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October 30, 2009

To 'B' or Not? David Brooks & Obama's Problem


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I commend two excellent pieces for your weekend study.  First, “Unfortunately, Failure is an Option” by security experts, Lawrence B. Lindsey and Reuel Marc Gerecht:  http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/017/114ctowg.asp


I’m thinking of those Coors' Lite beer commercials where we are treated to a series of comic, “too little, too much” scenarios. 


It turns out that modern presidential decision making is structured the same way by the teams of advisors surrounding POTUS.  In military situations, Option A is the “All in and win” one, and Option B is the “Get out now” one.  The tendency is to pick Option B, “Do less and hope for the best”. 


As the authors trenchantly point out, Option B almost always ends in failure. 


“Picking the proverbial Option B is a standard result of most models of organizational behavior, and the White House is no exception. But by its very nature Option B defines a problem as being too serious to ignore and thereby requiring resources, yet commits fewer resources than would guarantee success. This increases the odds of failure and of having to revisit the issue at a later date. In the case now before us, President Obama has already rejected Option C, the view that Afghanistan is ‘the graveyard of empires’ and therefore an imprudent place in which to invest American lives. But by hesitating to embrace General Stanley McChrystal’s plan for an additional 40,000 troops--Option A--he is implicitly selecting an option that will likely prove more costly in the long run in both lives and treasure.”



And then look at David Brooks Op Ed in today’s New York Times, “The Tenacity Question”: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/30/opinion/30brooks.html?_r=1


David Brooks decided to do what a good journalist is supposed to do: talk to the people who should know.  He interviewed a number of military experts whom he respects about Mr. Obama’s critical decision making in those looming war and peace decisions.  Here’s the pull quote:


“They have no idea if he is willing to stick by his decisions, explain the war to the American people and persevere through good times and bad.


“Their first concerns are about Obama the man. They know he is intellectually sophisticated. They know he is capable of processing complicated arguments and weighing nuanced evidence.


‘But they do not know if he possesses the trait that is more important than intellectual sophistication and, in fact, stands in tension with it. They do not know if he possesses tenacity, the ability to fixate on a simple conviction and grip it, viscerally and unflinchingly, through complexity and confusion. They do not know if he possesses the obstinacy that guided Lincoln and Churchill, and which must guide all war presidents to some degree.”


And here’s the real game, in my opinion. 


We face the chilling possibility that atomic bombs will soon be in the hands of Islamic fanatics in charge of regimes with access to the resources necessary to deliver them on major population centers. 


  • Pakistan has nukes and the regime is being destabilized by a resurgent Taliban in-country and next door in Afghanistan. 


  • Iran’s lunatic regime is playing us diplomatically while rashly rushing get to the game changer – a deliverable nuke.


The presents a clear convergence of national self interest and public morality:  The looming specter of another deadly nuclear arms race with the concomitant inevitable outcome (someone’s city will become a glass parking lot) must be averted.  Mere deterrence will not work under the new conditions.  [Even that blowhard Soviet Premier, N. Khrushchev, was more deterrable than the current cohort of martyr-minded jihadists.]


So the uber-challenge, the one that dwarfs all the others, is bright-line clear: We gotta’ stop this A-bomb trend before it’s too late. 


Americans were recently treated by an infamous Newsweek cover, “Living with a Nuclear Iran”.  Really?  Try substituting “Iran, Korean and Taliban” to that headline, and adding “Living and dying”.   The result is unacceptable.


But to merely say that something is “unacceptable” is a far cry from doing something effective to stop it from happening.


When actual, on-the-ground- policy choices are concerned, nothing is ever absolutely clear. Murphy's Law dogs the analysis as well as the performance.  


Grand Moral undertakings by nation states are strictly limited by self-interest, enlightened or otherwise, and by real world prudential constraints.  


But the long game here is clear enough:  We have a shrinking time window to wall off the threat of lunatic-shared a-bomb capabilities.  At the end of the day, we may or may not “build democratic allies”, but we most certainly will pay a bitter price for allowing deliverable nuclear bombs to fall into the control of loosely-wrapped martyrs.  If, God forbid, the USA is ever hit with a single nuclear weapon in a densely populated area, chances are that you will lose at least one friend, one relative, one colleague. A piece of your conscience will die as well when you reflect on what you might have done in 2009 and 2010 to support the strong measures that might have worked to avert it.


This is why we cannot afford to lose sight of the ultimate prize: A stable Pakistan with the nuclear codes safely under rational control and no new nuclear players anywhere else in the Middle east region.  


And that means Iran.


For the immediate decision makers, the ultimate stakes are so high that they are psychologically invisible, kind of like the Titanic passengers who kept waiting for a more comfortable boat.  They are disposed to kick the can down the road.  Again. 


The bottom line here is will.  Can any of us say with assurance that our new president has the grit, determination and will to protect the national interest at this crucial moment?  If WE have some doubts, you can be assured that our enemies smell weakness. 


All military catastrophes begin with a miscalculation.  This is why, when the stakes are as high as they really are, nuance is dangerous.  You can’t draw a line in the sand without being deadly serious about what will happen next.  


At the end of the day, Churchill and Roosevelt were not “Option B” guys.  They were actual leaders. 


A heads-up to our new president:  It is the end of the day.






October 27, 2009


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





It is now clear that the Senate heath care bill, while still shrouded in verbal fog, will do at least three things: (1) It will spend more than American’s can afford.  (2) It will accomplish less than promised. (3) Overall, most Americans, especially those on Medicare and working for small businesses, will be forced into inferior medical care over time in order to pay for the whole thing.


The Hippocratic Oath enjoins physicians, “First:  Do no harm.”  The congress is not bound by that wise injunction.  Nor will our elected officials be accountable in other ways. 


Consider the malpractice laws:


A physician in the OR sews up a patient, negligently leaving a metal clip inside the body cavity.  A lawsuit ensues and the physician is ordered to pay the patient damages.


A lawyer misses a critical filing deadline for a client and an unjustified seizure of the client’s bank accounts follows, resulting in the loss of the client’s livelihood.  A lawsuit is brought and the lawyer is ordered to compensate the former client.


YOU run a red light and collide with a school bus, injuring six children.  You are sued and ordered to pay them compensation for your negligence.


The first two cases are classic professional malpractice cases, resulting in the award of compensatory damages for the failure of a professional to keep up the standards of the profession.  The third is a case of ordinary negligence (lay malpractice, if you will) in which YOU failed to maintain the standards expected of an ordinary motorist, causing damages to others because of your negligence.


In these examples, every negligent actor is accountable under the law, and can be held liable to pay for his or her damage-causing errors.


Hundreds of our elected representatives vote to enact a law that destroys businesses, causes the fatal delay or full-on denial of medical care to millions of Americans.  At least three hundred and fifty of these elected officials did not even read the provisions of the legislation for which they voted, then (after community protests) expressed “surprise” that “many constituents were hurt” (potentially, if the legislation becomes law and immediately, by the attempt to railroad through an execrable piece of Beltway social engineering without debate).   The potential monetary damages from this legislative malpractice are in the hundreds of million dollars, possibly several times that when the collateral effects are taken into account. 


A revised version of this legislative atrocity has been burped out of the US Senate, but the embedded poison pills (such as trashing or burdening intelligent & creative health care payment solutions like tax protected savings plans coupled with inexpensive catastrophic care insurance) are still in the mix.  This remains a stealth plan to destroy private health care coverage by burdening it beyond capacity while selectively favoring public plans (disguised as “optional”) via subsidies that depend on magic “savings” that will never be realized.  All of this sleight of hand is taking place against the backdrop of an unprecedented public opinion consensus: We (the taxpayers) just don’t trust the legislative process right now because we have already been mislead; we were almost rolled this summer; and we now favor limited, transparent reform, carefully targeted.  We may be naïve, but we still believe that our elected representatives are still morally bound by the Hippocratic injunction, “First, do no harm.”


Not one of the negligent elected is held liable. 


Some would claim that this is because of a doctrine called “sovereign immunity”.  Don’t bother to look for that doctrine in our constitution, because it is not spelled out there.  Our elected representatives just “came up with it.”


Others tell us that the governing doctrine is “whores' rule”.  This doctrine focuses on the standards to which our professional politicians are held.  Where whores are concerned, it’s just a matter of whether you got screwed, not how well.....


It now comes down to this:  Do the blue dog democrats have the spine to stand up to their out-of-control congressional leadership?


Stay tuned....




My review of the House Bill, "The HMO from Hell", is still worth reviewing at this critical juncture.  Here is that link: http://www.jaygaskill.com/HMOfromHell.htm

Then, if you are interested in what reasonable alternatives (all blocked by the congressional leadership) would look like, please visit this link as well --- http://www.jaygaskill.com/HeathCareTrainWreck.htm .

October 15, 2009


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


The Obama Presidency is at its Tipping Point – far earlier than expected

I am one of those people who (a) did not vote for Mr. Obama but (b) WHO STILL wants this administration to succeed.

But success in governance is possible only when our new president learns to govern from the center.

The junior Senator from Illinois arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with high hopes, the wind at his back and – as we now know – an agenda far to the left of the majority of all Americans.

Whenever a US President attempts to “do good” (defined, always, in terms of a particular ideology that is out of sync with the American political center), he or she must expend “political capital”. This means that POTUS is willing to leverage the immediate post-victory glow into certain policy accomplishments. Typically these are measures that in any other setting just could not be delivered, except under duress. This exercise of “political capital” is usually sold as “fighting the special interests”. In fact, the uphill struggles that take the most political capital are those that track against the popular will. Whenever POTUS presses for something about which MOST people are not in accord, the arsenal of political weapons tends to include personal popularity, policy stealth and the exploitation of lingering good will.

We are now witnessing a disappearing act worthy of Harry Potter. Mr. Obama's political capital is vanishing before our very eyes faster than in any presidential term of recent memory. Why? Because the new president appears to have misrepresented himself during the campaign. He was sold to the left as the long awaited savior, but marketed to the center as a post-partisan healing figure, someone who could, by engaging in a thoughtful and reasonable dialogue, bring us all together in favor of those obviously necessary measures, the things that “everybody knows” needed getting done.

In fact, the President's immediate measures ran against dominant public opinion. Most voters strongly opposed the bankruptcy-linked multi-billion dollar payments to GM and Chrysler (seen as taxpayer subsidized gifts) and they immediately suffered buyers remorse about the “stimulus” package that was rammed through congress. As the unemployment numbers grow, the stimulus package is increasingly exposed as a batch of payback dollars to partisan constituencies, sprinkled with public works projects, supplying little or no effective growth stimulus.

When the President took some “cost-free” symbolic opportunities, like taking the world stage to apologize for America's flaws, he was again deeply out of touch with a majority of American voters.

As of today Mr. Obama has expended all his available US monetary capital, measured against the current Domestic Product. The current deficit, now about 12 Trillion dollars, is a dramatically increasing toxin in the national economy ( See http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/ ) and it already amounts to roughly 85% of the annual GDP in 2008. [Visit the GDP Graph at http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/gdp_glance.htm .] Our federal government's debt was 14.2 trillion in 2008,. [See https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html ].


If current trends continue without a political and economic correction, the national debt will outstrip the national annual income from all domestic transactions before the end of Mr. Obama's first term in office.

All new federal spending this year is from borrowed funds. And the administration is proposing even more.

The wind at Mr. Obama's back wind has changed to a headwind.

The Rasmussen polling organization tracks popular presidential approval changes daily, including a measure that I call the “passion index”, achieved by subtracting the percentage of those who strongly disapprove of presidential performance from those who strongly approve.

That number has been negative for months.

Today, I reviewed that last 30 days of Rasmussen's data. From September 16th through today, October 15th, the raw numbers polled reached a 50-50 tie (approve vs disapprove) only twice. Mr. Obama's presidential performance was approved by more than half of those surveyed only twice during the same period.

For 24 of the last thirty days, an absolute majority of those polled disapproved of this president's performance.

Today's numbers were not atypical: Disapprove: 51%. Approve: 48%. The “passion gap”: Minus 8%.

The full report is at http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/obama_administration/obama_approval_index_history .

Rasmussen has a strong track record. I know that his numbers are privately credited by professional democratic politicians.

This does not mean that “it's over” for the new administration. It does mean that, in the rush to achieve too much, too left, too soon, the new president has sucked all of the left wing oxygen out of the system.

Mr. Obama's most fervent ideological supporters now risk turning a difficult presidency into a failed one.

Our new president has very little time to “recalibrate” as he puts it.


But nuance won't work any more. Nothing short of a resolute turn to the center (as defined by the American people, not by the partisan left) can restore this presidency.


October 10, 2009

The REAL Reason for Obama's Peace Prize

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→The Human Conspiracy Blog: http://www.jaygaskill.com/blog3
The Policy Think Site: http://www.jaygaskill.com
All contents, unless otherwise indicated are
Copyright © 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.]
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Nobel Or Manhattan?


Also POSTED on the Policy Think Site in htm format. LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/NobelOrManhattan.htm


The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to President Obama, well in advance of ANY diplomatic achievements, for one primary, politically motivated purpose: 




The Nobel Peace Prize is not an international award in the popular sense.  It is an award with international attention made by a clique of five Norwegian Parliamentary members, of whom four are socialists / left-oriented social democrats, and the fifth is a free market conservative whose party supports liberal internationalist positions.


Here are the left wing four: 


Thorbjørn Jagland, Chair (head of the Labor Party)

Sissel Marie Rønbeck (former Chair of the Social Democratic Youth)

Inger-Marie Ytterhorn (Political adviser to the Progress Party's parliamentary group)

Ågot Valle, (member of the Socialist Left Party).


The lone conservative was Kaci Kullmann Five. [Five is her married name, not her position.] Her political and policy emphasis and that of the conservative party is economic (think Meg Whitman here).


Truth be told, Norway is an international spectator, not a player.  The conservative platform, an interesting document worth perusal, is posted at.   http://www.hoyre.no/artikler/2003/1/information_in_english .  But that platform gives us almost no clue how Norwegian conservatives (or Mrs. Five), a minority voice in any event, would think about Middle Eastern politics, Israel or Iran’s nuclear threat to the peace of the world.


One pull quote:


“The Conservative Party wants Norway to help reinforce and further develop the authority of the United Nations, and that organization’s peacekeeping and peacemaking activities. As long as a large part of the world currently operates under cultural, political and economic systems that run counter to important aspects of our value system, we must be prepared for this process to take a long time and call for considerable patience.”


Think about it.  We no longer have “a long time” where nuclear weapons are concerned. 


We face the catastrophic collapse of the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, the ignition of an atomic-bomb arms race in the Middle East and a group of FIVE members of the parliament of a small country that remained neutral in World War II intend to tie our hands by dangling a peace award before our new, inexperienced president. 


To his credit, Mr. Obama declared that he wasn’t worthy of the award.  But the Nobel committee is hoping that our president’s wish to BECOME worthy by staying his hand in the Middle East. 


A New Manhattan Project


We need a Manhattan Peace Prize for the most effective action in the international arena to prevent atomic bombs from EVER being used again by ensuring that they NEVER fall under the control of irresponsible regimes. 


Why Manhattan?  Because of the Manhattan Project and because, after the catastrophic attacks on September 11, 2001, Manhattan is the world’s primary symbol for Never Again in the 21st Century.


Who should be on that committee?  My personal choices: 

Rudy Giuliani

Tony Blair

Benjamin Netanyahu

Joe Lieberman

Condoleezza Rice.  


Funding sources and nominations, please….







October 01, 2009

Hanson: I think both groups will soon discover the truth.

Victor Davis Hanson's musings are worth five thoughtful pieces by David Brooks or ten by Thomas Friedman.


For my evidence supporting this assertion, just read his latest musings about the new administration:

LINK: http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson100109.html 


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