Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

OBAMA AT WAR

Friday, August 30th, 2013

OBAMA AT WAR:

Bully Like a Flea – Sting Like a Butterfly[1]

 

A Brutally Honest Analysis by Jay B Gaskill

This needs to be put bluntly: For Mr. Obama, national security is theater.  

Mr. Obama is playing a game.  In this game, the President of the United States gets to use the giant defense arsenal of the US security and military apparatus as a prop for the “grand gesture” on the world stage.  Mr. Obama seems to lack the insight to realize that he is playing that game. Nor does he appear to realize that his national security posture is a self-serving story, a tale being made up as he goes along, part of the book about himself he is writing in his head (“Dreams of my Exploits”).

Our president is clueless about his own decision processes. Our president is addicted to the politics of gesture.  His foreign policy is gesture politics, writ large.

Consider is how the Middle East looked before the disastrous Arab “Spring.”

The long-standing peace treaty between Egypt and Israel (negotiated with Anwar Sadat, who was later assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood) was secure.  For the first time in memory, Iraq was enjoying a stable democratic government at peace with its neighbors. The Turkish government was still secular and tolerant, enjoying the legacy of Ataturk, the father of the Turkish Republic. Of course, Iran was engaged in a duplicitous jihad strategy, building an atomic bomb capability, lying about it, supporting terror through its client state, Syria, and the jihadi Hezbollah forces supported there, and lying about that.  Syria was run by Assad, a terrorist-supporting dictator operating under the false colors of a moderate dictator.

All that was before the Arab “Springtime for Jihad” emerged, full blown, a bitter parody of hope and change. Now consider the present moment.

  • The fragile optimism of the Arab Spring has evaporated.
  • The liberal-secular elements in the Syrian rebel forces have lost control of the revolution there.  Now the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamist elements are in charge.
  • In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood swamped the first national election and installed one of its own as president of Egypt. In an Emperor’s New Clothes moment, Morsi was evicted. Of course, the Brotherhood is rioting; and our president is wringing his (metaphorical) hands.
  • The Iranian nuclear bomb program is approaching the point of no return (amid more presidential hand-wringing).
  • Hezbollah is now a renewed regional threat.

Let’s leave all the gestures, the spin and the blame game-aside: We face a grave threat. Wishful thinking has failed.

The US national interest does not change just because the security situation deteriorates or because POTUS chooses to ignore the facts on the ground. Consider:

  • The USA, the region and the world, still need a Middle East that is no longer a terrorist incubator.
  • This requires a stable and peaceful Iraq and a secure, productive Israel, at peace with the US and its neighbors.
  • The bloody-minded jihadists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, remain an existential threat to our security interests, and must be marginalized.
  • Iran must not be allowed to destabilize the region, and cannot be allowed to become a nuclear power.
  • Syria’s role as the terror-client-of-Iran must be ended, and Hezbollah needs to be crushed.
  • The pre-911 isolationism prevalent in the US is just as toxic now as it ever was.

None of our major security objectives can be attained, nor can our security situation be improved, by a few, pre-announced missile strikes on selected targets in Syria.  Hezbollah will not be crushed.  The Jihad will not be tamed.

The time to fruitfully intervene in the Syrian rebellion was before the Muslim Brotherhood took control of the rebels. That opportunity was squandered months ago while Mr. Obama so was absorbed in his “analytic calculations” that he failed to lead.

Either Assad will win or the radicalized rebels will.  There will be hell to pay in either scenario. But going forward, we cannot allow the hostile, terror-supporting regime poised to emerge in Syria to acquire the resources to support and export terror. 

History’s authentic leaders are remembered because they led.  History’s temporizers and appeasers are remembered because they did not. The good leaders took the stage when the moment was ripe, and boldly implemented the measures needed to protect their country’s vital interests in a time of peril. The non-leaders punted.

Leading from behind is not leadership at all.  It is a pretense.

There is one secret to coping successfully with the thuggish regimes that populate world politics.  Be tougher than they are, and never bluff. Thugs can tell the difference between the feather display of an angry peacock and the warning growl of an angry lion.

Is it too late to salvage this mess? …Not at all.

No other country in history has enjoyed the ability to project massive destructive power at the distances and to the extent that US forces still can.  Even in our weakened circumstances, America still has the raw military capability to bring down the regimes in Iran and Syria without deploying massive ground troops.  By using air power relentlessly and without concern for the opinions of others, American military assets can readily destroy the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, most of Hezbollah’s forces, the navy and air defenses of Iran, and its major economic assets.  Syria can be dealt with at the same time.  The USA is still that powerful.

When American military and national security resources are credibly unleashed, ready and willing to do real damage, they are far less likely to be used.

But is it too late for this president to salvage something from this mess?  That poses a question of character, judgment and courage.  Can you imagine this American president seizing the moment and saving the day?

I can’t.  Our president is handicapped by his own prior decisions and non-decisions, and by some innate character flaws.  In a word, Mr. Obama is decision-challenged.  Our adversaries – and they are legion – have Figured This Out.

No one is afraid of the United States under this president; Mr. Obama’s threats are likely to be dismissed as political posturing.  Perhaps they should not be, but perceptions govern actions; and thugs are goaded on by the perception of weakness.  This is one reason that the Russians did not hesitate to deploy major naval assets into the Middle East conflict region.

And it is the chief reason that weak presidents are more dangerous to the peace than strong ones.

JBG

First Published on the Policy Think Site, Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Permission to forward this article is granted by the author.

For comments and other permissions, contact the author via email: outlawyer.gaskill@gmail.com



[1] Apologies to the legendary American boxer, Mohammed Ali (Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., January 17, 1942-), who famously said, “I float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

CONSERVATISM’s MISSING COMPASS

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Without its moral code, conservatism will fade away;

BUT WITH IT,

Conservatism can lead a 21st century American renaissance

 

Political Analysis

By

Jay B Gaskill

 

 

The alcohol prohibition era of the last century was a failed experiment in liberal social engineering. Political correctness is the new puritanism; this overreach by progressive liberalism is an opening for the resurgence of a practical, reasonable, morally anchored conservatism, presented with clarity and humor.                

Any long-term conservative recovery must grow from a well-understood and easily explained moral core.  Otherwise, conservatives will be pissing into the progressive headwinds, mouths open, eyes unprotected and compasses gone wild.

CAUTION: The conservative moral core is not centered on the feel-good therapeutic values of the left – nor is it one more version of the harsh, overly judgmental values attributed the “vast right wing conspiracy.”

By necessary implication, the conservative moral code contains the core features of our common morality, the principles and precepts that undergird any healthy civilization (as in no stealing, cheating, lying, raping, pillaging, assaulting or trespassing on/against innocent men, women and children).

People still assume that these common moral precepts are equally shared by modern liberals, but that is not always the case.  If you doubt this, study the positions of t progressive left activists on law and criminal justice, on terrorism and national security.

A robust adherence to traditional moral values among the loudest voices of the progressive left? Not so much. The Democratic Party attempts to compensate for this embarrassment by going for the images we associate with America’s moral comfort zone. Think of the liberal in Southern or Midwestern clothing, like candidates Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. The current leader of the Democratic Party, our president, is an outlier.  This is true both in policy terms and style. Most Americans, and a large plurality of Democrats, are disenchanted, but criticism is muted because Mr. Obama is protected by a politically-correct force field.  That free pass is revoked in 2016.

CORE ELEMENTS OF THE CONSERVATIVE MORAL CODE

The conservative moral code inspires and drives five distinctly conservative projects:

Protect all innocent American men, women and children, whether of high or low status and power, whether rich or poor, conventional or unconventional, from criminals, terrorists, invaders and other predators, including government itself.

Protect all law-abiding productive, creative and striving Americans, whether of high or low status and power, whether rich or poor, whether conventional or unconventional, from the cadres of invasive, bureaucratic, puritanical officials bent on punishing success, hindering accomplishment and achievement, and meddling with creative initiative and freedom, in all its manifold forms.

v  Promote upward mobility for all Americans, whether of high or low status and power, whether rich or poor, whether conventional or unconventional.

v  Ensure individual personal accountability for failures and misdeeds, while protecting the fruits of success for all Americans, whether of high or low status and power, whether rich or poor, conventional or unconventional.

v  Commit to practical, commonsense policies that work in the real world; and relentlessly expose the opposite ones promoted by the progressive left.

These are the five touchstones of big-picture, morally-anchored, forward-aimed conservatism.  All the rest – the bickering, the honest the policy differences, the rhetoric, all of it – is small change.

Why are these five goals both conservative and morally grounded? How can this be explained in simple, commonsense terms?

Nineteenth and twentieth century conservatives like Edmund Burke and Winston Churchill in the UK, and eighteenth and nineteenth century conservatives like Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and Abraham Lincoln in the USA were considered liberals in an entirely different context and sense than in the present usage.  They, like the shopkeepers, artisans and professionals who rose up in the 18th and 19th centuries against royal privilege and control, were not levelers, driven by resentment of the hard-won achievements of others. They were achievers and aspiring achievers in their own right, those who opposed the dead hand of the titled classes, challenging the ersatz achievement of inherited status of the complacent royals who would suppress the aspirations of the real achievers.  This was classical liberalism, and it is part of the modern conservative heritage.  It is rooted in two morally anchored ideas, a belief in the innate dignity-status of every human being, and in the concomitant right to earn and own property, including land.

There once was a rock solid moral consensus among Americans, both liberal and conservative, that went something like this:

We believe in the dignity of the individual, in her or his absolute right to earn and keep property, to defend self, family and home against predators; and we believe in a country that takes as its first responsibility the duty to protect its individual citizens from such invasions; and undertakes to refrain, itself, from becoming another invader. 

And, by virtue of our country’s essential legitimacy as a guarantor of the personal dignity of its citizens, we believe that the USA is and should remain a mighty nation worthy of defense from all enemies domestic and foreign, a defense to which we, as Americans, are firmly bound.

Somehow in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, progressive liberals “evolved”.  Now they are no longer “comfortable” with this consensus. And they have quietly discarded the classic liberalism of the Founders.

Instead, modern, movement-progressives tend to misappropriate the common language, twisting and obfuscating the old terms – for example – subordinating individual rights to collective “claims” that are deliberately mislabeled “rights”.

In manifold, subtle ways, over the better part of a century, through curriculum changes in schools and academy, through conversions of a critical mass of the chattering classes, a takeover of the media, progressives have been busy with the “mind-change project”: to overwrite the older (read outmoded) moral code with a vaguely therapeutic morality.

In place of criminal justice they propose “treatment”.  In place of individual, restorative justice, they propose collective “social justice”.  In place of the right to own property they propose “social responsibility”.  But without the right to property, we become the de facto property of the governing elites.

The key principle conservatives need to fiercely defend here is that justice and morality are part of one in the same determination: An individual accounting based on individual responsibility.

Because (to paraphrase Acton) politics corrupts, and absolute politics corrupts absolutely, the power of the “people” (read the power of political classes) to control how and where we individuals live, work, earn, keep and spend – and with whom, for whom, presents a grave moral issue.  Conservatives need to respond to all this in a way that incorporates common sense morality at every turn. Human freedom, as a value, springs from the respect for individual human dignity in the context of the moral obligation to respect the individual human dignity of those who do the same.

Beware the utilitarian argument.  Allowing a free market may be more “efficient” and may over time generate more “income”, but those very terms invite the end of freedom when its exercise is less “efficient”.  Substitute the phrase “allowing me to live my own life” for “allowing a free market”. Now spend a minute reflecting how, in an interest-group-driven political regime, being “allowed to live my own life” might become inconvenient to the political classes.

There are utilitarian arguments for protecting the “productive, creative and striving” among us from petty officials.  And there are utilitarian arguments for assessing accountability for “failures and misdeeds, while protecting the fruits of success”. But suppose these are restated as a moral principle, applicable to all Americans, whether of high or low status and power, whether rich or poor, whether conventional or unconventional. Do you sense the change?  The utilitarian arguments are suddenly ennobled and acquire potency – when the arguments are explained and added – words have the power to stop the progressive juggernaut in its tracks.

And the practice of soft-balling values in favor of utilitarian arguments can lose elections. In an astute analysis of the GOP defeat in 2008, Values Voters Prevail Again by Christopher Caldwell[1], pointed out that the republicans allowed the democrats to dominate the values debate “Where two candidates argue over values, the public may prefer one to the other. But where only one candidate has values, he wins, whatever those values happen to be.”

You may notice that I included, as a specifically conservative principle, the obligation to “promote upward mobility for all Americans, whether of high or low status and power, whether rich or poor, whether conventional or unconventional.”

America is the product of upward mobility; it is in our DNA.  The ideal of upward mobility is a statement of moral principle for Americans.

Conservatives support this ideal without using therapeutic language or proposing an open ended entitlement model.  This is a statement of conservative principle, of the core moral belief in human dignity, and of conservative support for the American Dream as a primary moral value.

Conservatives are about practical, commonsense policies that work in the real world. Upward mobility does not apply to invaders.  Nor does it entail downward mobility through welfare addiction.  But it does apply to all those “huddled masses, yearning to be free” once they are legitimately and legally present as our neighbors. It is a sign of deep respect.

As an illustration, only (this is not about personalities), I suggest that Marco Rubio, the Florida Senator, has not placed himself outside the intra-conservative dialogue by leading out on “immigration reform.”

Conservatives will disagree on aspects of the policy merits. But while doing so, every conservative in the conversation needs to explain the core moral commitment to upward mobility, and to outline workable conservative policies that are consistent with that principle.

THE OBLIGATION TO EXPLAIN AND PERSUADE

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
Ronald Reagan, White House Conference on Small Business (August 15, 1986)

President Reagan was particularly good at this because of the confluence of unique circumstances in his life. He lived and worked among Hollywood liberals; he spent years as a patriotic spokesman for General Electric; he honed his policy and rhetorical skills as a two term California governor; he was continually underestimated by his opponents; and he achieved moral clarity in part because he was a privately religious man, and in part because the Cold War demanded and facilitated moral clarity.

Almost all Beltway politicians – and most others, tend to repeat rote phrases as a shorthand for arguments never made; or when pressed, they repeat standard arguments with little explanation and less conviction.  This leaves us with the conservative cause in the less-than-capable hands of men and women content to piss into the progressive headwinds, unaware that their mouths are open, eyes unprotected and compasses gone wild. These are the would-be leaders who are content only to “stir up the base” while persuading almost no one among the un-persuaded.

For all the reasons indicated, and more, the forward-aiming conservative case will be a compelling reason for a majority of voters in 2016 to actually elect the conservative alternative over a liberal-progressive, the virtually inevitable Democratic candidate.

But that case cannot be made just then; and only belatedly incorporated into the run up to the coming presidential election. The case needs to be made now and by hundreds of different public voices.

To paraphrase Mr. Reagan, a conservative should not speak ill of another conservative in times like these.

Every single public figure, every woman or man in the public square with a legitimate place in the conservative dialogue, everyone who begins to personify the resurgence of a practical, reasonable, morally anchored conservatism presented with clarity and humor, is hereby deemed an ally of the conservative movement and, by extension, an ally of the American Renaissance.

 

Government is like a baby – an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.

►Ronald Reagan

 

In times like these, all allies are to be cultivated and respected. We might as well be living in the Cold War, because the stakes for the survival of this remarkable, beloved country of ours could not be higher.

The hope of hundreds of millions of people around the globe, looking at us from a remove, are captured in the phrase, “God save America”.

But, we are the Americans. And as the Bard wrote[2], our fate is not in our stars, but ourselves….

JBG

Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Forwards are welcome & encouraged. For other permissions & comments: outlawyer.gaskill@gmail.com.


[1] {http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/values-voters-prevail-again_662229.html }

 

 

WHY FAILING TO PAY ATTENTION & THINK FOR OURSELVES CAN BE HARMFUL TO OUR HEALTH, EVEN FATAL

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

STUPID ALGORITHMS

PART TWO

Follow-up Analysis

By Jay B Gaskill

 

This follows Part One, which is posted at -

< http://www.jaygaskill.com/HowStupidAlgorithmsFailedUsFrom2008Through2013.htm >

That piece connected the dots between the economic crash of 2008, the Korean jet crash in SFO this year, and a number of other failures, all of which are traceable to the blind reliance on machines and/or decision formulas that failed to work as advertised.

If you haven’t read that article, please do.  It is well worth your time.

Toward the end of that piece I referred the “accidental” election of an incompetent mayor in Oakland and the complete collapse of the “state of the art” computer system that doomed the Romney presidential campaign on Election Day

Here are those tow hair-raising stories in more detail.

Both cases deserve to be studied.

CATASTROPHE ONE

ROMNEY’S CAMPAIGN FOR POTUS AND THE ORCA “ALGORITHM CURSE”

Project ORCA: Mitt Romney Campaign Plans Massive, State-Of-The-Art Poll Monitoring Effort

NOVEMBER 1, 2012

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign has been quietly assembling a massive, technologically sophisticated poll monitoring program that staffers believe will be their secret weapon in defeating President Barack Obama.

…BUT….

The Boston Globe 2012 :

The story behind Mitt Romney’s loss in the presidential campaign to President Obama

By Michael Kranish / Globe Staff / December 22, 2012

http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2012/president/2012/12/23/the-story-behind-mitt-romney-loss-the-presidential-campaign-president-obama/2QWkUB9pJgVIi1mAcIhQjL/story.html

It was two weeks before Election Day when Mitt Romney’s political ­director signed a memo that all but ridiculed the notion that the Republican presidential nominee, with his “better ground game,” could lose the key state of Ohio or the election. The race is “unmistakably moving in Mitt Romney’s direction,” the memo said. But the claims proved wildly off the mark, a fact embarrassingly underscored when the high-tech voter turnout system that Romney himself called “state of the art” crashed at the worst moment, on Election Day.

To this day, Romney’s aides wonder how it all went so wrong.

WHOOPS!

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/11/08/Orca-How-the-Romney-Campaign-Suppressed-Its-Own-Vote

… one factor is emerging as the essential difference between the Obama and Romney campaigns on November 6: the absolute failure of Romney’s get-out-the-vote effort, which underperformed even John McCain’s lackluster 2008 turnout. One culprit appears to be “ORCA,” the Romney’s massive technology effort, which failed completely.

Project Orca was supposed to enable poll watchers to record voter names on their smartphones, by listening for names as voters checked in. This would give the campaign real-time turnout data, so they could redirect GOTV resources throughout the day where it was most needed. They recruited 37,000 swing state volunteers for this. {But}they had issued the wrong PINs to every volunteer in Colorado, and reissued new PINs (which also didn’t work). The problems with Orca appear to have been nationwide, and predated Election Day itself.

They assured us that the system had been relentlessly tested and would be a tremendous success.

[V]olunteers were expected to print their own materials, and were mistakenly not told to bring their poll watching credentials to polling places. Attempts to communicate with the Romney campaign to ask for assistance were unsuccessful.

[There were} widespread real-time complaints and criticisms on Twitter by Project ORCA volunteers. At one point during Election Day, the system had malfunctioned so badly that desperate volunteers wondered if the program had been hacked.

Romney volunteers in Virginia confirmed that the campaign had relied entirely on Project Orca to turn out the vote in key areas such as Roanoke, where Romney and Ryan had made appearances. Volunteers who had driven to Virginia from safely-Republican Tennessee were shocked at the disorganization they encountered.

… ORCA diverted scarce resources that would have been better used physically moving voters to polling places. By a rough calculation, Romney lost the election by falling 500,000 to 700,000 votes short in key swing states. If each of the 37,000 volunteers that had been devoted to Orca had instead brought 20 voters to the polls in those states over the course of the day, Romney would have won the election.

… There was, in fact, massive suppression of the Republican vote--by the Romney campaign, through the diversion of nearly 40,000 volunteers to a failing computer program.

There was no Plan B; there was only confusion, and silence.

 

CATASTROPHE TWO

THE JEAN QUAN MIS-ELECTION

Portions of this section were first published on The Policy Think Site in 2010

MINORITY GOVERNANCE SUCKS:

DO NOT Try This at Home

A brilliant, tough cop, Oakland Police Department Chief Anthony Batts, is about to abandon Oakland for a better city (pick one).

[For more details, see these two stories in the San Francisco Chronicle: <http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/17/BAFL1H9URT.DTL > and

< http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/16/BA2U1H96SJ.DTL&feed=rss.news>]

This follows a disastrous patch during which:

(a) Chronic municipal mismanagement led to a fiscal crash that robbed Oakland voters of the 800 police staffing level they had voted to fund (police staffing now down to 657 when even the high water mark 800 officer level was low, given the resident parolee population).

(b) Oakland’s new mayor, in an attempt to improve plummeting police morale, met with line officers in a group, asking them to recite why they liked doing police work, then left the meeting.  “On her first full day on the job, Quan tried to mend fences by meeting with the rank-and-file cops at roll call. The move fell flat with many officers, however, when – after giving a short talk and asking all the officers to introduce themselves and state why they wanted to be on the force – Quan left without taking questions.”

San Francisco Chronicle: < http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/16/BA2U1H96SJ.DTL#ixzz1BJakmheE >

Chief Batts had briefly been able to do more with less, but now the “doing much less with much less pattern” will take hold.

The Mayor elect is an obscure former councilwoman named Jean Quan (notable, according to former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown for having advocated “ebonics’ in an earlier era of lunacy). See Jean Quan off to rocky start as Oakland mayor by Chip Johnson, in the San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/01/13/BAM11H8MRT.DTL#ixzz1BJefM9T6

Ms. Quan won the office against a much stronger, more centrist (and much more pro-law & order candidate), Don Perata, even though Quan got only 24% of the vote.  This victory was accomplished by a form of vote manipulation that has its roots in the Bolshevik vs Menshevik dustup in Russia that subverted parliamentary democracy and ushered in the dictatorship of the proletariat.  The scheme avoids runoff elections and the concomitant actual majorities that they produce by a system of “instant runoff’ voter ranking.  The system (sometimes called plurality voting) has the pernicious practical effect of artificially amplifying the negative over the positive to the effect that the angry left (in this instance) slips into power against the sensible center, with a tiny plurality.

Not to put too fine of a point on it:  Ranked voting is a dangerous innovation fully capable of subverting the will of the majority.

Ranked voting is a poison pill that is designed to entrench vestiges of the has-beens (in this instance the left) in power against a reformist trend (in this case the practical center).  See my 2010 post, Quantum Vote Stealing at < http://www.jaygaskill.com/QuantumVote.htm > .]

The fallacy of ranked choice is that voters are fully focused on second and third tier candidates and actually think through whether they (say, by ranking Ms. Quan and their second of third choice) seriously want that person to serve as their ultimate.  Most protest votes are just that, and when a protest candidate slips through, disaster almost always follows.

Key executive positions should always require a traditional definitive choice in which a majority of the to-be-governed voters have actually chosen their leader.  Ranked voting (sometimes called plurality voting) is a bad, bad idea whose time seems to have come.

Do not try this at home.

 

I continue to warn everyone who cares about the future if this country: These examples are about neglecting reasonable judgments (whether about selling bad loans, making intelligent treatment decisions, safely landing an aircraft, or voting for an untested leader) and bypassing actual person-to-person trust relationships in favor of a rote formula, in the name of expediency.

Men and women are not just “in the loop”, we are the loop.  Everything else is a brainless tool, provisionally useful, but not ever to be fully trusted. It is time to wake up. The 2008-13 crashes and other disasters were just the beginning. Instead of blindly relying on algorithms, all matters of consequence to our lives must reflect the work of real people, in real time, in the real world, doing real thinking, making real judgments; and accepting real accountability.

JBG

 

Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Forwards and links are encouraged.  For other permissions and all comments, please contact the author by email outlawyer.gaskill@gmail.com.

 

HOW STUPID ALGORITHMS FAILED US > 2008-2013

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

SEE PART TWO at this LINK

http://jaygaskill.com/BlindFollowersFollowup.htm

HOW STUPID ALGORITHMS FAILED US

LESSONS FROM 2008 TO 2013

ALSO AVAILABLE

http://jaygaskill.com/HowStupidAlgorithmsFailedUsFrom2008Through2013.htm }

Commentary

By Jay B Gaskill

Aircraft, banking systems, political campaigns and medical delivery systems just don’t just arbitrarily crash. There is always a reason. …And it is not always “human error” on the ground level.  Typically, the failure was foreordained by overreliance on “decision crutches” at the management level. This is another name for trusting algorithms over human judgment.

An algorithm is just a complicated recipe, a preset series of sequential steps that, when programmed into an information-processing gadget, enables an otherwise “idiot” device to execute complicated (though sometimes catastrophically inappropriate) “decision-making” formulas without real time human involvement.   Algorithms do not bleed.  But we do.  Real world people always are hurt when algorithms fail.

Yes, there is a need for rapid fire algorithms in emergency situations when human reflexes aren’t quick enough. But we-the-people tend to be lazy (the author is no exception). Because our Brave New World is increasingly complex, we find ourselves relying more and more on algorithms to do our essential thinking for us.

A recurring theme in traditional science fiction was the rogue robot, built without a “kill switch”. We are now relying on algorithms for absolutely critical functions, all too often without any adequate human back up and without an effective human monitoring system.  This is like building autonomous robots without kill switches.

Blind reliance on algorithms is a very foolish and very dangerous mistake. We have already suffered from its consequences.  It is not too late to pull back a bit from the precipice.  But first we to need connect a few dots.

CAN YOU CONNECT THESE DOTS?

  • In 2008, investment bankers blithely relied on complex, impenetrable “asset’ bundles that included toxic loans –concealed/disguised as “assets”. The dirty little secret was that the very complexity of these devices hid an illicit alchemy that seemed to turn fecal matter (hidden bad loans) into gold (but it was fools’ gold).

For an overall review, check out these linked articles-

ü  http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2012/10/02/jpmorgan-lawsuit-bear-stearns-more/1609297/

ü  http://useconomy.about.com/od/glossary/g/mortgage_securi.htm

ü  http://www.cnbc.com/id/36803732 ).

The ensuing asset bubble-burst and the resulting disruptions profoundly damaged the US economy, and almost brought down the entire US banking system. Our country is still struggling to climb out of the resulting economic crater. {And our inadequate recovery is the result of relying on another set of failing economic algorithms, but that is a separate story.}

The takeaway lesson is that overly complex systems can conceal more than they reveal. When we blithely rely on these rigged systems, we are abrogating our obligation to pay attention and make sound choices.

  • The same kind of problem is surfacing in medicine.  Because government oversees insurance, and insurance oversees medicine, all of our trained medical professionals, the physicians and hands-on clinicians are now forced to warp informed clinical judgment in order to conform to bureaucratic categories.  

 

…Algorithms again, in one more form.

Insurance and Medicare “codes” are dumbing down ordinary medical practice.  A number of articles describe the difficulties (sometimes nightmares) of Code Driven Medicine

ü  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/09/health/the-ups-and-downs-of-electronic-medical-records-the-digital-doctor.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 )

“Critics are deeply skeptical that electronic records are ready for prime time. ‘The technology is being pushed, with no good scientific basis,’ said Dr. Scot M. Silverstein, a health I.T. expert at Drexel University who reports on medical records problems on the blog Health Care Renewal. He says testing these systems on patients without their consent “raises ethical questions.”’

ü  http://www.nbcnews.com/health/glitch-medical-code-threatens-mental-health-care-therapists-warn-1B8283085

 

  • The tendency towards “cookbook” medicine (read – “creeping algorithm-driven stupidity”) has reached a crisis point in the mental health field where reliance on a diagnostic “bible”, the so-called “DMS-5” has collided with common sense. Couple this with the insurance code system, and we face an impending disaster.

“Glitch in medical code threatens mental health care, therapists warn.”

ü  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/side-effects/201305/the-nimh-withdraws-support-dsm-5

“Just two weeks before DSM-5 is due to appear, the National Institute of Mental Health, the world’s largest funding agency for research into mental health, has indicated that it is withdrawing support for the manual. In a humiliating blow to the American Psychiatric Association, Thomas R. Insel, M.D., Director of the NIMH, made clear the agency would no longer fund research projects that rely exclusively on DSM criteria. Henceforth, the NIMH, which had thrown its weight and funding behind earlier editions of the manual, would be “re-orienting its research away from DSM categories.” …”The weakness” of the manual, he explained in a sharply worded statement, “is its lack of validity.” “Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure.”’

ü  http://www.science20.com/science_20/blog/nimh_delivers_kill_shot_dsm5-111138 }

 

  • Millions of us are now passengers in high performance aircraft that are frequently more controlled by algorithms than by pilots. Machines are making crucial life and death decisions for us, and pilots are undertrained. Is this is dangerous? Ask the passengers of Asiana Flight 214.

In that disaster, an undertrained Korean pilot and his crew blithely relied on an automatic landing system in the San Francisco airport. The plane came in to low and slow, the tail caught on the runway berm, and a fully loaded Boeing 777 was wrecked.

A few days later, an experienced, hands-on pilot, speaking for many senior pilots, sounded a warning in the San Francisco Chronicle.  “Cockpit automation can have a pernicious effect on those skills because the emphasis now in most airline training is on technical understanding – to the near exception of traditional flying and decision-making skills known as ‘airmanship.’

“Now we see a new phenomenon: Experienced pilots, who never fully developed their basic flying skills, passing their airline training with flying colors. These pilots go into the cockpit to perform work that resembles that of a systems monitor more than of the work we associate with an aviator.

“The July 6 crash of Asiana Flight 214 at SFO illustrates the worst potential shortcomings of this new training system which, by the way, motivates airlines to offer early retirement to the more senior pilots in order to replace them with a generation who adores the new technology.”

The author, seasoned Pilot James F. Atkinson, was onto something. I recommend his entire article for close study…because it has across-the-board implications for all of us.

ü  http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Do-pilots-have-adequate-flying-skills-4660853.php  )

POLITICS

Ranked voting formulas (yes, another algorithm) have propelled incompetent, untested leaders into important elected positions with as few as 24% of the votes, all in the name of good government.  Mayor Quan of Oakland, California, for example, won over a better qualified candidate who got almost twice her votes (SEE ARTICLES CITED[i]). As a result, Oakland, CA, which was a beleaguered city, a work-in-regress, is now close to an urban basket case under Mayor Quan highly criticized leadership.

And welcome to the era of checklist voters, who leave their critical judgment behind, and rely on some catechism of Official Party Doctrine (which is yet another algorithm, dumbed down for the harried, hurried voter-bots who want to do the “right thing” but need to be told what that is).

The losing Romney presidential campaign crashed in large part because of the turnout differential.  Mr. Obama’s core constituency of benefitted groups had been conditioned to respond to a perceived political threat to their privileged status, a response pattern that was cultivated over a period of three decades at least.  Democratic turnout could be activated via an existing social network that remained intact between campaigns. Mr. Romney’s campaign geniuses relied on a turnout algorithm (you can’t make this stuff up) in an effort to compensate for the absence of a social network potentially ready to respond to an existential threat to their aspirational status.  The existing social network, the diverse mix of aspiration-motivated people sometimes called the “Tea Party” were unmoved by a weak media campaign.  The Romney turnout algorithm failure has rarely been discussed.

 

THE SOBERING IMPLICATIONS

 

Examples of the improvident reliance of algorithms in politics, medicine, air travel and ordinarily life are far too many to catalogue.  My readers are welcome to send me their own examples to incorporate in the discussion.

All of these examples are about neglecting reasonable judgments (whether about selling bad loans, making intelligent treatment decisions, safely landing an aircraft, or voting for an untested leader) and bypassing actual person-to-person trust relationships in favor of a rote formula, in the name of expediency.

We Americans have come to love such formulas, not only because they seem easier to rely on than our own judgment, but also because they can hide our accountability. “I’m sorry that I had to fire you, but I had no choice,” is easier to say than, “I fired you because you were just not good enough.” …Or, “I’m sorry the voters didn’t turn out after all we did,” is easier to say that “I’m sorry that we did very little street level work to get out the vote.”

The next time you are asked to make an important decision, or to rely on a decision-making or “action” process that consists of “a formula or algorithm”, remember Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger whose skill and judgment as a pilot of US Airways flight 1548 safely brought down a crippled airliner with 155 passengers and crew in the Hudson River in 2009.  No set of computer instructions would have as quickly, intelligently or effectively adapted to that engine failure.

Men and women are not just “in the loop”, we are the loop.  Everything else is a brainless tool, provisionally useful, but not ever to be fully trusted.

Our duty to ourselves, and those loved ones who will follow us, is to push to stay in the game at every level as thinking, informed individual human beings.

This may seem hard, but it is not “rocket science”.

Instead of blindly relying on algorithms, all matters of consequence to our lives must reflect the work of real people, in  real time, in the real world, doing real thinking, making real judgments; and accepting real accountability.

Anything else leads to a series of “train wrecks”. The 2008-13 period was just the beginning….

JBG

Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Forwards and links are appreciated. For other permissions and comments, please contact the author by email– outlawyer.gaskill@gmail.com.

 

 

 


[i] http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Jean-Quan-takes-Oakland-lead-from-Don-Perata-3246957.php and http://blog.sfgate.com/nov05election/2013/03/05/poll-60-percent-of-oaklanders-disapprove-of-jean-quan/

THE END OF THE MARTIN CASE?

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

As I write this, Holder’s Justice Department is “reviewing” the question whether to federally prosecute Mr. Zimmerman, post acquittal.  This would be a profound abuse of power and should lead to the Attorney General’s impeachment, in my opinion.  Mr. Zimmerman was not a saint, but he was no murderer and not a bloody-minded racist. His acquittal should be the last word.

 

I have addressed this sad case in three separate posts.  Here is the last one, including links to the first two.

 

the TRAYVON MARTIN case

exposes a political THREAT

…TO your SELF-DEFENSE rights

this post: http://jaygaskill.com/TRAYVONMARTIN.htm

Also see – http://jaygaskill.com/ZimmermanJustice.htm

And http://jaygaskill.com/outlawyer/2013/06/28/martin-versus-zimmerman-or-politically-correct-prosecution-vs-justice/

THE END OF THE MARTIN CASE

A Not-Politically Correct Commentary

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

In a long delayed Florida jury trial, young Zimmerman has been acquitted and young Trayvon Martin is dead.

That result was unsurprising. Cutting through all the rhetoric, this was the state of the evidence:

A neighborhood watch volunteer in a high crime area (Zimmerman) got into a dispute with a suspected prowler (Martin). A physical struggle ensued (note that the jurors found that Martin was the aggressor); and Zimmerman found himself on the bottom, being pummeled against the concrete. In this position, Zimmerman managed to get control of his lawful firearm. He pulled the trigger once at contact range. He survived the encounter, while, tragically, Mr. Martin did not.

Now imagine this scenario with players changed. A middle aged woman is the neighborhood watch volunteer on that fateful night, and the suspected prowler is a large white man. After a confrontation, she finds herself on the bottom, being pummeled against the pavement. Miraculously, the neighborhood watch woman manages to pull out a self-defense handgun (let’s assume it was borrowed from a friend.) She manages to pull the trigger at contact range … the large white man dies.  The local police refuse to prosecute. The DA, under political pressure from the gun control lobby, files murder charges against her.

Thank God that Lady Justice is still blind to race and gender.

Over my decades as a defense attorney I served in Alameda County, CA, a high crime, mostly urban jurisdiction, that includes Oakland and nine other cities. I eventually came to notice that self-defense cases had better outcomes in the more conservative parts of my county (such as Fremont and Livermore) than in the more leftist jurisdictions (such as Berkeley and Oakland).

 

Why is this? I asked myself.

During those decades in court rooms and jail interview rooms, I observed accused persons fare differently in different cultural settings; and that one’s political predispositions matter in the jury room.  I learned that a majority of the gentle souls of the humanitarian left tended to assume that criminal aggression was a “cry for help”, or the involuntary response to “bad economic conditions”. For these tender-hearted souls, aggressive self-defense was uncomfortably “selfish”; and passive resistance or flight was always preferable.  Of course, that was never the law in California, but such biases do inform and distort how the evidence in given criminal case is weighed in the real world inhabited by criminal lawyers. Competent defense attorneys, whether liberal or conservative, need to avoid getting stuck with such jurors. And God help the defendant who has hurt a minority person (read oppressed victim) in any way…even in self-defense.  Such cases were and still are a defense nightmare to try, because passions and biases easily trump justice under the law.

Things are changing. Our country is at a watershed moment.  African Americans are now just one thread in the diverse tapestry of American culture, no longer enjoying the exalted status of “chief among the oppressed”. Racism persists, of course, in this county and all others. But we now face anti-white racism, anti-Jewish racism, anti-Hispanic, anti-Asian…and so on.

It is more important than ever before in our history that our institutions of justice simply follow the law. Lady Justice was depicted as blind for a reason.

The right to self-defense is at the core of all our other rights.  It flows directly from the understanding in the American Declaration of Independence that we are all individually endowed with the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, rights bestowed not to some abstract collective membership race or status, but to each of us as individual human beings.

The brand of “justice” currently being pursued post-verdict by the Trayvon Martin advocates is collective social retribution; this has nothing whatsoever legitimate to contribute to the question of individuated justice in a court of law.

Collective justice is the enemy of individual justice; it is at its worst, a version of the justice of the lynch mob.

A final thought: Why do some neighborhoods feel the need for neighborhood watch volunteers? Why is the suggestion that I recently read in a major media outlet that Mr. Zimmerman (and by extension all the other anti-crime volunteers) should have “just made a phone call?” not absurd on its face?

You can answer the foregoing questions for yourself by addressing these:

What is the 911 response time in your neighborhood?

…in the neighborhood of someone near and dear to you?

How long are you prepared to wait, cowering in your home, for outside help?

How long would you like your loved ones to wait?

How comfortable are you with local police staffing and availability?

This is not about Zimmerman or Martin. It is much more than that. It is a discussion in the Public Square about the Zimmerman trial instead of riots.  Let’s talk about public safety resources and how we can have safer communities and neighborhoods.

JBG

Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill

The author served as the Chief Public Defender for Alameda County, CA.

Links and forwards are welcome.  For other permissions and comments, please contact the author by email at outlawyer.gaskill@gmail.com.

Visit The Policy Think Site – www.jaygaskill.com .

 

 

 

 

 

RECOVERING AMERICA BY RECOVERING FREEDOM

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

{Download the PDF Version of this article from this LINK  — http://jaygaskill.com/FreedomRecovery.pdf .}

INTRODUCTION:

HOW FAR WE HAVE FALLEN

 

Liberty, never secure, is now at significant risk.  The complacent among us console themselves with the observation that, at least…”Slavery is not an option”.  …To which I must add….unless it is disguised by layers of well-engineered deception.

 

Because slaves themselves were owned, they could not own property.  In the brave new world of the postmodern multicultural moral relativism, fewer and fewer of us truly own anything…because keeping “property” is a disparaged value. As a consequence, few of our possessions are ever held free and clear: They are held subject to neo-puritanical disapproval, “guilt” taxes, indebtedness (publically encouraged and partially subsidized), to a bewildering network of regulations to further the “public good”… all as defined and imposed by the political class.  The denigration of the basic human right to own property is part of an attempt to recondition human nature to accept less and less freedom. Some of our libertarian friends are particularly blind to the traps this cultural trend presents. When it comes to the legalization of narcotics and recreational psychotropic drugs, libertarians tend to focus on the reduction of state interference with personal behavior and tend to ignore the consequences: A drug dependent population is more easily controlled.

Freedom does not flourish in a well-tamed population under tight cultural control, where independence and creativity are “managed” though drug use (prescription for faux conditions, or non-prescription psychotropic drugs).  The notion of partial legalization with “appropriate controls” echoes the Brave New World where therapeutic intervention and “‘adjusted” expectations are used to reduce noncompliant behavior. Drug liberalization can look on the surface like a libertarian dream.[1] Actually, a well medicated politically correct population is the Marxist dream where the secret police get extra- light duty after the “withering away” of the state – a “libertarian” nightmare that takes place after human nature has been reformed into a “New Man.”[2] My drug reference was just an illustration of the larger issue: Without sharp limits on its power, the temptations for the state to exercise the technologies of social control will not be resisted.  Which raises the largest issue of all: The state has no business attempting to change human nature.

 

Recall that even slaves are provided for.  Slavery is possible whenever people are reconditioned into forgetting what it really means to be free. We need to grasp the cultural context for any realistic assessment of freedom’s prospects.  In the modern condition we take for granted that almost all social and moral boundaries are subject to elimination.  This predisposes the modern mind to look at any new attack on traditional boundaries as “probably a good thing.” Consider what has already taken place in the developed Western democracies: With breathtaking speed, the intelligentsias have been accommodated to the progressive dissolution of boundary conditions, including those of the nation state, those between achievers and dependents, those between good and evil, between criminal conduct and mental illness and between the forcible government reallocation of resources, and theft… and so on.  In this way, the sophisticated Western defenders of liberty were disarmed.

 

JULY 4, 2013

THE RECOVERY OF FREEDOM

REQUIRES

A Conservative Renaissance

A Modest Proposal

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Traditionally, liberals have been about challenging boundaries; and conservatives were about defending them.  But both liberalism and conservatism occasionally crash through the overreach barrier. The progressive liberals have now gone over that line.

 

This leaves the task of restoring balance to the conservatives. But are we/they ready?

 

Under the prevailing cultural conditions, the GOP (in the USA) and the Conservative Party (in the UK) are locked into a cyclical pattern of rejection, then a temporary ascendance in which conservatives return from exile as a corrective to the progressive juggernaut that has captured the Democratic Party and the Fabian socialists who have captured the British Labour Party.  The conservatives are allowed to stick around just long enough to stop the hemorrhage; and to repair some, but not all of the damage.

This is fire truck conservatism: People are grateful for their rescue but they don’t invite their rescuers to stay for dinner.

Conservative leadership seems to take hold for the long haul only when a particular leader (Think Eisenhower or Reagan in the USA; Churchill and Thatcher in the UK) has traction in the culture and on Pennsylvania Avenue or Downing Street. The key ingredients of such major leadership shifts are the breakdown of trust between the to-be-evicted governing political class, and the emergence of a new, potent trust-chemistry between the new conservative leadership cohort and the people at large.

But trusted leaders are not picked by a political committee or via a series of managed primaries. They emerge from the herd by the force of their personalities, courage, charisma, commitment and record of accomplishments.

The conservative philosophy that animates the GOP and its British counterpart has much more to offer than an occasional charismatic leader. It can endure for the ages, but only to the extent that its most visible advocates are seen as dedicated a great political, cultural and economic Freedom-Renaissance. A quick glance at the current crop of politicians suggests that heavy lifting is required. The new crop of conservative leaders must be very well prepared to promote and explain a practical agenda for America’s restoration, and to anchor each part of the project in conservative principles that are clear and consistent with common sense.

That agenda is nothing short of restoring America by restoring freedom.  It is founded three forward-leaning conservation principles (set out below). But these ideas, values and principles must be sincerely, articulately and persuasively connected to policy proposals, and to the real world aspirations of all Americans.

In an earlier era, President Reagan was gifted in doing this task, partly because he had years of experience among liberal democrats, partly because he was a skilled actor who believed his material. The task is the essentially the same, but the message is updated to address the crises of the 21st century.  I propose that three principles, when explained and connected, have the power to inaugurate a sea change in the American political dialogue. I believe that once they are absorbed into the DNA of the new generation of conservatives these core ideas will ignite a Freedom Renaissance movement that will alter the course of history.

  1. The conservation of human dignity against all the bureaucratic minds and structures, private and public;
  2. The conservation of the conditions in which productive human creativity can flourish by providing a bulwark against the arbitrary controls, constraints, repression, excessive taxation and perversion-of-purpose that creative communities are typically subject to;
  3. …and the conservation of the core moral infrastructure from which individual human dignity and productive human creativity derive their legitimacy.

A comment about why this set of principles is both new and necessary to the postmodern culture. Libertarians advance freedom as a primary good, without further elaboration or explanation.  But freedom cannot be understood as more than indulgence without a larger moral framework that contains it. I maintain that the justification (from a metaphysical point of view) for freedom as a necessary value is that creation and human creativity become primary values as soon as they are linked to a life affirming moral order. And creativity requires freedom in the context of the larger moral framework. Without creativity, the human species dies.  Without robust creativity linked to the moral order, the human species becomes innovatively suicidal. The moral foundations of a free society are deeply tied to the spiritual traditions that connect creative communities with life-affirmation and the enhancement of the human condition as seen through the lens of awakened moral intelligence.

I’ve written about this at length elsewhere, but note the difference between the Italian Renaissance creative community and the captive community of Nazi German rocket scientists at Peenemunde.  And note the fact that whenever a tyranny is first established, the creative ones seek refuge somewhere else.  The USA has benefited immensely from creative refugees.

Each of the three conservation principles listed have been more honored in the breach than in historical practice; and not one of them is widely recognized as essential to conservatism or as crucially important to human survival.

The advocates of liberty are often silent about the “Why?” questions, as in, “Why have liberty?” and “What good is freedom anyway?” Simple ideas with radical implications are easy to state, but they are anything not simple when their implications and interconnections become apparent. {This thesis is developed in more detail, with references in two of the author’s articles that are available on the web – Links below.}

Heavy lifting will be required because the conservative movement is incoherent, tired and pessimistic.  Conservatives tend to be unified only by their opposition to the excesses of “the left”. They tend to be held together between elections by repeated bromides that have lost the power to move us.  The key features of a living, forward –leaning conservative movement are nowhere to be found in the hearts and minds of the political hacks who mindlessly repeat the tired slogans.  People just tune out the catch phrases and talismanic incantations like – “Big government is bad”; “Big spending is bad”; “Freedom is good”; “Taxes are bad”.

The tune-out is a symptom of broken promise fatigue. Somehow, these same operatives leave equally banal slanders unanswered, allowing even the modern conservatives to be smeared with impunity. Who responds (and with what force and energy) when we hear that “Conservatives are mean spirited”; “Conservatives favor the rich over the poor”; and “Conservatives are against social progress”?

What I am proposing here will demand actual thought by all leading conservatives in the Public Square, and sturdy commitment and enduring passion. All this needs to be done with good spirited, but sharp rhetoric in a coordinated push-back, push-forward theme pursued simultaneously on several fronts: in the academy, in the media, in the Public Square, and among the policy makers and power brokers.

Evangelists have given evangelism a bad rap. The “ordinary” people are very good at spotting phonies and hucksters…although history suggests that it sometimes takes them a while to figure out that they’ve been had.  The Freedom Renaissance push needs real programs and real ideas, all of which are based on a conservation and progress agenda. This can’t be just some one-off pre-election run-up. When going against the tide, we succeed only with a long term effort fueled by fierce, realistic optimism and sustained by awakened moral intelligence.

Yes, it is probably too late to reboot and reenergize many of the half-awake political hacks who dominate the public square; and the task of administering plastic surgery on the sad faces of institutional conservatism is a dead end.  There is every reason to be optimistic in the mid-term, so why not be optimistic in the short term and the long term.  All we have to lose is the dead weight of pessimism.

Our situation calls for sharp, likable, engaging personalities.

So…where are they? They are already among us, waiting for the starting gun, waiting for you and me to create the buzz and energy about creativity and freedom, about boundaries, moral and practical, that sustain progress.

We are the milieu from which the next top leaders will emerge.

JBG

July 3rd & 4th 2013

 

Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Author Contact for all comments and permissions: outlawyer.gaskill@gmail.com

Links to related articles:

The American Creative Surgehttp://www.jaygaskill.com/ACS2011.pdf  (75 pages)

Creativity and Survivalhttp://jaygaskill.com/CreativityAndSurvival.pdf (14 pages)

 



[1]  I recommend taking a close look at the early George Lukas film THX 1138, where the state encourages drug use.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THX_1138).  The animating vision was a commitment to individualism, and a vivid illustration of the amoral idiocy of the bureaucratic state in its many forms.

[2] This idea been popular among fascists and socialists over the last 80 years: Think of the “Soviet Man – and Woman”, and the “Nazi superman”. The common thread in these schemes is the employment of state power to remold human nature into persons who no longer exercise “unhealthy individualism.”

Wake up – Stealth Threats to Freedom

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

LINK - http://jaygaskill.com/TreatyDanger2013.htm

THE STEALTH ATTACK ON AMERICAN FREEDOM

The Treaty Clause  is – The American Trojan Horse

The greatest current threat to our cherished constitutionally protected freedoms is the stealth erosion of the very protective framework that has worked to protect them during the hard times.  We tend to rally whenever there is a clear frontal assault, but we are very slow to respond when the threat is cloaked, and the approach is gradual.  This article deals with one such assault pathway, the Treaty Clause of the US constitution.

 

When the US constitution was drafted, America’s founders were thinking of trade treaties and military alliances.  They provided that a ratified treaty could not easily be undone, putting the policy in Article Six of the Constitution (antedating the adoption of the Bill of rights). Ratified treaties would be “the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

No one leader in that dawn-time of the American republic seriously considered  that an international treaty regime could even exist, much less seek the power to control essential aspects of American domestic life.  But times have changed. We need to wake up and smell the threat.

The internationalists among us dream of the day when all national sovereignty has gradually been absorbed into a web of international agreements.  …And the US Constitution is an obstacle to their agenda.

e were given a sacred trust: the US constitution and its Bill of Rights and a durable system of checks and balances.  This is what is meant by American exceptionalism. This legacy is ours to keep, but only if we remained informed, diligent and fierce in its defense, because it is also ours to lose.

 

Q: HOW COULD WE EVER LOSE OUR CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED FREEDOMS?

A: By losing a war…or by signing and ratifying the wrong treaty without losing a war.

The treaty clause of Article Six of the US constitution poses a constitutional threat to the rest of the constitution because of its ambiguity.  It was designed in an era when there were no international regimes-in-the-making that were seeking the power to consolidate control over the sovereign states (in the name of peace) by getting them to surrender sovereignty bit by bit, for “the greater good.”

If a ratified treaty can run roughshod over all state laws in a way that the federal government cannot do (because the federal power is restrained by the 9th and 10th amendments of the federal constitution), what is to prevent a ratified treaty from effectively overriding some other provision of the US constitution as well?  …Nothing at all in my opinion.

Some of the jurists who proclaim that our constitution is “a living document” really mean that its provisions are so plastic that they can be “reinterpreted” to accommodate “new conditions” and “the general welfare.” This means as a practical matter that any given moment we may be only one Senate or Supreme Court vote away from losing the Bill of Rights. The founders never contemplated treaties in which a sovereign power like the USA would be tying itself to international control regimes. Failing to anticipate that modern circumstance, the founders failed to provide a constitutional failsafe, even one the effect that a treaty is the law of the land but is always subordinate to the bill of rights as they apply to US citizens.

When a sovereign loses a war for example, no one doubts that a surrender treaty could give it all away. It seems that the progressive left is engaged in achieving U.S. surrender by stages…all for the greater good.

I first researched the treaty problem back in January, 2007. I had been invited to sit on a Moot Court panel as a “Supreme Court” Justice (at Boalt Hall, my former law school). I found myself dealing with a with a constitutional law case that prefigures some chilling legal scenarios.  Among my fellow judges was an old acquaintance, Federal Judge D. Lowell Jensen, former County DA. [Judge Jensen was President Reagan’s head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.]  I’ll skip the specific Moot Court problem we addressed, but my study of the treaty power issue was a wakeup call for me. Here are one of my takeaway lessons:

Q: Could the Treaty Clause of the US Constitution be used to override inconsistent constitutional provisions, even the Bill of Rights?

A: YES.

Q: Why have the legal minds in the last administrations so steadfastly resisted having the US join the International Criminal court (ICC).

A: Because they’re not crazy. Under that treaty, the so called Rome Statute, the International Court has the power to subject U.S. citizens to trials without the constitutional protections we enjoy, like a jury trial, and imposes severe penalties for crimes that no U.S. legislative body has ever enacted.  Note an irony:  Both Russia and China have agreed to the treaty.

So far, the US Senate has never ratified it.

President Clinton signed the Rome Statute treaty in 2000. The second Bush administration refused to join the ICC and sent a note to the UN in 2002, revoking Clinton’s signature and declaring that US recognizes no obligation toward the Rome Statute or to the ICC.

President Obama has reversed Bush’s position.

[http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/foreign-policy/item/15288-cfr-brookings-celebrate-obama-lovefest-for-international-criminal-court]

 

Q: How Many Votes does it take to override – or even repeal the Bill of Rights?

A: Only 73, consisting in the “vote” of the president, that of 67 senators and 5 Supreme Court members.

“[The president] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur”. (U. S. Constitution Article II Section 2.)  

 

A treaty is ratified by the US Senate by a two third’s majority.  So the is 72 (67 plus 5) and one for POTUS.

It is axiomatic that the Constitution means what five members of the Supreme Court say it means. The language of Article Two, Section Two of the Constitution, based on textual analysis alone, can be construed such that a treaty enforced by the president and congress, could give effect to a draconian scheme of domestic regulations by an international commission. The conflicting provisions of the rest of “the Constitution” would simply be overridden. If you doubt this is a possibility, check out the straightforward language of Article Six of the U S Constitution:

“[All] Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding”.

(U. S. Constitution Article Six) 

 

The textual interpretation of the internationalists who want to bypass the US Bill of Rights “obstacle:” is very straightforward. If the original text had said “the Constitution(s) or Laws of any State”, a reviewing court might reasonably conclude that a treaty and enabling legislation would only override the various state constitutions. But the Article Six refers to “the Constitution” (in the singular), creating a pregnant ambiguity.

I have any doubt whatsoever that a future Supreme Court (especially one in which one or two of the current conservatives are replaced with more internationalist ones and the decision is made under great political pressure) might go the wrong way.  It does not boggle this lawyer’s mind to envision a slightly reconfigured SCOTUS, five members of which are willing resolve the ambiguity in favor of an expansive reading of the treaty power:  I can readily imagine the ruling that conflicting provisions in the U. S. Constitution must give way to effectuate the ratified treaty’s implementation.

The process of freedom’s erosion begins in small increments.  There are a number of plausible scenarios involving the Treaty Clause.

For example, I can imagine the case of Max, an ex-patriot German publisher living here on a visa. Max is prosecuted for running holocaust denial pieces in Europe. So this ex-pat German national relocates to the US, relying on the US First Amendment cases for insulation. He publishes the forbidden books in Brooklyn intending to export them to Europe and the Middle East.  Assume the US has ratified a treaty with several European countries (including Germany) that provides for the co-prosecution and reciprocal extradition of all persons within their territory for listed “hate” crimes, including holocaust denial.  Assume the congress has passed implementing legislation.

In this hypothetical, Max could easily extradited, the New York Times vs. Sullivan case notwithstanding.  [In the New York Times v. Sullivan 376 U.S. 254 (1964), the Supreme Court gave strong First Amendment protection for publishers who print otherwise false and defamatory material.]

In another example, I can imagine a climate control treaty that bypasses the Congress and imposing crippling restrictions on US energy production, manufacture and even personal conduct, no matter what limits are present in the US constitution.

Once the High Court takes the step of allowing a ratified treaty to override any part of the constitution– even by implication, a precedent will have been established. This will opens the door wide for various lower federal courts (think Ninth Circuit here) to take further bold steps in the same direction.

The recent proposed “gun treaty” would have overridden federal and state laws in much the same way.

From this or any similar “small” case, it is easy to imagine how more and more power can be transferred from the Congress and the executive to an international body whose power derives from Article Six, “All Treaties … shall be the supreme law of the land.”

When I reviewed the federal cases on point, I was surprised and dismayed to discover that there is no contrary authority, no single case that would get in the way of the kind of power grab I’ve just described.

For example, my survey of the major Supreme Court decisions over the last 89 years demonstrates that the foreign policy powers of the President can override contrary state laws, especially when he (or she) makes an “executive agreement” with another sovereign (even without a ratified treaty).

Local laws affecting insurance proceeds relating to the holocaust and compensation for assets seized by the Soviets were overridden based solely on the foreign policy powers of Clinton and FDR.  When a signed treaty and Congressional implementation are added to the mix, we get an enhancement of federal power: “The President and the Senate may enact law through treaties that the President and Congress could not do through ordinary legislation.” See the migratory bird case, Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416 (1920).

Note that in a number of cases conservative libertarians are seeking to restrain the government’s over-expansive use of the Commerce Clause to justify regulations of individual private behavior. A treaty can easily overcome any limitations in the Commerce Clause authority.

In a different case, military wives fared better than the migratory birds. Executive agreements between the US president and foreign powers were held not to subject civilian family members of military personnel to military tribunals (here the wives were being court-marshaled for allegedly killing their husbands). SCOTUS held that the wives retained the Sixth Amendment’s protections while living in US military bases in Britain and Japan. See United States v. Belmont, 301 U.S. 324 (1937) But note the difference: There was not a ratified treaty in the wives’ case that placed them outside the US constitution. Had there been one authorizing the prosecution of civilian military personnel in military courts (or even foreign courts), the constitutional rights of those American civilians could well have been forfeit.

None of the Supreme Court cases that have limited the President’s foreign policy powers because they interfere with protected domestic rights have involved a ratified treaty and implementing congressional legislation.  The Supreme Court has not established any clear bulwark against a treaty that conflicts with constitutional provisions. 

There is a dangerously growing probability that a future court will actually hold that some provision of the U.S. constitution gives way when it conflicts with a contrary provision of a ratified, implemented Treaty.

We now have a president who was apparently willing to exploit the treaty power to contravene the second amendment’s “impediments” to large scale gun confiscation in the USA. This was a blatant attempt to bypass the states and the House of Representatives by exploiting the treaty power.

The misuse of the treaty power is a clear and present danger to our cherished liberties and freedoms.

We are on a slippery slope and it seems that our president is just fine with that. For these and a host of other reasons, it is imperative that the US Senate not remain in the control of progressive internationalists – of compliant party members when we have a progressive internationalist president.  We do not have the time or the political will to amend Article Six, inserting a freedom firewall, so we are tasked to fight this battle over and over again. As Jefferson said, “What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?”

Jay B. Gaskill

 

First published on The Policy Think Site and linked Blogs. Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Author contact for all purposes: outlawyer.haskill@gmail.com .

Our Most Dangerous Entanglements Are Domestic ONES

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

First published on The Policy Think Site  www.jaygaskill.com

Our Most Dangerous Entanglements Are Domestic ONES

The opinion mavens of the day like to talk about all the wonders and joys of interconnectivity – on the web, in commerce and in our hectic, information-saturated lives.

Yet when the contents of the bilge dump from a foreign vessel vents “non-native” species into local waters; when those alien species devour and displace valuable local species, that kind interconnectivity is considered another kettle of fish.

Hawaii works diligently, for example, to keep local flora and fauna from being “polluted” by non-native, off-island plants and critters, and for good reasons: Hawaiians want to protect paradise from  damaging ecological entanglements.

In this essay, I will be sharing insights about the perils of interconnectivity, especially when our economic bloodstream is placed at risk.

In a follow-on essay, Part Two (to be released next Wednesday), I address some of the early battles that must be fought and refought.

 

A SOBER ANALYSIS

By Jay B Gaskill

 

The real-estate credit bubble of 2008 was not our first.

Back in 1796, a huge U.S. land speculation bubble broke. The ensuing Panic of 1796–1797 became catastrophic disruption of Atlantic credit markets that rippled through Britain and the United States. That credit tsunami exposed the fact that that the USA’s fragile credit system was dangerously entangled with Europe. Gossip in the US capital was all about the warnings against foreign entanglements by George Washington in his Farewell Address.  In is 1801 Inaugural Address, Thomas Jefferson counseled, “…peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”

Flash forward to the late thirties: physicists discovered that two quantum particles (in the quark family) could be entangled with each other such that even when they were widely separated, what happened to one caused an effect on the other…this seemed to be happening without any known physical link between them.  In 1949, Albert Einstein said that this quantum entanglement was “spooky”. Hold that thought.

In 1961, Alicia Rosenbaum (Ayn Rand) opposed the entanglement of commerce and politics; she advocated erecting “a [wall of] separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.”

In 2010, experts began warning us, after the fact, that financial risk entanglement is dangerous.

“Modern financial institutions are entangled in a network of illiquid bilateral hedging contracts…. The fear of these instruments affecting the whole financial system was a major … [factor]… in the Financial Crisis of 2008. The system is “entangled”… if banks have large exposures to a few counterparties, [because] they … do not take into account that their own failure also drags down other banks….. Given that banks choose short-term financing, the failure of a single large bank prompts a systemic run. The whole system collapses even though banks have positive equity and are not directly linked through credit exposure…”

This was taken from an academic paper by  Adam Zawadowski (currently Assistant Professor of Finance, Boston University School of Management) { PhD in economics, Princeton University, 2010 / MA in economics, Central European University, 2005 /MSc in engineering-physics, Budapest University of Technology and Economics} 2003 http://faculty.chicagobooth.edu/workshops/finance/past/pdf/JMP_Zawadowski.pdf }

 

TAKEAWAY POINT ONE:

The banking credit entanglement problem of 2008-9 took a heavy toll on all of us; even the solvent banks took hits, in spite of the fact that those banks were not directly linked to the weak ones. It turns out that the same kind of spooky entanglements that freaked Einstein are not confined to some esoteric field of physics; they regularly cause mischief in our economic lives right down to the bread and butter level.

TAKEAWAY POINT TWO:

In its healthiest form, commerce is “pure”, by which I mean that it is essentially free of political meddling (entanglements); and is supplied with an effective support system. Commerce requires common commercial standards that are enforced through a system of laws that require honesty and transparency; allow risk/reward and risk/failure; and support the integrity of agreements, contracts and the necessary financial infrastructure. Both elements – the support system and the freedom from political meddling – are essential to healthy commerce.

I’m not giving away any secrets to point out that we are living in the realm of impure commerce. Almost every financial or business decision in and outside the United States is freighted with a web of approvals and constraints that go far beyond and necessary support system.

Why? …To further the causes of “social justice,” and to support the political class via a system of favors.

Over time, the political class has imposed layers upon layers of social goals (some conflicting) on the commercial sector, until they collectively burden its operation. At first blush, it may seem self-defeating to impose measures that impair the generation of the real income on which the economy depends, but the political class benefits specially. The various social goal measures became the political foundation of a system of electoral paybacks that benefit a working majority of the political class, but not necessarily of the electorate. This has become an ongoing a feedback loop. It operates like a damaging biological or ecological invasion, as when a parasite begins to fatally weaken its host, or an invasive species threatens the ecosystem.

These are the inevitable results of the entanglement of “economics” and “politics” about which Ayn Rand and other have warned. We might talk about the “state” or “the government” as if it is still some neutral arbiter, a source of eternal fairness and justice. But in the modern situation that is an indulgence in fantasy.  There are no neutral arbiters in politics.  Interest group politics is all about buying votes via the allocation of monetary and regulatory burdens.

Commerce is about creating wealth. In the pure commercial model, failure is a teaching moment, not the occasion for a subsidy; its impact falls primarily on investors, not on taxpayers.  In the pure commercial model, success is a teaching moment for others to emulate, not the occasion for a “fairness tax” on success.

The pure commerce model works.  We know that by comparing the performance of economies that are less burdened by political meddling with those that are more burdened. Over time, relatively pure commerce (nothing in life is truly “pure”) outperforms all other models.

Politically managed commerce does not do well over time. The wisest thing a liberal or conservative government can do for the common well-being is to provide the necessary support system for the commercial system to operate; then get out of the way.

Note to public money humanitarians: You can’t tax a moribund economy (or bleed an anemic host) for long.

Even Xi Jinping, China’s new, business-friendly president gets it.  Allowing for the lingering ideological shadow of Mao, President Xi Jinping shows a better understanding of the basic needs of commerce than many members of the American political class seem to grasp – and that is no endorsement of the Chinese way.

Some discouraged observers have given up; they maintain that our current level of political and economic entanglement is a metastatic cancer that has perverted the political system and overburdened the economic system in ways that are almost beyond remedy.

That is self-defeating.  It is also ridiculous.

Think of being the landlord of the nightmare rental occupied by a recluse. A formerly elegant home is crammed floor to ceiling with pet debris, empty tuna cans, old shoes, older clothing, piles of obsolete electronics, magazines, unused coupons, bottles, boxes and other undefinable heaps of “stuff”,  clutter as far as the eye can see.  You lecture the occupant; you get promises that never are kept. But nothing meaningful happens until the occupant-in-residence is evicted, or decides it’s time to leave.  On that happy day, change is in the air.

In four days, a work and cleaning crew has hauled away all the junk, and scrubbed the place down to the bare walls.  When the new tenants arrive, the old house takes on new life.

We, the American people, are the landlords.  The political class, liberals, conservatives, centrists, progressives and ward heelers all, are our tenants.  The solution is essentially the same as in the bad tenant example: …Eviction. …Cleanup. …Recovery.

Of course, our real life time frame is more extended; after all it’s a very big house, and the tenants have been messing it up for decades. The eviction process necessarily takes place in stages.

This is not rocket science. …Although to the political class common sense might as well be quantum physics. Our success will be apparent when the political burden on commerce is once again much lighter, much more predictable, much more bearable and rational. That success will seem like a “back to the future” moment, but it will actually constitute an authentic creative change, a new, new thing on the earth.

The full creative powers of commerce have yet to be unleashed anywhere in the world.  When we eventually succeed in this liberation, and we will, we need to be wise in our moment of victory. We or our descendants will need entanglement-firewalls to ensure that the following generations don’t walk back into the same trap again.

I believe that this will take place because it will be a self-evident necessity for humanity to survive.  American exceptionalism comes down to this. The USA is the single, most viable nation of significant size and power left standing, that has the capacity to bring this creative economic and political change to fruition within the lifetimes of children now alive.

And this brings to mind the admonition of the sage, Hiller the Elder, who charged his and all subsequent generations: “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

As Americans we need to accept our role as stewards of the future.

JBG

Stay tuned for Part Two, in one week.

 

COPYRIGHT© 2013 BY JAY B GASKILL, ATTORNEY AT LAW

PULL QUOTES AND LINKS ARE ENCOURAGED

FOR COMMENTS & OTHER PERMISSIONS, CONTACT THE AUTHOR BY EMAIL: law@jaygaskill.com

IRS – THE DAM IS BREAKING

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Thursday, May 23, 2013

THERE ARE CRACKS IN THE DAM –

An update to – IRS scandal

By

Jay B Gaskill

The Policy Think Site

 

For the context, please refer to JBG’s earlier articles-

http://www.jaygaskill.com/IRS2.pdf

&

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

 

USA TODAY

Comedians are having a field day

The IRS scandal seems to be getting closer to the White House. Yesterday it was revealed that President Obama’s chief of staff actually knew about the IRS targeting conservative groups, but never told the president. It’s getting so bad for Obama, one comedian said, that perhaps his only recourse is to kill bin Laden again.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/05/22/obama-irs-fallon-conan-leno-letterman/2350303/

THE HILL

US Senate Races may be affected:

The Republican committee includes four questions it wants Democrats to answer, including whether the targeted lawmaker will return campaign contributions from the IRS union, whether they believe Obama should apologize to those targeted and whether they’d like an independent counsel to investigate the misconduct.

There has not yet been a concerted push from Republicans in Congress to appoint a special counsel to investigate the issue but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated he’s open to the idea.

Similar releases target 11 other Democrats, most of whom are up for reelection or running for Senate in 2014. Sens. Mark Warner (Va.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Al Franken (Minn.) and Mark Udall (Colo.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.) are all heading into reelection; Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) will be up in 2016.

Also included in the attack are Reps. Gary Peters (Mich.) and Bruce Braley (Iowa), both of whom are running for the Senate.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/senate-races/301291-nrsc-continues-targeting-dems-on-irs-scandal#ixzz2U2iyX8Nv
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

 

IS THERE A NEW SCANDAL?

The “charity” run by President Barack Obama’s half-brother that was fast-tracked for IRS tax-exempt status is based at a Virginia UPS store, according to its website.

The organization’s IRS filings list another Virginia address that is actually a drug rehab center where the foundation does not appear ever to have been based.

The Barack H. Obama Foundation is run by Abon’go “Roy” Malik Obama, the half-brother of Barack Obama.
http://dailycaller.com/2013/05/20/tax-exempt-obama-foundation-doesnt-exist-at-listed-addresses/#ixzz2U4puCEIK

 

[We might ask ourselves, Which IRS official was so kind as to streamline tax exempt status for Roy Obama’s organization? JBG]

Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official at the center of the decision to target tea party groups for burdensome tax scrutiny, signed paperwork granting tax-exempt status to the Barack H. Obama Foundation, a shady charity headed by the president’s half-brother that operated illegally for years.

According to the organization’s filings, Lerner approved the foundation’s tax status within a month of filing, an unprecedented timeline that stands in stark contrast to conservative organizations that have been waiting for more than three years, in some cases, for approval.

Lerner also appears to have broken with the norms of tax-exemption approval by granting retroactive tax-exempt status to Malik Obama’s organization

http://dailycaller.com/2013/05/14/irs-official-lerner-approved-exemption-for-obama-brothers-charity/#ixzz2U4q7lyFW

This author has no special information either to corroborate or dispute the account just quoted, except these questions:

  • DO YOU DETECT A PATTERN HERE?
  • IF IT HAPPENED AS ALLEGED, WHY WOULD MS. LERNER DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS?
  • WHICH POLITICAL OPERATIVES WERE IN TOUCH WITH HER?
  • WHAT DOES THE PRESIDENT SAY?

 

WHY WASN’T THIS JUST ORDINARY ‘GREED’?

None of these cases are “scandal” in the normal sense. They’re not rooted in any of the deadly sins. In fact, they’re nearly the opposite. They’re simply a mode of governing. They are examples, actually, of deep belief.

Belief that the ends justify the means. That the other side must be delegitimized. That, except during election season, public opinion is beside the point.

A scandal is what happens when you’re exposed doing something you knew was wrong.

We can’t be sure, of course, but I suspect that if you were to go back in time and talk to any of the people involved in these situations—the ones redrafting the Benghazi talking points, the ones pulling the Associated Press logs and going after Fox News, the ones targeting conservative groups—they wouldn’t have been embarrassed in the least. They would have explained how they were helping the greater good.

And I’d posit that this sort of fervor is far more worrisome than mere scandal. A rogue is a rogue and every administration has its scoundrels. True believers are something else.

This was just written by Jonathan V. Last, Senior Writer for The Weekly Standard, May 22, 2013.

I believe Mr. Last was actually describing another parallel with the Nixon presidency. 

The Watergate burglary was a misguided, but sincere, attempt by true believers to seize evidence of treason. That is chilling precisely because it posits an end that justifies seriously warped means … justified at least in the eye of the beholder. And it is doubly chilling because the attack on dissent and political opposition using the power of government is the trademark of the bullies-in-sheep’s clothing who attempt to transform the political system to consolidate power.

This is part of a sinister pattern that, if not nipped in the bud, can quickly mutate into something very ugly and very authoritarian.

 

CONCLUSION

This is my advice to congressional republicans (and any non-conforming democrats who are still in the closet, but might want to give courage a try):

Explore these and the related matters with relentless care, and thoroughly; do not allow a single lead to pass without investigation and exposure. 

If this administration cannot achieve transparency and accountability, then is up to the Congress to do so, using its contempt powers to pry loose the truth from the stubborn miscreants who are hiding it.

If the President’s political team keeps it up, these scandals will cascade into an entertaining circus that will surface and resurface well into 2014.

Without a doubt, the administration’s political managers saw these storms coming, and hoped to bleed the bad stories out now, in the interval between the presidential election and the forthcoming midterm elections, so that the electoral the damage could be “managed.”  But one effect has been to re-energize the moribund populists who do not trust the president, wake up the GOP establishment, and galvanize the friends of personal liberty to form a common front.

This attempt at scandal containment does not bode well for the president, who desperately wants these converging scandals NOT to be part of the conversation when the Senate and House races heat up in the summer of 2014.

But an erosion of trust in the presidency and an arousal of distrust and suspicion about a falling administration cannot be easily repaired in the coming sixteen months, if at all. Turnout may no longer favor this president.

This has been a test, not so much of this president’s leadership (the absence of which is a settled issue) as it is of his character. Recall that the ancient Greek sage, Heraclitus, famously said that “character is destiny”.

This president’s destiny seems to be trapped in that long and slippery slide from admiration and hope to disappointment and disintegration of support.

When Bill Clinton was at his political nadir, his wife Hillary, had the good sense to call in Dick Morris; and President Clinton had the good sense to heed sage advice. But a serious case of narcissism can operate as a thick bubble that hinders such rescues.  Nothing that this author has yet so far detected suggests that Mr. Obama’s bubble is ready to grant insider admission even to a “good” democrat like James Carville, let alone one like Pat Caddell[i].

Mr. Obama believes that he is the smartest, most beloved president in history.  That narrative, even more than the false narratives designed to deflect the Benghazi and IRS abuse scandals, could be this president’s ultimate undoing.

JBG

Except for the extensive quoted material, this piece is Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, attorney at law.  Contact via email law@jaygaskill.com.



[i] Mr. Caddell is a prominent democratic pollster, speech writer and consultant, who has worked for President Jimmie Carter and Governor Jerry Brown, as well as other mainstream democrats, but has sharply broken with the current administration.  James Carville is still active in democratic politics, having worked closely with Bill Clinton and, later, for Hillary. He is a fierce defender of his clients in public, but, in private, is painfully candid with them. Not every candidate is ready to hear the truth.

THE IRS SCANDAL – NOW IT GETS INTERESTING

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

THE IRS SCANDAL

OBAMA HAS PROMISED TO ‘FIX IT.’

► YET WE ARE NOT REASSURED

ARTICLE

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney At Law

ALSO POSTED ON THE POLICY THINK SITE – http://jaygaskill.com/IRS2.pdf

B R E A K I N G …

TOP IRS OFFICIAL TO ‘TAKE THE FIFTH’ TOMORROW

Lois Lerner, the top IRS official who is at the center of the controversy for the targeting of tea party and other conservative groups, will refuse to answer questions at a congressional hearing Wednesday and invoke her Fifth Amendment rights, ABC News has learned. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/05/irs-official-lois-lerner-to-take-the-fifth/

J U S T   R E V E A L E D …

WASHINGTON EXAMINER:  Eighty-three-year old great-grandmother Marianne Chiffelle of the Albuguerque Tea Party was a target of the IRS harassment of conservative political groups from 2010 through the 2012 presidential campaign.

Internal Revenue Service officials not only wanted a wide variety of information from the Albuquerque Tea Party’s application for non-profit status, it also wanted to know what contacts it had with people from other political organizations too.

That included an 83-year-old great-grandmother who was once held in a World War II internment camp, New Mexico Watchdog has discovered.

“I’ve always paid my taxes and everything,” Marianne Chiffelle told New Mexico Watchdog. “What I do think is, it doesn’t surprise me…because of this government we have at the moment.”

http://washingtonexaminer.com/irs-went-after-83-year-old-tea-party-granny/article/2530131

 

COMMENTARY

BY JAY B GASKILL


Victor Davis Hanson, the classical/military historian, Hoover scholar, has just released a trenchant summary, Obama’s Second Term Embarrassments.  It is linked HERE: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/348413/obama%E2%80%99s-second-term-embarrassments .   Hanson’s piece closes with – “What is the common denominator in all these second-term administration embarrassments? “Hope and change” is fast becoming the 1973 Nixon White House.”

Like this author, Dr. Hanson has identified himself as a conservative democrat.

Now, in a late-breaking article, published in the American Spectator, we learn that –

…[A]ccording to the Treasury Department’s Inspector General’s Report, IRS employees — the same employees who belong to the NTEU — set to work in earnest targeting the Tea Party and conservative groups around America. The IG report wrote it up this way:

April 1-2, 2010: The new Acting Manager, Technical Unit, suggested the need for a Sensitive Case Report on the Tea Party cases. The Determinations Unit Program Manager Agreed.

In short: the very day after the president of the quite publicly anti-Tea Party labor union — the union for IRS employees — met with President Obama, the manager of the IRS “Determinations Unit Program agreed” to open a “Sensitive Case report on the Tea party cases.” As stated by the IG report.

The NTEU is the 150,000 member union that represents IRS employees along with 30 other separate government agencies. Kelley herself is a 14-year IRS veteran agent. The union’s PAC endorsed President Obama in both 2008 and 2012, and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles to anti-Tea Party candidates.…Putting IRS employees in the position of actively financing anti-Tea Party candidates themselves, while in their official positions in the IRS blocking, auditing, or intimidating Tea Party and conservative groups around the country.

LINK http://spectator.org/archives/2013/05/20/obama-and-the-irs-the-smoking

THE ADMINISTRATION’S ‘PANTS-ON-FIRE’ MOMENT

This administration’s latest narrative – that a rogue operation in an isolated part of the IRS bureaucracy was solely responsible for the scandal- is falling apart, just as Nixon’s “this was just some two bit burglary” narrative did in 1973.

The president has accepted the resignation of the head of the IRS, but many ask:

Where did the green light to use the IRS and other government agencies for the harassment of political ‘enemies’ come from?  

Who is Lois Lerner, director of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Division, protecting?

IR-2005-148, Dec. 22, 2005

WASHINGTON — Lois G. Lerner has been selected as the director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service. In this position, she will be responsible for administering and enforcing the tax laws that apply to more than 1.8 million organizations recognized by the IRS as exempt from tax.

“Protecting the integrity of tax-exempt organizations is an important part of our enforcement program,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson.

 

It should be painfully obvious that (a) there was a green light and (b) it had to come from someone close enough to the president to speak with authority.

This is no small problem. The IRS is too powerful even when under the restraint of apolitical management.  Our democratic system will not long survive a politicized IRS.

The president expressed outrage at the IRS scandal, promising to “work with congress” to “fix it”, meaning to clarify the law, making it less ambiguous, less subject to misinterpretation. But that misses the point entirely: The authority and power of the IRS was abused by motivated individuals who are still in place and who still believe they were helping the administration’s political agenda; it was not caused by poorly written laws or policies.

In Nixon’s time, a trusted advisor, John Dean, went to the president and warned him there was a “cancer on his presidency”.  

Now there is a cancer in the IRS. 

No half-measures or rule-tweaks can fix cure a partisan malignancy that infects something this vital, as long as the same people who tacitly encouraged or actually performed the harassment are in place.

My professional experience taught me to be skeptical when habitual wrong-doers make redemptive, “trust me this time” promises.  As a public defender, I worked professionally in a milieu inhabited by crooks; and as a department head I encountered a number of ideologically driven political hacks.  For both of these subgroups, “Sorry we got caught; we promise to do better,” is usually followed by “the coast is clear; and be more careful next time…not to get caught.”

This cancer in the IRS will respond to nothing short of surgery (by cutting out the all the partisan personnel leaving only “clean margins”), and radiation therapy (by authentic and forceful policy reversals from the top down, reinforced at every level, transparency, accountability, evenhanded treatment without even the appearance of partisanship or ideological bias).

CAVEAT: Unless and until the tacit support by the White House political types for the harassment of Mr. Obama’s perceived political enemies is shut down, firmly and irrevocably, this cancer will not be cured.  

Responsible democrats (yes they are many, though cowed into silence) want a real fix instead of just a cosmetic one.  But that project requires that we have a sincere and honest president at the helm who will follow through.                                     ▼

BUT Where is that president WHEN WE NEED HIM?

“President Barack Obama said last week he learned about the controversy at the same time as the public, on May 10, when an IRS official revealed it to a conference of lawyers.” A litmus test suggests itself: When the president of the United States told us that the first time he heard about the IRS problem was Friday, May 10, 2013, when the press broke the story, was he being honest with the American people?

I am persuaded that any thorough investigation will produce evidence that the president was already aware of the IRS scandal, in other words, that he was lying in his profession of ignorance.  If/when that proves out, how can he be trusted to implement reform?  What a self-crippled presidency we must endure.  The calls for a fully independent special counsel to investigate should be heeded.

Just two reports that have surfaced so far. More will follow.

May 15, 2013

The White House’s chief lawyer learned weeks ago that an audit of the Internal Revenue Service likely would show that agency employees inappropriately targeted conservative groups, a senior White House official said Sunday.”

“The investigation into the IRS’s targeting of the Tea Party and Tea Party-like groups has led investigators to information pointing to an August 2011 meeting in which the office of the chief counsel for the IRS was made aware of the issue.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

History never quite repeats itself, but it provides us with striking and instructive parallels.

On June 25, 1973 John Dean, the former counsel to President Nixon, recounted under oath a conversation he had with the President. Dean’s testimony was witnessed by millions. He described a conversation that took place in White house during the late morning of March 21, 1973:

“I began by telling the president that there was a cancer growing on the presidency and if the cancer was not removed that the president himself would be killed by it. I also told him that it was important that this cancer be removed immediately because it was growing more deadly every day…”

Nixon had a chance to salvage his presidency.  By opting for cover-up and misdirection, he left office in disgrace.  Obama has a similar opportunity.  But if he fails to move soon enough, with a very thorough housecleaning and full transparency, we next will hear the questions: What did he know? & when did he know it?

In the current environment and situation, impeachment is a fantasy, not an option.

Thirty months with a leadership vacuum in the White House is unacceptable. There is too much at stake:  The US economy risks being stuck in a new normal so anemic that the worst economic year in the Bush presidency will look pretty good by contrast; a dangerous, destabilizing jihad is being waged against us; Iran is determined to acquire a nuclear bomb, unless stopped by military force;  the prospect of a European depression is very real, threatening a damaging riptide effect on our fragile economy; the very survival of Israel is at risk; the burden of maintaining colossal public indebtedness is a dead weight  on the economy;  the American health care system and even the economy itself have been placed at risk because of coming Obama Care train wreck[1]; there is more….

Much of this mess can still be salvaged by bipartisan measures that this president has rejected out of hand. Change will not take place without a level of presidential leadership that the current occupant of the White house has yet to demonstrate.

Will we finally have a real president, a political leader willing to govern from the center by brokering traditional deals in the larger public interest, or will we be stuck with an embattled, self-involved orator, disconnected from political reality, a public figure lacking gravitas who has squandered public trust?

This presidency can be salvaged only by a decisive change of direction agreed to by the man who holds the office of the presidency.  A series of decisive legislative defeats may be needed to produce the necessary teaching moment.  Bill Clinton’s governance improved in his second term only when he faced a determined majority in both chambers that demanded a more centrist agenda.  He gave them a balanced budget and welfare reform and received a revived reputation in return.  The country benefitted.

Senator Obama campaigned on hope and change.  Without a significant change in his leadership and policy stances, there will be too much negative change and too little practical hope.

 

JBG

 

Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law, except for the quoted pieces from other credited sources

 

Permission is granted to forward the link to this piece or selectively quote from it with attribution.

For everything else, please contact the author by email at law@jaygaskill.com.



[1] See Obamcare’s Costs Revealed by Cherylyl Harley LeBon in Volume 23, Number 2 of The Newsletter of the Independent Institute. “A recent report by the GAO suggests that Obamacare will end up adding $6.2 trillion to the deficit (for two generations)” and “the future taxes on (a 45 year old making $75k a year) in order to fund Medicare weakened (after the funds transfer to sustain Obamacare) will be $87,127.”  The first use of the term “train wreck” to describe the implementation phase of  Obamacare was by Democratic Senator Max Baucus.