Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

SAVING THE JEWISH STATE

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

 

SAVING THE JEWISH STATE

Also posted - http://jaygaskill.com/i2i/2014/07/29/saving-israel-2014/

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

 

This is the condensed version. For the Full Monty, go to –

http://jaygaskill.com/IsraelUnderSeige.pdf

http://jaygaskill.com/IsraelUnderSeige.htm

 

Israel is a sovereign country established with the blessing of the United Nations and the USA, as a refuge state for fleeing Jews.  European leaders recognized that the virulent anti-Semitism that lived within their borders had spawned the holocaust. The Jews were still faced with a dangerous malignancy that would undoubtedly return. Clearly, Jews needed a refuge, their Israel. Where else could they go? I can well imagine that, had the Jews chosen to settle in Antarctica, its enemies would be talking about Penguin exploitation and oppression.

Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently reaffirmed that the only solution for the region is the destruction of Israel, and that the armed confrontation must expand beyond Gaza.

Israel and her people are in more danger of extinction than at any time since Israel’s improbable victory in the Six Day War of 1967.  Israel is tiny (it would fit inside LA County) with hard-to-defend borders; and one border is occupied by its deadly enemy, Hamas. The threat from Hamas, client of Iran, is but one the threats to Israel’s existence. And a nuclear Iran looms.

Iran’s ruling clique is too close to success to becoming the first Islamist nuclear power to turn back. Iran will not have to test a nuke in order to shift the balance of power.  Sanctions have allowed the time window of comparative safety to shrink from years to months.  The overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens no longer trust the American president to honor our long term commitment to come to Israel’s assistance in the crunch.

The nasty scenes of 2006 and 2010 are being replayed, with more missiles raining down on the last Jewish homeland. Thousands of additional missiles are well secured in the Gaza Strip territory on Israel’s border. Every 50 non-combatant Israeli casualties is the scale equivalent of 1,950 US dead.  How much would we passively put with, if we were attacked? Gaza has been ruled by Hamas since 2007, when the more peaceful Fatah faction was forcibly evicted from the Palestinian coalition government. Hamas, having infected the nascent Palestinian democracy, clings to a grim agenda: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it”.

This bloody-minded jihadist gang now controls enough missiles to inflict grave damage on the Israeli civilian population. When the scale is adjusted, the potential damage may be proportionately a thousand times worse than our 9-11-01 attack casualties. The missiles held in reserve by Hamas may overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield, which already is letting 10% of the missiles get through.  The ground offensive by the IDF is an effort to locate and close all the tunnels, destroying as many missile launchers as possible. But there far more tunnels and deadly weapons than early intelligence predicted.

Imagine living within missile range of an adjacent territory governed by fanatics bent on your destruction.  Imagine waking up to find that hundreds of their missiles have detonated near schools and homes. Imagine that thousands more missiles are ready for the next barrage – that the next missile assault might overwhelm your country’s missile defense system. Imagine that your “friends” are pressing your government to agree to a cease fire that would leave those missiles ready to fire again.  When the intentions of the brutal fanatics of Hams are peeled back, only a graveyard peace is sought by Israel’s attackers: “Stop all your self-defense efforts. Don’t attack us because we need time to regroup and rearm. You must move out of your so-called country, or face your ultimate immolation. We will distract you while our friends in Iran perfect a nuclear bomb that can wipe the Jewish vermin.”

Even though a ground assault is essential to rooting out the threat, your “friends” do not approve. The UN Security Council has called for a cease fire in Gaza  - barring Israel’s forces stop the search and destroy mission to protect their civilian population from the Hamas bombing campaign, an attack that will resume the moment the cease fire ends.  The USA voted in favor.

…trouble is upon me, and no one to help me! Many bulls are encircling me, wild bulls of Bashan closing in on me. Lions ravening and roaring open their jaws at me. My strength is trickling away. From Psalm 22

We should pray for the swift success of the Israeli Defense Forces in this crisis, for the continued support of Israel by the US, and for the ultimate defeat of all the forces that have aligned themselves against the prospect of a peaceful, safe and thriving Israel.   Israel’s fate will be ours. There is no escape from moral responsibility.

JBG

 Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Forwarded links and pull quotes with full attribution are welcome and encouraged. For everything else, please contact the author via email at outlawyer.gaskill@gamil.com.

Jay Gaskill is the founder of the Policy Think Site and author of the new thriller, Gabriel’s Stand, http://jaygaskill.com/GabrielThriller.pdf

 

MR. ROGER’S MASSACRE

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

MR. ROGER’S MASSACRE

On The Policy Think Site – http://jaygaskill.com/MrRogersMassacre.htm

 

A Reflection by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

[The former Public Defender for Alameda County, CA]

 

[  ]

In the USA, we woke up one morning and learned -

“ISLA VISTA, Calif. — A college student who posted videos that documented his rage against women for rejecting him killed six people and wounded 13 others during a spasm of terror on Friday night, the police said. He stabbed three men to death in his apartment and shot the others as he methodically opened fire on bystanders on the crowded streets of this small town.

“The gunman, identified by the police as Elliot O. Rodger, 22, was found dead with a bullet wound to his head after his black BMW crashed into a parked car following two shootouts with sheriff’s deputies near the University of California, Santa Barbara.”

New York Times. 5-24-14

As the Santa Barbara, CA rampage was reported in the UK

“The aunt of Elliot Rodger has spoken of the family’s devastation following his killing spree in Isla Vista, California, on Friday.

“Rodger’s father, an assistant director on The Hunger Games, is said to be “absolutely broken” after his son carried out the massacre near UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), which left six dead and many more injured.

“The sister of Peter Rodger told Sky News the family was “in total shock” – and she condemned US gun laws.”

“Rodger, who had Asperger syndrome … accused several people of assaulting him – but investigators conceded he was actually the aggressor and suspended the case.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/california-killings-elliot-rodger-was-described-as-polite-and-courteous-during-welfare-check-by-police-9432530.html

[  ]

BUT WHAT HAVE WE REALLY LEARNED?  CANDLES WILL BE LIT, THE GRIEVING and anger will gradually give way to numbness – after all, the killer is dead – and people will try to forget.  No one can claim that the killer was poor or deprived of resources.  Yes, he had access to firearms.  Yes, some of the people around him might have been a little more wary, a bit more diligent.  But, at present there is no robust system that is designed to focus surveillance resources and intelligent attention on youngish men (and yes, almost all of these killings are by males) who display anger, choose to live alone and brood revenge fantasies.

Assume that the report that young Elliot Roger did have some form of Asperger’s syndrome, a mild impairment that resembles autism, proves true.  What of it? Almost no Asperger’s diagnosed men ever, ever go on shooting rampages. Nor do socially maladroit males who can’t attract beautiful young women.  

I predict that an all too familiar personality profile will emerge in this case: An entitled kid, denied what he thinks is his birthright (apparently the BMW wasn’t a sufficient chick magnet), a boy-man capable of repeated obnoxious behavior that results in rejection, who resents it because he is so “special.”

No number of purely clinical insights can supply the missing element. There was an evident character defect operating here, a moral deficiency. It is an all too common syndrome: A boy-man is raised in a hedonistic, shallow culture, suffused with a therapeutic ethos, camouflaged as a moral system. Therefore he lacks the necessary defenses to the malevolent elements in this damaged culture.

Such personalities have compromised moral immune systems. They are susceptible to the lures of evil (this not a medical, but a moral category).  Foremost among these malign influences are the power lures that are particularly attractive to entitled males who are denied glory and satisfaction.  The ensuing suicide is a tell, because a grand self-immolation is the last refuge of malignant narcissism – the warped personality for whom the happiness or success of others is an affront, leading to a dangerous emotional logic: Leveling down those unfairly successful ones builds up the narcissist’s ego fantasy.  When faced with the ultimate futility of that strategy, only one grand gesture remains.  Recall Hitler’s Führerbunker suicide.

The Mr. Roger’s massacre highlights that we have a boy-man formation problem to work on. There is a reason that the prisons are disproportionately populated with male as opposed to female violent offenders. 

Young men-in-formation need mentors and role models, among them manly religious figures of great integrity, and coaches who are steeped in ethics, model integrity in their lives, and teach virtues.  Sadly, this is not a large group; and not all young boys have access to such leaders.  We need  inspired, charismatic moral leaders, men and women, especially those with a solid religious foundation. But for them, the postmodern culture is a hostile work environment.

We are living in a damaged culture. As functioning adults with no criminal history, many of us are immune to this culture’s most corrosive elements.  We are the inoculated ones because we have acquired moral character. Everything you read about this case going forward will consist of heartfelt but ineffectual gestures and palliative measures – yes, some proposed measures are appropriate and will have some good effects at the margins.

But in this culture, Mr. Roger’s massacre is just one of many, many to come. Deep-tissue cultural repair is needed and – because I am an essential optimist – it will eventually take place. Why?  Because it must.

Heavy lifting will be needed. What follows is an excerpt from the draft of a non-fiction work in progress, working tile, “The Wise Child”.

Moral character is inspired, not installed like a computer program. Character is nurtured by trial, not played like a video game. And character is sustained by faith.  Yes, faith. All friendships and marriages are acts of faith.  Every trust relationship is founded in faith. No institution owns the patent on faith.  It is open source software issued along with the gift of the human capacity for moral intelligence.

It occurred to me that we could be the last link in that great intergenerational transmission belt; that we might really be the last, best vital connection to the moral law. Our task may be easier for us than for some others who are less sure of their moral ground.  Children can sense an adult’s moral ambivalence like a dog can smell fear. We are in a war for the survival of civilization and we’ve all been enlisted, willing or not, ready or not.  Our only weapons are our beliefs, our integrity, the quality of our lives, and the quality of the relationships of the people we deal with.  But that is enough. With the children at our side, we will prevail.

 

As published on the POLICY THINK SITE and linked blogs.

Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Links, attributed pull-quotes, and forwards are welcome and encouraged. For everything else, you are invited to contact the author by email < law@jaygaskill.com >.

The author’s latest novel, a modern thriller in the tradition of Orwell, called Gabriel’s Stand is now available through several popular vendors in traditional print and as an e-book. For more information and purchase links, navigate to this link: http://jaygaskill.com/TheBestGabrielIntro.htm

It’s About the Bravery

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Remember the Bravery

A Reflection

By Jay B Gaskill

 

On this Memorial Day 2014, I want to take a moment to reflect on a great tradition.  In my newly released novel, that tradition is an important subtext, as is the covert nature of evil, understood as an actual, palpable affliction of the human condition.

For the post, go to this link -

http://jaygaskill.com/OnThisMemorialDay2014.htm

Book Release

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Gabriel’s Stand, a thriller for our time.

http://jaygaskill.com/ReadGabrielsStand.pdf

LONG TERM RISKS TO LIBERTY – A SURVEY

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

WHY WORRY NOW?

The Long-Term Risks to Freedom:

A Survey, an Assessment, a Request for Your Comments

 

By Jay B Gaskill

 

 

ONCE UPON A TIME, A NEW NATION APPEARED ON THE STAGE OF HISTORY.

 

It was a nation-state uniquely founded as an oasis for individual freedom. It was a brave experiment in nation-making, a rebellious sovereign born from a radically universal principle – that all individual humans are endowed with certain inalienable rights, among them the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights were not created by or allowed or permitted by government fiat. Rights such as these can never legitimately be abrogated by any government without the due processes of law.

 

One thing was unmistakably clear from the founding context of the American republic: The inalienable rights enjoyed by citizens are individual in character, rather than collective. The founders lived in the context of the post-tribal Enlightenment philosophy of 18th century Europe, particularly the English branch thereof. In this philosophical universe, individual people have rights, not collectives. Governments have no rights at all, just powers, the legitimate exercise of which is contingent on how these powers are to be used.  Rights are as unlimited as individuals are unique; and they as legitimate as individuals choose to exercise them with due deference to the rights of others. But the powers of government are only provisionally legitimate – to be exercised only as they are necessary to serve and protect the workings of a free society.

 

In the immediate aftermath of the Allied victory in WW II (an epochal event that could not have ended as well as it did without the intervention by massive US forces), the American experiment was working well enough to fuel a decades-long surge of optimism. But flash forward to the early 21st century USA: You detect the stench of pessimism, defeatism and anxiety; it is floating over the American intelligentsia like the dense smog hovering over Bejing.

 

Most of us spend far too much time being overstimulated by the massively invasive info-blizzard – carried like some medieval plague by a host of vectors – phones, tablets, pads, posts, screens. Bit-fragments of our attention are intensely sought-after as commodities. We have become fragmented as a result. As we are dragged from tweet to text, from micro-moment to moment, we are being distracted from a set of looming threats to our freedoms – even to our very survival as a semi-free people. This is why we need to pause for this assessment.  At the end of this exercise, you are invited to add your comments, insights and new risks to the Threat List. I will be posting the results over the course of 2014

 

FREEDOM’S GROWING THREAT LIST

1.      Politicization of the US judicial system -ongoing

 

The US constitution is a magnificent statement of principles captured in somewhat malleable words.  The essential protections of the constitution crucially depend on an independent judiciary that is trained in, fully understands, and is actually committed to its core principles. For reasons that will be evident, only a judiciary that remains dedicated to the intelligent and courageous preservation of constitutional principles can preserve our remaining freedoms. Retail politics always generates pressures favoring result-oriented jurisprudence.  Paraphrasing Ben Franklin, it’s a constitution “if we can keep it”.  Eternal vigilance will always be needed. There is no trivial or throwaway federal judicial appointment.

2.      Critical mass of new politically-controlled government- dependent classes – in play

 

You already know this, but know, also, the postmodern rationale of the enemy.  The term, “postmodern”, is code for “post-Enlightenment”. The entire political/social system of “victim” classes, based loosely on race, gender, disability or other presumptively disadvantaged categories, is a retreat from the ideal of individuated justice. Without paying sufficient attention, we have entered the brave new world of “collective justice” or “social justice”. These terms are code for neo-tribalism.  Politically dependent “classes” can be nurtured and exploited through government appropriations or by regulatory favors.  In either instance, a favor-granted, political payback loop is established that becomes very difficult to break. There is much work to do to stem this tide, starting with tough, intelligent discourse.

3.      Power consolidation by entrenched, ungovernable regulatory agencies – well in play

 

We are dangerously close to a tipping point here. Scores of federal agencies have now been created and empowered by the Congress and the Presidency to act with virtual autonomy within the loose scope of their respective charters. These agencies are very, very powerful, having in the bargain acquired the authority to proclaim new regulations with the force of law (without getting the consent of Congress or the President), to enforce these new regulations with penalties and sanctions often as severe as criminal punishments, and even to adjudicate violations outside the regular judicial system, denying, for example, the right to confront one’s accusers and a trial by jury[i]. We face a major, dangerous power shift, one that started decades ago when an overburdened Congress and a complicit executive offloaded a body of “technical” regulatory work to “experts” embedded in the new bureaucracies. At present, the Congress lacks the time, energy, expertise and political will to restrain the new “regulatory branch” of government, even when – to pick an interesting recent example – one agency declared that the very gas we exhale and our plants inhale is now an official pollutant. We stop this soon or we lose the capacity to change course.

4.      Fatal erosion of US sovereignty via the international system – just beginning in earnest

 

The USA is under increasing pressure to conform its practices to “international standards” which means in effect to subject its citizens to rules and adjudication procedures that violate protective provisions of the constitution. The recent international gun control treaty was just one of a dozen or more challenges that were more dangerous to the constitution’s delicate bulwark against erosion of freedom than most members of the political class realized.  In former times, national sovereignty was lost only by defeat in war.  Now, it is to be voluntarily surrendered piecemeal, for “the greater good.” This can happen to us, because the treaty clause of our constitution provides a potential legal loophole that can override the bill of rights. Here is the language: “[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).

 

There are internationalists who want to bypass the US Bill of Rights “obstacle” in service of “the greater good”. They will rely on a clever textual (mis)interpretation. Here is their argument: If the original text of the Treaty Clause had said “the Constitution(s) or Laws of any State”, a reviewing court would likely conclude that a treaty and enabling legislation could only override the various state constitutions. But the Article Six refers to “the Constitution” (in the singular), meaning (under the internationalist interpretation) that a ratified treaty really is the supreme law of the land.

 

Article Six contains a dangerous ambiguity, and the US Supreme court has yet not touched the issue. Have no doubt that some future Supreme Court (one in which one or two of the current conservatives are replaced with more internationalist ones) could easily resolve the ambiguity in favor of an expansive reading of the treaty power. As constitutional scholars remind us, the US Constitution is what the Supreme Court says it is.  Such a “progressive” court could hold that conflicting provisions in the U. S. Constitution must give way to effectuate a given ratified treaty’s implementation. So… just how Many Votes would it take to override part of the Bill of Rights? The answer: “Only 73, consisting in the “vote” of the president, that of 67 senators and 5 Supreme Court members. This is because a treaty is ratified by the US Senate by a two third’s majority.  So the number is 72 (67 plus 5) and one for POTUS. Is eternal vigilance warranted?  Nothing less than fierce eternal vigilance will do where the US Supreme Court is concerned. This is why te politicization of the US judicial system poses an extreme risk to the future of all our freedoms.

5.      Aftermath of losing a war, or partially surrendering to avoid one – a growing possibility

 

History warns the heedless, weak and naively isolationists who live in the illusion of a cost-free, under-defended state of peace and freedom that reality bites. A truly robust and credible military and national defense policy is an absolutely necessary bulwark against the loss of all domestic freedoms. Either the USA remains a proactive force for freedom in the world, by example at home, and by prudent, intelligent and firm action abroad, or the reverse happens: the world’s pathetic freedom record gradually resets ours.  This is a recipe for tyranny administered in small doses.

6.      Aftermath of a large scale US economic collapse – a pending possibility

 

This is hardly a novel idea. Consider: The German Weimar Republic; the South American banana republics of the last century; post WWI Russia; the damage done in the great depression of the 1930’s.

 

Authoritarian ideologies and their human hosts are like opportunistic pathogens waiting for the breakdown of the social immune system.  Because of the prevalent postmodern moral confusion in the culture, we are more vulnerable than ever to a wholesale surrender to one of the virulent ideologies should the US economy get into a truly scary tailspin.

7.      Rise of dangerous ideologies with a strong domestic following – metastasizing

 

Militant Islam will probably never get sufficient traction in the current USA culture to constitute a domestic threat. Political liberalism (as distinguished from old fashioned liberalism) has acquired the style of religion, mostly benign, but all too often resistant to reasonable dialogue with conservatives. Yet it is not a true ideology.

 

But within the precincts and closed doors of political liberalism a darker variant has gestated.  It is a form of hard-progressivism, a blend of Marxism Lite with a vaguely anti-human environmentalist model (the kind that equates “speciesism” with racism).  The radical progressive agenda includes (and is defined by) a persistent attempt to improve (read remake) human nature itself. In combination with emerging drugs, neuro-technologies and the classic techniques of social manipulation, the temptation to make a more compliant human being presents a genuine threat to freedom. Creativity and compliance are arch enemies.  The friends of freedom need to be on the side of creativity in this struggle.

 

The hard-progressive acolytes know each other, but remain loosely organized. They blend in well with the regular liberals.  But this version of progressivism has acquired an entrenched position within the American intelligentsia and represents an authentic threat.

 

Doubtless there are other unnamed and unidentified ideologies waiting in the wings.  The problem for any formal ideological movement in the USA is that mere penetration of the intellectual elites is never quite enough.  A populist link is needed.

 

When an economic crisis is deep enough and scary enough, a small cadre of leaders will cobble together a coalition of the moment in order to achieve power.  If unchecked, they will consolidate power and the game is virtually over.

 

Make no mistake: No refuge for liberty will remain safe if the USA ever fails to be the historic exemplar and beacon of freedom in the world. If the friends and allies of liberty must ever actually go the barricades, even their victory cannot guarantee the return of the constitution as we know it.

8.      Loss of constitutional checks and balances though the neglect of core values – pending

 

Values matter.  Ideas matter.  Principles matter. The constitution matters. Yes, this is a cultural struggle, already partly lost, one in which friends and adversaries both need to be apprised of the strakes, and patiently – but urgently educated.

 

When Ben Franklin famously said that “It is a republic if you can keep it” he meant that a wide spectrum of opinion, differing in many policies and particulars, needs to come together, over and over again, to sustain this unique constitutional republic against an ever new set of threats and challenges. Franklin had the advantage of living in a culture in which the core values themselves were secure.  We do not.

 

 

Any list of the serious long-term risks to our freedoms is necessarily incomplete.  If any part of this essay has struck home or sparked a thought, please take the time to amplify, comment, add and expand on the topic.  Send an email to the author at law@jaygaskill.com . Your comments will be acknowledged, credited and most of them will be added – with attribution, unless you wish otherwise.

 

Why worry now

 

As that First Century sage, Hillel the Elder, counseled, “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?”

 

If it is not your freedom at risk or the freedom of someone you care about, then whose is it?

 

It is our freedom, if we can keep it.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

 

Forwards, links and pull quotes with attribution are welcome and encouraged.  For everything else, please contact the author at the email provided above.

 

 

 

Jay B Gaskill, a California lawyer, served as the 7th Public Defender for the county of Alameda, CA. Many of his articles are available on the Policy Think Site (www.jaygaskill.com) . His latest book, the political thriller, Gabriel’s Stand,[ii] is to be released by Central Avenue Publishing of British Columbia in May, 2014.

 

Endnotes

 



[i] There is a creeping administrative control network that extends over American commerce and daily life. It represents the collective handiwork of several mega-agencies of the federal government, overlapping control regimes, like the EPA, the EEOC, the FDA, the FCC, the ICC, the OSHA, the HHS and others too numerous to list.  The pattern, well documented by the attorney/commentator Mark Levin, in his book, Liberty and Tyranny (Simon & Schuster 2009), is the same for each of these regulation-generating behemoths. Congress has given away the store and ignored (for the most part) the consequences.  Each of these and many other agencies have been granted the power to make laws (called regulations), to enforce them by imposing sanctions (law enforcement is supposed to be an executive function), and to adjudicate cases outside the court system (a judicial function).  The congress, the sole entity body that is empowered to make new laws, did not make CO2, the naturally gas released by animals and absorbed by plants, into a pollutant; the EPA did that.  Under the radar, the web of regulations, some well-intended, others misguided, many never actually authorized, cumulatively are suffocating new business startups, weighing down struggling businesses and impairing economic growth. But that is merely the preamble to the trouble ahead.  There are international bureaucracies seeking regulatory authority wherever on the globe an individual sovereign is willing to cede it to them. This closely related risk is addressed in the next session, immediately below and is dramatized in a soon-to-be release book by Jay Gaskill – see the next endnote for details.

 

[ii] Jay B Gaskill’s latest, book, GABRIEL’S STAND is a novel in the tradition of Orwell and Huxley, in which the dark prospect of a tyranny is balanced by an American sense of heroic optimism. It is also a father-daughter story, a saga of family, friendship, loyalty and betrayal. It will be available in both paper and electronic editions throughout the USA via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other vendors. The story unfolds in a plausible, near-future USA where the old polity has been fractured by a series of ecological calamities. Anxiety has stoked popular panic. Technology is alternately embraced and feared, loved and hated. In this turbulent setting, an opportunistic, malevolent ideology has gained traction. Its followers present themselves as well-meaning “greens,” but beneath their public veneer a toxic mindset has metastasized.  These are true eco-fanatics, cultists to the core, who harbor the chilling vision that the earth (Gaia) is a living organism, on which humanity is a plague, an ecophage. Their agenda (ruthlessly concealed), is that the Gaia’s final cure will require human extermination. The political path to the agenda’s implementation is a loophole in the US Constitution through which a ratified treaty can create a super-agency with power to control “dangerous” technologies. Gaia must be cured of the ecophage. “Disarm the humanity’s medical defenses and the plagues will do Gaia’s work.” It is to be the final holocaust.

 

 

 

The Emerging Coalition of the Creative, Not-Left

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Jay B. Gaskill, on…

 LINKS: 

http://jaygaskill.com/ANewDay.htm

http://jaygaskill.com/ANewDay.pdf

After his summer recess, David Brooks wrote that–

 

…if you hang around the conservative policy wonks, and read certain conservative magazines, [you will find] the dominant style of conservatism of the coming years. This is the conservatism of skeptical reform. This conservatism is oriented, first, around social problems, not government …by looking at concrete problems: how to help the unemployed move to where they can find jobs; how to help gifted students from poor families reach their potential. If you start by looking at these specific matters, then even conservatives conclude that, in properly limited ways, government can be a useful tool. Government is not the only solution, but it is also not the only problem.

Second, this conservatism is populist about ends but not means. Over the past decade, many Republican politicians have spread the message that the country’s problems would be easily solved if only the nefarious elites would get out of the way and allow the common people to take over. Members of this conservatism are more likely to conclude that, in fact, problems are complex and there are no easy answers, but there is room for policy expertisebut these experts should focus on specific needs and desires of working-class Americans, not gripes and obsessions of the Republican donor community.

Third, this conservatism supports effective government, not technocratic government. Like all proper conservatism, it begins … a sense that the world is too complicated to be centrally planned. Therefore, it opposes the style of government embodied in Obamacare, where officials in the center define insurance products and then compel people to buy them.

This conservatism knows that central decision-makers, even conservative ones, are no match for complex reality. Therefore, they favor market mechanisms, which take advantage of dispersed knowledge. They prefer simple programs to complex ones. …

Fourth, this conservatism is skeptical in temper, especially about itself. … [T]he founders constructed a constitutional order that left room for different policy approaches; that was humble before the evolving needs of the future; and that required compromise and coalition building. The founders did not believe in concentrating power in the hands of any group of highly fallible individuals.

David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, January 9, 2014

Link- http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/10/opinion/brooks-movement-on-the-right.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0

 

About Principles …AND… Results

 

The Great Opportunity of the Century or a Cautious Tweak?

 

David Brooks is talking about a thread among conservative intellectual discourse, while trying to make the case for a humble conservative reentry into the liberal conversation.  This was based on his assessment that liberalism has finally strayed so far from the practical center that the-liberals-in-charge will allow conservatives to engineer a gentle course correction.

 

But the progressives have seriously overplayed their hand; they have done real damage this time, and the liberal brand itself has been tainted.

 

The world is now witnessing the collapse of the progressive experiment in cost-free, Marxism Lite. Progressive political liberals, with the complicity of comatose conservatives and rootless moderates, have brought the modern Western economic system to the edge of total credit and monetary collapse.  This represents a failure cascade so huge that it is forcing policy changes that would have been unthinkable ten years ago.  Yes, some correction was inevitable, but these failures are unusual in scale, duration and depth.

 

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 driven over that line and the cliff is now visible.

 

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

 

In the post-conservative era, the main premise of progressivism was completely dominant: the unquestioned premise that government exists (to be legitimate, must exist) to make our lives better by eliminating all the inequalities of the human condition through top-down governance, exploiting the bottom-up support of the government-benefitted classes. The GOP (in the USA) and the Conservative Party (in the UK) were locked into a cyclical pattern of populist rejection, followed by a temporary ascendance in which conservatives returned from exile as an occasional corrective. The progressive juggernaut that captured the Democratic Party and the Fabian socialists who captured the British Labour Party was never repudiated. It began to seem that government aimed to supplement, even replace our parents, our religious guides, and though curriculum reform, aimed to remake us through its control of education. The conservatives were allowed to stick around just long enough to stop the occasional excesses – 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, coupled with a new policy course that actually makes things better in the real world.

 

The core conservative ethos (a commitment to individual freedom, dignity and accountability, to government restraint, and a robust approach to security, law and order) endures for the ages, too often as an archaic ideal. But the conservative ideal will have sudden new life in the 21st century only to the extent that its most visible advocates are seen as dedicated to a great political, cultural and economic creative-renaissance agenda, and that they are offering a new course of action with the real prospect of recovering America’s reduced, damaged and beleaguered middle class.

 

A glance at the current crop of politicians suggests that heavy lifting will be 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 can be nothing short of restoring America by restoring freedom and widely shared prosperity.  It must be founded on forward-leaning conservation principles that must be sincerely, articulately and persuasively connected to policy proposals, and to the real world aspirations of all Americans.

 

But actual principles rarely intrude in politics.  This is probably because few people are able to think in principles.  Note that core principles differ from ideology or lists of “values” because they require actual thinking instead of a rote catechisms.   The process of discerning and applying core principles allows for creative adaptation, while enabling conservatives to protect that which is truly essential.

 

Intellectually lazy conservatives fall into using shorthand expressions, like “no big government” that fail on both counts by obscuring what is conserved and why, and they suggest a reliance on rote catechism instead of actual thinking.  Recovering liberals, like former liberal democrat, Ronald Reagan, understood this perfectly.  Bill Clinton’s second term claim, “the era of big government is over” was not only false, it was a temporarily successful ‘trademark misappropriation’ that succeeded because almost no one asked “What are you conserving and why?”

 

President Reagan was gifted in reframing conservative ideas in a charming, folksy discourse, partly because he had years of experience among liberal democrats, partly because he was a skilled actor who believed his material. Our communication task is the essentially the same, but the problems of the 21st century are new and the communication modalities have fragmented to the point where a thoughtful essay, say, like this one will be read and absorbed by a small number of people.

 

But a small number of gifted leaders, animated by core beliefs and a keen sense of the practical, will change the course of history.  And certain principles, when explained and connected, have the power to inaugurate a sea change in the political dialogue.

 

Once they are absorbed into the DNA of the new generation of conservatives they can ignite a movement that will alter the course of history. These principles (framed as “musts”) include -

 

  1. We must conserve individual human dignity against all the bureaucratic minds and structures, both government and private. New conservatives are willing to take on the corporate bureaucracies, often in bed with the new, amoral political class, fired by the same passionate intelligence and trenchant criticism that we address the government versions.
  2. We must conserve 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. We must conserve the core moral infrastructure from which individual human dignity and productive human creativity derive their legitimacy.
  4. We must conserve the value of work, of earning and of a middle class supported by these values.
  5. We must conserve all the aspiration pathways, the upward mobility of every productive or creative person, without political interference or bureaucratic blindness.

Libertarians advance freedom as a primary good, without further elaboration or explanation.  But conservatives hold that freedom cannot be understood as more than indulgence without a larger moral framework that contains it. The justification for freedom as a necessary value is that creation and human creativity are primary human values when they are linked to a life affirming moral order. 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.

 

Note that creativity, by its very nature engenders transient, but important inequalities.

 

Note that without creativity the human project will fail….

 

Modern American conservatism seems to be experiencing a crisis of incoherence.  Consider the following examples:

 

Social conservatives are located in both parties where they represent a durable constituency for law and order, family values, patriotism, and – for the most part – a spirited defense of traditional family arrangements against their redefinition by “social progressives”, and opposition to abortion-on-demand (with significant variations on side issues, like birth control and adherence to Roe vs. Wade).

 

Libertarians enjoy the virtue and the vulnerability of thematic consistency – an authentically free-market, laissez faire capitalism, linked with drug legalization and an isolationist foreign policy bordering on pacifism.

 

Community conservatism is founded in the early American vision of nested communities, family, neighborhood, town and state, with a policy of the upward delegation of limited powers, leaving the federal level with only those things that absolutely must be handled by government at the national level.

 

Neo-conservatives are the former leftists who rebelled against the authoritarian excesses of communism and the naïve apologetics of the domestic left, especially for the murderous excesses of Stalin and Mao, among others.   This branch of conservatism represents a fierce rejection of leftist politics and of the new authoritarian challenges that have sprung up after the collapse of Marxism.  Their focus on national security leaves room for a great deal of variation on social issues.

 

Business-centered conservatism represents the substitution of one question – “What is good for existing businesses?” for an overall governing philosophy, and has opened up the GOP for the paybacks of “crony capitalism.”  Again, social issues are less critical to this subset.

 

Fiscal-conservatism is making a comeback among centrists, conservatives and even realistic liberals.  It upholds “quaint” and “old fashioned” notions about repaying loans, not borrowing more than one can pay back, and opposing financial gimmicks that promote such unwise policies to creep into ongoing political arrangements.  Social issues and even taxation issues (within the context of “fiscal” responsibility) are secondary concerns.

 

National-greatness conservatism is perhaps the least philosophically consistent on the list, but the most easily explained and understood.  A great nation is prosperous, is faithful to great values, and accomplishes great things.  The Hoover Dam, the railroads, the Moon Program and victory in WWII are hallmarks of national-greatness conservatism.

 

Beneath these mostly situational differences there is a shared ethos and common underlying principles.

 

ABOUT TWO RIVER CURRENTS:

UNDERTOW & RISING TIDE

 

Something else is afoot in the culture, something deeper still. Moving underneath the superficial crust of the popular culture, underlying all the arguments between and among the liberals and conservatives, two emotional currents are running in opposite directions.

 

Running downhill is an unspoken attitude, a mindset, a pessimistic sense of life that can be capsulized in the following statement:

 

Joy, usually undeserved, is to be compartmentalized, hidden, even denied; but pain is to be shared, put on display for everyone to see and feel guilty about.

 

At the risk of oversimplification, the downhill current powers the envy / guilt syndrome. It lurks in the heart of every politically correct nag.

 

 

 

Coursing uphill is a more uplifting mindset, attitude, an optimistic sense of life that is captured in the following:

 

Pain is a natural feature of the human condition, a byproduct of the creative process, something to be compartmentalized, not advertised, never allowed to define or cripple  life, but joy is to be shared and promoted.

 

I am reminded of the blessing from the Vulcan character in the iconic Star Trek series: “Live long and prosper”. The progressives, driven by the first view, say “Don’t live too long or prosper too much.”

 

We can see these views competing in their day-to-day versions. Writ large, the down-current, the undertow, drives the guilt-propelled left. The up-current, the rising tide, animates the creative center, and is shared by most conservatives and many morally anchored liberals.

This split defines the real divide among us; and it will frame our next struggle. In this context, the arch political right is the tiniest part of potential opposition to the repressive, puritanical left.

Sympathetic liberals take note: America’s recovery will begin with the conservative recovery but it will liberate old fashioned liberalism from the repressive progressives who have taken over. A successful conservative recovery in the current left-leaning environment is necessarily organized around the real life concerns that transcend popular ideological stereotypes.

 

America’s recovery begins with a clear-eyed look at reality: The grand social experiments of the last century are failures. The later 19th and early 20th socialist experiments in centralized planning have failed or are failing. This was the Grand Project to remake the human condition by using the power of government. The inevitable results were, are and always will be toxic to non-compliant businesses and sustained economic growth. The fully centralized economies of the old-line communist countries have cratered.

 

The “mixed-economy” utopian compromise model is next in line to fail because the egalitarian expectations of the left that a mixed economy can be tweaked deliver all the socialist benefits to everyone are unattainable in the real world. But the attempt to do the undoable inevitably drives the compliant political class to make expensive compromises.  This in turn generates pressure for punitive tax rates and irresponsible public borrowing; and, in the bargain, it elevates an elite regulatory class to power (in the illusion the mere regulations are cost free). The members of the new regulatory class are self-tasked to impose puritanical political correctness on the rest of us.

 

Rarely has the left been so out of touch with the “common people”.

 

My strong sense is that here in the USA and elsewhere, there is a growing populist backlash, one propelled by members of the threatened and former middle class. In my opinion, the members of the hard left actually fear a responsible aroused population. Only by scaring people sufficiently with a real catastrophe, can the resulting chaos be exploited by the utopian authoritarians – or others even worse.

 

America’s recovery will start with a conservative recovery if for no other reason than most and moderate liberals have been cowed into silence. But any conservative surge in the current left-leaning environment must necessarily be organized around the real life concerns that transcend popular ideological stereotypes. 

 

Conservatives cannot save the day alone.  They/we all need the support of the old fashioned, constitutionally grounded liberals, the sane, freedom-living moderates, and the struggling working people who are or aspire to be part of the American middle class.

 

Only a grand coalition of the “not-left” can prevent the collapse of the Grand Progressive Project from being the pretext for the arrival of something far more authoritarian.

 

The Fabian socialists of England took the better part of 40 years to tip that country into a sclerotic, failing, quasi-socialist basket case. It took Dame Margaret Thatcher, daughter of a grocer, the better part of two decades just to begin the turnaround.

 

Ultimate political success depends on policy success.  This prospect in turn rests on the ability of conservatives at every level to find, sell and implement the solutions the very efficacy of which will serve to expose the dysfunctional approaches of the current crop of illiberal-liberals…and, in the bargain, to make thing better.

 

At their best, conservatives exist to conserve the core values on which civilization depends. When conservatives stray from these core values, they cease to exist.

 

There really is a tide in human affairs and the tide is changing. Civilization depends on ordered freedom, the preservation of the institutions that support ordered freedom, and the ongoing creativity that fuels innovation and adaptivity. Neither conservatives nor liberals have – nor can they have – a perfect grasp of this eternal dynamic under shifting real world conditions.

 

A healthy civilization needs liberals to challenge arbitrary boundaries and conservatives to protect essential boundaries. A civilization without boundaries is a contradiction, like a multicellular organism in which the cells begin to lose their membranes, and the organism sickens and dies.  The cooperation of liberalism and conservatism requires dialogue, which in turn requires shared principles, and an attitude of humility that the ideologues will never share.

 

Long term human survival will depend on our ability to nurture and protect major centers of constructive creative activity everywhere feasible.  This will require the conservation of the life-affirming moral order, because creative innovation, when it is un-tethered from all morality, can and will be misappropriated by the next generation of tyrants.  This project will also require the conservation of the institutions that protect and foster general conditions of freedom.  All creative enterprises require this, whether they are artistic or technological. Creativity is an equal-opportunity disrupter of things as they are.  Yes, it produces inequalities; but without these inequalities, human progress stalls.

 

Many current partisans of left and right each have a blind spot where creative activities are concerned: The paleo-left, in its infatuation with artistic creativity, tends to marginalize or ignore the technological innovation side, while the paleo-right is almost a mirror image.  But life-affirming creativity resists compartmentalization, and the liberties that sustain it are indivisible.

 

The American experiment was and is the single most important exemplar and model of a creative civilization that has emerged to date. The temporary bankruptcy of modern progressive American liberalism provides an opening to a renewed, forward-aimed conservatism, one animated and informed by the vision of a creative civilization and the USA as the world’s single, viable exemplar.

 

There is a potential genius awakening among conservatives and thoughtful, morally grounded liberals who are willing to recognize and embrace this view.

 

To incorporate this insight into the conservative canon is to teach that creation, unmoored from the life-affirming moral order, will turn against itself, and that all those authoritarian civilizations that throttle creative endeavors will self-destruct. It is to teach that conservatism is the most reliable ally of American creativity. I believe that this creative form of conservatism will be to reactive, fire truck conservatism as a 3d color movie is to a 19th century daguerreotype.

 

When it arises, this will not to be the conservatism of your grandparents.  It will be the conservatism of the generations who will colonize other worlds. It will be the form of conservatism that saves liberalism from its own excesses and inaugurates a healthy two party system, in a healthy country buoyed and strengthened by a strong middle class supported and sustained by conservative values.

 

How will we know when the new conservatives have succeeded?  …When core conservative values are no longer seen as just conservative talking points, but as the essential values of any healthy, freedom-respecting, creative civilization.

 

JBG

 

 

First published on The Policy Think Site and linked Blogs.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

 

Links, forwards and fully attributed pull-quotes are authorized and encouraged.  For everything else, contact the author via email at law@jaygaskill.com .

 

 

Jay B Gaskill is an attorney, author & consultant, the former Public Defender for Alameda County, CA.

Bitcoin and the “Trust Thing”

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

WARNING SIGNS

– Forget not that Trust Thing–

THIS IS OUR NAKED EMPEROR MOMENT

What the Virtual Money trend can tell us about our “Real Money”

 

 

A CAUTION by

Jay B Gaskill

In the beginning, there was barter.  Before Europeans arrived in American, the aboriginal peoples used an informal trading system the scope of which was later detected when anthropologists discovered that crafts and other valuable goods had migrated through exchange trades for hundreds, even thousands of miles across the continent.  When a small tribe of Indians sold Manhattan Island to settlers for beads and trinkets, it was one of the earliest recorded currency frauds, just one in a series of “trust abuses” that would plague Western finance to the present day.

All civilizations depend ultimately on transactional trust.  Without that trust, our basic trading and other exchange relationships quickly fragment; and the general social order devolves into a turbulent stew of thievery, chaos and decline.

Early banking evolved from trusted trade brokers who kept careful books and maintained a reputation for honesty.  Governments followed in their wake, creating currencies anchored (at first) in concrete items of well-established value.

ENTER FIAT MONEY

Fiat – an authoritative or arbitrary order.

Fiat Money – Money that a government has declared that must be accepted as legal payment for any debt, the value of which is not backed up by any actual commodity. Fiat is Latin “it shall be”. Fiat money is faith money as in “full faith and credit”

 

U. S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8:The Congress shall have power to lay and collect Taxes…To coin money, regulate the Value thereof

 

 

 ENTER THE WORLD ECONOMY

 

When the USA was very new on the world stage, our international borrowing was a delicate matter with potentially dire consequences.  The money actually had to be paid back, principally from our export trade-earnings.  For debtor nations like the early post-colonial US, the books had to be kept in rough balance. A deadbeat former colony could quickly find itself crushed by repayment taxes, frozen out of international transactions or both.

Flash forward to the 21st century.  International transactions are so commonplace that they affect every American purchase from beer to hybrid cars.

Decades of irresponsible public borrowing have flourished because there is no large-scale, truly-local economy left in the international system.  Every major nation-state is both producer and customer and is dependent of other producer and consumer nations. Neither the production nor the consumption sectors can long exist without the other.  As a result, improvident borrowing –as subsidized by the device of making more fiat money, is more tolerated and accountability for sovereign debt seems ambiguous.  The specter of governments suffering immediate consequences for large unpaid loans is less common; the repayment issues are handled via adjustments in interest rates, changes over time in the trade balance, debt load and so on.

But the piper must be paid. Eventually there are painful consequences, as the Greek debacle has reminded us.

Many experts still tell us that the USA’s position in the world economy is “safe” because the dollar is still the world’s “reserve currency”.  But they are saying only that US currency has so far remained the most desirable currency in a mix where almost every player is overextended.

This is a weak reassurance, much like saying that, yes the American emperor actually has no clothes, but he is preening in a bath house where all the attendees are stark naked as well.

 

What is missing from this naïve, “no-worries” narrative?  The understanding that the US system is safe only because everyone who now loves the dollar is ignoring the fact that the entire economic system crucially depends on transactional trust.  Whenever that trust collapses, entire economies can go south.  So far, a few bubbles (dot com and real estate mortgages) have collapsed. Among our elites, that damage was considered manageable”.  If that reassurance was true, why are we being told that the current pattern of chronic, low wage underemployment may be the “new normal”?

ENTER BITCOIN AND THE VIRTUAL CURRENCIES

 

“ALL currencies involve some measure of consensual hallucination, but Bitcoin, a virtual monetary system, involves more than most. It is a peer-to-peer currency with no central bank, based on digital tokens with no intrinsic value. Rather than relying on confidence in a central authority, it depends instead on a distributed system of trust, based on a transaction ledger which is cryptographically verified and jointly maintained by the currency’s users.”

From The Economist

http://www.economist.com/news/technology-quarterly/21590766-virtual-currency-it-mathematically-elegant-increasingly-popular-and-highly

In other words, virtual money is a form of barter secured by an electronic bookkeeping system that is inter-convertible into various traditional currencies, as needed, or none of the above if the users end up bartering, say, oil for eggs. Thus, at least potentially, virtual money could become the gold standard of international commerce, provided its system retains sufficient credibility to warrant general trust.  The surge of virtual currencies early in the 21st century is less a measure of how much this “cool”, computer money can be trusted, as much as it is a sign of the declining trust in the various traditional sovereign currencies. 

Other virtual currencies based on the Bitcoin model are proliferating – among them are Litecoin, Namecoin and Peercoin.

Bitcoin is the major crypto currency. The term refers to a peer to peer, decentralized exchange model where cryptology validates the transactions and protects against counterfeiting.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin is an economic pebble compared to the currencies of major governments. But it is a fast growing player.  Recently, a man accidently disposed of his laptop, forgetting that the hard drive contained a Bitcoin “wallet” worth $9 million.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2013/11/30/from-treasure-to-trash-man-tosses-out-bitcoin-wallet-on-hard-drive-worth-9-million/

All governments get in debt, and all government debt affects the value of the government’s currency vis a vis other currencies.  One all-too-easy solution to excessive government debt is chronic deficit spending, eventually leading to rampant inflation, currency devaluation and worse.  Examples include the failed 20th century “Banana” Republics of Latin America, and the pre-Hitler Weimar Republic in Germany.  In spite of these cautionary tales, major governments, notably ours, continue to press the limits of prudence.

At his writing, the US sovereign debt was 17.2 trillion dollars, about $150,000 per person. The overall public debt is running close to 72% of the annual gross domestic product. The annual interest expense for that debt, the service charge, is the one annually appropriated item in every federal budget that must be paid. Currently, the cost of our debt service is about $240 billion dollars, roughly equal to the entire cost of the U. S, Army. After the overall military budget (DOD appropriations, including Army, Air Force, Navy), the federal debt service is the second largest appropriation in the budget. …And just under half of US federal government debt is owed to foreign entities, principally the government of mainland China.

 

THE COMING INVASION OF REALISM

 

Realism is dependable. It always arrives to pierce our fantasy bubbles, whether it rides on the back of a disaster or as a storm-warning that drives a sudden course-correction.  Whether realism will arrive in time to head off a pending monetary/fiscal collapse remains an open question.

The international economic system is based on currency transactions among countries that, for the most part, are pressing the limits of acceptable borrowing and fiat money expansion policies. 

There are consequences: Entrepreneurs must live with the ongoing risk that circumstances in the world economic system can trigger disastrous currency devaluation at any moment.  This fact colors every international transaction.  That risk causes major business players to hesitate to enter into long term projects without securing political guarantees from local governments.

But political guarantees, like hostage negotiations, inevitably lead to the irrational allocation of precious resources. Two features of the entanglement of politics with long term private investments have conspired to hinder the emergence of a truly healthy American economy:   (1) Private investors are discouraged from investing in long term projects at all; (2) … those who do “play ball” with the politicians  more often than not end up seriously compromising otherwise sound business models.

Worries about currency instability result in an overemphasis on short term, quick revenue projects. The few long-term ones inevitably seek political cover, which leads to ill-conceived, and poorly executed business models.  In this way, the potential instability of the world economic system caused by over-reliance on fiat money is primary among the root causes of the “new normal” – chronically underpaid, underemployment.

A case in point: Silicon Valley is a rapid-result oriented economic test bed that produces more one-off millionaires than long term, well-paying jobs. The great majority of Google employees, for example, do not earn enough to own homes in Silicon Valley.

Granted, businesses around the world still prefer to be paid in dollars, but that enthusiasm is dwindling. The trend away from the dollar-as-favored- reserve is bound to accelerate if the US continues to play the “trust us” game to the very edge of incredibility.  At the current rate of dwindling confidence, the dollar’s role as the world’s “reserve currency” has a sell-by date.

This, then, is the main attraction of Bitcoin and the other virtual currencies[1]. Virtual currencies are a rapidly growing finance-model because the world economy’s Emperors are naked – and almost everybody knows it.  The virtual currency pitch is compellingly simple: Why not deal with a smaller, more manageable, “naked” (but well secured by encryption) currency regime, one that is inherently free from excessive political meddling, one where values are tied to the traded commodities themselves.

I have just described something that either looks like a very attractive alternative to the increasingly unreliable world currency system, OR as the single greatest threat to its continuation.

If present trends continue, virtual currencies will inevitably be recognized as a threat to the entire international system. Why?  Because these currencies are the first leaks in a large unstable dam, the edifice of international trade relationships.  At the moment, the aggregate size of virtual currencies is not enough to crack the dam.  But, as anyone who has studied the economic bubble phenomenon knows, that can change on a proverbial dime.

This possible threat leaves the USA and the other world currency players with essentially two choices: [1] Return to more conservative borrowing and monetary policy before one’s national transactional credibility is irrevocably damaged; [2] suppress the virtual currency alternatives.

Fictional Armageddon scenarios portray the survivors turning to barter. Don’t assume that major businesses have not thought this through. Here is the question that some savvy business analysts are already secretly asking themselves: If there is a currency collapse affecting our enterprise, how can a Bitcoin Wallet (or other virtual currency) allow is to continue to function?

To the extent that the question just posed is taken seriously by more and more businesses; and to the extent that the USA and other players fail to reverse the practices that are undermining trust in their own currencies, the political response is easy to predict:  We may see serious government attempts to “regulate” and ultimately suppress the emerging virtual currencies before the USA or the EU (assuming it even survives as an economic player) can recover a sufficient measure of fiscal and monetary sanity to put out the fire.

I do not profess to know the future, but the wise investor keeps one principle in mind: When complacency and reality collide, reality wins.

JBG

 

COPYRIGHT © 2013 BY JAY B GASKILL

FIRST PUBLISHED ON THE POLICY THINK SITE

Readers are invited to forward this article and/or to use pull quotes with full attribution.

For all other permissions and your comments, contact the author via email law@jaygaskill.com .



[1] I know that the crypto currencies are also useful for money laundering. This is an obvious rationale for government regulation (read political management) of virtual money, if not its outright illegalization.

 

SCREWED – OBAMACARE’S SPAWN

Friday, November 8th, 2013

SCREWED – OBAMACARE’S SPAWN

A POLITICAL & POLICY ANALYSIS

BY JAY B GASKILL

… also posted on the Policy Think Site -

http://jaygaskill.com/SCREWED.htm

 

That the Un-Affordable Health Care Act is a fiscal and policy disaster should not have come as a surprise.

When your daughter or niece has unprotected sex with a stranger, pregnancy is a risk.  With the help of the complicit partisan hacks in the 111th Congress, political coitus without protection was accomplished well in advance of the 2012 populist pushback.  The resulting pregnancy was mostly concealed until now. But we the people are late in our third trimester, experiencing belated remorse. An abortion will be ugly, almost as ugly as the monster emerging from the birth canal.

There will be a renewed populist pushback, wider, deeper and even more threatening to the Obama Care train. But it will be late arriving.

TRUTH NOW TOLD: Obama’s DNA is all over this botched attempt at comprehensive health care reform.  Yesterday’s half-acknowledgment of responsibility and carefully crafted “apology” was the most un-Truman act of executive evasion and doubletalk in recent memory.[i]

There were thoughtful voices of caution seeking attention in the months and weeks before this measure’s one-sided partisan passage was secured[ii].  Those voices were mostly ignored.

TRUTH NOW TOLD:  The Obama Care act was social engineering disguised as health care reform, sold as a remedial measure to bring health care insurance to millions of the uninsured.

But a simple attempt to provide health insurance to the poor and otherwise barred subgroups could easily have been done in the way the most successful welfare and safety net measures have been done: Direct assistance through subsidies and/or targeted programs to those in need.  This, of course, would have left the healthcare system intact, not to mention the 80% of US families and individuals who were happy with their current health care payment arrangements.

Obama Care contained a poison pill that was designed to make private health insurance so unprofitable that the industry would collapse, leaving the government, that vaunted “single payer” as the only player still standing.  The ultimate outcome was and is intended by the act’s drafters: To force all Americans into a bureaucratic structure in which health demands are curbed by limited resources and forms of thinly disguised rationing, the model I and others have rightly described as “the HMO from hell.” That poison pill was most likely the handiwork of Anthony Weiner (sorry, the porn metaphor is unavoidable here).

Before resigning from Congress over a sexting scandal in 2011, [Anthony] Weiner raised his national profile by going on cable television, as the White House was battling a unified Republican Party over its universal health care plan, and criticizing the president for not creating a single-payer plan. (Many liberal universal health care advocates liked the idea of single-payer, but it was generally recognized that such a plan had zero chance of becoming law.)

Weiner [said] “I think the efforts of those of us who were trying to get a single-payer system, moved the debate, moved the conversation very far over and made the bill a lot better. And I have heard very few people in Congress say to me that I was anything but helpful in getting that passed.”

 http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/politics/2013/07/8531988/weiner-touts-obamacare-says-hes-different-his-career-politician-opp

Making the bill “a lot better”, as Weiner put it, was accomplished by the insertion of so many bureaucratic controls and demands on the private health care providers that a single payer plan would be inevitable.  Clearly Mr. Weiner shares paternity for the unwanted pregnancy.

The American health care system suffers from too much bureaucracy, far too much top-down, but ineffectual attempts at management, and far too little consumer choice and control.  Real costs are actively concealed by hospitals. Physicians are caught in the middle, forced to cut patient face time, and to substitute approved “codes” for actual, thoughtful diagnoses.  Insurance is a concept meant for occasional catastrophe, based on the idea that such risks can be spread over a large number of buyers, most of whom will never have a house fire or a deadly crash.  Health insurance makes sense only for the highly unusual risk events, not for routine, mostly expected medical events.  What everyone calls “health insurance” is really prepaid medical costs.  Yes the system is ripe for reform, but the social engineers who occupy the executive branch have forgotten the first rule or responsible medicine: “First: do no harm.

A leading democrat involved with the Obama Care project, former Senator Max Baucus, publically called this a train wreck.  That was a bit late[iii], and Mr. Baucus has retired to Montana. What do you do in an impending train wreck? Stop the train. Then – Don’t use that damaged track ever again. Obama Care was ramrodded through congress by shutting down debate, shutting off amendments, ignoring dissent, refusing to have bipartisan hearings on its various hidden and mostly unread components.  This abortion is the bitter legacy of one party rule.

Can this be fixed? Stay tuned.

JBG

 FIRST PUBLISHED ON THE POLICY THINK SITE www.jaygaskill.com

Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Forward this and quote from this as you will, with attribution. For other permissions and your comments, contact the author via email law@jaygaskill.com .

 



[i] “I am sorry that they, you know, are finding themselves in this situation, based on assurances they got from me.”  http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/president-obama-apologizes-to-americans-who-are-losing-their-health-insurance/2013/11/0

Socialism is Dying

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

THE DISCERNING EYE

ANALYSIS BY

JAY B GASKILL

Also posted at -  http://jaygaskill.com/TheFallOfSocialism.htm

Data is just raw information but gut level knowledge is fundamentally mined from anecdotal evidence.

Sometimes you are able to see the USA with fresh eyes after time spent away from home. Sometimes the experience is illuminating. Our recent return on an 11 hour flight from Normandy, the banks of the Seine, and Paris, was such a moment for me. Having returned from 11 days in France, I bring some anecdotal tidings.

A year ago, the French people fired the conservative and hired a socialist to lead them. They now regret it. The French voting population (birthrate 2.1 – that’s below replacement) got tired of their moderate center-right leader, Nick Sarkozy and dumped him in favor of a milquetoast puritanical socialist, Francois Hollande.

It was a rebound romance. The French people are disenchanted and embarrassed by their most recent choice for President. But this was not some flaky boyfriend– they are locked in an electoral marriage that lasts until 2017.

Hollande’s popular approval is below 30%, the lowest in 32 years. But the more important “tell” for me was the climate of French embarrassment I detected – I believe it reveals a deeper policy/ideological shift in the making.  Most French citizens are fiercely proud of their country and are deeply embarrassed that their movie icon, Gerard Depardieu, had to flee the country for Russia to escape France’s confiscatory tax rates (Holland sought a 70% plus income tax on top on the national value added tax of 20%).

I recall American embarrassment when Vlad Putin bailed Mr. Obama out of the foreign policy thicket he’d got himself into over Syria.  Do you sense a pattern here?

Let’s compare France and Argentina for a moment. Argentina, a less developed country (for now), has a population of 41 million with a GDP of only $ 716.4 million, and has enjoyed double digit growth over several of the last years. France, a late-stage developed Western democracy, has a population of 42 million with a GPD $ 2.3 trillion, but has been experiencing chronic flat growth – both in population and prosperity over the last several years. Argentina’s government is run by the widow of a Peron-style socialist, Cristina Kirchener, who is serving her last term, but faces growing voter unrest.  Growth has slowed, the quality of life has slipped; crime is up; the people are discontent.

“The latest news is the very recent rise of The Renewal Front party, and Sergio Massa. ‘This signals a clear beginning of the end for Kirchner rule,’ said Sergio Berensztein, a pollster and political commentator. … The rise of Mr. Massa and opposition figures in other pivotal provinces represents a ‘jump toward moderation,’ Mr. Berensztein said.” {New York Times 10-29-13}

I just love that phrase, ‘jump toward moderation.’

There are many other recent examples of discontent with socialist rule, but this is what I see in the big picture:

The later 19th and early 20th socialist experiments in centralized planning are failing. This was the Grand Project to remake the human condition by using the power of government. The inevitable results were, are and always will be toxic to non-compliant businesses and sustained economic growth. The fully centralized economies of the old-line communist countries have already cratered.

The “mixed-economy” utopian compromise model is next in line to fail because the egalitarian expectations of the left that a mixed economy can be tweaked deliver all the socialist benefits to everyone are unattainable in the real world. But the attempt to do the undoable inevitably drives the compliant political class to make expensive compromises.  This in turn generates pressure for punitive tax rates and irresponsible public borrowing; and, in the bargain, it elevates an elite regulatory class to power (in the illusion the mere regulations are cost free). The members of the new regulatory class are self-tasked to impose puritanical political correctness on the rest of us.

Rarely has the left been so out of touch with the “common people”.

As a result, the Grand Project has almost run its course in the most of the developed and rapidly developing economies in the world.  The educated populations, thinking now of the French people I just talked with, are becoming less complacent, more aware of the unfair burdens imposed on them, and much more aware of the need to rise up. I heard “if necessary we’ll have another evolution” more than once.

So the natives are starting to grumble. Will the reaction be a jump toward moderation? …Only if it is early enough.  My strong sense is that here in the USA and elsewhere, there is a growing populist backlash, one propelled by members of the threatened and former middle class. It took responsible form in the so called Tea Party movement in the USA, the demonization of which by the left was ludicrous.

In my opinion, the members of the hard left actually fear a responsible aroused population. Only by scaring people sufficiently with a real catastrophe, can the resulting chaos be exploited by the utopian authoritarians – or others. Those who are waiting for a “real” crisis to “wake up the people” are playing  a dangerous game.

There really is a tide in human affairs. The tide is changing. Conservatives cannot save the day alone.  They/we all need the support of the old fashioned, constitutionally grounded liberals, the sane, freedom-living moderates, and the struggling working people who are or aspire to be part of the American middle class.

Only a grand coalition of the “not-leftists” can prevent the collapse of the Grand Project from becoming the pretext for something far, far worse than a jump toward moderation.

The Fabian socialists of England took the better part of 40 years to tip that country into a sclerotic, quasi-socialist failure. And it took Dame Margaret Thatcher, daughter of a grocer, the better part of two decades to begin the turnaround.  It will take determination, humor, work and a little patience, but knowing that the tide is with us, we can spark an American Renaissance of freedom, prosperity and creative accomplishment.  When my wife and I were met by a young, beautiful French speaking African woman maitre d’ who asked would we like to be seated for breakfast, on impulse I answered “Yes we can”.  She grinned and repeated the phrase happily and she escorted us to a table.

The table is set for the friends of freedom and the middle class.  Can we make this happen for America? Yes we can.

JBG

 

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

Copyright © 2013 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

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MAD AS HELL

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

HEADLINE: SHUTDOWN AND DEFAULT AVERTED!

REALITY:  NOT

Commentary by Jay B Gaskill

“I’m mad as hell and I won’t take it anymore!”

 

If you are among angry at this point (& who isn’t?), you are probably in sharp disagreement with millions of other Americans who are equally angry at the same events.  This is a clue:

Read the entire post at this link –

http://jaygaskill.com/MadAsHell.htm