. Gaskill
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http://jaygaskill.com/GambleII.htm

THE PRESIDENTIAL GAMBLE – PART II
THE LOOMING ISSUES:  AN INVENTORY

 

BEWARE POLITICIANS WHO JUST 'STAND FOR' SOMETHING.

 

In my 12-3 post, I promised to identify and discuss the issues that I believe will tower over the current election cycle. I believe that these are foremost among the really big things that will preoccupy the next president (and at least one successor).
Whether or not they surface in the current debate, or continue bubble just under the political radar, they will haunt the elections of 2012 and 2016.  Here is my short list of the top ten concerns of the next POTUS:
(LISTED IN RANDOM ORDER - WITHOUT INFERENCE OF PRIORITY):
  • Maintaining or reestablishing the essential core national facilities of production and manufacture in-country in the face of a massive outsourcing of our core manufacturing capabilities, but doing so without setting off a protectionist trade war.
NOTE: Here is a current inventory of essential American capabilities where 50 plus % vs. less than 50% mark those functions that are still effectively under US domestic control:
            The US space program – (50+)
            The US military hardware – planes, tanks, ships and guns (50+)
            Boeing – (50+)
            Microsoft – (50+)
            Computer chip makers – (not 50)
            Agriculture – (50+)
            Automobile manufacture – (not 50)
            Steel production – (not 50)
            Aluminum & copper – (not 50)
Energy sources (coal, natural gas, oil, solar, wind, nuclear) – (not 50)
  • Protecting and securing the national borders while solving the problem of assimilating or expelling the huge underclass of illegal immigrants without crippling the economy, law enforcement or both.
  • Securing a robust, clean energy supply, free from Middle East political manipulation.
  • Developing economically sound, portable benefit packages for all workers without ruining the economy, government budgets or the health care system.
  • Effectively countering the anti-Western jihad – a multi-administration, multi-focal effort aimed at protecting the homeland and our key allies from another 9-11, interdicting terrorist support by state actors, and be working to contain, undermine and eventually reverse the dangerous malignancy within Islam that threatens to birth a pan-Arab Islamic extremist superpower in the Middle East.
  • Restoring the international primacy of the dollar and (thereby) protecting our assets from foreign acquisition without triggering a recession.
  • Reducing the federal budget deficit without crippling economic growth through tax increases, and inter alia, getting a grip on entitlement reform, the deficit time bombs created by promises and programs that can never be funded over time.
  • Repairing the bad-loan mortgage crisis without making things worse.
  • Responding effectively and intelligently to the Eastern juggernaut – the prospect of a Chinese economic and military hegemony.
  • Promoting the reverence for human life and respect for human dignity in an increasingly fragmented and amoral culture.
Here’s the deal: 
A typical voter will decide his or her vote on a mix of issues and personal affiliation criteria (“I like Ike!” – “I hate “Tricky dick!”), some of which are not closely examined. 
And thoughtful, issue driven voters typically are forced to make their selections on the basis of a list of “top three” concerns, partly because no viable candidate will agree with them on more than three, or because there are cloaked differences and faux agreements among the candidates on most of the others (“Yes, I too, support peace and strength and oppose human suffering!”), or because some issues, though very important, address such long term problems that they are easily crowded out by more immediate concerns.
Immigration and border control, for now, is the top issue polled, followed closely by a vague basket of economic worries and insecurities relating to that “dangerous world” out there.
It is a fact of life (i.e., a reality that is well known by most of the people most of the time)  that certain issues simply cannot be solved within the lifetimes of 90% of current voters (think of world climate here) and other issues simply won’t be addressed because the people are almost evenly divided (think of entitlement reform). 
Still, in a close race, some issues matter greatly, and intelligent, informed opinion can often tip the outcome. 
In this spirit, I will venture (in Part III) to outline a few of the obvious, common sense positions that someone who is actually serious (as opposed to merely posturing) might propose.
THE TAKEAWAY POINT:
We are so frequently surprised and disappointed by the people we elect because the key issues on which we tend to base our choices tend to shift within the first year of office.  Character, intelligence, core values and the absence of extreme ideology are actually better guides.
  
Stay tuned.
JBG

December 08, 2007

The Nothing Serious Conspiracy Quiz

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The Human conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
And
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 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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THE NOTHING SERIOUS CONSPIRACY QUIZ

One of these is actually true….

 

[ ] The CIA tape erasure scandal is retaliation for Jack Bauer’s DUI arrest in Southern California.

 

[ ] Bill Clinton has been hired by George Bush senior (former CA head) to torpedo Hillary’s campaign.

 

[ ] HP programmers have been working on a bold new technology. Text messages will now be convertible to a simulated voice.  No one need actually call anyone anymore AND nobody has to read either.

 

Mall terror

[ ] Bin Laden was seen posing as S. Clause in a shopping mall.

JBG

 

 

 

 

December 06, 2007

N I E, Part Two: How To Make Your Own A - Bomb

 

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The Human conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
And
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 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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The leaks of classified material – published in today’s NYT and elsewhere – make it clear that something really did happen to Iran’s nuclear weapons strategy in 2003, something that was recently unearthed and partly corroborated, but that persuaded 13 of the 16 Intel agencies to revise downwards the threat profile associated with Iran’s nuclear bomb ambitions.  The reservations of the 3 agencies are reasonable and should give us pause.

Predictably, many on the “wobbly right” (a reference to British Prime Minister M. Thatcher’s scold) and the loony left (yes there are still some sane members of the left) have seized on the occasion to pretend that, once again, we were misled by our own government.  The truth is that we are being misled, once again, by our enemies.

HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN A-BOMB - THE NIE REVISITED

THE NIE HAS PROVIDED NO GROUNDS FOR ANY RATIONAL OBSERVER TO THINK THAT IRAN SIMPLY ABANDONED ITS ATOMIC BOMB AMBITIONS.

WWIIA-bombs 

Building Your Own A-bomb

Natural uranium is not fissile, i.e., it can’t be simply aggregated into the critical mass needed for an atomic fission reaction to become self sustaining – which is what happens in the melt down and explosion scenarios.  What is needed to make that happen is a high concentration of the rare isotope, Uranium 235. 

When large scale industrial processes increase the 235 concentration from the natural 1% to about 3 to 5%, a suitable fission reaction can be induced by bringing the 235 enriched fuel rods close together. This is how reactors generate power.

Managing an A-bomb explosion is much trickier. 

First, the 235 concentration needs to be increased to weapons grade – about 90%.  Then a new problem appears - one that had stumped the WWII Nazis and Russians. Just how does one manage to keep the sub-critical mass components safely separated and how then can they be brought together suddenly and precisely enough to be a real explosion instead of a large meltdown?  Thanks to Pakistan’s notorious A Q Kahn, that part of the bomb making recipe has been distributed, like some malevolent Johnny Appleseed, to Korea and – intelligence now believes – to Iran.

In WWII “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” were the nicknames of the a-bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.  Little Boy had a highly enriched uranium core and Fat Man had a plutonium core. Fat Man was much more powerful, but plutonium is much more difficult to refine than weapons grade plutonium.

It’s the Regime, Stupid

Not enough plutonium occurs in nature for bomb making, but it can be created out of depleted uranium. Pipes of depleted uranium (U 238, not fissile) can be “cooked” in peaceful nuclear reactors into a new metal that -via the alchemy of neutron bombardment - is a mix of U-238 and Plutonium-239. The latter is prime bomb material, in part because of its greater explosive potential per pound. It turns out that the used fuel rods of so-called “peaceful” reactors can be reprocessed for use in atomic bombs. Any country with a nuclear industry can – given the resources and time – make weapons grade plutonium from spent fuel rods.  Canada ran a plutonium extraction plant near Ottawa, selling the product to the US military. 

This brings up the central issue.  No one fears Canada.  Every rational player in the western security community fears Iran.  Any country that has a nuclear program will be able, over time, to divert the products of its own peaceful nuclear activities into bombs.  The key is whether we are talking about rational, responsible regimes or the other kind. 

The current regime in Iran is the other kind.

Natanz – The Nuclear Trojan Horse

Iran maintains a huge, well fortified uranium enrichment site at Natanz, a short drive south east of the city of Kashan. Most of the facility is underground.  They are reportedly running (or soon will be running) about 50,000 centrifuges (used to separate/concentrate the U235).  That’s a lot of centrifuges, even by first world standards. The underground part of the facility alone is about 60,000 square meters.

Teheran has declared that it wants Iran to become “self sufficient” in nuclear power over the next two decades (a worthy goal, say, for the US or a post terror Iran). 

A facility this large is much bigger than one just intended for weapons making, but its very size makes it easy to do both at once without detection.

In late 2006, the IAEA found that, among other “suspicious activities” the Iranian regime had possession of “diagrams showing how to mold uranium metal into the shape of nuclear warheads and other traces of highly enriched uranium at sites linked to military research”.

MSNBC reported in November the same year that “Tehran has shrugged off both Security Council demands that it stop developing its enrichment programs and urgings that it cease construction of a heavy water research reactor that produces plutonium waste. It insists it wants enrichment only to generate nuclear power and says it needs the Arak research reactor to produce isotopes for medical research and cancer treatment.”

About That Syrian Faculty

Every Middle East security expert will tell you that Syria is Iran’s client.  In this context, then, what are we to make of that mysterious facility 50 miles from the Iraq border that jets from the IDF blew up in September?  Intelligence reports converge here: Syrian military personnel and Korean technicians on site, satellite images capturing a rapid Syrian site cleanup after the bombing, apparently right down to the dirt.  This was no aspirin factory, and Israel’s special forces and air assets don’t pick targets casually.

What Really Happened in 2003?

I now think that a combination of budget pressures and worries about the very kind of attack that Israel visited on Syria led Iran to decide to continue its nuclear weapons program by hiding it in the open, cloaked within its civilian reactor program

Iran already has access to the bomb assembly technology.  All that remains is to acquire or make the fissile bomb core material. 

Iran will be proceeding on two fronts: (1) to buy weapons grade fissile material on the black market (2) to bleed off the necessary material over time from their “civilian” program at Natanz and possibly elsewhere.

Nothing has changed.  We were deterring the Iranian regime before by making plain that: A. If necessary, the US will destroy suspected nuclear bomb facilities before they can generate weapons to be used against us or our friends. B.  In the meantime we insist on transparency and meaningful oversight.  Never forget: They seek a fait accompli.

JBG

 

 
 
 
 

December 04, 2007

NIE - IRAN // YES, WORRY...AS REVISED 12-14

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The Human conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
And
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 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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YES -- WORRY 

ABOUT THAT REVISED IRAN INTELLIGENCE ASSESSMENT
 

CAN WE TAKE THIS TO THE BANK?

Iran probably would use covert facilities— rather than its declared nuclear sites—for the production of highly enriched uranium for a weapon. A growing amount of intelligence indicates Iran was engaged in covert uranium conversion and uranium enrichment activity, but we judge that these efforts probably were halted in response to the fall 2003 halt, and that these efforts probably had not been restarted through at least mid-2007.

 NO. My revised article is posted at:

http://jaygaskill.com/INTELLIGENCEASSESSMENT.htm

  

JBG  

 
   
     
     

December 03, 2007

THE PRESIDENCY GAMBLE

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The Bridge to Being Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog2/  

The Human conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
And
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 2005, 2006 and 2007 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

A Print Version of this Article is posted at this link:

http://www.jaygaskill.com/PRESIDENCYGAMBLE.htm

THE PRESIDENCY GAMBLE

Part One of Three
The Non-Ideological Analysis

 

Every fresh presidential selection is a crapshoot.  Every vote is a compromise in which a critical mass of voters selects a potential leader based on a prioritization of issues (pick your top three) against the high likelihood that unexpected events and circumstances will upend the whole list. 
Our fleeting assessments of leadership are followed, inevitably, with disillusionment or pleasant surprise, but very, very rarely by “see, I told you so!”, at least as to the guy or gal we voted for.  Think about it:
·        Who knew in advance that James Earl Carter would turn out more preacher than doer?
·        That Bill Clinton, the old-boy liberal from Arkansas, would lead us to welfare reform?
·        That Richard Milhous Nixon, with all his warts, would lead a foreign policy opening to Maoist China?
·        That Gerald R. Ford, the solid centrist, would successfully heal the Nixon era wounds then blow it all to pardon Nixon?
·        That Ronald R. Regan, the genial Hollywood B” actor, would turn out to be a cunning and effective player in the international sandbox?
·        That Harry S. Truman, with his under-eloquent Missouri twang and boss Pendergast machine roots, would become one of the great presidents?
FDR campaigned to reduce federal spending and balance the budget -- and we all know how that turned out.  JFK, ever eloquent and competent, who campaigned to close the “missile gap”, allowed Soviet nuclear missiles to be sneaked into Cuba 80 miles from the U.S. border, then brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in an attempt to correct his earlier mistake.
Who knew?  Go figure.
We can’t ignore policy, ideology and party all of the time.  But a strong case can be made that it is even more perilous to ignore character and experience….

Executive Competence:  A Litmus Test?

The Government Executives

A vote for a president is a vote for about 1,000 people, mostly unknown to us, but absolutely essential to the creation a fresh executive footprint in real time.  Bill Clinton, with all his wit and charm, found it difficult to overcome the limitations of experience:  Coming from a tiny southern state (Arkansas, population about 2.5 million), I don’t think that he actually had 1,000 trusted, seasoned, competent and loyal aides who could then quickly fill out the key positions in the executive branch.  [State troopers don’t count here.]
Deep into his first term, hundreds of appointments had not yet been made. 
Executives acquire the necessary 1,000 trusted staffers and peers by virtue of the size and scope of their responsibilities.  I submit that there is no substitute for experience, scope and scale, at this level. 
Think of the US as a giant business.  What board of directors would hire a CEO who had never managed something larger than a small grocery chain?
Among the top states in population, listed in alphabetical order, consider the nature of the experience a governorship can confer on the chief executive, particularly over more than a single term of office:  California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia... 
A two term governor of any one of these states may arguably be presumed to have the necessary “executive gravitas” for the oval office – all other things equal. [Yes, all other things are rarely equal.]
The population of New York City is just over 8 million; this creates an executive area comparable to the states of Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina or Virginia. I submit that a two term mayor of that intractable city would also have acquired the “executive chops” for the job of POTUS.
Let’s now look at the presidential contenders just from the “executive resume” framework.
On the state or municipal executive side, reasonable observers would concede that both Romney and Giuliani have earned sufficient “resume” status. We can also include Governor Richards, if his additional federal experience is taken into account.

The Legislator Candidates & the “Mixed” Resumes

Members of the legislative branch acquire the needed executive resources much more slowly, as a result of accretion.  This usually takes decades, service in key committee chair positions, think tank connections, and long term political alliances.
On the legislative side, we have four senators (Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Thompson) who have never chaired a major committee, nor authored any significant legislation; and two of them (Edwards and Obama) have not even served more than one complete term. 
Senator John McCain stands out among the legislative branch candidates who still might have a shot at the nomination as having legislative tenure and gravitas.  What this really means will depend on two assessments:  How strong are the alliances acquired by this cranky, independent Senator from Arizona? How much “executive” weight will be given to his formative military responsibilities?  Reasonable observers place McCain in the same executive tier as Romney and Giuliani.
Among the democrats, there are at least two legislative old-timers whose experience and tenure place them in the upper tier as well: Senators Christopher Dodd (Connecticut) and Joe Biden (Delaware). They make the resume cut by virtue of Committee Chair experience, legislative accomplishments and long acquired alliances among the important players in DC.  
Governor Bill Richardson (New Mexico) also makes the resume cut by virtue of his earlier years as congressman, his service as the US Ambassador to the United Nations and as a cabinet member – he was the Secretary of the Department of Energy.
But – in the Darwinian world of practical politics, Senators Dodd and Biden and Governor Richardson are too far back in the race to be a threat to Mrs. Clinton. 
Senator Obama still has a shot.  No one else is even in remote contention.

Is Mrs. Clinton the Exception to “Executive Resume Deficiency”?

If not Sui Generis, Senator Clinton is certainly hard to classify.  What about the claims of executive experience?  We can safely assume that Hillary Clinton was an astute political observer during her husband’s presidency, one with the interest, access and ambition to learn from his experience.  But, with the politically disastrous exception of her health care initiative in 1994, Hillary’s experience in her husband’s administration amounted to observation without accountability – or with reference to her husband’s sexual misconduct, accountability without observation. 
In her zealous protection of Bill Clinton’s tattered moral reputation and, in other political struggles, she has demonstrated the ruthlessness of a cunning political consultant. Executive leadership requires a more substantial test and – truth be told – the dynamics of electability may require a bit more authentic humanity.  As an astute political operator, Mrs. Clinton seems to have one thing down pat: Avoid alienating your base and reach out to the middle even at the cost of policy clarity.   
In the short term, the Clinton problem is not the resume, but the straddle.
Conservative democrats and moderate republicans, for example, can only hope that a President Clinton, Version 2009, would be a firmer national security hand than the earlier iterations (Clinton Version 1993 and Clinton Version 1997). 
But there is slim evidence, indeed, for the notion that Senator Clinton would be a tougher and more effective adversary for America’s enemies than her husband was.  That is 90 parts hope to 10 parts assessment.
Like so many other bright line issues, the picture of HC as a foreign policy hawk (willing for example to credibly deter a nuclear Iran) is hard to ground in anything stronger than a selective reading from the tea leaves of her campaign rhetoric.
Any bright line picture of where Mrs. Clinton “stands” a leap of astigmatic faith -- much like those in the peace movement who took Mr. Nixon seriously when he campaigned in a “secret plan” to get us out of Vietnam or those who thought Mr. Carter really meant it when he promised to balance the budget by 1984. 
So the junior senator from New York still remains revealed only in a slim resume, one that is wrapped in an enigma and cloaked in carefully shaped rhetoric.
But, to most Americans, for better or worse, the picture of Senator Clinton’s character is well fixed.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that “Character is destiny”.  But for this election cycle, the aphorism will be about the character of the American people. 
What do we American voters really care about in our next President?
  • General Political Ideology?
  • Personal Character?
  • Executive Competence?
  • Leadership Experience?
  • Agreement with our personal Short List of Three Big Issues?
  • Not rocking the Boat?
  • Rocking the boat?
In my next posting here, I will identify and discuss some looming issues; these limn the real policy choices that should tower over the current election cycle. They arise from the intractable realities that will inevitably preoccupy the next president (and at least one successor). Whether or not they fully surface in the current debate, or continue bubble just under the political radar, they will haunt the elections of 2012 and 2016. 
Stay tuned…
JBG
 

 

 

 


 

 
 
   
 

December 01, 2007

BEATING UP ON BEOWULF

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BEATING UP ON BEOWULF

 

An article in National Review Online (assailing the film Beowulf as anti-Christian propaganda) has unearthed one of my pet peeves about the currently ascendant (ladies, forgive me) over-feminized Christianity.

The piece ran today -- November 30 -- by Raymond Ibrahim. Here’s the link -- --- (http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NDU5MGIwYWJlOTQ3OWE2MjNjN2E2MzcyMjFkYWIxMmM=#more )

The context is important here:  There is a deep tension between the modern and post-modern effete versions of Christianity and its earlier, more robust versions. Males do not enjoy a monopoly on martial courage (think of Joan of Arc and the young Queen Elisabeth), but let’s face it, the nurturing, pacifist, carry-a-feather-not-a-sword archetype is unmistakably feminine. 

As to the movie, Beowulf, I prefer John J. Miller’s take (also in Nat Rev. on line- November 16th) in which he simply repeats what we all know – Hollywood is crude and almost always distorts the great classics.

  http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ZmM5ODg2MDlhNmU5ZjExMDRmNTNkMmYxNjFmNGY5ZGE= .

In the Ibrahim piece, the author is right, of course, when he locates anti-Christian jibes throughout Hollywood’s efforts.  This is a development that took hold in the late fifties and is just now beginning to draw a concerted pushback.

Mr. Ibrahim makes his most telling and interesting point with this question:

“If Christianity was, and is, some sort of un-masculine religion, meant to sap the “aristocratic” class of their manhood and arête — that is, manly virtue and excellence — why then did the ruling warrior class of Europe ever come to accept it in the first place?”

Why indeed?

Yes, Hollywood is prone to attack religion – and sometimes it represents an easy target. 

I object most strongly to the unreal caricatures of priests, pastors and believers, either as naïve fools or malevolent monsters.  Even when the writers and directors are trying hard to “do the right thing” they tend to screw it up. 

But I’d not waste a second on Beowulf – whether in written translation from the Old English, or in its various cinematic incarnations.

As I recall, Beowulf is a (roughly 11th century) pagan epic about a pre-Christian culture in Scandinavia .  In different settings, so were Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Homer’s Odyssey and – for that matter - What about Star Wars?  

J. R. R. Tolkien (a Roman Catholic) wrote an important essay Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics  in which he reportedly (sorry, I haven’t read the essay) lauded the manuscript as an important mythopoetic work – as opposed to an historical narrative.   

Tolkien might have talked about an effete, anti-heroic Jesus; he might have complained that Beowulf exulted pagan heroism instead of an ethos of peace, but he did not. 

I am personally persuaded that this is because he and C. S. Lewis, among others of that era, were Christians of a different and more heroic stripe, a model sadly diminished and derided in too many modern and post modern circles.

I grieve for the demise of the hero in our culture and of the self confident, robust, not-puritanical Christianity that animated most of “the good guys” who fought real evil in WW II, and those stalwart iconic lawmen who were depicted in the old westerns.

There is still a subset of the followers of Moses and Christ – and I number myself among them - who would gladly sacrifice the puritanical mindset (of which political correctness is just the latest manifestation) for a more pagan one, so long as the spirit of good humor, compassion, heroism, the core moral law and the deep meaning of resurrection are all conserved.

JBG

 
 

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