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August 31, 2008

{Not so} Bad News For Barack - Updated

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 TUESDAY

Rasmussen now shows a strong Obama gain, now leading McCain by 5%.  Go to http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/daily_presidential_tracking_poll

Sunday….

 

BAD NEWS FOR BARACK

 

1. Governor Sarah Palin has re-energized the GOP base like no other move McCain could have taken.

 

This is one of the Democrats’ worst fears because Obama is increasing looking like a more inspirational version of Dukakis, who looked good to them at convention time but hollow by  Halloween.

 

2. The Obama Bounce is gone, according to Rasmussen.

 

Link: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/daily_presidential_tracking_poll .

 

Pull quote:

 

“Sunday, August 31, 2008

 

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday—the day before the Republican National Convention is scheduled to begin—shows Barack Obama ahead of John McCain by three percentage points both with and without leaners. That’s exactly the same edge Obama enjoyed a week ago on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.”

 

3. McCain, using the public spirited instincts one associates with a good president, has quickly moved to put Hurricane Gustav ahead of his other priorities. 

 

With any other candidate, this would look like showboating, but with Governor Palin at his side and given McCain’s legacy of integrity, he looks (for now at least) more and more like a president in waiting and Senator Obama looks more and more like a rock star with an intense fan base, but lagging in “leader appeal”. 

 

4. If McCain emerges from the nominating convention with a greater bounce than Obama did, the dynamics of the contest will be altered in his favor for several weeks.

 

Yes, anything can still happen, including a McCain slump.  And at this point, McCain is still slightly behind. To recover momentum, Obama needs to engage and, if possible, preempt. 

 

But what we are seeing here, ironically, is an energy gap. At 71, McCain outworked his republican opponents, carrying his own luggage and taking his message to hundreds of town meetings. At 72, McCain is very sharp and quick on his feet and seems to have inexhaustible energy.  Obama needs to work much harder in order to overcome the growing impression that he isn’t quite up to the task of running the country in a time of crisis. 

 

Is this more like “Truman vs. Dewey”, “JFK vs. Nixon” or “Reagan vs. Carter”?  Or is it “none of the above”? 

 

I suspect that we are witnessing an entirely new game.

 

Stay tuned.

 

JBG

 

 

August 29, 2008

UPDATE -OBAMA'S BOUNCE - ANEMIC or ROBUST?

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Updated 8-30
Rasmussen  still shows a modest bounce, post-Palin http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/daily_presidential_tracking_poll

 

OBAMA’S BOUNCE – ANEMIC or ROBUST? Updated

 

Senator Obama’s post convention bounce so far is only 3-4% according to Scott Rasmussen’s daily tracking poll released today (46/43) measured from an earlier tie, or a 4% bounce when the self-described “leaners” are included. [See the update above.]

 

Rasmussen: “Obama’s four-point lead reported on Friday morning is based on polling data collected Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. Virtually all of the interviews were completed before Obama’s acceptance speech and it is impossible to tell what will happen next. Normally, the bounce would continue for a few days. But, this year, with McCain’s VP announcement and the Republican convention happening so quickly, we are in uncharted territory.”

 

Link to Rassmussen: http://www.rasmussenreports.com/  . 

 

I prefer the Rasmussen numbers because they tend not to exaggerate swings in opinion and have, in recent history, been better at predicting actual electoral behavior.  But I note that Gallop has Obama ahead 49/41, an 8 point bounce from the pre-convention 45/45 tie. Link to Gallup. http://www.gallup.com/home.aspx

 

Zogby is another excellent poll, but as of noon Pacific, had released no “bounce” numbers.  Go to http://www.zogby.com/ .

 

Recall that John Kerry’s post convention bounce in 2002 was reportedly only 4% (50/44) from an earlier small lead.  Senator Kerry’s bounce was described as “anemic” at the time.

 

The Obama’s acceptance speech was watched by 12-14 million more than the 26 million viewers who watched Hillary’s speech, which was several million more than those who watched Kerry’s speech in 2002. Note that the convention audience at its peak still represented a fraction of total viewership.  Gone are the days when a single event can rivet the entire nation’s attention. On the other hand, televised events have a vital afterlife on YouTube which is a second and interesting battleground where both candidates are presently represented by clips, adds and hit pieces.

 

Enter The Sarah Palin Factor

 

It is too early to assess the impact of McCain’s Friday choice of Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, a mother of five with strong anti-corruption credentials whose relevant experience level is at least comparable to Obama’s (because hers is executive), while her name recognition is low at the moment. 

 

Will she attract the disgruntled women voters who intended to support Hillary?  Though more conservative than Mrs. Clinton, Governor Palin is attractive, young (44) and an effective speaker.  Governor Palin by all accounts is a tough competitor, not to be underestimated. As she becomes better known to the voters, I am certain that she will prove an asset to the McCain ticket, because her real role is not running against Senator Biden, just adding more luster to the McCain vs. Obama contest. More on Palin at these links:http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/sarah_palin_unknown_nationally_popular_in_alaska and http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/politics/5974684.html and http://gov.state.ak.us/bio.php .

 

Key democrats were nervous and unsettled about Obama’s candidacy going into the convention.  Coming out, they are still nervous and at least “concerned”.  It may be dawning on the movers and shakers of the democratic party that their candidate is not running against George Bush. This is something that candidate McCain can be expected to make increasingly evident.

 

What to watch:  If within two days following the end of the Republican Convention, Senator Obama’s bounce is gone, you can assume that key democrats will have gone from “unsettled” or “concerned” to actually worried.

 

The GOP convention is Monday through Thursday, September 1-4, unless the incoming, New Orleans aimed hurricane causes a delay…. 

 

The election is November 4.

 

 

August 24, 2008

Cheney?

Thirty hours after my post here, a Washington Times analyst has picked up my "Biden is Obama's Cheney" theme.  Link: http://www.washtimes.com/news/2008/aug/25/analysis-obama-picks-biden/ .

JBG

August 23, 2008

Joe Biden is Obama's Cheney

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Print link: http://jaygaskill.com/JoeBidenIsObamasCheney.htm

 

JOE BIDEN IS OBAMA’S CHENEY

 

Senator Biden is about Dick Cheney’s age and enjoys some of the former Defense Secretary’s foreign policy / national security gravitas.  “Blue Dog” democrats would have much preferred Biden at the top of the ticket. Indeed, Victor Davis Hanson’s hilarious essay of 8-21 (http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson082108.html ) implies that Barack himself might agree. [Hanson is a Hoover scholar and a conservative democrat.]

 

Cheney brought only Wyoming to the electoral mix and Biden brings only Delaware; in each case no electoral value was or is added, since both were in the tank for the nominee anyway.  But each VP nominee brought what the presidential candidate (and –outcome pending – the president elect) was clearly understood to need: adult supervision. 

 

But Governor Bush was required to listen to Mr. Cheney because of a family legacy and was likely to heed the VP because of his sheer force of personality.  There is no particular reason to believe that a President-elect Obama will listen to the loquacious Mr. Biden more than to Nancy Pelosi. 

 

JBG

August 22, 2008

Part Three - Leviticus, Gay Marriage and more

Gayness, Ecclesial and Secular

THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, IN EXPANDED FORM IS NOW POSTED IN PDF FORMAT AT THE FOLLOWING LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/AboutGaynessEcclesialAndSecular.pdf 

August 20, 2008

Gayness, The Series PART TWO

THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, IN EXPANDED FORM IS NOW POSTED IN PDF FORMAT AT THE FOLLOWING LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/AboutGaynessEcclesialAndSecular
 
Gayness, Ecclesial and Secular

PART TWO: How and WHY

Here I am forced – as we all are for the tough questions in life – to resort to “mere” anecdotal evidence.  My own survey reveals that a strong plurality of the most impressive pastors, chaplains and priests are gay males who enjoy a notable measure of non-threatening charisma, a strong gift for creative, healing humor and a natural, unforced compassion; these are traits and abilities that tend to set them apart from the less gifted.  The presence of gay “healers’ in a group tends to mitigate conflict and promote group cohesion and morale. 

 

judge

 

I’m sure the firefighters in Ladder Company 24 who survived the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001 in Manhattan would fervently agree.  Their Chaplain, the Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Mychal Judge, a gay man, died in the line of duty while administering last rites to a firefighter in the midst of the danger and chaos of Ground Zero. His helmet is kept at the Vatican.  I took this picture at Ladder Station 24 soon after Fr. Judge died.

PICTURE AND TEXT COPYRIGHT 2008 BY JAY B GASKILL

CONTACT VIA EMAIL: law@jaygaskill.com

August 18, 2008

Gayness - Ecclesial and Secular, Part One of Three

Link to print Version:
http://jaygaskill.com/GaynessEcclesialAndSecular1.htm
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Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 by Jay B. Gaskill
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Gayness, Ecclesial and Secular
A Three Part Series

THE ENTIRE ARTICLE, IN EXPANDED FORM IS NOW POSTED IN PDF FORMAT AT THE FOLLOWING LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/AboutGaynessEcclesialAndSecular

August 15, 2008

A Clear Thinking Guide for Isolationist Hobbits

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Link to a Printable Version - http://jaygaskill.com/HindEnd.htm

 

 

WHY THE ART AND PRACTICE OF
CLEAR THINKING IS MISSING AMONG THE ISOLATIONIST HOBBITS

 

The Roots of Confusion Are Universal, but some people are more confused than others…
By
Jay B Gaskill

 

Our “hobbit” friends are the ‘nice people” who live in benign bubbles, enjoying their gardens and teatime (or their local equivalents). They expect bad news is best handled by audacious hope and persistent denial. They tend to think that if we don’t make trouble, none will come our way.  They are children in adult clothing, homes and jobs who are protected from adult thinking by a set of “hobbit managers”. These are the opinion leaders who have persuaded their charges that the ideology of peace is the best way to achieve peace in fact.  “Don’t worry, be happy: vote as we tell you and you will have ‘peace’.”

 

Hobbits tend to raise narcissistic children who develop “anger issues” and “self esteem” problems because facing the Real World without having been equipped with a robust moral code always creates a sense of resentment and betrayal.  This is very confusing for the hobbit parents.

 

Assume that most of us enjoy undamaged brains and normally functioning minds. Yet, confusion remains a common fact of the human condition. Yes, I’m focusing on the current disordered thinking patterns among the loony situational pacifists who tend to see the jihad against us as a problem in the insufficient availability of mental health resources. But, truth be told, confusions are hardly confined to them. 

 

Everyone seems confused. We are entitled to ask, WHY?  Is the world really that hard to understand?

 

The two most common forms of confusion are about values and facts. Confusion always stems from conflicts in the former (“How can you say you love peace and then support the troops?”) and seeming disconnections in the latter (“California raised taxes on high earners and tax revenue dropped”). 

 

Many ordinarily intelligent people tend to be thrown off balance by the drama of seemingly inconsistent values of apparent equal importance; the specter of values clashing in those recurring irreconcilable conflicts that Real Life never fails to provide is … confusing to them. This is because their minds were poorly trained. Anyone who expects to find harmony within a mix of distinct values, all of which are seen as “Good” will be confused by the Real World..  Their minds become confused because they are operating within a non-realistic paradigm: They were taught to see the world as if the overriding principle of all our life interactions were harmony. 

 

But their minds have not identified the creative function of conflict; they are unable to discern any overriding principle that may be operating throughout the apparent chaos (like conflict engendered development); and they miss the essential fact of Life in the Real World – Evil is real and it is locked in an eternal struggle with the Good.

 

I hate it when it does that.

 

 

Almost everyone is confused at one time or other when presented with a situation that contains too many separate facts to integrate within the necessary time frame… or too few facts to come up with a well integrated reality model.

 

Examples of this variety of the “too much complexity” or “too much simplicity” confusion can be strung along an axis. At one end we experience the problem of navigating the chaotic info-swamp; at the other we get hung up trying to decode one of those impenetrable wisdom nuggets like a Heraclitus’ aphorism (e.g., “you can’t step into the same river twice”).

 

The key to clarity is always found in the EMT / ambulance model. We need an overriding priority, like “optimize your available time by using triage”, and we need to realize that time sometimes demands a decision NOW and WITHOUT ALL THE POSSIBLE INFORMATION.

 

The practical minds among us are rarely confused. Why is that?

 

Practical people have Common Sense.  When they are sufficiently informed, they always tend to ask the right questions and draw optimal conclusions.  When not, they tend to say “Oh well”, and then move on.  Common Sense never gets hung up on the quest for perfection because a reasonable optimum beats an unreasonable obsession any day, any time.  Common sense swaps a spare tire on the road and repairs it later.  Common sense recognizes that when we are attacked by thugs, a therapeutic response to the attackers can wait until we “take care of business.”

 

When well informed, common sense fills in the blanks quite well thank you. Here are three aphoristic bumper stickers from the realm of Common Sense. I suspect that Heraclitus would approve…

 

IF WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER, WHAT WAS THE QUESTION?  “PLEASE ATTACK ME AGAIN?”
IF SOMEBODY “LIED AND PEOPLE DIED”, WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM? SADDAM LIED, WE BELIEVED HIM AND SADDAM DIED. SO SORRY.
IF HOPE IS AUDACIOUS, WHAT IS COMMON SENSE, SLICED SALAMI? HOPE AS MUCH AS YOU WANT, BUT DON’T FORGET: YOUR HIND END IS LOCATED IN THE REAL WORLD.

 

JBG

 

August 13, 2008

RUSSIA, IRAN AND DIRTY HARRY

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INTERNATIONAL “THUGOLOGY” 101

Map

 

RUSSIA, IRAN AND DIRTY HARRY
INTERNATIONAL “THUGOLOGY” 101

 

I. THE “DIRTY HARRY” LESSON WRIT LARGE

 

In the now famous scene in Clint Eastwood’s movie (Sudden Impact 1983), an armed thug who is holding a waitress hostage is confronted by Inspector Harry Callahan, who points his outsized service revolver to the miscreant’s head, orders him to surrender or  Go ahead - make my day.”

 

Harry’s growled threat was sufficiently unambiguous that even a dull witted thug could discern that this was no bluff. In all thug encounters (and as we will see, in all international ones) it also helps to have Teddy Roosevelt’s “big stick”. 

 

But a stick without will and skill is just a stick.  The knowledge that Harry was actually going to pull the trigger caused the thug to submit to police authority without a shot being fired. The larger lesson of the “Make my day” vignette is not “Always carry a gun”.

 

The real lesson is that the threat of force only reliably produces protective results when three conditions are met:

 

1.      The threatened force is serious enough to make a thug reverse course

2.      The present means to deliver on the threat is obvious.

3.      It is bright line clear that the threat will be carried out.

 

II. THUGS ARE EVERYWHERE

 

 

There is a curiously clueless subset of situational pacifists among the foreign policy elites and political intelligentsia who think that violence is so abhorrent that we should bluff and bluster several times before we finally - if ever - resort to force.  These are the people who will support a strongly worded resolution against a thuggish regime, then express outrage when equally strong action follows.  These confused minds belong to the “Use a gun, go to your room!” school of diplomacy and social policy.  They are dangerous because the world is dangerous.

 

Civilization can be defined in several ways, but I propose a simple functional definition that should be a wake up call for the naïve.  Civilization is a zone of enforced peace that describes any significant geographic area over which a law-based government has been able to subdue thugs and protect the innocent.  By this test, whole regions in the world and even parts of our inner cities are not in a state of civilization.  Moreover, civilization is often a fragile and reversible state of affairs.  And in the realm of nation state interactions, the rules and norms that apply within any one civilization do not apply writ large. Instead, international relations consists of an unstable admixture of thug-thug alliances and conflicts and a series of overlapping trade and exchange systems supported by voluntary sanctions. 

 

Russia is groping its way into civilized status within its borders and vis a vis the rest of the world is acting like a thuggish gang.  In this, Russia is hardly alone. 

 

II. ARMED CONFLICT AS A FACT OF LIFE

 

Deadly armed conflicts - especially in the last 80 years or so, tend to fall into three crude categories:

 

(1) Two or more thugs battling over a prize.

(2) A thug or thug coalition vs. a civilization or a coalition of civilizations.

(3) A complicated and messy mix of the foregoing like two mixed coalitions (thug and non-thug) against each other for mixed motives, i.e., part prize, part self-preservation and part self-aggrandizement.

 

Moral clarity and sober realism are equally essential to self-preservation in the current environment. 

 

Here are five reality points:

 

For the last century or so, the US and Great Britain, joined by a small list of other players, all their imperfections accounted for, have been the least thuggish of all the mostly-civilized nation states on the planet.

 

At the present moment, several nations are both particularly thuggish, if you will, and dangerous to their neighbors and the civilized nations of the world.  This list includes Russia, Iran-Syria, North Korea and China. 

 

Overt thuggish behavior by any of these countries must be deterred (recalling the Dirty Harry rules and the nuclear qualification to those rules), deflected or civilized (in the larger sense). 

 

There is a long term world trend favoring the emergence of moderately civilized, partly democratic governments in place of authoritarian thuggish ones. That trend is not robust and can easily be reversed.  Its strength depends on the resolve and capability of the civilized nations to form effective military alliances strong enough to operate as “Dirty Harry” deterrence in the short and mid term and to promote civilizing ideologies in the long term.

 

The situational pacifists who belong to the “Use a gun, go to your room!” school of diplomacy and social policy are capable of completely undermining the trend favoring the emergence of moderately civilized, partly democratic governments in place of authoritarian thuggish ones.

 

 

III. RUSSIA AND GEORGIA AS THE LATEST TEST CASE

 

Russia’s recovery from communist poverty has been shaky.  Its nationalist ambitions are being funded by robust oil production see the chart below) and the willingness to withhold oil as political weapon.

 

In a previous article, I pointed out these current approximate oil production figures in millions of barrels per day:

 

Russia             12.87

Saudi Arabia    8.91

Iran                  3.87

Iraq                  2.50

U. A. E.           2.66

Kuwait             2.34

 

Dirty Harry had a single hostage, one that Harry treated as expendable in the knowledge that more hostages are saved that way (i.e., no bluff, no BS).  But when nuclear armed nation states are involved, the tendency to thuggish behavior is harder to restrain because the potential hostage factor increases exponentially.  In practice, the possible use of nuclear weapons is deterrence against the possible use of nuclear weapons AND direct territorial invasion, but little else. 

 

Russia is still a formidable military power, especially within driving distance, and is an off-limits target because of its still formidable nuclear weapons capability.  Georgia has only been independent from the former Soviet Union since 1990, effectively democratic only since 2003.  Its current elected leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, was elected president in 2004 and has aligned himself with the West and free market reforms. His attempt to use military power (miniscule compared to the Russian neighbor) to reassert sovereignty over Abkhazia, a separatist region with a strong pro-Russian presence provided a pretext for a massive Russian invasion of Georgia, the outcome of which – a fragile and unenforceable ‘peace settlement’ notwithstanding – is still in doubt.

 

Unlike dirty Harry, we don’t have the equivalent his tactical advantage; true, we have a gun at the head of Russia but Russia has one too, aimed at our major cities.

 

We can’t bluff.

 

MOREOVER, our threats are limited to peripheral matters that may or may not even affect Russian behavior.

 

IV. IRAN

 

Let’s seriously think for a moment about IRAN.  Does anyone really want that regime to get “The Bomb”?  Yes, the situation is delicate to say the very least. But there is no escape from the issue.  The naïve talking heads and other pundits who think that we can “deter” a nuclear armed Iran have just been given an object lesson in hollow deterrence. 

 

If we allow Iran (with its present hostile regime) to acquire a deliverable nuclear weapons system, our ability to deter Iranian adventurism in the Middle East will be just as ineffective as our ability to deter Russian adventurism in Eastern Europe.

 

We are not insulated from a conflagration in the Middle East, either morally or as a practical matter.

 

The situational pacifists among the foreign policy elites and political intelligentsia who think that we should never, ever, ever do anything militarily to forestall Iran’s obvious nuclear ambitions are as accountable for the consequences of the inaction they advocate as those who advocate that we actually do something about it are accountable.  At the end of the day, it will come down to this: Thugs or us.

 

Hamlet said it best. 

 

 

JBG

 

August 12, 2008

DAVID BROOKS IN CHINA

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Link to a print version: http://jaygaskill.com/DavidBrooksOlympian.htm
DAVID BROOKS & THE MANCHURIAN BRAIN
“Scarily insightful and hopefully wrong” 
…another must read from David Brooks.

 

David Brooks’ Olympian musings in today’s New York Times could be moved to the Science Section without a ripple.  “Scarily insightful and hopefully wrong” was my note to my self after I put down my morning Times and coffee. 

 

David Brooks has proposed the case for neurological collectivism – we might call it the Manchurian Wiring Syndrome - in a brilliant piece posted from China, “Harmony and the Dream”, NYT August 12, 2008. It is linked at -http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/12/opinion/12brooks.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin .

 

The essence of David Brooks’ argument is this:

 

“When the psychologist Richard Nisbett showed Americans individual pictures of a chicken, a cow and hay and asked the subjects to pick out the two that go together, the Americans would usually pick out the chicken and the cow. They’re both animals. Most Asian people, on the other hand, would pick out the cow and the hay, since cows depend on hay. Americans are more likely to see categories. Asians are more likely to see relationships.

 

“You can create a global continuum with the most individualistic societies — like the United States or Britain — on one end, and the most collectivist societies — like China or Japan — on the other.”

 

Science confirms that the brain is a plastic neuro-processor, capable of rewiring itself based on experiences and other challenges. 

 

At the risk of offending the political correct police (an epithet, you might recall, that was appropriated from the excesses of the Chinese Cultural Revolution) I would mention our common experience with Asian drivers.  Many of us can report that first generation Chinese drivers in this country tend to be overcautious in the extreme while negotiating American traffic, but their children, ah those Chinese youth; they have been rewired. Second generation Chinese under 30 are fully capable of driving like ruggedly individualistic capitalists. 

 

With that preamble, here is David Brooks’ challenge:

 

If Asia’s success reopens the debate between individualism and collectivism (which seemed closed after the cold war), then it’s unlikely that the forces of individualism will sweep the field or even gain an edge.”

 

My two comments:

 

A market system by itself (the Chinese are pre-wired capitalists in this sense) is about buying, selling, haggling and managing resources via a price system.  This, alone, does not explain the staggering innovation that has propelled American-style capitalism for the last century.  Collective innovation is an oxymoron. 

 

The brain self-wires, in part, in response to the invasion of ideas, fruitful and otherwise. I believe that individualism and collectivism each have religious and quasi-religious underpinnings. 

 

The Judaic model (intensified in many versions of its sister tradition, Christianity) in which an individual man or woman engages in a dialogue or personal relationship with deity strongly encourages an individualist mindset, mediated by a moral perspective or authority that does not depend on the collective. 

 

I sometimes refer to this divine-human relationship as the “Tevye  dialogue” after the character Joseph Stein’s “Fiddler on the Roof” best known from the musical version by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick.

 

It is hardly a surprise that the nervous collectivists who run China’s bureaucracy are frightened to the core by the startling growth of underground Christianity. They fear Falun Gong and every other idea system or practice that might produce accidental individualist rewiring.  

 

David Brooks has put his finger on the Darwinian drama of the next 100 years. 

 

Chastened as I am by our lame duck President’s well remembered challenge, I hesitate to say, “Bring it on!”

 

But I will say that until collectivism solves the innovation problem, the Chinese brain wiring diagram will become increasingly obsolete.

 

Probably….

 

JBG

 

 

August 11, 2008

THE PETRO-ABUSE SYNDROME

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LINK to a Print Version of this piece; http://jaygaskill.com/ThePetroLords.htm

 

THE PETRO-ABUSE SYNDROME

 

What do these four governments have in common at the moment?

 

The Chavez regime in Venezuela  

The Putin – Medvedev regime in Russia

The Khamenei and Ahmadinejad clique in Iran,

The former military regimes and the new Yar'adua civilian regime in Nigeria

 

Look at these current approximate oil production figures in millions of barrels per day:

 

Russia              12.87

Saudi Arabia    8.91

Iran                  3.87

Iraq                  2.50

U. A. E.           2.66

Kuwait             2.34

Nigeria             1.90

 

With the exception of Russia, the oil extraction and processing technology was supplied by Euro-American technology and personnel. 

 

Each country has a history of expropriation of its oil assets, placing them under the direct political control of a ruling clique or regime. 

 

With two notable regime exceptions (and two almost-exceptions), each country has a history of oil revenue funded mischief in the region. 

 

The two major exceptions are the United Arab Emirates (an atypically diverse Arab country ruled by a hereditary presidency that has developed a strong manufacturing base) and Kuwait (a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament), neither of which have a history of Islamic fanaticism, although Kuwait improvidently took Iraq’s side in its long war with Iran. 

 

The two almost-exceptions are:

[1] Iraq - because of the currently benign regime change, reversing a strikingly robust history of oil-fueled mischief; and

[2] Saudi Arabia  which is a nominally friendly non-democratic family oligarchy, the ruling clan of which is thoroughly corrupted by wealth and infiltrated by a simmering subset of angry Islamists who have used the Wahhabi ideology to promote terrorism.

 

The greed and power lures that inhabit the darker side of the human psyche always seek to exploit openings in our economic and political arrangements. Money buys power, military technology, amoral atomic scientists, missiles, and more.  Easy money almost guarantees this will happen given enough time.

 

Greed is usually mitigated by economic failure.  But power lures are only contained via internal checks and balances, by starvation or by outright defeat. When the internal checks are ineffective, starvation works better than defeat in the long run, although sometimes it happens too slowly and hurts too many innocent people.

 

The American political design (the genius of which is the product of a perfect storm of 18th century character, courage and worldly wisdom) seeks to divide power against itself. But ideologies and religious fanaticisms tend to work in the opposite direction.  The psychological dynamics of bruised resurgent nationalism (think post Versailles Germany and post-soviet Russia) can operate in exactly the same dangerous way. 

 

When an expropriated money-well falls into the exclusive, plenary control of any governing clique, the effect is like tossing firearms into a drunken mob.  Sober reflection and ethical debate is a rare exception. The lust for hegemony is nearly irresistible.  

 

Without internal checks and balances we are left to the external ones.  While no single nation can afford (and we shouldn’t attempt) to take up arms at every difficulty, injustice and evil in the world, the naiveté of the policy pacifist is the path to ultimate enslavement.  [Note I identified policy pacifism, not individual pacifism. We need not all be warriors, but we all need warriors as well as healers.]

 

This is because human nature is not perfect.  There will always be thugs who seek to lord it over the weak and innocent.  They will not police themselves.  They are not frightened of the UN.  They do not quail before diplomats. 

 

As Thomas Jefferson put it—“Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every Free State”. I would update Jefferson’s advice to accommodate the realities of the 21st century’s high-tech military as follows:

 

If we are to remain free, we need to be in an increasingly free world. Therefore every citizen of a Free State must be a soldier or the soldier’s friend:  The active support of robust, effective armed forces capable, ready and willing to do what is necessary to keep freedom alive and well is the obligation of every citizen. Both tyranny and liberty are contagious, but only liberty, protected by wise internal political arrangements, can inoculate against tyranny.  If liberty does not spread, then tyranny will.  We can’t remain free ourselves if we are not its champion.

 

JBG

August 08, 2008

David Brooks at his BEST

 

 

As Published On
The Human Conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
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.]
Please contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com

 

 

FRIDAY --- DAVID BROOKS NAILED IT TODAY

 

David brooks was at the top of his game today in his New York Times Piece, “Lord of the Memes”, a wonderful riff on the intellectual affectations of those insufferably better people we meet at the better parties. 

A FEW TEASERS

“You must remember that there have been three epochs of intellectual affectation. The first, lasting from approximately 1400 to 1965, was the great age of snobbery.”

“This code … was replaced by the code of the Higher Eclectica. The old hierarchy of the arts was dismissed as hopelessly reactionary. Instead, any cultural artifact produced by a member of a colonially oppressed out-group was deemed artistically and intellectually superior.”

 “But on or about June 29, 2007, human character changed. That, of course, was the release date of the first iPhone. On that date, media displaced culture.”… “Inventors, artists and writers come and go, but buzz is forever.”

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MY OWN RIFF ON DAVID BROOKS’ RIFF

 

This is all about ancient wisdom, and those insufferable “one-uppers” among us.

 

Pop quiz:

Q:  What was the Tenth Commandment?

A:  10   Do not covet or envy that which is not yours.

Ah… envy, one of the top three candidates for the original sin.  The tendency towards envy is so ingrained in the human psyche that it has supplied the driving force for most of the murderous mass movements of the last 88 years. 

 

Here’s the dirty little secret. The subset of the proto-intelligentsia to which David Brooks refers do not like to see themselves as “insensitive” or “uncaring”, and many of them have at least a passing acquaintance with the Decalogue. Some of them are even willing to acknowledge that most of the “Commandments” (especially when seen as strong recommendations) have “considerable merit”. 

 

This is why I suspect that the one-uppers have been playing an “envy trick” game by exploiting a “loophole” in the Decalogue.

The game goes like this:

 

“What can I do to promote your envy without actually succumbing to it myself?  [Note the obvious self deception here.]  “I’ll be conspicuously more sophisticated and hip than you are so that you will be as envy driven as (secretly) am I.

 

And that loophole, you ask?  We can always avoid feeling envy by being on top. 

 

I loved David Brooks’ article and recommend you read it before you or the link expire. Here’s the link:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/08/opinion/08brooks.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin

 

JBG

August 07, 2008

Batman and the Abyss

The Dark Knight and Heath Ledger's death.

Do read the excellent article by Professor Maria Chang posted at the following link.  Go to http://fundamentaloption.blogspot.com/ .

 JBG

August 04, 2008

OBAMA'S POLITICAL WEAKNESS

As Published On

The Human Conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3

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.]

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

 

MONDAY, AUGUST 4, 2008

 

OBAMA’S POLITICAL WEAKNESS

 

McCain has a slight lead over Obama in the polls.  For details, go to the Rasmussen Report at http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/daily_presidential_tracking_poll  .

 

This may be the beginning of the ‘North Eastern liberal’ problem for the democrats, the jinx that sank Mr. Kerry and every other democratic presidential nominee for whom that label could be applied since JFK.  It should be remembered that President Kennedy’s campaign was thematically closer to McCain’s – he attacked from the right on foreign policy, if we are permitted to adjust for the context.

 

How could this be?  There is a persistent cultural and ideological disconnect between the Democratic Party’s activist core and the rest of the party.  A snapshot of the democratic majority in the House and Senate’s real composition is very revealing.

 

The House “Blue Dogs” are not “Obama-crats”. 

 

Conservative and moderate democrats in the House of Representatives self identify as Blue Dog Democrats. The origin of the Blue Dog term is obscure but my favorite story is that in recent years the conservatives in the party (originally Yellow Dogs) were so frozen out of the mainstream democratic agenda that they turned blue.  Most of the current crop of blues was elected from districts that voted for President Bush.  The democratic majority in the House is 233 to 202, but there are 39 self-acknowledged Blue Dogs.  This produces a House that is more conservative than Senator Obama 241 to 194. 

 

I believe that the House more nearly reflects the core political attitude of the country than the Obama candidacy.

 

The “New Democrat Coalition” is the mirror Blue Dog group in the US Senate. It was founded in 2000 by a group of Senators that included Lieberman and Bayh (who have rarely voted with the junior senator from Illinois) and reportedly now includes 20 members.  The nominal Democratic majority in the Senate was 51-49 but when adjusted for its NDC members, the Senate is probably more conservative than Obama by 69 to 31.

 

This is why Obama is trying to tack sharply to the center.  But his weakening poll numbers suggest that Mr. Obama’s reincarnation as a moderate to conservative democrat is not taking. 

 

I suspect that Hillary is not disappointed.

 

JBG

 

A Roster of Blue Dogs in the House:

 

Congressman Mike Arcuri

New York, 24th District

 

Congresswoman Melissa Bean

Illinois, 8th District

 

Congressman Dan Boren

Oklahoma, 2nd District

 

Congressman Dennis Cardoza

California, 18th District

 

Congressman Jim Cooper

Tennessee, 5th District

 

Congressman Lincoln Davis

Tennessee, 4th District

 

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords

Arizona, 8th District

 

Congresswoman Jane Harman

California, 36th District

 

Congressman Tim Holden

Pennsylvania, 17th District

 

Congressman Tim Mahoney

Florida, 16th District

 

Congressman Mike McIntyre

North Carolina, 7th District

 

Congressman Dennis Moore

Kansas, 3rd District

 

Congressman Earl Pomeroy

North Dakota, At-Large

 

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez

California, 47th District

 

Congressman Heath Shuler

North Carolina, 11th District

 

Congressman Gene Taylor

Mississippi, 4th District

 

 

Congressman Joe Baca

California, 43rd District

 

Congressman Marion Berry

Arkansas, 1st District

 

Congressman Leonard Boswell

Iowa, 3rd District

 

 

Congressman Christopher Carney

Pennsylvania, 10th District

 

Congressman Jim Costa

California, 20th District

 

Congressman Joe Donnelly

Indiana, 2nd District

 

Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand

New York, 20th District

 

Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

South Dakota, At-Large

 

Congressman Jim Marshall

Georgia, 3rd District

 

Congressman Charlie Melancon

Louisiana, 3rd District

 

Congressman Patrick Murphy

Pennsylvania, 8th District

 

Congressman Mike Ross

Arkansas, 4th District

 

Congressman Adam Schiff

California, 29th District

 

Congressman Zack Space

Ohio, 18th District

 

Congressman Mike Thompson

California, 1st District

 

Congressman Charlie Wilson

Ohio, 6th District

 

 

Congressman John Barrow

Georgia, 12th District

 

Congressman Sanford Bishop

Georgia, 2nd District

 

Congressman Allen Boyd

Florida, 2nd District

 

Congressman Ben Chandler

Kentucky, 6th District

 

Congressman Bud Cramer

Alabama, 5th District

 

Congressman Brad Ellsworth

Indiana, 8th District

 

Congressman Bart Gordon

Tennessee, 6th District

 

Congressman Baron Hill

Indiana, 9th District

 

Congressman Nick Lampson

Texas, 22nd District

 

Congressman Jim Matheson

Utah, 2nd District

 

Congressman Mike Michaud

Maine, 2nd District

 

Congressman Collin Peterson

Minnesota, 7th District

 

Congressman John Salazar

Colorado, 3rd District

 

Congressman David Scott

Georgia, 13th District

 

Congressman John Tanner

Tennessee, 8th District

 

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