My September 11, 2014 reflection

On August 19th or 20th of this year, Journalist James Foley (a Roman Catholic) was beheaded by an Islamist fanatic. Once again, the gory event -remember Daniel Pearl?- was released on video.  The same Islamist fanatics have recently beheaded other captives, even children. Suddenly, a number of commentators are reacting to this outrage as if it is something new. Think of it – a fanatic Islamist movement that seriously intends to set up an Islamist state.  Who would have thought?  …And a beheading? What were they thinking?

Go to – LATE TO THE PARTY at his link

Never give up.


Jay B Gaskill



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Analysis and Commentary

By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law



If I were to credit the earliest accounts that precipitated violent protests in this small Missouri town,  ON THE EVENING OF AUGUST 9, 2014, A BRUTAL WHITE RACIST COP GUNNED DOWN A HARMLESS AFRICAN AMERICAN LAD NAMED MICHAEL BROWN FOR THE CRIME OF WALKING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET.


Mr. Brown (age 18), a towering, formidable character, weighing in at almost 300 pounds, was first seen walking in the middle of the street with a cohort, the two having just committed a robbery/theft at a nearby store[1]. A confrontation occurred when the officer, Darren Wilson, who was a fraction of Mr. Brown’s size, reportedly first spoke to the two men through the patrol car window.  Some sort of struggle ensued during which the officer was struck in the face, reportedly fracturing the bone socket of one eye. If the latest report is to be credited, his gun was fired once at that point.

Following that confrontation, the picture is murky, but something then happened that put the three men on the street.






I was not there.  No one in the unruly protest mobs was there.  But, clearly, if Officer Wilson had been present during the demonstration, he would have at risk of being beaten to a pulp by an angry mob.

…And the media would have been complicit.

The hair trigger reflex in my title does not refer to the police officer’s pistol trigger finger.  Officer Wilson may or may not have been in legitimate danger of severe bodily injury; and he may or may not have sincerely and reasonably believed that he was in danger of suffering serious bodily harm. That’s what he American system of justice was designed to resolve. And that’s why we hope and expect that politics and impartial justice are kept at a safe distance from each other.

No: the hair trigger response was among the local, mostly African American community.  These included people carrying a burden of real and perceived grievances that primed them to uncritically accept that the killing of Michael Brown was a race-motivated murder by a member of a racist police establishment.  For them, only a huge protest would ensure that the miscreant was punished.

This is the tragic picture of the breakdown of social trust, and its exploitation by professional activists who should know better.

There is more to be said about this tragedy, but first let’s note similar incidents.

[+] Los Angeles (1992 – Rodney King) A large African American man who resisted arrest was surrounded and subdued by officers who were using what appeared to be greatly excessive force.

[+] Cincinnati Ohio (2001-Timothy Thomas) See the details below.

[+] Oakland, Berkeley (2009/10- Oscar Grant) See the sketch below.

[+] Ferguson, Missouri (2014 – Michael Brown – pending)

[+] Oakland, Berkeley (2014 – Michael Brown – pending)


The precipitating facts underlying these uprisings (except the unfolding Ferguson case) are now well established.  Full details are available on the web.

Look at the less well known of the precipitating incidents, the 2001 Timothy Thomas shooting.  Here is a quick overview, gleaned from WIKI:

In the early morning hours of April 7, 2001, Cincinnati police in Over-the-Rhine attempted to execute an arrest warrant against 19-year-old Timothy Thomas, an African American male. Thomas was wanted on 14 nonviolent misdemeanor counts, including 12 traffic citations Thomas was pursued for 10 minutes by nine officers, who were later joined by Patrolman Stephen Roach. The pursuit culminated at 2:20 a.m. when Thomas rounded a corner in a dark alley and surprised Roach, who shot him in the chest at close range. Roach stated he believed Thomas was reaching for a gun in his waistband, but investigation later determined Thomas was trying to pull up his ‘baggy pants.’ Roach also stated he was not aware of the nonviolent nature of Thomas’ charges and that Thomas ignored an order to stop. Thomas was rushed to a hospital, but died of his injuries.”

Now consider these additional observations from Cincinnati journalist, Heather MacDonald:

City Journal 2001

What Really Happened in Cincinnati
Heather Mac Donald

Advocates of the city’s status quo, whether opposing competitive bidding for city services or blocking the investigation of low-income housing fraud, can bring the City Council to its knees by playing the race card. For the last two years, black nationalists calling themselves the Special Forces have turned up regularly in the delicately carved council chambers of Cincinnati’s Romanesque City Hall to spew anti-white and anti-Semitic diatribes. Two days after the Thomas shooting, on Monday, April 9, they were back, accompanied by hundreds of angry black residents, by Timothy Thomas’s mother, and by her attorney Kenneth Lawson—Cincinnati’s answer to Johnnie Cochran.

The Council meeting instantly spun out of control. Backed by constant screaming from the crowd, lawyer Lawson and another racial activist, the Reverend Damon Lynch III, masterfully inflamed the crowd’s anger by suggesting that city officials were willfully withholding information about the Thomas shooting. Lawson, and doubtless Lynch, too, knew full well that disclosing Officer Roach’s testimony after the shooting would jeopardize the investigation and possible prosecution of the case, yet both threatened to hold every chamber occupant hostage until Roach’s testimony was released.”


When the smoke cleared in these tragic police shootings, no credible evidence had surfaced of any actual racist motivation for the civilian shootings in the line-of-duty (or of the excessive force in the King case), except that an unarmed black male was shot and killed by a white police officer (or in the Rodney King case set upon and subdued by several police officers).

Police shootings of this type tend to take place a general atmosphere of police-vs-community racial tensions. One common denominator links all such cases:

These and the other similar cases took place in the context of inadequately staffed, mostly white police forces, stressed by aggressive criminal elements in mostly black neighborhoods.  In the Oscar Grant case, that describes the context outside the well -protected commuter train station in the city of Oakland. Inside, a nervous Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer trying to subdue a struggling arrestee used catastrophically excessive force by reaching for his service pistol instead of his Taser.

A confused and poorly trained officer dealing with forcible resistance is not the same as a brutal racist committing murder.  Nor is the impulsive action of a frightened police officer who thinks he’s about to be severely beaten. Nor is the use of force by any officer who is trained to act quickly when a suspect seems to be drawing a gun.

The Hollywood and television images aside, most American police officers never fire their weapons outside of the practice range during their entire police careers.  All of them hope to return from the patrol of sometimes dangerous streets safe and sound to their loved ones. 

Police training stresses that officer safety comes first.  The law does likewise – giving latitude to police and ordinary citizens those who are placed in apparent danger.  The police have special legal protections because of the nature of their duties. A fleeing felon can be legitimately shot by a police officer in the line of duty.  A police officer is not expected to turn and flee when attacked, but is entitled – and expected – to use all necessary force to avoid being disabled or killed.  An officer is not to be second guessed in those tragic instances where the threat was only apparent and there was no time to verify it without risking being shot him or herself.  Think of the realistic toy gun cases. Assume that a confronted officer is a loved one of yours: Would you really expect him or her to wait until the trigger figure of a suspect resolves the “simulated versus deadly firearm” question?

Even civilians are entitled to use deadly force to repel an unprovoked, apparently immanent threat of death or serious bodily harm.  For civilians, a sincere fear of such impending harm is a partial defense to criminal assault or murder charges, and a sincere and reasonable fear can be a total defense.

Without the protection of the laws of self-defense we would be required to sacrifice our lives to thugs and other assailants while hoping for a miraculous response to a 911 call.  If police officers were denied the same legal protection, society would be at grave risk.





The real tragedy of the Ferguson incident and of the other communities that suffer from inadequate police protection is that the common people, especially the minority populations, are all too often denied that most fundamental of all entitlements: to be secure from criminal predation, free from fear of the thugs who inhabit every corner of every city, whatever its ethnic makeup. The wealthy and privileged can live in gated communities, employ private security and enjoy lives essentially secure from street crime.



It is no accident that in LA, Oakland and other similar high-crime areas, that the vast majority of crime victims are the so called minorities who are the first to rise up in a hair trigger response to a putative racist police contact.

No American community should ever have to suffer from inadequate law enforcement at the basic street -crime level. In my moral universe, there is one entitlement that trumps all the rest: 

It is the right of all Americans, regardless of wealth, status or social standing, to be secure from the thugs and other predators that blight neighborhoods, cause peaceful citizens to live like prisoners with bars on their own windows, and to be forced to live in fear of thugs and crooks, and to endure broken car windows and other acts of vandalism because the police are too busy, too overburdened to attend to the investigation.

A visible, active neighborhood police presence deters criminals.  My Jewish friends repeat the aphorism – “There’s always money for the doctor.” I would add another one for my African American friends to consider: There must always be enough money for public protection, especially for the poor who cannot afford to provide it for themselves.

I’ve seen the same pattern appearing over and over in my long “criminal” career.  It starts when resources are a bit tight.  Then when the good neighborhoods are relatively safe, the elites become casual about underfunding police services for the “bad” neighborhoods that they never frequent.

But an underfunded police department will cut corners and all too often make up for lack of street -enforcement power by ramping up aggressiveness. This can ignite a vicious circle leading to a general breakdown in trust and cooperation.  An anti-police attitude begins to take hold with many malign consequences.  There were several years during the 1970’s in Oakland, California when crime victims simply failed to appear causing the cases to be dismissed.

The deterioration of criminal law enforcement is always dangerous.  There are too many places in our country that hold significant populations of under-supervised young males. Law enforcement gaps in these areas will start a slippery slope to chaos. Soon, entire neighborhoods are written off. Then, as the police began to lose the struggle against the thugs, the police mindset can shift from law enforcement to a virtual wartime setting. This can easily deteriorate into an “us versus them” or “tribe versus tribe” street contest for dominance. It is a natural but tragic next step for a particular minority population, especially African Americans, to think of themselves as a target of the police; and for the beleaguered police forces to think of those unrealistic judges as obstacles to winning the war.

When New York Mayor elect Giuliani confronted a similar slippery slope in the huge venue of New York City, he and an astute police commissioner attacked the crime problem on several levels simultaneously, elevating the police presence and professionalism, and dramatically ramping up the overall police staffing levels.  In a few short years, New York became almost boringly safe.

Little towns, like Ferguson, may lack New York’s resources, but they should not, cannot be shortchanged on public protection resources, whether in officer staffing, support, technology or training. …Becauswe public safety is not just a basic right; it is the basic right.



The solutions are not rocket science.  The effective solutions  include more officers; greater community police presence and interaction; better officer training; cameras on all patrol vehicles and patrol officers; a policy of no crime too small and no crime victim to unimportant for careful attention.   We know these measures work because they have worked.

But there is a wrong approach: The feds charge in with a racist witch hunt; court officers place the police department on probation, imposing demands that require more resources be diverted from public protection and direct policing.  This was tried in Oakland and helped cripple that cash-starved police department for years.

Will there be more Fergusons? Of course there will.  Will communities make progress in reducing tensions over the police presence in their lives? Yes they will… provided that they can summon the will, and muster the necessary resources to provide public safety services equally across all class, status and wealth divisions. The immediate practical lessons of Ferguson are straightforward: (1) avoid jumping to conclusions in a police shooting; (2) get more cameras in play to eliminate doubts and promote transparency.

But the critical lesson of the Ferguson incident is that we are all accountable from the state level down to the smallest enclave of threatened citizens to step up and take the realistic steps needed to make all communities safe for cops and the rest of us, turning them into unwelcome environments for thugs and predators. 


Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

First published on The Policy Think Site and the Out*lawyer’s Blog. Forwards and attributed pull quotes are hereby authorized. For other permissions and all your comments, please contact Jay Gaskill via email at

Before the author left his “life of crime” for public policy consulting and his long deferred creative projects, he was a career public defender, spending his last ten years of government service as the chief Alameda County California Public Defender.  Mr. Gaskill’s latest novel, the political thriller, Gabriel’s Stand, (Central Avenue Publishing –  2014 – ISBN-978-1-771698-009-7), is a page turner. It is available from major book vendors. For more, go to this link:

[1] A robbery is a theft accomplished by force or fear.  Robbery is a felony.  Simple theft is a misdemeanor when the value of the goods stolen is below a threshold and there are no other aggravating circumstances. Security cameras reportedly show a theft took place, but the media has not gotten or released enough additional details to determine whether the clerk was threatened of intimidated.

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Israel’s Nine Eleven?

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From the Desk of Jay Gaskill

Monday, August 04, 2014



It is one thing to dodge a bullet in a happy accident, quite another to endure the slings and arrows from your fair-weather friends in order to avert a mid-scale holocaust.

The following story, posted below in full as released by P Gellar of New York from Israeli sources, can be summarized in a few lines:

The Gaza to Israel tunnels were modern sophisticated, reinforced attack ports.  They were intended to facilitate a coordinated, massive, nine eleven scale suicide attack on Israelis civilians, including, especially, small children. Its planners eagerly contemplated inflicting Jewish causalities in the high thousands. 

Note here the proportionate scale: For Israelis to lose 9,000 people in an attack (three times the actual number of US citizens murdered on 9-11-01 by the same jihad movement) would be the population-proportionate equivalent of 279,000 US dead.


The mainline American media is historically-challenged or willfully blind.  Here is some of the missing background in a nutshell:

The jihad movement is currently centered in and largely funded by Iran.  Why Iran? It is the most technologically advanced of the Islamic powers that are currently under the control of radical fundamental Islam; and its leaders have dreams of merging the glory of the former Persian Empire with the vision of an Islamic super-state, armed and preserved by atomic weapons.

The ultimate goal of the pan-Arab-Persian jihad is the virtual elimination of the Jewish presence in the Middle East by any means necessary. 

For the time being, the Saudi and Egyptian ruling elites are not in support of this fanatical jihad – mostly out of prudent self-interest. But much of the so called “Arab street” is tacitly or openly enthusiastic about the kill-the-Jews program.

How can “modern” people be so malignantly loony, you ask? Access to the internet and a cellphone does not make a modern mind.  These are 12th Century thinkers using 21st century tools

But why their bloodthirsty persistence?  Part of it is a carryover from a bloodthirsty past. Part of it is a modern pathology.

The core psychological drivers of the movement are a toxic mix of ancient grievances, jealousies amped up by a pathology called malignant narcissism (essentially suicidal jealousy on steroids).

This is a useful stew for the cynical Machiavellian leaders who (like Hitler) are willing to use the Jewish people as the sacrificial scapegoat from which a fierce tribal unity can be forged.

Gaza is a perfect staging area for a final solution because it is far too close to Israel to nuke. Iran seeks nuclear weapons to give it immunity from retaliation as it manipulates the destruction of the Jewish state via its proxies. The current US government is complicit in allowing this nightmare to progress as far as it has. Whether this is a result of incompetence, gross negligence, cowardice, or a covert anti-Jewish agenda is beside the point.  Once again the tiny refuge state of Israel, re-established in 1947 with the post-holocaust blessings of the United Nations and the United States (led by the redoubtable patriot, Harry S Truman), is allowed to twist slowly in the wind while American leaders are required to sit on their hands and watch.


The foregoing is Copyright© 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law.  Permission to forward and quote with full attribution is granted.  For comments and other permissions, contact Mr. Gaskill via email at

Jay B Gaskill

Attorney at Law

Analyst, Author, Consultant

The Policy Think Site –




See also –



Here is the referenced account, as reported by New York based web commentator, Pamela Gellar, whose website is at this link:




By Mordechai Ben-Menachem


Multiple media outlets report that Hamas’s offensive tunnel network – now known to have been composed of over forty attack tunnels dug underneath Israel’s border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip – was set to be activated during the Jewish High Holidays (September 24th) as a mass terror attack.

The attack was meant to generate as many as ten thousand casualties, men, women and particularly children and hundreds of captives.  Explosives were particularly placed underneath kindergartens to make certain that these “institutions” would be the first struck, even before anything else.

The IDF recently published the below map showing that tunnels were created in pairs, to empty out on both sides of nearby communities.  The known cost of the infrastructure – each tunnel costs upward of some $1 million – clearly shows that Hamas was planning a coordinated mega-attack.  It must be understood that use of even one tunnel would inevitably trigger Israeli retaliation against the entire network.

Gaza 1

A map of a small portion of the tunnels meant to be used 9 weeks from now.

Revelations regarding the planned tunnel attack magnitude played a decisive role in the Israeli government’s rejection of a ceasefire proposed late Friday by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Unbelievably, Kerry actually proposed in his latest “cease-fire proposal” – none of which have been honored by Hamas so far – that Israel refrains from degrading remaining attack tunnels.  This mind-boggling concept would necessarily be rejected by any sane government, of any country.

Israeli security sources, citing information acquired in interrogations of captured brigands, described a scenario under which hundreds of heavily armed Hamas fighters would have spilled out into Israel in the dead of night and within 10 minutes been positioned to infiltrate essentially all Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.  Waiting then in hiding until schools and kindergartens were occupied, the terrorists would then attempt to kill the children first, and then kill and kidnap as many Israelis as possible.  The plot was set to take place during Jewish New Year, on September 24.


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My New Article is available at either link.  A must read for the complacent or those who want to wake them up!

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An Ongoing Commentary



By Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

Founder of the Policy Think Site and author of the new thriller, Gabriel’s Stand,

The nasty scenes of 2006 and 2010 are being replayed, with more missiles raining down on the last and only Jewish homeland. Thousands of additional missiles are well secured in the Gaza Strip territory on Israel’s border. This area has been under the control of Hamas since 2007, when Hamas forces evicted the more peaceful Fatah faction from the Palestinian proto-government.


This bloody-minded jihadist group now controls enough missiles to inflict huge damage on the Israeli civilian population. When the population scale is proportionately adjusted, the possible damage may be a thousand times worse than our 9-11-01 attack casualties. Note that the huge number of missiles held in reserve are intended to overwhelm Israel’s Iron Dome missile shield, which already is letting 10% of the missiles get through.


Meanwhile, mobs of jihadists and naïve camp followers are protesting while the IDF invades the Gaza Strip, thousands in France, New York, England and elsewhere as if on command.



From the Jerusalem Post


“NEW YORK – Thousands of people took to the streets of New York City on Friday evening to protest Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip and demand an end to the violence that has reportedly killed nearly 850 Palestinians. Police scrambled to corral the demonstrators, which officers estimated numbered between 2,000 and 3,000, as they flooded into the busy streets around Times Square.”


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 far more deadly weapons than some early intelligence had predicted. Remember the flack that Israel took for stopping incoming boats on suspicion that they were carrying arms?


…So much for relying of diplomacy and the UN for protection.



For more background, you are invited to read or re-read my article, Making Sense of Israel, Part One.  Here is the link:


Imagine living within missile range of an adjacent territory governed by religious fanatics bent on your destruction.  Imagine waking up to find that hundreds of missiles, launched from that territory, have detonated near schools, residences and buildings. Imagine that thousands more missiles are ready for the next barrage.

Consider that the next missile assault is capable of swamping you country’s high tech missile defense system. Then imagine that your “friends” are pressing your own government to agree to a cease fire that would leave all those missiles ready to fire again.  This ceasefire would one step towards a suicidal “peace accord.”

The real “terms” of any contemplated a peace accord with Hamas, when the intentions of the brutal fanatics are peeled back to raw honesty, are appalling. Accepting them would amount to a slow suicide. Only a graveyard peace is sought by Israel’s murderous and mendacious attackers: If they were candid, we would hear: “Stop all your self-defense efforts. Don’t attack us because we need time to regroup and rearm. Long term, you move out of your so-called country, or face your ultimate immolation. Meantime we will distract you while our friends in Iran perfect a nuclear bomb that can wipe the Jewish vermin.”

7-24-14: [Iran’s] Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stated on Wednesday that the only solution for the region is the destruction of Israel, and that the armed confrontation must expand beyond Gaza.



Sadly, there is more to your waking nightmare: The ambassador for your formerly staunch ally, a great power governed by a feckless, ambivalent leader, is pressing you to stand down, and trust your fate to the diplomats. Meantime, those missiles remain securely embedded –more of them than ever before, all having been smuggled in after the last “peace accord.” Worse, there are now scores of underground tunnels from the enemy territory into your own land. Missiles are carefully hidden underground, remaining immune to any air assault by your country. A ground assault is essential to rooting out the threat to you, but your “friends” do not approve of the necessary ground assault because it looks so cruel.

The UN Security council has called for a cease fire in Gaza, i.e., that Israel’s forces stop the search and destroy incursion to protect their civilian population from the Hamas bombing campaign that is guaranteed to resume the moment the cease fire ends…  it inevitably will, as long as Hamas is in power there.


The Security Council expresses strong support for the call by international partners and the secretary-general of the United Nations for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire, allowing for the delivery of urgently needed assistance.”

The statement was passed unanimously. 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


Israel is besieged once again by a movement that is disturbingly reminiscent of the virulent Jew-hatred in Europe that opened the path to the holocaust. Violent Jew-hating demonstrations have erupted on the continent, not all of them originating from the bloody-minded jihad of the Islamic fringe.

There are three important things to keep in the forefront of your thinking about the current struggle for Israel’s survival:


SCALE: 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?


SHARED VALUES” Israel is a thriving liberal democracy, on a par with England, Canada, Germany or the USA, and it is exceptionally creative and innovative in culture, medicine and technology.


VULNERABILITY: Israel is tiny (it would fit inside LA County) with hard-to-defend borders, particularly the one now occupied by its deadly enemy, Hamas. The threat from Hamas, one of many, deadly challenges to Israel’s existence, is getting worse.


Lest we forget, back in 2012, Spiegel Online reported-


“It seems that the military power of Hamas has only been weakened, not broken. Some of their rocket positions appear to be so well concealed that the Israeli air force hasn’t been able to destroy them. The Israeli government says some 1,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza since last Wednesday. The air force has said it destroyed several times more on the ground, but some — presumably underground — rocket launchers were still working on Tuesday.”

Flash forward to now–

BBC reports:

Israeli forces have discovered a much more extensive network of tunnels than expected. The labyrinth of interconnected passages, bunkers, command centres, weapons stores and underground rocket-launching sites, with multiple shafts, has been dubbed Lower Gaza by some. Hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete have been used for construction of tunnels, some of which are 30m below ground and run for several miles.

The tunnels have posed huge tactical challenges for the IDF. Large numbers of troops are needed to guard military engineers who are exposed to Hamas sniper fire, anti-tank missiles and rocket-propelled grenades while working on detonating tunnel shafts.

The IDF has tacitly admitted it may not find, let alone destroy, the entire network. “The end position of this mission needs to determine that these [tunnels] no longer lead to Israel,” Lerner said.

The senior military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “Our goal now is to finish the job by destroying as many tunnels as we can, if not all of them. It’s very difficult for me to say all of them because there’s always a chance we don’t know [the location of] all the tunnels – and what you don’t know, you simply don’t know.”

Israel’s political and military leaders will have to weigh the danger of getting drawn deeper into ground fighting in urban areas, where Hamas has considerable tactical advantages and could inflict significant losses on troops.

Fishman said diplomatic efforts to broker a ceasefire were adding to the pressures on the IDF. “We are entering a race against time until some kind of ceasefire is decided. At that point, the political and military echelons will face a genuine dilemma: which infrastructure can [Israel] give up [on destroying] and which infrastructure must be destroyed? For this reason, the army is already focusing its efforts against the most vital infrastructure,” he wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s largest-circulation newspaper


Paul Alster, in a Fox News report, released last week:

Pictures released by the Israel Defense Forces show tunnels, some primitive and others sophisticated enough to include walls and ladders, running under the border from the Hamas-controlled district before they were intentionally destroyed. More than 60 access shafts leading to 28 tunnels have been uncovered since Israel’s ground operation — dubbed Operation Protective Edge — began on July 8.


The following is excerpted from the blog of the Israeli journalist, Arlene Kushner, a reliable source.


The Investigative Project on Terrorism, headed by Steve Emerson, …raises some serious questions regarding the identification of all of Hamas’s tunnels.  It’s pointless to talk about taking them all out if they haven’t all been identified.  Additionally, it raises troubling questions about whether the US necessarily shares all of its information on the tunnels with Israel and whether Israel is utilizing all possible hi tech equipment for identifying tunnels deep underground.  (Please be assured, Israel is aware of this equipment.)

According to Emerson, US officials believe that Israel is underestimating the number of tunnels.  American information on this has been acquired via satellites equipped with special high resolution infrared detection technology.

And then we have this information:

“It is believed that the construction of the more advanced Palestinian tunnels began right after the 2012 cease-fire agreement, when Israel agreed to lift restrictions for humanitarian aid, including large quantities of steel and concrete…

“…the tunnels are quite sophisticated, with water, sewage, and lighting allowing for months-long stays.” (Emphasis added)
Israel has found tunnels with shafts rigged with bombs located directly under Israeli kindergartens.

If the bombs had gone off, the buildings above would have been destroyed, taking the children down with them.

“Other exposed shafts showed Hamas’s continued intense interest in hostage taking…”

© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.


Israel is a sovereign country established with the blessing of the United Nations as a refuge state for fleeing Jews.  Why was it considered necessary to provide a refuge for the Jews after the defeat of the Nazis?  Because key European and American leaders recognized that the virulent anti-Semitism that lived within their borders had spawned the holocaust; moreover – that anti-Semitism would not be eradicated from their culture for generations. 

The Jews were still faced with a dangerous malignancy that would undoubtedly return. Fleeing Jews had been denied refuge in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s – even by the FDR government.

Clearly, Jews would need Israel.


I made these observations in 2006:

Ambivalence toward the truly evil, and passivity in the face of the real, existential threats it poses to the good and the innocent souls among us is so profoundly wrong as to border on evil itself.

How could it be [that] the nation of Israel, having been resurrected in 1947 under the aegis of the United Nations[1] with the support of Europeans, is now on the verge of being abandoned by those same “friends”?  These are the same European states (excluding England) that were complicit through cowardice and denial when the holocaust was perpetrated on their own soil.


The “resurrection” of this same pattern of cowardice and denial is dangerous beyond all measure.

I note that Hamas, the terrorist group that infects the nascent Palestinian democracy, has the following explicit aims:


  •  “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.
  • “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up.
  • “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.

So 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.  It is no coincidence that these same forces wish us grave harm and seek to overthrow the institutions that protect religious liberty and the blessing of civility everywhere. 

– see


Do you doubt that perfidy and cowardice of the 21st century, the bloody minded jihad against the West and Israel, anti-Semitism are redux? For evidence that the nightmare has been resurrected, read the signs.

…anti-Semitism is becoming more widespread in Europe amid a rise in popularity of extremist parties, according to a report released Sunday.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University recorded 554 violent anti-Semitic acts in 2013, including attacks on people and vandalism against synagogues, cemeteries and other Jewish institutions.

The Huffington Post


This is not the first time that Israel’s very existence has fallen into grave peril.  But it is the first time that its ally, the USA, is an ambivalent friend, an unreliable bystander.


Jonathan Tobin in Commentary Magazine on 7-11-2014

The problem with the president’s expressions of support for Israel is that they have also been accompanied not only by calls for “restraint”—which are rightly interpreted as a not-so-subtle demand that the Jewish state’s armed forces stand down—but by continuing ambivalence about Hamas’s presence in the PA government. Just this week Obama praised Abbas, who embraced Hamas as his partner in April, while pointedly snubbing Netanyahu. The U.S. has refused to cut aid to the PA even though U.S. law demands that it be shut down due to the Fatah alliance with Hamas.

While the Palestinians don’t need encouragement from the U.S. to cause them to embrace radical positions that make peace impossible, the mixed messages from Washington, including today’s offer of mediation with a group that even Obama’s State Department still classifies as a terror group, heightens Israel’s sense of isolation and makes it harder for the Jewish state to deter Hamas terror.

Obama’s Mixed Middle East Messages


What are the core issues? They are: Legitimacy & the Double Standard



Israel is a legitimate sovereign state with the same right as the USA to survive and take the needed measures to protect itself against those who would destroy that little nation and repeat the holocaust. The counter view is that Israel is an illegitimate state, run by selfish, immoral leaders with imperialist designs.  The issue is bright line clear.  In my opinion, the second view is both wrong and insincere, a cover story for contemporary Jew-hatred. 


If international politics seems sometimes to be a game of musical chairs, surely for the Jewish people of Israel, the music (having become a lament) must now stop.


The nation states and non-state actors (AKA, terrorists) who are arrayed against Israel as regional enemies are followers of a single religious ideology – militant Islam.  The specifically territorial arguments and claims of militant Islam are all colored by the fact that their territorial claims, too, rest on antecedent conquests. 


I can well imagine that, had the Jews chosen to settle in Antarctica, its enemies would be talking about Penguin exploitation and oppression.


[From Making Sense of Israel, Part ONE]




Israel’s opponents are enemies of Western Civilization. The counter view is that all civilizations are somehow equal, even those that promote the subjugation of women and religion conversion via brutal force.





The stakes for the US are both practical and moral. First, let me reaffirm what I wrote in 2011 -


The abandonment of the major US democratic ally in the Middle East region will bring even more trouble, in much the same way that the abandonment of Poland and the Sudetenland to Hitler by the timorous Western Europeans failed to sate the beast, eventually ushering in the unopposed holocaust.


I believe that there is an historic phenomenon we can properly call large scale moral damage.


Whenever a civilization begins to lose its self-confidence, it begins to die.


Europe is still suffering from the malign effects of complicity in the mass murder of Jews and dissidents on its own soil.  That sorry history of moral failure was partly redeemed by the collective decisions of liberated Europe, the United Nations, and the USA (under the leadership of Harry Truman).


By establishing Israel as a sovereign nation specifically so that there never again would be a holocaust, nor a closed door for Jewish refugees, Europe and the West restored the moral foundations of modern civilization.  To abandon that solemn protection now would be a self-inflicted moral wound so grave that Western civilization, already suffering a crisis of self-confidence, might not recover from the psychological damage.


A Dark Age would follow.


I do not exaggerate when I say that, if ever a history is written of “The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization”, the abandonment of Israel to the wolves will be identified as the beginning of the fall.


May 20, 2011


I now believe that Israel and her people are in more danger of extinction than at any time since Israel’s heroic, but improbable victory in the Six Day War of 1967. 

Iran is perilously close to having produced and secured a nasty cache of weapons-grade fissile material capable of being quickly assembled into nuclear bombs.  Experts may debate the minor details, but the prudent realists among them know that Iran is now capable – at any moment – of rushing its clandestine production to the finish line in a few months. This administration cannot be counted on to do anything to stop the Iranian nuclear bomb program, short of the economic sanctions that are being ignored by Iran’s ruling clique because they are too close to success to turn back now.

Something else is critically important to note:

Iran is more technologically advanced and more dangerously situated than North Korea.  Iran will not have to test a nuke in order to fatally shift the balance of power in the region.  The mere threat of nuclear retaliation would give Iran a free hand in terror-export adventures, proxy wars and conquests, just as it did the Soviet Union. 

Moreover, the danger of rapid nuclear bomb development across the region poses a threat even greater than the cold War standoff, because some of the regional players of the Islamist persuasion are patently irrational and have less to lose than did Khrushchev’s Russia. Hamas is part of an overall jihad strategy to harry and distract Israel while Iran works toward a decisive nuclear breakout.

The ambivalent dithering and over-reliance on sanctions and diplomacy by the US and Europe (over the cynical opposition of “modern” Russia) have shaved the time window of comparative safety to far less than a year.

The Iranian bomb program is so deeply buried that IDF air assets simply do not have a reliable capability to eliminate these facilities and neutralize the threat … not without substantial American operational support. But the current Administration refuses to promise that support and cannot be relied on to deliver it in any timely manner.

Our decision-challenged President has displayed so much moral and policy ambivalence about Iran and Israel that the overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens no longer trust him to honor the USA’s long term commitment to come to Israel’s assistance in the crunch. 

And I personally do not trust our POTUS on this question. Moreover, I am persuaded that the jihadi adversaries who intend to destroy Israel do not fear this president’s “red lines” and, a fortiori, they do not fear him.

This sorry state of affairs is bad for Israel, bad for the USA and bad for the prospects of peace in the world.

Why is it our problem to fix? As the poet, John Dunn, wrote -

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Europe’s perfidy will be ours. Israel’s fate will be ours. There is no escape from moral responsibility. Not now. Not ever.



Except as attributed material from other sources are quotes, this article is protected: Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, attorney at law.

But all links and attributed pull quotes are authorized by the author and encouraged.  No express permission is required. For everything else, please contact the author via email

NOTE: American liberties and protected freedoms are not much more secure than Israel’s borders.  Our bulwark, the US Constitution, has a backdoor tunnel, a vulnerability that can and will be exploited by the enemies of liberty at the first opportunity.  This backdoor is dramatically depicted in the author’s latest novel, GABRIEL’S STAND, a page turner for patriots. Go to this link for more:



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Also available on the Policy Think Site –


Commentary by Jay B Gaskill

Mosul has fallen to invading bloody-minded jihadists. The new Iraqi government is under-protected. Its military, having been prematurely abandoned by US forces, is in disarray. (See the Washington Post, piece, Iraq could get worse…)

Bagdad, itself, is at risk of being overrun by the extremists.  

Our president and his inner circle were never known for resolution and toughness when it came to our nation’s real enemies abroad, just hard for edged partisan games against the domestic political opposition.

But be reassured, the administration is “considering all options.”

Maybe POTUS will issue another “red line” warning to the forces seeking to take over Iraq.

I miss the Democratic Party, but for the moment it has been replaced by something else.  I have often self-identified as a “Truman democrat”, particularly on foreign policy. Here is a litmus test for any tough national security question (think of protecting Israel from Jihadist nukes, or protecting our diplomats from bloody jihadists): One only need ask, “What would Harry do?”  It is useful to notice just how far we have fallen.

Naïve foreign policy idealism periodically rises up like spring daisies, only to die in the harsh weather “on the ground.”

The conflicts between foreign powers have more in common with the struggles among criminal gangs than disputes within the genteel sanctuaries of the diplomats. Mr. Obama does not understand real thug behavior and is ill equipped to deal with it in the international arena.

During the 20th and 21st centuries, international conflicts have become more deadly by any measure than in all the prior centuries from the founding of the American colonies to the present moment combined.

In the tumultuous period that began with the First World War, one president rates at or near the top of all presidents for the quality of his American foreign policy and national security decisions and actions: Harry Truman. Sadly, our current president has so far earned rock bottom status. He is the anti-Truman incarnate.  While this is just one lawyer’s perspective, it is secretly shared by hosts of “old fashioned” democrats.

An unflinching analysis of this president’s disastrous track record was just released by the respected the Hoover scholar, classicist and military historian, Victor Davis Hanson – see Scandals — or fundamental transformations?

at .

We are not living through a lame duck presidency, but we enduring something more dangerous. We are experiencing a hollow duck presidency, conducted in the style of a bad employee with tenure.  A hollow duck president subsists on a mixture of gesture and thinly disguised contempt for the values of his employers.

Our POTUS is a man who habitually governs as a public relations exercise. He presents as a leader who seems obsessed with surface images over substance. He seems to inhabit the alternate universe wherein “considering all options” means only considering the alternative media images that would follow any difficult policy decision.  “How to look good” (or in this disaster, “how not to look bad”) trumps making the concrete tough decisions needed to secure the country’s security and welfare.

There is a term for a personality that is entranced with its self-image; it is the classic narcissistic personality. Committed narcissists are notoriously hard to teach, because every teaching moment, every failure, is filtered through a delusional screen – “It can’t have been my fault, therefore….”

Israel – take note.  This president could well determine your future.  Iran, your mortal enemy, is being gradually allowed to acquire an atomic bomb arsenal, while the administration is still “considering all options.”

POTUS has until Friday, January 20th, 2017 to burnish his growing legacy. Brace your selves for all the teaching moments ahead.


Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

First published on the Policy Think Site and the Out*Lawyer’s Blog. Forwards and pull quotes are welcome and encouraged, provided they are with full attribution including this link –



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A Modest Proposal by

Jay B Gaskill

 Also published at –

Sgt. Bowie Bergdahl is freed from the bloody hands of the Afghanistan jihad, after suffering through a brutal and debilitating five years in Taliban hell.

I rejoice.  I empathize with the parents and family. I am a Dad.  I get it.[1]

But my joy is tempered by some practical concerns. The release of five high value enemy leaders was and is dangerous.  Their names: Mullah Mohammad FazlMullah Norullah NooriKhairullah Khairkhwa, Mohammed Nabi Omari, and Abdul Haq Wasiq.

They been described as -

“…undoubtedly among the most dangerous Taliban commanders held at Guantanamo…” – Thomas Joscelyn, a senior editor at the Long War Journal.

Fazl…was the Taliban’s former deputy defense minister… wanted by the United Nations for his role in massacres targeting Afghan’s Shi’ite Muslim population.

Noori … a senior Taliban military figure … was asked personally in 1995 by Osama bin Laden to participate in an offensive against northern alliance warlord Rashid Dostum.

Khairkhwa, a former Taliban governor of Herat, was …a likely heroin trafficker”, believed to have “participated in meetings with Iranian officials after 9-11 to help plot attacks on U.S. forces following the invasion.

Nabi … helped organize the al Qaeda/Taliban militias that fought against U.S. and coalition troops in the first year of the war…

Only Wasiq seems a comparative lightweight.

Wasig was a deputy minister of intelligence who turned. Pentagon sources say that he was holding out information he had on other top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders during interrogations.”

These Pentagon-sourced accounts were first published by The Daily Beast. LINK –

These five men are to be afoot; and very ugly things will come of their release.  Moreover, the bargain itself creates a perverse and deadly incentive to take more American soldiers prisoner.

…A paradox is presented.…But the paradox has one appropriate solution: 

Track and kill the worst four of the released terror leaders. Do it soon, and do it very visibly.

I look for a tougher America, the “Jack Bauer America” that I can only imagine, the one where the administration recognizes that we are still at war against a deadly set of enemies, the one where we routinely treat thuggish acts against our people with the craft and ruthlessness appropriate to grave threats in time of war, the one where we act with the cold realism appropriate to a war to the death that must win.

This is what that USA would have done:

Before the release of Fazl, Noori, Wasiq, Khairkhwa, and Nabi, each man would have been anesthetized, surgically implanted with a tracking device, given an amnesia-inducing psychotropic; then bathed, shaved and dressed up, awakening in a hotel room.  Only then are they handed over in a trade for the imprisoned American Army Sergeant.

The moment that our man is released, the worst four of the released Taliban leaders (excluding only Wasig) are assassinated at the earliest practicable moment. 


Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, attorney at law


Website –

Author site –

Circulate this piece freely, but only with full attribution.


[1] I am aware that there are pending concerns about the circumstances of Sgt. Bergdahl’s capture – as it was away from his unit – but I am not prepared to join the carping voices about “desertion” for two reasons: (1) the matter has not been investigated; (2) this young man was one of us – there is absolutely no intimation that Sgt. Bergdahl changed sides, an allegation that is absurd on its face.  We can trust the military to make this assessment.  My question is this: If he wandered off base, should we and his fellow soldiers have abandoned him? The answer is never. The Christian parable of the prodigal son is apt.

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On The Policy Think Site –


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.”

[  ]

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 < >.

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:

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It’s About the Bravery

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 -

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Book Release

9781771680127covGABRIEL’S STAND

The new novel by Jay B Gaskill

Ecological chaos and political instability open the way to a government takeover by environmental extremists. A political movement, having begun in Europe, seeks the assistance of radical American environmental lawyers. A stealth path to power is hatched, exploiting a backdoor in the US Constitution, the treaty clause of Article Six.  A ratified treaty can legally grant an international agency the authority to issue edicts that will govern American life as the “supreme law of the land.”  The “Earth Restoration Treaty” will empower a super-agency to license “dangerous” technologies – where licensing necessarily includes selective prohibition. The “dangerous” technologies are to include essential antibiotics. As the opportunity for a stealth coup d’état is at hand, the movement’s darkest agenda (radical human depopulation) is kept hidden from the useful fools in the “Earth Restoration” movement. The popular Native American Senator, Gabriel Standing Bear Lindstrom, will make a final stand, and then….





Apple on iTunes Books – Search “Jay B Gaskill”


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The Case for Tough Vetting

A Brief for the Next Perilous 30 Years

By Jay B Gaskill

Facing Reality about Political Leaders


In the 2008 campaign for president, candidate Hillary Clinton, Senator from New York, complained that candidate Barack Obama, Senator from Illinois, had not been vetted. In the famous campaign television ad for Senator Clinton, the audience was asked in effect – When an emergency phone call for the President comes in at 3 AM, do you really want Barack Obama at the receiving end?

After a full first term and partway into the president’s second term, most democratic politicians facing reelection contests fervently wish that their POTUS nominee had been vetted. For that matter, a majority of Americans now wish that Governor Romney had been elected in 2012.  Hillary’s question is timely.

In this article, I address three related questions:

[1]   Where did all the vetting go? 

[2]   If a vetting procedure were put in place now, would candidate Hillary still want to be vetted?

[3]   What can we do about it now?

Several decades ago, the two major parties conducted vetting in private, picking their nominees in the smoke filled room.  The smoke is gone, and the primary system seems to have eliminated any real vetting, smoke or no smoke.

This now appears to be a serious mistake.

The next thirty years will be rough going for our nation and the world at large. As an optimist, I would much prefer three decades of peace and prosperity, starting with 2014.  But we cannot resign from the world and be forever immune from its troubles and disruptions lest that fate puts us in Hamlet’s place, facing that ultimate question: to be or not to be. This 21st century of the question asks us whether we will be true to our legacy as the world’s best hope, or not. …In the Danish prince’s words, are we, as a nation, to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or [are we] to take arms against a sea of troubles. In either scenario, troubles will find us, whether we are prepared or unprepared.

Even optimists like me must admit that this country will face harrowing perils and challenges in the next three decades. We will need extraordinary leadership. Whether we thrive or submerge will be up to us and to the leaders we select.

We have been living for decades with retail politics, the arrangement where favors from the governing class are bartered for support.

This now appears to be a serious mistake.

Retail politics generates a new gaggle of unexceptional, underwhelming leader-wannabes in every election cycle. Whether another Churchill or FDR lurks among them is impossible for an ordinary voter to discern. In this article I name names, describe three neglected or discounted vital policy issues that inadequate or misguided leadership will fail to address in time. And without proactive, forward-looking leadership in all three of these problem areas, reality will bite us…hard.

I then describe some of the important characteristics of the kinds of leaders we should be looking for; and make the case for a leader vetting process.

After several decades, retail politics has left us with a legacy of squandered resources, bestowed on insatiable interest groups while starving the essential functions we depend on government to perform. You don’t have to be a conservative to realize that government is overextended and that, among the pernicious consequences, government is not performing its core functions very well at all.

Why? Retail politics is mostly about two things, both of which are designed to perpetuate a political catering class:

  1. Identification with trends, ideas, ideologies or interest groups that will draw support in the coming election cycle;
  2. The avoidance of accountability for failures in the last election cycle.

Retail politics is almost never about proactively implementing the common sense, practical solutions for our really fundamental problems (like preventing drought) because these problems require heavy lifting over several election cycles. To a typical retail politician, the task of really addressing the mundane, but essential tasks on which our actual day-to-day life as a country depends is perpetually postponable. Boutique issues will crowd out the really important ones; coalitions of hot micro-concerns will trump complacent majorities. A tendency to scandalous waste on the small issues at the expense of the large, long term ones is baked into the interest group-political class relationship that retail politics has evolved to perpetuate. We will need leaders who are willing and able to balance this tendency.

The tendency to squander immense resources on really big causes did not begin with the single-term presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson, but it reached a certain dizzy level of excess when LBJ squandered a vast fortune, several former administrations worth, on two wars – one, on poverty and one, against the Vietnamese communists; and lost them both.

Flash forward to the current administration.  When our new president threw another fortune at green energy projects, leaving a trail of bankrupt energy companies in its wake, and the US energy supply was not measurably better than before. This was LBJ Lite on the energy side. But when the same administration’s total cause-driven spending (saving Detroit, the crippled auto industry, re-inflating the housing bubble, bailing out favored banks and financial institutions) are taken into account, the dollar cost of WWII (which saved Western Civilization) almost looks like a bargain.

Typical retail politics nurtures pretend leadership- sharply focused on posturing, positioning and patronage. Real leadership can be dangerous to one’s career path.

But without long-term focus on core issues, and the timely breakthrough of authentic leadership willing to take on real problems with practical solutions, our fragile lifeline to survival is unnecessarily placed at risk. Neglected long term problems have a way of becoming fatal crises, taking front stage only when it is too late to head them off.

Why doesn’t retail politics produce better leaders?

The answer should be evident from a thought experiment:  List the well-known leaders who are capable of generating and sustaining support for the common sense, practical solutions that can solve the really fundamental problems on which our actual day-to-day life as a country depends. Having trouble with that list? Thinking of drafting someone?

Real leaders are never drafted. They draft themselves. 

Among the serious challenges that the USA will face a number over the next three decades, I have identified three core problem areas that cannot be neglected without severe penalties.  And if history is any guide, there will be other major additional challenges to catch us unprepared.

A second thought experiment: Assume that X, a leader-in-waiting, discovers that a large meteor will strike the Midwest US in 2021 with sufficient destructive force to kill a million people and destroy agricultural production in five key states for a decade. That disaster would trump all the other pending issues in the USA between now and then. Many of the solutions, like an orderly evacuation and major reinvestments in agricultural production outside the destruction zone, are common sense. But would we really prepare? How often do we heed our prophets?  An all too likely outcome: X is discredited for apocalyptic panic-mongering. In a follow-up account, “Rogue meteor destroys Midwest,” X is never mentioned.

After decades of apocalyptic rhetoric about global warming (now amended to climate change), and similar rhetoric about public indebtedness, (now amended to looming public debt default), why has little or no effective action has taken place? The “cry wolf” syndrome and the accumulation of false prophets has made reasonable people wary of being prematurely herded into unpleasant actions. If the immediate cost of avoiding a predicted disaster is relatively minor, then reasonable people can agree to a prevention program – not necessarily because they are convinced of the dark prophetic warnings, but because they are hedging their bets.

Consider two examples:

[1. ] Churchill’s pre-World War II warnings about the menace of Hitler’s Germany (before he became Prime Minister) were ignored. His leadership was accepted only when the threat became radically real.

[ 2.]  FDR’s second campaign in 1936 was as a peace-loving leader: “I hate war, and I know that the Nation hates war” and Today there is war and rumor of war. We want none of it. But while we guard our shores against threats of war, we will continue to remove the causes of unrest and antagonism at home which might make our people easier victims to those for whom foreign war is profitable. You know well that those who stand to profit by war are not on our side in this campaign.” This pre-election election speech in Madison Square Garden was made during the very year when Hitler’s intent to ravage Europe was blatantly apparent.  FDR’s national security leadership emerged only when the threat to the USA became radically real.

Roosevelt proved that he had the chops as a wartime leader; he was adaptable. We easily could have had a political hack.


It is unreasonable to expect our elected leaders to be prophets. But we can expect them to demonstrate a future-oriented perspective, and to have a track record of character, adaptability and effective leadership before we trust them with key positions of power.

In the long term, reality has a vote, too, and there always comes a day when some things are suddenly more important than charm, glibness and rock-star charisma:  Things like morally-anchored realism, like distaste for ideologues, and the capacity to rise to a new challenge and adapt.

Firm, morally-grounded principles (rooted in the ethos of the American founding) always trump ideology. Character always trumps moralistic pronouncements.  Nothing less than the sum of moral and personal virtues we call character will do for those we are to trust with our really critical leadership positions, like POTUS. But a character assessment has not been a distinct part of the POTUS selection/election process in the memory of anyone now alive.

Character is not the sum of one’s declared positions. Character’s presence or absence is revealed in the quality of one’s actions and decisions under pressure. We can know someone as a friend for years, but it’s only when we are in crisis that friendship is tested.  Character is the same. It can be initially “installed” during our upbringing, but whether character has truly been instilled remains to be tested by life.

The parent’s lament, “we brought him/her up to be better than that,” reminds us that the lessons on which character is founded can be only taught, as by parents, mentors & teachers.  But character, itself, is forged by life’s challenges.  This is why a leader’s character should have been tested before he or she assumes power.  Cleverness and charisma tend to show up before character is formed and tested.

Voters who just assume a candidate is a person of character place the country at great risk.




Starting now, we need to form a coalition of reasonable, practical women and men that will stand together, demanding that credible private institutions be tasked to vet our key potential leaders before they get a grip on power. This is the NEVER AGAIN! VETTING PROJECT.

The vetting process is not just for negatives like potential scandal. Vetting is for the essential positives: character, reasonableness, principled realism, attention to the essential, long term issues on which survival depends, and the capacity for adaptability.

Vetting is the means to impartially and truthfully inform the rest of us before some charismatic fool (lacking in character, reasonableness, principled realism, attention to the essential, long term issues on which survival depends, and without the capacity for adaptability), gets a firm hold on power.

In the vetting process, fervent ideologues of the left and right may need to be placated, but must never be allowed to govern the selection process of our most critically important leaders. Ideologues tend to be blind about character, reasonableness, the capacity for adaptability, principled realism, as long as the candidate is “one of us”. Even if a candidate say he or she will pay attention to the long term issues on which our very survival depends, good intentions will not matter if a leader lacks the character to do the hard thing.

The vetting process should be tough, objective but confidential at the front end, so that potential leaders can participate without the risk of unnecessary embarrassment.  The much criticized smoke filled room process quietly weeded out problem candidates without publically destroying them. But the vetting process must be fully transparent at the release end, exposing the flaws, lapses or inadequacies of wannabe leaders who choose to charge forward without regard to the vetting process.

Ideally, the vetting would be done within each major political party in a more principled version of the “smoke filled room”.  But history teaches that in the overheated primary process our much-weakened party hierarchies are not capable of aggressive vetting (except possibly for the absence of scandals that would endanger electability).

In an important Op Ed in the New York Times, David Brooks praises the latest campaign contribution limitation case by the Supreme Court (eliminating limits for wealthy donors who want to contribute to political parties).   In my opinion, this may strengthen the candidate vetting power of the two parties (a point not addressed the Brooks’ piece). Here are some pull quotes:

“Over the last several decades, the United States has adopted a series of campaign finance reform laws. If these laws were designed to reduce the power of money in politics, they have failed. Spending on political campaigns has exploded. Washington booms with masses of lobbyists and consultants.

“But campaign finance laws weren’t merely designed to take money out of politics; they were designed to protect incumbents from political defeat. In this regard, the laws have been fantastically successful.”

“The McCutcheon decision is a rare win for the parties. It enables party establishments to claw back some of the power that has flowed to donors and “super PACs.” It effectively raises the limits on what party establishments can solicit. It gives party leaders the chance to form joint fund-raising committees they can use to marshal large pools of cash and influence. McCutcheon is a small step back toward a party-centric system.

“In their book ‘Better Parties, Better Government,’ Peter J. Wallison and Joel M. Gora propose the best way to reform campaign finance: eliminate the restrictions on political parties to finance the campaigns of their candidates; loosen the limitations on giving to parties; keep the limits on giving to PACs.

“Parties are not perfect, Lord knows. But they have broad national outlooks. They foster coalition thinking. They are relatively transparent. They are accountable to voters. They ally with special interests, but they transcend the influence of any one.”

{LINK: }

However the vetting evaluation processes of potential leaders are structured, the ultimate election process requires a critical mass of informed voters. And this means that the vetting results need to be credible and widely circulated.

This is why we must develop bipartisan vetting entities whose principal power lies in their investigative credibility, access to the media and the ultimate trustworthiness of their recommendations and cautions.   Our very survival may well depend on public education and electoral accountability.  I recognize that this is a culture change. It will not spontaneously appear like the spring flowers. It will start with coalitions of reasonable minds who are willing to set aside partisan differences and tune down the ideological rhetoric. 

It will start with us.

I have referred to turbulent decades ahead. Most of the conflicts and solutions will revolve around three problem categories (see the discussion Re Energy, National Security and Water below). It is critical that the vetting discussions go beyond the immediate politics of the moment. All leaders assume elected office in the context of the short term issues de jure but also in the looming shadow of the vital, long-term public policy issues. Both categories need to be given equal weight in assessing a leader’s readiness and suitability.  The following section identifies the three principal long-term problem areas that, in my personal opinion, will require strong, realistic political and policy leadership over the next three challenging decades.


The Big Three Problem Categories for 2014 – 2044:



Why is not global warming on this short list? …Because the decisive issue will not be climate change as such, but our capacity to quickly adapt to climate change together with a host of related problems, all of which take us back to one critical inflection point: Whatever happens with world climate, the USA will need a robust, secure, dependable and abundant energy supply to cope with it.

I am a climate realist. To describe oneself as a “climate change believer” is social code for someone who has gone all-in on the conventional wisdom that the planet is warming up at a dangerous rate, and that modern human activity, almost certainly our production of CO2, is the driving cause. Every contrary view is dismissed as “climate change denial”, a mindset that is seen as equivalent to the flat earth fringe.  There is an underlying – and unexamined – premise lurking here: that climate control is a proper subject of public policy. A caution flag: If/when we humans really do attain the ability to control climate on a large scale, the resulting political disputes are very likely to ignite world war.

Many of us in both political parties find ourselves in the climate realism camp. This implies robust skepticism about climate control measures. Large scale climate change is – thankfully – well outside the power of ordinary human political institutions to alter or control…for now.

Were it otherwise, we will be living in the shadow of world war, because there can be no worldwide consensus about which region gets to take the short end of the climate stick.

Climate realists also acknowledge both: the 70 year trend of warming; and the recent multi- year warming pause. Realists tend to place the last century’s overall record of warming (the fine grained accuracy of aggregate world temperatures decreases with time) in the reasonably suggestive, but not in the conclusive, discussion is over category.




[1]   The Ruddiman Hypothesis: Most readers will not have heard of it. Dr. William F. Ruddiman is a respected paleoclimatologist with unquestioned credentials and experience. He has posed the “early anthropocene” hypothesis, the theory that greenhouse gasses from human activity that started about 8,000 years ago from land use changes like deforestation and farming activities of our early ancestors that have changed the natural pattern of periodic climate change. Absent human activity, in Ruddiman’s analysis, we would have otherwise been in an incipient ice age.  Ruddiman and many other scientists believe that global cooling periods and ice ages are mostly caused by sunlight heating reductions due to natural variations in the Earth’s orbit known as Milankovitch cycles. Ruddiman’s overdue-glaciation hypothesis holds that that an incipient ice age would normally have started thousands of years ago, but  was forestalled by the activities of early farmers, and only more recently by industrial activity. Professor Ruddiman’s theory  may prove correct, in full or part, or not at all. But there is about as much evidence to support Ruddiman’s view (that global warming is saving us from an ice age) as the conventional climate wisdom (i.e., that human industrial development, especially the CO2 emissions, have caused the warming observed from1900 through 1990).


[2]   The new warming pause: Many readers have not heard about the still-unexplained current warming “pause.”  But the data are real and difficult to explain because CO2 emissions have continued to increase substantially during the same period. See the March 8th 2014 Economist article, “Who pressed the pause button? The slowdown in rising temperatures over the past 15 years goes from being unexplained to overexplained”, at . Also see the January 14th 2014 NATURE article, Climate change: The case of the missing heatSixteen years into the mysterious ‘global-warming hiatus’, scientists are piecing together an explanation, at .


There are other recent reports. Explanations proliferate. The conventional wisdom continues to command front stage. And the pause may be continuing…or possibly not.  NASA has reported that 2013 may be a warming blip (See  ). Is the resumption of warming after a decade and a half? The same report cautions to not put too much stock in year-on-year changes, suggesting that decade-on-decade changes are more significant.




Prudent policy emphasizes adaptation, for the simple reason that: (a) if the conventional wisdom holds, the Chinese greenhouse gas output alone guarantees that the effects of warming will need to be addressed for the foreseeable future; or (b) if we really are in for a major cooling period, the even more dangerous effects, especially on agriculture (as in mass starvation) will need to be quickly addressed.

In other words, we obviously will need to put more time, thought and resources into adaptation to changing conditions on earth, whatever the cause

It seems obvious that prudent policy would have us invest in a primary energy source that works well whether we are headed into a super-tropical period or an ice age, or a mix of the two.  But that primary energy source is not easily found among the current “green” energy sources, particularly solar and wind. The two most popular “green” energy sources, wind and solar, cannot reliably fulfill our cooling, heating and transportation needs for 365 days, 24 hours even if they were quantitatively sufficient, because they are seasonal and sporadic. Until or unless battery/energy storage achieves a so-far elusive breakthrough, both sources run out at moments of critical need.  And in any case they are not even close to filling more than a fraction of the total energy demand.

Few respectable green energy advocate care to argue that the “green” energy sources in their current stages of development can be much more than supplementary during the next thirty years. So, purists insist that the energy gap is to be filled by reduced consumption. The prospect that we must stop relying on the traditional combustion sources like oil, bio diesel and natural gas, invites the American public to elect to endure chronic energy insufficiency for the “greater good”. But accepting energy starvation as the “new normal” will be unacceptable now and for the future for the vast majority of Americans.

Dinner invitation from a leper

America’s energy needs demand that we rapidly exploit our cleanest carbon-based fuels in the near-term (natural gas sources, extracted with as little environmental damage as practicable), while using that revenue and time to develop the nuclear-electric option in the mid-term.  Miracles are for the long term. Meantime we already had working atomic power technologies. But nuclear power is the rich leper of our time whose invitation to dinner will be rejected until the prospective quests are among the starving. The irony here is that the leprosy has been cured, at least among the developed countries using the latest technologies.  The second irony is that atomic power is an American invention that is now aggressively being pursued by the Chinese.

Few Americans are aware that generation three nuclear reactors are designed for passive safe shutdowns. Few have been made aware that the negative health and accident impacts of up-to-date nuclear technology are far less than the effects of coal, oil and natural gas based energy sources. Few have considered that the US nuclear arsenal could be converted to an energy supply system that would provide for all our foreseeable energy needs for the next thousand years.

We talk about swords into plowshares.  This conversion is real.

Very few Americans know that the nuclear waste disposal problem can be – and has been – solved by using a combination of three technological developments, coupled with military level security:

  1. Vitrification technology ( ) is the process in which encasing mid and low level waste is in a form of glass, effectively removes the leakage issues and allows for lower cost, low impact storage, much as we already safely manage medical radiological waste now.
  2. The active recycling of spent fissile fuels through reprocessing of fuel rods is a form of active storage-in-use. (See )
  3. Technologies that employ low level atomic waste to generate useful heat, without initiating a full-on nuclear reaction are being actively explored, tested and promoted by public minded entrepreneurs like Bill Gates.

No energy source is risk free, but so far few of us are willing to weigh comparative risks. For example, the peacetime use of nuclear energy to generate power has killed fewer people than oil production related mishaps, and “traditional’ air pollution has reportedly killed seven million people in one year. {See }

In spite of the prevalent anti-nuclear propaganda, an increasing number of Americans have been made aware that nuclear energy can be green.  Among the original founders of Greenpeace, environmentalist Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist, supports nuclear energy as our primary, rational green option. The peaceful uses of nuclear power are immensely promising and do not require any new technological breakthroughs, just the application of traditional economic strategies, like standardization and mass production with the kind of tight safety and security measures that are used for medical radiation and for U. S. Naval reactors at sea.

In addition to the overhyped “leprosy” issue, there are very legitimate security issues: The use of fissile materials for routine energy use raises security concerns over theft or misappropriation for weapons’ use.  While lower enrichment grades of uranium are useful for power generation, higher grades are also useful for making bombs. Routine civilian security measures will probably not be enough to reassure an nervous electorate. And this frames the political paralysis problem that any constructive energy leader will have to face in the next 30 years.

The US Navy (with its nuclear powered fleet of vessels) has solved the security issue, by using proven technology combined with old-fashioned discipline.

{See – and  and  }

The security of nuclear fuel under the control of the US military suggests an obvious solution: Adopt a system in which all fissile material reasonably capable of weaponization as nuclear explosives can only be utilized by the US civilian sector conditionally; that such materials will be owned, leased, secured and controlled by the military while licensed for civilian use under direct military security.[1]

The nuclear energy problem illustrates the nature of a leadership challenge: This is the kind political conflict typical of the type that eventually yields to enlightened and skilled leadership.

But timing is everything.  The safe, standardized nuclear technology is tested and ready, but not manufactured.  One model, being pursued by Toshiba is a modular design – a small, mass-produced reactor, the kind that can be buried, then power a mid-sized city, needing little attention for a decade at a time.

While developing a safe and reliable nuclear-electric power infrastructure, the country’s energy needs (and major revenue source) will be met by domestic natural gas, using state of the art extraction and conversion technologies.  This is a bridge solution, pending the time when 90% of the US energy consumption starts and ends with reliable, secure, clean nuclear power centers.  As the transition to nuclear proceeds, more and more of the US natural gas production is exported.


When the desirability and necessity of “green nuclear” programs becomes more apparent, and the non-nuclear solutions, like windmills, appear insufficient, it will come down to a stark choice between even more combustion-based sources, as in fracking, drilling and digging; energy deprivation, vs. energy abundance through a robust nuclear power economy which will allow the combustion-based sources tp be phased out.

How will astute leaders find the zone of compromise? A super-majority of contemporary liberals can be expected to object to the proposed level of military involvement, while a smaller majority will remain too nervous about the “nuclear thing”. Conservatives, who typically support the military, can be expected to object to the socialist nature of a government owned and controlled energy source, no matter how cheap and safe it might turn out to be.

But the long term merits of nuclear energy, clean, safe and reliable, will prevail. While the threshold monetary investment may be higher than fracking for additional natural gas, the ultimate energy costs will drop with mass production and standardization of the reactors, utilization of existing fuels, creative power generating centers, the productive lifetime of which will be measured in decades, allowing the costs to be amortized.

The task of real leadership is to move at the appropriate time, with the necessary courage to bring about reasonable, practical solutions by bridging the kinds of political impasses just described. It will be done because it must be done.



This country will not survive the next thirty years as a beacon of constitutional liberty if it continues to attempt to operate with a gutted military capability that, on a time-adjusted scale, is reminiscent of the antiquated and anemic forces of pre-WW II USA. Given the accelerated pace of modern conflicts, a belated buildup in the manner of post-Pearl Harbor America will eventually be too little, too late, a case of fatal tardiness.  A more stable defense baseline, aggressively modernized, will require a secure funding mechanism and a highly professional military.


The recent aggressive moves by Russia in the former Soviet-ruled Eastern European countries; China’s intimidation excursions in the Pacific region; and Iran’s duplicitous boldness as it gets closer to nuclear bomb capability, are just the early warning signs: This is a preview of  how much more dangerous the world will be like if America’s military remains in a weakened state.

It was no coincidence that the last major wars were preceded by the perceived military weakness of key players.

It is – or should be – axiomatic that power vacuums are opportunistically filled by bullies.

The European reliance on “soft power” belongs to the “use a gun, go to your room” school of child rearing. For at least the next thirty years, America will need an adult foreign policy backed by armed forces sufficient to deter and intimidate the world’s bullies.

Again the solution is readily explained, but its implementation will require leadership.  During the recent budget deficit disputes in the Beltway, Social Security was essentially off the table.  While Social Security reform is inevitable, its dramatic hollowing out, of the kind that the sequester limitations have visited on the US military, is not going to take place for the SSI program.  Why not? Because there is a well-established funding mechanism in the form of a stable payroll tax that generated a stable revenue stream for Social Security.  …But not for defense.

The Defense underfunding problem can be solved in a similar fashion, by utilizing a stable taxing mechanism resulting in a stable, sufficient revenue stream.  For example (the numbers are used for illustration purposes only), the US military budget baseline could be met with a single flat tax on all adjusted gross income, say, of 3.5%. By contrast, the Social Security tax is visibly levied at 6.2% on an individual payroll, and invisibly levied at the same rate, 6.2% on employers (12.4% for self-employed).  But because the Social Security program promises a defined benefit at a defined age, the 12.4% tax is more readily accepted than a “peacetime, war-prevention” tax would be. Even though most taxpayers are already paying for military protection via different – and less stable taxing mechanisms, a military-related tax presents political obstacles.

Any leader who tackles this must address the mistrust of government institutions problem, and the popular tendency to ignore or deny threats until they are painfully close at hand. Again, the task of real leadership is to move at the appropriate time, with the necessary courage to bring about reasonable, practical solutions by bridging the political impasses of the moment.



FOOD might have been chosen as the critical issue, but the main discussion would still have been about the supply of water, both potable water and water suitable for crop irrigation. Water is and will remain one of the vitally important public policy issues of the century.


Regional drought is in the news again.  Yes, there are subtext issues – about the great Southwest population migrations, the Arizona and Nevada golf courses and swimming pools, the diversion of the water supplies from sources further west and so on.  But the core issues remain the same: water for agricultural production and pure water immediate personal uses, like drinking and bathing. Any rational water policy puts these two uses first; and any rational public policy puts affordable water access as a top priority.


[1]   There will always be droughts…somewhere.

[2]   All water shortages are local in the sense that there always is surplus water, often in the form of flooding, somewhere else.

[3]   Most water issues – other than those concerned with purity and potability – are about the water capture and storage infrastructure.

[4]   With planning and appropriate allocation of resources, water shortages can and should be prevented – because the alternative may be mass migration.

Snow capture is a very important piece for large regions of the USA because there is no robust runoff capture infrastructure for ordinary rain that is currently in place in most of the USA.  California is a a case in point. That state still has ample rainfall, overall, to serve its agricultural needs, but the reservoir and flow capture system is mostly keyed to the localized snow runoff. The dry coastal region, now overpopulated with water users, is another matter, and the water insufficiency problem is beginning to resemble come Middle East coastal desert regions where oil money pays for expensive desalinization.

This essay is not the place for a detailed discussion of all the complex water infrastructure issues. But the takeaway point is clear:

Few if any of the current drought problems in the USA are insoluble, given the application of energy-intensive technology. In a hypothetical, high-tech future where safe nuclear (or source X) energy is widely available, abundant and reasonably inexpensive, massive desalinization and interstate projects suddenly will become feasible.

Again, the task of real leadership is to move at the appropriate time, with the necessary courage to bring about reasonable, practical solutions by bridging the political impasses of the moment. At the retail politics level, water policy is about regional and functional allocation priorities. But at the long term leadership policy level it is about the technologies and infrastructure investments that will dramatically reduce the political conflicts by producing overall abundance.

This is why the question of core policy leadership comes full circle to the question of energy, which in turn may depend on the intelligent use of security resources. But the problem of identifying the right leader for the time depends on intangibles that include the character of the times in question, and the characters of the prospective leaders.



Promising leaders get elected on the basis of promises, but authentic leaders are selected from those who first self-identify as leaders-in-fact, having credible track records of accomplishments.

Character, the sine qua non of a trustworthy leader, is not established by mere pronouncements, no matter how eloquent.  Character is demonstrated by real world decisions and actions under duress.

Retail politicians tend to issue promising platitudes, as in “We need a better energy policy”; “I favor national security”; and “We should not neglect the water issue”.  But credible policies from credible leaders begin with detailed, practical measures, competent staff work and realistic plans for implementation.

The political leaders that the USA will need over the next three decades will come with a declared vision, developed policies, competent staff and track records from government and the private sector that clearly demonstrate that they are serious players. They will be real world, and real time adaptive leaders. They may be strong conservatives or strong liberals, but they will not be ideologues.

The leaders we will need over the next three decades may vary in their approaches on a number of issues and policies, but they will have one perspective in common: They will be champions of:

  • abundance over privation;
  • security over surrender;
  • human lives over non-human lives or faux-living machines;
  • personal dignity over bureaucracies;
  • Human judgment over algorithms.

The single most revealing arena for a prospective American president to have demonstrated the relevant leadership skills is the governorship of a large state that includes at least one major urban center and contains enough ex-urban and rural territory to expose its leaders to the agricultural and other problems and emergencies that demand hands-on attention.[2]

The most significant lapse in otherwise qualified leaders who seek the highest executive office is the absence of loyal, competent staff support.

The higher the position, the larger the staff required. Dwight Eisenhower, having accumulated competent, staff and staff contacts from coordinating the vast Allied military forces of WW II, and Ronald Reagan, coming from a two term governorship of a major state, each arrived with presidential caliber staff support by swearing-in day.  Bill Clinton, a politically talented governor from a small state, had a difficult time in his first term in part because too many key staff positions went unfilled for too long.

The staff demands – and by extension the executive leadership demands on each succeeding presidency are increasing. The current president, a first term junior senator from a mid-sized state, arrived with a small clique of community activists with ideological connections to other activists.

There are several reasons to reject leaders with too ideological an approach to governance, among them the inability to engage in fruitful dialogue with the opposition, and that ideology unnecessarily limits the universe of competent, patriotic staffers to a smaller clique of true believers.

Moreover, the really big issues, like food, water, security, energy can only be addressed by leaders who are comfortable and capable of working past ideological blinders to get agreements and cooperation on the available practical solutions.

At present – March 25, 2014, there are at a number of potentially viable candidates for President of the United States. Of these there are six governors with name recognition outside their respective states and two of them who haven’t yet advanced past the hesitant debutant stage.



We are living through a period in which much better vetting of POTUS candidates (assuming any vetting took place at all) could well have saved the country from some very bad leadership decisions and damaging policy lapses.  The fact that internal vetting is not taking place (or is overcome by ideological blindness) is a grave problem, one that needs to be quickly addressed, whether publically or privately.

What would a POTUS vetting process look like?

The notion of MQ analysis (minimum job qualifications) is relatively straightforward. For example, a hypothetical vetting group might rule out all the senators (who did not otherwise serve in an executive role anywhere) on grounds of “insufficient executive experience” (leaving them open for the second position on the ticket).

Established public figures present a special vetting problem because of an assumption that he or she has already been vetted.  But this is often not the case. For example, most vetting groups would likely give a pass to Mrs. Clinton, unless her results were to be deeply confidential and directed only to party leaders.  For an established public figure like Hillary Clinton, only something really problematic, like participating in a cover up of the Benghazi matter, or some highly embarrassing personal scandal, would likely see the light of day.

Yet this is exactly the situation in which such a vetting process is crucial because something as proven executive ability is a crucial MQ for the top executive position in US government. 

I use Hillary Clinton’s situation to call attention to the problems inherent in any private vetting body that depends for its credibility on a reputation for integrity. Cases like hers – figures that most voters know fairly well, among them a core group of passionate supporters – can distort the vetting process.  In our hypothetical Hillary Clinton example, a vetting entity that discovers real problems might elect to avoid any endorsement, while also declining to make any outright disqualification.

For this and other reasons, we will probably need a two-tiered vetting process, one private, directed at the movers and shakers in each party that pulls no punches, and another one, a more a measured report for the public, something on the order of a consumer rating score.[3] Especially where sensitive character issues are involved, a preliminary report, hard hitting and candid, must go confidentially to the respective party leaders (and to the candidate for rebuttal) before any nomination.

When significant scandal and/or serious character flaws are uncovered and the party leaders insist on ignoring them, the vetting entity might choose to release a public version with the relevant reports summarized, assigned a provisional credibility rating, and leave the rest to the press.

Many political leaders I know, some of whom have spoken candidly off the record in recent years, are well acquainted with the vetting problem; and are equally aware of the needed solution, much as it is outlined here.  This is not a problem in rocket science, but one in political courage. The mice are in danger and no one wants to bell the cat.




Not everyone is in the field yet, but here is the list of the credible declared and undeclared candidates, as it appears in April 2014:

Jerry Brown**, governor of California (1075-1983 and 2011-present)

Jeb Bush*, former governor of Florida (1999-2007)

Andrew Cuomo, current governor of New York State (2011-present)

Chris Christie, New Jersey governor (2009-present)

Bobby Jindal*, Louisiana governor (2008-present)

Rick Perry*, former governor of Texas (2000-2013)

Mitt Romney#, former governor of Massachusetts (2002-2006)

Scott Walker*, governor of Wisconsin (2011- present)

…………………………….and the non-governors………………………………………………………

Former New York Senator and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton*

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky*

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida*

Vice President Joe Biden#

[* not yet in // ** really not in // # in, but a second tier nominee]

Are there any current candidates who might not survive a tough vetting process? Yes. On the democratic side, I have omitted fringe candidates for whom vetting in this cycle is probably unnecessary.

But we must not ignore that Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy has thrown up some red flags. Note the stories about her temperament and certain potential “character” issues, especially those in the cover-up and denial category.

Granted, a new, untried vetting entity striving to maintain a reputation for impartiality would be understandably reluctant to “DQ” Mrs. Clinton. On the republican side, Senator Rand Paul would rate low in any vetting, at least in my opinion, because the Senator has little significant executive experience, and presents a too-narrow ideological stance.

Both parties now seem to be relying exclusively on the primary system and the campaign process to sort out the unqualified and inappropriate potential leaders. Hillary Clinton’s campaign operatives, for example, fed negative information about Mr. Obama to GOP operatives and friends at Fox who then refused to use the information. It seems that one cannot safely leave the vetting process even to one’s campaign opponents. Any vetting process will be criticized by the fans of those it disfavors.  This is why the character of those investigating and analyzing sensitive candidate vetting information must be above approach.

The investigative phase of the vetting process might be arranged to resemble the “devil’s advocate” role in pre-beatification investigations conducted by the Vatican.



A Tale of Two Governors:

Chris Christie (NJ) and Bobby Jindal (LA): One is an Indian American with degrees in biology, public policy and a masters’ degree in political science, a social conservative, popular republican in a traditionally democratic state; one is a lawyer who served as a US attorney, a social liberal republican in a traditionally democratic state. On the merits, both are well qualified executives, but only one has been taken seriously.  What is strange about this picture?

Christie is an improbable rock star and Jindal is not.  Any USDA who is a local New Jersey boy with the physique of a Sumo wrestler (or a Howard Taft), and has the chutzpa to take on organized crime in his own state, has the makings of a leader.  Flash forward: Christie is elected governor, takes on the vested interests and moves the state into a more responsible fiscal position; then he attracts significant GOP backing for a presidential run.  Then some of his staff members are caught out misusing state authority to impede rush hour traffic on a bridge in order to punish an uncooperative elected official from the other party.  Shades of tricky Dick Nixon…or high school level pranks? Neither scenario sounds very “presidential.” The staff members were summarily sacked. Governor Christie denies being part of the scheme, and so far no evidence has surfaced to the contrary.

Meantime, Jindal is considered a marginal candidate for POTUS. His state is considered less important, his national standing is thin. Governor Christie is naturally aggressive and charming and New Jersey is in the Eastern seaboard media market.  Jindal is a very plausible policy-directed candidate, but for the “money people” it’s all about perceived electability.

In my opinion, both governors would benefit from a forma vetting process: Jindal’s visibility would increase; Christie’s “scandal” would be downgraded; and any lingering health concerns about Governor Christie’s obesity problem would be allayed…or not.

Story pending…

Jerry Brown is former Governor of California, and the current comeback Governor of California, the two terms of service separated by a generation. In the 1970’s Brown governed as a parsimonious liberal who, in his second term advocated spending the very large state surplus to launch an earth satellite, thus earning the New Age sobriquet, “Governor Moonbeam.” I met with former governor Brown when he was the mayor of the City of Oakland to discuss the crime problem. I then found him to be a recovering leftist who had seen the light where law and order issues were concerned. His service as mayor was budget conscious, business development centered and pro-law enforcement. When he ran for governor – his current position – it was as a fiscal conservative with liberal street cred.  He defeated Meg Whitman; and then did a more effective job convincing his fellow democrats to take many of the fiscal measures that Whitman advocated and former governor Schwarzenegger failed to accomplish. Much of Brown’s transformation is simply due to maturity, but the sea change began with connection to Anne Gust (they married in 2005 after many years together). Gust is a tough minded, level headed corporate lawyer and business woman.

[Personal note: I would love to see Jerry Brown enter the democratic race for POTUS and deny Hillary Clinton the nomination. Of course, I have no inside knowledge about this whatsoever.]

Andrew Cuomo has a solid record as Governor of New York. As a democrat who inherited a large deficit, he has demonstrated the ability to work with republicans; and has managed to get and keep the state’s fiscal status in the black, irritating public employee unions in the process.  Then Cuomo seemed to gratuitously rile up gun owners with some Second Amendment overreaching in New York’s recent “assault weapons” legislation. In general, Cuomo’s liberalism has manifested in relatively low cost measures aimed at specific constituencies and needs. Cuomo is the democratic alternative to Hillary.

Rick Perry, the longest serving Texas governor, has promoted a business friendly climate, reaping rewards in employment and growth, while impressing liberal analysts with his approach to higher education reform.  At his relaxed best, Perry projects a Reaganesque charm, but – as in the 2012 campaign – he can stumble and misspeak when tired.  In his 2013 incarnation, appearing on the Letterman show in Austin, he charmed everyone and looked plausibly presidential.  Like Cuomo and Perry’s predecessor, Governor George W Bush, this Texas governor has the knack of getting things done by working with the opposite party. Perry is the man to watch if and when Governor Christie’s presidential bid loses steam.

Mitt Romney may be most decent man to mount a serious campaign for president in the last 65 years; and has the advantage of visibility and the growing public realization that he was more right than wrong last time. His management skills, business acumen, solid staff support and bipartisan style are particularly important assets for a leader-in-office, but less valuable as a primary candidate. Governor Romney’s very competence, caution and decency were liabilities when facing the democratic attack machine.  If he has it in him to summon fighting spirit during the campaign, that revelation will go a long way towards demonstrating the ability to govern the country well through the coming rough patches.

Hillary Clinton, the best known of the candidates, is a canny, tough-minded, strongly partisan liberal, who endured most of her political life in her husband’s shadow, emerging only to be denied the presidential nomination that she may have felt was hers by right of inheritance in 2008.  Hillary
Clinton’s reputation for payback, bordering on ruthlessness, was such that the rumors that Mr. Obama refused to put her on the ticket as Vice President because he couldn’t find a trusted food taster…were only partly in jest. She accepted the Secretary of State position as a consolation prize then practically ruined her health with incessant – and mostly ineffectual – global travel for the next four years. She contemplates running one more race at age 70, with rumors of having suffered some neurological “issue” when she fell sick toward the end of her tenure. Lingering health concerns and worries about damaging scandal might cause her to reconsider a run, but this is a woman consumed with ambition. …Which is why these are also proper subjects for a vetting process. Did she peak as a candidate in 2008? With Governor Cuomo as her leading opponent, most observers believe that the democratic nomination is hers for the taking.  Are there legitimate doubts about her performance as a leader? Even the friendly observers do not see Hillary Clinton as a promising bipartisan healer or a coalition builder. As the politician who dismissed the GOP as part of the “Great Right Wing Conspiracy”, Hillary Clinton has earned her reputation as an ardent “my road or the highway” player.  But our next president will probably face a legislative chamber controlled by the GOP, and a population expecting someone untainted by association with Mr. Obama’s errors and lapses.

Jeb Bush, the 41st president’s son and the 43rd president’s brother, is a very well-liked former Florida governor who tends to elicit comments from those close to his career path like, “He will make a fine president” with the implication that Jeb Bush has every prospect of making a better president than his brother (at least a more articulate one). His serious attention to policy issues, the theme of republican inclusion and his track record of responsible, across-the-aisle governance, are positive attributes that one would expect of an able leader.


All my observations are based on a small list of the personalities who may well enter and possibly win the race for POTUS 2016.  One or more great potential leaders may yet show up as strong candidates with a surge of support. That could change everything.

[Personally, I would love to see Secretary Condoleezza Rice, Governor Jerry Brown and General David Petraeus jump in, and run strong, policy-focused campaigns.]

But all my comments about personalities are both personal and fallible. The need for effective, early vetting rests on an assessment of human nature generally, not any individual named here. We the people need searching, investigation-based evaluation of all the candidates.  And the vetting processes must necessarily address the criteria and associated problems I have mentioned here.  The process has to begin sometime.

I say that now would be the right time

Richard Nixon: A Thought Experiment.

President Eisenhower did not have access to a character assessment of Nixon when the California senator was put on the ticket as Vice President “for balance”. Yet the stories about the darker sides to Nixon’s personality, the insecurities, lying and paranoid thinking were quietly discussed.

Eisenhower, a strong personality who could tolerate and sometimes employ an “attack dog”, was not thinking about Nixon as a candidate for future president. That would be a problem for others, later.

What would a thorough vetting of Senator Nixon’s suitability to assume the presidency have accomplished?

We’ll never know.


 Copyright © 2014 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law Links, forwards and pull quotes with attribution are welcome and encouraged. For all comments and other permissions, contact the author at:

Jay B Gaskill is the California attorney who served as the 7th Chief Public Defender for the County of Alameda, headquartered in Oakland.

Having left his “life of crime” for writing and policy analysis, Mr. Gaskill’s non-fiction articles are archived on The Policy Think Site { }.

His fiction is published by Central Avenue Publishing in British Columbia.

Gaskill’s forthcoming novel, Gabriel’s Stand, is a thriller about fanatical environmentalists (think extreme negative population growth here) whose clueless supporters precipitate a constitutional crisis so that life-saving medical technologies can be outlawed to “save the earth.” Publication pending:  Gabriel’s Stand will be available in hard copy and as an e-book from all major outlets. The thriller is scheduled for release in late May 2014.

[1] Background: Plutonium is an ideal fuel source, much better than uranium. President Jimmy Carter banned the use of plutonium by civilian reactors to avoid possible theft for weapons use, particularly from civilian utilities.  Navy reactors use a much higher concentration of highly reactive uranium than civilian ones – a percentage of refinement that we might object to in, say, an Iranian reactor because it could be more easily upgraded further for use in a bomb. Ironically, the highly enriched US Navy reactors produce less plutonium than do the civilian reactors. The highly enriched uranium used in reactors that power US Navy Carriers will provide power for the life of the vessels themselves. [I note that the latest lunar rover is running on a plutonium-based battery (really a mini-reactor) that potentially will provide power as long as the equipment that it powers does.]  Recycled uranium fuel rods (a process done in what is called a “breeder reactor”) end up with levels of plutonium that can be used or extracted. Reactor safety issues overlap with the security ones. This is why a robust, recycling, swords-into-plowshares nuclear electric economy (promising abundant energy for 1,000 years) needs to keep the fissile (energy producing metals like uranium and plutonium) under military control. As a bonus, the safety and security track record of the military reactors should help public concerns about safety and security.

[2] We might add the experience of mayor a huge city like New York – the scale of which exceeds that of many states.

[3] …As in executive experience: sound / more than sufficient / barely sufficient/ requires substantial assistance

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