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May 28, 2009

IRAN & KOREA --Mr. Obama, the "Nuke Whisperer?" Don't bet your Life on it



Mr. Obama, the “Nuke Whisperer”? Don’t bet your life on it....


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As posted on The Policy Think Site in htm format,
LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/NukeWhisperer.htm


See a related piece – Joe Lieberman in the Wall Street Journal, ‘No room for Partisanship on Iran’, LINK: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124364004855967853.html#mod=loomia?loomia_si=t0:a16:g4:r2:c0:b0


The Classic Hostage Standoff Redux?
In a hostage standoff, the good guys are held at bay during endless, usually pointless negotiations while the bad guys hold a large number of innocent people under threat of execution.  The variations on this basic scheme are many, including every scenario the terrorists, thugs and move makers can come up with.  Apparently, no one so far has noticed that the interconnected Korea and Iran nuclear threats are large scale hostage standoffs.
In the Korean and Iranian hostage situations, both of long duration, the bad guys are using their “negotiation” time to build and deploy weapons strong enough to drive off the good guys (or so they think).  That prospect poses a danger that is worse than the loss of all the hostages; the weapons the bad guys are working on are atomic bombs and the missiles to deliver them.  Assuming that the risk posed is not yet immediate, three successive American administrations (Clinton, Bush and Obama) have let (or are letting) the negotiations run on in spite of their apparent futility.   


What/who are the hostage assets/victims, and what is the real risk to them?
South Korea.  The City of Seoul (population 10 million) is a major Asian financial and industrial center in a peaceful, democratically governed country with a thriving trillion dollar economy.  Seoul is within bombardment distance of the North Korean forces just north of the infamous Demilitarized Zone.  The North Korean government maintains a large military force (about 1m soldiers) in spite of its gravely weakened economy. 
Here are excerpts from sobering report from the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies (Website at http://cns.miis.edu/index.htm ):

“Seoul, the South Korean capitol, lies within range of... [f]ive hundred 170mm Koksan guns and 200 multiple-launch rocket systems could hit Seoul with artillery shells and chemical weapons... between 500 and 600 Scud missiles that could strike targets throughout South Korea with conventional warheads or chemical weapons. ... Seventy percent of North Korean army ground units are located within 100 miles of the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, positioned to undertake offensive ground operations. These units could fire up to 500,000 artillery rounds per hour against South Korean defenses for several hours. ...Although the United States would likely win an all-out war, the damage to South Korea would be tremendous and U.S. forces would sustain large casualties. One U.S. military estimate suggested that U.S. and South Korean military forces might suffer 300,000-500,000 casualties within the first 90 days of fighting, in addition to hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties.[Citing - R. Jeffrey Smith, ‘North Korea Deal Urged by State Dept.,’ Washington Post, November 15, 1993, p. A15]”


Hostage Risk:


US Military planners are concerned that an American attack large enough and effective enough to wipe out North Korea’s nuclear threat would provoke retaliation.  That action could include shelling Seoul and marketing any weapons-grade fissile materials to terrorists.  I personally think that the huge casualty figures suggested by the 1993 Washington Post article cited in the quoted article are wrong because they underestimate the tactical effectiveness of American air assets to stop North Korean ground troop movements.  But I’ve seen other, more credible, casualty estimates from a concentrated shell and missile barrage against Seoul.  The low end is about 100,000 city casualties.  So the hostage situation is real enough.  That still leaves the question:  What would the North Korean regime actually do if the US simply took out its missile and nuclear warhead facilities?




Iran (population 72m, second in the world for natural gas and oil reserves, with six metropolitan cities) is now the trouble-maker-in-chief for the whole Middle East region.  The two leading terror-thug organizations (Hamas & Hezbollah) are effectively on the Iran payroll and nearby Syria, also a terror-harboring regime, is an Iran client-state.  In recent years the the ruling Mullahs (whose council vets and controls political candidates in order to suppress Western-style liberalization) have begun to lose popularity with the country’s well educated (by Middle Eastern standards), young population.  Some (but not all) experts hold out the prospect for eventual regime amelioration, even the emergence of something approaching West-friendly democratic governance. 


But the regime has relentless pursued atomic bomb technology, having obtained invaluable early assistance from the infamous Dr. Kahn, Pakistan’s home-grown Dr. Strangelove.  Korean nuclear scientists have also been employed, who were using the nuclear reactor facility in Syria to avoid detection until the IDF blew it up in November 2007.  Reportedly it was a duplicate of the North Korean reactor at Yongbyon.


Hostage Risk


Some strategic planners are concerned that air strikes alone won’t be able to completely eliminate the suspected nuclear weapons facilities, let alone find them all.  Forces on the ground sufficient to operate effectively in-country would probably approach the scale of a small invasion force, severely straining already stretched American military resources.  This would almost certainly trigger several parallel reactions: (1) Immediate military pressure on Iraq, possibly reversing the progress there, (2) A step-up in terror activity by Hamas and Hezbollah, throughout the region, (3) Major disruptions in the regional oil supply, with potentially grave economic repercussions, especially now (4) a surge in anti-American patriotism among the Iranian population, strengthening the hand of the mullahs and indefinitely delaying and hope of regime amelioration. 


As in Korea, the question, “What would Iran actually do?” remains open to speculation.




Korea and Iran are linked.  The former holds a major city hostage and the prospect of inflicting WWII level casualties on an invader.  The latter holds the stability of the vital Middle East hostage as well as roughly one third of the world’s gas and oil reserves.  Each country is run by hostile regimes that no one in the neighborhood wants to have the nuclear trigger.  This presents the classic, “Who will bell the cat?” scenario, but one in which no European or Asian country is prepared to lift a finger, much less provide a fighter jet wing or some Special Forces units.


Korea is properly considered a somewhat higher priority at the moment because of the second A-bomb test and its continuing missile program.  Our European neighbors are contributing stronger rhetoric, but little else.


WIRED has covered recent Korean invasion war games in a piece linked here: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/05/inside-americas-mock-attack-north-korea/


A pull quote from a 2003 analysis quoted in the WIRED piece is sobering:


“In 2003, retired Colonel John Collins ran through the possible moves and countermoves in a military standoff on the Korean peninsula — from blockades to full-out nuclear strikes.  His conclusion: ‘Any of the U.S. options described above could trigger uncontrollable escalation that would create appalling casualties on both sides of the DMZ and promise a Pyrrhic victory at best. Unilateral actions by the United States without unqualified ROK [Republic of Korea] agreement and willing participation every step of the way would be immoral as well as ill- advised. Inaction while Kim Jong Il develops a robust nuclear arsenal and perhaps supplies nuclear weapons to U.S. enemies, unfortunately, would worsen any future confrontation.’”


As America and the rest of the world try to talk rogue states out of acquiring deliverable A-bombs, Iran continues to improve the sophistication and effectiveness of its weapons. An updated anti-cruise missile weapon, also described in a WIRED is an example.  LINK: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/05/irans-new-anti-missile-artillery/ .  Here’s the pull quote:


“Iran has started to mass-produce anew 40mm automatic cannon capable of shooting down cruise missiles, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency. The announcement, made on Sunday, said that the cannon, known as Fath (”Victory”), has a range of 12 kilometers and fires 300 rounds a minute. Is this an alarming new development, a piece of junk that won’t make any difference in an actual war – or a sign of something more subtle?”


The last WIRED article quoted suggests that the new anti-cruise missile weapon is not a game changer, but it is evidence that Iran is preparing a “layered’ missile defense.  This suggests to me that Iran fully expects to be attacked, which suggests in turn that it has no intention of abandoning its plans to become the region’s new nuclear power.  




So far these two rogue states (two of the three members of Bush’s Axis of Evil – the third member, Hussein’s Iraq having been removed) have only escalated their aggressive weapons programs in response to the new administration’s overtures.  The truth about thugs, learned anew by each incoming administration, is that they tend to behave decently only after some blood has been drawn and they are quick to revert to type the moment they smell weakness.


Recall that Libya was hell bent on making A-bombs until the swift fall of the neighboring Iraqi regime changed hearts and minds at the very top.  Muammar al-Gaddfi seemingly capitulated in 2003, after centrifuge shipment was interdicted, but soon resumed a clandestine nuclear weapons program.  That program was “voluntarily” terminated in January 2004.  Not coincidentally, US forces had deposed the Hussein regime in nearby Iraq in May of 2003.  Muammar feared he would be next.


Reportedly, when news of the swift fall of Baghdad reached North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, he fled in fear to a secure location. 


Both of these are examples of classic thug behavior and this suggests a two pronged, multi staged strategy. 




Kim Jong-il has an Achilles heal:  He is afraid of being personally harmed.  The solution is obvious.  While keeping a veneer of deniability (so the regional players, all of whom want this odious dude taken out are not constrained to condemn us), we do three things:

(1) Using a back channel that will allow us to pretend non-involvement, we directly threaten Kim and his immediate circle with severe bodily harm and death unless he firmly and irrevocable changes his course.  We also promise personal rewards for cooperation.  There will be a warning shot, just so that he knows our capabilities.

(2) While keeping powerful naval assets within range of the artillery north of the DMV and of Kim, himself, we pull back all American troops and military assets from Seoul to hardened locations out of range.  We will pretend otherwise but the signal is that we are willing to sacrifice the hostages if necessary.

(3) We find a covert way to attack Kim personally, enough to draw blood, kill at least a few of his people and we pull it off opportunistically.  How could this be done?  There are experts.  Consult them – I’m not one.  But as a cinematic example, we  might imagine an ultra high altitude drop of a precision guided “object” that would totally disintegrate and take out, say, about a 50 meter circle of real estate.  To work psychologically, it just needs to be close to the target and deadly.  Kim’s imagination will do the rest.


The advantage of this set of steps is that all of the other options are left open. 


If, God forbid, we have to go forward, I’m afraid must we re-confront the Truman dilemma.  What do we do when presented by a tradeoff between, say losing 150,000 American lives in a protracted battle or using a few low yield tactical nukes to clear artillery and missile emplacements north of the DMZ, and, inter alia, to wipe out all of the North Koran troops stationed there while, at the same time, we make short work of Kim’s missile emplacements and nuclear production facilities?  I’m a Truman democrat.  For me it’s a no brainer.


If we succeed in Korea using a simple strategy of trading North Korean lives for the hostages with ruthless efficiency, or by “secretly” intimidating Kim into a face-saving “diplomatic” solution, you can be sure that the lesson will not be lost on Iran.  Korea needs to be brought to heel.  If we succeed and time allows us for that to happen first, then taming Iran’s overheated nuclear-power ambitions will be far, far easier.




Iran presents a different tactical situation, in part because there is no single leader who is in full day-to-day control; moreover, the local ideology glorifies suicidal martyrdom. 


So we convey a similar back-channel threat to the mullahs and the military leadership, bypassing the “elected” president. But his time, we promise not death but humiliation.  And we don’t precede the planned series of events with a mere demonstration.  The preferred method here is sabotage, followed by more sabotage, followed by more and more. 


Again we preserve deniability, but this time it must be more than a mere veneer. 


If we are good enough at the game, it might look like this:  One by one, the ships of the Iranian navy begin to malfunction and sink.  [Why the ships?  A significant hostage factor is the temporary closure of the vital oil shipping artery, the Strait of Hormuz.] Of course, I concede that this is tricky.  But we have submarine assets, aquatic robots and other high tech resources.  There are experts.  Again, I’m just a humble out-lawyer with a laptop.  But trust me.  We can do the sabotage. 


Then one of Iran’s refineries fails.  Don’t you hate it when that happens?  Maybe an alphabetic progression of failure would send the message, say the refinery at Abadan; then Arak, Bandar Abbas, Isfahan, Tabriz, and finally Tehran.  Of course, we generously offer technical assistance for repairs, provided the country comes clean on the scope and location of its nuclear weapons program, including the reactor that the IDF wants to take out and the secret locations of all stored fissile material  Then electrical shortages take place. And so on...


If we are forced to proceed with overt military measures, we should accomplish the final overt destruction of the Iranian Navy and of the obvious missile emplacements and reactor sites within  a few days.  This would be followed by a grace period during which we would invite the Egyptians to do the invasion....




I was not thrilled with the President Bush’s approach to the Korean problem (though no one consulted me or shared covert Intel) and I have no particular reason to expect our current president will improve that situation with adroit diplomacy.  Iran remains as intractable as ever to diplomacy and “soft power”.

I recommend a wonderful comic riff on this, by Andy Borowitz (LINK  http://www.borowitzreport.com/article.aspx?ID=7029  ).

It begins with “One day after North Korea launched a successful test of a nuclear weapon, President Obama said that the United States was prepared to respond to the threat with "the strongest possible adjectives."

But someone, fairly soon, we will run out of adjectives and will be forced to use verbs.  POTUS will be forced to bell the cat or forever be condemned by history.   Who wants to be remembered as the leader who blew the last best chance to prevent the nuclear exchange that destroyed Jerusalem and Teheran, Seoul and Pyongyang, and allowed the A-bombs to get in the hands of the terrorists who destroyed New York and Washington, DC? 


Three presidents have kicked the can down the road.  Sometime soon, POTUS will stub a toe....





May 27, 2009




This article, as posted on the Policy Think Site in htm format is at this LINK:


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, 2008 & 2009 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


No legal expert that I know, this “out-lawyer”* included, was at all surprised by the California Supreme Court’s decision yesterday upholding the decisive ballot box rejection of the court’s earlier attempt to decree gay marriage into being here in the Golden State. 


[* Visit the Out-Lawyer’s Blog:  http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog1/ and the YouTube Channel, “Out-Lawyer-Gaskill” http://www.youtube.com/OutLawyerGaskill.]



Gay and Lesbian Activists in California ask:
This is the Answer


The law is the law.


I tend to agree with the views of the San Francisco Chronicle’s conservative columnist, Debra Saunders, who had earlier disclosed that she personally favored gay marriage but thought that the campaign for it was doomed from the outset – not because of anti-gay bigotry – but because gay activists botched their case to the voters.  Here’s a link to her latest column in today’s Chronicle at http://www.sfgate.com/columnists/saunders/  .


As California Chief Justice George pointed out in yesterday’s opinion, the California legislature has recently afforded gay and lesbian couples all of the functional incidents of ‘couple-equality’ that are within the power of state government to afford.  What remains is the title, legally married, with all its symbolic validation.  As I’ve previously pointed out, the California dispute boils down a brand name appropriation issue in which the long-standing brand ‘owners’ are so far unwilling to share.


Why did the campaign fail in the last election?  There are three main reasons:


(1) Mr. Obama’s black supporters, who came out in droves for this once-in-a-lifetime election, were much more socially conservative than California’s white democrats and republicans; they voted down Proposition Eight by almost three to one.

(2) Social change of this magnitude, the reversal of a well embedded several thousand-year-old tradition, comes much more slowly than gay advocates expected.

(3) The pro-gay marriage campaign was very badly managed.  I detail my take on that below, offering some suggestions for the next attempt.


Most of us city-dwelling straights have gay and lesbian relatives, acquaintances, colleagues, friends, neighbors.  We and know from day-in, day-out personal observation and experience that our homosexual brothers and sisters are every bit as decent, human and worthy as the rest of us.  The first huge mistake in the failed campaign was the underlying tone that its opponents were driven by bigotry.  That is not the social reality in which the overwhelming majority of California’s voters live. 


The second mistake was the Pro-8 Campaign’s misguided attempt to echo the riotous campaigns for black education, employment and ballot-box equality.  Any pro-gay campaign, based on overstated parallels with the civil right’s struggles of the 60’s, was bound to be rejected.  Why?  The two situations are not sufficiently comparable.  The campaign’s implication that the circumstances of closeted gay males and lesbians, otherwise high-functioning, not-brutally-oppressed members of the social order, were essentially equivalent to the trial of the descendants of oppressed and physically brutalized slaves who had no closets at all was unintentional self-parody.  The despicable Matthew Shepard murder of 1998 stands out for its exceptionalism when compared with the stark images of thousands of terrorized black families.  When the voting public thinks of “gay rights” they tend not to think of the cross burnings, lynchings and fire hoses.


All too often, the underlying tone of the “gay-rights” movement has been one of social narcissism.  To allow that tone to creep into the Pro 8 Campaign was politically toxic.  Going forward, the emphasis needs to be on gay acceptance and gay contribution instead.


Here are my suggestions for the long haul.


    1. Recognize that it is a long haul.
    2. Don’t repeat the mistakes that doomed the 2008 effort.
    3. Don’t ignore the political diversity within the gay/lesbian subpopulation.*

* Transcend your stereotypes, please.  Dick Cheney actually supports local pro-gay marriage option on a state-by-state basis. That an arch-conservative can be tolerant of homosexuality should not be a surprise, Mr. Cheney’s lesbian daughter notwithstanding.  There are large number of pro-law & order, pro-military lesbians, a very large set of fiscal conservatives among gay males, and a huge sub-contingent of libertarians among all homosexuals, male and female.

    4. Reframe the entire effort as outlined below:



Focus on Family


The gay marriage issue should be about monogamy and family affirmation.  If some gay advocates have a radically different agenda, you can put them in the closet for the duration of the campaign.  And note: The campaign is really a long haul because, if you are serious, it must be about affirming universal values, changing attitudes, hearts and minds. 


You can’t just ramp up that sort of undertaking a year before an election and expect to affect more than turnout.  What needs to be changed is the basic human understanding.   


In other words, the gay agenda will always be a boutique issue set-until it breaks out of its cultural narcissism to become a powerful pan-human issue. To paraphrase, JFK:

Ask not what the country can do for gays ask what the gays can do for the country.” 


This is the ‘give us the tools and we will help’ set of arguments. The American family is in trouble.  The single most powerful pro-gay image is that of an intact gay family with children, which in the case of gay/lesbian families means adopted children. 


That image needs to be the poster child, if you will, of any pro-gay marriage movement.  The underlying goal needs to be authentic and heartfelt and it must transcend the merely gay concerns.  The core concern of a successful gay marriage movement should be the promotion of family stability and health. 


Once the gay movement becomes authentically and existentially pro-family, nothing can stop it. 








  I tend to agree with the views of the San Francisco Chronicle’s conservative columnist, , who had earlier disclosed that she personally favored gay marriage but thought that the campaign for it was doomed from the outset – not because of anti-gay bigotry – but because gay activists botched their case to the voters.Here’s a link to her latest column in today’s Chronicle at .

May 26, 2009

THE 80/20 SCAM & the Future of the Left's Program for Us



As Published On

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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, 2008 & 2009 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


As posted on The Policy Think Site in htm Format  

LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/TheEightyTwentyScam.htm





The 80/20 Scam


Under normal circumstances, 80% of the American people will not agree to an arrangement in which they are to be significantly burdened in order to benefit the remaining 20%.


The political entrepreneurs of the left who are marketing the “80-20 package” tend to hit a stone wall of sales resistance whenever the 80% already feel overburdened.  The sale becomes impossible when the 20% to be benefited are seen to be undeserving or when the benefit to them appears to be greatly exaggerated.  


The 80/20 formula is in fact the realistic maximum burden/benefit ratio for any such sale – assuming that the electorate - (a) is actually consulted and (b) not misled.  If you tweak the ratio, say to 70/30, the actual burden on the 70% needs to increase in order for there to be a significant benefit to the remaining 30%.  60/40 is flat out unmarketable (provided people are paying attention) because a critical mass of voters, the productive 60% ACTUALLY KNOW lots and lots to the benefited 40% and begin to think, “They aren’t much worse off that I am”.


And so it goes.  Trust me, 80/20 or a number very close to that is the political sweet spot.


And there lies the rub:  Over the years, left-driven redistributionist policies have thrived on the “micro-redistribution” market, i.e., those schemes that imposed a tiny burden on the tax-paying 80% in order to benefit a very deserving (recall we’re dealing with perceptions here) 1%.  But over the last five decades, the 80/20 game began to flounder because a few hundred “tiny burdens” add up to a real burden. 


This is why the game is almost played out. We are now in its dangerous last stages.  I say dangerous, because if the left ever manages to move the needle a bit farther, the game changes radically.  [And make no mistake, some on the left are willing to use whatever means necessary.]


The goal of the astute members of the left is to simultaneously burden and benefit about 80% of the people such that it is not immediately apparent just who the winners and losers are.  This allows the political deal makers to tweak the mix from election to election in order to stay in power. 


But there is a classic left-utopian scenario, one even more dangerous. This is the scenario in which an enduring majority of takers, say 55%, are benefited by an enduring minority of bleeders who are forever locked out of political power.  In that grim scenario, the left is gambling on keeping the productive-but-exploited class in-country and on-board.  This works short term because, after all, where do you run? {Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is a variation on the capitalist-escape scenario, but was written before outsourcing and upper class guilt-taming had taken hold.} That “trap the rich” game can’t go on forever but, regrettably, it can run long enough to totally wreck a national economy.  


If you’ve been following the news, then I probably have your attention.


We are about to enter a life-death struggle, the outcome of which could be the end of the redistributionist left or the demise of the free enterprise system, the “whoops, we killed the golden goose scenario”... at least for the lifetimes of the above-forty generations.


Those of us who deeply care about the future of freedom can be useful in stopping this last-gasp juggernaut of the left (instead of being the left’s useful idiots) provided we are sharply aware of the looming crisis and are willing to stand up and be counted...over and over again. 


The left is now desperate to move the needle well past the 80-20 sweet spot.  There are three strategies in play: run with a crisis, repeat the lies and exploit survivor guilt:


(a) Crisis exploitation


“No crisis should be wasted” is the admission of an ideologue who knows that a majority of voters would not normally go along with the game plan, absent a crisis, real or manufactured.


(b) Misrepresentation


By now voters are appropriately wary of claims that a given plan will really benefit the putative objects of its attention.  Many voters have caught on that the real object of many left wing driven programs is not to benefit the “poor” or ‘oppressed, so much as to make those who are well off to feel better about themselves.  And many other voters understand that a direct tax on a small percentage of highly productive citizens is an indirect tax on all of us who benefit from living in a highly productive economy.  But far too many voters are functionally illiterate when the economics of productive enterprises are concerned.


(c) Guilt manipulation of a plurality of the productive 80%


As most of us know, the guilt game has been going on for two generations, at least, but most of it has been driven by the so called, “oppressed class” guilt.  Where economic issues are concerned, most women are no longer fooled. The outer limits of the inherited “racist guilt” game have already been reached.  Affirmative action as an engine for reverse (or compensatory) discrimination has run its course; the notion of reparations for the actions of some slaveholders that no living descendant can even name is dismissed out of hand.  And no one seems to care whether high achieving Asians get reparations or a “leg up”. 


That leaves disparities of our economic circumstances as the remaining “social justice issue” of the age, which places the American left in the awkward place of complaining about “poverty” in the USA.  But by any reasonable definition poverty describes the circumstances of fewer than 9% of the US population.  The American left wrings its collective hands about this while ignoring the non-voting millions outside our hallowed boundaries for whom merely being “poor” in America would be good fortune indeed. 


As of this moment, all three strategies are sort-of working, especially on the minds of that subset of the well-off intelligentsia whose gullible members have been pre-indoctrinated in the “right wing demon” theory of history.  


But moderates and non-Marxist inclined liberals are equally worried about a leftwing takeover of the US economy.  The Russians and the sane members of the Chinese post-communist communists abandoned state socialism for a sound practical reason.  Bureaucratic, authoritarian egalitarianism ends up in a somewhat more equal distribution of economic stagnation and dysfunction.  This was the egalitarianism captured in the old joke:  The man with the paralyzed right arm pleads with the Commissar, “Please, please comrade - make my right arm the same as my left!”  And she walks away from the meeting with two equally paralyzed arms. 


Bureaucratic authoritarian egalitarianism Lite ends up dragging down the well-being of the productive 80% to a common denominator so low that the bottom 20% no longer aspires to achieve it. 




Before the American people will have a chance to vote again in November 2010 (roughly a third of the Senate and all of the House members are on the ballot) there will be a crucial test.  The pending leftwing health reform proposals will, if enacted, lead to an inexorable chain of events that will seriously degrade the level of medical care now enjoyed by the 80%  (polls tell us the about 80% of Americans are satisfied with their medical care situation) while marginally improving the overall level of care for the rest.


The dynamic is clear enough from the European and Canadian experiences.  Grandiose and unfunded promises are made, often accompanied by poorly thought out and ineptly implemented cost savings.  Within two budget cycles, costs continue to rise beyond predicted levels and the other government-supported bureaucracies and special interests begin to complain.  Further cost savings are mandated.  Then fiction overtakes reality.  Needed care is delayed, showing phony savings that amount to deferred and even denied care.  Eventually the incompetent bureaucrats who “manage” care achieve only by degrading it. Those with real health problems fly to America...or die.


Bear in mind that people are very rarely denied acutely needed care in the US; otherwise the emergency rooms would not be crowded with indigents. 


And to achieve the massive changes proposed by the left, roughly a trillion new public dollars need to be spent over the next several years.  So far, the left seems undeterred by the major practical difficulty that the needed money has already been spent – several times over, it appears.


The real problems affecting health case divide into those that can be ameliorated by careful, sensible incremental reform and those that might be addressed by a more comprehensive approach at the state level.  Any attempt at a massive federal remake of America’s health care delivery system is comparable to swapping out the engines simultaneously on every commercial jet airliner with untested, environmentally friendly engines costing twice as much, but advertised as saving money on fuel.  “What about accidents?” you may ask.  That’s rightwing alarmist talk.





A. Three No’s:


1. NO NEW ENTITLEMENTS.  Nothing that will eventually generate an entitlement downstream should be approved (much less a multi-billion starter kit for health care “reform”) until all of the existing under-funded entitlements in the pipeline are curbed and fully funded.  Top of the list is the Medicare drug benefit, then Medicare itself.


2. NO PHONY SAVINGS. Projected cost savings cannot be used as if they were real money.  If savings are to be implemented, let them work first before spending them.


3. NO BURDENS ON PRIVATE PAY-FOR-SERVICE.  The self-pay to a willing provider medical service models will save medicine from bureaucratic inefficiencies.  Recall that “Hillary-Care” attempted to punish physicians who opted out of the grand federal scheme. “No, no, a thousand times no” to this idea.


B. Five Yes’s


1. TRANSPARENCY & REAL PRICE DISCLOSURE. Require physicians to transparently post basic fees-for-service, disclosing without penalty the lower fees available to patients who are willing to bypass insurance and simply write checks. Require hospitals to transparently display actual costs, both at admission and at billing, by breaking out the surcharges and price inflation elements that cover the non-paying patients.


2. FAST TRACK MEDICAL BILL BANKRUPTCY.  A separate, streamlined track for medical bill bankruptcy should be established with more lenient provisions.  It would apply to the medical debts only.


3. TAX FREE MEDICAL SAVINGS ACCOUNTS.  Without restriction, any taxpayer would be allowed to move money from savings or fresh income into a restricted account that could be used for direct-pay medical services or catastrophic premiums up to 50% percent of one’s annual taxable income.  Donation, also tax free, form one account to another person’s similar account in time of need is permitted.


4. INSURED LARGE RISK POOLS.  For catastrophic insurance only, the kind with large deductibles, the industry needs a government-assisted restructuring.  This would be incremental reform, state by state.  To begin, all restrictions – anti-trust comes to mind – are stripped away to facilitate very large, potentially national medical risk pools to which any medical provider or insurance system could link for a fee.  Once a risk pool reached a critical mass (to be determined by the number of states, patients and insurance and provider who sign opt-in agreements) then new patients must be accepted pre-existing conditions notwithstanding.  Only a portion of the risk would be insured by a joint state-federal arrangement.  For each insurance guarantee, there would be a reasonable liability cap that is related to the deductible.  For example, a $10,000 deductible catastrophic policy might have a $1 m cap for insurance purposes.  Provider networks could commit beyond the federal-state guarantee level as they determine prudent.


The market would determine, from year to year, the mandatory entry point for a new insured.  For example, someone who enters as a child could lock in the lowest deductible.  An older adult with a chronic, expensive condition who has never been insured might be allowed in only at the highest deductible.   Again, I stress that this sort of thing needs to be implemented incrementally, and in cooperation with individual states, based on their local costs and resources.  Eventually there would be a growing national risk pool at the highest deductible level.


5. INDIGENT CARE CLINICS.  Hospitals, whose emergency rooms are clogged with sick poor, uninsured people, would be given regulatory and tax incentives to off-load this group to ancillary clinics, staffed by a mix of hospital-linked medial staff and volunteers.  A sliding scale of fees would be used based on ability to pay.  Charitable donations, federal tax incentives and state and local government contributions would fill the gap.  To the extent that a hospital sets up and adequately staffs such a clinic, it would be released from the obligation to treat indigent “sniffle cases” in the ER.  NOTE:  Providing direct services in this model is not an entitlement.  Nor is the experiment mandated.




Every few years, conservatives and realistic liberals get played by the left.  It is time to push back.  The 80/20 scam has worn thin, but Americans are frustrated and worried about their future. 


The wise admonition of Hillel the Elder comes to mind: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?”


If we don’t save the engines of prosperity and economic progress for ourselves, who will?  If we don’t secure them for the others who will follow us, what are we?  If we don’t act now, when do we?












May 20, 2009

When California's Fiscal Toilets Overflow - Who Do You Call?

California’s Fiscal Toilets Overflow -AGAIN


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California’s Fiscal Toilets Overflow -AGAIN
And this time, the Plumber wants to be paid IN ADVANCE



As Posted on Today’s Policy Think Site: http://jaygaskill.com/FiscalToilets.htm


A Related Link, ‘Liberal Vampirism’: http://jaygaskill.com/LiberalVampirism.htm



One party government inevitably leads to a disastrous fork in the road like this one.


Without checks and balances, politics always deteriorates into interest group incest, clueless elites screwing up without meaningful electoral consequences and – especially when liberals lack adult supervision – an ugly fiscal mess. 


California’s mess is one of those plumber’s nightmares that makes an Animal House post-party cleanup look like morning after at Starbucks by contrast.  Unlike the US government that gets to finance fiscal irresponsibility by borrowing from China and pumping up the money supply via monetary legerdemain, states actually have to go to real lenders to fund deficits.  California’s deficit is 42 billion and growing.  Yesterday, voters refused to bail out the politicians.


As one analyst put it,


“California’s budget problems are structural,” said Adrian Moore, vice president of research at Reason Foundation. “For years, the state has been spending more than it takes in. When the real estate market is thriving or dot-com companies are booming politicians spend that money like addicts. Then when leaner times inevitably arrive, politicians claim there’s nothing they can do and they have to raise taxes. Gov. Schwarzenegger has talked about cutting up the credit cards. It is time to actually do that.”


[ http://www.reason.org/news/show/1007550.html ]


The Golden State’s legislature has been ruled by Club Democrat from 1970 (noting the minor exception that proves the rule in which the republicans briefly controlled the state senate for one year, 1995-6).  This record of one-party dominance of 39 years is worthy of the antebellum South.  Given the demographic spread and the migration-driven population turnover, most living Californians cannot remember a time when Club Democrat didn’t run the legislative, i.e., the spending branch of government. 


The one occasional political check on the California legislature has been a republican governor assisted by a strong republican minority: The recent republican governors were Reagan 69-75, Deukmejian 83-91, Wilson 91-99, and Schwarzenegger 2003.  But at present, republicans are a tiny group and the “governator” was politically wounded when he took on the unions in an ill advised special election in 2005 and all four of his proposed ballot initiatives were defeated. 


The California Assembly has 80 total members, the Senate 40.  With just 29 members in the Assembly and 15 in the Senate, the California GOP is borderline irrelevant.   


There are two remaining checks on a runaway one party government in California: the ballot initiative process, which is a blunt instrument at best, and realistic lenders. California Treasurer, Bill Lockyer (a rational democrat whom I’ve known for years) must now troll credit markets for willing lenders who are willing to gamble on California’s future.  Would you?





As Posted on Today’s A Related Link, ‘Liberal Vampirism’: [ ]
As Posted on Today’s A Related Link, ‘Liberal Vampirism’: [ ]

May 15, 2009

War, Revulsion and the Next five Years

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Jay B. Gaskill


Afghanistan’s Taliban are playing us.  The game is simple:  Surround & infiltrate innocent pockets of non-combatants; start shooting, then fade just before the American attack, reaping the psychological rewards when the body count hits the New York Times.   This is a test of toughness and will for the new president; for the military, not so much.


The insurgent/terrorist strategy of the last thirty years has gotten more sophisticated and so has the US military.  But at the end of the day, the exercise looks a lot like a battle against cancer.  Chemo often succeeds but it ravages the patient as it attacks all those rogue pathogenic cells.


To his credit, President Obama has not dismantled the previous administration’s military achievements in Iraq and Afghanistan for an excellent reason:  The disastrous costs of Defeat overtop the significant costs of Victory.  Of course, the “V’ word is subject to ongoing redefinition. But the bottom line is clear enough:  It is the conversion of two hostile and dangerous regimes into stable, non-hostile, not dangerous ones.  


At the time of the Iraq invasion, the neo-cons promoted a new strategic vision:  The old model in which we unseat a dangerous regime then install a puppet dictator who will be not hostile and not dangerous was no longer viable.  Therefore we should attempt to install a quasi-democracy that would serve three goals: (a) a stable model of consensual governance in the region (b) a non-hostile regime with prospects for economic health (c) better PR for us than the “Here’s another American puppet general” solution.  As the invading forces entered Iraq, the old model was still policy.  But when the WMD’s couldn’t be found, the neo-con vision was adopted.  Thanks to a once-in-a-generation military genius, General David Howell Petraeus, the new game plan has worked in Iraq.  And it is now clear why the Bush administration picked Iraq as its first major venture. It was the low hanging fruit, the one regime most easily dislodged, the one threat most readily neutralized.


Here is the irony of the day.  President Obama will rescue the Bush legacy by retaining the gains in Iraq, but he now owns Afghanistan.  Will it be Lyndon Baines Obama?   Because of the proximity and potential instability of a nuclear Islamic Pakistan, the stakes could not be much higher.  This is a test of strategic vision to be sure.  But above all it is a test of courage and will.



May 13, 2009

Re-Cons - the Next Development in Conservatism

‘Re-cons’ Unite!
[But where are you?]

A Spotter’s Guide
Renaissance Conservatives


[This article is also posted on “The Policy Think Site” – LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/ReConsUnite.htm .]


Trying to spot fellow renaissance conservatives amid the current crop of time-serving politicians is a bit like locating a group of exceptional, future-oriented penguins in a flock of thousands gathering at the edge of an ice floe.  The penguin costumes are identical and the behavior of the “renaissance” ones is functionally indistinguishable. Moreover, the “renaissance penguins” aren’t even aware of each other, let alone prone to form a cooperative subgroup. 


It is far easier to identify the renaissance-friendly conservatives among the intellectuals, pundits and out-of-power politicians who have joined the conversation...provided you know what to look for....



NOTE: This continues a discussion that I began with an article now posted on “The Policy Think Site” -- LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/ConservativeRenaissance09.htm    


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Contact Jay B. Gaskill, attorney at law, via e mail at law@jaygaskill.com
[] From ‘Conservative Renaissance’ []


Renaissance conservatism is the self-confident form of the conservative ethos that understands the deep connections between freedom, the moral order and the human creative enterprise. Renaissance conservatism recognizes that America’s unique role in human history has at least one more major chapter.


The American experiment was the first example in history of a stable creative civilization based on enduring values and principles that contained the seeds of a world revolution.  Freedom is the soil of the human creative enterprise.  Creative civilizations require a specific kind of support infrastructure, one in which commercial, political, intellectual and artistic freedoms are indivisible, and the moral underpinnings of the political system are rooted in the same moral law that animated the Declaration of Independence.  Thus the conservative revival is linked to the fate of civilization itself.




Renaissance Conservatives – a Spotter’s Guide


It is far easier to identify the renaissance conservatives among the intellectuals, pundits and out-of-power politicians who have joined the conversation...provided you know what to look for....


Here is what to look for:


  • Traditional conservative plumage, understood and applied to the modern situation, expressed in terms of core ideas, not as rote rhetoric


The core ideas of conservatism include these five, among others;  (1) a deep respect for boundaries, particularly those contained in the underlying moral law; (2) a learned and articulate suspicion of great top-down utopian programs that are designed to repair the “injustices” that emerge from natural competition because they tend to deteriorate into authoritarian nightmares; (3) an enthusiasm for life-affirming human creative innovation, whether artistic or technological; (4) a core understanding of the deep interrelationship between human indivisible freedoms (economic and cultural) and the whole human creative enterprise; (5) a clear understanding that the United States’ has inherited a unique calling on the world stage; we are the last best hope for creative civilization.


  • Cultural confidence and a full spectrum historical perspective


I’m talking about the vision of the current set national problems and predicaments as a critical phase in the large sweep of human history, prefigured in American version of the enlightenment and leading the way to the next development in world civilization.




Conservative attorney, Mark R. Levin, has just published, “Liberty and Tyranny, A Conservative Manifesto” (Simon and Schuster 2009).  It is a principled and passionate defense of the free markets and institutions of America against Statism.  In 6 pages he concisely sets out the Manifesto (199-206), the ten planks of which, in my crude paraphrase are: (1) limited taxation, (2) curbed environmental litigation and regulation, (3) reigned-in judicial activism, (4) sun-setting rogue administrative agencies, (5) eliminating the government monopoly on education, (6) securing borders, ending ethnic balkanization, (7) reigning-in entitlements, (8) affirming robust, American-interest national security, (9) affirming the role of faith and the moral order (10) defending the constitution, especially free expression, against political control and manipulation. 


Few conservatives would dissent from any of this.  But the value added by renaissance conservatism is the future vector, the confident sense of American civilization, its freedoms and promise, not just portrayed as threatened by those would who pull it away from its founding principles (true as that is), but as a precious gift to the future.  This is America as the revolutionary vanguard for the world, the first fully creative civilization, but not the last, America as the hope of the world, the brave experiment in freedom than cannot be allowed to fail. 




One of my favorite books is a collection of essays by the conservative ex-pat Canadian, Mark Steyn, “America Alone, The End Of The World As We Know It” (Regnery 2006, pbk. 2008).  The point of view is Renaissance conservative, though the author doesn’t use the term.  In his 2008 introduction, Steyn lays is out thus: “...[W]e’re facing the end of the post-Second World War order as we’ve understood it these past sixty years, the end of an ever-advancing global prosperity guaranteed by America and its transatlantic allies.  The question is whether that in itself is merely a symptom of a more profound civilizational exhaustion and collapse – and whether we’re gambling the future on a post-western civilization.”  He goes on the make the case for American exceptionalism in the largest possible context.  And he identifies the core problem: a crisis is cultural self-confidence.  Towards the end of the book (in “The Falling Camel” he makes this point with a neatly chosen anecdote:


“This book isn’t an argument for more war, more bombing of more killing, but for more will.  In a culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of ‘suttee’ – the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands.  General Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural.  ‘You say that your custom is to burn widows.  Very well.  We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them.  Built your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.  You may follow your custom.  Ad then we will follow ours.’”  Mark Steyn concludes the observation with this trenchant line: “Multiculturalism was conceived by the Western elites not to celebrate all cultures but to deny their own: it is, thus, the real suicide bomb.”  (Steyn, 193-194)


  • The timely achievement of a conservative consensus on principled, practical priorities


My purpose in advancing the cause of renaissance conservatism is to provide a larger context -- the real and urgent context that allows conservatives to find new allies and to focus sharply on the main game: the promotion and defense of creative civilization from its American outpost against all enemies, domestic and foreign.


(1) Agreement on the essential verities and immediate challenges, accommodation on the rest: 


For conservatives, to accept a goal this large and important necessarily means bridging the secular-religious divide, generally; and in particular, it means overcoming obstacles to a principled accommodation on gay marriage and abortion. As important as these issues are to their passionate advocates, they are not the main game at the moment.


Here is a cold dash of water on the face for my conservative friends:  you have no clue how much damage your absence from the seats of power may cause.  The longer conservatives are frozen out of power, the easier the needed intra-conservative accommodations will become.  But there is a bleak corollary.  If conservatives remain frozen out of power too long, the unbalanced left will use the time to solidify changes so that the eventual return of conservatism will become an irrelevant footnote.


So this boils down to the “worthy of governance” issue. If conservatives are unable to unite in time for a constructive return to power, they may not be worthy of governance at any time.  Therefore it comes to this: 


The immediate task of renaissance conservatism is to identify and articulate the issues that should unite all conservatives and to identify and articulate the rational accommodation of the lower priority issues that should not be allowed to divide. 


This sort of thing isn’t rocket science, but it requires stern clarity of focus.  Priorities are always easier to understand in the context of a time-limited emergency.  In a theater fire, for example, everyone - gay, straight, pregnant and barren - is to be evacuated based on proximity to the exit without bickering. 


(2) Accommodation without surrender of principle:


Here’s the deal:  All of the sensitive, divisive social issues of the day, especially when they touch on deeply held human traditions regarding marriage, reproduction, contraception, or early-to-midterm abortion, should be excluded from getting in the way of unity on the really large issues that challenge the long term survival of creative civilization. 


If, God forbid, the atavistic jihadists ever achieve their long-sought neutralization of Europe and go after the United States and Israel with deadly biological of nuclear weapons, does it matter whether the person in the foxhole next to you is gay, straight, or supports abortions or opposes home schooling? 


Of course not. 


It really matters whether the guy or gal next to you is with you on the side of American civilization.  Creative civilization is a fragile experiment that must succeed in the US lest if fail everywhere else. 


A broad alliance of renaissance conservatives is the single best hope for the necessary American reawakening.  This forms the larger context that requires conservatives to reach a principled accommodation on many of the divisive social issues of the moment. 


In my opinion, the best modality for that accommodation is procedural populism.


An illustration:  There are deeply held human traditions regarding marriage, reproduction, contraception and abortion.  For the most part, the well rooted local traditions are in line with larger historical traditions.  Social liberals tend to describe them as “backward”.  That is an elitist perspective.  Procedural populists would decline to override the popular will.


Renaissance conservatives defend the freedom of both “liberal” and “conservative” social communities from all top-down social engineering via non-democratic institutions.  In the US, the relevant legal jurisdiction is the state. The democratic (as opposed to non-democratic) institutions in this context are the direct popular plebiscite and the elected state officials acting in concert with the clear popular will (as opposed to covertly acting against the popular will.) 


At present, most Americans appear to be comfortable with gay and lesbian social equality and with monogamous same gender couples being afforded most or all of the legal benefits enjoyed by cohabiting, not married heterosexual couples.  But most Americans do not favor gay/lesbian marriage. Think of it as a brand monopoly, if you will, honored in most jurisdictions, not in others.  You and your significant other may prefer different benefits: it is a free country; we are all free to move to a friendlier jurisdiction, a more accommodating employer and a better, more amenable community situation, or to places where older traditions are honored.


Also at present, most Americans strongly disapprove of late term abortions but favor adult contraception.  Local variation on the abortion issue is sharply limited by the line of federal constitutional issues starting with the US Supreme Court’s famous holding in Roe vs. Wade that created a three trimester test for abortion regulation.  This turns out to be the principal “wedge issue” among conservatives.  I will return to this, not-trivial question, in more depth.


However individual communities sort out along the continuum of these challenging and divisive social issues, the most traditional ones are finding that the majority view is often overridden by elite, anti-democratic juridical, administrative or Bolshevik-style political maneuvers. 


For example, a state supreme court might “find” an otherwise hidden pro-gay or pro-abortion clause (note I do not equate these two areas politically or philosophically) embedded in the language of the state constitution (such as the right to “privacy” or “equality”) when, in fact, neither same-gender issues nor abortion-rights were even considered by the drafters or the voters when such language was approved.  The judicial officers who “find” special rights in these areas, just as the federal bureaus that issue edicts to the same effect, risk usurping the democratic process and overriding the common, long held opinions of the people.  More than one state legislature has ignored the weight of popular opinion to enact laws altering the common tradition in an attempt to force a new status quo.  This technique is borrowed from the Leninist tradition, a form of Bolshevism Lite. 


Procedural populism enables a broad spectrum of renaissance conservatives (who may disagree on some social issues) to nevertheless agree that any significant social change in the sensitive areas like gay marriage and “reproductive autonomy” should be bottom-up, driven by popular consensus, and not top down by elite decree. 





Now I return to the abortion issue, fully aware of the pitfalls. I will offer some personal reflections and a proposal. 




A disclosure: Over the years, I have become more and more firmly pro-life on the abortion issue.  Experience shapes and alters moral philosophy.  Attending the birth of a beautiful, fragile little human being on several occasions...seeing a lovely and loveable baby come into the full flower of personhood after his or her parents entertained an abortion...observing the deep and destructive guilt suffered by a prospective mother who aborts a baby...listening to the tiny thump-hump of the heart of a weeks old pre-born child: all such experiences teach us something about the value of the little one’s living in utero. 


Lessons of this sort are deeper and more impressive than theory.


I have liberal friends who are pro-life in this sense and I have conservative friends who are less so, particularly among those most strongly influenced by the libertarian slogan, “Keep government out of the bedroom and the OR!” 


This issue set bridges the secular-religious divide as well.  I have an agnostic friend, a secular humanist, who is pro-life because any society callous and indifferent to the value of pre-born human life can all too easily become callous and indifferent to all human life.  


And I have male conservative friends who are constrained to take the “pro-choice” position because of long indoctrination by arch-feminist wives, mothers, sisters and girlfriends.  Few males can answer the challenge: “Easy for you to say; men don’t undergo the pain of childbirth!”  Better to say, “I’m neutral on this,” or “I support Roe vs. Wade.”


But there are the close-call questions.  For example, a woman is presented with a serious health challenge to herself and the unborn in her womb -- she is carrying potential triplets.  The medical situation is dire.  One or more babies may die in utero, while the mother is facing complications leading to the prospect of a fatal or debilitating stroke.  A physician recommends terminating all three because of risks to the mother, but the mother elects to “reduce” to one and go ahead with the birth.  Where is the moral responsibility here?  How much government intrusion and bureaucratic oversight is appropriate?






The legal context


Pro-life advocates need to understand the Roe vs. Wade ruling (decided by the Supreme Court in January 1973) in its current context.  Without any federal guidance on the issue, nothing would stop a particular state from determining that a pre-born infant, viable or not, has no legal standing whatsoever.

[Granted, the Roe court’s protection for the unborn was expressed in tepid language: “In assessing the State’s interest, recognition may be given to the less rigid claim that as long as at least potential life is involved, the State may assert interests beyond the protection of the pregnant woman alone.”  But, at least as to late term abortions, the Roe court was clear enough: “With respect to the State’s important and legitimate interest in potential life, the ‘compelling’ point is at viability. This is so because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother's womb. State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications. If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”]

In this connection we need to be reminded of current Chinese practice. In mainland China, abortions are actively encouraged and gender-specific terminations are popular (preferring the abortion of female babies).  In a Chinese hospital, abortions can be performed at the moment that the baby “crowns” by piercing the little skull.  Anyone who is not appalled at this sort of thing, (a) needs a heart transplant, and (b) is not likely to condemn other cruelty and mayhem in the name of the “greater good’.  My conservative, agnostic friend had a point: callousness to human life is a contagious moral pathogen.


Roe has the practical virtue, from a pro-life perspective, of virtually banning all third trimester abortions except those that clearly are necessary to save the mother’s life.  To accomplish this, the court in Roe had to afford legal protection to the unborn where, at the federal level, there was none before.  Subsequent case law has made the Roe doctrine much more abortion permissive than was necessarily implied by the original opinion. 


The core rationale of the Roe case was that fetal protection was linked to fetal viability, hence the rough and ready three-trimester test: Few abortion restrictions were allowed in the first three months during which the court presumed that no pre-born would be viable outside the womb, more restrictions on abortions in the next three month and conditional abortion bans would be upheld in the last trimester.


The entire Roe rationale is being challenged by the advance of medical technology as it pushes back the point of medically-assisted viability outside the womb to earlier and earlier in the pregnancy. 


This suggests a holding-pattern strategy for pro-life advocates: (1) Advocate the repeal or modification of laws and subsequent case law that restricts pro-life policies beyond the absolute requirement of the original Roe decision.  (2) Press for a review of Roe to expand the reach of the “viability” protection.  This might start with a policy of upholding abortion restrictions in jurisdictions where medical technology has produced earlier viability than the original tri-semester dicta in Roe.  (3) Eventually, as public opinion and medical technology progress, press for Roe to be reinterpreted to protect all pre-born who have reached the stage of viability in utero.  [This is likely to be post conception, but very much earlier in the pregnancy than any state is permitted to act to restrict abortions.]


In the meantime, pro-life conservatives need to be aware that the pro-choice ideology has outstripped the requirements of the original Roe decision.  Most humane minded, common sense inculcated liberals favor parental notification laws and strongly oppose partial birth abortion, a procedure that chillingly resembles the disgusting Chinese practice earlier referenced.  Nothing in my reading of Roe prohibits making a pregnant child’s parents part of decision whether to have an abortion or a baby, and nothing in that decision prevents congress or any state from outlawing a particularly brutish form of late term abortion.  Moreover, Roe does not obligate the government to pay for abortions or to fund counselors to advise pregnant women to have them.


Serious pro-life conservatives need to be equally serious about doing whatever it takes at whatever level that proves effective to make adoption an attractive, practical and humane option to any pregnant woman or girl who otherwise might contemplate terminating the pregnancy for any reason other than the protection of her own health. 


The social context


Feminists are carrying at least a thousand years of accumulated grievances. In the modern era, few educated women in the US have a personal legacy of male abuse or female marginalization that even approximates that currently suffered by roughly one billion women in the rest of the world.  But that does not change the social and political reality:  most modern women carry the memories, customs and oral traditions of the recently liberated, the almost, but not-quite-free women who are still feeling the sad afterglow of incomplete recognition, the glass ceiling, the not-listened-to female employee, spouse or professional. The emerging truth is that feminism in its most strident form was a bit of an aberration. The harsher forms of female liberation, the kind that demeaned “ordinary family women” has begun to recede in favor of a healthy diversity of well adjusted strong women who feel free to be conventional or not. 


For renaissance conservatives of both genders, the social issue of life affirmation and abortion choice needs to be placed squarely in the context of child protection and parental responsibility, shared equally by men and women.   The issue becomes less and less divisive as there are fewer and fewer abortions performed.  Any measure that reduces the scope and severity of the problem is a good thing and worthy of general support.


At the risk of incurring wide offense, I need to disclose here a sad little secret that is still exerting a profound ripple effect on the political and social attitudes of upper middle class American women:  A silent plurality of well educated women, the very kind of women who exert the strongest political and cultural influence, have secretly had one or more abortions. 


There is a growing body of data that unambiguously shows that women who have terminated a pregnancy – especially later in the gestation – suffer significant lingering guilt.  The power of that guilt is greater to the degree that the procedure was medically unnecessary.  The adoption of a strident, pro-choice feminist ideology operates as a psychological mask for the inner sense of having done something terribly wrong.  The simplest psychological strategy for relief is to blame the male involved, then males generally, then the plight of women.  In this way, for some (but not all!) women, post-abortion guilt is expiated in an arch-feminist cause.  Fortunately, as the number of these cases diminishes, the ripple effect will also diminish.


The Accommodation Rationale


In issues like this must we return to the animating original vision:  Renaissance conservatives are who we are because we support a robust, life affirming, freedom-loving creative civilization of which American is the single most important example and leader.  The conservative contribution is essential to the cause of creative civilization because (given the current self-inflicted disabilities of typical liberalism) only conservatism provides sufficient moral boundaries, robust protections for freedom and a powerful un-compartmentalized vision of the human creative enterprise, technological, procreative and artistic.  


Local popular social variations of intimate customs and practices can and should be seen part of the larger creative mix, except when they operate as a threat (think of Steyn’s suttee anecdote) to the very fabric of ordered liberty.  Top down social engineering is not only inorganic, it is fundamentally anti-creative.  A free, life affirming creative social order must be able to tolerate significant social variation as long as the fundamentals – the protection of life, property, freedom of expression and the pursuit of happiness are well protected and the creative trends (and the conditions that foster them) are promoted.




A renaissance conservative worthy of leadership needs to be able to handle the abortion issue without blowing up the room.  Philosophically and experientially, the conservative perspective is necessarily life affirming.  I imagine achieving a sort of consensus overview, something like, “We strongly believe in protecting the life of the mother and her unborn baby, leaving abortions for extreme situations where there is no other reasonable means to save the mother.  But close calls should not be made by bureaucracies.  This is a huge social problem that needs to be worked relentlessly on every level, changing hearts and minds, from the ground up.  But the only acceptable policy direction must always be in favor of life.”






In an earlier essay, defending the idea of explicitly creative civilizations, I wrote:


“Within the last 200 years, various civilizations have begun to develop rules and institutions to protect the freedom of creative expression; this represents a predictable development in our species’ greatest social technology given the growing understanding that the incubation of creative activity requires a certain protected scope of creative expression. I am persuaded that our species’ ultimate survival is tied directly to the success of creative civilization. 


“When we humans travel in space and encounter another civilization that has developed entirely separately from ours, I am confident we will immediately recognize the structure of that alien civilization and we will recognize the supporting normative architecture.  And I am confident that the longest surviving civilizations will be the creative/adaptive ones. Of course there is another scenario. If we allow human civilization to wither for lack of attention to its normative infrastructure, it will die. The extra-terrestrial archaeologists will pour over our ruins, wondering ‘Where did they go wrong?’”


Or, as Mark Steyn put it in his eloquent conclusion to “America Alone”, “We have been shirking too long, and that’s unworthy of a great civilization.  To [fend] off the new Dark Ages will be tough and demanding.  The alternative will be worse.”


Renaissance conservatives: It is high time to unite.  All you have to lose is your current irrelevance.  And what is there to gain?  The blessings of civilization itself for you and posterity hang in the balance.


Jay B Gaskill


More about civilization and its necessary moral infrastructure at this LINK: http://www.jaygaskill.com/ProjectLamb.pdf

May 10, 2009

Liberal Vampirism (Parody or Warning?)


Political Analysis
Jay B. Gaskill

This is political/economic commentary as parody, but to see just how closely the parody resembles reality, look over the numbers and links at the end of the piece. JBG

POLICY THINK SITE LINK: http://www.jaygaskill.com/LiberalVampirism.htm
Every movement has it demons.  Conservatives are afflicted by the ghosts of Scrooge and your puritanical fist grade teacher.  That is a separate discussion. 
This is about a scary subset of liberals and the invisible vampire toxin that is spreading through the whole movement.


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Liberalism was born in the impulse to use all the modern tools of social science, including government itself, to liberate the human condition from various form of oppression.  To date, the liberal project has enjoyed mixed results.

Liberalism 1.0 gave rise to the end of theocratic royalism, but was midwife for the birth of other, very scary “ism’s”. I can’t help but think of William Butler Yeat’s poem, “The Second Coming” about that “rough beast slouching to Bethlehem to be born”.

“...The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned...what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

The catastrophic failure of bureaucratic authoritarian socialism shook liberalism to the core.  Hitler’s National Socialism and Lenin/Stalin/Mao’s communism crashed in spectacular fashion. In the mid 20th century, liberalism emerged from the post-Bolshevik period, damaged and chastened.  

Many former leftists became neo-conservatives. 

At the same time, traditional liberalism reinvented itself.  Liberalism 2.0 was born as “social democracy” or “Socialism Lite”.  It was marketed as the rational use of political power in the context of democratic gradualism to “tame” and “civilize” raw capitalism. 

This form of liberalism became another endangered species when the overtaxed middle class began to assert political power in the 1980’s. 

Enter Liberalism 3.0.  In this adaptation, liberalism has found new life among the prosperous and well educated elites of the West.

Liberalism 3.0 is the engine of ‘hedonistic altruism’ a brilliant, if short lived maneuver.  

Let me unpack this notion a bit.  The prosperous elites are all about guilt expiation without sacrifice.  Too many of them lack an overall moral/ethical framework, other than a vague notion that “equality is good” and “inequality is unfair, but not necessarily bad”. 

Good and bad are understood in terms of comfort and discomfort.  This is the syntax of hedonism.  This is why a liberal who is placed in a morally compromising situation (as in being asked to cover up a theft) rarely says, “but that would be WRONG”; instead a liberal is more likely to say, “I’m just not comfortable with that.” 

So the strategy of Liberalism 3.0 was to reduce the guilt discomfort level of the well-off by taxation that didn’t compromise their life style too much.  The “altruistic” pay off was that some of the tax money was to be used to help alleviate the discomfort of the “less than equal” people, not enough to actually change their lives, mind you, just enough to alleviate liberal guilt.  

The vampire family feeding pattern, on steroids

The key idea: The wealth-creation activities of free commerce are the bloodstream on which the social altruistic policies of liberalism must feed. 

I can’t tell you how many conversations among liberals I have overheard, public and private, in which worry is expressed about just how much can be siphoned off from the “business sector” without “killing the golden goose.” 

These liberals had the right idea, just the wrong metaphor.

This Vampire Bat is a perfect political metaphor for contemporary Western liberalism:
The common Vampire Bat lives mostly in South America and lives on the blood of various mammals.  [The quoted bat lore below was taken from “The Center for the Conservation of Specialized Species”, a Canadian NGO at the following link: http://www.conservationcentre.org/scase7.html .]

 “As soon as night has fallen and usually not if the moon has risen, Vampire bats cautiously leave their roosts... and then set out in straight low level flight...in search of their usual 'donor' species.”
“Feeding ... upon animals up to ten thousand times their own size, Vampire bats are not about to risk waking a 'victim'... so instead they often choose to alight near the animal and carefully walk up to it....”

“These front incisors used to make a feeding bite are so scalpel sharp that the Vampire bat's bite is virtually painless...further assisted by the bats special anti coagulant saliva which flows along a tiny grove ... of the bat's tongue and into the wound. In order to further minimize disturbance several Vampire bats will often feed at a single bite site.”
“Vampire bats are totally unable to utilize any other source of food than blood. In fact they have such fast metabolisms that they will starve to death in as little as 48 hours!”

Substitute political liberals for Vampire Bats and you will glean a sharp insight into their political feeding techniques, and you will be able to see the outlines of the coming famine.  
Vampire Bats feed in secret, taking tiny amounts of blood from ‘donors’ who are thousands of time larger.  In the current “crisis”, the Vampires outweigh their victims (excuse me, donors) and the entire bleeding exercise is taking place in broad daylight.  The multi-trillion dollar bleeding we are witnessing, if allowed to continue, is analogous to a huge swarm of vampire bats attacking a herd of farm animals, bleeding them dry. 

To complete the analogy, 48 hours later the bats, too, will die.


There really are limits to redistributionist liberalism, especially in a democracy.  All the bailouts, accomplished, proposed and in-pipeline, are the equivalent of a fatal blood extraction.  The fact that the current crop of liberals will go into political oblivion, too, is cold comfort indeed.  Without feeding restraint, we face the prospect of a taxpayer rebellion that will end liberalism.  The alternative is an anesthetized nation, bled dry and not realizing it, an America of the walking dead.  Surely we can do better.


The Congressional Budget Office’s preliminary analysis of the president’s budget released March 09 predicts – conservatively – that the current administration’s deficits will be 3.8 Trillion US dollars for the first four years. [Link:

 http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=10014 Detail: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/100xx/doc10014/Chapter1.5.1.shtml#1093570 .]

But when the current and immediately contemplated Federal Reserve actions and other commitments are taken into account, the US has already committed itself to spend $10.5 Trillion US dollars (!) outside the appropriations budget.  See CNN-Money’s Bailout Tracker.  [LINK: http://money.cnn.com/news/storysupplement/economy/bailouttracker/index.html ]

To grasp the staggering scale of the approaching reckoning, consider that the total US Gross Domestic Product for 2008 was only about 14.3 Trillion US dollars.

Before adding in the front loaded deficits described above, the national debt is about $11.2 Trillion US dollars. 

For a longer perspective, look at the following:

Tracking US GDP 1045- 2007 (Perot Charts) http://perotcharts.com/2008/05/us-gross-domestic-product-1945-2007/

And the same source 09 deficit projections & chart http://perotcharts.com/2009/02/projected-budget-deficit-congressional-budget-office-baseline-plus-stimulus-bill/ .




May 05, 2009

David Brooks on Repairing the GOP Brand

Welcome to the Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com    
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Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 by Jay B. Gaskill
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Stylistically decontaminating the Brand


In today’s New York Times, the moderate-conservative columnist, David Brooks, writes about the lessons republicans can glean from John Ford’s archetypal Westerns.  The dramatic focus in the classic western was about the lone bravery of the rugged individual, but the more important subtext was the celebration of a conservative civitas:


In “The Long Voyage Home”, (link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/opinion/05brooks.html?_r=1&ref=opinion ), he makes several points, but this is the key one:


“The movie, in other words, is really about religion, education, science, culture, etiquette and rule of law — the pillars of community. In Ford’s movie, as in real life, the story of Western settlement is the story of community-building. Instead of celebrating untrammeled freedom and the lone pioneer, Ford’s movies dwell affectionately on the social customs that Americans cherish — the gatherings at the local barbershop and the church social, the gossip with the cop and the bartender and the hotel clerk.


Today, if Republicans had learned the right lessons from the Westerns, or at least John Ford Westerns, they would not be the party of untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice.  They would once again be the party of community and civic order.”


And he concludes, trenchantly, with this prescription;


“If the Republicans are going to rebound, they will have to re-establish themselves as the party of civic order.  First, they will have to stylistically decontaminate their brand.  That means they will have to find a leader who is calm, prudent, reassuring and reasonable.


Then they will have to explain that there are two theories of civic order. There is the liberal theory, in which teams of experts draw up plans to engineer order wherever problems arise. And there  is the more conservative vision in which government sets certain rules, but mostly empowers the complex web of institutions in which the market is embedded.”


David Brooks has made an important contribution to a vitally necessary conversation.  Three days ago I posted in this space a long article, abstracted from an even longer piece,

The Coming Conservative Renaissance? The Case for Renaissance Conservatism’, now available at this link” http://jaygaskill.com/ConservativeRenaissance09.htm .  It rewards the time and effort to study reflect, adapt & adopt.


No one should be comfortable with the prospect of a long term, unchecked period of governance by the American left.  The most healthy and robust period in American politics was the ‘Dialogic Period’ that I describe in my “Renaissance” piece. 


The most important lacunae in republican thinking and rhetoric right now is what Bush One lamely called, “the vision thing.”  David Brooks is dead on in today’s column, but far more heavy lifting is needed.


Here’s the Deal:

Brooks is quite apt when talking about conservatism using the language that liberals understand, and he has a brilliant grasp of the differences between rural, small town conservatism and the need for a more hip, urban version of the conservative ‘brand’. 

I was particularly struck by the following line partly because it echoes my own concerns:

First, they will have to stylistically decontaminate their brand. That means they will have to find a leader who is calm, prudent, reassuring and reasonable.

I strongly agree with the first part.  But, as I have argued, conservatives need a deeper, more passionate and more ecumenical understanding of the conservative vision.  This will require something almost impossible for the Beltway crowd: actual, wrenchingly deep thinking.  I Know this is hard.  A federal elected official once confided, “Nobody has time to think here!”  

The reconciliation of the demands of reality, the relevance of vision, the exigencies of good policy and the recovery of the ability to communicate on more than one level at a time is a huge undertaking.  The creators of high-end animated blockbusters (think of the movie, Ratatouille here) have solved the communication problem; they can engage adults with sophisticated humor and enchant children at the same time.  Conservatives need to recover the gift of talking to the intelligentsia, the geeks, cops and truck drivers in the same paragraph, while making sense.

But the ‘vision thing’ comes first.


May 01, 2009


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